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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The first item this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is from John Griffiths
 
The Welsh Government's Waste Strategy
 
13:30
John GriffithsBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government's waste strategy? OAQ(4)2413(FM)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. The waste strategy is set out in ‘Towards Zero Waste’, published in June 2010, and it sets out our ambition to achieve a high-recycling, low-carbon economy and progress towards zero waste by 2050.
 
13:30
John GriffithsBiography
First Minister, the Welsh Government’s collections blueprint is being reviewed following a recommendation from the Environment and Sustainability Committee. If that review confirms that kerbside sort is the best method to achieve high-quality recyclate, high-quality materials from the recycling collections, will you seek to ensure that that is the method that’s used across Wales?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’d like to see increased consistency of service across Wales. Currently, of course, the decision on which collection system to adopt is down to individual local authorities, and any change to this position would need careful consideration in the light of the blueprint review. Of course, I don’t want to pre-empt the findings of that review at this point.
 
13:31
Paul DaviesBiography
First Minister, the Environment and Sustainability Committee published a report on recycling in Wales in December of last year, and the committee made seven very important recommendations. Given that all of these recommendations were accepted or accepted in principle by your Government, can you name one recommendation from that report which has now been implemented?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It is a matter, of course, for the local authorities. What’s important is that they shouldn’t mix everything together. We know that, if they do that, there isn’t very much value to the recycling product. Now, what is important is that local authorities are able to make decisions that are right for their areas, bearing in mind the fact that there are many alternative ways of dealing with waste across Wales. What is important is that we continue to recycle more, and that has been reflected in the figures that we’ve seen over the past decade.
 
13:32
Llyr GruffyddBiography
I'm sure we would all be supportive of the principle of having a zero-waste Wales, but doesn’t that highlights the foolishness of your Government's policy in investing tens of millions of pounds in incinerating waste for energy? If the policy on waste were successful, there would be nothing left to incinerate?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That is very naïve, because that would mean that you would have some kind of control over how goods are packaged, and that is not the way things stand at the moment. That’s the problem. We have to deal with what arises in Wales—the waste that we have in Wales. We can’t deal with what is being sold in Wales. So, therefore, approaching zero waste is something that has to be done at a European level at least, if not a world-wide level.
 
13:33
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, last month, the Welsh Government waived a £0.5 million fine for the City of Cardiff Council for their failure to meet its recycling targets on the basis that they had a credible plan to improve and meet the requirements under your waste strategy. Can you tell me was privatising the waste and recycling services of the city of Cardiff part of the plan you approved?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s a matter for Cardiff how it organises its waste and recycling services. What is important is that it meets its targets in the future, and we’ll be monitoring that situation very closely.
 
Electrification of the Main Line between London and Swansea
 
13:34
Peter BlackBiography
2. What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding the electrification of the main line between London and Swansea? OAQ(4)2403(FM)
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The UK Government has restated its commitment to the project. We have reiterated to the UK Government that the main line must be delivered in line with the original announcements, given the importance of the project for Wales, and that does mean electrification to Cardiff by 2017 and Swansea by 2018.
 
13:34
Peter BlackBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. In replies to Baroness Randerson in the House of Lords, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon stated that the chair of Network Rail is putting forward proposals for re-planning the enhancement programme and reporting to the Secretary of State in the autumn. Can I ask whether the Welsh Government has been part of the discussions that will lead to that report?
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We expect the UK Government to deliver on its promises. The Prime Minister was absolutely clear that he would deliver on this, and he mentioned the timescale. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned it in his budget speech. We expect that timescale to be kept to. It’s not a matter for discussion or for debate. The promise was made of 2017 to Cardiff and 2018 to Swansea. We expect that promise to be kept.
 
13:35
Julie MorganBiography
Does the First Minister think that the overspend on Network Rail’s five-year programme—which, it seems, was known before the general election, but not revealed—will impact on the Welsh access route into Heathrow, which is very important, along with electrification?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the Member’s right to point out there’s a question as to whether this was known to the UK Government, and they chose not to make the situation public before the general election, for reasons best known to themselves. But it is not clear at the moment what this means for projects in Wales or that affect Wales, particularly of course the spur from Heathrow. We know how important that is to traffic from south Wales, particularly, and the ability to use Heathrow airport.
 
13:35
Altaf HussainBiography
First Minister, your Minister for Economy, Science and Transport stated last week that she hoped the new rail franchise would bring rail improvements to Swansea and further west. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to improve the transport infrastructure on the back of electrification. South-east Wales is getting the metro. What improvements can people in my region expect?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we know, for example, that, since the single franchise across Wales was created, there’s been much better integration of services, both east-west and north-south. Of course, for the first time, when franchising is next agreed, the Welsh Government will have a far stronger role, in terms of how the franchise is agreed and how rail services are then provided. We expect, of course, then, to be able to continue with the good work that’s being done in integrating services further west with the rest of the network.
 
13:36
Bethan JenkinsBiography
First Minister, Network Rail has details on its website about the modernisation plan with electrification, consultation with local people with regard to bridges, and any changes that will take place. I notice there’s been consultation in Newport and Monmouthshire, with regard to bridge changes there, but, in Llanharan, it seems that the bridge will be totally removed, and that’s causing some concern to local people. Is there anything that you’ve had by means of an update on this particular issue?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No, but we would expect Network Rail to conduct the work they need to conduct on the bridges as quickly as possible, and with the least disruption possible. It’s inevitable, with electrification, there will be some disruption, with some of the bridges, but, certainly, we expect that work to be carried out in a peremptory fashion.
 
13:37
Mike HedgesBiography
The importance of electrification is not only the shortening of the journey times, but the message it sends to potential investors. Will the First Minister continue to press the economic case for the electrification of the main line to Swansea?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. The Member and I are in exactly the same place on this. He will recall that, when the UK Government decided that it would not electrify to Swansea, we were in the vanguard of making the call that it should. When the UK Government took the view that it would not electrify between Cardiff and Bridgend—for reasons best known to itself—but further west, from Bridgend to Swansea, we were in the vanguard of holding the Prime Minister to his promise that electrification would take place as far as Swansea.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:38
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders, and first this afternoon is the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:38
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, the disposal of land by the Welsh Government to help regeneration was a critical part of providing a fund that could regenerate large parts of Wales. I appreciate the report is embargoed and not due to come forward until tomorrow, but, in your opinion, do you believe that the disposal attracted good value for money for the Welsh taxpayer?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
As the leader of the opposition says, the report is due to come before Members tomorrow, and Members will, of course, have the opportunity to consider it.
 
13:38
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
The question was quite simple. Because you’ve obviously, as a Government, disposed of this land, I was merely seeking your view. This is the last time we will meet at First Minister’s questions for eight weeks, it is. You obviously have taken a view as a Government, because you disposed of this land. I’m not asking you to prejudge the report, because it’s not coming forward till tomorrow morning. So, what I’m merely trying to elicit from you is: did you believe that it provided good value for money? I’m assuming you did; otherwise, as a Government, you wouldn’t have sanctioned the disposal of that land. So, I put the question again: do you believe it provided good value for money to the Welsh taxpayer, the disposal of these very valuable pieces of potentially developable land?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a question, of course, that the leader of the opposition is perfectly entitled to ask, but I don’t think it’s fair to other Members, until such time as they’ve seen the entire report and will wish to ask their own questions, to try to identify certain issues in the report and deal with them today. It’s right to say that Members should have the opportunity tomorrow to deal with the issue.
 
13:39
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I find that a very perplexing answer. You’ve obviously disposed of this land, so someone, somewhere decided it did have value for money for the Welsh taxpayer, because, otherwise, was there no ministerial oversight? Okay, let’s take it to the next stage. If the report does identify a lack of ministerial oversight, because ultimately, it would’ve had to be sanctioned—and I’ve used the word ‘if’, so I’m not trying to prejudge anything, and we’re not meeting for eight weeks at First Minister’s questions—will you take action against those Ministers, if they are currently sitting in the Government, who have proved not to return value to the Welsh taxpayer by disposing of valuable Welsh Government assets?
 
13:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I have to say I believe that Members of this Assembly as a whole should have the opportunity to ask questions on this tomorrow, and rightly so. The report has to be taken as a whole. As a Government, we will, of course, respond to that report and any recommendations it might make.
 
13:40
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:40
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, medical professionals are increasingly saying that the link between children’s health and sugary drinks has created an obesity time bomb. It’s estimated that unhealthy diets cause 70,000 premature deaths every year. This affects people who live in poverty more, of course. Now, as you know, Plaid Cymru proposes a levy on sugary drinks, and we welcome the support for that from a growing number of individuals and organisations, including the British Medical Association. Rather than ridicule our proposals, isn’t it now time for you to perform a u-turn and back Plaid Cymru on this?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there are three issues here. Firstly, is the issue of whether there should be more tax on sugary drinks, and I think that has merit, I must say. But, there are two other issues: first of all, we don’t have the powers to do it, which is one of the issues, of course, that Plaid Cymru have not really fully dealt with; and secondly, it’s this issue, which I have raised in this Chamber, that, if you raise a tax with the intention of reducing a particular form of behaviour, you will inevitably reduce the amount of money that is taken in that tax. If you hypothecate it for a particular purpose, it’s inevitable that the amount of money available for that particular purpose will drop. So, the disagreement that I have with her is that if she says she’s going to hypothecate a tax and it’s going to pay for, as she put it, 1,000 extra doctors a year, it’s going to come from an ever-decreasing pot of money. That’s the problem of hypothecation. If you have sin taxes—and smoking is one area that’s taxed heavily—she will notice that it’s not hypothecated, for the obvious reason that it provides an ever-decreasing amount of money to pay for a particular policy.
 
13:42
Leanne WoodBiography
But that’s not the question I asked you, and the arguments that you are putting are arguments against taxing cigarettes, alcohol, and carrier-bag usage. It’s well established that you tax to disincentivise behaviour, and the link between ill health and poverty among children has been highlighted further in the media today. First Minister, a staggering 70 per cent difference exists between death rates among children living in the most deprived areas compared to the most wealthy. If you’re not prepared to take a policy change as the one that I have proposed this afternoon, what other policy changes are you prepared to make in the light of today’s unacceptable revelations?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think if we had the power to introduce such a tax, it might be something that we could look at. I’m not in disagreement with her on that, particularly. What I do think she has wrong is this idea that you can take an ever-decreasing pot of money to pay for the same policy year after year. It doesn’t work out. She’s right to say, of course, there are sin taxes, but the point is this: taxes on cigarettes and alcohol are not hypothecated for a particular purpose—with good reason. Because you’re trying to dissuade behaviour, the tax take drops over the years. If your tax take drops, the amount of money you have to pay for a particular policy is bound to drop as well. So, it’s the hypothecation that her party has wrong.
 
13:43
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, we’ve never talked about hypothecation. I welcome your u-turn on this, and I’m glad now that you’ve had a change of heart. First Minister, overcoming poverty is the greatest challenge facing our country, and its impact on health outcomes is well known. We must give support to, and defend, those people who are living with poverty. Now, we know that you were at war with your party leader on limiting financial support to families with children, so what is your Government planning to do to defend those people who will suffer from regressive Tory policies, backed by the support of your old boss?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I mean, there are a number of questions. First of all, I’ve just heard the most stunning public u-turn that I’ve ever heard from any party leader in this Chamber. It will come as news to all of us—even those on her own benches, from the expression on their faces—that, somehow, the ‘pop tax’, as it’s been called, was not meant to be hypothecated. The whole point was—and she’s said it time after time after time in this Chamber—it was going to pay for a certain number of doctors. All of a sudden, there’s been a complete u-turn and that’s no longer the case. I welcome it, because it shows that it was a fallacy to begin with and it shows the shallow ground on which that policy was actually based. She makes the point about benefits. She and I are in much the same position on that; that much I agree with her. I wonder if she’s in the same position as her parliamentary leader when it comes to fox hunting, given what Jonathan Edwards has said on that. [Interruption.] I know their blushes have been spared by the fact that the Conservatives have run away from having a debate on that. But she makes a serious point—[Interruption.]
 
13:45
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order.
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
[Continues.]—and that is this: how do we ensure that those people who have been targeted by this UK Government are helped? We saw from the budget last week—it was a budget that had young people in its sights—a so-called living wage that was not a living wage, and not introduced to those under 25, who, for some reason, are not affected by the living wage, and attacks on housing benefits, attacks on student grants and attacks on student maintenance. It was a blatant attack on young people within the UK. We as a Government are, as we always have been, ready to do what we can to defend our people against what are unfair and unjust cuts. We saw £50 million removed from the Welsh budget. Imagine how many consultants, how many hospital beds, how many nurses could have been employed if the Tories hadn’t pinched that money from the people of Wales.
 
13:46
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I know it’s the last session before the recess, but I don’t want you shouting enough for the whole of the eight weeks that you’re not going to be here.
 
We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:46
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
First Minister, figures collected by the Welsh Liberal Democrats this week have revealed that, since 2012, 10,395 official staff complaints have been made to health board bosses in Wales about a lack of qualified staff available. In Cardiff, the number of complaints in 2014 alone was the equivalent of 12 per cent of the total number of staff working at that health board. Do you consider this level of complaints to be acceptable?
 
13:47
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s worth noting that the reported level of incidents represents a small percentage of total reported incidents. The overwhelming majority of reported incidents are incidents that lead to no harm. It’s worth pointing out as well that there are more doctors, more nurses, more midwives, more paramedics and more dental staff working in the Welsh NHS today than there were 10 years ago, and that, since 1999, the total number of staff working in the Welsh NHS has increased by a third. I know she has an interest in the issue, given the Bill that she’s promoted to the Assembly, and I know that the Minister has written to her with a view to offering another meeting as to how that Bill might be taken forward on a basis that’s satisfactory to all.
 
13:47
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, I am aware that there have been increases in staff, but, as you remind me on a weekly basis as a reason why you can’t meet your own health targets, demand is also rising. Surely it cannot be acceptable to you that your staff working in the Welsh NHS are repeatedly telling—repeatedly telling—their managers that they don’t have enough colleagues around them to cope. That’s significant, because we do know that there is a link between staffing levels and patient outcomes. A recent report for the English NHS revealed a significant relationship between the number of nurses on duty in hospitals and 40 indicators of patient care outcomes. Therefore, given that evidence in England, do you regret, as I do, the decision by the English NHS to stop the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s work in this area that demonstrates the evidence for safe staffing levels, a decision that has been criticised by Robert Francis, nursing unions and workforce experts?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I do. There are many questions, of course, for the UK Government to answer about the English NHS. We want, of course, to make sure that the NHS is staffed at a safe and sustainable level, as does she. As I said, we are aware of the Bill that she has promoted in the Assembly and, as I say, I know the Minister is keen to discuss that matter further with her.
 
13:49
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Talking about NHS England’s decision on staffing guidance, NICE’s clinical director, Professor Baker, said:
 
‘I think the reason they don’t want it is, if you don’t like the answer to the question, you don’t ask the question’.
 
In Wales, First Minister, would you agree with me that we must not be afraid to ask that question? In looking to promote safe staffing levels, firstly in the nursing profession, will you work with me and the health Minister to ensure that Wales is the first part of the UK to take this agenda seriously, as parts of Australia announced this week, and to ensure that we have safe nurse staffing levels on our wards, with a view to introducing that, potentially, to other sectors of the NHS workforce?
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The leader of the Liberal Democrats is right to say that we should not be afraid of asking that question. She will know that the committee looking at her Bill did raise a number of issues that need to be resolved and, as I say, the Minister and she will be able to meet in the near future to see how and whether such a resolution can be achieved.
 
13:50
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper, and question 3 is from Russell George.
 
Investment in the Welsh NHS
 
13:50
Russell GeorgeBiography
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on investment in the Welsh NHS? OAQ(4)2411(FM)
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, investing in our health service is a priority for the Welsh Government, as reflected in our budget for 2015-16.
 
13:50
Russell GeorgeBiography
Thank you for your answer, First Minister. In last week’s budget, the Chancellor confirmed an additional £8 billion for the NHS, underpinning the importance of the NHS to the UK Government. Given the Welsh Government’s record-breaking cuts to the Welsh NHS, will you confirm that the health service in Wales will benefit fully from the Barnett consequential in full?
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, let’s see it, because there is no sign of the money, I can promise you that now. It’s lofty rhetoric, but no delivery yet from the UK Government. I would take him and his party more seriously if they had stood up for Wales and resisted the £50 million-worth of cuts that their own party imposed on Wales—£50 million that could have been spent on doctors or nurses or hospital wards; £50 million that could have been spent on the NHS in Wales, which has now been pocketed by the Conservative Party and the Chancellor.
 
13:51
Joyce WatsonBiography
The Welsh Government, on the other hand, has ring-fenced more than £20 million to support 1,600-plus people who receive the independent living fund in Wales, whilst the UK Government closed the nationwide scheme last month. First Minister, do you agree with me that, as well as record investment in the NHS, spending on social care will save us money in the long run as people are supported to live independently?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. Health and social care run together. We know you cannot separate them both. We know social care has been absolutely wrecked in England—[Interruption.]—absolutely wrecked in England by the Conservatives—
 
13:52
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Can we have a little less noise so we can hear what the First Minister is saying? Apologies, First Minister. Carry on.
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I know these answers are inconvenient to them, Presiding Officer, but the reality is that we know that health and social care spending in Wales is 5 per cent higher per head than in England, and so his party can hang their heads in shame.
 
13:52
Elin JonesBiography
First Minister, Plaid Cymru does believe that a pop tax could provide a useful revenue stream into the NHS. Andy Burnham, in the recent general election, promised to hypothecate a levy on cigarette makers to fund more staff in the NHS. Is that a hypothecation that you supported?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No. I don’t think hypothecation works in those circumstances either. She seemed to be suggesting that she was in a different place there from her own leader when it came to the pop tax—
 
13:53
Elin JonesBiography
No, you seem to be suggesting that you’re in a different place to your leader—
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
[Continues.]—but is it hypothecated or not? I was asked a specific question: did I agree with hypothecation in terms of a levy on cigarette manufacturers. The answer is ‘no’. That doesn’t mean I don’t agree with a levy, but I think it’s dangerous to have hypothecation for what is an ever-decreasing tax pot. That doesn’t make sense.
 
13:53
Elin JonesBiography
So, Andy Burnham’s policy is dangerous.
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I don’t agree with what he said.
 
13:53
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
First Minister, you don’t have to respond to questions when people are seated. If they’re not standing up, they’re not asking a question, so they don’t deserve an answer. William Powell.
 
13:53
William PowellBiography
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, Powys Health and Wellbeing Action Group very much appreciates your Government’s support in their ongoing work to develop a wellbeing park in the grounds of Bronllys Hospital. Indeed, this Friday sees the official opening of the veterans garden, which has already been widely enjoyed by ex-service personnel. The action group is making real headway towards setting up a community benefit organisation. However, it would be much easier and progress would be greatly accelerated if the Welsh Government could consider seconding an appropriate officer to support their multifaceted work. First Minister, in this context, will you commit to discussing this matter with your Cabinet colleague the Minister for Health and Social Services so as to explore fully the potential that Bronllys park has to be a showcase for innovative care of UK and international status?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, I will do that, and I’ll ask the Minister to write to the Member with an update.
 
The Future of Onshore Wind Energy
 
13:55
Lesley GriffithsBiography
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the future of onshore wind energy in Wales? OAQ(4)2407(FM)
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, following the UK Government announcement on 18 June to close the renewables obligation support for onshore wind early, the outlook for projects in Wales looks uncertain.
 
13:55
Llyr GruffyddBiography
You are quite right, First Minister—they certainly do look uncertain. In response to the announcement, the Minister in Scotland insisted on a meeting with the UK Minister. That meeting was held, and a further meeting has been arranged with the communities, the investors and the businesses that will suffer as a result of this decision. Also, of course, an emergency summit is to be held later this year. I wrote to you about a fortnight ago, asking what the Welsh Government’s response was in comparison. I’m still awaiting that response, so perhaps you could expand on that this afternoon in order to explain how you will respond to that decision and how you will stand up for Wales?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
A letter has been sent to the United Kingdom Government, and a meeting is to be held today to listen to the concerns of businesses in particular, and, of course, we share the concern that this could meant that there won’t be sufficient electricity at the end of the day. That’s the problem in this regard. So, as to this decision and the decision concerning photovoltaic cells, it’s not very evident currently as to where we will get electricity from in the next decade.
 
13:56
John GriffithsBiography
First Minister, this announcement by the UK Government to curtail the subsidies for onshore wind has had an early and direct result in terms of the job losses at Mabey Bridge. Would you agree with me that, just a few months into this UK Tory Government, we see the green rhetoric already fading into history and that they simply do not understand the importance of a green economy? And, that will cost all of the UK dear, including Wales, in terms of job losses and lack of progress.
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
A hundred jobs lost in a Conservative-held constituency; yes, that’s right. I think it reminds us all that there are, in fact, livelihoods at stake here as a result of knee-jerk decisions that are taken by the UK Government. The Member’s quite right to point that out.
 
There are other examples, as well, that are unclear at the moment, in terms of what it means for our carbon emissions. One of the vaguest references I saw in the budget was over vehicle excise duty and what that meant. I suspect it’ll mean that the vast majority of cars that are now paying far less than £140 will find themselves paying that amount. So, the greenest cars will pay more while the most polluting cars will pay less. Surprisingly, we haven’t seen more detail on that yet from the current UK Government.
 
13:57
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, over recent years, we have seen within our own communities massive opposition to large-scale wind turbine projects, be it onshore or offshore. These do have the potential to damage our countryside and, indeed, our coastlines. Now, there’s wide recognition across the industry that a broad range of technologies is needed to take our climate change programme forward. What plans does your Government have to review technical advice note 8 in order allow different and new technologies to come forward as a viable option?
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
TAN 8 is a land-based TAN, anyway; it doesn’t affect the sea. If we’re not going to have onshore and apparently, now, offshore wind as well, what do we have left? With the tidal lagoon, we know that the tidal lagoon has had permission to move ahead, but there’s no strike-price yet—no strike-price at all—and it’s absolutely crucial that the UK Government now tells the developers of the tidal lagoon what money is going to be on the table, because they haven’t done that yet. We won’t have marine energy, we won’t have wind energy in any form, so what else are we going to have, then? At the moment, there’s complete silence on this. A knee-jerk reaction and no plans. Just talk to investors, talk to businesses and they will say to you they have no idea what the current policy of the UK Government is, and that is a dreadful position for the UK to be in.
 
Tackling Domestic Abuse
 
13:58
Mohammad AsgharBiography
5. What steps will the Welsh Government take in 2015 to tackle domestic abuse in Wales? OAQ(4)2416(FM)
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Minister made a statement on 30 June, which informed the Assembly of the action the Government is taking to tackle domestic abuse following the Royal Assent that was given to the Act in April.
 
13:59
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. The Independent Police Complaints Commission recently called for all police forces in Wales to change the way they train officers and civilian staff who deal with domestic abuse cases in Wales. In particular, they are concerned that police forces are too reliant on staff learning online instead of interactive learning through case studies. Will the First Minister agree to raise these concerns with the police to ensure that training to deal with domestic abuse cases is appropriate and effective?
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member makes a fair point, and I expect the police to follow the advice given by the independent commissioner to make sure that their response to domestic abuse cases is as effective as possible. It would be much easier, of course, if the matter was devolved. It isn’t, and his party resists that.
 
14:00
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
First Minister, in relation to violence within the family, do you think that changing the law to give equal protection to children as adults from assault is unenforceable nonsense, or do you agree with me that it’s high time we did it?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think that these are issues that all parties will examine before the election. My party is on record as saying this is something that we would want to move towards, but there are a number of issues that would need to be resolved on that journey, if I can put it that way. It’s right to say that this is an issue that all parties are examining at the moment, although I do regret the fact that we could have had the opportunity to deal with this on an all-party basis, but that offer was not taken up by her party or by the others. [Interruption.]
 
Consultant-led Obstetric Services
 
14:00
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
6. Will the First Minister make a statement on maintaining consultant-led obstetric services on the three general hospital sites in north Wales? OAQ(4)2408(FM)
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I expect the health board to consult with its staff and local communities, and to ensure that all women’s clinical services in the region are placed on a safe and sustainable footing.
 
14:01
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Well, the strategy—if there is such a thing as an obstetrics strategy in north Wales—is in chaos following recent decisions. The question causing anxiety to many people in my area is: what will be the impact of establishing the sub-regional neonatal intensive care centre on services Ysbyty Gwynedd? The maternity services in Ysbyty Gwynedd have had a very good reputation over a number of years. Can you give assurances that the current maternity service, which is consultant-led in Ysbyty Gwynedd, will continue into the future once the new unit is established at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd?
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there will be some changes when the SuRNICC is established. The SuRNICC was something that was supported by his party. So, you can’t say, ‘Well, we now don’t wish to see the SuRNICC and see any impact on other hospitals’. That doesn’t mean that the service will deteriorate—of course not. But when you have one centre that can deal with the more serious cases, perhaps there might be some impact on other units, but that, of course, will be part of the assessment that will have to be made. But his party was very much in favour of the SuRNICC itself, and, of course, we will ensure that the SuRNICC will be established on the Glan Clwyd site.
 
14:02
Darren MillarBiography
Obviously, there’s a great deal of concern still in my constituency about the future of the maternity services at Glan Clwyd Hospital as a result of the uncertainty that was created by the health board earlier this year. The recent decision to not challenge the need to consult on the future of those services has indeed been very welcomed in north Wales. I understand that a consultation will now take place. What expectations do you have, as a Welsh Government, regarding that consultation and the involvement of the public and other key stakeholders? I was disappointed to learn about the consultation, not from the health board, but simply from a media inquiry yesterday, and it’s clear that the consultation is obviously not getting out on the right foot if local stakeholders such as Assembly Members are not involved from the start of the process.
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I expect the consultation to be full and open and transparent. The problems that still exist in that unit are still there. There’s no point pretending that all is well and that things can stay exactly as they are. We do understand the concerns of people in the area around Glan Clwyd, and I know that the health board is taking steps to look at ensuring that the service can continue for the time being. But there will need to be steps to make sure that the service is safe and sustainable in the long term. That means dealing with the issues that are identified by the royal college and others, which are not going to go away: the fact that no trainees can go there, they won’t go there, the fact it’s very difficult to attract middle-grade doctors there on a permanent contract. There’s much that needs to be done to improve the reputation of the department for the good of local people. But I do believe that the health board, with its new acting chief executive, has taken the appropriate steps. It’s absolutely crucial, as we have said, in terms of regaining the confidence of local people, that there’s a full consultation.
 
14:04
Aled RobertsBiography
Do you think, First Minister, that a period of eight weeks of consultation over the summer months is sufficient? May I also ask you, in March, you said that the business plan for the SuRNICC was to include all services for north Wales and that that would be prepared by November? Given that there are eight weeks between July and September, will that original timetable, for the business plan to be in by November, be adhered to?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t expect that. There are two distinct things here. First of all, two months, I think, is adequate as regards a consultation, but what is important is that the quality of the consultation is high, and ensuring that people are aware of the consultation and do know what kind of views they can input into that consultation.
 
The SuRNICC is different, because the SuRNICC is not just going to be imposed of the Glan Clwyd maternity unit. That’s not the objective at all, but having a different unit, staffed in a different way, and something totally new. So, I cannot see why we can’t proceed with the SuRNICC itself and prepare for that, and also consider the current situation at Glan Clwyd.
 
Promoting Tourism in Wales
 
14:05
Janet HaworthBiography
7. Will the First Minister outline what the Welsh Government is doing to promote tourism in Wales? OAQ(4)2404(FM)
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, our tourism strategy sets out our priorities to support the tourism industry. Tourism in Wales is in a strong position—2014 was a record-breaking year, as the number of overnight visits to our country by GB residents alone hit an impressive 10 million.
 
14:06
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you, First Minister. I’m glad that you’re welcoming the improvement in the figures for tourism and recognising the importance of it. But survey after survey confirms that one of the major attractions for visitors coming to Wales is our stunning and unspoilt landscape. In light of the new Conservative Government in Westminster agreeing to scrap subsidies to onshore wind developments, which I warmly welcome, having seen the imposition of one of the largest windfarms in one of the most iconic bays in the UK in Llandudno, what is your Government doing to protect our beautiful landscape from those wishing to industrialise it by erecting unsightly pylons and turbines? Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
A moratorium on fracking—there’s a start—which her party was against. If her party had had their way we’d be fracking everywhere, no problem at all. They talk to us about industrialising the landscape, and then there’s that the obvious problem that they have in terms of—[Interruption.] You can shout about it all you want, but there’s that obvious problem in terms of fracking. So, windmills destroy the landscape—I understand there are people who believe that—and fracking doesn’t. And there they are talking about industrialising the landscape. If they had their way, that’s exactly what they would do.
 
14:07
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I know that the First Minister will agree with me that sport is an exceptionally important tool in attracting tourists to Wales, and, in that regard, I wonder if the First Minister would agree with me that providing early Welsh Government support for a bid to bring the Island Games to Ynys Môn in 2025 would be an important tourism boost for the island. And how could I not, of course, take the opportunity to invite the First Minister to extend the warmest congratulations to the Anglesey team that returned from Jersey just over a week ago with 10 medals?
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
May I join the Member in congratulating the Ynys Môn team? And, of course, I’d be willing to consider any bid as regards attracting the games to the island ultimately.
 
Onshore Windfarm Developments
 
14:08
Suzy DaviesBiography
8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Welsh Government's policy for onshore windfarm developments? OAQ(4)2402(FM)
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I think I refer the Member to the answer I gave some moments ago.
 
14:08
Suzy DaviesBiography
I think that’s a very sensible use of time, First Minister. But you will be aware that, after over 20 years of campaigning by constituents in my region and beyond, two public inquiries, a Court of Appeal hearing, and a judicial review, that the application for a windfarm at Mynydd y Gwair has failed, and I would like to thank the Deputy Minister for her recent decision, although developers seem unwilling to accept it at the moment. For a considerable part of that period, technical advice note 8 has been in force. Putting aside all the other arguments that have been put to you by Welsh Conservatives over the years about the balance of onshore wind energy production, TAN 8 could not prevent this lengthy and expensive saga. Isn’t that reason enough to review it?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The party opposite come from the basis that they don’t want any wind energy at all. At all: onshore or offshore. We’ve heard several denunciations of offshore wind in this Chamber, as well as onshore. So, they don’t want any kind of wind energy, and, of course, there has to be balance, I understand that, and we can’t have the entire landscape covered in wind turbines. That I understand. But they don’t want any at all, and they don’t want to give communities even the opportunity to have wind turbines should they wish. It’s quite clear to me now that what they want to see is an energy policy based on more mining, basically—more coal, more carbon fuel, they want to see fracking in place, they want to see as much use of fossil fuel as possible, and they haven’t made that clear to the people of Britain. So, it’s about time the Conservatives were absolutely clear about what their energy policy actually is, before we go after Russia and buy hamsters on wheels to keep the lights going. [Laughter.]
 
14:10
Llyr GruffyddBiography
First Minister, do you anticipate that the Government’s spatial policy in relation to wind energy, for example, through technical advice note 8, will continue after the development of the proposed national development framework, which is due to come forward following the planning (Wales) Bill?
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I believe that it will be the time to consider the situation as regards planning when we get the new powers. That, of course, will be the point at which to consider again what kind of guidelines should be in place.
 
The Effects of the Budget on Families (The Vale of Clwyd)
 
14:10
Ann JonesBiography
9. What assessment has the First Minister made of the effects of the UK Government budget on families in the Vale of Clwyd? OAQ(4)2410(FM)
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Bad for families across Wales, and particularly bad for young people. Of course, we know that the budget will take some £37 billion out of public spending, and we know there are many hard-working families across the UK who will be hit especially hard by the loss of tax credits.
 
14:11
Ann JonesBiography
Thank you very much for that answer. Having spoken to some of the families, particularly some of the younger people who have got families themselves, I think there’s a double whammy there for them. Despite the cheers from the Tory group last week when the Chancellor was on his feet in the House of Commons, I think they should reflect that young people are our future. So, I’m proud that your Government has protected the education maintenance allowance and also tuition fees to allow our Welsh young students to go and reach that aspiration. Will your Welsh Government continue to stand up for the young people and those hard-working families within the Vale of Clwyd and across Wales, unlike the Tories?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We know that 238,000 families in Wales were in receipt of either working tax credits or child tax credits in 2013-14, and we know that they are vulnerable, because we know that for a lot of families the earners are under 25, so the living wage, for some mysterious reason, doesn’t apply to them, because 25, apparently, is some magical age that the Chancellor has picked out of thin air. We know the living wage will not compensate for the loss of tax credits—by some estimates, £12 an hour is the minimum that’s needed to make that level of compensation—and we know that the most cynical part of this budget is that a political calculation was made to hit young people, because young people don’t vote—that’s what was done. That’s what was done. So, what they think is that this is a pain-free way to save money, because young people won’t be bothered to go out and vote. If there was ever a reason for young people to go out and vote, the Tories provided that reason last week.
 
14:12
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Well, what assessment have you made of the effects on families in the Vale of Clwyd, across north Wales, and in Wales as a whole, of the introduction of a national living wage to reach £9 an hour by 2020, giving 2.5 million people across the UK a direct pay rise, and raising the personal tax allowance, which will benefit 1.4 million people in Wales and lift a further 29,000 out of tax altogether?
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There’s nothing more distasteful than hearing somebody well paid saying that £9 an hour is a magnificent wage, something that is a living wage. It is not a living wage at all; it is, in fact, the bare minimum for those over 25. What about those under 25? What have people under 25 done to the party opposite? Why are people under 25 being penalised? Why are they losing housing benefits? Why are they being penalised for being in work? Why is it the case that those who are losing tax credits are going to lose out? [Interruption.] They can scream and shout as much as they want; it hides the shame that they show for what they’re doing to working families across Wales and the rest of Britain.
 
14:13
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I’m sorry, First Minister, they can’t scream and shout as much as they like in here, although they appear to be doing that. Can we have a little quiet while we hear the replies, please?
 
14:13
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, low-paid workers in the Vale of Clwyd, of course, have the same interests as low-paid workers throughout the rest of Wales. Many councils throughout Wales have started introducing a living wage, as has the Welsh NHS. Does the First Minister recognise that the policy that’s been introduced by the Tory Government is actually undermining the living wage? Many who thought they were getting a living wage, due to the removal of tax credits, will now find they’re back in low-wage poverty again.
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely, because they thought that, if you take away tax credits, you could, in some way, increase the wage to a level that’s a living wage. It’s not a living wage; we know from the independent studies—many of them—that it’s £12 an hour, at least. We know that people will lose out because of tax credits, we know that younger people under the age of 25 are not being protected, for some reason, we know that children will lose out, and we know that the Tories don’t care.
 
14:14
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:14
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement, and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
14:15
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Llywydd, there’s one change to report to the business statement for this week’s business: the First Minister will be making a statement on the publication of the Flynn report. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among agenda papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:15
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Leader of the house, is it possible to have a statement—and I’ve asked for this before—on the Government’s proposals for upgrading the Five Mile Lane in the Vale of Glamorgan? To date, no statement has been forthcoming, although the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has written to me on several occasions, outlining the Government’s position on this. We are now going into the long summer recess, and I think it would be beneficial to understand exactly what is going on with this flagship programme that the Government have brought forward, with considerable Government money allocated to it—£25 million, as I understand it. So, I’d be grateful to know what the obstacles are and whether those obstacles can be overcome before the Assembly election in 2016.
 
14:16
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, this is a matter for the Vale of Glamorgan Council, working with the Welsh Government. Of course, updates will be provided in due course.
 
14:16
Julie MorganBiography
Would it be possible to have a debate on the implications for Wales and for this Assembly of the English votes for English laws proposals from the Conservative Westminster Government, which I believe are going to be debated in Westminster later this year?
 
14:16
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, this is a matter for Parliament and for the UK Government. It’s interesting to see the impact of the influence that has been brought to bear. We’re very clear, although this is not devolved in terms of the ban on hunting, what our position is as far as this is concerned. But, of course, we await the outcome of this in terms of parliamentary process.
 
14:16
Bethan JenkinsBiography
I was wondering if the Minister for Health and Social Services could give us an update on where he is at with the review of the eating disorders framework. We had a constructive cross-party group meeting today, and in his letter, the Minister said to us that a review of the framework would be completed by the end of the summer, but many of the users, the carers, families and professionals in that room didn’t know much about the consultation process with regard to the framework, and obviously, they really want to be part of it. So, constructively, I would just ask if we can find out more about the timelines of that so that we can all feed in to the process in a positive way.
 
My second question would be: can we have a debate in Government time, when we are back from recess, on the standards the Welsh Government expects and demands of organisations that lease land from it, and what the responsibilities are if any such organisations are found to be in breach of those standards? For example, I’m working with a group of leaseholders in Swansea’s SA1 development—Welsh Government land—and they’ve been refused permission to extend their leases by Coastal Housing on the grounds that their apartments are exempt. It would be interesting to know if there is a code of conduct, perhaps encompassing human rights and sustainability standards, that is affected when your land is leased to such organisations.
 
14:18
Jane HuttBiography
I’m very glad to hear that you had a useful cross-party group this morning. I think the framework, of course, and the information about how that will be handled in terms of all those affected by it will, of course, be made very clear for consultation opportunities, and thank you for that positive comment for the health and social services Minister.
 
Of course, your second point is clearly the responsibility of the local authority, taking into account, of course, guidance by the Welsh Government.
 
14:18
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, sometimes in the digital age, people forget the importance of a face-to-face tourism information service. No amount of apps or internet information can replace a warm welcome, a friendly smile, and advice from people who know and love the area in which they’re working. We’ve already seen the closure of the tourist information centre in the centre of our capital city, but I’m concerned about the sustainability of tourism information centres in my own constituency, especially those that are run by volunteers. In the Crickhowell Resource and Information Centre, somewhere I know that you know well, the volunteers there in the tourist information centre have been responsible for the establishment of the Crickhowell walking festival and a number of other community tourism events and strategies. Unfortunately, due to cuts by Powys County Council, that service could well end next year. What can the Welsh Government do, and will the Welsh Government’s Minister for tourism make a statement on the provision of tourist information facilities for people visiting Wales?
 
14:19
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, many of those local tourist information centres are, and have been, the responsibility of the local authority—including Powys County Council—to promote, and, indeed, for town and community councils as well. The role of volunteers is key, as you say, and I have been visiting some very successful community asset transfers over the past few weeks, and, of course, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism has also introduced guidance, as I have, on those community asset transfers, which might help in terms of the tourism information services.
 
14:20
Mike HedgesBiography
I’m someone who closely followed the outcome of schools challenge London, and I believe that Schools Challenge Cymru should be equally successful. Could I ask that the education Minister makes a statement on the planning being made for the second year of Schools Challenge Cymru?
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
Members, of course, are aware, as Mike Hedges is, that the Minister for Education and Skills is committed to providing regular updates on Schools Challenge Cymru and also the progress of Pathways to Success schools. He’ll continue to do so, and I’ve no doubt that he’ll provide a similar update to Members at an appropriate time in the coming months.
 
14:21
Nick RamsayBiography
Minister, can we have an urgent statement from the Welsh Government on the viability of the construction of a new M4 south of Newport? Press reports last week suggested that flaws within the decision-making process now leaves the project wide open to judicial review, and that as a result, Welsh Government is privately planning to drop the scheme. Is it the case that the new M4 is about to be scrapped? If so, what contingency arrangements are in place to improve traffic flows at peak times? And isn’t it a shame that the Welsh Government didn’t listen to voices on these benches and elsewhere over many months to reopen the consultation with all options, including the more viable blue route, firmly on the table?
 
14:21
Jane HuttBiography
I’m very surprised, Nick Ramsay, that you raised this, considering it was one of the positive comments made by the Chancellor last Wednesday, when he said—and you will agree that it was very good—that the Conservative UK Government was committed to the funding floor, and also in terms of the infrastructure to the M4. So, where is your party? Where are the Welsh Conservatives in terms of the M4?
 
14:22
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, I’d like to reiterate those comments about the M4. We saw reports in the press last week that threw serious doubt on the project, and it’s only right that this Chamber should have an update as to the present situation. The public needs to know whether or not this plan is credible and whether or not the flaws that have been identified are likely to cause further delay and further cost to the public purse, should this project go ahead.
 
I would also like to request, if I may, a statement from the Minister for health on the career path for middle-ranking doctors in the Welsh NHS, given reports that I’ve had of doctors who are reaching the end of their house training period having to go overseas to make the next stage of their journey to becoming consultants, because there are no places at that point in their career progress. I wonder if I could have, as I said, a statement on career paths and where it is that we’re losing doctors from our NHS—whether it’s immediately post-training or further on in the system.
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
Eluned Parrott, I can assure you that nothing has changed as far as the M4 is concerned. Indeed, a judicial review on our decision-making process found in our favour, and there are no plans to drop the M4 relief road.
 
Your second point is a matter for the Minister for Health and Social Services in terms of his workforce planning for ensuring that our middle-grade doctors, particularly those we want to attract, are supported on that journey.
 
14:24
Mick AntoniwBiography
Minister, could I ask for a statement from the Welsh Government on the current state of discussions between the UK Government and the Welsh Government on the devolution of fracking licensing, and if we could also have an update on the status of current applications for fracking within Wales within the context of the Welsh Government’s moratorium on fracking?
 
14:24
Jane HuttBiography
Of course, Mick Antoniw, we have got a moratorium on fracking, which was announced by the Minister for Natural Resources earlier on this year. Clearly, the issues in terms of the licensing powers are ones that we are discussing in terms of the practicalities with the UK Government and the implications for Wales of devolving these powers, including issues relating to existing licences.
 
14:24
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Could I ask, Minister, for a statement on what the Welsh Government is doing to preserve old and historic buildings in our city centres and around? In Newport, the Clarence Place area, when you travel there, Minister, you see the good old buildings, maybe over 100 years old, and right on the top, there are big blocks of stone rather than bricks, and we should learn lessons from the Severn bridge, when a big slab of ice fell, and caused some fatalities on the Severn bridge. So, a similar type of incident could easily happen in our city centres if there’s no health check on these buildings by the local government regularly, so that they are fit for purpose—otherwise the health hazard and the safety of the public is in danger in these areas. Also, what is the Welsh Government doing, in conjunction with the local authorities, to ensure such buildings are kept in a good state of repair in the interest of public safety, and how often are these buildings—whether in the hands of public or private sector—checked by the building inspectors, regularly or not? Thank you.
 
14:25
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I’m not sure what Mohammad Asghar is referring to. There must be a situation, perhaps, arising, in a town or city centre in his region. Clearly, this is the responsibility of the local authority and those landowners, but I would say that our commitment to town regeneration, and the funds that we’ve provided, not just through targeted match funding, but indeed through regeneration by the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, indicates our commitment to support of those town centres.
 
14:26
Christine ChapmanBiography
Minister, I’ve been made aware that, due to concerns about sustainability of staff numbers and safety, Cwm Taf Local Health Board will be transferring the out-of-hours service from Ysbyty Cwm Cynon to Prince Charles Hospital. Obviously, this will be of concern to my constituents. I would like to request a statement from the Minister for health on out-of-hours services, and in particular on the numbers using them across Wales. And I would also appreciate information on how we are ensuring that people make the right choice about accessing the appropriate source of medical assistance—out-of-hours, accident and emergency et cetera—and what assessment the Welsh Government has given to the effectiveness of current programmes signposting people in these cases.
 
14:27
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Christine Chapman for that question. Of course, the delivery of out-of-hours services is the responsibility of Cwm Taf university health board. I think it’s important to say that no decisions have been taken at this point about where these services are provided from, but there is ongoing engagement with the communities involved.
 
14:27
Alun DaviesBiography
Minister, last week’s budget was an absolute disaster for the people of Blaenau Gwent. You will be aware that some of the poorest and most vulnerable families in my constituency are already losing £30 million a year, as a consequence of the UK Government’s welfare reform programme. The issues raised last week over tax credits will only increase in-work poverty, which we’re already seeing increasing, and will cause extraordinary hardship to people in Blaenau Gwent and elsewhere. I’d like to ask Welsh Government if it could publish its assessment of the impact of these budget changes to people in constituencies across Wales, and then table a debate on the assessment, for us to take a view on how we in Wales can respond to the poverty creation policies being pursued by the UK Government.
 
14:28
Jane HuttBiography
Well, Alun Davies, I did issue a written statement last week, which I know you will have seen, expressing my concerns about the impact of this budget—they are I think well-rehearsed again this afternoon—and the particularly adverse negative impact on young people, and that, as Ann Jones has said, includes young working families as well as young people. As well as doing our own assessment, I think it would be worth while looking at the assessment of the Bevan Foundation, which of course is particularly serving communities like yours in Blaenau Gwent, which gives very clear concerns about the announcements last week, particularly in terms of the so-called national living wage, saying:
 
‘Unfortunately, not everyone will enjoy the benefits of the national living wage…. Give away and take away’.
 
14:29
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:29
3. Statement: Publication of the Flynn Report
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 3, which is a statement by the First Minister on the publication of the Flynn report. First Minister.
 
14:29
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Llywydd. Today I published the Flynn report into events in privately run care homes in the south-east of Wales. It’s a detailed and sombre account that is a difficult and challenging read. Llywydd, it’s a report I personally commissioned 18 months ago when it became clear to me that our legal processes, and, indeed, many of those tasked with protection, could not answer some of the most important questions that a family can ask: ‘Why were the residential services for my loved one so profoundly lacking in proper care and humanity?’
 
So, in December 2013, I asked Dr Margaret Flynn, an eminent figure in social care, and the author of an official review into the care scandal at Winterbourne View in Bristol, to undertake an independent report into events over a decade ago in care homes in the south- east. Some of these events have already been the subject of a lengthy police inquiry— Operation Jasmine—but because of a variety of factors, I felt that there were still questions to be answered and that it was right to undertake a full and detailed review. I asked Dr Flynn to set out what happened, what had been done since, and, crucially, what we could still do to prevent such events happening again.
 
Dr Flynn’s report sets out the events and failures that led to the neglect and abuse in several residential homes. But, for me, what this report is about, at its heart, is people—real people who deserved much, much better from those they trusted to care for them in their final years. There were many victims— over 100—who suffered unacceptably poor and often damaging care. These included Evelyn Jones, who would do shopping for her neighbour and loved to socialise; Pearl Cavell York, who had worked in a biscuit factory and was a member of the local ladies choir; Stanley Bradford, a former miner, who used to make dolls houses and castles for the children in the neighbourhood; and Megan Downs, who spent the second world war in the Women’s Royal Air Force after volunteering when war broke out. I’m aware that, today, it is 11 years to the day since Megan passed away. I am, however, pleased that I can make this statement, with Megan’s daughters, Loraine, Val, and Marilyn, along with other families, being here in the public gallery to listen.
 
Today is a day when our thoughts as a Government, as a National Assembly, and as a nation, are with the families of those who suffered so much in these events. I’ve met Loraine, Kelvyn and David, who I know can’t be here today, and the other families as this review has gone on and I want to say something about them now. They are some of the bravest, most resilient people I’ve met. They have, despite many years of being frustrated in their search for the truth, continued to press for answers to their questions, and to argue for change. Indeed, it was at a meeting with Loraine and Kelvyn in 2013 that it became clear to me that an expert, independent examination was essential if families were going to get the answers they rightly deserved. That’s why I asked Dr Flynn to undertake this review and why I have decided to publish it in full today without amendment or redaction.
 
Before I move on, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Margaret Flynn for the work she’s undertaken in preparing the comprehensive report that’s been published this morning to Members of the Assembly. I know, from meeting with her over the last 18 months, that it has not been easy. She has faced the challenge of gaining willing co-operation from a wide range of parties, some of which were less than co-operative. She has carried out that work with vigour and rigour. I know from my conversations with them that the families involved have full confidence in Dr Flynn, and I too thank her for the work she’s done and the way she’s done it. She never forgot that this is a report about real people with real families.
 
Llywydd, the report is a compelling and upsetting read. It does not flinch from laying out the events that occurred. Dr Flynn has included photographs that are truly shocking and bring home the reality of what neglectful care looks like. It’s a report that everyone involved with vulnerable people should read. It’s a testament to inaction and inadequate controls over the care of vulnerable people and must never happen again. Indeed, things have changed, and, in many cases, have got better, but Dr Flynn’s report is clear that there is more to be done.
 
I have asked Dr Flynn to lead a series of workshops around Wales this autumn with those involved in the care of older people, where she can talk personally through her findings and the lessons. In addition, I will return to the Assembly after the summer to set out in detail what we as a Government have already done, and what we intend to do in response to the points made by Dr Flynn, and, in particular, where we have influence over the recommendations she makes.
 
But, Dr Flynn’s report recognises that protecting and safeguarding those in care is not simply the responsibility of one body or one organisation. There are many organisations that Dr Flynn identifies in her report as contributors to a better and safer system. I don’t, as First Minister, have direct or indirect oversight of many of them; indeed, eight out of the 12 recommendations are directed towards non-devolved areas or organisations, such as the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.
 
I have, because of this, today written to the Secretary of State for Wales, to request that he uses his offices to make sure that those organisations within the UK Government’s remit respond meaningfully and speedily to those recommendations and conclusions. I will ask him to ensure that those organisations write to me as First Minister, to set out their intentions, following this detailed and important review, and I will, of course, share such letters with Members of the Assembly.
 
Finally, I believe it’s important to say something more. I don’t want those considering entering residential care to believe this is what to expect. The events described by Dr Flynn were truly terrible, but I want to reaffirm that the vast majority of care for older people in Wales is ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. The most recent annual review by the inspectorate showed that 86 per cent of adult care met requirements, and, of those that didn’t, improvements were made in most cases. Our systems of oversight have improved over the 10 years since these events, and will be further strengthened through the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill, currently undergoing scrutiny. We also have, of course, more avenues and opportunities for concerns to be raised by families and carers, and the inspectorate itself has a powerful channel to raise concerns, which allows, if appropriate, anonymity.
 
The delivery of care is complex and difficult. When it fails, it can be truly terrible. This report is a powerful reminder of how we must continually monitor services, challenge practice, and, most importantly, listen to those closest to it. I’m pleased that, after 10 years, we are able to give the families here today some of the answers that they have sought. My hope now is that we can work together to avoid such events being repeated ever again.
 
14:37
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you, First Minister, for your statement this afternoon, and, in particular, the briefing that was arranged this morning with Dr Flynn to be able to understand the report in greater detail. It is a very considerable report, which warrants a lot of thought, and, in particular, a route-map about the action to be taken from it, and the conclusions that Dr Flynn has arrived at.
 
And you are quite right, First Minister, as the report is quite right, to put so much weight on the issue of families and individuals. This isn’t about process—it is about process to a point, but, ultimately, this report has been put together because individuals were neglected, and severely neglected, over a considerable period of time, despite many warning signs flashing, and, ultimately, inaction, I would suggest, by organisations that should’ve known better.
 
It is a tribute to the fortitude of the families, and the strength of the families, that they have engaged in the process to seek answers over the loss of loved ones, and the dignity with which they’ve conducted themselves is to be commended. And, hopefully, from this report, ultimately, they will get an element of satisfaction that their actions and their tenacity in fighting for this report will stop other families going through the trauma that they have had to go through.
 
If I could touch on some of the points that you raised in your statement, First Minister. The ability to get the regulator, the General Medical Council, and other organisations, in particular, to actually monitor and respond when things do get highlighted, and there are conflicts of interests at stake here, is a clear problem area that the report identifies, and, in the briefing session this morning, was evident in Dr Flynn’s comments. I’d be grateful if you could highlight how you as a Government will be engaging with the professional bodies to try and make a stronger case, and a stronger regulatory environment, so that there cannot be these gaps for the proprietors of these homes to operate as they were able to operate over such a long period of time. I do also think that it is vital that the non-devolved agencies show a better understanding of the devolved settlement and, in particular, show greater co-operation when reports like this are commissioned.
 
Again, I would be grateful to understand from the First Minister how he will be taking forward some of the concerns that Dr Flynn has highlighted, in particular over some of the organisations’ unwillingness in the first instance, maybe, to engage fully in what is a report and a process that deserved complete and total commitment from those organisations, because they were so integral to that process. If, from these benches, we can assist in any shape or form—you closed your statement by saying you look across the Chamber for support in taking these recommendations forward—I can categorically assure you that we will be working with you 100 per cent to make sure that these types of examples are rooted out in the social care homes that we have here in Wales. I would work willingly with you on any aspect where you think that we might be able to benefit the families and people in the social care sector.
 
I’d also be keen to understand whether the First Minister believes that the Crown Prosecution Service, in particular, has a role to revisit some of the enquiries that they made. Obviously, in terms of the original prosecution, it is well understood why that was not taken forward, but certainly, from the report—and I’ve only very briefly read the report—and obviously from the briefing this morning, there are other areas that, in light of some of the evidence that has been put together, would warrant a fresh investigation, I would suggest. I would welcome the First Minister’s thoughts on that and whether his Government will be referring any aspects that have come to light to the CPS for their view and whether they will undertake a new inquiry into those new revelations that have come forward.
 
Above all, First Minister, you do make the point that the majority of people in social care have a very positive experience. In particular, there are many dedicated workers in the field of social care looking after some of the most vulnerable in society, and that is to be applauded and promoted, because, sadly, one rotten apple has a real danger here of making the whole barrel bad. This example really does show, when a process goes wrong, how cataclysmically it does go wrong. The photographs in the report and the pictures of the individuals who have suffered are quite horrific to say the least. I commend the Government for commissioning this report and I commend Dr Flynn for the tenacity she’s taken on the work. I would applaud the First Minister if he were able to meet with Dr Flynn again and ask her whether she needs to do any more work and actually unravel some more of the complex issues that are highlighted in this report, because there is a danger, sometimes, that reports tend to go on and on and they don’t ever report. But from the briefing we had this morning, it certainly did come clear that there are some areas that Dr Flynn felt would warrant further consideration.
 
14:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Can I thank the leader of the opposition for his comments? When I commissioned this report, I was aware that there was a prosecution that was, in effect, in limbo and that, if we were to wait for a resolution of that particular issue, then nothing would happen. I wasn’t prepared for that to happen. There are a number of points that he has raised with me. He raises rightly the issue of conflicts of interest, for example, where a GP is the owner of a care home and is also the care home residents’ general practitioner. This is, to me, an unacceptable conflict of interest. There are ways in which that conflict can be mitigated, but he is right to say that the GMC must look at the way that it regulates GPs in terms of what is, to me, an obvious conflict. There is also the need for Government in the future to look at whether there exists within the Assembly the ability to pass laws that would ensure that that conflict of interest is removed. But in the first instance, that responsibility lies with the GMC.
 
Of the non-devolved parties, this is the second occasion where there has been a review or inquiry. The Robbie Powell inquiry was another area where this happened, where co-operation from non-devolved bodies has not been what it might have been. In relation to Robbie Powell, there was no co-operation at all, or very little of it. In relation to Dr Flynn’s review, well, she has said what she has said in her report in terms of what she felt was not a full range of co-operation from some bodies. It is hugely important that, despite the fact that we don’t have the ability as an Assembly or as a Government to call to account non-devolved bodies, there is nevertheless an understanding and recognition by non-devolved bodies that they are de facto responsible for their actions to this National Assembly, even if in law they are not—or certainly not at this moment in time.
 
He talks about the need for further prosecutions. That’s a matter ultimately, of course, for the police and then the Crown Prosecution Service, but I do note that Dr Flynn, in her report, recommends that an inquest be held. Now, it may be that the inquest would be the first part of that process and a decision taken after that in terms of prosecution. That is a matter for the CPS, not for Government, but it does seem to me that the recommendation for an inquest to be held should be taken forward without further delay.
 
Finally, he asked me about Dr Flynn’s further involvement. He will have heard me say in my statement that she will continue to be involved. She will continue to host events where she will give her view based upon the report to providers in the future, and we, of course, as a Government will continue to engage with her to make sure that she is content that the recommendations in her review are taken forward.
 
14:46
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
I’d like to put on record my thanks to Dr Flynn for this report and my gratitude to the families who were able to contribute to it. I’m sure that the report will be widely read. I want to also put on the record, Presiding Officer, that my great-uncle was a resident for several years in the Bryngwyn home in Newbridge named in this report, but his experience there has not been the subject of any investigation that I’m aware of.
 
Now, it’s clear, First Minister, that commissioning this report was the right course of action, as we now have a way forward after all these years. It’s clear that the failure to provide proper care and dignity with humanity has been known about or suspected for at least 20 years in the Gwent area. Now, I realise you’ll be responding fully and in detail later in the year, but I’d be grateful if you’d tell us if your Government is aware of problems existing elsewhere in Wales, because I doubt that this is confined to Gwent. It seems to me that Dr Das’s company had a near-monopoly in the Caerphilly area and was able then to hold the council to ransom due to a lack of alternatives for those needing care. That rendered, I think, that local authority impotent to act. So, are you in a position to know if similar circumstances exist now anywhere else? Obviously, contracting with a poor provider cannot be right.
 
Now, some of the warning signs that were mentioned by Andrew R.T. Davies were not acted upon, but attempts to whistleblow were unsuccessful. Of course, POVA, the protection of vulnerable adults system, failed on many, many occasions. So, will you, when you respond to all the recommendations, be including measures that mean that you cannot ignore these warning signs?
 
Now, in this case, as mentioned previously, there was reliance on the criminal investigations, and of course they have not delivered justice to the families. Is it your understanding then that criminal proceedings might still be brought, some time in the future? I’d also be grateful if you’d reflect on the fact that it’s often the case that the untrained, poorly paid, under-resourced front-line staff are much more likely to be facing criminal proceedings than the managers, the directors and the owners, whose motivation is profit and greed. Justice cannot be served if it’s just the front-line staff who are brought to book. Will you be discussing this report with perhaps the UK Government, if it emerges that changes to non-devolved legislation are needed in order that those managers, directors and owners and so on can just as easily be brought to book as front-line staff?
 
Obviously, I’d be keen for the conflict of interest issue that’s been outlined in the report to be addressed as quickly as possible, and I think a coroner’s inquest should be encouraged, and I would urge you, if you’re able to do so, to encourage that inquest.
 
Your programme for government couldn’t possibly have envisaged this report, but will you prioritise the changes recommended so that there’s no delay in safeguarding those who are unable to fend for themselves?
 
Just to finish, for the families who have loved ones in residential care, they are unlikely to see those pressure ulcers and they may not see injuries that are underneath clothing, so even though they are regularly visiting, they may not be aware of the true circumstances. I wonder whether you would consider producing information to help guide us in what to look for in care settings, and what should perhaps trigger a suspicion in us that something deeply wrong is going on. As I mentioned, my uncle was fit and well, he was not bedridden, and he was able to get about, but he rarely had his own clothes on and his teeth were often lost, and reading this report, I can see that theme re-emerging over and over again—of people perhaps being unclean and so on, which should, perhaps, looking back now, have made me wonder whether there was something wrong there. So, would you consider publishing a guide for families so that they can easily see what they ought to look for?
 
Just to concur with Andrew R. T. Davies, I promise you our support in sorting out this vitally important matter.
 
14:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Can I thank the Member for her comments? The difficulty, of course, that has emerged here is because of the criminal investigation and the stay, in effect, in the criminal proceedings, there’s been an inordinate delay. Now, whenever there is a criminal investigation, that has to take primacy, I think we understand that, but it can also lead to an enormous delay, as we’ve seen here, particularly in the circumstances of one individual and the delay that that’s caused.
 
It’s important, of course, not to prejudice any future criminal trial, and I don’t intend to do that this afternoon. I’ve never accepted the point that, by having this review, that would be the case, and I’ve never accepted the point that, by having this review, we would prejudice any proceedings that took place in terms of professional competence. I don’t accept that prejudice works in those circumstances; it applies in terms of jury trials.
 
The Member is quite right to say that we must make sure that there is a fair level of liability on those who own homes, as well as those who work, as it were, on the front line in those homes. She is right to point out that it tends to be those who are, sometimes through no fault of their own, not properly trained and who work very hard who take the blame; whereas those who are running the home—perhaps it is not as transparent or as clear what their responsibility is.
 
What we need to do as a Government is examine what might be done in terms of changing the law. Now, we run here against the devolution settlement and its vagaries. For example, if we were to look at changing the nature of care provision and changing the nature of liability within the care sector in Wales, would that be devolved or not? There’s an argument to say that it is; there are others who will take an opposite view. That is something we have to consider over the next few weeks and months. It’s important that the changes that are recommended are put into place as quickly as possible, and we’re mindful of that, as the response is shaped in the autumn—and the further information I will provide to the Assembly at that time.
 
She asked about whistleblowing, an important point. The report, it’s right to say, repeatedly cites the importance of whistleblowing, both in terms of the events at that time and in the preparation of the report. I think it’s worth thanking those who’ve been brave and principled enough to tell the truth and expose failure, despite the risks. I know that the Minister has already indicated he will seek to require providers of social care to have whistleblowing policies in place in regulations that will flow from the regulation and inspection Bill.
 
She further asked about pressure ulcers. Standard guidance on the prevention of healthcare-acquired pressure damage has been in place for a number of years, as part of the 1000 Lives improvement programme. I think she asked a wider question than that, namely, are families in a position where they can recognise pressure ulcers? That is something I know that we will consider as part of a fuller response to the review.
 
14:55
Aled RobertsBiography
First Minister, I think all of us recognise that the vast majority of people employed in the health and social care sector would be just as ashamed of this report today as each and every one of us is. I have to say that I was even more shocked hearing that the complaints originated in 1995, and it took some 10 years before the criminal investigation was undertaken. It’s also heartbreaking to read the testimonies of the families, outlined in the report quite clearly. For an official report to have to have a cover, warning you of the photographs that are actually shown in the report, that’s something I’ve certainly never seen before.
 
There can be little doubt that these residents had their human rights severely breached, and I wonder whether, in that situation, our own consideration of the regulation and inspection regime and your response will actually outline why we’re not able to actually enshrine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and principles for older people within that regulation, because I think that we are facing here a situation, as we’ve done in other reports, where people’s human rights are being breached.
 
The report also clearly, in those 10 years, underlines the failure of an inspection regime, to all intents and purposes. I wonder whether your response in the autumn will actually further outline the Government’s view on whether or not we need, at this stage, to have an independent inspector for health and social care.
 
I note from the report itself that Dr Flynn actually wrote to the Government on 19 December 2014, outlining recommendations that could be considered in legislation going forward. I accept that many of those have been taken up in subsequent legislation, but clearly, I think, one of the issues that I read is whether or not, within the regulation and inspection regime by now, there is a need for us to look again at making health boards and local authorities assume greater responsibility with regard to their commissioning arrangements. There are certainly issues within the Tawel Fan report, which talks about weak commissioning arrangements within my health board in the north. I think the point was made earlier with regard to the pressure that local authorities and health boards are under to actually commission beds in homes that they might not necessarily be wholly content to commission those placements. Do we actually need to look at the statutory framework in which that occurs? I think, in your response, it would be interesting to know how many homes in Wales are currently subject to enhanced monitoring processes through the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, because of the types of concerns that were outlined in this report that went on for years and years, and where changes to registration conditions were tried but the curtain was never brought down on the individual homes.
 
The photos of the pressure ulcers are really shocking. I don’t think any of us can imagine our parents or our grandparents actually being placed in such a situation. I wonder, in the weeks that you’re going to have to consider your response, whether or not you think the public health Bill actually allows us an opportunity to include the pressure ulcers issue as a notifiable issue, which is obviously referred to in the report.
 
Finally, there is reference in the report not only to a conflict of interest arising with regard to the GP’s role in the whole situation, but also a conflict of interest arising where a partner of an owner can actually be involved within the health board and actually be involved in the adult protection processes within the health board. Will your response actually include changing the regulations as they appertain to health boards in Wales currently? On the palliative care arrangements, which clearly were not sufficiently robust in these circumstances, there’s talk about pain management processes not being robust enough, and there’s talk about the use of opiates within the home. Given the update that the health Minister recently provided on the ‘Together for Health’ plan, and the fact that we have now a palliative care plan at a national level, I’ve been unable at local level to see how local health boards are actually ensuring, as is envisaged in the national plan, that the nursing home staff actually receive education through a structured programme with regard to their processes on palliative care.
 
Finally, given the reference to—and I think you touched on this earlier—the fact that, in most cases, it’s front-line staff who carry the can for a lot of these incidents, and the reference in the letter in December to the need to look again at the penalties that are imposed on registered care home owners, and the fact that many of the penalties depend on the capital that’s actually introduced into the home at the time under the Companies Act, I wonder whether you’ve been able to have any initial discussions with the UK Government with regard to changes in UK legislation in that regard.
 
15:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There were a number of questions there from the Member. He’s right to point out again the horrific nature of the photographs. I spent 10 years in the criminal law, and I saw a lot of things in that time, and I’m not easily shocked, but these clearly are very shocking photographs.
 
There are a number of points that he makes. First of all, I should answer the question that was put to me by Jocelyn Davies: are we aware of anywhere else where this is happening at this moment in time? The answer is ‘no’, we’re not aware of that. We would expect, with the new systems in place, that this would not be repeated, but we can’t be complacent, clearly, and that’s why, of course, we have to take on board the recommendations of the report itself.
 
In terms of the independent inspectorate, the inspectorate is independent, but I think we recognise that we need to examine carefully whether that independence might be enhanced in the future. That is something that we’re open to.
 
He is right to point out that Dr Flynn shared with the health Minister and me her emerging findings that she felt would have a bearing on the regulation and inspection Bill, because she was aware of the timing of it. Those particular emerging findings were shared so they could be looked at and incorporated within the Bill itself.
 
I come back to a point that I made earlier on: that 86 per cent of homes are satisfactory or better. Of those that are not, in the vast majority of cases, work is undertaken to ensure that care improves. He’s right to point out the issue of the liabilities of those particularly who are company directors. Now, when we talk about company law, we immediately look at an area that is thought to be non-devolved. Company law, indeed, is non-devolved. But one of the things we have to consider is whether we would expect care homes in Wales to have a particular structure in order for them to be able to operate in the future. In those circumstances, of course, it doesn’t touch on company law, but it does mean that we have a greater understanding of what we would want to see in terms of the administration of care homes. There is an issue that will need to be examined by other authorities as to whether the liabilities of other directors have been properly examined. That is a matter for them, and I say no more than that at this moment in time.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair at 15:04.
 
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think that more or less deals with the issues that he has raised. He dealt with the issue of penalties that are imposed on care homes. Again, this is something that we need to consider in the future. He also, of course, dealt with the issue of the notifiability of pressure sores. That is something that, of course, as a Government, we will look at as part of any future legislation.
 
15:04
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
15:04
4. Statement: Introduction of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 4 is a statement by the Minister for Finance and Government Business on the introduction of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill. I call Jane Hutt.
 
15:04
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Dirprwy Lywydd, yesterday I laid the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill together with the explanatory memorandum before the National Assembly for Wales. The purpose of the Bill is to establish the legal framework necessary for the future collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales, and in particular the Bill provides for the establishment of the Welsh revenue authority, the WRA, and confers powers and duties to enable it to collect and manage devolved taxes. Corresponding duties and rights are conferred on taxpayers, and much of the legislation will be familiar as the basic framework for a tax regime—for example, it requires taxpayers to keep records and it allows the WRA to make inquiries and assessments to identify and collect the amount of devolved tax due.
 
The Bill also provides that Welsh Ministers may prescribe the bodies to whom the WRA may delegate its functions. In light of this, on 30 June, I provided this Assembly with a written statement informing all Members about the organisations that are part of my preferred way forward for the collection and management of Welsh taxes. My intention is to review any delegations after three to five years of operation.
 
Finally, the Bill makes provision for the conferral on WRA of civil and criminal investigation and enforcement powers with appropriate safeguards. This includes powers allowing WRA to require information and to access and inspect premises. Alongside this, there are duties on taxpayers to pay penalties and interest in certain circumstances. Our primary policy objective in relation to this Bill is to provide a clear and strong framework in Wales that will support the efficient and effective collection and management of devolved Welsh taxes.
 
But, the Bill also addresses three much wider ambitions. First, I am sure that the whole Assembly would agree that the introduction of this Bill is another significant chapter in the story of Welsh devolution. The Bill is the result of a considerable body of work by many people in the public and private sectors, as well as our social partners, and I’ve sought to achieve a reflection of views across this Chamber. At its core, it represents our collective commitment to a self-confident and more prosperous Wales. This will be the first devolved tax legislation that the Assembly has considered, and it will pave the way for the replacement of stamp duty land tax and landfill tax with new devolved Welsh taxes from April 2018.
 
But, this is also an important time for the United Kingdom. To echo the First Minister’s recent speech, fiscal reform is in the best interests of the UK. There are clear merits in different parts of our union being able to decide on the balance between levels of taxation and the level of resources for public services to respond to the needs and preferences of citizens.
 
Secondly, our approach to this Bill, and the preparatory work on developing proposals for the devolved taxes, underlines the commitment of the Government to working with business to create a world-class economy, supported by a first-class system of public services. That is why, in developing the tax arrangements for Wales, I’ve pursued the following principles: fairness, simplicity, supporting jobs and growth, and stability and certainty. I believe that the Bill enshrines these principles.
 
To guide us in developing our policy and setting standards for how a tax authority might operate, the Welsh Government has looked at the experience of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and Revenue Scotland, together with consideration of wider international best practice. We recognise that businesses and taxpayers in Wales deserve a system of taxation that is fundamentally simple and transparent. Such an approach will help minimise the burden on taxpayers and assist tax compliance. We also recognise the benefits of consistency. The Welsh Government has not diverged, and will not diverge, from the existing UK tax collection processes unless there is a good reason to do so.
 
Thirdly, and finally, the Bill protects our commitment to fairness that is central to this Welsh Government. Taxation must be fair, both to those who pay it and to the broader society that benefits from the services our taxes support, and that’s why the Bill includes the requirement for the WRA to prepare a charter of standards and values, and for the WRA to consult on it before laying it before the Assembly. The Bill also provides for taxpayers to request internal reviews of certain WRA decisions and to appeal to the first-tier tribunal against such decisions.
 
The Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill is about looking to the future. It provides us with the essential infrastructure for our new devolved tax responsibilities. Importantly, for the first time in some 800 years, it enables Wales to take the first steps towards putting in place taxes that are more suited to Welsh circumstances and Welsh preferences. In this way, the Bill can make a real difference to people’s lives, and I look forward to working with the Assembly on the provisions of the Bill during scrutiny over the coming months. I commend the Bill to the Chamber.
 
15:09
Nick RamsayBiography
Can I thank the Minister for her statement this afternoon? I think we would all agree that this is, clearly, an important step forward and an important chapter in the devolution process, as you said in your statement.
 
We do know that, in 2018, a number of taxes are to be devolved to Wales, and now we have the bones of the very initial stage of the new framework before us today in the form of this draft Bill. I know we always say that it is important that we get these Bills right, but, in the case of this Bill, this is more true than ever. The new Welsh revenue authority that is proposed is going to have a number of responsibilities and it is absolutely vital that it carries the confidence not just of the Assembly, but of the people of Wales, too, Minister, otherwise we will be in a very dangerous place indeed.
 
Can I ask you firstly—and this must always be asked at the outset of the introduction of these Bills—do we actually need this Bill? Do we actually need a Welsh revenue authority? How closely have you listened to the consultation responses? I note that a number of organisations that did respond did question the need for the new authority in the way that you have proposed it. I’m sure you will agree that we don’t want any unnecessary quangos, so how sure are you that we need a Welsh revenue authority? If the answer is, as I imagine it will be—I’d be amazed if it wasn’t—‘yes’, that we do definitely need some form of agency, some form of body or some form of mechanism to do this job, then does this this Welsh revenue authority that you are proposing truly address the needs of taxpayers and businesses, first and foremost, and not simply provide a vehicle that is an off-the-shelf format, with the usual chair and members and all the trimmings, and is simply convenient to the Welsh Government?
 
Can I ask you about the costs? I’ve asked you on a number of occasions, now, with varying, but generally limited success, how much the new Welsh revenue authority will cost. I don’t expect on-the-nail costings at this stage, but the people of Wales are paying for this, so they have the right to expect to know how much it will cost them in the short and medium term. In the interest of transparency and openness, we need an idea of this. Have you considered alternative models that would have delivered similar outcomes but with better value for money?
 
Turning to the key issues of responsibility and accountability, I see from the draft legislation that the Welsh Government will be responsible for appointing the chair and the members of the new body. Clearly, it’s a very important role for whoever gets that. Who do you intend that chair and the body to be responsible to? We know that other bodies are responsible, to varying extents, to the Assembly or to a committee of the Assembly, but, in this case, this is effectively an arm of Welsh Government—albeit a long, detached one—so it looks as though you intend to be the monitoring officer in the Welsh Government. Is this appropriate? Should there not be a wider scrutiny element?
 
The Welsh Government is delegating its functions to the Welsh revenue authority. Who is the WRA going to be able to delegate to? I assume it will be able to bring in outside experience of tax collection. That is not set out in this Bill. Why not? I imagine it may be something to do with futureproofing, but that does leave question marks over certain aspects of these powers. So, we look for clarification on that.
 
Finally, Minister, can I ask you about the issue of investigation and enforcement? Clearly, this is an area where long-standing UK agencies have considerable experience and where the Assembly doesn’t. How are you going to ensure that fine balance that involves giving the authority the necessary powers of enforcement without overstepping the mark and giving the new authority over-the-top powers, on the other hand? How are you going to ensure that that balance is maintained, because, if we get that wrong, then, in some circumstances, that could potentially, in the future, threaten civil liberties?
 
Minister, as I said at the start of my questioning of you, this represents a major change in the way that Wales will finance itself in the future, and we cannot afford, literally, to get this wrong.
 
15:14
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I thank you, Nick Ramsay, very much for your opening remarks—for your positive remarks. We have discussed this on a number of occasions in order to ensure that we are moving forward together to make sure that this legislation provides a robust way forward for the principal purpose, of course, of this Bill, which is to establish the legal framework necessary for the future collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales. Of course, I think it is important that this takes us back to the journey that we’ve been on, which, of course, includes the all-important cross-party commission set up by the UK Government, and making sure that we also move forward in terms of implementing those recommendations, leading to, of course, the legislation that enables us to take this forward in terms of the Wales Bill.
 
I think your point is important in terms of the purpose of this Bill. It is about ensuring that the Bill does establish a Welsh revenue authority whose main function will be the collection and management of devolved taxes, and to ensure that Welsh revenue authority has those appropriate powers and duty to identify and collect the appropriate amount of devolved tax due from taxpayers. Through the consultation—and you’ve looked at this carefully, I know, in terms of supporting business—many businesses have emphasised, for example, the need for taxes and administration arrangements to be consistent on either side of the Welsh border. So, our approach, as I’ve said, has been not to change the existing administrative processes unless there are efficiency, effectiveness or Welsh priority reasons to do this, and also to look for the opportunity for certainty and stability—again, an important principle in terms of our new Welsh taxes. So, we’ve used UK and Scottish tax legislation as a starting point throughout the UK because of cross-border businesses, and also to ensure that we learn from, for example, the Scottish experience in terms of establishing their devolved taxes to replace stamp duty land tax and landfill tax.
 
Of course, you have raised the questions with me about costs, the financial impact and affordability of the Bill, and you will note the regulatory impact assessment that I have also tabled, accompanying the Bill. As you know, in terms of costs, the UK Government hasn’t been prepared to transfer the funding needed to cover this new area of work, so the additional cost of setting up and operating the collection and management arrangements for devolved taxes will fall to this Government. And I am committed, as I said, to providing as much robust cost information as possible to the National Assembly for Wales during the scrutiny process for the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill. We can’t at this stage produce a robust estimate of the costs of set-up or operations, but I’m confident, based on the evidence available, that the preferred way forward that I set out in my statement on 30 June is the most affordable option. But I will, of course, ahead of the Stage 1 debate in the autumn, be able to provide the Assembly with an update on work that we’ve undertaken to establish collection and management arrangements. This will include initial estimates of set-up and operating costs.
 
Important questions in terms of the Welsh revenue authority’s relationship not only to Welsh Ministers but also to the National Assembly for Wales: I think, just in terms of, again, similarities with HMRC and looking at ways in which we’re trying to be consistent and learning from existing practice, section 14 allows the Welsh Ministers to give directions of a general nature to the WRA, and that’s consistent with the power that the Treasury has in relation to HMRC, although it’s different to the situation in Scotland, where the Scottish Ministers aren’t able to direct Revenue Scotland, but can give guidance. But, in terms of the Welsh revenue authority’s relationship, devolved tax policy is clearly for the Welsh Ministers. The Welsh revenue authority will be responsible for the delivery in terms of tax administration. The relationship between Ministers and WRA will be founded on this distinction. But, in terms of the WRA’s relationship with the Assembly, the WRA will be subject to scrutiny by the Assembly and, of course, the WRA is undertaking a function of Government but the Assembly will have full oversight of, for example, the funding through the Welsh Government budget process, and the WRA will also be identified separately in the budget for transparency reasons.
 
It is also important that we recruit through the usual Nolan principles in terms of the members to the Welsh revenue authority, and, indeed, the chair. You also raised an important point in terms of investigation and enforcement. In terms of Part 9, the powers available to WRA officers to undertake investigations into devolved tax offences will not be set out on the face of the Bill, but instead through regulations by the Welsh Ministers under a new provision that will be inserted into the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. These regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure, and they will provide Welsh Ministers with the power to specify the powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act—so, for example, those are powers of search, seizure and retention. I think, in terms of regulation of investigatory powers, it is important that we look to the ways in which we can plug into the existing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. And, of course, in terms of enforcement as well, this will be key in terms of the responsibility in terms of the Welsh revenue authority. But we have been very mindful of and thank the Finance Committee for their contributions in terms of their investigations. I do think that the alternative disputes resolution system, of course, will be very much available to the WRA when it considers such an approach would be appropriate to help to settle a dispute swiftly for the taxpayer.
 
15:21
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Thank you for the statement. At first sight, the legislative framework seems to be in order, and the establishment of a Welsh revenue authority is a sensible move, and much of the provision seems to reflect Revenue Scotland’s operations, and it’s good to see the Government learning from good practice and following what has happened there. We look forward to scrutiny process, of course, in order to ensure that the Bill is as robust as possible, and to the ensuing legislation on the devolved taxes, where further policy details will be set out.
 
Now, the explanatory memorandum notes, quite naturally, that the collection and management of tax is specialist work and, in a written statement in March 2015, the Minister confirmed that she is to establish a treasury function in her department, which will undertake a range of duties that include the implementation of the Welsh revenue authority, along with the management of innovative funding, invest to save and economic forecasting. We have welcomed this warmly. Therefore, will the Minister ensure—or how, rather, will the Minister ensure—that the revenue authority has the necessary range of expertise and that this is linked to the establishment of a Government treasury function?
 
Another issue, in looking to the future and the further devolution of taxation, is whether this Bill going to be appropriate for income tax, if and when that is devolved. I assume that the Minister has considered this issue and I’d be grateful for her comments on that.
 
Finally, the issue of detailed statistics on public funding in Wales remains a priority for Plaid Cymru. As I noted in a recent question to the Minister, Wales is the only devolved nation in these isles without a comprehensive series of revenue and expenditure figures. You had a recent meeting with your counterpart in Northern Ireland, but it would seem, according to your response, that you didn’t discuss this issue with him. The Bill doesn’t provide for the production of such statistics, but much of the policy discussion around the Bill refers to transparency, and the need for economic forecasting was noted in the Minister’s statement of March on the treasury function. So, when I raised these issues with the Minister, her response was to refer me to ‘Welsh Economy: in numbers’, which is a useful data set , but that is not what I was seeking, of course, and it certainly isn’t a set of public funding statistics. So, at present, Wales is very different to the other devolved nations. Therefore, in bringing this Bill forward, will the Minister now agree with us and provide alongside this beneficial Bill a full set of public funding statistics for Wales? Thank you very much.
 
15:24
Jane HuttBiography
Diolch yn fawr, Alun Ffred Jones. Thank you also, again, for your support and your commitment to robust scrutiny of this Bill. As I’ve said in answer to Nick Ramsay, I very much welcome the engagement we’ve had through the Finance Committee, and particularly with the scrutiny of the Finance Committee and the contribution from the inquiry by the Finance Committee, which has helped inform us in terms of the establishment of this Bill.
 
Also, I think, on your points and questions relating to the relationship between the development of the specialist work and role of the Welsh treasury and how that will be provided, and, of course, linked through to the work of the Welsh revenue authority in terms of guiding Ministers in terms of developing tax policy, I recognise your points about the fact that we will then have to be guided in terms of the development of tax policy, also by robust forecasting, which, as you say, doesn’t link to the record of economic statistics that we discussed most recently, but looks to the prospects in terms of the forecasting of tax in terms of the devolved taxes that are coming our way from April 2018, and recognise the importance of the expertise that has to be developed in the Welsh treasury to inform the Welsh Government and those who are going to be in the process of delivering those new taxes.
 
Of course, the Welsh revenue authority, through this tax collection and management Bill, is being set up for the purpose of collecting and managing just those taxes that are being devolved to us in Wales to replace the UK stamp duty land tax and UK landfill tax. HMRC in Scotland, of course, is going to be collecting in terms of any tax-varying powers that the Scottish Government use. So, this is for our first step in the journey of devolution to collect and manage our smaller taxes. I’ve already identified how I want to use current expertise in terms of the delegation and the ways in which the Welsh revenue authority will be using HMRC and the Welsh revenue authority for our new land transaction tax—and, indeed, the Welsh revenue authority and Natural Resources Wales in terms of our land transaction tax. I am meeting with the finance Ministers of Northern Ireland and Scotland in a couple of weeks’ time, where I will also want to be discussing, particularly with John Swinney, the ways in which they are developing that expertise in terms of advice and guidance to Welsh Ministers. I think it’s important just to look in terms of the process by which we’re taking this forward in developing and delivering tax policy. In terms of the ways in which we want to ensure that we are guided by this in terms of the relationship between Welsh Ministers and the Welsh revenue authority, as I said in my answer to Nick Ramsay, the Welsh revenue authority will be accountable to Welsh Ministers for the delivery of the Welsh Government’s tax policy. But the Welsh revenue authority will be operationally independent. Tax collection, of course, overall, is a function of Government.
 
15:28
Mike HedgesBiography
I welcome the statement by the finance Minister, and the tax collection and management Bill. Obviously, following the devolution of some tax collection, it is inevitable that a Welsh revenue authority has to be established. I’m not quite sure what else could be done. The collection of taxes in Wales will cost money to the Welsh Government, but there’ll be a saving to the Westminster Government in the taxes that they are not collecting. So, can the Minister explain why the Welsh Government isn’t getting fully funded for it? If not fully funded for it, why is it not getting the difference between the cost that it is now costing the Westminster Government and what it will cost the Westminster Government, because the next saving should make its way to Wales?
 
15:29
Jane HuttBiography
I think, Mike Hedges, I did, in response to an earlier question, say that I’ve made a number of representations in terms of the costs of the transfer to Wales and the need for a transfer of funding to cover this new area of work. I wasn’t helped by the fact that the Scottish Government didn’t call for that transfer in terms of the funding, although the Scottish Government may be in a better place than us in terms of the Barnett formula, of course, in terms of their funding prospects. So, it is an issue in terms of the additional cost of setting up and operating this collection and management arrangement. You know, we are saving money in terms of the UK Government and their arrangements with HMRC. That is why we have to be very clear about the robust costs information—and I know that this will be scrutinised very seriously indeed by the Finance Committee, and the National Assembly for Wales, through the Finance Committee, I’m sure—and that we have to produce robust estimates, because one of the concerns that have been raised, in terms of consultation, and particularly by, not only taxpayers, but by business, is that this should be for a purpose. These are powers for a purpose, in order to ensure that we can shape these taxes to suit Welsh needs and circumstances, in support of communities in particular, when we look at the opportunities for the new land transaction tax and land disposal tax, and, indeed, householders and business in land transaction tax.
 
15:31
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, can I welcome the statement and welcome this Bill, which I think is a historic step forward in terms of the powers and responsibilities of the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government? One of the first principles of taxation is that it shouldn’t cost more to collect than you actually reap in the tax itself. Clearly, that isn’t going to be the case, but, of course, given that the UK Government, as Mike Hedges already pointed out, is not going to be giving us the cost of administering these taxes, and that we are, effectively, offsetting the revenue from these taxes against a cut in our grant, it is possible, of course, that we may well end up having a loss in terms of how much money we end up with as a result of collecting these taxes ourselves. Can you, therefore, give us some indication of exactly what the total cost is going to be of this Welsh revenue authority, and how much extra it’s going to cost us to collect those taxes?
 
You also referred during answers to the fact that the Welsh revenue authority would be answerable to the Assembly and would be scrutinised by the Assembly. Can you outline what the mechanisms are for that scrutiny to take place? As you know, when the Wales Audit Office was set up on its current basis, it was agreed that the Finance Committee would act as the scrutineer of that particular body. Are you envisaging any similar arrangement for the Welsh revenue authority, or do you have other scrutiny arrangements in mind?
 
Finally, Minister, you’ve already referred to these, but the Bill provides for Ministers to make regulations to specified powers in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 that may be used by the WRA when investigating tax offences. It also amends the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, so that designated WRA staff can make applications under that particular legislation, and, of course, it also amends the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 to provide Welsh Ministers with the power to designate the staff of the WRA by Order as being able to exercise specific RIPA powers. Can I ask you what process of oversight is being put in place to monitor the use of these powers, and what level of authority will be applied to ensure that those powers are properly scrutinised and allocated, and what specific role the Assembly will have in terms of scrutinising the use of those powers?
 
15:33
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you very much, Peter Black. And thank you for your acknowledgement that this is a point of historic opportunity, as you say, and indeed responsibility, in terms of how we manage this and develop this together, through the scrutiny of this important Bill. In terms of the Welsh revenue authority’s relationship with the Assembly, the Assembly will have full oversight, as I’ve said, in terms of the funding of the Welsh revenue authority by the Welsh Government. The Welsh revenue authority will be identified separately in the budget, as I’ve said, and, of course, that includes annual accounts, an annual report, an annual tax statement, a corporate plan, and a charter of standards and values, which will be laid before the Assembly. The Bill doesn’t specify how the Assembly should scrutinise the WRA, but those are arrangements for the Assembly to decide.
 
I think it is important, in response to earlier questions, that we need to make sure that the provisions in this Bill are future-proofed and do provide flexibility to respond to future needs and opportunities. We may, for example, want to amend the number of members that are on the board to respond to greater responsibilities in the future. And we also need to ensure that that board model represents good practice in Wales, which will be non-executive directors being able to hold the executive to account.
 
You raise an important point as well, Peter, in relation to the cost, and the regulatory impact assessment. If you look at what I have already indicated in terms of costs, I’ve presented the costs of establishing and operating Revenue Scotland as a best estimate of the potential scale of costs. And as they will fall to the Welsh Government, we really have to be very careful in terms of scope and scale of the WRA functions, to make sure that we do have that staff and infrastructure requirement. But, implying costs, in terms of the benchmarking of Revenue Scotland, implies setting out costs of approximately £800,000 in 2016-17, £4.3 million to £4.4 million in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and ongoing costs of £2.9 million a year from 2019-20. That is our best estimate at this stage, but, clearly, I have said, in response to earlier questions, that I will bring this back in the autumn, in terms of greater clarity on these points.
 
I think the points about the opportunity for the Assembly to be very involved in a full consultation in relation to the PACE criminal powers—that’s very consistent with the approach used by Her Majesty’s Treasury to confer powers upon Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officers. As I’ve said, we want to use the affirmative procedure, and make sure that the powers taken are more likely to be appropriate for the WRA, in relation to our devolved taxes.
 
15:37
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
15:37
5. Debate on the First Supplementary Budget 2015-2016
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 5, which is a debate on the first supplementary budget for 2015-16. I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business to move the motion—Jane Hutt.
 
Motion NDM5798 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the Assembly, in accordance with Standing Order 20.30, approves the First Supplementary Budget for the financial year 2015-16 laid in the Table Office and emailed to Assembly Members on Tuesday, 23 June 2015.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:37
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. I’m pleased to present the supplementary budget I laid on 23 June to the Assembly today. Although this supplementary budget is mainly administrative in nature, it does include a small number of key allocations from the reserves that have been agreed since the final budget was approved. Adjustments have also been made to the Wales departmental expenditure limit budget, to reflect the limited consequentials to our budgets, as a result of the UK Government’s last autumn statement and the March 2015 budget.
 
In tabling this budget at this time, I’m continuing with our established practice—publishing two supplementary budgets, to a timetable, which allows scrutiny in this Assembly, and builds on our overall record of transparency around our budgetary processes. This first supplementary budget further demonstrates that our priorities remain focused on improving the delivery of our public services, investing in our health service, boosting economic growth and creating jobs, driving up educational standards and performance in our schools, and tackling poverty in all its forms.
 
This supplementary budget underlines this Government’s continued commitment to the Welsh NHS. It provides a boost of £90 million for the health service in Wales, includes £30 million allocated to develop primary care services across Wales, and £20 million to the intermediate care fund. In line with our commitment to public services reform, the supplementary budget also details an allocation of £8.4 million to the education and skills portfolio, to contribute towards a number of initiatives, including support for Schools Challenge Cymru, the flexible skills programme, and apprenticeships. Following the full devolution of business rates policy, and boosting economic growth, the budget also includes a revenue allocation of £16.5 million to the economy, science and transport main expenditure group, to increase measures to support businesses with their non-domestic rates.
 
Other changes include adjustments to our resources and capital baselines, as a result of consequentials and transfers received since the final budget, as well as revised annually managed expenditure forecasts. This budget also reflects the transfer of expenditure supported by business rates from our DEL budget into annually managed expenditure, following the devolution of responsibility to Wales on 1 April.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, since the publication of this supplementary budget, Members will be aware that the Chancellor’s budget last week provided confirmation of the scale of the in-year cuts to our 2015-16 budgets. The £4 million positive consequential will do little to mitigate the £50 million reductions announced, without notice, by the Chancellor on 4 June. And, as you know, those cuts hit budgets for public health, further and higher education, transport, and communities. Now we have confirmation of the in-year cuts, and let me remind Members what we’re talking about. What the UK Government has imposed on us is a £46 million budget reduction this year in-year.
 
I had hoped to be here today giving you information of new investments, though small, in capital programmes and other projects, but this cut has put paid to that. What we hear from the UK Government is that the economy is on the right track—things are meant to be improving. How justifiable, then, is this in-year cut? It makes proper financial planning next to impossible, and added to the huge cuts we’ve already received it does put under threat the things we value but take for granted—concessionary bus fares, our free prescriptions, our support for infrastructure projects. These things are only deliverable if Wales gets a fair share.
 
But I am determined to protect our public services this year as much as I can against these needless cuts. After careful consideration and prudent management of our reserves, we will protect our key public services from the full impact of the UK Government policies by taking these cuts from reserves. The decision to reduce our reserves by this amount is not taken lightly. It reduces our ability to meet contingencies and limits opportunities to provide additional investment in the current financial year. However, against this, we have also had to consider what the impact would be if we were to defer some or all of the cuts to next year. It’s already clear that the coming spending review will further reduce our budget in real terms. Therefore, carrying further reductions into the 2016-17 financial year would present an even greater challenge and worsen the impact of austerity on Welsh public services.
 
Through this decision, we will protect the budget approved by this Assembly for 2015-16 and budgets in future years. This Government continues to do all we can to protect the people of Wales from these sweeping and unnecessary cuts imposed upon us.
 
As is our usual practice, an explanatory note, providing a detailed description of all the changes, along with a detailed schedule of budget transfers, has been published alongside the budget motion, and I’m sure this has supported Members’ scrutiny of this budget.
 
15:42
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Chair of the Finance Committee, Jocelyn Davies.
 
15:42
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. The Finance Committee met on 1 July to scrutinise the first supplementary budget for 2015-16. I’d like to thank the Minister for attending our session and giving the committee the opportunity to look in depth at the allocations of funding laid out in the supplementary budget. The committee’s report includes a number of recommendations, and I hope that the Government will take those into account both in delivering this supplementary budget and in the future.
 
The committee is pleased to recognise that the Government has delivered, or is on track to deliver, 95 per cent of their programme for government. However, we are concerned that the rest of the programme may not be met, particularly in light of the £46 million cut, which will need to be applied this year. The committee will look again at the delivery of the programme for government when considering the second supplementary budget for 2015-16, which should show the impact of these cuts and of the autumn spending review.
 
The committee was also pleased to see an additional £14.6 million of funding allocated to mental health services, but we are concerned that this additional funding has not been linked to targets. This is of particular importance for child and adolescent mental health services, which has received a disproportionately low level of funding in the past. Members would like to see clear targets set out, particularly in relation to referral-to-treatment times, to ensure that the increase in funding is benefitting those who need it most and to ensure that service provision is measurably improved. The committee welcomes the additional £8.4 million that has been allocated to the education and skills main expenditure group. However, there appears to be a shortfall in the funding allocated to Schools Challenge Cymru, and we are keen to see further details on how this shortfall will be funded.
 
Many of the other recommendations included in the committee’s report relate to spending on health services. All of the committee’s recent budget scrutiny reports have discussed the increase in the funding for health. As I have said previously, as a committee, we do not wish to comment on whether the health sector should be receiving an increase in funding, but we have concerns that this additional funding has still not been linked to outcomes, and we have not been presented with a clear idea as to how the health service will improve as a result. We recommend that the Government provide details on how this additional funding is being used to ensure that NHS finances become sustainable and what expectations the Government has of the financial performance of the NHS in 2015-16.
 
On behalf of the committee, I’d like to say that we were grateful for the opportunity to consider this supplementary budget and we look forward to scrutiny of the second supplementary budget, which we hope will provide clarity on the impact of cuts contained in the UK budget. Thank you.
 
15:45
Nick RamsayBiography
I’m pleased to contribute to this debate today and I was pleased to hear the Minister, in opening, recognise that the UK Government is getting the economy back on track. I was surprised, Minister, that you didn’t seem to make the link with the UK Government taking those actions that then mean that here, of course, difficult decisions have to be made, certainly in the short term, Minister. But, you did recognise that the economy is getting back on track.
 
The Welsh Conservatives welcome the £70 million earmarked for the Welsh NHS that was announced in January. As the Minister knows, Welsh Conservatives have long been calling for additional funding for our health service. This £70 million does not, of course, make up for the hundreds of millions of pounds that have been cut from the health budget in Wales since 2011, but it is at least a step in the right direction.
 
During evidence to the Finance Committee, the Minister identified primary care developments and delivery plans as areas of increased spend and I’d hoped that the Minister could give us further details of these areas. I’d also like to hear from the Welsh Government why they still will not commit to the dedicated cancer treatment fund, which people in Wales are crying out for and which certainly fills my postbag, and I know the postbags of other Assembly Members.
 
I’d also be interested to know if the Minister is still requiring performance improvement as a result of this additional money. We know the confusion that arose over this when the funding was initially announced. Given that three LHBs overspent in 2014-15 and only five of the 10 NHS organisations have approved three-year plans for the period 2015-16 onwards, we certainly need assurances that the local health boards are in a position to make the most effective use of this funding and that it will not simply become yet another bail-out, absorbed into the health board debts and providing no real change for patients.
 
As the Finance Committee report points out, the Assembly will have dissolved ahead of the elections before the 2015-16 financial year, so we will need another update in time for that supplementary budget to make sure that this spend has been effective and we can adequately fulfil our scrutiny role.
 
In evidence to the Finance Committee, the Minister gave details of the transfer of £956 million from local government departmental revenue to annually managed expenditure—a consequence, as the Minister rightly said, of the full devolution of business rates. This is understandable. It is ironic that, as a result of the new system, Wales now has to bear the cost of even mirroring changes in UK business rate policy. But, it does at least allow for localism, so I suppose, ‘every cloud…’ as they say.
 
The Finance Committee also called on the Welsh Government to improve the accuracy of its monitoring and forecasts. We do need to know that the Welsh Government is making progress in this area. In evidence to the Finance Committee and elsewhere, the Minister has said that business rates forecasts would be presented to the committee, but in the committee, you did tell us in an evidence session that the Welsh Government were considering ways to make the information more meaningful. Have you reached any conclusions yet on this, and are you in a position to tell the Chamber exactly how you intend to make that information more meaningful? It certainly is important that the Finance Committee does receive that information and that this Assembly is in the best position possible to scrutinise this budget, and indeed budgets in the future.
 
The devolution of business rates and the future devolution of other taxes in 2018 clearly does require a robust monitoring and forecasting framework, otherwise the Welsh Government will be susceptible to an unnecessary level of volatility, which could potentially throw any future spending plans into chaos.
 
I was going to touch on the additional education allocations, but the Chair of the Finance Committee has already done that, so I won’t go over that ground.
 
In conclusion, Minister, we welcome this supplementary budget being brought to this Chamber, but I’m afraid we cannot support it. Whilst a number of the transfers are technical and necessary, Welsh Conservatives believe that the budget overall that this budget seeks to amend still fails to adequately reflect the priorities of the people of Wales, particularly in the area of the NHS. This budget is a missed opportunity, Minister, and, as I say, we will not be voting for it.
 
15:50
Mike HedgesBiography
I, unlike Nick Ramsay, support this first supplementary budget. The first supplementary budget normally involves less movement of money than the second in the previous financial year. This is again the case this year. The Finance Committee has only made five recommendations, and three of them are on health.
 
In-year cuts make it difficult to manage budgets. We’ve seen a £50 million in-year reduction prior to last week’s spending review, whose effect we await. Of course, if the provision of funding for Wales was against the published formula, then taking the figures from the red book, it should be easy to calculate the changes. Now, we have to wait for the Treasury to inform us of the consequential changes to the Welsh budget. I’m sure a more meaningful first supplementary budget could have been produced if the details of the funding changes were available before the supplementary budget was produced so they could have been taken into account before the Finance Committee considered it.
 
Of course, these changes help make the case against income tax devolution. I can see that if income tax were devolved, the Chancellor would be saying, ‘If you do not want to make these cuts, then increase income tax; the choice is yours’. Looking at the NHS finances, as the committee report said, they will need to be put on a sustainable footing. We are in a situation with health where any additional expenditure is deemed to be good. No matter what it is used for, give health more money. How much you spend gets substantially more scrutiny than how it is spent and how efficiently it is spent. To take the most recent examples from the auditor general’s report regarding orthopaedic services in the Aneurin Bevan health board on 29 June this year, I will directly quote from page 4 of the summary.
 
‘High demand and a range of inefficiencies are resulting in an inefficient orthopaedic service with some outcomes less positive than elsewhere in Wales:…day surgery rates, length of stay and use of theatre capacity all need to improve;…higher rates of elective orthopaedic mortality and a lower rate of improvement following knee replacement surgery.’
 
Turning to the review of district nursing services in Cwm Taf University Health Board, pages 6 and 7:
 
‘A detailed workforce plan…to move services into the community is yet to be developed’,
 
‘Demand for district nursing services needs to be better managed’,
 
and this is one of my favourites:
 
‘there are no systems in place to collect, in a consistent way, information on the number and nature of referrals while referral criteria are out of date and not actively used’.
 
How much could be saved or reallocated if interventions that either did no good or actually did harm in the health service actually stopped? How much could be saved to be reallocated if every health board performed at the same level as the most efficient and effective? The cost of secondary care increases, and the relative expenditure on primary care decreases, every year. When people say they want more money for health, what they mean is more money for hospitals. It’s always hospitals and pumping money in to hospital services. Is this the direction of travel that we want health’s expenditure to go? Why should health boards be bothered to be efficient and effective when each health board knows they will get tens of millions of pounds each year to cover overspends? Of course—
 
15:53
Nick RamsayBiography
Will you give way?
 
15:53
Mike HedgesBiography
Certainly. Yes.
 
15:53
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you for giving way. Just for clarification, are you saying that you support the Welsh Government’s cuts to the health budget?
 
15:53
Mike HedgesBiography
What I’m saying is that the Welsh Government haven’t made cuts to the health budget, and that’s a matter of fact. The second thing, which is also a matter of fact, is that giving health money, if it’s spent inefficiently and ineffectively, is of no good to anybody. I think that Nick Ramsay would say that if you employed somebody in the health service and gave them pound coins to pour down the drain, as long as that money was being spent in the health setting, that would be wonderful because there’s more money going into health. What it’s spent on appears to be immaterial.
 
We need a more efficient health service. The amount of money we’ve got can then be spent effectively, but all they’ll be saying is, ‘Give them more money. Give them more money. Health desperately needs more money’. Health desperately needs to be run efficiently in terms of the health boards. There are serious problems. I just gave two examples of the last two—