By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing for us to set a small number of cookies. Cookie policy

Desktop
Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
 
 
You are in :
Back to list View this page without hyperlinks
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The first item this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is Kirsty Williams.
 
Educational Standards (Brecon and Radnorshire)
 
13:30
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on educational standards in Brecon and Radnorshire? OAQ(4)2786(FM)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Education standards in the area, in common with standards in Wales as a whole, present an improving picture. This includes, at national and local level, an improvement in the key stage 4, level 2 inclusive results.
 
13:30
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Can I thank the First Minister for that answer? First Minister, on many occasions, you’ve said in this Chamber that schools that are providing a good standard of education should not be closed, and, as you’ve just said yourself, there are improvements in standards of education in Brecon and Radnorshire. Therefore, will you agree with me that Powys County Council’s ill-conceived plans to close a number of small rural primary schools, and amalgamate and potentially close some of our high schools, will do nothing to improve the educational attainment levels of people in Brecon and Radnorshire? I know many of my constituents have already written to you on this subject and are looking to the Welsh Government to intervene, if possible. What can you say to those parents who have written to you concerned that, rather than improving educational outcomes in Brecon and Radnor, the plans by the council will actually make things worse?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, as the Member knows, these are matters for the local authority. Nevertheless, as she also knows, Welsh Ministers have a role in certain statutory circumstances, and therefore I can’t comment on any plans that may be referred to Welsh Ministers. But I know that she, over many weeks in this Chamber, has expressed the concerns of her constituents. I’ve expressed the view many times that I hoped that the local education authority would take those concerns into account. If the matter now, of course, is referred to Welsh Ministers, then these are issues that will be taken into account by the relevant Minister.
 
13:32
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Mick Antoniw on Brecon and Radnorshire.
 
13:32
Mick AntoniwBiography
Yes. First Minister, the quality of educational standards in Brecon and Radnorshire are obviously dependent on the amount of educational funding that’s available. First Minister, on 17 November 2010, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, when asked how much they would cut the education budget by, said, and I quote, ‘It’s about 20 per cent’. In the light of the refusal of the current leader of the Welsh Conservatives to commit to protecting the education budget, we can only assume they will cut education by 20 per cent, if they were to ever be in power. First Minister, what would be the implications for education in Wales if the Tories were ever to be elected to power?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
If there were to be a 20 per cent cut in education funding in Brecon and Radnorshire, that would have an enormously detrimental effect, as it would elsewhere in Wales, including in the constituencies that we represent. It would mean, for instance, across Wales potentially 5,000 fewer teachers, it would certainly mean fewer resources for schools, and it would certainly mean that schools would not be built in the future. And we had confirmation of this over the weekend, when the leader of the opposition said that he would not protect education spending.
 
13:32
William PowellBiography
In accordance with the Members’ register of interests, I should declare that I am both a member of Powys County Council, but also a governor, and indeed back in the day a former head boy of one of the schools that’s threatened with closure. [Interruption.]
 
13:33
Aelod Cynulliad / An Assembly Member
Pre-war. [Laughter.]
 
13:33
William PowellBiography
Oh, absolutely. First Minister, I’m acutely aware of the current concern in Brecon and Radnorshire around the school reorganisation proposals. One particular issue that’s widely raised by concerned members of the community is the perceived remoteness of cabinet decision making, and this is also mirrored elsewhere in my region, in Pembrokeshire, with current issues that are coming forward. First Minister, would you agree with me that it would serve greatly the cause of transparency if the leaders of local authorities faced with such decisions were to desist from the practice of holding informal, unminuted cabinet meetings ahead of formal business sessions, so as to give communities affected greater confidence of the transparency of the decisions that are arrived at?
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think transparency’s absolutely crucial. It’s important that, where people see decisions being made—even if they disagree with those decisions—they understand how those decisions came about, and the reasoning behind those decisions. I’m not aware of what process was followed in Powys on this occasion, but, clearly, I am aware—as the Member has pointed out, and, indeed, the leader of the Liberal Democrats—that this is a particularly controversial issue in Brecon and Radnor.
 
Mental Health Services (South Wales)
 
13:35
Julie MorganBiography
2. What plans does the Welsh Government have to improve mental health services in south Wales? OAQ(4)2778(FM)
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, one of the Government’s priorities is to improve the mental health and wellbeing of people right across Wales, and services have been improved through increased funding within the ring fence every year throughout this Assembly term, with over £15 million of additional funding this year.
 
13:35
Julie MorganBiography
I thank the First Minister for that response. I’m sure the First Minister is aware that Whitchurch Hospital is closing its doors at the end of this month after 108 years providing mental health services for Cardiff and the surrounding areas. So, it really is the end of an era. Does the First Minister agree that the new mental health services—the building provided at Llandough hospital—are absolutely outstanding but will he also acknowledge the good work that has been done in Whitchurch by the staff over many years for people with mental health problems?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’m more than happy to join the Member in the praise that she has for the staff, both present and past. Whitchurch has served the city of Cardiff since 1908 but it’s time, of course, to ensure that the facilities that we provide for people with mental health problems are state-of-the-art. That’s why, of course, we see the investment in Hafan y Coed at Llandough. It’s a £88 million investment and, of course, it is a facility that will provide the best level of care possible for those who require assistance with their mental health.
 
13:36
Angela BurnsBiography
Minister, mental health services obviously need to evolve as practice and knowledge change. However, I am concerned that vulnerable people are being caught between understaffed resources and policy changes, whether it’s people with severe and enduring mental health illnesses like two of my constituents, one of whom has to go to be in a hospital 200 miles away from that person’s home, and another 150 miles away, or whether it’s people like the Avenue centre users in Tenby, who have severe mental and physical disabilities. The concern that is echoed to me by health professionals or mental health professionals and the families of these kinds of people is that they don’t believe the services are being holistic enough, and it would appear that people are being bent to fit the new policies that come through and the new Acts, rather than those policies being adapted to suit their particular vulnerable requirements. First Minister, what can your Government do to ensure that there are speedy and effective changes to ensure that some of these more vulnerable people really do have tailored packages that best suit them and their families?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we, of course, have increased the budget for mental health services. The total spend this year is 600 million, up from 510 million in 2010-11 and, of course, the Member will be aware of an additional £7.65 million a year to improve and develop specialist child and adolescent mental health services. That’s a 17 per cent increase in CAMHS spread across primary and secondary care. We’ve also announced a further £30 million of additional funding for older people. That is a substantial injection of resources and we would, of course, expect the service to wrap around the individual rather, as she has pointed out, than for the individual to be made to fit the service. That is not the sort of service that we would see local health boards providing; we expect the service to be tailored, as far as possible, to the individual.
 
13:38
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, I was grateful for the health Minister’s measured response to the mental health debate held last week. However, there was no specific commitment to improving support services and advice and information for families. I wonder, given how important it is, would you look at making that commitment to look at best practice across the UK and assess the support that is available for people who are either caring for someone with mental ill health or concerned about someone in their family who is showing signs of mental distress but they don’t know where to go to for help or support.
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This is one of the reasons, of course, why we’ve substantially increased the funding for CAMHS, because we know that CAMHS has been a service where there’s been a great deal of demand and we know that, for many parents, where they have, quite often, adolescent children who are displaying signs that are difficult for parents to control, CAMHS is the place that they will get referred to and, in terms of the money we’ve provided for CAMHS, that money will—for example, £2.7 million of it will go to improving CAMHS’s ability to respond out of hours and at times of crisis. What is absolutely crucial is that where, perhaps late in the evening, there is an issue that a carer or a parent can’t deal with, that support is available at a time that’s needed for the individual—the child or young person—and also for the carer or parent, and, in that way, of course, the support for families both within hours and out of hours is improved.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:39
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders and, first this afternoon, the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:40
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, last week, I asked you about the M4 relief road and you said that, yes, it was a commitment of yours to build the M4 relief road. Last week, we also had a report that came out that clearly indicated there had been a considerable uplift in the cost of building such a road, especially the black route, which was identified as this Government’s preferred option. Can you explain why your initial comments before Christmas indicated it would be built for considerably less than £1 billion, and now a Government report is indicating that the actual build cost is £1.1 billion?
 
13:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, there’s a £147 million contingency within that figure, which we intend to squeeze, of course, as far as possible. There has been a change at the eastern end of the proposal, where an enhanced junction at the M48 is going to be remodelled. That has increased the cost by £60 million. However, that’s been as a result of public requests for better connectivity. There’s also the inclusion of an additional cycle bridge over the proposed motorway to the west of Newport to facilitate the Newport to Cardiff ‘super cycleway’, as well as work on the Duffryn rail tunnel. So, these are issues that have arisen during the course of the scheme. Now, from our perspective, we wish to see an M4 relief road being built. It’s true to say our preferred route is the black route, but, of course, we are willing to examine other options should they prove feasible. Thus far, it’s been difficult to see how they can be as effective as the black route, but there is a statutory process that will need to be followed here. But what is absolutely true is the problem will not go away. It’s a major problem. When we look at hosting large events at the Millennium Stadium, it is an issue that is raised with us and he and I, I think, are in the same position of wanting to see a relief road being built.
 
13:41
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. Many people will be concerned by the considerable extent of the numbers that are being talked about and the sudden £300 million difference between, obviously, figures that had been bandied around by yourself, and now this report, confirming a £1.1 billion price tag to this delivery. But one thing is clear, and I agree entirely with you, the situation around Newport cannot continue, and there is a desperate need for an M4 relief road. Do you agree with me that it will be incumbent on whichever Government is formed here after 5 May to have as an integral part of its transport strategy the delivery of the M4 relief road within its term of office here in the fifth Assembly?
 
13:42
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I agree with that. It is by far the most difficult traffic problem that we have on our roads. It isn’t going to improve. There is a resilience issue with the tunnels as well. I know there are those who advocate the blue route; the difficulty with the blue route to me is that it’s a dual carriageway, not a three-lane motorway, and, secondly, it affects about 4,000 houses, because it passes very close to so many houses, and some would have to be demolished. There is no easy way to resolve the problem, there is no cheap way to resolve the problem, but we do know the problem needs to be resolved.
 
13:43
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. Presiding Officer, with your indulgence, as this is the last First Minister’s questions that I and the First Minister will engage in before the election, I would just like to pay tribute to the retiring Members who are standing down from the Assembly, from all the parties here. Whilst we might have the political theatre within this Chamber, I’m sure that you will agree with me, First Minister, that everyone does go into public life with the best intentions, whatever political affiliation they have, and, through their own ways and means, they do try and endeavour to deliver for their constituents and, indeed, in the best interests of Wales in this institution. I hope you will be able to join with me in paying tribute to my colleague William Graham who, for 17 years, has served so diligently this institution, with integrity, pride and passion, and, ultimately, has served his constituents so well. But, above all, I hope you will agree with me that, whatever happens in the election over the next six to seven weeks, in the Assembly that will convene here for the fifth Assembly, people do go into public life for the best reasons, and that is to shape and help create a better environment, a better community and a better Wales within the United Kingdom.
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, nobody could disagree with what the leader of the opposition has said. William Graham was one of the original 1999 group, as I was, and personally he is somebody who I will miss in this Chamber, and I’m sure I speak for many, if not all, in that regard. I was thinking only yesterday that I’ve probably gone through more than 200 First Minister’s question sessions, with about 2,000 questions that I’ve—I’ll use the phrase ‘dealt with’, and others can judge as to whether they were answered or not. [Laughter.] But, certainly, it is the case that, when somebody stands in my position, then it is hugely important to be tested—sometimes uncomfortably—on the issues of the day, and that comes back to the point that this may be theatre—he and I know that this has an element of theatre—but it has a serious element, and that is to test forensically what Government does.
 
13:45
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:45
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
I’d like to echo the comments of the leader of the Conservatives in wishing all the retiring Members well, and especially the three retiring Members of my group, Alun Ffred Jones, Jocelyn Davies and Rhodri Glyn Thomas. But I do wish all of you well.
 
First Minister, when you were elected as Labour leader seven years ago, you said, and I quote,
 
‘I want to be a leader for the whole of Wales…. To win back Wales, Welsh Labour has to listen and it has to learn.’
 
What has been the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in seven years as First Minister?
 
13:45
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The lesson you soon learn as a Minister is that things can’t be done as quickly as you would want on occasion. And she asks—. I wondered whether this question would come. My answer is that, for example, back in 2011 it took longer than we would have expected to start the legislative programme; it was a bigger undertaking, I think, than was realised at the time. Since then, of course, those issues have been resolved, and the Assembly has certainly risen to the task of producing sound legislation that’s been well scrutinised—and 24 Acts in that time. That’s a significant achievement in a very short space of time. But, yes, I think it was difficult at the beginning in 2011 to actually get the legislative programme up and running as quickly as we would have wanted.
 
13:46
Leanne WoodBiography
Okay, so you haven’t learned any lessons about growing NHS waiting lists or deteriorating international standing in terms of education, or economic stagnation. First Minister, among the many comments and feedback that I get from people regarding these sessions is that you are regularly evasive, that you avoid—[Interruption.]
 
13:47
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Order.
 
13:47
Leanne WoodBiography
[Continues.]— that you avoid answering the questions and that you rarely engage. Now, given that this is the final question session of the term, do you regret not being more engaging in these sessions? And do you regret not showing real leadership for this country?
 
13:47
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I mean, the leader of Plaid Cymru makes it sound as if I sit here sphinxlike and say nothing in the course of First Minister’s questions. She may not like my answers, but she gets answers. The issues that she raised I don’t agree with. We see waiting lists coming down—diagnostic test waiting lists coming down in health. We see our best GCSE results ever, excellent results at A-level, the foundation phase doing well, new schools being built all across Wales—150 schools either being built or planned to be built. We see in further education that the education maintenance allowance has been maintained. We see that our students are not subject to £22,000 of extra debt as their cohort is in England. As for economic stagnation, our unemployment is lower than in London, it’s lower than in Scotland and lower than in Northern Ireland. That is a significant achievement. We’ve been hugely successful in bringing jobs into Wales—Aston Martin was one example; General Dynamics last week is another example, and there are more to come over the course of the next few weeks. We have never been in such a strong position in terms of bringing investment into Wales. The only thing—she will agree with me, I’m sure, about this point—the only thing that can jeopardise that is the uncertainty over EU membership.
 
13:48
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, you don’t accept that there are any problems in this country that you’re responsible for at all, do you? On the day that you were elected leader, you said that you wanted to listen and that you wanted to learn. Now, six years after you became leader, you launched an engagement exercise—a series of public meetings throughout the country, presumably to listen to people and to learn. Now, I wonder, does that mean that you spent the first six years neither listening to people nor learning? As the sun sets on your Government and the fourth Assembly, are you now prepared to show some humility and admit that this isn’t as good as it gets for our country? And will you now accept that now is the time for Wales to have a First Minister who will answer questions, who will engage and who will treat these scrutiny sessions and the Welsh public with the respect that they deserve?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I mean, I’ll let other people judge the contrast between the leader of the opposition and the leader of Plaid Cymru. But she makes the point that it’s the last FMQs, that there’s an election coming and that she wishes to be seen as an alternative First Minister. The points that I would make to her are these: I don’t believe the answer to the challenges in the health service is a giant health quango based in Cardiff; I don’t think that’s going to go down well in the west and the north of Wales—a quango, in fact, that would be so big it would be almost as big as the Government itself and have a budget almost as large as the Government itself. I think that is an abdication of responsibility. There’d be no point having a health Minister if we had a quango that big.
 
The answer to economic development, despite the great success we’ve been having, is to reintroduce the Welsh Development Agency—to go back to the days long ago, to some imagined nirvana when the WDA was doing better. It seems to me that Plaid Cymru’s proposals usually involve setting up a giant committee of some kind. We saw the same with the national innovation body. That is an evasion of responsibility. You cannot set up, to my mind—. You cannot give away economic development and health and expect to be held accountable as a Government. We’ve had the greatest success we’ve had for 30 years in the field of economic development. That’s because the team we have in place is superb. We were successful in getting Aston Martin because—and I’ll quote what they said—of our passion and professionalism. We cannot unpick that and set up an agency that would cause even more disruption, that would take the attention away from job creation and attracting investment. I do not believe, for example, that, in Ceredigion or in Gwynedd, the idea of a health quango based in Cardiff goes down particularly well.
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of—
 
13:51
Elin JonesBiography
[Inaudible.]
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams. Not Elin Jones.
 
13:51
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. Could I begin by thanking you, Presiding Officer, for the decades of public service that you have given to our country, especially in your role as the Presiding Officer over this Assembly term? I wish you well in your future endeavours. Could I extend those good wishes to all Assembly Members who are retiring at the end of the session, especially to the class of 99 and colleagues who embarked upon the devolution journey alongside me at that time? Could I wish them well in their future endeavours too?
 
First Minister, could I thank you for the personal kindness which you have always shown me? You said that you have dealt with 2,000 FMQs. Back in the old days, I was allowed to ask more than three. I don’t know about dealing with 2,000—you have given precious few answers in that time—but I have greatly enjoyed the encounters across the Chamber, mostly.
 
If I can turn to my set of questions today, at the last election, you did promise to make surgeries more accessible to working people so that they could access local GP services in the evenings and on Saturday mornings. The results of a survey that I’ve carried out amongst GPs say that 77 per cent of them say that your policy has failed to improve opening hours. It hasn’t worked. And your own survey by your own Government demonstrated that 40 per cent of people still say it’s very difficult to get a GP appointment. Given that that was your No. 1 health commitment, why do you feel that GPs feel that you haven’t achieved it?
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The leader of the Liberal Democrats will forgive me for being sceptical about Lib Dem surveys. [Laughter.] There are many of us in this Chamber who have the experience of seeing leaflets that show that the Liberal Democrats are about to take our own seats or indeed council seats, and she will know we’ve had some sport over that issue over the years in this Chamber. Without having seen the survey or indeed understood how many people responded to it, clearly, I can’t comment on it, but bear in mind my scepticism from the beginning.
 
In terms of access to GP appointments, 82 per cent of GP practices are open for daily core hours—in other words, 8 a.m. to 6.30 p.m., Monday to Friday; 97 per cent of practices are offering appointments at any time between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on at least two weekdays—that’s up from 92 per cent in 2011; 79 per cent of practices offer appointments at any time between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. every day—up from 62 per cent in 2011; and the percentage of practices closed half day on one weekday has fallen from 19 per cent in 2011 to 4 per cent in 2015. Of course, because GPs tend to be independent contractors, we are reliant on them ensuring that they are able to provide the service that they should. But, nevertheless, what we have seen is an enormous improvement in GP accessibility in most surgeries in Wales.
 
13:54
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Presiding Officer, I am stung by the First Minister’s assumption and assertions that you cannot trust a Liberal Democrat survey—absolutely stung. [Laughter.] Bar charts maybe, First Minister, but never a survey. The reality is, First Minister, that those appointments are available—of course they are. But the number of people who want to use those appointments far outstrips the number of appointments that are currently available. That’s why 40 per cent of people responding to your Government’s survey say they find it difficult to make an appointment.
 
Just before the last election, you also said that when the next PISA international education rankings were published, Wales would be further up the list. Now, when they were published, what they did show was that Wales was performing worst in the UK for reading, in maths and in science. Subsequently, you’ve given up breaking into the top 20 international nations altogether. Why do you feel you weren’t able to meet your pledge with regard to education in Wales that you made at the beginning of this term of office?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
PISA is the one area we need to crack in order to see improvement. Everything else is moving in the right direction. Why do I say that? Well, we pledged in 2011 that we would apply a level of protection to school spending. We’ve done that—£106 million extra is available within the Welsh education system than would otherwise have been the case. Together with her party, of course, we introduced the pupil deprivation grant; that’s been successful. Schools Challenge Cymru has helped to raise the standards of those schools that are not performing as we would expect them to, and we’re seeing results improve across the board, which gives us reason to suspect that the PISA results will improve in the future. We’re seeing it with GCSEs, we’re seeing it with A-levels, and importantly, we’re seeing schools being built across Wales. Most recently, I was opening the new community school in Aberdare, and cutting the first sod on the new campus of Coleg y Cymoedd in Aberdare, as well. That’s a sign of a Government investing in our young people.
 
13:56
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
First Minister, earlier this year, you claimed that you needed five more years to complete a decade of delivery. Yet, despite your bluster in answer to the leader of Plaid Cymru, for all but two quarters of this Assembly, unemployment in Wales has been higher than in England, Scotland and the UK as a whole. We have the least productive economy in the UK and the highest levels of child poverty outside of London. Now, if this level of delivery is what we can expect for the next five years of a Labour Government, what hope can there be for those people who haven’t got a job and whose children are living in poverty, many of whom do actually have parents in full-time employment, but are on wages that cannot sustain that family?
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there are issues there, of course, for the UK Government in terms of working families tax credit, which we don’t control. There are issues with regard to other benefits that we don’t control and we’ve deplored what the UK Government has done in attacking those who are the lowest paid. They didn’t cause the financial crisis on 9 August 2007; it was reckless lending by those in the banking sector, and yet, those are allowed to get away scot free and those who are paid the least are the ones being punished the most. We have—she will agree with me, I’m sure, on this—deplored what has been done there.
 
But we have brought investment into Wales. And these are not jobs, as in the 1990s, that were brought into Wales because people here were on low wages—that’s what happened in the 1990s; they’d come to Wales, because people would accept less pay than anywhere else. These are jobs that are high-quality jobs; they’re skilled jobs. We want to make sure that our people have those skills. We’ve done it through Jobs Growth Wales and, after May, as she will know, my party has pledged to ensure that apprenticeships are available to all ages. That’s the way to ensure the skills pipeline is there. And, of course, we have pledged to ensure that there are 30 hours of free childcare available for three to four-year-olds, for working parents, for 48 weeks a year. That’s a substantial assistance to many, many working parents with young children to enable them to get to work and that, of course, is the most important way of reducing poverty: removing hurdles for people who wish to get to work and then ensure, of course, that they’re able to get to work and raise their own incomes and those of their families.
 
13:59
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper and question 3 is from Nick Ramsay.
 
The Delivery Unit
 
13:59
Nick RamsayBiography
3. Will the First Minister outline the performance of his delivery unit over the fourth Assembly term? OAQ(4)2777(FM)
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The performance and effectiveness of the delivery unit should be judged on the delivery of the programme for government, which is almost complete in terms of delivery.
 
13:59
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you. Presiding Officer, can I also offer you my good wishes for the future? Your advice and guidance has always been much appreciated by myself and, I know, other Members in this Chamber.
 
First Minister, it’s always interesting to hear a little bit more on the workings of the delivery unit. Not quite as shadowy as SPECTRE, I admit, but sometimes, it seems to be getting there. Andrew R.T. Davies has asked you about the ballooning costs of the M4 black route today. At what point during the development of that road did the delivery unit tell you that the chosen route would cost in excess of £1 billion? Because, extra junctions and bridges aside, it has not been that long since you told this Chamber the costs would be significantly lower than the £1 billion plus that it now appears to be.
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, no, because as I mentioned earlier on, there are elements of the scheme that are new, particularly regarding the cycle super highway, which is very important, because it complies with the active travel Act and, of course, the contingency that is built in. It would be remiss of me not to offer my thanks to the Presiding Officer as well. I’m aware that I haven’t done that as yet. Could I offer those thanks now? I know that the Chamber has sometimes been unruly, and I know the Presiding Officer has not always had—and she’s pointing at me—the easiest task, but that is the nature, I suppose, of a robust democracy. I have to say to the Member he has to decide whether he is in favour of the relief road or not, because in this Chamber in the past he has given indication he is sceptical about the need for a relief road at all. He can make that case, of course, between now and May.
 
14:00
Christine ChapmanBiography
First Minister, it’s clear that delivering for the people of Wales has been a key theme for your Government during this Assembly term. It was good to see you break the ground for the new Aberdare campus for Coleg y Cymoedd the other week. Do you agree that this £22 million investment will deliver improved access to further education for the people of Cynon Valley, but also make a contribution to helping them realise their potential, which is invaluable, not just for them as individuals but for Wales as a whole?
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. Coleg y Cymoedd has been allocated £11 million of Welsh Government funding towards the scheme. It will provide state-of-the-art facilities for 811 full-time and 450 part-time students, replacing, of course, the existing buildings, which are well past their sell-by date, and, of course, it’s very close to public transport hubs, the railway station particularly, which will make it very easy for students to travel to the campus in order to learn there. So, yes, another example of the Welsh Government investing in the future of our youngsters.
 
14:02
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
The delivery unit is one of the great mysteries of this Assembly, First Minister, and it is a source of great sadness for me to have to leave this institution after 17 years without ever understanding exactly what this delivery unit actually delivers. I wonder, in the best of spirits—because you are obviously in high spirits at the end of this term—whether you would give me a transparent and completely open answer to me as to what exactly this delivery unit does.
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It implements the governmental programme. That is demonstrated by the evidence, where we have achieved on almost everything in that programme. So, the delivery unit has done the work that they should have.
 
Apprenticeships
 
14:02
Sandy MewiesBiography
4. How is the Welsh Government supporting apprenticeships as a key element in tackling youth unemployment? OAQ(4)2784(FM)
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We recently announced an additional £5 million for apprenticeships next year. We have, of course, focused on growing apprenticeship numbers for 16 to 18-year-olds, raising the number of school leavers going on to apprenticeships. Of course, we have plans post May, if we’re given the opportunity, to ensure that we create more apprenticeships for people of all ages.
 
14:03
Sandy MewiesBiography
Apprenticeship week is an appropriate time to highlight the Welsh Government’s success in helping young people into work through its support for apprenticeships and the Jobs Growth Wales programme. It’s also appropriate to highlight the marvellous work that’s being done in Flintshire by both Airbus and Coleg Cambria. They are getting young people into apprenticeships, both male and female. However, a British Gas survey has learnt that poor careers advice was resulting in girls limiting their career choices, ruling out apprenticeships as a viable career path for them. So, looking into the future, how will a Welsh Labour Government build on its successes to encourage more young women to take up apprenticeships?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member raises a hugely important issue, because equality is a key theme of our work on apprenticeships. It’s why we commissioned Estyn to carry out a thematic review on barriers to apprenticeships in 2014, but she does mention, of course, good examples, not in her constituency but not very far away, in Airbus, where the Airbus industrial cadet programme at Broughton has two all-girl cohorts. They have given over 140 year 9 and 10 students the opportunity to take part in an industrial engineering project. That, of course, helps to ensure that young girls of that age get the opportunity to see what the job entails and they will, of course, then use that experience to make decisions in the future for themselves. It is hugely important that careers are seen as open to both sexes—we understand that—and it is schemes like the industrial cadet scheme, and there are others such as the Ford Saturday club at Bridgend, that ensure that what has historically been a weakness, in other words, young women going into engineering, is addressed through practical experience.
 
14:05
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, over the past 10 years, under your Government, Wales has fallen 14 places against other nations in standards of science, fallen behind nine places in maths and fallen behind 11 places in reading. More than 30 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds have not reached the levels of literacy and numeracy that do allow them to communicate and operate effectively in the workplace—that’s according to Estyn’s own figures. One could say that your programme for government has certainly failed over the past five years. This, of course, then leads to disengagement with the education system of young people. A Welsh Conservative Government would see the introduction—I don’t know why you’re looking puzzled—[interruption.] These figures are—
 
14:05
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Come to the question. [Inaudible.]—on how people are looking.
 
14:05
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
A Welsh Conservative Government—
 
14:06
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
No, come to the question. Don’t just read what—.
 
14:06
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
[Continues.]—would see the introduction of university technical colleges that would foster apprenticeships that lead to high-quality, sustainable jobs. Will you support our policy?
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member will have to forgive my scepticism, because she represents a party that got rid of the Future Jobs fund and removed one of the most important schemes for assisting young people into work that existed, which is why, of course, we introduced Jobs Growth Wales, the most successful scheme for creating opportunities for young people, I would argue, in Europe. It’s why we’ll build on that to ensure that there are opportunities available for all ages. What she doesn’t explain, of course, is that her leader, amongst his many troubles on Saturday, including being ignored by David Cameron, said that he would only protect one budget. He would not protect the budget for apprenticeships. Now, on that basis, what the Member is suggesting is that there will be a new scheme in place, but with no money. We will make sure, in what we are planning to do, that there are opportunities available for all. Given the track record of the Conservatives with their cutting of the Future Jobs fund, their cutting of support for those who want education, their cutting of the education maintenance allowance and ensuring that students have to pay far more in England, the answer to your question is: ‘No, we don’t agree because their track record is appalling.’
 
14:07
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I’m being very generous today, Darren Millar. Don’t tempt me. Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
14:07
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you. It was a pleasure to meet with Dafydd Jones last week who has just started an apprenticeship as a fitter with Orthios in the eco-park in Holyhead. He’s looking forward to developing his career as an engineer in Anglesey. Of course, it’s very important that companies are attracted into apprenticeship programmes and that there are sufficient numbers of apprenticeships available, but it’s also just as important, of course, that young people become aware of the opportunities available to them through apprenticeships. Will the First Minister, therefore, acknowledge the damage that is being done in terms of encouraging apprenticeships so that young people take up apprenticeships by cutting the Careers Wales budget by over 50 per cent during the time of this Government? Unless they get the right advice in the right place at the right time, young people aren’t going to be aware of the pathways available to them.
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There is no shortage at all of young people who wish to go for an apprenticeship. We’ve seen that in Airbus and in a number of other areas of Wales. There is no problem with the number of people applying for apprenticeships, and, of course, if we look at schemes such as Jobs Growth Wales, that has been extremely successful: 80 per cent of young people have had the opportunity to go on to further education or into employment. That shows, of course, that what we’ve been doing as a Government has been extremely successful, and our intention is to ensure that this will be enhanced after May to those of all ages.
 
School Places (Cardiff)
 
14:09
Eluned ParrottBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the availability of school places in Cardiff? OAQ(4)2785(FM)
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, that would be a matter, of course, for the Cardiff local education authority.
 
14:09
Eluned ParrottBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister, such as it was. I must declare an interest, Llywydd, in that my own son is affected by this situation. You’ll no doubt be aware, First Minister, of the chaos in Cardiff with the allocation of secondary school places. A number of schools across the city are affected, but the east of the city very particularly so. Two weeks after places were supposed to be confirmed, many of my constituents’ children still don’t have a place in any secondary school, and those parents are, understandably, incredibly anxious. First Minister, will you commit to investigate what has gone wrong in Cardiff this year with the allocation of secondary school places, and will you be prepared to step in if the local authority still fails to resolve the situation?
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the local authority are obliged to provide places for children. They have to do that fairly. There have to be criteria in place that are transparent in order for people to understand that admission arrangements are being properly implemented. I have to say to the Member that I know one of the issues surrounds Cardiff High School, and pupils, I understand—and this is a matter that has been raised with me by Jenny Rathbone as the Member for Cardiff Central—going from Pentwyn to Llanishen not being able to go to Cardiff High. But that was as a result of a change, I understand, to the catchment area that was made by her party on 1 September 2011. So, that, clearly, hasn’t helped parents in that part of Cardiff.
 
14:10
Jenny RathboneBiography
The change that was made by the Liberal Democrat administration in 2011, which seems to be causing this chaos, was not fair, particularly for the residents of Pentwyn, who have to walk past Cardiff High School to get to Llanishen High School. The Member is ill informed when she doesn’t seem to understand that, when people don’t get their first choice, if they don’t put a second choice, it’s impossible for the council then to allocate them a place. Could the First Minister agree with me that what we need is a really transparent system that everybody understands and that is fair to all citizens and is not gerrymandering the system in favour of some?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, changes to admission arrangements, such as changes to catchment areas, must be consulted on in accordance with the school admissions code. It sets out a very strong expectation that parents will be involved in consultation, and it’s hugely important that parents understand what the reasoning is when catchment areas are drawn up. On top of that, of course, when it comes to admissions, the council are required to ensure the admission arrangements are transparent and properly implemented, and that the over-subscription criteria are applied fairly.
 
14:12
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, one of the things that causes a great deal of concern to parents when trying to seek access to schools are the development plans that councils put forward, which are obviously submitted to Welsh Government for approval. Do you believe that the planning advice that is given to cater for new housing developments—especially in Cardiff, where large housing developments are proposed around the edges of Cardiff—are robust enough in the tests that they set for the provision of schooling, but also other public services that need to be put in to cater for those communities? This bottleneck is not going to go away any time soon, and the number of school places in Cardiff is under huge pressure.
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, overall in Cardiff, of course, there are other schools where there are surpluses. But, of course, inevitably, there are some schools that will be seen as more popular than others. Local authorities do have the ability, through section 106 agreements, to make sure that education provision is made when new housing estates, particularly, are built. There are examples across Wales where that’s happened—where new primary schools have been built, particularly. They must take that into account and obtain a section 106 agreement in order to make sure that education provision is adequate when a new housing estate is built. They have the machinery to do it. It’s hugely important, of course, that they use that machinery.
 
Listing Buildings
 
14:13
Aled RobertsBiography
6. What is the Welsh Government doing to encourage community groups to participate in the process of listing buildings of historical and local significance? OAQ(4)2787(FM)[W]
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent on 21 March. The Act will afford greater protection to historic buildings. We are drafting guidance on creating and managing lists of historic assets of special local interest and the need to encourage community interest and involvement from the outset.
 
14:14
Aled RobertsBiography
I’m sure you’ll be aware of the situation of ysgol y Llwyni in Wrexham—the Groves—where the council, in giving notice of four days, have said that they want to demolish the building, contrary to the aspirations of the majority of local people. In accepting that you are currently drafting your own guidance at present, will you make it clear to Wrexham council that there is no requirement for them to demolish the building while they are applying for a twenty-first century schools grant? That is the explanation that they are giving at present, namely that they don’t have the funds available to refurbish the current buildings, and they want to demolish them in order to create a new school that would be cheaper. Will you make it clear to Wrexham council, therefore, that there is no expectation upon them to rush into demolition of this historic building?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, they don’t have to do that; that’s true. I have stood outside the school with Lesley Griffiths, as the Wrexham Member, and I know that this is something that is extremely important to the area, and people are unhappy with Wrexham council’s decision to demolish the building. But, the important point is that the council realises that they don’t have to do this. It’s a matter for them. It’s not something that they should try to blame other people for, because it’s something that they desire to do, and it’s important that they explain that to local people and don’t try to put the blame on any other body.
 
14:15
Mike HedgesBiography
We know that almost every one of the large nineteenth-century buildings is listed in some form. Many, unfortunately, are derelict or abandoned, and I can think of three in my own constituency, one of which only has two walls, but is still listed. Couldn’t we agree that we need to get communities to decide which of these buildings are the most important and to try and get the money and investment needed to preserve these buildings? I have serious concerns that some very important buildings are coming—. As the First Minister knows, I’ve got a great interest in chapels of the nineteenth century, and very many of these have collapsing congregations and are in danger of becoming empty in the near future. Isn’t it important that we actually try and work out what we can preserve and then get the investment to preserve them?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, the Member, of course, represents a constituency that includes the nonconformist cathedral of the Morriston Tabernacle, but coming back to what I said earlier on, the Act itself is there, and what we’ll see as a result of the Act is that guidance will be created that will mean that there’ll be management of lists of historic assets, and of course communities will need to be engaged from the outset. Communities know best which buildings they wish to preserve that are of particular value to them, and having that list of historic assets will be useful for communities to understand what assets they have, and then of course to move forward with looking to utilise or preserve those assets in the future.
 
14:17
Suzy DaviesBiography
First Minister, I’m sure you’ll join me in welcoming the Friends of Aberdulais Tin Works and Waterfall, who are visiting the Assembly from my region today. They offer a great deal of support to staff at a particularly famous National Trust site, which helps them to be local voices to promote tourism in the Vale of Neath and nearby areas. The scoping work of the heritage Bill considered the role of volunteers and community groups in taking on, where appropriate, responsibility for local heritage assets. While this wasn’t actually reflected in the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, what evidence did the Government glean during that process that would help local community organisations, perhaps like the Friends, to be at the forefront of shaping these local lists?
 
14:18
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I was there two months ago, as I am sure they were aware. It was my first visit and it was hugely impressive. It’s a site I’d driven past many times but not visited, and I went there in the second week of January.
 
Coming back to what I said before, community involvement in managing lists of historic assets is hugely important, and as I’ve said now on two previous occasions, it’s hugely important that people are engaged as soon as possible in terms of drawing up those lists and in terms of being able to manage those assets in the future.
 
14:18
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:18
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement, and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
14:18
Jane HuttBiography
There have been two changes to the business statement for this final week of business, Llywydd—the debate on the housing adaptations scheme has been withdrawn and replaced by a 45-minute oral statement on an enhanced adaptation system by the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty; and the First Minister’s items have been re-ordered and will be moved as the final items of business on the Plenary agenda.
 
14:19
Russell GeorgeBiography
Minister, could I request a statement from the Minister for the economy and transport on the potential for traffic disruption caused by the construction of the Tirgwynt windfarm? I did raise this issue with the First Minister in questions last month and he assured me that officials were working with developers to ensure that the movement of large components would take place outside of peak traffic to minimise any disruption on the roads. That answer was welcome. However, I have had reports from community councils that have certainly had correspondence that indicates that turbine movements will take place during August, which is of course the busiest time of the year. Could I therefore ask for a statement from the Minister providing assurance when the movements will take place, and perhaps could I also ask the Minister to report on issues that have been brought to my attention of developers using B roads, which is prohibited under agreements? Perhaps this could also be reported in any statement coming forward.
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
I can assure the Member, Russell George—I’m very grateful, actually, that you welcomed the answer last week—I can assure you that the Minister will abide by her commitments.
 
14:20
Mike HedgesBiography
Minister, can I ask for an update on the children and families delivery grant, because I’m told by constituents that when they click on the link on the Welsh Government page, it shows: ‘The page cannot be found’? It is, however, still being advertised by Swansea Council for Voluntary Service as an available grant.
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
I’m sure that matter can be rectified as a matter of urgency.
 
14:20
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I wonder if the business Minster could make available a written statement by the Minister for Public Services, I believe, on the issue of cyber crime. A number of my constituents and Dyfed-Powys Police have been alerted to an extortion e-mail that is being sent to local B&B and accommodation providers, threatening to post very negative and harming reviews on websites if they do not come up with a substantial amount of bitcoin and money as a result of that. Obviously, it’s a very worrying development for those business owners. Given that this is obviously quite a large-scale operation, it would be useful to know what the Government can do to assist, in the confines of their powers, to alert businesses and to protect businesses.
 
14:21
Jane HuttBiography
I’m sure you will have already drawn this to the attention of the Minister for Public Services in terms of examples, but the Minister will be happy to look at this in terms of considering a statement.
 
14:22
William GrahamBiography
Business Minister, may I just say how much I’ve enjoyed our exchanges over the years? I haven’t always had the information, perhaps, that I wanted, but certainly the questions were always answered both with integrity and, if I may say, imagination.
 
My question today is regarding a written statement, if I may, from the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport regarding the—I think it will be—amazing disruption within the centre of the city of Newport with the closure of some major transport links. Could I ask for that statement, particularly to ask whether there will be any support for businesses that will be adversely affected, and also, bearing in mind the statements that the Minister has given to the Chamber over the last few months, how Network Rail will be adequately supervised to make sure the dates are kept?
 
14:22
Jane HuttBiography
I would also like to pay tribute and give thanks to William Graham for the very gracious way he’s asked me questions and, of course, wish him well in his future endeavours. I know he will continue to be a very active representative, in many ways, in his community. But I would also say that, of course, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport will want to reassure the people of Newport in terms of the developments, and of course the outcome will be very beneficial for Newport.
 
14:23
David ReesBiography
Minister, yesterday, steel workers in Port Talbot were starting the process of actually being informed as to whether they will have a job in the future or not at the works, because of the decision announced in January 2016. To date, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has been very helpful to Members by updating us with the information on the taskforce. Will you ensure that the updates will continue during the time ahead, because these are difficult times for many workers and their families, and it’s important that they understand the actions that are available to them following the work of the taskforce and their futures ahead of them?
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
I know, David Rees, that the Minister will want to update Members—particularly the fact that you have raised regularly these issues on behalf of your constituents—on the progress in terms of Tata steelworks.
 
14:24
Eluned ParrottBiography
I wonder if I might request a statement on the maintenance and cleanliness of our trunk road network following complaints from my constituents about the disgraceful state of the verges on the A48(M) as you come into Cardiff, and other roads too. Clearly, with many major events bringing visitors into Wales, this is really a shameful and embarrassing introduction to our city and I would welcome an action plan as to what they’re going to do to resolve the matter.
 
14:24
Jane HuttBiography
These are operational matters that will have to be taken on board, of course, with a great deal of feedback and constructive engagement to ensure that this is addressed fully and comprehensively.
 
14:24
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:24
3. Statement: The Enhanced Adaptation System
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 3, which is a statement by the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty on the enhanced adaptation system. I call on the Minister, Lesley Griffiths.
 
14:24
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Adaptations play a vital part in helping people to remain in their own homes as safely and independently as possible. The current system helps many people achieve this; however, improvement is needed. Assembly Members have discussed this issue on several occasions in Plenary and also in committee. We all wish to see the system improved and delivered more rapidly. Today marks the culmination of a programme of research and work with key stakeholders, and I am pleased to announce an enhanced system with a new identity: Enable—Support for Independent Living, which will be rolled out from 1 April.
 
Adaptations not only improve people’s overall quality of life, they reduce avoidable demands on our hard-pressed NHS and social services. Each year, many thousands of people are helped. Over £50 million is spent by local authorities, housing associations and Welsh Government to provide individuals with the adaptations they need. In an average year, 4,500 disabled facilities grants are approved by local authorities and some 6,000 tenants of housing associations receive an adaptation. More than 17,000 people are helped by the rapid response adaptations programme, and Care and Repair agencies help more than 30,000 people. Overall, our organisations have a good record of providing help, but successive reviews have said the system could be improved.
 
The Welsh Government is not directly responsible for the delivery of adaptations; however, it has a vital role in ensuring the framework for delivery allows them to be provided in an effective and timely manner consistently across Wales. Research into adaptations was commissioned earlier this term, with a view to it being a catalyst for change. I do not want to see another inquiry in the next Assembly term that again identifies the same concerns and draws the same conclusions. We were committed to improving the system and, when the review report was published in January 2015, I asked all key stakeholders to demonstrate that they too were committed. And I’m pleased to say they were.
 
All applicants will receive a better service irrespective of age, disability, tenure or location. The emphasis will be on the individual and their family. Which organisation delivers and pays for the adaptation is secondary to people getting the support they need, when they need it. It will be a simple, clear system with just three broad levels of assistance. Once the need has been identified, advice and information will be provided. The next step is a needs assessment, with an action plan developed and implemented as quickly as possible.
 
There will be three broad categories of assistance. Very small adaptations, for example, the installation of grab and stair rails, will be delivered quickly, without fuss and with the minimum of paperwork. There will be no means test and no requirement for assessment by an occupational therapist. It is envisaged that all very small adaptations will be delivered within seven days. Local authorities and housing associations are already delivering this to their tenants, so there is no reason why this cannot be achieved for everyone. In some cases, such as a very small adaption needed for someone to return home from hospital, adaptations are delivered the same day or the next day. I want this to happen consistently across Wales. Raising awareness amongst health professionals of the help available and how to access it will be a priority. The small category will typically include walk-in showers, stair lifts and ramps. These may involve an assessment by an occupational therapist, but will be fast-tracked to ensure that work is completed as quickly as possible. The large category are those requiring structural change. By definition, these will take longer than the other categories, for example, planning permission may be required. However, by improving the assessment and communications, the applicant can be fully involved and given a clearer picture of works required and a timetable for delivery.
 
This is a prudent approach, based on needs, identified in conjunction with the person who requires help. It will make effective use of adaptations and the best possible use of public funding. Means testing will remain for the small and large categories, but support, including home improvement loans, will be available for people who have difficulty meeting their share of any costs. The approach has been designed to ensure consistently good services in all areas, but with flexibility where unusual circumstances are identified. There will be a comprehensive system for monitoring and reporting performance, and one core set of information covering all adaptations by all providers, not just disabled facilities grants. The data will include feedback from recipients to determine the level of satisfaction with help received and identify opportunities to further improve services.
 
The enhanced system will be owned by all the key stakeholders, who are committed to playing their part to the full. As a demonstration of our commitment, we are making available another £4 million to support the system in its first year.
 
I am very pleased the Welsh Local Government Association has signed up to the system for local authorities, and Community Housing Cymru has done so on behalf of housing associations. They’ve welcomed the enhanced system and the way in which it has been developed in partnership with organisations that will play a key role in its success. They recognise the benefits the enhanced system will bring to those who need help to live safely and independently. They are committed to working with the Welsh Government and others to roll it out from April 2016. Our working group also involved the College of Occupational Therapists and the Office of the Commissioner for Older People in Wales, both of which are also pleased to see this development.
 
The main outcomes will be improved independence and quality of life. The reduced risk of falls will help reduce demand on health and social services. It will also help people who have been admitted to hospital to return home as soon as possible. The new system will be monitored very closely to ensure we are achieving the outcomes and delivering the benefits expected. Progress will be reported regularly, and I have also allocated funding for an independent evaluation, the results of which will be reported to this Assembly.
 
The message is clear: the delivery of adaptations needs to improve across Wales. The development I am announcing today will achieve this, and I look forward to seeing the real difference this makes.
 
14:31
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Well, after 17 years, I couldn’t agree more with your statement:
 
‘I do not want to see another inquiry in the next Assembly term that again identifies the same concerns and draws the same conclusions.’
 
And, of course, I’ve been party to successive inquiries during the three terms that I’ve been here.
 
The key stakeholders you referred to have told me the key issue for them is that this is the start of a process, not the end. How, therefore, do you respond to their question, ‘How are we secured to commitment to this continuing after the election?’ Clearly, we don’t know exactly what the Welsh Government will be—we all have our hopes, but we don’t know. I know my party will commit ourselves to continuing this after the election, but how, in your legacy, will you ensure commitment to this, whatever the outcome of the election, in the next Assembly?
 
As you will be aware, the older people’s commissioner has welcomed the intention behind the new home adaptations scheme. She says this addresses the concerns that she’s raised, but she says it’s important to recognise that the success of the scheme will be dependent on ensuring a new scheme is implemented in a consistent way across Wales, and that people’s experiences are used to drive ongoing improvements. In practice, what tools, what mechanisms, are being implemented to facilitate that?
 
The independent living revenue action budget for 2016-17 merges three budget lines—Care and Repair, the rapid response adaptations programme, and housing policy and development, which also funds tenant participation and equality organisations. The combined budget line has a 10 per cent reduction on the current year, and I understand that front-line Care and Repair agencies will be given priority for this budget. How, therefore, will funding be protected, for example, for the rapid response adaptations programme, and the wider delivery of your announcement today, in that context?
 
The Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee inquiry into home adaptations, in 2013, made a series of recommendations, including putting in place mechanisms to monitor customer satisfaction on longer term outcomes, and auditing adaptation services to identify best practice and its implementation. Your predecessor rejected those proposals, but the review of independent living adaptations again supported them, and recommended collecting performance data in a consistent way from all delivery agencies. How, therefore, will the new system ensure that data are shared, learnt from, and used, to ensure the most effective ways of providing and enabling adaptations?
 
The College of Occupational Therapists welcomed their involvement in this process. They said the development group has drawn all stakeholders together effectively to truly commit to the system. But they say the group needs to continue to work to ensure learning from the monitoring and evaluation is implemented, and ask how this can be assured, given the coming election. Again, we would commit to that, but, again, what mechanisms have been put in place in your legacy on this?
 
And, moving to, I think, my final question, the College of Occupational Therapists welcomes the focus on adaptations as part of a total package for people with complex needs and wishes, but say it will be critical to ensure that people can gain information and advice to arrange their own actions and access greater levels of support in a timely and effective manner to ensure the right solution is made for the person regardless of tenure, age or funding. This includes adaptation, alternative housing solutions and a range of options. How do you, therefore, respond to their statement that this can only be achieved by all the services working together, with the person’s desired outcomes central to the decision making—something I call co-production, you call something different, but, basically, it’s about doing things together?
 
14:35
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I thank Mark Isherwood for his questions and I think, like you—and I said it in my opening statement—I absolutely don’t want to be here in a new Assembly looking at these issues again. The reason I’ve taken some time to do this and get this system up and running is because we absolutely wanted to do it right this time because I think we have seen inconsistency across Wales over the past few years.
 
You question how we’ll go forward, and I will have an independent evaluation over the first year and that will make its findings available to this Assembly. However, I want an interim evaluation part way through the year to ensure that we are on the right track. I mentioned that the WLGA have signed up on behalf of the local authorities and Community Housing Cymru has signed up on behalf of the housing associations. So, that’s how I feel that we will take it forward, because there is going to be a lull now because of the election, obviously, but I think it’s really important that we had that sign-up going into this scheme being rolled out from 1 April and, like you, I am committed to carrying this forward.
 
I think what the implementation—you know, I absolutely say what the older people’s commissioner says: it is all about the implementation. It’s okay having a scheme, but, if it’s not implemented in the correct way, then there is, clearly, not going to be the improvement that we all want to see. And what I would want the evaluation to show is where the blockages are, because, clearly, there are blockages. If you see how inconsistent provision is across Wales, you can identify the blockages. So, by having that data collected—. So, every adaptation that is installed in somebody’s house, we will now have those data. So, we’ll be able to monitor that much more closely. For instance, the Welsh Government has been criticised for not doing the disabled facilities grants, not signing them off quickly enough, so we will see where that blockage is. We’ll see in the local authorities—you know yourself that there are local authorities that have very good and quick delivery of adaptations, and others that aren’t so quick. So, again, we will be able to identify those blockages much more easily.
 
You mentioned about customer service satisfaction and, again, alongside the evaluation of every adaptation the provider of that adaptation will then, on completion, provide a form to the person who’s received the adaptation and we will be able to find out the levels of customer satisfaction. I mentioned I was given £4 million of new money to support this scheme in the first year. You questioned the 10 per cent cut to the budget of Care and Repair, for instance. You’ll appreciate all our budgets have taken significant cuts in certain areas, but I have had meetings with Care and Repair over the past 18 months to ensure that front-line services won’t be affected and I’ve had that assurance. I think it’s really important that, going over the next year, we do pick up from the evaluation the lessons learned to ensure that we are able to, as I say, identify blockages and see where we can improve services.
 
You asked about information and advice to individuals and that will be part of the communications plan. Again, as I say, there will be a lull before the election but I have set aside funding for a communications plan that will ensure members of the public, health professionals, GPs and Citizens Advice bureaux will have key fact sheets, or—. We will make sure that information gets out much more readily.
 
14:39
Mike HedgesBiography
Minister, I really welcome the proposed speeding up of small adaptations. From my experience of being an elected politician for over a quarter of a century, most of the adaptations people come and ask for are small adaptations. You sometimes get people telling them they need a lot more but often what they are asking for are very small minor adaptations to make living in their home so much easier. And I also know over 30,000 older people have been helped by Care and Repair services according to the most recent figures. I’m sure the Minister will join with me in congratulating Care and Repair for the excellent job they do in providing small, easy changes in people’s homes, which are making such a difference and, in many cases, allow people to stay at home.
 
I know in my constituency that adaptations work is playing a hugely important role in improving the quality of life of many of the older citizens who require help to make their homes more suited to their needs. I also know that the delivery of adaptations needs to improve—as you said, Minister, earlier. What more can the Welsh Government do, working with the agencies and organisations who are delivering these services on a day-to-day basis, to improve the service to ensure that more people can stay in their homes where they want to stay?
 
14:40
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I thank Mike Hedges for those questions, and I absolutely join you in congratulating the fantastic work that Care and Repair do, as you say—30,000 adaptations a year. Some of them are very small and are done within the seven days target that we’ve now got. Many are done on the same day, particularly if somebody is waiting to come out of hospital and that’s what they need to ensure they’re discharged on time. I remember visiting a lady in Newport—I’m not sure if it was in Newport West or in Newport East, because both John Griffiths and Rosemary Butler were with me—but there was a lady in her nineties who’d had, simply, two hand rails, and, you know, it had turned her life around. So, we can see that very small adaptations sometimes can make a huge difference to somebody’s quality of life. I mentioned that we’ll be having this evaluation over the next year. I think it’s really important that, if we are to help providers deliver much more consistently and much more effectively, we know where the difficulties are and we can work with the providers to ensure that we overcome them.
 
14:41
Jocelyn DaviesBiography
Minister, of course, this system, the home adaptations system, has been looked at, I think, at least six times that I can remember—indeed, once while I was Minister—and each time problems have been identified and improvements then, of course, promised, and then we see similar issues being picked up again by the next review. I think it’s quite depressing that something that’s been a priority for so long continues to have perennial problems. You outlined the importance of the adaptations in helping people live independently and safely in their own home for as long as possible, and I’m sure you’d agree that it’s been frustrating that the system’s remained so patchy, with some, I have to say, excellent services being provided in some areas, but also with too many people waiting too long in others. Now, your review last year set out a number of clear recommendations to spread the pockets of very good practice across Wales, and I’d like to thank you today, Minister, for bringing this statement and reiterate my hope that the next review will say that the improvements have been made. And I’m very pleased to hear that evaluation is going to be built into the system, because I think that’s vitally important. So, how will this new system then spread that good practice across Wales, and how will you ensure that we’ll see improvement in all local authority areas? And will the evaluation be right across the country, and will it be published so we’ll be able to see where people are not getting the service they deserve?
 
You mentioned health professionals in your statement and in answer to Mark Isherwood, and I hope that it’s not just a one-off awareness-raising campaign. So, will you be monitoring, or how will you be monitoring, if health professionals are taking up the opportunities to get information? And perhaps you’ll let us know if it’s going to be part of their training.
 
And just my last question: do you see a time when these things will no longer be means tested—I know that they’re not means tested for everything—but can you envisage a time when we’ll just do away with the means test on disabled adaptations?
 
14:43
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I thank Jocelyn Davies for those questions. We’ll start with the last one, and, you know, we won’t be means testing the very small adaptations, which is one of the ways I think we’ll get over the bureaucracy and we’ll be able to speed up those very small adaptations. It would be great not to means test, but there just isn’t the funding available. Looking to the future, if things improve financially, who knows, but at the moment there just isn’t the budget to have that.
 
You’re quite right, there are excellent services, but it is patchy and it is inconsistent across Wales, and it would have been good to see that best practice shared out much more consistently, but unfortunately it wasn’t. We’ve sort of relied on local authorities to do this, and I think the difference with this system is that we are, as a Welsh Government, sort of rolling this out now and we’re taking much more responsibility for it. I mentioned that I was very pleased that the WLGA have signed up the local authorities and committed to the scheme, and Community Housing Cymru have done the same for housing associations. The evaluation will be right across Wales. The evaluation will be reported to this Assembly. There will be an interim evaluation to the Minister part way through the year, but I think it is important that we are able to identify very quickly that the system is improving.
 
14:45
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, can I first of all welcome the statement? As Jocelyn Davies has said, I think we’ve had at least five or six of these reviews of the system, certainly while I’ve been here—all 17 years in this Assembly—including maybe two or three committee reports and a couple of Government reviews as well. The latest statistics available in terms of disabled facilities grants show that, of the 22 local authorities, 17 are delivering their DFGs an average number of calendar days—. More than six months—they’re taking more than six months to deliver their DFGs, which I think is quite appalling. There is certainly some consistency there, but that consistency is not necessarily in favour of those who are reliant on those adaptations being delivered quickly. I am concerned, given that the last committee report was in July 2013, that the Minister—I’m not sure whether it was you—responded to it in September 2013 and the last report, which you referred to in your statement, was January 2015, which is now 14 months ago. Why is it taking so long to actually address this problem? Why are we only getting a statement now when not only have previous committees highlighted this, but there have been two reports over a year and two years ago looking at this particular issue? I am concerned it’s taking so long in terms of that.
 
If I could just refer to the committee’s report back in July 2013 and, in particular, one aspect that relates to your statement, the committee recommended that we should have a look at the performance indicators that are available, and which I’ve just referred to, in terms of DFGs and provide a number of solutions to that. The Minister at the time rejected that recommendation on the grounds that the objective is to reduce the number of performance indicators, not increase them.
 
In your statement, you now say:
 
‘There will be a comprehensive system for monitoring and reporting performance, one core set of information covering all adaptations by all providers, not just Disabled Facilities Grants.’
 
Could you therefore clarify whether the current national and strategic indicators that I’ve referred to will now be scrapped and replaced with an alternative indicator, or will there be additional indicators on top of that? And what exactly will you be measuring from now on? The current indicators, as I understand it, measure from the initial enquiry to completion. Will you be measuring a different time period? Will there be a strategic indicator in relation to quality? Can you just give us some more information as to what exactly these indicators are now going to be that will enable us to actually monitor how effective your new system is?
 
Another recommendation of the committee report was that there should be a single point of entry to the system within each local authority area. You haven’t actually referred to that in your statement, but I’m interested, given that you’ve been working with both housing associations and local authorities, is it your intention that there will now be a single point of entry for these queries or are you still relying on the split between housing associations and local authorities, albeit operating a similar or the same system?
 
In terms of further recommendations of the committee, one of the recommendations in relation to the means test was that the Government should conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the means test and report back to the committee on its conclusions. You said that the means test will be abolished in relation to the very small adaptations. Are you carrying out a cost-benefit analysis in relation to the other adaptations in terms of that?
 
Finally, Minister, in relation to those housing associations that are stock transfer associations, there are particular issues in relation to those because, of course, they can’t access the same funds that other housing associations can and rely on their business plans in relation to that. I’ve had casework—and I know you’ve written to me today about one of those issues that I’ve raised with you—where, with a large-scale adaptation, the LSVT has effectively tried to farm it off on the local authority and not given the relevant support to their tenant. How will that now work in this new system with those LSVTs? Will they now be subject to the same regime as other housing associations? Will they have the same access to funds as other housing associations? Will there be a duty on them to work more closely with local authorities? Thank you.
 
14:49
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I thank Peter Black for his questions. No, I wasn’t the Minister in September 2013, but I was the Minister in January 2015 when, as you say, this review came forward. I mentioned previously that I thought it was right to take time to get it right this time so that we don’t have to have yet another review.
 
You ask whether there will be a single point. Well, we won’t have a one-stop shop, for instance, but I don’t want people to have to go round and round the houses. If they apply for an adaptation to a local authority or to a housing association, I want it to be done as seamlessly as possible, and I think the system we’ve brought forward now will help in that way.
 
In relation to disabled facilities grants, they can take a long time to deliver, but that could be for a multitude of reasons: the scale of the work or whether there are delays requested by the applicant, for instance. But I think the statistics do hide the fact that a significant number of adaptations are carried out very quickly and with the minimum of bureaucracy. I think the fact that we will have this data, which we haven’t had before, and the way it’s going to be collected now will give us a much fuller picture of what’s being done, where the problem is and if there’s a blockage in the system.
 
You asked about the DFGs indicator; I’ve got no plans to change the indicators immediately, but I think the enhanced system will provide much more comprehensive information on what’s delivered. DFGs are only one part of the system. Independent evaluation will show us where there might possibly be a need for changes to performance indicators. I think that’s something we can look at over the year.
 
You asked me regarding means-tested adaptations. Obviously, the very small adaptations won’t be means tested. In relation to the small and large, they will be and we will have to look at the data around those two, going forward with the evaluation. It’s really important that housing associations—and you referred to the ones that have had the stock transfer—work more closely with local authorities. That’s something that, again, we can look at as we take the evaluation forward.
 
14:52
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:52
4. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 4, which is the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016, and I call on the Minister for Health and Social Services—Mark Drakeford.
 
Motion NDM5999 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 9 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:52
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I move the motion.
 
The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 merges the functions and duties of local authorities in relation to improving the wellbeing of those needing care and support, and the carers who need support, in one Act.
 
It provides a statutory framework to provide a joint commitment to concentrate on wellbeing, rights and responsibilities.
 
Llywydd, in order for the 2014 Act to achieve its goal of reforming social services in Wales, there are a number of amendments that must be made to existing legislation. These regulations before the Assembly this afternoon amend and, in some cases, repeal the primary legislation that currently underpins the provision of care and support for people and support for carers in Wales, because that previous legislation will now be overtaken by the 2014 Act, when it comes into force on 6 April this year.
 
The regulations are necessary to ensure that there is no duplication or overlapping of functions under the 2014 Act, and functions under existing primary legislation.
 
It is also necessary to make consequential amendments to other primary legislation, which refers to provisions that are being amended or repealed by the regulations. The Schedule to the regulations contains transitional and saving provisions in connection with the amendments made by the regulations. The effect of these provisions will be to preserve the application of the current law to people currently receiving care and support. This will ensure a smooth transition takes place for such individuals into the arrangements post 6 April. There will be further transitional provisions for the same purpose, as part of the commencement Order bringing the Act into force on 6 April 2016.
 
Llywydd, the provision in these regulations taken together with the transitional provisions in the commencement Order are necessary to ensure that the law for children and adults passed by this Assembly will be introduced in an orderly and effective fashion and I ask Members to support them.
 
14:54
Altaf HussainBiography
The Welsh Conservatives will be supporting these regulations, but I wanted to put on record my thanks to my colleague, William Graham, and to the former Deputy Minister, Gwenda Thomas for delivering the social services and wellbeing Act.
 
It is a fitting legacy that the day these two Members retire is the day that this new way of delivering social services comes into force. This Act is one of the greatest achievements of this Assembly and, as one of the newest Members, I would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to improve the delivery of social care, and I am pleased I was able to play a small part. Thank you.
 
14:55
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Llywydd, I echo most of Altaf Hussain’s sentiments, of course. There have been some concerns expressed from some quarters, including the Carers Trust, about these regulations. I also note that the Association of Directors of Social Services fully support the regulations, as do I. But, I have to agree with the Carers Trust, Minister, that a stronger reference could be made, perhaps, to ensuring that further and higher education needs of young carers, in particular aged 16 to 24, must be catered for in any carers support plans. But, I would agree that, overall, the Act’s regulations are there to make sure that individuals whose needs cannot be met informally will be eligible to seek and get support and care from social services. We fully support the Act.
 
14:56
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Now, I’m aware that the Minister is very fond of reminding me that the Act is a fact and that I have to learn to live with it, but I continue, as does my group, to have grave concerns about the consequences of this legislation. Far from Altaf Hussain hailing it as being one of the stand-out moments of this National Assembly for Wales, I am deeply concerned about the effects that this legislation will have on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities
 
The Minister didn’t use the word ‘technical’, but just to inform Members, these amendments and changes here in the regulations are far from technical in nature, as they, as the Minister said, repeal rights that have already been accrued under the law for certain citizens. We have to be absolutely clear that we are not rowing back on rights and entitlements that were previously enjoyed by individuals. In that regard, for instance, I am concerned—and I’ve had concerns expressed to me—if we turn to page 83, which is modifications to section 53, with regard, for instance, to the right of carers to a direct payment and the circumstances when that may be available, it seems to me that, certainly, one reading of this is that the Government could be rowing back on the many promises it made about direct payments to carers during the passage of the legislation. If that is the case and that turns out to be the case, I’m deeply concerned of the effect that that will have on carers.
 
The Minister quite rightly says that the Act will come into being in April of this year, and there are widespread concerns amongst many people working in the sector, especially the third sector, about the adequacy of the preparation and training that has been undertaken. That’s not to say that the Minister and his officials haven’t put in place an education and training programme to support the implementation of the legislation to ensure that those staff will have a role in rolling out the legislation and applying the legislation to their clients, but there are grave concerns about the adequacy of that and whether people are truly in a position to be able to implement the Act as of next month.
 
The Minister will be aware of, and will know, I’m sure, personally, Professor Luke Clements at Cardiff University, one of the pre-eminent experts in this field of social care legislation. Interestingly, he advised the previous Westminster Government on social care legislation there, and I would quote the word of Professor Clements:
 
‘There is everything to be gained by allowing at least a further 6 months (ideally a year) before this enormous piece of legislation is brought into force.’
 
I think we should heed the warning of this eminent expert in this area, because I’m not convinced that we are truly ready and practitioners are truly ready to implement the law as of April. Thank you.
 
14:59
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The Minister to reply to the debate.
 
14:59
Mark DrakefordBiographyThe Minister for Health and Social Services
Thank you very much, Llywydd. Well, let me begin with Kirsty Williams’s scepticism about the Act, a scepticism she has maintained throughout its passage. I entirely disagree with her. I can think of nothing more likely to cause difficulty to social services departments and those who use their services than, at this very late stage, to throw all the preparations that have been made into chaos by announcing that, on 6 April, we won’t be implementing the Act after all. I can think of nothing that would be more counter-productive than that.
 
I have been enormously heartened, during the last 12 months, by the enthusiasm with which those who will be responsible for front-line services under this piece of legislation have responded to the extensive programme of preparation and training that’s been made available by the Government, working through the Care Council for Wales, a direct responsibility taken for that programme by Rhian Huws Williams, the chief executive of the care council, who has put an enormous amount of personal energy into making sure that we do everything we can to make people aware of the Act, the way it will work and the way that it will change their working lives. Because we’ve had such a success, Llywydd, with that preparation and training effort, I have decided to provide the care council with £1 million again next year to replicate the £1 million they’ve had this year, because I do recognise that, on 7 April, the whole world will not change and that workers in that first year will find themselves needing to become further familiar with the detail of the Act and how it is working out on the ground. That £1 million will be available again next year to make sure that we can do exactly that.
 
The regulations in front of the Assembly this afternoon do indeed repeal certain rights that are on the statute book already, but only—only—in order to replace them with the extended rights that will accrue to those individuals as a result of the 2014 Act. That does include direct payments and it does include the liberalisation of direct payments, including making them available to a wider range of users for a wider range of purposes and to allow those users to deploy their direct payments to employ a wider range of individuals, including family members, which would not have been possible in the past.
 
I’m grateful to Lindsay Whittle for the points that he raised about carers’ issues. Carers have been concerned about the legislation. We’ve worked hard with them to make sure that the transitional arrangements that these regulations put in place protect the ground that was gained through the carers Measure placed on the statute book by this Assembly. I recently met a group of young carers, a very impressive group of young people, including a young woman from the Caerphilly area. I’ll take away the point that Lindsay Whittle has raised this afternoon in making sure that any plans that we have with those young carers take into account their needs in both further and higher education.
 
So, Dirprwy Lywydd, I find myself agreeing with Altaf Hussain that this is a genuine landmark Act. It is the single largest piece of legislation that will have been passed through this Assembly. There has been an enormous legislative effort, both in the direct primary legislation and in the flow of regulations through this Assembly as well. I echo his thanks to Gwenda Thomas, in particular, but also to William Graham and all those other members of the social services department who worked so hard to make sure that the Act is as good as we can make it, and we now hand it on to those who are responsible for its implementation. These regulations are essential to them in doing so. I ask Members to support them.
 
15:03
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Object. I’ll defer all voting on this item until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
15:03
5. The Food Hygiene Rating (Promotion of Food Hygiene Rating) (Wales) Regulations 2016
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 5, which is the Food Hygiene Rating (Promotion of Food Hygiene Rating) (Wales) Regulations 2016. I call on the Deputy Minister for Health to move the motion—Vaughan Gething.
 
Motion NDM5998 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Food Hygiene Rating (Promotion of Food Hygiene Rating) (Wales) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 22 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:04
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I move the motion. The subject of the regulations before Assembly Members today was first discussed by the Health and Social Care Committee during the passage of the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill in 2012. The committee, of which I was a member at the time, recognised the benefits of referring potential customers to the Food Standards Agency’s food hygiene rating website to check the rating of a business before they order food remotely. These regulations fulfil the Welsh Government commitment at the time to act.
 
Takeaway food businesses will now be required to publish a bilingual statement on certain hard-copy materials directing the consumer to the food hygiene ratings website. We specify the minimum size for the font to ensure the message is clearly seen. The statement also reminds consumers that they can ask the food business for their food hygiene rating when they place their order. Compliance is based on the display of the statement on the leaflet. This is rendered invalid if the ratings of the food business change. The regulations also provide for takeaway food businesses to voluntarily display their food hygiene ratings on their leaflets. Many takeaways already do this, of course, but, unfortunately, there are a small minority that have displayed false or misleading ratings. The regulations therefore specify that, if displayed, a rating must be valid and in the specified format. The regulations enhance the statutory food hygiene ratings scheme in Wales by filling a gap where consumers remotely ordering food—for example, for home delivery—do not have the opportunity to see the food hygiene rating of that takeaway before placing their order. The display of the statement on the leaflet should encourage consumers to view or request a takeaway food business’s food hygiene rating before ordering. The statutory scheme is a success, and I’m pleased about that. We must futureproof it, and I believe these regulations help us to do that.
 
Importantly, the regulations do, of course, provide that, if a food business does not comply, they commit an offence, and appropriate penalties are set out in the regulations. This will allow local authorities to take appropriate enforcement action where necessary. If the regulations are approved, they will come into force on 28 November 2016, which will be the third anniversary of the commencement of the statutory food hygiene ratings scheme in Wales.
 
Finally, Llywydd, it remains the intention of the Welsh Government, subject to the approval of the next Assembly to develop regulations to address the promotion of food hygiene ratings on food business websites.
 
15:06
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you, Deputy Minister, for outlining the Government’s intentions in bringing forward these regulations. It’s something that I advocated significantly during the Health and Social Care Committee’s consideration of the Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill—that there needed to be some opportunity for takeaway customers to be able to determine what the food rating of the establishment was through their literature. But I am a little bit concerned that there may be some unintended consequences from the regulations as laid out, so I am afraid that we’re going to be voting against the proposals before the Assembly today. If I can just set out the reasons why we want to do that, so that the Minister can consider whether there may need to be an amendment to the regulations.
 
I fully support the suggestion that there ought to be a pointer to the food hygiene ratings that are online in takeaway leaflets. I think that’s the place where people will be able to access the most up-to-date information about their local takeaways and the food hygiene rating that has been awarded to them. However, when it comes to the publicity materials themselves displaying a rating, I think that that has the potential to significantly mislead the consumer and potentially give them a false assurance about the food hygiene rating that actually may be at the establishment that they want to order something from. So, for example, a food hygiene rating of 5 may be awarded to an establishment, and leaflets may be distributed on that basis, only for there to be a further inspection of its food hygiene standards and a rating of 0 or 1 to be awarded at the subsequent inspection. Of course, a leaflet will have a shelf-life. It could sit in somebody’s top drawer in their apartment or at home somewhere and be used on a regular basis over a number of years. I don’t want consumers to have a false assurance about a hygiene rating if that hygiene rating on those leaflets is inaccurate. So, I would far rather see a system whereby, if a rating is permitted to be displayed on a leaflet, the date that that rating was awarded is stamped firmly on the rating, so that people can be aware when it was awarded, and that there may be a risk that it could be significantly out of date. These regulations make no such provision for that. They certainly don’t require that to be done, and I think that they’re flawed as a result of it.
 
I’m also a little bit concerned that, obviously, the operators can wheedle their way out of committing an offence if they have a reasonable excuse in relation to the offence that may have been caused in terms of providing misleading information. Again, a food hygiene rating can be outdated literally a day after leaflets have been distributed in a place. I think it’s very easy for people to wheedle themselves out of being held to account for what may be a deliberate act in misleading members of the public via the regulations that are before the Assembly today. So, whilst I completely and wholeheartedly support the Government’s intention of ensuring that there’s good, high-quality information available to consumers about the food hygiene ratings when they are ordering over the telephone or online or from a piece of literature that pops through their letterbox, I don’t think that the regulations as set out would achieve that. In fact, I think they have the potential to mislead the consumer and give them false assurance about the food hygiene ratings. Therefore, we’ll be voting against these, and I’d encourage other Members in other political parties to do likewise.
 
15:10
Ann JonesBiography
Minister, can I welcome today’s regulations, which build on the Welsh Government’s, I suggest, pioneering Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Act 2013, or, as most of us affectionately refer to it, the ‘scores on the doors’? I think that becoming the first country in the UK to introduce such a statutory food hygiene rating scheme proves that this Government again has taken the lead on public health issues, and also in the way that we can perhaps help to protect our citizens.
 
Now, I know that many businesses, as you’ve indicated, have also welcomed this work as it provides their customers with an assurance of the quality of their products. As we continue to develop these regulations, Deputy Minister, I wonder—and I did hear you say that a future Assembly would be asked to consider the regulations, including those who trade over the internet, or that there would be ratings on websites—whether that would be something that would be a priority for an incoming or a new Labour Government after May, or whether it was something that we would have to go back to the drawing board over, or whether there are some plans there. I feel that those who do trade over the internet should have the same confidence and the same level of confidence in the food hygiene rating system as those of us who buy locally at shops or takeaways.
 
15:12
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
The Minister to reply.
 
15:12
Vaughan GethingBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Health
Thank you, Presiding Officer, and thank you for the questions. I’ll deal with Ann Jones’s point first, if I may. I’m glad that there’s a welcome for the regulations and the impact they’ve had. Over 60 per cent of Welsh food businesses now have the highest rating of 5, and there’s been a real and significant improvement in the rating of food businesses, including the extension to food trading just over a year ago. So, I think the ratings overall have been a very real success in helping consumers to make informed choices.
 
During the debate in the committee at the time the initial scheme was being passed there was a significant amount of debate around ordering via a website as well. Some people won’t physically go into a shop or need to ring someone face to face. We did consider this, and so the Government maintained its commitment to do something about that. It’s slightly more complex in dealing with website ordering, because a number of them go through a large website, whether it’s Cook, or there is an alternative, Just Eat, as well. So, potentially you have one website, one place to go in, with a number of different food businesses. So, we want to look to work that through. In the consultation that we ran for these regulations we did actually ask a question about this. So, there is a bit more work to do, but I wanted to be clear with Members that the Government has not resiled from or tried to avoid the commitment we’ve given to actually act and to do something, but it will be for the next Assembly to hopefully pass a set of regulations that will do that in a proportionate and effective way for both the food business and, importantly, for the consumer as well.
 
Dealing with Darren Millar’s two essential points, there have been two consultations for these regulations, both with food businesses, the general public, and across the European Union—importantly, with local authorities as well, about the ability to properly enforce the scheme of regulations that we want to introduce. There’s no disagreement about the point and the purpose. You made the point that there was cross-party support for them to do something about this in the committee at the time that the initial scheme was passed.
 
In my opening remarks, I did point out that we recognise that there are a small number of food businesses that already provide misleading ratings on literature that they put out. We’re being really clear in these regulations that that will be an offence, and it will be for local authorities to enforce that as well. So, we’re being really clear that, if displayed, a rating must be valid and must be in a specified format.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair.
 
Vaughan GethingBiography
When you then go on to your second point about being able to get around this very easily by saying there’s a reasonable excuse, well, having practiced and understood what lawyers do and don’t make of the term ‘reasonable’, I don’t think it’s going to be as simple as saying, ‘We published leaflets three years ago that we want to carry on using.’ I’ll take the intervention.
 
15:14
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for taking the intervention. The point I’m making is that, clearly, a leaflet has an indeterminate shelf-life—it is as long as somebody decides to keep it—and unless there’s a date stamp required against the food hygiene rating that is on that leaflet—and these regulations don’t require that—then it’s very easy for people to be misled about the information in the leaflets. It may be correct at the time of printing. Is it that there needs to be a correction at the time of printing—it needs to be correct then—or at the time of distribution, or at the time of the order? I mean, at what point should that rating be valid when a person is ordering? From a consumer’s point of view, it would be much easier if there was a simple date stamp required on that food hygiene rating so that people could see when it was awarded.
 
15:15
Vaughan GethingBiography
I recognise the point the Member is making. But, in terms of the shelf-life of leaflets, I don’t think it’s going to be a reasonable excuse for a food business to say they distributed a leaflet, or they had leaflets printed, three years ago and they’re not going to take account of the change to their rating. It is for the food business to ensure that the leaflets that they produce and that they deliver to consumers are valid at the time they go into the hands of consumers. It will not be a reasonable excuse to say that they provided a print run several years previous.
 
This Assembly will have another opportunity in the next term to look again at the scheme for food hygiene ratings. We’ll have practical experience, if the regulations are passed, of what really has happened. I don’t recognise the alleged significant flaw that the Member refers to. I think this is a good scheme. It’s taken forward the ratings we’ve introduced. It’s taken forward a scheme to provide real consumer confidence. Actually, for good food businesses that provide appropriate standards of food hygiene and high standards of food hygiene, it is a proper and appropriate competitive advantage. I urge Members to agree to the regulations being made before you today.
 
15:16
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
15:16
6. Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum (Memorandum No. 3) for the UK Enterprise Bill in relation to Regulators’ Code and Primary Authority Provisions
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 6 is the supplementary legislative consent memorandum for the Enterprise Bill in relation to the regulators’ code and primary authority provisions. I call on the Minister for Public Services to move the motion—Leighton Andrews.
 
Motion NDM5992 Leighton Andrews
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6 agrees that provisions in the Enterprise Bill, relating to amendments to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 in respect of the Primary Authority scheme and amendments to the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 in respect of the regulators' principles and code in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:17
Leighton AndrewsBiographyThe Minister for Public Services
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.
 
I move the motion and I am grateful to the Enterprise and Business Committee for considering this legislative consent motion. They have indicated that they are content with the memorandum.
 
The UK Government introduced the Enterprise Bill into Parliament on 16 September last year. The Bill makes amendments to the existing provisions relating to the regulators’ code and the primary authority scheme. Perhaps I should explain: the regulators’ code is a code of practice that seeks to provide a principles-based framework for regulators on how they should engage with those whom they regulate.
 
Nearly all non-economic regulators, including local authorities and fire and rescue authorities, must have regard to the code when developing standards, policies or procedures. The Enterprise Bill places a new requirement on regulators to report on the effect the code has had on the way that they exercise their functions, making it easier to measure the effect of the code and assess its benefits.
 
The Bill also removes the restriction on the functions of certain regulators from being brought within the scope of the code. It will allow the functions of Ofgem, Ofcom, the Office of Rail and Road and Ofwat to be brought within the scope of the code.
 
We’ve ensured, through UK Government amendments to the Bill, that it is for the Welsh Ministers to specify functions for the purpose of the code where the functions are within the legislative competence of the National Assembly or in respect of which functions are exercisable by Welsh Ministers. It is of course appropriate that this power should sit in Wales.
 
Turning now to the primary authority scheme. The scheme has been in place since 2009 and enables businesses to form a statutory partnership with one local authority or fire and rescue authority, which then provides advice for other local regulators to take into account when carrying out inspections or addressing non-compliance. The aim is to ensure that local regulation is consistent at a national level and sufficiently flexible to address local circumstances.
 
Provisions in the Enterprise Bill simplify the eligibility and application process for the primary authority scheme generally; allow trade bodies to provide their members with easier access to the scheme by simplifying the application processes and by moving out the requirement that each individual business should hold a separate partnership; make technical amendments relating to notification requirements; extend the scheme so that other regulators, in addition to local authorities, can be qualifying regulators; enable supporting regulators to provide support to the primary authority; and require certain other complementary regulators with functions that overlap with local authorities to act consistently with primary authority advice.
 
We have ensured, through UK Government amendments, that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills will be required to obtain the consent of the Welsh Ministers before specifying, for the purpose of the primary authority scheme, a regulator whose functions relate only to devolved Welsh matters or a regulatory function, so far as exercisable in Wales, that relates to a devolved Welsh matter. I commend this motion to the Chamber.
 
15:20
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no speakers. Therefore, the proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:20
7. Supplementary Legislative Consent Motion (Memorandum No. 4) on the UK Enterprise Bill Provisions relating to Public Sector Employment: Restriction on Exit Payments
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 7 is a supplementary legislative consent motion on the UK Enterprise Bill provisions relating to public sector employment: restrictions on exit payments. I call on the Minister for Public Services to move the motion—Leighton Andrews.
 
Motion NDM5994 Leighton Andrews
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6 agrees that provisions in the Enterprise Bill, relating to restrictions on public sector exit payments in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:21
Leighton AndrewsBiographyThe Minister for Public Services
Deputy Presiding Officer, I would again like to express my thanks to the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee for considering this legislative consent memorandum, and also to the workforce partnership council for their engagement with it. Unfortunately, the committee were unable to consider the revised memorandum, and this was outside my control as the UK Government tabled very late amendments to the Bill on 1 March.
 
As I said on the other LCM, the UK Government’s Enterprise Bill entered Parliament on 16 September 2015. It includes provisions restricting public sector exit payments. The Bill confers regulation-making powers on the Treasury to cap the total value of public sector exit payments at £95,000. The Bill will cover devolved public sector workforces in Wales. That includes the NHS, local government and sponsored bodies in Wales. These bodies, of course, are the responsibility of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly.
 
The Welsh Government supports the principle of restricting excessive public sector exit payments. Large payments to highly paid public employees do not sit well with the people of Wales, nor do they offer value for money to our hard-pressed public services— many of which have seen budgets reduced by cuts imposed by Westminster. Furthermore, we believe that it’s important that exit payments are fair, proportionate and represent value for money to Welsh taxpayers, but it is right and proper that Welsh Ministers have the power to determine the capping regime for the Welsh public sector. This was not, of course, reflected in the Bill as originally drafted.
 
After very lengthy negotiations with the UK Government, we’ve now reached an agreement on amendments to the Bill. This includes a power to waive or relax the operation of the cap on the devolved public services in Wales should the Welsh Ministers feel it appropriate to do so. In practice, the Welsh Ministers will be able to determine appropriate arrangements for how the cap will apply. This power addresses concerns expressed by the workforce partnership council, in particular relating to pensions and lower paid workers, and we obviously want to protect the position of low-paid workers.
 
There will be some exceptions to consider when using the new powers. For example, pay arrangements for Assembly Members are rightly something for the remuneration board to decide upon, and I give this guarantee to the Assembly that Welsh Ministers will not be exercising powers in respect of Assembly Members. We want to respect the appropriate constitutional relationship between Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales.
 
I appreciate the amendments that we have secured have come at a very late stage, as I said, but I am pleased that we have managed to secure those amendments from the UK Government, and I ask the Assembly to support this motion.
 
15:23
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on the Chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee to speak—Christine Chapman.
 
15:23
Christine ChapmanBiography
Thank you. The supplementary LCM for the Enterprise Bill was referred to the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee for consideration, and this was completed on 25 February. The committee did not have the opportunity to consider the revised supplementary memorandum before us today, as this was laid after we had agreed our report. Our report, therefore, relates to the earlier of the LCMs.
 
In our report, there were two matters that we wished to draw to the Assembly’s attention. First, we do not accept that the UK Government should be seeking to legislate in relation to the terms and conditions for public sector employees in Wales; instead, this should be a matter for the Welsh Government. Secondly, Assembly Commission staff are likely to be caught by the provisions in the Bill, and the effect of this would be that certain exit payments for Commission staff would need to be approved by the Welsh Ministers or the Secretary of State, and this is something that we do not support.
 
Following our consideration of the memorandum, the Minister wrote to inform us of the outcome of discussions between him and the UK Government. These discussions had resulted in amendments being tabled to the Enterprise Bill, which enabled the Minister to lay a revised memorandum and to promote today’s motion. As I’ve mentioned, the committee did not have the opportunity to consider the revised LCM, but I am grateful to the Minister for keeping us informed about developments.
 
15:25
Mark IsherwoodBiography
After the Secretary of State tabled amendments to the Bill on 1 March, giving Welsh Ministers power to make regulations restricting relevant Welsh exit payments, members of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee received legal advice from Assembly lawyers that said that the constitutional separation between the Assembly and the Welsh Government is of paramount importance, but does not seem to have been taken properly into account in this Bill.
 
You laid a further LCM, Minister, on 3 March with the Secretary of State’s proposed further amendments, as you detail. The legal advice we had was that if amendments proposed here are agreed, the Welsh Ministers would have the power to make regulations restricting exit payments for Assembly Members, and that if regulations were made the following would be caught: resettlement grants to Assembly Members voluntarily standing down, and an uplift in the pension paid to an Assembly Member who stands down early—for example, if they are not well. This cuts across the role of the remuneration board—the independent remuneration board. In passing the National Assembly for Wales (Remuneration) Measure 2010, the Assembly established the principle of the independence of that board. In the Presiding Officer’s letter to you of 7 March, she said that in passing the National Assembly for Wales (Remuneration) Measure 2010, the Assembly established the principle that all decisions relating to Members’ remuneration were made independently of the Assembly, the Assembly Commission and the Welsh Government, namely by the remuneration board. She said it’s therefore inappropriate for the Welsh Ministers to have any remit in relation to Members’ remuneration, including those who hold additional offices. She said there’s been no recognition of the need for constitutional separation between the Welsh Ministers and the Assembly in relation to exit payments for staff of the Assembly Commission—a matter referred to by the Chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee a moment ago.
 
In your response, you say the amendments would give Welsh Ministers regulation-making powers in relation to exit payments to Assembly Members. You say, ‘However, I can confirm that it’s not my intention to interfere with the systems already in place’. And you also confirm that if the regulation-making power lies with the Welsh Ministers, you would not seek to exercise that power. But you are only Ministers for the next few weeks, and this is a regulation power in place until there will be a subsequent legislative change in the future. It’s the transfer of the power that is the constitutional outrage and the breach of the vote of the Assembly in 2010 regarding the independence of remuneration, and not what you individually or your current colleagues, individually, may themselves do in the remaining weeks of this Assembly.
 
You also refer to the need for further discussion and confirmation from the Treasury as to their intention regarding Assembly office holders, such as the Presiding Officer, the Deputy Presiding Officer and Assembly Commissioners, and the need to discuss available options with the Treasury officials more broadly regarding the delegation of the power to relax the cap to Assembly Commissioners in respect of Assembly Commission staff. But we don’t know how Treasury officials might have responded to that, and whether that is responding in a way that would further perhaps address the concerns we might have, and yet we’re being asked to vote on this. So, we can’t vote in support of a matter that raises serious questions about not only the separation of power between Parliament and Government, but also acts in apparent breach of the vote of the Assembly in 2010 regarding the essential principle that remuneration of Members here must be independent.
 
15:29
Mick AntoniwBiography
Minister, it’s an intriguing LCM and, of course, the legislation is intriguing itself, more by the things it selectively chooses, rather than what it does. Can I first of all say that I think the amendments that you have secured are very much to be welcomed and very important in terms of the role that we play in this Assembly within the public sector? Can I also say that this particular section that the LCM deals with is unfortunate in a way, because it seeks to treat the public sector very differently from the private sector? For example, we know that the top pay—the ‘Financial Times’ recent data are that top pay is now 120 times that of the average working person’s pay, and that’s a 21 per cent increase—or 44 per cent, if you take share advantages that are given. It was only 47 times in 2000; 30 times a decade earlier. We also see that the pay of directors and chief executives in the private sector—which this section actually avoids—is now an average of £2.5 million for the average FTSE 100 director, and the average chief executive is £3.5 million. And, over the last 14 years, they’ve secured for themselves a 278 per cent increase.
 
Now, I only mention that to emphasise the way in which that is not being dealt with by the Government in the Enterprise Bill, and it seems to me that there is a vendetta against the public sector. Now, we know from other legislation that’s coming through that the Tories do not like the public sector, they do not like the concept of collective bargaining, and we can also see that from the Trade Union Bill, which you have also been dealing with. And I just wonder, Minister, in terms of the different approach that we have in Wales of social partnership, social engagement, engagement with trade unions, arranging to work alongside and in conjunction with the people who serve us so well in the public sector, are there any ways in which you can see the Enterprise Bill being further amended in order to protect the position that we want to pursue, one of co-operation and partnership in Wales, as opposed to the sort of conflict that legislation coming from Westminster seeks to engage.
 
15:31
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
May I thank the Minister for noting some of the weaknesses that, I agree with him, there have been in the process that has led us to this point? Certainly, there have been deficiencies in terms of the ability of this Assembly to scrutinise the proposals, which came at too late a date, and, as a result of that, the failure of the committee here to actually bring influence to bear on the Bill, ultimately.
 
In terms of the role of Welsh Ministers in relation to payments to Members of the National Assembly, I have read the letter that was issued by the Minister today, noting that he feels that he has been given the necessary assurances—although not perhaps the final assurances. But we will accept the content of that letter at face value to enable us to support the memorandum today.
 
I will take this opportunity, however, to highlight one issue of concern on the cap on redundancy payments. I agree with the Minister, who said that, in principle, of course, we are agreed on the need to be responsible on how exit payments are made. There is a difference, however, that can emerge between a principle that one could support and what is possible and fair on a practical level.
 
I will highlight the serious concerns of staff members at Wylfa, who are facing a difficult period now where many will be able to access redundancy payments at an uncapped level after lengthy careers at Wylfa, whereas others, who perhaps would have chosen to take a redundancy payment now, are asked to stay on to continue with the decommissioning work because they have the necessary skills to do that. But, because they are to stay on, the redundancy payment that they know will come in a few years’ time will be capped. Clearly, that is a case of terms and conditions being changed in a way that, I would say, is unfair in the middle of their term of employment.
 
But that isn’t something that has been devolved to this Assembly or to Ministers here. It was important, however, to note that and put it on the record. But, having been given assurances by the Minister that the necessary steps have been taken by the UK Government, in terms of providing assurances on certain issues, we will support the memorandum.
 
15:34
Peter BlackBiography
The Welsh Liberal Democrats will also support the memorandum, because, although we have reservations—as have been expressed by other Members—we recognise the policy intent is one that we can support, but it’s right that we should be restricting pay offs too at a certain level in terms of the use of public money. I think, though, that there are some clear issues around the way this Bill has been drafted and I think it underlines the problems of Government departments writing legislation that have had no previous engagement with the devolution process and don’t understand how the Welsh Assembly and the Welsh Government work. I think, clearly, the issue around the independence of the remuneration board is one that does give some concern. I should say, in talking today, I declare that I’m a member of the Assembly Commission because I will be talking about Assembly Commission staff, which should retain—details around that should remain with the Assembly Commission in my view.
 
I take on board the Minister’s assurances, which he’s given in relation to this, that he does not wish to compromise the independence of the remuneration board and he does not wish to interfere with the Assembly Commission in how they deal with their particular staff. But I am concerned, of course. As I understand it, the Secretary of State for Wales may still have the power to do that. I wonder whether the Minister could confirm whether the amended Bill still allows the Secretary of State for Wales to carry out that role separate from Welsh Ministers if needs be, or does it have to now all go through Welsh Ministers, because if the Secretary of State for Wales can carry out this role then I think he needs to be aware of the way we set up and how the remuneration board is considered to be independent, because I don’t want to be involved with dealing with Assembly Members’ pay and conditions, and I don’t think anybody else in this Chamber does, and I think, clearly, we shouldn’t have UK legislation that, effectively, gives Ministers the right to do so.
 
Deputy Presiding Officer, I think the key issue here is whether the Minister can secure any further amendments to actually reflect the actual position that is set out in the Bill. I understand, of course, we won’t be able to have an LCM, because this is our penultimate meeting. But I wonder whether the Minister is still talking to the UK Government about whether any further amendments can be brought to this legislation that do recognise the way things have been set up in the Welsh Assembly.
 
15:37
Jeff CuthbertBiography
I’m grateful for the opportunity to contribute on this matter. I thank the Minister for his update and support the Welsh Government’s position on this particular aspect of the Bill. It appears that the amended LCM put forward by the UK Government gives powers back to the Welsh Government, which is, essentially, what we have asked for. It is quite right that decisions with regard to how any cap is applied to public bodies that fall within a devolved competence are made here in Wales in line with the principles of our devolution settlement. While the UK Government has certainly taken its time in coming back to the negotiating table on this one and, as ever, does not seem to trust the devolved Government in Wales, the power of the Welsh Government to vary Treasury regulations as they affect devolved areas is to be welcomed and establishes clarity. As I’m sure the Minister would agree, the amended LCM is not ideal in terms of what we originally wanted, but we have established some key priorities here in line with our devolution settlement and I thank the Minister for his work in this area. It is for this reason that I will be supporting the Welsh Government.
 
15:38
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And the Minister to reply.
 
15:38
Leighton AndrewsBiographyThe Minister for Public Services
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I’m grateful to all the Members who’ve taken part in the debate here today and to the Chair and members of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee for their scrutiny of the previous LCM, and it was important that the Assembly consider the impact of the public sector exit payment capping provisions within the Enterprise Bill. And can I say to the Chair of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee that, of course, had we not secured the amendments that we have now secured from the UK Government then we would have been voting against the original LCM that we tabled?
 
I do need to spell out, I think, to Mark Isherwood that the situation we face is not of our doing. It is actually down to his colleagues in Westminster and their Bill and the approach that they have taken, which has resulted in the situation that we now have to address. Let me say that my officials and I have been seeking amendments to this Bill since last September and I have a very clear chronology of the way in which we’ve sought to take this forward. And, Peter Black, let me say, is right to say that this is another example of Westminster legislation being drawn up on a Westminster-only template without thought of the impact on devolved administrations. Therefore, we have had to make it clear very firmly to the UK Government that we were prepared to vote against an LCM unless amendments were brought forward, and they were brought forward at a very late stage indeed.
 
I am grateful for the assurances from the Liberal Democrats and from Plaid Cymru that they will be supporting the LCM today and that they appreciate the problems that have arisen in our approach to this issue and the way in which we’ve had to seek those amendments and the way that we have given reassurances also, let me say, on the constitutional position to the Presiding Officer in respect of the issues that have arisen over the balance between Welsh Government, the National Assembly and, indeed, the independence of the remuneration board. Can I just quote from the letter I’ve sent to the Presiding Officer today? I said that I’d confirmed in my previous letter that it would be inappropriate for Welsh Ministers to make any regulations that fetter the power of the remuneration board to make decisions on exit payments.
 
I think that there are some outstanding issues, as Peter Black has rightly mentioned, and there are still conversations going on between my officials and Treasury officials, and we are also engaging, obviously, with the Presiding Officer in this as well, and it is right that we do so. I think the Presiding Officer has circulated my letter of today to Assembly Members so that they can see the steps that we have been taking to resolve these issues. I appreciate, as the Plaid Cymru spokesperson said, that this has made difficult effective scrutiny within the Assembly, but I do think that we have got to a position that is clearly far better than the original position. I’m glad that my colleague Jeff Cuthbert was able to put that on the record. My colleague Mick Antoniw, the Member for Pontypridd, rightly raised the difference in approach between the private sector and the public sector, and I am pleased that we’ve had the opportunity to discuss these issues in some detail at our workforce partnership council, where we’ve had the views of both employers and trade unions, demonstrating our commitment to the social partnership approach, and they have welcomed the way in which we’ve taken this forward and the amendments that we’ve been able to secure.
 
Deputy Presiding Officer, I’d like to close by reiterating our support for the LCM and our continued support for ensuring exit payments made in Wales are fair, appropriate and offer value to taxpayers. We believe that the amendments to the Enterprise Bill enable Welsh Ministers to ensure the restriction of excessive exit payments across the devolved public sector workforce but, at the same time, will allow us to protect low-paid people. But we will ensure that we implement the powers that are given to us as Welsh Ministers in a way that respects the constitutional settlement here in Wales and respects the independence of the remuneration board.
 
15:42
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting on this item to voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
15:42
8. Supplementary Legislative Consent Motion on the UK Housing and Planning Bill relating to Compulsory Purchase Provisions Et Cetera
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 8 is a supplementary legislative consent motion on the Housing and Planning Bill, relating to compulsory purchase provisions, et cetera. I call on the Minister for Natural Resources to move the motion—Carl Sargeant.
 
Motion NDM5995 Carl Sargeant
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6 agrees that provisions in the Housing and Planning Bill, relating to compulsory purchase in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:42
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Minister for Natural Resources
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I welcome this opportunity to explain the background of the supplementary legislative consent memorandum, tabled on 22 January. I’d also like to thank the Environment and Sustainability Committee for their scrutiny of this Bill. Compulsory purchase is an important tool to help assemble the land necessary to deliver sustainable development where negotiation with landowners has failed. There exist compulsory purchase provisions associated with many areas of devolved competence, including roads, planning and regeneration. The LCM deals with the changes to the compulsory purchase regime set out in Part 7 of Schedules 14 to 19 to the Housing and Planning Bill. The stated aim of the changes is to streamline and update the compulsory purchase regime to make it clearer, faster and fairer. The proposals are generally technical in nature and make changes in a number of areas, including the surveying of land by acquiring authorities and compensation arrangements, et cetera.
 
As the committee report makes clear, consultation has not taken place in Wales. I’m grateful for the committee seeking the initial views of stakeholders, including the Law Society, Dŵr Cymru and the Welsh Local Government Association, on these matters, and I note that these stakeholders broadly support the proposals. To ensure the proper consultation can take place in Wales, I wrote to Brandon Lewis MP, the Minister for Housing and Planning, to request that the Bill be amended to give the Welsh Ministers a power to apply, with modification, the compulsory purchase provisions in relation to Wales—an approach that has been agreed in the past. Unfortunately, the Minister for Housing and Planning has refused my request as he does not consider that compulsory purchase is within the legislative competence of the National Assembly. I disagree with him on this point. Compulsory purchase clearly relates to areas of devolved competence and is an essential tool to deliver Welsh policy objectives. Therefore, Deputy Presiding Officer, I can no longer support the motion, as it would be wrong to introduce the legislation in Wales without consultation and the consent of this National Assembly.
 
15:44
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call the Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee, Alun Ffred Jones.
 
15:44
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Thank you very much. We discussed the supplementary legislative consent memorandum on the Housing and Planning Bill in our meeting on 25 February 2016.
 
Our consideration of the memorandum has focused on two aspects: first of all, the merits of the proposed legislative changes, and secondly, the process followed to derive the necessary evidence for this proposed change to the law in Wales. We published our report on 3 March. For the reasons noted in the report, we have agreed as a committee that the Assembly should not give its consent to the UK Parliament to legislate on this matter.
 
For the purposes of this debate, I will focus on our concerns regarding the process. On the basis of the responses that we received from stakeholders—we didn’t have an opportunity to consult widely—and the fact that an initial consultation by the UK Government was held on an England-only basis, it’s clear that stakeholders were not consulted in Wales, and this has caused concern for us regarding on what basis the changes to the law are proposed.
 
As a committee that has had the responsibility of scrutinising legislation, we would not be content to agree to a change to the law if it had not been subject to appropriate consultation and scrutiny. We believe that the same criteria should be applied before the Assembly decides whether it is to give its consent to the UK Parliament to legislate on its behalf on this matter.
 
So, we’ve come to the conclusion that the Assembly, under the circumstances, should not give its consent to the UK Parliament to legislate on this matter. We’re pleased that the Government has reconsidered its support for the supplementary legislative consent memorandum and that it has tried to secure changes from the UK Government to give an opportunity for consultation. Even though the UK Government has rejected the Minister’s request, the committee’s findings stand—that the Assembly should not give its consent for the UK Parliament to legislate on this matter.
 
15:47
Joyce WatsonBiography
Minister, I was very concerned to hear what you had to say about the UK Minister for housing and planning’s attitude towards your request that the Bill be amended in order to allow a proper consultation on an area that, as you say, is clearly of devolved competence. This seems to be the latest in a long list of instances when the UK Government has ignored the needs and views of the people of Wales. Would you agree with me, Minister, that it’s high time that this Tory UK Government showed some commitment to the respect agenda that it claims that it is committed to?
 
15:48
Llyr GruffyddBiography
I’d also like to support the committee Chair’s comments and the issues highlighted in the committee’s report. It would be inappropriate, in my view, to support this supplementary LCM. We received a limited amount of evidence, which was carried out at short notice, and the Minister has referred to the stakeholders who did contribute to that, but there was very strong evidence from the Law Society, in my view, that highlighted the concerns that we have reflected in our report as a committee.
 
I have to say that it appeared to me, certainly, early on in this process, that the Government fully intended to give its consent to this supplementary LCM, until the committee actually made them realise what the circumstances were. But I’m very pleased that the Minister has recognised that we should oppose this now, because, as we have heard, it hasn’t been subject to sufficient scrutiny or consultation here in Wales. Of course, the Law Society contributed to the Department for Communities and Local Government’s consultation in Westminster, believing that these proposals were for England only, because they were of the opinion, as were we, that compulsory purchase and compensation are devolved issues. But of course, in their evidence then, they remind us, and I quote:
 
‘The approach of DCLG to this consultation is further evidence of the Department’s disregard or ignorance of the continuing Welsh dimension to certain of its functions arising from the non-devolution of certain subjects’.
 
Those are strong words by the Law Society and I certainly would support not giving our support to this supplementary LCM.
 
15:49
William PowellBiography
The Welsh Liberal Democrat group will also be supporting the Government in this matter and voting against. The issue of compulsory purchase is something that I have raised on a number of occasions in this Assembly from the early days and the fact that it is absolutely key to delivering regeneration, construction and other projects that are in the interest of the our communities. It is clear from the work that my committee, the Environment and Sustainability Committee, has done to highlight the weaknesses here in the UK Government’s case and, as Llyr Gruffydd has also said, the valuable work that’s been done in contributing to the consultation by the Law Society. I think it’s very disappointing that we see this kind of virtually colonial attitude from Brandon Lewis representing the UK Government. It is very disappointing, and we give the Government here today our full support in voting against the proposed LCM.
 
15:50
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The Minister to reply.
 
15:50
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Minister for Natural Resources
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. It appears that the majority of the contributions by Members today is in support of the stance made by Government. We will not be seeking to support this motion today. I formally move.
 
15:51
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting until voting time on that item.
 
15:51
9. Supplementary Legislative Consent Motion on the UK Enterprise Bill Provisions in relation to Data Sharing for Apprenticeships
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 9 is the supplementary legislative consent motion on the UK Enterprise Bill provisions in relation to data sharing for apprenticeships. I call on the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology to move the motion—Julie James.
 
Motion NDM5996 Julie James
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6 agrees that provisions in the Enterprise Bill, relating to apprenticeship information sharing in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:51
Julie JamesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I move the motion. This motion concerns a late amendment to the UK Government’s Enterprise Bill. The purpose of this amendment is to permit data sharing between HM Revenue and Customs and the Welsh Ministers on apprenticeships. As the amendment was tabled so late by the UK Government, there has, unfortunately, been very little time to deal with the memorandum. I would therefore like to thank the Business Committee for agreeing not to send the memorandum to an Assembly committee for scrutiny. This has allowed us the time to schedule this debate today.
 
The legislation would give powers to the Welsh Minister to request from HM Revenue and Customs information on apprenticeship levy payments made by employers in Wales. This information could then be used to understand more fully the impact of the UK Government’s apprenticeship levy on Wales. It would enable us to consider the interface between our own apprenticeship policies and the demand likely to be created from levy-paying employers. It starts to give us the evidence base we need to work with employers and potentially negotiate with the UK Government.
 
The levy remains an unwelcome tax on employers. You’ve heard me say this on several occasions this year. But, the motion is not about the introduction of the levy; that is a matter for the Chancellor. This motion is about the Welsh Ministers being able to establish data-sharing gateways with HM Revenue and Customs. The data will be subject to data protection legislation and will not be published in any way that identifies individual employers. It will enable the Government to gain a strategic understanding of the levy on the skills landscape in Wales, particularly its interaction with our co-investment framework and the impact on different sectors of the economy. Members may also wish to note that the Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly approved similar motions last week.
 
It is the view of this Government that it is appropriate for this provision to be made for Wales in the Enterprise Bill. This will enable the provisions to come into force across the UK at the same time, allowing a coherent and consistent approach.
 
The provision does not confer a duty on Welsh Ministers or other Welsh authorities. Welsh Ministers and other Welsh authorities will be able to decide when to exercise the power to share information with HM Revenue and Customs. So, I emphasise again: the motion is not about the levy itself; it’s about the potential for data sharing to enable us to better understand the impact on employers and the economy in Wales. I commend the motion to the Chamber.
 
15:53
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no speakers. The proposal therefore is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is agreed, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:53
10. Legislative Consent Motion on the UK Immigration Bill Provisions relating to Welsh Language Requirements for Public Sector Workers
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 10 is a legislative consent motion on the UK Immigration Bill provisions relating to Welsh language requirements for public sector workers. I call the First Minister to move the motion.
 
Motion NDM5993 Carwyn Jones
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 29.6 agrees that provisions in the Immigration Bill, relating to Welsh language requirements for particular public sector workers in so far as they fall within the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales, should be considered by the UK Parliament.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. This legislative consent motion on Part 7 of the UK Government’s Immigration Bill relates to provisions to place duties on public authorities to ensure that persons employed in roles that deal with customers can speak Welsh or English fluently. The Bill also makes it a requirement that those public authorities should establish systems in order to deal with complaints in terms of breaches of that duty and to give due regard to a code of practice in terms of the adequacy of those arrangements.
 
I would like to thank the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee for its scrutiny work on this proposal and for their report. I note that the committee didn’t raise any opposition to the agreement of this proposal.
 
Can I say, from the outset, that the Welsh Government doesn’t agree with the UK Government policy that is the basis of these provisions? I haven’t seen any evidence that suggests that there is a problem that needs to be resolved. I am confident that the public sector employees in Wales who are in roles that deal with customers are fluent in either Welsh or English, or both languages in many cases. Therefore, I asked the UK Government to exclude devolved public services from the Bill, and the Government agreed.
 
The reason I’m asking Members to support this LCM today is as a matter of principle in order to safeguard the status of the Welsh language. Although devolved public services will not be subject to these provisions, public services in Wales that are non-devolved will be subject to the provisions. In the case of public sector workers in non-devolved areas, it’s important that the legislation provides that fluency in the Welsh language is of equal validity to fluency in the English language. That’s an important principle to us, of course
 
Despite my own personal doubts about the policy itself, I do welcome the fact that UK Government has included the Welsh language alongside the English language within the Bill. Therefore, I encourage Members to support this LCM today.
 
15:56
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I have no speakers. The proposal then is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:56
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
In accordance with Standing Order 12.24, I propose that the following five motions under items 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 are grouped for debate. Does any Member object?
 
15:56
11., 12., 13., 14. & 15. The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (Amendment of Schedule 6) (No. 2) Order 2016, The Welsh Language Standards (No. 3) Regulations 2016, The Welsh Language Standards (No. 4) Regulations 2016, The Welsh Language Standards (No. 5) Regulations
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
These motions relate to the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and various regulations. I call on the First Minister to move the motions.
 
Motion NDM6001 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (Amendment of Schedule 6) (No. 2) Order 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 23 February 2016.
 
Motion NDM6002 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Welsh Language Standards (No. 3) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 23 February 2016.
 
Motion NDM6003 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Welsh Language Standards (No. 4) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 23 February 2016.
 
Motion NDM6004 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Welsh Language Standards (No. 5) Regulations 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 23 February 2016.
 
Motion NDM6005 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales; in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
 
Approves that the draft The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2016 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 23 February 2016.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. May I move, first of all, the amendment of Schedule 6 Order in relation to the Welsh language Measure 2011, regulations Nos. 3, 4 and 5 and also, of course, the Welsh language Measure 2011 consequential provisions Order?
 
May I open the debate by explaining the rationale behind these various regulations and Orders, starting with the amendment of Schedule 6 Order and the Order to bring the duties of the Welsh Ministers to adopt a Welsh language scheme under the Government of Wales Act 2006 to a close? I’ll turn, therefore, to the Order on the amendment of Schedule 6 to the Welsh language Measure 2011. Schedule 6 to the Measure has dated since the Measure was passed in 2011. This Order does amend the names of certain bodies and includes other bodies anew and it ensures that the commissioner can impose standards on all named bodies within the regulations.
 
In terms of the regulations, the regulations before us today have been tailored for specific sectors. The Welsh Language Standards (No. 3) Regulations have been prepared for further and higher education providers in Wales, Career Choices Dewis Gyrfa and HEFCW. It’s crucial that the Welsh-language services currently available to students are not diminished and do not become more inconsistent as they continue with their further or higher education. The regulations get to grips with that.
 
Enhancing the Welsh-language experience of students is the aim, and the regulations make a provision for the consideration of the Welsh language in planning academic courses. It’s crucial that young people can continue to access Welsh-language services as they continue with their further and higher education, and it will be possible for the commissioner to impose standards on bodies that give students the right to present assessments through the medium of Welsh.
 
The Welsh Language Standards (No. 4) Regulations allow the Welsh Language Commissioner to impose standards on five tribunals operational in Wales, as well as the Education Workforce Council. These standards will ensure that people have specific rights in dealing with these bodies that hold hearings. The regulations do that by introducing specific standards for legal cases.
 
Can I move on, therefore, to the No. 5 regulations, which make standards that apply specifically to police forces, fire and rescue authorities and the Independent Police Complaints Commission? These are bodies that come into regular contact with the public in a number of different scenarios. They play an important role, of course, in ensuring the safety of the public, and the standards reflect that.
 
There are specific standards introduced to safeguard the public’s right to access a Welsh-language service in conducting interviews with the police, for example. The standards also acknowledge the particular challenges related to the provision of Welsh-language services in responding to emergencies. We’ve also included new standards in regulations 3, 4 and 5 that encourage institutions to ensure that Welsh speakers wear badges to note that they are Welsh speakers, making it easier then, of course, for people to speak Welsh—once they know that another individual is able to communicate through the medium of Welsh.
 
Finally, it is my pleasure to introduce the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (Consequential Provisions) Order 2016. It brings the duty placed upon Welsh Ministers to adopt a statutory Welsh language scheme under the Government of Wales Act 2006 to an end. The Welsh Language Commissioner has issued a compliance notice on Welsh Ministers, which will mean that we will comply with Welsh language standards from the end of March 2016—the end of this month—namely 30 March. When a body is included under the standards regime, the Welsh language Measure makes provision that its language scheme is no longer applicable. This Order ensures that Welsh Ministers are in the same situation as all other bodies, and brings the duty to have a statutory language scheme to an end.
 
I therefore encourage you to support these Orders and regulations, which are subject to a vote today, in order that we can move on with the work to ensure that the role and position of the Welsh language in these parts of the public sector are enhanced.
 
16:02
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you, First Minister. The delay in tabling these Welsh language Orders once again leaves us with a less-than-perfect opportunity for scrutiny. These Orders are not beyond all debate either, but here we are, in the last week of this Assembly, five years after the Measure was tabled, trying to make decisions based on scant balanced information. It is not the work of this Assembly to approve Government subordinate legislation, any more than it is for this Assembly to approve primary legislation, but this is what, to all intents and purposes, you are asking us to do.
 
Yes, these Orders did come before the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, CLAC, but you will be aware that we look at subordinate legislation through a very specific lens in that committee. It is not our role to assess policy content. The best that we can do is draw attention to any concerns that subordinate legislation, as drafted, does not meet the Government’s policy aims. If the Government’s explanatory memorandum states that the aims have been met, it is difficult for us to challenge that without any conflicting evidence to oppose that. There is an argument that Order No. 3, at least, should have been referred to a subject committee to assess the strength of opposition that has been voiced by civil society. But there was not enough time, was there?
 
Let us begin with Order No. 2. Taking part in the Welsh Language Commissioner’s standards inquiries is not the same thing as consulting on Government legislation. The former is not a principled justification for failing to do the latter. However, to be pragmatic once again, you are lucky that the organisations listed in the Order fall so clearly within the compass of the tests noted in Schedule 5. Otherwise, we would not support this Order. Orders No. 4 and No. 5 only serve to reinforce the argument. These Orders allow the commissioner to issue compliance notices to a number of organisations. The organisations themselves have worked with the commissioner before she advised the Government on the relevant standards, and these organisations have the right to appeal if they believe that the standards are too onerous. But where is the opportunity for civil society to comment on the appropriateness of the standards in the Orders—the service users and beneficiaries of many of these rights?
 
This is what has happened in Order No. 3, is it not? Whilst there was silence regarding Orders Nos 4 and 5, due to a lack of public consultation, student representatives overcame the lack of consultation to note proactively their concerns regarding Order No. 3 in their letter to CLAC earlier this month. They allege that Order No. 3 does not meet the Government’s policy objectives and they have provided evidence to corroborate their arguments. It was not for CLAC to prove the veracity of this evidence, just to bring it to the Assembly’s attention—therefore, I can only look at it from their point of view.
 
Student representatives note that the standards to be applied to further and higher education institutions, as well as three other education institutions, offer less of an opportunity for Welsh speakers than existing Welsh language schemes. Their letter notes specific cases where the standards are weaker than existing schemes. That is a cause for concern, because you have yourself, First Minister,
 
agreed that the standards imposed on public bodies should, as a minimum, ensure that the level of Welsh-language services offered by bodies at present should continue.
 
The Government’s made no response to these objections—as far as I’m aware—even though the letter is in the public domain, and is further supported by Cymdeithas yr Iaith.
 
I have no desire to impede the Measure’s objectives or the commissioner’s work, nor, indeed, this time, that of the Government. However, while you impede the Assembly’s work by failing to consult, and while you refuse us an opportunity to consult by tabling these Orders so late, well, we will be unable to support these Orders. We will, however, be supporting the consequential provisions Order and we are pleased to note the use of the affirmative procedure to amend the Measure. Thank you.
 
16:07
Simon ThomasBiography
Plaid Cymru also regrets the fact that there has been so little consultation on these regulations. However, we do believe that most are ones that we are willing to support today. I’m going to concentrate my comments on the No. 3 regulations that relate mainly to colleges and universities.
 
The First Minister, in opening this debate, said that the intention of the regulations under the Measure was to see no reduction in the rights of students to make use of the Welsh language, and certainly, I would hope that those rights would be strengthened. In that context, I remain to be convinced, and as Suzy Davies has already highlighted, many people have been in touch with me recently. I’ve taken the opportunity to meet Welsh language officials from the student unions in Aberystwyth and in Cardiff, and also there were some from Bangor today who joined them to brief Assembly Members on the deficiencies of the standards as tabled by Government. This, in my view, has emerged from the fact that the Government is rushing through this process in order to complete it before the end of this Assembly. The Government has had five years to introduce standards under the Measure, since it was passed, and it is disappointing to see us being pushed on this very last day to pass standards that aren’t necessarily acceptable to Plaid Cymru, but, more importantly, that haven’t been given an enthusiastic welcome by those who will be subject to the standards and those who will use them.
 
It’s not that the Government wasn’t warned. Exactly a year ago, each of the opposition parties united in writing a letter to the First Minister to warn him that his first set of standards wasn’t sufficiently robust. I wrote, jointly with Aled Roberts and Suzy Davies, to the First Minister in February of last year expressing our concern that there hadn’t been sufficient transparency in the proposed standards. Those standards were improved, and the Government came back with a set of standards that had been improved a little—enough to allow us to support them so that we could continue this journey. I would have hoped that that the Government would have learnt from this process, and wouldn’t once again bring forward a set of standards to the Assembly that hadn’t been discussed with the opposition parties beforehand, in order to engender their support, or hadn’t even been discussed with those people who would be most affected by them—apart from institutions. The purpose of standards is not to provide for institutions, but to provide rights for citizens and individuals, and that’s what’s been lost here.
 
Even today, Plaid Cymru was eager to discuss with Government the withdrawal of these particular standards—the No. 3 regulation—so that they could have further time for consideration—[Interruption.] Well it is true—sorry, First Minister. It is true.
 
16:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I am grateful to the Member for giving way. I have to say, we have been trying to discuss with your party and other parties, and we have not had an answer on what exactly the problems are. I understand that there is a problem, but nobody has explained exactly what the problem is with No. 3. We have been trying to have this discussion all day.
 
16:11
Simon ThomasBiography
Well, when someone comes to you and says, ‘There’s a problem. Withdraw them so that we can discuss it’, it’s not the solution to respond by saying, ‘Well, tell us exactly what the problems are now so that we can discuss them.’ The solution is that you withdraw them and then discuss it. It’s as simple as that. [Interruption.] First Minister—. Yes, this morning, First Minister, because you were so late in bringing these regulations forward in the first place. You haven’t given an opportunity for a subject committee to consider these. You haven’t given an opportunity for anyone other than the CLAC committee to consider them over the past 10 days. That’s the only scrutiny that these regulations have been subjected to. There is a need for greater scrutiny.
 
Let me just list some of the things that have angered some of the people who will have to live with these regulations. The regulations, for example, give university staff the right to have a Welsh-medium intranet, but the same right is not given to students. Surely that’s a retrograde step. They provide the right to ensure that—. They don’t, rather, provide the right to ensure that Welsh-language accommodation is available for students. For students in Aberystwyth who have faced problems with Pantycelyn recently, that is a blow. That’s what they tell us. That’s their concern.
 
It isn’t clear as to whether people have a right to access counselling or personal tutoring or to have pastoral services provided through the medium of Welsh. The First Minister said that there is a right to present academic work through the medium of Welsh. But if that then is only translated so that it can be assessed, then it poses a question on the quality of academic assessment. Therefore, it’s very important that work can be discussed through the medium of Welsh, as well as having it translated to English.
 
They also exclude a number of university activities, such as the Pontio arts centre and the arts centre in Aberystwyth, from the activities within the regulations. Now, I understand that there is a commercial aspect to some of this, but a significant amount of public money has been invested, and is being invested in these activities, which should be included, one way or another, within legislation.
 
That is why these regulations are deficient and it is why we would have expected to have more time for discussion and consultation on them within committee. It is a shame, Deputy Presiding Officer, that, on the last day on which we legislate in this place, we have to deal with something that’s being rushed through and we have to make a decision one way or another without having the opportunity to do so in a reasonable manner—through a committee process of gathering evidence and seeing whether there is any foundation to some of these concerns—but, rather, by means of a brief, five-minute speech in the Assembly. On the basis of what’s been presented, I cannot support these regulations. I can support the others, but I cannot support these because there are serious concerns amongst those who are to receive education under these regulations. Therefore, I would ask every party in this place to ask the Government to rethink and reconsider.
 
16:14
Aled RobertsBiography
We, too, as a group, will be voting against regulations No. 3 because of a number of cases that have been echoed by Simon Thomas. In doing that, I want to state that my son is a member of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, and also that my wife has responsibility for the Welsh language within a further education college.
 
I did receive, to be fair, from the First Minister’s office, a statement or e-mail on Friday that tried to state exactly what the Government’s stance was on some of the matters that have been raised by the National Union of Students, but as a number of us discussed with Welsh students specifically—from Cardiff, from Bangor and from Aberystwyth—it’s likely that those doubts still exist. I don’t understand, as we create this situation that is very different to what was consulted on—there’s a list now of services that are included within this regulation—why we’ve made that shift, because the explanation from the First Minister’s officer suggests that this here is a response to the point of view of institutions, perhaps some of the concerns that they raised about some of their commercial activities, and there is talk of research specifically. If that was the intention, I don’t understand why further education colleges, for example, have been included within the same measures as universities, if we’re saying that research is the problem.
 
The First Minister and the education Minister will be aware of the tendency by the further education colleges to create commercial subsidiaries. A question arises in my mind: will some of those subsidiaries stand outwith these specific regulations? Also, as Simon Thomas said, there is also a question regarding some of the commercial subsidiaries, or the commercial activities undertaken by universities, referring to the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and Pontio yn Bangor, where it appears that the same rights in terms of students specifically, and also the public, aren’t included because those specific activities are omitted.
 
Also, I have to say that there is a concern among students. At present, we appreciate the fact that there are a great many more courses available through the medium of Welsh. This explanation says that the aim of this, as the First Minister said, is to enrich students’ experiences, but there have been questions raised that haven’t been answered by the Government, as far as I’m aware. It is possible, under this regulation, for an assessment of work to be translated, but students are asking, in terms of feedback, therefore, if the assessment has been translated, will there will be a right for the university to demand that the personal feedback to the student be offered in English, rather than Welsh, because there are specific language schemes within the universities at present that correct that.
 
I have to say also, in terms of personal experience, my son was very eager to have Welsh-speaking accommodation in Cardiff. There is no specific provision in the Welsh language in Cardiff, as compared to Bangor and Aberystwyth. Even though he requested that—and the accommodation department at Cardiff had many similar cases—there was no Welsh-medium provision ultimately. So, the situation is that people are eager to have Welsh-medium accommodation, if possible, so that they can maintain their language and hold activities through the medium of Welsh. There are specific questions that arise about accommodation. I have accepted it, but there are questions.
 
I understand that we have all put pressure on the First Minister to ensure that these regulations were put forward during this Assembly, but unfortunately there has been some kind of rush during this last session and perhaps if we’d had more time, some of these problems would have been discussed. I see that there is a reference here and that some kind of discussion has taken place after the Government changed its policy and moved towards a situation where services are listed. But, clearly, some of these groups that were involved with the consultation in the first instance don’t feel that they’ve had an opportunity to respond to the change in policy.
 
16:19
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The First Minister to reply.
 
16:19
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
May I say at the outset that I still don’t quite know what the problem is? I listened to Suzy Davies and she said that this weakens the current position without giving any evidence as to how it would do that. Simon Thomas and Aled Roberts did put more meat on the bone there. But I still don’t quite understand what the problem is, but to say that it’s a problem for Government, then I don’t accept that at all. We shared, with the other parties, details of this last week and there was no response and no complaints at that point—nothing until this morning. So, it was this morning that we heard for the first time that there was some sort of problem.
 
16:20
Suzy DaviesBiography
We didn’t receive anything, as the Conservative group, I’m afraid. We didn’t receive anything from you.
 
16:20
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’m sorry; I didn’t hear that intervention. This morning, it became clear that there was a problem. We contacted the parties to identify the problem, and the response that we received was, ‘Well, the regulations are not acceptable to us’. That was it. That’s where we are at present.
 
In terms of some of the issues that have been highlighted, first of all if you look at regulation 29, accommodation is included—it’s included there within the regulation—so it’s not true to say that accommodation is omitted; it’s clear from the regulations themselves that universities do have to ensure that provision is made for students ensuring that Welsh-language accommodation is available. It’s obvious—it’s in the regulation. So, I don’t accept at all that there is a problem on accommodation; it’s clear. The same is true on student welfare and ensuring that they can access support and assistance. It’s clear that that has to be provided through the medium of Welsh; that’s why it’s on the face of the regulations themselves.
 
Two other issues have been raised. First of all, of course, on commercial activities, we’re not just talking about bids here. Let’s say, for example, that a university wants to trade abroad, are we really saying that everything should be available through the medium of Welsh? To me, that goes further than what is actually needed for working abroad.
 
In terms of the situation in terms of submitting work through the medium of Wales, it’s very important that a student has the right to do that. If we’re really saying that they have a right to be assessed through the medium of Welsh too, then we are bringing ourselves to a position where there would have to be bilingual provision for all subjects in all universities. That’s the only way that that could be achieved.
 
16:22
Aled RobertsBiography
I wasn’t saying that; I understand that there si expertise within individual subjects, where perhaps we have to translate the work so that the work is assessed. But the question that arises is: at present, you have the right to have the feedback in the Welsh language, but that is not clear from the consultation that has taken place, in terms of the students anyway.
 
16:22
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s there, in my view, in the regulation that deals with student assessment and testing. I wouldn’t expect that to change at all; that is a right that should remain. The problem arises if you say that a student has a right to have any sort of assessment through the medium of Wales—I understand that’s not the point you’re making—but if that is the argument, then that would mean that all courses would have to provided bilingually and that, in my view, is excessive, although we do need to ensure that Welsh students can submit their work in Welsh and get feedback in Welsh. For me, that is on the face of the regulations themselves.
 
There is no way for a university or an FE college to place a duty on a subsidiary and escape their responsibility, because it’s their responsibility to ensure that the subsidiary company does ensure that provision is available through the medium of Welsh. They can’t just say, ‘Well it’s not our responsibility any more to ensure that that service is provided to the public, so it can be provided in English only.’ That simply isn’t possible under the regulations.
 
In terms of other points made on the regulations, I can say: on accommodation, it is included in the regulation. That is clear. There is no problem in terms of ensuring that accommodation is available for Welsh students; it’s 29(j)—that’s the regulation itself. It’s the same thing with welfare—29(c) deals with student welfare; 29(g) deals with student assessment, and that, in my view, includes ensuring that they are given feedback on their work. That is the situation.
 
I know that some people think that this is a retrograde step; I don’t believe it is. I think it makes things clearer than they are at present. That’s why we've tried to ensure that regulation 29 is as broad as possible, in order to ensure that the concerns expressed by some students are addressed in that. We’re coming to the end of this Assembly and if these regulations don’t go through, there won’t be regulations in place. That’s it. We could perhaps reconsider it after the election, but I still say that I don’t see exactly what the problem is here in terms of the regulations themselves. I think I’ve dealt with the concerns that have been raised in the Assembly this afternoon and, for me, I don’t see that there is any cause here to say that regulations No. 3 actually weaken the situation in any way whatsoever.
 
16:25
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion under item 11. Does any Member object? The motion under item 11 is therefore agreed.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
16:26
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion under item 12. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting under item 12 until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
16:26
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion under item 13. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting on item 13.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
16:26
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion under item 14. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I’ll defer that item also.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
16:26
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Finally, the proposal is to agree the motion under item 15. Does any Member object? Then the motion under item 15 is agreed.