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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 Members to order and welcome Members back after the summer recess.
 
13:30
Statement by the Llywydd
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
It gives me great pleasure to announce, in accordance with Standing Order 26.75, that the Landfill Disposals Tax (Wales) Act 2017 and the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017 were given Royal Assent on 7 September 2017.
 
1. Questions to the First Minister
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The first item on our agenda this afternoon’s questions to the First Minister, the first question is from Russell George.
 
'Services Fit For the Future'
 
13:30
Russell GeorgeBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government consultation 'Services Fit For the Future'? (OAQ51025)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We welcome all contributions to this important consultation. We have already received over 700 responses and these will be used to ensure any future legislative change is the most effective it can be for the people of Wales. The consultation will run until the end of this month.
 
13:30
Russell GeorgeBiography
First Minister, I hope you will join me in recognising the important work that community health councils do across Wales. I’ve had the opportunity of meeting Powys community health council on a number of occasions over the summer recess. And one concern they’ve raised with me is the direction that the Welsh Government White Paper seems to be taking, and particularly an issue that they have raised with me is that the White Paper does not contain any recognition of the complexities of cross-border services, and neither does it refer to the important scrutiny role that our community health councils provide on behalf of patients. You’ll understand, of course, that the vast majority of my constituents access services across the border. What reassurance can you provide to Powys community health council that Welsh patients using services over the border have an effective advocate if future arrangements change?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we want that to continue, of course, and that’s why it’s so important that Powys and other CHCs respond to the consultation, so that we can take forward legislation with the broadest consensus possible.
 
13:32
Steffan LewisBiography
Community health councils have independence, expertise and powers to intervene on behalf of patients in order to uphold their safety and their dignity. So, can the First Minister explain how taking such functions away from the local level and centralising them nationally, and then watering them down, is going to enhance patient safety and dignity?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We have to remember, of course, that CHCs are not an inspectorate. We have a health inspectorate that does that. They have a role, of course, in terms of acting as patient voice and in many other ways. I can say to Members that there has been a very positive meeting with the CHC board. There’s a lot of common ground in the White Paper itself. There are some issues that will need to be discussed further, but the intention is to strengthen the voice of the patient across the whole of Wales, and we look forward to working with CHCs in order to deliver that.
 
End-of-life Care
 
13:33
Jayne BryantBiography
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on end-of-life care in south-east Wales? (OAQ51053)
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Our £3 million investment in the new hospice in Malpas that opened last week demonstrates our commitment to end-of-life care in the south-east of Wales. The updated end-of-life care delivery plan, published in March 2017, also sets out the actions we are taking to deliver a collaborative approach to improving end-of-life care throughout Wales.
 
13:33
Jayne BryantBiography
Thank you, First Minister. Last week, along with the Cabinet Secretary for health, I attended the launch of the new state-of-the-art in-patient unit at Malpas. The 15-bedded unit offers support for people with complex symptom-management needs and end-of-life care, and, as you mentioned, the investment of £3 million of Welsh Government money for the St David’s hospice is a good example of how to deliver first-class hospice care and helps to meet the demand of palliative care services in south-east Wales. So, will you join me, First Minister, in paying tribute to the vision of the board of directors at St David’s, particularly the chief executive, Emma Saysell, and the tremendous support of the local community and volunteers, and to show that investment from Welsh Government, in partnership with the health board and local authority, can make a real difference to the lives of people when they need it most?
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. It’s an excellent example of partnership working, because the investment has enabled the St David’s hospice care team to deliver a palliative care model that is universally recognised as being a good example of first-class care. Now that the new building is complete and open, the charity, of course, will now be able to support more people who need their help at the end of their lives, and I very much congratulate the charity itself for the work that it has put in to make sure that the opening came about.
 
13:34
Nick RamsayBiography
First Minister, can I concur with Jayne Bryant’s comments, and also welcome the opening of the new hospice at Malpas? As chief executive, Emma Saysell, has said, this is a landmark development and will hopefully plug previously identified gaps in provision over the last few years, and I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.
 
You’ll know, First Minister, I frequently raise the issue of motor neurone disease in this Chamber and its devastating impact on sufferers, estimated at up to 5,000 across the UK at any one time. A key finding of the recent Demos report into the financial effect of MND on sufferers and their families has said that services can often be slow to respond to MND sufferers’ needs because of the rapidity of the progress of the disease. So, can you undertake to look again at the provision of services, including hospice and palliative care in Wales, to ensure that—yes, we’ve got a wonderful new building in Malpas, and that’s one part of the jigsaw—the services that are provided are able to keep pace with sufferers of complex diseases such as MND?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member raises an important issue. It was remiss of me not to congratulate him, of course, on his recent wedding, and his dedication in coming back here. I believe that was not a choice he faced, but, nevertheless, he is here. But my congratulations, obviously, to him and his new wife.
 
Motor neurone disease is a devastating illness. It is usually very progressive. Sometimes, it moves more quickly in some people than others. It’s difficult to predict the rapidity of the progress of the illness, but, unfortunately, of course, it’s known what the illness eventually does to the body. We want to work with the motor neurone disease charities in order to make sure that the level of care is right for the individual, because we know that it’s not possible to predict with any accuracy how the disease will progress in terms of its speed, and that is certainly something that we’ve been working with the motor neurone disease charities in order to achieve.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:36
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Questions now from the party leaders. The leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:36
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Llywydd. It’s almost 20 years to the day since the vote in 1997 to establish this institution, and with a new term must come a new chapter in the Welsh story. First Minister, I personally won’t forget the triumph, where so many of us in this Chamber, and outside, helped to deliver a victory for our nation on that night. Governing ourselves is a victory in itself. No other country has governed another well.
 
But the Welsh Government is a different institution to the National Assembly. I agree with Ron Davies when he says that Ministers need to ask themselves some difficult questions about delivery. First Minister, do you agree with him?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No. Ron, of course, had the opportunity to shape the direction of the National Assembly, but we know, of course, his unfortunate story. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past 20 years. When I look back at what Wales was like in the 1990s: a country lacking confidence, where young people wanted to leave, a country that really had no strong profile abroad—that wasn’t happening. And the one thing that strikes me is that it was accepted as normal that unemployment should be substantially higher in Wales than in the rest of the UK. That was seen as something that was inevitable. That’s no longer the case; unemployment’s either at the UK average, or below the UK average. I could go on, of course, and she might expect me to do that, but I pick out certain comparisons there with the 1990s, in the way that Wales has changed for the better in the 20 years since the referendum.
 
13:38
Leanne WoodBiography
Well, people are still leaving, First Minister, as you well know. And, last year, you said that Labour is halfway through a decade of delivery. But, for many people, the current performance of devolved Government is mediocre to say the least, and has been seen as making no difference to their lives or the quality of public services. And those aren’t my words, but the findings of research on attitudes to devolution, which you will have read yesterday. If we are halfway through a decade of delivery, why is it that our health and education outcomes are consistently worse than those in Scotland? Why is our GCSE pass rate this year worse than the Scottish equivalent? Why are waiting lists longer on average? And that’s without even mentioning comparisons to England or to other western European countries. What is the explanation for your Government not delivering on the outcomes that people both expect and deserve?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, far from it—I don’t think Scotland is the Shangri-La that is portrayed. There have been real problems in the Scottish education system. There are still issues over the attainment gap, which we have closed and they have not. If we look at health, and we look at the 1990s, it was normal in the 1990s, in the days of a Tory Government, for people to wait two years for an operation. That was normal. People accept that no more—no more. We know that waiting times have been reduced substantially despite having an enormous cut in our budget in that time. We’ve just seen the best GCSE results ever. Scotland has its own education system. You can’t compare their qualification system with ours because it’s so different. We are building schools across the whole of Wales; in England, nothing is being built. We’re proud of that fact. If we look at the economy, our unemployment rate is 4.3 per cent. That would have been undreamt of in the 1990s. We are still attracting excellent investment into Wales—the best foreign direct investment figures for the past 30 years—and that’s because we have a Government that is able to go out and sell Wales. Whatever the politics of that Government, the profile that Ministers have is far, far greater than was the case in the 1990s, and that’s why we’ve been so successful in bringing jobs into Wales.
 
13:40
Leanne WoodBiography
You sound complacent, First Minister, and your answers here this afternoon seem to suggest that things are already going so well, that this is as good as it gets. Not so much a decade of delivery, but it’s a decade of complacency. We need, First Minister, a country where there is a premium on self-Government. Making our own decisions is an essential first step, and Plaid Cymru is proud that this country has taken that step. But the next step is realising that premium. Being a Welsh citizen should mean that there’s a public service bonus: a devolution dividend, then, if you like. So, I’ll make one challenge to you today, as we mark 20 years since that ‘yes’ vote: by the end of this Assembly term, will the Labour Government have closed the gap with Scotland on health, education and the economy? And if we approach the end of this term and there seems to be no sign of a closing of that gap, will you then accept and admit that Wales needs a new Government?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s not me she wants to convince; it’s the electorate, and she’s not convinced them of that. There’s no point complaining to me about the lack of success of her own party. I do not accept there’s a gap between us and Scotland. I don’t accept that there’s a gap between us and Scotland in education. Scotland’s unemployment rate is regularly higher than ours. It’s not as if Scotland, economically, is doing fantastically well, and from our perspective I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past 20 years. The electors of Wales have recognised that. They’ve seen that in election after election, and there will be no sign of complacency from us. We know that it gets harder and harder to convince people to vote for us the longer that we are in Government, and we will work harder and harder to ensure that people continue to give us their support.
 
13:42
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:42
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, in August, the report about Kris Wade was published from the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board. This was a desktop review into the employment by that health board of Kris Wade, a man who is currently serving a 21-year sentence for the sexually motivated killing of 65-year-old Christine James. In the years leading up to Ms James’s murder, Kris Wade was the subject of no fewer than three separate allegations of sexual abuse amongst vulnerable patients. At the time of the desktop review publication, my party criticised the report for its lack of independence. It is our belief it can never be acceptable for a health board to investigate serious concerns about itself. Following several calls from my party, and indeed the BMA and others in this Chamber, your Government announced Healthcare Inspectorate Wales’s role in reviewing the desktop report that the health board undertook. How on earth can it be acceptable for a health board to investigate such serious accusations of its own failing?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s a complicated picture, and I understand the grief that the family has faced. There were three allegations; that’s correct. No action was taken by the police with regard to those allegations, and so no criminal proceedings were taken. That said, it is highly important that there is an investigation by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales into not just the lessons that can be learned, but the lessons that can be learned in order that we can be assured as a Government that any failings that may have been in the system at that time are corrected, and that the family then can be assured that the health board did all that it could have done to deal with the situation. We won’t know the answer to that question until of course we get the findings of the health inspectorate’s report.
 
13:44
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, it’s my understanding that not one patient, not one medical professional and not one member of staff was asked to give a formal interview in the course of the review. That, surely, is unacceptable. Can you confirm that Healthcare Inspectorate Wales will take evidence from clinicians, from patients and, above all, anyone associated with the investigation that allowed the tragedy to unfold and ultimately ended up in this gentleman being sentenced to 21 years in prison?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It is absolutely crucial that the investigation is independent. It’s not for me then to tell Healthcare Inspectorate Wales what they should and shouldn’t do, but I think it’s proper for me to say that I would expect them to gain as much evidence as broadly as possible in order for their final findings to be as robust as possible.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I think most people would say it would be fair for you or your Government, in the shape of the Cabinet Secretary, to set the terms of reference for the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales inquiry report, investigation, call it what you will, because obviously he has asked them to do that. When I found out that not one medical person had been asked, not one patient had been asked, to give evidence to this investigation, that is unbelievable, I have to say. And I do call upon you to make very strict terms of reference for this investigation from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales so that the report that they present to your Government can enjoy the confidence of the Members here, of the wider public, that they are being protected against people like Kris Wade working within our health service. Will you give that commitment that the terms of reference are robust enough from the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales inquiry into this inquiry so that we can have confidence that patients and members of the public are protected from the likes of Kris Wade ever working within the health service here in Wales?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The answer to the question is ‘yes’, of course. We want to make sure that the investigation itself is (a) independent and (b) robust. I’m not sure whether he is saying that, in the past, not enough people were interviewed, or whether that’s happening now, but whichever way, I’ll make sure that that is looked at to make sure that that issue is dealt with. But it is obviously important that the findings are seen to be robust and can be supported by all in this Chamber.
 
13:46
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Leader of the UKIP group, Neil Hamilton.
 
13:46
Neil HamiltonBiographyLeader of the UKIP Wales Group
Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. In the Government’s document, ‘Brexit and Fair Movement of People’, it acknowledges that, in the British social attitudes survey in 2013, 86 per cent of the UK population wanted to see immigration reduced, and yet the policy of the Government here in Cardiff, in this document, is to oppose the introduction of any form of target for a reduction of immigration. The latest figures show a significant reduction on what we’ve seen in recent years, but even at 0.25 million a year net migration, which we currently have, that would add, if sustained, 8 million to our population by 2032, 21 million by 2064, when the population of the UK would be 85 million. That is just not sustainable. Before the First Minister says that, well, immigration is absolutely vital for economic growth, in 2014, the Office for Budget Responsibility did a study of the effects of immigration at current levels, 0.25 million net a year. That adds 0.4 per cent to GDP but also 0.4 per cent to population, so that GDP per capita wouldn’t improve; it’s neither here nor there. Isn’t it time that the Welsh Government woke up to the realities of life in modern Britain?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Immigration should be tailored according to the needs of the UK. Targets—. It is artificial. What is the point of targets? Let’s examine that situation. Let’s say, for example, we wished to recruit more doctors to the Welsh NHS but were told, ‘Sorry, we’ve reached the quota for this year’. That’s nonsensical. Why on earth would that be a sensible policy for any Government to adopt? So, we have offered a view on migration. We don’t know what the UK Government’s view is yet. This is our offer in terms of what we think the system should look like, but it’s absolutely crucial, of course, that policy is tailored to what the UK actually needs, not an artificial target.
 
13:48
Neil HamiltonBiography
The First Minister knows that that is not the only way in which targets can work. In particular, the problems that we have for the levels of immigration that we currently suffer are not in the field of professionals, like doctors and nurses, where they will always be able to qualify for whatever the skills needs of the country are. But at the bottom end of the income scale, in particular, for those who are on low skills or unskilled, there are very significant factors at work that push down the levels of income that people are likely to get. Given that Wales is a low-wage economy, and we’re at the bottom of the income scale for the nations and regions of the UK, shouldn’t we be more concerned to reduce the inflow of unskilled and low-skilled migration in order to protect those who are most vulnerable in Welsh society?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think the game was given away by the leader of UKIP when he said that immigration is something that we suffer. I have to say to him that the proportion of EU citizens in Wales is very, very low—well below 5 per cent of the population. It is the case that people work in Wales; that’s true. But he needs to speak to businesses, who will tell him that they need to be able to recruit people in many, many different jobs, some of them highly skilled, some of them not so skilled, but those people are needed. What I say to him is that we should suffer immigration, as he would put it, on the level that is appropriate to the needs of our economy. I have to say to him: he talks about a low-wage economy; he is complicit in driving down wages. Did he support the minimum wage? No, he didn’t support the minimum wage. Of course he didn’t. Is he supportive of ways of enforcing the minimum wage to stop anybody being exploited, regardless of where they are from? No, I doubt that is the case. He cannot, on the one hand, complain about the driving down of wages when his own record shows that he was against the minimum wage and therefore happy to see wages driven down when he was in another place.
 
13:50
Neil HamiltonBiography
The First Minister knows that the policy of my party was in favour of the minimum wage. In the days when I was a member of the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party was against the introduction of a minimum wage, but UKIP has always supported the introduction of a minimum wage, and, of course, there hasn’t been a single prosecution in Wales for breach of minimum wage legislation, even though we know that this is occurring. So, the Welsh Government, for all the protestations of the First Minister, does absolutely nothing to make its own policy work. When I used the word ‘suffer’ in terms of immigration policy, what I meant there was that the scale and speed of this immigration is imposing massive strains and stresses upon not just public services, but also on the incomes of those who are at the bottom end of the income scale. At the moment, we are in a period of economic growth, but of course the problems really become apparent when the economic cycle is on a downswing. There’s a wealth of academic studies, some of which are referred to in this document, which shows—. Such as the study of the Bank of England, for example—it showed that a 10 per cent increase in the proportion of migrants working in particular jobs in particular regions leads to a 2 per cent fall in wages. This is a serious matter in an economy where the average earnings in Wales are only 75 per cent of the UK’s.
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, I am surprised to hear him say that he did not stand as a Conservative candidate in 1997 on a manifesto commitment not to oppose a minimum wage. I seem to remember that that was the case at that time, conveniently forgotten now. Secondly, as he knows full well—or is being mischievous—the Welsh Government is not the prosecuting authority when it comes to minimum wage legislation. It’s not devolved. It’s a matter for the UK Government to target resources towards the appropriate authority in order for those prosecutions to take place. He talks of evidence that shows that wages are being driven down. Where is that evidence? I see no evidence that that is the case. I see evidence of wages being driven down by some employers who are unscrupulous. I see wages being driven down by people who are working on casual contracts in the private sector. I see wages being driven down by the policies of the UK Government removing things such as tax credits that help the low paid while, of course, putting in place tax cuts for the highest paid. None of use wants to see low pay; I understand that. But can I suggest that he targets his guns at the true problem here, which is the policy that was put in place by the current UK Government?
 
'Brexit and Fair Movement of People'
 
13:53
Mark RecklessBiography
3. What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding the Welsh Government's 'Brexit and Fair Movement of People' policy document? (OAQ51052)
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
They have not wished to have any discussions, though we have sent them the document.
 
13:53
Mark RecklessBiography
The First Minister has, though, it seems, had discussions with the First Minister of Scotland and development of joint strategy and approach with the Scottish Government. Does the First Minister not appreciate that Wales voted ‘leave’ in the referendum? He said himself that had a lot to do with free movement of people, yet his document here is supporting free movement of people in all but name. Instead of continuing to import people to run our NHS, should we not be training up people here in Wales, and why, after 20 years of Labour-led Government, does this document say that substantial work is still needed to do that?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Why have we got foreigners in our NHS? That’s what he’s saying, in effect, isn’t it? That’s what this is about. The national health service, like the health service of any other country in the developed world, always relies on doctors from other countries. I don’t care where doctors are from as long as they’re good and they deliver services for our people. That’s what counts at the end of the day. I’m not interested in where they were born; I’m interested in their medical skills. That’s what I have to say to him.
 
Yes, I’ve spoken to the First Minister of Scotland on this issue. Again, I say to him the interpretation that he and his former party put on the vote last year is not an interpretation I share. All we know is that people voted to leave the EU. They did not vote for a hard Brexit. They were given the opportunity to vote for a hard Brexit in June; they did not vote for a hard Brexit, and so it falls on all of us in this Chamber to try to interpret the viewpoint that people had on that. But I have to say nobody said to me on the doorstep—not one person, even people who were the hardest supporters of Brexit imaginable—‘What we need are fewer doctors from abroad in this country’. Nobody said that. And so, this is, in this document, an attempt to put forward a viewpoint on how migration can be made to work in the future. We’ve heard nothing from his current party or his former party to add to that debate.
 
13:55
Dawn BowdenBiography
First Minister, when I recently met with farmers in Rhymney—yes, there are farmers in Rhymney—we discussed many issues relating to Brexit and its potential impact on the rural economy, and, contrary to the implications in Neil Hamilton’s question earlier, one particular concern that they had was their inability to be able to recruit labour locally—casual labour, seasonal labour—resulting in their reliance on a steady stream of EU migrant labour. Would you agree with me that the availability of regulated seasonal labour from the EU is necessary in any agreement on the movement of people post Brexit?
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it is hugely important. We know, otherwise, that there will be serious labour shortages in the agricultural industry, and that is something that has not yet been properly addressed by the UK Government. It comes back to this point again: we need an immigration policy that’s sensible, that’s fair, that’s balanced, and we believe, in the document that we’ve produced on Brexit and migration, that we’ve done just that. I don’t accept that people voted to leave the EU and then decided to build a metaphorical or real fence around the UK while at the same time, of course, incidentally, keeping the open border with the EU in the Republic of Ireland, which is something that has never been resolved. So, this is a way forward that we believe is sensible, fair, and meets, of course, the wishes of the people of Wales that were expressed in the referendum last year.
 
13:57
Michelle BrownBiography
Does the First Minister not see that perhaps the reasons we seem to be reliant on migrant workers are twofold? Firstly, there’s little incentive to train local people for jobs when they can simply import ready-made, qualified workers. And, secondly, pay and conditions are so poor that it’s often only a migrant worker from a country with living standards that are worse than ours who is prepared to be exploited in this way. What are you going to do to reverse the reliance on EU workers and migrant workers?
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, first of all, we all want to see improved pay and conditions, and it’s hugely important that we see the introduction of a proper living wage across our economy, in the private sector as well, and important that we have a UK Government that recognises the importance of that. But I am not obsessed with the idea that what we have to do is to chuck out as many foreign workers as possible, which is effectively what she is saying. And that interpretation is not shared by the people of Wales, as shown by the fact that her party—I don’t know if she’s still in the party or not—received such a low percentage of the vote in the election. Does it not tell you something that the kind of Brexit that you support is not supported by the people of Wales, and we saw that in June?
 
Forced Labour
 
13:58
Joyce WatsonBiography
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government action to tackle forced labour in Wales? OAQ(51050)
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We’re committed to working with police and crime commissioners and partners to tackle slavery, which includes forced labour. In March, we launched our ethical employment in supply chains code of practice to make supply chains transparent and prevent exploitation of workers—a first, indeed, for Wales and for the UK.
 
13:58
Joyce WatsonBiography
I thank you for that answer. The National Crime Agency recently said that modern day slavery or forced labour is now so widespread that ordinary people are likely to come unwittingly into contact with victims every single day, and those victims will be found within the key industries, particularly highlighting agriculture, domestic and social care, fishing, food processing, car washing, and construction. Currently, under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, only companies with an annual turnover of £36 million a year have to declare what steps they have taken to stop slavery within their supply chains. I think you will agree that most companies in Wales do not reach the threshold. So, First Minister, what discussions have you had with the anti-slavery co-ordinator from Wales about his proposals for a code of practice that companies could sign up to voluntarily?
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we did launch the code of practice on ethical employment and supply chains in March. That was aimed at supporting businesses to make supply chains transparent and to prevent workers from being exploited. As I said, that’s a first for both Wales and the UK. I know that the Wales anti-slavery leadership group is raising the issue of slavery through training and awareness raising, because—and I know she is passionate about this—we want to make sure that Wales is hostile to slavery.
 
14:00
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
First Minister, the anti-slavery co-ordinator for Wales, Stephen Chapman, has admitted that there could be cases of modern-day slavery within the Welsh social care sector. He’s actually stated that, somewhere down the line, this is going on. Across such a large sector in Wales, problems may well be further down the public supply chain. What action are you taking to ensure that, where services are provided by our public bodies in Wales, there is a distinct and robust measure to prevent any form of modern-day slavery in Wales?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, through the training, of course, that I’ve already indicated that the leadership group has taken forward, and secondly, of course, through the code of practice itself. I know that the co-ordinator is passionate in terms of ensuring that we drive slavery out, even where it is hidden, of course, in some organisations. She mentions the social care sector. She wasn’t claiming to have evidence, in fairness, that that happened, but she was quoting what might be happening in Wales. We work very closely with the co-ordinator to make sure that Wales, as I say, becomes hostile to slavery.
 
14:01
David J. RowlandsBiography
First Minister, some time ago I brought to your attention the plight of those immigrants who are forced to work in the car valeting trade. I highlighted that they were working for less than £3.50 an hour, 10 hours a day, seven days a week—in effect, under slave labour conditions. Your reply at the time was that this did not fall in the remit of the Welsh Government. Well, given that the problem of slave labour in Wales in a growing one—47 cases reported in 2014, 71 in 2015 and 124 cases in 2016—is it not now incumbent upon the Welsh Government to use all its powers to intervene, including levering local government to explore the possibility of closing down these iniquitous facilities?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, local government already has that power, of course, in terms of its trading standards obligations. If the Member has evidence that that is happening, I’ll be pleased to look at that evidence and then pass it on to the appropriate prosecuting authority. What he describes is unacceptable, but it’s hugely important that there is evidence to be able to take this forward, eventually, or hopefully, of course, to a successful prosecution.
 
Landslip in Pantteg
 
14:02
Dai LloydBiography
5. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the recent landslip in the Pantteg area of Ystalyfera? (OAQ51011)
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I know that a meeting was held on 22 August where Government officials joined with the Neath Port Talbot council to consider the way forward. We as a Government will consider anything that the council suggests when they make representations to us, as was agreed in that meeting, as I understand it.
 
14:03
Dai LloydBiography
Thank you for that response. Some of us participated in those meetings too. But it’s true to say that this incident, this landslip, has been quite a blow to local families, and created a great deal of uncertainty in the Ystalyfera area. As this is a very unusual event—unprecedented, in fact—will you as the Welsh Government make a public commitment today to provide additional financial assistance to Neath Port Talbot council to deal with this issue, as well as any European funds that may be open to us in dealing with this unique situation?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Of course, I can understand how the families feel as they have to face such a situation. At the meeting held in August, the agreement was that the council would come back to us with the details. That hasn’t happened as yet. Once that does happen, we can then consider the issue further.
 
14:04
Jeremy MilesBiography
I thank Dai Lloyd for bringing this question to you this afternoon, First Minister. There’s been a history of landslides in that particular part of my constituency. The new hazard stems from landslides arising in previously thought to be low-risk areas. You’ll understand the anxiety of the households who’ve been asked to vacate their properties, and the anxiety felt by the broader community, not least as the council reassesses the hazard in the area generally. We would welcome any support that the Welsh Government can give, both to the community and to the council, in resolving this issue, and also, perhaps, given that a number of Government portfolio interests are engaged in this, for there to be a joined-up approach in the support that the Welsh Government is able to provide.
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s not yet clear what the nature of that support would be, which is why we look forward to receiving the representations from the council, in order for us to look at this further. But as far as the people there are concerned, I can well understand that they want to have certainty as quickly as possible. We’re keen to do that and we’ll continue to work with the council in order for that to be delivered.
 
14:05
Suzy DaviesBiography
Perhaps there is an area where Welsh Government can give immediate support, and it’s this: you may remember that, in the meeting that was referred to earlier, an independent report came to light that suggested that the affected area was the least likely to experience landslide or slippage, and nature defied that report. So, there may be space here for Welsh Government to be able to help Neath Port Talbot define the terms of reference for the new report that’s being commissioned, in order to establish whether the 150 homes now potentially at risk are at risk, and that’s something that’s in addition to the financial support that Dai Lloyd has suggested. So, that’s very specific support I think you can give early on.
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re content to work with the council, of course, to see what support we can provide in terms of the commissioning of any new report. And again, we await the council’s representations in that regard.
 
Swansea Bay Metro Network
 
14:06
Lee WatersBiography
6. Will the First Minister commission a full early-stage feasibility study of a Swansea Bay metro network? (OAQ51049)
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We have funded development work on the outline concept of a metro for south-west Wales in his financial year, via the local transport fund. Swansea county council—I should say the City and County of Swansea—is co-ordinating this work in partnership with the other local authorities in the south-west and the project is progressing well.
 
14:06
Lee WatersBiography
Thank you, First Minister. Since Theresa May’s Government reneged on their promise to electrify the railway line to Swansea and the west, this has thrown into sharp relief the connectivity of the whole Swansea bay city region. I welcome the support for the concept for a modern, joined-up public transport network. I think what we need to see now is a detailed feasibility study so we can properly understand how communities in the Llanelli constituency can link up with other communities right across the city region by rail, bus and active travel.
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The project has begun well. A workshop was held with regional planning officers in May. It provided the framework for the emerging concepts. That work is ongoing. But yes, I share the Member’s disappointment at the breaking of a promise by the UK Government to electrify the main line as far as Swansea. I well remember the then Secretary of State, Cheryl Green—. Cheryl Green? Cheryl Gillan. Cheryl Green is the leader of the Lib Dems in Bridgend—there we are. Cheryl Gillan. She won’t forgive me for that, Cheryl Gillan—neither of them, I suspect. But I well remember her saying that it was beyond question that the line would be electrified as far as Swansea—and the money has gone. The people looking for it, I suspect, will find it in Belfast.
 
14:08
Suzy DaviesBiography
I’m pleased that there is growing support for this idea. It’s something that Mike Hedges has raised in the Chamber previously and something that I’ve spoken on as well. When we met the shadow board as a group of local Assembly Members last December, they said that transport infrastructure was not part of their thinking on the city deals. I’m pleased that things have moved on on that. But it’s something I’ve also mentioned to the Association of British Ports, which affects a number of the constituencies within the deal area, who have a strong record on logistics and who seem to be playing no part in the city deal discussion at all. So, I’m wondering, if a feasibility study were to be commissioned, will it include a space for the ports within the deal area, and will there be space within the city deal for any findings of that report, even accepting that the financial support for the city deal is pretty generous?
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We have to remember, of course, that the city deal is driven by local authorities and not by us. It’s a partnership between the UK Government, the Welsh Government and local authorities, but it’s for local authorities working together to prioritise and to engage. What I will do, however, is pass her comments on to the local authorities and ask them what they’re doing to engage with ABP particularly—she’s asked about that—and I will, of course, share that response with her.
 
14:09
Dai LloydBiography
Further to the principle of establishing a metro, would you agree that this is an opportunity for us to create, as a starting point, a bus system that is managed and delivered by local councils, rather than private bus companies?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Of course, the powers will be coming to us over the ensuing months and there will be an opportunity for us to consider how the buses are managed. We know, of course, that there is a strong argument for ensuring that a system is re-established where it will be possible for the councils to run those services ultimately, either themselves or via a franchise. But it will mean that they will have greater control over local bus services than has been true in the past years.
 
14:10
Jeremy MilesBiography
I echo the comments Dai Lloyd made about the importance of buses for those of us with constituencies which are not realistically going to be served by any feasible rail-only solution. Would he commit that any feasibility study commissioned also considers the use of modern technology? I know the Cabinet Secretary for economy has been looking in his bus congestion work at the use of technology to ensure that buses can operate in a really properly integrated system. Would any feasibility study reflect those principles as well?
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes, it will need to. There are a number of ways in which you can deliver a metro: some as heavy rail, some as light rail, fast buses and the possibility of dedicated bus lanes. There are any number of ways where a metro system can be delivered and it’s hugely important that any study is able to look at emerging modern technology, particularly in order to facilitate quicker transport options for the public.
 
Rights of Disabled People
 
14:11
Rhianon PassmoreBiography
7. What is the Welsh Government doing to protect and promote the rights of disabled people in Wales? (OAQ51039)
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Our framework for action on independent living is currently being reviewed. We have worked closely with disabled people and disability organisations across Wales to ensure we’re making tangible progress in promoting and protecting the rights of disabled people and, of course, that is something we will continue to do in the future.
 
14:11
Rhianon PassmoreBiography
Thank you, First Minister. Theresia Degener, the chair of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, has called it a ‘human catastrophe’, following their inquiry into the way that the UK treats its disabled citizens. Atos and Capita, who are tasked by the UK Government with carrying out with personal independent payment assessments, have earned over £0.5 billion of public money since 2013, while over 61 per cent of those who appealed against their PIP assessments in their tribunal have won their case. Will the First Minister outline what the Welsh Government is doing to support disabled people in Wales during the unprecedented reductions in their incomes by the UK Government?
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we cannot reverse what the UK Government has done. I can’t disagree with the use of the phrase ‘human catastrophe’. There is something wrong with the system where 61 per cent of cases are appealed successfully. There’s something wrong with it. That appeal rate is far, far higher than you’d get in the criminal courts and far higher than you would find elsewhere. That is a sign that the initial assessments, bluntly, are mainly wrong, and if the assessments are wrong the system is broken. This is something for the UK Government to deal with. We’ll continue to work, of course, with disabled people, as I said, and disability organisations, to act as their advocate in overturning a system that’s clearly not working.
 
14:12
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Clearly, that’s a matter the cross-party group on disability has also been taking evidence on. I think 80 per cent of appeals by people with sensory loss are successful, indicating the problem that stands before us. So, we do share your concern on this matter. But at a meeting of the cross-party group on disability in north Wales in June, and similarly in a meeting of the cross-party autism group in north Wales in September, concerns were raised with us by representatives of local disabled people and local disabled people themselves about the Welsh Government’s proposals for the Welsh independent living grant. As you know, since it was transferred to the Welsh Government from the UK Government, you had a temporary scheme with local authorities. You announced that with effect from 2018–19 responsibility and funding will be transferred to local authorities. Disabled people are concerned that that will remove their ability to live independently and support their high level of care and support needs. What assurance can you give to them, therefore, that safeguards will be in place to ensure that the funding goes where it’s intended, that assessments will still be done on a person-centred basis with the recipients of the grant, and that disabled people themselves will be the lead voice with authorities in establishing their needs?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We would expect local authorities, of course, to fulfil their obligations to disabled people and to put sufficient funds aside in order for their financial needs to be recognised and satisfied. Of course, local authorities are answerable to their electorate if they pursue policies that the electorate deem to be unacceptable.
 
14:14
Sian GwenllianBiography
Small sums of money can make a very great difference to some families who have a disabled child or disabled children. I’ve mentioned specifics in this Chamber in terms of families in my constituency who have benefited from small grants assisting in improving the quality of life of disabled children, including improving mental health, strengthening family relationships and increasing leisure opportunities. Do you agree with me that the funding that the Government provides to the family fund is a valuable source of support and that it should be maintained over the ensuing years?
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We understand, of course, that there are funds that can make a great difference to the lives of people. I’m not talking about this fund directly, but, unfortunately, we’ve seen cuts in our budget, and there are difficult decisions that will have to be taken during the financial year, but we wish to be able to prioritise what gives optimum benefit to families and what works, and that is what will steer us as a Government over the next few months before the final budget is published.
 
Swansea Bay City Deal
 
14:15
Suzy DaviesBiography
8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Swansea Bay city deal? (OAQ51002)
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s making good progress, developing the proposals that will unlock Government funding.
 
14:15
Suzy DaviesBiography
Thank you for that answer. Later today, of course, we’ll be debating the parliamentary review on health and social care, which has already identified the underexploited potential of information technology and other life science technology in the reformation of those services, and for me, this has got Swansea bay city deal written all over it. What recent discussions have you had with the local government leaders about pinning down the governance structure, with balanced representation from the private sector—you mentioned the ports earlier—so that we can see some accelerated activity on the deal?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
These are issues ultimately, as I say, for local authorities, but I’m confident that the governance structure that they have in place is appropriate and effective, and we will work with them, as will the UK Government, to continue to deliver the city deal. I have to say what will be immensely important in terms of delivery for Swansea will be the delivery of the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. And even though we know that an independent review has said it should move forward, we still have no action from the UK Government. I’m sure she shares this frustration as well. This has been months and months and months and months when no—. I mean, this is not an isolated example, is it, when no decision has been taken on a project that would deliver 1,000 jobs and that would help to revitalise many of our ports? That would help immensely the Swansea bay area, working, of course, in tandem, with the city deal itself.
 
14:17
Simon ThomasBiography
Just on that point, the tidal lagoon development will also enhance opportunities for ports in the Swansea bay city region, and I was pleased to attend a reception last week in Westminster with the Minister, Ken Skates, discussing the opportunities for our ports. How important is it that marine energy, however it’s developed, is part of enhancing the opportunities for ports and also opportunities to enhance the Swansea bay deal?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s vital, because we know, of course, that if energy is created in the sea, we have to have places where we can produce the machinery and to ensure that the machinery is also maintained. And, of course, there are opportunities for ports such as Port Talbot, to create jobs and to rebuild some parts of the docks there. But we don’t have any answer from the United Kingdom Government, because it’s definitely the way forward to create green energy, and it’s the way forward on job generation here in Wales, but we have to have a positive answer from the UK Government.
 
14:18
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:18
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, to make the statement.
 
14:18
Jane HuttBiographyThe Leader of the House and Chief Whip
Diolch, Llywydd. As Members will see, I’ve several changes to today’s agenda. The First Minister will shortly make statements on ‘Prosperity for All—The National Strategy’, and following that a statement on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government will then deliver a statement on the Welsh Government’s policy paper, ‘Brexit and Fair Movement of People’. Finally, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health will make a statement on the tobacco control delivery plan 2017-2020. And business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement found among the meeting papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:19
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Leader of the house, is it possible to have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for transport about the improvements on the Heads of the Valleys road, and I use the word ‘improvements’, because obviously when the work is completed it will be a radical improvement on the transport opportunities that businesses have in that particular part of the world. But businesses from my own region recently have been coming to me highlighting severe roadblocks, road tailbacks, traffic jams et cetera in this part of the road network in Wales. This has had a direct impact on their profitability and, indeed, their ability to expand because they are led to believe that there’s been a considerable overrun in the construction, and the time now to finish the work will be considerably longer. I’ve heard examples of between 12 and 18 months longer, and hence that’s why I’m looking for a statement so that we can clarify exactly how the construction work is progressing. Has the project stayed within budget? And, importantly, what confidence can the Cabinet Secretary give to businesses in south-east Wales that work is progressing as scheduled, and that, whilst there’s short-term pain, it is to be endured to a point and the long-term gain will be worth it over time? But, at the moment, many businesses in south-east Wales, and in particular in South Wales Central, feel that they are experiencing the pain factor without any light at the end of the tunnel. If the Cabinet Secretary could give a statement in relation to the progress of the work, that would be hugely appreciated.
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
The Cabinet Secretary would be happy to write to Members to update on the timetable. Certainly, having travelled, indeed, on the wonderful new stretch that takes you right beyond Ebbw Vale and seeing again how the investment of European funds—you see the big notice, ‘Funded by the European Union structural funds’, and it is clear that, already, the improvements are making a great difference. But in terms of the last stretch, which was always going to be the most difficult one in terms of engineering, the Cabinet Secretary will update on the latest timeline.
 
14:21
Julie MorganBiography
Can I ask for a statement from the health Minister about any progress that’s been made on setting up the public inquiry into contaminated blood and whether there’s been any contact between the Welsh Government and the Westminster Government about this issue?
 
Earlier in the month, I was pleased to attend the all-party Westminster group on contaminated blood, chaired by Diana Johnson MP, in order to see if there was any way of getting any unified position between Wales and the MPs in Westminster. In Wales, certainly, the cross-party group, Haemophilia Wales and the Welsh Government are basically all singing off the same hymn sheet: that we want a judge-led public inquiry—a statutory inquiry—under the Inquiries Act 2005, but it seems to be uncertain as to what is actually happening in Westminster. So, I wondered if there could be a statement from the health Cabinet Secretary to tell us what the position is as far as he knows.
 
14:22
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Julie Morgan for that question, and also for updating us in terms of her very active engagement attending the cross-party group meeting in London where, of course, Haemophilia Wales has been very influential in terms of working with organisations that are representing people who have suffered as a result of the contaminated blood. The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear that the inquiry must leave no stone unturned in getting to the full truth of what happened. Vaughan Gething has written to the Department of Health supporting the call for an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005, to inspire confidence in those it is seeking to serve. I understand that the UK consultation has been extended to 18 October to unable all those affected to express their views.
 
14:23
Llyr GruffyddBiography
I am aware that there is a debate tomorrow, or a policy discussion around getting rid of the community health councils, but the point that I want to raise refers more specifically to the broader consultation processes of this Government. I would be pleased to have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary with responsibility—the finance Secretary, as far as I can see, is responsible for dealing with the public and performance management—just to understand exactly what the formal regimes this Government has adopted are when it comes to various kinds of consultation. What are the standards that the Government expects to meet in such processes and what monitoring measures are in place to ensure that those standards are met?
 
We have heard, for example, that the community health councils weren’t informed that the White Paper was going to suggest scrapping those bodies when it was published. And when it was asked why there wasn’t a large series of consultation events around the White Paper, they were told that many of those had been held in relation to the Green Paper, but, of course, the Green Paper didn’t propose the abolition of the community health councils, so, clearly, there are questions there about the consultation process. Now, of course, we understand that events have been arranged, but they were arranged at the very last minute, with all sorts of claims or suggestions as to how those have been organised, and all that does is undermine the public’s confidence in the consultation process, but it also undermines the public’s confidence in the final decision when it is actually made.
 
Now, last year, the north Wales community health council held over 500 no-notice visits in wards in north Wales—far more than any other body doing anything similar. And if Wales is to move towards a model similar to Scotland, which, by the way, has been called a ‘toothless hamster’, then the least we can expect is a thorough consultation, and a considered and fair consultation, and not what has been described to me as what we’re having now, which is a hurried and amateur consultation.
 
14:25
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I think it’s very important, and of course ahead of the debate tomorrow, that we say very clearly—and I know that the Cabinet Secretary would want to say—that all contributions to the consultation are welcomed. It is a White Paper. Consultations will ensure any future legislation is the most effective that it can be, and of course it is important to recognise that proposals in the White Paper are not just about CHCs, although focusing on that, but looking as well in terms of how you can strengthen the voices of people who use health and social care services, which obviously is a key issue in terms of those service users, and also to improve the quality and governance of those services in Wales.
 
I’m just aware of the fact that an open letter to party leaders has come from the chair of the board of community health councils, and I’m sure many Members have met with community health council representatives over the summer. I think it’s very clear that the response that’s coming ahead of the end of this consultation is that we do need to learn how we can take this forward to ensure that future bodies are independent and can hear directly from people, including hearing directly from people whilst accessing care. These points are being made, of course, by the CHCs themselves. And it is those proposals where those relating to the public voice in the White Paper—those responses are at a high level and we want to ensure that any body that’s set up really represents citizens in health and social care. So, again, these points are all helpful.
 
14:27
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. Can I just ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for health, please? The first concerns the availability of Orkambi to treat cystic fibrosis sufferers in Wales. In his reply to my written question on 15 August this year, the Cabinet Secretary said this medicine was not available routinely due to its high costs and modest clinical benefits. He went on to say that the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group had not received a response from the manufacturers, Vertex, about a further appraisal. I am now advised that Vertex have made a submission, which is being reviewed by the group. Can I ask for a commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for health that he will make a statement as soon as possible after this review has been concluded so that sufferers of this pernicious disease are kept fully informed about the availability of Orkambi?
 
Secondly, could I ask when the Welsh Government will be in a position to say whether funding for the Welsh ambulance service’s falls response team initiative will continue, since the pilot scheme ended on 13 March this year? Thank you.
 
14:28
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you for those questions. I will ask the Cabinet Secretary to clarify the position regarding the availability of the funding of the drug, which, of course, is for people with cystic fibrosis, and you’ve had a response in August and I will clarify the position. And also, to look at the outcome, of course, the Cabinet Secretary will want to acknowledge not just the success of the outcome of the pilot in terms of the Welsh ambulance services, but the fact that that now is being taken forward in other parts of the UK.
 
14:29
Vikki HowellsBiography
Leader of the house, during the summer I was pleased to visit the lunch and fun club based at Penywaun Primary School in my constituency. I was really impressed to see the positive benefits the scheme was having on the pupils who took part, not least in tackling the problem of holiday hunger. Could we have a statement from the education Secretary reflecting on this summer’s scheme, and also updating Members on what lessons the Welsh Government will take forward in future years?
 
In addition, September is Sepsis Awareness Month, and with sepsis killing 2,500 people in Wales each year, could the health Secretary give us an update on what the Welsh Government can do to make sure that people are aware of this life-threatening condition?
 
14:30
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Vikki Howells, for both those questions. On the first question, I think many people have seen the very positive publicity, not just in Wales, but further afield, in terms of the importance of the lunch and fun clubs that have been set up and the investment that we made throughout the summer in terms of administering that scheme. Of course, the focus of the scheme also is about the enriching and educational activities that it offers learners who attend. We piloted that last year. That was published in 2017, in January of this year, and the findings are very encouraging in relation to health, social and educational outcomes. And I know the Cabinet Secretary will want to update on that in terms of this summer’s school holiday enrichment programme.
 
I think your second point is very important in terms of sepsis. Since 2013, the Welsh Government has and continues to make the reduction of the avoidable harm and mortality caused by sepsis a high priority for the NHS in Wales. We have much more that we want to achieve in terms of the whole-system approach, and we’re pleased that the Wales rapid response to acute illness learning group is looking at how we can introduce systems within our primary and community care settings, as well as our hospital settings, to further enable much earlier potential recognition of symptoms to ensure that we can intervene in the timeliest way possible.
 
14:31
Bethan JenkinsBiography
As we’ve heard previously today, last week, we all know that the Cabinet Secretary for health released a written statement announcing a Healthcare Inspectorate Wales assessment of the lessons learned desktop review by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board. I’m not going to go into the detail again, but this was a major breakdown of patient care and protection, and the consequences were severe. Failings were at every level, from the top down, and no-one so far has been held to account for those failings within ABMU. Many of us across the political divide, as well as the British Medical Association, and family members of the lady who was killed by Kris Wade, have asked for an independent inquiry looking at every aspect of this matter, not just an assessment of this flawed internal desktop report by the ABMU, which has already had a conflict of interest in this regard.
 
The remit that I’ve seen—. Although the First Minister says today that there was no remit, the remit I’ve seen from the health Secretary does not go far enough. We need to ensure that everybody who made complaints at the time are heard, that the victims are heard, and that the family of those who were affected are heard also. We need to find accountability in this process, and we have to have more information to hand as Assembly Members. So, I was very, very disappointed when, over the summer, this news broke. The report came out from ABMU, yet we were not afforded a written statement at that time. But the week before we came back, we had a written statement. We need to have an oral statement from the health Secretary on this, so that we can ask him pertinent questions as to what Healthcare Inspectorate Wales will do now, because if Healthcare Inspectorate Wales are not looking at this report, and not taking their own evidence, then it will not be good enough and we will need to raise these questions again. But I would urge the Government, for the sake of open democracy, when we’re celebrating devolution, in the name of open democracy, for us to be able to have an oral statement from the health Secretary.
 
The second question I wanted to ask was with regard to young carers. We had a very positive debate before the end of term, and the Minister said that she was talking to young carers groups. I’ve been told since that many YMCAs across Wales don’t feel that they’ve been engaged, or they would like to be engaged with that process. So, I was wondering if we could have a statement updating us on what the Minister is doing on young carers, so that we can all be involved in that particular process.
 
14:34
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you for those two questions. Just following up and adding to the points that the First Minister made in response to this review: of course you will have seen the written statement issued by the Cabinet Secretary on 15 September, and I think it’s important just to refer to that statement that he made. As he says in the statement, ‘I want to be satisfied’, in terms of ABMU specifically, because this is lessons to be learnt wider than that,
 
‘I want to be satisfied that appropriate actions have been identified by the health board and that their response is sufficiently robust. I also wish to be assured that there are effective arrangements in place across the organisation to monitor the implementation and embedding of any changes in policies and procedures.’
 
And, of course, as you know, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales has been asked to undertake an independent assessment, and he will update Members when that report is received.
 
On your second question, yes, clearly, we had a very positive debate. I know that the Minister will want to engage with Members and the appropriate committee in terms of taking forward positive actions in terms of supporting our young carers.
 
14:35
Hannah BlythynBiography
Leader of the house, following on from the joint statement from the Welsh Government, Flintshire County Council and Flint Town Council earlier this month that proposals for an art installation at Flint castle will not be proceeding as previously planned, can I ask for a statement in this place from Welsh Government, updating plans for going forward for future investment in Flint castle, and also that that gives an absolute guarantee that investment earmarked for Flint still goes to Flint, and that the community of Flint are actively involved in determining the future nature of that investment?
 
14:36
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Hannah Blythyn, and I think you can be assured on all those points in terms of the Cabinet Secretary’s support for this. We’ve acknowledged that the proposal for the iron ring sculpture at Flint castle isn’t appropriate to go forward. And there’s been extremely constructive and productive meetings with local people and stakeholders about this, in terms of cancelling the project. The investment is going to be used and I’m assured that it’s ring-fenced for the art work, to help develop a wider master plan for the foreshore, taking into account, of course, the views of local people. This will include a range of capital investments for the area, holding events and activities, to increase the understanding of the history of the castle, and the significance of the foreshore. But, of course, Flintshire County Council and Flint Town Council will be involved in that, seeing this master plan is a high priority.
 
14:37
Simon ThomasBiography
Can I ask for a response from the business manager on two items of Government business? First of all, can I ask whether the Welsh Government intends to produce a statement on the situation in Catalonia at the moment? The Scottish Government produced a statement two or three days ago. The situation in Catalonia is looking very fraught.
 
The background is that the Catalunyan Government, with the support of the Catalunyan Parliament, has called a referendum on independence for 1 October. The Spanish Government has not engaged with this process at all, and has sought to undermine the process at every step. And I think for those of us who are in this place because of referenda—who had the agreement on the future of the UK, a referendum last year, and, two years ago, a referendum around the future of Scotland, all agreed through the Edinburgh agreement, and other agreements, as part of the way a parliamentary democracy takes the way forward—it is extremely worrying to hear the news from Catalunya now. There are things like the physical and obvious movement of armoured vehicles up and down the roads in and around Barcelona, the capital city, and immediate threats to prosecute over 600 town and city mayors who called for a referendum. We’re not talking about people who are calling for independence here; we’re talking about people who simply say they should have the right to self-determination according to the UN charter, and some of them have said, ‘We’ll have a referendum, but I’ll be voting “no”, but they’re still threatened by prosecution by the Spanish state. And a particular threat, only this week, to withdraw funding from the Catalunyan Government—directly withdraw the funding that allows devolution to work within the Spanish state. This is not, I would suggest, how we deal with challenges around identity and independence and referenda in the EU, or indeed the history of the United Kingdom—our recent history on this has been very obvious and clear for everyone.
 
So, I would hope that the Welsh Government would issue a written statement in support of what’s been said by the Scottish Government; other parliaments and governments have said similar statements within the EU as well. I think the people of Catalunya would very much welcome that support. And I would remind Members of the important role that Catalunya played in the Spanish civil war, and the strong attachments many of us have, as Catalunya was where a lot of the Welsh fighters went and fought at that time.
 
I also hope that we as a parliament can come together—. It’s a separate issue. I know that she’s the business manager for the Welsh Government, but I hope that we as a parliament can also sign a letter of support to the principle of making these decisions—not ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to independence as such, but the principle of allowing a parliament and a government to make a decision to take cognisance of its people’s views through a referendum. So, I very much hope that the Government can be really positive around that call.
 
If I can now turn to something much more parochial, Presiding Officer, and just remind the Chamber that on 11 July, just before we broke up, the education Cabinet Secretary, Kirsty Williams, made a statement here saying that she intended to raise tuition fees in Wales and that was a signal that she’d persuaded the Labour Cabinet, of course, to adopt the very successful Lib Dem policy on tuition fees. So, I would now like to know from the business manager, because I fail to see it in the next three weeks, when we will be discussing and voting upon the statutory instruments that will bring in the rise in tuition fees in Wales. I really look forward to her other role, as whip, to see her dragoon her backbenches to vote for a tuition fee rise here in Wales when, of course, they so successfully opposed it with the DUP’s support in the House of Commons only last week, and had Jeremy Corbyn and all his supporters dancing on the street at this great victory for holding down tuition fees in England. So, let’s see if we can replicate that victory here in Wales. Will she have the courage to bring a statutory instrument to this Chamber so that we can all vote upon it? And perhaps some of us can vote in line with Labour Party policy.
 
14:41
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I think, on your first question, Simon Thomas, indeed, of course, Wales does have very strong links—historical, cultural and economic—with Catalonia and there are no plans at present for a statement. I think you read the point well in terms of the development this afternoon. I also think that we note your points in terms of what are our pioneering higher education and further education funding policies. We note your point.
 
14:42
Huw Irranca-DaviesBiography
I’m sure the business manager is aware of the private Member’s Bill going through the House of Commons at the moment in the name of the MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant. It’s based on the Protect the Protectors campaign, looking at increasing—strengthening—the legislation, the education, the workforce protection for not only members of the police services dealing with emergency incidents, but also those fire services, paramedics and others. I declare an interest as well, as my wife works as an accident and emergency department radiographer on busy nights. Too often those also see the evidence of violent assaults within their work and it shouldn’t be acceptable.
 
The reason I ask for a consideration of a written statement by the relevant Cabinet Secretary on this is that it would enable the Welsh Government to show its support for the principles behind this, but also to outline, should this Bill fail, because there have previously been attempts to bring through, in effect, a protect the protectors Bill within Westminster—. The first attempt was by Holly Lynch under the guise of a ten-minute rule Bill back in February this year, and now it’s proceeding—and we hope, successfully—under the MP for Rhondda’s name. But if it isn’t to succeed, I’m sure there is scope for the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly, within its devolved competences, particularly in the areas of public services, to look at what we could do if the UK Government and the UK Parliament were not willing to give good passage to the Bill being taken forward in the MP for Rhondda’s name. So, I ask for a consideration of a written statement in due course by the Welsh Government about how they could support the principles and possibly look at our alternative within Wales.
 
14:43
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I thank Huw Irranca-Davies for bringing that to our attention. We know there have been some very pioneering backbencher Bills, some of which—. Julie Morgan took one through in terms of sunbed legislation when she was a Member of Parliament. I think we need to look at this—it’s very relevant, obviously, to our workforce here in Wales—and look at the protect our protectors private Member’s Bill and I’m sure the Cabinet Secretary will want to see lessons to be learnt or what we take forward if it doesn’t succeed.
 
14:44
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
I thank the leader of the house.
 
14:44
3. Statement: ‘Prosperity for All: The National Strategy’
Y Llywydd / The LlywyddBiography
The next item is the statement by the First Minister on ‘Prosperity for All: the national strategy’. The First Minister to make the statement.
 
14:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Llywydd, yesterday of course we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the ‘yes’ vote that brought devolution to Wales. It was an opportunity to look back and reflect on how far we have come since the days of the Welsh Office, a time when Wales was just another Government department. It is also an opportunity to look forward to the next 20 years.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Ann Jones) took the Chair.
 
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The establishment of this Assembly and, of course, the establishment of this Government, has been a journey of political maturity and also a story of growing confidence and a firm determination on all sides of this Chamber to deliver for Wales. The next stage of that journey is marked today by the publication of the national strategy designed to bring together the efforts of the whole public sector towards this Government’s central mission of delivering prosperity for all.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, prosperity is about far more than material wealth and cannot be determined, or delivered, indeed, by economic growth alone. It’s about every person in Wales enjoying a good quality of life, living in a strong, safe community, and sharing in the prosperity of Wales. It’s a simple objective and one with which I’m sure no-one can argue. However, delivering it will require every part of the Government and the public service to combine their forces in pursuit of that aim.
 
This strategy is a first for Government, capturing in one place how the many strands of Government will work together towards a common aim, putting the needs of the people of Wales first. The simple ambition that we can all work together in the long-term interests of Wales is at the heart of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and this is an important step in realising our vision.
 
This strategy takes our commitments in ‘Taking Wales Forward’, places them in a long-term context, and sets out how they will be delivered in a smarter, more joined-up way that cuts across traditional boundaries, both inside and outside Government. It recognises that the fundamental challenges we face as a nation can only be properly addressed by putting people before systems and structures and getting more from every pound the public sector spends. It’s a bold vision for delivering our ambitions for Wales. Our ambition is for a Wales that is prosperous and secure, healthy and active, ambitious and learning, and united and connected.
 
Beginning with the first of those ambitions, ‘prosperous and secure’, our aim is to drive a Welsh economy that spreads opportunity and tackles inequality, delivering individual and national prosperity. We will enable people to fulfil their ambitions and enhance their well-being through secure and sustainable employment.
 
Turning to the second ambition, ‘healthy and active’, we want to improve health and well-being in Wales for individuals, families and communities, helping us to achieve our ambition of prosperity for all, and taking significant steps to shift our approach from treatment to prevention.
 
Thirdly, we want a country that is based on the concept of being ambitious and learning. We want to instil in everyone a passion to learn throughout their lives, inspiring them with the ambition to be the best they possibly can be. A prosperous Wales needs creative, highly skilled and adaptable people, so quality education from the earliest age will be the foundation for a lifetime of learning and achievement.
 
Finally, a united and connected Wales. We will build a nation where people take pride in their communities, in the Welsh identity and language, and our place in the world. We are building the vital links that make it easier for people to come together, for the economy to grow, and to become a confident nation at ease with itself.
 
It is only by making progress across all of these that we will realise our ambition of prosperity for all. However, there were issues that came up over and over again: times or situations in people’s lives when taking the right early action, often co-ordinated across services, could fundamentally alter an individual’s prospects. We have identified five priority areas—early years, housing, social care, mental health, and skills and employability—where we can have the greatest potential contribution to our long-term prosperity and well-being.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, an individual’s experiences during their early years play a significant part in shaping their future, and are critical to their chances of going on to lead a healthy, prosperous and fulfilling life. The bedrock of living well is a good-quality, affordable home, which brings a wide range of benefits to health, learning and prosperity. Compassionate, dignified care plays a critical part in strong communities, ensures that people can be healthy and independent for longer, and is a significant economic sector in its own right. One in four people in Wales will experience mental ill health at some point in their lives, so getting the right treatment at an early stage, coupled with greater awareness of conditions, can in many cases prevent long-term adverse effects.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, the better people’s skills, the better their chances of getting fair, secure and rewarding employment. And the stronger the skills base in Wales, the more chance we have of attracting new businesses and growing existing ones to improve prosperity.
 
We will be working with our partners to deliver better, more seamless services for everyone in these areas. Joining up services has long been the holy grail of government. While we’ve had some notable successes, in Wales we have the opportunity to go much further, and identifying this small number of areas will allow us to focus our and others’ energies on driving big improvements.
 
What matters now is making this happen. We will put ‘Prosperity for All’ at the heart of Government and it will shape all of our decisions. We’ll finalise a series of plans over the coming weeks and months, setting out in detail how we will deliver our ambitions. This will include a comprehensive economic action plan, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, marshalling the resources of the whole Government towards sustainable, inclusive economic growth and infrastructure, in line with the strategy.
 
Health will remain a key priority for this Government, and we will publish an action plan for health next year. This plan will respond, of course, to the parliamentary review, but will also set out how we can deliver our wider public health ambitions and how we can use all the opportunities of Government to move away from treating people when they’re sick to helping people to enjoy better health. And in education, the Cabinet Secretary for Education will next week announce a new action plan for schools, ensuring that all our children and young people can reach their potential.
 
Dirprwy Lywydd, our programme for government, ‘Taking Wales Forward’, sets out what we will deliver for the people of Wales during this term. This national strategy, ‘Prosperity for All’, sets out how we will deliver this in a smarter, more focused way, driving delivery during this term, but setting the longer term foundations for a more prosperous Wales. We have an ambitious vision for the future of Wales and we are taking concrete steps to deliver it.
 
14:52
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you. Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
14:52
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. First Minister, thank you for your statement this afternoon. One thing both you and I must be contributing to the local economy is buying our suits in the same shop. I notice we’ve got the same suit, but you extended to the waistcoat, you did. [Laughter.] I won’t expect any quips.
 
I welcome the statement. Obviously, it’s a progression on from the programme for government that the First Minister put down last year, and, as the First Minister says in the statement, to a point, how can you disagree with many of the points that are within the statement and the document that he’s brought forward, because a lot of it is the motherhood and apple pie that traditionally comes out with these types of announcements? I noticed in the closing remarks from the First Minister that, over the course of this term—I’m assuming—more meat will be put on the bones of some of these announcements by various Cabinet Secretary statements in their particular portfolio areas. So, I suppose it is fair to expect, obviously, to receive more information as the term progresses.
 
But at the start of the statement, the First Minister does identify the need for greater working in the public sector to make the public pound go that much further, and one of the things constituents get driven to the extremes over is how they can’t get various parts of the public services that are meant to be there to help them to work in their own interests—and I use health and social care as an example—and they come to their Assembly Members. I’m sure many AMs in this building have had the experience, and they just can’t work through why these services will not work to enable them to get the treatment or the services they need in the right place. So, what I would ask the First Minister, given the experience and that he was the First Minister that put in place the Williams commission, about local government reform, in the last Assembly, where a huge amount of effort was put by the then Government into reforming local government to try and make a better way of working, as they saw it at the time, and to work on the proposals of the Williams review, how he believes this Government will be any more successful in driving reform of the public services here in Wales that will create, as he says in his opening remarks in the statement, a more collaborative way of working to deliver public services across Wales that benefit the user as well as the service itself.
 
I also take the four points that he highlights here—a prosperous and secure Wales, which obviously no-one could disagree with—but actually, when you do look at the economic numbers over the last 18 years, because he has been part of the Government that has been in power here in Wales for the last 18 years, in that particular section if you look at the economy, for example, where we all remember the target that was set in the early years of devolution of a 90 per cent target for GVA, today that figure has shrunk to 71 per cent of GVA. How on earth can we have any confidence that this is not just another cut-and-paste exercise and that we will see the improvements we want to see in the economy of Wales to put us on the way to becoming the powerhouse I know Wales can be if it was afforded the right leadership.
 
We have heard this time and time again. We have had had four different economic strategies coming forward from the Welsh Government: ‘A Winning Wales’ in 1999; ‘Wales: a Vibrant Economy’ in 2005; ‘Economic renewal: a new direction’ in 2009; and now, we are going to get the new direction of travel from the Cabinet Secretary when he makes his statement around his vision for the economy. And yet, as I said, when it comes to GVA, for example, the figures are painfully stubborn, lagging well behind other parts of the United Kingdom. If you look at regional inequality when it comes to GVA, Anglesey, for example, stood at £13,411 of GVA. In the Gwent Valleys, it was £13,681. Yet in Cardiff and the Vale, for example, it stood at £22,783. Again, after 18 years, how can we have confidence that the Government will be able to move the needle so that these inequalities across Wales will be levelled out and you don’t get such great differences in our communities—north, mid and south Wales?
 
And then you look at our exports, for example, which the First Minister has talked about very often—about the exports and the importance of promoting Wales abroad. This is something we agree with him on, and we offer our wholehearted support. But if you look at exports to the United States, they have fallen by 13 per cent. If you look at exports to India, they have fallen by 22 per cent. If you look at Japan, they are down by 55 per cent. Again, how will the Government be reversing these negative numbers when we need, with the Brexit process, to be looking more globally at the trade we want to encourage so that our economy can pick up and real take-home pay can increase here in Wales?
 
Then, he talks of a healthy and active Wales in the second segment of the statement he has made today. We know that one in seven people in Wales are on a waiting list, regrettably. We heard over the summer recess that there has been a 400 per cent increase—and that is worth repeating: a 400 per cent increase—in people waiting 12 months or more for a procedure here in Wales. In the health board that the Welsh Government have direct control over—Betsi Cadwaladr—it has gone from zero to a 1,250 per cent increase in the people waiting 12 months or more. So, again, when you read the rhetoric in the document that’s launched in conjunction with the statement he has made today, how can we have confidence that the journey the Government is undertaking—this Government that he is leading today—will start tackling these huge inequalities in our society?
 
Then, the ‘Ambitious and Learning’ chapter of the document that he launched today, and the third part of four that he has addressed in his statement talks of, on page 15:
 
‘Still, there is too much variation in the attainment of school leavers’.
 
I see the Cabinet Secretary for Education agreeing with that and shaking her head in agreement. This is coming from a Government that has been responsible for education for 18 years—and I hear the Cabinet Secretary say, ‘But not me’. I take that point, in fairness, but I did believe that it was collective responsibility, and so it is one Government. How are we to believe that the bold and fine statements in this document will actually improve the attainment levels of children the length and breadth of Wales when, after 18 months—18 years, sorry, not 18 months—your own document says that there is, and I will repeat that again, still
 
‘too much variation in the attainment of school leavers’?
 
Finally, in the ‘United and Connected’ segment of the four that you identified in your statement, it is important that all parts of Wales feel that the Government is governing for them. Irrespective of whatever colour that Government might be, that is what we are celebrating at this moment in time: 20 years of devolution and 20 years of local decision-making. But it is a fact, historically, that some Governments that the Labour Party has led here have sought to drive nation building ahead of what is best for that particular part of Wales. I well remember, when I first came into this Assembly, in particular in the field of health, there was this drive to send patients from north Wales to south Wales for treatment, when there were good cross-border links already in place for north Wales patients to access that treatment in Manchester, in Liverpool, where the natural alliances and the natural flow of people over the years had built up. I do hope that the First Minister will support my call, in the devolution of responsibilities to whatever regions that require them to increase their economic footprint, but, above all, the delivery of public services, that this will be best delivered locally, rather than the centralised Cathays Park model that we have seen time and time again, historically, being looked at as the more favourable option when it comes to decision making here in Wales. There are many, many—
 
15:00
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Are we winding up, please? You’ve had longer than the First Minister took to introduce the statement.
 
15:00
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I will wind up.
 
15:00
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Sorry. First Minister. Sorry.
 
15:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I thank the leader of the opposition for his comments. I suppose the question he didn’t ask, which I’m sure will be asked, is, ‘What is the point of this document?’, which I understand. Well, he is right to say that the document itself will of course be fleshed out. The point of this document is it provides Members of this Assembly and the public with the framework within which decisions will be taken. Of course this will guide Ministers. All decisions that will be taken by Ministers will be measured according to what’s in this document, and the ambitions in this document and the five priority areas. As I mentioned in the statement itself, there will be further action plans that will be developed in the course of the next few months.
 
He talked about how to work across the public sector. We will, of course, be looking to introduce a local government Bill that will help to drive greater consistency in local government.
 
Coming to the point he made last, he is right to say that we wish, as a Government, to have decisions taken as close to people’s communities as possible, but we have found in the past—this drove the previous legislation that was not successful—that that leads to massive inconsistency, where some councils are unable to deliver services in the way they should. One council, Anglesey, was taken over because it failed so completely. At one point, six councils—six local education authorities—were in special measures over education. Now that can’t possibly be right. How, then, do we resolve that? The local government Bill will seek to do that in order to drive greater consistency, to help councils to deliver better, and to deliver consistent delivery across regional footprints. I don’t think anyone can pretend that we’ve had a robust system of local government for the past 20 years where every single council has always delivered to the level that people would expect. That clearly isn’t so. So, whilst it’s important have local decision making, we must guard against there arising, because of that, huge inconsistency, and the Bill will help to ensure that doesn’t happen.
 
He talks of economic statistics. We can trade this back and fore. As I said earlier on in First Minister’s questions, the unemployment rate now is 4.3 per cent. That is not the full figure; there are still too many people who lack security of employment. That I understand. But we’ve been successful in drawing investment into Wales that we’d never have had before. Aston Martin is one example. We’ve managed to save our airport; that would have closed, bluntly. In the days before devolution, nobody would have saved that; now it’s prospering. Our steel industry—we were able to act as strong advocates for our steel industry in order to make sure that those jobs remained in Wales. ProAct and ReAct: they were world-leading schemes, and they helped to keep people in jobs when the recession started to bite at its strongest—jobs that would otherwise have been lost.
 
He makes reference to the fact, and it’s there, that there are regional differences in GVA in Wales. One of the problems in the areas close to Cardiff is that so many people live in other counties but work in Cardiff. Now, I live in west Wales and the Valleys. Because I work in Cardiff, I’m counted as an economic drain—some people might say that’s true anyway, but an economic drain on west Wales and the Valleys, because I’m paid in Cardiff and I work in Cardiff, and that’s part of the problem. So many people come in to Cardiff to commute it depresses the GVA of the areas around it in a way that doesn’t really exist elsewhere in other areas that previously had Objective 1 status. That’s not the whole explanation, of course, because the other way of driving up GVA is simply skills. Now, one of the issues we get asked by potential investors is, ‘If we come to Wales, have your people got the skills that we need to be successful?’ And that increasingly can be answered positively. In the past, skills were not seen as important; it was low pay: come to Wales because pay levels are low. Well, those days are finished. Now we want to make sure we draw in investment on the basis that our skill levels are high.
 
But, of course, the great challenge for us is that our biggest export market is the European single market: 67 per cent of our exports go there. We can’t replace that. It’s impossible to replace that. And why would we want to replace it in any event? It’s an enormous market on our doorstep. The US cannot replace it; it’s smaller and it’s further away. Japan cannot replace it—again, further away and smaller. And so the challenges of Brexit—and we’ll come on to them; this will be a debate we’ll have, of course, for months and years in this Chamber—have to be examined through the telescope of ensuring the best possible access—participation in the single market, full unfettered access to the single market, but the easiest access to the single market that we can have for Welsh businesses, because that is their biggest market and cannot be replaced easily.
 
He mentioned ‘healthy and active’—there are challenges in every health service. England has just registered the highest number of people on waiting lists ever, and there are challenges that England faces as well. We know in Wales that we’ve seen improvements in some areas where waiting times have come down. In other areas, there is work to do. We’ve always acknowledged that. But we know that independent reports have shown that the health services across the UK are roughly on a par.
 
‘Ambitious and learning’—he mentioned that. Well, I’d argue that we see the difference now. Our GCSE results are the best ever. I was looking at the graph for GCSE results in the days before devolution, when less than half of young people got five A* to Cs at GCSE, and that figure now has climbed well beyond that. There’s been an enormous difference in that time. GCSE results are the best ever. We’re seeing reductions in the attainment gap. The pupil deprivation grant has made differences across Wales and that is something that is working for so many young people.
 
Finally, on ‘united and connected’—. Well, the answer I always give when people say, ‘Well, the Assembly’s in Cardiff; what does it mean for the north of Wales?’—I say, ‘Well, there are three Cabinet Secretaries in the Government who come from north Wales constituencies’. That is an enormous level of representation. There’s nobody in the UK Government from a north Wales constituency. But the voice of the north is very, very strong. It has to be. There are 60 of us here. At least a quarter of the Members, as I count it, come from the north. Of course that voice is strong; the same for rural Wales, the same for the mid and west of our country—a much stronger voice than ever existed in the days before devolution. I hear what he says about devolving to the regions. Again, I suspect the Secretary of State’s view and way of doing that is a little different to his. I think the Secretary of State’s view is, ‘Let’s bypass the Welsh Government and talk to councils directly’. That is not a view, obviously, that we share, even though we accept the principle of devolving as much as possible.
 
15:06
Adam PriceBiography
As a Member of this National Assembly, and being frequently on the receiving end of Government strategy documents—and they do come thick and fast—you’re often oscillating between a state of confusion and a state of despair. I have to say, having speed-read this document this afternoon, I feel a mixture of both. Confusion because I think I was under the misapprehension that this was going to be the date of the publication of the new economic strategy. I’m not the only one, because I notice Lee Waters tweeted yesterday:
 
‘Ahead of tomorrow's launch of a new WG economic strategy I've set out some thoughts in today's Western Mail’,
 
and a very good article it was, too. And here we come to the despair, because there were better, more interesting, more original ideas in that single-page article than there are in this document.
 
What, actually, we’ve got here—. Remember that we were—[Interruption.] And if I was there, I’m sure the same would be true of Hefin David’s business briefing next week. ‘Ahead of the publication of the Welsh Government economic strategy’—you need to improve your internal communication at the very least.
 
What we’ve got, actually, is a kind of beefed-up version of ‘Taking Wales Forward’, published last year. It’s kind of ‘Taking Wales Forward’ on steroids, really, isn’t it? It’s gone up from 15 pages to 27, so nobody can accuse the Welsh Government of not making progress. That’s a 100 per cent increase in Welsh Government productivity.
 
We had four cross-cutting strategies. Now we have—what is it—five cross-cutting priorities, and four key themes and three action plans. You certainly can’t accuse them of not being comprehensive.
 
I don’t have the time to go after all of those, but I’d like to concentrate on one, and, seeing as we have been celebrating 20 years since 1997 and devolution, let’s concentrate on the economic, because that was meant to be the big advance, the devolution dividend. As has already been referred to, really, of course the progress there has been limited. Looking at the 18 bullet points—that’s all it is, if you’re looking for the contours of the new economic strategy, 18 bullet points across two pages—I’m trying to understand, therefore, what that tells us about the content of the new economic strategy. Maybe the First Minister will be able to help me. The first question is: is there a real acceptance of the scale of the challenge? I think there is on the backbench on the governing side. I’m not sure there is on the frontbench. Because, as was already referred to, in 1997, where were we? Seventy-four point one per cent of GVA per capita. Where are we now in the latest figures? Seventy one per cent. We’ve gone backwards. We were seventh overall, by the way, in terms of the 12 standard UK economic regions. Even on the Welsh Government’s favourite economic indicator, which is gross disposable household income per head, we’ve also gone backwards—87.8 per cent to 85.3 per cent. So, is there an acceptance of the scale of the challenge? The First Minister, in his remarks earlier this afternoon, said that in the 1990s we were a country that young people wanted to leave. Well, actually, we saw a report over the summer from the Resolution Foundation showing that Wales has a brain drain. More graduates lost to Wales between 2016—a net loss of over 20,000 graduates during that period. We’re tenth of the 12 UK standard regions in terms of the extent of graduate loss.
 
Secondly, are there going to be targets? We’ve had appallingly poor progress. How can we actually measure whether we’re going to have a better record of delivery in the future? Because, as Chris Kelsey said, there are few details and few specific targets in this strategy. And where is the desire, the appetite—which I do sense, to be fair, on the Labour back benches—for radical change in terms of strategy? We’ve basically followed the same strategy for 40, 50 years, which is, essentially, reliant on foreign direct investment. That’s it. We’ve ploughed that furrow. And where has it got us? Where is the appetite in these 18 bullet points for accepting that that strategy will not serve us well in the future, therefore we need radical new ideas?
 
Finally, on the last day of term, the Cabinet Secretary said that you were going to publish this cross-cutting strategy and then there would be an extensive stakeholder engagement programme. I think that’s jargon for ‘talking to people’. Well, I did a little bit of talking over the weekend, because I wanted to know what was going to be in this economic strategy that didn’t appear, and I spoke to some leading business people that I know and will be known to many people here; I spoke to some leading Welsh economists. Not one of them knew what was going to be in the economic strategy or in the bullet points because nobody from the Welsh Government had spoken to them. So, on what basis have you come up with these 18 bullet points? Who have you spoken to? Because I fear that what we’ll get when we finally see the economic action plan is, once again, an empty vessel with no substance.
 
15:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, let me try to assist the Member in his confusion and lift him from his despair. First of all, I thank him for his acknowledgement of the consistency that exists between the two documents that he’s referred to. They’re meant to be consistent. They’re meant to illustrate a common direction.
 
Now, the first thing that he referred to was, he described, appallingly poor economic performance—not so. He also said that, effectively, for the last 50 years, economic strategy had been the same—again, not so. Because I well remember in the 1990s—the late 1980s and the 1990s—the Government of the day decided that the way to, as they saw it, relieve unemployment in Wales was to reduce employment in well-paid jobs like steel and coal and replace them with badly paid jobs in unskilled sectors. That’s when our GDP started to slide, because, although unemployment seemed to be lower or getting lower, people’s wage rates were getting lower as well. We’ve rejected that. We don’t accept that Wales’s economic model is based on being the lowest-wage economy in western Europe. That’s exactly what was happening in the late 1990s particularly. We made sure that we went after high quality investment. We have Wylfa B, we have Surf Snowdonia, we have Airbus, we have Raytheon, and Cardiff Airport—we saved that, that would have closed—Aston Martin, CGI; the list goes on. We have attracted investment into Wales at a skill level that would have been unthought of in the 1990s. In time, that will see the raising of GDHI, it will see more money into people’s pockets, and that is something that we are not going to change.
 
He expressed regret at a reliance on foreign direct investment. We’re not going to be an autarky, we understand that. Foreign direct investment will be hugely important for us in the future; the US is by far our biggest investor. Yes—though he didn’t make the point, I suspect he wanted to make this point—we want to make sure we encourage more young, local entrepreneurs. And we see there are more businesses in Wales now that are being set up and are successful than before. I meet with young people and they are encouraged in a way now that they never were many years ago, when I was the same age as them, and they do set up in business, they have the confidence to do it, they have the confidence to grow and to work with others. I see our universities, who for a long time didn’t work with business, they didn’t see it as part of their remit—. They now are able to work with their talented graduates and researchers to set up spin-off businesses, and we see them around Swansea and around Cardiff—not exclusively, but particularly there.
 
Of course, we need to make sure that we are flexible, and, yes, if it’s the case we’ve produced a number of economic plans over the years, I plead guilty to that; that’s because circumstances change. The biggest challenge that we faced was the crash of 2008. That was an enormous challenge for every single economy in the developing world. With ProAct and ReAct, we made sure (a) that people kept their jobs, and (b) they were trained whilst they were in those jobs. Otherwise, unemployment would have been a lot, lot higher. We work with our businesses in order to deliver the best for our people. Now, in time, of course, he’ll have the opportunity to look at the economic action plan. I’m sure he will joust and cross swords with the Cabinet Secretary. But when it comes to comparing Wales now to what Wales was like in the 1990s—a country with high unemployment, low prospects, very low wages, a deliberate policy to bring in low-skill, low-wage jobs—we’ve come a long way since then, and we intend to go a lot further.
 
15:15
Neil HamiltonBiography
As usual, by the time I get my opportunity in these statements, almost every decent point has been made, and Adam Price has well said that—
 
15:16
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
I could say, ‘We’ll move on, then’.
 
15:16
Neil HamiltonBiography
Well, you could. I’m sure you won’t, Deputy Presiding Officer, being a fair-minded president of the Assembly. But, as Adam Price has effectively pointed out, as the document itself is merely a repetition and a rehash of material that’s been well cooked before, a repetitious criticism of it, perhaps, may not be totally out of place. When I used to go to Sunday school as a small boy, one of my favourite hymns was ‘Tell me the old, old story’, and, of course, that is what we’ve got here. I think the First Minister has, in a sense, been kind enough to admit that that is the case. Because when I went through this document and asked, ‘What’s new?’, and went through ‘Taking Wales Forward’, I struggled to find anything that was new at all. And, of course, we can all laugh at the various platitudes that are in it; all governments produce documents of this kind. I’m far from saying that the Welsh Government is responsible for everything that’s wrong with Wales and has totally failed in the course of the last 20 years, but the main point which arises, I think, from our experience of the last 20 years, is that the Welsh Government’s failure, relative to what’s been going on elsewhere in the United Kingdom and the rest of the world, is very apparent indeed. And we’ve had the various statistics bandied around by the leader of the Welsh Conservatives and by Adam Price a moment ago. It is true that the Welsh people are poorer today, relatively, than they have been for many, many years. It’s correct, as the First Minister said, that, to an extent, because of industrial change—coal and steel were well-paid jobs and those industries could not be sustained at the levels that they used to employ—we haven’t managed to attract into Wales the higher-paid jobs that should have replaced them, and that’s the key challenge for the years ahead.
 
The only thing that really matters in this document is the bit about building an entrepreneurial culture, because if we can’t raise the capacity of the Welsh economy to create wealth, we can’t generate the tax revenue that pays for all the public services that are the good things that we want to see and that are well set out in the rest of the document. Here, I don’t think that the Welsh Government’s story is impressive at all. Most recently, we’ve seen the fiasco over the Circuit of Wales. Here was a massive private sector project that, had it been given the go-ahead, would have brought in a very substantial amount of capital for that particular enterprise, but on the back of that, much else might have been attracted. The approach of the Welsh Government on that was so myopic I could hardly believe it, as we’ve been led up that path for the last year, or 18 months, only to be dropped off the edge of a cliff into the drain the First Minister referred to in his remarks a moment ago. That is symptomatic of the problem: a lack of vision in the Welsh Government, as Adam Price has passionately pointed out.
 
I can’t help reflecting, as I have reflected previously, on what’s going on 60 miles away from Cardiff to the east with James Dyson’s technology park. Why aren’t we attracting such things to Wales? It’s because the attitude of the Welsh Government is wrong. For the future, it should realise that governments can’t create an entrepreneurial culture. The Government is part of the problem here. If Wales is to become more competitive, then the regulatory burden has to become more proportionate; the tax burden has to become more proportionate. Here we do have an opportunity, and here the document is totally silent. Now that we’re getting these tax-raising and tax-varying powers, what we should be seeking to do is to make Wales more attractive than other parts of the United Kingdom to help to redress the balance that we’ve inherited from the past and the mistakes of governments of all parties, whether it be at the UK level or, indeed, here in Cardiff. On business rates, again, why is there no long-term thinking about how we can lift this burden, which is such a block upon new businesses—small businesses—getting off the ground in the first place, because the cost of premises is artificially increased by a business rates system that is antiquated and inappropriate for the modern world?
 
Brexit does offer challenges, obviously, and the First Minister is always talking about the challenges. What about the opportunities? The First Minister is an accomplished advocate. He defends the indefensible in a very persuasive way very frequently in this Chamber. He is an advocate for Wales in other parts of the world. But his constant jeremiads about how it’s the end of the world if we leave the single market—. The single market is not the be-all and end-all. There is no single market, actually, anyway, because as James Dyson himself—who sells manufactured goods within the European Union—pointed out only the other day, there’s a sequence of segmented markets. Yes, there is a single system of regulation, very often, and that is often misused to the disadvantage of industry. But if the First Minister could offer some sort of ray of sunshine for the future and hope and optimism for exports, not only to the European Union, but also to the rest of the world—. Of course, as he rightly says, we export more from Wales to the European Union than other parts of the United Kingdom and we’re not going to replace that overnight. We’re not going to have to replace it overnight. Exchange rate movements in the last year have more than offset any putative increase in tariffs that are likely to be imposed if there’s no deal with the EU. Real businesses in the real world are nimble and flexible. They have to be or they don’t survive, and this is the problem with Government today. It is not nimble, it is not flexible, it has no real vision for the future, and that’s why this offers us no more than any of the previous documents that it adds to—the huge pile that no doubt we’ll be adding to on an annual basis in the future.
 
15:22
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Let’s try and deconstruct a stream of consciousness. Well, let’s start with the industrial change that he said occurred, under his watch, actually, a lot of it. In a sensible country it would have been understood that there were going to be job losses in coal and steel. Steel employed a lot of people, probably more than was needed. But in a sensible country, plans would have been laid out to re-employ people in good jobs, but that’s not what happened. What happened was that people were laid off in their thousands on a single day and told, ‘That’s it, there’s no job for you’. That’s why unemployment went up and that’s why our GDP declined, because of that double whammy. That wasn’t to do with industrial change on its own. That was a deliberate policy by a Government that didn’t care if people were made redundant and where they went after that.
 
I agree with him about the need to create an entrepreneurial culture and that’s what the document shows. But it’s hugely important—he mentioned the Circuit of Wales—that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. You know, LG was one of the greatest mistakes that the WDA actually—. They’d had a good track record until then, but it was one of the greatest mistakes, in hindsight, that happened. And we’ve got to be very careful about what we support and what we don’t.
 
He talks about what’s happening 60 miles to the east with James Dyson, of course. His argument about the EU seems to be about the regulation of vacuum cleaners, as far as I can tell. It quite clearly is a single market. Where does he manufacture? He doesn’t manufacture in the UK does he? So, there are issues there. If he is that patriotic, perhaps he should base everything that he does within the UK itself.
 
With regard to the regulatory burden that he talks about, what is it? If he says there is a regulatory burden, it would be interesting to know where he sees those burdens are, because he gives no examples. He talks about a tax burden. He gives an example of business rates. We are, of course, looking at how we can put in place a permanent system of relief in terms of small business rates. We are looking at how that can be done with a view to implementing that. He says that our attitude is wrong. Well, I can only refer—. I could go through a whole list of things, but I will refer him to the words that were used by Aston Martin. They came to Wales not because there was more money on the table but because of the pride and professionalism of the Welsh Government. That’s why they came to Wales and that can be repeated up and down Wales in terms of the jobs we have brought to Wales.
 
He talks of Brexit. He recognises there are challenges. Indeed, there are challenges that Brexit brings. The single market undoubtedly does exist, because it employs a common tariff, and as a result of that, in order to get into that market, we all have to pay the tariffs or find a way of agreement to avoid those tariffs being paid. And besides, if you have tariffs, you have a hard border in Ireland. There’s no avoiding it, because you cannot have a system of tariffs and then say, ‘Incidentally, we have a land border with the EU where there are no customs controls at all and no tariffs are payable.’ So, he doesn’t want a hard border—fine, I accept that—but you can’t have tariffs and not have a hard border; the two run together with all the consequences—tragic consequences, actually—that that might potentially bring.
 
If I can just deconstruct an argument he used as well early on. He said, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter about tariffs because the exchange rate has resolved that issue’. Well, of course, the drop in the pound means that goods from the European Union are now more expensive in the UK. Put tariffs on top of that and they’re even more expensive and they’re paid for by the consumer. One of the things I could never work out in the conversations I had with David Davis some months ago was that he kept on saying, ‘Well, tariffs can provide us with a pot of money that we can use to support business.’ Yes, but they’re paid by the consumer. It’s Joe Public that pays the tariffs, not businesses. Ultimately, the cost is passed on to those who buy the product that carries the tariff upon it. So, it’s hard to see how exchange rates can overcome the problem if tariffs are imposed. Surely we want to see a world where, instead of seeing the UK taking a market of 400 million people and wanting to see tariffs imposed on its goods going into the market—surely nobody wants to see that happening. So, there’s much about what he said that I cannot accept. He says that I defend the indefensible. I have to say to him I’m more than happy today to defend and advocate the very defensible.
 
15:26
Hefin DavidBiography
I’d like to thank Adam Price for the lovely, kind words. I’m sure they’ll do me the absolute world of good; much appreciated. But I think, actually, it’s something to be celebrated, the freedom of expression on these Labour benches. We have been actively encouraged by the Government to have an input into what they are trying to do, and I’ve never been so encouraged to have a voice as an elected politician.
 
With that in mind, I’m going to have my voice. I’ve got a couple of questions with regard to the national strategy. First of all, page 25 with regard to social care: it says that the Welsh Government plans to invest in a new innovative care delivery model in the community. Would the First Minister directly answer this question? [Interruption.] Is he trying to find the document? I quote page 25:
 
‘invest in a new innovative care delivery model in the community’.
 
Would the First Minister consider the public sector creating care homes from either existing buildings or new buildings, and allowing small local not-for-profit operators to run them, therefore bringing a foundational focus to social care in our communities?
 
With regard to planning, on page 5 it says
 
‘The right planning system is critical to delivering our objectives in this strategy’.
 
I would argue that in the current planning system, in spite of the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 that welcomed the creation of strategic development plans that are yet to operationalise, local development plans are a manifestation of regional inequality; they are broken. We see through LDPs the overdevelopment of the south, particularly in my area along the M4 corridor, and the underdevelopment and depopulation of the north. I would argue that LDPs are totally beholden to what is viable, and by viable we mean profitable. We need to look at that and how we change that. And I was encouraged by page 24 of the document, which said that the Welsh Government will
 
‘unlock the potential of SMEs to build homes’.
 
That is a very encouraging action, but one of the things that will help SMEs is the remediation of brownfield sites. Would the Welsh Government therefore consider revisiting a policy of providing support for remediation, which would enable SMEs to develop brownfield sites, particularly in the northern areas of the areas that I represent?
 
And finally, a regional approach is very welcome, particularly if it’s a place-based approach, and I look forward to seeing how that may be done in the economic plan that is forthcoming. What will those regional footprints be and has the First Minister got the confidence that local government has not just the structure, but also the skills and knowledge to deliver local economic strategies? Yes, the local government Bill will develop structure, but can he be confident that skills and knowledge will also be developed alongside that, particularly with regard to procurement, for example?
 
15:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, the Member’s absolutely right to say that we do encourage that kind of thinking. As he knows, we’ve discussed many times how important it is to be able to harness new ideas from outside Government, and I very much welcome the comments that he made. He asked me a direct question and the answer is ‘yes’. We want to consider all potential structures in terms of running care homes, and that’s an idea that certainly can be looked at to see how viable that is.
 
In terms of LDPs, he is right to say that LDPs on their own are no longer sufficient. Regional planning has to become much stronger, and that is something that we intend to continue to progress with as part of the local government Bill. He’s absolutely right to say that we live in a world where, in reality, local government boundaries are not actually respected by planners, or by nature, or by geography, and it means that where one particular local authority will look at its LDP purely in the context of what happens in its own area, there can often be a knock-on effect elsewhere. And so, seeing regional planning in the future will be hugely important. The regional footprints issue is something that will be looked at as part of the local government Bill. We want to encourage local authorities to work together in order to put in place regional planning structures.
 
He asks me the question: do I have confidence that every local authority is able to deliver in terms of local economic strategies? The answer to that question is: no, they can’t on their own. That’s where they need to work together. I don’t believe that there’s sufficient depth in every single local authority in Wales to develop the kind of economic strategy that’s needed, but by working together on a regional footprint, that depth can be created. And, of course, we know that, again, economies don’t respect local government boundaries. It’s hugely important that Heads of the Valleys authorities can work together for the common good, rather than thinking, ‘We’re only going to look at what happens in our own area.’ We know the world doesn’t work that way. And that is something that we’re keen to do. I know that the Cabinet Secretary has worked very closely with local government leaders, and that message is understood. We can’t carry on in a way that sees Wales as 22 different areas that operate almost entirely independently of each other, and that’s why regional planning will become more important as part of that Bill.
 
Finally, he mentions brownfield sites. Yes, we want to see more remediation, but there’s a substantial cost to this. I know of at least one example that I dealt with when I was Minister for the environment, where just on one small site the remediation cost was £20 million. That was then, 10 years ago, because the original owners—the business no longer existed. And as a result of that, the liability ends up in the hands of the Welsh Government. It’s the same with opencast. Now, there are real issues with the remediation of opencast sites, which some of us in this Chamber will be more than familiar with, and what happens if the business that owns the site no longer exists—it goes into receivership or disappears completely. And so, these are issues that we wrestle with, but in principle, of course, we want to see more brownfield sites remediated, but we have to do that on the basis of an understanding that there is a limit of what we can afford to pay for them in the financial year.
 
15:33
Lee WatersBiography
First Minister, can I genuinely welcome the attempt to try and join up the different areas of Government activity? Governments are often criticised for silo thinking, and I think the Government deserves some credit in this document at the way that it’s tried to bring together the different strands of its programme and strategy. And I look forward, when the action plans are published, to take forward the detail of this, to seeing how that will work in practice.
 
The one area in particular I wanted to focus on was around automation, which does cut across a range of portfolios and areas, and will profoundly impact everything that we do. And I sense that the Government at all levels is not quite ready for the storm that is being unleashed around us. We’ve already seen the impact of the closure of the Tesco call centre in Cardiff and its move to Dundee, which I’m told was almost entirely motivated by considerations around automation. There is an acknowledgement in the strategy that the best defence will be people with the ability to work better and smarter than machines and able to solve the problems that they can’t. And, of course, skills is an important part of dealing with automation. But that does miss out the opportunities as well.
 
Yes, it’s right—the Bank of England formula suggests that some 700,000 jobs in Wales could be under threat, but if we harness automation, there are opportunities for us too, in terms of the manufacture, the design and the roll-out of the robotics. I had a fascinating visit to the College of Engineering at Swansea University last Friday, where there is very innovative work taking place in Wales on this agenda, and a visit the week before to EBS Automation Ltd in Dafen, who are doing some remarkable work. So, there is a positive story to tell, but the point the First Minister made just a moment ago was striking, in criticising the failure of previous Governments to respond to the anticipated job losses from the coal and steel industries in the 1980s, and the failure to plan for what they knew was likely to be an adjustment in the economy. And I think we face a similar generational shift. We know there are going to be significant disruptions to the way we organise public services and the economy, and we must get ready for it, and it must be across all Government. And I hope that he will lead that work in Wales.
 
15:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Member’s absolutely right. The big change, I think, that’s occurred in the past few years is the rapidity of change. It wouldn’t have been difficult to predict in the 1970s that coal—particularly coal—was on a trajectory downwards. I mean, no-one could have predicted the sudden job losses that occurred, but that had been the trend since 1914. What we see now is a rapidity in change that just would have been unthought of in the 1970s. Ten years ago, the pressures on the retail sector were not what they are now, in terms of competition from online sources, and that is something that the retail sector has had to adjust very painfully to, in terms of doing. Call centres are under pressure now in a way that they weren’t 10, 12 years ago, as technology has improved. The challenge for us, and other Governments, is to make sure that if job losses occur in those areas, others are created elsewhere, obviously, and that’s something we’re very much aware of.
 
One of the industries where we are genuinely world leaders is insurance—not just in terms of individual companies, but comparison websites. One of the challenges that insurers face is driverless cars—cars that are able to drive themselves. What does that mean in terms of assessing insurance risk? How do you calculate the premium? Who has liability? But these are things that are being looked at now, because we know that, in 10 years’ time—probably quicker than that—this will be a real issue. So, he’s absolutely right to say that there are challenges there, probably that are not even foreseen yet, which have to be recognised as quickly as possible—some that seem remote, but will be upon us in no time. We’re very much up for that challenge, to make sure that, where we see change occurring, we know that Wales is ready for that change, and we upskill our people, in order to make sure that they’re able to take advantage of those changes, in what is a rapidly changing world.
 
15:37
Russell GeorgeBiography
Like Adam Price, I also did some speed reading—I managed to read the document during one of the questions in First Minister’s questions earlier. And there were points in the document that I was pleased to see there. But I am disappointed that, today, we haven’t seen a comprehensive economic strategy. Like other Members across this Chamber, of all parties, that’s what I was expecting. But can I ask why there has been a delay in receiving this document? In July, you committed that we would see the document before the end of term. And can I ask you to provide a specific date of when we will see the specific actions for ‘prosperous and secure’ and the economic strategy? And when we do see that document, will that be a comprehensive document?
 
In the preparation of this strategy, can I ask how has the Welsh Government ensured that its economic policies complement the UK Government’s industrial strategy? You’ll also be aware that the industrial strategy puts great emphasis on addressing the regional disparity in the economic prosperity and skills shortages that exist across the UK. Now, I very much welcome in the document today—I note that you intend to target intervention to the economic needs of each region. That’s something I very much welcome, and I also welcome the reference that you will focus on each region’s strengths—that’s to be welcomed as well. So, how will the Government’s strategy specifically address these issues, to drive increases in productivity in north and mid Wales in particular? And can I ask in that regard what consideration the Government has given to developing an economic strategy for mid Wales in particular, and a mid Wales growth deal?
 
Also, there appears to be less of a focus on encouraging inward investment in this strategy. Will you, First Minister, confirm that your Government is moving away from inward investment as a key pillar of the Welsh Government’s approach to developing the economy of Wales? And if so, how will the strategy ensure that Wales takes advantage of the investment and export opportunities that will arise as a result of Brexit, in boosting trade links with other partners from all over the world?
 
15:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
A number of questions there, and specific actions, particularly, were asked about. First things first: the economic action plan will be published during the course of the autumn and that will be available for Members to see.
 
The UK Government’s industrial strategy is unclear. It’s not the most detailed strategy. We look forward to seeing that develop over time. The big question that’s not answered over that and the shared prosperity fund is how it’ll mesh with the work of devolved Governments. A shared prosperity fund will not work if the UK Government decides its priorities alone. It won’t mesh properly with what’s happening in Wales and what’s happening in Scotland. We wait to see how that will work out.
 
He talks about the mid Wales growth deal—that’s something, of course, that we would want to look at over the course of the development of this document and beyond. We’re not moving away from inward investment. Inward investment is hugely important to the Welsh economy and, in keeping with that, I have, for some months, been looking at how we can boost our overseas presence given the fact that Brexit is happening. Where else can we look? What new markets can we look at? Where should we put Welsh Government officials working, usually, with officials in what was UK Trade and Investment in offices around the world? This work is important to raise Wales’s profile. We understand that and that work is ongoing, but he’s right to say that raising Wales’s profile is massively important—we know this—in terms of attracting investment. I’d argue that we’ve done that. We’ve had the investment from Qatar Airways coming in, of course, to the airport, along with many, many others from other countries, and it’s hugely important that momentum continues in the future so that the success we’ve had over the next few years is replicated when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment.
 
15:41
Vikki HowellsBiography
First Minister, I’d like to welcome the commitment in the national strategy to a new regionally focused model of economic development. I think that’s particularly important in the face of Brexit and the loss of regional funding that we’ll experience as a result of that. However, in recent announcements on the development of a network of regional growth hubs, these seem to be primarily located in the southernmost reaches of our Valleys—places like Pontypridd, Treforest and Caerphilly. So, my question is: how will the new regional focus assist the economic development of the northernmost reaches of our Valleys—places where we know that poverty, worklessness and ill health remain stubbornly high?
 
Secondly, in addition, as a passionate advocate for the foundational economy, I’m pleased to note the strategy’s mention of support for local businesses and the diversification of supply chains. What additional information can you give on how the Welsh Government will enable small businesses to grow and flourish, to fill the missing middle and create sustainable, good-quality and, above all, local employment?
 
15:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, the issue of where growth hubs can be in the northern part of the Valleys is a matter that’s being considered by the Valleys taskforce. So, that is not lost; it’s something that’s still in development. We understand the importance of being able to look at growth hubs, especially around the Heads of the Valleys road, which we know has been hugely important to unlocking economic development in Merthyr, as one example, but other communities as well.
 
Secondly, of course, we know that more and more people are self-employed, so them being able to access advice is hugely important. We have in place, of course, a suite of measures that are able to assist people to look for financial support where that’s appropriate, to look for advice where that’s appropriate, and one example of that is making sure that people can access fast broadband speeds. I’ve said this before in the Chamber: broadband in the twenty-first century is the equivalent of the railway lines in the nineteenth. If you’re connected, then you’re connected to the world and that’s why, of course, we’ve invested so much money in Superfast Cymru: to bring superfast broadband to so many communities that otherwise would never have it—some urban, some rural communities. We know that it’s hugely important that our communities are connected, because it means that people can set up businesses there rather than having to move down to the southern part of south Wales in order to access the speeds that they need.
 
15:44
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you very much, First Minister, and apologies to those Members who we couldn’t call in that statement.
 
15:44
4. Statement: The EU (Withdrawal) Bill
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
We move on to item 4, which, again, is a statement by the First Minister—the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. I call on Carwyn Jones to introduce the statement.
 
15:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. I would like to update Members on matters relating to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, and in particular, the set of amendments that the Welsh Government and Scottish Government jointly published this morning.
 
The Llywydd took the Chair.
 
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Members will be aware of our legislative consent memorandum that was published last week. That memorandum sets out in detail those aspects of the Bill that require the Assembly’s consent, and describes very clearly why we don’t accept the Bill in its current form. I don’t propose to rehearse those arguments in detail again. Rather, I’d like to focus on the constructive solution, which the amendments published represent, a solution to a problem entirely of the UK Government’s own making, and one which could have been avoided had there been any genuine attempt to engage with the devolved administrations on the content of this Bill. We don’t bite. It would have been much easier for us to have had this discussion some time ago.
 
Let me first be very clear about our overall approach to the matters that the Bill seeks to address. To make the first and obvious point, bringing forward these amendments is not about challenging the principle of Brexit. They don’t challenge the referendum result, but we must have a Brexit that respects devolution and these amendments are designed to secure that. We’ve always recognised the need to prepare our laws for EU withdrawal, and agree that legislation is necessary to provide clarity and certainty for citizens and businesses as we leave the EU.
 
We agree that it makes sense for EU law to be converted into the various laws of the UK at the moment of withdrawal, and that the legislation to enable this to happen is best enacted for the whole of the UK in the Westminster Parliament. And we agree that Ministers need delegated powers to make the very many technical amendments that will be necessary to ensure that the law continues to work properly. We’ve always accepted there will be areas of policy that will require agreement across all four Governments to ensure that, when we’re outside the EU, we do nothing to inhibit the free flow of trade within the UK. And we explained how this matter should be approached in our policy document, ‘Brexit and Devolution’, which presents a clear and workable approach, which both respects devolution and answers the questions of how to ensure a level playing field across the UK in respect of policies where, to date, EU regulatory frameworks have provided this.
 
But, the Bill as it currently stands simply isn’t fit for purpose. It wouldn’t secure the transfer of all EU law onto the UK statute book: the exclusion of the charter of fundamental rights is a glaring and politically driven omission. It would give UK Ministers extraordinarily sweeping powers to amend primary legislation, and it represents a fundamental assault on devolution. It would replace current constraints on this Assembly’s legislative competence, which will fall away as a consequence of the UK leaving the EU, constraints that, it should be noted, apply equally to the UK Parliament, which no more than we can legislate in ways that are incompatible with EU law, with a new set of constraints that would apply only to the devolved institutions and would be controlled by the UK Government.
 
So, we’ve worked with the Scottish Government to develop a set of amendments that will seek to address the Bill’s shortcomings as they relate to devolution. I’ll describe briefly what these amendments seek to achieve, but before I do so I need to say yet again that this is not about seeking in any way to frustrate or reverse the process of EU withdrawal. To those who continue to peddle this canard, I simply extend an invitation to identify which of our amendments would, if accepted, have such an effect.
 
Llywydd, the amendments we’ve published seek to achieve four objectives. Firstly, they remove the new restriction placed on the competence of the devolved legislatures and Governments that puts beyond our powers all of the retained EU law being converted into domestic law. This is a wholly unnecessary provision that cuts across the principles of the devolution settlement. As I’ve already highlighted, the Welsh Government has put forward a constructive alternative to this restriction, with the UK and devolved administrations agreeing common frameworks where needed in the interests of the UK as a whole. Had they chosen to engage with us on this, the already infamous clause 11 might not have been necessary.
 
Secondly, the amendments prevent the wide-ranging delegated powers given to UK Ministers from being used to amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 or the Scotland Act 1998, or require the devolved administration’s consent to do so. It can’t be right that Acts of such constitutional significance should be amendable by UK Ministers without the agreement either of the devolved legislatures, nor indeed the UK Parliament itself, under the existing well-established rules and conventions.
 
Thirdly, they require UK Ministers to seek the consent of the devolved administrations if they use their delegated powers in areas of devolved responsibility. We recognise that there may be circumstances where, for practical reasons, it makes sense for UK Ministers to use their powers in this way, but we cannot accept that they should be able to do so without our consent.
 
Finally, the amendments remove restrictions on the delegated powers granted to devolved administrations so that they’re brought in line with those granted to UK Ministers. There is no basis for placing limitations on the powers of devolved administrations that do not also apply to UK Ministers. Let me be clear, however: this doesn’t mean that we want the sweeping powers contained in the Bill as currently drafted. Like many others, we’ve got concerns about the breadth of the powers and the limited scrutiny of their use that the Bill provides for, and will willingly give our support to amendments brought forward in Parliament to ensure that the powers given to the UK Government and ourselves as Ministers are appropriate.
 
Llywydd, yesterday I spoke at an event arranged by the Institute of Welsh Affairs to mark the twentieth anniversary of the devolution referendum. There’s a bitter irony in the fact that I stand here today making a statement on a UK Bill that represents the greatest threat, I’d argue, to our devolution settlement since the day that referendum was won. I very much hope, then, that the UK Government will think again about its approach to the devolution aspects of this Bill.
 
I hope that they, and all Members here, will recognise that these amendments represent a constructive contribution that would deliver the clarity and certainty that we all agree is necessary, whilst respecting the hard-won devolution settlements of the UK. It’s not about stopping Brexit; it’s about protecting the interests of the people of Wales. We are ready and willing to work constructively with the UK Government to reach agreement on the Bill, but if they continue to plough on regardless, they’ll spark a constitutional crisis that they don’t need and we do not want.
 
15:51
Mark IsherwoodBiography
As I said in the debate on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill here on 18 July, the Bill is needed to ensure that the statute book is able to function on the day we leave the EU. It’s technical in nature, making inoperable legislation operable, giving both UK and devolved Governments a time-limited power to correct laws by secondary legislation that would otherwise not function properly once we left the EU, thereby ensuring that Welsh businesses, including farmers and steel producers, can continue to trade with the EU immediately after the UK leaves the EU. I therefore very much welcome your agreement that it makes sense for EU law to be converted into UK law on this basis and that legislation to enable this to happen is best enacted for the whole of the UK in the Westminster Parliament. We also, like you, have always accepted that there will be areas of policy that will require agreement across all four Governments to ensure that outside the EU we do nothing to inhibit the free flow of trade within the United Kingdom.
 
But then you move on to say, however, that the Bill
 
‘represents a fundamental assault on devolution’,
 
which very much reflects the comments you made on the day the Bill was published, when you described it as a, quote, ‘naked power-grab’. Why did you say that at that point, given that the next day you stated that the Welsh Secretary had assured you that you and he would work together to make the situation acceptable, and that assurance had actually already been given to you before you’d issued your ‘naked power-grab’ statement?
 
You state that a constructive alternative would be for the UK and devolved administrations to agree common frameworks where needed in the interests of the UK as a whole and, of course, we agree with you very strongly on that point. Clause 11, you’ve referred to, will freeze the Assembly’s current powers to pass laws after exit day, but the Bill also provides a mechanism for unfreezi