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 Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
 
13:31
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call the National Assembly to order.
 
13:31
Statement by the Presiding Officer
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
It gives me great pleasure to announce, in accordance with Standing Order 26.75, that the Land Transaction Tax and Anti-avoidance of Devolved Taxes (Wales) Bill was given Royal Assent today.
 
1. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:31
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs. The first question is from Huw Irranca-Davies.
 
Environmental Protections
 
13:31
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
1. What assurances will the Cabinet Secretary give to ensure that the environmental protections in place under EU legislation, particularly the nature directives, will be maintained in Wales following Brexit? OAQ(5)0140(ERA)
 
13:32
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Thank you. We are committed to maintaining and improving our environmental standards and recognise that our natural resources are fundamental to Wales’s future post EU exit. The environment and well-being of future generations Acts have already put in place a strong foundation based on international obligations that will remain unaffected by Brexit.
 
13:32
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
I thank the Cabinet Secretary for that answer. But, speaking as the lapwing champion of the Assembly, I would point out that the birds and habitats directives enable the protection and enhancement of a myriad of important species and habitats across Wales. Our special sites include coastal dunes, blanket bogs, wetlands, marine sites, all under this legislation, and iconic species like the bottlenose dolphins, the otters, the hen harriers, the Greenland white-fronted geese and the chough are protected. So, it’s vitally important that we retain these protections going forward. Only a few months back, the European Commission reported, from their assessment of directives, that they had found them fit for purpose, but required better implementation by member states in order to meet our international obligations. And, in a study last year, the nature directives were found to be essential regulatory framework, that, with fuller implementation, can help us to achieve, including Wales to achieve, our obligations under the Aichi targets and other multilateral environmental agreements. So, Cabinet Secretary, could I ask whether you’ve been able to have discussions with ministerial counterparts, particularly Andrea Leadsom, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, regarding the importance of retaining these important protections in a post-Brexit scenario?
 
13:33
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, absolutely, I have been having those discussions, and I certainly meet very regularly with UK Ministers on EU transition issues, and Ministers from the other devolved administrations. The last meeting was 20 April. We haven’t got one this month, obviously, because of the election, and we’re due to meet on 21 June next. We support the European Commission’s action plan, which aims to enhance the efficiency of the implementation of the nature directives and secure greater flexibility in how the directives are implemented to meet environmental outcomes. My officials are also working very closely with their counterparts in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and also with Scotland and Northern Ireland, to ensure that the UK response to the action plan fully reflects our approach to the sustainable management of natural resources, as set out in our environment Act.
 
I think that really puts us on a strong footing to continue to deliver our international obligations.
 
13:34
Suzy DaviesBiography
It’s a pleasure to see you back.
 
13:34
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you.
 
13:34
Suzy DaviesBiography
You’ll be aware, of course, that the EU directive regarding the protection of harbour porpoise breeding sites has not been transposed into UK law, and I’m hoping that Welsh Government, post Brexit, will either be able to choose to introduce some protections itself, or to work with the UK Government to do that. I’m looking to Welsh Government actually to take a lead on this on behalf of constituents in Porthcawl and other constituents in the Swansea bay area. If you are prepared to take something along these lines forwards, would that protection be sufficiently explicit to protect grounds from the relevant impact of offshore wind development?
 
13:35
Lesley GriffithsBiography
It’s something that we can take a look at. There’s actually something on my desk upstairs around harbour porpoises. So, we’ll certainly have a look at it and, obviously, I’d be happy to update Members.
 
The Fruit and Vegetable Deficit in Wales
 
13:35
David MeldingBiography
2. What is the Welsh Government doing to address the fruit and vegetable deficit in Wales? OAQ(5)0150(ERA) 
 
13:35
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. The Welsh Government supports the agriculture and food industries in partnership with Amaeth Cymru and the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. There is potential to develop horticulture and opportunity as Wales adapts to Brexit. We recognise the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption and have taken action to promote them.
 
13:36
David MeldingBiography
Thank you for that, Cabinet Secretary, and welcome back, incidentally. This is my first opportunity to say that to you.
 
We only produce about 10 per cent of what we consume, so the deficit is up to 90 per cent, certainly of fruit and veg that can be grown in our climate. With 2 per cent of Welsh agricultural land given over to fruit and veg, albeit 10.5 per cent of grade 1 to 3 land, we would actually produce all that we need. So, I do hope that, in any shaping of future policy post Brexit, that we see the importance of this area. We did use to produce more; we should produce more again.
 
13:36
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I think you raise a very important point and, when we look at Brexit, it’s not all doom and gloom—there are opportunities. I think one of the opportunities is that we could perhaps look at the potential different uses of land, if you like, and we’ve started scoping that work. Obviously, it’s up to a landowner what they want to do with their land, but I think there is the opportunity to do that. As I say, we’re scoping it now because we’ll need that information to see what we can do.
 
Obviously, the climate does have an impact and also consumers’ choice and consumers demand vegetables out of season, if you like. So, I think all these decisions and information have to be looked at, but I think certainly, post Brexit, there is that opportunity to do that.
 
13:37
Jenny RathboneBiography
I hope we’re not going to wait until Brexit before doing something about this because there are lots of things that the Government could be doing now. One is that we could be planting more fruit trees because we need to plant more trees generally and, if we have fruit trees, then their produce is available. But, more strategically, I wondered if we could have a much more urgent approach to our public procurement policy around food, in particular to enable us to follow the lead of Flintshire, which is adopting the ‘Food for Life’ certification, which requires schools to produce 75 per cent of their dishes freshly produced. That would obviously stimulate the horticulture industry to provide the vegetables and fruit that schools would need. The same would apply to hospitals and other public buildings. We have this approach here in our canteen in the Senedd. Surely, we can extend it to all our children.
 
13:38
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, we certainly don’t have to wait until post Brexit—that was where I was specifically talking about the work that we were doing in looking at the use of land in a different way. Certainly, we have been looking at the current procurement regime to make sure that we do that.
 
I have the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board and, obviously the food and drink industry action plan, and I think that absolutely recognises the importance of healthy eating, particularly in our schools and in other parts of our public sector. We’ve also got the Peas Please initiative, which was started by the Food Foundation, and that’s bringing together farmers and retailers and fast-food outlets, and caterers and processors and Governments, and that really is looking at the supply chain and how we can raise fruit and vegetable production.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
13:39
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Questions now from the party spokespeople. The Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Simon Thomas.
 
13:39
Simon ThomasBiography
Diolch, Llywydd. I also welcome the Cabinet Secretary back to this place. I’m sure the Cabinet Secretary, like me, welcomes the report from the National Farmers Union Cymru, published yesterday, ‘Farming—Bringing Wales Together’. I know that she was present at the report’s launch. It sets out how farming contributes to the seven well-being goals that the Government has in its own legislation—the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—and it’s part of the work that we all have to do, I think, in setting out the ongoing argument for support payments and continuing support for farming and the wider rural community as we leave the European Union. In that context, I was struck by the publication of the Welsh Labour Party manifesto, which doesn’t seem to make any commitment to maintain those payments in the whole of the next Parliament, and I wondered if the Cabinet Secretary could explain why.
 
13:40
Lesley GriffithsBiography
You will have heard me say many times that I cannot imagine a time when we do not have to support our agricultural sector. Obviously, the manifesto was launched, there was a significant chapter in the manifesto regarding agriculture and environment, right across my portfolio. We have said all along we don’t know what funding we’re going to have post Brexit, but, if you remember, during the campaign for the EU referendum, we were told we would not lose a penny, and that’s what I’ll be holding the UK Government to.
 
13:40
Simon ThomasBiography
And so will I, but I thought you wanted to become the UK Government and therefore were seeking to make financial commitments for the next Westminster Government, because it’s there that the 8 June is being fought upon. The one thing that you do state in your manifesto, however, is this:
 
The Conservatives were dragged to court and forced to publish their draft nitrogen dioxide plan. But their commitments are disappointing and lack information about the action needed to address emissions on a UK basis, providing no detail about a diesel scrappage scheme.’
 
I think that’s quite factually correct, but does this mean that Welsh Labour is going to introduce a scrappage scheme to Wales?
 
13:41
Lesley GriffithsBiography
That’s something that will have to be looked at. You are quite right about the UK Government, and I’ve been working very closely with colleagues to make sure that we are in a position to take air quality forward. You know that I’ve made it a personal priority. I think it’s really important, and I’ve written to DEFRA recently on it. You’ll be aware DEFRA have recently published a joint consultation. One of the things we have committed to is to consult, within the next 12 months, on a clean air zone framework for Wales.
 
13:42
Simon ThomasBiography
This is indeed true of what you’re doing as a Cabinet Secretary, and I welcome it insofar as it goes, but it does underline the fact that, as a party, you don’t seem to be serious about taking control at Westminster at all. I don’t really have firm proposals or financial securities and commitments for how you’re going to support these actions going forward.
 
However, let’s look at something that happens here in Wales, because I think we can agree, or potentially agree at least, that if we are to have diesel scrappage or some kind of approach like that, we will move away from diesel into, yes, more petrol, but also into electric vehicles, which are predicted now by the ‘Financial Times’ to be at the same price by 2018 as petrol vehicles. At the moment, there are about 100,000 electric vehicles registered in the UK. There are 1,500 electric vehicle rapid charging points in England and Scotland. It’s possible to drive from north Wales to Orkney in an electric car using rapid charging points, but you can’t drive from north Wales to Cardiff. There are just 13 rapid charging points in the whole of Wales and not a single one in mid Wales. What is Cabinet Secretary doing with her colleagues, because we have a 2015 report that hasn’t been acted on yet, to develop a network of electric vehicle charging points throughout Wales and particularly in mid and west Wales?
 
13:43
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I actually had a discussion about this this morning because this is something that we need to look at. On a personal level, I’m making sure that Welsh Government puts some charging points in as soon as possible. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, which I won’t bore you with, they can only be used by staff in the beginning, but I think it’s really important. You’ll be aware of an app that we have to make sure that we know where the electric points are. One of the suggestions we’ve had is that perhaps we put charging points where there are public toilets.
 
So, there needs to be significant investment in charging points because, as you say, we haven’t got enough in Wales yet. I don’t want it to affect our tourism offer, and I know my colleague, Ken Skates, doesn’t want that also. So, we need to think about that too, because, as you say, you need to be able to move freely around Wales and know that you’ve got those charging points available.
 
13:44
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The Conservative spokesperson, Paul Davies.
 
13:44
Paul DaviesBiography
Diolch, Llywydd. Like others, I’m delighted to see your return to this Chamber and I hope you will be fully recovered in the very near future.
 
Now, Cabinet Secretary, at the Royal Welsh Spring Festival recently, you said that young farmers are the future of the industry and we must invest in them to ensure both they and this industry have a bright future. Of course, I completely agree with you on that, Cabinet Secretary. Therefore, could you tell us what specific policies you’ve introduced during your time as Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs for young farmers to ensure that they have a bright future?
 
13:44
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I’m not sure about specific policies, but I’ve certainly supported them financially. You’ll be aware of the significant investment we’ve put to young farmers. For instance, we’ve got the Agri Academy, which is full of young, dynamic farmers who are very willing to help me formulate policies going forward, and I’ve met them regularly. I’ve also made it a personal choice to go out to visit as many young farmers on their farms as I can. Certainly, I can think of a couple in north Wales that I’ve visited—one of them leased the farm and wanted to talk to me specifically about what we could do in our policies to encourage young people to be able to lease their farms. I then wrote to all local authorities to try to encourage them not to sell their farms, which, unfortunately, some local authorities seem to be doing at quite an alarming rate.
 
13:45
Paul DaviesBiography
A recent NatWest report concluded that,
 
young farmers need more support to diversify and while the entrepreneurial ideas may be there the support networks could be improved.’
 
Therefore, it’s crucial that more support is offered to young farmers, both in terms of advice and support, and in terms of finance as well. So, in light of this report, will you confirm what funding you will now bring forward to better support young farmers who are looking to diversify?
 
13:46
Lesley GriffithsBiography
That can be part of our programmes. You will be aware of the farming business grants that we’ve just brought forward. That’s not just available to young farmers, it’s available to all farmers, and I know that when it was launched recently young farmers were telling me that that was really helpful for them, because if they wanted a piece of equipment that they couldn’t afford, they didn’t have to go through that long business plan and getting several quotes—we’ve taken all of that hard work away. Going forward, we can be looking at what specific support we can give them as we formulate a Welsh agricultural policy.
 
13:46
Paul DaviesBiography
Cabinet Secretary, the same report concluded that
 
There is a generational crisis in farming’,
 
which has long been a concern of many in the agricultural world. Indeed, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the percentage of farmers under the age of 45 had fallen to just 13 per cent in 2015, down from 18 per cent in 2003. Therefore, in light of the pressing need to attract young people into the farming profession, and the need to keep young people in the farming profession, what immediate steps will the Welsh Government now be taking to ensure that the percentage of farmers under the age of 45 doesn’t continue to fall in the future?
 
13:47
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I don’t recognise those figures. I’m not sure if you said that they were DEFRA’s figures, because I don’t think that is the case in Wales—that significant drop. I don’t like the word ‘crisis’. I do understand that it’s very difficult for young farmers if they’re not part of a farming family—if they want to come into farming cold, if you like, it’s very difficult for them to be able to do that. One of the things we have been working with young farmers on is around ensuring that we help them to break into the agricultural world. I go back to what I was saying about working with local authorities to try to get them not to sell off the farms that they have in their portfolios, because, certainly, speaking to young farmers, that is one of the ways that they can get into farming. I spoke about somebody in north Wales; he actually is from a farming background, but he wanted to go out and get his own farm. At the age of 21, he’s gone out and leased a farm, which is incredibly impressive.
 
13:48
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
UKIP spokesperson, Neil Hamilton.
 
13:48
Neil HamiltonBiographyLeader of the UKIP Wales Group
Diolch, Llywydd. I don’t want to be left out of the crowd of the Cabinet Secretary’s fans, welcoming her back to the Chamber, and I’d like to say how glad I am to see her looking so hale and hearty.
 
I’d like to return to the question of the Labour Party manifesto, to follow up on the point that Simon Thomas made right at the start of proceedings today. As far as I can see in this manifesto, there are two paragraphs about farming under the chapter on negotiating Brexit, and then there’s, broadly speaking, one small paragraph under environmental and rural affairs. Given that agriculture is entirely a devolved matter, and we are in the middle of a general election campaign, I think the farming community will be pretty surprised that farming features so negligibly in this rather thick document.
 
Given that the First Minister has criticised my party and others for lack of clarity about our post-Brexit vision—I’m coming to this in a second—in fact our vision for agriculture was rolled out last year in the Assembly elections, in our manifesto there, where we were quite clear that we would maintain the basic payments scheme, then on the basis of £80 per acre. We’d have to revisit that figure—it may be possible to increase it, with extra payments for hill farmers based on headage within World Trade Organization rules, et cetera. This is the fundamental point that everybody wants to get some assurance on: if a basic payment scheme is going to be maintained in Wales post Brexit, and whether the existing payment regime will be replicated. I appreciate, as the Cabinet Secretary said, that we don’t know yet what the Westminster Government is going to give us by way of a financial settlement, and like her and her party, UKIP thinks that we should have every single penny of British taxpayers’ money that is currently spent by Brussels in Wales, but on that basis, it should be possible for her as the Cabinet Secretary for agriculture to give the kind of concrete assurances that farmers need.
 
13:50
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Well, I have given that assurance to farmers. I’ve been in post for just a year now, and certainly I’ve made it very clear that we cannot envisage a time when our agricultural sector would not need that support. As to how the basic payment scheme will look post Brexit, as I say, it depends on the funding that we get, but, like you, I think we should get every penny that we were promised. We were told Wales would not lose one penny, and that is what I will be holding the UK Government to.
 
13:51
Neil HamiltonBiography
And the other question that arises is the freedom that we will have to consider the regulatory regime applying to rural industries in general. Whilst I accept the points that were made by Huw Irranca-Davies in his question earlier on about maintaining essential regulations, it can’t be said that the existing corpus of regulation imposed upon us by the EU is perfect in every particular, and there may be ways in which we can very significantly reduce costs without endangering the public benefits that we all want in terms of environmental protection, and so on. Farmers’ incomes are negligible, and the administrative burden of the EU regulatory regime is often very considerable upon them. They don’t have the income levels that would make life easier for them to employ staff to do all the form-filling, box-ticking and all the other complications of life in the farming industry. So, I hope that, as the Cabinet Secretary said in answer to David Melding earlier on, it’s not all doom and gloom post Brexit—I was very pleased to hear her say that and that she is taking a positive approach to these opportunities—and that we will take an open-minded science-based approach to regulation, and over time, no doubt quite a long time, we will go through the whole corpus of regulation and see how we can lift administrative burdens on farmers without losing any great public benefits that the non-farming community values.
 
13:52
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Well, I do try to be a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty, so I am really trying to embrace the opportunities that I do think are there when you look. I was a passionate remainer and nothing will make me believe that leaving, that Brexit is good for us, but we do have to look for those opportunities. Regulations were one of the reasons cited to me by farmers as to why—I won’t say a majority, but certainly of the people I spoke to, the majority of them had voted leave. However, environmental standards and regulations, as a minimum, are going to be maintained. I keep saying this to them: we could strengthen them where there’s need to, and when we look at them all individually, there are literally thousands of regulations in my portfolio, and it could be that we’ll be strengthening some of them. So, perhaps some of them should have been careful what they wished for.
 
So, I would say that that regulation regime is essential. However, we will need to look at it on a case-by-case basis.
 
13:53
Neil HamiltonBiography
I know from having spoken to many farming organisations and individual farmers that they do appreciate the Cabinet Secretary’s open-minded approach and, indeed, her general approachability and willingness to discuss these issues in the round. There’s one particular case that I would like to raise with her now where she would be able to do something.
 
She will be aware that the regime surrounding livestock movements on farms, coming up into the county show period, is now a matter of controversy, with the introduction of new quarantine units from 10 June replacing the old regime of approved isolation units on farms. There have been significant complaints that this is unacceptably bureaucratic. There are 61 rules as part of the new system, which include installing double gates and double fences, as well as wearing specialised clothing. There’s also, of course, a fee payment regime of £172.80 for one quarantine unit and £244.80 for two, and many farmers are struggling to understand why this should be as bureaucratic a scheme as it is. For many of them, they’re saying that it’s just not worth the effort now to go to county shows with livestock and to show animals. So, I wonder whether we might be able to revisit this scheme and introduce a bit more flexibility than appears to be there at the minute, given that we already have an effective regime with approved isolation use and there isn’t really any evidence to show that there is a risk to animal welfare or health from the limited circumstances of moving animals to and from county shows.
 
13:55
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Before I come onto quarantine units, just picking up your first point about approachability, certainly, I want to have those discussions with the sector and one of the reasons I set up the stakeholder group straight after the referendum last June—I think we met on 4 July for the first time—was to make sure that we brought the agriculture and environment sectors together. I thought it was really important that we didn’t have those silos. I have to say, we’ve had probably up to about 10 meetings now, and it’s been really good to see those two sectors working so positively together.
 
On the issue of quarantine units, when I came into post a year ago, I was told we needed to get moving really quickly on these new arrangements and I was criticised last summer for not bringing it forward quickly. We have worked on this policy, with the sector, really closely. My officials have worked with the livestock identification advisory group on those proposals and we continue to work with stakeholders on the delivery of the project. It’s not a mandatory scheme, so, they can choose: if they prefer the six-day standstill to the quarantine unit, they can choose to do that. I know there’s a financial cost and, again, if they choose not to have a QU, then any movements onto their farm will trigger the six-day standstill. They need to weigh up which is the best scheme for them personally.
 
Improving Air Quality Across Wales
 
13:56
David ReesBiography
3. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the progress being made to improve air quality across Wales? OAQ(5)0147(ERA)
 
13:56
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. Whilst air quality in Wales is improving, hotspots remain. As we work to finalise a new clean air zone framework for Wales, all sectors and representative bodies—in particular in the private sector—are viewed as active stakeholders. Their involvement in this work will be essential.
 
13:57
David ReesBiography
Thank you for that answer, Cabinet Secretary. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that air pollution impacts both on our environment and on our health. On the environment issues, we actually have the visible impacts upon our species, our plants and in our towns. Just come to Taibach in my constituency to see some of the visual impacts yourself. But also, there are many organisations in the health area that indicate that air pollution contributes to over 2,000 deaths annually here in Wales because of things like asthma attacks, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and perhaps flare-ups and heart attacks as a consequence of the air pollution.
 
I appreciate that the health agenda is with another Minister, but the air quality agenda is with you. What are you doing to actually have discussions across the Cabinet to ensure that we tackle the air pollution aspects across Wales? And, will you also perhaps look at strengthening the EU regulations, pre and post Brexit, to look at how we can address fewer breaches being allowed to ensure air quality is tighter, and perhaps the role of NRW in policing that?
 
13:58
Lesley GriffithsBiography
The health of people and the environment of Wales go absolutely hand in hand and I am committed to protecting the people and the environment of Wales. My officials and certainly health officials, and particularly the Minister for social services’ officials, work very closely together and we revised the new guidance that you’re probably aware of on the local air quality management. We’re taking a joint approach with public health in the development of a clear air zone framework for Wales and that will be reflected in the work of a working group from within the Brexit stakeholder group on air and climate. You’ll be aware of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report and I’ve already said to them that there’s a scope to better align both the national and the local air quality regimes following the exit from the EU.
 
13:59
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Cabinet Secretary, welcome back to the Chamber. The point about 2,000 people dying prematurely in Wales through poor air quality—that’s five people a day—surely is one of the biggest public health challenges, dilemmas that we do face. I’ve listened to several of the answers that you’ve given and I welcome the action the Government is taking across portfolios. But, what confidence can we have that, by the time this Assembly goes before the electorate in 2021, we will see a reduction in those numbers of premature deaths here in Wales? As I said, and it is worth repeating, 2,000 people are dying prematurely because of poor air quality. That’s five people a day. Where can we mark you, as a Government, in 2021 as to those premature deaths here in Wales?
 
13:59
Lesley GriffithsBiography
As you say, we need to do some significant work around this and you will have heard me say it’s absolutely a priority for me. You know we’ve recently had a consultation and I have to say the consultation was, in general, supportive of the action that we’re taking. We reaffirm the importance of reducing public exposure to air pollution by making the average concentration of nitrogen dioxide at dwellings one of Wales’s national well-being and public health outcomes framework indicators, so that’s an area where you can hold us to account. I’ve committed to issue a new air quality policy guidance to local authorities next month, and that will recognise schools and active travel routes, amongst others, as sensitive receptor locations. And local authorities have to take a risk-based approach to where they site their monitors, but I think it’s really important that they take that into consideration also. We’re also going to be issuing some guidance to support health and public health professionals in NHS Wales, because I think we need to work very closely with the staff of NHS Wales regarding that and I think they need to communicate the public health risks of poor air quality to the public and other agencies. I’m also looking to have an awareness-raising campaign on air quality, going forward.
 
Littering
 
14:01
Angela BurnsBiography
4. Will the Cabinet Secretary outline the Welsh Government’s plans to reduce littering? OAQ(5)0146(ERA)
 
14:01
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. The Welsh Government’s aim is to prevent littering from occurring in the first place. We support and fund a range of programmes focusing on education, improving enforcement action, and community engagement and involvement. By encouraging people to take pride in their environment we will achieve longer lasting improvements.
 
14:01
Angela BurnsBiography
It is good to see you back and I know that, like me, you and most of the other Assembly Members here will have received many constituent representations over concerns with littering, dog mess and fly-tipping, and of course it’s vital for public health, and particularly in areas that rely on tourism, that we have clean, safe and pleasant streets to walk in. Pembrokeshire has recently been recognised, through the ‘how clean are my streets?’ campaign, as having the cleanest streets in Wales, and I’m unabashed in saying this is a shout-out for Pembrokeshire. So, Cabinet Secretary, I wondered if you would join me, first of all, in praising the work of the street-cleaning teams in Pembrokeshire who are out all the time maintaining these streets, particularly in Pembrokeshire’s weather, which is either wonderful or totally inclement. But, above all, could you tell us how you intend to use that example of best practice to be percolated throughout Wales to improve our general streets, litter, dog messing, which does upset so many of our constituents, and so often.
 
14:02
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I’m sure most Members in the Chamber will recognise what you’re saying. Our postbags are often full of such complaints and I certainly congratulate Pembrokeshire on having the cleanest streets, and it’s really important that that best practice is shared out. You’ll be aware of many schemes we have. We support Keep Wales Tidy, for instance, and I know they recently undertook a survey of street cleanliness and it found 95.5 per cent of the streets surveyed were graded B and above. So, that’s sort of acceptable to members of the public, but I think it’s really important that every area aims higher.
 
14:03
Gareth BennettBiography
May I add my welcome to the other welcomes back that you’ve had, Minister? We’ve had some interesting ideas lately that may help to reduce littering. I’m thinking in terms of ideas about tackling the issue of excess packaging on food. It may be premature to ask you this, but what are your initial thoughts about whether that may be a good thing?
 
14:03
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I certainly think we need to reduce packaging and I was horrified to see—my daughter bought something from a very well-known company that I won’t mention, and I think that the article was this size and the packaging was absolutely enormous and it made me get onto officials straight away to remind them that this is something that I think we really need to look at. And what we’re going to do is commission a feasibility study, and that needs to look at the costs and the benefits and all the options available to reduce food and drink packaging, in one area. We need to have a look at increasing recycling and reducing litter under an extended producer responsibility scheme. I met with a very well-known drinks organisation about what they can do in relation to disposable cups. I think there are huge opportunities here for us to be able to reduce packaging.
 
14:04
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Cwestiwn 5 [OAQ(5)0149(ERA)] is withdrawn. Question 6, David Melding.
 
The Ecological Footprint of Wales’s Urban Environments
 
14:04
David MeldingBiography
6. What is the Welsh Government’s strategy for improving the ecological footprint of Wales’s urban environments? OAQ(5)0144(ERA)
 
14:05
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. The better management and use of our wealth of natural resources, together with the more efficient use of those resources in circulation, is a key component of our circular economy approach and commitment to green growth and reducing Wales’s ecological footprint.
 
14:05
David MeldingBiography
First—First Minister? Cabinet Secretary—[Interruption.] Yes, that was a quick promotion.
 
If everyone in the world consumed as much as we do in Wales, we’d need 2.5 planets. I was looking at the ‘Ecological and Carbon Footprints of Wales’ 2015 report by the Stockholm Environment Institute, which I’m glad to say the Welsh Government did commission, and about 11 per cent of our footprint relates to transport—promoting cycling is one of the best things we could do. Actually, Welsh cities are quite good environments for promoting cycling; they’re relatively flat. But what we need to do is re-designate—[Interruption.] Well, Swansea in parts, I suppose. What we need to do is re-designate some of our roads as exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. Until we do that, we won’t get the sort of modal shift we require.
 
14:06
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I would agree with that statement. Certainly, I was looking at a cycling path in my own constituency of Wrexham and it just ended; it didn’t carry on. So, I did wonder what somebody would do when they were cycling along—you know, where would they go? So, I think all local authorities need to look very carefully at the provision that they have for cyclists and do all they can to improve it.
 
The Flood Risk of the River Tawe
 
14:06
Mike HedgesBiography
7. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the flood risk of the river Tawe? OAQ(5)0137(ERA)
 
14:06
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. Natural Resources Wales are responsible for assessing risk of flooding from rivers and the sea. The local flood risk management plan further sets out how risk will be managed. A £7 million flood-risk management scheme was completed in 2015, significantly reducing risk to the lower Swansea vale.
 
14:07
Mike HedgesBiography
Can I highlight the huge success of the floodplain at Ynys Forgan, which is probably about a quarter of a mile from where I live? I quite often drive past it and sometimes you’ve got a lake, other times you’ve got a few little lakes, and other times it’s dry, but it does stop flooding in that area, which used to be a huge problem.
 
Can I also welcome the proposal to not charge landfill tax on dredged materials from rivers in the current Land Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill, which is making its way through? Having seen the great success of the floodplain on the River Tawe—we’re always willing, in Swansea, to export successes—are there any plans to create floodplains like that on other rivers to stop houses and businesses getting flooded?
 
14:08
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I’m very pleased that my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government was able to bring forward a Government amendment at Stage 2 of the Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Bill to ensure a relief from the tax is available to material removed from the water in the interests of flood prevention. I think that was a very important amendment.
 
Certainly, you’ll be aware of the significant funding we are putting into flood prevention, so, again, it’s always very good to share best practice. I think what our national strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in Wales does is promote natural flood-risk management, and that work is eligible for grant funding. I think it’s really important that we strengthen that message to risk-management authorities in the refresh of the national strategy.
 
14:08
Suzy DaviesBiography
I acknowledge the work that was done in Ynys Forgan, really. That’s about 300 homes that were protected there. Yet, in recent years, we’ve also seen new building on sites on seemingly low-level ground close to the river. Conversely, in my previous work, I recall having to repeatedly explain to lenders that, while their environmental searches revealed that properties were being built in floodplain areas, it wasn’t the case—they were usually several metres higher than the environmental floodplain risk maps revealed, and it would’ve taken a tsunami, actually, to have taken most of them out. How often are these floodplain plans reassessed? I ask not just because desktop studies can often miss local geography, if you like, but also because overdevelopment in a particular area can affect the water table and water run-off, and that’s particularly important in places like Swansea, where we’re looking at 20,000 new homes, as well as the associated infrastructure.
 
14:09
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I think Suzy Davies raises a very important point. I will have to write to you as to the frequency as to how often flood plans are reassessed.
 
14:09
Dai LloydBiography
Clearly, flood alerts are active in the lower Swansea valley, but there’s also a lot of new building, as has been alluded to. So, can I ask what action are you taking in conjunction with Natural Resources Wales and the local authority in terms of raising flood awareness and associated actions for residents during flood incidents, particularly to those new homeowners who move into this particular area?
 
14:10
Lesley GriffithsBiography
I know that’s something that planning officials are working on with the local authorities, and obviously NRW are part of that campaign. It’s very important that all these issues are taken into account, and I’m constantly looking at the planning policies to make sure local authorities have the correct guidance at hand.
 
Environmental Businesses in Wales
 
14:10
Darren MillarBiography
8. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on actions the Welsh Government is taking to support the sustainability of environmental businesses in Wales? OAQ(5)0139(ERA)
 
14:10
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Thank you. We have a large number of policies and programmes delivering green growth, such as Green Growth Wales. We’ve been working to decarbonise the public sector, and we provide flexible support to businesses, domestic energy efficiency programmes, and support for low-carbon developments, from community scale to centralised generation.
 
14:11
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you for that response, Cabinet Secretary. Some environmental businesses are based around the timber industry, and there have been concerns that I have raised about the sustainability of that industry in terms of its supply of timber for the future. Now, there have been many references this afternoon to the role of Natural Resources Wales and the functions that it undertakes, and I have to say they do an excellent job, for example, in terms of flood prevention and protection. But I am concerned about the way that they are managing our forestry resource here in Wales, and that they’re not doing a particularly good job. I was very concerned also about the timber sales contract that has been featuring in the media and is now a subject of inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. That suggests to me that they need to pull their socks up when it comes to managing our timber resources. And I wonder, Cabinet Secretary, what assurances you can give us that this is going to be a matter of priority in the future for Natural Resources Wales, and that we will have a sustainable supply of timber for the Welsh timber industry in the future.
 
14:12
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Commercial timber operations are absolutely a high priority for Natural Resources Wales, and just last week I met with the Confederation of Forest Industries and ensured there was an NRW representative there to hear their concerns. This year, NRW are restocking more than 1,200 hectares on the Welsh Government’s woodland estate, and that compares very favourably, I think, with any of the previous five years. It is really important that the confederation and NRW work very closely together. I hear very conflicting reports around where trees are planted, are they planted in the right place, are there enough planted, so that is something that I’m working very closely with NRW and with Confor on. I meet NRW’s chair and chief executive every month, and I think it is absolutely a standing item now, because it is of such importance.
 
Animal Welfare in Wales
 
14:13
Dawn BowdenBiography
9. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on improving animal welfare in Wales? OAQ(5)0148(ERA)
 
14:13
Lesley GriffithsBiography
The ‘Wales Animal Health & Welfare Framework—Achieving High Standards Together’ explains the approach we are taking to achieve continued and lasting improvements in standards of animal health and welfare across Wales. The annual implementation plan sets out specific actions we are taking forward in any 12-month period.
 
14:13
Dawn BowdenBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for that response. No doubt you’ll be aware that the Conservative election manifesto contains a commitment to hold another vote on the ban on hunting with dogs, or the fox hunting ban, as we probably best know it. Would you join me, Cabinet Secretary, in condemning any proposals that might open up the possibility of this barbaric and cruel practice returning to our shores, and assure me that the Welsh Government will speak out against any such proposals and look at every avenue available to prevent fox hunting with dogs ever taking place in Wales again?
 
14:14
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, absolutely. I would join you in that. And, although hunting with dogs is a non-devolved issue, my position is we would strongly oppose any moves to repeal the Hunting Act 2004 by any future UK Government. We do not wish to see the return of that barbaric, cruel and unpopular past time in Wales.
 
14:14
Paul DaviesBiography
Cabinet Secretary, the Blue Cross ‘Unpicking the Knots’ report tells us that the last time Government brought in a specific law to regulate the sale of pets Winston Churchill was about to replace Clement Attlee for a second term as Prime Minister, Newcastle United won the FA cup, and ‘The Archers’ had just passed its pilot probation period. Now, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that times have certainly changed since then, and the rise of the internet has certainly had a significant effect on the pet trade. Therefore, can you tell us what specific discussions you’ve had regarding the need for an updated law regulating the sale of pets in Wales?
 
14:15
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Certainly. I had a discussion with the animal health and welfare framework group. We look at their work programme. I can remember the last time—well, I thought I could—Newcastle United won the FA Cup, so I’m perhaps showing my age there. But you have reminded me that we need to make sure that all our legislation is up to date, and our policies, and it’s certainly something I’ll be happy to talk to my chief veterinary officer about.
 
14:15
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Welcome back. When you were away, I asked for a debate on the register of animal abuse in Wales, because there have been a number of campaigns calling for this. The RSPCA has also called for a task and finish group from the Welsh Government looking at the options. For example, in Tennessee there is a list that is open to the public, and in New York there is a list for those who buy and sell pets and animals. Would you agree that some kind of task and finish group would help to bring that initial debate on this issue to the fore, so that the people of Wales who do think that this is a good idea—and a petition has received a great deal of support across the whole of the UK—can start this debate, and Wales can show the way ahead in that regard?
 
14:16
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes, I absolutely agree with Bethan Jenkins. As you know, this is something I’m looking at very carefully and I hope to be writing to Assembly Members, if not before recess, certainly as soon as we come back.
 
14:16
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary.
 
2. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
14:16
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item on our agenda is questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children. The first question is from Dai Lloyd.
 
Childcare
 
14:16
Dai LloydBiography
1. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide a statement on the progression of the childcare offer for Wales? OAQ(5)0148(CC)
 
14:17
Carl SargeantBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
I thank the Member for his question. Our childcare offer will provide working parents of three and four-year-olds with 30 hours of Government-funded education and childcare for up to 48 weeks of the year. We will begin to test the offer in specific areas of seven local authorities in September.
 
14:17
Dai LloydBiography
Thank you for that response. As you know, a pilot scheme of the programme is being introduced in parts of Swansea, and local parents are obviously very pleased to see that happening. However, many of the pilot areas, including Pontarddulais and Gorseinon, are specific growth areas within the county. Can you ensure that you are taking the population increase into account as you introduce the programme, and how this impacts on the ability of the sector to deliver locally?
 
14:17
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, and we’re engaged with the sector. I am delighted that, in Swansea, there are many areas that are covered by this pilot and this will be a good spread of areas to test across schools sites and private day nursery settings. We will learn from this as we move forward, and I’m looking forward to the test areas starting in September in the new term.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Ann Jones) took the Chair.
 
14:18
Darren MillarBiography
Cabinet Secretary, one of the concerns that have been raised is around the capacity of the workforce to meet this challenge of providing the additional childcare. It’s an ambition that you and I both share in terms of increasing the availability of childcare, but particularly Welsh-medium childcare provision in traditionally non-Welsh speaking areas. What actions, specifically, are you taking to ensure that the childcare offer is available through both of our official languages in Wales?
 
14:18
Carl SargeantBiography
There is a plethora of offers that we are currently considering. There is a test pilot—a joint scheme between Gwynedd and Anglesey—exploring opportunities both in English and Welsh-medium settings. There is an issue with the workforce and making sure we’ve got capacity as we move forward, and that’s the benefit of a roll-out, as we’re doing here in Wales. In England—we’ve learnt lessons from some of the issues that they’ve experienced there with the quick introduction of a system where there wasn’t capacity in the system to deliver. We’ve taken note of that, and that’s why we’re having a phased approach.
 
14:19
Jeremy MilesBiography
A good childcare offer is, of course, crucial to supporting women into work, and perhaps the Cabinet Secretary would join me in welcoming Neath Soroptimist International to the Senedd today, which does so much to support girls and women in my area and beyond. Childcare is only one part of the key offer that we need to make to young families. The other, as programmes like Flying Start acknowledge, is support with parenting. Countries such as Australia have pioneered evidence-based, broadly accessible parenting support programmes like Triple P, which can be delivered by care assistants, teachers or other disciplines. What steps is the Government taking to ensure that an evidence-based parenting support programme is widely available to young parents in Wales?
 
14:20
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, and I place on record my welcome to Neath Soroptimists, as well, in the Chamber today. I think the Member raises a really important point about the joined-up approach of delivery of services. The childcare pledge is not just about thinking of somewhere safe for a child to be for a certain amount of hours per day. This is about the ability to enhance their opportunities in life. Our Families First and Flying Start programmes, childcare pledges and our educational programmes such as the foundation phase all link in to a better opportunity for people as they move forward, and these are some of the conundrums that the pilot will start to tease out in terms of delivery mechanisms.
 
Social Security
 
14:20
Steffan LewisBiography
2. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on plans to mitigate the negative impact of current and future reform of social security? OAQ(5)0146(CC)
 
14:21
Carl SargeantBiography
Thank you. Welsh Government is already taking action to help people to manage the effects of the UK Government’s welfare benefit changes. We have programmes to help people access sustainable work and affordable housing, we fund advice services and continue to maintain full entitlements for the council tax reduction scheme.
 
14:21
Steffan LewisBiography
I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his answer. He’ll be aware of recent developments undermining benefit reforms at a UK level, such as the National Audit Office report in England demonstrating that benefit sanctions actually cost more than they save—another example of the ideologically driven and cruel cuts that have been meted out on people in this country. In other devolved administrations, such as in Northern Ireland, when they refused to implement welfare reform, they managed to secure £2 billion of additional spending from Westminster, and they’ve had concessions on future reforms. The Scottish Government has devolution of some social security powers and are changing things like the frequency of universal credit payments. The Cabinet Secretary knows my view: that we need a social safety net in this country too, like the other administrations. Could he, perhaps, consider launching a consultation sometime in the very near future on how we can use the limited powers we have already in this country to help people on social security, and perhaps to consult on what future powers we might like to draw down? Because I fear that we are going to be penalised even further in Wales, whilst other devolved administrations are taking proactive steps to protect those people that are under attack.
 
14:22
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, I’m sympathetic to the Member’s approach on this. I say that with a word of caution, though, because I do understand that, while Scotland have taken a stance on this, there are significant issues around funding this long term. I think that is a matter for the relationship between the UK Government and Scotland, and I would like to learn from that whole proposal. Of course, I work with many of the third sector organisations and Government bodies and agencies that operate in Wales about how we can mitigate some of the effects of welfare reform. It is something that is on my agenda. I will give further updates to the Chamber in the near future.
 
14:23
Mark RecklessBiography
In 2010-11, UK Government spent £177.3 billion on social security, including pensions. In 2016-17, that was £212.6 billion. What would the Welsh Government like to see spent?
 
14:23
Carl SargeantBiography
We would not like to see any money spent. We want to see people back in work and supported in the appropriate areas. What the Member failed to mention with the statistics that he’s shared with me today is the fact that 1,000 young people will be displaced and possibly homeless in Wales because of the welfare benefit reforms that are happening in the UK Government under his new party.
 
14:23
Dawn BowdenBiography
I’ve referred, on a number of occasions, to the likely impact that you just alluded to now, Cabinet Secretary, of the Government’s cuts to local housing allowances for the under-35s, and the benefit cuts for those under 22 years old, which will have, obviously, exacerbating homelessness effects amongst young people. Merthyr Valleys Homes, Cabinet Secretary, are trying out an innovative approach to tackling homelessness at the moment by purchasing a couple of shipping containers for conversion to low-cost temporary accommodation for the homeless. Now, that isn’t about creating ghettos or these kinds of parks of people that are homeless and unemployed, but it is about providing accommodation that people can call their own while longer-term solutions are found, and I think that that would be better than the alternative, which is hostels and bed and breakfast. So, I’m just wondering, Cabinet Secretary, whether the Welsh Government would consider assisting more local authorities and housing associations in delivering similar initiatives across Wales.
 
14:24
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, and I congratulate Merthyr Valleys Homes on their innovative solutions to this. I hear Members talking about the use of shipping containers. Actually, most of us live in a box of some form—some built by steel, some built by bricks and mortar, and some by sticks. It’s a little bit like the three pigs, I think, in terms of the construction. But what we do know is that having a roof over somebody’s head is absolutely important, and the affordability of that is critical too. That’s why we launched the £20 million innovation fund, and there are modular unit projects coming through. But I’m encouraged by Merthyr Valleys Homes already taking that initiative under their belt and helping young people in your constituency.
 
Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople
 
14:25
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
We now turn to party spokespeople to question the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children. The first today is Mark Isherwood.
 
14:25
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Diolch. Of course, we must applaud the innovation coming from transfer housing associations.
 
Two weeks ago here you spoke in support of police devolution on a motion that also believed that specialist policing matters such as counter-terrorism are best co-ordinated at a UK level. If this were to happen, how would that work, given that the First Minister has called for powers equivalent to those devolved to Manchester, which are the powers of a police and crime commissioner, and therefore exclude operational matters? But even if it did include operational matters, the precedent in America, France and Italy, amongst many other nations, is that you end up with two separate police forces at different levels accountable to different people. So, how would that work?
 
14:26
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, there is a model that’s already operating in Scotland, where there is a counter-terrorism operation between boundaries. That has no effect for individuals in terms of the UK administration. We can see that operating in the very same way on a Wales-England and UK basis as well. I think what we’ve been very clear about on the devolution of the police is that it fits in very nicely with the services that are provided already with the emergency services and the judicial system that we are also hoping will be transferred to Wales as well.
 
14:26
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Well, again, I would be interested to know whether you’re envisaging, as the First Minister appears to, only police and crime commissioner powers, or something more.
 
But broadening the topic, we saw coverage last week from the anti-slavery co-ordinator for Wales, who had raised concerns about a number of entry points into Wales not having checks in terms of anti-slavery and people trafficking activities. He said that this week would be a week of action by Welsh forces aimed at tackling human trafficking and modern slavery, which he said had risen by 400 per cent in five years, including the children of victims. Are you able to tell us what involvement you and the Welsh Government have had in this operation and, either now or at a future date, brief the Assembly on what has occurred?
 
14:27
Carl SargeantBiography
I would be very happy to update Members in the Chamber at a later date in terms of details from the successful programmes that we are operating. I would also offer the services of our anti-trafficking co-ordinator for any Members who wish to be briefed on this issue—for a personal briefing or a party briefing as well. I’d be happy for us to arrange that also. We are the only part of the UK that has invested, as Welsh Government, into an anti-human trafficking co-ordinator. I’ve raised this at very high levels in Westminster, because while I think it’s an excellent idea to have an anti-slavery co-ordinator, we are an island, and we are only a part of that island. I think it’s incumbent that Scotland and England also pursue this issue as well, and I would encourage the Member to raise that with his political leadership in terms of trying to resolve this issue in England and Wales.
 
14:28
Mark IsherwoodBiography
[Inaudible.]—your predecessor worked with the UK Government on its UK anti-slavery legislation and the introduction of an officer there who does work with the anti-slavery co-ordinator in Wales.
 
But sticking with the theme of children for my final question, given the three inequalities in particular identified in the Children’s Commissioner for Wales’ ‘Hidden Ambitions’ report—. It said that young people leaving care
 
need the same sort of opportunities, assistance and support that all parents try to give their children as they start to make their way in the world’.
 
What steps are you taking to ensure that those in social care who reach the age of 18 are still entitled to obtain such care while studying A-levels? And what proposals do you have to ensure that young people who leave care continue to receive appropriate support until they reach 25—I think two of those three key calls in that report?
 
14:29
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, and we’re working through that piece of work that the children’s commissioner did. Your colleague David Melding chairs a group on looked-after children for me. The advice coming from that team is invaluable in terms of shaping a different way that we are able to support children in the social care system. I am absolutely committed to making some changes in that space, and we’ve recently launched the St David’s award of £1 million, which will be on its way to local authorities to distribute between under 25-year olds, whom I believe should have access to some finances as they grow up. I didn’t badge this as—. We badged it as £1 million St David’s Day award, but I kind of like to think about it as ‘the bank of mum and dad’, like all of us have for our children, where they are able to go to a guardian or to kin to say, ‘Look, I want to go here tonight’—like my daughter did, or like your family did. These young people are so disadvantaged, we’ve got to support them in some way, and this is, hopefully, one step in the right direction to helping to support a normal type of life.
 
14:30
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. We now move to the Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Bethan Jenkins.
 
14:30
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Cabinet Secretary, in light of this week’s attack in Manchester, I thought it would be appropriate to ask what the Welsh Government is doing with regard to community cohesion. I ask in this context: a few years ago, I wrote to South Wales Police asking about some of the reasons why young men in Cardiff, for example, were moving to look to extremism as a way of life, or as something that they would find solace in, and they weren’t able to give me that information because it was protected. I don’t think some of those issues have gone away and I would like to understand from you what you are trying to do to work with communities to ensure that, if we are finding that there are instances where they may move to extremism, we understand why that is, and how you are working with communities to try and stop that, so that they have something to work with in their communities, as opposed to, potentially—potentially—feeling alienated.
 
14:31
Carl SargeantBiography
I think the Member raises a very important and pertinent question, and our thoughts go out to the families and individuals affected by the Manchester bombing of two days ago. Community cohesion is one that we take very seriously, working with the local authorities, with the police, and with action groups on the ground. We have funded, since 2012, eight regional community co-ordinators in and across Wales. The grant is around £360,000 for posts awarded for 2017-18. We shouldn’t underestimate the important role that that plays in the community, but it’s about community ownership, and the engagement and trust is really important, so that we can get behind the scenes of where there are cases emerging of radicalisation. And I think what we’ve been able to do with the co-ordinators is to get into that space, and we will continue to fund that, particularly around this pressure point as well.
 
14:32
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thank you. It will be interesting to see an analysis of that, because I wanted to go on to ask particularly about at-risk groups, because we know that it may not be as simple as saying that it is because they may have a potential political grievance, or that they feel politically alienated that drives them to do this. It may be, as we’ve seen from other perpetrators of previous attacks in Europe, that they have lengthy criminal records already, often including domestic violence, and many have experienced deep poverty, which also, then, adds to their sense of feeling isolated. I’m not for one moment saying that what they do is acceptable, but I think we have to try and look at those at-risk groups, and try and stop them from getting to the stage where they feel that this is something that they need or want to do with their lives. So, are there communities in Cardiff, in those particular groups, that you’ve identified and that you are currently working with?
 
14:33
Carl SargeantBiography
Yes, and alongside the police across the whole of Wales, and, indeed, the UK, there is an intelligence-led approach about how we look at particular groups, and we are able to support them in that sphere. I think the Member is right to raise—although the issues of historic actions may have had an impact on their adult lives, that’s not always the case either. And that’s why the identification of radicalisation or terrorism is really difficult, because we cannot describe what a terrorist looks like. The fact is, we’ve got to look back at some of their historic issues, and that’s why some of our other programmes, which will be interrelated around tackling issues around adverse childhood experiences, will sometimes give us an indicator of a pathway that an individual is taking. And this is why we’re learning alongside our other agencies, and there has been lots of work about why radicalisation takes place. I think there’s an awful lot of work still to be done, but our intelligence services are working very hard on this.
 
14:34
Bethan JenkinsBiography
And my third question is something that has animated my mind since Manchester, and many of us here today as well, with regard to extremism, not only on the side of how we would see minority groups, but also far-right groups as well, who are attacking anybody at the moment who are Muslim in our society, even before they know what the religion of that potential perpetrator is. We had a debate last week on online abuse and we’ve seen a rise in that type of abuse by people who live amongst us. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed by some of the things that I’ve been reading, attacking people in communities who don’t deserve to be attacked because they are no more guilty of this than any of us are.
 
So, I was wondering what you would be able to do in relation to talking to the education Secretary about having discussions with her about having more education, at an earlier age, about how we can be respectful of one another, how we can use online media, but also, in relation to terrorist activities, how we can understand what it is. For example, I studied at Aberystwyth university and there was no course on terrorism until 9/11 happened, and they put a course on especially for us to understand what that meant and how we could understand the world stage in relation to that. I don’t know if that’s happening for our young people and I think it’s turning communities against one another instead of uniting our communities. So, I know that it’s a complex issue, but how are you going about trying to unpick some of these very complex reasons for why people are taking to attacking others who have nothing to do with the awful acts that are taking place on the world stage?
 
14:36
Carl SargeantBiography
Yes, there are two points to the Member’s question I feel: one is around the educational aspect of this. There is work going on in our schools to talk about and discuss with individuals tolerance and religion. I think that’s an important factor as we move forward, it’s about societies being tolerant with each other and our understanding of religious beliefs.
 
Let’s be very clear, and I’m with the Member on this—it’s abhorrent, the hatefulness that appears on social media from ill-informed individuals. Let me be very clear: Muslims aren’t terrorists. Terrorists are terrorists, and that’s the difference. I think we’ve got to be very clear about our ambition to make sure that Wales is a welcoming place. We want to help people and we want to support people. There’s certainly no place for misinformation, based on religion, on social media or, in fact, in any space where we are able to have conversations.
 
14:37
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. And finally the UKIP spokesperson, Gareth Bennett.
 
14:37
Gareth BennettBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I think there was welcome news recently from your colleague Lesley Griffiths about potentially including the ‘agent of change’ rule in planning regulations with regard to the protection of live music. I think that that’s a welcome development. It’s something that could help pubs that put on live music shows. There may be other ways in which the Welsh Government can help in this area. I know you had talks with CAMRA—the Campaign for Real Ale—earlier on in the Assembly term, so I wondered what the outcome of those talks was and if you were considering any other measures to protect pubs.
 
14:38
Carl SargeantBiography
Yes, and this isn’t one Minister’s responsibility. Indeed, after Lesley Griffiths made the announcement around the issue of music venues, I spoke to Ken Skates only yesterday about the regeneration opportunities and perhaps areas of culture that could be designated for regeneration, which often may include arts and entertainment venues.
 
I did meet with CAMRA and we’ve had some discussions within our team about what the opportunities may be in terms of a Welsh-based solution for pubs and other publicly run buildings in Wales. I hope that I’ll be able to make an announcement shortly on that.
 
14:38
Gareth BennettBiography
Okay, thanks for that. I’ll await the announcement obviously, but some ideas have been aired by CAMRA in the past. I don’t know if it’s perhaps premature to ask what your thoughts are on these. One of them pertains to—it’s slightly crossing over portfolios, I appreciate—planning and it’s the ease with which pubs in Wales can be changed by the owners, by pub chains, from pubs into shops or flats. This is because we don’t actually have a planning system like they have in Scotland, where they need express planning permission for change of use. So, I wondered if that was a change that you might be considering for Wales.
 
14:39
Carl SargeantBiography
As I said, it’s a matter for cross-Cabinet discussion and planning will feature in the future of what we see for our public buildings. I think there are many factors that we have to have caution about, too. It’s not like one size fits all, and whatever happens in Scotland—if you want to pick the good bits in Scotland and the good bits in Wales, it’s always difficult to do that. The issues around community right to buy et cetera, or the right for a register, is something that I’m looking at, but I’m cautious about protecting a building with no intent of long-term purchase just to stem a planning application. We’ve just got to balance that issue out. I think further discussions with CAMRA may evolve following my discussions and announcements in the near future.
 
14:40
Gareth BennettBiography
Okay, thanks for that. Now, I know you’re also responsible for the Post Office. At First Minister’s question’s last week, the First Minister was highlighting the need for co-location, which is something we’ve talked about in a lot of different policy areas. I wondered if there was any possibility of encouraging pubs perhaps to co-locate with post offices, if that might be a way forward to help the viability of pubs in future.
 
14:40
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, I’m sure you should take a visit with Darren Millar to his local where you can get a pint a stamp and a curry, all in the same place. I did visit the pub, a long time ago, with the Member. I’m sure he’d like to take you perhaps at some stage to just show what can be done in our communities where there are opportunities.
 
14:41
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you very much. We return to the questions on the order paper now. Question 3, David Melding.
 
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
 
14:41
David MeldingBiography
3. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on how the Welsh Government embeds in its work the principles set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? OAQ(5)0145(CC)
 
14:41
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for his question. Our approach is to put children’s rights at the centre of our policy making. How we do this is set out in our children’s rights scheme and our compliance report provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of the arrangements to implement the UNCRC and amend where necessary.
 
14:41
David MeldingBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for that. The national participation standards set out what children are entitled to expect from the services they are involved in. These standards, as I understand, were reviewed last year and, as a consequence, updated guidance was necessary to local authorities to improve their self-assessment. I wonder if that guidance has been issued and whether we are likely to see more best practice along the lines developed by Torfaen council, where services that are for children or interact with children must clearly set out how they consult properly with children as service users.
 
14:42
Carl SargeantBiography
I will write to the Member in terms of the detail of completion of that advice and whether that’s gone to local authorities; I don’t have that detail available for me today. But I do agree with the Member that there are some great value-added aspects of this. And where authorities are delivering very well, such as Torfaen council, we should replicate that across the 22 authorities, making sure that children really are the centre of our decision-making processes, rather than just an add-on and retrofitted into a policy. It is an important point the Member raises.
 
The Gypsy and Traveller Community
 
14:43
Mark IsherwoodBiography
4. How is the Welsh Government meeting the accommodation needs for the Gypsy and Traveller community? OAQ(5)0142(CC)
 
14:43
Carl SargeantBiography
The Welsh Government recently approved Gypsy and Traveller accommodation assessments undertaken by all Welsh local authorities, which identified a need for 237 residential and 33 transit pitches. I have allocated £26.4 million between 2017 and 2021 to address this and I expect local authorities to make swift progress on this.
 
14:43
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Diolch. In January 2011, obligations to meet the need for Gypsy and Traveller accommodation sites led to the granting of temporary planning permission for identified individuals for five years for a site in Flintshire, because of assurances made to the planning inspector by the council that, within such period, the need would be met by Flintshire. Because it wasn’t, Flintshire granted further temporary permission for five years in April, even though it’s widely recognised the site isn’t suitable as a permanent site. Then, subsequently, the granting of temporary planning permission was quashed in court because Flintshire had failed to fulfil its responsibility, and Flintshire had the costs of the hearing charged against it.
 
Given that the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 provisions in this respect, in terms of assessment of accommodation needs, came into effect in February 2015 and the duty to meet assessed needs, and the failure to comply with duties under section 103 came into effect in March 2016, what powers do you have to intervene in this instance, where something has clearly gone very wrong?
 
14:44
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m not able to comment on legal cases that are being pursued. However, the housing Act of 2014 introduced new duties on local authorities to properly assess the mobile home pitch needs of Gypsies and Travellers and then ensure sufficient sites are created. We are the only part of the UK that’s placed a duty on local authorities to do this, and I think it’s very progressive, and, as I learned from the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma cross-party group the other week, the organisations were very positive about our interventions in this space.
 
14:45
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you very much. Question 5 [OAQ(5)0155(CC)] has been withdrawn. Therefore, question 6, Lynne Neagle.
 
Adverse Childhood Experiences
 
14:45
Lynne NeagleBiography
6. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the role of adverse childhood experiences in driving Welsh Government policy on children? OAQ(5)0150(CC)
 
14:45
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for Torfaen for her question. We are working collaboratively across portfolios, including education, health and children and communities, to improve the well-being of children and young people. Preventing and mitigating the impact of ACEs can have a significant effect to benefit families and individuals, as well as the wider community.
 
14:45
Lynne NeagleBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. The Children, Young People and Education Committee recently had a useful briefing on adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs, from Public Health Wales. Clearly, recognition of particular ACEs has a role to play in ensuring the best possible outcomes for our children and young people, but there are many issues that can affect a child’s well-being, and it is a great concern to me that neglect is not recognised as an ACE. This is despite neglect being recognised as an ACE in North America and despite the fact that neglect continues to be the most common reason for child protection action in Wales. What assurances can you give, Cabinet Secretary, that the focus the Welsh Government is placing on ACEs will not lead to less focus on tackling neglect and other issues that will impact on a child’s well-being?
 
14:46
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for a very important question in the supplementary that she raises with me. Can I give reassurance to the Member that this isn’t one or the other? This is about a holistic view and about engaging young people and their families? ACEs do provide one part of that. If we take the issue of ACEs, and the balance of two of the ACEs that are considered, which are any one of physical or mental abuse, both of those possibly relate to an outcome of neglect. Therefore, I wouldn’t say that we’re not on the same page here—I think it’s about definition. I would be very happy to meet with the Member and somebody from Public Health Wales to work through this issue to give the Member reassurance that, actually, this isn’t one area that we are neglecting—this is absolutely fundamental to making sure we can have the right benefits for young people as we move forward.
 
14:47
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Cabinet Secretary, less than 1 per cent of Welsh NHS expenditure is targeted towards child and adolescent mental health services, yet 5,400 children and young people are referred to local primary mental health support services for assessment each year, with a further 2,355 waiting several months for their first out-patient appointment. Latest figures now show that 73 children and adolescents are waiting 26 weeks and beyond for treatment. At such an impressionable age, and when we talk about childhood experience, do you not agree with me that the earlier that we can get intervention and good treatment for our children, the greater outcomes are likely to be? Therefore, will you commit here today to working with the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport to bring down these unacceptable waiting times?
 
14:48
Carl SargeantBiography
I’m grateful that the Member is now on board. I work with the health Cabinet Secretary already, as I do with all Cabinet colleagues, including the education Cabinet Secretary. We must get upstream of some of these issues. We’ve got to tackle the here and now, and the mental health cases that you talk about, particularly in young people, are ones that trouble me too, but, actually, what we’ve got to do is get to the prevention end of this and make sure that the experiences of young people don’t lead them into mental health trauma later on in life. So, I would encourage the Member, in her questions in the future also, to think about how we collectively have a non-political view on how we move resources from the critical end into the prevention end. It is an important process in where we’re going to be. There’s only one pot of money, and we’ve got to get in early on to make sure the young people she talks about aren’t duly affected in the long term in terms of adulthood.
 
Adverse Childhood Experiences
 
14:49
Darren MillarBiography
7. What action is the Cabinet Secretary taking to prevent children in Wales from suffering adverse childhood experiences? OAQ(5)0147(CC)
 
14:49
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for his question. We are committed to working across departments to ensure help to mitigate the effects of ACEs and provide support to vulnerable families in Wales. In addition, we are contributing £400,000 in 2017-18 to the establishment of Cymru Well Wales’s ACE support hub.
 
14:49
Darren MillarBiography
The Cabinet Secretary will be well aware that one of the most prevalent ACEs in Wales is that of parental separation, which can have a hugely damaging impact on children and young people. Given that, what action is the Welsh Government taking to support couples to stick together for the benefit of their children, and will you comment on what support is available, funded by the Welsh Government, in Wales at the moment?
 
14:50
Carl SargeantBiography
There are many aspects of parental separation and drivers behind that, and they are often very complex. What we’ve got to do as a collective is understand what those impacts are. That’s why we’re investing in Families First, in Flying Start, in educational promotion programmes and in positive parenting programmes. And the ACE profiling of individuals is just one small part of the ability of complex families to move forward. Of course, I think that, where we can encourage parents to stay together, it’s the right thing to do, but, sometimes, in the best interests of the individuals and children, these things happen to take their course. But we are absolutely hoping to make some interventions in the areas that cause pressure. Employment issues around the household often cause family stress. We’re looking at improving job prospects for individuals, and finances, and making sure we can tackle the issues that Janet Finch-Saunders raised around mental health issues, too.
 
The ‘Hidden Ambitions’ Report
 
14:51
David MeldingBiography
8. What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary made of the Children’s Commissioner’s Hidden Ambitions report? OAQ(5)0144(CC)
 
14:51
Carl SargeantBiography
The £1 million St David’s Day fund I announced in March will support care leavers to move successfully towards independence and progresses many of the commissioner’s recommendations. The improving outcomes for children ministerial advisory group that you chair is leading this work.
 
14:51
David MeldingBiography
And I very much welcome the St David’s fund. I think that is an innovative and imaginative way of improving the well-being of many looked-after children’s lives. I wonder how impressed you were also by the commissioner’s findings that social services, housing and education departments need to both co-operate and co-ordinate their work to improve the independence of care leavers, and that this work would be very much in line with the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. And it’s important that we get that information across to local authorities and others.
 
14:52
Carl SargeantBiography
Indeed, and the commissioner is absolutely right to make reference to this. We see much better outcomes where social services and housing departments work together, as opposed to in isolation. Otherwise, we see young people ending up in bed and breakfasts or other solutions that they may find appropriate within that department. I’ve told my team that I expect all organisations that have involvement here to have a joined-up approach to the delivery of services for looked-after children and children that are in care. I genuinely hope that we can make this better as we move forward, but I’m sure the Member, through his work, will keep scrutiny on and keep me well informed about how that’s working in practice.
 
New Homes in Mid and West Wales
 
14:53
Eluned MorganBiography
9. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the building of new homes in Mid and West Wales? OAQ(5)0152(CC)
 
14:53
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for her question. House building is a priority for this Government, and latest quarterly statistics suggest an increase in new homes built in Mid and West Wales compared with the previous year. This progress has been supported by Help to Buy—Wales, rural housing enablers and our 20,000 affordable homes target.
 
14:53
Eluned MorganBiography
The Cabinet Secretary has committed to building 20,000 new homes in Wales by 2021 and, of course, the Cabinet Secretary is aware that the affordability of homes in parts of rural Wales is a real issue. I just wondered if the Cabinet Secretary could give an assurance that mid and west Wales, which has approximately one fifth of the population of Wales, will get their share of those 20,000 new homes in Wales. What assurances can we give to our own constituents?
 
14:53
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, the Member’s right and is always an advocate for the mid and west region that she represents. I can’t say to the Member categorically that you will receive a fifth of the 20,000, but I can assure you that the products that we have in place, such as Help to Buy—Wales and the other projects that we are delivering across Wales, will be available to your constituents too, and it’s an important process where we do realise that there are homes needed for people right across the length and breadth of Wales.
 
14:54
Russell GeorgeBiography
Cabinet Secretary, will you outline what considerations the Welsh Government has made to ensuring that planning conditions for new homes include a requirement that fibre broadband should be installed?
 
14:54
Carl SargeantBiography
I’ve actually had some discussions with the planning Minister, and also with some public companies to make sure we can consider this as we move forward. It is an important part of moving technology forward, and I often hear the Member relate to the adequacy of broadband in his constituency also. But, it is something that we are taking up with developers and registered social landlords.
 
14:55
Simon ThomasBiography
Affordability, of course, isn’t just about buying a home or renting a home. It’s also about affordability of maintaining and being in a warm and safe home. That’s particularly true of Mid and West Wales, where a lot of homes are off-grid and don’t have access to the gas grid in particular and are reliant on solid fuel or oil or imported gas. What are you doing therefore to ensure that the homes that you are building or encouraging to be refurbished are of the highest environmental standards that both provide good environmental benefits but also, very importantly, benefits for the tenants or owners of those homes in terms of ongoing maintenance and costs of living there?
 
14:55
Carl SargeantBiography
I think that there are two parts to this. I think the investment that the Government’s made with its programmes for refurbishment around gas boilers and insulation et cetera is an important part of that. But, I’m really encouraged about the innovation, and I talk this through often with one of my Members from the back benches, Jenny, regarding the energy efficiency of new homes and why we should be building new types of homes here in Wales rather than the traditional brick build. We should be looking at the long term, thinking about the energy conservation and the affordability of properties. We are trying to look at that, about leverage, with RSLs and our big investment of £1.2 billion, and what more we can get for our money.
 
The Supporting People Programme
 
14:56
Mike HedgesBiography
10. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the Supporting People programme? OAQ(5)0141(CC)
 
14:56
Carl SargeantBiography
Thank you. The Supporting People programme helps people avoid or overcome homelessness and live as independently as possible. In recognition of its vital role, we have protected the £124.4 million of funding from cuts since 2015-16.
 
14:57
Mike HedgesBiography
Can I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s response and certainly the protection of the money? I would also like to highlight how helpful the programme has been within my own constituency of Swansea East. Can the Cabinet Secretary outline how benefit changes have impacted on the Supporting People programme?
 
14:57
Carl SargeantBiography
Well, what we do know is that, in Wales, we protected this. In England, they scrapped the Supporting People programme in terms of the ring fencing, which has a massive negative effect on individuals up and down the length of England. I’ve got a very progressive Supporting People sector that’s currently supported by a great leader in Cymorth Cymru’s Katie Dalton, who’s working very hard to ensure that our money invested is delivered on the ground by many of the organisations that the Member alludes to, particularly in Swansea East, as he raised here today.
 
14:57
Suzy DaviesBiography
During the debate on the Supporting People programme last year, you said that it
 
helps to reduce unnecessary demands on the NHS’,
 
particularly speaking about mental health, as you probably remember. I think we all accept that prevention is notoriously difficult to evidence and prove, but do you have any data that may help you promote joint spending across the two portfolios and actually lever some value into that protected budget?
 
14:58
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, and I’d be happy to write to the Member with some further details and examples. There are some great operating bodies across Wales that can very clearly show the investment of a small amount of Supporting People funding stream, which has multiple benefits in that way. Of course, that’s how Government and agencies should be thinking in the consideration of the WFG Act, making sure that the implications of one has a positive effect on the other, if we can possibly achieve that. But, I will write to the Member with some more detail.
 
Regeneration in Newport
 
14:59
Jayne BryantBiography
11. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the Welsh Government’s plan for regeneration in Newport? OAQ(5)0153(CC)
 
14:59
Carl SargeantBiography
I thank the Member for Newport West. Welsh Government has an important role in working with a range of partners in supporting resilient communities in all parts of Wales. Further details of a new regeneration programme will shortly be announced, and the regeneration priorities for Newport will need to feed into those considerations.
 
14:59
Jayne BryantBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Two weeks ago, I joined Newport City Homes, Gwent Police officers, local residents and councillors on a walk around the recently started £7.9 million redevelopment in Pill. The improvements are long overdue and this project will help tackle anti-social behaviour and make a real difference to those living there. These ambitious plans are as a result of work with a dedicated group of residents, including young people, retailers and the wider community, working with the housing association. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree that putting residents at the heart of plans for regeneration from the beginning of the project through to delivery is crucial for success?
 
15:00
Carl SargeantBiography
Of course, and I’m grateful for the Member’s involvement in that scheme. I’ve visited Pill three times over the last six months to see what progress has been made and it was remarkable only last week, when I visited on my last occasion. The Member’s right to raise the issue of community involvement because it’s their community and we’ve got to make sure that it’s built in the resilience about taking that forward for the future. And I’m encouraged by the work of all of those agencies that are involved. I’ve asked my team directly now to get involved in the public services board of Newport to make sure that we can have some leverage in terms of making sure we can turn that community around in Pill, to make it a success as it once was when it flourished in the years gone by.
 
15:00
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary.
 
15:00
3. Topical Questions
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
There are no topical questions that have been tabled today.
 
15:00
4. 90-second Statements
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
So, we move to the 90-second statements, and the first of those this week is Huw Irranca-Davies.
 
15:00
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. This weekend, the Urdd Eisteddfod comes to the grounds of Bridgend College’s Pencoed campus. Many thousands will travel to the area from across Wales to enjoy the festival of Welsh language and Welsh culture and youth.
 
We are very proud to be hosting the Urdd Eisteddfod and I am very proud of the way in which my own local communities have taken this high point of the Welsh cultural calendar to their hearts: the way in which the staff, management and students of Bridgend College have worked so hard in preparation for the event; the fantastic fundraising efforts of local communities across the area; the enthusiasm and involvement of local schools; the support of local clubs and organisations, including Pencoed RFC, which hosted a very successful rugby sevens tournament; and so many more who have worked over many months to make Eisteddfod yr Urdd Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr, Taf ac Elái a success.
 
Those of you who haven’t before visited an Eisteddfod, I say to you: please come to enjoy yourselves and the welcome offered at the best youth festival and by the best of our talented young people. We hope to see you there.
 
15:02
Dawn BowdenBiography
This weekend the Merthyr Rising festival will commemorate the events of May 1831 when iron workers, miners and their families rose up against the deplorable living and working conditions they had to endure. During the protest the rebels bathed their flag in calf’s blood—believed to be the first time the red flag was used as a symbol of revolution. There are still buildings and sights in Merthyr that played a significant part in the rising, not least of which is the debtor’s court of requests, where those in debt often faced seizure of their property and belongings, plunging them into further destitution. But whilst buildings like the court are a reminder of the rising, it is the people behind it who matter most, and one of those was Richard Lewis, or Dic Penderyn as he was more commonly known. As least 28 people died during the rising, but it was for allegedly wounding a soldier that Dic Penderyn was scapegoated, brought before the courts, sentenced to death and hanged at Cardiff jail on 13 August 1831, protesting his innocence to the end with his last words: ‘O Arglwydd, dyma gamwedd’—O, Lord, here is injustice. Despite a subsequent deathbed confession by the real culprit, Dic Penderyn has never been pardoned, but I’m proud to have added my name to the support for the campaign by his family to achieve this.
 
So, this weekend we will remember Dic’s legacy and the spirit of the workers of Merthyr who rose up against injustice and tyranny, paving the way for future political and social reform in Britain, and we will continue the fight for justice for Dic Penderyn.
 
15:04
Vikki HowellsBiography
28 May marks the seventh World Hunger Day. Run by the Hunger Project, this aims to raise awareness of the nearly 800 million people across the world who do not have access to enough food, and to promote sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. Globally, hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This year’s World Hunger Day takes as its theme the causes of chronic hunger. The Hunger Project states that this is a symptom of poverty and social inequality, and this an important context in which to note the recent statistics from the Trussell Trust. As Members will know, the trust maintains a network of over 400 food banks around the UK, providing emergency food to those who find themselves in crisis, many of whom are children. New information shows that supplies provided by the trust in the last 12 months around the UK went up by over 70,000. Here in Wales, there was a shocking 10 per cent increase in the numbers fed by food banks, and this is before the full impact of the switch to universal credit is felt.
 
I know, first hand, the excellent work Merthyr Cynon Foodbank does in my own constituency, and I’m happy to support them and raise awareness of their work. But when police officers and nurses are reportedly relying on foodbanks here in the UK, it becomes obvious that hunger is widespread and we must find a solution to this challenge, both here and abroad.
 
15:05
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you very much.
 
15:05
5. Statement: Assessment for Learning—A Distinct Welsh Approach
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 5 on the agenda is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education: Assessment for Learning—A Distinct Welsh Approach. I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams.
 
15:05
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Education
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. The word ‘dysgu’ means both teaching and learning. As Professor Dylan William of University College London has pointed out, this linguistic and cultural perspective neatly demonstrates that the quality of teaching and learning cannot be separated. Assessment for learning means that teaching is always adaptive, specific to the learner’s needs and supports raising standards for all.
 
The recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report into our education reform journey recognised that a commitment to improving the teaching and learning in our schools is visible at all levels of the education system. The report recommended that the focus of our reforms should be on developing a high-quality teaching profession, making leadership a key driver for reform, ensuring equity in learning opportunities and student well-being, and moving towards a new system of assessment, evaluation and accountability that aligns with the new twenty-first century curriculum.
 
I spoke about our plans to develop leadership, to the Chamber, last week. Today, I want to focus on assessment: what good assessment looks like, what we have done to date and what we will do to take forward a new assessment and evaluation framework. And, along the way, Deputy Presiding Officer, I would also like to bust a few myths about our national tests. High-quality, ongoing assessment has a crucial role in teaching, learning and raising standards. It should be a natural and integral feature of classroom practice, and future assessment arrangements will give priority to this. We are working with schools, regional consortia and taking the advice of international assessment experts, such as Dylan William and John Hattie, to ensure that there is a renewed emphasis on assessment for learning and that the learner is at the heart of our proposals.
 
Assessment for learning is responsive teaching. It is the bridge between teaching and the way we discover whether activities and experiences in the classroom have brought about the learning that was intended. It is a powerful tool that can drive progress and raise achievement for all of our learners. Our vision is that assessment’s prime purpose is to provide information that can guide decisions about how best to progress young people’s learning and to report to their parents and carers on that progress. By so doing, assessment should improve learners’ learning, teachers’ teaching and parents’ and carers’ understanding.
 
Research from across the world has shown that assessment for learning offers us an effective way to meet our goals for a high-performing education system that provides learners with the means to become lifelong learners. Learners who are given high-quality feedback, who understand where they are in their learning, where they need to go next and, crucially, how they get there, are the most likely to make the most improvement.
 
As you will be aware from my recent written statement, perhaps one of the most exciting developments schools will see coming in the years ahead is the transition from the traditional paper reading and numeracy tests that learners sit each year, to an online, adaptive, personalised assessment. The new assessments will adapt the difficulty of the questions to match the response of the learner, adjusting to provide appropriate challenge for each individual. This means that all learners will be presented with questions that match and challenge their individual skills in reading and numeracy. Schools will receive high-quality, tailored information about each learner’s skills that they can use as additional evidence to plan the next steps for teaching and learning. The tests will be self-marking and compatible with schools’ information management systems. Teachers and learners will have high-quality, immediate and specific feedback, giving them a better picture of how they can address each learner’s strengths and weaknesses. There are many advantages to implementing personalised assessments, but let me be perfectly clear that the current paper tests share exactly the same purpose. There are still a few myths doing the rounds when it comes to the national tests, and I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
 
Firstly, the tests are completely different from SATs in England, where results are published and schools ranked on the basis of test scores. Our tests were implemented to support teaching and learning, and were never intended to be high-stakes. The test results are not used by Welsh Government to judge school performance. The key to our approach is that the focus is on what the tests tell teachers, which is then used to help shape planning for learners’ next steps and to develop core skills and knowledge. We know that, at the moment, assessment for learning is not always well understood or embedded across every school. That is why I have refocused activity to improve confidence in its use.
 
Earlier this year, I ended the programme of external verification, and outlined our intentions to put in place a programme that would maintain the original aim of improving teacher assessment, but with more focus on the needs of teachers and their professional learning. In addition, we have made changes to the reporting on the national literacy and numeracy framework. Last week, schools were notified that they would only be expected to produce parental reports on the national literacy and numeracy framework for English, Welsh and maths at key stages 2 and 3, and language, literacy and communication and mathematical development during the foundation phase. Taking away the expectation of literacy and numeracy reports all the way across the curriculum will allow schools to focus efforts on literacy and numeracy development in effective curriculum planning and assessment for learning approaches.
 
In a coherent and collective approach to raising standards and expectations, assessment and accountability is critical to our ongoing reforms and the development and delivery of the new curriculum. However, in the past, the lines between the two have often been blurred, leading to negative unintended consequences in the classroom and a lack of focus on overall standards. In the next few weeks, I will make further announcements about accountability. Taken together, these will recognise and promote high-quality teaching and learning so that we raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a genuine source of national pride and national confidence.
 
15:13
Darren MillarBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for your statement, and for giving me advance notice of it. I think we’d all agree in this Chamber that we want to see a rigorous assessment process here in Wales that is fair to the learner, that helps to inform teachers about how best to respond to their needs, but that also acts as a benchmarking system across the whole of Wales, so that we can compare and contrast performance both between pupils within schools and, indeed, compare and contrast performance between different schools as well.
 
We know that the current system isn’t perfect. There’s far too much self-evaluation, if you like, within the current system and not enough in terms of standardisation, and so that’s why I was very pleased to welcome the shift to more responsive and personalised testing online when the Cabinet Secretary announced it earlier this year, and I think that that’s absolutely a step in the right direction. But I will say, Cabinet Secretary, that what we must also not be afraid to do is to continue to put our children and our young people in examination-type situations with paper tests. Because, at the end of the day, those high-stakes paper tests that they’ll be doing when they get to GCSE age and when they get to AS and A-level age, they’re going to be less phased by those if they’ve had lots of experience of being sat in a test-like situation. They’re not going to be sat on computers doing those tests, so it’s important that they have the experience of those tests both in the classroom and in the schools at different points.
 
Now, I know that you say—and you like to draw the big distinction between the SATs tests in England and the tests that we’ve had traditionally here in Wales, and you say that that’s not something where we’re going to rank schools. But, at the end of the day, they do need to be things that are used to manage performance within schools, and to manage local authority attention to schools and regional consortia’s attention to schools if weaknesses are identified in those outcomes. I think it’s only right that the outcomes of that testing are shared with parents, because, at the end of the day, parents should be empowered to be able to make decisions about which schools they want to see their children educated in. I think that the more information they can have, including information on tests and outcomes from those tests, the better.
 
I appreciate that you can swing the pendulum too far and just use markers on things like the achievements in these sorts of tests and overemphasise them, if you like, and not consider properly other things in schools. That’s why we’ve been, as a party, supportive of the green, amber and red system that has been developed by the Welsh Government, and it’s important that that is also a robust system. I know, Cabinet Secretary, that you want that to be a robust system that truly reflects, in an all-round and holistic sense, the performance of schools. But let’s not forget that the results that children and young people have in tests like the ones that we’re talking about today—this assessment for learning—are an important indicator in terms of school performance, and we must not ignore them.
 
We know that the OECD told us that there are many teachers at all levels who lack the skills to implement quality formative assessments and to use those assessment data to support students in their learning. I think that it’s only right to pick up on that point, and I was pleased that you made reference to the OECD and the work that they’re doing to oversee some of the implementation of this work in the future. We know, also, of course, from the recent Education Workforce Council survey of the education workforce in Wales, that one of the other problems we have is communicating to our teachers about the changes that are taking place here in Wales in our education system. So, I wonder, Cabinet Secretary, whether you’ll be able to tell us how you’re going to ensure that there’s an appropriate response from the teaching workforce to these new testing regimes as they’re being rolled out here in Wales, what you’re going to do to monitor the way that the teaching workforce is using the information in a confident way to change their practice so that they can support learners better, and what assurances you can give us as an Assembly that we’re not completely ditching the paper tests in literacy, in numeracy, and all those other subjects, so that our children can still be well prepared as they get on into later life to take those high-stakes tests that will come down the line.
 
15:18
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you very much, Darren, for your questions. I had hoped that the statement this afternoon would be able to help develop a broader understanding of the difference between assessment for learning, which is a crucial part of how we raise standards in our schools—and how that is a very different beast to what is accountability. The fact that the two have been melded together in the past, some of it in reality, some of it, often, myth and in the minds of practitioners, is one of the reasons why we’re not making the progress we need to make. Let me be absolutely clear: we need accountability in the Welsh education system. We know from past experience what happens if that accountability is taken away. Therefore, I will continue to ensure that our schools, our LEAs, and our regional consortia are held to account for their performance.
 
But accountability measures have to be the right ones, and they do have to be, I’m afraid to say, divorced from the principles of assessment for learning. So, you’re absolutely right, we will continue to use the categorisation system to be able to provide a holistic view of how individual schools are performing. We will continue to develop a robust inspection regime, with the publication of inspection reports via Estyn, which give parents the information that they need when looking at prospective schools for their children. And there is more we can do to improve both categorisation and, I believe, potentially, in conjunction with discussions with Estyn, how we can improve the inspection regime also. But let me be clear: assessment for learning is not part of that accountability regime. It is simply not a robust way—it is not a robust way to use assessment tests to judge the performance of a school. Cohorts can differ hugely.
 
Just last week, I visited Blaenymaes school in Swansea. The children entering that school are significantly behind, developmentally, than you would expect in the Welsh—[Interruption.]—in the Welsh population. Sixty per cent of those children are on free school—[Interruption.]—on free school meals. That is very different from a school in the same local education authority, and therefore relying simply on scores around standardised testing is not a fair way to judge. [Interruption.] Yes, you’re right. How we monitor that school is the progress that they’ve made, and I’m delighted that Blaenymaes school was recently given a ‘good’ and ‘good’ evaluation by Estyn because of the progress they’re able to make for those children. But it would not be right to use individual children’s test scores to judge the performance of that school. But parents need to know. Parents absolutely need to know, and there are no plans to stop parents being given access to their children’s test scores. It’s really important as a parent, and I’m a mum myself whose children have sat these assessments most recently. It’s really important to me and other parents to know where my child is, to have a standardised benchmark assessment to work alongside the individual teachers’ assessments around my children.
 
The paper tests will be phased out, Darren, and they will be phased out to an online adaptive system. One of the problems with the current testing is it does not take into account where a child is. We could have a child with a number of additional learning needs who sits down in front of a test, looks at the paper, and can’t answer the first question. That, potentially, is devastating to that child’s confidence. The beauty of an online adaptive test is that the questions will adapt to the ability of that child, to see where they are, and to push them to see how much they can do. That’s good news for all children, because you can get a better, more accurate picture of where that child is. The idea that, simply, children will be completely fazed if they sit down in front of an exam paper at 16 is, if I might say, fanciful, Darren. The reality is that teachers in high schools prepare their children for sitting those exams with mock papers, mock exams. Those things happen, and we have to divorce the two.
 
There are professional learning needs. We do need to get self-assessment better. It’s one of the weaknesses in our system. That’s been acknowledged by Estyn. That’s why continued moderation is really, really important. But, by moving some of the emphasis away, that gives us more time for teachers to concentrate on developing their skills in this area, and, as you know, we’ve put aside £5.6 million in this financial year for the consortia’s professional learning funds.
 
15:23
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, for your statement. Donaldson did say, of course, in his ‘Successful Futures’ report, that dissatisfaction with current assessment arrangements was one of the strongest messages that he received. So, it’s good to see that this is being pursued, and I’m a bit fearful of saying the word ‘tests’ now, after that exchange. It’s been given a decent airing, so I won’t pursue it too much, only to recognise, of course, what Donaldson tells us, that the frequency of tests should be kept to a minimum in view of their impact on the curriculum and teaching and learning, because the danger is that people are taught to the test and then, all of a sudden, you find yourself going off on a tangent and not maybe focusing on the work that needs to be done.
 
I didn’t hear you mention self-assessment and peer assessment in your statement. Clearly, they are important factors in encouraging children and young people to take greater responsibility for their own learning. I know my children have a success criteria that they adhere to when they have homework, where they’re given a task that they’re meant to achieve, they need to understand how they’re going to achieve that, and then how they’re going to demonstrate what they’ve learnt from that task. So, I’m sure you’ll be able to tell us about the importance of self-assessment and peer assessment within this context, and teachers have their professional learning passports now—no different, potentially, for pupils in future; I know that Donaldson mentioned e-portfolios and e-badges, even, to record key achievements and experiences, and I’m wondering where we’re going on that, whether that’s something that you’re actively pursuing or not.
 
Your statement talks of an online adaptive personalised assessment, and teachers and leaders having high-quality immediate specific feedback. Donaldson also mentioned, of course, that we should increase the use of digital media and explore the opportunities to improve the immediacy of feedback to parents and carers. So, I’m just wondering whether this could be extended to allowing parents access to some aspects of this so that they can, in real time if you like, track the development of their children. I know many schools use Incerts. Whether there’s a public-facing element that could be utilised in that respect, it would be good to hear what your thinking is on that front.
 
Moving to more of an automated online system clearly has its strengths. I’m just looking for reassurance—and I’m sure you’ll give it to me—that we won’t take our eye off the ball in terms of continually needing to build teachers’ capacity to assess, and that we don’t just leave it to computers. So, that’s certainly something that we need to be wary of.
 
The children and young people committee clearly have been scrutinising implementation of the new curriculum, and we did hear contrasting views about the relationship between designing the curriculum and setting the assessment framework. Some people were saying, ‘Well, tell us what you want to assess and we’ll design you a curriculum’, and others were saying—and more rightly as well, in my view—that a purposes-driven curriculum starts with purposes and proceeds from there. Although your somewhat discombobulated, maybe, response to us in committee that it isn’t a chicken or egg, that it’s chicken and egg at the same time—I’m not sure whether that’s possible, but I’d like you maybe to reassure us now that the sector is getting the clarity it needs about the interrelationship, which we touched on earlier somewhat, actually, so that we can be confident that the assessment processes that we’re moving towards are appropriate for the new curriculum and the future that we’re moving towards.
 
15:27
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you very much, Llyr, for those questions and observations. You’re quite right; Professor Donaldson told us that the frequency of testing should be kept to a minimum, but he was also very clear in his report that external standardised testing provides important benchmarking information and should be used in combination with school tests and teacher assessments. So, in no way did Donaldson say we should stop doing national tests. He saw that as part of a holistic picture of how we can develop our assessment regimes. Actually, what Professor Donaldson recommended in his report was that, and I quote:
 
Innovative approaches to assessment, including interactive approaches, should be developed’.
 
So, actually, our move towards interactive online adaptive testing is in response to a recommendation that was made in that report.
 
You’re absolutely clear: if you look at pretty pictures about what assessment for learning actually looks at, one of the crucial components of that is peer review and the ability of children themselves to look critically at their own work and, indeed, help mark the work of their classmate alongside them. I don’t know whether your children use the tickled pink/green for growth method, which allows them to use pink highlighters to highlight the good bits, and then you use a green highlighter to identify the bits that maybe need to grow and need to be improved, but it’s a very important part of a strategy of developing that self-critique and the ability to identify. There are many, many, many innovative ways of using it. Wrong answers, for instance: if a class is getting the answer right all of the time, who’s learning? Sometimes, we need to get things wrong to identify what is it that led us to give that answer to reflect on that. So, there are lots and lots of different approaches. But the ability to engage children in that, not simply have their work marked by a teacher or reported on by a teacher, but actually to be able to look critically at their own work and that of others, is crucially important.
 
You talked about professional learning passports. There’s absolutely a role for the professional learning passport, but I think we can do it better than what we’ve got at the moment. I don’t think it is in its optimum state to really get teachers to engage with it. But, for children’s sake, many, many, many schools employ strategies for compiling e-portfolios. Only this morning, I was discussing with a headteacher the use of Building Blocks, which is an app developed by a Llanelli company. They use that to capture and record work. It allows people to reflect on that, share it with other classmates to have a look at, and be able to send it home. So, I’m looking at what more we can do to use that kind of technology in our learning.
 
One of the significant improvements I hope that online adaptive testing will bring to us, Llyr, is more timely responses. You will know, like I will, that the tests were sat by our children a number of weeks ago. I don’t know about schools in your area, or indeed in Darren’s, but I will probably get my children’s tests in the last week of term—the last week of term—where there is little time to go into school and have a discussion with the teacher. And then, the summer holidays come, and the momentum around that is lost. So, one of the benefits of moving to this system is that you will have instantaneous results and schools will be able to do it at times of the year that best suit them and their children. So, I’m hoping that one of the benefits of moving to this is greater flexibility, and that it will allow for greater parental engagement in discussing test results with their schools, and that is crucial.
 
We know that, after the quality of the teacher in the classroom, parental engagement in your child’s education is the second most important factor. We have to find new and innovative ways to encourage parents to be engaged in their children’s education. Again, I think, digitally—because, let’s face it, how many school gates do you see with everybody on their smartphones—digitally is one area in which we can increase those conversations between schools and parents about their children’s learning.
 
We do need to do more in terms of professional learning to support teachers’ skills in assessment for learning. As I said in my statement, and acknowledged in my statement, it is not as embedded and as universal as I would like it to be, and this will continue some of the ongoing conversations we have with regional consortia around professional learning.
 
What comes first and how do we assess a new curriculum? One of the lessons I think that we have learnt from Scotland is that they developed their curriculum and then thought about the assessment later. That’s been one of the problems that I think the Scottish education system has suffered from. So, we are looking at assessment and evaluation as we develop the curriculum, so that we are mindful of the fact that, yes, we need to have a purpose base, but are also mindful about how actually we will assess for that, and how will we test for that as we develop it. So, you’ll be aware that that work is ongoing, in conjunction with the work on the AOLEs, because I think if we leave it till the end, and have it as an add-on, we will defeat the purpose of what assessment is about. And I go back to my statement: assessment shouldn’t be an add-on; it should be an integral part of teachers’ practice in the classroom.
 
15:33
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
And finally, Michelle Brown.
 
15:33
Michelle BrownBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and thank you for your statement, Cabinet Secretary. Whilst I support the use of the latest technology in the classroom, it must always remain in a way that improves the education for the child, and doesn’t simply ease the teacher’s