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Nôl i'r rhestr dogfennau Gweld y dudalen hon heb lincs
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
Questions to the Minister for Education and Skills
Primary School Categorisation
 
13:30
Elin JonesBiography
1. Will the Minister provide an update on plans to introduce a new school categorisation system for primary schools? OAQ(4)0492(ESK)
 
13:30
Huw LewisBiographyThe Minister for Education and Skills
I thank the Member for Ceredigion for her question. I announced the introduction of the national school categorisation system for primary schools and secondary schools in my written statement on 25 September. The outcomes of the national school categorisation system will be published on the My Local School website in January 2015.
 
13:30
Elin JonesBiography
Thank you, Minister. You have been clear that you are eager to use robust data as a foundation for this categorisation. Can you therefore explain why you are not using the data from the national numeracy and literacy tests in stage 1 of the categorisation, but rather are using data that is based on teacher assessment, which, generally speaking, is data that is less objective than the national tests?
 
13:31
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for that very pertinent question. It gives me an opportunity to clarify this point. The outcomes of the literacy and numeracy tests are being used in the categorisation model. The results of the tests are not included in the set of performance measures for primary schools and secondary schools at step 1—the Member is quite correct. There is international evidence that, in countries using test results for accountability purposes, this has led to unintended consequences, including teaching to the test. As a result, this can mean that pupils’ wider development needs receive less attention.
 
However, step 2 of the national school categorisation system will take the reading and numeracy test into account when looking at how schools actually use the data that they garner from them. Schools will need to evidence that test results are used as part of effective school management and improvement and that there is a correlation between teacher assessment and standardised scores. So, in other words, the teacher assessments have some kind of correlation with a national standard. If the degree of correlation between the two is poor, then the judgment from the consortium for that school will be at the lower end of categorisation.
 
13:32
Nick RamsayBiography
Minister, I think that there is probably a lot to be said for moving to a three-year performance model. However, there is clearly already a degree of confusion over this new system, even at this early stage, and what you have just said was rather convoluted. Could you tell us what you are doing to make sure that, as this new system is evaluated and monitored, teaching staff and schools are being listened to and are able to give feedback to you, so that the system, as it evolves, does so in a way that is most meaningful for schools and teachers, and for the pupils at the schools?
 
13:33
Huw LewisBiography
Well, I will try my best, Presiding Officer, to clear up any confusion in the minds of the Welsh Conservatives. There are three simple steps to categorisation. The first is that judgment on standards in the school. The second is a judgment in terms of the school’s ability to self-improve, and their self-evaluations are an important part of that. The third step is corroboration by the educational consortium and by the challenge advisers in local authorities. So, in other words, the third step is there to ensure that we have national standards by which we hold the schools to account. It is important to point out that the purpose of categorisation is exactly the same as that of banding—it is to identify those schools that need various levels of challenge and support.
 
The Prevention of Bullying
 
13:34
William PowellBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on the action taken to prevent bullying in Welsh schools? OAQ(4)0495(ESK)
 
13:34
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for Mid and West Wales. Our aim is to provide schools with the tools to tackle bullying. In addition to the Welsh Government guidance ‘Respecting Others’, we have invited schools to develop short films with an anti-bullying message. We have also just published information materials for children, young people and parents who are concerned about bullying.
 
13:34
William PowellBiography
I would like to thank the Minister very much for that response. As you will be aware, this is currently Anti-bullying Week, which provides an important focus and reminder that bullying is still very much an issue in our schools and always has been. In the context of the rise of social media, this, of course, has further dimensions and can also pursue victims well after school and into the weekend. In that context, Minister, what lessons have been learnt from attempts to address online bullying that have already arisen in terms of some of your prevention strategies, and what further steps can be taken to address the scourge of bullying that affects so many young people here in Wales?
 
13:35
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for his question and commend him on his concerns around the subject of bullying, which I know are of long standing. He is quite right—this is an opportunity for us all of us to remind ourselves and our colleagues in our constituencies of the importance of Anti-bullying Week. Back in October 2011, as I said, the Welsh Government published ‘Respecting Others’—a suite of comprehensive anti-bullying guidance that covered five key areas: bullying on the basis of race, culture and religion; sexist and sexual transphobic bullying; homophobic bullying; bullying involving pupils with special educational needs and disabilities; and cyber bullying. We are currently developing new guidance on appearance-related bullying.
 
In addition, in 2013-14, we commissioned Estyn, as part of its remit, to review the effectiveness of action taken by schools to address bullying on the grounds of those protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. In its report, which was published in June this year, a number of recommendations were made for schools, local authorities and Welsh Government, and I would encourage schools and local authorities to pay attention to Estyn’s recommendations.
 
13:36
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
In national bullying week, it is always good to reflect on the broad scope of bullying and homophobic bullying in particular. There are many different types of coercion that go on within our school environment. What engagement does the Government have with Stonewall Cymru for example—I think many Members would have seen its campaign that was laid out in the Assembly last week—to tackle this scourge within some of our schools, which has been identified as being one of the major problem areas?
 
13:37
Huw LewisBiography
I thank Andrew R.T. Davies for his very important points. Stonewall is working in Welsh schools at the moment to raise the profile and awareness around very prevalent attitudes around homophobic bullying, which unfortunately do exist out there in our schools. Awareness of the harm and hurt that this kind of homophobic language and so on can have is a key element of that. We will continue to work alongside organisations like Stonewall to raise awareness and combat these attitudes.
 
13:38
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Minister, from a very young age, children experience sexist and sexual bullying and harassment in schools on a daily basis, which is driven by pressures to conform to those damaging gender norms. So, how will you expect schools to effectively tackle bullying without introducing a whole-school approach to healthy relationship education right throughout the system? Will you look at those schools that currently base all that they do on respect to see whether that ethos can be rolled out right across Wales?
 
13:38
Huw LewisBiography
The Member is quite right to point to there being some very good practice out there among our schools in terms of these issues. Of course, all schools by law must have a school behaviour policy, and an effective anti-bullying strategy should be central to that policy and be developed and put into effect by everyone at the school, including the pupils; the pupils’ input is vital. She also points to issues around relationships education, and we all look forward to the publication of Graham Donaldson’s review into the curriculum, which will include aspects of personal, social and health education. I am confident that we will see, arising from that, a much more holistic look at sex and relationships education within our schools.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
13:39
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party spokespeople and first this afternoon is the Welsh Liberal Democrat’s spokesperson, who I understand is Eluned Parrott this afternoon.
 
13:39
Eluned ParrottBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. Minister, in 1975, the Venezuelan economist, José Antonio Abreu founded the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela and the Fundación del Estado para El Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela or ‘El Sistema’ for short. El Sistema was created specifically to be an instrument for social change through music, designed to work with the most deprived children in society, even street children, and to give them hope and aspiration to build a better life. It has discovered some extraordinary musicians, but that is a by-product; its biggest achievement is that it has rescued literally hundreds of children from involvement in gangs, violence, crime and from abject poverty on the streets of Caracas. Do you agree with me that music education has a powerful potential to be an agent of social change?
 
13:40
Huw LewisBiography
Yes, I do, and I wish that I could respond in a multilingual context, and I thank the Member for that lesson in faultless Spanish. In fact, the philosophy behind the Bolívar orchestra is active in Welsh schools and I would point her to the tremendous example of schools in Bangor and the surrounding area, working in partnership with Bangor University. Following that philosophy, I have visited one of those schools and been exposed to the transformational power that not just listening to music, but making music, has on young minds, most particularly those young people from deprived backgrounds.
 
13:41
Eluned ParrottBiography
I thank you for that answer, Minister, and I am glad that you agree, but, given that, it is astonishing to me that this Welsh Labour Government is presiding over a system that is patched together or falling apart completely in places. There is no consistent policy from one authority to another or even from one school to the next on who should pay for lessons and who should not. Children are taught in some of our primary schools with instruments made out of yoghurt pots. Labour-controlled Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council is currently consulting on a proposal to end its music service altogether and privatise all of its music education in the borough. Labour-controlled Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council does not have a music co-ordinator at all. Unless you take action, Minister, the only children who will be able to learn music properly in Wales will be the privileged few who can afford to pay for their lessons and who can afford to buy an instrument, and the chance to raise our children’s aspirations through music will be lost. What are you going to do to make sure that music in Wales is not the reserve of the privileged few?
 
13:42
Huw LewisBiography
Presiding Officer, the synthetic outrage generated by the spokesperson for the Welsh Liberal Democrats would have firmer foundations if she had not been one of those political activists who campaigned for the austerity cuts that our schools and our educational system are having to face, and who knocked doors for it and will be out there again on the streets of Wales campaigning for further austerity cuts as we run up to the next general election.
 
Having said that, I have never been content with the consistency around the delivery of music education in our schools and, as I mentioned, there are examples of good practice like the Codi’r To example in schools around Bangor University, and we will again look forward to the suggestions that Graham Donaldson comes up with during his independent review of the curriculum, and we have had face-to-face discussions on those issues around inconsistency in terms of delivery of music education in our schools. There are big problems here in terms of affordability and there are even bigger problems in terms of the number of specialist teachers who we can call upon. There are no instant answers to this historic problem and I cannot see that any suggestions for positive change have arisen from the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
 
13:43
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Finally, a more concise question please.
 
13:43
Eluned ParrottBiography
How dare you, Minister, accuse me of synthetic outrage? [Interruption.]
 
13:43
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Excuse me—order.
 
13:43
Eluned ParrottBiography
I am one of those children who was taken from a council estate—[Interruption.]
 
13:43
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order.
 
Eluned ParrottBiography
[Continues.]—in Wolverhampton to university here in Cardiff to this place—
 
13:44
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order. Will you ask your question and take your hand off your hip, please?
 
13:44
Eluned ParrottBiography
It is ironic, Minister, but did you know that Venezuela was not the first country in the world to set up this kind of national youth orchestra system to raise the aspirations of its children? Wales was. We had the first national youth orchestra in the world and it is under threat right now. In England, £18 million is being allocated to support music services; in Scotland, they have created their own version of El Sistema, underpinned with a national strategy. When are you going to bring forward a national strategy that is going to save music education in the place where this system was invented?
 
13:44
Huw LewisBiography
Presiding Officer, I fully accept that the outrage of the Member may well be genuine, but, in that case, I would urge her to cease campaigning for austerity cuts in order to allow us to invest in our young people and to follow the logic of her argument and cross the floor.
 
13:45
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the opposition spokesperson, Angela Burns.
 
13:45
Angela BurnsBiography
Good afternoon, Minister. Earlier this week, the ‘Western Mail’ obtained some rather disturbing figures that suggested that our brightest students are choosing to study in England rather than in Wales. The numbers indicated that Welsh-domiciled students were accepted at 317 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service points, while Welsh students needed 375 points to study at a comparable university in England. As for the Russell Group universities, our only Russell Group university accepts Welsh-domiciled students at an average of 421 points, whereas to go to a Russell Group university in England you have to have 435 points. Minister, do you share my concern that our brightest students are choosing to study in England rather than in Wales?
 
13:45
Huw LewisBiography
First of all, Presiding Officer, I extend my welcome to the Welsh Conservative spokesperson; it is good to see her back in the Chamber. I read the article, as many will have done, and I think that the interpretation that was drawn from it is fraught with difficulty in terms of direct comparison. The Welsh higher education community, and the number of institutions, is, of course, much smaller than the offer that appears across the border, with literally hundreds of institutions and a much more diverse offer in terms of higher education. So, I think that these difficulties are rather like comparing apples and pears. I know that Welsh HE strives constantly to raise its game in terms of its offer to our young people. The Welsh Government continues to invest in higher education—a rise of income in the Welsh HE community of almost 14% this year. That is almost unique in the public realm, and Welsh higher education has the vote of confidence of the Welsh Government.
 
13:47
Angela BurnsBiography
Comparisons—I agree with you, Minister—are always very difficult to make. However, English universities seem to be saying, essentially, to Welsh students, ‘Your results need to be a whole grade better to study with us than if you were to go to a Welsh university’. Minister, do you think that this is a reflection of how the majority of the UK university sector views the Welsh education system? Will this be compounded by concerns over the perceived robustness of the new qualifications and the continuing mix of turbulence that we are having in our system?
 
13:47
Huw LewisBiography
No, I do not, Presiding Officer—I certainly do not. I think that extrapolating that kind of conclusion from the kind of study that we saw is stretching credibility to its limit. It really is not possible, in my view, to compare two systems of such different scale. I am sure that, if we took a regionalised look at higher education offers in England, we would find all kinds of different comparators with Wales. If we took the north-east of England, or the north-west, or wherever it happened to be, we would find pictures that were very different in terms of the grades that were asked for. I am confident that Welsh higher education is in a healthy place. It is stable financially, unlike the situation that we see beginning to develop across the border, and our students are not laden with debt, as they would be if they were English-domiciled students.
 
13:48
Angela BurnsBiography
Minister, if general comparisons make you so uncomfortable, let us look at something very specific. We have a committee report next week into science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Wales, and our mathematics score this year saw over 22,000 students fail to get a C or above. What key actions will you, Minister, take to ensure that, after your reforms, Welsh students will still not be at a competitive disadvantage in the years to come, whether it is in this country, over the border or in Europe?
 
13:49
Huw LewisBiography
The Member will be aware that standards, in terms of attainment in Welsh schools, continue to rise overall, and that this summer saw us at an historic high, in terms of GCSE results; indeed, in A-level mathematics—she refers specifically to mathematics—Wales now outstrips England, as it does in history, chemistry and nine other A-level subjects. So, the picture is by no means as bleak as she paints it. However, I accept that improvements in attainment in mathematics specifically are not moving forward as quickly as we would like, and that is why I have called the first ever national conference of mathematics lead teachers to meet with me on 28 January in City Hall in Cardiff to discuss how we can raise our game still further.
 
13:49
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, and that is Simon Thomas.
 
13:50
Simon ThomasBiography
I have a question for the Deputy Minister. What deficit do you expect further education colleges to be running in the next financial year?
 
13:50
Julie JamesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
FE colleges have faced a particularly difficult round of funding this year, because we have had to have unprecedented cuts as a result of the £1.7 billion cut to the Welsh Government’s funding. I have to say that these are not cuts that I would be choosing to make in any regard. However, we are working extremely hard with a number of FE colleges across Wales—all of them—to mitigate the effect of the cuts, where at all possible. We have implemented a new skills-based implementation plan, which will be working with them to mitigate the effect of those cuts; we have just announced the outcome of the new work-based learning contract, which will allow people to get a solid base underneath them; we are working extremely hard with our anchor and major employers, regionally and nationally, to make sure that our co-investment strategy gets off to a good start; and we have a number of other irons in the fire alongside that to mitigate the impact. However, the Member asks a very pertinent question, because there is no doubt at all that these cuts are having a massive impact on cherished services.
 
13:51
Simon ThomasBiography
I thank the Deputy Minister. My interpretation is that we can expect the deficit to be around £35 million to £40 million for FE colleges due to the cuts that the Deputy Minister has just outlined—cuts that are her cuts within the budget that has been allocated, and a choice has been made to prioritise other decisions within the Welsh budget above and beyond further education, which is being cut by some 4.8% in real terms. So, with that background, Deputy Minister, how many actual post-19 new learners do you expect to see next year?
 
13:51
Julie JamesBiography
That is a very difficult specific question to ask; it depends on which of the strands of the programme we are looking at. So, for example, I have said in the Chamber many times that what we will be doing is prioritising our funding on those programmes that deliver the best outcomes for learners. So, under the new planning and funding methodology, we are going through all of the courses that are currently on offer and ensuring that it is only those courses that give the best outcomes for learners that are supported by the Govenrment. We have a new focus on both 16 to 24-year-olds and those who are furthest away from education, employment or training in the real world. As you know, we also have a focus on higher-level apprenticeships, which are very popular indeed, both with learners and employers. Those are mostly focused on plus 25s. Although there is no age limit, the statistics show that it is mostly people over 25 who are already in the workplace who are accessing those. That is very much part of our plan to upskill Wales over the next two or three years in a major way, alongside our major employers—indeed, I do not know why I am saying ‘major employers’, because I meant to say ‘alongside our employers’, because we have a number of exemplary small and medium-sized enterprises in this area as well.
 
So, while I am not going to hide in any way from the fact that these cuts are not things that we would want to do, they are choices and there have been no good choices whatsoever in making these announcements. What we have tried to do is to focus on the very best possible outcomes, given the circumstances that we find ourselves in.
 
13:53
Simon ThomasBiography
You say, Deputy Minister, that it is a difficult question to ask—although I think that you meant a difficult question to answer—but your own strategic integrated impact assessment tries to address this very question. You say that these cuts will affect 12,000 and will mean 100,000 fewer hours of part-time provision. You say that class sizes will increase. You have undermined the cross-party support for higher-level skills and parity with academic choices with your own cuts of £15 million to work-based learning next year. You did not say in reply, but you have said so previously, that you wish for European funding and for companies to fund themselves to replace some Welsh Government funding, but where will this leave adults post-19, Deputy Minister, who need to retrain or upskill following redundancies, such as those in Pembrokeshire now, following the Murco closure?
 
13:54
Julie JamesBiography
The Member has conflated two separate issues. [Interruption.] Well, there were three questions, but two separate issues. I will look at the Murco issue first. We are extending, for example, our ReAct programme for people who are under threat of redundancy, which obviously most of the employees in Murco are. There are some gaps there. The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport and I have worked very hard with that group to make sure that we have the best possible offer in place to retain very skilled workers who are essential to the economy of Wales in Wales and in our economy. That is an ongoing plan, with a taskforce that is currently meeting very regularly to try to do just that. That is a separate issue from the mainstream of post-19 education, because that is a very special circumstance, which we are working very hard across Government to try to address.
 
In terms of the mainstream post-19 scenario, we are focusing on those people not in employment and on those people in sectors that are very important to the Welsh Government, which we are upskilling. There is an impact, which I regret, on adults who are in work in particular sectors that are hard hit by this. I am not making any attempt to hide from that; this is not a cut I would have chosen to make, but we are in a very difficult position and there have been no good choices. However, we have focused very sharply on what our priorities are, and I will reiterate them: our priorities are to get young people into employment; to make sure that people get the best out of their talents; to make sure that our employers understand the value of investing in their employees; and to make sure that our offer to those employers is the very best it can be by focusing our funding on priority programmes that have the best outcome for their learners, in conjunction with the employers, to make sure that we have the skills set to ensure that those employers stay and grow here for our economy.
 
Special Educational Needs
 
13:56
Eluned ParrottBiography
3. Will the Minister make a statement re garding identifying special educational needs? OAQ(4)0497(ESK)
 
13:56
Huw LewisBiography
I will, Presiding Officer. Early identification and provision of support is the key to ensuring that children with special educational needs—SEN—achieve their potential. The responsibility to provide suitable education for all pupils, including those with SEN, rests with the local authority.
 
13:56
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. Many of my constituents have experienced very long waits to achieve a diagnosis, even after they have been referred by their schools. Will you consider a method of monitoring the referral-to-diagnosis waiting time for young people in this position, to ensure that they can get the interventions that they need at the earliest possible point?
 
13:57
Huw LewisBiography
Yes, of course. The Member is quite right to point to the difficulties that have been faced historically in this regard. In terms of the run-up to the additional learning needs Bill that the Assembly will be considering, which will be introduced by the summer of next year, we will all need to work closely together to ensure that Assembly Members, our stakeholders out there in the community, experts and others develop alongside that Bill an additional learning needs code, with the intention that this is made available during the ALN Bill scrutiny process. I see these things as running in parallel. The code will impose requirements and provide guidance around the identification of ALN, including earlier identification. That is the commitment from me. It is for all of us now to work together to come up with the best possible formulation for that vital code.
 
13:58
Jenny RathboneBiography
Minister, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales’s report published yesterday, ‘Full Lives: Equal Access?’, shows that half of local education authorities in Wales have no accessibility policy strategy or have such a weak policy document that it is going nowhere. You said last night on the television that you will consider the report, but will you give us a bit more detail as to how quickly LEAs will be getting the message that this subject needs addressing in secondary schools?
 
13:58
Huw LewisBiography
I thank Jenny Rathbone. We are clear, as a Welsh Government, that schools as providers of services must not discriminate against anyone, and that is very clearly laid out in law under the Equality Act 2010. There is an appeals procedure, too, for parents through the Education (Wales) Measure 2009 to the special educational needs tribunal for Wales. I can assure the Member that, in terms of our twenty-first century schools programme, letters of agreement between the Welsh Government and local government, as we move towards new build and refurbishment, always take into account the access issues that the children’s commissioner is concerned about. However, across the rest of the school estate, it seems that there is a game that must be raised among local authorities in terms of making sure that their policies are up to date and robust.
 
13:59
Antoinette SandbachBiography
Minister, I am glad that you recognise the need for a game to be raised. I had a constituent whose child was statemented, and the school was not implementing the requirements of that statement. She sought to appeal to her local education authority, which did not deal with the appeal in the appropriate time limits. That is a lacuna in the legislation, Minister, because she found that there was an inability to enforce those statemented needs. So, I would ask, when you are bringing forward the ALN Bill, that you look at that lacuna and seek to fill it. Tribunal proceedings can be very lengthy, they require a degree of legal expertise that, very often, parents do not have and cannot afford. So, I would ask you to look at whatever you can do to speed up the enforcement process.
 
14:00
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member, and my reply is to say, of course I will. It is a key element, as we build this new legislative framework around the needs of children with ALN, that we have a mind to speed and resolution. In effect, if we reach a tribunal stage, then the system has—almost by definition—let someone down. So, we need a very different framework that delivers for young people and for their parents.
 
14:01
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Minister, in accordance with the autism strategy, adopted by Welsh Government some time ago, there was a specific grant of £40,000 going to every county council to offer services to people on the autistic spectrum. Local education authorities could spend that money on necessary equipment, such as iPads, to assist with the education of students in schools who suffered with autism. This money is now part of the general support for local authorities. What are you going to do to ensure that this essential educational support is safeguarded within the new arrangements?
 
14:01
Huw LewisBiography
Well, of course, we fight every budget round for sufficient resource for all our young people, and that is part of the deliberations of this place. I have made very clear my priorities in terms of making sure that the schools system does not discriminate against any young person, regardless of their sex, race or disability.
 
14:02
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Before we move to question 4, may I remind Members to be more concise in their questioning, including you Rhodri Glyn Thomas? Also, if Ministers could be a little more concise in replying, we can move on through the agenda. Question 4, Gwenda Thomas.
 
The ‘Focus on Science’ Campaign
 
14:02
Gwenda ThomasBiography
4. Will the Minister provide an update on the Focus on Science campaign? OAQ(4)0500(ESK)
 
14:02
Huw LewisBiography
Yes, I launched the Focus on Science campaign on 24 October, and we have already made positive progress in developing a range of stimulating support materials and an exciting timetable of activities to support our key aim of promoting the study of science subjects with teachers, pupils and their parents.
 
14:03
Gwenda ThomasBiography
Thank you for that response, Minister. Will you give us an update, therefore, on the numbers actually benefiting from the new bilingual resources that are being created in order to assist both teachers and pupils with their scientific studies?
 
14:03
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for that question. This is a personal priority for me, and an early point I made with officials. We need more resources in the Welsh language, as was highlighted in our science practitioner survey last year. I have taken action on this, and I am ensuring that all of the new resources that are produced under the Focus on Science campaign are available in Welsh. This will also apply to materials in support of the new science GCSEs for first teaching from September 2016.
 
14:04
Nick RamsayBiography
Minister, you have mentioned resources several times in your answer to Gwenda Thomas. May I ask you what your intentions are with regard to the use of science role models? When the Enterprise and Business Committee did our inquiry into entrepreneurship, we found that entrepreneur role models could be of great value. I do not think that you can beat sort of personal contact, so would you factor that into your scheme?
 
14:04
Huw LewisBiography
Yes, of course. Our work with schools, and particularly the awareness campaign that we are currently engaged with in terms of STEM subjects in conjunction with schools, is shot through with examples of good female role models, in particular, for our young people to take as examples.
 
14:04
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
One of the objectives of Focus on Science is to attract more girls to study science. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Ysgol David Hughes in my constituency, where the awards for success in science subjects at A-level were all awarded to girls recently? Does the Minister share my concern that cuts in this budget to careers service budgets could undermine the work of attracting more women into science?
 
14:05
Huw LewisBiography
Well, cuts to any public service budgets are to be regretted in today’s climate. It is not something that helps anybody’s situation. However, I would join the Member, of course, in congratulating the young women at Ysgol David Hughes on their achievements. It is a good thing that he has raised that point here. Again, those examples for women and girls in terms of sticking with STEM subjects are something we need more of.
 
14:06
Christine ChapmanBiography
Minister, I was delighted to host an event at the Senedd recently to mark International Day of the Girl, which brought together young women from across south Wales to learn about a range of careers they may not otherwise have considered. As other Members said, we realise that there is still a heavy gender divide in the study of sciences and progression to scientific careers. Could you give a guarantee, Minister, that tackling this is a priority of Focus on Science and that tackling the stereotyping that may dissuade young women from science will be built into the campaign, and that you will actually look at new insights into why young women perhaps do not always stay in scientific careers when they get there?
 
14:06
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for the Cynon Valley. This has been a concern of mine going right back to my teacher training days, actually. My dissertation for my PGCE concerned the lack of take-up of science options by women and girls, all those years ago. We are still faced, particularly in physics, with a gender equity problem and a lack of take-up among girls, especially in terms of progression to A-level. I have already taken the opportunity to highlight this as part of the campaign launch on 24 October, and I will continue to do this, along with ministerial colleagues and the chief scientific adviser, as the campaign unfolds.
 
Apprenticeships
 
14:07
Jeff CuthbertBiography
5. Will the Minister make a statement on apprenticeships in Wales? OAQ(4)0491(ESK)
 
14:07
Julie JamesBiography
I thank the Member for Caerphilly for that important question. I am very, very proud of the apprenticeship programme in Wales. It delivers success rates of over 80% and it provides an excellent opportunity for young people to enhance and strengthen their skills base and to continue to earn while they learn.
 
14:07
Jeff CuthbertBiography
Thank you for that reply, Deputy Minister. Recently, I attended the Apprenticeships Awards Cymru event in Newport at which you spoke. There was a range of winners that day, including GE Aviation Wales, which employs many of my constituents and which won the large employer of the year award, and a young lady called Devon Sumner of Airbus UK who won the higher apprenticeship award. Deputy Minister, will you join me in paying tribute to these and all the other winners on the day, and will you commit to working with employers and work-based learning providers in Wales so that we can ensure that we have the best and most effective work-based learning system and so that it gets the recognition it rightly deserves?
 
14:08
Julie JamesBiography
I am absolutely delighted to be able to congratulate all the individuals, employers and providers who were nominated for those prestigious awards as well as those who won them. It was an extremely inspirational and enjoyable evening when they came up and collected their awards. We had a little pen portrait of each of the people winning, which brought a lump to the throat. So, I am very proud of that prestigious awards base, and we will continue to work very hard to ensure that our apprenticeship scheme remains a flagship scheme not only in Wales, but in Europe.
 
14:09
William GrahamBiography
Deputy Minister, in your draft budget, you said that you will be able to support the Young Recruits programme, which obviously is recruited under a shared apprenticeship scheme. What happens to those people who, for one reason or another, are not able to participate in that excellent scheme?
 
14:09
Julie JamesBiography
The Young Recruits programme was put in place during the recession to meet a particular need, and it has been extremely successful and we are very proud of it. Unfortunately, the demand for it has been such that, in the current climate, we have not been able to extend it to the number of people who would like to participate. It is now restricted to people coming out of the Jobs Growth Wales scheme or, indeed, our excellent shared apprenticeship scheme. We do have a number of other programmes, though, such as the traineeship programme, that step into that gap, and we are in conversation with the Welsh European Funding Office about a number of other schemes, which we will be looking to use to replace these kinds of projects. However, it is worth saying that, in this time when the economy appears to be slowly coming out of recession, we are also expecting our employers to step up to the plate.
 
14:10
Llyr GruffyddBiography
In your initial response, you lauded the work of the Government here on apprenticeships and I would not expect any less. There is a great deal to be praised, of course. The value of apprenticeships is without doubt, but is it not ironic, therefore, that you decided to cut almost £11 million of this year’s budget with further cuts next year? Does that not reflect that there is a problem in terms of prioritising budgets?
 
14:10
Julie JamesBiography
That is not quite right, actually. We had a very good deal with the Plaid Cymru group, which we are very proud of, and I think that we were rightly proud, as both parties, of that. In doing that deal, a very large number of apprenticeships could be put in place and I assure you that all of the apprentices that started their apprenticeships will be able to finish them. There is no issue about the cohorts finishing. In fact, because of a further budget deal, we are now able to say that we have £3.75 million more, more or less, on the base budget for apprenticeships than we had in the first year, and the rest of the deal in the second year, depending on how we line it up for employers. So, it is not true to say that we have cut the apprenticeships budget at all. What we do not have is the peak that we had during those two years, which met the demand in the worst of the recession, but the apprenticeship scheme remains a key plank of this Government’s priorities.
 
14:11
David ReesBiography
Deputy Minister, I have always believed that budget schemes are a vital pathway for many people to gain both academic qualifications and work-based experience to ensure that we have the skills to drive our economy forward. However, we are also seeing that some of our major industries have a demographic range of people where a lot of people are coming to the end of their working careers and we need to get more apprenticeships in place now to develop them and ensure that those businesses can continue. What is the Welsh Government doing to work with our major companies, such as Tata Steel in my constituency, to ensure that wherever possible, a structured programme of apprenticeships is developed to ensure future sustainability?
 
14:12
Julie JamesBiography
We continue to work with all of our anchor companies, regionally important companies and other major industries to ensure that skills needs are assessed and supported, including, where appropriate, ensuring links with the appropriate FE training providers and work-based learning providers in their areas. Increasing investment in the skills system is very important, particularly from employers, and I know that Tata Steel has a very good apprenticeship programme running. It did not, perhaps, take as many apprentices as we would have liked last year, but we are working very hard with it to ensure that, in the future, it continues its valuable investment in apprenticeships.
 
Attainment of Primary School Aged Children
 
14:12
Antoinette SandbachBiography
6. Will the Minister outline what measures are in place to assess the attainment of primary school aged children? OAQ(4)0490(ESK)
 
14:12
Huw LewisBiography
End of foundation phase and end of key stage 2 assessments are carried out by practitioners in accordance with statutory regulations, as they have for some years. A new profile for on-entry and continual assessment for the foundation phase is also being developed and is due to be introduced from September 2015.
 
14:13
Antoinette SandbachBiography
Minister, freedom of information request figures obtained by a constituent of mine, highlighted a discrepancy in outcomes at the key stage 2 level in Welsh-medium schools, particularly among those who come from English-speaking homes but attended Welsh-medium education. All of these data will have been reported to your department. What have you done to look at why that gap is there and to ensure that these pupils achieve their potential, regardless of which language they are taught in?
 
14:13
Huw LewisBiography
Presiding Officer, I have to say that I am not familiar with the particular freedom of information request to which the Member refers, but I am very happy to take a close look at the problem that she has raised and write to her with some conclusions and thoughts about that.
 
14:14
Simon ThomasBiography
Minister, this is the second year that we have had national tests at this key stage. Concern has been expressed twice now, particularly regarding the test surrounding the foundation phase as pupils move into more formal education. Have you had an opportunity to look at those tests and to ensure that the ethos and spirit of the foundation phase are safeguarded in these tests, and that the balance is right between robust testing of pupil attainment and the need to safeguard the ethos of the foundation phase?
 
14:14
Huw LewisBiography
We keep the lessons that we have learned from each year of testing under a spotlight and I look closely at feedback from professionals and others in terms of how the testing regime is developing. I would stress to the Member, of course, that these tests come at the end of the foundation phase and should have no impact whatsoever on the philosophy and the method of delivery of the foundation phase within schools.
 
14:15
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, I know that consortia are concentrating on attendance as a means of raising attendance, and you will be aware of the leaflet issued by the central south consortium, giving guidance to parents on when they can send their children to school when they are ill, which included saying that they are able to send their children to school even when they are suffering from illnesses such as glandular fever and tonsillitis and from infectious conditions such as conjunctivitis, slapped cheek, and hand, foot and mouth. Minister, you may not be aware that the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health contacted the relevant consortium asking it to withdraw this leaflet, because it relied on a table that had been taken from a Public Health England document out of context. That table gives guidance on for how long a child is likely to be infectious, not on how long it is before a child is well enough to return to school. Given that the consortium has still not withdrawn this leaflet, despite the fact that it has been shown to it to be misleading, will you now instruct it to withdraw this leaflet and to give proper guidance to parents on when a child can go to school when they are ill?
 
14:16
Huw LewisBiography
Well, public information like this is the responsibility of the consortium. It is for it to check this stuff and get it right. I am not familiar with the conclusions of health professionals that the Member refers to. I have seen the leaflet myself and took the message very clearly from it that the real judge of whether a young person was well enough to attend school or not was always the parent. That was my reading of the leaflet, as it stood. Of course, if he is willing to hand over some comments from health professionals to me about there being inaccuracies within it, I am more than happy to take a look at medical advice and make sure that we get these things right in dialogue with the consortia.
 
The Welsh Language
 
14:17
Lindsay WhittleBiography
7. What measures is the Welsh Government taking to increase the percentage of school leavers in Wales who are able to speak Welsh? OAQ(4)0499(ESK)
 
14:17
Huw LewisBiography
I thank the Member for South Wales East. The Welsh-medium education strategy outlines the actions that the Welsh Government is taking to increase the number of young people in Welsh-medium education. The strategy includes five outcomes to increase the number of learners studying through the medium of Welsh and the number of learners with higher level Welsh-language skills.
 
14:17
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Minister, thank you for that response. An opinion poll stated that 63% of people support the idea that children should be able to communicate bilingually—both in Welsh and in English—having left school. What are you going to do, Minister, to ensure that teachers are given appropriate training so that they can teach through the medium of Welsh?
 
14:18
Huw LewisBiography
I, too, saw that opinion poll and actually I was rather surprised that the proportion of people was not much higher, since, if you were to ask a person in the street, ‘Would you like Welsh schoolchildren to be competent in a subject area?’ I would have thought that the response rate should be closer to 100%. We do not want our young people to be less than competent in any aspect of the curriculum. He is quite right, though, that, as we move towards discussing a new curriculum—and this great debate will open up in the new year—the success, or lack of it, that we may have had historically in terms of producing more Welsh speakers through the school system is going to become a matter of great debate, and key to that, he is quite right, will be how we raise and spread the skills level in the Welsh language among professionals in the school system. That is, of course, a key aspect of any forward progress.
 
14:19
Suzy DaviesBiography
Minister, financial allocations in the budget have been shifted in order to provide opportunities for new ways of maintaining momentum in using Welsh having left school, rather than just having the ability to speak the language. How do apprenticeships, which Julie James mentioned earlier, actually identify and develop Welsh-speaking skills?
 
14:19
Huw LewisBiography
Well, of course, we attempt to increase the range of options across the board in terms of what is on offer for young people, whether they are in the school system, further education or, indeed, in the apprenticeships on offer here in Wales, and the offer continues to grow year on year. My concern has been, throughout all of these developments, that actually the take-up of options through the Welsh language lags behind the actual offer in quite a number of cases, particularly in further education. This is a matter for concern in terms of instilling confidence in young people, in particular, to take on these higher level qualifications through the medium of Welsh.
 
14:20
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
Questions to the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
The Welsh Rail Network
 
14:20
Eluned ParrottBiography
1. Will the Minister make a statement on the recent overcrowding issues on the Welsh rail network? OAQ(4)0486(EST)
 
14:20
Edwina HartBiographyThe Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
May I thank the Member for this particular question? She and a number of Members have raised this issue with me over the past few months. I do expect rail operators to provide sufficient capacity for passengers in line with their contractual obligations.
 
14:21
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you, Minister. In 2008, work finished on a £30 million scheme to lengthen and, according to this Government, futureproof 42 railway stations across south Wales, paving the way for longer trains to be used. However, six years later, as you know, there are still problems with a lack of rolling stock. Do you regret now that the Government spent futureproofing money only on stations and not on the rolling stock as well, given that you have the ability to invest there, if you wish?
 
14:21
Edwina HartBiography
Well, I have no regrets about these matters. However, I do take on board the points that you have made with me with regard to the stations. I do think that we have to look for future improvements and value for money in terms of the money that is going into the system either by us or by the UK Government.
 
14:21
Mark IsherwoodBiography
High passenger demand has been welcomed on the Llangollen railway. In its first 10-day season 4,000 passengers were travelling on the new extension to Corwen. Of course, Welsh Government grant aid was provided for that. Originally, the Welsh Government looked at this on the basis of wider regeneration potential for Corwen as well as Llangollen and the wider area. Now, phase 2 has to be funded because the original grant funding could not be provided in full. What consideration can you and your colleagues give to supporting phase 2 for the delivery of a station in Corwen and the wider infrastructure to go with it?
 
14:22
Edwina HartBiography
I would love to be able to give an absolutely positive answer on this issue, but, of course, there are budgetary considerations for all of this. Not all matters on rail are devolved to us. I can assure you that if the funds become available and we see successful operations we will be able to give further consideration to make them even more successful.
 
14:22
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Minister, I think that we would agree that rolling stock issues and most overcrowding issues stem from how the current franchise was drawn up and most of us in this Chamber actually would agree that the situation is unsatisfactory. Having experienced, personally, overcrowding issues on the Rhondda to Cardiff train from Arriva Trains, I can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience, and it is certainly not value for money in certain circumstances. It is essential that we do not repeat the same mistakes in the next franchise. Can you tell us, Minister, when you will be in a position to make a statement to us, in this Chamber, as to who will procure the next rail franchise?
 
14:23
Edwina HartBiography
I will be delighted when I am in a position to make a statement. I do not demur from any of your comments about rolling stock, because it is a big issue. Currently, when you look at some of the issues around rolling stock, we could have very old rolling stock even though we might have made improvements to the line. Negotiations are well under way with the UK Government on the future of the Wales and the border franchise. The next franchise will be starting in 2018, and we are now taking action to ensure that it delivers improved services and value for money. I can assure you, Presiding Officer, that as soon as I am able to do so, I will make a statement to the Chamber on this matter.
 
The Purchase of Land Adjoining Trunk Roads
 
14:24
Antoinette SandbachBiography
2. Will the Minister outline what the Welsh Government’s priorities are for purchasing land adjoining trunk roads? OAQ(4)0481(EST)
 
14:24
Edwina HartBiography
Land is acquired in line with legislative requirements and the national transport plan.
 
14:24
Antoinette SandbachBiography
Minister, last week, we saw the revelation that your Government had been busy purchasing land along the preferred route of the new M4 in Newport, years before the plans were discussed here in the Assembly. However, in Flintshire, alongside the A55, I am aware that land was purchased by the Welsh Government, which has later been sold back. Does the sale of this land betray the true intentions of the Welsh Government in that you have no intention of widening the A55 and you are not willing to invest in the north Wales roads to the same degree as you are here in the south?
 
14:24
Edwina HartBiography
Well, that is clearly a very unfair question in many ways because I am prepared to invest all across Wales in terms of transport infrastructure. Do you think that we would go to the issue on property acquisition? I was looking at the A5 property acquisitions in recent years and at the large amount of money for property acquisitions, in the hope of improving that road. Also, in terms of the A55, I have actually employed consultants and agents to help me in terms of the development of the road. This is normal practice. Nothing we have said is a revelation; it happens to be the facts and it is in the public domain.
 
14:25
Llyr GruffyddBiography
There is a local issue in the Gwyddelwern area in Denbighshire. You may be aware of the Maes Gamedd bend. It has certainly been the cause of some concern locally in terms of safety. I met with some of your officials some two years ago to visit the site, and one of the possibilities is to buy some land to actually widen the junction or to provide an alternative junction to the main road. Will you, when you have an opportunity to visit the area, actually visit the site, because it has been a major issue locally? I would be very grateful if you could do that so that you can see for yourself the potential for serious accidents on that site.
 
14:26
Edwina HartBiography
I think it is very important that we look at issues that Members raise with us, where there could be possibilities of serious accidents. I will assure you that, when I am in the area, I will visit the site, but I will assure you that, even better, I will have an updated note sent to you and Members regarding what officials might have been doing during the last two years on this particular matter.
 
14:26
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Minister, I understand that there are five public toilets in Powys adjacent to the A470 that receive funding from Welsh Government—for example, in Erwood in my constituency. However, there are public toilets just off the A470, such as in Rhayader, in the main car park, as well as in Builth Wells, which would provide a safe and convenient point for motorists travelling on the A470 to stop, yet those toilets are not funded. Could you look at how your department makes decisions about what conveniences adjacent to the A470 are funded and which are not, so that we have a comprehensive network of public conveniences for those people travelling on trunk roads?
 
14:27
Edwina HartBiography
I hope the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is not reading my e-mails, because some of the issues that have come out on public conveniences are in my inbox at the moment, because I have asked for a list of what we should be doing, what we should not be doing, where we should be funding and where we should be signposting elsewhere. I had a list of what it would cost me and I have gone back and asked, ‘Are you really sure? Are you in the real world giving me these figures?’ So, I can assure the Member that matters are in hand and I would be delighted to take up her points.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
14:27
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the spokespeople. First this afternoon, we have the opposition spokesperson, Suzy Davies.
 
14:27
Suzy DaviesBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. Deputy Minister, your Government accepts that its cuts to the arts council budget will have a negative impact on children and young people, people with disabilities and those from lower socioeconomic groups. Taken together with cuts that local authorities are making to their support for the arts, how will your Government deliver on its promise to widen access to the arts?
 
14:28
Kenneth SkatesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
I thank the Member for her question. First of all, I think it is worth bearing in mind that, if you take a look at the cuts to the arts here in Wales compared with those in England, you will find that the cuts in England between 2010 and 2015-16 have been at 33%, three times higher than in Wales. Here in Wales, of course, we also have some ground-breaking work that is being conducted by Baroness Kay Andrews and by Dai Smith, which will lever in resources and also better align what we already do with our anti-poverty agenda, increasing participation, particularly by children from deprived areas.
 
14:28
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer. Obviously, I am far more interested in what happens in Wales, rather than in England, which is why I am asking you the question that I am asking.
 
I look forward to understanding how the levering in of further resources will actually pan out in practice. I was rather hoping that you might mention that you are looking for value for money from cultural organisations that you support at arm’s length. The Welsh Books Council is able to use taxpayers’ money to give bursaries to authors and promote their work. While, of course, it is completely inappropriate to make any comments about artistic choices, how do you satisfy yourself that, operationally, and in terms of meeting Government objectives, the Welsh Books Council delivers value for money?
 
14:29
Kenneth SkatesBiography
Well, of course, within the remit letters, the Government makes clear what we expect from revenue-funded organisations and that the work that they conduct aligns with our priorities for tackling poverty and sustainable jobs growth.
 
14:29
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer, which is a relief to hear, admittedly. Over the summer, the press reported in rather negative terms that some of the work that the Arts Council of Wales had supported was ‘interesting’ to say the least. Members may remember an individual being paid £20,000 to make mistakes and grapple with the concept of ‘thing-ness’. Again, it is completely inappropriate for a Government to interfere with artistic choices, but when you consider that the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, which is a paragon of both quality and widening access, is so vulnerable to council cuts, would you expect arm’s-length bodies, via your remit letter, to work harder to fill those local funding gaps and work harder to find money from sources other than the taxpayer?
 
14:30
Kenneth SkatesBiography
I would always expect them to find ways of increasing their own revenue and becoming sustainable. I think the point that you raised just moments ago, though, justifies why I was right to write to all revenue-funded organisations, reminding them of this Government’s priorities in tackling poverty and widening access to the arts.
 
14:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
14:30
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
The Welsh retail consortium has published statistics for footfall and premises vacancy. One figure has gone up; one figure has gone down. Unfortunately, they are the wrong way around. Footfall has seen the biggest decline since February. A recent trend has been reversed, with vacancy rates up to over 14%. Would the Minister agree that it is time that there was a clear declaration of intent from Government to businesses, about how Government intends to help them?
 
14:31
Edwina HartBiography
Well, I think that Plaid Cymru is well aware of how we help them. In terms of the Welsh retail consortium, I am due to have a meeting with it, in fact, next week, and I discuss with it on a regular basis any useful suggestions it may be able to make on issues. One of the issues, of course, is the devolution of business rates, and how we will utilise the business rates policy more effectively.
 
14:31
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I totally agree. Certainly, looking at the figures this week, they are extremely concerning to the Welsh retail consortium—they are concerning to us, as well. It shows, I think, that the recovery, or any recovery that we are seeing, is a spreadsheet recovery. It exists on paper; it does not exist in reality. You mention business rates. You have established, of course, a business rates panel. Perhaps you could remind us how that is going to differ from the work of the three previous business rates reviews. Is it not time now to move forward with concrete plans for business rates, in advance of the devolution of business rates?
 
14:32
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, it will be. The group that I have brought together now is actually looking at all the options that have emerged. It can cost all the options, they can prioritise all the options, and we can then see which business would want us to prioritise in terms of our settlements. So, it is a very practical piece of work, which I will be able to share with Members in the new year.
 
14:32
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
What is rather frustrating, of course, is that we have review after review after review—I am counting them—and we have another panel. We do need, as I say, those concrete suggestions about a way forward. However, a million people in Wales are employed by small and medium-sized enterprises. They will be essential, obviously, to the rebuilding and the recovery of the Welsh economy. One idea that we have is to want to lift businesses with a rateable value of less than £10,000 out of the rates system all together: 70,000 Welsh businesses, we estimate. Now, in a vote here a fortnight ago, your party voted to oppose that. Will you now reconsider that?
 
14:32
Edwina HartBiography
That is one of the issues that we will be looking at in terms of costing, which the group will look at, and will then give ‘for’ and ‘against’ in terms of where they see we are going and the direction of travel. I know that it is very frustrating, but business rates are exceptionally complicated, and this is the problem. I would like to really, if I could, raise the threshold for small businesses. It would be lovely to go up, but you actually have to look at how it impacts on other things. So, it is a complex area, and I am not making excuses, but you will actually have the proposals and an options menu, which we will look at as a Government.
 
14:33
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Now we move to the Welsh Liberal Democrats spokesperson, and that is Eluned Parrott.
 
14:33
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, can you tell me how many new private sector jobs have been created in the central Cardiff enterprise zone since September 2011 as a direct result of Welsh Government action?
 
14:33
Edwina HartBiography
I do not have the statistics regarding these matters easily available to me today. However, I will, obviously, look at the general way that we present on statistics, which my enterprise zone chairs wish me to do: in a more general sense, than in the sense of the individual enterprise zones.
 
14:34
Eluned ParrottBiography
Well, Minister, I asked that specific question because that is the specific thing that you have told this Chamber that the enterprise zones were designed to do: to bring new private sector jobs to those zones. It would be unsurprising to expect the spokespeople to ask you to then give us information on that. Well, let us try another simple question: can you tell me how much public money has been spent in attracting these new private sector jobs, and how much private sector investment has been attracted to match it?
 
14:34
Edwina HartBiography
Well, at the end of the day, you recognise that some of the decisions on the help and assistance that we give to business are commercially confident—that is a well-known fact of the way Government does things. You look then at training over a period of time. I think that we have to recognise that enterprise zones have been established to attract new business in within certain areas. It is not ideal, in terms of what we are able to offer across the piece, because I cannot give enhanced capital allowances everywhere, because of the Treasury position. However, as far as I am concerned, in my discussions with my enterprise zones chairs, they are content with the approach to this. The committee itself—and I am looking at William Graham—is taking evidence from the enterprise zone chairs and others, and I am sure that these issues will be well aired in committee.
 
14:35
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, the commercial and in-confidence excuse is only really viable if the data selection is so small with so few people involved that they would be easily individually identified—that is, it is one. However, in assessing the value for money of the strategy, we need to know how much has been invested and how much of a return has been achieved. It is a basic principle. If you are continually batting away attempts at seeing both the inputs and the outputs, we will never be able to assess the success of otherwise of this policy. The Welsh Development Agency was abolished in part because it was said to be unaccountable and opaque. The running of Wales’s enterprise zones is even worse. It is black-box Government of the worst kind, and if you cannot prove success, the world will have to assume that it is a failure. Will you agree, Minister, to establish an annual reporting system for the enterprise zone boards, so that they can be properly and fully held to account for the actions they take and the public money that they are spending?
 
14:36
Edwina HartBiography
I am sure that the private sector members on the board will be very interested in the comments that you are making in that regard about their integrity and the way they are dealing with matters. In terms of individual companies, it is very appropriate that I maintain a relationship with them in order to get the jobs in.
 
14:36
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We move now back to questions on the paper. Question 3, Suzy Davies.
 
14:36
Suzy DaviesBiography
Minister, can you explain why the Welsh Government opted to channel its belated funding for supporting the high street, through local councils, complete with guidance on how it might be spent, rather than providing it directly to local business organisations, such as a business improvement district, or a chamber of commerce, which might have ideas of their own about how that money is spent?
 
14:36
Russell GeorgeBiography
That is not the question on the sheet.
 
14:36
Suzy DaviesBiography
Oh, I apologise.
 
High-street Businesses
 
14:36
Suzy DaviesBiography
3. Will the Minister provide an update on Welsh Government support for high street businesses? OAQ(4)0484(EST)
 
14:36
Edwina HartBiography
Our actions to support business are wide ranging, and, as the Minister with responsibility for business rates policy, I have taken a number of steps to use the rates regime to support high streets across Wales.
 
14:37
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you very much for that answer, Minister. I wonder what I am going to say next. [Laughter.] Perhaps you could explain why the Welsh Government opted to channel the support that I referred to earlier through local councils, rather than BIDs or chambers of commerce, where they are available, as they might have ideas as to how that money is better spent.
 
14:37
Edwina HartBiography
We decided that we would do it through that mechanism. I am not averse to looking at other options in the future, particularly with the success of any bids. We have been very successful in Swansea, and it might be something that would be worth discussing with the bodies.
 
Support for Small Businesses
 
14:37
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
4. Will the Minister make a statement on Welsh Government support for small businesses? OAQ(4)0491(EST)
 
14:37
Edwina HartBiography
We are committed to providing a broad range of information, advice and support to small businesses in Wales, accessed through the Business Wales service.
 
14:37
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Thank you very much, Minister. I am sure that you are aware of the report published by chartered accountants last week, which noted that turnover in towns that are dependent to a great extent on small businesses is lower than it is in those towns where there are high-street shops. As a result, turnover in counties such as Carmarthen, Ceredigion and Gwynedd are among the lowest in the United Kingdom. Does the Welsh Government have a strategy to support these, for the most part, market towns to ensure that they give a boost to the economy of the surrounding areas and to ensure that they can be successful?
 
14:38
Edwina HartBiography
I think you make a very good point. I was with accountants this morning, who give advice to businesses in a lot of areas, and there are issues around that. I think that some of the work that we have done on the local economic growth zones, particularly in Powys and the Teifi Valley, will start to look at some of the issues that you have raised. If they can make suggestions about how we can tackle some of those issues, I will be using that to generate a policy agenda on this.
 
City Regions
 
14:39
Eluned ParrottBiography
5. Will the Minister provide an update on the progress of Welsh city regions? OAQ(4)0487(EST)
 
14:39
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. The Cardiff capital region and Swansea bay city region boards are continuing to meet on a regular and frequent basis.
 
14:39
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you for that update, Minister. I return to the question of governance. I believe that we need long-term strategies, and, certainly, a city region strategy is one that takes perhaps 25 years to see results. What kind of governance structure will you establish to ensure that these institutions are as robust and as able as possible to survive the winds of political change to enable them to work?
 
14:39
Edwina HartBiography
I think that we do have to survive the winds of political change for the city regions to work. Roger Lewis is looking at his current membership structure at the moment and at what he has got in terms of members, so we will look at the governance of that. Sir Terry has only just taken over, and I think that he has some views about how the future should flow. So, I am very hopeful that I will able to look in more detail at the governance issues around this to get a balance that does weather any political storms.
 
14:40
John GriffithsBiography
Minister, Newport is building considerable momentum with its economic redevelopment, following the recession with major city-centre redevelopment, major events and conferences and new initiatives and networks. Would you agree that Newport—as one of Wales’s cities and part of the capital city region, with its excellent transport and communication links and with all that work going on at the moment—is well placed to build its economy? Will you assure me that you will, in Welsh Government, work with Newport to make sure that it fulfils its potential as part of the capital city region?
 
14:40
Edwina HartBiography
I think that I have shown good faith on the part of the Welsh Government in terms of Simon Gibson. My department supported his report, looking at Newport. He has been working very well with the local authority and I think that we have got enormous opportunities in that part of the region. It is also important to recognise that it is not just about Newport; if you go to Monmouthshire, there are also issues there that are important. It is also particularly important in terms of links into Bristol for our mutual benefit.
 
14:41
William GrahamBiography
Minister, I heard what you said—and you actually answered one of my questions, so you are prescient in that way. However, may I ask what discussions you have actually had with the local authority, particularly in south-east Wales, on bringing that about?
 
14:41
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I had a meeting with local authority leaders recently when we discussed some of those issues. I do think that it is important that we have that relationship, in the same way as we need the relationship in north Wales with Merseyside and the local authorities there. My colleague, Lesley Griffiths, who has been chairing the transport taskforce, has certainly made those links in, and I think that we have got to do more on that agenda to see mutual benefits between England and Wales.
 
14:41
Bethan JenkinsBiography
In a meeting with Tata this morning, they said how they, as an anchor company, could play a strategic role as part of the city region of west Wales, based in Swansea. Also, in terms of the smaller companies that sit within Tata, how do you see their role developing so that they can play a strategic role in developing this concept of city regions, particularly in that area?
 
14:42
Edwina HartBiography
Tata already plays a strategic role in terms of Government policy, given the amount of other dialogue we have with them and with the other companies that they have. It is always very difficult to get the right balance on the committee because everybody wants to be on there. If it were not Tata, and it was somebody else, somebody else would want to be on it. However, they are certainly engaged and I very much hope, with Sir Terry taking the lead there and looking at new ways of engagement and involvement, that we will make progress.
 
Support for Businesses in Torfaen
 
14:42
Lynne NeagleBiography
6. Will the Minister make a statement on Welsh Government support for businesses in Torfaen? OAQ(4)0492(EST)
 
14:42
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. We are committed to providing a broad range of information, advice and support to all businesses in Wales.
 
14:43
Lynne NeagleBiography
Thank you, Minister. I am sure that you will recall our visit to Pontypool firm, Penn Insure, last year, when you met with company directors to discuss their plans for the future. Those discussions ultimately led to a significant investment from the economic growth fund to support a £400,000 expansion. I was delighted to formally open their new office at the old court building earlier this month, where I met some of the 17 staff they have employed as a direct result of that Welsh Government support. So, will you join me today, Minister, in congratulating staff and management at Penn Insure, who have come a tremendously long way this past 12 months? Can I thank you for the support that you have given this vital local business in Pontypool?
 
14:43
Edwina HartBiography
It seems hard to believe that I visited last November, when they were talking about the exciting developments, and now they are real. It is a very good company that looked to us for support, we were able to give support, and it has provided more jobs. I think that it is very important that we continue to support businesses like that across Wales.
 
14:44
William GrahamBiography
Minister, last week, the second Torfaen Women in Business event was held, attended by over 100 delegates, celebrating diversity and raising the profile of women throughout the borough. How is the Minister’s department able to help that particular organisation to network to make its profile even greater?
 
14:44
Edwina HartBiography
If we are not talking about financial assistance, I can certainly agree, of course, to help and assist in any way. [Laughter.] I think that there are a number of good organisations of women in business across Wales. Perhaps it is a strand of work that I should look at, linking them in to have dialogue between each other as well as dialogue with the centre, because we do want to increase the profile of women in business.
 
14:44
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Minister, your Government, in its impact assessment relating to the economic benefits of the south-east Wales metro plan, concluded that there would be significant economic benefits to investing in a city region and a metro transport network in every part of south-east Wales. Can you tell us what the business benefits would be to places like Pontypool, Garndiffaith and Blaenavon in Torfaen if you build a second M4 around Newport?
 
14:45
Edwina HartBiography
We have to look at the economy as a whole in relation to south-east Wales. The road and the metro can both go ahead. I see the metro as being significant in terms of bringing people in to work, out to work and development. I think that the metro is very important and I hope to make an announcement, either at the end of this term or the beginning of next term, on future proposals for the metro.
 
Powys Local Growth Zones
 
14:45
William PowellBiography
7. Will the Minister provide an update on Powys local growth zones? OAQ(4)0485(EST)
 
14:45
Edwina HartBiography
We are making good progress on the recommendations for the growth zones. I have looked at some governance options for the Teifi valley local growth zone, and I am very pleased by the work that individuals have put into the development of this project.
 
14:45
William PowellBiography
I am grateful for that update, Minister. My experience of some of the projects being delivered locally on the ground suggests that they are delivering significant benefit. However, one area that I think could usefully be addressed is the sharing of good practice across the county and drawing together the strands of what can be learned to maximise the benefit and then potentially also to share that maybe with the Teifi growth zone or elsewhere. I wonder whether you are able to make a commitment to pull those strands together so that we can get more learning and more benefit from what is being delivered.
 
14:46
Edwina HartBiography
I think that that is a very useful idea for both growth zones. I would be more than happy to facilitate a meeting between the growth zones, and perhaps open it to Assembly Members who have an interest, to discuss the mutual benefits and policy positions that are developing. It is something I will do in the new year.
 
14:46
Russell GeorgeBiography
Thank you for the last answer, Minister; it is very welcome. Can you tell me what support the Welsh Government is offering to businesses within the Powys local growth zone area where the property offering is very little? It does not really meet their growth needs. I think that you are nodding, so you understand my question.
 
14:47
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. The property offer is a very difficult issue. I have a report that is coming to me, looking at what I need to do within Powys and mid Wales about whether we should enter the marketplace to acquire property for businesses so that they can lease, buy, et cetera—which I am prepared to do. I have had discussions with the company and which I am now offering a solution to, which will protect the business staying within mid Wales. In real terms, I have also tasked Business Wales to deliver targeted support for existing businesses and start-ups within the local growth zone, in addition to their youth enterprise activities. There is quite a good package emerging. The trouble is that we went out of that property business 20 years ago but we are going to have to get back in if we are going to keep firms firmly grounded within mid Wales.
 
14:47
Simon ThomasBiography
One of the proposals in Llandrindod, in the growth zone there, was to have a town champion. I do not know, but I do not think that the person has been appointed yet; I wonder whether you can give an update on where we are on that principle and whether that is an example of the sort of development that the Teifi zone, which you also made a statement on yesterday, will be taking forward.
 
14:48
Edwina HartBiography
I think that they have just appointed the town champion, who, I think, will be starting in January. I think that it is a very good idea because, if it works there, it is something that could be replicated across the zones. It would be a useful discussion for us to have in the new year across the zones about how we can learn lessons and see how things are factored out. We have to think out of the box about how we are going to get to developing some of these areas.
 
The Rhymney Valley Line
 
14:48
Jeff CuthbertBiography
8. Will the Minister make a statement on the provision of rolling stock for rail services on the Rhymney Valley line? OAQ(4)0482(EST)
 
14:48
Edwina HartBiography
I expect Arriva Trains Wales to provide sufficient rolling stock in line with its contractual obligations.
 
14:48
Jeff CuthbertBiography
Thank you, Minister, for that response. Unfortunately, in my post bag I still find many letters from constituents complaining about the poor standards on the Rhymney valley line, having to put up with overcrowded trains, particularly at peak times, despite, as has been mentioned earlier, the lengthening of platforms right from Caerphilly up to Bargoed. The operators told me they cannot invest in more rolling stock without additional funding from the Welsh Government. So, Minister, if my constituents are unlikely to see the benefits of more carriages before 2018, can you and your officials work with Arriva Trains Wales in order to ensure the most efficient use of rolling stock so that a greater number of carriages are available for my constituents during peak travel times?
 
14:49
Edwina HartBiography
I have to reiterate that rail infrastructure is non-devolved and is the responsibility of the UK Government. We as a Government have historically, in the last administration, been supporting something that we are not actually responsible for to try to benefit individuals. I know about the letters because I have them from you, and I have them from all across the piece. So, we continue to add additional services. We try to do what we can in terms of what is available, but we are not actually responsible for some of these issues. We take everything up with Arriva Trains at all times, because I know that, at peak times, it is absolutely chaotic on some of these lines—there are people standing all of the way. So, I just hope that I have rail devolved as soon as possible, so that we can actually get on with doing a good job on our own services.
 
14:50
William GrahamBiography
I reiterate the question that the previous questioner put. The Minister is well aware of the problems with this. May I ask her to redouble her efforts in making adequate representations to the Department for Transport?
 
14:50
Edwina HartBiography
We are having good dialogue with the Department for Transport, as you know, and I will be more than happy, when I come for further scrutiny—if I have further issues in this area—to be scrutinised by the committee, when I am due, because I think that it is a very important issue for all of us. However, without the powers, and with the difficulties with budgets, how are you going to put in more money? This is an issue where you do not have devolution, yet you are expected to pick up the tab for inadequate funding.
 
14:50
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Obviously, I agree with you entirely there, Minister. The investment in the platforms on the Rhymney line is very much to be welcomed, because it is improving their accessibility, especially as most of the platforms currently have no toilets at all. However, as you say, the rolling stock is often old-fashioned and overcrowded, and those with disabilities are not able to use the toilets on the trains. So, could you stress with the UK Government that people with disabilities in the Rhymney valley cannot wait until 2018 to use the loo?
 
14:51
Edwina HartBiography
I have to say that I absolutely concur, but, interestingly enough, I have met with a company that does lavatories and things, and we were talking about whether we could have these facilities on stations—how you could monitor it, how you would not need to have somebody else there and how you could do it. So, I can assure you that, if I have good news on the devolution of rail powers, this will be one of the first areas that we will be looking at.
 
Rail Services in the Cynon Valley
 
14:51
Christine ChapmanBiography
9. What action is the Welsh Government taking to improve rail services in the Cynon Valley? OAQ(4)0483(EST)
 
14:52
Edwina HartBiography
We continue to provide funding for the strengthening of peak-hour rail services on the Aberdare line.
 
14:52
Christine ChapmanBiography
Thank you, Minister. Obviously, other Members have referred to this today. I welcome the apology from Arriva Trains Wales, but this is not good enough for what one of my constituents has referred to as a ‘nightmare journey’ that forced passengers to travel in cramped and unsafe conditions and left others stranded on the platform. Like others, my focus is on how we can improve this for the future. I know that the Labour Party in Westminster has spoken about creating a public sector rail operator that would lead to a better deal for passengers. I would welcome your thoughts on this and how the Welsh Government could support this in Wales.
 
14:52
Edwina HartBiography
Obviously, as you know, the rail issue is quite complex, and the Secretary of State is now responsible for awarding the franchise. Our negotiations with the UK Government are under way, and, if we have devolution, there are other rail issues that we also need to look at in terms of legislation. We have seen such success with people wanting to use the trains that it is very important that they have a quality service and rolling stock. I will be delighted when the day comes when any Minister here can answer and say, ‘Yes, we are going to do it this way’.
 
14:53
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Minister, I could endorse all the comments that have been made so far on a series of questions about the overcrowding of trains, and there is an issue about the ability of the Welsh Government, and, indeed, with Arriva Trains Wales and the franchise that it is locked into; as I understand it, the franchise had no growth capacity built into it, and maybe we should look at the original authors of that franchise. However, has there been a detailed assessment of the overcrowding of trains, particularly from the Cynon valley? Last week, obviously, Arriva Trains Wales had to offer that apology for overcrowding. It is all well and good us pointing these things out individually, but has the Government done an overall assessment of the capacity of the network and, in particular, of the rolling stock in South Wales Central to meet the ongoing demand, as there is still four years left of the franchise?
 
14:53
Edwina HartBiography
I cannot say that I have seen anything, but that does not mean that there has not been any work done in the department. However, I think that your suggestion is a good one—if work has not been done, some work should be done, which I will then share with Members.
 
The SA1 Development
 
14:54
Mike HedgesBiography
10. Will the Minister make a statement regarding the developments taking place in SA1? OAQ(4)0480(EST)
 
14:54
Edwina HartBiography
The SA1 development has transformed what was a disused docklands area into a dynamic, vibrant new quarter for Swansea.
 
14:54
Mike HedgesBiography
I agree with the Minister; SA1, which is in my constituency, has been a tremendous success so far. Furthermore, I welcome proposed developments by University of Wales Trinity Saint David at SA1. Will the Minister provide an update on progress with this project?
 
14:54
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, we are now undertaking a joint master-planning exercise prior to the planning application being made. Work on the new campus could actually begin towards the end of 2015, subject to obtaining planning consent. Of course, it is very important that they create a very modern campus there, and there will be an opportunity to work with the private sector, as well, for mutual benefit. If that campus and all that we aim for is there, we will hardly have any space left on SA1.
 
14:55
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you, Minister, for that answer to Mike Hedges. With the growth of the UK economy, the speeding up of development work at SA1 was to be welcomed, and I hope that the work that you referred to will do that. However, simple things can put off investors and visitors, such as the rather heavy-handed parking regime on site. I have had several complaints about this, so would you speak, please, to the company that the Government chose to manage parking about introducing, perhaps, a pay-on-exit scheme, rather than a pay-and-display scheme, which is very vigorously enforced and is producing quite a lot of bad feeling?
 
14:55
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I have had quite a lot of correspondence since I have been Minister for transport and Minister for the economy about SA1. I have asked numerous questions about the contractual arrangements on this, and I would be more than delighted to take up your comments again, because I do think that there is a real issue down there, particularly for people who are disabled, and those who have not been able to park, and what has been happening is frankly not good enough.
 
14:56
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, you will know, of course, that as part of the budget deal with the Liberal Democrats, it was agreed that we would carry out a feasibility study on introducing new lock gates to SA1 to look at developing a marina there. How do you propose to take that forward?
 
14:56
Edwina HartBiography
I have asked officials now to give me proposals for how we go ahead with the feasibility study. I would have liked to have done it internally, but I might have to do it externally because of the skills mix that is required. I will report back to Members when this has been undertaken.
 
14:56
David ReesBiography
Minister, with the development of the new University of Wales Trinity St David campus at SA1, there will be a corridor along Fabian Way to the new second campus as well, so there is a higher education corridor. What are you doing to look at how you can support businesses that might want to take advantage of the research and development that goes on along that corridor in SA1?
 
14:56
Edwina HartBiography
Swansea University has a good record of dealing with companies in terms of R&D. I know that, likewise, Trinity St David does in some aspects. We obviously help them in terms of innovation, but we are now looking, and the city region board is about to look, at what opportunities we can have for good, bright graduates to stay and how we can help them with business opportunities to stay in Wales and produce commercially in Wales the projects they have developed.
 
Improving Links
 
14:57
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
11. Will the Minister make a statement on any planned improvements to the link between the A55 and the port of Holyhead? OAQ(4)0479(EST)
 
14:57
Edwina HartBiography
I will be reviewing the business case for improving the road link between the port and the A55. Holyhead is absolutely essential in terms of the development of the north Wales economy.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair at 14:57.
 
14:57
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you very much for that response. I am aware that the Minister and her officials are aware that the A55 has not, if you like, been completed in Holyhead and that we need to secure that link between the road and the port itself. Lorries and cars using the port have to compete with local traffic as they approach traffic lights at the end of the A55, and accidents have very nearly happened. I would appreciate a pledge that the Minister will make it a priority to complete that work for the benefit of the port and the economic development of the port, but also for the benefit of the people of Holyhead.
 
14:58
Edwina HartBiography
I am looking now at whether there is justification in moving forward this improvement, and I will report back. Obviously, we have the national transport plan, but, in terms of the port, it is integral to the operation of Hitachi and the new nuclear build, so we have to look at it in terms of economic and job opportunities.
 
14:58
Antoinette SandbachBiography
I am glad to hear that, Minister, because, in the words of a Labour MP in north Wales, north Wales needs a fairer deal on transport infrastructure, and there is too much of a focus on roads in south Wales. Those were the words of Mark Tami, the Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside. What other improvements will you be looking at along the A55 to make sure that the problems that we have seen this week and, indeed, over the last three years, do not continue to be repeated?
 
14:59
Edwina HartBiography
Work undertaken on the A55 is sometimes for safety reasons, which is important, and we need to do essential work. Therefore, I am not going to stop any essential work if it is causing issues. Interestingly, I was on the A55 last week and swept through, as it were, in terms of undertaking my visit. I have given an absolute commitment to north Wales in terms of it. If you look at the statistics, it is the west Walians who are disadvantaged on any issues to do with transport.
 
Improving Rail Services
 
14:59
Simon ThomasBiography
12. Will the Minister make a statement regarding improving rail services in Mid and West Wales? OAQ(4)0493(EST)
 
14:59
Edwina HartBiography
I would like to do more, but we are currently funding the introduction of hourly services on the Cambrian line, additional services on the Heart of Wales line from May 2015 and the additional funding of services to Fishguard. So, we are making an effort within the limits of the budget.
 
15:00
Simon ThomasBiography
I thank the Minister. Indeed, Welsh Government is doing at least part of its job in attaining those new services. I look forward to the new service starting on the Cambrian line next May. Once that service has established, there are a couple of improvements—particularly new stations at Bow Street and Carno—which the Minister will be aware of. People in Carno are very keen to see you, Minister—as you might be aware—to discuss those projects with you. Is there a way of re-evaluating those schemes, with the new services in place, with the new use of the lines? As you said in reply to Christine Chapman earlier, once you put these services in, they get used, people do come, and they would want to support the railways. These new stations will increase the ability for commuting and also take some of the weight off some of the dangerous roads in the region.
 
15:01
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I think we have to recognise that, if we are going to add more services, the issue is then the quality of the service provided and the quality of the railway. I know that Ceredigion has been talking about the importance of opening Bow Street, and I am well aware of what Carno residents are saying—in more intemperate language than I would have liked to have been written to in, perhaps. So, I assure you that, at the end of the day, we will look at all these issues, but it will depend on devolution what I am able to do on franchises. So it is a much longer-term aim, but it is something that I am very committed to looking at.
 
Cardiff Airport
 
15:01
Mick AntoniwBiography
13. Will the Minister make a statement on the performance of Cardiff Airport? OAQ(4)0494(EST)
 
15:01
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. Since the Welsh Government purchased the international airport, we have seen the position of the airport stabilise, and improvements made to the infrastructure and, certainly, the overall customer experience.
 
15:01