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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
13:30
Statement by the Presiding Officer
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Now, as well as being a day to celebrate our patron saint, today also marks the tenth anniversary of the official opening of the building, the Assembly’s home, the Senedd. Many of you were here 10 years ago when the Senedd first opened, and some of you have the continued privilege of representing the people of Wales, and, hopefully, you will have the privilege of serving them 10 years from now.
 
Now, the Senedd has established itself as one of the most distinctive buildings in the country and as an integral part of Welsh public life. We’ve welcomed through our doors 1.3 million visitors from Wales, the UK, and much further afield, and we have conducted nearly 30,000 tours. The building has hosted many major events, including the Wales national rugby team’s six nations grand slam celebration, and the homecoming of the Welsh Olympians and Paralympians.
 
Now, whilst this is a place that the people of Wales come to visit and celebrate national achievements, it is primarily a space for the Assembly to debate, consider and make decisions about the future of our country, decisions rooted in the principles of accessibility and transparency, which are also represented by the very fabric of this fine building.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:31
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
And now we move to the first item this afternoon, which is questions to the First Minister, and first is Rhodri Glyn Thomas.
 
Referral-to-treatment Times
 
13:31
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on referral-to-treatment times in west Wales? OAQ(4)2739(FM)
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I expect all patients to be seen in order of clinical priority and within Welsh Government waiting times targets. To assist this, we have set up the planned care programme, led by clinicians, to develop sustainable solutions.
 
13:32
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
A surgeon from England contacted me because his mother had been taken into the stroke unit in Glangwili hospital, and he deeply regretted the fact that the physiotherapy service wasn’t in place there for his mother. He said that it was entirely inadequate. Those were his words. Since then, many staff, patients and families of patients have contacted me because it’s clear that, in terms of orthopaedic treatment, patients are initially referred to the physiotherapy department, rather than being referred to the surgery department, and, as a result of that, the physiotherapy resources are very few and far between in the Hywel Dda Local Health Board area. Will you speak to the Minister and the Deputy Minister responsible for these issues in order to ensure that this practice ceases and that patients are given the treatment that they deserve in Glangwili hospital?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
As the Member knows, I am not aware of this case, but it is important that this be considered. I will ask the Minister to write to the Member in order to respond to the questions he has posed in the Chamber this afternoon.
 
13:33
Paul DaviesBiography
First Minister, one way of tackling referral-to-treatment times in west Wales is to tackle staff recruitment and retention problems in the area. In order to address these recruitment problems, it’s important that we ensure that we have an appropriate number of training places available for doctors and nurses. In these circumstances, can you tell us what you as a Government have done to ensure that these places are in place, and can you tell us how many additional training places have been created over the past year, for example?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a matter for the deanery, of course, to ensure that these training places are available. Having said that, we’ve seen the numbers being trained at Morriston Hospital rising over the years. Morriston Hospital, of course, is an important hospital to the Hywel Dda area given the specialist services provided by that hospital. As regards the Hywel Dda figures, we know, of course, that more patients are being seen, and the waiting times are reducing. There’s been an 86 per cent reduction in the number of people waiting over eight weeks for a diagnostic test. They’ve reduced over the last year. And, of course, we’ve seen, for example, a reduction in the numbers waiting more than 36 weeks, more patients receiving treatment for cancer, and more people receiving treatment within the targets that we have set in relation to cancer. So, the Hywel Dda figures have improved and, of course, we continue to work with the profession and the royal colleges in order to consider what other opportunities might be available to create training places across the whole of Wales.
 
Biotech Investment
 
13:35
William GrahamBiography
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government's strategy to attract biotech investment into Wales? OAQ(4)2738(FM)
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’ve committed to making Wales the best possible environment for life sciences innovation and business growth. Our life sciences strategy sets out our priorities to attract biotech investment into Wales, including funding, proposition strengthening and ecosystem development.
 
13:35
William GrahamBiography
I am grateful to the First Minister for his reply. He’ll be aware of rather critical comments recently, but he will also know that his predecessor was very keen that we should be a smart small country and how important the attraction of this investment is to Wales, both for the future of this generation and for future generations. Will the Minister outline what strategy he intends to employ to make sure this is another success?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The life sciences investment fund has, to date, made 11 investments into nine companies. It has attracted considerable levels of co-investment and significantly raised the global profile of the sector in Wales as a thriving location for life science companies. On top of that, of course, the life sciences hub has been developed. That’s welcomed more than 5,000 visitors and it has facilitated more than 80 life science events and 850 meetings, whilst 81 member organisations have joined the hub.
 
13:36
Aled RobertsBiography
William Graham has already referred to the Wales Audit Office report last week. That confirms that the successful tenderer for delivery of the fund was paid £207,600 for deals that were in the pipeline in October 2012 and a further £480,000 thereafter. Finance Wales then asked for confirmation from the Welsh Government with regard to confirmation from the Minister that they should pay the additional sum that was being requested, but they refused to do so without confirmation from the Minister. The Welsh Government then went on to pay £370,800 directly to the successful tenderer and that was only some £32,000 less than the contract allowed for had he been in a position to sign the contract at the time originally intended. Can I ask whether or not the Welsh Government are in a position to explain the reasons for the totality of payments to the successful tenderer under the interim arrangements and why no deductions were made to the tenderer, given that they were unable, during that period, to perform one of the key functions because there was no registration with the Financial Services Authority?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Regarding the report itself, we will, of course, consider the report and respond in due course in a comprehensive manner.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:37
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders, and first this afternoon is the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:37
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Thank you. Happy St David’s Day to you all.
 
Happy St David’s Day to everyone. First Minister, I’m aware that there’s to be a statement later on on the Wales Bill, but on the day of our national patron saint and given developments this week, I think it’s important to focus on the matter fully now. The Secretary of State for Wales has decided to press the pause button and delay the Bill now until the summer. Do you agree that the forthcoming Assembly elections are an opportunity to seek a mandate from people on the nature of devolution and do you agree with Plaid Cymru that it is their will that should shape the future of devolution and that Act, rather than the whim of Westminster?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
She and I are very much on the same page when it comes to our view of the Wales Bill. I’ll go into more detail when I make the statement, but suffice it to say that it’s quite clear that the points that were made by the Welsh Government have influenced the course of action that the Secretary of State has taken. The leader of Plaid Cymru is absolutely right to say that these things are a matter for the people of Wales and it’s up to the people of Wales to decide what degree of power they wish to see devolved.
 
13:39
Leanne WoodBiography
I would agree with that, First Minister, but the nature and pace of Welsh devolution have been a clear point of division within your party. Labour MPs, including Labour Secretaries of State for Wales, over many years have acted as roadblocks on Wales’s devolution journey. Can you then give us an assurance today, First Minister, that the current position of the Welsh Government is the same as the current position of the Labour Party? If it is one position, can you tell us, please, what exactly your vision is for the next stage of Welsh devolution?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, I would remind the leader of Plaid Cymru that it was a Welsh Government led by Welsh Labour that delivered the referendum in 2011 in the first place. We did campaign, alongside other parties, of course, very strongly and very hard to make sure that we delivered an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in 2011. The Welsh Labour Party and the Welsh Government is one and the same. The Bill was inadequate. It was never going to be sustainable, and we wait to see what the Secretary of State wants to do next. To my mind, Minister of the Crown consents, as proposed in the Bill, were unacceptable, and the same with the necessity test and the same with the reservations. The issue of creating a sustainable constitutional framework for Wales cannot be done without addressing the issue of the jurisdiction.
 
13:40
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, you and I know that it was Plaid Cymru in that Government that drove that referendum on further. [Interruption.] You were pulled to that table, in many instances, kicking and screaming, First Minister. [Interruption.] First Minister, Welsh devolution has been stalling because of splits in Labour, just as the UK’s place in the European Union is under threat because of splits in the Conservative Party. It’s no coincidence, is it, First Minister, that the nation with the weakest devolution settlement, the least generous funding arrangements, and the least influence is the only nation left with a Labour Government? Now, I wonder whether you can tell us: is there a single concession that you’ve won for Welsh devolution during your decade as First Minister that wouldn’t have been secured in any event? Put simply, First Minister, what have you won from Westminster for the people of Wales?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The referendum itself, for a start, that gave us the powers to do what we have done to pass 24 Acts since 2011—a large body of legislation, proposed by Government; a body of legislation that the Assembly itself was able to scrutinise properly, because we know that sound legislation has been the result. So, we have delivered on the referendum. I do regret that she’s suggesting that somehow we were reluctant in 2011. She can’t surely think that I was reluctantly spending every day campaigning in favour of a ‘yes’ vote. Indeed, it was Welsh Labour—and, indeed, her party as well—that delivered the votes and the voters that were needed to make sure that this place became a proper legislature. We will continue to make the case to the UK Government that we need that process to continue. Now, she asked me what influence we have had. We have made sure that the Secretary of State was not able to proceed with the Wales Bill as he proposed. We were the ones who pointed out the weaknesses constitutionally. We were the ones that pointed out the issues regarding Minister of the Crown consents, the issues regarding the necessity test, the issues regarding the reservations and, indeed, the issues regarding the jurisdiction and the need for a distinct jurisdiction. So, from our point of view, as a Government, we have made sure that we very much stood up for Wales’s interests.
 
13:43
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:43
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. First Minister, last week we heard from the current Member for the Rhondda that he had a rousing reception at the Labour Party conference in Llandudno. [Interruption.] He also gets a very good reception here; no doubt, before he is sent off packing. The point I want to ask you about, First Minister, is that you launched your pledge card at that conference. One thing about this Assembly is that you’ve spent a lot of time in the last five years talking about local government reorganisation and, time and time again, you’ve commissioned reports, such as the Williams report, and pieces of work to look at what would be the best local government map for Wales going forward. Because it was the one thing that didn’t come out of your conference, can you confirm today that if you are re-elected in May—and God help us if you are—the Vale of Glamorgan, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Monmouthshire, Denbighshire and Conwy will disappear from the face of the local government map here in Wales?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I think it’s a sign of desperation from the leader of the opposition that he’s already given up on the election campaign. There we are; it was an interesting comment that he made. Local government mergers we would seek to move ahead with in order to provide a stronger basis for local government in Wales. We’ve always said that.
 
13:44
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I take it, by your answer, that you do mean that if the people of Wales were to re-elect you—and I’m sure that they’re not going to do that, but if they were to re-elect you—they would be losing the Vale of Glamorgan, Monmouthshire, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, Denbighshire and Conwy, and, ultimately, those great place names will disappear from the face of Wales and people will lose the services that they depend on from those local authorities. The one thing that you and I can agree on, I hope, is that the health service needs total reorganisation like a hole in the head. Under Labour in the last 10 years, along with Plaid Cymru, we’ve had two reorganisations. Can you confirm, on your assessment of where the NHS is at the moment, First Minister, that the NHS does not need complete reorganisation here in Wales? That would be devastating to morale and costly in financial terms.
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, first things first: Pembrokeshire, Radnorshire, Breconshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire were all abolished in 1974 by his party. So, in fact, his party have a very good track record of abolishing historic counties in Wales, and now he accuses us of doing the same thing. He’s forgotten that—that it was the Heath Government that actually took that forward under the Local Government Act 1972. So, we're not going to take any lessons from the Conservative Party on local government reorganisation: they got rid of the 13 counties at that point, and then they imposed 22 authorities that nobody wanted in the mid-1990s. There will be no wholesale reorganisation of the health service. We want to see the health service deliver, and we don't want to see it end up as a giant quango. We don't want to see it in a position where we have health boards that only look at their own area. We want to have a health service where health boards work together to deliver the best for the people of Wales.
 
13:46
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Well, you got there in the end, and I think you did confirm that you agree with me that reorganisation of the health service—complete reorganisation of the health service—is something that's completely unwarranted and is not needed here in Wales, although you did bizarrely talk about Radnorshire when I didn't even mention Radnorshire to you, First Minister. But, there you go, that’s something time and time again you’ll bring up. [Interruption.]
 
13:46
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. Order.
 
13:46
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, one of the other pledges you've talked of coming out of your conference was the help to buy scheme that your Government, 18 months after the UK Government brought it forward in England, actually brought into Wales, and you talked of this giving a leg up to homebuyers in Wales. Well, actually, you're talking about taking two thirds of the budget from the help to buy scheme out in this financial year. How is taking two thirds of that budget out helping people to get the homes that they require across Wales? If you look at the figures, in Ceredigion, only six people benefited from the scheme. In Newport, 435 people benefited from it. So, how are you giving homebuyers a leg up when you're taking two thirds of that budget away from people in Wales?
 
13:47
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, the scheme is demand-led. Secondly, what we will not do is see the continued sell-off of public housing, which is why we're going to abolish the right to buy. Why? Because, otherwise, it's the equivalent of trying to fill up a bath with the plug out, which is what the Conservative Party wants to do. I'm looking again at the figures that they've put forward in terms of housing. They wanted to cut the environment, sustainability and housing budget by 25 per cent—there we are—just to remind us all of where they actually stand on this. And I have to remind him that I'm more than happy to talk about our pledges, our six pledges to the people of Wales. We believe they'll resonate with the people of Wales. They are ambitious for Wales, and they are six pledges that we believe people will be supportive of. We look forward to seeing what the Conservative Party will produce, and we particularly look forward to seeing their costings, because, the last time we asked them this, they said they hadn't crunched the numbers.
 
13:48
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.
 
First Minister, this week, we've seen news reports of doctor shortages across the UK, and a poll today that says that the NHS is the top concern for people in Wales. Now, last week, in questions, you said that you were not aware of any patient suffering due to a lack of GPs in north Wales, and, in response, the chairman of the Royal College of GPs in north Wales said, and I quote:
 
‘The number of GPs working full-time has not increased and GP provision in the north is getting worse. Patients are bearing the brunt of this with longer waiting times and pressured consultations.’
 
What makes you think that you know better than GPs working on the ground in north Wales?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, could I answer that question in two ways—first of all, to outline where we are in terms of doctor numbers in Wales, and, secondly, what we're doing to address challenges in some parts of Wales, which, undoubtedly, are there? The number of hospital consultants working in the Welsh NHS increased by nearly 50 per cent between 2004 and 2014. The number of medical and dental staff has increased by 27.5 per cent. The number of GPs—and this excludes registrars, retainers and locums—saw an increase of 10.5 per cent during that time, where there were 2,006 GPs as of September 2014. Between 2013 and 2014, 137 new GPs joined the profession in Wales, and the number of registered patients per general practitioner has fallen by 5.5 per cent to 1,582. That said, there are parts of Wales where there are challenges in attracting GPs. What we’re doing is working with the British Medical Association, with the general practitioners committee and with the royal college in order to address those particular issues, and of course to encourage more people to work in those parts of Wales that have experienced difficulties with recruitment in the recent past.
 
13:50
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I’m glad you’ve acknowledged that the figure for GP increases is 10 per cent. I think maybe the answers that you gave last week could have been misunderstood by people, when you said that you’d recruited over 2,000 GPs. I mean, we do have 2,006 GPs in Wales, but we haven’t recruited an additional 2,000 GPs in the last 10 years, and your documents do state that a number of health boards have identified difficulties in recruiting general practitioners. What that means for patients was reflected in your own health survey, when 40 per cent of those who responded to the Wales health report said that they’ve had difficulties securing a GP appointment. Now, will you accept that there are issues with GP recruitment and a knock-on effect to patients gaining an appointment, or should we conclude that the north Wales GP, who, in response to your questions last week, accused you of being ‘removed from reality’—who was right?
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I do use a GP, as does everyone else in Wales, so it’s not as if we’re ‘removed from reality’. I think it’s right to say that there’s inconsistency in different services across Wales; that’s true. There are some GP surgeries where it is possible to get an appointment tomorrow; I know that. There are others where it’s more difficult, and working with the profession—they are independent contractors at the end of the day—we want to make sure that those inconsistencies are ironed out. In fairness, the profession has responded to that. We see more GP surgeries open now during core hours, we’re seeing more open in the evenings, and that’s something we want to work with the profession on to make sure that that trend continues in the future.
 
13:51
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Of course, what we do need to do is ensure that we are training more people to become GPs to work in our health service, but Wales has only filled 85 per cent of its GP training places. That’s a total of 107 new trainees, but, based on expected future demands, we need to be training 190 new trainees every year. Now, given the difficulties of recruiting to existing training places, and the fact that those training places will not meet future demand for general practitioner services, would you agree with me that, potentially, the problem is going to get worse for patients in Wales, not better?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No. I take the point about ensuring that we can train as many people as possible, but the reality is that, for more than 50 years, we have attracted doctors into Wales from other countries. It will always be the case. It has been the case since that time. The key to recruiting more GPs is to create the environment for them where they can prosper, where they can innovate, where they can truly feel part of a community and working for a community. It’s not about money. It’s about making sure that the freedoms to innovate are there that GPs would want to see, and those freedoms that they would want to use. We constantly look to recruit abroad, and we say to doctors in other countries, ‘Come to Wales; it’s a good working environment’, and, historically, over the last 50 years or more, we have recruited from other countries. We will continue, of course, to work with the profession to make sure that we can attract more GP training places. There is a problem across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of recruiting doctors, so it’s not a problem that is peculiar to Wales, but nevertheless it’s an issue that we will look, with the profession, to address.
 
13:53
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper, and question 3 is Julie Morgan.
 
Manufacturing Jobs
 
13:53
Julie MorganBiography
3. What plans does the Welsh Government have to invest in more skilled manufacturing jobs in south Wales? OAQ(4)2747(FM)
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The skills implementation plan sets out a key role for regional skills partnerships to advise Welsh Government on future prioritisation of skills funding in line with regional employment and skills needs, and both regional skills partnerships in the south of Wales identified advanced materials and manufacturing as a priority sector for their regions.
 
13:53
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the First Minister for that response. Is there anything the Welsh Government can do to help support GE Healthcare’s operations at Forest Farm in my constituency in Cardiff North—perhaps to diversity—in view of the fact that 86 roles are being lost? The manufacture of paper products used in the pharmaceutical industry is going to China, and some research roles are being lost, and, of course, it’s not in an assisted area, where it’s located. So, is there anything the Government can do to help?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, we are working with GE Healthcare to identify alternative employment opportunities for the affected staff within the growing number of life sciences companies in Wales. We’ve supported the creation of the GE innovation village, which has attracted eight life sciences small and medium-sized enterprises to establish their business at the GE site, and officials are in discussion with GE Healthcare to explore how further space at GE could provide space to house innovative SMEs, in order, of course to provide opportunities for those whose jobs might be at risk at the moment.
 
13:55
Altaf HussainBiography
First Minister, as well as any investment in bringing skilled manufacturing jobs to Wales, there needs to be investment in developing those skills. What is your Government doing to involve the manufacturing sector in designing the national curriculum and increasing uptake of science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Uptake of STEM subjects is important, but skills more generally are important to manufacturing, as well. We know that Wales is a country where manufacturers want to come—we saw that with Aston Martin last week. After two years of hard work, working with Aston Martin, we beat off competition from 19 other sites to get that investment into the Vale of Glamorgan.
 
In terms of developing further skills, two examples I can give: Jobs Growth Wales—Jobs Growth Wales was a scheme that was born of discussions with SMEs. They were saying to us that they needed to train people—they had jobs for them, but they didn’t have the time or the money to train them. And that’s why Jobs Growth Wales was so successful. And, of course, as the Member will be aware, we have plans to create 100,000 apprenticeships for all ages in the coming Assembly.
 
13:56
Simon ThomasBiography
On that point I think we would be agreed, First Minister, that we do need new apprenticeships to promote this agenda. Can you therefore provide us with some clarity? You’ve just mentioned 100,000 apprenticeships. Is that 100,000 as a total by the end of the next Assembly—which, by the way, is the same target as Plaid Cymru—or an additional 100,000 on top of the 50,000 that are already in place?
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
A hundred thousand during the next five years of the Assembly, and more than that, hopefully. What’s important is that we should target people of all ages, bearing in mind the fact that it’s very difficult to get a job for life these days, and so it’s extremely important that people have the opportunity to retrain during their working lifetime.
 
13:57
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, investments like the Aston Martin factory in St Athan are a fantastic opportunity for local people, so long as they can access the opportunities for training and development. But older apprentices have said to me that a barrier to them taking on an apprenticeship is the financial cost of doing so. What will the Welsh Government be doing in practical terms to make sure that apprenticeships are truly open to people of all ages?
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That is what we intend to do post May. Aston Martin’s mentioned as an example. We have been working with Aston Martin in order to develop the skills that they need for the future. They’re confident that they can find those skills in the area anyway, and we will continue to work not just with Aston Martin but with other companies in order to ensure that we understand what their skills needs are and then, of course, to meet them.
 
13:57
Christine ChapmanBiography
First Minister, investment in manufacturing brings with it the opportunities for good-quality apprenticeships, and I do welcome Welsh Labour’s commitment to 100,000 extra apprenticeships in the next Assembly term. Manufacturing apprentices tend to be male, so more needs to be done to encourage women into these roles. The cross-party women in the economy group has put forward suggestions on how we can do this, by, for example, disaggregating data by gender and having more female tutors and mentors. Will you look at how we can take these suggestions forward to get the very best apprentices and tap into all of the Welsh talent pool?
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. It’s hugely important that in industries that are seen as, wrongly, traditionally male, we encourage more women and girls to go into those industries and into apprenticeships particularly. If I can give one example: if we look at the Airbus Industrial Cadets, this took 70 female students from schools across the north of Wales through a 10-week programme with the support of female Airbus mentors and role models. I think that’s one example amongst many that can be rolled out further to make sure that that gender imbalance, which undoubtedly exists in some sectors, is addressed in future.
 
The South-east Wales Local Transport Plan
 
13:59
Lindsay WhittleBiography
4. What progress is being made towards implementing the south-east Wales local transport plan? OAQ(4)2734(FM)
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The implementation of the local transport plans is a matter for local authorities.
 
13:59
Lindsay WhittleBiography
First Minister, we know that one of the most important aims of the Assembly and future Assemblies is the economic regeneration of the south Wales Valleys, working closely with those same local authorities, whatever they may be. How will this local transport plan stimulate economic growth in the south-east Wales Valleys? In particular, do you think we should consider free transport for 16 to 25-year-olds to assist them to increase their employment opportunities?
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
What we need to do is to make sure that transport is affordable and available, which is why, of course, the metro is so important to make sure that we have faster, more comfortable and more frequent services across what will become the metro network. I look forward to the UK Government’s contribution to the city deal particularly, which will help to regenerate and to assist large parts of the south-east of Wales.
 
14:00
Mohammad AsgharBiography
First Minister, the south-east Wales local transport plan forecasts a 20 per cent increase in the number of residents commuting to work in the Cardiff capital region in the next 25 years. What consideration has the Welsh Government given to the creation of a rail park and ride station, similar to Bristol Parkway, to serve as the major rail hub for Cardiff, which could also serve Cardiff Airport at the same time?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, these are all matters wrapped up in the metro, because we have made it clear that we are ambitious to create a fully integrated transport system that encompasses heavy rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, and that is something that is moving forward now apace.
 
Healthcare in Brecon and Radnorshire
 
14:01
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on healthcare services in Brecon and Radnorshire? OAQ(4)2746(FM)
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We expect Powys Teaching Local Health Board to ensure the people of Brecon and Radnor have access to health services that are safe, sustainable and deliver the best possible clinical outcomes for patients.
 
14:01
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, the refurbishment work in Llandrindod Wells hospital is well under way, and will allow us to bring new services to that community. One thing my constituents would dearly love to have in Llandrindod Wells hospital and, indeed, other community hospitals, is access to chemotherapy services. At present, many constituents are travelling well over an hour to access chemo services in other district general hospitals, yet there are no clinical reasons why those services could not be provided in community hospitals in Brecon and Radnorshire, thus negating the need to travel as far. What will the Welsh Government do to work with Powys local health board to deliver chemotherapy services in our community hospitals?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, I thank the leader of the Liberal Democrats for the acknowledgement of the investment at Llandrindod Wells. It does form part of the first phase of wider refurbishment proposals, which will total £5.3 million, for essential hospital services on the site, as part of the strategy to improve staff and patient environments while, of course, enhancing the long-term viability of the hospital. I will ask the health Minister to write on the particular issue of chemotherapy. I don’t know whether there are clinical reasons—she’s told me that there aren’t—or whether there are other reasons that prevent chemotherapy from being taken forward, certainly for certain conditions, on site. But, I will certainly investigate that and make sure that she gets a letter back.
 
14:02
Simon ThomasBiography
Brecon and Radnor, and mid Wales more generally, is one of those areas where there are problems in terms of access to GPs, particularly in the evenings and on the weekends. You’re very fond of saying, First Minister, that you’ve increased the number of GPs 10 per cent over the past 10 years, but the increase in England over the same period is 20 per cent. So, every time you increase, we fall further behind. What specifically do you have in place to attract GPs to somewhere like mid Wales, and west Wales too, where, at the moment, there isn’t the kind of offering that is likely to attract those who would want to become partners, and where it’s even difficult to get employed GPs in place?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, this is something that the collaborative has been part of and has been working on, namely looking at ways of attracting people into mid Wales and ensuring that they remain there, of course. This is something they’ve been working on. It’s extremely important, if we were to consider Powys, for example, that work has been done in Machynlleth and in Newtown in order to ensure that the service is maintained for the population there. So, when issues do arise as regards some surgeries, then, of course, the board must ensure that the service is retained for the public there.
 
The way the system works is this: the GPs are contractors and it’s up to them to ensure that they adhere to the contract. When they fail, then, of course, the health board can consider putting salaried doctors in, in order to ensure that the service continues. That’s what’s happened in Prestatyn in north Wales.
 
Reducing the Risk of Flooding
 
14:04
Janet HaworthBiography
6. Will the First Minister make a statement on actions taken by the Welsh Government to reduce flooding risk in the future? OAQ(4)2741(FM)
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Over the lifetime of this Government, we will have invested over £285 million across Wales to reduce flood risk and strengthen our resilience to climate change.
 
14:05
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you for your response, Minister. Could you please clarify these areas of concern for me? That your Government will give full consideration to the work being carried out by Aberystwyth University’s river dynamics and hydrology department, which challenges current thinking on floods in Wales; and that the work to rethink and remap the drainage systems in the upland forest around Llanrwst will proceed urgently—I’m told these drainage systems do date back to the 1940s. And you will be aware that one hydropower station is already capable of discharging 8 million tonnes of water into the river Conwy. Another is planned. Will your Government be calling in the plan for Conwy falls at the head of this river?
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Firstly, we can’t, obviously, take the view of one person and one department and say that that necessarily is the only evidence in a particular area. What needs to be looked at is the weight of evidence; it’s a matter for Natural Resources Wales to examine that. When it comes to flooding, especially around Llanrwst, I know that the people who live in Llanrwst have been happy to see the work that’s been taken forward. I visited Llanrwst on New Year’s Eve—it was certainly New Year’s Eve or a few days beforehand—I saw the work for myself, I spoke to local councillors, and they were able to demonstrate to me how the flood defence schemes on the River Conwy around Llanrwst had helped to make sure that Llanrwst didn’t flood, particularly to the levels that it had in years gone by, particularly when groundwater was coming up through people’s houses, against which, of course, there is no defence. Local authorities have the responsibility, of course, of dealing with flooding. They, of course, are able to bid for grant funding for flood schemes; they’ve done that successfully around Wales, and NRW, of course, are also there to advise as to how flood schemes should be taken forward.
 
14:06
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
May I return to the statement made by Professor Mark Macklin yesterday? What he suggested was that NRW weren’t taking into account the historic floods on Welsh rivers. Constituents in my area suffered more than in any other part of Wales as a result of flooding on Boxing Day, and one of the very obvious problems was the experience of people on the ground, and their memories of previous floods. What’s characteristic about the public meetings that I’ve attended is that the professionals aren’t often aware of that at all. So, I do think that Professor Mark Macklin has a point here. Do you believe that ignoring historic evidence such as this is acceptable and is good practice?
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t pretend to be an expert in this field, but what I know is—I understand that this research has been undertaken; I realise that that research is important and I’m not critical of that at all—but this is the view of one person, and one group of researchers who’ve carried out this work. Of course, it’s important to consider the work that they have undertaken, and that evidence, but no-one would expect the direction to change because of one piece of work. So, what’s important is that the work be considered and that that work adds to the corpus of evidence that already exists.
 
14:08
William PowellBiography
First Minister, I’m sure you’ll join me in applauding the UK Government’s last-minute change of heart in deciding, after all, to put in a bid to the EU solidarity fund for the relief of flood victims. I’ve been campaigning on this issue since just after the Boxing Day floods occurred, as indeed has my UK party leader, and I wrote to David Lidington and Liz Truss on this matter, both pro-EU Ministers. It would appear that the current civil war within the Government has at least enabled this wise decision to be agreed. First Minister, what can we now do to ensure that this much-needed money from the European solidarity fund, when it is made available, is directed to those who need it most, and that we have as little as possible caught up in the morass of UK administration in this regard?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We are in discussion with the UK Government on this. The best way of securing the funding is to stay in the EU, clearly. His view and my view are similar, of course, on this issue. If the leader of the Welsh Conservatives had his way, the money wouldn’t be there at all, and those people would not be helped. But certainly, staying within the—[Interruption.] He says ‘Debate it’; this is the man who says he’s not going to debate anything on the EU, but there we are. We’re still waiting for the article he was going to write to justify why he’s selling farmers down the river, but I accept that that’s not the point on this occasion. It’s important we stay in the EU to make sure that we’re able to access that money to help our people.
 
14:10
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
It’s good of you to answer questions, First Minister, but when he’s sitting down he’s not actually asking you a question, so you don’t have to respond.
 
Small Businesses in Taff Ely
 
14:10
Mick AntoniwBiography
7. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government's priorities for small businesses in Taff Ely? OAQ(4)2745(FM)
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Wide-ranging support is available through our Business Wales service, and via a range of business rates initiatives, for businesses in the Taff Ely area and across Wales.
 
14:10
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, your Welsh Labour pledges in respect of the renewal and extension of small business allowance has been very well received in the Pontypridd high street and by small businesses. I suppose my concern is, really, of course, we have many other small towns—Pontyclun, Tonyrefail, Talbot Green—with vibrant communities of retail there. I wonder if you could perhaps outline to what extent that policy would benefit those small businesses and what the benefits might be to the high street in our small towns of south Wales.
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, indeed. It’ll benefit all those who qualify for the relief. We expect three quarters of small businesses to be affected positively. We expect about half not to pay business rates at all. These are difficult times, particularly in the retail sector, for SMEs. We are committed to assist our high street; that’s why, of course, we’re going to reduce taxes for small businesses.
 
14:11
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, obviously the Welsh Conservatives have a long-standing policy on business rates to exclude all businesses with a rateable value up to £12,000 and taper that up to £15,000. For, I think, nine years now, we’ve been pressing a Welsh Labour Government to try and implement such a business rate relief policy. Your Member for Pontypridd touched on your policy that you announced at your conference. Can you explain whether it will be as generous as the Welsh Conservative policy, or is it merely an extension of what is currently in place, which is up to £6,000 business rate relief?
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I don’t know what his policy is.
 
14:12
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I’ve just told you.
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
He keeps on saying that his party has policies. What’s odd is that he keeps on saying, ‘We have policies; I’ve just told you’, and yet when I produce the document that his own party produced that shows the cuts they propose to make, that’s not his policy. That’s an old policy, that’s not his policy. The reality is, we have produced a policy that will be of benefit to small businesses across Wales, we have explained it and we have costed it. The small business owners of Wales wait to see what he will say once he’s crunched his numbers.
 
Cancer Waiting Times (South Wales Central)
 
14:12
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
8. Will the First Minister make a statement on the action being taken by the Welsh Government to tackle cancer waiting times currently experienced by patients in South Wales Central? OAQ(4)2733(FM)
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I’ll try to answer his fifth question. Cancer is a top priority for the NHS and our Government. We are continuing to make progress in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. More people are being diagnosed with cancer in Wales, but more people than ever are being treated and survival rates are at an all-time high.
 
14:13
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I’m sorry it troubles you that I’ve had five questions this afternoon. I think it’s called democracy, First Minister, but I appreciate there’s not much of that in the Labour party. [Assembly Members: ‘Oh.’]
 
The Cardiff and Vale—
 
14:13
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order.
 
14:13
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
[Continues.]—cancer wait times declined to 65 per cent of patients who were diagnosed under the cancer urgent suspect route. Ultimately, the national average is only 83 per cent. Your own target here in Wales is for 95 per cent of patients to be referred within the time frame. That target has never been met since 2008, First Minister. With Cardiff and the Vale having the poorest referral times, what action is the Welsh Government taking to make sure that those times are moved closer to the Welsh Government’s own target, so that when someone does get the devastating diagnosis of cancer, they can be assured that they’ll be put on the right treatment path in the time that they expect to be treated in?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’ve got no problem with him asking a number of questions. It’s the backbenchers who will feel that they’re not able to ask questions, but that’s for another time.
 
He asked the question about Cardiff and the Vale. Cardiff plays an important role in respect of specialist services alongside more routine services for its local population. It does offer that service, so there is greater pressure on Cardiff and the Vale. For example, referrals over the last year have been 17 per cent higher than the previous year, so Cardiff has needed to see and treat more patients. Nevertheless, there has been an improvement in performance for December of last year—a 10 per cent improvement, in fact, at 71 per cent—and that’s the best performance since May.
 
He talks about figures for cancer waiting times in Wales. They have consistently been better than England. Yes, that’s true to say we haven’t reached targets, because our targets are more ambitious—that much is true. Nevertheless, when it comes to cancer, we’ve consistently shown that if people want to get diagnosis and treatment, then the figures in Wales are better.
 
Electoral Reorganisation
 
14:14
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
9. What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding electoral reorganisation? OAQ(4)2748(FM)[W]
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t quite know what the Member means by electoral reorganisation, but I can say that no such discussions have taken place.
 
14:15
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I am referring to last week’s announcement that there is an intention to reduce the number of Members of Parliament from 40 to 29 in Wales. I have no opposition in principle to reducing the number of MPs, but, of course, Wales is experiencing more than its share of the cuts that are being proposed. There are some exceptions to the changes, namely some of the Scottish isles and the Isle of Wight, with their status as islands meaning that they do have the right to remain as distinct constituencies. The same isn’t true here in Wales with Ynys Môn. The risk, I think, of merging Ynys Môn, where most of the population of any constituency would live, with a small part of the mainland is that that would be a disservice to Ynys Môn and that small part of the mainland. So, will the First Minister join with me in calling for the exception of Ynys Môn also?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member is asking a very clever question on behalf of his electorate on Ynys Môn, and on Holy Island, of course. I’m not in favour of cutting the numbers of MPs we have in Westminster because that would be diluting the voice of Wales. I’m sure the Member will make his point very strongly to the boundary commissioner once that process has taken place.
 
14:16
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, your Government’s first Local Government (Wales) Bill detailed total costs to the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales of over £4 million to undertake boundary reviews, even though final directions have not yet been issued with regard to undertaking these. Could you advise as to the full costings associated with these reviews, considering none of us knows yet what those final directions are going to be? Does this figure include the cost of the proposed final directions and have you actually allocated any money in respect of this?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, given the fact that the question is about discussions with the UK Government, I’ve had no discussions with the UK Government on this point.
 
14:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:17
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the next item of business, which is the business statement, and I—[Interruption.] Thank you. I call on the business Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
14:17
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Llywydd, there’s been one change to the business statement for this week’s business. The First Minister will make a statement on the draft Wales Bill. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among the agenda papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:17
William GrahamBiography
Business Minister, can I ask your colleague the Minister for the environment to make a statement regarding the illegal activity taking place in Peterstone Wentlooge? A large number of residents have been seriously inconvenienced by certain people, shall we say, who seemed to take no notice of the current law in terms of the destruction of hedges and gross interference with people’s liberties on footpaths and on designated footpaths by this Assembly. Newport City Council have tried what they can. The Gwent Police have also done their best, but it requires more action from Natural Resources Wales. The Minister has kindly facilitated access by me to his officials in the past, but a statement is now necessary to make sure that the illegal activities will now cease.
 
14:18
Jane HuttBiography
I know the Minister will have heard the update, William Graham, on action that he has taken in the past to facilitate Natural Resources Wales—access to officials. And, indeed, all the other agencies have a role to play. But, on the record again, of course, today, we hear that this is still an ongoing issue that needs to be tackled.
 
14:18
Julie MorganBiography
Today, we’re celebrating St David’s Day, and I’m sure the Minister is aware that, on Thursday, it’s World Book Day. Many libraries and schools are holding events to celebrate the joy of reading and to encourage children to read. In my constituency in Cardiff North, I’ll be supporting a group called AWEN@TheLibrary, which aims to develop the use of library buildings for arts and other recreation activities. So, I wondered if it would be possible to have a statement that gave an assessment about what has happened to the libraries during the period of change throughout Wales. The uncertainty over funding has caused many libraries to have to look at their roles. Would it be possible to have a statement about what is happening?
 
14:19
Jane HuttBiography
I think that’s a very good opportunity in terms of World Book Day and the activities that will be taking place in your constituency in Cardiff North, Julie Morgan. I know the Deputy Minister, of course, is taking a very close interest in the way in which the library provision is progressing. He’s going to be launching, in fact, a national digital library on World Book Day and he would be very happy to provide an update, as you request.
 
14:20
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Can I ask for a statement from the Welsh Government about the appointment of a new chair for the Arts Council of Wales? There is a growing concern in the arts sector about the time it’s taking to complete, and I understand that the latest shortlist of candidates were interviewed three weeks ago at the beginning of February, but that it is the Welsh Government that is dragging its feet over the decision. I also understand that your Government is expecting to make an announcement in the middle of March. That’s for a job that starts in April, which was first advertised last July and re-advertised in November. Clearly, there must be something amiss here, so could you give us some clarification, either from the Minister or the First Minister?
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, this is a matter that is undertaken in full accordance with the Nolan principles and processes.
 
14:20
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, many people, I’m sure, will have seen the St David’s Day message from Tim Peake from the space station this morning. Would the Minister, perhaps, write to the volunteers of the Brecon and Radnor Amateur Radio Society who have organised an opportunity for the young people of Brecon and Radnorshire to speak to Tim Peake this Saturday morning, hosted by Builth Wells High School? Students from Crickhowell High School and Gwernyfed High School will also be present. They will be using the opportunity to highlight careers in radio engineering and radio technology. Even at this late stage, it would not be too late, I’m sure, for the Welsh Government to send a representative to Builth Wells on Saturday morning to witness for themselves the link-up with the space station and Tim Peake and, I’m sure, the great enjoyment that these school pupils of Brecon and Radnorshire will have as a result of that opportunity afforded to them by the volunteers of the amateur radio society.
 
14:22
Jane HuttBiography
I’d like to congratulate the Member for Brecon and Radnor for her full engagement with the young people who took part, and who will be taking part on Saturday in terms of that message link to Tim Peake, and of course, again, providing the opportunity for us to thank Tim Peake for acknowledging the importance of St David’s Day. But, indeed, the ways in which you are engaging with young people across Brecon and Radnor is very valid and admirable in terms of their skills and possible job and career opportunities in the future.
 
14:22
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, today it’s St David’s Day and clearly many of our schools will be hosting eisteddfodau to celebrate the arts and culture in Wales, but we are still in a position where music education in Wales is, sadly, in decline in some places. I wonder if I could ask for a statement from the Minister for Education and Skills updating us on the progress of his recent review and the implementation of it. In particular, I’d like to understand how the Welsh Government goes about monitoring the number of young people in our schools who are able to learn musical instruments, as not all of the local authorities in Wales were able to provide me with that information when I asked for it under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
 
Secondly, given the speculation in the press over the weekend over the governance arrangements for the Valleys lines and the Wales and borders franchise, I understand that the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport is minded to produce a statement on the governance arrangements moving forward. I wonder if we could have a timetable for that statement, please.
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
It’s very important that you recognise the Minister for education’s interest in music education and the fact that a review has been undertaken. In fact, this is something where, of course, we await the outcome of that review, because of the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensuring that music education can progress, despite the cuts from the UK Government to Welsh Government, which, of course, has had a negative impact in terms of our abilities. To enable the review to undertake this assessment I think is very important.
 
On your second point, of course this is a matter for the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, and she will, of course, update us in due course.
 
14:24
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:24
3. Statement: The Draft Wales Bill
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 3, which is a statement by the First Minister on the draft Wales Bill. I call on the First Minister, Carwyn Jones.
 
14:24
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Llywydd. I’d like to make a statement responding to the Secretary of State’s announcement yesterday that the Wales Bill is to be paused. We do now have an opportunity, if the will is truly there, to repair the damage done by a flawed process, and to produce a genuinely meaningful piece of legislation. I should first make it clear to the Assembly that I know no more about the Secretary of State’s intentions than what has appeared in the press. The Welsh Government was not notified beforehand of the content of the Secretary of State’s announcement, nor has there been any follow-up communication as to what might happen next. If there is to be any real progress with this Bill, it must be a Bill made with Wales, not for Wales, as recognised by both the Assembly’s committee on constitutional and legal affairs and, more recently, the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.
 
The UK Government’s press release about the announcement makes a number of points, and I’ll deal with these in turn. First, on the overall model of devolution, the so-called ‘necessity test’ is to be removed. On the face of it, this is to be welcomed, and, of course, reflects the views of this Assembly and many others who have commented on the Bill. But it remains unclear exactly what the announcement implies. Now, sadly, I can’t envisage a situation where there’ll be no restrictions at all on the Assembly’s powers to modify the private and criminal law. But unfortunately, it is impossible for me to comment further without seeing more detail.
 
That’s also true of the second element of yesterday’s announcement, on ministerial powers and consents. The Welsh Government’s position has been clear for many months and is on the record, and the Secretary of State announced that he will look at each of these with a view to devolving as many as possible. That’s good, but that can’t be a matter for the Secretary of State alone. If there are to be exceptions to the general principle, these must be agreed between the two Governments, and that will require dialogue. Welsh Government officials have held two meetings with Wales Office officials where this was on the agenda and I wrote to the Secretary of State specifically on this issue on 23 November of last year. But other than his public indication yesterday that the English veto on Welsh laws was never his intention, we’ve not yet had a response.
 
The same point needs to be made in relation to reservations. Here, we are told that the Wales Office is to review the existing list in discussion with Whitehall departments and that each reservation will have to be justified. My officials held 15 meetings with UK Government officials between October and January and have provided a full and comprehensive view on each of the reservations to them. But, again, no response. If this process remains entirely internal to the UK Government, I can have little confidence that this won’t be another Bill made for Wales, not with Wales.
 
Finally, could I turn to the question of legal jurisdiction? Here, it’s clear that the Secretary of State has rejected the unanimous view of this Assembly and that of the Welsh Affairs Committee: that this is a matter meriting further examination. Instead, we are to have a working group
 
‘to consider what distinct arrangements are required to recognise Wales’s needs’
 
within the existing jurisdiction. From the press announcement, it appears that the Welsh Government is to be represented on this group, but we’ve not yet been approached.
 
I would, however, like to make a more general point. I believe the creation of a legal jurisdiction for Wales is an inevitable constitutional development within the United Kingdom. I’ve urged the Secretary of State to take a more far-sighted view and I’d like to see the UK Government move towards this now, rather than under pressure of events later on.
 
Llywydd, last October, in a statement to the Assembly about the publication of the draft Bill, I said this, and I quote:
 
‘A Wales Bill should provide an opportunity to improve the way Wales is governed. But unless significant changes are made to make’
 
the Bill
 
‘fit for purpose, that opportunity will be lost. We will continue our constructive dialogue to help achieve that, and we look to the UK Government to respond accordingly, in line with the needs of the people of Wales.’
 
Those words are as true today as they were six months ago. Much more needs to be done to secure a constitutional basis for the governance of Wales in the UK that meets the Secretary of State’s own tests of clarity, coherence, stability, workability and sustainability. Thank you.
 
14:29
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, thank you for your statement today, and I do welcome the announcement from the Secretary of State yesterday on the representations that he’s received from this institution, from the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and from representatives across Wales and, indeed, across the United Kingdom, who have an interest in Welsh devolution and a robust constitutional settlement that will deliver what we all want to see—a settlement for Wales that, ultimately, will move us on from the constant constitutional debates and discussions that, for the last 17 years, have been a hallmark of Welsh political life. I do think it’s somewhat regrettable that the First Minister does choose to use the tone again about the English veto on Welsh laws. I don’t recognise the Westminster Parliament as being an exclusively English Parliament, and I do not recognise the UK Government as being an exclusively English Government. It is a Government for the United Kingdom. And if that is going to be the tone that the First Minister and the Government are going to continue engaging in, that really doesn’t bode well for the process ahead.
 
There is an opportunity here to build on the solid work, and the solid representations, that have been made. I’d like to pay special tribute to the Presiding Officer who’s made many representations on the Assembly-as-the-legislature’s view, on what we believe the Bill could look like with the improvements that will be made. Because, at the end of the day, this was a draft Bill that was placed before the people of Wales, before this institution, before the Select Committee, to offer that discussion, offer that debate, and ultimately bring forward those improvements. Surely that’s what we want to see, and that is good legislative process, as I would like to see it.
 
I would also hope that the First Minister might—. He chose not to comment in his statement around the devolution of income tax, because also yesterday the Secretary of State did touch on the discussions and negotiations to make sure that Wales wasn’t disadvantaged by the transfer of income tax devolution. And that was very prominent last week, in the discussions around Scotland and the financial settlement that Scotland had secured in their negotiations with the Treasury. I do find it somewhat bizarre that, in this entire statement, the First Minister has chosen not to refer to that whatsoever, because this is a big piece of transfer of responsibilities that the Bill will bring to Wales, and something I very, very warmly welcome.
 
I do offer the First Minister any assistance, in the short time that is left, to encourage communication, to encourage dialogue, to make sure that it’s not just the Welsh Government, but all parties in this institution, and, indeed, the legislature as a whole, to have a very full and frank discussion on this. I do think the Assembly itself really shone when we had that all-party debate here, back a couple of months ago, with the quality of the debate and the quality of the opinions that were expressed.
 
And I know full well that those opinions were taken on board, and ultimately have put us in the position where we will now be in a position to shape a piece of legislation that is the only opportunity in this legislative window—the five years of this Westminster Parliament—to seek a transfer of responsibilities to this institution over a whole raft of powers that, ultimately, could make democracy far more secure here in Wales, and far more interactive with the public of Wales, because we will be able to actually shape so much of the economy of Wales, the life of Wales, and, ultimately, the transformation agenda we all want to embrace, by the powers that could be contained in the future Wales Bill. With that, I’d ask the First Minister to respond to the points I’ve made.
 
14:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Can I thank the leader of the opposition for his comments? Could I explain what I mean by ‘English votes on English laws’? He makes the point—and it’s a fair point—that there are UK Ministers and there’s a UK Parliament, but on that basis then we shouldn’t have English votes on English laws. The same principle applies.
 
The Minister of the Crown consents, as they are currently drafted, would mean that Ministers who have no responsibility outside of England, as Ministers, would have a veto over laws in Wales. Yes, they are UK Ministers, but, in practical terms, they have no role in Wales, nor would the UK Parliament have the ability to take a different position to a Minister who refused, for example, to give consent. That’s the issue. So, effectively, you have Ministers who are acting as English Ministers, in that role, who are effectively in the position of being able to stop Welsh laws. Therefore, it is an English veto on Welsh laws, in the same way as there are English votes on English laws in the UK Parliament—an issue that, personally, I do not agree with.
 
In terms of the draft Bill, there are three flaws, particularly, that I identify in this process. And these are issues that I have raised with the Secretary of State, and told him, in good faith, many months ago. Firstly, the failure to engage with Welsh Government at the beginning. We were presented with a Bill that was so far from being able to be agreed, not just by Government, but by parties across this Chamber, that time would have been saved if there had been early engagement and a joint approach to drafting the legislation. And that’s something that I regret.
 
The second point, I think, that the Secretary of State would need to reflect on is that what he did, in effect, was say to Whitehall departments, ‘What do you think should be or is devolved?’, rather than saying, ‘This is what I want to see devolved.’ And the result then, of course, was two things. First of all, a situation where Whitehall departments gave their own interpretation of what was and what wasn’t devolved, and also an invitation to some of them to suggest that what is currently devolved should no longer be devolved. I’ve made the point in this Chamber before about coracles being regarded as shipping. That was something that was presented to us as something that they wanted to see taken from this Assembly because there was no framework within which they were being told to operate. Now, it’s there, but the third point is this: there has been a delay of many months that wasn’t required, that wasn’t needed. We could have been far further down the line than this, and have a Bill that was robust, that would gain broad support—not full support of all parties in this Chamber, but broad support across this Chamber—to provide Wales with a robust constitutional settlement.
 
I don’t think it’s possible to have that settlement without addressing the situation of the jurisdiction; otherwise we end up in the position of being an oddity in terms of legal systems around the world where, again, you have two legislatures passing laws on the same policy areas within the same jurisdiction. It’s just unknown. From a legal point of view it’s nonsensical. But these are discussions over the distinct jurisdiction, particularly, that will need to be had, but unless they are addressed—if that door is closed—then this can never be a sustainable settlement. I hope that that isn’t the case.
 
He made a point about the income tax powers. Well, we are moving forward with those. Later on this afternoon we have a Bill that will be progressing—I trust—through the Assembly regarding the organisation that will be set up that will collect those taxes. We want to see the same fiscal framework as the Scots have, bluntly. There is no reason why Wales should be treated differently, and we look forward, in the discussions that the Minister will be having with Treasury, to a recognition that Wales will be treated in exactly the same way as Scotland, and on the same favourable basis as Scotland.
 
14:37
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, you’ve covered very much the issue with regard to the distinct jurisdiction, and you’ve raised also the various issues about the need to actually work together with the UK Government in order to achieve a workable piece of legislation, but of course all this has been long provided for within the devolution guidance notes, in particular guidance note No. 9, which very comprehensively provides for the need for both Governments to be able to get together, to work together, to sort out these constitutional anomalies, and to be able to walk forward collectively together. It seems to me that one of the problems is that guidance note No. 9 has almost been completely pushed to one side. Do you agree with me that one of the important things now is that we actually resurrect those guidance notes and we actually put them into force to make them work? Because unless they work, there will not be the level of co-operation and organisation in order to sort out not only the issue of reserved powers, and the issues of the tests and so on, but also the fundamental point would go to the absolute core of a workable piece of legislation, and that is the issue of jurisdiction and the creation, which seems to be accepted almost universally now by everyone working in this field, of a distinct legal jurisdiction for Wales.
 
14:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Two points were raised there by the Member. First of all, the devolution guidance is well and good on paper, but it requires, at its heart, an agreement on what is and what isn’t within the competence of this Assembly. If that isn’t there, the rest of it has no effect at all. The issue that we have faced is not that DG9 is being ignored, but we can’t even get to that point because there is a dispute over competence. So, ensuring that competence is clearer, as it is in Scotland, is a major step forward in terms of being able to see DG9—or whatever its successor might be—being used properly in order to govern the relationship between these two institutions.
 
It’s also important, of course, to understand that, from the perspective of the Assembly, we could not agree, I’m sure, to any situation that would see a narrowing or a more shallow approach to the competence of this Assembly. The reason why we have seen that approach taken in the Bill is precisely because of the obsession with preserving the single jurisdiction as it is. At the very heart of the Bill is the philosophy, because it’s a single jurisdiction, that in effect a difference in the law between England and Wales would be an exception, which is why the necessity test was there, which goes right against, of course, what 2011 referendum said. Progress has been made on the necessity test. I welcome that, of course, but you cannot get away from the examination that needs to take place in terms of the jurisdiction. We have put forward what we think is a compromise position, which is that there should be a distinct jurisdiction, so there would be a formal separation of the jurisdictions, there’d be no problem in terms of the professions working in both jurisdictions, there’d be no difficulty with judges being accredited to sit in both jurisdictions, and the courts system would remain the same. That, I believe, is a perfectly sensible and rational compromise that would lead to far greater clarity in the settlement.
 
14:40
Leanne WoodBiography
Another day and yet another stall in the devolution process of Wales. Why is getting a decent, workable, clear, fit-for-purpose settlement so difficult? It’s hard to think of another nation anywhere that has been so poorly served by both its Governments: the current Labour Government has had the best part of five years to secure a just devolution framework for our country and it has failed. We have the only devolved Government to have failed in its objectives for greater devolution. We don’t even know what the Government’s objectives are. Contrast that with the last Welsh Government that, despite the best efforts of the then UK Labour Government, secured the first law-making Parliament for Wales in 600 years. That would never had happened were it not for Plaid Cymru being a part of that Government, and the First Minister knows that all too well. We have just a matter of weeks before the elections for the National Assembly. All parties—[Interruption.]
 
14:41
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order. Thank you.
 
14:41
Leanne WoodBiography
Thank you. All parties will have the opportunity to present their plans for the next stage of Wales’s devolution journey. With the other party leaders here I was present during the UK Government’s St David’s Day process, which culminated in the current Wales Bill. There was a race to the bottom—a lowest-common-denominator approach to Wales that suited the London-based parties, but was in direct conflict with Wales’s needs. I must say that for a party apparently so opposed to needless red tape, the UK Government have produced unnecessary reams of red tape designed only to hold Wales back. So, it is with caution that I welcome the Secretary of State’s commitment to withdraw the necessity tests from the Bill and to curtail the long list of powers to be reserved at Westminster. It is unacceptable that even the Tory-majority Welsh Affairs Committee supports a distinct legal jurisdiction for Wales, but the Secretary of State continues to veto such proposals.
 
Whilst I welcome the pause so that we have a chance at least to salvage something for Wales from this Bill, there are important consequences to be considered from this. So, I’d like to ask you this, First Minister: what exactly do you see happening to the Bill? The delay is needed, but it does mean that the next Assembly doesn’t now get the powers to change its name and electoral system, for example. I’d also draw to your attention the issue of income tax and the fiscal framework. I reiterate my belief that it is reckless for parties to make premature tax commitments before a fiscal framework has been secured. This position is supported in a recent report by the Wales Governance Centre. Does the First Minister share our concerns? Plaid Cymru in Government after the election will convene urgent negotiations with the UK Government, based not on Whitehall plans, but on a draft Wales Bill mandated by people in Wales. So, I ask the current First Minister why he has not adopted this approach from the very outset.
 
14:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, first of all, this was not an issue at the 2011 election—it’s an issue that has developed since that time—so, no party in reality had a mandate in 2011, in that sense, to move forward with this. But, nevertheless, it’s my judgment and I’m sure that it’s yours as well that the people of Wales want to see devolution move forward and to get a settled constitutional framework for Wales. It is a shame that the leader of Plaid Cymru takes such a partisan approach in terms of what has been a cross-party—. In fairness to the leader of the opposition, we had a little jousting between us, but he acknowledged that his position is similar in terms of ensuring a fair and sustainable constitutional basis for Wales’s future. But that’s a matter for her party. She does misrepresent what happened at those discussions. There were others in those discussions in London. She gives the impression that somehow I sat there not saying anything. I spoke, I suspect, more than anybody else in that room. I’ve never been bound by any lowest common denominator. I’ve always taken the view, for example, that teachers’ pay and conditions should be devolved now. That is an issue that the Secretary of State will look at. I’ve always taken the position that Minister of the Crown consents in devolved areas are inappropriate. I’ve always taken the position that the necessity test is wrong, and I’ve taken the position, having looked at the Bill, that there should be a distinct jurisdiction. The reality is that she’s followed everything that we’ve said. Before we made these points, Plaid weren’t making these points. But I welcome her being in the same position as we are now.
 
In terms of the Bill itself, it’s not the responsibility of the Welsh Government to produce a workable Bill. It was a pledge that was put forward by the current UK Government. They have not fulfilled that pledge yet. They need to explain how they would produce a Bill that would satisfy their own manifesto commitment, made at the last general election, and which will meet the concerns of all the parties in this Chamber, in fairness, and move Wales forward to clearer ground than is the case at the moment. One of the things that we’ve examined is how we can seek to improve the Bill, but the problem was that the Bill in itself was so flawed it was very difficult to improve it to a point where it became workable. That’s why, of course, there needs to be a fresh start.
 
In terms of income tax pledges, I’ve got no problem at all in accepting that income tax powers will come to this Assembly. I have no problem at all in declaring that we would not seek to increase income taxes in Wales. I’ll leave it to her to explain what her position is on tax. She will need to make that clear before the election, because those powers may well come to us during the course of the next Assembly. That is a matter for her. Nevertheless, what is important now is that the UK Government moves forward with a workable Wales Bill, works with the Welsh Government, works, indeed, with this Assembly, to make sure that we have a Bill that is understood, that is clear, that extends the competence of this Assembly, that preserves the good bits of the Bill that are there, and more than anything else addresses the issues of the jurisdiction in order to ensure that we have a Bill that will serve Wales well for many years to come. I don’t believe that’s served by the approach that the leader of Plaid Cymru’s outlined this afternoon. I think it’s best served by the approach that’s been taken over the course of the last few months, where all parties have made their views very clear to the Secretary of State.
 
14:47
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I don’t know, but perhaps there’s still, even at this late time, an opportunity to suggest one addition to the draft Wales Bill, and that is that all future meetings about the devolution settlement should be held in public so we don’t have to sit here listening to the ‘He said’, ‘She said’, ‘I said more’, ‘She said less’, and ‘I was always in favour of teachers’ pay and conditions, it’s just Owen wouldn’t let me do it’ kind of conversations that have dominated this Chamber. But let me say at the outset that I welcome very much the decision by the Secretary of State for Wales to pause this process, and I do welcome very much indeed the Secretary of State’s being as good as his word. He said that he would listen to representations made, and he has done that. I think that should be acknowledged by everybody here in this Chamber. I am particularly glad that he has recognised that the necessity test was not acceptable and could never have been acceptable. I think he has gone some way to acknowledging the ministerial consents issue. It should never have been the case that a Minister in Westminster had the right to veto Welsh legislation that was in a devolved area; never the case, and I am very glad that he has indicated his willingness to accept that point.
 
That does leave us with the issue of what do we do about ministerial consents if this Assembly legislates in a way that touches on non-devolved issues. Now, the First Minister will be aware of the very difficult and lengthy negotiations during the passage of the social care and wellbeing Bill, where that legislation sought to place duties on non-devolved functions, primarily the justice system and the police system, and that was quite complex. We got there in the end, but it was quite a complex process. So, I’d be grateful to hear from the First Minister how he feels that those issues—of when the National Assembly may legislate in a way that impacts on non-devolved issues—should be managed between both institutions.
 
Can I turn to the list of reservations? The Secretary of State has indicated that he is willing to review that, and I hope, when he says ‘review’, that means he will look to reduce the numbers. But I am concerned that we still will not get to a situation where we will be dealing with a shortlist of reservations. Would the First Minister agree with me that it really is incumbent on the Westminster Government to explain why areas are not to be devolved? There really does need to be that clarity in the process about why matters need to be reserved.
 
Can I then turn to the issue of jurisdiction? I think the First Minister is right in his assessment. In time to come, we will need, as the Welsh statute book grows, to have our own separate jurisdiction, but I think we’re on a journey to achieving that. Would he outline to me that we could move to a distinct but not entirely separate jurisdiction in the meantime, as the Welsh statute book grows? Will he be making the case for that in the working group that has been set up, or has been proposed to be set up, by the Secretary of State?
 
Finally, First Minister, the Secretary of State did seem to suggest yesterday that it was his own personal opinion that the issue of jurisdiction should be put to a referendum. Now, having made the very sensible decision not to require a referendum for tax-making powers, would you agree with me that the prospect of trying to win a referendum on the concept that Wales should have a separate jurisdiction is not one we should relish and we should just move forward on that basis, and that any idea of a referendum on this subject should be dismissed at once?
 
14:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I have on my left hand side the Minister for local government and public services, who has great experience of running referendums. The comment that he made there was that he would be reluctant to run such a referendum, even for someone like himself, with all of that experience. It’s crazy; why on earth would there need to be a referendum on jurisdiction? For example, the Northern Ireland jurisdiction was set up without a referendum. Why on earth would Wales, with a distinct jurisdiction, need a referendum on that? It strikes me as being absolutely without justification, if I can put it diplomatically.
 
The difficulty, of course, is that we had a draft Bill that was never going to get the support of parties across this Chamber. I made this point to the Secretary of State. I said, ‘There is literally no point publishing this Bill; it’s not going to get support’. One of the things that used to mystify me was that the Secretary of State, when giving evidence to committees, used to talk about the Bill as if it wasn’t his Bill, expressing surprise, for example, that certain things were in the Bill, like hovercraft being reserved matters—I’m not going to die in a ditch on that one, as to whether they should be reserved or not—giving the impression that, somehow, he wasn’t in control of the process. It’s hugely important, with the resetting, that we should be confident that the Secretary of State is in control of the process.
 
The difficulty now, of course, is that all parties will enter into an election in May, and will be producing manifestos, without being absolutely sure of what the powers might be that will be given to this place over the course of the next five years. So, it’s very difficult to present, to my mind, a comprehensive manifesto when you’re trying to guess what powers you may or may not have in the future. We could’ve been far further down the line at this point in understanding what powers would and wouldn’t come. We don’t know what the final list of reservations will look like, and I suppose, in that sense, the devil is in the detail.
 
She made the point about Minister of the Crown consents for non-devolved areas. In Scotland, of course, the situation is different. In effect, in Scotland, Minister of the Crown consents are devolved, and there are specific reservations. That seems to work fairly well. Why Wales should be in any different a position to Scotland I cannot explain. So, what’s important is that the approach to Minister of the Crown consents should be the same for Wales as it is in Scotland. There is no justification for it to be any different.
 
But, the great shame is that we’ve wasted, now, many months and we’re back where we started. We could’ve been a long way further on down the line and we could’ve had a far better understanding of what the thinking is, in terms of a settlement for Wales that would stand the test of time, but, unfortunately, we’re now no further forward. It is absolutely crucial that the UK Government, in the next week or two, makes absolutely clear what exactly it intends to do.
 
On the issue of the jurisdiction and the working group, the working group is pointless if the door is shut to the issue of the jurisdiction. If, at the very start of the process, there is a precondition that the working group will not look in any way at the issue of the jurisdiction, then I don’t see the point of the working group. So, it’s absolutely crucial that that working group is able to examine the issue of the jurisdiction as part of its wider deliberations.
 
14:54
Alun DaviesBiography
I very much welcome that last answer, First Minister—I think it will be welcomed on all, or certainly most, sides of the Chamber. I think, yesterday, we didn’t see so much a movement of policy as the collapse of a policy. It’s difficult to think of a Secretary of State in recent years who has had to deal with such a difficult political position of entirely his own making.
 
In terms of where we are today, he did say that he was going to move forward with reservations on the basis of principle, which is welcome, I think, to people on all sides of this Chamber. Has he indicated to you, First Minister, what those principles may be? Have you at any time been able to discuss with him the paper that the Welsh Government gave to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, which, I think, outlined a very good set of principles for the devolution of a set of powers to this place? At the same time, have you had any conversations with the Secretary of State about the commencement of any additional powers? He did, I am informed, reply to questions from journalists yesterday saying that he didn’t anticipate any of these new powers actually being commenced before the next Assembly elections in 2021, which would certainly mean that any new electoral arrangements that might be put in place wouldn’t be put in place for at least another decade. I would certainly regard that as entirely unacceptable.
 
At the same time as these issues, the issue of a referendum for a separate jurisdiction, or around the future of the jurisdiction, is one of the most ill-thought-out comments I’ve heard from any Secretary of State at any time. I presume that this is not something that he’s ever discussed with the Welsh Government. I also assume that you will be writing to the Secretary of State to offer the offices of the Welsh Government, in the wider sense, to work with the Secretary of State in a joint venture to produce a Bill that’s made in Wales for Wales, and not a Bill that’s made in Whitehall for Whitehall, which was perhaps a fundamental failure of the draft Bill.
 
At the same time, my final question is: have there been any discussions about UK-wide machinery that will enable a federal state to operate? I think one of the real shortcomings of the UK Government’s approach to devolution has been that it’s done it in such a piecemeal and half-hearted way. Too often, there’s been a sense of partisan favour, rather than a point of principle about what the UK Government’s trying to achieve. The lack of any UK-wide machinery to resolve disputes and to take decisions outside the UK Government is a fundamental failure of this policy, and it would be very useful, perhaps, if the Welsh Government were to bring this to the Secretary of State’s attention.
 
14:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I thank my colleague, the Member for Blaenau Gwent, for his question. We don’t know what the principles will be, because we’ve had no communication from the Secretary of State on this point. We know what we know—that journalists were told. I look forward to discussing these issues with him, as I have done many times in the past. There’s been no indication as to when these powers might commence, which I regret. It was never ideal that these powers, originally, would have commenced in the middle of the next Assembly, but better that than not to commence at all. I look forward to the day when this place is called a parliament, and we could start calling ourselves a parliament after May if we wanted to, informally, in the same way as the Welsh Government is the Welsh Government, but in law it’s ‘the Welsh Assembly Government’. We dropped that term back in 2011. Nevertheless, it’s important, of course, that the situation is now made clear as to what the future direction is.
 
Of course we’ll work with the UK Government in order to produce legislation that is, as far as possible, a joint venture. I think that’s by far the most sensible approach, rather than being presented with something, a fait accompli, that clearly isn’t going to work. I think that is a perfectly sensible way forward. He also asked the question about UK machinery for the creation of a federal state. I think he knows the answer: there isn’t any at the moment. Certainly, that is not on the agenda of the current UK Government, but that is inevitable in time, that we move towards a situation that, if not federal, is certainly different to the current situation we have, where, in effect, all sovereignty is held at Westminster, and Westminster decides how much of its sovereignty it wishes to give on trust, if I can put it that way, to institutions around the UK. That’s going to have to change in the future. There are other countries, like Canada, that have a very viable system of pooled sovereignty, and they are both prosperous and stable.
 
14:59
Jenny RathboneBiography
One of the hallmarks of a vibrant economy is robust competition, and nowhere is that more important than the issue of energy generation and supply. I just wondered if, amongst the pages and pages of exclusions that are in the draft Wales Bill that’s now being paused, we could tackle the issue of the exclusion from our powers of energy distribution, transmission and supply, as well as the regulation of energy efficiency, as this is really holding back competition and the development of local energy markets.
 
15:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s an important point that the Member raises. We welcome, of course, the further devolution on the face of the current Bill—unconvinced of the limit of 350 MW, but nevertheless it’s a step forward from where we are now. The difficulty is that, if it is the case that, unlike Scotland, executive powers over transmission aren’t devolved then, of course, the UK Government could suddenly prevent a project going ahead. We as a Government could give permission for a project to move forward, and the UK Government could turn around and say, ‘Well we’re not going to give permission for the National Grid or another transmitter to transmit the electricity’. It doesn’t make sense. Far better, to my mind, to be where Scotland is and have control both over the permitting and also over the transmission.
 
15:00
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
15:00
4. The Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales (Establishment) Order 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 4, which is the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales (Establishment) Order 2016, and I call on the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food to move the motion—Rebecca Evans.
 
Motion NDM5980 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales (Establishment) Order 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 2 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:01
Rebecca EvansBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I laid the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales (Establishment) Order 2016 on 2 February, and I’m presenting the Order today for debate in the National Assembly.
 
The Order will be made under the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014 and will confer on the panel the function of reviewing the minimum agricultural wage rates in Wales, previously exercised by the now abolished Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales.
 
The panel will ensure regular reviews of not only agricultural wages, but also the terms and conditions of employment for the approval of Welsh Ministers. The panel will take into consideration the unique nature of agricultural work, including the unconventional working hours and increased risk of workplace injuries.
 
Unlike its predecessor, the panel will not be limited to drafting agricultural wages orders, but will be tasked with the additional remits of promoting careers in agriculture and encouraging skills development and training within the industry. Maintaining a skilled, motivated workforce is a priority for this Government, and a vital component of ensuring a prosperous future for Welsh agriculture.
 
The panel membership will include balanced representation of both agricultural employers and employees to ensure that decisions the panel makes reflect the needs of the industry. It will also include an independent expert in education and an independent expert in agriculture to provide advice and direction concerning the panel’s broader remit. The panel will be headed by an independent chair who possesses the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to provide innovative leadership to this historic body.
 
The panel will be assisted in its work by a permanent sub-committee on skills development and training, which will be staffed by members of the core panel, joined by representatives of Lantra and Wales YFC. The panel will also have the ability to consult external experts to ensure its recommendations are evidence-based and address existing as well as potential future challenges.
 
Far from operating in a vacuum, the panel will have the scope to engage with other advisory bodies, the farming unions, industry experts and other interested parties to develop joined-up policies for a common vision for agriculture in Wales, building upon this Government’s commitment to tackling poverty through sustainable growth.
 
Proactive engagement will allow the panel to take its place as an industry-leading body within Welsh agriculture. I am pleased to announce that invitation letters have been issued today to those selected to serve on the agricultural advisory panel for Wales.
 
15:03
Llyr GruffyddBiography
May I also welcome the fact that this panel is to be established, and particularly the wider remit that the panel will have in comparison with its predecessor body, where there will now be greater opportunity to promote career development within the sector, and the wider opportunities that exist for people to get involved in the sector? But, Minister, you will be very aware that we were very disappointed with the pace of Government in getting to this point. Clearly, an emergency Bill was introduced and it was agreed that emergency legislation was required to deal with some of the problems arising from decisions taken by the Westminster Government, and, whatever you think of the process, I’m sure we would all agree that virtually three years between then and now is far too long. And so I just wanted to register our disappointment that it has taken so long, but, of course, we will be supporting this Order, because it is a positive step, although one that took far too long to achieve.
 
15:04
Mick AntoniwBiography
I very much welcome the announcement and the statement today, because this is a historic step in Welsh agriculture. I must just comment on the comment that was last made. It’s all very well for Plaid Cymru to complain about the time and delay. When Plaid held the agriculture ministerial responsibility in this Assembly, they agreed to the abolition of the agricultural wages board—[Interruption.] They agreed to it. So, it has come forward a lot quicker than would have happened otherwise. Can I say that this is also an example of Welsh Labour standing up for our rural communities and rural agricultural workers, and that the new panel—[Interruption.] That the new panel—[Interruption.] I have the letter that you wrote to Unite confirming abolition of the AWB. If you want to see it I’ll show it to you.
 
15:05
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I can’t have conversations between two Members—
 
15:05
Mick AntoniwBiography
Can I also say that—
 
15:05
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
[Continues.]—if you want to speak stand up.
 
15:05
Mick AntoniwBiography
[Continues.]—another implication of this piece of legislation is that the ‘Farmers Guardian’ survey recently carried out shows how different things can be in Wales to England, where 70 per cent of those surveyed now regret the abolition, 30 per cent of those in agriculture are thinking of leaving the industry, and one third have had a reduction in wages or no increase in wages since the abolition of the agricultural wages board? So, can I actually say this is a significant, historic step forward, aside from the constitutional implications of that, and is really a sign that it’s only really Welsh Labour here that is standing up for Welsh agricultural workers? We recall very much the stand that was taken by the Welsh Conservatives, who all through have supported abolition of this important legislation, and also the Lib Dems, who sat on the fence when it came forward. Thank you.
 
15:06
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food to reply to the debate.
 
15:06
Rebecca EvansBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
I thank the speakers in the debate and wholeheartedly welcome those comments that this Welsh Government is a government for working people, regardless of which sector or where you might work in Wales.
 
The implementation of the Act does remain a priority for this Government, and I believe that having a well motivated, well trained and appropriately remunerated workforce is vitally important to the success of Welsh agriculture. The panel, along with the secondary legislation made under the Act, will be an essential ingredient for that success. Following today’s debate and subject to approval—and I do welcome the support that Members have indicated today—the agricultural advisory panel for Wales will come into force on 1 April of this year. Thank you.
 
15:07
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? There are no objections, therefore the motion is passed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:07
5. The Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to Item 5, which is the Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, and I call on the Minister for Natural Resources to move the motion—Carl Sargeant.
 
Motion NDM5979 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 2 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:07
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Minister for Natural Resources
Thank you, Presiding Officer. These regulations ensure that infrastructure projects that are most significant to Wales due to their complexity and impact are included in the DNS process. Onshore wind energy projects above 50 MW, which this amendment captures, are vital for delivering further reductions in carbon emissions and sustainable development objectives, thus boosting the Welsh economy. I formally move.
 
15:08
Russell GeorgeBiography
Madam Presiding Officer, this is a terrible regulation that has been brought forward to us today, and I hope it will be rejected. Welsh Conservative colleagues will certainly be voting against it, and we have already seen the Welsh Government grab power away from local authorities—of under 50 MW—for consenting on onshore windfarms.
 
We have a UK Government that believes in true localism and has laid regulations this year, due to come into force today, to move the consenting process for onshore windfarm energy of over 50 MW to process them by local authorities in England and Wales—and they will decide the outcome of all onshore windfarm applications. This, of course, is welcome.
 
But what this regulation does, if passed today, is grab that power away from local authorities to Welsh Ministers. We’re now in a position where small and large windfarm applications will be decided by Ministers here in Cardiff, in complete contrast to the English local authorities and residents, who will not only have consenting powers for small wind applications but on all large-scale wind applications.
 
I put it to the Minister that this Welsh Government is the most centralising Government in the entire western civilisation. [Interruption.] It seems that Welsh Labour will go to any lengths possible—anything possible, anything that they see fit—to trample over the views of local communities and local democracy. Localism has been banished from Welsh Labour. Just a few weeks after the fourth Assembly started in 2011, thousands of residents were outside the Senedd to demonstrate to the Welsh Government then that they had totally got their approach wrong on consenting on onshore windfarms, and we are here today just weeks before the end of this Assembly and what we have seen is the Welsh Minister here totally ignoring the views of thousands of mid Wales residents. So, I hope today that Members will reject this appalling piece of regulation from the most centralising Government in Western civilisation.
 
15:10
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Follow that, yes. [Laughter.] A degree of consistency would be nice for a change because, clearly, where does localism come into the fracking equation, one wonders? It’s localism when it suits you, and not when it doesn’t. So, let’s reflect on that maybe before we get up on our feet and start banging the table.
 
Minister, the only point that I’d be eager to make is that this is a very significant development, and one that I support, of course, but we in Wales for the first time now will have full powers without any threshold or maximum megawatt level for an element of energy policy, namely onshore wind energy. The only question I have for you is: would you therefore agree with me that, if this principle is acceptable for onshore wind energy, isn’t it also acceptable for all sorts of energy?
 
15:11
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on the Minister to reply to the debate.
 
15:11
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Minister for Natural Resources
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the Members. I’ll take Llyr Gruffydd first. I’m grateful to him for welcoming this decision process. Yes, it is a happy development, on a nationally significant day as well. The fact is that the regulations are coming to point today, but obviously the Members opposite are concerned about the attempts by the UK Government to defer their responsibility. The fact is that we will be very keen to engage with all communities, as we do with all applications, but there will be a much more streamlining approach. I listened to the Member’s contribution in terms of other aspects of energy policy, and I would welcome the opportunity for further devolution of powers to the Welsh Government and to this Welsh Assembly to have more detailed discussions on.
 
Can I address Russell George? The Member is consistent in his approach to renewable energy. Clearly, his party opposite are the champions of fracking as opposed to the champions of renewable energy. The fact is that I’d love Russell George to go to the constituency in Wrexham or to the constituency in Neath Port Talbot or in Delyn and tell those people that you are supportive, as a party, of fracking as opposed to renewable energy. It is a complete contrast; it’s unfortunate. But the fact is that, here in Wales, we do want renewable energy. We are open for business and these regulations today will help in our ability to develop a zero-carbon approach to energy usage in Wales. I formally move.
 
15:13
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I’ll therefore defer all voting on this until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
15:13
6. The Children (Secure Accommodation) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 6, which is the Children (Secure Accommodation) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016, and I call on the Deputy Minister to move the motion—Vaughan Gething.
 
Motion NDM5977 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Children (Secure Accommodation) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 2 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:13
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I move the motion on the paper. The regulations before you amend the Children (Secure Accommodation) (Wales) Regulations, which were passed by the Assembly on 1 December 2015. The group of people mainly affected are 16 and 17-year-olds. The need for these amendments arises in part from a change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which came into force in October, and also from emerging case law. The change to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act means that 17-year-olds who are charged with an offence but refused bail must be treated as children and transferred to local authority accommodation rather than remaining in police custody overnight. The secure accommodation regulations that we made in December allow local authorities to apply a modified test in these circumstances, meaning that they do not have to prove that the child has a history of absconding. At present, this modified test applies only to 12 to 16-year-olds, so the amendment will ensure that the modified test will apply to 17-year-olds also, in line with the changed PACE.
 
The second amendment concerns looked-after 16 and 17-year-olds who are accommodated by the local authority but who are not subject to a statutory care order. As drafted, the new Children (Secure Accommodation) (Wales) Regulations would not allow a local authority that wished to place an accommodated 16-year-old in secure accommodation without first seeking a care Order from the courts. So, the law does not currently allow any application for a care Order to be made in relation to a 17-year-old.
 
Through the amendment, we’re ensuring that accommodated 16 and 17-year-olds can be the subject of applications for secure accommodation Orders, and this is consistent with the current law, as it has been clarified by recent case law. So, this gives local authorities a more straightforward route to placing a vulnerable child who was voluntarily accommodated, and in this age group, in secure local authority accommodation, where it is in the best interests of the child to do so.
 
We’ve also taken this opportunity to make some other amendments to ensure that the regulations function in the way that they’re intended to. The most important of these concerns territorial scope, ensuring that the same safeguards apply to children placed by Welsh local authorities in secure children’s homes in England as already apply when so placed in Wales.
 
Finally, the amendments will also ensure that children remanded to secure accommodation are only held for up to 28 days at a time. These are technical In nature and ensure that the provisions work where there are cross-border arrangements. Presiding Officer, the regulations before the National Assembly bring about changes that are, essentially, technical in nature, but which regularise the state of the law and reinforce some important safeguards for 16 and 17-year-olds in particular, and I ask Members to support them.
 
15:16
Gwenda ThomasBiography
In light of the recent concerns regarding detaining young people in police cells—and you’ve just alluded to this—does the Minister feel that amended regulation 15 will assist in preventing this situation from arising by allowing arrested 17-year-olds to be transferred to secure accommodation more quickly than is possible at present? In addition, what system will the Minister utilise to monitor the effectiveness of this amended regulation?
 
15:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The Minister to reply.
 
15:17
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I thank Gwenda Thomas for her contribution, which highlights part of the point and purpose of moving these amendment regulations. We do want to be able to see vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds more quickly moved to secure accommodation and not left in police custody overnight. We will, of course, as with each piece of regulation, look to review the impact of that at a point in time to ensure that the legislation is having the intended impact. I think this is an important and positive set of regulations for a relatively small but important group of vulnerable young people and I ask the Assembly to support the regulations.
 
15:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? There are no objections, therefore the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Orders.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:18
7. The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 7, which is the the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 and I call on the Minister for Natural Resources to move the motion—Carl Sargeant.
 
Motion NDM5978 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 2 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:18
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Minister for Natural Resources
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I’m here today to present you a composite regulation in relation to environmental permitting. Specifically, these regulations seek to integrate all flood defence consents and enforcement activities on and near main rivers into the wider environmental permitting framework. Our motivation for doing this is one of simplification and streamlining of costs for regulators and applicants. I formally move.
 
15:18
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no other speakers. Minister, do you want to add anything else?
 
15:18
Carl SargeantBiography
No. Formally.
 
15:18
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
No. The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? There are no objections, therefore the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:18
8. Voting Time
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We have now reached voting time. I propose to move to the vote.
 
15:19
Janice GregoryBiography
Could you ring the bell, please?
 
15:19
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Ring the bell. All right. Does anybody else want the bell rung? Three people, thank you very much.
 
15:19
Janice GregoryBiography
Well, all of us on these benches do, I can tell you.
 
15:19
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Excuse me.
 
15:19
Aelod Cynulliad / An Assembly Member
There aren’t many on your benches.
 
15:19
Janice GregoryBiography
Yes, I’m terribly sorry, but I was drinking tea.
 
15:19
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Can we ring the bell?
 
The bell was rung to call Members to the Chamber.
 
15:24
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The five minutes have gone, therefore we move straight into the vote. The vote is on the Developments of National Significance (Specified Criteria and Prescribed Secondary Consents) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2016. I call for a vote on the motion in the name of Jane Hutt. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 36, no abstentions, 12 against. Therefore, the motion is carried.
 
Motion agreed: For 36, Against 12, Abstain 0.
 
15:24
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now will have a 10-minute break before we move to the next item on the agenda—10 minutes and 10 minutes only. Thank you very much.
 
Plenary was suspended at 15:25.
 
The Assembly reconvened at 15:35, with the Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) in the Chair.
 
15:35
9. Stage 3 Debate on the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Order, order. The next item is our Stage 3 debate on the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill.
 
Group 1: Welsh Revenue Authority (Amendments 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 203, 204, 205, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 377, 378, 379, 380, 381, 382, 383, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 400, 401, 402, 403, 298, 299, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 437, 438, 439, 440, 441, 442, 443, 444, 445, 446, 447, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 454, 455, 456, 457, 458, 459, 460, 461, 462, 463, 464, 465, 466, 467, 468, 469, 470, 471, 472, 473, 474, 475, 476, 477, 478, 479, 480, 481, 482, 483, 484, 485, 489, 490, 491, 492, 493, 494, 495, 496, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 517, 518, 519, 520, 521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528, 529, 530, 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 486, 487, 488, 536, 537, 538, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 560, 561, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 23)
 
15:35
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The first group of amendments relates to the Welsh revenue authority. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 30. I call on Nick Ramsay to move and speak to the lead amendment, and the other amendments in the group.
 
Amendment 30 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:35
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I’m pleased to move amendment 30, the lead amendment, as you say, for group 1, in today’s debate—amendments that seek to simplify the name intended for the new Welsh revenue authority. Deputy Presiding Officer, the establishment of this new body represents a key change to the way that tax collection in Wales will operate, following the devolution of a number of taxes to the Welsh Government.
 
The Welsh Conservatives want to increase awareness and understanding of these changes with the public. These amendments seek to simplify the name of the new authority. The acronym WRA is similar to other organisations—WRU, NRA, to name a few—which could potentially cause confusion for taxpayers. We believe that changing the name, or rather launching the new authority as ‘Revenue Wales—Revenue Cymru’ will solidify in the name its purpose and function, similar to Revenue Scotland.
 
Now, we all know the importance of branding in the modern world. The establishment of this new body is an historic moment for Wales, and its name is key, both through its acceptance and development, as a feature of the devolved Welsh landscape. It’s important that the new body is accessible, but not just that—it’s important that it’s perceived as accessible by the public. ‘Revenue Wales’ is direct, avoids confusing acronyms, and does what it says on the tin.
 
15:36
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Minister.
 
15:36
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Could I start, Dirprwy Lywydd, by placing on record my thanks to all Members of the Assembly, particularly those of the Finance Committee, for their scrutiny of the Bill? This has been very valuable in helping to shape Wales’s first tax legislation. Members will be aware that I provided a detailed and substantial response to the committee’s Stage 1 recommendations just before Christmas, and I brought various amendments forward in response to the committee’s recommendations at Stage 2, in January.
 
The first group of amendments is concerned with re-naming of the Welsh revenue authority to ‘Revenue Wales’. Nick Ramsay did table amendments to one section with the same purpose at Stage 2, which were not agreed, and now has tabled over 500 amendments to do the same throughout the Bill. To reiterate what I said at Stage 2, as an issue, this did not feature in the Finance Committee’s report, or, indeed, in any of the responses to the extensive consultation undertaken leading up to the publication of the Bill.
 
I don’t intend to support Nick Ramsay’s amendments. We considered ‘Revenue Wales’ as a possible option when we first looked at a suitable name, but felt that it did not suitably reflect the fact that Wales was developing its own approach to tax devolution. And since we decided upon ‘Welsh Revenue Authority’, we have invested considerable time and effort into promoting it. For example, last Thursday, I launched a consultation on Welsh taxes, with our fourth Treasury paper. It’s already recognised amongst our key stakeholders, none of whom raised this as a concern during scrutiny. And to introduce a new name now, at this late stage, is likely to cause considerable confusion, and would be non-productive. So, I do not intend to support these amendments.
 
15:38
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay to reply.
 
15:38
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Can I also thank the Minister for her co-operation, and that of her officials, over this rather complex, at times, process of developing this legislation?
 
I admit, Minister, that I have got a little trigger-happy with the amendments today, as you say. I’ve tabled over 500, although many of those will, of course, fall if the initial amendment falls. I did, as you say, table this amendment at committee, at Stage 2, and I’m sorry that you’ve decided to reject the amendment. I heard again what you said; you repeated the comments you made at Stage 2, and I still don’t see a sound basis for the rejection of this amendment. As I said in opening this debate, the Welsh Conservatives feel that the name of the organisation should be as clear as possible to the public, and it should be distinctive from other organisations and abbreviations.
 
You mentioned Scotland. Scotland has already been through, and is ahead of the game in many ways, on some of these financial changes, and we believe that we should be taking notice of their experience north of the border. They settled on the name ‘Revenue Scotland’ for good reasons, and, for similar reasons, I believe that ‘Revenue Wales’ is superior to the name ‘Welsh Revenue Authority’—WRA—and would stand the body in better stead, now and in the future. If you believe that Wales has a different set of circumstances for which WRA would be a better response, then I ask you to tell us what those are. You’ve been less than clear on that so far.
 
I believe, in conclusion, Deputy Presiding Officer, that the new body should be as accessible as possible, and the name needs to reflect that. I urge the Chamber to accept this amendment and to name the new body ‘Revenue Wales’.
 
15:40
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
If amendment 30 is not agreed, amendments 23 to 29 and 31 to 561 fall. [Laughter.] The question is that amendment 30 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 11, there voted against 39. Therefore, amendment 30 is not agreed, and amendments 23 to 29 and 31 to 561 fall.
 
Amendment 30 not agreed: For 11, Against 39, Abstain 0.
 
Amendments 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153, 154, 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 161, 162, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 174, 175, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 221, 222, 223, 224, 225, 226, 227, 228, 229, 230, 231, 232, 233, 234, 235, 236, 237, 238, 239, 240, 241, 242, 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 248, 249, 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 257, 258, 259, 260, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271, 272, 273, 274, 275, 276, 277, 278, 279, 280, 281, 282, 283, 284, 285, 286, 287, 288, 289, 290, 291, 292, 293, 294, 295, 296, 297, 298, 299, 300, 301, 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311, 312, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 322, 323, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 335, 336, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 352, 353, 354, 355, 356, 357, 358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363, 364, 365, 366, 367, 368, 369, 370, 371, 372, 373, 374, 375, 376, 377, 378, 379, 380, 381, 382, 383, 384, 385, 386, 387, 388, 389, 390, 391, 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397, 398, 399, 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411, 412, 413, 414, 415, 416, 417, 418, 419, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 430, 431, 432, 433, 434, 435, 436, 437, 438, 439, 440, 441, 442, 443, 444, 445, 446, 447, 448, 449, 450, 451, 452, 453, 454, 455, 456, 457, 458, 459, 460, 461, 462, 463, 464, 465, 466, 467, 468, 469, 470, 471, 472, 473, 474, 475, 476, 477, 478, 479, 480, 481, 482, 483, 484, 485, 486, 487, 488, 489, 490, 491, 492, 493, 494, 495, 496, 497, 498, 499, 500, 501, 502, 503, 504, 505, 506, 507, 508, 509, 510, 511, 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 517, 518, 519, 520, 521, 522, 523, 524, 525, 526, 527, 528, 529, 530, 531, 532, 533, 534, 535, 536, 537, 538, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 545, 546, 547, 548, 549, 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555, 556, 557, 558, 559, 560, 561 fell.
 
Group 2: WRA Board Appointments (Amendments 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 1, 13, 14)
 
15:41
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The next group of amendments relates to the WRA board appointments. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 7. I call on Nick Ramsay to move and to speak to the lead amendment and the other amendments in the group.
 
Amendment 7 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:41
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Well, 500 amendments later, I’m pleased to move the lead amendment in group 2. This amendment is part of an overall strategy to ensure that the established body is accountable to all of the National Assembly, ensuring that it is as independent as possible from the Welsh Government, as outlined in recommendations 3 and 21 of the Finance Committee’s scrutiny report. Therefore, we believe that an essential aspect of this is the appointment of the chairperson. Further, we believe that if the chairperson is elected by the National Assembly, it will be a more open and more transparent democratic process, and will reinforce the notion that it is an arm’s-length, independent entity.
 
Amendment 9 relates to the appointment process and seeks to secure the principle of fair and open competition during that process.
 
Minister, I fully appreciate some of the difficulties in getting the balance right between ministerial direction and the arm’s-length independence that we seek to achieve. I think that having the Chair elected by the National Assembly is a step towards getting that balance right, and that’s why we’ve put forward this amendment today.
 
The Welsh Conservatives are happy to support amendment 1, the Government amendment, which seeks to ensure that it will be non-executive members rather than the whole WRA—as it is now called—board who appoint each subsequent chief executive, following the initial appointment by Welsh Ministers.
 
15:43
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Having considered the issue carefully, and while Nick Ramsay’s amendment certainly has some arguments in favour of it, the evidence was firm that the new body should be part of a Government department but not under the auspices of any Minister. That’s the best way of ensuring the independence of the Welsh revenue authority, and goes alongside the status of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Charity Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service and other examples. That is also the status of Revenue Scotland. As the authority is under the control of an independent board, it does ensure that the authority is not under the direct rule of Government and that no Government can interfere in the day-to-day taxation issues of the people of Wales.
 
The Assembly, of course, will have to have a robust system to oversee and scrutinise the new body, and I am confident that that will happen in the next Assembly. So, we oppose this amendment, and the following amendments for the same reason, but do support the Minister’s amendment to ensure that the chief executive of the WRA will be appointed by non-executive members of the board. Thank you.
 
15:44
Jane HuttBiography
I’ll first speak to the amendment tabled in my name. Amendment 1 does ensure that it will be non-executive members, rather than the whole of the WRA board, who appoint each subsequent chief executive of the WRA, following the first appointment made by the Welsh Ministers. This does also address recommendation 7 of the Finance Committee’s Stage 1 report. So, I’m grateful to Nick Ramsay and to Alun Ffred Jones for their support of amendment 1.
 
I don’t intend to support Nick Ramsay’s amendments, which would provide that the Assembly, rather than the Government, would make appointments to the WRA board, determine or approve the terms and conditions of those appointments, and improve the terms of committee members and staff. The Bill does establish WRA as a non-ministerial department and, as Alun Ffred Jones has said, and as I outlined to the committee previously, this approach is consistent with HMRC and the recently established Revenue Scotland. The WRA will be separate from, but accountable to, Welsh Ministers. It’s fundamentally different from bodies such as WAO, which has a very different role in holding public bodies to account, and for that reason, it should be for the Welsh Ministers to have the role that the Bill confers on them in terms of appointments and approval of terms.
 
I will also not be supporting amendment 9, which is not necessary. The Nolan principles for public appointments will apply to the non-executive members of the board, and these already require fair and open competition, and in the case of executive staff appointments, they will, in common with all civil servants, already be recruited through a fair and open competition.
 
15:46
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay to reply.
 
15:46
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I’m sorry to hear that neither the Minister nor Plaid Cymru will be supporting this amendment today. As I said in opening, this amendment is part of an overall strategy to ensure that the new body is accountable to the National Assembly, and we believe that ensuring that independence is absolutely key for this body to work and to be accepted by the public. We also believe that the chairperson should be elected by the National Assembly. This is ultimately about achieving openness and transparency.
 
As I said before, I do appreciate the Minister’s difficulties in this area, in that there is a difficult balance to be achieved between, on the one hand, appropriate ministerial direction and, on the other, arm’s-length independence—that’s never an easy balance to make. So, there are difficulties here. However, I believe that the amendment that the Welsh Conservatives have put forward does put on the face of the Bill the need for that independence to be achieved, and it does propose a way that it can be clarified. I urge the Assembly to support our amendment.
 
15:47
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 7 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 14, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 7 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 7 not agreed: For 14, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:47
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 8.
 
Amendment 8 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:47
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:47
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 8 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 8 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 8 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 9.
 
Amendment 9 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:48
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 9 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 9 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 9 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, your amendment 10.
 
Amendment 10 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:48
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 10 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 10 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 10 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 11.
 
Amendment 11 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:48
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:48
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 11 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 11 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 11 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 12.
 
Amendment 12 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:49
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 12 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 12 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 12 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Minister, amendment 1.
 
Amendment 1 (Jane Hutt, supported by Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:49
Jane HuttBiography
Move.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 1 be agreed. Does any Member object? Then amendment 1 is agreed.
 
Amendment 1 agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 13.
 
Amendment 13 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:49
Nick RamsayBiography
Move.
 
15:49
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 13 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 13 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 13 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:50
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 14.
 
Amendment 14 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:50
Nick RamsayBiography
I move.
 
15:50
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 14 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 14 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 14 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
Group 3: Procedures (Amendments 15, 16)
 
15:50
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The next group of amendments relates to procedures. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 15, and I call on Nick Ramsay to move and speak to the lead amendments and the other amendment in the group.
 
Amendment 15 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:50
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I’m pleased to move amendment 15, the lead amendment in group 3. This amendment is based on recommendation 10 of the Finance Committee’s report that the Welsh revenue authority should produce a publication scheme and that all decisions taken by committees and sub-committees of the authority should be made publicly available. If there is a valid reason not to publish a decision, the reasons for this should be made publicly available, in accordance with the publication scheme. Ultimately, in accordance with recommendation 10 of the Finance Committee report, Welsh Conservatives want to ensure transparency is legislated into every aspect of the new body.
 
15:51
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Minister.
 
15:51
Jane HuttBiography
Amendment 15 is unnecessary as section 10 already provides the Welsh revenue authority with a sufficiently wide discretion in relation to its procedural rules to do what the amendment envisages. There is no need for the Bill to include express wording along the lines set out in the amendment.
 
Amendment 16 is also unnecessary as the Freedom of Information Act 2000 already requires the WRA to have a publication scheme.
 
15:51
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay to reply.
 
15:51
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you. I’m sorry that the Minister feels unable to accept this amendment, which is geared at increasing openness and transparency in the operation of the new authority. I’m sure we’d all agree it’s essential that the new body is not just open and transparent, but is seen to be. I do hear what the Minister is saying about other Acts and their impingement on this Act. However, I think it is so important that we get this process right at the start, and believe that this amendment enhances the openness of the Bill, so I wish to ask for it to be supported.
 
15:52
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 15 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 15 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 15 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
15:52
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay, amendment 16.
 
Amendment 16 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:52
Nick RamsayBiography
I move.
 
15:52
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 16 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 16 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 16 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.
 
Group 4: Independence of WRA (Amendments 17, 18)
 
15:53
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The next group of amendments relates to the independence of the WRA. The lead amendment in this group is amendment 17. I call on Nick Ramsay to move and speak to the lead amendment and the other amendment in the group.
 
Amendment 17 (Nick Ramsay) moved.
 
15:53
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Group 4 specifically relates to the need for independence in the establishment and operation of the new Welsh revenue authority. The Welsh Conservative amendment, my amendment, seeks to restrict the level of control that the Welsh Government can exercise over the new body—control that we feel could otherwise develop into interference and intervention.
 
The independence of the body needs to be explicit on the face of the Bill. Again, this is a question of achieving the right balance between giving guidance to the new authority and also allowing it freedom to operate in an unprejudiced manner. This is not, I accept, an easy balance to get right, but, as I’ve said before, it’s one that has to be achieved, and we believe that this amendment and the subsequent amendments do achieve this. I urge the Chamber to support it.
 
15:54
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Eluned Parrott.
 
15:54
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. My group will be supporting the amendments in this group. We believe that enshrining the independence of the Welsh revenue authority on the face of the Bill is an opportunity to state very clearly how we expect that authority to be operated in the future, and it’s crucial to its ability to operate as intended without political interference. Whilst we are sure that no-one would suggest that the current Government would behave in such an undemocratic way, we do have to legislate for all possible futures. We do not know the character of future Governments, and so this is a safety net that enables us to state very clearly that this is the principle upon which we expect the current and future taxation powers of this place to be conducted.
 
15:55
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Minister.
 
15:55
Jane HuttBiography
As I’ve indicated previously, the operational independence of the WRA is key, and the Bill does ensure that the WRA has that operational independence. I reflected on the committee’s comments in its Stage 1 report concerning any ministerial general directions that might be given. As a consequence, I brought forward an amendment at Stage 2, which was agreed. The Bill now provides that all directions given by the Welsh Ministers must be published. This will provide complete transparency, and goes further, in fact, than HMRC and Revenue Scotland. It will enable others to scrutinise any directions and the reasons why they are being given.
 
In relation to Nick Ramsay’s amendments 17 and 18, I believe these amendments are inconsistent with the organisational model that I considered to be the most appropriate for tax collection and management in Wales. Furthermore, amendment 18 would provide less transparency than the Bill currently provides, in that it introduces circumstances where guidance given by the Welsh Ministers to the WRA would not be published. As such, I will not be supporting it.
 
Tax collection is a function of Government, and the WRA will deliver Welsh Ministers’ tax policy, and the Welsh Ministers need the scope to be able to give strategic direction, not guidance, to the WRA on their tax policy and priorities. To this end, section 15 of the Bill allows the Welsh Ministers to give general directions, in the same way that the Treasury can give general directions to HMRC. It does not, however, allow the Welsh Ministers to provide any specific direction to the WRA.
 
It’s important, in terms of the way in which we are directing this, having considered arrangements that we scrutinised and consulted on, that my preference is to remain consistent with the well-established HMRC model, although with a much greater degree of transparency, because Welsh Ministers will be under a duty to publish all directions.
 
15:57
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Nick Ramsay to reply.
 
15:57
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I thank the Minister for those comments. I have had discussions with her about this amendment, and I do appreciate some of the concerns about the amendment actually working opposite to what we originally intended. However, after much thought about it, I do think that, as Eluned Parrott said in her contribution, putting transparency on the face of the Bill at the outset does have a benefit, so I will push forward with this amendment. At the end of the day, this is about achieving independence for the new authority. We believe that this group of amendments adds to the Bill, and I wish to move the lead amendment.
 
15:57
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The question is that amendment 17 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will have an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. There voted in favour 15, there voted against 35. Therefore, amendment 17 is not agreed.
 
Amendment 17 not agreed: For 15, Against 35, Abstain 0.