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The Assembly met at 13:29 with the Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) in the Chair.
 
13:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. The National Assembly is in session.
 
1. Questions to the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:29
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 1, questions to the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport. Question 1, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
The Transport Infrastructure of South Wales Central
 
13:30
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
1. What measures are being introduced by the Minister to improve the transport infrastructure of South Wales Central? OAQ(4)0641(EST)
 
13:30
Edwina HartBiographyThe Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Our measures for improving our transport infrastructure across all parts of Wales are set out in the national transport finance plan, and I updated Members on the plan on 22 September.
 
13:30
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Obviously, South Wales Central has many key assets for public entertainment—the Millennium Stadium being one, SWALEC cricket stadium, and the football. The list is endless, in fairness, to the city of Cardiff. One of the issues that you and other Members are aware of are the transport bottlenecks that hit many people who did try to get into and out of the city of Cardiff during the recent Rugby World Cup. It’s critical that, when organisers are looking at Cardiff as a potential host city, they can have confidence that transport will meet the requirements of their needs. What lessons learned do you think your officials have gained in developing a more joined-up approach to dealing with some of these bottlenecks that arrived with us for the world cup?
 
13:31
Edwina HartBiography
I think it’s important that, when we’re marketing Cardiff globally, in terms of events and attractions here, we have traffic management down to a fine art, whether it be road or rail. My officials have been in dialogue, obviously, with the city council, Network Rail, train services, and everything, to see what positive lessons can be learned. A lot of planning did actually go into the Rugby World Cup, but, sometimes, all the planning in the world doesn’t lead to the best outcomes. But the lessons that have been learned will be taken on board, and the importance is to have a continuing dialogue, for a long period of time, to ensure that every issue is examined, and every possibility looked at.
 
13:31
Mick AntoniwBiography
The metro is obviously a major transformational part of the Welsh Government programme in terms of improving transport, and it’s certainly of major significance to the Taff-Ely area, as well as the whole of Wales. I’m just wondering whether you might be in a position to actually start more definitively evaluating the opportunities that arise in terms of job creation, apprenticeships, economic opening out and development as a consequence of that, so we can evaluate not just the connectivity, but also the way it could, potentially, transform both socially and economically.
 
13:32
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, obviously, some economic benefits were assessed, I think, back in 2013, when we did the metro impact study. But there will be further work in this area, because it’s important for us to look at the benefits on key corridors and around key stations, and, of course, at the environmental and sustainability benefits of the metro system as well.
 
Swansea Bay City Region
 
13:32
Keith DaviesBiography
2. Will the Minister provide an update on the work of the Swansea bay city region? OAQ(4)0652(EST)
 
13:32
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. The Swansea bay city region board has led important work on regional alignment and collaboration.
 
13:32
Keith DaviesBiography
Thank you for that. In Llanelli, we are fortunate to have the headquarters of Tinopolis international production company. Also, S4C is in the process of moving to the Swansea bay city region, to Carmarthen. Indeed, we have a strong reputation in the digital media in west Wales. However, there is more that can be done to encourage growth in this sector. What further work can the city region and the Welsh Government do to reinforce and build upon this success in order to create more jobs in west Wales?
 
13:33
Edwina HartBiography
I obviously took the opportunity last week of meeting Sir Terry Matthews, who, of course, chairs the board. We’ve got a very innovative partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, investing in a G-fast broadband UK test bed in Swansea. We’re also, of course, looking at a regional digital marketing suite, which will be located in the great hall of the new university campus. And Sir Terry is also committed to establishing the Alacrity Foundation model in Swansea bay, supported by a fund, to incubate and launch new high-tech companies in the region.
 
13:33
Altaf HussainBiography
Minister, what assessment have you made of the impact your Government’s reorganisation of local government will have on the operation of the Swansea bay city region, and its ability to deliver improvements to the city of Swansea and the wider Swansea bay region?
 
13:34
Edwina HartBiography
In the first place, I had some concerns about the ability of the four local authorities to work together on a regional basis when I established the city region. Those thoughts were soon dispelled; the four of them work very well together. And, obviously, the issue of local government reorganisation is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Public Services.
 
13:34
Mike HedgesBiography
The Minister knows I’m very keen on developing the infrastructure within the region and believe that it’s highly important to have a well-developed infrastructure in order that people can get around to their different places of work in the region. Can the Minister give an update on rail electrification to Swansea and on any possible improvements to local train services within the region?
 
13:35
Edwina HartBiography
Improvements to local train services are obviously a matter of budget. We have made various improvements. In terms of electrification, we are very hopeful that the continuing plans for electrification will continue, but I think it’s important that, as an Assembly, we make the UK Government understand that we want no delay on these matters. However, we are awaiting a report from Peter Hendy, who will be reporting to the UK Government, and it’s important to recognise what happens in terms of that report. But electrification to Swansea is the key for economic development within south Wales and further west.
 
13:35
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Minister, last week, as has been mentioned, Sir Terry Matthews, who is the chair of the city region, said he was disappointed with the economic performance of the area, adding that
 
‘it was not good enough, in my world.’
 
Is your appointed chair right in what he says, and how do you plan to address the issues he has highlighted? Will you be looking to areas like Plymouth, which is similar economically to Swansea, to see what lessons can be learnt and to see how we can develop the area to its benefit?
 
13:36
Edwina HartBiography
I think it’s always important to take Sir Terry’s remarks in the context they were made. He was very disappointed, but I think, as a proud Welshman, and a graduate of Swansea, he would have liked to have seen lots more development further west. Sir Terry, as chair, of course, is taking the agenda forward, and I have every confidence in what he’s doing on it.
 
13:36
David ReesBiography
Minister, one of the big economic drivers that could happen in our region is the tidal lagoon project, which could bring manufacturing and different types of jobs into the economy. Do you share my disappointment that the Chancellor has not taken the opportunity to enhance and say that that lagoon will go forward today, because that has a major impact on our region?
 
13:36
Edwina HartBiography
I think that all across the parties here we’re very supportive of the tidal lagoon, and this is an issue about the strike price, which does have to be resolved. The important thing to recognise is that it’s all very well having photographs taken where the lagoon might go, but the important thing now is to put the financial structures in place that will allow the tidal lagoon to produce energy and also to create jobs within the region.
 
13:36
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, further to Mike Hedges’s question about the electrification of the main line, I agree with you that it’s absolutely vital to the future economy of Swansea. What meetings have you had with Network Rail, and what is your understanding of the timescale for the completion of this project, assuming that it is going to be fully financed?
 
13:37
Edwina HartBiography
I am waiting to see developments on the various reports that have been undertaken. I have regular meetings with Network Rail and I’ve made my views quite clear to the new chair of Network Rail on this, and I will have the opportunity of engaging with the appropriate UK Government Minister in the next week or so. I know I speak on behalf of the entire Assembly, Deputy Presiding Officer, in saying that we are all keen to see this project delivered on time, but when you look at some of the delays elsewhere, I can understand why there is worry and concern about it.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
13:37
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I now call the party spokespeople, starting this week with Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
13:37
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. I’ll begin with transport. You may be aware that the Enterprise and Business Committee last week heard evidence from the traffic commissioner for Wales and the west midlands, and he made a very strong safety case for there being a dedicated Wales traffic commissioner, and said that safety standards for bus passengers, and the bus industry, would certainly improve over the medium and longer term. Now, the Conservative UK Government has opposed the Silk commission recommendation to create a Welsh traffic commissioner. I don’t believe they considered the evidence, but I think the evidence heard in the committee was very compelling indeed. Will you commit to looking at the traffic commissioner’s comments to the committee and sending a report based on them to your counterparts in the UK Government, with a view to moving this agenda forward?
 
13:38
Edwina HartBiography
I share the comments that you’ve made regarding the traffic commissioner and the establishment of an office in Wales. I’d be delighted to look at the evidence provided by the committee and will, of course, take that matter forward at a governmental level.
 
13:38
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you. There’ll be a Plaid Cymru debate this afternoon on creating a powerhouse for north Wales—an economic powerhouse—and developing a regional economic policy for the north. I know that you support the work led by Plaid Cymru colleagues of mine, but on a cross-party basis across local authorities working together on the economy and transport. Your Government supports the fact that we in Wales, and the north of Wales, could benefit from the new northern powerhouse in England, as I certainly do. The UK Government has a similar view too, but as things stand, of course, we’re not going to be linked to that northern powerhouse with an electrified railway. When there was a risk that electrification in south Wales would definitely only go as far as Cardiff, we had a cross-party delegation to Westminster to make the case. There are still questions over that, of course, but at least a commitment came at the time. Could we agree today to accelerate the work towards a similar kind of national cross-party campaign for north Wales electrification as we had for Swansea?
 
13:40
Edwina HartBiography
There is a cross-party campaign already alive and well and kicking in north Wales in terms of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, ably led by Councillor Dilwyn Roberts from Conway, who has made the case very strategically in terms of what can be delivered. The Government is part and parcel of that. Dilwyn chaired a very successful summit on rail when we brought together English authorities and considered what we can do with the Mersey Dee Alliance and how we can deal with this. I think that that is the bedrock that will allow us to take this consensus forward in the UK.
 
13:40
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I was at that conference and indeed it was a very positive conference, and I look forward to further thoughts from the Minister on how we here could help that campaign towards electrifying north Wales.
 
Finally, this Government has called, we know, for the comprehensive spending review today to make a pledge on a city deal for Cardiff. We obviously all want to see a very strong capital region. But, of course, the lessons from England of what happens when you have too much economic prosperity focused on one corner of the country is equally applicable to Wales today. We want to see the spread of economic prosperity. In the context of a city deal for Cardiff and our hopes for that, what comparable regional policy will you develop for the rest of Wales, which has equal economic ambitions?
 
13:41
Edwina HartBiography
Obviously, there is the establishment of a city region within Swansea. The city region in Swansea itself is looking at whether it could construct a city deal as well, with a lot of private investment being part of that, and not necessarily asking Government to be involved in some of the financial issues. Also, I’m well aware that the economic ambition board in north Wales is looking with interest at developments both in Cardiff and within Swansea, and I remain in dialogue with them.
 
13:42
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The Welsh Conservative spokesperson, William Graham.
 
13:42
William GrahamBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Minister, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company aspires to stage the 2017 MotoGP at the Circuit of Wales in Ebbw Vale. That is clearly a major investment not only for the Heads of the Valleys, but also for Wales. In order to retain investor confidence, would the Minister give an undertaking to make a statement to Plenary, when she’s able, when all the various complex factors come together?
 
13:42
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I have been reviewing with officials the state of play on this particular issue because I know that there is concern across the piece to ensure that this project has legs and is developed because it is a wonderful opportunity for the enterprise zone in terms of what associated businesses could come in on the back of the project.
 
I understand that some hurdles have now been overcome in terms of decisions by a ministerial colleague, and there’s then a period of time, of course, for a judicial review. We hope we’ll have clarity regarding further issues, I think, in January and February, because it is important that they do get on site and that everything is cleared to ensure that investor confidence. I’d be delighted to update Assembly Members after Christmas.
 
13:43
William GrahamBiography
Thank you very much, Minister. I have a similar request in terms of the electrification. We all await this report from the chairman of Network Rail. As already commented, it is vitally important for the economic development of south Wales and Wales in general. It’s difficult to ask you exactly when you’re able to commit to give us a response. But I think it is so important that we have to ask you, once again, if you would give a commitment to make a statement at the earliest possible opportunity.
 
13:43
Edwina HartBiography
We understand that Sir Peter Hendy’s review of Network Rail’s current control period 5 infrastructure is ready and will be presented, we understand, to the Department for Transport very shortly. I will have the opportunity of hopefully meeting Patrick McLoughlin within the next week or so, and this is one of the issues that I will be discussing with him. As soon as I’m able to share anything with Members in terms of what is happening on this particular issue, I will share it with Members because I recognise that, across the piece, we are all concerned about the future of this project and the timescales that are involved in it.
 
13:44
William GrahamBiography
Rather similar, if I may, Minister, my last question is regarding the Cardiff capital region, again, in terms of south Wales and south-east Wales, which is a very vital project, again commanding cross-party support. Your Government’s position is entirely clear. Do you have an idea when you would hope to have a different response from the United Kingdom Government?
 
13:44
Edwina HartBiography
My colleague, Jane Hutt, has been dealing with the city deal and, obviously, a tremendous amount of work has gone on on behalf of the local authorities, collaboratively looking at how the deal could be structured. I think they hope that they will get an answer fairly swiftly, but these things do take time, when you look at examples elsewhere, but I know my colleague Jane Hutt will update you as soon as anything’s available. The city region board themselves are also anxious to see the outcome of that because of the implications it has on their future working as well.
 
13:44
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And the Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesperson, Eluned Parrott.
 
13:44
Eluned ParrottBiography
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. How much money is to be cut out of the Business Wales budget for the next financial year?
 
13:45
Edwina HartBiography
I have made no further decisions yet. I’m currently considering my budget position. Obviously, there have been some important announcements, perhaps, today, which I haven’t caught up with in relation to budgetary matters. I’m absolutely open and honest: I’m working through my BELs as we speak.
 
13:45
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you for that answer, Minister. You may well be aware that there are rumours that officials are planning for a 43 per cent cut in funding for Business Wales next year, which is, obviously, a concern, given the fact that the latest business demographics data published yesterday by the Office for National Statistics show that we are still lagging more than 10 per cent behind the UK average in terms of the number of business start-ups being created in Wales. There’s also, clearly, the huge and persisting productivity gap between Wales and the rest of the UK. So, can you tell us how you intend to ensure that Wales at least keeps pace with, let alone catches up with, the rest of the UK if cuts are potentially in process?
 
13:46
Edwina HartBiography
One must never believe rumours that might emanate from officials because, in my department, I make the decisions, not officials. Can I make it absolutely clear that I will do the best I can within my budget to protect the expenditure in what I regard as an important area? Any shortfalls we have against the rest the UK, we’ve got to continue with the work we’ve put in place to continue. Your leader made some points yesterday on these particular issues as well, and I am concerned to ensure that we keep up the momentum of the good changes we’ve made.
 
13:46
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you for that very clear answer, Minister. I’m sure that no-one would even begin to suspect that anyone else is in charge of your department, other than you. [Laughter.] I read with interest, however, the application for the Cardiff capital city deal, and one of the five project themes within that is connectivity, with the Welsh Government committing £580 million to help drive the regeneration of south-east Wales, specifically in terms of that theme. Clearly, this is going to be absolutely key to encouraging businesses to locate premises here in the capital city region, and it’s a shame, I think, that, up until this point, the Chancellor has still sidestepped the issue of whether or not that funding is to be forthcoming. I wonder if you can tell us, though, how much of the £580 million offered to the UK Treasury as match funding, in the First Minister’s letter to the Chancellor, was funding given to you by the UK Treasury to fund the electrification of the Valleys lines in the first place?
 
13:47
Edwina HartBiography
The city deal is a matter that’s being dealt with financially by the Minister for finance, and she will be best placed to go into the details of the information you are requesting.
 
The Wales and Borders Rail Franchise
 
13:47
Julie MorganBiography
3. Will the Minister provide an update on the process and timescales for awarding the new Wales and Borders rail franchise? OAQ(4)0646(EST)
 
13:47
Edwina HartBiography
The not-for-dividend transport company is currently developing the documentation to support the integrated franchise and infrastructure contract. This will ensure the franchise operates in the interests of the travelling public, driving up service standards and reducing costs.
 
13:48
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the Minister for that response. I’ve recently received a number of complaints from constituents about Arriva Trains Wales, particularly about not stopping at platforms, which I know the Minister is looking into. Obviously, the new Wales and borders franchise will be awarded in 2018; how are we going to ensure that the issues that rail passengers experience at the moment can be taken into consideration when that franchise is drawn up?
 
13:48
Edwina HartBiography
We’ve had extensive discussions already with passenger user groups about the issues around the franchise, and we will be consulting with the public prior to finalising the specification for the next Wales and borders rail franchise, because I think public confidence is important in this in terms of what we’re doing in the context of franchise negotiations.
 
13:48
Nick RamsayBiography
Minister, I would have thought that stopping at platforms was clearly a key issue for the franchise and the new franchise. In terms of the rolling stock itself, to say that the conditions on the current trains—I can see your expression—are not up to scratch would be an understatement, and, on some days, they are plain awful. They certainly weren’t designed for a new metro-type network. What are your thoughts, to date, on new rolling stock? Are you considering the pros and cons of brand-new rolling stock, or are you leaning towards reconditioned rolling stock, which many in the industry have said could do the job? Are you confident that the new rolling stock will be there to meet the timescale of a new franchise?
 
13:49
Edwina HartBiography
In terms of the rolling stock, when you speak to passenger user groups, they want new rolling stock. They want the best that’s available and they want to be able to travel in comfort, have a seat and be able to put their luggage in—they want all of that. That is my priority at the moment. Many in the industry have said you can do well on stock that’s been refurbished; I’m not certain that that is the case, and it wouldn’t be my preference. Therefore, we’re looking at those particular options, because I think if we’re going into these franchise arrangements, we’re looking at what we’re doing and we’ve got to get the best for the travelling public, otherwise we’re not going to encourage them to use the trains.
 
13:50
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, if we’re going to attract investment into the new franchise, then it’s obvious that we must keep a hold of the routes to Manchester and Birmingham, because perhaps the offer may not be as attractive if the profit from those routes isn’t part of the franchise. The St David’s Day agreement states that more discussions are required between the UK Government and the Welsh Government. Have further discussions taken place, and are you now confident that a situation will exist where we will keep hold of the Birmingham and Manchester routes within the current franchise?
 
13:50
Edwina HartBiography
I totally concur with your comments about what needs to be kept within the current franchise. Discussions take place at all levels. I’m not certain about outcomes, and I’m not satisfied that I’ve got to the outcomes that I wish yet.
 
The Economy in West Wales
 
13:51
Angela BurnsBiography
4. What is the Welsh Government doing to improve the economy in west Wales? OAQ(4)0644(EST)
 
Paul DaviesBiography
8. Will the Minister outline what action the Welsh Government is taking to improve the economy of west Wales? OAQ(4)0639(EST)
 
13:51
Edwina HartBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, for allowing these questions to be grouped. We are focusing on a range of priorities to facilitate economic growth, which includes support for new and existing businesses, infrastructure improvements, and promoting Wales, of course, as a tourism destination in that area.
 
13:51
Angela BurnsBiography
Minister, during 2014-15, job creation at the Milford Haven enterprise zone slowed significantly from the 2011-14 levels. The slowdown is particularly drastic when compared to the job creation that is going on in some of Wales’s other more successful enterprise zones. Are you concerned that such an important outcome of establishing this enterprise zone—that is, the one of job creation—isn’t being realised? Are you concerned about the number of companies that are now beginning to go to the wall in the new enterprise zone, and the negative effect on the local economy that this will cause?
 
13:52
Edwina HartBiography
We are continuing to work with the Haven enterprise zone and delivery partners to maximise the future economic benefits, and are continuing to support people in employment. Some companies have had individual problems and issues that whether you’re an enterprise zone or not wouldn’t have helped. However, like you, I do wish them to redouble their efforts in this regard because I think it’s important that we look at the opportunities. The expansion plans at South Hook continue to be on hold, and we need to look at those particular issues. Of course, there was hope in terms of the tidal lagoon, whether it wouldn’t just be Swansea to be looked at, but also further down in the Haven in terms of what work could arise from that as well. So, we need to look at our efforts there and do further work.
 
13:52
Paul DaviesBiography
Minister, as you are aware, Pembrokeshire has the second-highest proportion of small and medium-sized enterprises in Wales, and there are some concerns that they will not receive the direct support that they so desperately need under the Welsh Government’s new business support contract, given that the contract has been awarded out of county. We’ve been told that, under the new contract, there will be no physical presence in Pembrokeshire to support businesses, and in fact there will be only four business support offices in the whole of Wales. Given the importance of small businesses to the Pembrokeshire economy, can you tell us what the Welsh Government is doing to ensure that businesses in Pembrokeshire will now receive direct face-to-face support, which they will need in the future to improve west Wales’s economy?
 
13:53
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, you are quite right. From January 2016, the Business Wales service will consist of four key administration hubs, meaning that we can minimise overheads, and support will be delivered directly at clients’ premises or a series of 35 satellite offices that will exist around Wales. They are planned to be located in Pembrokeshire at Haverfordwest, Pembroke Dock and Milford Haven.
 
13:53
Simon ThomasBiography
You mentioned in your original reply, Minister, the need to support tourism in west Wales. I’m particularly interested in a project in Laugharne, around the Corran Resort, which is a major infrastructure project and is bringing in private money from outside Wales and not using Government funding. This has currently been before the local authority as a planning application, and I don’t expect you to comment on that aspect of it, but the clear recommendation from Natural Resources Wales is that it’s called in as a project of national interest anyway. What I’d like to understand from you, Minister, is how you will be working with your colleague the Minister for Natural Resources in determining an application like this, which does have an environmental impact, but is also very big in terms of its tourism impact.
 
13:54
Edwina HartBiography
I have taken the opportunity of visiting the project, as I know that Angela Burns has raised this issue with me already about the relationship between Natural Resources Wales and what they’ve said on this issue. It is an issue that I’ve asked my officials to discuss with the officials in the appropriate Minister’s department. There are a number of substantial jobs involved in this discussion, in an area that requires them. It’s a beautiful area in terms of tourism, but it’s also important that we get the balance right. I think that, from my point of view as an economic development Minister, getting the balance correct is absolutely right when you look at issues around economic development and the opportunity for jobs within areas.
 
13:55
William PowellBiography
Minister, transport infrastructure is naturally vital to successful business development in west Wales, as elsewhere. In that context, the recent appointment of Alun Griffiths (Contractors) of Abergavenny to take forward the construction of the Carmarthen west link road has been warmly welcomed. Given the importance of the project and the need to minimise disruption during construction, what arrangements will the Welsh Government require of the contractors in terms of staying in touch with local businesses and residents, the many students and staff at the University of Wales Trinity St David and, of course, the nearby Hywel Dda Local Health Board headquarters, so as to keep everybody involved informed about the delivery of the scheme, and so as to minimise short-term impacts on the locality?
 
13:56
Edwina HartBiography
Can I say that that’s an exceptionally valid question, because there’s an awful lot of disruption as you try and get the road network correct? Alun Griffiths has an excellent record as a contractor of dealing with us and local people, and we do insist in the department that they have the type of dialogue that you’ve outlined to ensure that there is minimum impact on the travelling public.
 
Government Policy on Enterprise Zones
 
13:56
Mohammad AsgharBiography
5. What plans does the Welsh Government have to review the effectiveness of its policy on enterprise zones? OAQ(4)0637(EST)
 
13:56
Edwina HartBiography
Performance data for the enterprise zones programme are published twice a year. Outputs for the first six months of 2015-16 will be published in the near future. The private-sector-led enterprise zone boards are continually reviewing progress in their areas.
 
13:56
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you for the reply, Minister. Between April 2014 and March 2015, only seven jobs were created by the Ebbw Vale enterprise zone. In contrast, over the same period, Cardiff enterprise zone created 536 jobs—three times the total number of jobs created by Ebbw Vale since it opened for business in 2012. What action does the Minister intend to take to address the serious imbalance of outcomes demonstrated by her current policy on enterprise zones in Wales?
 
13:57
Edwina HartBiography
If I was only interested in party politics and point scoring, I would have put enterprise zones everywhere where I could have had lots of jobs in because it was a good area. We chose to put enterprise zones in some exceptionally difficult areas, including Ebbw Vale and, of course, Snowdonia, to recognise that we have to do a lot of work in those areas. In terms of selling jobs, there’s a lot of work going on—it’s rather like a duck paddling under the surface—talking to companies and trying to get investment in. Your colleague William Graham raised the point about the Circuit of Wales, which, certainly if those issues are resolved, will also kick-start not only the Circuit of Wales, but a whole other series of jobs. We’re in it for the long haul on this, not the headlines, and you will find from the private sector who are leading it that they feel the same.
 
13:58
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
A large part of Anglesey is an enterprise zone, of course, but it’s relevant to the whole of the north-west of Wales. What progress has been made in attracting companies to that area as part of the Energy Island enterprise?
 
13:58
Edwina HartBiography
I think the Energy Island, even though on paper it looks like an easy thing, because you’ve got nuclear coming in and you’ve got other things, it’s actually quite hard to look at some of the underlying business and attracting. I think, in terms of Ynys Môn, we have a good relationship and dialogue with companies on there. We have a good relationship with the port, which is also important. I think, in terms of what we are doing, we are attracting businesses into Ynys Môn.
 
Trunk Road Agencies
 
13:58
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
6. Will the Minister make a statement on the future of trunk road agencies in Wales? OAQ(4)0650(EST)[W]
 
13:58
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. Following my review of the trunk road agents last year, 19 planning staff have transferred to the Welsh Government, and we are in the process of implementing challenging cost savings. I am not proposing any further changes to the agent delivery model at this stage.
 
13:59
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
As you note, the Wales trunk road agency is a body created by Government and is part of Government. Officials in the north and south carry out the same tasks under the same working conditions; however, the payments to those working on the M4 are higher than those for traffic officers on the A55. Does the Minister believe this to be fair?
 
13:59
Edwina HartBiography
The issue of potential disparity in pay and conditions was brought to my attention last year. We have overall responsibility for the budget and the procedures in ensuring that services are delivered to the required standard, but pay and conditions are matters for the local authority as employers.
 
13:59
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Minister, the work being undertaken on the A55, as you know, is resulting in massive delays, bringing transport to a standstill on Monday. Trials of traffic management changes have been called off, yet future works to remove the two roundabouts are estimated to take up to a further two years. Now, whilst we appreciate the need for works, questions must be asked of you and the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency as to how there has been such a lack of communication with road users, the ambulance trust and, in particular, with Arriva Bus Wales, which has been having to deal with the chaos caused whilst running their own public services. How do you intend to address the real concerns that have been raised by practically everybody at the moment about the A55 with your department and the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency?
 
14:00
Edwina HartBiography
Can I make it clear that we've tried to do everything that we can to mitigate? We've got to get on with these roadworks, and we've got to make the improvements that are necessary. I will once again ask my director to look at the issues that you have raised with me. I can only say honestly that this work has to be undertaken. There will be some element of delays, but, I have to say, every time I seem to travel the A55, I'm unencumbered by delays.
 
14:01
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Can I thank the Minister and her officials in the trunk road agency for her assistance and their assistance on a number of road safety projects on the A483 and the A470? Could she impress upon the officials of the trunk road agency, though, to make good outstanding compensation claims arising out of the development of the new road between Newbridge-on-Wye and Builth Road? We are now coming up against the statute of limitations with regard to compensation claims, and there are still outstanding issues to be resolved. Could I ask her whether she and her officials will look at that so that all claims can be settled forthwith, and that the benefits that the road has brought, which are significant, cannot be overshadowed by these outstanding issues?
 
14:01
Edwina HartBiography
I'll ensure this matter’s dealt with by the transport directorate.
 
The Faith Tourism Action Plan
 
14:02
Darren MillarBiography
7. Will the Minister make a statement on progress in relation to the implementation of the faith tourism action plan? OAQ(4)0638(EST)
 
14:02
Kenneth SkatesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism
Yes. We’re making good progress in delivering the action plan and are seeking year-on-year growth in visits to religious sites in Wales. In 2014, there were 540,000 visits to places of worship in Wales, which generated £175 million of visitor expenditure.
 
14:02
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for that response, Deputy Minister. You'll be aware of my keen interest in the faith tourism action plan and its implementation here in Wales. Some elements of the plan required finance in order to get them moving, in particular some of the branding around our religious tourism opportunities here in Wales and the ability to market them to markets overseas, particularly in North America where there are strong links to some of our nonconformist history and denominations. What action are you taking specifically to ensure that the adequate resources are there to deliver all elements of this plan?
 
14:03
Kenneth SkatesBiography
Well, there are a number of actions that we've taken. First of all, we've got the nonconformist chapel toolkit, which is being launched for nonconformist chapels to be able to encourage them to open their doors. Only a small number at present open their doors to visitors. The toolkit will assist in more doing so, and that compares to about 60 per cent of churches that open their doors.
 
In terms of international visitors, ‘Explore Wales’—which, as the Member may be aware, is Visit Wales's brochure aimed at international markets—highlighted this year sacred places to visit in south-west Wales, and it's also been complemented by an online video. Furthermore, there's been an audit of the most significant places of worship and sacred places in Wales to visit, which will inform our marketing strategy going forward, and we are going to make that information available to local authorities and to businesses as well.
 
14:03
Mike HedgesBiography
Different parts of Wales have different ecclesiastical history. Last week, I visited, in my colleague Julie James's constituency, the NSPCC building, which was the chapel of Christmas Evans, who was one of the great preachers of Welsh history, and that building is visited quite regularly by people from across Britain and the rest of the world. Does the Minister agree with me that the key is ensuring the survival of the major church and chapel buildings—not necessarily the church or the chapel, but ensuring the survival of them as buildings?
 
14:04
Kenneth SkatesBiography
Indeed, I very much agree with the Member on this, and that's why the action plan on tourism for places of worship is aligned with the strategic action plan for places of worship, which is led by Cadw. Actually, just this morning, I had the pleasure of joining the Welsh Religious Buildings Trust and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales to view the new online service it has provided right across Wales, which is essentially a virtual museum for people to be able to look at every form of religious building right across the length and breadth of the country.
 
Transport in the Cynon Valley
 
14:05
Christine ChapmanBiography
9. What action is the Welsh Government taking to improve transport in the Cynon Valley? OAQ(4)0651(EST)
 
14:05
Edwina HartBiography
The national transport finance plan, which was published on 16 July, outlines the actions we are, and will be, taking to improve transport across all parts of Wales.
 
14:05
Christine ChapmanBiography
Thank you, Minister. Well, you may be aware that, yesterday, Rhondda Cynon Taf cabinet approved an investment of nearly £2 million in the first phase of developing a cross-Valley link near Mountain Ash in my constituency. By relieving pressure on the A4059, this will be of enormous benefit to the transport infrastructure in Cynon Valley. Will the Welsh Government continue to work with the local authority to make sure that this ambitious project succeeds?
 
14:05
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, my officials are closely working with the council and will continue to work with them as the scheme progresses. I note the financial commitment that was made yesterday by RCT, but it is important to understand what support is expected from the Welsh Government in future years to ensure this important link in the local road network is built.
 
14:06
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Minister, in Cynon Valley, like many constituencies across South Wales Central, if you travel in the evening, or any time of the day, you find many HGV lorries parked in lay-bys because of the lack of HGV parking and secure overnight provision. I appreciate this isn’t a Government role, but Government can work with local authorities to support and maintain some of that provision. What action has the Welsh Government’s transport department had in understanding the need, i.e., the amount of demand out there, because, obviously, without good sanitation and security, there’s a real risk with these lorries parking on the sides of roads, and it does seem to be getting greater, the demand, not less.
 
14:06
Edwina HartBiography
I’m more than happy for my officials to open dialogue on this. We’ve had very positive discussions, actually, within north Wales about the use of lorry stops, et cetera. I think it is a very valid point you’ve made, and I will update Members after Christmas on any progress we’ve undertaken on it.
 
14:07
Alun DaviesBiography
Minister, transport links across the Valleys are important, particularly when we’re developing new services. The specialist and critical care centre in Llanfrechfa Grange will be a great investment in the health service of the Aneurin Bevan area, but we need to ensure that we do have the road links, the public transport links, to ensure that people can access those services, and that people can visit relatives while they’re there. Could you ensure that you work with the health Minister to ensure that this infrastructure’s in place when the new facility opens?
 
14:07
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I can give you my assurance on this. There is excellent joint working between ourselves and the health directorate on transport issues already. This will continue. You make valid points about, when buildings are planned, and when they are being built, it is very important to look at the transport infrastructure as well.
 
Road Infrastructure in West Wales
 
14:07
Angela BurnsBiography
10. Will the Minister make a statement on road infrastructure in west Wales? OAQ(4)0645(EST)
 
14:08
Edwina HartBiography
The national transport finance plan sets out my proposals for improving road infrastructure in Wales.
 
14:08
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you for that, Minister. It’s the A477 again, I’m afraid. I’m sure you won’t be surprised by that. First of all, I’d like to thank you for making permanent the signs off the new bypass to Red Roses. I think that will really improve the situation there. However, I would like to draw your attention again to the issues with the Tavernspite turning. I have met the senior members of Dyfed-Powys Police. They do say that people are unable or unused to doing the three-lane driveway or motorway, and, of course, as you know, it’s a 90-degree turn—so, you come whizzing down off that incredibly steep hill and you’ve got someone in front of you doing a 90-degree turn, so they slow down significantly. I do appreciate the commentary from your officials that it does meet national road standards criteria. However, it is incredibly dangerous, and local people tell me again and again of near misses, and I would hate to see one come to pass.
 
14:08
Edwina HartBiography
Thank you for the points you’ve raised with me about the A477. I think we have tried to be helpful where we can in terms of signage and various other things. Bearing in mind the comments you made today, I do have regular meetings with the police and will ask my officials to raise it as a road safety issue with the police to see if there’s anything else we could possibly do.
 
14:09
Simon ThomasBiography
As you know, Minister, I’ve asked you in the past about tolls on the Cleddau bridge, as part of the road network in Pembrokeshire. Having held a successful public meeting, where we held discussions with a number of local businesses, I want to ask you: have you carried out any assessment of the impact of the tolls on businesses in that area, bearing in mind that this is a toll on a bridge that links two sides of an enterprise zone?
 
14:09
Edwina HartBiography
I am not aware of anything that’s been undertaken in terms of looking at the economics of this and the impact on businesses, but I will check if there’s been any work done by the enterprise zone or anyone else and report back to Members.
 
14:09
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Question 11, William Graham.
 
14:09
William GrahamBiography
Sorry, I—[Inaudible.]
 
Question 11, OAQ(4)0642(EST), not asked.
 
14:10
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Question 12, Llyr Gruffydd.
 
Gwasanaeth Busnes Cymru
 
14:10
Llyr GruffyddBiography
12. A wnaiff y Gweinidog ddatganiad am wasanaeth Busnes Cymru Llywodraeth Cymru? OAQ(4)0648(EST)[W]
 
14:10
Edwina HartBiography
Thank you. Business Wales provides businesses and entrepreneurs with access to wide-ranging information and advice. Since its launch in January 2013, it’s helped create 9,177 new businesses across Wales, creating over 12,216 jobs and safeguarding a further 3,193.
 
14:10
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Thank you very much for that response. There’s been a great deal of praise for the service as it’s been provided to date, but can I ask you what assurances you can give that all of the services of Business Wales will be available through the medium of Welsh from here on in—particularly a face-to-face service from staff who are able to speak Welsh—in all part of Wales?
 
14:10
Edwina HartBiography
This issue has actually been raised with me elsewhere about the use of Welsh. Can I make some further inquiries to the service, because I wouldn’t want to give an inadequate answer to Members, because I do recognise the importance that we adhere totally to our bilingual policy in terms of access to services?
 
Tourism Businesses
 
14:11
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
13. Will the Minister make a statement on the support available to tourism businesses? OAQ(4)0649(EST)[W]
 
14:11
Kenneth SkatesBiography
Yes. Our tourism strategy sets out our priorities to support the tourism industry, including capital and development funding, along with marketing and promotional opportunities.
 
14:11
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Even the best tourist attractions—excellent attractions—occasionally need assistance in attracting more visitors. The Copper Kingdom Centre in Amlwch is a good example of an excellent development, celebrating the industrial heritage of the town, but that perhaps isn’t yet attracting as many visitors as we would hope to see in future. Now, given that isn’t always possible to provide a capital injection or financial support of that kind to a visitor attraction, what kind of alternative support can the Government provide in terms of consultancy and so on in order to ensure that businesses and attractions of that kind get the help that they need to help themselves?
 
14:12
Kenneth SkatesBiography
The Member is absolutely right. It’s not always a question of being able to draw down capital money that’s important to a company, but also having the right advice and signposting. So, in addition to undertaking independent quality assessments, we have quality assessment team members who are able to act also as tourism relationship managers, signposting businesses—such as the business identified by the Member—to an array of services and also to an array of specialists.
 
Anchor Companies
 
14:12
John GriffithsBiography
14. Will the Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s policy on working with anchor companies in Wales? OAQ(4)0653(EST)
 
14:12
Edwina HartBiography
I’m committed to continuing and strengthening our partnership with all anchor companies and building close relationships at the highest level in Wales and with head offices overseas.
 
14:12
John GriffithsBiography
Minister, Tata and steel are still very important in Wales, and I look forward to your visit to Llanwern tomorrow. Would you agree with me that it’s very important for Welsh Government to continue to work very closely with Tata, for example on the development of new products, and also on potential new developments on existing sites?
 
14:13
Edwina HartBiography
Yes, I totally concur. We do have an excellent relationship with Tata Steel. It’s a very stressful time for everybody within the steel industry. We’re awaiting further action, obviously, from the UK Government in terms of what support they might give to steel. So I remain of the view that it seems we can help the banks, but what are we doing about a crucial national industry? It seems to be on hold from elsewhere.
 
Rail Services in North Wales
 
14:13
Sandy MewiesBiography
15. Will the Minister provide an update on what progress is being made towards improving rail services in north Wales? OAQ(4)0647(EST)
 
14:13
Edwina HartBiography
We’re committed to improving rail services in north Wales to ensure we maximise the economic opportunities for jobs and access to services that transport connectivity—both across Wales and further—can deliver.
 
14:14
Sandy MewiesBiography
Thank you for that, Minister. You’ve already alluded to the fact that it is very important for us to have close links with the north-west of England and that one of the key aspects will be the electrification of the north Wales main rail line. The UK Conservative Government continues to show little or no commitment towards achieving that, but you have talked about the enormous amount of work that the north Wales economic ambition board is doing to strengthen the strategic case and the work that the Welsh Government is doing. So, can I ask, Minister, that we in north Wales have regular updates on what progress is being made?
 
14:14
Edwina HartBiography
Yes. I think it’ll be important for you to have progress. Obviously, in north Wales, the economic ambition board is mapping out the next stages of business cases. We have discussed with the Department for Transport what we need to look at, which are things like optimal services and timetabling, the effect of electrification on the regional economy—we’ve got to make the case for that—determining the potential effects of improved rail services on indicators around deprivation, which is also an important area, and, determining issues, I think, about rail freight as well to the port of Holyhead. So, all of these, I think, are in the mix, and I’d be more than happy to report in the new year and update Members on any progress on this particular agenda, DPO
 
14:15
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
2. Questions to the Counsel General
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
14:15
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 2 is questions to the Counsel General. Question 1, Simon Thomas.
 
Court Fees and Access to Justice
 
14:15
Simon ThomasBiography
1. What discussions has the Counsel General had with members of the legal profession regarding the impact of new court fees on access to justice? OAQ(4)0088(CG)[W]
 
14:15
Theodore HuckleThe Counsel General
Good afternoon, everyone. The Minister for Public Services is responsible for justice policy in Government. The Government is, however, very concerned about the adverse impact that new court fees and other reforms are having on access to justice.
 
14:15
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you for that response, Counsel General. As you know, these new court fees range from £150 if you plead guilty at the beginning of a court case to £1000 if you are found guilty after a court case. In a situation where someone is in poverty, they may, possibly, consider this as a game of risk, rather than a matter of justice, if money is short. So, as the Lord Chief Justice—who is the Lord Chief Justice for England and Wales, of course—has already called over the past week for a review of this situation, and 50 magistrates have resigned as a result of that, does the Welsh Government now have a view to put forward to Michael Gove to abolish these fees, in Wales at least?
 
14:16
Theodore Huckle
It’s important, I think, to distinguish between court fees, which might be thought by people to relate to the charges imposed on people for accessing the courts in the first place, and charges in the criminal courts system, to which I think you principally refer, which relate to imposing a levy on those convicted of offences to pay, or part-pay, for the system. You’re quite right, of course, that there has been a lot of adverse reaction, including in the magistracy, including in the senior judiciary, from the professions, from the Howard League for Penal Reform—and I could go on—to the proposition that those people of very limited means who have been convicted of offences should pay large amounts of money, for them, to help to pay for the whole system. We, as Government, have repeatedly raised concerns about the impact of these proposed changes to the justice system, particularly in relation to those changes, but also generally to court fees. I think we’re facing a fourth round of increases to court fees. You may remember that I complained to the Ministry of Justice about the imposition of fees in the employment tribunals. Also, of course, there are matters such as court closures and the ongoing changes to legal aid, all of which bring a relatively bleak picture for the sorts of people about whom you are talking.
 
The Draft Wales Bill and Equality Legislation
 
14:18
Mick AntoniwBiography
2. What legal advice has the Counsel General provided to the Welsh Government regarding the implications for devolved equality legislation arising from the draft Wales Bill? OAQ(4)0086(CG)
 
14:18
Theodore Huckle
It is not my intention to make any statement about whether I have provided legal advice, or not, on that matter. That reflects the established convention that law officers’ advice—not even whether advice has been given or sought on a particular matter—should be disclosed other than in exceptional circumstances.
 
14:18
Mick AntoniwBiography
Counsel General, in the context of the draft Wales Bill, and the representations and discussions that have taken place, of course, there was a general concern that the existing duties of the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government to promote equality may be detracted from in the way in which the Wales Bill is drafted. Have you had any discussions more generally about this issue, and are these concerns that you also share?
 
14:19
Theodore Huckle
We think it unlikely that the responsibility of Government to promote and encourage equality will be changed in themselves, however, we do think that the provisions proposed in relation to legislative competence in this area do reflect, to use the popular expression, a rowing back on the current competence of this Assembly. The exceptions proposed to the current draft reservation are narrower, we think, than the existing legislative competence under the 2006 Act, and therefore those provisions do give Government, as has been made very clear, grave cause for concern. There are also issues about provisions such as the socioeconomic duty on Government, which are reliant on the Equality Act 2010, and we have concerns as to what the position will be with the Equality Act going forward.
 
The general position that the Government has taken is to seek to strengthen and improve protection from discrimination. I know the Member has a particular interest and has reported on issues affecting age discrimination, for example, so that is one aspect. But the Government’s position is to do everything it can to strengthen protection from discrimination in the framework that is afforded to it, and afforded to this Assembly. We do see the currently-proposed draft, reflecting the Scottish provisions, as a reduction of the competence of this Assembly, with the knock-on effects that that will undoubtedly have. But, as Members will know, the process is still one, to some extent, we hope, of negotiation and it is the First Minister who leads in relation to those negotiations about the final form of the Wales Bill.
 
The Human Rights Act 1998
 
14:21
Mick AntoniwBiography
3. What discussions has the Counsel General had with members of the legal profession regarding proposals to abolish the Human Rights Act 1998? OAQ(4)0087(CG)
 
14:21
Theodore Huckle
I’ve had no formal discussions about this matter. Again, these are constitutional matters, as we see it, at least in part, for the First Minister. Insofar as they are matters of justice, they are matters for my colleague, the Minister for Public Services. The Welsh Government’s position, however, is clear, as has been set out regularly by the First Minister, including in the joint statement with the First Minister of Scotland. It is that the Welsh Government resists the repeal of the current Act, and will insist in any event that the rights that people of Wales presently enjoy are not weakened by any proposals to abolish the 1998 Act or replace it with a British Bill of Rights.
 
14:21
Mick AntoniwBiography
Thank you for that answer, Counsel General. It’s been reported that there is a draft, draft, draft Bill of Rights floating around somewhere or other which the UK Government may seek to introduce, which would actually begin to undermine our association with the European Convention on Human Rights, and may lead to the abolition, of course, of the Human Rights Act. Have any discussions taken place or have any representations been made about the presentation of such a Bill, and is it anticipated that such a Bill would be brought forward in the near future in Westminster? If so, are there concerns or considerations that you would have as Counsel General for such a Bill with regard to the legal status of this Assembly?
 
14:22
Theodore Huckle
There have been lots of discussions in lots of places, and I don’t think I’m in a position to comment on them. As to concerns, well, of course, one has concerns. It is some time ago now since the commission set up to investigate the question of a UK Bill of Rights visited as part of its travelling roadshow, as it were. I’m keen on reminding people that its remit was to consider the replacement of the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights which would build on the rights in the convention. There is no aspect of it in relation to restriction. The result of its findings, of course, was in some quarters thought of as limited, but it advised that there might be a role for further legislation so as to make it clear to people in this country that it was British judges deciding on matters of human rights in a British context, and they expressed this view. My view is that the debate on this is sometimes held on something of a false basis; it seems to be thought that a lot of law comes from Strasbourg and is then applied in this country, whereas, in fact, I think the general view of those who look into these matters is that, if I can put it this way, the Straw/Boateng vision of ‘Bringing Rights Home’ was realised, and the vast majority of decisions on human rights matters in this country are very much made by British judges applying British values.
 
On top of that, of course, again, sometimes people outside the heady world of the law miss these things, but there is a very clear stream now of decisions from the Supreme Court in which it seeks, and has achieved, the regaining, if I can put it that way, of all of human rights as a matter of common law, and not as a matter of reliance upon the convention. In this first instance, the Supreme Court says that courts in this country must look to the rights as protected by the common law, and only, if need be, then look to the convention. So, the Supreme Court has been very clear that it is not—how can I put it—a subsidiary to the decisions coming from Strasbourg. As I understand it, there have been a number of occasions recently where the so-called dialogue between those courts has resulted in the view of the Strasbourg court changing in favour of the view of the Supreme Court of this country.
 
The Draft Wales Bill and Law Officers
 
14:25
Simon ThomasBiography
4. What discussions has the Counsel General held with other Law Officers regarding the draft Wales Bill? OAQ(4)0085(CG)[W]
 
14:25
Theodore Huckle
Well, the Member will not be surprised when I say it’s not my intention to make any statement about whether I have spoken with other law officers on this matter or not, reflecting the established convention.
 
14:25
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you for your usual answer. However, it is worth while asking the question because, this time, it gives me an opportunity to welcome the statement made today that a referendum on income tax devolution is to be scrapped, and that it is not necessary. I think that’s very positive and recognises that the flow of devolution in Wales is moving in that direction. Hopefully, therefore, we will see further amendments to the Bill in light of that, because it is clear that we do need significant improvements to the Bill. In that context, and looking at the evidence that the First Minister has given to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in this place, it is clear that there is great concern within Government about the hundreds of reserved matters and that those are listed at length in the draft Bill as it currently stands. Is it the Government’s intention, therefore, on the basis of your advice or otherwise, to publish some sort of alternative Bill in order to facilitate the process of reaching a better place?
 
14:26
Theodore Huckle
I’m not in a position to make any statements on my advice or what might be done on the basis of it. I’m also not in a position to answer the last question directly, which I feel is very much a matter for the First Minister.
 
14:27
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Counsel General.
 
3. Questions to the Assembly Commission
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
14:27
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
There have been no questions tabled under item 3.
 
14:27
4. Motion to Annul the Tuberculosis (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2015
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
We move to item 4, which is a motion to annul the Tuberculosis (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2015. I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move the motion.
 
Motion NNDM5872 Llyr Gruffydd
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with Standing Order 27.2:
 
Agrees that the Tuberculosis (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2015, laid before the Assembly on 12 October 2015, be annulled.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:27
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and may I start by making it entirely clear that I have no opposition as such to sharing information about the location of herds that are infected with TB? There are clear benefits for a number of stakeholders—for farmers so that they can protect the biosecurity of their own farms; for veterinarians, it will be of assistance to them to identify the risk and to respond; and also, for those working within cattle markets and so on, it will certainly be of benefit to those selling stock in identifying the TB status of those herds. So, it would have a contribution to make in strengthening biosecurity and reducing the spread of TB.
 
The consultation document recently published by Government does set out a very persuasive case for sharing the information with relevant stakeholders, and that is the point, of course—it is sharing information with relevant stakeholders. I would support that, clearly. But what isn’t made, of course, in that document is the case for making that information freely available to all and sundry. There is no explanation in the consultation document of what the publication of maps to the wider public would actually add to the control of TB. Information on TB cases, of course, is a sensitive issue, and it should be shared in a meaningful way. Unless the case is made to share that information beyond those who actually need to know, then there is a question in my mind as to whether that should be done, particularly of course as this is a very sensitive and difficult issue and an issue that engenders strong feelings and all sorts of emotions also.
 
All of the debate, as far as I can see, has focused on the benefits of sharing the information with farmers, mainly. The consultation document mentioned that the main aim of the Order will be to make farmers aware when neighbouring farms do have cases of TB so that they can put in clear precautions to reduce the risk to their own herd. Well, there’s no doubt that there are benefits in that regard. I recognise that most respondents to the consultation have favoured the publication of the information online, but I do feel that that’s been made on the basis that the information will be provided to those who need it online. The context of the questions suggested that the information will be published for the use of farmers. The first question asks: do you agree that the location of herds infected with TB should be published? Question 2, then, asks how farmers will use this information to protect their own herds, and so on.
 
Some of the respondents, of course, have raised questions on the need to disseminate the information more widely and to share it with everyone, and I’ve received a number of messages, and I’m sure many other Members have also received messages, from farmers in our constituencies and regions. There has been a discussion in the press and media, and certainly on social media, on the implications of giving the wider public access to these online maps.
 
There’s no doubt that farms struck by TB can leave the owners of those farms vulnerable, emotionally, certainly, and financially also, of course, with the business coming under pressure because of restrictions and so on. Under such circumstances, those individuals will quite possibly be more vulnerable to harm. There is a risk that someone, or some people may take advantage of the situation, for example by offering to provide emotional support, or financial support, perhaps, more specifically, on a fraudulent basis. There has been some discussion in the Senedd here on the risk of scams and cold calling and so on as a threat to vulnerable people. Well, it has been suggested to me that this, quite possibly, is an invitation for these kinds of practices to be targeted at people who find themselves in a situation where they are perhaps more vulnerable to be taken advantage of.
 
Further to that, of course, some have highlighted concerns about the safety of farms and farmers on those farms that are struck by TB from the direction of some more extreme activists, perhaps, in terms of animal welfare. The Deputy Minister said in the Chamber here that there were no documented cases or cases reported to police in England, and I have no reason to doubt that—there is already an online map in England, of course. But you don’t have to look too far to see that some activist groups have already highlighted their intention to use the maps in England to organise targeted protests. Indeed, one member of Stop the Cull said recently that activists will use the information to target farmers in England. So, as I say, the risk is there, because, of course, it is already being expressed by a small group, I’m sure, of activists in that area.
 
The Deputy Minister has also told us that the names, addresses or county parish holding numbers will not be published, only the location of the herds infected on a map. Well, it’s a small matter, then, to use that to identify the farm in question or, of course, a cluster of farms that could be responsible for the land in question. That in itself, of course, raises a further question in my mind, because if the information isn’t sufficient to identify exactly which farm is infected, then, of course, that does suggest that it undermines one of the fundamental purposes of sharing the information in the first place.
 
If the information was shared on a website that was safeguarded by a password, then, of course, that would go some of the way to calm people’s fears. Many people have suggested that that would ensure that only those who needed the information would be able to access it. And there are websites, of course, that are already managed with passwords and are password-protected, and are used by farmers, and it would be possible to consider using them to that end. Rural Payments Wales Online is one that has been suggested, of course.
 
I’m aware that the Government has received legal advice on this Order and I would expect nothing less, but you’ll also be aware, I’m sure, that there has been some discussion already in England on the possibility of bringing a challenge to these maps, with the Information Commissioner and the European Court, under article 8 in the Human Rights Act 1998, because some feel that it disproportionally contravenes farmers’ rights to privacy. Now, you have received legal advice, so I will put my faith in that, but, clearly, it’s possible that such a challenge could be considered in Wales.
 
In my opinion the wording of the Order is too open-ended. It doesn’t say what information is to be published, and more specifically, it allows Welsh Ministers to publish in any way that they see fit, which is very open-ended in my opinion. If the Government wants my support for this Order, then the Government has to explain how it’s going to use these data in a considered and careful way. I’m sure, or I very much hope that the Government will understand the concern that I’m reflecting here in this annulment motion today. I’m also very eager to understand, as I’ve said, how the Government will actually safeguard from the misuse of these data and ensure that they are used in a sensitive and safe way in Wales. I think it’s entirely fair for Welsh farmers to expect that. Thank you.
 
14:35
Russell GeorgeBiography
My view on this issue is certainly that the locations of TB-infected herds should be published. There are good reasons that can be identified for that, as has been detailed by the Plaid spokesperson. But I also think that there is a risk that if this information is publicly and widely available, there are security reasons why this could lead to inappropriate behaviour. Again, I won’t repeat what the Plaid spokesperson said; I agree with his concerns in that regard. So, I think what we would like today, Deputy Presiding Officer, is a commitment from the Deputy Minister, and assurances that there is mitigation in place that the unintended consequences of this legislation will be adequately addressed. Perhaps I can specifically ask the Deputy Minister: if any issue arises as a result of this information and data being in the public domain, what will then be the action of the Welsh Government in this case? Will this information then be taken down, and how would that be progressed? I can’t, at this point, commit to how the Welsh Conservatives would vote on this issue; I’m particularly interested, of course, in the Deputy Minister’s response to the queries this afternoon in order for us then to make a decision on our voting intention.
 
14:36
William PowellBiography
The Welsh Liberal Democrats greatly welcome the opportunity to debate this important issue today, and we will be supporting the motion that has been tabled in the name of Llyr Gruffydd. We strongly support the stated aims of the TB (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2015, namely to improve the sharing of information on instances of TB to help farmers to better manage the risk of TB infection, and to help to control the spread of this pernicious disease. However, we are very sympathetic indeed to the arguments we’ve hear put forward by Llyr Gruffydd. A positive result for a bovine TB test can be absolutely devastating for a farmer and a farming business, when a herd must be destroyed as a result, and we all well understand that. In our view, making this information publicly available will only exacerbate this distress if it’s not handled very carefully indeed. Recently, in this Chamber, my colleague Aled Roberts asked for detail on what would be published on the proposed website. At that stage, the Deputy Minister advised that data that would be published would include the location of the herd on a map, as we’ve heard, the date that the herd lost its official TB-free status, and the date it regained its officially-bovine-tuberculosis-free status.
 
Whilst we welcome the fact that names and addressed would not be included, we agree with the arguments that we’ve already heard that a more sensible approach would be to publish the information in a way that means that it can only be accessed by farmers, such as via a secure log-in or other mechanisms, so that, ultimately, it is only farmers and others who have that information on a need-to-know basis. This would avoid the potential for greater distress and stigma for farmers, and also the worry that the information could be potentially used by certain groups or vigilantes, or other cold callers of the kind that we’ve heard described, who might seek to harass, abuse or single out farmers who have been blighted with TB in their herds.
 
The Order, as drafted, gives Welsh Ministers the freedom to publish information in any form that the Welsh Ministers would see fit for purpose. Given that the explanatory memorandum states that the aim of this power is to provide farmers with the location of herds affected by TB, the current proposals to make the information more publicly available in any form is indeed, as Llyr Gruffydd has argued, too broad, and the Order, as drafted, too vague. We would urge the Deputy Minister to give serious consideration to a more secure form of publication, and to ensure that this information is only available to those who absolutely need to see it. Until we have these reassurances in place, and until that system is available to us to understand, it is our belief that the Order is premature and that we cannot support it in its current form.
 
14:39
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans.
 
14:39
Rebecca EvansBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
Thank you. Good biosecurity and health planning reduce the chances of cattle and other animals becoming infected with TB. One of the ways in which I aim to improve biosecurity is by providing the livestock industry with information about potential TB risks. To support this, in September, I announced that I’d decided to introduce a new power to allow me to publish TB information. When we consulted on this, the vast majority of respondents agreed with the proposal to change the legislation.
 
The new power came into force on 2 November. I intend to use it to support individual businesses by publishing TB information to help the livestock industry and the rural community to prevent the spread of TB. Although it may seem wide-ranging, the power does not override the requirement for any use to be compatible with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the European Convention on human rights. The wording also limits us to only publishing information that’s sufficient for the purposes of helping others protect against the spread of TB.
 
The most popular suggestion for publishing TB information made by respondents to the consultation was providing TB breakdown information on a map on a website. From next year, under the authority of the revised Tuberculosis (Wales) Order 2015, I intend to publish information on cattle herds affected with TB. Where a herd has TB and lost its TB-free status, a web-based system, called ‘information bovine TB’, will be used to publish the location of a herd on a map, the date the herd lost its TB-free status and the date the herd regained its TB status is applicable. So, names, addresses and CPH numbers will not be published and it will not be possible to zoom in to a street-level view. I intend to consider whether information on other species could also be published alongside the cattle data in future.
 
This Government puts the rights of individuals at the heart of everything we do. Whilst there was some disagreement between respondents to the consultation on whether the information should be publicly available or restricted, I have no reason to believe that people will misuse the information.
 
When a farm goes down with TB, it’s a difficult time for the farmer and the family involved. I fully appreciate how traumatic this can be, but having TB does not suggest any unlawful or any unscrupulous activity has taken place, or that these persons are guilty of any wrongdoing. The public understands this and is sympathetic to those farming families that have experienced a TB breakdown.
 
As speakers have recognised, vets, camelid owners, farm workers, breed and grassland societies, hauliers, milk processors and contractors, and so on, all have a stake in preventing the spread of TB. This information is as useful to them as it is to farmers, as they may have regular contact with farms or with cattle. Having to consider the possible thousands of applications from these individuals to access the website, to confirm they are who they say they are and evaluate their reasons for accessing the information would take up an enormous amount of time and resources and could simply put most people off doing so. This would be counterproductive when there’s no evidence to support the assumption that people would use this information to harass farmers.
 
The website has been available in England since July and there have been no reports to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, either directly or via authorities, that the information has been used to intimidate or harass people. DEFRA’s security team, which monitors for intimidation of cull-related activities, has also not highlighted any issues. In fact, feedback from users and stakeholders in England has been extremely positive. I will, of course, keep this issue under review. If there is any evidence of misuse of the website or of unintended consequences, I will ensure that a full investigation is undertaken and will of course act appropriately and accordingly in the light of that investigation.
 
I’m determined to help eradicate this disease, which has a significant financial and social impact on farmers and the wider rural community in Wales. Eradicating TB will be more difficult to achieve unless the livestock industry receives information that they can act upon by taking precautions to protect against the spread of TB.
 
14:44
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Llyr Gruffydd to reply.
 
14:44
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Can I thank those who took part in this debate? I agree wholeheartedly with the Member for Montgomeryshire when he warned of unintended consequences. I heard what the Minister said about keeping the situation under review and fully investigating, but of course that sometimes means that you are doing so after something has happened, so whilst I’m slightly reassured, maybe it’s not enough as far as I’m concerned. To the Liberal Democrat Member for Mid and West Wales, you’re perfectly right—the Order gives Welsh Ministers the freedom to publish the information in any form, although the explanatory memorandum is pretty categorical in that it’s there to provide information to farmers. So, I do feel that there is an inconsistency there, actually, and that, I think, strengthens my resolve even further.
 
Now, Deputy Minister, you said that the point is to provide the livestock industry with the information. You’ve said it yourself again. And again, I would urge you therefore to look at a more targeted way of sharing that information. It’s about helping people to protect their stock or their interests against infection, but, of course, by your own admission, you can’t identify the farm. So, it rather undermines, in my mind, the whole purpose, really, and there’s a big question about whether it achieves your stated aim if you can’t even identify the farm, particularly if part of the rationale is that somebody buying livestock is able to identify whether that livestock is coming from somewhere that has a certain status in relation to TB.
 
You mentioned that no reports have been made to DEFRA of harassment. No, maybe there haven’t been, but you don’t have to dig very far. I’ve read blogs myself where there are clear messages from individuals saying that they will be using the information to target demonstrations. So, it is happening, whether we acknowledge that or not. So, I would urge Members to support the proposal to annul the Order, and I hope that she will do that. Diolch.
 
14:46
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I defer voting under this item until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
Rhodri Glyn Thomas took the Chair.
 
5. Welsh Conservatives Debate: Environmental Crime
The following amendments have been selected: amendments 1, 2 and 3 in the name of Aled Roberts, and amendment 4 in the name of Elin Jones.
 
14:46
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Item 5 is the Welsh Conservative debate on environmental crime. I call on Janet Haworth to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM5888 Paul Davies
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Regrets that levels of litter, dog fouling, fly-tipping and graffiti continue to blight many local communities across Wales.
 
2. Calls on the Welsh Government to work with local authorities to explore increasing penalties for environmental crime.
 
3. Recognises the role that recycling can play in minimising waste and ensuring cleaner communities across Wales and urges the Welsh Government to explore innovative solutions to further promote recycling.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:46
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you, acting Presiding Officer. I am delighted to introduce this Welsh Conservative debate today on the environmental crime in Wales. This is an issue where we can make a real difference to people’s quality of life and our local communities. No part of Wales is unaffected by the scourge of litter, from our streets to our waterways and our parks. Our motion today focuses on three specific topics. First, it regrets that levels of litter, dog fouling, fly tipping and graffiti—
 
14:47
Simon ThomasBiography
Dead animal carcases.
 
14:47
Janet HaworthBiography
[Continues.]—continue to blight many communities across Wales. Secondly, the motion calls on the Welsh Government to examine the necessity to work with local authorities to explore increasing penalties for environmental crime. Thirdly, it recognises the role that recycling can play in minimising waste and ensuring cleaner communities across Wales, and urges the Welsh Government to explore innovative solutions to further promote recycling.
 
When we talk about environmental crime, I’m thinking here today about low-level petty crime. Some may call it anti-social behaviour, such as dog fouling, littering or graffiti. These are crimes where the police are not going to get involved in the main, but crimes where civil enforcement officers from the local authority can levy on-the-spot fines if they catch the culprits in the act.
 
The Welsh Government, in May 2013, noted the negative impact that increases in environmental crime can have on economic development, particularly when it comes to attracting tourists and inward investment. Would you really want to base your business in a building strewn with graffiti, or would you want to walk around a coast path or beach dodging dog mess? The Welsh Government estimated that close to £70 million is spent in Wales cleaning up environmental crime, all of which is met by the taxpayer. At the moment, there is inconsistency across local authority deterrent schemes throughout Wales. Some councils are tackling this issue well and others are not prioritising this matter. I’m sure some of the contributions from fellow Members will highlight where they have seen good and bad practice taking place. New powers are now available for local authorities following UK-wide legislation introduced through the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. I urge the Welsh Government community protection notices and public spaces protection orders to be better utilised to protect our environment.
 
Dog fouling is still one of the more serious issues covered in today’s debate and it’s not just unpleasant, it represents a serious health risk, especially to children. Freedom of information requests by the Welsh Conservatives have found that some councils have seen increases in complaints about dog fouling. Throughout Wales, the average number of complaints about dog fouling in 2014 was 330, but significant discrepancies exist between councils, with Caerphilly receiving 1,698 complaints and Monmouthshire only 81.
 
Littering and fly-tipping are also unsightly, and it is worth noting that smoking-related litter was found on 86 per cent of Wales’s streets. Minister, what extra promotion can your Government do to tackle this Wales-wide blight? Instead of producing billboards for the latest Welsh Government policy, could you not focus some of your advertising spend on running a campaign to address this issue?
 
Just to touch briefly on graffiti, there is evidence that the presence of graffiti is a major factor in stimulating other anti-social behaviour. There is also a proven link to crime in some graffiti. Earlier this year, Conwy council published a number of graffiti symbols used by criminals to signify messages such as ‘family on holiday’ to ‘older person living alone’. Welsh Government could provide additional resources for rapid removal teams to get rid of these messages before criminals can make use of them. Where this practice has been utilised, it has reduced the incidence of graffiti. It is known that if you tackle this quickly, then it does reduce repeat offending.
 
Looking specifically at north Wales for the period of 2013 to March 2014, Conwy council issued 2,359 fixed-penalty notices for offences including dog fouling and littering, and collected £176,000 in fines. Denbighshire County Council issued 3,168 fixed-penalty notices and collected just over £100,000. But Flintshire County Council issued only 73 fixed-penalty notices, Minister, collecting only £2,875. Digging a bit further down, Conwy and Denbighshire employ an external organisation to undertake their enforcement function; Flintshire has established its own in-house environmental crime team. However, in July 2014, Flintshire increased their team to four officers and then took a more proactive approach to issuing fixed-penalty notices, resulting in 240 fixed-penalty notices being issued to date. So, you are catching up, Minister. Each council has a different way of tackling environmental crime, and we do need to identify best practice to see what is successful. Minister, I would urge you to undertake a study into which councils are excelling in this field and see if their approach can be rolled out across Wales, to include Flintshire of course.
 
I would like to use the second part of my contribution to take a closer look at recycling. Credit where credit is due, the Welsh Government and many local authorities are hitting the ambitious targets set when it comes to recycling. However, there are huge differences between the recycling rates. Denbighshire saw 65.9 per cent of its waste recycled, reused or composted in 2014-15, well above the Wales-wide average of 56.2 per cent. However, Blaenau Gwent only saw figures of 50.3 per cent for the same period. It was disappointing to see, earlier this year, that two Labour-run councils missed their 2015 recycling targets—how sad—and were let off their fines by the Welsh Government. A total of £1.8 million in penalties was waived to these tardy councils. It seems inconsistent to have the ability to levy a fine if a target is missed, but then opt to not do so if it happens to be a Labour-run council. Where is the incentive to comply?
 
Wales leads the UK nations in terms of its recycling rates, and it is also amongst the top nations within Europe, but we cannot afford to be complacent and we need to look at how we can further improve our recycling and ensure that the Welsh public understands the importance of sorting and reducing its waste for the good of our futures.
 
Recycling has become part of everyday life for many in Wales. Whilst the diverse geography and socioeconomic nature of Wales can present challenges, it is obvious that huge strides are being taken, and it is something that we can all be rightly proud of. I do repeat calls made last year by the Environment and Sustainability Committee that standardised colours should be introduced across all Welsh local authorities to ensure that Wales-wide messages and education can be introduced to promote recycling.
 
Focusing for a minute on the actions of certain local authorities, the new Conservative Member of Parliament for Cardiff North, Craig Williams has led a campaign against the closure of the Wedal Road recycling centre. Run by a Labour Cardiff council, the closure of this site without adequate replacement could lead to a decrease in recycling and an increase in fly-tipping. I ask you to look again at Conway, where the whole business was contracted out. It’s very efficiently run and very much embraced and supported by the community. Minister, we need to ensure—
 
14:56
Julie MorganBiography
Will the Member give way?
 
14:56
Janet HaworthBiography
Yes.
 
14:56
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the Member for giving way. Would she accept the dire financial position that Cardiff council is in, which means that it has had to rationalise its services as a result of the actions of her Government in Westminster?
 
14:56
Janet HaworthBiography
Yes, I do accept what my fellow Member says, because it was the Labour Government that emptied the cookie jar. We are working very hard to try and restore the balance in our economy. [Interruption.]
 
We need to ensure that an effective waste strategy is also put in place rather than barriers put in the way. For the Welsh Government to remain on course to hit its target of 70 per cent recycling rate by 2025, innovative ideas need to be considered. It’s not just about hitting a target; it’s about respecting and preserving this beautiful country that we live in. This is why the Welsh Conservatives have called for the feasibility of a deposit-return scheme on drinks containers to be trialled across Wales. The Welsh Government has to be ambitious and willing to explore innovative schemes such as these. A Welsh Conservative Government in May would take steps to introduce a pilot scheme here in Wales.
 
Similar schemes are operating throughout the world, and there are several options to be considered, but many organisations in the UK, including Friends of the Earth, favour a system based on the installation of reverse vending machines in large retail outlets. Deposit-return schemes require members of the public to pay a deposit upon purchase of a recyclable container, such as plastic, glass, or tin. The deposit is then reclaimed from these vending machines when the item is returned. It has worked in the past. Some of you are old enough to remember collecting bottles and taking them back to get your tuppences. Obviously, we would need to discuss with manufacturers and major retailers how such a scheme could operate, but it could help to facilitate a major cultural shift here in Wales when it comes to recycling.
 
Looking, finally, at the amendments that have been tabled to this motion today, we are planning to support all three tabled by the Lib Dems, as they further highlight some of the issues that we have raised. The Plaid amendment talks about the deposit refund scheme that I have just introduced. Clearly, we would back this amendment, but I need to reiterate the need for a pilot study to be conducted and full consultation with key retailers before a full roll-out. If we’re going to do something, we need to make sure that it can work, and we can only do that by consulting with those people we would rely upon to help us implement it.
 
Minister, I hope that you can back our motion today. We welcome the progress that has been made on recycling, but further understand the need to strengthen the process. If we work together, using best practice from around Wales and further afield, we can make Wales an even more pleasant place to live and visit.
 
15:00
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
I have selected the four amendments to the motion. I call on William Powell to move amendments 1, 2 and 3, tabled in the Aled Roberts.
 
Gwelliant 1—Aled Roberts
 
Insert as new point 2 and renumber accordingly:
 
Notes that local authorities can exacerbate this situation by charging for bulk waste collection and closing recycling centres.
 
Gwelliant 2—Aled Roberts
 
Insert at end of point 2:
 
‘including on the spot fines in order to clean up our streets and countryside.’
 
Gwelliant 3—Aled Roberts
 
Insert at end of point 3:
 
‘repair, and reuse.’
 
Amendments 1, 2 and 3 moved.
 
15:00
William PowellBiography
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd dros dro. I rise to move amendments 1, 2 and 3, tabled in the name of Aled Roberts. I very much welcome this debate today. It fits neatly into the green theme of much that’s happening in this place this week. Our first amendment today refers to the fact that local authorities can exacerbate many of the blights that the Conservatives refer to by charging for bulk waste collection and closing recycling centres. We’ve heard exchanges around the Wedal Road centre in Cardiff, which is one example, and also the Potters recycling centre in my own region in Machynlleth, which regrettably closed despite a concerted campaign led by local Liberal Democrats and others with the local authority. We are also seeing a worrying move towards the privatisation and the outsourcing of waste enforcement services. Again, the City of Cardiff Council provides an example in this regard; it was raised last week by my colleague Eluned Parrott. Let us not forget that this is happening in the context of some local authorities across Wales moving to three-weekly bin collections.
 
Amendment 2 refers to on-the-spot fines in order to clean up our streets and countryside. As has already been mentioned, fly-tipping and illegal dumping cause huge problems, and we would like to see sentences appropriately reflect the economic and environmental damage done, so that waste crime is simply not a financial risk worth taking. As such, the Welsh Liberal Democrats believe that the penalties for fly-tipping should be increased, so that they have real credibility and act as a disincentive to casual fly-tipping on our streets. As well as causing severe damage to the environment and wildlife, illegal waste sites and fly-tipping cost the UK taxpayer a significant amount of money in lost revenue. There should be increased penalties for waste crimes, and we should aim to move from an average fine of £50,000 to £75,000 at a minimum, and to an average sentence of 12 to 18 months. It also needs to be made simpler as to who accepts responsibility for prosecution. The boundary between Natural Resources Wales on the one hand and local authorities can make prosecuting a guilty part more difficult because of the apparent confusion as to who needs to lead.
 
Our third amendment, on repair and reuse, is in line with our own long-established party policy that supports regulation to promote design that both enhances repairability, reuse and recycling, and requires specified products to be sold with parts and labour guarantees for at least five years. Any efforts to improve resource efficiency and to cut waste have to start with the products themselves, minimising the use of resources, improving repairability and recyclability—for instance, products that can be taken apart rather than being factory-sealed—and enhancing quality, so as to challenge the throwaway mentality that is very much the scourge of our society. We also believe that we should work with retailers and manufacturers to minimise packaging waste, to promote the use of recyclable materials, and to explore regulation to require specified large products, such as boilers, to be sold with parts and labour guarantees, thus incentivising the sale of high-quality products that do not routinely break down. Much of this has to happen at an EU level, and we need new EU standards for products and appliances, so that vehicles reduce the lifetime costs of energy, material and water use, and indeed to make reuse and recycling the norm.
 
This also ties in with our long-standing call for a deposit-return scheme, and I very much empathise with the points made by Janet Haworth in proposing the motion today. We shall be supporting the Plaid amendment on this occasion. There are a number of reasons why I am in favour of this scheme, several of which have already been enumerated, and this is important. It would radically reduce the amount of litter on Welsh beaches—20 per cent of which is made up of drinks containers. Recently, the Petitions Committee received a petition on this theme from the Friends of Barry Beaches. Campaigners who have conducted a cost-benefit analysis show that there is really strong support across the UK for trialling such a scheme. I call upon the Minister, as I have done previously as a fellow member of the Corona generation, to give his thoughts on the possibility of reviewing and reintroducing such a scheme here in Wales. I am sure that my colleagues in Plaid Cymru will have more to say about this important topic.
 
I'm grateful for the support indicated by the Conservatives for our amendments and I look forward to the remainder of this debate this afternoon.
 
15:05
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
I call on Llyr Gruffydd to move amendment 4, tabled in the name of Elin Jones.
 
Amendment 4—Elin Jones
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Calls on the Welsh Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic, glass and can drink containers in Wales.
 
Amendment 4 moved.
 
15:05
Llyr GruffyddBiography
In the past 10 years, there’s been very significant improvement in terms of recycling and waste prevention in Wales, but litter, as the motion suggests, is still quite a problem in our communities. Now, in 2010, there was a survey of people’s perceptions in Wales as to the nature and gravity of the litter problem, and litter related to take-aways was at the top of the list, of course, but 68 per cent of respondents felt that cans and drink bottles were the main contributors. I received information just yesterday from Llangattock Litter Pickers—I’m sure that many of you will have come across them—that stated that, in September, 12.5 sacks of waste were collected; 75 per cent of the volume and 45 per cent of the weight were drinks containers, and therefore I think that that highlights the problem. Eighty million food and drinks cans are still going into landfill in the UK. So, whilst we think we are doing well, there is far more that we could be doing of course.
 
Only 50 per cent of plastic bottles are recycled at present in Wales, and if we are to raise our game to the next level, then we of course need more ambitious plans that will lead to more transformational change. We can also save huge sums of money in cleaning costs. Clean Up Britain states that for every £1 spent on clearing litter, councils sometimes pay up to an additional £10 on compliance with health and safety requirements, by having to place signs and cones and so on.
 
There is widespread evidence to support the argument that a deposit-return programme could actually lead to increases in recycling and a reduction in litter. A report commissioned by the Campaign to Protect Rural England provided a detailed breakdown of the costs and came to the conclusion that there would be clear benefits in light of that. There was a paper from Keep Wales Tidy, which came to a similar conclusion, in 2006. We know that DEFRA in England have considered the recommendations of the report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Minister in Northern Ireland, of course, has commissioned an options paper on a deposit-return scheme there, and, recently, Scotland published a feasibility study on a national deposit-return scheme, and I think that the time has come for us to move in that direction also in Wales.
 
The report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England does state that a scheme planned on their model would have the potential to create up to 4,300 full-time jobs and, of course, would contribute to green growth, also, here in Wales anyway, if we were to adopt that particular approach.
 
There is an estimate in Scotland that drinks containers are worth some 26—no; I apologise. There are 27,000 tonnes of waste collected in Scotland and, of that, it is estimated that some 5,000 tonnes could be saved through the deposit-return scheme. I am talking specifically about drinks containers there. Litter of course, in Britain, has reached epidemic levels and costs £1 billion a year to be cleaned, and even that figure is a relatively conservative estimate. The cost of litter in health and in social issues is £53 million in Scotland, and the links between the local environment and anti-social behaviour and crime account for additional costs of over 22 million, according to one piece of research.
 
In 2005, Germany started a deposit-return programme for all sorts of drinks containers—some 15 billion containers. They are now recouping those containers at a rate of 98.5 per cent. In 2007, Ontario in Canada expanded its deposit-return scheme from only beer to include wine and other alcoholic drinks, and today they are recouping alcoholic drink containers at a level of 92 per cent. I therefore believe that a deposit-return scheme could have a significant impact on recycling rates in Wales, reducing litter and enhancing the quality of the local environment, by adding value to recyclable containers and by placing a responsibility on producers, then a deposit-return scheme would be a first step in achieving the culture change that’s necessary for us to have a circular economy that prospers here in Wales, and to have a waste-free nation. Such a scheme should be seen as a tool for changing people’s attitudes to litter and waste and reducing litter, as a way of adding value to our resources, and as an important investment in the green economy.
 
15:10
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
The recent findings of Keep Wales Tidy show that, sadly, littering, dog fouling and graffiti continue to blight many local communities across Wales, and actually cause great concern to many living within our local communities. Environment crime doesn’t just look unpleasant; it can also have serious implications for public health, enjoyment of community facilities and economic development, through its impact on tourism and inward investment. Earlier this year, the Marine Conservation Society found that our lovel