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Cofnod y Trafodion
The Record of Proceedings

Dydd Mercher, 8 Mehefin 2011
Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Cynnwys
Contents

Cynnig i Gymeradwyo Argymhelliad y Prif Weinidog i Ei Mawrhydi i Benodi Cwnsler Cyffredinol
Motion to Agree to the First Minister’s Recommendation to Her Majesty to Appoint a Counsel General

Cwestiynau i’r Prif Weinidog
Questions to the First Minister

Cwestiwn Brys: Trafferthion Ariannol Southern Cross
Urgent Question: The Financial Difficulties of Southern Cross

Datganiad a Chyhoeddiad Busnes
Business Statement and Announcement

Yn y golofn chwith, cofnodwyd y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y Siambr. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir cyfieithiad Saesneg o gyfraniadau yn y Gymraeg.

In the left-hand column, the proceedings are recorded in the language in which they were spoken in the Chamber. In addition, an English translation of Welsh speeches is included.

Cyfarfu’r Cynulliad am 9.30 a.m.gyda’r Llywydd (Rosemary Butler) yn y Gadair.

The Assembly met at 9.30 a.m.with the Presiding Officer (Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.

The Record

Y Llywydd: Galwaf Gynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru i drefn.

The Presiding Officer: I call the National Assembly for Wales to order.

Cynnig i Gymeradwyo Argymhelliad y Prif Weinidog i EiMawrhydi i Benod Cwnsler Cyffredinol
Motion to Agree to the First Minister’s Recommendation to Her Majesty to Appoint a Counsel General

The Record

Cynnig NDM4726 Carwyn Jones

Motion NDM4726 Carwyn Jones

Cynnig bod Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 9.1, yn cytuno â’r argymhelliad gan Brif Weinidog Cymru i Ei Mawrhydi benodi Theodore Huckle fel Cwnsler Cyffredinol.

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 9.1, agrees to the First Minister’s recommendation to Her Majesty to appoint Theodore Huckle as Counsel General.

The Record

The First Minister (Carwyn Jones): I move the motion.

The Record

Arweinydd yr Wrthblaid (Paul Davies): Mae’n gwbl hanfodol bod y Llywodraeth yn cael y cyngor cyfreithiol cywir a phriodol bob amser. Credaf fod penderfyniad y Prif Weinidog i benodi cwnsler y Frenhines tu allan i wleidyddiaeth yn un pwysig a chwbl briodol. Mae hefyd yn gosod cynsail pwysig. Bydd penodi person cyfreithiol y tu allan i wleidyddiaeth sydd yn annibynnol yn bwysicach fyth gan fod y lle hwn bellach wedi derbyn pwerau deddfu llawn a’i fod bellach yn gorff deddfwriaethol go iawn. Felly, bydd y cyngor cyfreithiol y mae’r Llywodraeth hon yn ei dderbyn yn hanfodol, a bydd cael rhywun fel Mr Huckle yn bwysig er mwyn cynnal hygrededd y lle hwn. Bydd ypenodiad hwn hefyd yn bwysig i hygrededd datganoli yn gyffredinol. Felly, bydd fy ngrŵp yn cefnogi’r cynnig hwn, ac, os caiff ei dderbyn, fel yr wyf yn amau y bydd, hoffwn estyn fy nymuniadau gorau i Mr Huckle yn ei swydd newydd.

The Leader of the Opposition (Paul Davies): It is vital that the Government receives the correct and appropriate legal advice at all times. I believe that the First Minister’s decision to nominate a Queen’s counsel outwith politics is a very important one and entirely appropriate. It also sets an important precedent. The appointment of a legal person outside of politics who is independent is even more important given that this place has secured full legislative powers and is now a genuine legislative body. The legal advice that this Government will receive will therefore be essential, and having someone like Mr Huckle will be important to maintain the credibility of this place. This appointment will also be important for the credibility of devolution in general. Therefore, my group will support this motion, and, if it is agreed here today, as I suspect it will be, I would extend my best wishes to Mr Huckle in his new post.

Simon Thomas: Yr oeddwn ychydig yn siomedig nad oedd y Prif Weinidog wedi manteisio ar y cyfle i amlinellu rhinweddau Mr Huckle ar gyfer y swydd bwysig hon yn y Cynulliad newydd, gan ein bod ar fin dechrau proses o ddeddfu’n llawn am y tro cyntaf. Bydd cyngor y Cwnsler Cyffredinol yn bwysig i’r Llywodraeth yn y broses honno. Felly, manteisiaf ar y cyfle hwn i ofyn ychydig o gwestiynau i’r Prif Weinidog, ac yr wyf yn gobeithio y bydd yn ateb y cwestiynau hyn yn hytrach nag anwybyddu’r cyfle i esbonio’r enwebiad i’r Cynulliad.

Simon Thomas: I was a little disappointed that the First Minister did not take the opportunity today to outline Mr Huckle’s qualifications for this very important role within the new Assembly, given that we are about to start the process of legislating fully for the first time. The advice of the Counsel General will be crucial to the Government in that process. I therefore take this opportunity to ask the First Minister a few questions, and I hope that he will answer them rather than ignoring the opportunity to explain the nomination to the Assembly.

Yn gyntaf, dylid dweud bod Mr Huckle yn uchel ei fri fel bargyfreithiwr, ac yr ydym yn croesawu penodiad arfaethedig rhywun sydd â chymaint o statws o fewn ei broffesiwn. Fodd bynnag, wedi dweud hynny, mae wedi ennill ei fri a’i statws mewn maes nad yw’n hollol gymwys i swydd y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a bydd yn rhaid iddo feithrin profiad o gyfraith gyfansoddiadol. Bu hynny’n wir am Gwnsleriaid Cyffredinol yn y gorffennol, felly nid yw’n rhwystr fel y cyfryw, ondmanteisiaf ar y cyfle i ofyn i’r Prif Weinidog amlinellu’r prosesau y bu drwyddynt wrth drafod gyda Mr Huckle ei allu i helpu’r Llywodraeth yn y broses o lunio cyfraith am y tro cyntaf yn y Senedd.

First, it should be said that Mr Huckle is a barrister of great repute and we welcome the proposed appointment of someone who has such high status within the profession. However, that said, he has gained his reputation and status in an area that is not entirely relevant to the post of Counsel General and he will need to gain experience of constitutional law. That has been true of previous Counsels General, so it is not a barrier as such, but I take the opportunity to ask the First Minister to outline the processes that he went through in discussing with Mr Huckle his ability to assist Government in the process of drawing up legislation for the first time in the Senedd.

Yr ail gwestiwn sy’n codi yw’r un ynglŷn â’r ffaith bod siambrau Mr Huckle wedi dweud yn glir y bydd yn cario ymlaen i weithio iddynt yn llawn amser. Felly, mae cwestiwn yn codi ynglŷn â beth yw blaenoriaeth Mr Huckle—ei waith fel Cwnsler Cyffredinol i’r Llywodraeth neu ei waith yn y siambrau.Hoffwn glywed gan y Prif Weinidog pa drafodaethau a gafodd gyda Mr Huckle ynglŷn â blaenoriaethu’r swydd hon a faint o waith ac amser y gall ei roi i’r swydd newydd hon yng nghyd-destun y gwaith proffesiynol mae’n bwriadu parhau i’w wneud.

The second question that arises relates to the fact that Mr Huckle’s chambers have made it clear that he will continue to work for them full time. Therefore, the question arises as to whether Mr Huckle’s priority is his work as Counsel General or his work in chambers. I would like to hear from the First Minister what negotiations he has had with Mr Huckle about the prioritisation of this post and how much time and commitment he can give to this new post in the context of the professional work that he intends to continue with.

Yn olaf, mae’n rhaid cofio bod ambell i enwebiad i’r swydd hon yn y gorffennol wedi cael ei rwystro gan fod yr enwebai arfaethedig wedi bod yn aelod o glwb neu gymdeithas sydd yn gaeëdig i bobl eraill. A fydd cofrestr gyhoeddus ar gael o waith Mr Huckle, ei benodiadau, a’i aelodaeth o glybiau a allai wrthdaro â buddiannau’r lle hwn? Hoffwn i’r Prif Weinidog fanteisio ar y cyfle i ateb y cwestiynau hynny fel bod modd i ni wneud penderfyniad teg ar y penodiad hwn.

Finally, bearing in mind that a few nominations to this post in the past have been blocked because the proposed nominee had been a member of a club or society whose membership is closed, will there be a public register of Mr Huckle’s work, his appointments,and his membership of clubs that might conflict with the interests of this institution? I would like the First Minister to take this opportunity to respond to those questions so that we can come to a fair decision on this appointment.

Yr Arglwydd Elis-Thomas: Yr wyf yn croesawu’r penodiad hwn yn fawr. Yr oeddwn yn falch o gael torri gair â’r darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol yn y Siambr ddoe. Nid wyf yn cytuno â nifer o’r pwyntiau a wnaed gan Simon Thomas ar y mater hwn. Yr wyf yn meddwl bod hwn yn enwebiad rhagorol a’i fod yn dangos pa mor bwysig yw ein bod yn cael rhywun o brofiad eang ym maes y gyfraith a fydd yn gallu addasu, yn sicr, er mwyn bod yn gyfreithiwr arbennig i Lywodraeth Cymru. Nid yw’n unrhyw fath o anair ar ddeiliaid y swydd cyn hyn i ddweud pa mor bwysig yw cael rhywun o safon sydd yn gyfreithiwr annibynnol oherwydd, yn dilyn ein datblygiad cyfansoddiadol yn y lle hwn, mae’r swydd wedi newid. Yr oedd yn briodol bod un o’n Haelodau yn dal y swydd yn y trydydd Cynulliad a bod gennym sefyllfa gyfreithiol dipyn bach yn fwy dyrys na’r un yn y Cynulliad cyntaf a’r ail Gynulliad, nad af yn ôl i’w thrafod. Ers Deddf Llywodraeth Cymru 2006, y deiliad oedd un o’n Haelodau a gosodwyd sail glir o atebolrwydd i’r swydd. Yr wyf yn sicr y bydd y darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol yn awyddus i barhau â’r atebolrwydd hwnnw i’r Cynulliad.

Lord Elis-Thomas: I very much welcome this appointment. I was very pleased to speak to the Counsel General designate in this Chamber yesterday. I do not agree with a number of the points made by Simon Thomas on this matter. I believe that this nomination is excellentand that it demonstrates how important it is for us to have someone with broad experience in the legal field who will, I am sure, be able to adapt to beingan expert lawyer for the Welsh Government. I do not think that it is a slur on the previous post holders to say how important it is that we have someone of repute and an independent lawyer, because, following the constitutional development of this place, the post has changed. It was appropriate that one of our Members held the post in the third Assembly and that we had a slightly more complex legal situation than that in the first and second Assemblies, which I will not go into. Since the 2006 Act, the postholder was one of our Members and a clear line of accountability was setfor that post. I am certain that the Counsel General designate will be keen to continue in that accountability to the Assembly.

Mae arnaf ofn fy mod hefyd yn anghytuno â Simon Thomas ynglŷn â mater gwaith proffesiynol y darpar Gwnsler Cyffredinol pan fydd yn gweithio i ni. Nid yw hynny’n anarferol o gwbl ymhlith cwnsleriaid seneddau, megis yng Ngogledd Iwerddon, yr Alban neu, yn wir, o ran y cyngor cyfreithiol sydd ar gael i’r Llefarydd yng Ngogledd Iwerddon. Yr hyn sydd yn bwysig yw bod ansawdd y cyngor ac ymarfer proffesiynol deiliad y swydd bwysig hon yn adlewyrchu’n dda ar y Llywodraeth a, drwy gysylltiad, ar y Cynulliad.

I am afraid to say that I also disagree with Simon Thomas about the matter of the professional work of the Counsel General designate when he will be working for us. That is not at all unusual among counsels to parliaments, such as in Northern Ireland, Scotland, or, indeed, with regard to the legal advice that is available to the Presiding Officer in Northern Ireland. What is important is that the quality of the advice and the professional practice of the holder of this important post reflects well on the Government and, by association, on this Assembly.

Mae’r jig-so cyfreithiol bron yn gyflawn a chredaf fod y Prif Weinidog yn gwybod beth yr wyf yn mynd i’w ofyn nesaf: pryd y bydd yn cael gair gyda Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig am y swydd arall sydd ei hangen yn fy marn i, sef adfocad cyffredinol ar gyfer Cymru yn Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig? Nid wyf yn mynd i hysbysebu ymgeisydd arbennig sydd yn aelod o’r blaid wleidyddol leiaf yn y lle hwn, ond mae’n llefarydd ar Gymru yn Nhŷ’r Arglwyddi ar hyn o bryd a byddai’n gallu gwneud y swydd. Mae angen swyddog cyfreithiol yn Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig sydd yn cyfateb i’r swyddog yr ydym yn ei drafod y bore yma.

The legal jigsaw is almost complete and I believe that the First Minister knows what I am going to ask next: when will the First Minister have a word with the United Kingdom Government about the other post that is required in my opinion, namely an advocate general for Wales in the UK Government? I will not advertise a particular candidate who is a member of the smallest political party in this place, but he is the spokesperson for Wales in the House of Lords at present and he would be able to do the job. There is a need for a legal officer in the United Kingdom Government as a counterpart to the official that we are discussing this morning.

Y Prif Weinidog: Nid wyf yn credu y gallaf ategu llawer at yr hyn a ddywedodd Dafydd Elis-Thomas o ran ymateb i’r pwyntiau a wnaeth Simon Thomas. Mae’n bwysig cofio mai nifer fach o bobl sy’n ymarfer ym maes cyfraith gyfansoddiadol—braidd neb. Mae’n bwysig dros ben cael rhywun i roi cyngor i’r Llywodraeth sydd yn dod o gefndir cyfreithiol cryf, ond nid oes yn rhaid i’r person hwnnw gael cefndir cyfansoddiadol cryf. Mae hynny’n hollol normal yng ngwledydd eraill y Deyrnas Unedig o ran y Twrnai Cyffredinol a’r Arglwydd Adfocad yn yr Alban. Yn yr Alban, bargyfreithwyr troseddol sydd wedi dal y swydd honno. Felly, ni welaf hynny fel problem.

The First Minister: I do not think that I can add much to the comments made by Dafydd Elis-Thomas in terms of responding to the points made by Simon Thomas. It is important to bear in mind that there are very few people practising constitutional law—hardly anyone. It is very important that we should have someone to advise Government who comes from a strong legal background, but that individual does not have to have a strong constitutional background. That is entirely normal in other nations of the UK in relation to the Attorney General and the Lord Advocate in Scotland. In Scotland, criminal lawyers and barristers have held those posts. Therefore, I do not see that as a problem.

O ran blaenoriaethau’r Cwnsler Cyffredinol, ei flaenoriaeth fydd gweithio fel aelod o’r Llywodraeth. Bydd beth bynnag a wna tu allan i’r swydd honno yn fater iddo ef, ond ei flaenoriaeth fydd bod yn aelod o’r Llywodraeth a rhoi cyngor i’r Llywodraeth. Dyna y byddwn yn erfyn iddo’i wneud, ac yr wyf wedi siarad gydag ef am hynny.

In terms of the priorities of the Counsel General, his priority is to work as a member of the Government. Whatever he does outwith that post will be a matter for him, but his priority will be to be a member of the Government and to provide advice to the Government. That is what I would expect him to do and I have spoken to him about that.

Ynglŷn ag adfocad cyffredinol ar gyfer Cymru, mae Adfocad Cyffredinol yr Alban yn aelod o Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig. Dyletswydd Adfocad Cyffredinol yr Alban yw rhoi cyngor i Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig ar system gyfreithiol yr Alban. Nid oes system gyfreithiol wahanol gennym yng Nghymru, felly, ar hyn o bryd, nid wyf yn credu bod angen adfocad cyffredinol ar gyfer Cymru fel aelod o Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig. Fodd bynnag, pwy a ŵyr beth fydd yn digwydd yn y blynyddoedd i ddod?

In terms of an advocate general for Wales, there is an Advocate General for Scotland, who is a member of the UK Government. The responsibility of the Advocate General for Scotland is to give advice to the UK Government on the legal system in Scotland. We do not have a different legal system in Wales, so, at present, I do not think that we need an advocate general as a member of the UK Government. However, who knows what might happen in years to come?

Mae gan Theo Huckle brofiad mawr mewn sawl maes o’r gyfraith ac mae wedi ymarfer y gyfraith nid yn unig yng Nghymru ond y tu allan i Gymru. Mae felly’n ymgeisydd cryf i fod yn Gwnsler Cyffredinol. Bydd yn aelod o’r Llywodraeth a bydd dyletswydd arno i roi cyngor i’r Llywodraeth. Bydd yn rhaid i’r Llywodraeth wrando ar y cyngor hwnnw, er na fydd yr hyn y bydd eisiau ei glywed bob tro. Bydd yn hollol annibynnol o ran ei gyngor a bydd hefyd yn dod â llawer iawn o nerth a phrofiad i’r Llywodraeth.

Theo Huckle has great experience in a number of areas of law and has practiced not only in Wales but outside Wales. He is therefore a strong candidate to become Counsel General. He will be a member of Government, and he will have a duty to provide advice to the Government. The Government will need to listen to that advice, although it will not always be what it wants to hear. He will be entirely independent with regard to his advice and he will also bring a great deal of strength and experience to the Government.

The Record

The Presiding Officer:The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? There are no objections, therefore the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order No. 12.36.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Motion agreed.

Cwestiynaui’rPrifWeinidog
Questions to the First Minister

The Record

Cymunedau Cynaliadwy

Sustainable Communities

1. Llyr Huws Gruffydd:A wnaiff y Prif Weinidog ddatganiad yn amlinellu gweledigaeth ei Lywodraeth i greu cymunedau cynaliadwy yng nghefn gwlad Cymru. OAQ(4)0036(FM)

1. Llyr Huws Gruffydd:Will the First Minister make a statement outlining his Government’s vision to create sustainable communities in rural Wales. OAQ(4)0036(FM)

Y Prif Weinidog (Carwyn Jones): Mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi ymrwymo i sicrhau bod ein cymunedau gwledig yn gynaliadwy. Mae manylion yr ymrwymiad hwnnw i’w gweld yn 'Sefyll Cornel Cymru’, sef maniffesto’r Llywodraeth.

The First Minister (Carwyn Jones): The Welsh Government is firmly committed to ensuring the sustainability of our rural communities. That commitment is set out in 'Standing up for Wales’, which is the Government’s manifesto.

LlyrHuws Gruffydd: O dan eich Llywodraeth flaenorol, cyflwynodd y cyn-Weinidog dros Faterion Gwledig nifer o gynlluniau i fynd i’r afael â rhai o’r heriau sy’n wynebu cymunedau gwledig Cymru. Un o’r rhain oedd cynllun cynhwysfawr i daclo TB mewn gwartheg, sef pla sydd wedi taflu cysgod dros gymunedau amaethyddol ers blynyddoedd maith. Fel un a gefnogodd y cynlluniau hynny eich hun, Brif Weinidog, a allwch chi gadarnhau eich bod yn dal i’w cefnogi ac, yn fwy penodol, na fydd eich Llywodraeth chi yn newid cyfeiriad ac yn tynnu yn ôl o’r cynllun difa moch daear?

LlyrHuws Gruffydd: Under your previous Government, the former Minister for Rural Affairs introduced a number of plans to get to grips with some of the challenges facing rural communities in Wales. One of those was a comprehensive scheme to get to grips with bovine TB, which is a disease that has cast a cloud over agricultural communities for many years. As someone who supported those plans yourself, First Minister, can you confirm that you still support them and, more specifically, that your Government will not change direction and withdraw from the badger cull?

Y Prif Weinidog: Mae’r Llywodraeth wedi gwneud addewid i ystyried y wyddoniaeth ynglŷn â delio â TB mewn moch daear ac mewn gwartheg. Yr ydym yn edrych ar hyn bob wythnos o bob mis er mwyn canfod y ffordd fwyaf effeithiol o ddelio â TB, sy’n broblem i lawer o ffermwyr llaeth yng Nghymru.

The First Minister: The Government has pledged to consider the science regarding dealing with TB in badgers and in cattle. We consider this issue every week of every month in order to identify the most effective way of dealing with TB, which is a problem for many dairy farmers in Wales.

The Record

Rebecca Evans:I congratulate the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council on sponsoring the Bwcabus service, which helps people living in rural parts of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire get to work and access education, training and health services. This award-winning scheme is the first of its kind in Wales and is proving tremendously popular with the isolated passengers whom it serves. Can you give your Government’s continued commitment to securing sustainable transport such as this in rural communities?

The First Minister: We have, for the course of this financial year, provided £11 million through our local transport services grant to help local authorities to support the provision of socially necessary rural bus services. At least 10 per cent of that grant is to be used to support community transport. The Bwcabus scheme is an innovative approach that has won a number of national awards, which demonstrates its effectiveness.

Paul Davies: The First Minister’s decision to downgrade the rural affairs portfolio in his Cabinet has rightly come in for criticism. In trying to defend his decision he said:

'The economy of rural Wales is bound up with the economy of urban Wales’.

Yet, his own party manifesto is clear in its statement that

'Welsh Labour however recognises and understands the particular challenges facingWales’ rural communities.’

The First Minister cannot seem to make up his mind about this. Do rural communities in Wales face particular challenges or not?

The First Minister:The economy of rural Wales is bound up with the economy of urban Wales; it is quite simple. However, we recognise that there are particular issues in the rural economy that require specific attention, which is why there is a Deputy Minister with specific responsibility for agriculture, food, fisheries and European programmes. All of those matters are crucial to rural Wales, and we have recognised that and included them in a Deputy Minister’s title.

Paul Davies: The First Minister does recognise that rural Wales faces particular challenges, therefore. Let me try another subject. It is essential that young people in all parts of Wales are able to access well-paid employment and to set up home in their local communities should they wish to do so. However, the latest data warn that many people in rural areas will be priced out of the market. In Carmarthenshire, for example, the price of a flat increased by 34 per cent in a single year, and, in Ceredigion, average house prices are now eight times average earnings. In the circumstances, what plans do the First Minister and his Government have to make housing more affordable for people in rural communities?

9.45 a.m.

The First Minister: What about the National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Housing and Local Government) Order 2010? Your party opposed it. Your party flogged much of the public housing stock in the 1980s and 1990s, and never replaced it. The reason there are so many people in need of housing in Wales is because of the policies that your party pursued in the first place. We are trying to pick up the pieces, and are doing so effectively. That is why the housing LCO was passed, and the Housing (Wales) Measure 2011 was taken forward by two parties in this Chamber: to provide the houses that people need after the destruction wrought by the party opposite.

Paul Davies: He is obviously rewriting history. We opposed the banning of the right to buy. Let me try another question. Obviously, agriculture plays a vital role in sustaining our rural communities, and as the First Minister is fully aware, farmers in Wales produce excellent food. We have seen recently that the E. coli outbreak in Germany and the subsequent banning of European Union vegetables by Russia can have a huge impact on food production in countries such as Spain. Naturally, public health must be a priority, and we must have the highest possible food safety standards. Given these events, what reassurances will the First Minister give to Welsh farmers, and what work is the Welsh Government doing to minimise any negative impact on Welsh producers?

The First Minister: The Minister for Health and Social Services is meeting the Food Standards Agency today to discuss the situation with regard to human health. That is the appropriate response. The provenance of this outbreak now appears clear, and we have seen what happened in Russia. I hope that things will get back to normal as quickly as possible, but we are taking steps to protect the health of the people of Wales.

The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats (Kirsty Williams):First Minister, as you know, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have been calling for many months for the Welsh Government to routinely publish all expenditure over £20,000, as is done by the Scottish Government and the UK Government. I welcome the news released in Jane Hutt’s answer to a written question that you will now adopt this policy. When will it become operational?

The First Minister: We are hoping to bring this policy into operation in the next few weeks. It is a matter of collating the information available and putting in place systems to gather and publish all expenditure over £25,000.

Kirsty Williams: Thank you for that, First Minister. Do you agree that it is essential that this information is put into the public domain so that politicians and, indeed, the public, can play their role in rooting out waste and inefficiency? It has taken quite a while for you to agree to this policy, and I ask again whether you will today clarify when this information will be published, the format in which it will be published, and the method by which members of the public will be able to obtain it. Will you commit to alerting all Assembly Members when this policy becomes operational?

The First Minister: Yes, I have no difficulty with that. There is an issue with cost, and we must keep costs down when the new systems are put in place, but it stands to reason that making public every item of expenditure over £25,000 involves ensuring that the public can access that information as easily as possible.

Kirsty Williams: May I ask you about another way in which we could make the finances of the Welsh Government more transparent? I am sure that, at the moment, you and your Cabinet colleagues are in discussions about the Welsh Government’s budget, which will be published in the autumn. You will be aware that, for a number of years, many committees, including the Finance Committee, have been critical of the way in which the budget figures are published, which often makes it difficult to compare year-on-year changes in Government expenditure. Will you agree to review the format of the budget and the way that it is presented so that politicians, the public and the media have an opportunity to scrutinise the financial decisions of your Government?

The First Minister: I think that the budget is very open: it is scrutinised closely by committees in this institution, and indeed on the floor of the Assembly, on more than one occasion. I do not accept the suggestion that, somehow, the budget process is secretive or unclear in any way; it is probably far clearer than was ever the case in Westminster.

Kirsty Williams: It is not a question of how many times committees have an opportunity to look at the budget, or how many times it is discussed here in the Chamber, but the way in which the figures are published and made available. You will be aware that committees, including the Finance Committee, have complained for a number of years about the way in which those figures are published, making it difficult on a year-on-year basis to be able to understand the changes in the financial priorities of your Government. It is all very well having opportuinities to debate, but if the financial information that is given makes it difficult to scrutinise, we can have as many debates in the Chamber as we like. Will you agree to look at the recommendations of the Finance Committee in years gone by and look to ensure that we can have a budget that can be scrutinised by all of those who have an interest in how the Government spends its money and to ensure that we can make year-on-year comparisons?

The First Minister: The issue with some of the committees, particularly the Finance Committee, if I remember rightly, was the amount of time that the committee had to scrutinise the budget, which is a matter ultimately not for the Government, but for the Standing Orders of this institution. Nevertheless, we will do what we can in order to ensure that the figures are presented in a way that allows them to be understood by committees, as you put it.

The Record

Darlledu Cyhoeddus

Public Broadcasting

2. Mick Antoniw: Pa drafodaethau y mae’r Prif Weinidog wedi'u cael am ddarlledu cyhoeddus yng Nghymru. OAQ(4)0035(FM)

2. Mick Antoniw: What discussions has the First Minister had regarding public broadcasting in Wales. OAQ(4)0035(FM)

6. Rhodri Glyn Thomas: Pa drafodaethau y mae’r Prif Weinidog wedi’u cael gyda Llywodraeth y DU ynghylch dyfodol darlledu yng Nghymru. OAQ(4)0024(FM)

6. Rhodri Glyn Thomas: What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding the future of broadcasting in Wales. OAQ(4)0024(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: I have regular discussions about broadcasting issues that affect Wales. I have written to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt MP, demanding a meeting in order to ensure that he fully understands the strength of feeling regarding broadcasting in both Welsh and English in Wales.

Mick Antoniw: In view of the imminent meltdown of Welsh and English-language broadcasting in Wales as a consequence of the Westminster Government’s cuts programme, does you agree, First Minister, that it is essential that both Welsh and English-language programmes are properly financed and that the governance structure for BBC Wales and S4C must be correct? Consequently, do you agree that representations need to be made by the Welsh Government to the effect that S4C should be removed from the Public Bodies Bill and that there should be a public inquiry into public-sector broadcasting in Wales? Will you make representations to this effect to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

The First Minister: We have made the representations already. There was a consensus in the Chamber that there should be an independent review of S4C: it was a suggestion made by the previous Minister, Alun Ffred Jones, and one that I fully support. However, that is not something that has been accepted by the UK Government.

With regard to broadcasting, there are severe fears that the cuts being proposed by the BBC would eat into news and current affairs broadcasting. I was struck last week when I was in Edinburgh for the meeting between the First Ministers of the devolved administrations that, while there were probably about 30 journalists in the room, they were all from Scotland and Northern Ireland and none at all from Wales. That situation exists now, so it raises a serious question about what might happen in the future if there are cuts on the scale that is being proposed.

The Record

Rhodri Glyn Thomas: Yn dilyn o’r cwestiwn blaenorol, yr ydym yn gwybod erbyn hyn fod toriadau sylweddol yn mynd i fod yng nghyllideb S4C ac nad oes unrhyw sicrwydd o ran y gyllideb honno tu hwnt i 2014. Yr ydym hefyd yn gwybod bod o leiaf trafodaethau ynghylch toriadau eithaf sylweddol i raglenni gan y BBC yn yr iaith Saesneg. Yn ystod yr etholiad diwethaf, rhoesoch chi a’ch plaid addewid i bobl Cymru y byddech yn amddiffyn Cymru a’i  phobl oddi wrth doriadau’r glymblaid yn San Steffan. A ydych yn derbyn bod hyn yn brawf o’r addewid hwn ac, os ydych yn methu yn eich trafodaethau gyda Jeremy Hunt, y byddwch wedi methu â gwireddu’r addewid a wnaethoch i bobl Cymru yn yr etholiad diwethaf?

Rhodri Glyn Thomas: Following on from the previous question, we now know that there will be significant cuts to the budget of S4C and there is no certainty with regard to that budget beyond 2014. We also know that there have been talks, at the very least, about quite significant cuts being made by the BBC to English-language programmes. During the last election, you and your party promised the people of Wales that you would defend Wales and its people from the cuts being made by the coalition in Westminster. Do you accept that this is a test of that promise and that, if you fail in your discussions with Jeremy Hunt, you will have failed to fulfil the promise that you made ​​to the people of Wales during the last election?

Y Prif Weinidog: Beth yw barn Plaid Cymru ar hyn? Dim, heblaw am ddatganoli darlledu heb yr arian. Nid yw hynny’n ddigon da yn fy marn i. Mae’n rhaid i ni sicrhau ein bod yn cael sefyllfa lle mae digon o arian i’r BBC ddarlledu yma yng Nghymru a rhoi gwasanaeth teg i bobl Cymru, yn y Gymraeg a Saesneg. Nid yw’n ddigon da dweud bod yn rhaid datganoli darlledu ac mai hwnnw yw’r ateb. Gwyddom yn iawn o’r gorffennol nad yw’r arian yn dilyn os yw darlledu, neu unrhyw fater arall, yn cael ei ddatganoli. Felly, sefyllfa’r Llywodraeth yw ein bod am sicrhau dyfodol S4C, drwy gael adolygiad—sy’n rhywbeth sydd wedi cael ei gefnogi gan Blaid Cymru yn y gorffennol. Dylid hefyd sicrhau bod barn y Llywodraeth a’r Cynulliad yn cael ei rhoi i Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig, sef ei bod yn bwysig dros ben bod gennym system o ddarlledu yng Nghymru sy’n rhoi gwasanaeth newyddion a materion cyfoes i bobl Cymru yn hytrach na meddwl am Gymru fel rhan o Loegr o ran darlledu. Nid yw hynny’n ddigon da.

The First Minister: What opinion does Plaid Cymru’s offer on this? None, apart from devolving broadcasting without any funding. In my opinion, that is not good enough. We have to ensure that there is enough money for the BBC to broadcast in Wales and to give a fair service to the people of Wales, in both Welsh and English. It is not good enough to say that broadcasting should be devolved and that that is the only answer. We know from what has happened in the past that the money does not follow when broadcasting, or any other matter, is devolved. Therefore, the Government wants to safeguard the future of S4C by having a review—which is something that Plaid Cymru has supported in the past. It is also necessary to ensure that the views of the Government and the Assembly are presented to the United Kingdom Government, namely that it is vital that we have a system of broadcasting in Wales that gives the people of Wales a news and current affairs service rather than one that, in broadcasting terms, thinks of Wales as part of England. That is not good enough.

The Record

Julie Morgan: What discussions does the First Minister plan to have with Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, about trying to get S4C to function as a proper commissioning authority again? I know that there are many concerns among the independent companies about the lack of new work that is coming through. This work is extremely important. Therefore, what can the First Minister do to try to get S4C moving forward again?

The First Minister: The indecision on the part of the UK Government with regard to S4C has meant, inevitably, that there is indecision within S4C. It is clear that, when the position of S4C was being considered, there were no real plans. Suggestions were made at various times about where S4C and its budget would sit. It is clear that the UK Government has not given much thought to S4C’s position, and it has decided simply to give S4C to the BBC; that is not good enough. That point has been made many times, and I will continue to make it. It is also essential that we understand that it is not good enough for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to look at providing a service in the Welsh language in Wales to the detriment of the English language in Wales. The two must run together. Suggesting that English-language broadcasting in Wales should be downgraded is just not good enough. The people of Wales pay their licence fees, and they are entitled to have a BBC that gives them news and current affairs programmes that are relevant to them. That is a point that will be made very strongly many times over the next few weeks.

The Record

Suzy Davies: Mae gan S4C gadeirydd newydd yn awr, ac yr wyf yn siŵr y bydd Aelodau yn ymuno â mi wrth longyfarch Huw Jones ar ei benodiad. A yw’r Prif Weinidog yn cytuno â phenderfyniad Jeremy Hunt y tro hwn, ynteu a yw’n cytuno â’r Undeb Darlledu, Adloniant, Sinematograffeg a Theatr—BECTU—sy’n ei wrthwynebu?

Suzy Davies: S4C now has a new chairman, and I am sure that Members will join me in congratulating Huw Jones on his appointment. Does the First Minister agree with Jeremy Hunt’s decision on this occasion, or does he agree with the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union, which opposes it?

Y Prif Weinidog: Nid yw cael cadeirydd newydd yn datrys y broblem. Anfonaf fy nymuniadau gorau ato, wrth gwrs, ond y broblem yw’r ffordd y bydd Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig yn delio â hyn. Nid yw’n gwybod yn iawn yr hyn a ddylai ddigwydd i S4C. Mae’n amlwg ei bod eisiau torri cyllid S4C, a’i bod yn gweld mai’r ateb yw cael S4C yn rhan o’r BBC. Nid yw hynny’n addas i Gymru, ac nid yw’n dderbyniol i bobl Cymru, yn fy marn i. Dylai Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig sicrhau bod adolygiad yn digwydd, a’i bod yn edrych unwaith eto ar sut i sicrhau dyfodol S4C.

The First Minister: The appointment of a new chairman does not solve the problem. Of course, I send him my best wishes, but the problem is the way in which the United Kingdom Government deals with this. It does not know exactly what should happen to S4C. It is obvious that it wishes to cut the funding of S4C, and that it sees that the answer is that S4C should be part of the BBC. That is not suitable for Wales, and I do not believe that it is acceptable to the people of Wales. The United Kingdom Government should ensure that there is a review, and that it looks again at how to ensure the future of S4C.

The Record

Bethan Jenkins: Before I ask my question, it is important to put on record that Plaid Cymru has never called for the devolution of broadcasting without the money being in place. We want the powers to be held here so that we can sort out the mess in relation to broadcasting in Wales.

My question relates to the fact that I have received reassurances from the corporate governance level of the BBC that the document relating to Delivering Quality First was just a first draft, and that considerable consultation will follow. Nevertheless, the proposal mentions specifically compulsory redundancies as part of the 10 per cent so-called efficiency cuts. First Minister, could I have your guarantee that the Welsh Government will do all that it can to prevent that aspect of the proposal from remaining part of the BBC Trust’s final consideration?

The First Minister: Controversial documents that are leaked are always said to be first drafts; they are always documents that were never intended to see the full light of day. Once they have been leaked and become unpopular, the fall-back position is always to say, 'They were only first drafts; that is not what we really intend to do.’ You make an important point about ensuring that there are no job cuts in the BBC in Wales, and I will meet the unions to discuss with them how best to ensure that that is avoided. It comes back to this point: it is all very well to call for the devolution of broadcasting, but the key is the money. Bluntly, if you think that the money will come from the UK Government if broadcasting is devolved, you are simply wrong; It will not happen. We are living in the real world: we are facing severe cuts from the UK Government, and it will not give us more money to devolve broadcasting. I do not want to see the break-up of the BBC, which is what you want; I want to ensure that there is a proper broadcasting service in Wales that is provided by the BBC and independent television, which serves the people of Wales in the same way as the people of Scotland and Northern Ireland are served. That is what the people of Wales want to see: a good service rather than the structure being tinkered with.

The Record

Rhaglen Drwsio a Chynnal a Chadw’r Rhwydwaith Ffyrdd

Road Network Repair and Maintenance Programme

3. William Graham: A wnaiff y Prif Weinidog am linellu polisi Llywodraeth Cymru i gydlynu rhaglen drwsio a chynnal a chadw'r rhwydwaith ffyrdd ledled Cymru. OAQ(4)0031(FM)

3. William Graham: Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government’s policy to co-ordinate a road network repair and maintenance programme throughout Wales. OAQ(4)0031(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: We co-ordinate the road repair and maintenance programme throughout Wales using the results of the annual road maintenance backlog project.

10.00 a.m.

William Graham: Thank you for your answer, First Minister. I am sure that you will join me in congratulating the Conservative-led Newport City Council on project 21, a council initiative that has led to immense financial savings as they are now resurfacing roads completely and therefore do not have to patch potholes constantly. This has meant that future highway maintenance costs, including project 21 repayments, will be lower than they were before the project began. Would the First Minister agree that this should be best practice throughout Wales?

The First Minister: I am sure that local authorities throughout Wales will want to observe best practice in other local authorities. If what Newport council has done works better than previous systems, I am sure that other councils would want to learn from that.

The Record

Elin Jones: Brif Weinidog, fis diwethaf cafodd cyffordd Tesco yn Aberteifi, sef un o brif fynedfeydd Aberteifi, ei hailagor ar ôl iddi fod ar gau am wyth mlynedd. Yn 2006, penderfynodd Gweinidog o’r Blaid Lafur gau’r gyffordd yn barhaol, ond gwyrdrowyd y penderfyniad hwnnw gan Weinidog o Blaid Cymru. A ymunwch â mi i groesawu’r ffaith bod cyffordd Tesco yn Aberteifi wedi ei hailagor o’r diwedd?

Elin Jones:First Minister, last month, Tesco junction in Cardigan, which is one of the main entrances to Cardigan, was reopened after being closed for eight years. In 2006, a Labour Party Minister decided to close the junction indefinitely, but that decision was overturned by a Plaid Cymru Minister. Will you join me in welcoming the fact that Tesco junction in Cardigan has been reopened at last?

Y Prif Weinidog: Yr wyf yn gyfarwydd iawn â’r gyffordd honno. Yr wyf yn sicr y bydd pobl Aberteifi a’r bobl sy’n teithio i’r ardal honno i siopa yn croesawu’r ffaith bod yr heol wedi ei hailagor. Wrth gwrs, mae’n rhaid cau heolydd a chyffyrdd o bryd i’w gilydd. Serch hynny, o adnabod yr heol a’r gyffordd sydd dan sylw, yr wyf yn sicr y bydd pobl Aberteifi yn ystyried y datblygiad hwn yn fantais iddynt yn y dyfodol.

The First Minister: I am very familiar with that junction. I am certain that the people of Cardigan and the people who travel to that area to shop will welcome the fact that the road has been reopened. Of course, roads and junctions have to be closed from time to time. Despite that, as I know the road and junction in question, I am sure that the people of Cardigan will consider this development to be of benefit to them for the future.

Adfywio Canol Trefi

Town Centre Regeneration

4. Christine Chapman: Sut y mae Llywodraeth Cymru yn cefnogi adfywio canol trefi ledled Cymru. OAQ(4)0032(FM)

4. Christine Chapman: How is the Welsh Government supporting town centre regeneration across Wales.OAQ(4)0032(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: Town centres should be at the heart of local communities and a focus of civic pride. We continue to support town centres through targeted investment.

Christine Chapman: I welcome this Government’s commitment to breathing new life into our town centres. I am glad that we will focus on making them safe, attractive and family-friendly. Unfortunately, however, like manyother Members, I am contacted from time to time by constituents who are fearful of going into their own towns, particularly at night, due to perceptions of anti-social behaviour. We should not tolerate this and changing this situation is vital to getting people back into our towns. As you said, First Minister, town centres are seen as seen as centres of community life. First Minister, will you make tackling this a priority for our Government? We also need to ensure that community members are fully involved in any decision-making processes, so that they can set out what they want for our towns and communities. Will you join me, therefore, in commending the 'My Aberdare’ campaign, which is being run by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, which aims to include local people in making decisions for their area?

The First Minister: I will because I think that it is important that people feel that they have a sense of ownership of new developments in areas in which they live. I understand that the exhibition related to the 'My Aberdare’ campaign is running from today until Friday. It is right to say that people need to feel safe in our town centres at all times of the day and night. That is why, of course, we are funding 500 new police community support officers, to ensure that people feel able to walk into their town centres at any time of the day.

Nick Ramsay: The First Minister will be aware of the huge amount of work that has been done by Monmouthshire County Council, utilising funding from the Welsh Government, to regenerate Abergavenny town centre over the last few years, specifically through projects such as the brewery yard regeneration scheme. Does the First Minister agree that, while support for projects such as this one is great, Governments can only do so much? Does he also agree that, whatever the nature of the town centre regeneration projects brought forward by councils and which may be supported by the Government, you need businesses in those town centres—the kinds of businesses that are currently leaving? Given the First Minister’s continued opposition to my party’s plans to lift small businesses completely out of business rates so that they have money to invest in the future, will he tell us what positive proposals his Government is going to bring forward to help small businesses in Wales to flourish?

The First Minister: As you know, Nick, we have small business rate relief. We are also looking very carefully at the question of enterprise zones and waiting to have a better idea of what they might mean as far as the UK Government is concerned as it has not told us fully what they would involve. The irony of your position, Nick, is this: there would be no money to regenerate town centres like Abergavenny if your policies were to be carried through. That is the whole point. You would suck the money out of regeneration funding and there would therefore be no money left to regenerate town centres. We know full well that your plan is to cut as much money as possible and toremove money from regeneration funding. Therefore, town centres in Wales would not have any hope of regeneration if the Tories were anywhere close to being in power in Wales.

Joyce Watson: Will you give an update on the western Valleys regeneration strategy and, in particular, the £6.5 million project to regenerate Ammanford? This funding represents a real opportunity to make a positive improvement to Ammanford town centre and to boost the local economy, which offers residents an opportunity for both jobs and shopping in their local communities.

The First Minister: As you know, the western Valleys regeneration area identified eight key towns as target areas for investment and Ammanford was one of those towns. It is important that we have in place a regeneration policy to help major towns in different parts of Wales.Iknow that the people of Ammanford are looking forward to seeing the fruits of regeneration at the bottom end of the Amman valley.

Leanne Wood: Earlier this year, I published 'A Greenprint for the Valleys’, which is a green regeneration and jobs creation plan. For a plan like this to work, people need new skills, job opportunities need to be created in communities close to where people live and people need to have access to cheap finance. The greenprint also proposed a plan to regenerate disused heritage buildings such as pubs, schools and miners’ welfare halls into modern community facilities, which would also offer more opportunities for work. That is in line with the thinking of the Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage. Will you agree to look at the proposals outlined in the greenprint, in particular the proposal on the creation of a green skills construction college, which is also supported by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition? Will you indicate what additional finance may be made available from the Welsh Government to help set up a co-operative system of cheap loans for people?

The First Minister: The green jobs strategy was put in place by the former Deputy First Minister. We take the need to develop green skills in Wales very seriously. A number of construction colleges have been built and opened in Wales over the last few years. When building regulations are devolved, there will be opportunities to ensure that where the regulations are changed to make building practices more environmentally friendly, the skills will be provided in Wales so that people can benefit from using those skills and get jobs. It is also important that people have access to training, which is why we are committed as a Government to creating 4,000 training places every year, to ensure that young people get a chance to learn a new skill and to get a job at the end of it.

Mick Antoniw: You will be aware that, at long last, there has been considerable investment in Pontypridd. It was once a great town, but sadly it has seen better days. However, £10.5 million is now being invested in the internal infrastructure of the town, £4 million is being invested in the Taff precinct, the station is being redeveloped and the cycle network is being completed. All that will hopefully begin to transform the town. However, the town of Tonyrefail is also in my constituency. It was once a great mining town that sadly, over the years, appears to have been left out of various regeneration programmes. It desperately needs some jobs and a new face. Will you give consideration to ways in which future funding programmes could be used to benefit towns such as Tonyrefail that appear to have been left out of regeneration programmes? Will you give a commitment to visit Tonyrefail to visit it and to meet with community leaders there to talk about the various issues that concern them?

The First Minister: I will certainly visit Tonyrefail. I have been there many times in the past. However, there is a limited budget for regeneration. In your constituency, Pontypridd is getting the lion’s share of the money, and you are right to say that it is needed. Pontypridd was in its heyday in the 1970s when people used to shop there on a Wednesday, because the shops there did not close early on Wednesday, unlike any other town in south Wales. I know that shops like John Menzies and Marks and Spencer were there because I was often taken there unwillingly to shop when I was a little boy. It is right to say that Pontypridd has not done so well since then and that is why the regeneration is so important to develop the town. With regard to Tonyrefail, in the future, there is a possibility that plans could be looked at to help to regenerate other communities in the area.

William Powell: First Minister,as I am sure that you are aware, there are numerous unused flats above shops in town centres across Walesthat could be used as affordable housing, given the right incentives. These flats would be of great benefit to thousands of people throughout Wales. In my region in particular, it could provide towncentre living for people currently living in rural areas who rely on sporadic public transport to access towncentre facilities. It would also bring more people into town centres, helping to revitalise them, with benefits for the environment and community safety. Will you please give a commitment to helping to facilitate this sort of development through partnerships with local authorities, national parks and retailers, including retailers such as the co-operative movement, which owns many such towncentre facilities?

The First Minister: Yes, there are parts of Wales where this is already happening, with empty buildings being brought back into beneficial use. It strikes me that it would be better for these flats to be used and an income brought to the landlord than for them to be empty. It is important that that is recognised. Whether there are some parts of Wales where there are spaces above shops that would need planning permission in order to become residential properties is something for local authorities to look at. However, I would encourage local authorities to look at the number of empty spaces that they have above shops in town centres and to consider bringing together a programme of bringing those spaces back into use for residential development. I am sure that we are all very familiar with many town centres in Wales where, often, the ground floor is occupied and the floor or floors above lie empty. Local authorities might see it as a profitable enterprise to talk to those retailers to see whether those premises could have a residential use.

The Record

Blaenoriaethau

Priorities

5. Ann Jones: A wnaiff y Prif Weinidog amlinellu ei flaenoriaethau ar gyfer Dyffryn Clwyd dros y chwe mis nesaf. OAQ(4)0033(FM)

5. Ann Jones: Will the First Minister outline his priorities for the Vale of Clwyd for the next six months. OAQ(4)0033(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: Over the next six months, our priorities for the Vale of Clwydare to support families, communities, jobs and businesses and to build a more sustainable Wales, in line with our manifesto.

Ann Jones: Thank you for that, First Minister. As you know, Rhyl is one of the areas benefiting from a multi-million pound regeneration board created by this Welsh Labour Government, which is working to give opportunities to local communities in terms of job creation and the regeneration of the town. This is unlike the Tories in Westminster as one of their first acts was to deny young people and people who have been out of work opportunities by axing the Future Jobs fund. First Minister—[Interruption.] Well, you did axe it.

The Presiding Officer: Order. Just carry on with the question, thank you.

Ann Jones: Sorry. First Minister, do you agree that housing quality is an equally important issue that concerns everyone in our communities, and that we need to look at how we can make landlords more responsible towards their tenants, particularly in the private rented sector?

The First Minister: As you know, some £13.1 million has been spent in Rhyl so far. In the course of this financial year, a further £3.1 million will be spent, with £700,000 of that being targeted toward housing. You will also be aware of the west Rhyl housing regeneration plan, which aims to tackle the issue of houses in multiple occupation, and, of course, west Rhyl has particular issues in that regard. I understand that the details of the implementation of the first phases of this plan will be forthcoming over the summer.

Antoinette Sandbach: First Minister, one of the major difficulties experienced by households in areas such as Rhyl and the predominantly rural regions of the Vale of Clwyd is the growing problem of fuel poverty, which is particularly acute as 16 per cent of households live off-grid and are unable to switch from oil or LPG. Last winter, they faced price hikes of 40 per cent to 55 per cent. In light of your responsibilities for energy, can you confirm that you will be discussing this issue with the UK Government later today? This is particularly relevant given yesterday’s news of substantial price increases for the gas and electricity customers of Scottish Power.

The First Minister: Meetings will take place with the retailers’ group because I want to make the point to them that fuel poverty is a serious problem that may well get worse over the course of the next few months. However, I have a solution that may help, which would be to reinstate the winter fuel allowance. Before the general election, I heard David Cameron say, 'The winter fuel allowance is safe with us.’ Those were weasel words.

The winter fuel allowance clearly was not safe with the present UK Government. If only he had been upfront about that at the very beginning. We also have in place the successor to the home energy efficiency scheme, which has helped so many people to climb out of fuel poverty. We have demonstrated our commitment to dealing with fuel poverty, unlike the party opposite.

10.15 a.m.

Kenneth Skates: Branching out from the Vale of Clwyd, the extension of the Clwydian range area of outstanding natural beauty is a project that has been in the pipeline for some time. The Countryside Council for Wales plan to widen the range to include Llangollen and the Dee valley was passed to the Welsh Government in March. If approved and signed off quickly, it could have enormous benefits for tourism in the area. Will you commit to ensuring that the cultural and economic potential of the area is maximised, and that we get sign-off from the Welsh Government on the Clwydian range AONB extension plan as soon as possible?

The First Minister: The CCW has submitted the Order for consideration by Welsh Ministers. As it is under consideration, you will understand why I am unable to comment on that. The decision will be taken by the appropriate Minister in due course.

The Record

Llyr Huws Gruffydd: Mae cynllun datblygu lleol arfaethedig sir Ddinbych yn argymell codi dros 1,700 o dai newydd ym mhentref Bodelwyddan. Ar yr un pryd, mae adroddiad gan Shelter yn dangos bod dros 800 o dai gwag yn sir Ddinbych. Oni ddylai’r Llywodraeth wneud mwy i ddod â thai gwag yn ôl i ddefnydd, fel yr ydym eisoes wedi clywed, ac onid yw’n amser i ailasesu’r holl broses o ddatblygu cynlluniau datblygu lleol cyn i gymunedau ar draws Cymru gael eu dinsitrio gan ddatblygiadau cwbl anaddas?

Llyr Huws Gruffydd: The proposed local development plan for Denbighshire proposes building over 1,700 houses in Bodelwyddan. Meanwhile, a Shelter report shows that there are over 800 empty houses in Denbighshire. Should this Government not do more to bring empty houses back into use, as we have already heard, and is it not time to reassess the whole process of developing local development plans before communities across Wales are destroyed by completely inappropriate developments?

Y Prif Weinidog: Ni allaf fynegi barn ar unrhyw gais cynllunio, yn sgîl rôl Gweinidogion Cymru wrth ddelio â cheisiadau o’r fath. Mae’r broses cynlluniau datblygu lleol yn llawer mwy agored na’r broses flaenorol o gynlluniau datblygu unedol. Gall pobl fynegi barn ar y cynllun datblygu. Yr hyn sy’n digwydd o bryd i’w gilydd yw bod cais cynllunio yn cael ei gyflwyno i gyngor heb i bobl wybod amdano. O ganlyniad, nid ydynt yn deall pam mae caniatâd yn cael ei roi. Er bod y system yn llawer mwy agored na’r hen drefn, mae dyletswydd ar gynghorau lleol i sicrhau bod mwy o bobl yn gwybod beth sy’n rhan o’r cynlluniau datblygu lleol hynny.

The First Minister: I cannot express an opinion on specific planning applications because of the role of Welsh Ministers in dealing with such applications. The local development plan process is far more open than the old unitary development plan system. People can express opinions on the development plan. What sometimes happens is that a planning application is put before a council but that people are not aware of it. As a result, they do not understand why permission is granted. Although the system is far more open than was the case in the past, there is a duty on local authorities to ensure that more people know what is included within those local development plans.

The Record

Blaenoriaethau Strategol

Strategic Priorities

7. Kenneth Skates: A wnaiff y Prif Weinidog amlinellu ei flaenoriaethau strategol ar gyfer y Gogledd yn y Pedwerydd Cynulliad. OAQ(4)0034(FM)

7. Kenneth Skates: Will the First Minister outline his strategic priorities for North Wales in the Fourth Assembly. OAQ(4)0034(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: For north Wales, as for other parts of Wales, we shall take the necessary steps to implement the commitments of our manifesto.

Kenneth Skates: Probably one of the greatest experiences in my life was attending last year’s Ryder Cup with my younger brother, Huw. It was an amazing experience and it really put Wales on the global map, being the third biggest sporting event in the calendar. Given the success of the event, would you commit to exploring the possibility of the Welsh Government supporting a north Wales bid for the next British leg of the Tour de France?

The First Minister: That is an interesting suggestion. We will have to consider the finances, but I will certainly discuss the matter with officials to see whether we can put in a bid for the next British leg of the Tour de France.

Mark Isherwood: A north Wales council states that the future requirement for new homes in its local development plan was based upon Welsh Government population projections. Clearly, future planning for housing must take account of the 100,000 households in Wales on waiting lists, net births and deaths and net migration patterns, where Welsh Government figures indicate that, in north Wales, there has been, on average, a net inward migration of 2,000 people out of 7,500 across Wales. There is also widespread and growing concern across north Wales that huge, new greenfield estates, such as those proposed in Bodelwyddan and near Abergele, are not the answer to the housing crisis in Wales. How do you, therefore, respond to the increasing call across the region for a review of housing allocations in the north Wales local development plan submitted to the Welsh Government, and for a consequent inquiry into the effective urbanisation of large parts of the north Wales coast—a key tourist attraction—so that we have sustainable development that shares and supports local community regeneration and culture?

The First Minister: I am confused now; on the one hand we have Paul Davies saying that we need more houses, and on the other we have Mark Isherwood saying that we need fewer houses. What is the Tory position on this? Is it the case that they want more houses but not in areas where they may have support? That is probably more like it, is it not? The reality is that local authorities must put in place local development plans that are appropriate to their areas. If you are suggesting that, somehow, the Government should be more active in interfering with local development plans, it removes from local authorities any local discretion as to where houses should be built. Local authorities are responsible for the housing allocations that they have put in their local development plans, and it is for them to answer to their communities and to defend their decisions. That is the nature of the role of local authorities when it comes to housing.

The Record

Alun Ffred Jones: Un o’r cynlluniau strategol pwysicaf yn y gogledd-orllewin yw ffordd osgoi Caernarfon a Bontnewydd ar yr A487. Mae dau ymgynghoriad wedi’u cwblhau ac maent ar ddesg y Gweinidog. Gan fod y llwybrau hyn yn effeithio ar wahanol anheddau, mae’n bwysig iawn, er tegwch i bawb, bod penderfyniad buan yn cael ei wneud. Pryd mae penderfyniad yn debygol o gael ei gyhoeddi?

Alun Ffred Jones: One of the most important strategic schemes in north-west Wales is the Caernarfon and Bontnewydd by-pass on the A487. Two consultations have been completed, which are now on the Minister’s desk. Given that these routes impact upon a number of dwellings, it is very important, in the interests of fairness, that a decision is taken swiftly. When is the decision likely to be announced?

Y Prif Weinidog: Ysgrifennaf atoch gyda’r amserlen, er mwyn sicrhau bod yr amserlen yn gadarn.

The First Minister: I will write to you with the timetable, in order to ensure a firm timetable.

Teithio mewn Bws am Ddim

Free Bus Travel

8. Mike Hedges:A wnaiff y Prif Weinidog roi ymrwymiad y bydd pensiynwyr a phobl ag anableddau yn cael parhau i deithio mewn bws am ddim. OAQ(4)0029(FM)

8. Mike Hedges:Will the First Minister commit to the continuation of free bus travel for pensioners and people with disabilities. OAQ(4)0029(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: Yes, absolutely.

Mike Hedges: Will the First Minister join me in congratulating Swansea City Football Club on getting to the Premier League? It is not just good for Swansea, but for Wales—it puts Wales on the map. [Interruption.] It will also lead to more bus travel around Swansea. [Laughter.]

Is the First Minister aware of just how popular the free travel scheme is? It is a scheme that defines the Welsh Government; when you ask what the Welsh Government does, it is the issue that people raise. Unfortunately, we have a council in Swansea that has been making substantial cuts in bus subsidies. Although many of my constituents are pleased with the free travel scheme, they have no access at all to transport after 6 p.m. onSundays—they have free bustravel, but they do not have a free bus to get on. Will the First Minister have words with local authorities with regard to the importance of keeping subsidised bus travel going in order for people to benefit from free bus travel?

The First Minister:You will be aware, of course, that one issue in the Government’s manifesto was to consider the provisions of the Transport Act 2000 to see whether the availability of public transport could be strengthened by new structures in the future. We are still actively considering that. It is right to say that, where there is free bus travel, it is important that there are buses; it is important that local authorities consider very carefully what is appropriate in terms of bus provision in their areas. I join with you in congratulating Swansea City, and I look forward to more people using their bus passes when they travel to the Liberty Stadium.

Mohammad Asghar: Current legislation and guidance stipulates that a severely disabled person may request one companion bus pass. Additional carers assisting those with serious disabilities must pay for their bus travel. I have recently been contacted by a constituent whose son is severely autistic and requires significant assistance when making bus journeys. He desperately needs more than one companion when travelling on a bus. First Minister, can you reassure my constituent, and others facing similar problems, that the Welsh Government will look into this issue? Will you commit to discussing it with Welsh Government officials responsible for determining the details of the scheme by which local authorities issue concessionary and companion bus passes?

The First Minister: That is a serious issue that deserves further investigation. If you write to me with the details, I would be pleased to look into it.

Mick Antoniw: I willfollow on in a similar vein, as there is clearly a broader problem here. I have received similar representations, particularly from families with a son or daughter who has autism or Asperger’s syndrome. The problem arises from the interpretation of section 146 of the Transport Act 2000.The Act sets out a very comprehensive description of disability, but the problem is that the individual, in order to utilise free transport, will often need support or companionship, whether it be a buddy system or whatever. It appears that that is where the problem arises. We may need to exerciseour powers to look at an amendment, but I will write to you separately about this issue so that we can find a Welsh solution to this particular problem.

The First Minister: Under the present guidance, it is possible to issue bus passes to those who have a particular severity of autism, but it is for the local authority to determine whether a person would meet the qualifying criteria. The difficulty with autism is that, because of the autistic spectrum disorder, people are affected by a wide variety of symptoms—some are severely affected and others are mildly affected, which is why Asperger’s syndrome is diagnosed. It is a matter for local authorities to decide on the level of disability, but it is difficult to make a subjective determination when it comes to autism. I suggest that your constituent should provide evidence to their local authority of the particular disability, and ask it to make a determination. If that does not happen, please feel free to write to me.

Jocelyn Davies: First Minister, I am sure that you would agree that making commitments to protect jobs and services despite UK Government policy is a serious issue indeed, especially when you told the people of Wales that a vote for you would send a clear message to David Cameron. I understand from a written answer by the Minister for Finance that the Welsh Government has not received any communication whatsoever from the Prime Minister regarding cuts to the budget. Do you think that he is still reeling from the shock of that message, or is it much more likely that he is completely uninfluenced by it?

The First Minister: I have heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who wants a meeting, which is something that we asked for, and that meeting will proceed. In addition, the joint ministerial council meets today and there will be a meeting of the British-Irish Council in the next few weeks as well. I will be meeting personally with the Chancellor and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to outline our views that we need to secure fairer funding for Wales. We are also open to a wider financial package that will be in the interests of the people of Wales.

Jocelyn Davies: I am delighted to hear that. First Minister, you also said during the election that Wales would be safe with Labour and that you would protect us from the worst impact of the Westminster cuts. On a scale of one to 10, what score would you give yourself for that? Which cuts have been reversed by the UK Government since your election? You have already put on public record that resources for broadcasting would not follow the devolution of broadcasting. I suggest that you put up a better fight for Wales when you engage with the UK Government, and let us hope that it is better impressed with you than I am at the moment.

The First Minister: I see that Plaid Cymru has a new leader. I do not want to see broadcasting devolved—that is not our party policy, so I am not going to fight for it; it is as simple as that. It is your policy, not mine. I want to see the BBC and ITV provide a decent service for the people of Wales, not potter around with structures.

As a Government, we were elected on the basis of taking forward a detailed manifesto with new Bills, but the party opposite had no ideas at all. It had no ideas for the use of the Assembly’s new powers, and it had no enthusiasm for taking Wales forward—it was all about saying 'Give us more powers’ without using them. That is not where we are as a party. I want to ensure that we secure more finance for Wales, that we use the powers that the people of Wales granted to us in March—powers that were opposed by many Members opposite—and that we continue to ensure that Wales gets a fair financial package. Those ideas were contained in the manifesto of this Government, they were supported by the people of Wales and that is the manifesto on which we are proud to stand. We have sent a message to the rest of the UK that the the people of Wales want to see a Government that stands up for them; that is why they voted for it.

Jocelyn Davies: We also know from the election that Labour put on the record that it is not interested in nation-building for Wales. If the public cannot see you doing anything, they will think that you are doing nothing. Delivery, apparently, is everything. I will not invite you to agree with that, given that they are your own words. It would seem logical for your Government to say what it intends to do, otherwise you run the risk of people thinking that you have nothing to deliver. As you have no plans to publish a Government programme, how will you avoid the public concluding that you are doing nothing?  

10.30 a.m.

The First Minister: We are publishing a programme for government. I will make a statement next week and the following week on the way forward in terms of legislation and the financial package that we are looking for. Where is your leader? You accuse us of not having any kind of programme and your leader is not even in the Chamber. I was not going to mention it, but it takes the biscuit. We have put forward to the people of Wales a programme for government in our manifesto. We will put it forward in a legislative statement and we will put forward a fiscal package on behalf of the people of Wales, and I will be doing that today.

Jocelyn Davies: You have 30 seats for the next five years, so none of your Members can ever be away. You are the Government and you have to be here, but the opposition is not bound in the same way.

The First Minister: The opposition can go on holiday; that is all right then. Backbench Labour Party Members and the Government have to be here, but everyone else can go on holiday in the course of the Assembly term. That is not the message that we want to get across. I am fed up of it. The reality is that people are coming to me—[Interruption.]

The Presiding Officer: Order. The First Minister is trying to respond, but I cannot hear him.

The First Minister: People have come to me over the past day saying, 'You Assembly Members, you’re not even there when the Assembly is in session’. It has affected all of us. Labour Assembly Members will be here to take part and to vote. I am sorry to hear that, as far as Plaid Cymru is concerned, attendance in the Chamber appears to be optional.

Peter Black: I join Mike Hedges in welcoming and encouraging the use of public transport to get to the Liberty Stadium now that Swansea has become the premier city of Wales. In relation to the question that was tabled, given that large parts of Wales do not have scheduled bus services and people living there rely on community transport to get to hospital and to other essential services, those people lose out as a result of community transport not being eligible for the free bus pass scheme. Will you look at that situation and consider extending the bus pass scheme to community transport?

The First Minister: Yes, we will examine that, because we know that in large parts of Wales community transport is the primary form of public transport. I will ensure that Carl Sargeant, as the appropriate Minister, examines this to see whether we can take that forward.

The Presiding Officer: I call Llyr Huws Gruffydd to speak on bus passes.

The Record

Llyr Huws Gruffydd: Yr wyf eisiau ategu’r union bwynt hwnnw, achos dyna’r cwestiwn yr oeddwn am ei ofyn. Mae’n annheg ar fudiadau trafnidiaeth gymunedol. Yn aml, dyna’r mudiadau sydd yn darparu gwasanaethau mewn ardaloedd gwledig, ardaloedd difreintiedig ac ardaloedd lle mae’r sector preifat wedi methu. Felly, yr wyf yn croesawu eich cyhoeddiad. Pa mor fuan y gallwn ddisgwyl i’r mater hwn gael ei edrych arno?

Llyr Huws Gruffydd:I would like to emphasise that exact point, because that was the question that I wanted to ask. It is unfair to community transport organisations. Often, those are the organisations that provide services in rural areas, disadvantaged areas and areas where the private sector has failed. Therefore, I welcome your announcement. How soon can we expect this matter to be looked at?

Y Prif Weinidog: Fel y dywedais wrth ateb y cwestiwn blaenorol, byddaf yn edrych ar hyn gyda Carl Sargeant a bydd Aelodau’n cael gwybod cyn gynted â phosibl am ganlyniadau’r adolygiad hwnnw.

The First Minister: As I said in reply to the previous question, I will look at this with Carl Sargeant and Members will be informed of the conclusions of that review as soon as possible.

Tlodi

Poverty

9. David Rees: Pa gynlluniau sydd gan Lywodraeth Cymru i fynd i’r afael â thlodi ledled Cymru yn ystod y Pedwerydd Cynulliad. OAQ(4)0030(FM)

9. David Rees: What plans does the Welsh Government have to tackle poverty throughout Wales during the Fourth Assembly. OAQ(4)0030(FM)

The Record

The First Minister: We are committed to tackling poverty and to developing an anti-poverty action plan, bringing together all the levers that are at our disposal to help communities and individuals out of poverty.

David Rees: As you will be aware, a recent report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that approximately 20 per cent of people in Wales live in poverty. Save the Children has identified that two thirds of children living in severe poverty are in workless households. Do you agree that schemes such as the flagship Communities First programme have helped to improve the living conditions and prospects of people in the most disadvantaged areas? The Communities First programme alone has proved a lifeline for almost 500 groups, activities and projects in Neath Port Talbot in the last year, as you saw for yourself when you visited Sandfields recently. These projects play a vital role in developing self-belief, employability, health and wellbeing among some of the most vulnerable people in my constituency. In the face of the Westminster coalition Government’s severe budget cuts, growing unemployment and increasing inflation, I fear that more people may be condemned to poverty. Therefore, First Minister, do you agree that protecting programmes such as Communities First must be a priority for the Welsh Government in these difficult times and, as Welsh Labour was the only party committed to preserving the Communities First scheme, can you provide a timescale and framework for a successor programme so that current Communities First projects can start planning and budgeting for post 2012?

The First Minister: The current phase of Communities First ends in March 2012. We will, however, go to consultation on the next phase of the programme during this summer and the new programme will be in place during 2012.

Mark Isherwood: After 12 years of Welsh Labour-led Government, and billions spent on regeneration and fighting poverty, we find that the level of child poverty in Wales is the worst in the UK, and it was rising for four years prior to the start of recession. In February, a Save the Children report found that a higher proportion of children in Wales were living in severe poverty than was the case in any other UK nation. Save the Children also told me that, to tackle this, measures needed to be more focused on severe poverty. We have had the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, and we strongly support its aspirations. We want to see the Families First initiative work. However, when will your Government announce its evaluation of the pilot projects run by five charities, including Barnardo’s, that led to the launch of this public sector programme? Will you assure us that the third sector, which delivers these projects and has so much front-line experience, will be listened to at a strategic level as well as being commissioned to deliver services at the coal face?

The First Minister: The third sector delivers worthwhile and useful services without which society could not function so well—that much is true. However, the difference between my party and yours is that we want to work with the third sector rather than impose things on it. We have the child poverty strategy, which was published on 3 February, and it gives a clear account of what the Assembly Government can achieve. We will also double the number of families who can benefit from Flying Start, and we will continue with an anti-poverty programme after the present phase of Communities First comes to an end—something that your party will not support.

Mark Drakeford: First Minister, tucked away in the Westminster Government’s programme of swingeing cuts for people who rely on benefits in this country is a proposal that the social fund and council tax benefit should be devolved to this Assembly. Those are lifeline benefits that many families, particularly those with children, rely on. Is it the view of the Welsh Government that such proposals would require a legislative consent motion in this Assembly?

The First Minister: The thinking at the moment is that it would not. There has been a legislative consent motion in Scotland, but that was in relation to matters that were devolved. It appears with regard to council tax benefit and the social fund that the issues are not devolved. However, we will monitor the situation closely from a legal point of view in order to ensure that we have maximum influence over the outcome.

Lindsay Whittle: First Minister, will you increase investment in home insulation in order to target low-income families, building on the fairly successful first stage of Arbed? Linked to that, would you also establish a loan scheme, working with credit unions in Wales, to finance domestic energy efficiency so that our poorest people can stay warm? Finally, will you invite the chief executives of the utility boards to the Assembly to explain how they plan to help low-income families who are struggling to pay their obscene bills? I am sure that we all share the dismay at the increases announced yesterday evening. I know that you will not agree, but I consider some of those people to be gangsters in suits.

The First Minister: It is difficult for those who advocated the privatisation of energy generation and supply to say that it has been a good thing for the consumer. We see the rises in energy prices, and many people say to me that they cannot see what benefit privatisation brought them. They do not see that it has brought cheaper prices, and they do not see that it has brought competition. If that is the public’s perception, then, clearly, the suppliers have a job to do to explain their position. As I said earlier, I am looking to ensure that a meeting takes place with the retail group to ask the group what it plans to do about these rises and consequent fuel poverty. We will continue to roll out the Arbed programme, which has been successful in providing insulation and energy efficiency in older housing stock that was once thought to be beyond help. We now know that that is not the case, and many people in the older housing stock in Wales are benefiting from the Arbed programme.

Darren Millar:First Minister, with reference to the Communities First scheme, when the review is undertaken, will it be possible to give serious consideration to the continuation of Communities First projects in strategic regeneration areas, such as those in my constituency, which are part of the north Wales coast regeneration area? Both of those projects have been incredibly effective on the ground. I am aware that there have been problems elsewhere with Communities First, but that has not been the case with the schemes in my constituency, in Kinmel Bay and Colwyn Bay. I ask that serious consideration be given to those strategic regeneration areas where Communities First projects are underway and are proven to be delivering.

The First Minister: Now we see a situation arising in which a party that was against Communities First has realised that that might not be the best way forward. Therefore, Communities First schemes can be protected in areas that are represented by Conservative Assembly Members. That is perhaps an uncharitable way of looking at it. However, I welcome what Darren says about the need to preserve Communities First type programmes in many communities across Wales. It is right to say that there have been difficulties in some parts of Wales: we understand that and those difficulties must be dealt with; we know of the situation with regard to Plas Madoc. I very much welcome Darren’s comments that Communities First type schemes are appropriate in the parts of Wales where they are needed. I welcome that change in Conservative policy.

Cwestiwn Brys
Urgent Question

Trafferthion Ariannol Southern Cross
The Financial Difficulties of Southern Cross

The Record

The Presiding Officer: I have accepted an urgent question under Standing Order No. 12.66 and I call on Peter Black to ask it.

The Record

Peter Black: Pa gamau y mae’r Gweinidog yn eu cymryd i sicrhau nad yw trafferthion ariannol Southern Cross yn effeithio ar ofal preswyl i’r henoed yng Nghymru? EAQ(4)0001(HSS)

Peter Black: What action is the Minister taking to ensure that the financial difficulties of Southern Cross do not affect residential care for the elderly in Wales?EAQ(4)0001(HSS)

The Record

The Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services (Gwenda Thomas): Continuity of care for residents is my main concern. Officials are in close contact with the company about progress on its restructuring plans. The Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales is monitoring the quality and standards of care in its homes and we are working with local authorities and the NHS, which have the responsibility for contingency planning should that be needed.

Peter Black: Thank you for that answer, Deputy Minister, and for liaising with the various agencies, companies and local councils on this issue. There are 1,772 residents in Wales who are affected by the potential financial failure of this company. I would not encourage a Government bailout for a company that has, effectively, speculated on its property to the cost of the residents. That is not the way forward for any company and should not be encouraged by Government intervention. However, the uncertainty facing the older people affected is of great concern and will have an unsettling effect on residents. I am also concerned about the situation of self-funders in those homes who may not automatically become the responsibility of the local authority. Can you provide further details about what safety nets are in place, on the part of local authorities and health boards, to reassure those residents should this company fail and homes face closure?

Gwenda Thomas: I will start with the role of the Welsh Government. Social services, including care for older people, are a key priority for the Welsh Government, and that is why our manifesto made a commitment to a major programme of change that will be achieved through significant legislative reform, as outlined in 'Sustainable Social Servicesfor Wales: A Frameworkfor Action’.

On contingency arrangements, local authorities and local health boards have the statutory duty to ensure that the needs of their residents are protected. We have therefore been in regular discussions with local government and the NHS to ensure that they have effective contingency plans in place should they be required. I met local government representatives yesterday to emphasise the importance of effective contingency plans being in place, and I have received assurances that that will be the case. There are clear protection arrangements already in place and no resident, including those who are self-funding, should be left without the care that they need.

The Record

Mark Drakeford: Diolch am eich atebion y bore yma, Ddirprwy Weinidog. A allwch chi fanylu am yr hyn y mae’r Llywodraeth yn bwriadu ei wneud yn ymarferol i sicrhau bod safonau gofal yng nghartrefi preswyl Southern Cross yn cael eu gwarchod a’u diogelu dros y misoedd nesaf, yn enwedig tan ddiwedd mis Medi?

Mark Drakeford: Thank you for your answers this morning, Deputy Minister. Can you elaborate on what the Government intends to do on a practical level to ensure that care standards in Southern Cross residential homes are protected and safeguarded over the coming months, particularly until the end of September?

Gwenda Thomas: Mae Arolygiaeth Gofal a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol Cymru yn monitro’r sefyllfa, ac ni fydd hynny’n wahanol i’r modd y mae’n monitro pob cartref yn arferol. Yn achos Southern Cross, mae AGGCC yn gweithredu’n ddyfal i geisio sicrhau nad yw sefyllfa ariannol Southern Cross yn dylanwadu ar y safonau, a bod y safonau hynny’n cael eu cynnal.

Gwenda Thomas: The Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Walesis monitoring the situation, and that will not be any different to how it routinely monitors every home. In the case of Southern Cross, CCSIW is working hard to try to ensure that Southern Cross’s financial situation does not affect standards, and that those standards are maintained.

The Record

10.45 a.m.

Janet Finch-Saunders: Southern Cross’s financial difficulties have been ongoing for some time. We must remember the huge uncertainty that this will be causing many residents and their families. Let us not forget that Southern Cross is not an isolated case and that the shortage of care home beds in Wales is an increasing problem. The number of care homes that voluntarily ceased to operate in 2010 rose from 27 to 40. In addition, the number of patients waiting for care home places has risen significantly over the past three years. Waiting for a place in a care home puts a huge strain on patients and their families, and on the NHS. We need to ensure that this problem does not get any worse. Thank you for you assurances, Deputy Minister, that there are contingencies in place, but could local authorities and, more importantly, the NHS in Wales—in light of the strain that it is already under—cope if the Southern Cross group goes under?

Gwenda Thomas: It is not for me to speculate as to how this situation will develop, but I can say that, despite an inadequate budget settlement from Westminster, the Welsh Government has protected spending on social services in Wales, with an additional £35 million being provided over the next three years. The first part of your question relates to the wider social services issues that face us in the future. We all know that your Government has commissioned the Dilnot review into the continuity of care and we await that report, which I believewill be with us towards the end of the summer. However, in our paper, 'Sustainable Social Services for Wales: aFramework for Action’, we have set out clearly a policy agenda for Wales and we now have a clear manifesto commitment that we will proceed to a social services Act. That wider aspect of paying for care in the future will be dealt with in that way.

Vaughan Gething: I was pleased to hear some of your earlier answers, which dealt with the questions that I was going to ask regarding ensuring that you have already met local authorities and that you will focus on maintaining standards for vulnerable people in care. One of the aspects that I do not think has been mentioned is that a large number of staff are now vulnerable—thousands of low-paid staff who are poorly rewarded despite the responsibility that their jobs place upon them. Have there been any conversations or any contact with representatives of staff in Southern Cross to identify how they are being affected and to listen to their point of view in order to ensure that standards are maintained?

Gwenda Thomas: We are in contact with Southern Cross on all aspects of this issue, but the point that you make is to do with business continuity, which is very important in order to avoid disrupting the lives of vulnerable elderly people and staff. Therefore, we will not take any precipitate action. The issues affecting Southern Cross are unique, but we are confident that either Southern Cross will continue to operate or it will pass a number of its homes to new providers to provide services. If that occurs, we shall work hard with those new providers so that the transition occurs quickly and smoothly to ensure continuity of care for residents and the welfare of staff.

The Record

Bethan Jenkins: A all Llywodraeth Cymru gymryd unrhyw gamau gweithredol ychwanegol—gan gynnwys deddfwriaeth—i atal cynlluniau i breifateiddio tai gofal ac atal y posibilrwydd o ailadrodd sgandal fel Southern Cross ac, felly, atal datblygiad o ddyheadau Thatcheraidd—fel y disgrifiwyd y broses gan aelod o’r Blaid Lafur yn ddiweddar—mewn ardaloedd fel etholaeth Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, lle mae cynlluniau gan y Blaid Lafur i drosglwyddo stoc tai gofal i bartner arall?

Bethan Jenkins: Can the Welsh Government take any further active steps—including legislation—to stop plans to privatise care homes and to stop the possibility of a repeat of the Southern Cross scandal and, therefore, to stop the spread of Thatcherite ideals—as they were described recently by a member of the Labour Party—in areas such as the Bridgend constituency, where the Labour Party has plans to transfer the care homes stock to another partner?   

Gwenda Thomas:Yr wyf newydd ateb y cwestiwn hwnnw wrth drafod gwasanaethau cynaliadwy, ac yr ydych yn gwybod ein bod wedi cyhoeddi papur ar ddyfodol gwasanaethau cymdeithasol. Yr ydym wedi ymrwymo i ddeddfu ar hynny os gwelwn fod galw. Gwyddoch fod y Cynulliad wedi croesawu’r papur hwnnw, ac mae’r Blaid Lafur wedi ymrwymo i ddeddfu os bydd yr angen yn codi.

Gwenda Thomas:I have already answered that question when I discussed sustainable services, and you will know that we have published a paper on the future of social services. We have committed to legislating on that if we identify a need to do so. You will know that the Assembly has welcomed that paper, and the Labour Party has committed to legislating if that need arises.

The Record

Julie Morgan: Thank you, Deputy Minister, for your answers and reassurances. I would like to bring to your attention the case of a constituent’s mother, Freda Marshall, who is in a Southern Cross nursing home in Cardiff. She has had multiple strokes and has been there for three years. She uses a wheelchair, cannot wash herself and finds it difficult to communicate, but, importantly, care staff at the nursing home have learned to understand her and to communicate with her. The family is desperately concerned about the continuity of her care. I urge you, Deputy Minister, to do all that you can, which I know you are, to try to help in this difficult and worrying situation for the family.

Gwenda Thomas: I understand fully the concerns of residents, their families and staff. The Welsh Government’s statutory guidance, 'Escalating Concerns With, and Closures of, Care Homes Providing Services for Adults’, issued in 2009, reinforced the statutory duty placed on local authorities and local health boards to ensure that the needs of residents are protected. That includes the most vulnerable people, as you have mentioned. Therefore, that guidance is in place, and I expect local authorities to work within its requirements in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, in this situation and always.

Andrew R.T. Davies: Thank you, Deputy Minister, for your answers today. This is a distressing and worrying time for employees and for residents and their families. Could you give us a sense of the extent to which the Welsh Government has been engaged with the situation? It has not happened overnight, but over a series of weeks and months—a considerable time frame. Can you give assurances that the Welsh Government has engaged comprehensively with the providers to make sure that you and your civil servants are fully abreast of the issues that have been raised, and that the consultation will continue, so that residents, relatives and employees are confident that their best interests are being looked after?

Gwenda Thomas: I can offer that assurance. Officials have been in touch with Southern Cross over the past weeks and months, and with officials in Westminster. Our priority throughout our discussions with Southern Cross has been the continuity of care for the residents of its care homes and the stability needed in its proposals for restructuring the company. I do not see that it is for me to intervene in that, but we are in close contact and are monitoring the situation daily.

Jenny Rathbone: Thank you, Deputy Minister, for reminding us of the statutory duty of local authorities to consult when they are thinking of closing residential homes. Unfortunately, in the case of the Llanedeyrn residential home at Maelfa in November 2009, the closure was undertaken in an extremely hasty manner. Residents and their relatives were given almost no notice, and very little consultation took place. The staff were concerned that some of the residents were placed in new homes in the private sector that were not suitable for their needs. There was no consultation with local residents, who would have been the future residents of the home. The Southern Cross case raises major issues that we all need to consider regarding the use of the private sector in delivering services for vulnerable people. The managing directors of Southern Cross were paying themselves millions while paying poverty wages to the staff. Having been given the privilege to serve the population of Cardiff Central, I feel the need to visit every residential and nursing home in my constituency to ensure that the service provided is suitable for the needs of the residents. I have particular concerns where specialist services, such as those for young people with autism—

The Presiding Officer: Order. Could you come to the question, please?

Jenny Rathbone: The question is: how do we collaborate with local authorities in England in cases where there is specialist provision that may not be available in Wales and where it is extremely difficult for relatives and Members to make visits, thereby ensuring that the services are appropriate for the needs of very vulnerable young people?

Gwenda Thomas: I understand your concerns, Jenny. CSSIW is charged with monitoring, regulating and inspecting the care sector. From time to time, issues come to my attention regarding situations that are less than acceptable, but I believe that, on the whole, the regulatory and inspection process works in the interests of the most vulnerable people.

With regard to young people with autism that are placed out of the country, there are arrangements in place. Nevertheless, we all need to be watchful, and this is a responsibility for us all. I have confidence in the paper that we published, which I have mentioned before today. That paper sets out the Welsh Government’s thinking on the way forward. We are committed, as I said, to a social services Act, which will look at all aspects of delivering social services in the future for all age groups.

On a wider, protection-based note, we are committed to setting up a national safeguarding board for adults and children. That will be a very positive step forward for Wales, and I look forward to being able to move forward with the establishement of that board. The experience of the board that we have had in place, which has looked at protection, and the lessons that we have learned from that, have put us in a very good place to move forward.  

Datganiad a ChyhoeddiadBusnes
Business Statement and Announcement

The Record

The Minister for Finance and Leader of the House (Jane Hutt): There are no issues to report regarding the business statement. The business statement for the next three weeks will be available to Members electronically.

Andrew R.T. Davies: As a matter of urgency,I seek a statement from the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science on the economic renewal programme. I have looked at the forward work programme, and there is no statement pencilled in on this topic. I fully understand that the Minister wishes to undertake a review, but this is the main plank of assistance that the Government would be offering to businesses here in Wales. With the tendering process and the establishment of enterprise zones now proactively being pursued on the other side of Offa’s Dyke, it is critical that businesses—and Members in this Chamber—have an opportunity to understand how the Government is going to offer support to businesses in Wales, by creating economic potential for their business.

Jane Hutt: You will know, Andrew, that the first set of questions to the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science will take place on 22 June. That will provide an opportunity to question the Minister. Regarding enterprise zones, you will know that the First Minister responded to a question earlier today by saying that we are looking very carefully at the impact and implications of this initiative for Wales.

Joyce Watson: I would first like to express my deepest sympathy for the families, friends and colleagues of Julie Jones, Dennis Riley, Robert Broome and Andrew Jenkins, as well as the person who is critically ill in hospital, following the blast at the Chevron oil refinery last Thursday. The accident shook Milford Haven and has shocked people across Pembrokeshire, many of whom will have personal connections with the refinery and the industry. My thoughts are with all of those affected at this time. I would also like to praise the work of our very brave emergency service workers and staff at the Chevron facility, who responded to the incident. Although the investigation into what happened is still at a very early stage, I am sure that Assembly Members will want to be updated on the investigation to understand how the incident occurred and to be sure that any lessons will be learned. Therefore, will the Government allocate time for a statement and an update at the appropriate time?

11.00 a.m.

Jane Hutt: As Leader of the House, I am sure that I am reflecting the opinion and views of Members across the Chamber when I say that all our Members would want to express their deepest sympathies for the families of the bereaved following that fatal accident last week. I know that the First Minister expressed his condolences at the time of that tragic accident. It is also important to recognise the contribution and the bravery of the emergency service workers who were on the scene and the staff who were engaged in dealing with that fatal accident. As you say, a statement should be made at the appropriate time and I would want to ensure that the progress report on the lessons learned was brought back to the Assembly. However, the investigations of the Health and Safety Executive and the police are still ongoing.

Simon Thomas: On this side of the Chamber, we would want to associate ourselves with those good wishes and expressions of thanks to the emergency services and with the sympathies expressed for the families of those who have lost their lives and for those who have been seriously injured in this accident. However, this underlines how important energy is to Wales. It is an important part of our economy and our future in Wales. Government business still looks a little thin, Llywydd. Could we not, therefore, find time for an early debate on energy? The First Minister has already made a statement setting out how he wants to half-heartedly devolve some energy powers, but not all, to Wales. It might offer an opportunity to have a debate around energy proposals in mid Wales—on windfarms, for example—and it might be an opportunity for Members who represent Pembrokeshire to raise some concerns or to ask questions about Chevron. An early debate on energy issues in Wales would be useful for the Chamber and I urge the Leader of the House to bring forward such a debate as a matter of urgency.

Jane Hutt: Thank you again for expressing your condolences and for recognising the contribution that was made by our fire safety service, which of course is under our responsibility. I want to make the point about the longer term outcome of investigations into the incident and Chevron. The safety of energy and energy installations are key matters of public importance and I am sure that, at the appropriate time, we will come back to this issue. I recognise that energy is a key subject on the agenda, as was reflected in today’s questions to the First Minister, so I am sure that we will follow through, not only in questions to the First Minister and the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, but in looking at the other issues raised.

Russell George: Will the Minister consider allocating time for the new Minister with responsibility for the transport portfolio to bring forward an update statement regarding the delivery progress of the national transport plan? Transport issues concern many and they are important to my constituents, bearing in mind that I represent a rural constituency. Creating a first-class transport system is crucial in order to create a strong local economy and to protect the most vulnerable people of Wales. When it was debated here in April last year, there was general consensus across the Chamber on the need to ensure that the plan delivered better integrated transport with outcomes of commuter reliability and economic regeneration. However, one of the concerns that my colleague David Melding raised at the time was the distinct lack of performance indicators that will ensure that the Government’s key targets are met.

I am particularly interested in the interventions around the A483 at Newtown. As the Minister will be aware, this section of road is a key strategic corridor for transport across the whole of Wales—from north to south and from east to west—and has been a bottleneck for far too long. My constituents and I want to be absolutely sure that the Government is still fully committed to improving that important section of road and that there will be no slippage on the dates set out by the former Minister last year.

Jane Hutt: You will have an opportunity to question the Minister next week and I am sure that you will take up that opportunity. You mentioned local issues in the context of the national transport plan and the Minister will have heard those points.

Kirsty Williams: Minister, I am aware that, yesterday, the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development published a written statement on planning and his commitment to revising the technical advice note on economic development planning policies. However, you will be aware that, in the previous Assembly, the Sustainability Committee made a recommendation that, should we have a successful referendum, which we did, and we gained the necessary powers, there should be a complete overhaul of the planning laws that affect us here in Wales. Could your Minister be prevailed upon to come forward to give an early indication to the Assembly as to whether he intends to legislate in this area, with particular reference to effective enforcement where there are breaches of planning consent? This is an issue of particular concern in the Brecon Beacons National Park area.

Minister, you will be aware that, for many years, I have campaigned for greater regulation of the park home industry, focusing in particular on the legislation that affects those who own the parks in which people live. I know that you have a constituency interest in this matter as well. Again, now that we have the powers in the Assembly to legislate on this matter, could we have an early statement from the Minister for housing on whether it is his intention to regulate this aspect of housing in Wales, which is probably the last aspect of housing without proper regulation and laws surrounding it, to protect the people who live in those parks?

Jane Hutt: I thank the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats very much for acknowledging the fact that a statement was made yesterday by the Minister. That was in response to work that had been done to look at these issues in relation to planning and the opportunities that there may now be. Obviously, consultation needs to proceed, but I think that it is quite clear that the points that you have made are going to be ones that our Ministers will take account of in looking at policy and legislative opportunities.

Mark Isherwood: A year ago, during the business statement, I called for a statement on double tracking of the rail track between Saltney and Wrexham. The issue had been put back several times. In your response, you said that Welsh Government funding was in place for the improvements. You went on to say that you were sure that I was playing my part in ensuring that the partnership delivered with regard to the part played by Network Rail. Network Rail did respond to me. It said that the Welsh Government had asked it to focus on delivering options for increasing capacity on this section of the route between Chester and Shrewsbury and that the proposals included a partial redoubling of the Wrexham to Saltney junction route, that there were a couple of constraints, but that the timetable for the project remained broadly on track. A year later, therefore, may I call for a statement updating us on progress, advising us whether options and costs have been resubmitted, and confirming whether the new Welsh Government is still on board and supporting the project with funding?

Jane Hutt: Thank you very much to the Conservative Member for north Wales for that. There is clearly continuity in the way that we are following up business. It is important that Network Rail has responded and I am sure that the Minister will respond if a question is put to him next week or through correspondence.

Darren Millar: Minister, I wish to ask for two statements, the first from the Minister for Health and Social Services in respect of orthopaedic waiting times. In north Wales in particular, we have seen an enormous increase in waiting times, with people waiting longer than the 36-week target for hip and knee operations. In fact, there has been an increase of more than 11,000 percentage points in waiting times. Can we have a statement on the capacity of Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board to meet the demand for orthopaedic services at the moment? The Minister will be aware that there are pressures on theatres in north Wales as a result of the refurbishment of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that that is putting pressure on the system. So, can we please have an urgent statement on that?

Secondly, picking up on an issue raised during questions to the First Minister earlier, may I ask for an urgent statement from the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development on the future of local development plans? A decision has been made by Denbighshire County Council regarding its local development plan as recently as a fortnight ago. It confirmed that it would add an additional 1,700 homes in Bodelwyddan, which could have a knock-on impact on Conwy’s local development plan, which is in my constituency. Both local authorities are using housing market assessments that were done at the height of the property boom regarding the demand for housing in those areas and those assessments are totally inappropriate at present. I feel that it would be appropriate for some guidance to be issued to local authorities to ask them to reconsider their housing market assessments in the light of the housing dip.

Jane Hutt: Thank you for those questions. Wearing my Minister for finance hat, I am sure that you will welcome the fact that we have allocated a further £65 million over the next three years to help increase orthopaedic capacity and drive down waiting times for orthopaedic services. That was an important decision made in response to the pressures on it. An increased demand for orthopaedic surgery in Wales has seen a rise of approximately 30 per cent in the number of referrals to the service over the last five years.

Your second point on local development plans was raised quite adequately and responded to by the First Minister. It is clear that local authorities know what their responsibilities are in terms of housing needs and assessments.

The Presiding Officer: That brings today’s proceedings to a close. Diolchynfawr.

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 11.11 a.m.
The meeting ended at 11.11 a.m.

Aelodaua’uPleidiau
Members and their Parties

Andrews, Leighton (Llafur - Labour)
Antoniw, Mick (Llafur - Labour)
Asghar, Mohammad (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Black, Peter (DemocratiaidRhyddfrydolCymru - Welsh Liberal Democrats)
Burns, Angela (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Butler, Rosemary (Llafur - Labour)
Chapman, Christine (Llafur - Labour)
Cuthbert, Jeff (Llafur - Labour)
Davies, Alun (Llafur - Labour)
Davies, Andrew R.T. (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Davies, Byron (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Davies, Jocelyn (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Davies, Keith (Llafur - Labour)
Davies, Paul (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Davies, Suzy (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Drakeford, Mark (Llafur - Labour)
Elis-Thomas, YrArglwydd/Lord Dafydd (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Evans, Rebecca (Llafur - Labour)
Finch-Saunders, Janet (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
George, Russell (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Gething, Vaughan (Llafur - Labour)
Graham, William (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Gregory, Janice (Llafur - Labour)
Griffiths, John (Llafur - Labour)
Griffiths, Lesley (Llafur - Labour)
Gruffydd, LlyrHuws (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Hart, Edwina (Llafur - Labour)
Hedges, Mike (Llafur - Labour)
Hutt, Jane (Llafur - Labour)
Isherwood, Mark (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
James, Julie (Llafur - Labour)
Jenkins, Bethan (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Jones, Alun Ffred (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Jones, Ann (Llafur - Labour)
Jones, Carwyn (Llafur - Labour)
Jones, Elin (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Lewis, Huw (Llafur - Labour)
Melding, David (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Mewies, Sandy (Llafur - Labour)
Millar, Darren (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Morgan, Julie (Llafur - Labour)
Neagle, Lynne (Llafur - Labour)
Powell, William (DemocratiaidRhyddfrydolCymru - Welsh Liberal Democrats)
Price, Gwyn R. (Llafur - Labour)
Ramsay, Nick (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Rathbone, Jenny (Llafur - Labour)
Rees, David (Llafur - Labour)
Sandbach, Antoinette (CeidwadwyrCymreig - Welsh Conservatives)
Sargeant, Carl (Llafur - Labour)
Skates, Kenneth (Llafur - Labour)
Thomas, Gwenda (Llafur - Labour)
Thomas, Rhodri Glyn (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Thomas, Simon (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Watson, Joyce (Llafur - Labour)
Whittle, Lindsay (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)
Williams, Kirsty (DemocratiaidRhyddfrydolCymru - Welsh Liberal Democrats)
Wood, Leanne (Plaid Cymru - The Party of Wales)

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