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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Order. I call the National Assembly to order.
 
1. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, and the first question, Suzy Davies.
 
Communities First
 
13:30
Suzy DaviesBiography
1. Will the Minister make a statement on his evaluation of partnership working within Communities First? OAQ(5)0065(CC)
 
13:30
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
The Communities First evaluation by Ipsos MORI in 2015 recognised that Communities First clusters are engaging with a range of local and national partners, who are essential to the delivery of the programme. These partners include communities, the third and the statutory sectors.
 
13:30
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you for that, Cabinet Secretary. The activities of Communities First weren’t popular with town and community councils on all occasions, or indeed with some local groups, and I’m not the only one who heard about community activists, about tanks on lawns and takeovers, and so on. Now, I don’t care who’s right or wrong in this, but I am concerned that a silo mindset and an unwillingness to share responsibility has become rooted in some cases. Do you believe, with the mechanism of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, that it’s possible to trust the organisations already in existence within our communities to share power and responsibility for enhancing the power of communities to deal more directly with their own challenges without the need for an artificial creation such as Communities First?
 
13:31
Carl SargeantBiography
I think we’ve got to recognise Communities First programmes have done some great work in many constituencies around Wales. There are some great examples of partnership working. As you will be aware, I’ve made a very clear statement that I will be reviewing the Communities First programme, and making a statement in the early new year about the future of that particular programme.
 
13:31
Mike HedgesBiography
I very much appreciate the work done by Communities First in Swansea East and hope that that work on improving health, educational attainment, reducing fixed outgoings, and finding employment will continue. How does the Cabinet Secretary see the role of local councils and public service boards in building resilient communities and continuing these much-needed and very good schemes?
 
13:32
Carl SargeantBiography
Thank you, Mike, for your question. You are, and continue to be, a great advocate for Communities First in your particular area. Local authorities have a crucial role in building resilient communities, as place shapers as well as service providers. Local councillors are elected to represent their communities, so they also have a key role to play. Partnership is key for the delivery of good service.
 
13:32
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Following the recent announcement of the Cabinet Secretary, some people have contacted me as they are very keen to protect some specific aspects of the work of Communities First for the future. Môn CF in Holyhead, for example, are very proud of several aspects of the work that they’ve been undertaking in the town, and I congratulate them on that work. They have emphasised that they’re willing to work constructively towards a new system. But how can the Government ensure that example of good practice from Communities First is recognised and protected, and disseminated to other areas on Ynys Môn and other parts of Wales under the new system?
 
13:33
Carl SargeantBiography
I’ve visited Ynys Môn, actually, under the Communities First programmes in the past, and I’ve seen some great work that goes on and the activity in that area. But as you’re aware of my statement, we are doing a full review of the Communities First programme. Communities for Work and the Lift programme will be a protected part of that procedure as we move forward. I have given commitment for the future of that, and the rest of the programme is under review. We have a consultation process under way as we are in that current phase. I will be making a statement in the new year.
 
Free Childcare
 
13:33
Nick RamsayBiography
2. Will the Minister make a statement on the extension of free childcare? OAQ(5)0067(CC)
 
13:33
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for Monmouth for his question. Our childcare offer will provide working parents with 30 hours of Government-funded early years education and childcare for three and four-year-olds for 48 weeks per year. We will begin piloting the offer in specific areas of six local authorities in September of 2017.
 
13:34
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Whilst we welcome your proposals to extend provision, I wonder what consideration you’ve given to enabling parents to use their free hours more flexibly. In most cases, the current provision of 10 free hours weekly must be spread, as you know, over five days, so that’s around two hours a day. Who can travel to and from work and get any work done within two hours? I’m sure you’ll agree we should be making it easier for parents to return to work and contribute to our economy. So, will you give more consideration to making those free hours far more flexible?
 
13:34
Carl SargeantBiography
I agree with the Member in terms of the ability of parents to have some choice and the ability for flexibility in the system. Ensuring that we have good-quality childcare and services is a discussion that I continue to have with the education Minister, and other Ministers within Government, and the pilot schemes will enable us to learn from that programme.
 
13:35
Dawn BowdenBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for your response on the question. I certainly welcome this initiative as yet another example of the Welsh Labour Government delivering on its manifesto commitments. We’ve heard, increasingly in recent years, of the adverse impact of the Government’s austerity measures and welfare cuts for many in our society. I talked about, yesterday, the in-work poverty becoming a reality alongside poverty experienced by those not in work. For some in work, they’re limited by the hours that they can work and the type of contracts that they can accept, and so, even for those able to take full-time work, the cost of childcare for many is too great.
 
A recent study revealed that, where the average number of children living in poverty across Wales is 28 per cent, in my constituency of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney it’s 31.8 per cent. So, that’s of concern to me. So, can the Cabinet Secretary confirm, therefore, that the Government’s childcare offer is being viewed as a key component in the Government’s strategy on improving prosperity across Wales and that reducing the cost of childcare for working parents would be a significant factor in moving more children out of poverty?
 
13:36
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, and the Member is right to raise this very issue. There are two components within my department, and we’re moving that out across all our intervention opportunities around economic well-being and jobs, skills and growth for communities and individuals, but also the well-being of an individual as well, tackling issues around adverse childhood experiences and well-being. The childcare pledge is a fundamental part of the jigsaw about enabling people to get into work and, hopefully, it will allow some parents to increase the hours they’re able to work, with in-work poverty being a problem that the Member has raised before. But it is an ambitious programme, and it is one of the most effective ones in the UK in terms of delivery, and we look forward to the pilot starting in the autumn of next year.
 
13:36
Llyr GruffyddBiography
One of the drivers of the free childcare policy, of course, is now the prominence that’s been given to early intervention or prevention—the welcome prominence, I should say—and given of course that the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 as well is leading us in that direction, which, again, is something that I would welcome—. But with that in mind, what discussions have you had with the Cabinet Secretary for Education regarding the pupil deprivation grant, because I’d be interested in understanding the rationale whereby young children—reception- age children—receive barely half the sum that older children are allocated, and maybe it would add more value to the childcare policy if that was front-loaded?
 
13:37
Carl SargeantBiography
I think that’s an interesting prospect from the Member. I’ve been having many meetings with the education Cabinet Secretary. We’re looking at the manifesto, which is very clear in terms of its proposal for delivering for three and four-year-olds. What we’re looking for is a seamless progression between foundation phase and childcare, but also looking beyond that to our whole offer for young people, which is something that we are constantly aware of—making sure that we have maximum intervention opportunities with the limited funding that we have available.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
13:38
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Questions to the party spokespeople now. Spokesperson for the Welsh Conservatives, Mark Isherwood.
 
13:38
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. Last Friday, I spoke at the Meaningful Change conference in Llanrwst in north Wales, organised by the Co-production Network for Wales, which focused, amongst other things, on learning about inspirational examples where co-production has been effectively adopted and discussed ways in which we can increasingly involve people in the design and delivery of services in accordance with the Wales well-being goals. Given the figures from the End Child Poverty Coalition last week that 28 per cent of children in Wales are living in poverty—that is still the highest amongst the UK nations—how do you feel or what consideration have you given to an application of co-production principles to help you to tackle that, as you take forward new models for tackling poverty in Wales?
 
13:39
Carl SargeantBiography
I think it’s a fair question from the Member; I think it’s just about the use of language. I think what we’ve actually done in Government is legislate for this in terms of the well-being of future generations Act. Forty-four public bodies now are being enabled to deliver on the five principles of the Act, where intervention and engagement are part of that process. So, the Member uses the term ‘co-production’, but I don’t think it’s far away from the principles of the WFG Act, which was legislated for last year.
 
13:39
Mark IsherwoodBiography
I hope you’ll agree with me that actually it’s not just not far away, but core to it, because last week’s Future Generations Commissioner for Wales ‘Talking Future Generations’ report gave many examples from stakeholder group meetings across the length and breadth of north Wales, including north-east Wales, where we both live, and she said that there’s a
 
‘Need for change in cultural thinking within public bodies, making changes real…empowering local decision making, demonstrating leadership and appetite for delivery, overcoming institutional inertia’,
 
and then specifically saying
 
‘This…needs to be co-produced, taking into account community engagement, power sharing and sharing. Everyone has expertise.’
 
Do you agree with the commissioner?
 
13:40
Carl SargeantBiography
I don’t disagree with the commissioner; I think it’s the use of language. As I explained earlier, I think the commissioner’s role as WFG commissioner is typical of the way we’ve embedded policy development in this organisation and the other public bodies that she also holds to account.
 
13:40
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Thank you. Clearly, it is language, but this is a global movement with a global term, to which hundreds of organisations across Wales have now signed up. So, finally, you may have heard me—I think you did yesterday—refer to a report sent to me by the North Wales Women’s Centre, ‘Leading change: the role of local authorities in supporting women with multiple needs’, and although an England report, they referred to the information being applicable to our aims and joint working in Wales. This, again, states that meeting women’s needs should
 
‘be complemented by working with them to develop their own strengths and to build resilience—an approach sometimes referred to as “asset based”…places emphasis on a person’s strengths rather than on their “deficits” ’.
 
That is, the core principle at the core of co-production. How, therefore, do you respond to that and to their statement that seeking to identify and address unmet needs in young women, applied properly, would lead to
 
‘how many fewer women might be in abusive relationships if young women developed resilience and self-esteem through projects such as this; and how many fewer children would be involved in child protection proceedings or in local authority care if young women were supported in their own right and not just in relation to parenting abilities/capabilities’?
 
That is, turning it upside-down and applying co-production principles.
 
13:41
Carl SargeantBiography
I agree with the principle of the organisation and what they’re trying to set out, but I have a duty to make sure that we have consistency across all of Wales. That’s why we recently announced the issue around resilient communities and what they look like. Engagement is a key part of that, making sure that we understand from stakeholders and service users about their real-life experiences. That’s why I’ll be seeking to invest in an ACEs hub, which will start to understand how we make early interventions and prevention for the very issues the Member raises with me in the Chamber today.
 
13:42
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Bethan Jenkins. 
 
13:42
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thanks. My first question is to concentrate on Rent Smart Wales and the ongoing publicity now that the registration is coming to an end. We’ve seen that there’s been a final burst of publicity, which might cause problems with the administration processes in handling a high volume of applications, including those who opt to do the training online. Will there be enforcement action against those who try to register before the deadline but then don’t complete the process until afterwards?
 
13:42
Carl SargeantBiography
Anybody who has been active in the way of engagement in terms of seeking to register will not be the first port of call for any enforcement action.
 
13:43
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thank you for that. A recent court case about the legislation found that there are only nine enforcement officers employed by Rent Smart Wales. Will you commit to urgently publishing details of how you will be implementing the new legislation, and would you agree with me that there should be extra resources given to Rent Smart to enforce the law, ensuring it focuses on rogue landlords?
 
13:43
Carl SargeantBiography
I think the Member is right to raise the issue—not particularly about Rent Smart Wales and process, but actually the reason why we introduced this in the first place, and the Member is right in raising the issue about rogue landlords. What we do know is that there are many good landlords in the system, but there are far too many rogue landlords. It is disappointing, but not unexpected. The deadline date is upon us in terms of Rent Smart Wales, and there is a rush to register. I understand that, but there’s been a long lead-in time for people to register in that process. I said earlier on we won’t be seeking anybody who is proactively looking to have registered or has, through no fault of their own, been unable to register and can evidence that, but what we are keen to do is make sure that, once we’ve got the registration profile in place, then we look at the people who haven’t engaged in the process to make sure that we are able to start enforcing the legislation. I’m confident that the local authorities are in a position to be able to do that, but it’s early days in the system.
 
13:44
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thank you, and I’ll obviously want to track progress on that particular issue.
 
My third and final question is: obviously, you will know I met your officials last week with regard to financial inclusion. The Money Advice Service report out this week shows that two thirds of 16 to 17-year-olds cannot read a payslip, while a third have never put money into an actual bank account. Now, this report is very worrying, especially at an age when children are potentially leaving their homes to seek higher education elsewhere. Has the Welsh Government compared the cost of providing financial inclusion to adults in the community against providing it to young people in schools, and is the approach that the Welsh Government is taking to teaching financial education sufficient to provide them with the skills that they need as adults? I have recently written to the education Minister with regard to the work stream with regard to financial education, but I think it’s urgently now in need of progress to ensure that our young people are leaving schools with those key life skills.
 
13:45
Carl SargeantBiography
I think the Member has continued on her plight to ensure that we get the best outcome for young people in terms of financial literacy. It’s a conversation I’m grateful she’s able to have with my officials. I saw the minutes of the meeting that she had this week, and I would urge her to continue those discussions with my team and that of the education Minister to see how we can get a better offer for young people and, indeed, adults that are in need of financial literacy, and it becomes the norm, as opposed to an add-on.
 
13:46
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
UKIP spokesperson, Michelle Brown.
 
13:46
Michelle BrownBiography
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement about mental health provision for young people In north Wales, please?
 
13:46
Carl SargeantBiography
Mental health provision in north Wales is still a position that we continue to support. There is a fine facility in Darren Millar’s constituency, and it’s something that we recognise in that there are pressures in the system, but it’s an important one that we must continue to help.
 
13:46
Michelle BrownBiography
Okay, thank you. This year, the Children, Young People and Education Committee held a follow-up inquiry into adoption services in Wales. Whilst progress has been made in setting up a national adoption service in Wales, evidence from the casework has indicated that access to post-adoption support and life-story work remains inconsistent across Wales. Can the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on adoption services support in Wales and how you’re going to improve coverage, please?
 
13:46
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, I think we’ve done—the previous Government and the Ministers involved in the creating of the National Adoption Service did a great job, and I think what we are learning continuously is about where there are pressures within a system that we either have not recognised, or they’re new to the system. I will take into consideration her question, and will issue a written statement on the position of the National Adoption Service in the near future.
 
13:47
Michelle BrownBiography
Thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary. And my last question is: can you make a statement about school transport arrangements in Wales, with particular regard to the closure of John Summers High School in Deeside?
 
13:47
Carl SargeantBiography
That would be referred to Ken Skates, in order—. He’s the Minister for transport, and the Member may wish to write to the Member.
 
Social and Affordable Housing
 
13:47
Rhianon PassmoreBiography
3. What action is the Welsh Government taking to increase the supply and quality of social and affordable housing? OAQ(5)0071(CC)
 
13:47
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for her question. We will be providing over £1.5 billion in this Assembly term to support affordable housing. We’ll be encouraging new design, developing new schemes, working closely to deliver affordable homes with all our partners, and abolishing the right to buy.
 
13:48
Rhianon PassmoreBiography
Thank you, Minister. The Welsh Government’s announcement of £1.3 billion being allocated across the term of this Government to support the delivery of 20,000 affordable homes and to complete the task of meeting the Welsh housing quality standard highlights the passion this Government has on this issue. Will the Minister outline how my constituents and their families in Islwyn will benefit from these ambitious plans?
 
13:48
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for her questions; she’s very passionate about the issue of supporting housing in her constituency. We will provide housing across tenures to meet the diverse housing needs and aspirations of your residents. Investing in housing will benefit the local economy and create employment opportunities. New homes also increase local investment through planning obligations, council taxes, and provide wider community benefits for her and her constituents to enjoy.
 
13:48
Sian GwenllianBiography
This year, Carmarthenshire County Council, under the leadership of Plaid Cymru, introduced a scheme to provide 1,000 new affordable houses over the next three years. As part of the scheme, they’ve got different methods of doing this: managing additional tenancies in the private sector, bringing more vacant homes back into use, and also buying new private homes in order to put them out to rent. Do you agree with me that this is a commendable scheme and offers innovative solutions, and also that we should recommend this way of working to other local authorities throughout Wales so that they can learn from this good practice and respond to housing problems in their areas?
 
13:49
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, there are many good practices across Wales in terms of housing solutions. Indeed, the Labour-run authority of Flintshire have also introduced a council-house building scheme and, indeed, are protecting the asset base on the basis that they’re applying for the abolition of the right to buy, too. So, I do commend people who are investing in their communities, whichever party that may be.
 
13:50
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Cabinet Secretary, a report by the late Professor Holmans estimated that Wales needs up to 240,000 new housing units or 12,000 units between 2011 and 2031—it means within the next 20 years. This is nearly double the number delivered in 2014-15. Why has the Welsh Government rejected the findings of Professor Holmans and instead has committed to delivering a target for housing that falls well short of his projection of the needs of Wales?
 
13:50
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful for the Member’s question. Indeed, the spokesperson for housing seems to have passed on the baton to the Member on the backbench there. I would urge the Member to read all of the report of Alan Holmans’s estimates. Indeed, 174,000 homes or flats will be needed—this equates to around 8,700 new homes each year, which would mean around 3,300 would be non-market social housing.
 
The Member keeps portraying this issue as the one and only solution. Actually, our 20,000 homes are only part of the solution. The market has to deliver other housing solutions as well, but we will be making a £1.5 billion investment in this term of the Government for community solutions to homes.
 
13:51
Jenny RathboneBiography
Focusing on the 20,000 homes that your Government’s committed to building, I was surprised in committee to learn that, of those, only 1,000 at the moment are going to be built to the new eco standards of warmth. Given that some 40 per cent of people living in social housing can’t afford to heat them properly, I wondered why you haven’t looked more carefully at Pentre Solar, the six homes that are being built in Pembrokeshire by Western Solar, using a mere £141,000 of Welsh Government funding and bringing people off the council waiting list. Now, they would like to build another 1,000 homes, just this one company, but the barriers to them are land to be available and also the financing of it. Given that they’ve been so successful with so little money, why do you think the Government can’t do much more in terms of building homes that are fit for the twenty-first century?
 
13:52
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, I’m not convinced we can’t do more. I think what we’ve said is the 20,000 model that we’re using is a starter and the process of looking at financial modelling and the ability to deliver 20,000 homes. I’m very relaxed about shaping the way that looks in terms of the make-up of the 20,000. If we can get more energy-efficient, cheaper homes to run longer term in a similar period to the investment profile that I have to deliver this, I’m very happy to have those discussions. That’s non-specific to a product—but actually I’ve got my teams looking at innovation, and working with the housing sector and the land division to see what we can do to help the Member, indeed, with the positive activity she pursues in terms of energy efficiency in housing.
 
Rent Smart Wales
 
13:53
Russell GeorgeBiography
4. Will the Minister make a statement on the ability of Rent Smart Wales staff to respond to queries from members of the public? OAQ(5)0060(CC)
 
13:53
Carl SargeantBiography
The Rent Smart Wales team has been under immense pressure, particularly in recent months, with the late rush of registrations. Inevitably, some queries have taken longer than usual to answer. I applaud the huge effort, though, put in by the team to manage demand, which includes recruiting more staff.
 
13:53
Russell GeorgeBiography
Cabinet Secretary, I heard your response to Bethan Jenkins earlier. When I raised this with the leader of the house recently, I was assured that you as Cabinet Secretary would look at this issue. With just one week to go, Rent Smart Wales appears to be, I would say, in chaos. It seems there are not sufficient staff to take calls. Some people are unable to make payments online and staff are completely overwhelmed by demand. This isn’t good enough, but do you think that it is right to bring forward legislation if you’ve not got sufficient resource to attach to it?
 
13:54
Carl SargeantBiography
It’s absolutely the right thing to do. In fact, the Members opposite, I think, voted against the legislation so I’m not surprised you’re complaining about it now. Let me tell you about the staff. I’ve visited the facility, and I dare say I don’t think the Member has visited the facility, and to suggest that they’re in chaos is just completely rubbish. As of midnight last night, 11 months after Rent Smart Wales came into force, almost 50,000 landlords were fully registered with Rent Smart Wales, with 1,100 registrations being completed yesterday alone. I don’t think that’s an organisation in chaos. They’re doing a very good job. The fact is, this has been an 11-month process to register, so don’t come and claim to me that today the programme is in chaos—the Member wasn’t supportive of it when we introduced it; I’m not surprised he isn’t now.
 
13:55
Neil McEvoyBiography
I’m really surprised to hear the Minister say that it’s not in chaos, really. I think that’s, basically, perfectly evident. As you’re stood here today, more than half of landlords have not registered. So, my question is: will you extend the deadline to avoid criminalising decent, hard-working people?
 
13:55
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, you’re—. ‘No’, is the answer to the Member’s question, and I haven’t said we’re going to criminalise them, either. You’re making that up again, as you do on your leaflets, generally.
 
Improving Play Facilities for Children
 
13:55
Angela BurnsBiography
5. Will the Minister outline his strategies for improving play facilities for children across Wales? OAQ(5)0066(CC)
 
13:55
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful for the Member’s question today. We are working across all Welsh Government-related policy areas to develop strategies to increase children’s play opportunities. These are areas outlined in ‘Wales—a Play Friendly Country’, including schools, planning, traffic and transport, and health and well-being.
 
13:55
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you for that, Minister. You referred to Wales as being a play-friendly country, and I’m sure you appreciate the vital role that exercise plays in having a healthy upbringing and making us healthier adults. However, these spaces are under immense pressure. They’re being sold off or they’re just disused or just plain nasty. People don’t want to go there, because they don’t feel safe. What safeguards, Minister, can you put into place to ensure that these public spaces are protected and well maintained so that adults and children alike can enjoy the great outdoors and have a healthier lifestyle?
 
13:56
Carl SargeantBiography
I absolutely recognise the Member’s concern. Indeed, I came into the world of politics because of play areas in my particular area—wanting to do better for the community, and, indeed, very selfishly, for my daughter, when I was taking them to the park and it wasn’t up to standard. So, I think the Member has a valid point. We have introduced play sufficiency assessments for local authorities; they have a statutory duty to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children, and local authorities are required to deliver against their play action plans each year.
 
The whole ethos of this Government is about early intervention and prevention, and particularly young people—introducing a children’s Minister is a very specific point that we value the contribution of young people in our communities and across Wales.
 
13:57
Hannah BlythynBiography
We know that safe, accessible and fun play spaces for children are important and an integral part of our local communities. It’s equally as important that children have their say in shaping that which affects them. With that in mind, I’m very pleased to see that Ysgol Merllyn’s school parliament, led by their prime minister, Tony, are here in the gallery today. Can I ask, Cabinet Secretary, how children’s groups and organisations such as the fantastic Ysgol Merllyn school parliament, are supported and encouraged to help shape play facilities in their areas?
 
13:57
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful to the Member for Delyn for asking me that important question. It’s great to welcome Ysgol Merllyn and the prime minister, Tony, with his historic name, to the Chamber, too. The Member raises a very important point. Indeed, the statutory guidance, ‘Wales—a Play Friendly Country’ sets out what is required by local authorities in fulfilling their role—the youth clubs and school councils. The guidance also encourages local authorities to have a play champion to raise the profile of play with young people. I urge all authorities to engage with young people in terms of what the requirements are that they see for their communities and the needs that are required within them, and I wish the school a safe journey back to your constituency.
 
13:58
Neil McEvoyBiography
Talk really is cheap, and I wonder how you marry the contradiction between what is said in this Chamber and the fact that play centre after play centre has been closed by your party in my region. In Cardiff, Grangetown Play Centre’s been under threat for years; we have the Cardiff Central Youth Club and the play clubs around that under threat—well, basically, told that they’re going to close. They’re told they’re going to close. So, what reassurance can you offer those parents whose children’s play centres are threatened by your party?
 
13:59
Carl SargeantBiography
This Assembly has obviously got a very strategic role in the way that we manage and create policy. The Member may wish to readdress that question, as he is a councillor in the local authority he talks about. It’s an interesting position when he says about ‘your party’ closing play centres and schools, et cetera. That was the man who was in our party, but he changed position, he went into another party, but that’s not new either. So, I thank him for the question, but another pointless one, again.
 
13:59
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Cwestiwn 6, Bethan Jenkins.
 
The Communities for Work Programme
 
13:59
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Oh, sorry, I can’t stop laughing.
 
6. Will the Minister provide an update on the Communities for Work programme? OAQ(5)0068(CC)
 
13:59
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for South Wales West for her question. Communities for Work is operational across Wales. It plays a key role in supporting my commitment to increase employability as a route out of poverty. The programme is already making a real difference to people in our most deprived communities, supporting 5,630 people, of which 898 have entered direct employment.
 
14:00
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thank you for the answer. You came to the equalities committee, where I asked you some questions on this, and I would just like to have more information on the programme’s budget, how many staff it specifically employs through the budget from your department and how many people it has helped since its birth. Because, on the website, it says that a lot of this money comes from European funding, and I’d like to understand, when that funding comes to an end, how you will be able to progress with this particular programme, and also, if it is there to replace Communities First, how you, potentially, will expand on it, or if you will expand on it, if you think that this is the right scheme to go ahead with.
 
14:00
Carl SargeantBiography
I think it would be fair just to clarify about the Communities First programme. I’ve not made a decision on that yet, as the Member well knows, and I’ve also not said that this programme is intended to replace a Communities First programme, albeit I have said, as long as we can maintain a programme in Lift and the Communities for Work programme, I will continue to do so, despite that being a 12-month budget round. But I am keen to pursue that for longer. I will give the Member a more detailed response on finance, and I’ll write to the Member, if I may, in terms of the breakdown between European funding and investment from Welsh Government. But, as I said, our overall target process—the milestone of providing 4,000 opportunities by the end of November is nearly complete, with 3,919 of those training programmes already being opportunities for individuals across Wales.
 
14:01
David ReesBiography
Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his answer, because I think I also have concerns over the future of this programme, and the Lift programme in particular, which helps people back into employment and targets deprived areas? I think he gave reassurances that they are there for the future. Can he also give assurances that, as he considers and deliberates on the consultation following his mind to end the Communities First programmes, how those will work in those areas, because they actually are focused upon Communities First and they are partly integrated with Communities First at this moment, so that we can ensure they go on beyond a possible end to Communities First?
 
14:02
Carl SargeantBiography
Again, not to pre-empt my decision, of course, and I know the Member wasn’t intending to suggest that, I believe that the Lift programme and Communities for Work are doing a great job in our communities. I have asked my officials to discuss with the Welsh European Funding Office options to extend the Communities for Work programme beyond April 2018. I've asked them to submit advice to me on this and, again, as with Bethan Jenkins and yourself, I will keep you informed, and other Members, in the statement I’ll make in the new year.
 
14:02
David MeldingBiography
Cabinet Secretary, we know that the major cause of poverty is economic inactivity, and this programme is aimed at helping those most distant from the labour market. They’ve either always been economically inactive or have been for a very long time, and aiming at low skills, aiming to get mentors who can talk to these people and inspire them and give them the confidence to go forward, and to give them that training in places where they will be comfortable to receive it—it’s not easy to go to an further education college if you feel intimidated by that sort of environment. But these programmes are heavily reliant on EU funding—£7 million in the latest round, and we must protect this funding. It must be given priority, as we plan for future budgets.
 
14:03
Carl SargeantBiography
The Member is absolutely right, and I believe that, as I mentioned earlier in my contributions, the two areas of concentration for this Government have to be around economic regeneration and building the jobs, skills and opportunities and confidence for people to get into the market, to give them long-term stability. This programme, Communities for Work, and Lift are just one of the elements of the jigsaw, including the 100,000 all-age apprenticeships and the childcare pledge, which is a suite of tools to enable people to get back into the market. I certainly recognise the significant European investment. I’m grateful for the Member’s recognition also, and it will be useful to join forces when the exit programme from Europe comes about, to ensure that we are fully funded to an amount that does make a difference in all our communities that are represented here in Wales.
 
Community Centres in Community Development
 
14:04
John GriffithsBiography
7. Will the Minister make a statement on the importance of community centres in community development in Wales? OAQ(5)0069(CC)
 
14:04
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank John Griffiths for his question. ‘Taking Wales Forward’ sets out our commitment to ensure services and facilities support community development. We will promote community pharmacies, strengthen community provision across the NHS, develop community schools and pilot community learning centres, as well as develop a made-in-Wales approach to community assets.
 
14:04
John GriffithsBiography
I thank the Cabinet Secretary for that. Your announcement that you are minded not to continue with Communities First has, of course, created considerable concern, particularly in community centres that are not currently delivering Communities for Work or the Lift programme or other programmes that you’ve stated will continue. So, I wonder, Cabinet Secretary, if you could offer some reassurance that, in the process of considering the way forward for community development in Wales, the role of these community centres in that position will be carefully considered, given that they do provide very valuable services that are very important to local communities across Wales.
 
14:05
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful for the number of discussions that the Member, and, indeed, Jayne Bryant, the neighbouring Member, have had with me, particularly around Newport. I can’t commit to the future of any programme, and I’ve said very clearly, and I’ve written to all AMs, that I will be making a decision over the coming month, which will be well informed. The issue around Communities First is that it is a tackling poverty programme, so we have to carefully assess the impact, and where it also touches other areas, such as Communities for Work and the Lift programme. I’m very keen that we are able to present a resilient communities programme as we move forward, and I’m not in a position currently to make that decision. However, I’ve noted the Member’s comments, the strong discussions that we’ve had, and the representations that he’s made, and I will give that further consideration as we move forward.
 
14:06
Simon ThomasBiography
At this time of year I think it’s appropriate to remember that many of our community centres are actually memorial halls and originated, particularly, after the first world war. I was pleased to be able to commemorate Remembrance Sunday in my local community centre, which is a memorial hall in Penparcau in Aberystwyth. Talking to the trustees there after that event, it was clear that they are struggling on occasions to make memorial halls that originated with two world wars relevant to today’s young people, and the way that that community centre can once again be a focus of that local community. So, in your plans going forward, what can you do to both help on the capital side, perhaps, of rejuvenating some of these community centres—although Penparcau has been rejuvenated, I’m glad to say—but more importantly, assisting trustees and volunteers to make sure that the memorial halls of the past are relevant for the young generations of the future?
 
14:07
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful for the very pertinent question the Member raises today. He’s absolutely right—we should not forget the historic value of some of these buildings, and also the sentimental value and respect that they represent. Of course, we have the programmes looking at a made-in-Wales approach to community asset transfer, but we are in a difficult period of austerity, and we are having challenges on budgets. We have to be very careful making sure that our investments are well targeted. The Penparcau example that the Member raises is great to see—that there are local residents making good use of that facility.
 
Promoting Positive Parenting
 
14:07
Darren MillarBiography
8. What action is the Welsh Government taking to promote positive parenting? OAQ(5)0058(CC)
 
14:07
Carl SargeantBiography
Parents have access to a range of services that promote positive parenting, delivered by partners in local government, health and education. This forms part of a package of measures to promote positive parenting, including the ‘Parenting. Give it time’ campaign and our significant investment in Families First and Flying Start.
 
14:07
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for that answer, Cabinet Secretary. You’ll know that I’m a huge advocate of positive parenting, particularly given what I think are premature plans from your Government to ban smacking and criminalise parents. However, I note that you as Cabinet Secretary agree that positive parenting is something that ought to be available to all parents who need it. Unfortunately, though, in spite of your efforts, that isn’t the case. There have been about 3,000 positive parenting courses delivered over the 15 months to June 2016. A third of those were in Cardiff, and in some local authority areas, including Conwy, there have been none whatsoever. What action are you taking to make sure there is equitable access to positive parenting for all parents across the whole of the country?
 
14:08
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, I’m working with my team now to push out the next phase of positive parenting. I think the Member is absolutely right—we have to engage with parents. I’m not convinced, actually, as we sit here today, that poster campaigns or website-based programmes are the real deal for positive parenting. I think there is a lot of peer-to-peer support or mentoring through community groups, whether that be religious church-based groups, or in school settings, or mother and toddler groups, or father and toddler groups. I think it’s really important that we’re able to share examples and it’s a much more positive way of engaging.
 
The suite of tools that I’m looking at is to provide a package around positive parenting delivered through trusted sources, and then we will also make sure that we legislate, which I know the Member isn’t favourable to. But this is a suite of tools on positive parenting, and we will legislate at the end of that to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.
 
14:09
Julie MorganBiography
Would the Cabinet Secretary agree that one of the best ways of supporting parents is by groups where parents support each other and learn from each other parenting skills? Would he congratulate the organisations that have been set up by parents for mutual support, in particular Single Parent Wales, which is working in partnership with Gingerbread, and which I met recently, and which are there to support each other and to promote healthy living, and which went on a very successful ramble around Barry Island last weekend?
 
14:10
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, and who am I to argue with Julie Morgan in this field? Of course, I wasn’t invited to the ramble—maybe that was a good idea. [Laughter.] But the Member is absolutely right: I think it is about the interventions that we have with each other. Relationships—what works well and what doesn’t work well, and a non-stigma approach to how we are able to enhance the development of young people is important. I’m giving that some very serious consideration, because the campaigns that we currently have are process driven, rather than personalised and individual. I think the Member raises a very important point.
 
Childcare Services
 
14:10
Jeremy MilesBiography
9. Will the Minister make a statement about the resilience of social enterprise-delivered childcare services? OAQ(5)0073(CC)
 
14:11
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for Neath for his question. Welsh Government recognises the valuable role social enterprise-delivered childcare services make to the provision of childcare in Wales. We provide support to enhance their resilience through guidance to local authorities, funding through our children and families delivery grant and by providing business advice and support through Business Wales.
 
14:11
Jeremy MilesBiography
I thank him for that statement. Tomorrow, as he knows, is Social Enterprise Day. Many childcare settings are delivered via social enterprise, as he’ll know from his familiarity with settings in my constituency. Ensuring the resilience of the sector is vital, and that includes both front-line skills, of course, but also, importantly, skills to do with running the organisations themselves. As part of the initiatives into childcare ahead, will he look at the prevalence in the sector of the skills and experience to deliver those functions as well—management, accountancy and even marketing—and look at how we can spread best practice that does exist in parts of the sector?
 
14:12
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, the Member is right. This isn’t just a childcare offer—there is a whole raft of skills required behind that, in terms of business acumen, opportunities and training. I’ve started discussions with the education Cabinet Secretary, the skills Minister, the children’s commissioner and a raft of other organisations that are interested in making the best of what we’re trying to deliver here. Social Business Wales, funded through Cwlwm, the childcare consortium, and local authority business support, is something that I’m keen to make sure continues out in the community, supporting the very investments that the Member talks about.
 
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
 
14:12
Darren MillarBiography
10. Will the Minister provide an update on how the Welsh Government is ensuring that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being realised? OAQ(5)0057(CC)
 
14:12
Carl SargeantBiography
Our 2015 programme for children and young people highlighted the many pieces of legislation and policies we’ve delivered promoting children’s rights and participation across Government.
 
14:12
Darren MillarBiography
Cabinet Secretary, you know as well as I do that there’s a duty on local authorities and local education authorities to ensure that the UNCRC is promoted in our schools. Unfortunately, this is not subject to inspection at the moment by Estyn. I feel that it ought to be in order to make sure that young people are able to understand what their rights are and how they can ensure that they can be realised. What action will you take, in conjunction with your colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ensure that the Estyn inspection regime is able to reflect upon this and whether there might need to be a change to it?
 
14:13
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful to the Member for raising that in the Chamber today. We do currently have, with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, a review of inspection services about to start, and we will look at that carefully.
 
Regenerating the Kingsway in Swansea
 
14:13
Dai LloydBiography
11. Will the Minister provide an update on the attempted regeneration of the Kingsway in Swansea as a business and employment hub? OAQ(5)0062(CC)
 
14:13
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for his question. Through Vibrant and Viable Places funding of £8.89 million, Swansea has made a series of strategic acquisitions to enable delivery of a central business district on the Kingsway.
 
14:14
Dai LloydBiography
Thank you for that response, Minister. Further to that, of course, there have been great delays on the Kingsway, and the main route in the centre of Swansea has begun to look quite dilapidated. There are a number of projects, and you have referred to one, which not only relates to the local authority but also, of course, involves the Government here. So, could I push you further to ask what influence you have to hasten that work that is happening at the moment to regenerate the Kingsway in Swansea?
 
14:14
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m very grateful for the Member’s question. I’m not familiar with the delays that he assumes are related to the Government. What I do know is that the VVP investment in Swansea will lever in about £103 million in additional investment and accommodate 675 new jobs in 14,000 sq m of newly refurbished commercial space. Indeed, pressing on with the creation of change to the central business district on the Kingsway, VVP funding has been able to acquire some of those difficult buildings that the Member talks about. The one that he may be familiar with is the former Oceana nightclub, which, indeed, has been purchased for transformation in that particular area. We should be very positive about Swansea council and the opportunity that they’re bringing to the communities that they represent.
 
14:15
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
And finally, question 12, Russell George.
 
Regenerating the Severn Valley
 
14:15
Russell GeorgeBiography
12. Will the Minister make a statement on the regeneration of the Severn Valley? OAQ(5)0061(CC)
 
14:15
Carl SargeantBiography
We’re supporting a range of regeneration activities across the Severn valley. We’ve awarded a recyclable capital town-centre loan to Powys County Council of £1.25 million.
 
14:15
Russell GeorgeBiography
I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his answer. The Cabinet Secretary will be aware that the Newtown bypass is developing well, and I’d be very grateful, Cabinet Secretary, if you could let me know how the Welsh Government can support the towns—particularly Newtown, Llanidloes and Welshpool—that sit in the Severn valley to take best advantage of that Newtown bypass once it’s complete.
 
14:16
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, I’m grateful for the Member’s recognition of this Labour administration’s past commitment to the Newtown bypass of around £92 million. But the Member should be very careful of asking for a bypass one minute and then asking for investment in his community the next, when cars will be bypassing his village, I expect, because of the bypass.
 
14:16
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I thank the Cabinet Secretary.
 
14:16
2. 90-second Statements
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item is the 90-second statements and the first this week is from Angela Burns.
 
14:16
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you, Presiding Officer. There was a day in February 2015 when my husband was told to expect the worst, and my devastated family put their lives on hold. I had sepsis and the battle to beat the bug wasn’t going well. Who knew—not I—that a cough could open the door to a ruthless and determined enemy intent on destruction? Today we launched the cross-party group on sepsis to a packed room of survivors, Assembly Members, clinicians and the bereaved. The aims of the group are threefold: firstly, to raise the profile of sepsis—it kills more people than lung cancer; secondly, to encourage greater prevention and ensure that there’s a programme of support to help those who are living with the consequences of the disease, such as Jayne Carpenter, a nurse from the Royal Gwent, who lost both of her legs, an arm and four fingers as a result of sepsis; and thirdly, to achieve a clear sepsis pathways and an increase in public awareness. Not everyone is lucky enough to talk about their sepsis story. A third of us with sepsis die, a third suffer consequences like Jayne and a third walk away relatively unscathed, but no-one escapes scot free. Please help us to change that. This is a cross-party group that is aiming for its own extinction, and with your help, we can make that difference.
 
14:18
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Russell George.
 
14:18
Russell GeorgeBiography
This weekend, celebrations will take place to mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of one of Wales’s most famous musicians, John Roberts, Harpist of Wales or ‘Telynor Cymru’. His life and works will be marked with two days of performances, talks and events exploring his life and how he and his family, who lived in Newtown, became one of Wales’s best known musical acts of their day. The celebrations are part of the Gregynog Festival taking place at Gregynog Hall. Born to a Romani mother and a Welsh father in north Wales, Roberts lived in Frolic Street in Newtown for much of his life and is known to have performed at Gregynog Hall during the mid-nineteenth century. He and his family performed at the Bear Hotel in Newtown and also performed on nine triple harps in front of Queen Victoria whilst she was visiting north Wales. In 1848, he won the world harp competition at Abergavenny, as well as the harp prize at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff in the same year. Roberts put Newtown firmly on the musical map and remains a significant figure within Welsh culture. He was one of the most famous musicians in Victorian Wales and I’m pleased to be able to mark his two-hundredth birthday in the Senedd today.
 
14:19
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
14:19
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I’ve always fancied myself on the back of a motorbike and I had an opportunity a few days ago. Unfortunately, it wasn’t moving at the time—I haven’t passed a motorcycle test. But, I was in Holyhead outside Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley on the back of a wonderful motorbike called Elsa II, to draw attention to the launch of the new blood bike service in north-west Wales. For those of you who don’t know, Blood Bikes Wales is a charity that has, for many years, offered a very valuable delivery service for the NHS across Wales. But there was one part of the jigsaw missing: the north-west of Wales was the only part of the country where this service was not available. Blood Bikes Wales is a group of volunteer bikers and they raise the funds needed to run the service. They will carry all sorts of products between hospitals, from blood and plasma to samples or medical documents, and they do so as a matter of urgency and free of charge. They save a fortune to the NHS, which would otherwise, outside the hours of its transportation staff, have to employ taxis or other couriers to provide this very service, or they may even have to use the police or ambulance services.
 
So, on behalf of the people of Anglesey and north-west Wales, can I thank the enthusiastic bikers for ensuring that we, too, like the rest of the country, can now benefit from their kindness?
 
14:20
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I thank all three Members.
 
14:20
3. Motion to Approve the Assembly Commission's Budget 2017-18
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item on our agenda is the motion to approve the Assembly Commission’s budget for 2017-18, and I call on Suzy Davies to move the motion on behalf of the Commission.
 
Motion NDM6139 Suzy Davies
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with Standing Order 20.16:
 
Agrees the budget of the Assembly Commission for 2017-18, as specified in Table 1 of the ‘National Assembly for Wales Assembly Commission Budget 2017-18’, laid before the Assembly on 9 November 2016 and that it be incorporated in the Annual Budget Motion under Standing Order 20.26 (ii).
 
Motion moved.
 
14:21
Suzy DaviesBiographyAssembly Commissioner
Diolch, Lywydd, and I move the Commission’s budget motion for 2017-18 and ask that it be incorporated into the annual budget motion. This budget is for 2017-18, the second year of this fifth Assembly, and in the budget, the Commission is seeking £53.7 million, which is an increase of 1 per cent above inflation compared to this year. The budget is made up of three parts: £34.4 million for Commission services; £15.5 million for the remuneration board’s determination; and £3.8 million for ring-fenced, non-cash budgets—the accounting provision required by the Treasury for the Members’ pension scheme would be an example of that. This budget will ensure that the Commission can address the imminent challenges that face the Assembly. It properly supports the delivery of our strategic goals, which are: providing outstanding parliamentary support; engaging with the people of Wales and championing the Assembly; and using resources wisely, whilst being mindful of the wider public sector financial position.
 
The Commission exists to support the Assembly and Assembly Members, and we recognise that the pressures on Assembly Members are greater than ever. An already demanding range of work for committees and Plenary has been intensified by further constitutional change, tax-varying powers and managing the exit from the EU. The legislative, financial and scrutiny responsibilities of elected Members are unique and paramount, so it is critical that we maintain the delivery of excellent services to support Members as you discharge those responsibilities.
 
At the beginning of this week, the Llywydd sent a message to all Members setting out the Commission’s new plans to make our parliament fit for the future: giving young people a voice in our democracy, communicating effectively with the public and fulfilling our statutory duty to enable the Assembly to undertake its legislative and scrutiny work, including taking forward work to address the capacity of the Assembly. Wales needs good government, and good government can only be delivered when it is improved, scrutinised and held to account by an effective parliament. Should the Wales Bill pass, and the Assembly decide to exercise its new legislative powers in this area, we are determined to do what is necessary to equip our parliament with the capacity to deliver a strong and sustainable Welsh democracy. As you will appreciate, this work is only just beginning. As we move forward, the Commission will consider the budget implications and come back to the Assembly for your scrutiny at the appropriate point.
 
As for this budget year, the budget that you’re considering today, I would like to thank the Finance Committee for their scrutiny. As a publicly funded organisation, the Commission must consistently demonstrate that it uses its resources efficiently and effectively. The committee’s scrutiny is an important part of that, so we are making sure that we approach the process with the aim of being clear, open and transparent. The committee made four recommendations and we, as a Commission, have accepted all four. And of course we welcome—of course we welcome—the fact that the committee supports our request for resources for 2017-18. In our budget strategy, we also provided indicative figures for the remainder of this fifth Assembly, but due to the level of uncertainty in the years ahead, including the Commission’s plans that I mentioned earlier, we share the committee’s view that we should revisit these longer term figures in future years.
 
The committee had three other specific recommendations. Firstly, they’ve asked us to send them details of the outcomes from the annual capacity planning exercise so that they can see where additional staff resources will be deployed; secondly, we’ve agreed to provide details of how the Commission uses any underspend against the remuneration board’s determination; and, thirdly, in future budgets we will provide more detail about the investment in ICT services. Finally, I want to assure Members that we will continue to work in a way that delivers value for money and strive to be as efficient as possible whilst providing all Members with high-quality services to support you effectively in your roles.
 
14:25
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call on Simon Thomas to speak on behalf of the Finance Committee.
 
14:25
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you, Llywydd, and may I thank Suzy Davies, the Commissioner for budget and governance, for presenting the Commission’s draft budget? As outlined, the Finance Committee has discussed the budget and appreciated the way in which Suzy Davies and officials came before the committee and answered our questions in an open manner and, of course, provided more information promptly following the evidence session.
 
We made four recommendations and, as suggested, the four have been accepted and we’ve received the Commission’s response to all four as well. We’re very pleased with that process. I think that the Government could learn a great deal from that process in terms of responding so quickly to committee recommendations.
 
The Commission’s draft budget sets out the intended expenditure plans for 2017-18, as well as indicative plans and financial requirements through to the end of the fifth Assembly. Our first recommendation supported the overall request for resources for the year in question, and I’m pleased to say that the Finance Committee recommended that the Assembly endorse the Commission’s draft budget. However, whilst the indicative spending plans up to 2021 are useful, due to the current uncertainty surrounding key challenges—such as the timing of the Wales Bill and Brexit, which have already been mentioned—we came to the conclusion that it would be inappropriate for the committee to make any comment on the wider spending plans at present. So, our recommendation appertains to the next financial year.
 
The Commission has requested an additional investment of almost £1 million for staff resources. We’ve heard already from Suzy Davies why that is needed: there will be investment for supporting an additional two committees, additional legislation, responding to constitutional change and also implementing the Commission’s priorities. But, there was a lack of detail in the draft budget on where this significant investment in staff would be made, so we did request additional information on how the money would be allocated following the Commission’s consideration of its capacity plans. We are pleased that the Commission committed to writing to us with the outcome of that in due course. Of course, Members will have received a letter from the Presiding Officer and the Commission since the tabling of the report as regards the work that’s being undertaken on the expansion of committee capacity, and so on, in the Assembly.
 
As has been the case in the previous years, the Commission is seeking the maximum amount of funding required for the remuneration board’s determination on Members’ pay and allowances in order to meet Members’ full entitlements. This was, of course, the only aspect of this budget on which there was any kind of dispute in the Assembly last year. Neither the Commission nor the Finance Committee are responsible for the remuneration board; they are responsible for the funding that is allocated for the pay and allowances of Members. Recognising that this approach may result in un-accessed funds, we agreed with the fourth Assembly’s Finance Committee and the Public Accounts Committee that we should have greater clarity on the use of this surplus allocation.
 
We are not talking about insignificant amounts here. The Commission’s accounts last year show an underspend of over £1 million. So, in order to avoid the possibility that this is some kind of reserve account that is used without it being obvious exactly how it will be spent, our third recommendation asked for updated information from the Commission towards the end of the financial year on this projected underspend and the way in which these surplus funds will be used at the end of the financial year. I’m pleased, once again, that the Commission agreed to provide this information in March 2017, and therefore we will note the full details of that expenditure in the annual report. I hope this will bring greater clarity to the way in which any reserve funding in the process will be used by the Commission.
 
Finally, we commend the Commission on the success of its ICT transition programme. It’s true to say that I am speaking a day after a number of us were without our e-mail for a day, but it has been successful when you think of the substantial financial saving that has been made by becoming more independent as regards ICT in the Assembly. We are grateful for the additional information on expenditure supplied by the Commission, but another of our recommendations was that future budgets should contain detailed costings associated with ICT investment projects. I therefore welcome the Commission’s commitment to include more information on this to include more information on this work over the ensuing years.
 
So, the Finance Committee and I are very happy to commend the commission’s budget for the financial year.
 
14:30
Jenny RathboneBiography
In the context of the commission’s responsibilities to use resources wisely, I just wondered whether you could elaborate a little bit on how much money we spend on the catering service, where we have a contract with Charlton House, and, in the context of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, whether there are any clauses in there to ensure that we reduce, reuse and recycle as far as possible.
 
Obviously, in the context of food waste, a third of all food gets thrown, and I’m afraid that in the catering industry it’s even more than that—57 per cent of food in the catering industry, which includes restaurants and cafes, gets thrown away before even touching anybody’s plate. So, I just wondered whether you are able to give me any details of what the tonnage of food waste is at the moment, or in the last available period, how that compares with the previous year, and whether there’s anything in the contract to encourage the caterer to focus even more on this issue.
 
14:31
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call on Suzy Davies to respond to the debate.
 
14:31
Suzy DaviesBiography
Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much, Simon Thomas and Jenny Rathbone. I’ll start with Jenny Rathbone’s question, if I may. What I can’t give you off the top of my head is the specific amount that we spend on the contract. It is actually in the report, which, of course, I haven’t brought with me. But I can certainly make sure that you get a note on that immediately.
 
In terms of the food waste question that you asked, obviously, you’re quite right, in terms of using resources wisely, there’s an obligation on the commission to ensure that we do that. And, on the data that I’ve got to date, at the moment, as of 1 April this year, a total of 7 tonnes of food waste has been recorded, compared to the total for the previous year of 12.5 tonnes. But, of course, you’ll accept that we haven’t got the full year’s details yet. But, just extrapolating those figures, they’re actually going to be broadly similar. So, I’m grateful to you for raising the concern with this.
 
Of course, part of this is out of the control of the commission, or any of its staff, because of the way that organisations coming in here order their buffets and so forth, and we have to rely on their details in order to tell us how many people will need food, and, if fewer people come, there’s precious little we can do about that. But we’ll always be grateful as the commission for ideas that actually help us reduce food waste. So, please, don’t hesitate to contact us about that if you have something specific you’d like to tell us.
 
I’d like to thank the Finance Committee again for the careful consideration of the commission’s budget and support of plans. As I said in my opening remarks, we will be accepting all your recommendations, and further details will be provided to the committee as they arise; you won’t have to wait for the annual report.
 
And, in terms of the remuneration board, obviously, you’ve explained that that’s outside the commission’s direct control, but, as the Finance Committee is aware, they are able to offer recommendations on how part of the underspend of a given year can be directed.
 
I’m sure that Members will also join me in thanking our chief accounting officer, who’s overseen the complicated procedure of budget preparation and delivery, through years of considerable change for the Assembly. Claire Clancy is, of course, the Assembly’s Chief Executive and Clerk as well, and, as this is likely to be the last annual budget that comes through your hands, Claire, I hope you won’t mind me taking this opportunity, on behalf of commissioners, past and present, to acknowledge the supreme effort and success you’ve brought to the role, and for the insurance and confidence that you’ve given the commission as well, and the Assembly as a whole. I think we have enjoyed that as a result.
 
I think the importance of the work of the commission has been recognised in the two contributions made today. The greatest challenge for the commission ought to be to ensure that the Assembly, charged as it is with this greater responsibility, but within the constraints of being the UK’s smallest legislature—I don’t think we should forget that—is properly equipped to do its job. Our aim is to set and maintain high standards during a time of close public scrutiny and to enhance our international reputation as an effective, open, world-class parliamentary institution.
 
So, on behalf of the Llywydd and my fellow commissioners, I assure you that we’re doing all we can to use the resources provided by this budget to ensure that we meet those challenges in accordance with our strategic goals, and I commend the budget to Members. Thank you.
 
14:34
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
4. Plaid Cymru Debate: Overseas Workers in the Welsh NHS
The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Jane Hutt, and amendments 2 and 3 in the name of Neil Hamilton. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected.
 
14:35
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item is the Plaid Cymru debate on overseas workers in the Welsh NHS, and I call on Rhun ap Iorwerth to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM6145 Rhun ap Iorwerth
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Recognises the significant contribution made by workers from overseas to the care and treatment of patients within the NHS.
 
2. Calls on the Welsh Government, through negotiation with the UK Government, to secure powers to issue work permits for overseas nationals to work in the Welsh NHS.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:35
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you, Llywydd. I move the motion and ask for your support to that motion tabled in my name.
 
The future of NHS staff who have been trained abroad has come under the spotlight this year following the change in the political climate since the referendum on membership of the European Union. NHS staff trained overseas face uncertainty because of two main factors. One is the likelihood that we will see more strict immigration rules as a result of that change in the political climate, particularly the rhetoric of the type that we heard in relation to doctors at the Conservatives’ conference. This will also have an impact on those who may continue to have a right to remain here, working personally, but that may not be the case for their husbands, wives or other members of the family. The uncertainty exists because of a second factor, namely the increasing enmity towards migrants that makes Britain, it would appear, a less attractive place to work.
 
We are using this debate today to tackle that first factor that I mentioned, and we call on the Welsh Government to try and secure the powers so that they can issue work permits for foreign nationals who could work in the Welsh NHS.
 
We already know how dependent the NHS is on foreign nationals. Some 30 per cent of doctors in Wales were trained overseas—over 2,500, with one in six of those from other EU nations. We know that high numbers of nurses come from abroad to work here, and we know of recruitment campaigns in Spain, for example. We don’t in reality know how many overseas nationals work in social care, because many are working in the private sector, but we do know that that figure has increased substantially and that the sector is already saying how difficult it is to find staff. We know that we will have an ageing population, and that will mean that we will need more care workers, more nurses and more doctors, and we can’t rely on the training placements available in Wales to meet those needs, at the moment at least.
 
This is not just a matter of those specific difficulties in terms of obtaining work permits for foreign nationals. Other changes to the immigration system are also likely to add to these problems. I’m talking about the decline in foreign students, perhaps, and that would perhaps restrict the ability of our education sector to make provision for Welsh students, as that would lead to the loss of a significant income stream for our universities. So, why are we calling for Wales to have the power to issue work permits?
 
Why are we calling for work permits to be issued here in Wales rather than leaving it to officials in London? It’s likely that Wales not being able to determine its own workforce needs, the number of doctors and the number of nurses we need, who are likely to have to come from other countries, and any new immigration system that develops in the UK that doesn’t take into account Welsh needs, is going to put our NHS at risk.
 
Wales will have different needs to other nations of the UK. We have an older population, more likely to be requiring treatment for chronic conditions, in part at least associated with our industrial past. We currently have quite acute problems of shortages of GPs, problems of rurality and shortages in particular specialisms amongst hospital doctors, in accident and emergency and paediatrics and so on. We have nursing shortages specific to other areas. Other parts of the UK have shortage issues of their own. That’s why we can’t accept the amendments that have been put forward. I find it strange that the Welsh Labour Government feels that a UK Conservative Government knows the workforce needs of Wales better than they do and is, therefore, content to trust them.
 
UKIP amendments don’t even require Welsh Government to do anything—at least the Government amendment allows for the exploring of options—and I thought that party was all about taking back control. We need control of our workforce here in Wales, of course.
 
We need to train more staff obviously here—more home-grown staff. We’ve always been in favour of training more home-grown doctors, for example, to solve our recruitment crisis. Wales has the lowest number of doctors relative to population in the UK. Shortages are frankly leading to service closures in places, but you can’t just replace doctors overnight with home-grown doctors. It takes time. If patient care is suffering now due to shortages, then we need to act now to safeguard the future. I don’t want people to assume this is just about doctors—as I say, it’s the entire range of healthcare professionals, including carers in the social sector and, of course, in nursing.
 
Yes, we need to develop our training programmes to increase home-grown training capacity, but we must make our NHS a welcoming NHS for staff from outside Wales and the UK, and welcoming to those already working in the NHS now and those that we’d like to consider coming here in future. Our NHS, we know, would collapse without them. A Welsh Government, with the powers to issue its own work permits, would be a big step forward to giving us the workforce security that we need. So, I ask you to support this motion.
 
14:41
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I have selected the three amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected. I call on the Cabinet Secretary for health to formally move amendment 1 tabled in the name of Jane Hutt.
 
Amendment 1—Jane Hutt
 
Delete point 2 and replace with:
 
Calls on the UK Government to ensure the Welsh NHS remains able to recruit qualified healthcare workers born and trained overseas, if and when necessary, after the UK leaves the EU, and to explore all options to facilitate that.
 
Amendment 1 moved.
 
14:41
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Formally.
 
14:41
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call on Neil Hamilton to move amendments 2 and 3 tabled in his name. Neil Hamilton.
 
14:41
Neil HamiltonBiographyLeader of the UKIP Wales Group
Formally.
 
14:41
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
You can speak to your amendments.
 
Amendment 2—Neil Hamilton
 
Delete point 2.
 
Amendment 3—Neil Hamilton
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Calls on the Welsh Government to support sensible UK immigration controls, including a work-permit and visa regime to fill skills gaps in the Welsh NHS.
 
Amendments 2 and 3 moved.
 
14:41
Neil HamiltonBiography
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Lywydd. Well, I do regret the way in which Rhun ap Iorwerth introduced this debate, referring to uncertainly for existing NHS staff and their family as a result of Brexit, because we all know that the Government has given a commitment that anybody who is here lawfully will be allowed to remain. That is the position under the Government’s treaty obligation. [Interruption.] Yes we do, yes we do—because it is the treaty obligation of Her Majesty’s Government. The second thing in particular that—
 
14:42
Simon ThomasBiography
Will you give way on that point?
 
14:42
Neil HamiltonBiography
In a 30-minute debate, where I’ve only got a couple of minutes to speak, I don’t think I can give way, I’m sorry. But I’m quite happy to see the Member outside afterwards.
 
14:42
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
But that will not be on the record.
 
14:42
Neil HamiltonBiography
I also very much regret the reference to increasing enmity towards immigrants. Apart from a very small minority of reprehensible individual, there is no enmity towards immigrants amongst the British people at all, particularly towards those who work in the NHS.
 
About 5 per cent of the staff of the NHS throughout the UK are from overseas and are EU citizens. They do play an extremely important part in the delivery of health services, and that, no doubt, will continue. Nobody is asking to build a wall down the middle of the English channel and stop movement either way. What we want is sensible controls. These controls are already in existence as regards the rest of the world. There are a very large number of people employed in the national health service who come from the Indian sub-continent—India, Pakistan and other places—and who are already subject to visa controls. So, we’re asking for nothing that is very remarkable in relation to EU citizens.
 
No-one can deny the growing alarm on the part of very large numbers of people as a result of the uncontrolled immigration that has taken place within the EU since, particularly, 2004. In 2001, there were 59.1 million people in the UK. By 2015, that had gone up to 65 million, and estimates for 2026 are 70 million people, on current population trends. These are very, very rapid increases in population and they are having an enormous impact upon certain communities in different parts of the country. It is that popular concern that has given rise to the Brexit result. I have no doubt of that whatsoever.
 
We’ve no difficulty in acknowledging the contribution that immigrants do make to this country. All that is being asked for by millions of people—. Seventeen million people voted for Brexit—they’re not all bigots and racists. Only a tiny minority may be bigots or racists and they are not worthy of our consideration in the context of this debate. All that we’re asking is that immigration should be controlled. Every country in the world controls its immigration to a greater or lesser extent. We’re only talking about a question of degree, not a question of principle. The motion, in a sense, ignores the important role that is played by those who come from other parts of the world outside of the European Union. As a result of introducing controls on unskilled immigration from the European Union, we’ll be able, perhaps, to be more generous towards other countries in the visa regime that we apply to them. It’ll be for the British Government to take these decisions and not the European Union, and that, I believe, is an important democratic gain.
 
I do have some sympathy with the Plaid Cymru position that the Welsh Government should have a role in this, but we have a UK and a UK immigration policy and the correct way in which the Welsh Government feeds into that is in the normal relations that exist between Cardiff and Westminster.
 
So, I believe that the future of those who work inside the NHS who are people who are citizens of other countries is assured under the current arrangements and that will continue, and that we will have the flexibility in a regime for visas and work permits, which can be introduced in due course, to provide for whatever needs there are as a result of skills gaps in the NHS. So, whilst deprecating any form of bigotry or racism, I think we should, nevertheless, accept the concerns of millions and millions of people that immigration should be controlled and that there is no necessary contradiction between wanting to have plenty of skilled people to fill the gaps that exist, not just in the health service, but in all other forms of economic activity, and yet, on the other hand, control the numbers that are creating so many difficulties for so many people in different parts of the country.
 
14:47
Dawn BowdenBiography
Can I thank Plaid Cymru for bringing this debate before us? Because it is a very important issue that we need to be dealing with at this moment and it’s very immediate, of course. In my previous life as Unison’s head of health here in Wales, I had a high level of engagement with the Welsh NHS as an employer, and my experience in that position made me acutely aware of how crucial to the NHS overseas workers employed across the whole of our health service actually are.
 
As an aside, as Rhun ap Iorwerth has already said, it is worth mentioning that, whilst this debate is about NHS workers, we shouldn’t forget that it’s not just our health service that relies on overseas workers; many more are employed in social care services, which play an increasingly integrated role in the delivery of healthcare.
 
According to the most recent figures, almost 31 per cent of doctors in Wales were trained overseas, and about 6 per cent of those were trained in EU countries. That equates to about 518 doctors here in Wales trained overseas, not just in the EU. Of nearly 26,000 registered nurses in Wales, 262 qualified in another EU country—just over 1 per cent—with a further 6.5 per cent qualifying in non-EU countries. As recruitment from the EU in particular has been a key component in addressing current staff shortages, it’s probably likely that that figure is now slightly higher. But I don’t think this debate is really about statistics. I don’t believe any of us could fail to be aware of the tremendous contribution that staff from the EU, the EEA and many other parts of the world make to our NHS, working alongside Welsh and UK workers. We know that the health service would struggle without them.
 
In this Chamber, we’ve unfortunately had to express, on a number of occasions, our outrage and despair at the rise in incidents of racism being reported since the vote to leave the EU on 23 June. If that were not enough to raise concerns amongst these staff over their future in this country, there will be many who will now be fearful about what leaving the EU will mean for them when that finally happens—just one more reason why it’s particularly unhelpful that, despite what Neil Hamilton says, the UK Government is unable or unwilling to provide any clarity over its negotiating position in respect of the free movement of workers. There’s no doubt that the NHS will not just be reliant on the EU and overseas workers it currently employs, but, if the targets for overcoming shortages are to be met, there will be a reliance on bringing in more overseas workers in the years to come.
 
As I said at the outset, I am grateful to Plaid for bringing forward this motion. But I’m afraid, as often is the case, I think they risk not achieving the desired aims by turning this into an issue around an argument for more powers—something, I think, that can be a long-term objective, but, on this issue, it’s something we need to deal with fairly quickly. So, the amendment from Jane Hutt, on the other hand, maintains the thrust of the motion, which aims to ensure that we can secure the EU overseas workforce and develop our workforce into the future, but without getting ourselves embroiled in technical or legal issues around further devolved powers.
 
I certainly don’t intend to dwell on the fairly predictable amendment that we’ve seen from UKIP. We all know the scale of the current challenges we face with staffing in the Welsh NHS, so why anyone would want to introduce a work permit and visa scheme, which could only serve to act as a deterrent to future recruitment from overseas, is really beyond my comprehension. It’s our duty to ensure that our NHS can continue to benefit from the skills and experience provided by overseas workers, and Welsh Government should do everything it can to make sure that there is no impediment to making that happen.
 
14:51
Angela BurnsBiography
I’m grateful for the motion before us today, because it reminds us all of the immense contribution made to our NHS by many workers from overseas. I’d like to take this opportunity to send them a clear message of thanks and gratitude for all that they have done for our country and continue to do so. There are already some huge shortages in certain staff areas. Between 2013 and 2015, there has been a 50 per cent increase in nursing vacancies. For doctors, there’s been a 60 per cent increase in vacancies full stop. We need to recognise that we simply cannot train enough people to keep up with the growing number of posts and the growing specialisations. The BMA, for example, says it takes around 15 years for a medical student to become a consultant, so, therefore, that makes workforce planning extremely difficult.
 
And, of course, the pressures on the NHS are changing. We have a growing population that is older and has more complex needs. So, we’re lucky to be able to recruit workers from abroad, and they add far more value to our NHS than just a pair of hands or technical skill. The rapport with patients, the bedside manner, of some overseas workers is wonderful to behold and really adds value to our NHS and adds value to our practice, particularly in the areas of social care and nursing.
 
The vote to exit the European Union did change the playing field, but it is my sincere belief that the vast majority of Wales’s people, despite voting to leave, would not want to see an end to doctors and nurses from overseas continuing to practice here in Wales. We cannot close the door to foreign workers. I admit that we must respect that the majority of those who voted for Brexit did so for a multiplicity of reasons, but predominantly because they wish to see some form of reduction in the freedom of movement and less immigration from the European Union into the United Kingdom. But that is why I think that we, as Welsh Conservatives, would absolutely support the Welsh Government amendment, because we think that we need to ask the Welsh Government to explore all the available options on the table with the United Kingdom Government so that we can continue to recruit these outstanding people to support us, our communities, our national health service and our social care.
 
Donna Kinnair, the director of nursing policy and practice at the Royal College of Nursing, has said:
 
‘Nurses trained in other countries have contributed to the NHS since its inception.
 
‘The health service would not cope without their contribution, and with the future supply of nurses looking uncertain this situation will not change any time soon.’
 
Let me just say that little bit again:
 
‘Nurses trained in other countries have contributed to the NHS since its inception.’
 
I, for one, have no intention of turning my back on them now.
 
14:54
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Galwaf on Cabinet yr Secretary for Health, Vaughan Gething.
 
14:54
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
Thank you, Presiding Officer, and I’m pleased to speak in today’s debate and recognise the contributions made by other Members on the invaluable contribution that our NHS workforce makes to the health of our nation. Staff are at the heart of our NHS, and our priority is to ensure that the Welsh NHS has the right workforce it needs for the longer term. We will not discriminate against those born or trained elsewhere, but welcome them as the valued assets to our NHS workforce and wider communities they have always proved to be. I am particularly pleased to recognise the points made by Rhun ap Iorwerth and Dawn Bowden about the wider social care workforce as well.
 
Now, we’ve heard many times before that consultant, GP, nurse and overall staff numbers in NHS Wales are at their highest levels ever. We do, though, still face recruitment challenges, competing to attract doctors at a time when other countries also face shortages in particular medical specialities, but also across a wide range of other specialities within the health service too. I believe, however, that the debate around the NHS workforce, training and recruitment should only be about how we can continue to provide the best possible care for people in the face of rising demand and increasing complexity of care.
 
More than £350 million a year is invested in the education and training of health professionals, supporting more than 15,000 students, trainees and staff. We will continue to invest in education and training opportunities for a wide range of healthcare professionals. This September, for example, saw the highest level of nurse training places commissioned in Wales since devolution—a 10 per cent increase in the number of nurse training places commissioned last year, which is in addition to the 22 per cent increase in 2015-16. We do not want to see controls introduced that would harm the Welsh economy or Welsh public services, including the NHS. We will participate constructively in discussions with the UK Government and other devolved Governments on this subject, as well as engaging widely with stakeholders and people across Wales.
 
At the same time, we make no apology for saying yet again we will not stand for any form of racism or xenophobia in the NHS, in Wales, or in wider public life or private life. We will tackle any unacceptable behaviour and comments head on. It is essential for us as a Government that we remain outward-looking, internationalist, open for business and proud of our public service values and ethos. Our commitment to fairness and opportunity for all is clear and undiminished.
 
Part of what has bound us together in the four different countries that make up the NHS family since 1948 is a collective understanding that people from different parts of the world working in the NHS make a huge contribution. This is in stark contrast to the current approach being taken by the Conservative UK Government, who believe that foreign doctors and NHS staff are only welcome here whilst they’re needed. That approach is damaging to the reputation and functioning of the NHS in all four countries at a critical time, and I’m happy to recognise the very different tone and approach struck by Angela Burns in this Chamber compared to the approach taken in the UK Government.
 
Just to deal with Neil Hamilton’s point about India and Pakistan and different visa controls that exist, well, those visa controls do not help the national health service in Wales or any other part of the United Kingdom. Those controls have nothing to do with looking after the best interests of the NHS and the public that it serves. Protecting the rights of citizens of other EU countries and beyond who currently live and work in Wales is a critical issue, and we have seen a rise in intolerance since the Brexit debate. Regardless of what side you were on in the Brexit vote, we should not ignore or try to minimise the real harm and damage being done to Welsh citizens since that particular vote. This Government will not treat valued members of our NHS as bargaining chips in the fallout of the EU referendum.
 
So, this Welsh Government makes it clear that we remain committed to exploring all options to facilitate recruitment and retention of the NHS workforce from the EU and beyond the UK, and those who leave the EU. However, we do move our amendment as there are no specific arrangements in place for leaving the EU, particularly not known by the Government—they don’t appear to know where they are going—so we want to have a more open arrangement as opposed to tying ourselves into a specific mechanism for achieving our objectives. It should of course be no surprise that we oppose the UKIP amendments. This Government is proud of our NHS staff and will continue to value them, wherever they have come from, for the contribution that they will continue to make to life within and outside our national health service.
 
14:58
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call on Rhun ap Iorwerth to reply to the debate.
 
14:58
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you very much, and thanks to everyone who participated in this afternoon’s debate.
 
Let me get straight into the comments made by the UKIP representative. We all know we are told that there is no problem with people staying who are currently in the UK. It’s the kind of throwaway, meaningless comment that has been such a feature of the European debate. UKIP have made a habit, it seems, of issuing fake guarantees that they have no authority whatsoever to make. In Prime Minister’s questions at Westminster today Alberto Costa, the Conservative MP, asked please that he never be put in a position where he is asked to vote on the possible deportation of his parents, who’ve been in the UK for 50 years. Theresa May turned round and said that yes, of course, she’d like to be able to give that guarantee, but even she can’t make that guarantee now. So, I’ll dismiss the comments made once again by UKIP.
 
I welcome the comments made by Dawn Bowden. Many of the comments here show that we have a joint venture, most of us in this Chamber, in ensuring that we make the Welsh NHS a welcoming Welsh NHS.
 
Dawn Bowden said that she feared that Plaid Cymru is risking failing to reach our aim by arguing for more powers, but, as we so often state here, it’s about powers with a purpose. My fear is that, in putting faith in a UK Government that even Angela Burns from the Conservative benches here has said she had little faith in in relation to NHS staffing, and some of the sounds that we’ve been hearing from UK Conservative politicians, we need to make sure that we have the best tools possible in our armoury here in Wales to defend ourselves as we move forward.
 
We’ve sown the seed, I think, hopefully, today of an idea for which, whilst other parties say they’re not able to sign up to it as yet, we will be able to continue to make the case as a means to give us that workforce guarantee that we will need in future. You have today shown your faith—your trust—in UK Government. I have come to the position where I do not have that faith in UK Government to take the requisite steps in order to protect our NHS workforce in future. Here is an idea that, even if it doesn’t get your support today, we will bring back, because we want Welsh Government to be able to do what it has to do to make sure that we have an NHS fit for the Welsh people in future.
 
15:01
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer all voting under this item until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
5. Plaid Cymru Debate: The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme
The following amendment has been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Paul Davies.
 
15:01
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item is the next Plaid Cymru debate on the mineworkers’ pension scheme, and I call on Steffan Lewis to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM6146 Rhun ap Iorwerth
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Notes that the UK Government is reported to have received £8 billion from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS), in accordance with current arrangements which sees it receiving 50 percent of the MPS surplus, and further notes that the UK Government received £750 million in surplus payments in 2014 alone;
 
2. Calls for a review of the fifty-fifty surplus sharing arrangement between the UK Government and MPS, as advocated by the National Union of Mineworkers.
 
3. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with other devolved administrations, and local and regional leaders in England, to secure a UK Government review of the MPS surplus arrangements and to seek a continuation of the UK Government to act as guarantor of the MPS.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:01
Steffan LewisBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. I’m pleased to move the motion laid in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. The issue of the mineworkers’ pension scheme surplus forms part of an unholy trinity of miners’ injustices, along with past state brutality and the intentional de-industrialisation of their communities. But I hope that all Members on all sides can agree that the motion before us today is not controversial and simply seeks to address an injustice that occurs every day of every week.
 
The MPS closed to new members in the mid-1990s, with the number of scheme members declining from 700,000 in 1960 to around 200,000 last year. It is a scheme that includes an investment reserve valued at over £1 billion and a bonus augmentation fund, and, in addition, the sum of all expected future benefits is expected to be worth some £19 billion. Under an agreement reached in 1994, the UK Government guarantees the solvency of the scheme, with the exception of the bonus augmentations, and the annual indexation of guaranteed pensions, in line with price inflation.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Ann Jones) took the Chair.
 
Steffan LewisBiography
When the agreement was reached to split the fund’s valuation surpluses 50/50 between the fund and the UK Government, no-one expected the fund to perform as well as it has—no-one anticipated that the UK Government would have benefited to the tune of more than £3.5 billion, gobbled up for general Government spending. Indeed, at the turn of the millennium, the Coalfield Communities Campaign said:
 
‘The guarantee was struck on actuarial advice. Hindsight may have shown that the advice was too cautious but that is now history.’
 
The point is that the funds are in a robust financial position and, under the current arrangements, the Government has no real liability.
 
Indeed, the National Audit Office in England has estimated that over a 25-year period, the UK Government can expect to reap £8 billion in surplus payments from the fund. In 2014 the Treasury received £750 million, and last year saw a further £95 million taken as part of the surplus split.
 
It is argued that the UK Government’s share of the surplus is justified because it acts as the guarantor, but in effect, Dirprwy Lywydd, the UK Government’s potential exposure is accounted for by an existing triple lock—the surplus payments themselves, the value of the investment reserve and the fact that the Government does not guarantee the bonus augmentation element.
 
So, surely, any fair-minded person absorbing these facts will conclude that the current arrangements regarding the surplus do not rightly balance fairness for retired miners and the potential exposure of the taxpayer. Plaid Cymru’s motion today comprises two primary principles: first, that we support the National Union of Mineworkers’s calls for a review of the pension’s valuation surplus; secondly, that we mandate the Government of Wales to build alliances with other devolved administrations and regional leaders in England so that pressure can be brought to bear on the UK Government to deliver that long-overdue review of the MPS surplus. This is not about reviewing the MPS in general or reconsidering the UK Government’s role as guarantor and, for that reason, Plaid Cymru will not be supporting the Conservative amendment today. This is strictly about delivering justice as far as the surplus is concerned.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, I was born during the miners’ strike of 1984-5 and I’m just the second generation in my family not to have worked underground. I know many here lived through that event and, indeed, were directly involved and impacted upon. The legacy of our industrial heritage lives with all of us today, regardless of our age or background, but with no group more so than former miners, who are today pensioners. A famous slogan of that strike was, ‘The miners united will never be defeated.’ Llywydd, if this Assembly speaks with one voice today, if it is united, it could provide a mandate for our Government that might—just might—result in a long-overdue victory for miners and their families. Diolch.