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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call the National Assembly to order.
 
13:30
Statement on the London Terrorist Attack
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Firstly, it is my sad duty today, as it was this time a fortnight ago, to extend my condolences on behalf of all Assembly Members to those affected by another terrorist attack, this time in London. Once again, this was a cowardly and brutal attack. I invite the First Minister to make a statement.
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Diolch, Llywydd. It is with the greatest sadness that we find ourselves again pausing our proceedings to pay tribute to our fellow citizens and, of course, visitors from abroad, who were caught up in the atrocities in London on Saturday night. The great cruelty of this terrorism is its random nature. People of malign intent can strike anywhere, and they don’t need sophisticated weapons to inflict their cruelty. The area around London Bridge and Borough Market will be familiar to many of us. Just as in Manchester the week before, the terrorists chose to strike mostly young people going about their weekend leisure activities. Llywydd, the terrorists can never win. This is a free country and people live how they choose to live, in peace, and according to law. But non-one has the right to tell anyone else how to live. No-one has either the right, of course, to threaten or to intimidate. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us. We stand together and will continue to live in freedom. Llywydd, I have written to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to express the condolences and solidarity of the Welsh people, and I know that I speak for this Chamber and the people of Wales as a whole when I say that we stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with London.
 
13:32
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Thank you, First Minister, for speaking on behalf of us all.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:32
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The first item of business, therefore, is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Jenny Rathbone.
 
No Trade Deal with the EU
 
13:32
Jenny RathboneBiography
1. What is the First Minister’s assessment of the implications for Wales of no trade deal with the EU? OAQ(5)0635(FM)
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No deal is the worst deal. We know that no deal would mean trading under World Trade Organization rules. Nobody wants that on either side of the debate, and we know, of course, that that would put in place significant barriers to Welsh exports into our biggest and most important market.
 
13:32
Jenny RathboneBiography
Thank you, First Minister. I find it difficult to understand how Theresa May continues to say that no deal would be better than a bad deal, because I struggle to understand what the difference is. This is something that the journalists don’t seem to have asked her, or don’t have the opportunity to ask her. But I’ve read that some experts say that it could cost as much as £45 billion if we crash out of the EU, compared with half that if we come out with a negotiated deal. So, what is the First Minister’s assessment of what would happen to Wales, and Welsh trade with Europe, if there is no deal?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, 67 per cent of our exports go to the European market. Any obstacle that would be faced by exporters is bound to be bad for them. Any extra costs are bound to be bad for them, and that’s why it’s hugely important that Brexit is handled in a realistic way, not the naivety that we have seen from some, saying ‘Well, the Germans will never allow WTO rules to operate.’ I think there has to be a realism there, but, above all else, we have to secure a Brexit that is a sensible Brexit, and, above all else, one that does not affect in a negative way the economy of Wales.
 
13:34
David MeldingBiography
First Minister, I’m sure you agree that we should be aiming for a good deal—a good deal for the United Kingdom, a good deal for Wales, and a good deal for the European Union—and I’m very confident that that is what will happen. But, can I just refer you to the UK economic outlook that was published in November 2016, which did identify—and this was on the trends before Brexit—that our exports to EU markets were likely to go down to about 37 per cent by 2030—that’s a UK figure, not just Wales—and that it was very important that we also developed those other markets outside Europe that are closest to us, particularly North America, Africa and the middle east? And I hope that your trade policy will focus on these markets, as well as, of course, taking advantage of whatever the relationships we now secure with the EU.
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Very much so, and we work for markets anywhere and everywhere for Welsh produce. I remember, when I was rural affairs Minister, I spent much of my time getting Welsh lamb exports to the United Arab Emirates, for example. And we know that lamb is exported around the world. But we shouldn’t think that it’s a choice between accessing the European market or accessing other markets. The European market is much bigger than the US market, and the US is further away, whereas the EU, of course, will share a land border with us. The European market will continue to be our most important market for many, many years to come, which is why, of course, it’s so important to get a good deal that benefits all, and, above all else, allows us to sell without any kind of obstacle in that European market.
 
13:35
Simon ThomasBiography
Well, according to the leaflet I received from the Liberal Democrats on Monday in Aberystwyth, we, Plaid Cymru and Labour, are in bed with the Tories and UKIP on a hard Brexit deal. I would be interested to know what kind of Cabinet discussions you have had with the Liberal Democrats on achieving this extreme Brexit. But, in the hope that you're not going to deliver that, can I ask you how we can get to a position where tariff-free access to the single market, from agriculture to manufacturing in Wales, with our partners in Europe can be achieved without maintaining some sort of membership of the single market?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I don't wish to interfere in the politics of Ceredigion. I did see what Mark Williams has said since. I don’t accuse Plaid Cymru of being in favour of an extreme Brexit at all. But how can we ensure that an extreme Brexit doesn’t happen? The White Paper shows the way, and that White Paper has been agreed between three parties in this place and, to me, that shows us the way forward as regards how Brexit should be implemented over the ensuing years.
 
The Circuit of Wales
 
13:37
Adam PriceBiography
2. Does the Welsh Government now have all the information it needs to make a decision on whether to provide the financial support requested by the promoters of the Circuit of Wales? OAQ(5)0636(FM)
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We are awaiting some reports from our external advisers to enable us to complete the comprehensive due diligence process, but we will be in a position to take a decision before the end of the month.
 
13:37
Adam PriceBiography
I think people will draw their own conclusion, First Minister, on why this decision has been pushed beyond the general election. But, on the wider theme of openness, I’ve been told in written answers by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure that the idea of an 80 per cent Government guarantee, which was at the heart of the proposal that you rejected last year, was first suggested by the company in mid April 2016. Now, that isn’t accurate, First Minister; it was your Government, with the direct knowledge of your own private office, that suggested this as an alternative to a 100 per cent guarantee in the first week of April. So, will you now take the opportunity to correct the record?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I can say that the model that is being examined now is not that model—it’s a wholly different model. He makes the insinuation that, somehow, this has been pushed back for some insidious reason. I can tell him that, unlike him, we do conduct proper due diligence; people expect that, and people in Blaenau Gwent expect that. They want to be sure—and we want to see this project delivered, but it has to be delivered on a sustainable basis. They would expect us, in Blaenau Gwent, to look at this very carefully, in order to make sure that the project stands up on its own for years to come. We have received the majority of the reports already. The remaining reports we expect to see in the course of this week. There is no strange thing going on there—that is because we awaited further information from the Heads of the Valleys Development Company themselves. We don’t expect any more information from them now. And I can say that officials are preparing a comprehensive project appraisal report, there will be a Cabinet paper drafted, and a decision will be taken before the end of the month.
 
13:39
Lynne NeagleBiography
First Minister, I very much welcome your positive statement about wanting the circuit to succeed. And, as you’re aware, some of the biggest names in automotive engineering and research have written to you—Aston Martin, TVR, Taylors—demonstrating their confidence in the project, and urging a swift, positive decision. Are you able to confirm today what date the Cabinet is likely to meet to make a decision on this?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I would expect the Cabinet to meet in the course of the next fortnight, with the decision being taken, of course, at that Cabinet meeting. That is the plan at this moment in time. We want to get this dealt with, obviously, as the people of Blaenau Gwent would as well. I understand the great enthusiasm for the project, but we also have to temper that, of course, with ensuring that the project stacks up on its own, that the level of risk is acceptable, that there is substantial investment from the private sector, and that’s what we’ve been working with with the Circuit of Wales team. We want to be in a position where we can look at a sustainable model in a fortnight’s time, and, as I say, what I would like to do is deliver the Circuit of Wales, but we have to make sure that the model is robust, and that’s the point that we’re at now.
 
13:40
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Your Cabinet Secretary on 17 May stated that due diligence is an important part of consideration in financing any project and that he would not short-cut that process. Recently it was claimed that the Circuit of Wales project could be lost to Scotland. If the Welsh Government does not make a decision soon, will you confirm that scaremongering such as this will not result in decision making until the most rigorous assessment of the viability and economic benefit of this project has been made or completed by your Government?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
People would expect us, as a Government, to examine any project, particularly one of this importance and size, in great detail to make sure that we can be satisfied if we are being asked to deliver support, and, of course, private sector investors will do exactly the same thing. As I say, on these benches we want to see the project move forward, but it is important for all concerned, including the people of Blaenau Gwent, that the fullest examination of the proposal is done in order to provide reassurance for the future.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:41
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Questions now from the party leaders. Leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:42
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, could I identify myself with the comments that you made about the tragedies in London earlier on in the week? Obviously, we do stand shoulder to shoulder with the citizens of London and Manchester, and, ultimately, by getting about our normal way of life, we are defeating these terrorists—these thugs—who are inflicting such terrible, terrible tragedies on some of our communities. And, whilst we might live in Wales, we stand shoulder to shoulder with the communities in London and anywhere else where people feel under threat.
 
I would like to ask you, with that in mind, with the general election now on Thursday, obviously people will be voting on commitments made by the parties, and you, yesterday, in your role as First Minister, said that Labour, if they were to win on Thursday, would get rid of the Barnett formula. Yet today, we’ve had Scottish Labour firmly coming out and saying that there are no plans to get rid of the Barnett formula. Who’s right, Kezia Dugdale or Carwyn Jones?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I’ve spoken to Kezia Dugdale. What we do know is the Tories will take money away from both Wales and Scotland, and that is something that is pretty clear in terms of their manifesto. The situation is quite simply this: upon the election of a Labour Government, Barnett would remain in place in the short term. There would then be a long-term funding formula put in place according to the needs of the different nations and regions of the UK, ensuring, of course, that no part of the UK is unfairly disadvantaged. That means that Barnett would come to an end at that time. I wonder where the commitment from the Conservatives is to ensure fair funding for Wales.
 
13:43
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Well, as well you know, the agreement between the Welsh Government and the Westminster Government put the funding floor in place, which was warmly endorsed by your Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government only in December of last year. Thirteen years—you did nothing. But that’s not quite what the Scottish Conservatives are saying, and I offered you the opportunity to actually clarify your position because you were very robust last night in saying that the Barnett formula would be scrapped. Actually, what the Scottish Labour party are saying is that there will be no scrapping of the Barnett formula, and these are their words:
 
‘Not to scrap the Barnett formula’.
 
All that is merely being proposed in the next Parliament—these are their words—is a long-term consultation to look at funding the UK allocates around the public expenditure that comes from Westminster to ensure that it reflects the nations and the regions of the United Kingdom. Those are their words, those are. That isn’t getting rid of the Barnett formula at all. Are you misleading the people of Wales with your comments yesterday, First Minister?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That is exactly what it means. If there is a new formula in place, that is the end of Barnett, at that point. Of course, in the short term Barnett would remain because there’s nothing else in place at that time, but we want to make sure that Wales receives fair funding. Yes, we came to an agreement on funding, and that’s because the UK Government resolutely refused to look at funding as far as Wales is concerned. It was a compromise position. We have never changed our position, as a Government, that the Barnett formula has run towards the end of its life, and now is the time to start planning for a new formula that would reflect the proper needs of the different nations and regions of the UK as they are now, not as they were in 1979.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, you were very clear last night in that you were saying you were scrapping the Barnett formula, full stop. There was no equivocation around that. You were saying that last night on the television and through the news. Scottish Labour Party are saying, quite clearly, there will be no scrapping of the Barnett formula. How on earth can anyone take any of the pledges that you are making seriously, when you have been caught out in the last week of this campaign? Ultimately—[Interruption.] The Labour Party—[Interruption.] The Labour Party—
 
13:45
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Let Andrew R.T. Davies continue his question.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
The Labour Party might mock, but, ultimately, the funding of public services is a vital consideration for the electorate on Thursday. We have put a funding floor in place, with agreement of the Welsh Government, that guarantees that funding in Wales will not go under £115 for every £100 that is spent in England. You, yesterday, said that Labour Party policy was to get rid of the Barnett formula. Scottish Labour Party are saying that is not the case, and all that will come forward is a consultation. Is there a fact that all Labour policies are just built on sand, First Minister?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Isn’t it a shame that he will not support a situation where Wales gets the funding it deserves? Isn’t it a shame? It tells really of the way that they think. Isn’t it a shame that he was not there to make these points in such a good debate on television? You know, I’m sure that it was possible to see a live broadcast from Gran Canaria to make sure that his view was put forward as somebody who claims to be the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. As he rightly said, the Secretary of State was unwilling to take part in the third debate—because he pulled out because I was in it. That’s what we heard. He was not willing to come and debate—and other leaders as well—and to put forward the Conservative case. He has some brass neck to come before this Chamber and say that somehow things are a shambles on these benches when, on three different occasions, the Tories couldn’t even field the same person in three different debates, so lacking in confidence were they in their own case. We’ve seen over the past few days shambles after shambles after shambles in the Conservative party. I invite him to read the UK Labour manifesto, where it’s absolutely clear, where it says that there will be a new funding formula that reflects the needs of different nations and regions of the UK—a commitment we have made; a commitment his party has run from.
 
13:47
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Plaid Cymru Leader, Leanne Wood.
 
13:47
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, on Thursday, people will go to the polls in what is a very important election. It’s been noted how you’ve airbrushed your UK party leader out of your campaign, and how you have issued a separate manifesto. There are two Labour manifestos—three, if you count the Scottish manifesto that was referred to earlier.
 
In the interests of openness, transparency, and honesty just before people cast their votes on Thursday, will you tell us: are Labour MPs elected in Wales next Thursday bound by the commitments in your manifesto or by the commitments in your UK Labour leader’s manifesto?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
By the Welsh Labour manifesto, because there is no dichotomy between the two manifestos. The leader of Plaid Cymru might have noticed that devolution occurred in 1999, and, on that basis, it’s not possible for political parties who have a presence in the different nations of the UK to produce a manifesto that’s exactly the same. We reflect the reality of devolution, and that’s exactly what we’ve done in our manifesto. There is no contradiction in terms of the Welsh Labour manifesto and the UK Labour manifesto, saving areas that are devolved, where the decisions regarding those policies are made here.
 
13:49
Leanne WoodBiography
You say there are no differences. First Minister, there are differences in the two manifestos, but I’ll come back to that shortly. Your party leader has been described variously as ‘the man who broke the Labour Party’—that was Chris Bryant—a ‘lunatic at the top of the Labour Party’—that was Owen Smith—‘hard left’ and ‘out of touch with the electorate’—that was Stephen Kinnock. Would you like to associate yourself with any of those statements about your leader, or would you like to take this opportunity to distance yourself from the views of those Welsh Labour candidates?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, let me make it very, very clear: Jeremy Corbyn would make an excellent Prime Minister. He would offer hope for Britain as opposed to the endless succession of Tory cuts that we have seen from the benches opposite. We would see a Government that would take Britain forward, would deliver a proper, devolved settlement for Wales, based on the legislation that we have put forward, while, at the same time, we see Plaid Cymru looking at creating a coalition with the Tories in Conwy.
 
13:50
Leanne WoodBiography
They always trot that one out, don’t they, when they’ve got nothing left? First Minister, you must be very desperate to play on people’s—
 
13:50
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Okay. We do need to hear what’s being asked and the answers. So, let’s all calm down and look forward to next week.
 
13:50
Leanne WoodBiography
I want to come back to this point about the differences in the manifestos between you and your UK Labour leader. Zero-hours contracts bans, tuition fees scrapped, the railways in public hands: that’s what’s in the UK manifesto. Labour is in power here and none of these policies have been implemented. Can we get a commitment from you now that you will give your unmitigated support to those policies now that it’s official policy of your party, or are you accepting that you are about to mislead the electorate on Thursday?
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There’s nothing more misleading than a party that says, ‘We want more money from Westminster’, but at the same time says, ‘We want independence from Westminster’. That is a fundamental contradiction. But she asks three questions. First of all, if the money is made available to us to look again at student finance then we will do so—of course we will. Zero-hours contracts are in the main not devolved. We do not support zero-hours contracts. They’re grandstanding on that. We, as a party, want to make sure that we see a society that is fair, that is just, and where people have the opportunities they need to flourish in the future. Only a Labour Government in the UK can do that. Plaid Cymru can deliver nothing.
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Leader of the UKIP group, Neil Hamilton.
 
13:51
Neil HamiltonBiographyLeader of the UKIP Wales Group
Diolch, Llywydd. I’m sure I’ll carry the First Minister with me in saying that the last 10 minutes have proved, if nothing else, that the time for sterile political point-scoring is long past in this general election campaign to have any positive effect either way, and therefore we should concentrate more on building a successful economic future for Wales collectively, supporting other parties where that’s necessary. And, to that extent, I’d like to refer back to the question that Adam Price asked immediately before party leaders’ questions, and I take what the First Minister said in response to his supplementary about how the Government must conduct proper due diligence of the current proposal, but the auditor general’s report on the initial funding of this project contains a catalogue of opportunities for due diligence to be conducted over the last five years, starting with the calling in of the planning application in 2012, which was approved by Carl Sargeant on account of its socioeconomic benefits. In 2014, we had the initial funding of £16 million for the development of the project, then we had a public inquiry on the deregistration of the common land. Then, in April 2016, Edwina Hart rejected the first guarantee application. In July 2016, Ken Skates rejected the second guarantee proposal, which then led to intensive discussions with officials on a variety of important issues, and then, this year, in January, we had the fully funded term sheets provided by the company and we were told due diligence was to last three to four weeks. That was then extended to six weeks and then it’s been extended further, and the First Minister today has given us, I hope, an end date for the consideration of this proposal. So, we’ve had endless due diligence, and I know that the auditor general has made a number of important criticisms of the process. I don’t want to go into that now, because I want to see this project succeed and I hope, at the end of the day, that the Welsh Government is going to give it the go-ahead. But does he not think that this tortuous process is far too long, even though this is a massive project for the future? Its transformative potential is so great that we should have got on with this much more diligently than we have.
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
When it comes to a planning application or the deregistration of common land, due diligence wouldn’t occur at that point because they are not—. They are planning applications and they’re applications that are not to do with the robustness or not of a particular business. That comes later on. I make no apologies for the due diligence process. It is robust. It has taken longer that we would’ve wanted. That’s because information has had to be sought at certain points, and that information has been provided. I’ve given a date to Members by which we want to take that decision now and I’ve indicated to Members I would like to see this project proceed. But it has to proceed on a basis that is sustainable and where the risk to the public purse is acceptable.
 
13:54
Neil HamiltonBiography
I thank the First Minister for that reply. I see also on the BBC website today that the Government has been in talks with a view to getting the golf Open championship to come to Wales, and the Tour de France as well, and also there’s a possibility, if the Brussels stadium is not ready in time, that Euro 2020 could be held in Wales, and I would support the Government’s interest in that. Ken Skates has quite rightly said that Wales has great potential to host major new events that haven’t yet been to Wales. The Circuit of Wales has already got the contract for the Moto Grand Prix, and that’s yet another opportunity for us in Wales to show what we can do as a host for major world sports projects. And therefore this fits into the Government’s overall objective for making Wales a major international sports venue, and that’s another reason for us to see the success of this project.
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can only repeat what I’ve already said to him, that of course we recognise the potential of the circuit, and I’ve said that it’s something we would want to support, but it has to be based on a model that is sound, and a model that works well for both private and public investors.
 
13:55
Neil HamiltonBiography
And it’s also important to note that there is no request for any public money to be invested in this project upfront, and that all that is being sought is a guarantee, which is a commercial guarantee that the Government would pay to finance, which will be called only as and when all the construction on the site is completed, so there will be physical assets against which the loan can be secured. And, on an annual basis, the maximum risk to the Welsh Government is said to be £8.5 million to £9 million a year many, many years in the future for a limited period of time. So, the risk is secured on 100 per cent of the assets, but the guarantee is going to apply to less than half of the value of those assets. So, on the face of it, this does look a very good deal, and, whilst I appreciate we have to go through the due diligence process, it is, I think, of vital importance to the economic prosperity not just of south-east Wales but the whole of south Wales that this project does get the go-ahead.
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This is all being considered as part of the due diligence process. There is no difference to my mind in being asked to provide money upfront and being asked to provide a guarantee. The commitment is the same. Indeed, with a guarantee, there is a need for more robustness in terms of making sure that that guarantee is unlikely to be called upon. I think it can never be guaranteed—if I can use that—but it’s important that as much is done to minimise any risk to the public purse, and that’s what we’re looking at as part of this process. And, as I said before, it’s a project that has potential, and I think this has helped the circuit themselves—a robust testing process of their model is good for them. They are able then to think carefully about what they think will be sustainable in the longer term, and on that basis we look forward now, when all the information is in—we trust this week—to be able to take a decision over the course of the next two or three weeks.
 
Transport Links in Ynys Môn
 
13:57
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on transport links in Ynys Môn? OAQ(5)0637(FM)[W]
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We are committed to investing in a modern and high-quality integrated transport system to ensure Ynys Môn is a competitive and connected component of the Welsh and UK economy.
 
13:58
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Thank you. It's some two and a half years since the former Minister for the economy confirmed to me that work was ongoing to try and deliver plans to improve the links between the A55 and the port of Holyhead, where there are major traffic jams at the moment, particularly when lorries try to leave the port. Now, people ask me often when they will see this road completed, and I share their concerns about the delays. That connection was never truly completed; the A55 was built to the surrounds of the port, but not in and out of the port. Now, I understand that we need other investments, too, in the port. I would appreciate a sign of commitment from the Government to proceed with renovation work on the barrage, or the cob, in the longer term, but can we have a short-term commitment here and now that this crucial connection will see the light of day, in line with the aspirations of people living in that part of Holyhead, who are concerned that there is a risk in the current situation, as well as it being a nuisance, of course?
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Discussions have taken place with Network Rail on this; the Minister has been involved in those. This is part of the considerations on the development of the port itself. And, of course, as regards the island, Ynys Môn, we are now looking at a third crossing on the Menai strait. The next phase of development has begun, and a route will be declared in May 2018. And so that is progressing in the way in which we would expect.
 
14:00
Mark IsherwoodBiography
You referred to the third Menai crossing, and clearly, congestion on the existing Menai and Britannia bridges has been a problem for many years. It’s a decade since a Welsh Government-commissioned report identified eight options, including a new bridge, but that didn’t go forward to delivery. You said last May that you’d promise to make the third crossing your priority for north Wales if you form a Government and, of course, your Government announced before Christmas last year that it had appointed consultants to look at routes for a proposed new crossing to Anglesey, which could begin by 2021 if it gets the go-ahead. Can you provide an assurance that we’re not going to have a re-run of 2007 when we had similar assurances after a commissioned report was produced for the Welsh Government and that you envisage this going ahead on the basis of the situation remaining as it currently does?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We have appointed Aecom to support our next phase of the development work. That will result in the announcement of a preferred route in May 2018. Our aim is to see the third Menai crossing open in 2022.
 
Ford in Bridgend
 
14:01
Suzy DaviesBiography
4. Will the First Minister provide an update on discussions the Welsh Government has held regarding the Ford plant in Bridgend? OAQ(5)0638(FM)
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Those discussions are ongoing. I met with the chief executive officer of Ford Europe before Christmas. We are aware of the plans for the facility and we’re working closely with all stakeholders to guarantee the future of the site and its workforce.
 
14:01
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. In March, your Cabinet Secretary told us that Ford management had told him that employment numbers would remain broadly the same until 2021. He also said that he thought that Ford management could communicate better with its employees and its members regarding the long-term objectives for the plant. Since then, can you tell us whether Ford has kept you informed of whether there have actually been any falls in order numbers, and if there have been any falls, how the guaranteed number of workers is being deployed at the plant—bearing in mind, of course, that they’ll have individual expertise—and, of course, whether they’ve been getting regular updates on that long-term objective and achievement against that?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, they have. There are a number of possibilities that are being explored at the Ford plant. We shouldn’t forget that, in September last year, Ford did announce that it would invest £100 million in the site from late 2018. I think it’s fair to say that the biggest challenge that the plant faces is Brexit. Every single engine that leaves that plant is exported into the European market and so the terms that surround the exporting of those engines will be important as far as the plant is concerned. But we are working very closely with the company. I’ve met, in my capacity as an Assembly Member, several times with them and with the works council, and as First Minister, of course, I have taken an interest in ensuring that the plant continues to operate in the future and continues to employ similar numbers in the future.
 
14:02
Dai LloydBiography
Further to that response, First Minister, last month, the European chief of Ford warned that the future of the company in the UK depended on the ability of the Government in London to ensure transitional agreements with the European Union if the UK leaves that economic bloc before a new trade deal is signed. Have you met with Ford and the Government in London to discuss this issue further since that time?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I've met with the Ford CEO and also Ford Europe, and there are discussions taking place between the Minister and officials. It is true to say that there are concerns about what will happen following the United Kingdom’s departure from Europe. Nobody believes that there will be any kind of complete agreement in March 2019, and so the transitional arrangements will be crucial for Ford, as with other manufacturers. This is something that Ford is discussing. They’ve been talking to us about it, and, of course, our standpoint is this: that it is vital for Ford and a number of other companies in Wales that they have unfettered access to the European market.
 
The Health Service
 
14:04
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the health service in Wales? OAQ(5)0634(FM)
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Our priority for the health service throughout Wales is to provide high-quality care to Welsh patients in the right place and at the right time by continuing to protect investment, drive performance and deliver the range of commitments set out in ‘Taking Wales Forward’.
 
14:04
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
I have to be honest with you, First Minister, I stand here today not very confident of that, and I’ll tell you why: since your own Government interventions and special measures were placed on Betsi Cadwaldr university health board two years ago, 227 per cent more patients are waiting over 12 hours in A&E and 194 complaints came in last year—this is actually 30 per cent of the total of all complaints in Wales. We have a 7,000 per cent increase in patients now waiting for over 36 weeks for oral surgery, and a 5,000 per cent increase for orthopaedics and trauma.
 
I have repeatedly asked questions of you here, and in writing, and of your Cabinet Secretary, on behalf of many of my constituents who you are failing and who are struggling as a result—many in pain—of these failings. I’ve asked you for detail as to how you are monitoring performance outcomes as part of your special measures. Will you tell me at what point you believe that your Government interventions, at a cost already of over £10 million, have actually resulted in any material improvement? At what stage do you intend to actually pull the process of special measures, believing that your interventions have worked, that they’ve been successful, that we have a relevant and necessary—
 
14:05
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
This is going way beyond a question now. Can you—
 
14:06
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
With all due respect, you’ve allowed longer questions—
 
14:06
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
No, there is no—[Interruption.] Show some respect. Complete your question.
 
14:06
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Right. My question is: at what point do you believe that you will withdraw special measures, believing that your interventions have helped in any way? Because I can tell you now, my constituents—
 
14:06
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The question is over. Please reply, First Minister.
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The health board is not yet ready to be moved out of special measures. I can say, for example, that the health board has virtually eliminated diagnostic waits over 8 weeks, with March 2017 being 94 per cent lower than March 2016. This is the lowest the health board has been since the standard was introduced in April 2010. Cancer performance in the health board is consistently amongst the best in Wales. March performance figures are 92.5 per cent for the 62-day target, the best performance since January 2016, and 98.6 per cent for the 31-day target. I can say that BCU has significantly improved the percentage of CAMHS referrals seen within 28 days from 18 per cent in April 2016 to 89 per cent in March 2017. The number of delayed transfers of care in Betsi Cadwaladr reduced again in April down to 90, there have been reductions in five out of six months since October 2016, and that figure is 41 per cent lower in October, and 40 per cent better than the same period last year.
 
That’s a real achievement, just to give you some examples, given winter pressures and year-on-year increases in demand for health and social services. If there’s one thing I can say: as I have spoken to people on the doorstep all across the north of Wales, the last thing they want is the Tories in charge and Jeremy Hunt in charge.
 
14:07
Dawn BowdenBiography
First Minister, a couple of months ago the Naylor report was published, and the report highlights the dire state of the NHS estates capability in England. Theresa May has indicated that she will action the report’s recommendations, which includes selling off many parts of the NHS estate in England as part of a process including a two-for-one, buy-one-get-one-free deal, if you like, to tempt private companies.
 
Can you assure me, First Minister, that here in Wales we will maintain the publicly owned status of our NHS estate, and not follow the route proposed by the Tories in selling off the estate to mask their gross underfunding of the NHS in England?
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we see in England delayed transfers of care going up, we see waiting times going up, we see the great popularity of Jeremy Hunt, of course, as the Secretary of State—he’s been mobbed in the streets, we know that. We saw the doctors’ strike that took place in England. We have no plans at all to follow what is suggested in England, namely to sell off large chunks of the NHS in order to plug a gap in funding that the Tories themselves have created.
 
Dementia
 
14:08
Jayne BryantBiography
6. How does the Welsh Government plan to raise awareness about dementia in Wales? OAQ(5)0633(FM)
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re already running annual campaigns about how individuals can reduce their risk of developing dementia. The dementia strategic action plan, due to be published in the autumn, will set out our further plans to raise awareness about dementia in Wales.
 
14:09
Jayne BryantBiography
Diolch, First Minister. There are an estimated 45,000 people in Wales living with dementia. If the current trend continues, the number of people living with the disease will increase by over 40 per cent over the next 12 years. Raising awareness and understanding the disease is crucial. I was proud to present South Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Newport stations with their Dementia Friends logo, and I’m particularly pleased that St Joseph’s high school in my constituency has become the first dementia-friendly secondary school in Wales. Will you join with me in congratulating both St Joseph’s school and South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and look at how the Welsh Government can work closely with others to promote this free training, particularly amongst our young people?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I do very much welcome the example that’s been given there. We do work with other organisations, of course, such as the Alzheimer’s Society and others, to maintain the momentum of the Dementia Friends and the Dementia Supportive Communities campaigns so that more and more people understand what it’s like to live with dementia, as well as being able to recognise its symptoms. That means, of course, making sure that we do look at how we can make more buildings and environments dementia friendly, to enable people to live as normal a life as they can for as long as they can.
 
14:10
Paul DaviesBiography
First Minister, a year-long study by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust and the Farming Community Network has noted a number of concerns about the impact of dementia in rural areas that we need to tackle, including a lack of awareness of the support available in rural areas, as well as the difficulty in accessing support services. So, in light of those concerns, what additional work is the Welsh Government doing to raise awareness of the support available for those living in more rural, isolated communities, and can you also tell us one specific measure that your Government has put in place over the last 12 months to assist people in rural communities who have dementia?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We of course consider any new report that shows how we can improve the services in rural areas. But, across Wales, of course, we’ve funded an information pack with regard to living with dementia, and that has been welcomed by the professionals working in the field, people suffering with dementia and their families and carers. And, of course, there is a helpline available on a daily basis—it’s available 24/7 throughout the year, and it can give emotional support to those who have been diagnosed with dementia and those who care for them. Those are some of the ways in which we've ensured that the support is available, not only for the sufferers, but for their carers, too.
 
Affordable Homes
 
14:11
Hannah BlythynBiography
7. What is the Welsh Government doing to increase the number of affordable homes in north-east Wales? OAQ(5)0632(FM)
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We support a range of housing tenures in the north-east of Wales and, indeed, across Wales. We will continue to invest in social housing and affordable home ownership. In addition, we are bringing forward new programmes aiming to make buying a home more accessible.
 
14:12
Hannah BlythynBiography
Thank you, First Minister. I welcome this Government’s commitment to creating new, decent and affordable homes. We’re actually seeing this commitment put into action in Flintshire, with the partnership of a Labour council and a Welsh Labour Government working together to see the first new council houses in a generation—82 new council houses. I had the pleasure of going to visit the first few that are now open with my colleague David Hanson and with the Cabinet Secretary for local government. These are really amazing, brilliant new homes for people in the heart of Flint, in the heart of the community. First Minister, will you today give a further concrete commitment—if you’d excuse the pun—to build on this and ensure much greater numbers of affordable, decent homes under this Government?
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I very much welcome the building of new homes, particularly by an innovative council such as Flintshire. I’ve seen the homes; indeed, I’ve seen them twice in the past fortnight, for reasons that she’ll be familiar with. But it’s an innovative approach that’s been taken in Flintshire. We want to see more of that approach across the whole of Wales. Flintshire are ahead in their approach to council house building. I want others to follow the example of a good Labour-led authority.
 
The Steel Industry
 
14:13
David ReesBiography
8. What recent discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding the future of the steel industry in Wales? OAQ(5)0625(FM)
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The UK Government has lost interest in the steel industry in Wales. That is my analysis at the moment, sadly. We will continue to press the UK Government to play its full part in supporting a long-term future for the steel industry in Wales, as the Welsh Government has done.
 
14:13
David ReesBiography
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. I think it’s telling, the answer you’ve given. But, last week, I met with senior managers at the Port Talbot works, and we were actually discussing the progress that’s been made within the sector, and particularly in the plant. I think we all came to the conclusion that, unfortunately, there are still serious challenges ahead of the sector here in the UK, particularly in light of Brexit and the possible WTO tariffs that may be imposed if we leave without any deal. The high overcharges of energy costs are still facing us, and, of course, the global market may be shrinking, because of the US section 232 that may be going ahead on imported steel in the US. Now, steelworkers at that plant are actually breaking records in production. They are delivering on the ground and they’re showing there’s a future for steel. Unfortunately, the UK Government, so far, has failed these workers. They have failed our steel industry. They have shown scant regard in the industrial strategy and there is no mention of steel in their manifesto for this election. Do you agree with me that, just like the Welsh Government here has shown, our steel industry is safer in the hands of a UK Labour Government on 8 June?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. We have worked hard with Tata—and, in fairness, Tata have listened—to ensure a sustainable future for our steel industry in Wales. There is the threat of Brexit. A hard Brexit would mean, in effect, that the only free market that UK steel was able to access would be the UK itself. I think that’s too small to provide a robust market. I hope that isn’t the case. We all want to see a situation where the UK can export freely to as many markets as possible, but I pay tribute to the workers in Tata. They have shown that when the going gets tough, then the tough get going. They are amongst the most productive workers that we have in Britain. They have a long and proud history and they know that when it comes to the support that they can expect, then Welsh Labour will deliver that support.
 
Primary Care Services
 
14:15
Darren MillarBiography
9. Will the First Minister make a statement on what the Welsh Government is doing to improve primary care services in north Wales? OAQ(5)0639(FM)
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We continue to work with the health board and other partners to undertake a range of actions to modernise and improve primary care services that are safe and sustainable and as close to people’s homes as possible.
 
14:15
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, you’ll be aware that the British Medical Association was warning, many years ago—in fact, as far back as 2013—that we needed to be training more doctors in Wales, and they were warning of a crisis in general practitioner recruitment. You dismissed those assertions at that time, yet since then we’ve seen over a dozen surgeries across Wales handing in their contracts, saying that they want to terminate contracts—usually because of recruitment problems. The most recent of which is in Colwyn Bay, my own constituency: the second in Colwyn Bay in just six months. This is a big concern to the thousands of people registered with the Rysseldene surgery in my constituency. It is in, at the moment, a purpose-built primary care centre, which it shares with another local surgery, and there are concerns that the withdrawal of the Rysseldene contract may actually put the viability of that new facility at risk.
 
Can I ask: why didn’t you listen to the BMA when they raised their concerns? Why didn’t you increase sufficiently the number of GP training posts in Wales? You’ve been responsible for the lack of GP training over the years in Wales. You’ve been at the helm—nobody else. You can’t blame the UK Government for this. So, what action are you taking to rescue the situation in my own constituency in Colwyn Bay? And furthermore, what action are you taking to make sure that Wales has sufficient numbers of GPs going forward?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
On the first point, what is important is the service that’s provided to those who need it. It doesn’t have to be provided with the same model across the whole of Wales. He will be aware that in Prestatyn two surgeries did the same thing: they handed in their contracts. What was put in place was better than what was there before: a far more comprehensive service run directly by the health board. And I know that the health board is looking to provide a similar service to the people of Colwyn Bay. Understandably, they want to know what the future of the service is, but it doesn’t have to be on the contractor model.
 
Increasingly, we know that trainee GPs—many of them—are not interested in buying into a practice; they want to be salaried. Some will want to buy into a practice, but increasingly, they come out of university, they don’t want to find the money in order to buy into a practice, and that is an issue that the medical profession itself must look at in terms of what the model should be in the future. The contractor model will still be an important part of GP delivery in the future, but increasingly we are seeing that the younger ones, particularly, want to become salaried and are happy to work for a health board direct.
 
In terms of recruitment: he will know in October 2016 we launched a new international campaign to promote Wales as a place for doctors to work and train. That national campaign has resulted in a 16 per cent increase in the number of GP training places filled so far, compared to last year. As part of that campaign, an incentive scheme is in place to recruit people to some areas. Trainees who take up a training place in a specified area will receive some financial support, and that is an example of us delivering to make sure that the supply of GPs is at least sufficient in the years to come.
 
Eye Care Services
 
14:19
Dai LloydBiography
10. Will the First Minister make a statement on follow-up waiting times for outpatient eye care services in Welsh hospitals? OAQ(5)0628(FM)
 
14:19
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We expect all patients to be seen in order of clinical priority and within our waiting times targets. And, of course, Welsh Government, the NHS and third sector partners are working together to improve the delivery of ophthalmology services for both new and follow-up patients.
 
14:19
Dai LloydBiography
Thank you for that response. Now, in the most recent cross-party group meeting on sight, we discussed data that show that health boards the length and breadth of Wales had 37,247 patients who were suffering delays in terms of their follow-up appointments in ophthalmology. Clinical investigations have shown that some 90 per cent of these patients are at risk of permanent damage to their sight—that’s 33,351 individuals in Wales who are at risk of losing their sight. Do you agree that this is a disgrace? And would you agree to publish the number of patients who are suffering delays to their follow-up treatment as part of your regular data on the performance of the health service?
 
14:20
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we have seen an increase in the number of people who want ophthalmological treatment—that’s true—but a scheme has been established, led by the clinicians themselves in order to transform the way in which the services are delivered. Health boards have stated that arrangements are in place to ensure that more clinics are available to ensure that people can receive the treatment. Of course, that is very effective in getting rid of the backlog of patients who need the treatment now rather than having to wait, and that means that the waiting time for wet AMD is now under a fortnight—of course, the guidelines that have been given to the health boards.
 
14:21
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:21
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item on our agenda is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the leader of the house, Jane Hutt.
 
14:21
Jane HuttBiographyThe Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Diolch, Llywydd. There are several changes to this week’s business. Today’s oral statements will issue as written statements, and the debate on the school nursing framework has been withdrawn. As no questions have been tabled for answer by the Assembly Commission, the Business Committee has agreed to amend tomorrow’s timings accordingly. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement found among the meeting papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:21
Darren MillarBiography
Can I ask you whether we can have a statement on the A55 trunk road? The Minister will be aware that there was an incident over the weekend that caused 13-mile tailbacks on the A55. This is in the height of the, sort of, tourism season in that part of north Wales. That tailback continued for five hours. It was so long a duration that people were literally doing line dancing on the A55 dual carriageway; they were playing cricket on the A55 dual carriageway. Now, I know that from time to time there will be incidents on this very busy trunk road, which does not have sufficient hard shoulders for the whole of its length, but there was significant cost incurred by the taxpayer a few years ago in order to install gates within the central barrier of the A55. We need an explanation, I think, for the people of north Wales, and for the tourism businesses that were affected by this horrendous tailback, as to why those central barriers were not opened on this occasion and why that delay continued for such a long time. These things are unacceptable and we have to start using and reaping the rewards of the investment that has been made in that part of the trunk road network. Can we have a statement on this so that we don’t have to endure these sorts of embarrassing problems and cock-ups again in the future?
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
Well, Darren Millar, I think you’re aware of the tragic circumstances that led to this very unfortunate hold-up. I think it’s important to say that, from Easter, we’ve seen a culmination of four years of imperative improvement work, especially to the tunnels of the A55, recent road surface improvements, flood alleviation work and urgent maintenance work, but the Cabinet Secretary does recognise the importance of looking at the resilience of the A55. He’s commissioning a resilience study to determine how best to achieve this in terms of making sure that journeys along the A55 are as reliable as possible, delivering for local people, businesses and visitors alike. Of course, this resilience study will be based on the most recent data figures from the Welsh Government and others, and it will look at all aspects of the road, identifying where and how best to improve travel experience, how to minimise frequency and impact of incidents and breakdowns, and it will complement existing plans for improvement while continuing to ensure that the disruption of roadworks are kept to an absolute minimum.
 
14:24
Mike HedgesBiography
We have a very large number of small and medium-sized companies in Wales but we have a distinct shortage of indigenous large companies. I would like to ask for a Government statement on proposals to support the growth of medium-sized businesses, which we seem to have quite a lot of, into large businesses, especially in industries such as construction, and also what the Government can do in letting contracts to let them in such a way that they will benefit current medium-sized companies, which are indigenous to Wales, as opposed to very large companies, which tend, certainly in construction, to be based over the border.
 
14:25
Jane HuttBiography
Mike Hedges, of course, is very aware of the fact that SMEs—the small to medium-sized enterprises—are the backbone of the Welsh economy. It’s the next stage, as you say—growing into medium-sized businesses and beyond. We remain committed to doing all we can to support them to grow and flourish. The construction sector is dominated by SMEs and that’s why the Construction Industry Training Board in Wales is such an important partner. Our Construction Futures Wales programme—that’s specifically tailored to assist them to grow and develop. Also, looking at the opportunities and the importance of house building—helping to diversify the market, promote innovation, increasing housing supply, and assisting those Welsh SME builders to develop and grow into the larger enterprises of the future. Of course, one can draw attention to programmes such as Help to Buy, and also ensure that house building, as one aspect of this, is seen as an extremely important part of the Welsh economy.
 
14:26
Russell GeorgeBiography
Leader of the house, a couple of weeks ago here in Plenary, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Infrastructure agreed to publish the Welsh Government’s response to the UK Government’s industrial strategy. Please can you confirm when it will be published?
 
14:26
Jane HuttBiography
The Cabinet Secretary did respond positively, Russell George, to that request. He indicated he would share a copy of the Welsh Government response to the UK industrial strategy. That response now is ready, and will be shared with all AMs. It will be sent to all AMs. That, of course, is a letter to Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and you will of course receive a copy of that as soon as it’s issued, which is imminent.
 
14:27
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Vikki Howells. Huw Irranca-Davies.
 
14:27
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
Could we, in light of President Trump’s recent cowardly retreat from one of the biggest challenges facing this generation and future generations on climate change, find time for another statement from our Cabinet Secretary on climate change? Last year, when the Cabinet Secretary returned from the talks and the convention in Marrakesh, she made clear the role of nations and regions and cities in tackling climate change, and no matter the size of that nation, the importance of this for its people, but also people overseas and people of future generations, in tackling the massive risks that we face, but also gaining the opportunities that come from tackling climate change.
 
So, in light of President Trump’s statement, I think it’s an opportune moment to actually have a refreshed statement on that, which would be welcome. It would also, perhaps, give us a chance to see where people in this Chamber stand on this issue, not least in light of the leader of UKIP in this Chamber actually writing to President Trump welcoming his announcement—
 
‘a very warm invitation to you in Wales and hope you may be able to fit in a visit to your fellow Celts here’,
 
where he’d find this retreat from climate change would be very welcome indeed. I think we need to disabuse him of that notion.
 
14:28
Jane HuttBiography
I think that many here would share that view, Huw Irranca-Davies. In Wales we not only endorse the Paris agreement, but we already have legislation in place to deliver on this important long-term goal. Can I take this opportunity just to reflect on that? The benefits to be realised through a transition to a low-carbon economy are recognised globally, and why we saw the support for the Paris agreement, not only setting the context for tackling the causes and consequences of climate change, but also setting the context of the decarbonisation of the global economy. Through our legislation—we put in place the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016—the legislative foundations have been laid for delivery against the Paris agreement.
 
You also talked about the importance of the regional alliances that have developed. Wales, along with other states and regions, such as those who have just formed the United States Climate Alliance—California, New York, Washington—are already making a difference through collective action, through the memorandum of understanding on sub-national global climate leadership, which covers 33 countries, six continents and collectively represents more than $27.5 trillion in gross domestic product, equivalent to 37 per cent of the global economy. Of course, Wales was a founding signatory to this important MOU, and I think the Cabinet Secretary will want to indeed come forward with a statement to update on our position in Wales, and make our position very clear in order for others to comment.
 
14:30
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Can I call for a single statement on the protection of fisheries in Wales, after issues regarding the failure to protect fisheries in Wales, in consequence of Welsh Government policy, were covered in the national angling paper ‘The Angler’s Mail’? This highlighted a serious decline in fishing in Wales. It said that the Welsh equivalent of the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, had been branded no longer fit for purpose by fishing and environmental groups, and that of the 6,886 reports of water pollution that Natural Resources Wales received between 2013 and 2016, only 60 per cent were investigated, and there were just 41 prosecutions and 10 civil sanctions, amounting to less than 1 per cent of incidents reported. There has been a steep decline in fish numbers in recent years in Wales.
 
‘The regulator needs to take a much tougher stance but…The organisation is unwieldy, too bureaucratic and they don’t seem to have a strategy’.
 
They did say that they were meeting with officials in the Welsh Assembly, by which I presume they mean the Welsh Government, to demand action, concluding that there’s been a national failure of Welsh Government to tackle the problem. Given particularly their reference to Welsh Government in the article, and their reference to a meeting with officials, could we have a statement to bring us up to date, not only on what was concluded, but what actions, if any, have resulted?
 
14:31
Jane HuttBiography
Well, it would be helpful, Mark Isherwood, if you wrote to the Cabinet Secretary on this matter, and, of course, as her officials are already engaged in that discussion, I think it would be not only a matter of courtesy, but also of clarification, if you wrote to the Cabinet Secretary accordingly.
 
14:32
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Leader of the house, may I ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government on loans and grants issued by local authorities in Wales for the refurbishment of properties and business properties in Wales? A constituent of mine was actually given £20,000 to improve his business property. He injected his own £9,000, so it cost him nearly £29,000 three years ago. After three years, the local council is insisting he pay the £20,000 back. If he doesn’t, they will take his property and repossess it. So, that is the sort of scenario businesses are facing, which is totally unacceptable, I think, for those businesses who want to improve in Wales. And we want to improve those in the most deprived areas in south-east Wales. Whilst I recognise the value of these grants and loans in upgrading properties, could we have statement on why local authorities can insist on or demand repayments of original loans in full after three years, and businesses are not been given much time to pay back over a much longer time? Now, they want the whole money with interest. So, could you please make a statement on this issue? Thank you.
 
14:33
Jane HuttBiography
I think the Member will recognise that this is a matter for local authorities in terms of their audit and governance arrangements, and I don’t think this is a matter for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government.
 
14:33
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Leader of the house, is it possible to have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for regeneration, in relation to the Vibrant and Viable Places funding that the Welsh Government brings forward, obviously for regeneration across Wales? As I understand it, I think there’s a second tranche of that funding being made available, and I’d be very interested if the Cabinet Secretary would agree to specifically identify whether places that missed out on the first tranche of funding were now able to bid for an element of that second tranche. In my own electoral region, for example, Barry missed out first time around, and I’m sure that you being the constituency member would like to welcome the opportunity, if that money was available via the second tranche, for the new council to bid for such money if it is available.
 
14:34
Jane HuttBiography
Andrew R.T. Davies, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children is, imminently, going to be making a statement on this matter.
 
14:34
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Thank you to the leader of the house.
 
14:34
5. Debate: General Principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item on our agenda, therefore, is the debate on the general principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill, and I call the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language to move the motion. Alun Davies.
 
Motion NDM6323 Alun Davies
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales in accordance with Standing Order 26.11:
 
Agrees to the general principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill.
 
Motion moved.
 
14:34
Alun DaviesBiographyThe Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. I’m very pleased to be able to open this debate on the general principles of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. I’d like to focus my opening remarks on some of the themes and the purpose of the legislation, and then use the balance of my time to respond to Members, and points Members wish to raise, in my closing remarks.
 
Suzy Davies took the Chair.
 
Alun DaviesBiography
I think I want to start my contribution this afternoon with a very clear focus on the point and the purpose of this legislation. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that all learners in Wales have access to the richest possible learning experience. It is not right, and it is not acceptable, that people who have additional learning needs are not provided with the help and support and the structures and the environment and the ability to progress their learning, and to reach and fulfil the whole of their potential. This legislation is designed and is developed in order to do that.
 
It has been developed over a number of years, and I’m grateful to both my predecessor in this role and to others, in committees and elsewhere, for the work that they have done in producing the Bill that we have in front of us today. I am also very grateful for the contributions from opposition parties. I’ve said in previous remarks on this legislation that I hope to create and to enable a consensus to develop around and throughout this legislation, and I’m grateful to Members from all sides of the Chamber for the way in which they’ve conducted the debate, and the scrutiny of the legislation to date. I’m also very grateful to Members for the very broad welcome that the Bill, and the legislation, has received across the political spectrum.
 
I’d like to start my contribution, though, by thanking the Chairs and members of the three committees that have been involved in the scrutiny of this Bill, for their work over the last six months. I would in particular like to thank the Children, Young People and Education Committee for the comprehensive and inclusive approach that it’s taken towards this Bill. And I would also like to place on record my thanks to the many stakeholders and partners who have been involved in this work, and who are continuing to work with us to transform the education for children and young people with additional learning needs.
 
And in order to emphasise—and I would like to emphasise again in this debate—that what is important about this process is the transformational programme that this Bill is a part of. Quite often, when we bring legislation to this place, it is a discrete piece of legislation that deals with a particular issue. But, this Bill is a part of a wider transformational programme, and I think throughout our conversations, throughout our debates, and throughout our discussions, I’d like to emphasise it is a wider transformational programme: the investment in the system, the investment in people, the investment in what we’re seeking to achieve will create the means by which the Bill, the legislation and the structures that it will create will be able to succeed.
 
I hope that Members will agree that this is a vital piece of reform, and has the potential to support tens of thousands of children and young people when it is in place. The Bill will replace the current special educational needs system, putting in place a completely new system of support for children and young people with additional learning needs, up to the age of 25. Children and young people will have the right to an individual development plan that identifies the support they will need to help them to learn. The new additional learning needs system will be based around person-centred practice and early dispute resolution. Children, their parents and young people will all have a right to appeal to the education tribunal.
 
The Bill creates the new role of additional learning needs co-ordinators in schools, and the new post of designated lead officer in health boards, to improve the provision of support and co-ordination between health, education and local authorities. I hope that we will be able to look towards some of the issues that have arisen during Stage 1 scrutiny. A number of themes have emerged. I will make a few comments on each one of those, but I will also say at the outset of this debate that it is my intention to seek to accept the vast majority of recommendations from all three committees that have reported on this Bill.
 
An area of considerable focus has been healthcare needs. Children and young people who have a medical condition that contributes to an additional learning need are entitled to additional learner provision under the new system. There has been some debate about extending the definition of additional learning needs to include all medical conditions, including, for example, asthma or a peanut allergy, or whether or not they affect a child’s ability to learn. We have already issued statutory guidance to schools for children with long-term and short-term healthcare needs. This has been welcomed by many stakeholders, and I look forward to seeing responses from that statutory guidance as it beds in, and as it is being delivered by practitioners. I’m content, in principle, to consider the merits of an amendment to the definition of additional learning needs, to demonstrate its scope in relation to medical conditions. This is something that has been a matter of some discussion and I’ve said in private conversations that I’m happy to consider the merits of an amendment. I’d like to put that on the record as well and I would like to invite Members on all sides of the Chamber to contribute to a conversation whereby I hope we will be able to reach agreement on the wording of such an amendment.
 
There has also been some conversation on the role and potential provision of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have to say to Members that I am not convinced by the arguments put forward during Stage 1 scrutiny on this matter. The Bill is based upon children’s rights. It’s based upon a child’s right to education, ensuring those with different needs have access to education and that children and young people not only have a voice, but are at the very centre of the process to assess and meet their needs. Members will be aware that all UN conventions are written to apply to states and not to individuals or practitioners. It is not the purpose of any UN convention to be applied in the way that is being suggested and it is not the intention of this Government to do so. However it is, and has been for some time, the intention of this Government to ensure that UN conventions do inform the way that the Government operates, and I hope that Members on all sides of the Chamber will agree that the principles of the convention are well delivered through the statutory duties contained in this Bill.
 
I welcome the recognition by the Children, Young People and Education Committee and by stakeholders about the strengthened role for the national health service in this Bill. Stage 1 scrutiny has highlighted two areas of debate: first of all, the tribunal’s role in relation to health issues. In Wales, we have an existing NHS complaints and redress process. We must also respect the fundamental principle of clinical judgement, which underpins all NHS decisions. I will say to Members: I and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport have had a number of very fruitful and positive conversations on this matter. It is a matter on which we will continue to work together to seek a resolution. I’ve had conversations with the president of the tribunal as well, and I am content to continue to have conversations to seek an agreed way forward on this matter. I will say at this point as well that the president of the tribunal has written to me and the committee, suggesting a number of different amendments to the role of the tribunal. Although the committee has not reported on all of those, I will say that I am content to seek amendments to fulfil the majority of the president’s wishes on these matters because I think it is important that we are able to move forward, strengthening the tribunal as well as strengthening the system it underpins.
 
Secondly, significant progress has been made to develop a designated education clinical lead officer model. I will be writing to the Children, Young People and Education Committee to outline the latest developments in relation to a role in the pilots across Wales, following concerns that have been highlighted during scrutiny. In response to calls for the early years elements of the system to be strengthened, I will be bringing forward an amendment at Stage 2 to require local authorities to designate an early years lead officer. I want a greater focus on prevention and early intervention with good practice maintained across Wales. On the other end of the age range, I’m not yet persuaded about the need to extend the Bill to include all workplace learning, but I recognise that there is a strong argument being made there, and it is a matter that I will continue to consider.
 
Members will also be aware that I have made available a draft of the additional learning needs code in February to aid scrutiny of the Bill. I’m grateful for the committee’s views on how it can be developed further and I’m grateful to Members across the whole Chamber for the welcome they’ve given to the publication of this code. I have been clear that the code will be subject to the fullest possible consultation scrutiny. I will therefore bring forward a Government amendment at Stage 2 to make the code subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. This was a matter that the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee reported upon and I’ve given assurances to both the Children, Young People and Education Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee on this matter, and I will bring forward amendments to deliver on those assurances.
 
Acting—. Deputy Presiding Officer—
 
14:44
Suzy DaviesBiography
Chair.
 
14:44
Alun DaviesBiography
Chair. I was getting there. [Laughter.] I will close my opening contribution by confirming that I will not be moving a financial resolution today. I’ve written to all Assembly Members this morning outlining the revisions that are being made to the regulatory impact assessment. I expect to have the revised version available by the end of the summer recess and will re-table a financial resolution in the autumn. I look forward to continuing to debate and develop the Bill and hope this Assembly will support its general principles, but I do believe it is right and proper that scrutiny is informed scrutiny. I recognise the points that have been made by the Chair of the Finance Committee and I accept the points that have been made by the Chair of the Finance Committee in relation to this matter, and I believe that the Government has a responsibility to ensure the accuracy of information provided to all committees and to Members, and also that the scrutiny that takes place in committee is fully informed scrutiny, and the Government does its best to ensure that it provides all the information in a timely way to committees. So, I will hope to continue to work with Members on all sides of the Chamber to ensure that we have a piece of legislation that will not only change the lives of young people and children today, but for the future as well.
 
14:45
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you. I call on the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Lynne Neagle.
 
14:45
Lynne NeagleBiography
Thank you, Chair. I’m pleased to contribute to this Stage 1 debate today to outline the main conclusions of the Children, Young People and Education Committee. The committee was unanimous in its agreement of the general principles of the Bill. We believe the Bill will provide a platform for reform of the current SEN system, which is long overdue, a view that was clearly shared by the majority of those who gave us evidence. The evidence received also highlighted that many challenges lie ahead as the Bill is implemented. Simply passing the legislation will not address the deeper underlying problems within the current system.
 
We therefore recognise the importance of the Welsh Government’s wider ALN transformation programme in meeting those challenges and delivering a system that is robust and which provides the best opportunities for learners with ALN. We look forward to working with the Minister as the transformation programme is taken forward. This has been a lengthy and complex Stage 1 process, but it is vital that we get this Bill right.
 
We’ve met with and heard from many stakeholders, including children and young people with ALN, and parents and carers of those with ALN. The contribution of all those who have been involved has been invaluable, and I would like to thank everyone who contributed. I would also like to thank the Clerk and research team for their assiduous work on this Bill.
 
The Bill will be underpinned by a statutory ALN code, and it would not have been possible to effectively scrutinise the Bill without sight of the code. While we thank the Minister for making the draft code available, we do believe it should have been made available at the time the Bill was introduced.
 
The committee very much supports the general principles of the Bill, although the evidence we received highlighted many concerns about implementation. Nobody should underestimate the scale of this agenda. Over 100,000 pupils in schools have SEN or ALN, which is over one in five of all children. We have therefore made 48 recommendations aimed at strengthening not just the Bill itself, but also the wider proposals for reform of the system. In the time available, I can’t go through each one today, but will concentrate on some of the key issues that emerged.
 
The definition of ALN is the basis on which the Bill is built. It is vital that the definition is clear on the face of the Bill and that it is clearly understood. In relation to early years, while the definition on the face of the Bill may be appropriate, we believe the code should clarify that learning includes areas such as learning though play and social interaction, which are not explicitly reflected in the Bill at present. We believe the code could also clarify that learning does not refer just to a person’s learning as a whole and includes reference to specific aspects or elements of their learning.
 
A third concern we had related to how learners’ medical conditions would relate to the definition. The Minister provided assurance that where a medical condition led to ALN it would fall under the definition. However, we believe this must be made clear on the face of the Bill and within the code.
 
The committee very much welcomes the emphasis in the Bill on placing the interests of the child or young person centre stage and believes that using a model of person-centred planning is the right approach. However, we believe it would be a missed opportunity not to embed Wales’s overarching commitment to children’s rights on the face of the Bill, and we recommend the inclusion of an overarching duty of due regard to the UNCRC.
 
The role of the ALNCO within each setting will be crucial to ensuring consistency and high standards. We welcome the aspiration that ALNCOs should have a Master’s level qualification, but we are concerned that this could result in the loss of highly skilled and experienced people currently working as SENCOs. We recommend the Minister reconsider his approach and make it clear that, going forward, a Master’s should be desirable not required. The committee is also concerned at the resource implications of the ALNCO role and believes the Minister should review the impact of the new role on resources and capacity within 12 months.
 
We welcome the Bill’s intention to establish a single age, 0-25 system that identifies and provides for a child’s ALN from birth, but we have a number of concerns about how the needs of those outside statutory school age will be met. I’ve already highlighted our concerns about the definition of ALN in relation to early years, but we also believe that section 57 of the Bill should be amended to require health bodies to raise concerns that a child under compulsory school age has ALN, rather than the discretionary power that exists as drafted. Health bodies have a duty to inform local authorities under the present system, and we see no reason to weaken this provision. Similarly, the Bill provides no clear route for child minders and those working in childcare settings to raise concerns that a child may have ALN, and we believe that the Bill or code should provide a clear mechanism for this.
 
In terms of post 16, the committee has serious concerns about the adequacy of the existing relationships between local authorities and the FE sector to make the provisions of the Bill work effectively, especially in the challenging transition to further education. The committee also very much agrees with stakeholders that the ALN framework should be extended to include work-based learning. It is often the learners who face the most complex barriers who choose the work-based learning route, and the proposed new system should include such learners.
 
As the Minister said, the need for more effective multi-agency collaboration, particularly with the NHS, was consistently highlighted by stakeholders as fundamental to the success of these reforms. It is vital that the weaknesses in collaboration within the current system are not imported into the new one. The committee broadly welcomes the intention to establish the strategic designated education clinical lead officer role. There is, however, a lack of detail about the role, especially how they will work with other health professionals, including the new health co-ordinator role. We also find it difficult to understand why the pilots for the DECLOs, begun very recently, were not undertaken at a much earlier stage, as this would have provided an important insight into the nature and operation of the role. We heard widespread concern that the Bill does not provide the tribunal with a remit over the decisions and actions of health bodies or any powers to direct those bodies. The committee believes the tribunal’s remit should be extended to health bodies, but also that its membership must be sufficient so that health professionals’ clinical judgment is factored into the decision it takes.
 
In terms of the Welsh language, we do believe that specific elements of the Bill do not reflect the ambition and challenge for the Welsh language, and agree with the Welsh Language Commissioner’s call for an eleventh core aim, for the Bill to ensure the delivery of bilingual ALN services.
 
It is, of course, essential that adequate resources, workforce planning and training arrangements are in place to support implementation of the Bill and the wider transformation programme, and we have made specific recommendations in this regard. Of most concern to the committee is the fact that the costs and savings for the Bill, as set out in the explanatory memorandum, have been so inaccurate. Members will have received an explanation of the revised costs and savings from the Minister. Unfortunately, these revised figures were not provided to the committee until the day after we had reported. It is disappointing that this information was not provided sooner so that it could have been considered by the committee and included within our report. It has, therefore, been impossible for the committee to properly scrutinise the costs and savings for the Bill, and I welcome the decision to postpone the financial resolution until the revised regulatory impact assessment is available for scrutiny.
 
Finally, Chair, I’d like to thank again those who gave evidence to the committee and who helped with our work. I would also like to thank members of the committee for the productive way we have worked together on this. This Bill has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of children and families in Wales. It is absolutely crucial that we get it right. Thank you.
 
14:54
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I call on the Chair of the Finance Committee, Simon Thomas.
 
14:54
Simon ThomasBiography
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I am pleased to speak as the Chair of the Finance Committee to this Bill, but also, as a previous member of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, I’m pleased to see the Bill make some progress. Before I talk about our committee’s consideration of the financial implications of the Bill, I must firstly address the Minister’s letter of 25 May, which Lynne Neagle has just also alluded to, which provided an update on the anticipated changes to the Bill’s regulatory impact assessment. I am also extremely disappointed that these changes were not shared with us until the day after the Stage 1 reporting deadline, preventing this information forming part of our committee’s consideration prior to today’s debate.
 
These changes are significant, have a substantial impact on the costs of the Bill, and, due to the timing of the publication, have not been addressed either in our report. The scale of the revisions at this stage in a Bill’s progress is alarming, with the Minister now estimating that the Bill will cost £8.3 million over the implementation period, which is four years, rather than delivering a saving of £4.8 million. This represents an overall change in costs of £13.1 million. Furthermore, the Minister has indicated that these figures are still subject to change and finalised figures will not be available until a revised regulatory impact assessment is published ahead of Stage 3 proceedings, currently scheduled to take place in September. In the light of this information, I wrote to the Minister requesting that he delay moving a financial resolution in respect of the Bill until an updated summary of costs is provided and scrutinised. The Minister wrote to Members this morning and has confirmed to Plenary today that he will delay the moving of the financial resolution and that a revised regulatory impact assessment will be published by the end of the summer recess. As a previously very active member of the Finance Committee, as I recall, in his first term in the Assembly, I’m sure he understands the Finance Committee’s concerns in this area and appreciates that we will now get a chance to look at that revised impact assessment before a financial resolution is moved.
 
This, however, is where things get a little complicated, if I may say so, Chair, because, at the time of the introduction of the Bill, the current published regulatory impact assessment identified estimated savings of over £14.2 million over a four-year period. However, we were advised by the Minister the day before our evidence session that errors had been identified in the regulatory impact assessment, which resulted in the anticipated savings being reduced to £12.8 million over the four-year period. Our report acknowledges the Minister’s assurances that these revised figures were robust. Nevertheless, we were disappointed that these errors were not identified prior to the Bill’s introduction and recommended that the regulatory impact assessment be updated to take account of the revised financial information. Clearly, however, the revised figures were not robust, as the Minister’s latest letter indicates estimated savings of only £3.7 million over the four-year period. So, in summary, we’ve gone from anticipated savings over four years of £14.2 million to today’s figure of £3.7 million. But these figures have not been interrogated by the Finance Committee and do not form part of our report today. This significant change is largely attributed to concerns raised by SNAP Cymru in relation to disagreements and appeals. The Minister’s letter states that his officials met with SNAP Cymru in March, so the committee is keen to understand why the outcome of these discussions has not been shared with the committee prior to the Stage 1 deadline.
 
Another key development during the course of our scrutiny was the Minister’s announcement of an additional £20 million investment to support ALN learners. The Minister explained that this investment relates not only to delivering the Bill, but also to a wider transformational activity, and provided further detail on the anticipated allocation of funding to support the ALN system overhaul. In our report, we recognise the Welsh Government’s ambitions to overhaul the system, but believe also that the costs of implementing the Bill had been underestimated. We therefore welcome the extra £20 million investment. Whilst we recognise that the context of transformational change makes it more challenging to categorise costs, it is important for us to understand how this money will be allocated to directly facilitate and support the implementation of the Bill in order to undertake robust financial scrutiny. Consequently, we recommended that any revised regulatory impact assessment makes clear whether the additional £20 million investment is being made available for the purposes of the Bill. The Minister’s recent letter indicates that the revised £8.3 million cost associated with the Bill will be incurred by the Welsh Government and covered by the £20 million implementation funding package. This raises further questions, however, as to the purpose of the funding package and the impact of the increased implementation costs on the previously advised allocation of that funding.
 
The other main area of concern highlighted in our report relates to the Welsh Government’s transition funding, which will be provided to other bodies in order to deliver the Bill’s provisions. This includes around £7 million in transition grants available to local authorities and other organisations to support the implementation of the Bill. We welcome the Minister’s intention to develop a formula-based allocation and his commitment to minimising bureaucracy and the burden of an application process. However, we believe that a clear financial steer is needed, and we have therefore recommended that the grant funding should be ring-fenced.
 
The Bill also proposes transferring responsibility for planning and securing post-16 specialist further education provision from the Welsh Government to local authorities. This includes transferring the Welsh Government’s existing annual budget of £12.4 million to the revenue support grant. The Minister was concerned that ring-fencing this funding would lead to capped budgets, rather than supporting a needs-based system of funding. However, the committee remains concerned that local authorities may not allocate the transferred funding as intended and has recommended that the funding must be dedicated to delivering the transferred responsibilities.
 
Our report deals with several other recommendations, but I don’t have time, I’m afraid, Chair, to go into some detail. But one I would like the attention of the Assembly to is our recommendation regarding the statutory designated educational clinical lead officer role, and the effect, therefore, on health board ALN provision, which reflects some of the deliberations of the other committee.
 
In conclusion, if I may, Chair, the levels of revision have raised serious concerns as to the validity of the Government’s costings and its ability to successfully fund and implement the Bill. The Government must ensure that the revised regulatory impact assessment, promised by the end of the summer recess, is published in good time, is accurate and robust, and allows us all in Plenary and in committee to allow for proper scrutiny before a financial resolution is moved in Plenary. Diolch yn fawr.
 
15:00
Suzy DaviesBiography
Diolch, and I hope Members understand that it was important that the Chair of the Finance Committee had the opportunity to comment on figures that were published after the publication of the committee’s report.
 
I call on the Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies.
 
15:00
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
Thank you, Chair, and could I at the outset thank our clerk and our research and legislative support team, and also our assiduous committee members for the scrutiny of this Bill, which we reported on on 24 May, and we made 12 recommendations?
 
I know the Minister will understand that we are duty-bound to be sticklers for legislative transparency and clarity and rigour of scrutiny, so I know he’ll not be surprised by our robust analysis. As part of our usual consideration, we looked at the balance between what is on the face of the Bill and what is left to be dealt with by the Welsh Government through subordinate legislation. The Bill contains a number of regulation-making powers that the Minister indicated he did not intend to use in the near or foreseeable future. Now, we expressed concern at this approach, because we’re not convinced by the argument that says that, as there will be no further Bill on this area in the foreseeable future, as a result, regulation-making powers should be added to provide the Welsh Government with flexibility. Our argument would be that if an Act of the Assembly becomes out of date quickly or for whatever reason, including unexpected circumstances, and it requires significant change as a result, it should be achieved using primary legislation.
 
So, our first recommendation calls upon the Minister to justify why the regulation-making powers under sections 12(7)(c), 50(3), 60(1) and 68(4) are needed within the Bill. We were particularly concerned with the adopted approach in relation to regulation-making powers under sections 45(2)(d), 82(c) and 86(8). We were surprised at the Minister’s rationale for including regulation-making powers in section 45 to allow Welsh Ministers to set out further circumstances in which local authorities would not be under a duty to favour mainstream maintained education for a child with additional learning needs. And, as regards the regulation-making power in section 86 to amend the definition of ‘NHS body’, it is our longstanding belief that regulations that amend primary legislation must be subject to approval by the Assembly. Coupled with the potential to effect a significant policy change, we recommended the use of the affirmative procedure for these regulations. Now, the European Court of Human Rights—it’s been mentioned in earlier contributions—has made it clear that the integration of children into mainstream schools should be the norm rather than the exception. So, we were therefore concerned at how this power could be used in the future, and believe that, should a new category of school be introduced in Wales, as was the justification given by the Minister, then the Minister should assess the powers needed at that time. So, we therefore recommended that this provision should be removed from the Bill, or, at the very least, it should be subject to the affirmative procedure.
 
Section 82 of the Bill would allow the Minister to change by regulations the definition of who is ‘in the area’ of a local authority in Wales in education legislation that is not necessarily concerned with additional needs. Now, we see no reason why this broad power should be included in the Bill, and recommended that the Minister removes this provision from the Bill. Again, at the very least, this should be subject to the affirmative procedure to allow for full and robust scrutiny by the whole Assembly.
 
Now, turning to other matters within the Bill, we welcome the Minister’s approach to developing the additional learning needs code, and his engagement with Members in its development. In order to help create accessible law for all citizens with an interest in additional learning needs, we hope he continues to engage on this, and we’re sure that he will. We consider the status of the code, however, to be unclear, as it mixes requirements and statutory guidance, which we believe could be confusing. In order to make good functioning law, it should be clear to both professionals and members of the public the provisions that have legislative effect. We cannot see any reason why, therefore, the requirements set out in the code could not instead be contained in the Bill in the form of regulations. This would make it clearer to all concerned.
 
We also note that the suggested procedure for section 5 of the Bill does not follow the same procedure as the existing special educational needs code that it replaces. It is our view that the negative procedure does not provide sufficient scrutiny to such a pivotal document, and we recommend that the Minister considers instead the superaffirmative procedure. This would allow for detailed consideration by stakeholders and Members, with the final decision resting with this body, with the National Assembly.
 
Finally, I wish to draw attention to our recommendations in relation to sections 13(2) and 14(2) of the Bill, which contain regulation-making powers to prescribe exemptions in relation to looked-after children. We are not convinced that, in each case, the regulations deal with solely technical administrative matters. In the absence of information being on the face of the Bill, we recommended the application of the affirmative procedure to regulations being made in the first instance, followed by the negative procedure thereafter.
 
So, in closing, I welcome the Minister’s openness in his opening remarks today where he said he’s minded to accept the majority of recommendations from all three committees, and as the Bill progresses with this constructive engagement we are hopeful and confident that the Bill can and will be further improved and the outstanding issues resolved by further positive engagement.
 
15:07
Vikki HowellsBiography
I welcome the opportunity to speak in favour of the general principles of the Welsh Government’s Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill. It’s good that the Welsh Government is seizing this chance to make sure the legislative framework within which we approach this issue is fit for purpose. As was noted in the Bill’s explanatory memorandum, the current framework we operate in, and under which I taught, poses so many challenges to my constituents and others across Wales and has largely been unchanged over the last 30 years. It needs the refreshing that this Bill aims to deliver to ensure that this is the case.
 
For my contribution today, I want to draw on my experience as a secondary school teacher, which gives me familiarity with many of the challenges facing pupils with additional learning needs in school environments across Wales. This is both in mainstream settings and within more specialist, discrete groups. This experience also reinforces my sense of urgency about making sure that we get this right. To do this, we must provide an educational offer that allows every young person to thrive and achieve, and I am glad that this is at the heart of the Bill. Young people must feel supported, but so must their parents, guardians, family and friends.
 
Unfortunately, I know all too well from my constituents who I meet in my office and surgeries that this is often a challenge. Indeed, I think it is safe to say that support for children and young people with additional learning needs is one of the issues that has arisen most frequently in my casework since I became an AM just over a year ago. Many of these cases can leave parents of young children with quite complex needs feeling that they are battling against a system that is not fully on their side. Therefore, I welcome the principle contained in this Bill to put the needs of the learner at the heart of the decision-making process. It is vital that learners are able to access support through a setting that meets their own individual needs, and that systems are put in place to ensure that they are always able to fully access the level of provision that they have been statemented for.
 
I know, from the comprehensive data contained in the Children, Young People and Education Committee’s report on the Bill, that the experiences that have been brought to me through my casework are not isolated. I know that the Bill’s focus on developing unified plans, bringing together stakeholders, could help reduce the adversarial experiences my constituents have all too often encountered of them versus the system. Other issues I have dealt with relate to the comparative lack of opportunities for young people with additional learning needs when they finish compulsory schooling. During this time, I’ve met some truly exceptional parents who’ve fought doggedly to get their children the very best opportunities. But this is precisely the point; they should not have to struggle and battle. I therefore welcome the focus in the Bill on creating a single legislative system encompassing individuals from birth to the age of 25.
 
A few months ago I met with Sense Cymru to discuss their supported pathway into adulthood project, which the Minister may be familiar with. This aims to reduce many of the barriers around transition, and the shift young people meet when they reach adulthood. There is a lot of excellent practice we could take from this. There is a challenge to ensure the principles in the Bill can become reality, so I know the Welsh Government will ensure its working is properly financed. One of the most damaging aspects in provision is where promises are not met due to restricted funding, or the best option is superseded by the cheapest. I look forward to the Minister’s reassurances that this will not occur here.
 
To close, this Bill offers us the chance to ensure the framework for ALN provision in Wales is learner focused and fit for purpose. I’m happy to support it, as the parents and young people I see in my office and surgery should be able to expect no less.
 
15:11
Darren MillarBiography
Can I declare an interest at the start of this debate as a school governor at St Brigid’s School in Denbighshire? I want to thank the Minister for his opening speech. I think it is reassuring to know that he is listening to the concerns not just of the committees, but to the many other stakeholders who have been in touch with him in recent months. And I want to extend my thanks to him for the engagement that he’s had with me as an opposition spokesperson also.
 
This has been a very difficult job for the children and young people’s committee in terms of looking at all of the evidence. We’ve received, obviously, a very large volume of evidence, but we were hindered, in part as a result of a lack of timely information from the Welsh Government on a number of fronts—first of all, the late publication of the draft code and that not being available at the very start of the scrutiny process. Some of the poor quality of some of the financial information, which has already been referred to by the chair of the Finance Committee—it was corrected once during the process. We’ve since had further representations from SNAP Cymru about the cost of dispute resolution. We had information, as well, late in the day, about the role of the designated educational clinical leads and how many other people might need to support them in their role, particularly in very large health boards. And I think that that did make our job more difficult in terms of trying to understand where the Welsh Government was coming from in many respects.
 
There was also, of course, this lack of information on the pilots. We heard some good evidence from Carmarthenshire that things had improved there under the new arrangements that were being trialled, but we didn’t see any independent evaluations of that at all. We know that there have been other pilots that still are yet to take place, and I think the lack of information on that was a concern. So, I hope very much that you’ll be accepting recommendation 25, and that we’ll be getting more information on those in the future.
 
But I just wanted to touch on some of the things that I want to see improved upon in the Bill going forward, and I know, as I said earlier on, that the Minister is hoping to move forward with these. First of all, on medical needs, I think an amendment to the definition in the Bill could and should be made, and I’m pleased that the Minister has open ears to being able to do that, because we do know that, even though the Minister’s issued some draft statutory guidance for medical needs and meeting those in schools, that guidance doesn’t extend to the early years, and it doesn’t extend from beyond compulsory school age right up to 25, which, of course, the ALN Bill quite rightly does. So, I am concerned about that. I’m also concerned, as well, that home to school transport arrangements haven’t fully featured enough in either the draft code—and they certainly don’t feature on the Bill, and perhaps the Minister can tell us how he expects those to be considered in the future. But we did hear lots of evidence on those medical needs, particularly from Diabetes UK, from epilepsy organisations, and others, about the particular needs of people in the classroom—learners who may need support.
 
The second thing that clearly needs to be addressed is redress. The redress system needs to be extended to cover NHS provision that might need to be in place. I was pleased to hear about the conversations that have been going on within Government about how that can best be achieved. I think the committee was clearly persuaded that the tribunal ought to have powers to direct NHS bodies in the future in order to make sure that adequate support was put in place for learners who needed support from the NHS—again, to have this single system of redress, rather than having to go through the ‘Putting Things Right’ process, which can be very long and protracted as far as patients are concerned, and then a separate system in terms of the educational tribunal for other disputes.
 
In respect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it’s very clear that a precedent has been set in the National Assembly in the past, and by the Welsh Government, in accepting amendments to legislation, including the social services and well-being Act, that have put on the face of that Act references to UN conventions, including the convention on the rights of the child and, indeed, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So, I cannot accept, Minister, your rejection of our suggestion that they ought to be on the face of the Bill and that there ought to be due regard from all of those organisations that will have duties in the future under this new additional learning needs legislation. I very much hope that we will be able to persuade you, either at Stage 2 or at Stage 3, to shift your position in order to move on that, because this business of having a rights-based approach to legislation must run through all of our legislation, and, I think, why not repeat these things now and again on important pieces of legislation, particularly those that pertain directly to children and young people?
 
Just finally, if I may, on the Welsh language, we’ve made some key recommendations on the Welsh language, and I know that you want to improve the provisions for the Welsh language. We’ve got to emphasise the choice of learners and the choice of parents more in the legislation. That balance isn’t there at the moment. It simply means that decisions will be made, at the moment, by NHS bodies, schools and FEIs, and I don’t think that’s good enough. So, I look forward hearing the contribution at the end of the debate.
 
15:17
Llyr GruffyddBiography
May I also declare an interest as a school governor at the outset? Now, clearly, Plaid Cymru has supported the demand for legislation for a number of years, and therefore we will support the general principles of the Bill this afternoon. That’s not to say, of course, that there isn’t a need to improve and strengthen the Bill in parts, as is reflected in the committee’s report, where there are 48 recommendations. Clearly, there is some work still to be done to get the Bill to where we would want to see it. May I also endorse the thanks expressed to my fellow committee members, the committee officials, and the hundreds of stakeholders who contributed to the scrutiny process to date?
 
I want to share some of the frustration, while acknowledging that the Minister has been happy to sit down and to discuss these issues, and to share various supplementary documents with us. It has been frustrating in terms of the patchy way in which these have appeared—the Bill itself, and then we received the code, then the guidance on the healthcare needs, and then we received various details on the financial requirements. I don’t think this is the ideal scrutiny process for a Bill, if truth be told.
 
Within a few minutes, I can’t address all of the 48 recommendations in the report, but I would endorse the comments already made on enhancing the definition of additional learning need to include medical needs. It’s extremely important that medical needs of pupils in schools are effectively managed and that details and robust guidance are available to ensure that that happens. I do acknowledge, and I’m pleased, that the Minister has published a statutory guidance for schools and local authorities during this process, but there are questions remaining, as we’ve heard, in terms of capturing the full age range in the ALN Bill. And I do welcome the fact, of course, that the Minister has committed to look again at amending the definition in section 2 of the Bill to make it clear on the face of the Bill that someone would have an additional learning need if they have a medical condition that would mean that they have significant learning difficulties more than most other pupils of the same age.
 
I believe it’s a mistake not to include those who undertake work-based learning, such as apprenticeships, within the scope of this Bill. Young people with additional learning needs are more likely to take this learning pathway, rather than continue with more academic courses. I hear the Minister’s point, or he’s made the point in the past, that he doesn’t necessarily want to draw the private sector into the Bill. Well, the truth is that they do receive public funds from Government to provide these services. At the other end of the spectrum, private sector nurseries that receive public funding from the Welsh Government are included within the remit of the Bill. So, I would be eager to see greater consistency in that regard.
 
I have to agree with the aim at the heart of this Bill in creating a regime that is person centred and a more transparent system that is more accessible. But again, the Government is seeking to keep two separate appeals systems, which are completely separate, for education and health. I heard the Minister’s comments on continuing the debate around that issue, but I do think that even the evidence of the health board seems to accept that there is scope for one tribunal and one appeals system, as long as the relevant expertise is part of that process in ensuring that decisions are taken on the correct clinical basis.
 
There are a number of references to be welcomed in terms of advocacy in the Bill, and I would be eager to go further. There is mention in the report of looking at those key transitional periods when it comes to ensuring that people are aware of the advocacy services available, and not just at times when there is a breakdown in the process, or where there’s some dispute.
 
In terms of the Welsh language, I do feel that the Bill has been strengthened. I think there is scope to go further. There is talk that it would be desirable to provide services through the medium of Welsh in some parts of the Bill. Well, we should at least say that it would be expected to be provided where it is available. But on the broader point, for decades now, we’ve regretted the fact that there isn’t the capacity within the service to provide what we would want to see provided through the medium of Welsh across the spectrum of services. One suggestion that I’ve made is that we do need some sort of sunrise clause in the Bill. Yes, we need to be pragmatic and say, ‘Where possible, the service should be provided’, but to say that, by some particular point in the future, let’s say in 10 years’ time, then there will be an expectation that those services should be available. I think that would create an impetus to take decisive action on this agenda once and for all and to ensure that workforce planning and the necessary training is in place, rather than us coming back to this issue again in 10 or 20 years with the same complaint and facing the same problems.
 
Finally, I don’t agree with the Minister on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am of the same view as the rest of the committee members and the children’s commissioner that the duties to give due regard to the convention should be on the face of the Bill. The social services and well-being Act does that, and not doing so here would be inconsistent and would send the wrong message on the Welsh Government’s commitment to the rights of the child.
 
15:23
Gareth BennettBiography
Thanks to the Minister for bringing the debate today. I’m not on any of the committees that scrutinised this Bill, and the issues that are being raised have been raised by my colleague Michelle Brown, who’s on the education committee and who can’t be here today.
 
In principle, we do support the Bill. Introducing IDPs, providing it’s done properly, is a good idea. However, to ensure consistency across local authorities, will the Minister agree to the request from many stakeholders to use a standard template IDP that applies across the local authorities and is therefore portable? I would hope the Minister will take steps to ensure the person writing the IDP has the expertise required to do so, and the knowledge to bring the different service providers together to co-ordinate them.
 
Both local authorities and schools have a duty to prepare and maintain an IDP where they consider a child or young person has additional learning needs, but there is no default position, so local authorities and schools could end up playing ping pong with the IDP. Would the minister consider making either the local authority or the school ultimately responsible for the preparation of the IDP, to prevent any buck-passing of the kind that frustrates the public so often when it comes to dealing with council departments?
 
Unless the person has a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or has a significantly greater difficulty in learning, they won’t be considered to have ALNs. This means that children and young people who have medical conditions that take them out of the classroom, or otherwise impact on their education, aren’t covered, and this has been a major concern voiced by constituents. So, please could the Minister clarify what provision will be made for those who have medical conditions that fall short of a disability and who don’t have a significantly greater difficulty in learning but whose medical conditions affect their learning in some other way?
 
I do understand that there has to be a threshold, and the definition of ‘additional learning needs’ provides that. However, what support are children and young people going to receive if they’re just beneath that threshold? What support is there going to be for children and young people who have greater difficulty in learning than the average child or young person but don’t have a significantly greater one—in other words, to those in the middle?
 
Llyr mentioned the apprenticeships issue. The Government says that it is as committed to vocational training as it is to academia, but it therefore seems odd that apprenticeships are not covered by the Bill, which potentially leaves out a big chunk of people with ALNs. Surely the Bill should be extended to cover these, although responsibility for the IDP should be with the local authority rather than the employer, because that would deter the creation of apprenticeships.
 
I am very pleased that there is a presumption in favour of children and young people with ALNs being educated in a mainstream school. This is an excellent move. Special schools should be reserved for children and young persons who can’t be educated in a mainstream school for their own interests, not used in part as a dumping ground for children or young persons whose education is thought to be a drain on resources by the mainstream schools. Stipulating that a local authority may arrange for additional learning provision to be given outside a school may be a step forward, but given the fact that exercise of this does not have to be based on whether it’s in the best interests of the child—the local authority has complete discretion—the local authority could therefore, arguably, farm out provision on the basis of cost to the detriment of the child or young person. So, how will the Minister address this potential problem?
 
I also welcome the duty on NHS bodies to provide medical treatment. I can understand why a fixed time frame hasn’t been stated, but ideally the Bill should state that this and other duties must be complied with and decisions made within a reasonable time to address the excessive waiting times reported by some parents of children and young people with ALNs.
 
Finally, onto the dispute procedures. Although the intention is that the Bill will help to avoid disputes—and clearly, avoidance is better than having disputes in the first place—disputes will nevertheless occur, yet the avenues for resolution remain cumbersome.
 
Now, a couple of people have mentioned the relationship of the Bill to the NHS. The education tribunal has no jurisdiction over NHS bodies—the tribunal has no power to order an NHS body to provide treatment or to consider elements of an appeal relating to the NHS—so, parents and others will have to use the separate NHS process, meaning they have to negotiate two appeal systems instead of one. How is the Minister going to ensure that the people appealing to the tribunal receive the support and advice they need so that they can ensure the tribunal hears all the relevant information? How will the Minister ensure that no element of these appeals can slip into the ether between the education and NHS appeal processes?
 
In summary, we do support this Bill, but we are also concerned that insufficient staff levels and funding may scupper some very good objectives contained within this Bill.
 
15:28
Rhianon PassmoreBiography
I wish to very much welcome this debate and the innovative and groundbreaking principles within this Bill for the young people that we all represent. I wish to thank the Minister for the strong, robust and resilient work in this regard, and also the ongoing work of the Children, Young People and Education Committee and its Chair, Lynne Neagle. This innovative Bill, I believe, has potential to be on a par with other firsts for Wales, such as the organ transplantation Act, the violence against women and domestic abuse Act and groundbreaking environmental legislation. This Bill will add to a portfolio of innovation in Wales and is needed with regard to some of our most vulnerable young people. It is absolutely right, however, that we get it right.
 
This Bill will have an impact for over 100,000 pupils with ALN and SEN—one in five pupils across Wales—and centres rightly on person-centred planning. It is right that this Bill focuses on the needs of the learner, strengthening pathways and frameworks, increasing ALN awareness and planning, and improving provision and delivery as part of the wider additional learning needs transformational programme in Wales. Parents, carers and our young people of Wales deserve no less, and the anticipated and desired impacts of this Bill are profound and positive. Whilst I recognise this, we must also recognise the desire to increase expertise and knowledge across the sector. So, would the Minister consider the necessity of increasing to a Master’s qualification for ALN co-ordinators as an essential requirement when ‘desirable’ will also maintain both consistency and capacity within the sector? So, to conclude, I very much welcome this innovative Bill. Thank you.
 
15:30
Suzy DaviesBiography
I call on the Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language to reply to the debate.
 
15:30
Alun DaviesBiographyThe Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
I’m very grateful to the committee Chairs and Members who have spoken this afternoon. I think Lynne Neagle, in her opening remarks, captured the essence of what we’re seeking to achieve—a transformational programme that transforms the lives of individuals, both their experience of education, but also the rest of their lives as well, and the concluding remark we’ve just heard from Rhianon Passmore I think, again, re-emphasises the importance of this legislation in human terms, in what we’re seeking to achieve for people whom we represent. And I was very taken by remarks that were made by the Member for the Cynon Valley as well, who I think expresses the experience of many of us who also deal with these issues as constituency Members on a regular weekly basis. And it’s to address those issues, the struggles of families all too often to receive a statement, and to receive the services they require. The struggles and the fights and the campaigns that families have to go through all too often have to be addressed by this legislation. And that means getting it right—not simply getting it right for our own benefit here this afternoon, but to get it right for generations to come as well. And I absolutely echo the commitments that have been made by Members on all sides of the Chamber this afternoon that we have to work hard together, collectively, on all sides of the Chamber, to ensure that we have legislation that is fit for purpose, not simply legislation where we’re able to win a vote here and there, but legislation that will work and will transform the lives of people in the future.
 
Let me us just say a few words about some of the remarks that were made and the contributions made in the debate. I will say, very gently—and I feel quite churlish in doing so—Darren Millar, the Conservative spokesperson, was very generous in some of his remarks about the approach that we have taken, but I will say to him that the code was not late. The code doesn’t form a part of the scrutiny of this legislation, of course. [Interruption.] I will give way to you in a moment. But the code is there as an aid to scrutiny of the Bill, and it is the Bill that we are focusing on at the moment and not the code, and I do have concerns sometimes that when you publish additional information, which is aimed to be an aid to scrutiny, that people scrutinise that additional information rather than the Bill itself. I will give way.
 
15:32
Darren MillarBiography
I fully appreciate and understand that, Minister, and I’m very grateful to you for giving way, but the reality is that when we are confronted with answers to our questions, such as ‘What about this issue? What about that issues?’, the stock response that you gave to committee was ‘Well, we’ll address this issue in the code.’ Well, unless you’ve got sight of the code, you can have no reassurances that that will actually be done, and that’s what stakeholders were calling for. So, the late introduction of that code—. Essentially, what I’m saying is: it should have been published alongside the Bill, in order to give some confidence to us that these issues haven’t been lost.
 
15:33
Alun DaviesBiography
That’s not the way that we legislate, of course, but I disagree with you about the stock answer. There are no stock answers in this Government, Darren, as the answers to questions that are raised, and I think it’s important that we recognise that. But let’s move on.
 
The process is what is important. The transformational programme, of which this Bill is a part, is the absolute key element of what we’re seeking to achieve today. And I think yourself in your remarks, and I think Llyr and others also, ensured that we did have a focus on that transformational programme. We will ensure that there is funding available—and I accept the points that have been made by Simon Thomas in his contribution—to cover the costs of implementation, but also—and this is the key point, I think—not simply to cover the base costs of implementing the legislation, but also to deliver the funding and the resources to deliver the wider transformational programme as well. And that’s investing in people, investing in the workforce, investing in workforce development—exactly the points that Llyr was making about the Welsh language, and I accept the points that you made on the language. I recognise, as you do, that significant amendment has been made to ensure that Welsh language services are delivered in a more profound way and a more comprehensive way than has been previously suggested. I’m taken by your idea of a sunset clause. I prefer sunrise, but it might well be that although we can’t agree on the time of day, we will be able to agree on the principle of ensuring that we do deliver those services through the medium of Welsh.
 
But let me say this. I can see that time is moving on. I’ve already confirmed I will not move a financial resolution today, but will re-table it after the summer recess, following publication of the revised regulatory impact assessment. I will also give the undertaking to Members that I will continue the conversations that we’ve had. A number of Members have raised particular issues. I will speak to party spokespeople, and to the committees, before we lay Government amendments to this Bill. And I will, wherever possible, seek to ensure that there is a conversation that takes place to ensure that amendments that we lay are amendments that reflect the debate that we’ve had this afternoon, and the scrutiny process that all three committees have undertaken.
 
The Llywydd took the Chair.
 
Alun DaviesBiography
I will also say, in closing, to Huw Irranca-Davies, and the report of the CLA committee, I spent many years on CLAC, as the Member will be aware, and that experience has left me almost unable to refuse to accept the recommendations. But I will seek to ensure that we do move to a more affirmative approach, where that is at all possible. And certainly, when it comes to the code—and reflecting on the remarks made by Darren Millar in both his intervention and his earlier remarks—we will ensure that when we have the legislation itself, we will then undertake a process of scrutiny on the code as well.
 
And that will ensure that we do not only have the debate and the discussion on the legislation—on the primary legislation—itself, but then when it comes to implementation—. I recognise the points that have been made on all sides of the Chamber about implementation, and we will have, taking Gareth Bennett’s point about an IDP template—we will take forward those sorts of issues, and we will ensure there is time available, with the information that Simon Thomas has asked for and expects, and has a right to expect, and that there then will be the opportunity for further scrutiny of the code. That needs to be timely—timely from the committees’ point of view as well; I’ll say that very, very clearly—but it will also be ensured that this Government delivers a piece of legislation, and that this Assembly then enacts a piece of legislation that will achieve all of our ambitions that have been described in different ways, on all sides of the Chamber this afternoon. Thank you very much.
 
15:37
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
 
15:37
6. Motion to Agree the Financial Resolution in Respect of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The Minister has confirmed that he will not move the financial resolution on the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill, so we move to the next item.
 
7. Debate: The Review of Designated Landscapes in Wales
The following amendments have been selected: amendments 1 and 2 in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
15:37
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item is the debate on the review of designated landscapes in Wales. And I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to move the motion, Lesley Griffiths.
 
Motion NDM6321 Jane Hutt
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Notes the publication of the report Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales.
 
2. Agrees Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks play a vital role:
 
a) as valued places for nature and providing public and private benefit through a wide range of services; and
 
b) in the sustainable management of natural resources and supporting vibrant rural communities.
 
3. Agrees that all landscapes have a special value, as expressed in the sense of ‘bro’, which is at the heart of community identity and the way many people in Wales express their distinct sense of belonging to a particular place.
 
Motion moved.
 
15:37
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Diolch, Llywydd. This debate is about the contribution our areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks make to Wales. Together, they cover nearly a quarter of Wales, and the debate is about how they can, and must, deliver more. All landscapes have a special value to people. They create and sustain a sense of place for our communities, for the people who live and work in them, and for those who visit them.
 
On 9 May, I published ‘Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales’, on behalf of the broad partnership that contributed to its development. The publication marks the culmination of the review of designated landscapes, and now paves the way to a new approach for delivery. It builds on the firm platform of environmental legislation we have established, through both the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.
 
The review has taken place in two related but distinct phases. The first phase was undertaken by an independent panel, chaired by Professor Terry Marsden. The second phase—a wider partnership approach—chaired by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, under the title of Future Landscapes Wales, and I would like to place on record my thanks to Dafydd and all the group for their work.
 
Professor Marsden’s substantial report, and its recommendations, provides a valuable basis for the Future Landscapes Wales programme, which was able to reflect on this initial review at a time when the well-being of future generations Act and the Environment (Wales) Act, had been enshrined in Welsh law. The proposition developed by Future Landscapes Wales sets the designated landscapes on a path to drive the sustainable management of natural resources within their areas, and beyond their current boundaries.
 
Since the publication of the report, there has been a lot of discussion on the Sandford principle, and it is mentioned in one of the amendments to today’s motion. This principle applies to the existing two purposes of national parks, which are to both conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and to promote opportunities to enjoy the area. The principle emerged from the review of the national parks in 1974, and is now enshrined in the current legislation for national parks through the Environment Act 1995. It requires greater weight be given to the conservation purpose when it appears there is conflict with the recreation purpose. This does not mean the national parks have a primary conservation purpose or a requirement to apply this principle in all decisions.
 
I am steadfast in my commitment to ensuring areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks continue to be areas valued for their natural beauty, with vibrant, resilient communities, opportunities for outdoor recreation and rich ecosystems.
 
The Marsden report introduced the idea of a Sandford plus. What the ‘Future Landscapes’ report proposes is to consider an enhanced role for the designated landscapes by moving forward from having narrow competing duties to something much more integrated. At the same time, it suggests the need for the special qualities of these areas to be given greater weight in decision making so as to enhance the very qualities that make them both distinctive and cherished.
 
We’ve already introduced principles into Welsh law through the Environment (Wales) Act to require our natural resources to be managed in ways that maintain and enhance the resilience of our environment. These firm principles, combined with the proposals by ‘Future Landscapes’, have, I believe, the potential to be a Sandford plus plus.
 
Wales’s natural resources and ecosystems underpin all aspects of our well-being, including our prosperity, health and culture. We depend on fully functioning natural resources to provide our food, clean water and air, and recreation, and they provide for many tourism businesses. Our first ‘State of Natural Resources Report’ for Wales highlights issues for all ecosystems, in terms of their resilience and the benefits they provide. Now we have the further challenge of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, which represents a significant upheaval for the key sectors shaping the use of natural resources. Seventy per cent of tourists to Wales cite enjoying the landscape as their reason for visiting. Other landscapes are special to individuals or communities, reinforcing that sense of belonging to a particular place. Such landscapes include our urban parks as well as our spectacular mountains and estuaries. It is vital these areas, and the way they are managed, play an integral part in the sustainable use of our natural resources as the bedrock of future prosperity and well-being.
 
‘Future Landscapes’ has been highly collaborative, bringing together a group from diverse and wide-ranging sectors who often hold competing views on what a designated landscape should be about. The Welsh Government approached the review by opening the door to a new and innovative way of developing a strategic agenda for designated landscapes, and I firmly believe the full involvement of partners is essential in delivering a positive response to the challenges identified, even if this is difficult at times. The next step is to deliver on the ambition in the repot, not in isolation, but by strengthening that collaborative approach we’ve been committed to.
 
I’ve already made a start by consulting on proposals to reduce the administrative costs of national park authorities relating to audit, and the size of the board in the Brecon Beacons. I’ll be making a decision on how to proceed when the consultation closes at the end of this month. I will also consult on whether legislation could usefully be changed to support the recommendations of the report. This consultation will need to consider how great a weight could be given to the importance of these areas and their ecosystems in decision making, and whether governance arrangements should evolve to reflect local circumstances.
 
Any substantive change to the legislation on national parks will require primary legislation. National parks are devolved matters, and the appropriate place for such legislation to be introduced and scrutinised is in this Assembly. Dafydd will continue his association with Future Landscapes, and his role will be to steer a broad national partnership to take ownership of implementing the priorities. A meeting of the partners is being planned for next month.
 
The review puts forward a contemporary role for designated landscapes, set within a new Welsh legislative framework, where our designated landscapes are valued not just for their natural beauty, but as thriving, living places supporting vibrant, resilient communities. I very much look forward to Members’ contributions.
 
15:45
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I have selected the two amendments to the motion. I call on Simon Thomas to move the amendments tabled in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth.
 
Amendment 1—Rhun ap Iorwerth
 
Add as new point 3 and renumber accordingly:
 
Regrets that the report does not deal with the Sandford Principle as set out in the Environment Act 1995.
 
Amendment 2—Rhun ap Iorwerth
 
Add as new point at end of motion:
 
Believes that any change in the legislation governing National Parks should be taken through the Assembly as primary legislation.
 
Amendments 1 and 2 moved.
 
15:45
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you, Llywydd. I’m pleased to see that we have at last reached the point where we have a debate on this long-awaited report, and I look forward to the fact that the hour we have today is only the start of the debate, because, as the Minister has just outlined, we need to consult more broadly on these issues, and we will need some discussion of them too.
 
I’m sure like many other Members, I've received over 300 e-mails to date expressing concerns about certain aspects of the report. I believe that the problem we have, perhaps just at the beginning of the debate, is that there are so many stakeholders who have been described by the Minister as part of the process, who obviously feel that they aren't part of the process. I do think that we need to tackle that first of all. I look forward to hearing what the outcome and result of the next meeting of this group will be—which I assume will be chaired, from what the Minister has said, by the Assembly Member Dafydd Elis-Thomas.
 
There are two Plaid Cymru amendments that just seek to cast some light on these issues that will need to be resolved and where decisions will need to be taken. In proposing these two amendments, we in no way undermine the need to discuss these issues. I think it’s important that we bear in mind that the different pieces of legislation behind the establishment of the national parks and the AONBs derived from a pre-devolution period. It's quite appropriate that we look at the principles and the approach to landscape conservation. I believe that the landscape that I live in is as important to me as the landscape of any national park, and it's important that we see that reflected throughout the whole of Wales.
 
Therefore, legislation should be reviewed, and certainly in light of devolution, and in light of the environment Act and the well-being of future generations Act, there is an opportunity now to see what the role of the national parks and the AONBs should be in terms of how we develop our nation and use our natural resources. So, in that context, we welcome the fact that this work is being done and is to continue.
 
It is a fact that there is a principle, as has been mentioned by the Minister—the Sandford principle—that has been encapsulated in the Environment Act 1995, which is referred to in our first amendment, and that needs to be discussed, we need to take a decision on it, and we need to ensure that everyone is content with the direction of travel for the future. Certainly, at the moment, not all conservation bodies, and not all mountaineering organisations, or those using the landscape for leisure purposes, are content with the debate as it's been at the moment.
 
We've moved from the Marsden report that discussed this principle and wanted, if anything, to promote it, to a paper that doesn't discuss the principle at all, but takes an entirely different approach to these issues. At some point, we need to reconcile these two things.
 
The second amendment simply restates the legal point, and I'm sure that the Minister would agree that any change to the governing principles of the national parks would need primary legislation in this place. The purpose of the amendment, quite simply, is to provide that assurance to those people who are following the debate, and take an interest in the report, and take an interest in the beautiful landscapes of Wales that there will be a thorough debate in committee, in Plenary and by all stakeholders before we change legislation.
 
There has been quite a bit of response to this report, after it was published, from people who had misunderstood the report and thought that this change was to happen today, in this debate—that’s not the fact. We are hopefully starting a national debate on the role of the beautiful landscapes of Wales—the landscapes that everyone in Wales has a right to access, namely the landscape that they live in, and the fact that we need to see development that is in-keeping with our landscapes to ensure that we have viable communities in all parts of Wales and we don’t turn any part of Wales into some sort of community held in aspic. Nobody wants to see that.
 
But, the challenge facing Government is encapsulated for me in a response that I received from RSPB Cymru, which I am going to quote to close, because it does underline how difficult some of the discussions we will need to have are. I’ll quote in English, as I received it. It goes like this:
 
‘Our gravest concern is that the report explicitly recommends the need to create new laws that will re-purpose National Parks and AONBs, and even worse, it presents this as the view of the working group.’
 
And that’s the point I want to emphasise.
 
‘This is absolutely not RSPB Cymru’s view and we believe it was not the view of the working group either. The group did not identify the current legal objectives of designated landscapes as a key barrier to sustainably managing our natural resources, but rather the group proposed that the focus should be on using the frameworks set out by the Environment Act and Well-being of Future Generations Act. We do not recall the group discussing the Welsh Government’s new proposal to legislate on the purposes…in any detail at all. This means that we feel the published report does not accurately represent our views.…We are unhappy therefore that the Welsh Government’s view that there is a need for new legislation is still being represented as endorsed by the group.’
 
I quote that just to demonstrate that there is a great deal of discussion yet to be had on these issues.
 
15:51
David MeldingBiography
Can I just say that we are content to note the report, and we do hope it starts a process of policy development that protects our designated landscapes while seeing their wider economic, cultural and social potential being extended? I think that’s an appropriate way to go forward.
 
The report sets out a new proposition for designated landscapes to go beyond their current purposes of conservation and amenity, but it does this, as we’ve heard, without any restatement of the Sandford principle, unlike the Marsden report, and this has turned out to be quite controversial. Indeed, in its vision statement, the report does not mention conservation at all and, again, I think although some may say we’ve moved on to wider, more inclusive concepts and vocabulary, I still think conservation is an important one. As it states its current vision,
 
‘Wales as a nation values its landscapes for what they provide for the people of Wales and elsewhere. The designated landscapes of Wales deliver both within and beyond their boundaries to enhance their social, economic, environmental and cultural resources; delivering the maximum well-being benefits for present and future generations whilst enhancing the very qualities that make them both distinctive and cherished.’
 
Now, you can infer conservation from that, I do accept, but I do think it would have settled the nerve of many people in this time of change if we’d actually mentioned conservation directly. The report quickly goes on to draw on what it considers to be the crux of the Marsden report, namely, and I quote again,
 
‘to “promote” the current National Park duty to have regard for the socio-economic well-being of the area into one of its purposes, and to apply these same purposes to AONBs.’
 
While there’s nothing wrong with this approach, it needs to be balanced, in my view, by the Sandford principle, and a clear expression of the value of conservation. Now, I did hear what the Minister said in her opening address to us in this debate, and she did refer to Sandford and even invent or describe something that she wants to call ‘Sandford plus, plus’. I don’t have great problems with you extending the range of things that are now expressed as being within the purview of the purposes, but, at the minute, conservation is the primary purpose. That is what the Sandford principle means. You do have to ask yourself when there’s a clash with one of the other purposes—often there isn’t a clash, but when there is, conservation has primacy in governance, and you do have to ask yourself—‘What’s the point of designating landscapes if that conservation principle isn’t at their heart?’ They would be just like every other landscape otherwise, which would gain extensive protection from legislation, I grant you, but to make them special areas, I think, does imply that we think this concept is very important and conservation is at its heart.
 
I don’t think there’s a great problem with achieving the balance that the Government and the report—and I do thank Dafydd Elis-Thomas for producing this work with his group. The concepts of green growth and the circular economy, as well as building on very useful legislative foundations like the environment Act and the well-being of future generations Act, I think, will lead us to a general consensus, but it isn’t there yet and I think Simon is quite right in pointing that out. And we’ve all received extensive representations. We’re at the start of this debate, I realise that, but I think it’s important that the Welsh Government does identify the need to make a clear statement. Sandford has been the cornerstone since the 1970s and I think you need to make your view very clear on that. I think conservation is at the heart of these areas being highly popular tourist destinations, as well as recreational areas of outstanding popularity, with three quarters of us visiting a national park at least once a year.
 
Can I just conclude by talking about governance participation and accountability? I’m pleased that these issues are being addressed because it is necessary and I refer also to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the principles for effective governance that have been produced. These principles look at dialogue, voice, participation and consensus-seeking as important and I do believe that they need to be at the heart of some of the developments. My one criticism so far of these reports is that that call for voice, dialogue, et cetera, has not really looked enough at local communities and citizens. It rather looks at organisations and layers of Government and I do think we need to look at communities and their citizens.
 
Can I say that whilst we’ll support the motion, we do also support the two amendments? If there is any legislative change, then I think it does need to come through primary legislation. I was pleased to hear the Minister’s reassurance on that. But, of course, what is a major legislative change does itself need to be pinned down and I wouldn’t like to see smaller changes amounting to a big change, but then being conducted via or achieved through secondary legislation. I do think it needs to come back here if there is a major shift in policy for primary law making. Thank you.
 
15:57
John GriffithsBiography
Could I add my voice to those expressing the very obvious value that the people of Wales and, indeed, far beyond Wales, put on our great outdoors? It’s obviously very important in many ways to our country and we’re very lucky to have such an attractive landscape and, indeed, seascape. It’s obviously very important to tourism, to activity tourism as part of that, and to the general quality of life, well-being, and physical and mental health that the people of Wales enjoy, in part because of the value of our countryside, our variety of scenery and everything that brings to our daily lives. So, I don’t think any of us, or any of the people of Wales, would be in any doubt as to the value of our great outdoors and, as part of that, of course, particularly for today’s debate, the designated landscapes.
 
I think it is really important that we modernise our approach to these matters, as we’ve heard already, because important though the designated landscapes are, there is much that’s developed in recent years that values the sustainable development approach in terms of all of Wales, and, of course, there are many wonderful parts of our country outside the designated landscapes. I know it will be a major part of Welsh Government work, and the work of other organisations in this field, going forward, to understand that wider approach. But, nonetheless, of course, the designated landscapes have been and are recognised as being particularly valuable because of the quality of the landscape and the seascape and what they have to offer. That value applies to sustainable development and all the strands. So, it’s very, very important obviously for the economy, for social life in Wales and for the environment.
 
So, in that context, I do believe it’s very, very important that we take note of the concerns that we’ve already heard mentioned here today, and all of us have received a lot of communication expressing those concerns. Obviously, I think there has been, perhaps, some lack of adequate communication somewhere along the line for that level of concern to develop. So, I very much welcome what the Cabinet Secretary said about a consultation exercise from this point on, and I know many of the organisations have talked about the need for that to be a very full consultation indeed and to very much address this issue around the Sandford principle that, where there is irreconcilable difference between the purposes of making sure that we retain that natural beauty of landscape and seascape and also promote the enjoyment of our designated landscapes, where there is that conflict, then we ensure that retaining the natural beauty of landscape and seascape takes priority. So, I’m sure that will be an important part of the exercise moving forward, and I know the Cabinet Secretary will have heard what has been said today and the views that we’ve all received.
 
I also think that, in terms of Marsden as a piece of work, Llywydd, obviously it was very thorough and I think the process was strong, and it was clear and detailed. So, now when we have the further work that Dafydd Elis-Thomas’s group has produced, we see it in terms of, again, as I think the Cabinet Secretary set it out, building on the work of Marsden and looking at those pieces of work in totality, because Marsden obviously still has set the scene for the way that we move forward, and does have, I think, that clarity and detail and the process behind it that I think was valued, and still is.
 
So, I do believe it’s very important, Llywydd, that we give the fullest consideration to how we move forward. We do have the new legislation, the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, on how we manage our resources in a sustainable way in Wales; we have the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. They set the scene and they set the up-to-date context, but we also have this important work by Marsden and Dafydd’s group to take that forward and add to the context. But I must say that I do believe, in looking at the long-term approach that is so important to the well-being of future generations, that protecting our seascape and our landscape for future generations is entirely in accordance with the well-being of future generations Act, and I see no conflict between that at all. And I hope very much that what we see emerging from the various strands of work that have taken place, and will take place, is ensuring that we take all the bodies with a vital interest in these matters with us as an integral part of that process.
 
16:02
David J. RowlandsBiography
First of all, shall I say that we will be supporting this motion? But, if, as it appears, the purpose of the ‘Future Landscapes’ report is to form a basis upon which any new legislation on our national parks will be made, the first question we must therefore ask is: why does the Welsh Government see a need for such legislation? The report seems to imply that the need for new legislation to control what we refer to as national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty is a given fact. The report also implies that many of the boards and interested parties who currently administer or work under the existing regulations are in agreement with this general principle, and that there has been broad agreement with the report’s recommendations by these interested parties.
 
However, and echoing other contributors to this debate, I’ve received many e-mails from involved organisations and individuals that this does not seem to be the case. One glaring omission pointed out by a number, if not all, of these correspondents is that the report contains no reference to the Sandford principle. This seems particularly remiss given that this principle is regarded as the cornerstone of protection policy for all national parks and AONBs. It also seems to ignore recommendations of the Marsden report, which advised that the protection of our national parks should be extended, not diminished.
 
The Sandford principle states that where irreconcilable conflicts exist between conservation and public enjoyment then conservation should take priority. This would, of course, also apply to any and all development proposals in our national parks. If any new legislation seeks to put aside this fundamental principle then that legislation should come under the most rigorous scrutiny.
 
Given the huge potential impact any new legislation would have on national parks and, indeed, on the environment in Wales in general, I believe that there should be no such legislation affecting the core purpose of our national parks until full public consultation has taken place, and further that the Sandford principle should remain the cornerstone of any new legislation affecting the Welsh national parks and AONBs.
 
16:05
Sian GwenllianBiography
I am fortunate enough to represent part of Snowdonia National Park, a distinctive area in terms of landscape, nature and way of life. As well as being one of the most beautiful places on earth, Snowdonia is also home to 26,000 people, many of whom work in the park from day to day.
 
In recent years, there has been explosive growth in one part of the economy in the area, namely outdoor tourism. According to one study, this sector contributed more than £480 million to the Welsh economy. In terms of Snowdonia, expanding the outdoor sector is a cornerstone of Gwynedd’s economic strategy, given that it’s recognised as one of a number of growth sectors in the area, and the emphasis is on promoting business opportunities for local young people.
 
It is an economic activity entirely in keeping with the two statutory purposes of a national park, namely, as we’ve heard, conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the areas, and promoting opportunities for the public to understand and enjoy the special characteristics of their areas. As we’ve heard, in the event of conflict between these two statutory purposes, the national park authority must give priority to the Sandford principle. That’s the situation at present.
 
Evidently, this principle is vital to many—certainly to many who have contacted me over the past few days. And many of those are perplexed that there is no reference to this principle in the report being discussed today. It is entirely appropriate to review the purpose of the designated areas, of course, and this was done under the guidance of Professor Terry Marsden, and then came the publication of ‘Future Landscapes’ in May. It is good to have the debate, but, of course, the problem is that the Sandford principle is missing from the current report, which is a mistake in my opinion. By failing to address one of the central tenets of the designated landscapes as they currently stand, the report is inadequate, and it has succeeded in annoying a large number of partners involved with the national parks, perhaps unnecessarily, and these are the exact partners whose collaboration is needed in moving forward in this debate. It has also generated concern among my constituents in Arfon, with people feeling that a great change was afoot, that Snowdonia may be about to change for ever, and that the uniqueness of the park was under threat. To allay these concerns, it is important that Plaid Cymru’s amendments are passed today. We have to have clarity, detailed scrutiny, and a full consultation on the future of our parks and our designated landscapes.
 
I would like to thank all the constituents who have contacted me to air their concerns. I would like to be able to go back to them and say that the Assembly has accepted Plaid’s amendments, and that the Assembly recognises the need for a full and transparent debate if there is any intention to review the purpose of such an iconic place as Snowdonia national park.
 
As well as extolling two statutory purposes, Snowdonia National Park has added a third purpose, namely fostering the economic and social well-being of its communities. This is a vital purpose, in my opinion. Snowdonia is an area steeped in local history and culture, and more than half of the population speaks Welsh.
 
To close, therefore, a full consultation is needed nationally, but we also need a consultation with the local population and the relevant bodies about all the issues—the need to conserve and enhance, certainly, and yes, the Sandford principle, but also the need to foster the economic well-being of communities in these areas.
 
16:10
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
With three national parks, and four and a half areas of outstanding natural beauty, designated landscapes account for 25 per cent of our nation, and I would like to also pay tribute to the officers and staff at Snowdonia National Park, much of which lies within my constituency of Aberconwy also, for their hard work and tremendous efforts to protect and upkeep our spectacular areas, our ‘crown jewels’ as they’re often referred to. Reading between the lines of this report, though, I do question the fundamentals of two particular omissions. The basic omission of the word ‘conservation’ has given me great concern, and has certainly been raised with me by many living within the community of Aberconwy, and, as many Members here have said, the fact that the Sandford principle has no mention. With any report that’s ever written, people look for what’s not said equally as much as what is stated there, and this causes me concern. Certainly, this has caused and alarmed many within my own community, many who use the national park, many of our volunteer groups, such as the Snowdonia Society, and they are calling for the Welsh Government—and I support these calls—to defend the proper protection, management, and resources for the designated landscapes to ensure that conservation and quiet enjoyment of the special qualities of the designated areas remain central to their purpose, to ensure that the Sandford principle is retained to secure protection from inappropriate development, hold a full public consultation before making any changes to the purposes of designated landscapes, and to revisit the Marsden report and its recommendations. These are vital given that one of the express purposes of the designation of national parks under the Environment Act 1995 is to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and heritage. As noted by this report, the 2015 Marsden review mentioned the promotion of sustainable forms of economic and community development based on the management of natural resources and the cultural heritage of the area. In addition, however, recommendation 7 of that same, again, called for the Sandford principle to be applied across all of our designated landscapes, to include areas of outstanding natural beauty. I put it to you, Cabinet Secretary: you should make it clear that here today you will recognise the importance of conservation, protection, and, of course, the Sandford principle to be applied across all the designated landscapes. I’m not sure, really, what Sandford plus will mean to all the people who have written in on e-mails to me. Make your position here clear.
 
Certainly, we will be strongly supporting both amendments today. To protect, conserve, enhance, and support our natural landscapes comes at a cost, and it is fair to say that there is a general thinking within my own constituency that, before devolution, Snowdonia National Park was regarded by the Government as the jewel in the crown of UK national parks, but now seems to be far less highly regarded by this Government.
 
As we enjoy an increased global profile as a tourism destination, depleted budgets mean tough decisions for our national parks, all of which come at the cost of our environmental and visitor safety. A 19 per cent budget cut since 2011, annually—yet, in England, with Government support, they have secured until 2020 annual increases of 1.7 per cent. So, it shows who values their national parks. So, we should be alarmed that the average cost of park authorities’ external audits as a percentage of their income stands at 0.82 per cent in Wales, disproportionately more than 0.2 per cent in England and 0.16 per cent in Scotland. I therefore welcome the commitment to reduce the regulatory burden of audit on national parks. But I ask also for a Welsh Government commitment to secure in-budget settlements in advance, and not not knowing what they have—you know, months that they’ve got to then plan for for the following year. They need their budget assertions and knowing what they’re going to get long before that.
 
Llywydd, the Marsden review called for the national landscapes of Wales to be valued by the nation as important factories of well-being, to be supported, to be protected, and to continue their role of improving the lives of current and future generations, and for their special qualities to be maintained, enhanced, and widely appreciated, and I support those calls.
 
16:15
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
In contributing to this debate, can I just begin by thanking Dafydd and his working group for the work that they have done? This is not an easy pathway to follow, and to bring forward different interests, sometimes competing interests, but to get them onto the same page—and I think the Minister has said in her opening remarks that this is part of a journey, going forward. There will need to be further dialogue and consultation, and I welcome that. But I do want to thank Dafydd for the work he and his group have done, also the predecessor report, the so-called Marsden report as well, which was different, but covered some of the same ground. By the way, there is—people haven’t mentioned it today, but there is some welcome stuff within this report that Dafydd and his working group have produced, and I’ll turn to that in a moment. But I do want to thank this Assembly and the Government for having the courage to actually look at this.
 
Before I remind people of why we need to look at this issue of governance and how we take this forward within Wales, eight years ago, I stood on a platform in the South Downs and we announced the opening of a national park, the South Downs National Park, the great unfinished business of the 1946 national parks Act. It was the one closest to the big urban population of London and Brighton and so on, and we never quite got round to it, but we did it. I spoke there as the mechanic behind the scenes about how we were doing the governance of it and the difficulties of bringing together local authorities and competing groups, and we’d managed to do it. I did all of this, and there was polite applause, and then Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State, got up and he spoke with joy and poetry about what the national parks were all about, and he wowed everybody.
 
So, in beginning this, I’m just going to say—and it’s interesting, this. This is from Iolo Morganwg, one of the great Glamorgan poets, in his ‘Hymn to Health’, when he was recovering from a serious and possibly terminal illness. It was his ode, if you like, the ‘Hymn to Health’, and he says, in a little extract:
 
‘Through dewy dales and waving groves, / The vernal breeze unruffled roves.
 
‘Delicious Health!’—
 
I exclaim that, because it’s got an exclamation mark after it—
 
‘I range the vale, / And breathe once more thy balmy gale; / ‘Scap’d from the wrathful fangs of pain, / I view, rejoic’d, thy skies again.’
 
Well, he could have been anticipating the future generations and well-being Act, or the factories of well-being referred to in these reports, and the other, many, multiple public goods that we get from the natural environment and that both reports say—[Interruption.] Both reports actually say we need to do more to spread, in a social equity way, the benefits that come from these as well.
 
Just in passing, one of the things I welcome in Dafydd’s report, and its predecessor, is its recognition that this is not just to do with nationally designated landscapes. I get as much joy and as much health and physical well-being from standing on the Devil’s Pulpit on the Bwlch mountain in Ogmore, looking down Ogmore valley, as I do from standing on Pen y Fan or Snowdon top. I have to say it. This report deals with that, and it talks about that working beyond boundaries—the importance of these national designated authorities working beyond their boundaries, not for there to be a line drawn artificially on the map and that’s where the responsibilities lie, but how do we actually extend the benefits that come from all of our landscapes, right across all of our populations.
 
It talks within Dafydd’s report about innovations in resourcing. We need to be serious about this, because, despite the contribution just now, all our national parks and all our designated areas, right across the UK, have faced cuts, year after year. So, we need to have more innovations in resourcing.
 
It talks about improving accountability and performance, about driving well-being and about wider sustainability and green growth. In answer to the query that was set a moment ago of, ‘Why do we need to do this?’, I refer you back to Professor Marsden’s earlier report, where he says his panel had
 
‘found that a fresh approach to the purposes and governance of Wales’ designated landscapes is overdue…for at least three reasons’.
 
He addressed
 
‘the scale and complexity of the environmental challenges’
 
and he referred to climate change, as well as our loss of biodiversity, as different from what it was in the last century. He referred to how
 
‘the relative spatial and social inequalities in well being, health, education and access to outdoor recreation demand far more from the designated landscapes’
 
and others. It’s not good enough, I’m sorry, to have certain types of people going in their cars and visiting our designated—and I say this as somebody who was born on the Gower, the first-ever AONB in the whole of Great Britain. It’s not good enough to have only certain people visiting and getting the health and well-being benefits. They need to be available to everybody, and that means spreading this beyond those nationally designated areas.
 
He finally says that
 
‘these areas need to be the home of far more vibrant rural communities, where the young can be retained, trained and attracted by sustainable homes and jobs.’
 
But I would say to the Minister, as others have done, it is worth, in the good parts that are within the report that’s now come forward, to return and look at Marsden’s report—not least recommendation 6, where it lays out three new statutory roles that would underpin, to do with conservation, human well-being and sustainable resource management. It says this should be the ‘Sandford plus’ approach. Have a look at that as we take this forward and debate this in dialogue, get the groups involved, continuing on the work that Dafydd and others have done, and let’s get to a good place where everybody is signed up to a different way of governance within Wales.
 
16:20
Suzy DaviesBiography
I was going to intervene on Huw Irranca-Davies, so I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to speak, actually. I agree that it is time for us to be reviewing the purpose of our designated landscapes and reviewing the strength of the protections that are embodied in those at the moment. I mean, it’s not so long ago that we were standing here talking about the national parks and the opacity of their governance arrangements, for example, so it is quite right that these matters are reviewed. The paper, even in its early consultation stages, raised a few questions for me. If I’m right in thinking that one of the purposes of this paper is to jolt our national parks in particular out of their silo thinking, and perhaps to influence the use of landscapes outside their boundaries, for me, I’m wondering if that’s your ‘Sandford plus plus’, Cabinet Secretary. Because my understanding of that is that it would probably have protected Mynydd y Gwair, which of course is a famous bridge between the Brecon Beacons National Park and the Gower area of outstanding natural beauty. If it isn’t intended to do that, perhaps you would explain to me what it is intending to do. Because, of course, there is a risk that this could work the other way, and that it would leave designated landscapes more vulnerable to the incursion of disproportionately intrusive infrastructure in the name of green growth.
 
On that, I do actually recognise something that you’ve said in the paper about beefing up the duty on planners and developers to have due regard to the purposes of the designations of various sites. But if those designations are going to be much broader in their purpose—and I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be, but if they are going to be—how can Government ensure that the purpose that builds in protection for the integrity of landscapes isn’t then diluted to a point where the stronger due regard duty becomes irrelevant, it becomes meaningless, or indeed, even might become an agent of negative change? And when I say ‘negative’, that would be in the eyes of some people whose sense of identity, as you acknowledge in your paper, is so firmly bound up with the landscape that they inhabit.
 
Your first principles of governance—David Melding mentioned a few of these—include words like ‘participation’, ‘voice’, ‘acceptance in society’, ‘representation’ and ‘consensus’. I’m wondering if that’s—I hope it is—a hint that you might be paving the way here for the repeal of TAN 8, because TAN 8, in all cases that I can think of, has trumped any attempt to rely on those concepts at the moment.
 
Finally, just briefly, I notice it took until the last page of the narrative in the document to mention the concept of the UNESCO biosphere, and of course we have an amazing exemplar of that in the Dyfi valley—even though the fact that it’s a biosphere is underused in its potential in terms of tourism. On which, incidentally, I’m very glad to see the u-turn on the branding issues regarding national parks and AONB, because I think the earlier discussions, a couple of years ago, about changing the name, were completely counterproductive. So, I’m curious—I don’t know if you’ll have time to address this, Cabinet Secretary—about how much of your vision that is embodied in the document we’ve read today is based on those principles of a UNESCO biosphere. Because, certainly, my family that lives in that biosphere would recommend it as a way of looking forward to how we deal with this—I don’t think it will be that easy—balance between protecting the environment and expanding its purposes.
 
16:24
Neil HamiltonBiography
Like everybody else who’s spoken in this debate this afternoon, I strongly support the Sandford principles, although I do take the point that the Cabinet Secretary made in her speech that these beautiful parts of our countryside must be thriving and living places, and inevitably there are going to be conflicts of policies and conflicts of interest, which have to be reconciled somehow. I do think, as David Melding and others following him, and my colleague David Rowlands, have said: what is the point of designating areas as being of outstanding natural beauty or as national parks, if not to give precedence to the principle of conservation? That is the founding principle upon which the initial legislation was introduced, with all-party support, which has been sustained even to this day. But I also—following from Huw Irranca-Davies—would like to congratulate Dafydd Elis-Thomas and his working group on producing this excellent report, which does, I think, provide us with an evenly balanced view of the way forward.
 
I’d just like to refer to a couple of the provisions that he mentions in his report, in particular on page 8, where he refers to the sustainable management of natural resources and the need to reflect a broad understanding of the importance of these areas and their ecosystems, and that they need to be given greater weight in decision taking. And then, again, on page 17:
 
‘the need for better policy integration and increased understand of how designated landscapes can positively engage in the agenda’,
 
in particular in relation to developing
 
‘sustainable land management schemes tailored to an area to replace or complement existing agri-environment payments, including working with clusters of land managers’.
 
Now, there are two issues that I want to refer to, briefly, in the course of this speech, following on from those general principles. We’ve had these debates in the Assembly before, in particular in relation to the intrusion of pylons and windmills into the landscapes of national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty and the countryside in general. I believe that we ought to have a sense of proportion here, although I don’t share the enthusiasm of the overwhelming Members of this Assembly for most of the green measures that have been introduced in recent years. I don’t want to enter into a debate on the general principles of that, but I’ll just say that the contribution to the defeat of global warming—if that is possible—that can be made by windmills in these areas must be so negligible as, if you have a sense of proportion, surely, to require placing the interests of conservation before the interests of environmental policy. Because bearing in mind what’s happening in the rest of the world, with India and China between them building another 800 new coal-fired power stations, what use is it to desecrate our wild places in Wales in order to make such a minute contribution towards the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions that it can have no practicable effect on the climate whatsoever? So, I would make a plea in this instance, even for those who take a very different view to me on man-made global warming, to make an exception to the general approach in order to protect our wild areas in mid Wales, north Wales and west Wales in particular.
 
The second point that I want to make is one to which I hope we will return in due course, namely the wilding of the hills of Wales, following on from the EU habitats directives, as a result of which we’ve seen a catastrophic increase in most predators and therefore declines towards sometimes extinction of many vulnerable prey species. I believe that leaving the EU gives us an opportunity, as environment is obviously one of the devolved issues and gives us the power in this Assembly, to take a very different approach to the one that has been adopted hitherto. We’ve seen a rise in rank and unpalatable grasses infested with ticks, and as a result of unburnt, mature heather, that also becomes infested with heather beetle. Out-of-control bracken has created sterile landscapes that are unsafe both for tourists and walkers, and also vectors of Lyme disease. So, I think we’ve got to reconsider the way in which we look at these areas of the countryside. We must ensure, as the Cabinet Secretary has said, that they do remain thriving environments in which people work as well as live and, in particular, visit. So, I do believe that there is more of a superficial conflict between these different strands of policy than exists in reality if we apply a proper sense of proportion to them. But the key element is to give the Sandford principle the overriding support that it needs.
 
16:29
Eluned MorganBiography
I have the huge privilege of having a home in a national park, in St Davids, and there’s nothing like waking up in the morning and seeing that coastline in front of you. But there are limitations in living in a national park, particularly in terms of construction. It’s a function and a responsibility of national parks to ensure that there is a balance between retaining the beauty of the countryside and enabling the local population to live there. That’s something that needs to be dealt with sensitively.
 
Now, many of you will be aware that I’m currently, along with a team of successful businesses and organisations in rural Wales, trying to develop an economic development plan for rural Wales. What was clear was that it was important for us to have a representative from the national parks on that group, and that’s because the national parks of course have a responsibility to protect beauty in the landscape they administer, but they also, as the planning authorities, have a responsibility to be a part of the answer to economic development in rural Wales, and not, as they’ve been portrayed in the past, a hindrance to it.
 
I want to be clear: I understand that the primary responsibility of a national park, according to the 1995 Environment Act, is to first of all
 
‘conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage’
 
of national parks. Secondly, their task is
 
‘to promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment’
 
of the special qualities of the park by the public. And thirdly, and importantly, the element that is often forgotten is that national parks also have that duty
 
‘to foster the economic and social well-being’
 
of their local communities. Now, what I didn’t understand until recently is that that is only a duty in as far as it relates to conserving beauty and to promoting the enjoyment of the park. I was very interested to hear Sian Gwenllian talk about what’s happening in Snowdonia. I’d be interested to know how they are managing to divorce economic and social well-being from those two things, because I don’t understand how that is in keeping with the 1995 Environment Act. It will be interesting to find out—[Interruption.] I think at the moment that restriction is there, and I think it’s important that we understand that it is quite a restriction in terms of their planning abilities.
 
16:32
Simon ThomasBiography
Will the Member give way?
 
16:32
Eluned MorganBiography
Of course, yes.
 
16:32
Simon ThomasBiography
I think the point that Sian Gwenllian—she can speak for herself, but the point I understood her to make very clearly was that Snowdonia has taken the need for living and vibrant communities in their area and applied that within the principles that are in legislation, and has been successful.
 
16:32
Eluned MorganBiography
My understanding, certainly from Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, is that they can only promote economic and social development of the area if it’s in relation to points 1 and 2. That’s what I’ve been told very clearly, so if you’re able to do that differently, I’d be very interested to understand how.
 
Unless we create sustainable communities where people can live and work, there’ll be nobody to look after and serve the incredible number of visitors who bring so much wealth into these communities, but also to serve the people who live there. Where will the carers of those who live in national parks be able to live if there’s no affordable housing available for them to live in?
 
Now, one of the problems that national parks face at the moment is that there’s a lack of clarity between the responsibilities of the 1995 Environment Act, the responsibilities of adhering to the Sandford principles, and adhering to the seven goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. I hope that’s what will happen now in the next phase—that there’ll be a better legal framework for these national parks to be able to adhere to those three areas that they need to.
 
I think that we should, of course, keep to those Marsden recommendations, which would allow economic development to occur—yes, even in national parks, if, of course, the development is done sympathetically, with a view to the ecology and natural beauty of the area, and if it helps to support services and employment for people who have lived in the area for a number of years. For example, in years to come we’re going to have to provide adequate accommodation for older people. That’s why one of the main recommendations in our rural economic development plan will be that we need to try and build eco-homes for older people—yes, even within national parks. It has been done in Pembrokeshire. It is possible, it’s possible to do it tastefully, and these projects have provided local jobs and enhanced local supply chains, allowing younger people to stay in the parks. We mustn’t forget that these national parks are living places. There’s a residential population of over 80,000 people. We need to make life easy for the people working there so we don’t lose more young people to the bright lights of the cities.
 
Now, national parks make up around 20 per cent of the land area of Wales. They cannot and must not be pickled in aspic. They need to be vibrant communities where different generations can live and work, and, of course, we must do that as far as possible whilst preserving the beauty of the environment.
 
16:35
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call on the Cabinet Secretary to reply to the debate—Lesley Griffiths.
 
16:35
Lesley GriffithsBiographyThe Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
Diolch, Llywydd. I’d like to thank all Members who’ve taken part in this debate and I will try and respond to many of the points raised. The substantial work undertaken, firstly by Professor Terry Marsden and his panel and then subsequently by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas and the working group, now positions the designated landscapes in a role that I think can help address increasingly complex environmental challenges, inequalities in well-being and health, and create vibrant and resilient rural communities, as Eluned Morgan has just referred to.
 
I want to reiterate again, in the strongest possible terms, I and the Welsh Government remain committed to conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife, and cultural heritage of national parks and AONBs. I have to say, you would think it was my report, the way some Members have spoken; it isn’t my report, it is the report of the group.
 
Wales has set out bold ambitions in the recent well-being of future generations and the environment Acts and this provides the framework for the sustainable management of natural resources and the path to resilient ecosystems, which are key to increasing economic, cultural, and environmental benefits.
 
If I can just turn to the two amendments from Plaid Cymru. We will not be supporting the first amendment. I’ve no wish to undermine the deliberations and report of the Future Landscapes working group—and, in fairness, Simon Thomas said the same: he didn’t want to undermine it—through and amendment that regrets how they have dealt with the Sandford principle. I don’t think it’s clear in the amendment whether this principle should be maintained or not. I know, in your comments, that’s certainly the message that’s come through, but I don’t think the amendment specified that.
 
We will be supporting the second amendment. I’ve said in my opening remarks, and I hope it’s very clear to everybody, that any substantive change to the legislation on national parks will require primary legislation. They are devolved matters and the appropriate place for that legislation is here.
 
16:37
Simon ThomasBiography
Will the Minister give way?
 
16:37
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Yes.
 
16:37
Simon ThomasBiography
Just for clarification, I understand what she said about our first amendment, but the first amendment is really designed to ensure we have that debate, which we’ve started here today, I accept, but it’s not resolved yet, and I think the Minister might be a little too complacent about just how resolved this is.
 
16:37
Lesley GriffithsBiography
No, I’m not complacent at all, and I hope, in my opening remarks, I made that very clear. I will come back to the Sandford principle because, obviously, several Members have raised that in their contributions.
 
If I can start with Simon Thomas’s contribution: you specifically mentioned about RSPB Cymru, who were represented on the working group. Other people have said to me that it does reflect—they’re the only people who have said it doesn’t reflect the report. So, on the basis that you can’t please all the people all the time, you know, it is very unfortunate that the RSPB feel that way and I think that’s something that we need to discuss further with them.
 
David Melding referred again to the Sandford principle. We’ve now introduced legislation in Wales with our own principles, to ensure that our natural resources are managed in ways that maintain and enhance the resilience of our environment, and that’s absolutely the bedrock for environmental policy in Wales and that really should build on AONBs and our national parks.
 
John Griffiths, you were the only person to mention seascapes. You’re absolutely right, it is about all our landscapes and the work that will be undertaken going forward.
 
David Rowlands asked why there is a need for legislation. Well, this emerged from the process that was established to consider this. You also wrongly asserted that Sandford relates to new development and that, I think, is what’s triggered the level of correspondence that we’ve all received and why they say they’re not supported. But as I said in my answer to David Melding, we have our own principles here in Wales.
 
Sian Gwenllian talked about Snowdonia and, again, her concerned belief that parks were under threat. Well, that hasn’t come from the Welsh Government. Again, I hope I’ve reiterated that in my comments.
 
Janet Finch-Saunders referred to Snowdonia. As a north Walian, Snowdonia is incredibly dear to me, and it’s incredibly dear to the Welsh Government. I go back to what I just said to Sian Gwenllian: I don’t know where this has come from but it hasn’t come from Welsh Government. Sadly, we’re not in a position to protect national park budgets due to the austerity of your Government in Westminster, but hopefully that will change on Thursday.
 
Huw Irranca-Davies referred to that resourcing approach—it’s a very important point, and I think that really came out in the working group and we need to look at that, going forward.
 
Suzy Davies, you asked about Dyfi Biosphere—I think there is much to commend that approach, but, again, that needs to be consulted upon. The report from the working group did suggest exploring several ways of looking at that, but that really will need to be consulted upon.
 
Neil Hamilton, you often raise China with me. Well, do we just throw our hands up in the air and say, ‘Well, we won’t do what we think we need to do’? I have to say, they are starting to—. You know, renewable energy—I was reading an article last week about the level of renewable energy they’re bringing forward.
 
Janet Finch-Saunders also referred to extending Sandford to AONBs. Well, they only have one purpose, AONBs, and that’s to conserve, so, really, Sandford couldn’t be extended to AONBs.
 
Just in conclusion, Presiding Officer—[Interruption.]
 
16:41
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
It’s just a very brief point: I think one of the things that we shouldn’t miss—I understand that a lot of the focus today has been on designated areas, but I do not want to miss the thing that this report does take us forward on, where it says that
 
‘The desire of Future Landscapes Wales is to unlock the full potential of all landscapes in Wales, including designated landscapes’.
 
And that is critical for tourism development in constituencies in the south Wales Valleys or mid Wales—places that aren’t designated landscapes. This report does take us on to that territory. Don’t lose that as you take it forward.
 
16:41
Lesley GriffithsBiography
Absolutely, and you mentioned specifically areas in I think it was the Gower, going forward.
 
Our designated landscapes should not only have clarity of purpose, but I think they must have very efficient and effective governance arrangements, and people have referred to that. As I say, I will bring more views forward following the consultation that closes at the end of the month.
 
The Future Landscapes Wales programme has been highly collaborative in nature, involving a wide range of stakeholders in its debates and deliberations, and I want to continue in that vein—[Interruption.] I haven’t got time, sorry. The Welsh Government will continue to consult widely before deciding on changes to the current designated landscape regime. I’ve given assurance that, following consultation, any primary legislation will come here, it will be scrutinised here, and I hope that in replying to all the many e-mails that we’ve had we’ll be able to give that point over. I think the challenge now is that we, together, deliver a very collaborative approach that started with the working group, and that that must result in lasting benefits for the people of Wales. Diolch.
 
16:42
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The proposal is to agree amendment 1. Does any Member object? [Objection.] I will defer voting until voting time.
 
Voting deferred until voting time.
 
16:42
9. Voting Time
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
That brings us to voting time. Unless three Members wish for the bell to be rung, I will proceed to the vote. The first vote, therefore, on the designated landscapes review, is on amendment 1, and I call for a vote on amendment 1, tabled in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 24, no abstentions, 26 against. Therefore, the amendment is not agreed.
 
Amendment not agreed: For 24, Against 26, Abstain 0.
 
16:43
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I call now for a vote on amendment 2, tabled in the name of Rhun ap Iorwerth. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 50, no abstentions, none against, and therefore amendment 2 is agreed.
 
Amendment agreed: In favour 50, Against 0, Abstain 0.
 
16:44
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I now call a vote on the motion as amended.
 
Motion NDM6321 as amended:
 
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
 
1. Notes the publication of the report Future Landscapes: Delivering for Wales.
 
2. Agrees Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks play a vital role: