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The Assembly met at 13:31 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:31
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:31
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The first item this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is Sandy Mewies.
 
Eye Conditions
 
13:31
Sandy MewiesBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on what support the Welsh Government is giving to improve community-based treatment services for people suffering from eye conditions, including wet age-related macular degeneration? OAQ(4)2681(FM)
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The new £400,000 investment establishes four wet AMD pathfinders in out-of-hospital settings, making it more convenient for people to access the right care, in the right place, at the right time. This will lead, over time, to a significant transfer of services away from hospitals into local communities.
 
13:32
Sandy MewiesBiography
Thank you. As the Chair of the cross-party group on vision loss, I’m sure we will all be welcoming this recent announcement; I certainly do. Moving services out of hospitals and into people’s homes will help them enormously, especially as some of them are already suffering from significant sight loss. But, can I ask you, First Minister, after the results of the currently planned pilot schemes are published, does the Welsh Government intend to extend these schemes and support services, for example, for my constituents in Delyn, and across the rest of Wales?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. The overall aim of all four of the pathfinder pilot proposals is to establish a model, or models of care, that can potentially be replicated across other health board areas. Depending, of course, on what the evaluation tells us, the intention is very much that they are extended to other parts of Wales. There are currently over 40,000 people accessing wet AMD services in secondary care across Wales, and we anticipate moving a considerable number of these people into primary care for treatment via one or more of the pathfinder models.
 
13:33
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, 29 per cent of people within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board do not have regular two-yearly eye tests, with one of the primary reasons given for this that they hadn’t even thought about it, or didn’t see the importance of it. Given the other serious eye conditions that can be detected during a routine eye test, how will you work, and your Government, to ensure that we have a better, improved uptake of regular eye tests?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
These things are important, as the Member has said. We are the first country in the world to have an eye care plan, and we encourage people to take regular eye tests, not just to test their eyesight, but, as the Member rightly points out, a number of conditions that are not only eye-related can actually be diagnosed via such an eye test. The eye care plan itself, of course, explains how we offer a holistic approach to people’s eye health.
 
Haemophilia
 
13:34
Julie MorganBiography
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the health provision for people with haemophilia in Wales? OAQ(4)2685(FM)[R]
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We continue to support services within the NHS and in the third sector to improve the lives of people with haemophilia. The Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee is working with health boards in undertaking service planning in various areas relating to the future provision of services.
 
13:34
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the First Minister for that reply, and a lot of progress has been made in Wales with access to the new life-transforming drugs for people who’ve contracted hepatitis C, and the appointment of a hepatologist at the Heath. But there’s still an ongoing problem with financial support for people with haemophilia, and the haemophilia community in Wales are deeply disappointed by the statement made by the Westminster Government, towards the end of last week, about changes to the support that is given to people with haemophilia—too little, too late, and not enough attention to dependants. So, will the First Minister personally approach the Westminster Government and speak up for the haemophilia community in Wales to try to get a better settlement, after such another blow to such a beleaguered community?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I will, and I thank the Member for raising the issue with me. We know that a huge amount of progress has been made in terms of the treatment—or the management, rather—of haemophilia. She’ll be aware, of course, of the additional money that was made available to treat hepatitis C for those who had contracted it. That was announced on 22 September. But she has asked me to raise an issue with the UK Government, and I’ll be pleased to do so.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:36
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders, and, first this afternoon, we have the leader of the opposition, Andrew R. T. Davies.
 
13:36
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, tomorrow, the Welsh Conservatives have tabled a debate on the local government settlement, and, in particular, the inability to support rural councils, such as Powys, for example, against the 4 per cent cut that they’re facing. In questions that the Minister for Public Services took a fortnight ago, he was unable to confirm whether the local government settlement was part of the overall budget agreement that you had agreed with the Liberal Democrats. Are you able to confirm whether you did have agreement that the local government settlement should have been supported along with the main budget?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a matter, of course, between ourselves and the Liberal Democrats in terms of the budget agreement that’s been struck. But we’re confident that the local government settlement that will be announced as part of the draft budget in due course will be one that will be acceptable. I have to say, of course, to the leader of the opposition that his party’s policy is to further cut local government spending, as, indeed, has happened in England.
 
13:37
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, your answer was about as clear as mud. I think it’s quite a legitimate question to ask—whether you or your Government was able to confirm whether it was part of the overall budget deal. Your public services Minister was unable to confirm that. That really does show the chaos and confusion at the heart of the Government when it comes to the budget.
 
When we look at education, for example, and, in particular, the Estyn report that’s out today, it does show that, under 17 years of the leadership of the Labour Government here on education, there is still a marked contrast between the quality of teaching and learning. There is still a huge gap between the schools that are doing well and those that are not doing so good; the gap is still considerable. And there is a polarisation in the inspection outcomes for secondary schools. After 17 years of Labour running education here in Wales, do you not think this report is a damning indictment of your failure to improve outcomes in education?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I have to say to the leader of the opposition that what is agreed between ourselves and the Liberal Democrats is a matter for us. If he’d wanted to approach us with some kind of proposal, then that’s a matter for him. He can’t complain in those circumstances.
 
I bet he hasn’t read the Estyn report, because let me remind him what’s actually in it. The levels of excellence in primary schools have risen from 8 per cent to 18 per cent over the last five years. The levels of schools displaying some excellence in secondary have risen from 23 per cent to 38 per cent over five years. The levels of basic literacy and numeracy are improving. The gap between deprived pupils and their peers showed the biggest closing of the gap in recent years this year, allied to a renewed focus through the pupil deprivation grant. Improvements have been seen this year across the foundation stage and key stages 2 and 3. The best GCSE results ever, level 2 inclusive, up 2.5 per cent to 57.9 per cent, and 69.7 per cent achieved A* to C—[Interruption.]. You shouldn’t have asked the question if you didn’t want the answer. Some 69.7 per cent achieved A* to C in English or Welsh, up 2.5 per cent; 64.4 per cent achieved A* to C in maths, up 2.7 per cent. In addition, we are building and improving schools—over 150 schools across Wales—through the twenty-first century schools programme, and we are proud of what we’re doing.
 
13:39
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
The fact is, when you internationally benchmark education here in Wales, when you look at the gap between other parts of the United Kingdom, where there have been huge improvements, of pupils being taught in schools with far greater achievements than the direction your Government has set for schools here in Wales, we are still lagging behind other parts of the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, and this report clearly shows this.
 
But, also, another report that is out today is the Public Accounts Committee report into the regeneration investment fund for Wales and the sell-off of land that the Welsh Government held on behalf of the Welsh people. And when you look at the sums involved, the sums are actually astronomical. When you look at the land in Rhoose, for example, sold for £1.8 million and then selling to developers for £10 million to build houses on. When you look at the Lisvane land: selling for £2 million and now having a value of £37 million. And you also look at the land in Abergele, which was sold for £100,000: again, several millions pounds that piece of land was sold for as well. This is all land that has been lost, money that has been lost, to the Welsh purse to invest in regeneration and public services the length and breadth of Wales. Do you not think that that is a damning indictment of the way that your Government and your Ministers account to the Welsh people for looking after their assets and disposing of them in such a cavalier fashion?
 
13:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’m not surprised the leader of the opposition moved on very quickly from education after his utter failure to convince the people of Wales of what he sees as failings in the Welsh education system. The Estyn report says quite the opposite, if he read it. The situation in England is an unaccountable mess, where nobody seems to be accountable for school progress. We in Wales are seeing progress improving in our schools. That is not the case in England. We are building schools. You dropped the schools building programme in England. You’re not building schools in England. You dropped it. And I’ve no doubt that if ever you came anywhere near the reins of power in Wales you would stop building schools in Wales and improving schools in Wales, because you have no real stake in the Welsh education system.
 
Let me turn to the issue that you raise with regard to RIFW. It is correct to say that the way that RIFW was managed fell well below the standards we would expect as a Government, and for that we are sorry. It is true to say that the concept was good, but the delivery was flawed. And, of course, as Members deserve, the Government will give a full response to the report itself, which does raise serious issues, we acknowledge, in the proper course of time.
 
13:41
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:41
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, universities and higher education institutions are the backbone not only of our economy, but of our entire country. In your draft budget, you are proposing what is, in effect, a £41 million cut to Welsh university funding. Last week, we had the devastating news about job losses at Tata Steel. Now, there is every possibility that the job losses facing higher education could be greater in number than those announced by Tata last week, and they will impact on almost every community throughout the country. Have you made any assessment as to the number of job losses as a result of that cut?
 
13:42
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t accept that there need to be any job losses. The total income of HE in Wales in one year is £1.3 billion, and so £40 million, although a substantial amount of money, is a small percentage of the total income of HE in Wales. Secondly, we know that many HE institutions have substantial reserves—up to £100 million, and maybe beyond in the case of some of them. We know that further education colleges had difficulties last year, and we understood that and we listened and we made sure this year the situation was easier for them. It’s important that people understand, of course, that we’ve had a cut in our budget. The leader of Plaid Cymru will have heard me say that on many occasions. But HE institutions are far more robust in terms of their reserves, in terms of the income that they can attract. Yes, we will listen to them, of course, but, nevertheless, I think it has to be put in the context of what their overall income is.
 
13:43
Leanne WoodBiography
I’m staggered that you’ve made no assessment as to the potential job losses as a result of this cut. And there will be a cut: there is a reduction in the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’s budget, according to your own figures, from £129 million this year to £88 million next year. That cut could translate to a 40 per cent cut to research funding, and that is according to HEFCW. That will not only result in job losses, but it will also put Welsh universities at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to research. Now, First Minister, this cut means that you will be spending more money on universities outside of Wales than you will be spending on the entire HEFCW budget. Are you prepared to confirm that that is the case?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I do not accept that there need to be any job losses—any job losses—as a result of what has been proposed. Universities have substantial reserves. Other organisations are expected to draw on those reserves and I fail to see why universities should be treated differently. That said, we will listen to any case that they will make, but they have to accept that many sectors have found it difficult. They cannot be immune to the cuts that we are seeing from the UK Government. And bear in mind that their total income is far, far higher, for example, than the income that exists for FE colleges.
 
Now, turning to the point the leader of Plaid Cymru makes, which is that she wants to stop paying the tuition fees of those students from Wales who choose to study in England—which is her party’s policy—I do not support that in principle. I think it’s important that money follows Welsh students. I think HE institutions in Wales must compete for Welsh students, rather than having them delivered on a plate. I think it’s important that Welsh students have a choice. For example, if they have the opportunity to go to Oxford or Cambridge, they should have the chance to have that opportunity. If they want to study courses that aren’t available in Wales, then why should they be penalised financially for the fact that they would then have to pay three times as much as they do now? So, no, I would not support a situation where we should look at crudely cutting back on the tuition fee support that is available to students from Wales who choose to study outside Wales.
 
13:46
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, you are sounding very complacent, and this questioning session is not about Plaid Cymru’s policy—we will have plenty of opportunity to discuss Plaid Cymru’s policy. This is my opportunity to question you about your policy. First Minister, it is without dispute that you will spend over £90 million on funding universities outside of Wales. For the first time ever—for the first time ever—that will be more than the entire HEFCW budget. First Minister, what is clear is that you have no policy beyond the Diamond review. You haven’t confirmed what you will do for student support. The only thing that you have confirmed is that you want to make this £41 million cut, which is a cut of 32 per cent to Welsh universities. Do you have any intention of being open and transparent with people about your intentions for higher education before the election next May, and will you start that process by reversing this cut to HEFCW?
 
13:47
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, can I say, the leader of Plaid Cymru suggests that, somehow, I am not answering her questions? I am; she just doesn’t like the answers. The reality is that she dresses up her argument that we are funding universities in England to the tune of £90 million. We are funding Welsh students—we are funding Welsh students. What she objects to—and it’s a matter for her party—is that we should fund Welsh students outside Wales. That is what she objects to. Now, I do not agree with that position. I don’t think that it’s right for students in Wales to have to pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees, just like in England. I do not accept that. Secondly, I do not accept that students in Wales should be penalised because they study outside Wales or study courses that aren’t available in Wales. So, she tries to suggest that this is money we’re somehow giving to universities in England. We are giving money to Welsh students to study and escape the level of debt that their colleagues, unfortunately, in England face when they leave college. [Interruption.]
 
13:48
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, today’s Estyn report does demonstrate that schools displaying some elements of excellence are improving, which is good news indeed. But the number of schools that are viewed as ‘unsatisfactory’ has also increased. The report challenges you and local authorities to identify and support schools that are struggling sooner and earlier. Could you outline how you will address that point?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Schools Challenge Cymru, of course, is the way that we have dealt with that. We’re seeing some very good improvements across the sector in those that are part of the scheme. Tonyrefail community—Tonypandy, I beg your pardon; I look at the Member for Rhondda and know that Tonyrefail is not in the Rhondda. Tonypandy community school, for example, has seen an incredible improvement in performance in just one year. So, from our point of view, we have put money into those schools that we believe are not up to the standard we would expect and we are seeing results in terms of their performance. There is a challenge for local authorities. They deliver education on the ground. I am glad to see that there are fewer local authorities that are the subject of special measures, and that will help to strengthen consistency across Wales.
 
13:49
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
But Schools Challenge Cymru only assists a limited number of schools, and there are schools that have been put into special measures since Schools Challenge Cymru was invented and implemented that don’t get any additional support at all, and those are schools that have been identified by Estyn as struggling. So, the question is: why do those schools not receive support under Schools Challenge Cymru and schools that are not in special measures potentially do? The report also says that initiatives—and there’s been a lot of those—are only as good as the people who implement them. What are you doing as a Government to foster strong leadership, excellent teaching and high aspirations at all our schools? Would you agree with me it’s time to establish a Welsh academy of leadership to promote high-quality school leadership and help the best leaders to work in the most challenging schools?
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re seeing examples of that across Wales as it is. Schools Challenge Cymru is an example of where that does happen—where leadership changes in schools in order for schools to improve. The local education authorities have the initial responsibility for helping schools. They need to identify schools quickly and make sure that help is made available to those schools in a timely manner. It’s for them, of course, to provide that help. Yes, it is for us, of course, to provide help through schemes such as Schools Challenge Cymru, and we have done that. I have to say that it would be more useful for us as a Government, in terms of providing training and in terms of providing a good package for teachers, if we had control over teachers’ pay and conditions. There’s no question about that. We can’t control the employment of supply teachers, we can’t control teachers’ pay and conditions and we can’t control, for example, things like in-service training days. So, from our point of view, being able to deliver a proper package in terms of pay, conditions, leadership—I think we could deliver a more comprehensive package, even on top of what we deliver at the moment through schemes such as Schools Challenge Cymru.
 
13:51
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
With all due respect, First Minister, you may have had the opportunity to have those powers if Owen Smith hadn’t sat in a meeting with me, you and other people in this room and objected wholeheartedly to teachers’ pay and conditions being devolved. The one startlingly good piece of news in this report, which you referred to earlier in your answer to Andrew R.T. Davies, is the closing of the gap between those pupils from our most deprived backgrounds who qualify for free school meals and those who don’t. Would you agree with me, First Minister, that the outstanding success policy in education over the last couple of years has indeed been the introduction of the pupil deprivation grant, one that the Liberal Democrats had to persuade you to introduce?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’ll give her that one, in terms of the pupil deprivation grant. We see the results and it’s something, of course, which I’ve been fairly open about in terms of the fact that it was a suggestion of the Liberal Democrats. It’s one element, though. Let’s not pretend it’s because of the pupil deprivation grant that things are improving in Welsh education. It’s responsible for improvements in some areas. When we look at the highest GCSE results ever, that is because of what we have done as a Government. If we look at literacy and numeracy improving, it’s because of the literacy and numeracy framework. And we are seeing schools in Wales improve year by year. That’s a tribute to those who work in those schools, it’s a tribute, certainly, to some local authorities—many local authorities—who have put in the work to improve schools in their area, and also, of course, it is testament to the fact that we have put in—or are putting in—over £1 billion-worth of investment so that our children can be taught in the schools that they expect to be taught in, unlike the situation in England, where schools are crumbling.
 
13:53
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper. Question 3 is Paul Davies.
 
The Economy of Pembrokeshire
 
13:53
Paul DaviesBiography
3. What is the Welsh Government doing to improve the economy of Pembrokeshire? OAQ(4)2670(FM)
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The economy is a priority for Welsh Government and we are taking forward wide-ranging actions that are supporting jobs, growth and improving the business environment for Pembrokeshire and the whole of Wales.
 
13:53
Paul DaviesBiography
First Minister, one way of improving the Pembrokeshire economy is to ensure that the agriculture industry receives the support it deserves. This morning I was very proud to sponsor the annual Farmers’ Union of Wales breakfast to celebrate Welsh produce and to recognise the significant contribution that agriculture and farming makes to the Welsh economy. Given the importance of the agricultural industry to Pembrokeshire, and, of course, to the Welsh economy, tackling bovine TB is crucially important, and, therefore, given that your vaccination programme has now failed, what steps is the Welsh Government now taking to eradicate this disease?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This is under consideration at present. What we know is that the culling of badgers has no impact. We saw this during the Krebs trials, where culling, of course, actually exacerbated the problem because of the method that was used. So, the vaccination programme has taken place, and I know that the Minister’s now considering how to proceed to deal with TB. I accept that TB, of course, is a serious matter for the agricultural industry, but it’s extremely important that we have an effective system to deal with it.
 
13:54
Simon ThomasBiography
You will know from your visit to Pembroke Dock last week that the people of Pembrokeshire give a very warm welcome to visitors, and the tourism industry is crucially important, along with the agricultural industry, in that county. Plaid Cymru has announced that we will double the budget for tourism in Wales, and that we will give a particular emphasis to tourism as one of the mainstays of our economy, particularly in rural areas. So, what do you intend to do as First Minister to promote the tourism industry in Pembrokeshire over the next year?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I thought that this wasn’t a questioning session on the policies of Plaid Cymru, but there we are. I’ll answer the question, of course. We know that tourism is extremely important to us in Wales. For example, 2014 was a record year in Wales: 10 million visitors for the first time ever—a 7 per cent increase in terms of international visits. We saw the marketing campaign last year, and that, of course, generated £240 million of spend in Wales, and that was 36 per cent up from the previous year. Steps are being taken to develop a brand strategy for Wales to ensure that people know what Wales has to offer, and, of course, this year we have the Year of Adventure to promote the outdoors sector—people who want to cycle, who want to come to Wales for walking and so on, and to tell people, ‘Come to Wales because Wales is a place where you can have both adventure and fun’. So, that’s what we’ve done as a Government. That’s what we’re doing this year, bearing in mind the fact that tourism is extremely important to our economy.
 
Wales and Borders Rail Franchise
 
13:56
Russell GeorgeBiography
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the remapping of the Wales and Borders rail franchise? OAQ(4)2675(FM)
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Discussions with the UK Government about the scope of services to be included in a future franchise awarded by the Welsh Ministers are ongoing, but no decision has been taken to remap any services.
 
13:56
Russell GeorgeBiography
Thank you, First Minister. I’m aware that a joint Welsh and UK Government working group has been discussing remapping services to be operated by the replacement Wales and borders franchise post October 2018 and that consideration was given to splitting the current Aberystwyth to Birmingham International service, with trains on the Cambrian line terminating in Shrewsbury rather than Birmingham International, as they do now. I’m sure you’ll agree this would be extremely detrimental and an inconvenience to passengers and would also have a negative impact on the mid Wales economy. Will you provide instructions to officials to prioritise in their negotiations, or give precedence to, the passengers, but also provide a commitment that direct services from Aberystwyth to Birmingham will continue?
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I can assure the Member that it’s our intention to continue at least with the existing service. There is a threat to the Cardiff-Manchester service, on the basis, it appears, that in the Department for Transport they want to see no service that begins in Wales and terminates in England operated by the Wales and borders franchise. In other words, the only services that would be run by that franchise would be services that begin and end in Wales. Cardiff-Holyhead, of course, goes through England but that ends in Wales. Why? I have absolutely no idea, because Scotland doesn’t have that restriction. ScotRail runs, for example, the sleeper trains out of Euston towards Scotland, but at the moment it’s the suggestion of the Department of Transport that they do not want to see rail services exist between a departure point in Wales and a terminus point in England and vice versa. We’re more than happy to make that case to the UK Government but it’s important to understand that that is the attitude that’s been taken so far by the Department of Transport.
 
13:58
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
What preparatory work has the Welsh Government undertaken with a view to having a not-for-profit model on the Glas Cymru pattern to be responsible for the new rail franchise for Wales?
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, this under consideration at present, of course. One of the issues that we’re considering is whether there’s any way of ensuring that there is a not-for-profit company to take it on and whether that is a feasible model. We are considering this in detail at present, and I believe that the people of Wales would wish to see any company running the railroads in Wales reinvesting the profit that they make back into the service. So, that is something that we are considering at present.
 
13:59
Aled RobertsBiography
First Minister, I’m also concerned about the service between Holyhead and Manchester and also between Wrexham and Bidston and Llandudno and Manchester, as well as the situation to Birmingham. Can I ask you, therefore, if your officials are holding any discussions with the Wales Office, as well as the Department for Transport? Because Alun Cairns, a Minister in the Wales Office, on 11 January, responded to a written question, where he states, and I quote:
 
‘To ensure proper accountability for passengers in England, it is expected that services primarily serving English markets will be remapped into other Department for Transport franchises and we will consult on specific proposals in due course.’
 
Therefore, perhaps the Member for Montgomeryshire could have a quiet word with his fellow member of the Conservative Party to ensure that the Wales Office is also fighting Wales’s corner.
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
In my view, the Wales Office’s job is to fight for Wales and not explain to the people of Wales what’s good for them and what’s not good for them. If they’re our friends, we’re going to receive very little support and assistance from Whitehall because of that. The other problem is, of course, that there are many cross-border services and those services do generate profit—for example, Cardiff to Manchester and services from north Wales to Manchester. If you take those services out of the franchise, then there’s less money available. I don’t see any problem—. There’s no problem with the Scots running services into England, but, for some reason, the United Kingdom Government and the Wales Office— after hearing what the Member has said— have the idea that it’s only services that start and finish in Wales that should come under the franchise. This is totally unfair and irresponsible, and it’s not something that is true for Scotland.
 
The Recruitment and Retention of Doctors
 
14:01
Altaf HussainBiography
5. Will the First Minister outline the actions the Welsh Government is taking to improve the recruitment and retention of doctors in Wales? OAQ(4)2673(FM)
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The recruitment and retention of doctors is the responsibility of heath boards and trusts. We support that work in a number of ways, and a 10-year workforce strategy is being developed that will determine the shape of our medical workforce.
 
14:01
Altaf HussainBiography
Thank you, First Minister, for that answer. First Minister, one of the major barriers to the recruitment of doctors is the state of our education system. Many newly qualified doctors in England refuse to come to Wales because they don’t want their children educated here. In addition—[Interruption.] That is a fact. [Interruption.] You should read the newspapers and see.
 
14:02
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order. Please, order. Let the Member finish.
 
14:02
Altaf HussainBiography
Many newly qualified doctors in England refuse to come to Wales because they don’t want their children educated here. In addition, we have seen massacres in the higher education sector, particularly in high-cost subjects such as medicine, which will have a huge impact on the number of doctors we train. When will you get your eyes back on the ball and deliver an education system that is fit for purpose and not a barrier to the recruitment of doctors?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I utterly reject the idea that the Member has put forward and that the Conservative Party’s view should be that the message they give to doctors is, ‘Don’t come to Wales because of the education system’. Where is their Welshness? Where is their loyalty to Wales? I have to say that I find that absolutely extraordinary. I have to say to the party opposite that the greatest barrier to recruitment in England under their party is the fact that junior doctors go on strike. There is no greater disincentive to doctors to go to England than the fact that they are treated with such distain by Jeremy Hunt and the UK Government. I can say to the Member that we have no difficulty in recruiting doctors in Wales: GP numbers have increased by 10.5 per cent between 2004 and 2014. [Interruption.]
 
14:03
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order. Andrew R.T. Davies, quiet. First Minister.
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There are now over 2,000 GPs serving communities right across Wales. There are more doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics and dental staff working in the NHS today than there were 10 years ago. The number of hospital consultants working in the Welsh NHS increased by nearly 50 per cent between 2004 and 2014—up by 721 to 2,270. That is a sign that Wales is a place to work, that doctors see it as a place where they want to come and study and work in the future, and I reject utterly any idea that the Conservatives want to spread around that somehow there’s something wrong with the Welsh education system, when they’ve been responsible for the mess that we see in education and health in England.
 
14:04
Elin JonesBiography
First Minister, around £15 million of HEFCW funding is spent on expensive courses, which include medical studies. As you intend to cut this budget by 32 per cent, what assessment have you carried out on how many fewer doctors will be trained and taught in Wales as a result of this cut? Or do you expect the universities to use their reserves in order to fund medical education?
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I expect universities to use the funding available to them. As I said, they have substantial incomes. They also have reserves, and we would expect them to ensure that the number of doctors is ultimately maintained.
 
14:05
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, whilst it is the case that the number of GPs in Wales has increased, that is scant compensation for a number of areas that have seen primary care services lost or threatened because of an inability to recruit full-time GPs, or difficulties in accessing locum cover—for instance, in Machynlleth, and in Coelbren in my own constituency. What steps is the Government taking to address one of the concerns that has previously been raised by the profession around a single practitioners list that would cut down on the bureaucracy and thus allow GPs to work more easily on both sides of the border?
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Clearly, we want to make sure that it is easy to work on both sides of the border. If you look at the examples of where GPs’ practices have decided to cease operating, the health board takes them over and salaried GPs are placed there instead. That is the trend in medicine anyway. There are fewer and fewer students now who want to buy into a practice; they'd rather be salaried, because it gives them the flexibility that they need. They don't want to put the money up front to actually buy into practice under the contractor model, although, for some, that's what they would want. It's true to say—she's raised issues with me in the Chamber before—there are some parts of Wales where there have been difficulties with GP practices. That's the decision of GP practices, not the health service, of course, in terms of the service that they provide. But, what I do know is that where practices have decided not to operate, the health board does take them over and salaried GPs are then put in place.
 
The Economy of the Swansea Bay Region
 
14:06
Mike HedgesBiography
6. Will the First Minister make a statement on the economy of the Swansea bay region? OAQ(4)2669(FM)
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The economy of the Swansea bay region, as indeed the economy of Wales, is a priority for the Welsh Government, and we are taking forward wide-ranging actions that are supporting jobs and growth and improving the business environment.
 
14:07
Mike HedgesBiography
Can I thank the First Minister for that response? The development by Swansea University on Fabian Way, and the University of Wales Trinity St David, alongside the mixed developments of SA1, Swansea Vale and Llandarcy are very important to the Swansea region. What work is being done with universities to grow the local economy in high-skill and high-wage sectors, such as life sciences, ICT and professional services?
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, only yesterday, I launched the Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute in Port Talbot, working closely with higher education, offering opportunities for students to study up to PhD level, and a magnet for manufacturing investment in the future. We're working with officers at Swansea council to bring forward development, under the Swansea Vale joint venture, of the Llandarcy and Fabian Way corridor in order to see how creative sector projects can be taken forward there. I attended Bay Studios as well yesterday—on Fabian Way, but not in Swansea, I know; in the Aberavon constituency. A fantastic venture, and huge potential opportunities for the area as well. I can say as well that the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has signed a memorandum of understanding with Trinity Saint David university, committing to work with the university on developing its business collaboration as it develops its new campus at SA1.
 
14:08
Suzy DaviesBiography
The economy Minister, of course, has announced her intention to consider the potential for an enterprise zone around Port Talbot, and, as you saw yourself, the area’s got great appeal for other developing engineering companies. Now, retaining that engineering expertise in the wider area would be very valuable for the future of the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, for example, but we have seen, haven't we, that there is a risk in depending on one particular type of industry for an area's economic success. The bay region is going to need a mixed economy with a range of skills, including bilingual skills. So, is any consideration being given to any enterprise zone being outside the sectoral approach that this Government’s stuck to in the last five years?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The reason why the enterprise zones are sectoral is to attract clusters, to benefit from external economies of scale, so that we see companies in a similar sector clustering in one area, as we’ve seen around the M4. We see it particularly around Heathrow Airport as well. We have written, as the Member knows, to the Chancellor with our intention to create an enterprise zone around Port Talbot and asking for enhanced capital allowances to be made available. We've not yet had a response; I hope we see a response, certainly, in the next few days. She is right to say, of course, that it's never healthy to rely on one industry alone. The Secretary of State himself, when on the ‘Jason Mohammad’ programme last week, said that there are many parts of Wales that are still suffering as a result of colliery closures. It was very honest of him to acknowledge that, given that it was his party that imposed them in the first place. But what we are looking to do is to broaden the Welsh economy. If you look at Swansea bay, we do have Port Talbot as a major employer, we do have the power station at Baglan, we do have the university’s bay campus and of course we have creative industries in the form of Bay Studios.
 
14:10
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
The UK Prime Minister said recently that his enthusiasm for the tidal lagoon in Swansea bay was ebbing away. Is your confidence still in place for that scheme, First Minister, and for the plans for other lagoons around the Welsh coast?
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, 100 per cent. We as a Government are extremely supportive of the plans for Swansea bay. We know there are opportunities for employment, for economic development, and for the development of the Port Talbot area, and of course for tourism. I’m very sorry—and I mean ‘sorry’, as in the south Wales version of ‘blin’—to see that the Prime Minister is becoming tired of the project, and is not as strongly and robustly behind it as he used to be. But I can say that we as a Government are 100 per cent behind the project.
 
14:11
Peter BlackBiography
First Minister, on the issue of the tidal lagoon, while we wait for the UK Government to make their decision—it does seem an inordinately long time—can I also raise the issue of the NRW consent for that lagoon, which is also taking a long time to come forward? Do you have any indication as to when Natural Resources Wales are likely to issue a licence for that lagoon to go ahead?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, that’s a matter for NRW, of course. But this is not a major issue compared to the strike price. What will determine whether the lagoon goes ahead or not is the strike price that’s made available to the developers. We are seeing a UK Government now that’s moving away from renewables. We’ve seen the hatchet job that’s been done on wind. The same thing happened to solar. We’ve seen the money that’s going into Hinkley Point, and we’ve seen fracking in England—something that many Members in this Chamber, including me, don’t want to see in Wales. What is the energy policy for the future? We have a tremendous resource in the Bristol channel, with the second-highest tidal reach in the world, sitting there ready to be used for the creation of energy. The leader of the opposition is babbling away there, as he does, because he’s got no answers. But he fails to explain why his own Prime Minister cannot explain why he won’t go ahead with the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, why he will not support job creation around Port Talbot, why he will not support renewable energy, why he will not support a project that will benefit the demand for steel in Port Talbot. I know that energy is created in many ways, but the hot air he creates, well, that gives us no energy at all, does it?
 
14:13
Gwenda ThomasBiography
It’s clear from your responses, First Minister, that you agree with me that, in developing the economy of the Swansea bay region, it is vital to ensure that the benefits are felt in all its constituent parts. Key to this will be developing the skill base across the wider region. I think the recently announced Growing Workforces through Learning and Development project is a very exciting development in this area. Under the lovely acronym GWLAD, this EU-funded scheme will deliver accredited work-based training programmes to 100 participating enterprises in South Wales West. I would very much like to see companies in my constituency amongst that 100. How will you be raising awareness of this excellent opportunity amongst the business community in Neath?
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I thank the Member for the question. I am delighted that, through £2.4 million of EU funds, we will be supporting UWTSD to help deliver work-based learning qualifications with employers in the south-west of Wales, including, of course, Neath Port Talbot. It’s all the more vital, of course, given the recent blow that we saw last week to the economy in Port Talbot and the wider county itself.
 
The announcement was covered widely, and I understand that Trinity Saint David itself will be raising further awareness of the opportunities through the local and regional press, through websites, social media, taster sessions and other marketing campaigns.
 
Promoting Tourism
 
14:14
Darren MillarBiography
7. Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government action to promote tourism in Wales? OAQ(4)2674(FM)
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Our tourism strategy sets out our priorities to support the tourism industry, including capital and development funding along with marketing and promotional opportunities.
 
14:14
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, do you agree with me that one problem that many tourists often cite as a reason for not going back to an area is litter on the streets? Are you therefore concerned about Conwy County Borough Council’s plans, which they are considering, which is to go from fortnightly to four-weekly intervals for the collection of their general refuse? Many residents have raised this concern with me. They believe that it’s unacceptable for general refuse to be collected on a four-weekly cycle basis, particularly for young families with children in nappies, dog mess, sanitary products, et cetera, that might be going into the general refuse bins. What action will your Government take to ensure that there’s appropriate guidance to local authorities regarding these matters?
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Local authorities must make the decision based on the recycling targets that they’re asked to meet and also, of course, the risk of fly-tipping; they must weigh these arguments carefully. What we do know is we can’t return to the days when everything was chucked into a black bag and put into a hole in the ground—they don’t exist anymore; they’re gone. The reality is that unless we see more recycling, there will be more of a demand for energy-from-waste plants, which themselves, as the Member will know, are controversial in many parts of Wales. So, we do want to encourage recycling. What I’ve always said is it’s important that recycling is made as easy as possible for people, to make sure that they fully understand which containers certain items should go in and that those containers are big enough as well, which I know is an issue in some parts of Wales. I think, then, people do get used to the idea that when it comes to the black bag collection, most things have already been recycled through other ways and in other containers. But it is important that people fully understand the reasoning behind any changes and, of course, how they can contribute to recycling as well.
 
14:16
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, there’s been an enormous growth in tourism in Wales over the past year. One of the attractions for Wales is its growing culinary reputation. One of the attractions within Wales is, of course, our traditional fish and chip shops. I wonder, First Minister, if you would recognise and congratulate The Crispy Cod Fish Bar in Tonyrefail, where Ryan Hughes has been voted the UK’s best young fryer in the whole of the United Kingdom. I wonder if you will not only write to Ryan and congratulate him on this achievement, but, in supporting the Welsh tourist industry and our culinary expertise, accept an invitation from me to join me one night for a fish and chip supper in The Crispy Cod in Tonyrefail.
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Can I, first of all, congratulate the Member on the craft that he displayed in being able to raise The Crispy Cod as an issue here in the Chamber? Could I add my congratulations, of course, to Ryan himself and to The Crispy Cod? They provide a wonderful service to the people of Tonyrefail and beyond. It is not often I get an invitation for a bite to eat while answering First Minister’s questions, and so, on this occasion, I’d be delighted to accept. [Laughter.]
 
14:17
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Our coal mining history, of course, is well known on a global level, but Parys Mountain in Amlwch, and Amlwch Port, and, now, the Copper Kingdom Centre’s museum, provide a window on another incredible aspect of our history, or another incredible period in our industrial history, when that town on Anglesey was the heart of the copper industry on a global level. It would be good to share that story with more people. So, as well as inviting the First Minister, of course, to visit Amlwch to see those attractions for himself, may I ask what support the Government can provide in order to develop those attractions and in order to share the story and celebrate our heritage in the copper industry?
 
14:18
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I see that I’m extremely popular this afternoon as regards the number of invitations I’m receiving. Of course, the Member is correct: Parys Mountain is extremely important in terms of our copper heritage and the industry in Wales. I’ve been on the mountain myself—many years ago by now, but I have been there. It’s extremely important that people understand not only the heritage but also the geography of the area. Parys Mountain is unique as regards what is in the area and in terms of the geography of the mountain itself. Of course, it’s something that Visit Wales could consider, in terms of the way we can promote Parys Mountain as something that attracts visitors into northern Anglesey.
 
14:19
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth here in Cardiff is a fantastic opportunity for us to bring tourists here to the capital and to other parts of Wales, too, and I look forward to the programme of events that is planned. But would you agree with me that this is the perfect opportunity, the perfect launch pad, for the creation of a permanent Roald Dahl centre here in Cardiff to bring tourists to us, but also, actually, to inspire the next generation of Welsh writers with a love of literature?
 
14:19
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s an interesting idea, of course. It’s the finance that’s the question. It would need, no doubt, private finance, certainly at least to begin with, and it would need to be self-supporting. But, certainly, we would very much like to work with any organisation that would wish to put in place a Roald Dahl centre and celebrate the fact that Cardiff is the birthplace of one of the world’s most renowned children’s writers.
 
14:20
Christine ChapmanBiography
First Minister, Cynon Valley Museum is very popular amongst tourists and has a lot to offer in terms of promoting the heritage of the south Wales Valleys. I’m not sure if it does fish and chips, but it does offer other things, I know. [Laughter.] As a community asset transfer, responsibility for running it was taken over from Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council by local volunteers. As councils are increasingly resorting to these transfers due to the effect of spending pressures, what advice or support can the Welsh Government make available to such assets so that they can best pitch themselves to continue to attract tourists?
 
14:20
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think one of the areas that they can look at is to engage with volunteers as much as possible. There are many, many people who want to give their time to museums and who will give that time freely. So, if it is a question, for example, of councils finding it difficult in terms of increasing staffing in museums, I’m sure there are volunteers who would love to do it. Times are difficult financially—we know that. Museums are not expected to make money—they are assets for the community—but I’m sure that there are volunteers in the Cynon Valley who would be more than willing—they may be already; I don’t know the structure there—but I’m sure there are even more volunteers who would love to give their time.
 
14:21
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:21
Urgent Question: Safeguarding Children in Pembrokeshire
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the next item on the agenda. I have accepted an urgent question under Standing Order 12.66. I call on Simon Thomas to ask the question.
 
14:21
Simon ThomasBiography
Will the Minister make a statement on safeguarding children in Pembrokeshire following the Dylan Seabridge case? EAQ(4)0690(HSS)[W]
 
14:21
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
The very sad death of Dylan Seabridge took place in December 2011. In the years that have followed, this National Assembly has placed the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 on the statute book, which both reforms and strengthens safeguarding services, including those provided to children in Pembrokeshire.
 
14:22
Simon ThomasBiography
I thank the Minister for his reply, and he’s right to point out that some improvements have been made in legislation, but what has emerged since the inquest a year ago into Dylan’s death is that several opportunities were in fact missed by professionals who, perhaps, should have been more alert to the situation that he was in. It cannot be acceptable, no matter what we think of parental choice in this country, that a child of eight can die of scurvy in twenty-first century Wales. There were refusals to allow health professionals access to Dylan. A lot of talk has been about home schooling, but it seems to me that there is a health, as much as a schooling, aspect to this. I’m disturbed that we haven’t had a published report from Pembrokeshire County Council on lessons learned from this case. Have you, Minister, or your colleagues received such a report, and are you in a position to publish any such information? And what further lessons have you learned as a Government about safeguarding children in this regard?
 
14:23
Mark DrakefordBiography
Llywydd, a child practice review, which is being carried out by the safeguarding board in Pembrokeshire, is not yet complete, nor is it published, nor should we attempt here to bring any influence to bear on the board in the work that it does. I entirely share what the Member said about the terrible thought that a child would die in Wales in the circumstances that have been reported here. Members will be aware that the involvement of the police, the possibility of prosecution and so on has an impact upon the timetable that safeguarding boards can carry out some of their work, and that’s been the case in this instance. What we have to do is to allow the board, with the independence that is absolutely properly afforded to it, to carry out its work, to complete it, to publish the report and then, quite certainly, we will look to Pembrokeshire council to provide us with a plan that shows how it will respond to any of the conclusions that the board will have reached.
 
14:24
Joyce WatsonBiography
An eight-year old boy has died of scurvy, and Dylan Seabridge should be alive and he should be well today, and we shouldn’t actually be here discussing his death at all. So, Minister, can you please confirm that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 strengthens the whole safeguarding regime in Wales? Can you also confirm that plans are on track for its introduction in April this year, and that Pembrokeshire will be covered by those new arrangements? Minister, it is time that authorities recognise that the first duty that they have is to protect the child, not to hide behind artificial county boundaries, as seems to have happened, according to press reports, in this case. So, can you assure me that the Act will put the child first—not allow artificial land boundaries to get in the way?
 
14:25
Mark DrakefordBiography
Llywydd, one of the key ways in which the 2014 Act strengthened safeguarding is in placing safeguarding boards on the six regional footprints, which means that in future no one local authority will be responsible for the oversight of its own services. That will certainly be the case in the case of Pembrokeshire County Council. The Act also places a new legal obligation on all those workers who are involved in potential safeguarding cases to make a report of any concerns that come to their attention to the local social services department. With both of those, together with the new independent national safeguarding board and a series of other changes brought about by the 2014 Act, I feel confident that they will strengthen our safeguarding arrangements, and quite certainly they put the focus very unambiguously on the needs of the child herself or himself.
 
14:26
Angela BurnsBiography
Minister, this is a desperately sad case before us, and I’m afraid I don’t share your confidence that the safeguarding board will be able to produce a comprehensive report in good order for two reasons. Firstly, because it is not just the county council who have questions to answer here, but it is also the health services, because that young lad should have been in receipt of health visitor care, for example. I know in the first five years of the lives of both my children the health visitor was a crucial element, so we want to know where the health services were in all of this. My second reason for raising my concern over this is that we’re talking about a county council that has regrettably had an unfortunately bad reputation in dealing with child safeguarding issues over the time that this young lad died, and I would like to see an independent review being taken of both education, health services and exactly what went on there. I don’t say this lightly, and I’m not trying to stir up trouble for them, but I can see it in casework that I have before me that there are difficulties sometimes for young people to access the help that they need even when you raise it at a high level. I appreciate that some of this is under, or was under, criminal investigation, but, nonetheless, for four years that little boy’s name and his situation has not been in the eye of those who can make a difference, so I would urge you, Minister, to consider whether or not we need to have an independent review into this, because it’s more than just about Pembrokeshire County Council, if we really want to make a difference. And, as I say, I don’t have absolute faith that those who are going to be doing this review will be able to do it to their best ability.
 
14:28
Mark DrakefordBiography
Llywydd, I think it’s important just to put a few dates on the record here. As I said to Members in my original answer, the very sad death of Dylan took place in December 2011. In August of the year, concerns were raised by both the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales and by Estyn about aspects of education and social services within the Pembrokeshire local authority area. In November of 2011, the Pembrokeshire ministerial board was set up: it included experts in the field of education and social services, it had independent members including Helen Mary Jones, a former Member of this National Assembly, and it worked very hard in a very challenging way to make sure that the problems that were there around the time that this desperately sad incident took place were rectified. And it was only when that board provided assurances to Ministers that matters in Pembrokeshire were now in good order that the board was stood down in 2013. In October 2014, CSSIW, in a fresh inspection, reported that
 
‘working arrangements…are much improved…. Arrangements for clear oversight of all allegations…have been developed…. The scrutiny committees are strongly led by councillors who are not afraid to challenge officers about safeguarding’.
 
So, there have been a whole series of independent voices who have been present there in Pembrokeshire, and who have reported on the progress that that local authority has been able to make in the time since this death took place. I’m sorry that the Member doesn’t have confidence in the safeguarding board; it seems premature to reach that conclusion before any one of us has even had an opportunity to read the report that they will produce. Safeguarding boards are independent by their nature and they are not simply focused on social services. They include health, they include the police and they include third sector members around that table as well, and they are able to range far more widely than social services where they feel that there are other aspects of a child’s care that need to be investigated and reported upon.
 
14:30
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, I accept the need for independence with regard to the safeguarding regime, and also acknowledge the fact that there were legal proceedings. But, the inquest actually brought those proceedings to an end in January 2015. I understand that the serious case review was, in the words of the press briefings, 90 per cent complete in 2013, and I would respectfully suggest that the guidance for child practice reviews suggest that those reviews should be completed in a period between 12 weeks and six months. In the circumstances, given that the inquest concluded in January 2015, can I ask, whilst respecting the independence of the safeguarding board, that you give some assurance, in order that we can actually read all the evidence and form some conclusions, that that child practice review will be completed as soon as possible and will be published by the local safeguarding board in good time?
 
14:31
Mark DrakefordBiography
I can certainly give an assurance that the report will be published once it is available. I, like all Members here, would want to see any such report completed in a timely fashion. I don’t think it would be right for me to say anything here that would bring undue pressure upon the people who are responsible for carrying out this independent work, to complete it in a time frame other than the one that they think is necessary to complete their work. As soon as it is available, the better that will be, but they must be allowed the time that they think they need to complete it and then it will be published.
 
14:32
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the next item, which is the business statement, and I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business, Jane Hutt.