Desktop
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
 
 
You are in :
Back to list View this page without hyperlinks
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. The National Assembly is in session.
 
1. Questions to the Minister for Health and Social Services
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:30
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 1, questions to the Minister for Health and Social Services. Question 1, John Griffiths.
 
Greater Integrated Health and Social Care
 
13:30
John GriffithsBiography
1. Will the Minister make a statement on Welsh Government progress in delivering greater integrated health and social care? OAQ(4)0664(HSS)
 
13:30
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
I thank John Griffiths for the question. The establishment of regional partnership boards, under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is one of a series of actions taken to deliver integrated health and social care. The partnerships bring together health boards, social services and the third sector to plan and provide jointly for the needs of their population.
 
13:30
John GriffithsBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. With regard to those regional partnership boards, and the third sector involvement that you mentioned, could you tell the Assembly what representations you received from third sector bodies in terms of their involvement on those boards and what action you will take in response to those views?
 
13:31
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank John Griffiths for that. During the consultation on the regulations, which were approved by the Assembly yesterday, on regional partnership boards, there was a strong strand of response from third sector organisations, asking us to strengthen their representation on those partnership boards. As a result, I agreed that we would double the number of representatives so that there will be one representative from local third sector organisations, and that each regional partnership board would also have a member representing national third sector organisations on those boards as well. The statutory guidance will flesh out the role and responsibilities of those third sector representations and make sure that they are properly heard at the board.
 
13:32
Altaf HussainBiography
Minister, one purpose of greater integrated health and social care is to deliver better care for our ageing population. If we are to achieve an age-friendly Wales, all older people must have access to quality health and social care that meets their needs effectively, and protects their dignity. What is the Minister doing to create effective joint working and to focus on providing person-centred and relationship-centred care for the older population?
 
13:33
Mark DrakefordBiography
I certainly agree with the Member that individual older people rely on the services that they receive from both health and social care organisations. It’s why, in Wales, we have protected the budgets of health and social care in the round—spending levels 7 per cent above those in England—because it simply makes no sense from the point of view of that individual older person to find themselves stuck in one part of a system because the other part of the system isn’t able to attend to their needs. Through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, through the intermediate care fund, and by a series of other measures, our aim is to do exactly as the Member suggested—to make sure that it is the needs of the individual, what matters to them, is the first question that they are asked, and then services are brought together to respond to what they identify as the things that they think would make the greatest difference to them in their circumstances.
 
13:34
Christine ChapmanBiography
Minister, the number of delayed-transfer-of-care patients has fallen, as the most recent set of figures published last week shows. How has the intermediate care fund assisted in the creation of an integrated service, which helps to bring down delayed transfers in care?
 
13:34
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Christine Chapman for the question. I think she points very directly to one of the reasons why delayed transfers of care in the Welsh NHS have been stable, and have fallen in the last period. That’s because the ICF brings together local authority social services departments, local health boards, and third sector organisations, focused on avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, and preventing delays in hospital discharges. As many Members here will know from having visited ICF projects, they include things like reablement services, interim care beds, rapid response teams, housing adaptations, telecare equipment and many other very practical ways in which we can make sure that someone whose treatment in a hospital is at an end can be quickly discharged to a more suitable setting.
 
13:35
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Minister, when we in Plaid Cymru refer to integrated health and social care, we use the dictionary definition of integrated, which is ‘combining one thing with another to make a single unit’. What definition are you using when you refer to integrated health and social care?
 
13:35
Mark DrakefordBiography
The definition that I use, Dirprwy Lywydd, is not one that focuses on structures, but one that focuses on services. Plaid Cymru’s plans, as the Member has fairly outlined, is to embark on yet another upheaval and reorganisation in which we move organisational boundaries around on the map as though that would solve the problem of bringing services together. So, the definition that I use is one in which we concentrate on the service: we bring services together in the way that I’ve described and we certainly avoid the massive destruction that would lie behind Plaid Cymru’s ideas.
 
13:36
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, the integrated care fund is actually very important and very valuable in terms of dealing with this particular issue. How is that proposed to be taken forward over the next few years and will there be budget provision when we come to see the draft budget?
 
13:36
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Peter Black for that. As he will recall, the original ICF was a one-year budget agreement between the political parties. There was revenue of £35 million in that first year. Given the constraints on Welsh Government budgets, it wasn’t possible to replicate the full £35 million in this year’s budget, but we were able to find £20 million, and the plus side for our partners in local authorities and health boards is that whereas the £35 million was one-off funding, the £20 million is recurring. It’s there in the baseline. It will be there next year. Members will have to restrain their excitement in relation to the budget that the Minister for Finance and Government Business will lay down next week.
 
Primary and Community Care Services
 
13:37
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on access to primary and community care services in Brecon and Radnorshire? OAQ(4)0659(HSS)
 
13:37
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Kirsty Williams for that question. Primary and community care practitioners in Powys are amongst the most creative in the United Kingdom. The local health board works with its three primary care clusters to support practices where necessary and to extend services through new investment.
 
13:37
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you for that, Minister. In recent weeks, a number of doctor surgeries had stopped carrying out ear syringing activities. Now, that might seem like a trivial matter, but for those who are suffering from hearing problems or health problems as a result of that, it’s very disconcerting. They’ve been told either to go privately or to travel considerable distances to obtain a service. Minister, would you not agree with me this is precisely the kind of service that can be properly and safely administered in primary and community care settings and, actually, is not a trivial thing and that Powys health board and the GP clusters need to look again at ensuring that this service is available for local residents?
 
13:38
Mark DrakefordBiography
It is not a trivial matter, I agree. I am concerned at the developments she’s pointed to and I’ve had correspondence with the Member on it. From memory, she might be interested to know that the single greatest cause of claims against primary care clinicians turns out to be as a result of ear syringing. So, that is why there is some anxiety in some GP practices at carrying out this activity. However, our plan is that this should be a primary care responsibility. I was lucky enough to meet recently with the Welsh Scientific Advisory Committee and met the lead audiology member of that committee. They have drawn up an audiology primary care practitioner role for the Welsh NHS. Funding has been secured from the primary care fund in three local health boards in Wales to introduce audiology primary care practitioners. They will be able to see patients directly. It will mean that GPs don’t have to see people who can be properly seen by a different member of a primary care team, and taking on wax removal is one of the things that those new audiology primary care practitioners will be intended to discharge. I’m very happy to have discussions with the Powys LHB as to how that initiative might be extended to Powys.
 
13:40
Joyce WatsonBiography
Minister, I was going to raise exactly the same issue about GP practices opting out of the non-essential services, like ear syringing. But it is the case, Minister, that Powys health board has plugged the gap by arranging clinics in Llandrindod and Brecon, but, of course, that doesn’t alleviate the problem for people who live a fair distance away. But the health board, to its credit, is pioneering a number of successful schemes, which do reduce patient travel, like the My Health text service and mobile MRIs. Would you encourage further such initiatives, Minister, to ensure that patients in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency can continue to access non-essential health services close to their homes?
 
13:40
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Joyce Watson for that, and, as I said in my original answer, I do think that the Powys local health board, and Brecon and Radnorshire, have some of the most creative practitioners who do provide services closer to people’s homes in a way that might not be available in other circumstances. The mobile MRI scanning arrangements that she referred to is certainly one of those. I think the My Health text service, which is now available in 60 per cent of all GP practices in Wales, is already having the impact of cutting down on missed appointments and providing information to patients in a way that prevents them from having to travel. And I was very pleased recently to able to approve expenditure for Powys health board to move wet age-related macular degeneration clinics out of secondary care and into primary care—£46,000 in revenue and £80,000 in capital—which will mean that, in future, Powys residents will not have to travel long distances for that very necessary service.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
13:41
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I now call the party spokespeople to question the Minister, starting this week with the Welsh Conservative spokesperson, Darren Millar.
 
13:42
Darren MillarBiography
Minister, just a couple of weeks ago, the First Minister hinted that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board could be split up. Do you want to comment on your views on that matter?
 
13:42
Mark DrakefordBiography
You heard what the First Minister said on that matter. He was answering a question at a public meeting. My experience of going to Betsi Cadwaladr is that you don’t have to be there for too long before somebody asks you the question, ‘Is Betsi too big?’ This is not something invented here; it’s something that people in north Wales very regularly raise when you go there. My response to the question is that my aim is to make the current arrangements work in the best possible way and to deliver the best possible services to people locally.
 
13:42
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for that response, Minister. You’ll be aware, obviously, that Plaid Cymru have suggested that upheaval and reorganisation is the way forward for the Welsh NHS. You poured cold water on their views a few moments ago, yet you don’t seem to be completely dismissing what the First Minister said about the future shape of the service in north Wales. Can I ask you again: do you support splitting the Betsi Cadwaladr university health board up into two or more local health boards or not? Just a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will do.
 
13:43
Mark DrakefordBiography
Well, I’m afraid the Member will have to put up with the answer that I give him rather than the one that he invented for himself, and I’ll just tell him what I told him already: my ambition, in the time that I am health Minister, is to make Betsi Cadwaladr health board, as it is today, go on improving, to provide the services that people rely on, and to do so in a way that captures the confidence of its local population.
 
13:43
Darren MillarBiography
Do you accept, Minister, that the First Minister’s intervention and discussion on this issue is not helpful at a time when the health board is seeking to recruit a new chief executive, and now, of course, as we know, a new medical director? And, if you do agree that it was poor judgment, what action and discussions are you having with the First Minister on this issue?
 
13:44
Mark DrakefordBiography
I’ve taken the trouble to make enquiries at Betsi Cadwaladr about the way that the recruitment exercise is going. The closing date is within the next few days. They are encouraged by the number and calibre of people who have expressed an interest in that post and who appear to be applying for it. I look forward to the sift being made on 10 December and for interviews to take place on 17 December, and I am confident that we will secure a high-calibre candidate for that post, who will dedicate themselves to providing the services the people in north Wales require.
 
13:44
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Now the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:44
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, what assessment have you made of the financial sustainability of the residential care sector in Wales?
 
13:44
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Kirsty Williams for that question, because it’s a very important one. We are assessing the state of the care home sector in Wales in a number of different ways, through an oversight group that is chaired by Albert Heaney, the director of social services at the Welsh Government. We have secured additional reports, independently from Oxford Brookes University, into this matter and we work with Care Forum Wales on it as well.
 
As she will be aware, I’m sure, there is a great deal of anxiety in the care home sector at the Chancellor’s announcement some time ago, that a so-called living wage would be paid in the care home sector without a single idea of how funds for that are to be found. We work carefully with them to try and find solutions here in Wales.
 
13:45
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I thank the Minister for his answer. Minister, this week, the chairman of the Four Seasons Health Care organisation—one of the largest providers of residential care in the UK, and they have eight homes here in Wales—said that the social care sector was facing an existential crisis due to financial pressures and the failure of those financial pressures to be addressed by George Osborne in the autumn statement. They said that they were looking at the real prospect of potentially closing homes and not being able to invest in them in a way that they would like to. What discussions are you having with the residential care sector in Wales and are you aware of any providers that may not be able to continue to supply much-needed residential care beds in Wales? If they are to go to the wall, what steps will you be taking to ensure that there is alternative provision in place?
 
13:46
Mark DrakefordBiography
My officials have had direct contact with Four Seasons as a result of some of the statements they’ve made recently and some of the decisions they’ve made in relation to their portfolio of residential care homes in Northern Ireland. The indications that we have from the company is that they have no plans to reduce the number of properties that they currently operate in Wales. That obviously depends on market conditions and the state of the company overall.
 
The shape of the residential care market in Wales is different to that in England in particular. Eighty per cent of care homes in Wales continue to be run by people who own either one or two care homes. We’re not quite in the same position as they are in England, where the market is dominated by a small number of very large providers and if one of those providers were to walk away from one of their local authority contracts, there would be a very big problem indeed. But as Kirsty Williams will know, through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill, we helped put obligations in place on local authorities to plan for their local markets and market stability, but also obligations on them to act in circumstances where care homes close, including in the case of large care home providers.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, I accept that the structure of our industry in Wales is different, but I have had many conversations with those owners of one or two homes who are expressing great fears about their ability to continue to provide these services.
 
You’ve already mentioned the impact of the so-called living wage. Nobody would argue with those working in the care sector being paid a decent wage, but unless that is reflected in increases in fee levels from local authorities that pay for that care, I’m really worried that some homes will go to the wall. What discussions are you having with local authorities about the adequacy of the fee levels that they’re paying for residents who they place in the residential care sector?
 
13:48
Mark DrakefordBiography
Once again, I agree that the Member has identified a very important public policy issue for us here in Wales. The care home oversight group, which I mentioned, has local authority members well represented on it. We have all discussions with them there. The difficulty that we will face, as a Welsh Government, and that local authorities in Wales will face as well, is that when you have an autumn statement and a comprehensive spending review that shows no recognition at all of the cost pressures that the same Government has created, it would be left to us and to our local authority partners, working closely with the sector, to try and find some ways in which we can mitigate that impact in Wales and to continue to support the sustainability of this very important sector.
 
13:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Now the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Elin Jones.
 
13:49
Elin JonesBiography
Minister, this week, you’ve written to the Westminster Government to ask for a ban on the advertising of sugary foods and drinks before 9 o’clock. You’ve been asking the Westminster Government to take steps to deal with sugar content and marketing for some time. Do you have any confidence that they intend to act on this, or on anything, according to your aspiration?
 
13:50
Mark DrakefordBiography
I have very little confidence that actions will be taken at the Department of Health. As Elin Jones will know, my aim has been to act in concert with Scottish and Northern Irish Ministers on these matters. We meet quarterly. We often discuss public health matters in particular, where we have a collectively more progressive approach, and an approach that believes that government has a responsibility to take the actions that government can take to create the conditions in which people are better able to look after their own health. Sadly, so far, not one of us have had much success in persuading our Westminster counterparts to act in the same way.
 
13:50
Elin JonesBiography
In the absence of any confidence in the Westminster Government taking any steps in this important area, could I ask you whether you intend to take any steps within your remit? Minor taxation powers are to be available for the next Welsh Government under the Wales Act 2014. Have you, therefore, taken a decision to ask your department to make preparations for the implementation of these new powers, so that they can be used to introduce a tax on sugary drinks in Wales—a pop tax?
 
13:51
Mark DrakefordBiography
Work does go on in my department all the time, Dirprwy Lywydd, to think of all the different ways in which we have tools in our hands already, and potential tools in the future that will allow us to do things ourselves that we are currently unable to do. So, that preparatory work does go on. We try and focus as much as we can on the things that we are able to do immediately, but that doesn’t mean, of course, we don’t prepare for what we might be able to do in the future.
 
13:51
Elin JonesBiography
That was a wonderful, broad-ranging answer, Minister. Can I ask you once again to be very specific in your response to the question? Are you willing to agree, in light of the fact that there is now a consensus developing among everyone who takes interest in public health issues, both socially and medically, that it is now time to look at introducing a tax on sugary drinks? In fact, it’s only the Westminster Government, the Welsh Government here and the sugary drinks industry who now oppose discussing this idea. The powers will be available for the next Welsh Government. The Minister for finance is making preparations for the use of those powers in her portfolio—they will also fall in to the health portfolio for the next Minister. But you could today commission some work within your department on preparing ideas for using those powers to introduce a sugary drinks tax here in Wales. Will you commit today to ask your department and your officials to start that specific piece of work?
 
13:53
Mark DrakefordBiography
Well, of course, Dirprwy Lywydd, it is sensible for us to look at the potential for public health taxes and what they may provide in the future, and that would include taxes that could impact on sugary drinks. It wouldn’t be a matter of starting it now. I myself visited the Republic of Ireland, went particularly to their public health department, and met with the most senior officials there on the basis of the report that they had prepared on the imposition of taxes on sugary drinks in the Republic of Ireland. So, it wouldn’t be a matter of starting this work. It’s something that anybody sensible would want to be keeping within—[Interruption.]
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, let me make this point, because Plaid Cymru continually get it wrong. The objections that we’ve had on this side of the Chamber are not to the idea of a potential tax on sugary drinks, were we to be in a position to make one—but we’re not, so we don’t pretend that we are by saying we’ll have a policy to do something that we don’t have the power to do. If we were in a position to do it, we would certainly look at it, but what we would certainly not do—and this is where your policy unravels in front of you—is we would not hypothecate the proceeds of such a tax for a particular purpose where, in order to fund the health service, you’d be asking people to consume more of the very products you’re trying to persuade them to have less of.
 
Recruitment and Retention of Doctors
 
13:54
William PowellBiography
3. Will the Minister make a statement on the recruitment and retention of doctors in the Welsh NHS? OAQ(4)0660(HSS)
 
13:54
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank William Powell for that question. Recruitment and retention of doctors is carried out by heath boards and trusts in Wales. In doing that, they are supported by the Welsh Government through actions such as those set out in our primary care workforce plan and our campaign to encourage junior doctors to make their future part of our future here in Wales.
 
13:55
William PowellBiography
I’m grateful to the Minister for that response. You’ve referred to the importance of the primary care workforce plan. One strand of that plan includes the proposal to undertake a future supply and demand exercise to inform future GP training numbers. Previous exercises, I understand, have included an attempt to identify the impact brought about not just by retirements, but also by reallocating tasks to other healthcare workers so as to relieve some of the burden. The date set alongside the current plan, I believe, is this month—December 2015. I wonder if the Minister could please give us an update as to how that particular assessment’s going, given the importance of having a sustainable GP network.
 
13:56
Mark DrakefordBiography
Well, that work is going on, as the Member said, and very important work it is, too. It’s become very much part of our solution to going on providing primary care in the future in Wales to diversify the nature of the primary care workforce, to make sure we capture the clinical contributions of all those who are able to make a contribution and to free up the time of doctors, therefore, to do the things that only doctors can do. I was very encouraged recently to learn that, as a result of the money we’ve put in primary care this year, there are now 50 clinical pharmacists working in primary care here in Wales, taking appointments that otherwise GPs would have had to have taken, and freeing up the time of GPs in the process.
 
13:56
Mike HedgesBiography
Minister, I want to highlight how much better health is run in Wales and ask: how many undervalued junior doctors in England have expressed an interest in working in a national health service based upon the principles of Nye Bevan?
 
13:57
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Mike Hedges. This is the point in the year when junior doctors are making important decisions about their own careers. Those applications will close on 3 December and, as every year, we have a campaign designed to highlight for them the many attractions of coming to work here in Wales. That’s the purpose of our campaign: it is to make sure that people outside Wales, and inside Wales, are alert to the advantages we can provide for them in training, working and living here in Wales. This year’s campaign has had a higher profile because of issues elsewhere, and the Member is absolutely right that one of the key attractions we offer people coming to work in Wales is that we have a genuinely national health service, based on the founding principles of Aneurin Bevan.
 
13:58
Russell GeorgeBiography
Minister, GPs in my constituency have raised with me that the lack of security over the value of their premises is a real threat to the recruitment of GPs, especially in rural Wales. A number of examples have been presented to me. One example was a GP who was near to attending a practice, but was put off due to the fact that the property could then be devalued if, later, the practice folded. Clearly, this could be something that the Welsh Government could examine to offer some kind of protection in these circumstances. I wonder if you will give this consideration.
 
13:58
Mark DrakefordBiography
Well, we discuss these matters regularly with the General Practitioners Committee Wales. I made some adjustments to the rules in Wales this year in order to mitigate some of the problems that GPC Wales was identifying in the area that the Member has talked about, and I’m very happy that our officials can continue to have those discussions through the mechanisms we have for talking to GPs where those matters arise.
 
13:59
David ReesBiography
Minister, the Welsh Government previously indicated that, to tackle some of the issues regarding the recruitment of doctors, you would actually go overseas to look for doctors. Could you provide details as to which countries have been targeted for that recruitment, and how many doctors actually have been recruited overseas?
 
13:59
Mark DrakefordBiography
The Member is absolutely right to say that we have active recruitment campaigns beyond Wales. Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board has so far recruited 11 overseas doctors over the last few months, and have a further three being offered employment. They have drawn those doctors from Pakistan, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Greece and Poland. Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board have recently recruited six doctors in a targeted recruitment exercise in India, and are currently exploring the possibility of some doctors from the Netherlands coming to work in north Wales. Cardiff and Vale have recently recruited 15 overseas doctors via the medical training initiative. They’ve come from India, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Greece and Poland, and in Hywel Dda we have been able to secure six core medical trainees from abroad, who are helping significantly to provide services at Withybush General Hospital. And I’m happy to acknowledge the assistance of the Secretary of State for Wales in ensuring that those trainees secured the necessary entry visas so that they could take up employment.
 
Preventative Healthcare Measures
 
14:00
John GriffithsBiography
4. Will the Minister make a statement on Welsh Government support for preventative healthcare measures in Wales? OAQ(4)0665(HSS)
 
14:00
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
Thank you for the question. The Welsh Government continues to invest millions of pounds in a broad range of preventative healthcare measures such as screening and immunisations, as well as in approaches to help people achieve good health and maintain their wellbeing.
 
14:00
John GriffithsBiography
Minister, obviously, the health service in Wales, as elsewhere, faces major challenges in terms of an aging society, and I believe that moving more on to the preventative healthcare agenda would help meet those challenges, particularly given funding restraints. In Newport East, I arranged a meeting between the health board, Newport City Council, the leisure trust, sports bodies and others to try and work up a common agenda to have a more active local population. Is that the sort of initiative that Welsh Government supports and would like to see rolled out across Wales?
 
14:01
Vaughan GethingBiography
I thank the Member for the follow-up question. It’s a good example and I thank the Member for bringing it to my attention and the work that he’s done on bringing that together, because we need to see these sorts of partnerships between the health service, between housing and between leisure services to recognise the different parts of the health service and where they can direct people towards, because this is a cross-Government and cross-society imperative. We all recognise the big dangers in terms of diet, exercise and smoking, and the fact that if we don’t have a more active population, we’re likely to have a less healthy population, but that also when people get referred into medical treatment, there are alternatives for them. So, the exercise referral programme—in north Wales, for example, I’m very pleased to see, where a number of people have been referred for orthopaedic operations, over 300 of those people have gone into a weight management programme, and then over 70 per cent of those people got more active as a result, and those did not then need to have an operation as well. So, there are real and significant benefits to the individual and the communities they live in, and we do, of course, have the physical activity executive group within Government to promote this work on a more broad and consistent basis right across Wales.
 
14:02
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Deputy Minister, cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable ill health in Wales. Organisations such as ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK and Tenovus have expressed concern that your ban on e-cigarettes will have an adverse impact on public health. What evidence does the Minister have that banning e-cigarettes will not undermine efforts to reduce smoking rates in Wales, please?
 
14:03
Vaughan GethingBiography
The Member will know, of course, that there aren’t any proposals for a ban on e-cigarettes. It’s important that we make that point every time an erroneous and incorrect allegation is made, such as that made by Mohammad Asghar again today. It’s also worth noting that there are a whole range of people who are in favour of there being measures taken on how and where e-cigarettes are used, and particularly the way they are targeted at children. So, there are serious and real concerns to be dealt with. The British Medical Association, for example, and the World Health Organization have concerns about the proliferation of e-cigarettes.
 
But, on the broader point about smoking cessation, we agree that smoking is a significant and continuing public health risk. We need to see greater value and greater efficiency come from the smoking cessation service. That’s why we’ve invested in a range of different approaches, in particular, for example, for pregnant women at various points in their pregnancy, supporting them through the midwifery service and the health visitor service, to recognise that every day that they stop smoking, there is an almost immediate health benefit for them. So, there’s a very clear message that we have and will continue to have through Government about helping people to quit smoking with all the available means that we have to us.
 
14:04
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Another important aspect, of course, is the quality of the housing stock in Wales, and the fact that too many people live in low quality houses and in cold houses, and there is one assessment that suggests that that costs some £50 million to the health service. We know that there are examples in places such as Sunderland where general practitioners prescribe the insulation of homes. Does the Welsh Government have any intention to develop that concept here in Wales?
 
14:04
Vaughan GethingBiography
I thank the Member for the question and the point more broadly. We agree and acknowledge the important role that good quality housing has to play in improving individual family and community health. That’s why we have been actively encouraging a greater and more constructive relationship between housing providers, health services and social services as well. It’s important for a whole range of things, from delayed transfers through to the quality of provision and healthcare within our communities. I’ve just had a meeting this morning in fact with the Minister for communities and local government about improving partnerships between housing associations and the health service. We want to see that in every particular—. But our real focus, though, is on improving the quality of housing available to make sure that people have the right to a healthy and warm home in whichever community they happen to live in.
 
Breastfeeding Rates
 
14:05
Julie MorganBiography
5. Will the Minister make a statement on breastfeeding rates in Wales? OAQ(4)0669(HSS)
 
14:05
Vaughan GethingBiography
Thank you for the question. Public Health Wales has a national programme of activities within the NHS, communities and the voluntary sector to promote and sustain breastfeeding, with the aim of increasing breastfeeding rates across Wales, particularly amongst young mothers and in socially deprived areas. A new data collection system has been developed to track progress.
 
14:06
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the Deputy Minister for that response. I’m sure the Minister is aware of research from Cardiff University, by Dr Kate Boyer, which was published last week about relatively low breastfeeding rates in Wales. I recently went to the National Childbirth Trust’s ‘latch on’ group at Ararat in my constituency, where I was told that there are many mothers there who are very keen to become breastfeeding peer support councillors so that they can help mothers in the early days of breastfeeding so that they don’t get turned off, but they actually find it difficult to get access to training. Would the Minister look into this and has he got any comments on that situation?
 
14:06
Vaughan GethingBiography
I’m not sure I should declare this, but I’m actually a member of NCT as well, following my not-so-recent addition to the world of parenthood. I’m grateful that she’s raised the issue, because whilst there is a challenge about improving breastfeeding rates across Wales, I think all of us would want to see more people electing to choose to breastfeed and being supported to do so. It’s not just important for the child, but mothers also benefit as women who breastfeed have reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
 
On the specific issue that you raised, I’d be very happy for officials to meet them to discuss a way forward, to look at what’s being done, what’s possible to provide a more co-ordinated approach, because we do have a shared ambition to see more people take up breastfeeding, and this isn’t just about women and parents making different choices; it’s also about a broader societal attitude towards breastfeeding and being a deal more grown up and enlightened about this.
 
14:07
William GrahamBiography
The Minister may recall the ‘breast is best’ campaign, which was successfully launched in Wales some years ago. Unfortunately, I read a study here that a third of nursing mothers in Wales have been told to stop or move out of the way of direct view—as the Minister will know, that’s in direct contravention of the law. High street names such as John Lewis, Mothercare, Costa Coffee and Debenhams have been praised as being most supportive for breastfeeding families. What more can the Welsh Government do to encourage retailers to be more supportive of breastfeeding mothers?
 
14:08
Vaughan GethingBiography
I thank the Member for raising the point that I ended the last question on. There’s a point here about leaders being really clear about what we expect in public places. As I say, I struggle to understand why people would take such a—not just and old-world view, but such an unpleasant and unconscionable view of women who are doing one of the most natural things possible in feeding their child. Not everyone can breastfeed; there are reasons why people can’t do it. You’re not to judge people for the choices that they make; we ought to support people to make choices. I think, from our point of view, this Government will continue to maintain a consistent perspective that women should be encouraged to undertake breastfeeding, to be supported in doing so, and we do want to see attitudes continue to change so that more people accept and support women wherever they chose to breastfeed, whether in public or in any other places as well. We’ve seen some very difficult stories over the last year or two of retailers not taking that enlightened attitude that we wish to see promoted here in Wales.
 
Stratified Medicines
 
14:09
Altaf HussainBiography
6. What is the Welsh Government doing to improve access to stratified medicines in Wales? OAQ(4)0661(HSS)
 
14:09
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank the Member for the question. Stratified medicine is a relatively new application of science in diagnostics and treatment. The all-Wales medical genetics service leads a co-ordinated approach to the delivery of a national service here in Wales. Wales also plays a leading part in the Cancer Research UK stratified medicine programme.
 
14:09
Altaf HussainBiography
Thank you, Minister. Stratified medicines offer massive opportunities to improve patients’ outcomes, particularly in cancer treatment where only 25 per cent of patients respond to traditional treatment. As Wales is the only part of the United Kingdom that does not have a strategic policy on stratified medicines, will you commit to introduce a Welsh stratified medicines strategy?
 
14:10
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank the Member for the question. We are very keen to develop such a strategy. Professor Julian Sampson, who leads on a number of these things here in Cardiff, is part of the group that is looking at that. I met him recently to talk about progress and to think of ways in which we can accelerate the completion of the strategy that we would wish to see.
 
14:10
Jenny RathboneBiography
Cardiff University has recently been named as one of six centres of excellence for the UK precision medicine catapult. How will this add to our ability to develop targeted and effective treatments through precision medicine in Wales?
 
14:10
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank Jenny Rathbone. Of course, I was very pleased when Cardiff was named as one of the six centres of excellence for the precision medicine catapult. It provides real opportunities for us here in Wales to be part of that wider UK effort. It will co-ordinate stakeholders and clinical, academic, industry and funding sectors. The Welsh contribution to the UK catapult will be particularly at the translational end of precision medicine, looking at ways in which work in the laboratory can make a difference to the lives of patients as quickly as possible, and I look forward to it accelerating the development and adoption of precision medical technologies right across Wales.
 
14:11
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Minister, molecular diagnostic testing examines the genetic code of a patient and a disease they may have, enabling medicines to become more targeted and therefore effective. However, currently, access to this testing in Wales is limited. As a result, in 2014, it was estimated that 237 cancer patients missed prospects for a better outcome from treatment. When does the Welsh Government expect molecular diagnostic testing to be offered to every cancer patient within Wales, given the progress is so patchy at the moment?
 
14:12
Mark DrakefordBiography
Well, we do have an NHS Wales molecular diagnostic testing service for cancer patients here in Wales, and that service identifies the genetic faults that underpin a cancer patient’s cancer where that cancer is susceptible to such diagnosis. We have an all-Wales NHS genetics laboratory, which works with the UK genetics testing network. I am very keen that we can extend the availability of that service across Wales. It depends upon some advances in science as well as upon capacity, but we are very keen to make sure that, here in Wales, we remain at the leading edge of our ability to provide such a service for cancer patients.
 
14:13
Lynne NeagleBiography
Minister, developments in new forms of medicine mean that drugs are more and more stratified to smaller and smaller populations. Would you agree with me that the pharmaceutical industry has a shared responsibility to make sure that drugs are available at a price that can be afforded by the NHS? Does he share my serious concern that the company Roche has reduced the cost of the breast cancer drug trastuzumab emtansine for patients in England but not in Wales?
 
14:13
Mark DrakefordBiography
Lynne Neagle is absolutely right that, in future, the pharmaceutical industry is going to be developing very effective drugs, we hope, but which impact on the lives of a relatively small number of people. There will be a conundrum for health services everywhere as to how we can afford those drugs for those patients. We do have examples of the sort that she has just described. The drug Kadcyla, for example, was not approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence on 17 November on the grounds that it is not cost-effective, but we do try to engage with the manufacturer here in Wales through the Wales patient access scheme. Similarly, Abraxane, a drug used in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, has been available here in Wales, but NICE has now decided not to approve it on cost-effective grounds, and we continue to discuss access to that therapy with the manufacturer. But manufacturers do have a responsibility, as well as Governments, to make drugs available to patients on an affordability basis.
 
Maternity Services (North Wales)
 
14:14
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
7. Will the Minister make a statement on maternity services in north Wales? OAQ(4)0670(HSS)[W]
 
14:15
Vaughan GethingBiography
I thank the Member for the question. Around 7,200 babies are delivered each year in north Wales. This includes about 1,000 delivered in midwifery-led units and a further 120 home births. A consultation on the short-term future of consultant-led care is being rehearsed by the health board next week, following a paper published yesterday.
 
14:15
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Thank you very much. Does the Deputy Minister welcome the recommendation made by the Betsi Cadwaladr health board yesterday that they are going to retain the three maternity units that are consultant led in north Wales? Does this undermine the statement made by the First Minister in this Chamber that the establishment of the SuRNICC at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd will mean fundamental changes to other maternity units in north Wales?
 
14:15
Vaughan GethingBiography
I thank the Member for the follow-up question. The reality is that there’s a consultation process that’s been undergone and, as people in this Chamber and across north Wales wanted to see, the health board went out and listened. It understood and engaged with the public and with its staff, and it has come to a point of view that reflects the fact that the facts have changed, because they’ve been successful in recruiting extra consultants, including hybrid roles that have changed their position materially. They’ve also recruited an additional 27 midwives, so they’re Birthrate Plus compliant and the service is in a different position. That’s the consultation response with a recommendation going to the board, and I trust they will discuss that properly, fully and carefully in their public board meeting next week, when the health board make a decision about the immediate future of the service.
 
I don’t accept his point about the SuRNICC. We’ve just announced a £1.4 million investment in making the SuRNICC happen. You’ll be aware, of course, that the First Minister made a decision on the siting of the SuRNICC based upon a recommendation from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; it was not a decision he took in the absence of any evidence or advice, and, of course, Llyr Gruffydd, on the day that the announcement was made, was very clear that he welcomed the decision on the siting of the SuRNICC. So, I think we’re doing the right thing. At the time, your party was in favour of the decision that had been taken. We’ve been very clear that it will be delivered and, at the same time, we’re absolutely clear that we want to see high-quality maternity services available for the population of north Wales who deserve them. That does mean that the health board need to monitor the current position and the future position to ensure the provision is properly safe for the women and their families who will rely upon it.
 
HIV Treatment
 
14:17
Eluned ParrottBiography
8. Will the Minister make a statement on HIV treatment within the Welsh NHS? OAQ(4)0667(HSS)
 
14:17
Mark DrakefordBiography
HIV treatment is provided in the NHS in line with current British HIV Association guidelines. These set out the best clinical practice in the treatment and management of those with HIV infection and were developed with the involvement of clinical professionals and people living with HIV.
 
14:17
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you, Minister. Whilst the development over the last 20 years of effective treatments for HIV to manage the condition are fantastic, we still don’t have a cure, but we do have a preventative measure that we can take. I wonder what plans the Welsh Government has to ensure that people who are at the highest risk of developing HIV, for example, those people in a relationship with someone who has HIV, have access to pre-exposure prophylaxis to protect them in the future.
 
14:18
Mark DrakefordBiography
I thank the Member for that question. Of course, I’m aware of that potential treatment. We continue to be guided in the decisions we make in Wales by UK advisory committees on this matter. I look forward to their definitive advice on the availability of such preventative treatment, and then we will look to see how we could implement any such advice in Wales.
 
14:18
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
2. Questions to the Minister for Education and Skills
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
14:18
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 2 is questions to the Minister for Education and Skills. Question 1, Lindsay Whittle.
 
Educational Psychologists
 
14:18
Lindsay WhittleBiography
1. What arrangements are in place to make sure that there will be enough educational psychologists to work in schools in Wales? OAQ(4)0652(ESK)
 
14:18
Huw LewisBiographyThe Minister for Education and Skills
My thanks to the Member for South Wales East. Local authorities are responsible for the provision of educational psychology services accessible by schools. However, the Welsh Government recognises the important role that educational psychologists play in supporting learners in education and we are committed to funding Cardiff University to deliver the doctorate in educational psychology programme until 2018.
 
14:19
Lindsay WhittleBiography
I thank the Minister for his answer to that question. The Welsh Government’s strategy for school-based counselling in Wales was published in 2008 and refers to the need for counsellors to link with educational psychologists when specialist services are needed. With the increasing number of school children suffering from emotional and mental health problems, how well are schools in Wales coping with this very worrying trend, please?
 
14:19
Huw LewisBiography
Well, all of our schools now have access to counselling services—something that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago. I will look to strengthen these services, increase the professional capacity around those services and, indeed, amongst the general teaching population as we move forward with the new deal for the education workforce. We’ll be looking, with advice, towards boosting the numbers of teachers who are specialising in guidance and support matters in our secondary schools, to begin with. But, this will be a matter that will unfold as the new deal for the workforce gains momentum.
 
14:20
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Minister, in discussing the draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill last week in committee, I did raise concerns as to what I see as a lack of clarity from yourself regarding the direction of the Bill. We already have 12,500 eligible pupils across Wales now waiting unreasonable lengths of time to be assessed in this regard. How on earth are you going to ensure that, with an increase to 105,000 children, assessments will be timely? And how are you planning the future workforce planning to ensure we’ve got the actual psychologists in place to ensure that no child is left behind?
 
14:21
Huw LewisBiography
Well, Presiding Officer, I’ve just, in my previous answer, underlined how we will secure the number of educational psychologists within the system to make sure that none of our young people are disadvantaged in that regard. The whole point of the draft ALN Bill is to streamline the process for young people and for their parents, and I would encourage the Member to make her contributions to the consultation on that draft Bill.
 
14:21
William PowellBiography
Minister, last week, in the session that’s already been referred to of the children and young people’s committee, there were concerns expressed with regard to capacity in terms of some of the key educational employees in this regard, particularly around educational psychology. What more can the Welsh Government do, particularly in the rural areas of Wales, to ensure that students of educational psychology don’t need to cross the border to gain their training, particularly given the increasingly divergent legislative framework that we have between our nations?
 
14:22
Huw LewisBiography
Well, Presiding Officer, as I say, there is no call for that to happen. In September, following extensive discussions with the Welsh Local Government Association, with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and with Cardiff University, I announced that the Welsh Government would directly fund the provision of the doctorate in educational psychology at Cardiff University. That guarantee goes towards a minimum of three new cohorts, with each consisting of a maximum of 10 trainees. All the advice that I have received assures me that that will be more than sufficient in terms of numbers of new trainees coming through to meet the needs of the system at present.
 
The Pupil Deprivation Grant
 
14:23
Jenny RathboneBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on the success of the pupil deprivation grant to date in bridging the gap in attainment between pupils from poor and better off households? OAQ(4)0662(ESK)
 
14:23
Huw LewisBiography
My thanks to the Member for Cardiff Central. Latest published figures for the attainment of learners eligible for free school meals show our highest ever results. Our analysis shows that the rate of improvement has doubled since the introduction of the PDG in 2012. We are making real progress, but, of course, there is much more yet to be done.
 
14:23
Jenny RathboneBiography
That’s a very impressive set of statistics, Minister, and thank you very much indeed for that. Last week, you and I visited St Teilo’s Church in Wales High School in Llanedeyrn in my constituency, and we saw a lesson targeting pupils who were behind on their literacy levels when they entered the secondary system. I have talked to previous cohorts who have said how transformative this targeting of the PDG has been in enabling them to fully access the secondary curriculum. I wondered if you could just contrast that with what is going on in England, where they are removing all money from more deprived schools and equalising the amount of money that pupils are getting in each school, and how you think that is going to enable our students to shine much more effectively without that gap in attainment.
 
14:24
Huw LewisBiography
Well, Presiding Officer, I think Jenny Rathbone is quite correct to point to the sophisticated and caring approach at St Teilo’s school. I was equally as impressed by the systems that they are developing, which are becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of the targeting of the pupil deprivation grant towards the needs of individual learners. That literacy catch-up session was a case in point. We are seeing, right across the Welsh schools system now, an increase in the understanding of professionals, an increase in terms of targeting rigorously the PDG upon the literacy needs of young people in particular, and an increase in the use of evidence-based interventions. This is paying off. I cannot answer for the situation in England, but I would be worried if the situation were to arise whereby schools serving more deprived communities, as seems to be the case in England, might be looking forward to cuts in their overall budget because of where they happen to be.
 
14:26
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Minister, the recent report by the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods pointed out a considerable variation in the delivery of the programme, and also did talk about the ambiguity around how much of the improvement could be attributed to the scheme itself. What measures have the Welsh Government—to undertake the assessment of the report—made of the inconsistencies, and in consideration of the considerable variations in the delivery of the scheme?
 
14:26
Huw LewisBiography
Well, the Member’s quite right; we should always be concerned about whether or not the young people are getting value for money in terms of the usage of the PDG. Of course, there will be ongoing evaluation. I am currently awaiting Ipsos MORI’s WISERD evaluation of the PDG report into the use of the PDG in schools. It is very difficult, even with rigorous academic investigation, to pin down the improvements that we are genuinely seeing in our schools to one particular cause, but 100 per cent of the teachers that I have spoken to, that are engaged in this sort of work, point to the PDG as something that is giving them the tools that they need to increase the levels of attainment for these young people.
 
14:27
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
As you said in your response to the first question, GCSE and A-level results do suggest that the gap between the results of the children who qualify for the pupil deprivation grant and others has closed. However, it has closed less than in the results of other nations of the UK. Why is this gap so slow in closing, and what is the Government doing to ensure that this gap is closed more quickly?
 
14:27
Huw LewisBiography
Well, Deputy Presiding Officer, I don’t recognise that we’re anywhere behind what’s happening in the rest of the United Kingdom in this regard at all. In fact, we’re considerably ahead—I can tell you that—of the situation that prevails in Scotland. The situation across the regions of England, of course, varies a very great deal. Great strides have been made in London, for instance, but not so much necessarily in the north-east. What I can tell him is that, unequivocally, the rate of improvement in level 2 inclusive scores, before the PDG was introduced, was pretty consistently 1.1 per cent in Wales. The rate of improvement now, on that same measure, after the PDG has been in use, is 2.8 per cent. We’re near to three times as fast in terms of the gap being closed. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the PDG came into play and had an influence on those figures. So, I think we have much to be proud about, but we should never be satisfied at the rate of change of the gap that still remains between the most deprived young people and the rest.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
14:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I now call the party spokespeople, starting this week with the Welsh Conservatives’ spokesperson, Angela Burns.
 
14:29
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Good afternoon, Minister.
 
14:29
Huw LewisBiography
Good afternoon.
 
14:29
Angela BurnsBiography
UCAS numbers show that the tuition fee increases since 2012 have not had a negative impact on the number of young people applying for university. This is the case not only, Minister, for Scotland and England, but also runs true for Wales. With this in mind, does the Minister agree with the Universities Wales recent statement that your vanity project of higher education subsidy has irrevocably damaged the current financial capability of higher education institutions? [Laughter.]
 
14:29
Huw LewisBiography
The Welsh Conservatives consider it a vanity project to invest in our young people. Given their attitude towards public spending in general, I suppose that’s consistent with their world view and their set of values—a set of values I do not share. Universities Wales, obviously, can make their views known. The all-important Diamond review, which is looking at issues around student support, will take on board all the evidence that is out there, in terms of what has been effective and what may not have been, in terms of access to higher education. But, unashamedly, the Welsh Government—the Welsh Labour Government—will continue to invest in the prospects of young people.
 
14:30
Angela BurnsBiography
Well, Minister, thank you for not really answering my question. Now, I’m sure that you are aware of the recent London Economics report, commissioned by the University and College Union. It shows that £10,928 is spent on Welsh students studying in English universities, and that’s more than double the sum given to Scottish students learning in England. To put it another way, Minister, Welsh taxpayers are paying a 9 per cent premium to allow Welsh students to study in England. And, as for Welsh students deciding to study in Wales, year-on-year spending on these learners, between 2012-13 and 2013-14, increased by 9.5 per cent. Ultimately, the current policy is too expensive and unsustainable, and we don’t need the long-drawn-out Diamond review to figure this out. Do you not agree that this vanity project that is higher education funding has cost our universities, has cost our public services alternative investment, and has cost our young people true opportunity and access?
 
14:31
Huw LewisBiography
The Welsh Government, Deputy Presiding Officer, has invested in the prospects of young people, and it has stuck by those young people and their ambitions, wherever they wish to study in the United Kingdom. I believe that is something to be proud of. If the Welsh Conservatives are today drawing a line in the sand, and telling young people and parents out there that they will not keep faith with young people’s ambitions, and they will constrain them, then they’d better spell out exactly what they mean by that. And if they’re saying today that they’re walking away from the Diamond review, on which they are represented, then let them spell that out clearly too. I’m a little confused, and, if I was a parent with a young person in my care who was looking forward to going to university in the next couple of years, I’d be listening very carefully to what the Conservative spokespeople are saying today.
 
14:32
Angela BurnsBiography
Acceding to a Government request to nominate a representative is not the same as having somebody on a review. Big difference, Minister—you really need to have a good, long look at that.
 
The point of this is that you talk about inclusion, you talk about trying to break the poverty barrier, but let’s be really clear. A report by Cardiff University released this month revealed that only 2.4 per cent of looked-after children and young people progress to higher education. It is crucial that these learners are not disadvantaged further, and are given as much support as possible. Would it not be better to be spending that kind of money on those young people, to really narrow the attainment gap, really try to stop the poverty drain here in Wales, rather than carrying on with your vanity project?
 
14:33
Huw LewisBiography
Well, if it’s a vanity project, Deputy Presiding Officer, to ensure that the young people of Wales have £17,000 less debt, on average, when they graduate and move into adult life and the world of work, then vanity project so be it. I am particularly proud of the investment that this Welsh Labour Government has made in those young people. And if the Welsh Conservatives now are stepping away from any form of consensus around the Diamond review, and what may pertain as to student support in the years to come, then let them spell out to the Welsh public exactly what that means. Because I can reassure parents and I can reassure young people across Wales that Welsh Labour will keep faith with their ambitions, wherever it is in the UK they wish to study.
 
14:34
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And now Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Simon Thomas.
 
14:34
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, do you agree with me that strong leadership, at all levels, will be essential for the delivery of the new ambitious national curriculum, as outlined in the Donaldson report? And are you therefore confident that there is strong enough leadership—beginning with yourself, of course—to carry out these ambitious reforms?
 
14:34
Huw LewisBiography
Strong leadership—yes, Deputy Presiding Officer, that matters, but by no means any form of coercion or dictatorship. The Member will be aware that the very warm welcome of the Donaldson review—almost universal acclaim throughout the teaching profession for Donaldson’s review—is something very precious that shouldn’t be squandered. And it is in those new deal pioneer schools that this new curriculum will be forged, with professionals, teachers, at work in the classroom being at the forefront of that development. I think that’s the way it should be and the leadership of politicians should be more about making sure they have the tools to do the job and that we keep to time and so on rather than dictating every last dot and comma of the new curriculum to them.
 
14:35
Simon ThomasBiography
Well, I certainly agree and want to see the Donaldson recommendations implemented in spirit and in principle and in full throughout Wales. That’s why I was concerned to read Estyn’s thematic report on standards of leadership in schools two weeks ago that says that current performance management systems for existing and potential leaders is not effective. It says that headteacher skills are not being developed, the quality of their work is not being adequately monitored or evaluated, and it also says that the leadership skills of the rest of the workforce are not being developed so there will be not be enough candidates with the right skills for headships in the future. I think we all know of schools that have suffered already, let alone in the future, with that. So, without strong leadership in all our schools, and not just in the excellent pioneer schools that you’ve already chosen, Minister, how will the new national curriculum really be implemented on the ground and have you identified extra resources to put in place to ensure that it is implemented in the way you’ve outlined?
 
14:36
Huw LewisBiography
Well, the Member is quite right to point to the importance of leadership on the ground and to the professional development particularly of leaders within the system as being essential in order to make the new curriculum a success, and that’s why the curriculum reform goes hand in hand with an entirely new development within the Welsh educational system: the idea of a new deal for the educational workforce, where we shift away from the old idea of professional development being about one-off seminars or INSET days with presentations and move towards a professional development regime, which is quality controlled by the professionals themselves, that is of the highest possible quality. And, of course, leadership development will be critical in all that. So, it is through that new deal for the workforce, which will be hammered together within our new deal pioneer schools, that that new regime concerning support for professionals will be forged alongside the curriculum itself. Estyn’s quite right, the Member’s quite right: we are not where we need to be. We need to construct something entirely new because what has gone before has let down teachers in terms of their leadership ambitions and it’s plain to see.
 
14:37
Simon ThomasBiography
Well, Minister, you’ve described all this process—in other ways that you’ve just described—as being putting the scaffold in place and that good leadership will determine its success. However, a number of things that you’ve outlined in answer to my questions today are not in place and are only proposals. In particular, you’re not announcing a draft plan for school leadership until the new year, which suggests to me that a lot of the scaffold will be constructed after the house demolition has already started. But, specifically on continuous professional development, is it your ambition to ensure that this now becomes mandatory for all teachers in Wales?
 
14:38
Huw LewisBiography
I’d describe this as an entitlement for professionals within the system, and that description and that opportunity has been embraced by all of the teaching unions, as far as I’m aware, including those unions who represent leaders, heads, within the system. What I envisage here, and what I’ve consistently described, is a system of professional development that, over time, will be shepherded and quality controlled by the Education Workforce Council, by professionals on behalf of professionals, without politicians mandating exactly how that development should run or how often training should be attended. This should be about a profession that is within itself self-improving, in the way that doctors, lawyers and nurses, for instance, have that approach and that ability around the structures relating to their professional development. They have that ability to plan their careers and see the support supplied to them. That’s the support system we need around the teaching profession if we’re going to move forward.
 
14:39
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Aled Roberts.
 
14:39
Aled RobertsBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, you accepted, in giving evidence to the children’s committee in January, that there are problems as regards the way in which higher education is managed and that you’re eager to move to a new system. You also said that there were concerns about the cross-boundary issues. These had been raised by some universities and also by Unison, the union, and, in saying that, you said you were going to hold discussions with the UK Government about possible changes. Bearing in mind, of course, that the new system will be coming into force in January, can you say that those discussions are now complete, and is it your intention to publish regulation 150, I think you were referring to, in order to regulate the situation?
 
14:40
Huw LewisBiography
My officials, of course, are in close contact with the UK Government on all these matters, and the recent United Kingdom Government Green Paper on higher education governance really has opened up a great number of unanswered questions around where the whole thrust of policy development, at the UK level, in England, is going to take us. I’ve recently held a tripartite conversation with my equivalents in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, and they share my concern around these issues. That’s why I’ve asked Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, alongside Ian Diamond’s review, to take a look at what the prospects—how the Welsh higher education community can be best regulated and governed going into the future to make sure that we take best advantage, I suppose, of the devolved layer of Government. So, there are a great many imponderables here, because of what the United Kingdom Government has opened up as regards the debate around HE governance. It does seem as if the UK Government has a marketised system in mind. That view is not shared by the Governments in Northern Ireland and in Scotland, and we will set about forging an alternative around our universities.
 
14:42
Aled RobertsBiography
May I come back to Wales? Simon Thomas referred to the changes as regards Donaldson, and the fact that that the curriculum will be changing. But while we are travelling along that path, of course, a number of GCSE examinations and so on will be changing. GCSE maths has been introduced. We’ll be moving on to science and other subjects. One psychology teacher asked me in August why there were text books and course work being prepared in English only for the new examination, and why he as a teacher had to spend his summer holidays translating materials for his students. I thought that that was just an individual case, but, to be honest, I’m aware that there are similar problems with the new mathematics examination, where WJEC have announced that Hodder will be responsible for the course materials. Those materials are already available in English, but Government officials have stated that those materials won’t be available in Welsh until May. So, some teachers, once again, have to go about translating materials because they don’t want their students to be any different to those students who are educated through the medium of English. Is that situation acceptable in your view—for Government officials to say that it will be about nine months before materials will be available in Welsh as opposed to the English materials?
 
14:44
Huw LewisBiography
I acknowledge that the Member has put his finger on a particular issue as regards mathematics. There does seem to be an issue around this. The situation is that the Welsh Government undertakes, with the WJEC, to provide these classroom materials, as far as is possible, with English and Welsh available simultaneously. That has been something that’s been accomplished in most cases. My understanding is that there has been a delay as regards the maths, and Qualifications Wales and the WJEC are working together to try and minimise that delay. I don’t recognise the timescales that have been related to you. But I will underscore that the Welsh Government pays the WJEC to make sure that it gets these things right, and their relationship now is with the regulator, with Qualifications Wales, but if there are individual teachers out there who have worries and concerns, I would encourage them to contact you or me directly in order to chase down those concerns and get to the bottom of the situation.
 
14:45
Aled RobertsBiography
The situation has been acknowledged for psychology, and you’ve acknowledged this afternoon that there are problems with mathematics. In considering that the new science examination will be introduced in September 2016, will you give a pledge this afternoon that the materials will be available in Welsh and English simultaneously, and that your officials will give a guarantee of that and that they will bring pressure to bear on Qualifications Wales and on the WJEC so that students in our Welsh schools aren’t in a worse situation than those in English-medium schools?
 
14:46
Huw LewisBiography
I can certainly undertake—. Already, that pressure is being brought to bear. I can’t give that guarantee around mathematics, but what we can seek to do is to minimise the amount of delay as much as we possibly can. It’s worth bearing in mind here, of course, that these are new and additional materials and that there is a wealth of bilingual materials available already online to each and every teacher across the country, through our Hwb and Hwb+ online platform. So, there is more than enough, really, for classroom teaching to begin with. But in terms of those materials aimed specifically at those new GCSEs, I will acknowledge that there has been an issue around mathematics in particular. I will reiterate that this is a matter for the WJEC.
 
Post-16 Education
 
14:46
Mohammad AsgharBiography
3. Will the Minister make a statement on plans to reorganise post-16 education in Torfaen? OAQ(4)0651(ESK)
 
14:47
Julie JamesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
It is important that an appropriate and affordable option for delivery is agreed for post-16 education, and I am pleased that Torfaen local authority has recently submitted a strategic outline case, which has been approved for further development. We now await further details from the local authority.
 
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you for that reply, Minister. You’ll be aware of the plan by Torfaen County Borough Council to replace all local authority sixth forms with a 1,000-place college in Cwmbran. Given that approval of this new college would mean the closure of sixth forms such as those of West Monmouth School and other secondary schools, will the Minister commit to making a decision on this proposal as soon as possible to end the uncertainty over post-16 provision in Torfaen?
 
14:47
Julie JamesBiography
It’s important that we get an affordable and deliverable option for post-16 education in Torfaen, and I pay tribute to the Member for Torfaen, Lynne Neagle, who has tirelessly kept this on the agenda of the Government, both during my tenure in this post and through the tenures of various Deputy Ministers before me. Through her efforts and mine, we are in a situation where we have a viable solution on the table and we will, of course, work as efficiently as we possibly can to ensure that that solution is both deliverable and affordable in order to take it forward in Torfaen to the best of our ability. But, obviously, we won’t go any faster than is commensurate with good governance.
 
14:48
Lynne NeagleBiography
Can I thank the Minister for her update today and for the hard work and impetus that she has given to taking forward this very important project? As you know, Torfaen is unique in that half the borough doesn’t have any access to sixth-form provision. So, will you take this opportunity to restate your commitment to ending this iniquity for students in my constituency?
 
14:49
Julie JamesBiography
Yes, absolutely. I’m committed to helping to find a solution for this issue, but it is the responsibility of the local authority and, more appropriately, a partner college to bring forward a solution. At the moment, we have a business case in front of us. It’s an iterative process between us and the local authority. The local authority and officials are working very hard to bring it to a successful conclusion, and I know that the Member has been keeping a close eye on us to make sure that we take it forward with good dispatch.
 
Parental Imprisonment (Supporting Children)
 
14:49
Christine ChapmanBiography
4. Will the Minister provide an update on how children affected by parental imprisonment are supported within the Welsh education system? OAQ(4)0655(ESK)
 
14:49
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for Cynon Valley. I recognise that there can be a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem and confidence when a parent is detained. Many children in Wales have a variety of support needs. Recognising this and providing support and counselling is something many of our schools do very well.
 
14:50
Christine ChapmanBiography
Thank you, Minister. At last week’s meeting of the cross-party group on this, which I chair, we did hear from children and young people affected by this issue. Asked about the response of their teachers, the evidence was overwhelmingly positive, with statements made by the children that the teacher supported them, that they cared for them and that they are kind to them, which I thought were very good statements. I’m sure that you will join with me in welcoming this support for vulnerable children, but how can the Welsh Government integrate these good experiences so we are assured that they become the norm?
 
14:50
Huw LewisBiography
My thanks again to the Member. I’m glad that the young people concerned had a direct say through the cross-party group on this very important issue. There has been work along these lines, and, in 2014, Barnardo’s Cymru published a handbook for schools to develop good practice in supporting children whose parents were affected by imprisonment. The handbook recognised in particular the excellent work going on in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and the Welsh Government worked with them—Barnardo’s, that is—to promote the handbook and draw it to the attention of education services across Wales. I know that Barnardo’s intends to publish its ‘Locked Out’ report today, which is about the child’s experiences of visiting prison, which will add to our understanding of this debate. I would draw Members’ attention, and the attention of schools, to that very important work undertaken by Barnardo’s Cymru.
 
14:51
Nick RamsayBiography
I’m pleased that Chris Chapman has raised this important issue, Minister. There are some specific issues for children with parents imprisoned outside of Wales—travelling time to name but one. Some of these issues may well be addressed by the new prison in north Wales, but, in the meantime, what guidance has been given to schools on how best to safeguard the interests of this vulnerable group of children?
 
14:52
Huw LewisBiography
The Member is quite right to point out some of the very deleterious effects that parental imprisonment can have on young people; it can be quite a devastating experience for them. Once again, I would refer Members to that Barnardo’s Cymru handbook, which, if in their casework they’re coming across instances of young people in this situation, I think is the best first call in terms of bringing that to their schools’ attention. But there is also much to learn, I think, from projects such as the Invisible Walls Wales project at Parc prison, which has undertaken some groundbreaking work that we’re taking a look at presently, in terms of trying to minimise the effects on children of a parent’s imprisonment. I would happily write to the Member with details of Invisible Walls and encourage Members, actually, if they are able, to visit Parc prison to take a look at that fantastic work.
 
14:53
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Minister, I wonder if you can tell us whether you’ve put any work into whether children in these circumstances have financial education beyond what is happening at the moment. Obviously, you know it’s a passion of mine. They may not have the structures at home to allow them to have that education; quite often, parents don’t have those skills themselves. Are you making sure that those children are utilising financial education systems within Wales?
 
14:53
Huw LewisBiography
Yes, of course, and I reassure the Member, as I have done before, that financial education is now already very much part of our current curriculum. It will be part of the new Donaldson curriculum as it develops, and it is now an inherent part of GCSE numeracy, which will be taught in our schools very soon. A large part, in fact, of that GCSE numeracy qualification that almost all of our young people will be sitting is concerned with very practical day-to-day financial education matters.
 
School Federation
 
14:54
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
5. Will the Minister make a statement on school federation as an alternative to closure in Brecon and Radnorshire? OAQ(4)0654(ESK)
 
14:54
Huw LewisBiography
My thanks to the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire. The school organisation code makes it clear that consideration should be given to the alternative of federating schools when local authorities review provision with a view to potential closure. When proposing change, local authorities should place the interests of learners above all others.
 
14:54
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you for that, Minister. As you say, your Government’s own policy sees the benefits of federation, especially for our youngest children, if it allows them to be educated in their own communities rather than being bussed for many miles. Yesterday, on the steps of this building, the parents and pupils of Nantmel School were here to protest about the potential closure of their school, and the absolute failure of Powys County Council to engage with them on the possibilities of a successful federation with a neighbouring larger school. Minister, would you agree to meet those parents, or at least take up their case with Powys County Council, to ensure that all proper consideration has been given to keeping the school in Nantmel open and federating it with a neighbouring primary school?
 
14:55
Huw LewisBiography
Well, what I can say is that I agree with the Member that there is a huge amount of evidence setting out the benefits that federation can bring. Schools in a federation are able to share resources, staff, expertise, facilities, and particularly rural and small schools can benefit from shared governance as they develop joint leadership. But I have to say that matters such as this are matters for local authorities, and it’s difficult for me to comment on any particular proposals for change that might be under consideration given that these could be referred to me under certain circumstances. It’s important that I don’t prejudice a decision that I might need to make in that event.
 
Improving Education Standards (South Wales Central)
 
14:56
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
6. Will the Minister outline what measures are being implemented to improve education standards across South Wales Central? OAQ(4)0648(ESK)
 
14:56
Huw LewisBiography
My thanks to the Member for South Wales Central. ‘Qualified for Life’, our education improvement plan for three to 19-year-olds, sets out a range of actions to improve educational standards in Wales. It‘s pleasing to note an improvement in outcomes for learners based in South Wales Central.
 
14:56
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Obviously, what would greatly help attainment levels is the ability to make sure that the financial resource that is made available by the Welsh Government is spent on education for our young people. In light of the ‘Week In, Week Out’ programme last night, and bearing in mind that the West London Vocational Training College is based in Cardiff, are you now able to give any more assurances that clearly say that the remarkable exposure last night of how easy it was to defraud the system that was intended for learning is not commonplace in the Welsh education system, and that you do have confidence that there are robust measures in place to make sure that this practice is not more widespread across Wales?
 
14:57
Huw LewisBiography
Well, I will reiterate, as I said yesterday, that this college is the only private English-based college operating in Wales at present. Perhaps I could update Members, as I’ve just learned in the last hour or so that South Wales Police economic crime unit and the Welsh Government’s counter-fraud branch are now working together in investigating the allegations of fraud made in the BBC programme ‘Week In, Week Out’ yesterday evening. So, the police have confirmed that they are investigating this matter.
 
Our system of higher education is continually overseen by Student Finance Wales. Of course, this is a matter of continuous monitoring. As I mentioned yesterday, we are also moving towards a situation where all such HE providers in Wales will be required to be charitable institutions. I can assure the Member that, other than the West London Vocational Training College, there is currently no English-based HE provider with a Welsh campus. So, I think it’s very unlikely that, if there is a problem here, it has spread much further afield.
 
14:58
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, I think we’d all agree that it’s the outcome of the standards of all the pupils in our education system that we should be mindful of, not just the standards overall. I’m particularly concerned about the length of time it’s taking some of our local authorities to provide a diagnosis for young people who have additional learning needs, and in particular the Vale of Glamorgan local authority—I have a lot of casework from that authority about pupils waiting a long time. I wonder if, as part of the Bill that you are bringing forward, you would require local authorities to monitor and report on the referral-to-diagnosis time for additional learning needs, please.
 
14:59
Huw LewisBiography
Well, I think the Member will have anticipated my answer. This is a matter for the development of the Bill, and this is something that she’ll be free to put forward as a proposal within the new system. It is the intention that the new regime around additional learning needs within our schools loses that element of adversarial contact between parents and the authorities, if you like, and that we move to a system that is much quicker to react, which reacts much earlier, and reacts on the basis of common sense and consensus, rather than the situation that pertains too often at present, where parents feel they have to go out and fight for the correct provision for their young people. That’s the whole purpose of the Bill. These are difficult matters, and I know that the Member will have her input into the development and the responses around the draft Bill in particular.
 
The Twenty-first Century Schools Programme
 
15:00
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
7. Will the Minister make a statement on the progress of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools programme in Islwyn? OAQ(4)0653(ESK)
 
15:00
Huw LewisBiography
I will, and my thanks to the Member for Islwyn. Investment of almost £26 million has been approved to date for Islwyn through the twenty-first century schools and education programme. The funding is earmarked for a new 1,050-place comprehensive school for the area.
 
15:01
Gwyn R. PriceBiography
Thank you for that answer. Minister, do you agree with me that the planned sharing of facilities being built at the new Islwyn high school in my constituency is the way forward?
 
15:01
Huw LewisBiography
I do agree, and I would like to see very much more of this sort of initiative. I’m delighted when any new facilities are provided under the twenty-first century schools programme can be used to benefit not just young people but the wider community, and the Welsh Government actively encourages local authorities to maximise the use of these assets. My understanding is that there’s to be a 3G pitch and other sporting facilities as well as a resource for assisted learning, and that can only be a positive way forward.
 
Schools Visiting Continental Europe
 
15:01
William GrahamBiography
8. Will the Minister make a statement on the advice provided to schools on visiting continental Europe? OAQ(4)0656(ESK)
 
15:01
Huw LewisBiography
Yes. My thanks to the Member for South Wales East for this important question. I think it’s something that will be in the minds of lots of parents at the moment. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides advice on travel abroad and has issued advice to schools that are planning to take groups, in particular to France. Schools have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure risk management procedures are in place for school trips.
 
15:02
William GrahamBiography
I’m most grateful to the Minister for his reply. Would he undertake to make sure that all schools in Wales receive copies of that valuable information?
 
15:02
Huw LewisBiography
Of course; I can undertake to remind schools, through our regular electronic newsletter, of the excellent service provided by the FCO. It would be pointless, really, for the Welsh Government to try and duplicate or second-guess the FCO advice, but, I will undertake to remind schools to take a look at that advice before they draw up their plans.
 
The Apprenticeship Levy
 
15:02
Simon ThomasBiography
9. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the apprenticeship levy on Wales? OAQ(4)0658(ESK)[W]
 
15:03
Julie JamesBiography
Thank you for the question. It’s a little too early to have completed a proper assessment, as we only got some of the detail last Wednesday. But, we’re continuing to work with the UK Government to get to the bottom of the detail.
 
15:03
Simon ThomasBiography
I thank the Deputy Minister for that response, but I am concerned that there aren’t further details available. The levy, as it’s been proposed in England, is for businesses earning, as I understand it, over £3 million per year, which actually excludes many businesses in Wales, of course. If this is to be introduced in Wales, then I would want as many businesses as possible to be part of the programme, and, of course, as many apprenticeships as possible to be created as a result of that. Is there room, therefore, to build an alternative proposal specifically for Wales?
 
15:03
Julie JamesBiography
We’re in a lot of negotiations at the moment about how this will work. Nobody’s quite clear about it, including, I have to say, the Minister for business, innovation and skills. We think that the effect is that companies employing around 109 to 130 people—but we don’t even know absolutely—will be affected, including all of our public sector organisations. Effectively, it works as an additional tax on payroll; it has unintended consequences either side of the threshold, as I’m sure the Member will realise.
 
But, we’re in discussions about an enormous range of things. For example, the spending review also abolished the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, which is the organisation that actually gives us all the employer information on which we base our labour market intelligence. That also does the national standards for apprenticeships, for example, and a number of other important underpinnings to our world-class apprenticeship system. It’s been met with, I think, universal opprobrium from absolutely everybody—the Confederation of British Industry, the Construction Industry Training Board, the Chartered Institute of Building; you name the organisation, they are not fond of this proposal. We wait to see what will happen. Happily, the UK Government occasionally does u-turns when there’s mass disapproval of its systems, but I think that might be a little optimistic in this case. We will continue to make the best of it. It will not stop us from progressing our world-class apprenticeships system, but a lot more detail needs to be worked out before we will truly know the effect of it here in Wales.
 
15:05
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
The Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) took the Chair.
 
3. Debate by Individual Members under Standing Order 11.21(iv): The Steel Industry
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest.
 
15:05
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 3, which is the debate by individual Members. I call on David Rees to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM5881 David Rees, Mike Hedges, Aled Roberts
 
Supported by Lindsay Whittle, William Powell, Peter Black, Jenny Rathbone, John Griffiths, Lynne Neagle, Jeff Cuthbert, Keith Davies, William Graham, Simon Thomas, Llyr Gruffydd, Alun Davies [R], Christine Chapman
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Recognises the importance of steel production to the Welsh economy.
 
2. Calls on the Welsh Government to continue to do all that it can to support the steel industry during these difficult times.
 
3. Calls on the UK Government to take urgent action on a number of areas including addressing the high energy costs faced by energy intensive industries in Wales, such as steel, to ensure they can be competitive with other European producers in a global market.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:05
David ReesBiography
We should all be aware that steelmaking is a hazardous process, and before I open the debate on the future of our steel industry, I wish to express my condolences, and I’m sure the condolences of all Members, to the families of Peter O’Brien and Mark Sim, who recently lost their lives in the explosion at the Celsa steelworks here in Cardiff. Such incidents highlight the dangers that workers in the steel industry face daily, and as we debate today, let us all remember those who have lost their lives or have been injured whilst doing their job.
 
Llywydd, I move the motion in my name and the names of Aled Roberts and Mike Hedges. I am pleased to have secured this vitally important debate today, and I would like to thank all Members who supported the motion calling for urgent action to be taken to protect and help our steel industry. Can I also welcome the many steelworkers in the gallery who are here today to show their support for the industry? Their trade unions—Community, Unite, UCATT and the GMB—have been tirelessly campaigning for a fair deal for steel, and I hope that this debate will offer further support. On their behalf, I would like to thank those Members who met with them this lunchtime outside the Senedd to show that support.
 
Members should, by now, be aware that my constituency includes my home town of Port Talbot, which is a proud steel town. For over 100 years, the steel industry in Port Talbot has been providing jobs and apprenticeships for the people of the town and surrounding areas, and I’m grateful to the generations of workers who have helped keep steelmaking productive and vibrant over those years. As Alan Coombes, chair of the multi-union committee at the plant, said at the recent rally in Sheffield, steel is now in the DNA of many local people. It’s at our heart.
 
But steelmaking is not only at the heart of Port Talbot—it’s a wider industry; it is a UK industry of national strategic importance and it should be fully supported by the Governments here in Wales and in Westminster. Steel is at the heart of UK manufacturing, and, as such, it helps balance the books and is critical to other sectors, including defence and automotive.
 
However, today the steel industry is at breaking point. This is a crisis for one of the most important foundation industries in the British economy, an industry that employs approximately 30,000 people in the UK in highly-skilled and well-paid jobs, with over 8,000 of those employed within Wales. These jobs usually exist in our industrial heartlands, areas where we also see high unemployment, and thus not only does steel drive national and local economies, it also offers hope and opportunities to many seeking employment. Further to those directly employed, the steel industry also supports thousands more jobs, with Cardiff Business School estimating that 18,000 here in Wales are dependent upon Tata Steel alone.
 
Steel is also fundamental to strategic sectors like automotive, rail, construction and energy. With the World Steel Association estimating that global steel use will rise from approximately 1.5 billion tonnes a year currently to around 2.5 billion tonnes by 2050, it has the potential to enjoy a long, sustainable, innovative and productive future. It seems we just need the UK Government to see that.