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The Assembly met at 13:29 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:29
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
13:29
Statement by the Presiding Officer
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
I’m sure you’d like to join with me in welcoming members of the public accounts committees from the States of Jersey and Northern Ireland who are here watching in the public gallery this afternoon.
 
13:29
1. Questions to the First Minister
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Now we move to item 1, which is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is from Elin Jones.
 
Promoting the Welsh Language
 
13:29
Elin JonesBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Government's priorities in relation to promoting the Welsh language? OAQ(4)2351(FM)
 
13:29
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We continue to deliver the priorities set out in the Bwrw Mlaen policy statement to promote the Welsh language, with the aim of seeing the Welsh language thrive in Wales.
 
13:29
Elin JonesBiography
I suppose that the answer to this question would’ve been quite different had there been no resolution yesterday on the issue of Pantycelyn hall of residence, with the assurance and timetable now provided by the university, as you and I requested last week. So, First Minister, may I ask you for an update on where you are in terms of achieving one of the recommendations of the Rhodri Llwyd Morgan report for your Government just a few years ago, on creating Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Bangor as three important strategic regional towns to promote the Welsh language?
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We understand that they’re exceptionally important towns, and we continue to make progress—or ‘bwrw ymlaen’, to use our phrase—to ensure that that happens. One way to strengthen the way in which we could do that is by using the pilot project, for example in the Teifi valley, to evaluate how that is working with businesses, and to see what impact that can have on the towns that you mentioned.
 
It’s extremely good news about Pantycelyn. I wrote to the university to say how important it was to have a hall of residence where the Welsh language was the main medium, and I’m pleased to see what has happened as regards the future of the Welsh language in Pantycelyn.
 
13:31
Mike HedgesBiography
The future of our language is in the hands of our children. What is the Government doing to support groups like Ti a Fi and the Mudiad Meithrin?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
May I congratulate the Member on his Welsh? It’s the first time he has posed a question in Welsh, and it was exceptionally good Welsh.
 
May I say that Mudiad Meithrin receives about £3.772 million via various sources within Welsh Government? That includes over £1 million via the grant it receives through the Welsh in education unit and also the funding available through other sources in education. As regards the Ti a Fi parent and toddler groups and also the nursery groups, and the opportunities available for parents to access Welsh-medium education for their children, we know that they’re exceptionally important, not only in those areas where Welsh isn’t a community language, but I’ve seen the impact they have in areas where the Welsh language is under pressure, and I’ve seen an increase in the number of parents who wish to ensure that their children not only speak Welsh but use the Welsh language ultimately, too.
 
13:32
Paul DaviesBiography
First Minister, I’m sure that one of your Government’s priorities will be to ensure that the Welsh language is used more often in our communities, in our high-street stores, and in other retail outlets. In the past, companies such as John Lewis have commissioned Welsh classes to encourage staff to use the Welsh language with their customers. In light of that, can you tell us what the Welsh Government is doing to promote this practice and to encourage other businesses throughout Wales to fund Welsh-language courses?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s exceptionally important that Welsh speakers are able to identify each other. At one point, I wasn’t very supportive of the badge, but I’ve changed my mind since then. It’s exceptionally important in some areas of Wales that you can give people the opportunity to use the Welsh language, and one way of doing that is to ensure that they know who else can speak Welsh. So, we have the usual badge that people are used to and also the ‘Cymraeg’ badge that we have as a Government. What we are doing is ensuring that we encourage businesses to get their staff to wear these badges, so that people can use the Welsh language in a totally natural way when they are buying something, or in their dealings with that business.
 
13:33
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Plans by Powys County Council to close the Welsh language unit at Brecon High School have left many in the community very concerned about the impact that will have on Welsh in the Brecon area. Already, parents are deciding to move their children out of Welsh-medium education because of a lack of continuum. Whilst the council have carried out a community impact assessment, it’s not clear that they’ve carried out any detailed research into the effect of this change on the numbers choosing Welsh-medium education into the future. What would your expectations be of a county council to carry out such an impact assessment, and would you agree with me that any changes to Welsh-medium education provision should increase the number of children who are studying through the medium of Welsh and not decrease the numbers?
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. Each local authority, of course, is required to submit its Welsh in education plan, to show how it proposes to increase the use of Welsh and the delivery of Welsh as a medium of education in their particular county. If there is any attempt by a local authority to restrict the availability of Welsh-medium education, particularly at secondary level, that is something that we’ll not seek to approve as part of their plans for the future. We know, for example, that Ysgol y Bannau is a well-established primary school in the Brecon area, and there has to be a way for children to be able to use Welsh—as a medium of education, not as a subject—in order for the language to be fully integrated in their educational experience. I certainly would not be supportive of anything that restricted the availability of Welsh-medium education in that part of Powys.
 
Building Regional Economies
 
13:35
John GriffithsBiography
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government policy to build regional economies in Wales? OAQ(4)2353(FM)
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re working to support jobs and growth in every part of Wales, taking wide-ranging actions to help individuals, communities and businesses. They include, of course, support for our enterprise zones, the city regions, and local growth zones.
 
13:35
John GriffithsBiography
First Minister, the south-east Wales economy is very important for the Welsh economy as a whole, and obviously we need to develop that economy further—and I’m sure we will. Will you agree with me that the Cardiff capital region city bid has great potential in terms of building the south-east Wales economy, and could you explain what part Welsh Government will play, alongside UK Government and the local authorities, to make sure that delivers maximum benefits for south-east Wales?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I thank the Member for the question. I think he may be referring to the city deal. In principle, we support the idea, but we’re short on detail at the moment. We don’t know what contribution will be made by UK Government, and we don’t know what contribution will be expected by Welsh Government, or, indeed, from local authorities. So, while we remain supportive of the principle, we have yet to see how that would work in detail, but we remain open, of course, to discussion. In any economy, infrastructure is important, and that’s why, of course, we’re moving forward with the metro. There will be a statement soon by the Minister, explaining what is now being done to move that project forward.
 
13:36
Altaf HussainBiography
First Minister, last week, your local government Minister unveiled your Government’s plan to reorganise councils in Wales. Many of those councils have been working together to improve their regional economies, particularly in my region, where we have the Swansea bay city region. What assessments have you made of the impact your proposal will have on the city regions?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’ll make things better. Local authorities will be able to provide services more robustly than is the case at the moment and at a lesser cost to the taxpayer. They will still have to work together. It certainly isn’t the case that, with a new structure of local authorities, there is therefore no need for the new local authorities to work together—that will have to continue in the future. We see, of course, local authorities that have been individually successful in attracting investment into some parts of Wales, but it’s absolutely crucial they continue to work together, both now and when the new structure comes into place.
 
13:37
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
Does the First Minister agree that we need to take very significant steps—through legislation, perhaps—to ensure that economic prosperity is something that is shared across Wales? North Wales is not, I don’t think, given the necessary support at present to enable the region to achieve its potential, including the necessary investment in infrastructure. Would the First Minister therefore support the Plaid Cymru pledge to introduce a Bill that would provide a clear commitment to develop the north of Wales as an economic powerhouse?
 
13:38
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I don’t see how a law, or legislation, can achieve that. Investors are going to go where they want to go, not where Government tells them they have to go. However, of course, it’s true to say that Government can actually put things in place to attract or to tempt investors into certain parts of Wales. That’s happened on Anglesey, for example, as regards the new Wylfa, as regards what’s happening with marine energy, and what’s happening with wind energy, with the second largest windfarm in the world. On Deeside, for example, a great deal of investment has gone into Deeside, particularly Westbridge furniture, recently in north Wales. They’ve come into Wales because of the work that they’ve been doing in collaboration with the Welsh Government. There are some parts of Wales, for example the Conwy valley, and we also have Surf Snowdonia, of course—so, there is investment coming into the north. I don’t see how a law would actually help to change things. However, what is important is that we do have policies in place—such as the enterprise zones and such as the Ynys Ynni Môn on Anglesey—that attract that inward investment.
 
13:39
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, if the city deal and city region strategies are going to build the kind of regional economy that’s going to benefit everyone in south-east Wales, clearly, a fast, effective public transport system is going to be critical to that. But it can still take two hours to get by public transport from one valley to another, and even an hour to get from the northern suburbs of Cardiff to the city centre, which is clearly a barrier for people who want to reach employment. When the metro proposals are brought forward later in this term, what kind of improvements to travel times do you expect them to be able to achieve?
 
13:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There are several objectives to the metro. Improvement in travel times, of course, is one objective. Greater comfort, in terms of rolling stock, for passengers is another, and, of course, in time, the extension of the existing network. Part of the metro will need to consider bus routes cross-valley, because we know that the railway lines in the main run north to south. Those that ran cross-valley have long gone; they were taken away in the 1960s. But it’s correct to say that we also need to look carefully at cross-valley transport and not simply at moving people north to south within the Valleys themselves. That’s part of the thinking around the metro.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:40
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from party leaders, and first this afternoon we have the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:40
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, the regeneration investment fund for Wales was set up by the Welsh Government, obviously, to create a regeneration fund for town centre regeneration. It was important that the moneys were maximised by the sale of Government-owned land, in particular valuable Government-owned land, and the greater amount that was achieved by that sale obviously would mean a greater impact for regeneration. Do you believe that the land sales that the Welsh Government undertook some years ago now did reflect good value for money for the Welsh taxpayer?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The answer is that we had concerns about some of the transactions that were taking place. That’s why the decision was taken to pause some of those transactions so that an investigation could take place, and that was done.
 
13:41
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
You will be aware, First Minister, that, obviously, the auditor general has been undertaking a very detailed and comprehensive report into this matter, and there have been many interested parties with deep concerns over the way this sale was undertaken and, in particular, the return to the taxpayer—some £21 million back to the taxpayer. That report is nearly 12 months overdue now. It was due last year. Can you confirm what interaction, if any, the Welsh Government have had with the audit office in making their observations known, which could have led to a delay in this report coming forward?
 
13:42
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No. It’s a matter for the auditor general to produce that report. It’s not for Government to interfere with that report in any way, nor would we do that.
 
13:42
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Well, it is a fact, First Minister, that the report has been ready, but, under the Maxwell principle, when reports are provided, the people who are mentioned in that report do have the opportunity to comment on and correct the record. This is what I’m seeking from you today, First Minister. Given that we are 12 months overdue, I would suggest, in this report’s publication and in particular the evidence that I’ve had and the conversations I’ve had with the auditor general indicate there has been a very long process of cross-referencing people who’ve been cited in the report, are you able to confirm that the Welsh Government have not been unduly slow in coming forward and addressing any concerns that might have been put to them? Would you join me in imploring now that that report come forward for full public scrutiny so that we can see exactly whether the taxpayer did get fair value for money on these land sales?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the report will be published when the auditor general feels the report should be published. It’s a matter entirely for the auditor general, not for us. Yes, he’s right to refer to the Maxwell principle, and it’s right that that principle is adhered to, but I suspect the answer as to when the report will be published lies with the auditor general rather than with us as a Government. We do not, nor should we, control the timing or the content of that report.
 
13:43
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:43
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, how many children in Wales live in poverty?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Too many.
 
13:43
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, I would’ve thought that you would’ve known the answer to that question. Figures suggest that 31 per cent of children in Wales—that’s around 200 children—are living in poverty. Now, we know that the UK Government are going to make a further £12 billion-worth of welfare cuts. Your party, of course, has said that you want to be tougher than the Tories on welfare. Now, last week’s publication of the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee report argues that you’ve not done enough to tackle poverty, and also that you’ve been treating the symptoms rather than the root causes. Do you think that you are doing enough, First Minister, and do you intend to maintain your current approach in your forthcoming budget?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think she means 200,000 rather than 200. But there are two issues here: first of all, the actions of the UK Government, and secondly, as she fairly asks, what we as a Government are doing. We did not agree with what has been done with the bedroom tax. We await with some trepidation the proposals that will come forward on 8 July. I noted yesterday the Prime Minister would not rule out cuts to disability benefits, and that is something that should send a chill down the spines of many, many people.
 
For us as a Government, there are challenges. We note the report and we will respond to the report, of course, formally, as the process demands, but we have already embarked on a process of examining carefully the anti-poverty programmes that we have in order to see whether they should be made more effective.
 
13:45
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, the communities and tackling poverty budget is worth £240 million of revenue spend every year, and that’s not including capital and European funds. Now, we wouldn’t call for that budget to be cut, but we do contend that it could be spent more effectively. There are similar regions in England that have reduced poverty much quicker than we’ve managed to do here in Wales, so it’s essential, now, that you ask yourself why you keep doing the same thing. Plaid Cymru would’ve abolished zero-hours contracts in the social care sector, for example. We would’ve abolished priority need in homelessness law, and we would’ve adopted a no evictions policy for those victims of the bedroom tax. What new measures are you going to introduce to effectively tackle poverty in Wales?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We invest over £323 million towards tackling poverty programmes in Wales. There are two ways of tackling poverty: one, of course, is to make sure that people are supported when they need that support, and the second is investing in skills—the more skills you can give people, the more chance they have of getting a job and of increasing their own household income. One of the ways we’ve done that, of course, is through Jobs Growth Wales, with almost 15,000 young people finding a meaningful job opportunity with the help of Welsh Government support. And, of course, we have work within Communities First areas to help people to get those skills that they need in order to—
 
13:46
Leanne WoodBiography
You’ve had 15 years to sort out skills—15 years.
 
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I would remind her that her party was in Government at one point, as well. So, don’t try and avoid that, as if it was nothing to do with you. Also, it’s not for me to defend the actions of the UK Government. It’s right to say that, with her three MPs, there’s not an awful lot she can actually do in Parliament. But, what we have done is introduce Jobs Growth Wales. We see that the attainment gap between those pupils eligible for free school meals and those who are not is closing. We are seeing more and more people going into apprenticeships and we’re helping to support the Welsh economy in terms of the jobs that have already been created.
 
On top of that, one of our main manifesto commitments was to double the number of families with access to Flying Start, and we have done just that and many, many families are accessing that support. But, we cannot do it all by ourselves. The UK Government also needs to play its part and it seems to be going in the opposite direction.
 
13:47
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:47
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NICE, has issued new guidance to enable GPs to better spot the signs and symptoms of cancer to allow for earlier diagnosis. NICE believes that, should this guidance be followed in England, some 5,000 lives a year will be saved. Is it your expectation that that guidance be followed in Wales?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiography
We wouldn’t have inferior guidance in Wales. I think it’s fair to point out that our GPs have done exceptionally well in terms of referring people quickly if they suspect cancer. The vast majority of people turn out not to have cancer, but the fact that they’ve been referred quickly is something that we very much welcome. If we look at the 31-day and 62-day statistics, they show that we’re doing very well in terms of making sure people have access to the right treatment when they need it. So, I would argue that, in Wales, we’re actually ahead, because our GPs have, in fairness to them, stepped up to the plate and they are making sure that people are being referred and being seen as quickly as possible.
 
13:48
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Thank you, First Minister. I’m glad that you are upholding the principle of implementing NICE guidance in Wales as part of the agreement that your Government has with NICE that it will follow clinical guidance. In that case, if it’s your intention it should be so, what assessment will your Government make to ensure that GPs will have access to diagnostic services as quickly as they need them, because that’s seen as key in the NICE guidance as making the difference?
 
13:49
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Diagnostic waiting times have not been acceptable for some months, but they are now moving in the right direction. The waiting times are being reduced and that is something we intend to see continue over the next few months and beyond.
 
13:49
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I appreciate your candour, First Minister; diagnostic waiting times have not been good, but they are beginning to improve. NICE guidance talks about diagnostics being available within a matter of days and a matter of two weeks. That’s a long way from where we currently are, at present. Will you carry out an assessment as to what steps your Government will need to take to comply with NICE guidance with regard to access to diagnostics? I hear what you say about treatment, but that’s after a diagnosis. If we’re to save lives, we need to get access to diagnostics quickly. Will you carry out an assessment to ensure that your Government will be able to comply with the new NICE guidance?
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We’re confident we can comply in terms of the diagnostic waiting times. I think it’s worth pointing out that performance against the 31-day target has improved; 97.2 per cent of people started treatment within the target time. That’s up from 96.7 per cent in March. So, the NHS is moving in the right direction in terms of 31-day performance. We’re also doing better, when compared with England, in terms of 62-day performance as well. So, when it comes to cancer, we do know that patients in Wales will start their treatment more quickly as a result of what we have put in place.
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper, and question 3 is Sandy Mewies.
 
European Union Investment
 
13:51
Sandy MewiesBiography
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on EU investment in Flintshire? OAQ(4)2354(FM)
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Since 2007, EU-funded projects have created 1,200 jobs and over 400 businesses in Flintshire. They’ve also supported 900 people into work and 2,900 people to gain qualifications, demonstrating the value to Wales, and indeed to Flintshire, of UK membership of the EU.
 
13:51
Sandy MewiesBiography
Thank you very much indeed. I think the statistics that you’ve just quoted do show exactly what the position is, but all this could be jeopardised if Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party, aided by their friends in the right-wing London press, jeopardise this and have their way. Therefore, First Minister, would you agree with me it’s essential that here in Wales we get our message out loud and clear that Wales without Europe would be a poorer place?
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely. I mean, if you look at Flintshire, it has done very well indeed through EU membership, access to the single market, large employers such as Airbus and, of course, the access to training that I’ve already mentioned. I do not believe that the question of the UK’s membership of the EU should be guided by a particularly blinkered form of nationalism that we see coming out of some parties in London. It should be determined according to what is best for Wales. It is in Wales’s interest to remain a member of the two unions that we are a member of. As David Melding has eloquently pointed out in years gone by, you can’t argue to leave one and yet still say that it needs to stay in the other. That applies whether it is the EU or the UK. I think his words on that matter are very wise.
 
13:52
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Janet Haworth.
 
13:52
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.
 
13:52
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
No, I’m the Presiding Officer today.
 
13:52
Janet HaworthBiography
I’m sorry about that; I didn’t mean to demote you.
 
First Minister, the Environment Wales project has been awarding European grants throughout Wales to environment projects since 1992. Community groups and volunteers across my region have engaged with these projects. For some, it has been the first tentative steps towards taking over works that have been previously undertaken or not by public bodies. However, the scheme is due to come to an end in September of this year. What alternative streams of funding does your Government have in place to continue the good work that Environment Wales has undertaken in Flintshire and across north Wales once it ceases to operate?
 
13:53
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, funding for Environment Wales isn’t stopping. We’ve put in place new grant funding arrangements. There’s no intention for the new arrangements to lead to a reduction in the funding available for voluntary environmental schemes. I know that the Minister’s had constructive meetings with the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and there is continuing dialogue with officials. So, I can put her concerns to rest.
 
13:53
Llyr GruffyddBiography
Flintshire, of course, is in a unique position in terms of being able to look eastward for economic growth, but also westward, but many authorities and individuals are a little concerned perhaps that the westbound look isn’t strong enough. Would you agree with me that Flintshire has great potential in terms of economic growth, but that it is important that that growth is disseminated across the west, and that that, of course, would help to create this economic powerhouse across north Wales that we are all keen to see?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, Flintshire, particularly Deeside, has been very prominent in attracting investment. That has been the case because of the clustering that happens there with some industries. Anglesey, of course, is now developing in the context of energy, while some other parts of north Wales are looking more to tourism. It is exceptionally important that we realise that Flintshire has been successful in attracting investment, and many people working to the west of the county work in Deeside and Flintshire as a whole. It’s extremely important, of course, that we can disseminate that economic growth westwards and, of course, we see indications of that with the opening, for example, of Gwynt y Môr, and further west with projects such as Surf Snowdonia and, of course, with all the developments in Anglesey.
 
Local Health Boards
 
13:55
Angela BurnsBiography
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the mechanisms that are in place to review the work of senior management at local health boards? OAQ(4)2350(FM)
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. They are held to account through an established performance management framework and other mechanisms.
 
13:55
Angela BurnsBiography
Thank you, First Minister. As you are very aware, the chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr has been suspended. The Welsh Government say it is a neutral act and is not connected to the scandal at Tawel Fan. What is a neutral act, First Minister? Given his previous job at Hywel Dda, we need the confidence in his running of that board, given the controversy and the outcomes that surround the many decisions of restructuring that have happened. We need to know that that chief executive exercised probity in that role, as well as the current role.
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the Member will be aware that there is now an acting chief executive at Betsi Cadwaladr. There is work to do to rebuild public confidence in the local health board; that much we recognise. The new acting chief executive is an important part of rebuilding that confidence. We cannot pretend that the board finds itself in a position of strength in terms of its past actions, but we believe it will be in a position of strength in the future given the changes that have occurred and also the fact that Ministers hold the board to very close account. I know that the Deputy Minister is a weekly visitor to meet with the board. He will, of course, continue to monitor the situation very closely.
 
13:56
Llyr GruffyddBiography
First Minister, should managers that fail in their duty receive a six-figure pay-off?
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Nobody could argue that that is something that anybody could support. Unfortunately, it is not unknown in the public sector, and that is something, I’m afraid, that sometimes gives some in the public sector a bad name. We’ve seen, of course, it happening with chief executives in local authorities. We’ve seen it happen in other areas of the public sector. No, it’s much better to have proper performance management so that people are held to account. That’s true not just in local health boards but across the public sector.
 
Local Government Reorganisation
 
13:57
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the recently published proposals for local government reorganisation in Wales? OAQ(4)2362(FM)
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We want better and better-value public services.
 
13:57
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
Thank you. The release of the maps last week has undoubtedly caused anger and dismay to those charged with delivering our vital services across Wales, including the north, with experienced leaders and senior politicians doubting your Government’s own credibility as to whether you understand local government at all. Wrexham: Welsh Ministers have been foolish and rushed, taking people for granted. Ynys Môn: covering populations of around 300,000 would make local democracy remote. Flintshire: mergers alone are not radical enough to cope with the financial pressures, adding that Welsh Labour needs change at the top. I wouldn’t disagree—
 
13:58
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Are you coming to a question?
 
13:58
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
[Continues.]—but do you not recognise these concerns, and how are you going to restore some confidence and credibility back into any local government reorganisation in Wales?
 
13:58
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
If her party had any policy at all with regard to local government, I would take them more seriously. They have lurched from being in favour of reorganisation, except for some authorities that they want to control, now to not being in favour of any kind of reorganisation. Can I ask her this? Education authorities: there are four of them still in special measures, including Monmouthshire, which is the only council that they actually run, incidentally. We have seen social services departments struggle because, once they lose one or two people on the sick, they struggle. In the last week, I’ve had businesses—one of which is familiar to him, but I’m not going to mention it—saying to me, ‘The problem we have in Wales is we don’t get pre-app advice from departments. They are overrun with other applications. They can’t give us the kind of advice that we want, but we can get it in England.’ Well, I’m not prepared for the situation to be better in England. I want the situation to be better in Wales. That’s why I want to see local authorities that are properly structured, not strung together on the back of a fag packet by John Redwood—properly structured and with powers. This is an exciting opportunity for local government to gain the powers that it needs, to shape the communities that local government serves, and to empower local councillors. No wonder the Tories are against it.
 
13:59
Mick AntoniwBiography
First Minister, Aneurin Bevan said that the purpose of winning power is to be able to give it away. Do you agree with me that the reorganisation map gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity now to really continue the devolution process and to look at how we actually devolve further power down from the Assembly to give greater empowerment to the new format of councils and regional authorities?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely right. The Tories want a northern powerhouse, that’s clear, but they don't want it in Wales, or similar. So, there’s a certain element of double standards there, which we all expect—the leader of the opposition is going higher and higher in his voice; he’ll become soprano, soon. [Laughter.]
 
As far as the point that he makes, he's right. I’ve spent much of my time arguing for the devolution of power to the people of Wales from London. I cannot then argue that there shouldn't be equal consideration of devolution to local authorities. I want to see local authorities that are robust, that are strong, that have the powers that they need in the future to shape the communities that they serve. The natural tendency of the Conservatives is to remove power from local government, which is what Thatcher did in the 1980s. If you don't control it, abolish it. We saw that with the GLC. It's about time the opposition came up with ideas of its own in terms of improving local government in Wales and acted as a responsible opposition, rather than simply coming in here and creating a shouting match.
 
14:01
Simon ThomasBiography
Turning back to the map that you’ve produced, First Minister, in terms of your vision for local authorities, what’s difficult to understand from this map is what happens to many of the consortia, bodies and regional partnerships that already exist. For example, ERW, the education consortium for Dyfed, also includes Powys and west Glamorgan. Ceredigion is collaborating with Powys on social services, and Powys, of course, in Williams, is to become a single health authority and local authority, jointly. Plaid Cymru’s vision actually unites these things at a regional level and clarifies where the boundaries between the various partnerships, boards and so on exist. Your vision doesn’t explain that. Will you take this opportunity to tell us what’s happening to that regional level if this particular map is adopted?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, local authorities would have to collaborate regardless of the outcome of the map, and secondly, the plan that Plaid Cymru has proposed for the people of Wales is more expensive. You want to retain 22 chief executives, 22 council leaders, and then to have bodies on top of that. That’s bound to cost more money, and I don’t see that that’s going to improve things. What exactly would the councils do? If education and social services and planning are undertaken on a regional level, what’s left, more or less? No, we’re not in the same position at all. In my opinion, I welcome the fact that at least Plaid Cymru has presented an idea—that’s better than the what’s happened in terms of other parties—but I can’t see how it improves things or gives better value for money. Because all I can see is that it’s much more expensive and would create more quangos on the regional level and would retain the local councils. I don’t think that that’s going to happen and that money will be saved and that better services will be produced.
 
Velothon Wales
 
14:03
Lindsay WhittleBiography
6. What economic benefits did the recent Velothon bring to south Wales? OAQ(4)2361(FM)
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It was a successful event, enjoyed by thousands of visitors to Wales and local participants. It has raised a significant amount for charity, but it is right to say that the organisers need to be far better at organising the event. There will be a full post-event review, and that will, of course, include an assessment of the economic benefits.
 
14:03
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Well, First Minister, the first Velothon organised in Berlin, which had similar numbers to the Welsh event, generated €3.5 million for that local community, and I appreciate your answer that it is perhaps a little too early, but you also agree with me, clearly, that public opinion was divided on the benefits, and, I agree, lots more organisation will have to be done. There was good news for charities, clearly, and for many businesses in Wales, but the bad news was that many businesses suffered losses, lots more of the public were inconvenienced, and some communities were literally cut off. My question, Minister, is: what compensation could be made available to those businesses in particular that can prove a financial loss?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, they would have to pursue the organisers. Now, how they can prove that loss is a matter for them. That would have to be balanced against the economic benefit that the event actually brought, and they would have to prove, I suppose, that there was something wrong in some way with the organisation of the event, particularly whether roads were closed appropriately. That's a matter for them to pursue in terms of their legal advice, but if it is always going to be the case that businesses are in some way compensated when major events come to Wales, then where does it stop? Certainly, this is not an event that we organised as Government, but it is a matter for individual businesses to take the advice as they see fit.
 
14:05
John GriffithsBiography
Would you agree with me, First Minister, that the velothon, along with other big cycling events and the landmark Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, is helping to build Wales as a cycling nation, and that has health benefits, quality-of-life benefits, integrated transport and environmental benefits, as well as some of the economic benefits we’ve heard about?
 
14:05
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely, and the active travel Act, of course, was a significant milestone in terms of saying to people that cycling is not just a leisure pursuit, but a viable form of getting to work, and to get to work safely. There are many people who would cycle to work, but are not happy, for example, with sharing the road with cars. Some are, some aren’t, and how we develop cycle-only lanes and cycle-only paths in the future will be key to making sure that more people are able to cycle. Cycling is undoubtedly popular. It’s undoubtedly popular amongst middle-aged men in Lycra—the MAMILs, as they’re called—but it’s important, of course, that that popularity continues, and where there are issues where events have not been organised as well as they should have been, that doesn’t damage the popularity of cycling. It’s crucial that, in years to come, the velothon is organised in such a way that people do get more notice, and it’s organised more effectively in the future.
 
14:06
William GrahamBiography
First Minister, you expressed earlier that the organisers of Velothon Wales should have communicated information about road closures sooner, which we all agree with. In order to make this a much better event, and even more popular, could I just inform you that the bus company Stagecoach Wales was only informed of the—in fact, they were never contacted by the organisers, which is pretty incredible, really. They relied on information from local councils. Caerphilly gave out information two to three months before the event; Torfaen and Cardiff the week before. In order to make this a really successful event that can be supported by all, how will you make sure that there’s improved communication to all communities and businesses?
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can’t dispute what the Member has said. I think that are numerous examples of where communication was not as it should have been, and the event organisers have to learn that for the years that are to come. Not enough notice, it’s clear, from the reports that I’ve seen, was given to various businesses and organisations, and you mentioned one example there. We will work with the velothon in future years to make sure that these problems don’t occur in the future, and that sufficient notice is given when the event returns to Wales.
 
14:07
Jeff CuthbertBiography
Can I say I broadly welcome the velothon, and I’m pleased that it passed through my constituency? Certainly, it brought the benefits of active travel to many people, and it was an opportunity to showcase Caerphilly to a much wider audience. Nevertheless, like other Members, I was contacted by a number of constituents recently who were unhappy with the extensive road closures. So, First Minister, do you agree with me that, if the velothon is to pass through Caerphilly next year, there needs to be much better and earlier communication between the organisers and local residents and businesses, perhaps beginning as early as the beginning of 2006, and perhaps they should explore issues such as rolling, rather than blanket, road closures?
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Absolutely right. It’s never the case that it’s too early to start consultation and too early to start working with businesses that are affected by events such as this. It’s absolutely crucial that the lessons—harsh lessons—that have been taught this time around are taken forward next year, and that the problems that have occurred this year are not repeated.
 
14:08
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I declare an interest as a keen cyclist myself. I think we can all agree that we support the development of events such as the velothon in Wales, but is the First Minister aware that the existence of the velothon, run by a French company, did have a detrimental effect on a huge sporting event in Wales, which is Etape Eryri, whose numbers were dramatically reduced because of the velothon taking place the weekend before. Does the First Minister accept that there are Welsh companies that can organise events such as the velothon equally as well as large multinational companies?
 
14:09
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think that much is true. I would always say that Welsh companies are the equal of anyone when it comes to organising events such as this. As I say, there are lessons to be learned. We do try to ensure that there is sufficient distance between events, but sometimes that’s not possible. I welcome the Member’s declaration that he’s a keen cyclist, though I don’t look forward to the day when he turns up in this Chamber in Lycra. [Laughter.]
 
The National Police Air Service
 
14:09
Keith DaviesBiography
7. What discussions has the Welsh Government had with the UK Government on the National Police Air Service? OAQ(4)2364(FM)
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
This is not a devolved matter—well, not yet—and we haven’t had a discussion with the United Kingdom Government on this issue. But it’s true to say that we are concerned about how the service will continue in the future.
 
14:10
Keith DaviesBiography
Thank you. The current plans include one site in north Wales, in Hawarden, where there will be a helicopter, and one in south Wales, in Cardiff. But, if there is any problem or emergency in Liverpool or Manchester, and the same in the south, in Bristol or Bath, we would lose both helicopters. Last week I went to Pembrey to see the centre there where the police and crime commissioner, three years ago, spent £1.5 million to build a wonderful site. People tell me that with the national approach, Dyfed-Powys Police will have to pay £800,000 per annum—with no helicopter there. But, if the police and crime commissioner was willing to pay an additional £300,000 we could retain the helicopter at Pembrey and the rest of Wales would benefit from that, too. Would you agree with me?
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, that’s a matter for the commissioner, of course. But, the name of the service is the National Police Air Service. Well, it’s not national at all; it’s England and Wales. In my view, you’re talking about two nations, not one, but that’s quite typical of the way in which they deal with these issues in London. This, of course, wouldn’t have happened if it was devolved. Once again, Wales isn’t being treated fairly. It’s being treated as some kind of part of England. That’s quite typical of the way in which the current Government deals with Wales. But, it’s true to say there is an option there for the commissioner, that is true, to ensure that the service continues, and it’s important, of course, that the commissioner considers it. But, once again, we’re seeing Wales lose out because the fact that policing is not devolved.
 
14:12
Mark IsherwoodBiography
In stating that it will close the base in Rhuddlan, the National Police Air Service says that cover will come from other bases, including Hawarden. But, North Wales Police told me that there’s been poor engagement with forces, police and crime commissioners and regions, and that for high-priority calls, the average response time in north Wales will increase from 13 to 18 minutes. Notwithstanding your comments about this not being directly a Welsh Government responsibility, how can or will the Welsh Government engage with the regional workshops the National Police Air Service says it will now carry out to engage forces and commissioners to better understand how the modelling has been arrived at and to assure forces it is accurate?
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Look, this is your party’s decision, not mine. We will work, of course, with the police and crime commissioners—of course we will—and the police services. But, it’s your decision at the end of the day. If the people of Wales were able to have the level of control over policing that Scotland, Northern Ireland and England gets, this wouldn’t have happened. So, your party refuses to give those powers to the people of Wales—something that we support. We have a decision now where Wales is effectively being cut out of the picture and your party does bear responsibility. Please don’t try and make out that, somehow, it’s the fault of the Welsh Government.
 
14:13
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
I’m very pleased, First Minister, that you’re so enthusiastic for the devolution of policing to Wales. That wasn’t the response of your Minister when I raised this issue some years ago in this Chamber, and that wasn’t the response of the last Labour Government in Westminster either. But would you agree with me that we’re seeing in this context, particularly in the context of Dyfed-Powys Police, the fundamental mistake made by the coalition Government in introducing police and crime commissioners, where a commissioner is more faithful to his own party’s policies than the needs of the citizens of Dyfed-Powys?
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, two things: we aren’t in favour of police and crime commissioners and neither is the public. We saw that as regards the turnout for their election. As regards the devolution of policing, may I remind the Member, of course, that this was part of the Labour Party’s manifesto last month—to devolve policing to Wales? So, things are changing. It’s true to say that that was the case some time ago, but things have changed since then. But, the fundamental question is this: if there is a call made for the helicopter, who gets the priority—England or Wales? At the moment, there is no answer to that question, which illustrates once again how important it is that the Wales police service should be run from Wales and not from London.
 
Support for Early Years Provision
 
14:14
David ReesBiography
8. Will the First Minister provide an update on support for early years provision in Wales? OAQ(4)2359(FM)
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. We know that early years are a critical time in children’s lives. We know that those times are crucially important for long-term development. That’s why we provide free quality childcare for two to three-year-olds through Flying Start and free quality foundation phase early education for three and four-year-olds.
 
14:15
David ReesBiography
I thank you for that answer, First Minister, and I agree that the Flying Start programme has supported many young children and families within some of our most deprived areas here in Wales. As a result, we are seeing children benefit and develop, thus increasing their life opportunities. However, you may know that Action for Children has decided to terminate their contract to deliver early years development in two such communities in the upper Afan valley, citing financial difficulties for doing so, and the local authority is seeking alternative provision. Do you agree with me that any alternative provision should be located within the communities that the service is intended to support, and families should not be required to actually catch two buses to an alternative site? If so, will you ensure that the Welsh Government view is made clear to local authorities?
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can make it absolutely clear that, where there is a need to change the provider of childcare, it cannot be in anyone’s interests if that childcare is provided further away. The whole point of the provision of childcare as part of Flying Start is to make it as accessible as possible. If people face an expensive and laborious journey on public transport, they will not use those childcare facilities. So, yes, I think it’s important to state that we would want to see childcare provision in the communities that they are meant to serve. I can say that there’s no intention to end childcare provision in Croeserw and Glyncorrwg. There are options I understand that the council is looking at at the moment, but it will clearly be absolutely essential that the childcare provision continues in those communities in the future.
 
14:16
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, the early years, of course, are a crucial part of a child’s development, and schools have a significant role to play in that development. In my own constituency, in Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, there is a school that is delivering excellent standards of education, but unfortunately Denbighshire County Council are seeking to close that school. They’ve now embarked upon a second consultation. The first consultation resulted in a referral to the Minister; the Minister intervened in order to secure the future of that school, but the local authority, within days of that announcement, announced that it would seek a second consultation to close. What consideration do you think local authorities and others should have in respect of the psychological and emotional impact of second consultations on school closure for the children in those schools, given the potential impact on their development?
 
14:17
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’m familiar with the situation that the Member outlines. It’s clearly important that local authorities are able to take communities with them. If they consult on proposals that are no different from the original proposals—and I don’t know what the new proposals look like; I need to state that—then clearly it will be more difficult for them to explain why they have done that. I’ve not seen the second consultation document. What is clear, though, is there needs to be a solution that is to the satisfaction of the local community.
 
14:18
Peter BlackBiography
First Minister, can I endorse David Rees’s plea that the Flying Start provision in Croeserw and Glyncorrwg remains in that community? However, there are concerns about the way that Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council are handling the commissioning of this particular service. Action for Children will effectively be terminating that service in less than a month’s time, and nobody knows—neither the parents nor the staff—what is going to replace it or when it is going to be replaced. Action for Children face redundancy payments of about £30,000 and yet the council do not seem to be coming forward with alternative provision that parents can rely on and which those staff may well be transferred to. Could I ask you, as a matter of urgency, to work with the relevant Minister to ensure that the commissioning arrangements in Neath Port Talbot council for this particular service are fit for purpose and that both parents and staff receive some certainty before that service finishes at the end of the school term?
 
14:19
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I think the service finishes officially at the end of August, but the end of the school term as far as the children are concerned. It’s absolutely essential that the service continues in the community, and it’s absolutely essential that there is as little delay as possible in procuring a new service. I’m sure the council are aware of the challenges that are faced, and I would obviously urge the council to put new provision in place as quickly as possible. I understand they have committed to updating parents as quickly as possible, and they are moving forward with alternative arrangements, but clearly the last thing anybody wants to see is a gap between service provision arrangements or, indeed, a significant geographical move for that provision.
 
14:19
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:19
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement, and I call on the Minister for Finance and Government Business, Jane Hutt.
 
14:19
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
There are three changes to report to the business statement for this week’s business. The Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has postponed her statement on an update on ports to 7 July. The Minister for Education and Skills will be making a statement on the draft additional learning needs and education tribunal (Wales) Bill and the Deputy Minister for Health will be making a written rather than an oral statement on investment and delivery plans. As the only question tabled to the Counsel General has been withdrawn, the time for Government business tomorrow, on Wednesday, has been reduced to 45 minutes.
 
Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among the agenda papers available to Members electronically.
 
14:20
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Leader of the house, is it possible to either have a statement or a letter put in the Library in relation to the redundancy packages that have been given by the Welsh Government to the three departing director generals who have recently taken redundancy? It is perfectly a matter of public interest how much money has been paid out by the Welsh Government in redundancy settlements. All public organisations make this information freely available. On this particular occasion, the Welsh Government, for whatever reason, unbeknown to many people outside of its own decision-making process, has chosen not to allow this information into the public domain. If you’re unwilling to allow this information to come forward, perhaps you could offer an explanation as to why the Welsh Government is not prepared to release this information.
 
14:21
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I’m sure that the leader of the opposition will agree that the action that we are taking to ensure that we’re making savings and streamlining the way we deliver our public services is important. Of course, this is a matter for the Permanent Secretary, but clearly you are well aware, as we are, of severe financial pressures across all public services in Wales, and we have to ensure that our organisation is fit for purpose in that context.
 
14:22
Mick AntoniwBiography
Minister, in the last 10 years of the Labour Government we saw, probably, the most consistent reductions in child poverty in the post-war period and we now, as night follows day, have a Tory Government where the legacy is continued year-on-year increases in poverty and inequality. Proposals that are being proposed now with regard to working tax credits, disability benefits and other welfare reforms, may have a significant impact on Welsh Government policies and strategy. Will you make time for a statement so that we can actually analyse and look at what the Government strategy is in dealing with the impact of these Tory attacks on the poorest and most vulnerable?
 
14:22
Jane HuttBiography
Of course, you only have to read some of the comments from organisations like the Child Poverty Action Group at the weekend, such as Alison Garnham of the CPAG saying that the UK Government,
 
‘can no longer claim that deficit reduction is about protecting children’s futures… With child poverty expected to rise by nearly a third in the decade to 2020 as a result of its policies, it’s clear the government’s approach is failing.’
 
What is clear is that we are taking action and the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, of course, published her revised child poverty strategy in March.
 
14:23
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
A pamphlet has been distributed about opting out of organ donation. They’ve been distributed over the past two weeks and an elector of mine has contacted the telephone line that is recommended in the leaflet, asking for information. He’s done so a number of times—a dozen times—and pressed the Welsh option, but still hasn’t received a reply. Can we have a statement from the Minister for health on this breach in the Welsh Government’s Welsh language scheme, in that Welsh speakers are not being treated equally?
 
14:24
Jane HuttBiography
Clearly, that is a matter on which the Government wants to ensure that it is delivering in accordance with, not only our Welsh language scheme, but also in communicating with the people of Wales, on this very important development and change, which this Assembly has supported.
 
14:24
Eluned ParrottBiography
Minister, I wonder if I might request a statement from the Minister for health on progress in improving child and adolescent mental health service waiting times, as I’ve had reports of ongoing issues there, particularly with the co-ordination between CAMHS services and educational psychology. I would be very grateful for a written statement, perhaps, on that.
 
The second issue is this: I wonder if I could request a statement from the Minister for Natural Resources on best practice to increase recycling in local authorities. Just over a week since Cardiff narrowly avoided a £500,000 fine for missing its recycling targets and going in the wrong direction. They’ve actually taken a decision to scrap the Tidy Text service that was informing residents of the right date to put out their recycling and their black bags. Given the fact that Cardiff has a highly mobile population, with people moving house frequently, this kind of service is vital in making sure that people know they’re putting their bags out on the right day, so that those bags aren’t waiting for 24 hours or 36 hours, being ripped open and causing litter and waste on the street. So, I think if we can please have a statement on that, it would be much appreciated.
 
14:25
Jane HuttBiography
In response to your first question, Eluned Parrott, the priority that this Government gives to our child and adolescent mental health service is very clear. In the last four years, we have seen a 100 per cent increase in the number of children and young people referred to specialist child and adolescent mental health services. It is important that we ensure that for those referrals that don’t necessarily require specialist treatment, those children are signposted elsewhere or discharged appropriately. But, it is quite clear that we are improving in terms of that 100 per cent increase that I’ve just cited in terms of this very important service for our children and young people.
 
In terms of your second question on recycling, I know the Minister for Natural Resources made this point in answer to questions last week. Wales is the fourth best country in Europe at recycling, and continues to lead the UK with its recycling targets. As to the delivery of that, he made it very clear that councils who don’t hit the recycling target have to demonstrate how they’re going to improve and reach future targets or face penalties. That is about how local authorities actually do respond to those challenges.
 
14:27
Mark IsherwoodBiography
I call for a single statement on building 45 at the former Valley Works at Rhydymwyn in Flintshire. As you may know, this was the site for the home of the research and development effort associated with Tube Alloys, the codename for the British effort to develop an atomic bomb during the second world war. Rudolf Peierls and Klaus Fuchs moved to the Manhattan project in the United States in spring 1944 from Rhydymwyn, and the rest is history. As the Manhattan project expanded in the US, Rhydymwyn slowed and in 1945 was converted into a general storage facility. In the US, the Atomic Heritage Foundation, backed by the President and by Congress, are organising a number of events to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the first test—the Trinity test—of the atomic bomb on 16 July 1945. Rhydymwyn Valley History Society wants a commemoration event in Rhydymwyn, but Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government, working, I believe, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have put a bat preservation order on the building, shutting it to access during this period and for nine months of the year. But, extensive inquiries—and I’ll finish here—have shown that nobody has any knowledge of any buildings being retained for long-term bat conservation and no evidence of such in the succeeding years after the remediation works in the valley in 2003.
 
14:28
Jane HuttBiography
I certainly wasn’t familiar with the role in history of building 45 until you revealed it this afternoon. Clearly, we cannot be responsible for bat preservation or conservation orders, but I’m sure local representations will be made in this regard.
 
14:29
Julie MorganBiography
I’m sure the Minister will have heard the news this morning about the Prison Reform Trust review into why so many children in care in England and Wales end up in the criminal justice system. Children aged 10 to 17 in care are more than five times as likely to be in trouble with the law. I know that the Welsh Government has made great efforts to help and encourage children who are in care, but would it be possible to have a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services to let us know the numbers of young people in care in Wales who are also in the criminal justice system? What preventative action are we taking to look after these children when they are in the care of the state?
 
14:29
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Julie Morgan for that important question, and I’m sure that the Minister for Health and Social Services will want to respond accordingly. Can I just say also that I think many Members visited the displays that were in Tŷ Hywel today, at lunchtime, marking National Youth Week, and one of the projects there was a project that was supporting and assisting, in terms of prevention, children and young people who had come into contact with the criminal justice system, and what an impact they were making in terms of preventing and supporting those young people accordingly.
 
14:30
Angela BurnsBiography
Minister, may I ask that, through your kind offices, you will encourage the Minister for education to agree to a debate or statement on the additional learning needs Bill that is now coming forward to us in draft form, hopefully at the beginning of July? Although today we are debating very briefly why it is in draft form rather than as a fully functioning Bill, which is what most of us expected, it would be more than useful to be able to have a debate in this Assembly, with all Members present, on the actual subject of the Bill, once we know what it is.
 
14:31
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Angela Burns for that question on the business statement. Of course, there is an oral statement by the Minister this afternoon on the draft Bill, and I’m sure that will provide an opportunity to develop the issues and questions that you wish to raise.
 
14:31
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
In pursuing the questions raised by my colleague, Eluned Parrott, to the Minister for the environment, perhaps he could also look into the issue of how councils dispose of personal waste. Powys County Council are consulting on moving to a three-weekly cycle of collection of black bags, having last year discontinued their specialist collection of continence products and colostomy bags. People are very concerned that they will now be asked to put these products into black bin bags that will not be collected more frequently than a three-weekly cycle, often causing a great deal of embarrassment and fear that they’re going to become a nuisance to their own neighbours. People struggling with continence issues feel isolated enough without adding further indignity to their suffering by this particular measure.
 
But also in response to this consultation, people are very concerned about the issues of packaging. They feel that they would be better able to cope with a three-weekly cycle if companies did more to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging. I wonder if the Minister would care to outline what steps he’s taking with industry, and with the Westminster Government, to look at the issue of what we can do to reduce the amount of packaging that consumers are then asked to recycle or to dispose of, which causes them problems.
 
14:32
Jane HuttBiography
Kirsty Williams raises a number of important questions, and, in a sense, it’s a testament to the progress that we’ve made, with Wales being the fourth best country in Europe at recycling, that we’re now moving to the actual ‘how do we deliver best practice?’ across Wales. That is something where I know the Minister’s working very closely with local government to ensure best practice is implemented, taking into account some of those wider issues, and, of course, there could be an interface again with representations with local health services as well.
 
14:33
Jenny RathboneBiography
Professor Kevin Morgan of Cardiff University is giving a paper tomorrow lunchtime in the Senedd on what it would take for Wales to become a Good Food Nation. As it involves challenges for every single one of the Ministers in the Welsh Government, including public procurement, new business development, education, public health, prudent healthcare and tackling our climate change obligations, I wondered if it would be possible to have a debate in Government time, before recess, on this very important and challenging issue.
 
14:34
Jane HuttBiography
I thank Jenny Rathbone for that question, and we look forward to Professor Kevin Morgan’s report tomorrow, ‘Good Food for All’—a ‘Good Food for All’ discussion paper—which I’m sure will be very, very helpful. Of course, we do have ‘Towards Sustainable Growth: An Action Plan for the Food and Drink Industry 2014-2020’, and that’s really outlining the delivery of priorities that we identified in the strategy ‘Food for Wales, Food from Wales for 2010-2020’ and many priority themes, which, I think, will accord with Professor Morgan’s paper, and the Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans, and her officials, are engaging very closely with academic universities and also organising an event to encourage collaboration among universities in support of the food and drink industry in Wales.
 
14:34
Darren MillarBiography
Minister, can I call for two statements this afternoon please? First, a statement from the Minister for Public Services to provide an update to the Assembly on the support for the armed forces community. I had the pleasure of attending RAF Valley on Thursday and Friday of last week, and it was great to hear of the positive engagement of the local authority on Ynys Môn with the armed forces community there. But there was some concern that there’s an inconsistent approach to the support of the armed forces community in different parts of Wales, and, clearly, it’s important that the best practice that we’ve seen in Ynys Môn, and, indeed, in the Vale of Glamorgan, is rolled out to other local authority areas. So, it would be great to have an update on that, especially in this important year, which, of course, is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle of Britain.
 
Can I also ask for a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services in relation to support for those with liver disease? Haemophilia Wales has raised concerns about the inequity in access to modern hepatitis C drugs in Wales versus those that are available in England. And, indeed, access also to consultant hepatologists is more difficult in Wales versus in England as a result of the individual patient funding request process—if we can have a statement on that, please. I know that there are very small numbers of individuals who could potentially benefit from appointments with hepatologists and from these very important new drugs, but it is important that there’s equal access from both sides of the border, and I think that Welsh patients are being disadvantaged at the moment.
 
14:36
Jane HuttBiography
I don’t know whether you were here at the time, but the Minister has made a very clear statement on our Welsh Government support across a variety of responsibilities, in terms of support for the armed services and for veterans. But I also would say I’m sure all of us across the Chamber have taken the opportunity to support local activities as well on Armed Forces Day. Certainly, I did in the Vale of Glamorgan, on Monday, with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, and, of course, others will have shared in those events. But, of course, the Minister has been very clear about our support.
 
On your second point, of course the Minister is aware of developments, and is very closely engaged with those who have been particularly affected by, particularly, hepatitis C.
 
14:37
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:37
3. Statement: Budget Tour 2015—Investing in the Wales We Want
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 3, which is a statement by the Minister for Finance and Government Business on the budget tour 2015—Investing in the Wales We Want. I call on Jane Hutt, the Minister.
 
14:37
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Llywydd, the next spending review period will be a major challenge for the whole of the public sector in Wales, and for the people who use our public services. Set against the backdrop of the new UK Government’s manifesto commitments, on 4 June the Chancellor announced a £50 million cut to our budget for the current year. On 8 July, the Chancellor will make a further announcement, which could well include additional reductions for 2015-16 in the light of election pledges. It will also start to establish a picture of the total financial envelope for the next spending review period.
 
In spite of the uncertainty, past experience has highlighted the importance of early planning. It is crucial in preparing ourselves for the impact of a further period of austerity. In facing this challenge, it is more important than ever that we invest for the long term. We’ve done everything we can to maximise the resources available in Wales to support our priorities, and we’re pressing ahead with new, innovative ways of investing in our infrastructure in health, education, housing, and transport, and this is reflected in the Wales infrastructure investment plan annual report, which I am publishing today.
 
We’ve also sought to work closely with partners, service providers, and service users to turn our priorities into budgets. And, once again, I’m undertaking a tour to talk to a wide range of people and organisations across Wales about how we can best respond to the budget challenges we face. This is my third budget tour. This year it is called ‘Investing in the Wales We Want’. It will run through until September, and the tour provides a vital link to understanding how our budget decisions impact on people’s lives across Wales.
 
My budget tour for 2015 provides an important opportunity to listen to those delivering vital public services across Wales, to understand the challenges that are being faced on a daily basis, and to incorporate the views of our partners into our spending review considerations. These events will help to provide transparency around how we’re preparing for the spending review, and provide our key delivery partners and stakeholders with as much warning as possible as to the financial outlook and prospects.
 
The first event of the tour took place in Aberystwyth on 18 June, when I met staff from the Hywel Dda Local Health Board, local authorities, a young apprentice, and representatives from housing associations and the third sector. There was a clear understanding of the challenging times that we’re facing. I was struck by the desire from all sectors to work together to share ideas and look for opportunities to innovate. It was encouraging to learn that prevention and the importance of investing for long-term gain are themes that matter to people. We must do all we can to support our partners to work together, and I will reflect on the suggestions that will come forward throughout the tour.
 
As part of our planning for the spending review, we are continuing to place evidence and evaluation at the centre of our considerations, ensuring that we’re spending our resources on those interventions that deliver the maximum benefits and support delivery of our outcomes. We must do all we can to increase collaboration across the Welsh public sector to drive efficiencies, improve services for citizens, and improve the resilience of services to weather the difficult financial times ahead. We’ve been open about the challenges we face as a result of the UK Government’s austerity measures. Although we don’t know yet our exact settlement, we’re planning on the basis that we will face at least the same scale of cuts over the next five years as over the last. I hope to have more clarity after 8 July, but we can’t put off planning until we know the outcome of the spending review. Reducing resources will require us to continue to make difficult decisions, and to support those decisions we must draw on all the evidence available to understand what is working well and to share learning and best practice and to assess the impact of budget cuts on key sectors and vulnerable people.
 
Responding to a prolonged period of austerity is a challenge shared by everyone working in public services. We need to work across service boundaries to ensure the integrity of public services is maintained, and that’s reflected in the approach we’ve taken to date. For example, in relation to health services, we have acknowledged the crucial and integral contribution of social services. Our combined spend on health and social services is higher per head than the combined spend in England by 5 per cent. We will need to prioritise. Throughout this period, we’ve been clear about our priorities. Underpinned by our commitment to social justice and fairness, we’ve focused on growth and jobs, educational attainment, health and wellbeing, and supporting children, families and deprived communities.
 
Our budget plans in the autumn will also be an important step in preparing for the full implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which comes into force next April. The Act has been shaped by a year-long conversation on the ‘The Wales We Want’—a sustainable Wales. The Act will require all of us to think more about the long term, how we can work better with communities and with each other and how we will prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach.
 
That is why, in preparing for a further round of budget cuts, it’s important to ask those providing vital services, as well as those who use them, what is working well and where there is scope to drive further integration of services and greater collaboration between those responsible for providing services. In doing so, we will build on the steps that have been taken across sectors to share best practice and learning. By working together, we can, once again, produce a responsible, fair and sustainable budget, which fully supports our priorities for Wales and our principles of social justice and fairness. I’m confident the spending plans we bring forward in the autumn will be a draft budget that enables us to meet the challenges we face, investing in the Wales we want.
 
14:43
Nick RamsayBiography
I thank the Minister for her statement today on investing in the Wales that we want and on the update on your latest budget tour 2015. It sounds very glamorous, Minister. It’s good to know that you’re getting out and about and listening to stakeholders and touring with your roadshow. I also hope I can take a little bit of credit for the creation of this tour in the first place. I think it’s four years now since I embarked on a bit of a tour myself of community and town councils in my area. I remember telling you about it back in 2011 in advance of the further powers referendum, so I’m glad to see that best practice is being spread.
 
Can I ask you, Minister—. You’ve mentioned this is your third tour. Quite simply, what lessons have you learned over the three-year timescale? What have you learned about effective engagement and what best practice have you developed since that initial tour? We would expect to see over that time improvement in Welsh Government engagement. You say you've listened to those delivering public services. That’s a very noble aim, and something that we would hope that Welsh Government would do. I think all of us in this Chamber would agree with engagement. What have they told you? How have you modified your budget plans in the light of what you have heard? I assume that this is a two-way process, so how have you learned from each other? What did stakeholders tell you specifically about the Welsh Government funding of the health budget? I notice in your statement you refer to the budget compared with England of health and social services combined, but of course that does disguise the fact that there has been a real-terms reduction in the health budget in Wales over the last four years. I’d be interested to know what stakeholders think of that. Clearly, these are difficult times in terms of spending, and budgets are being cut because of the effect of the last UK Labour Government on the finances of Wales. That aside, though, it is a question of your priorities here, and I would like to know what the stakeholders have made of the budget cuts here.
 
I do agree with you, Minister: of course we want to have a fair, sustainable budget, and sustainability does require difficult choices. I hope that this does feed into your budget-setting process in a productive way in the run-up to the draft and final budgets later this year, and I look forward to further updates from you on what you plan to do to, ultimately, get the Wales we want.
 
14:46
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Nick Ramsay. I think one of the important points about the budget tour is that I am meeting people on the front line. On Thursday, in Aberystwyth, it included a carer, it included an apprentice, as well as a consultant from the hospital, and it included people from housing, the third sector, the over-50s strategy forum, and people at the front line in terms of local authority service delivery.
 
But also, I then followed on from the meeting, as I will in all of the tour dates that I’ve got over the next few weeks, over the summer, with visits. They were visits to see the impact of our investment. It’s particularly pleasing to see the capital investment that we’ve made through the twenty-first century schools building programme in Llandysul, where there is a three to 19-year-olds’ school being built—a fantastic school being built there—and also, a new Flying Start provision in Aberporth, where, of course, I met not only the staff, but the parents and those who work at Flying Start. Again, that’s testament that we were right to double the investment in Flying Start.
 
On the lessons I learned from the last tour, I did publish an end-of-budget-tour report, which I’m sure you will have seen. It provides a summary of those meetings and visits that I undertook, and it did focus on those key issues. Of course, I did, over the last year, meet over 275 people and make 14 visits. A clear message that emerged last year, and was again reflected this year, is a focus on new ways that we can work together, integrating services. Data sharing came up as a key point last week, as did a focus on prevention, early intervention and ways in which we can protect and sustain those services that work well. I think you will be very clear that listening is not enough from your tour around the town and community councils. It’s actually what you do with the information that you get, and the understanding and the experience at the sharp end that you can then respond to, which I think is very much reflected in the ways in which I’ve been approaching the budget process—and, of course, that’s with Welsh Government, in terms of my colleagues’ engagement.
 
I do have to say that, at those meetings, we have clear discussion about the fact that we’ve had a £1.4 billion cut in our budget over the past five years as a result of the then coalition Government. Now, of course, two weeks later, the same Chancellor then decides to take £50 million out of our budget for this financial year. Certainly, he was Chancellor a few weeks ago, and now, he decides to take £50 million out from Wales as part of a £4 billion cut. What’s going to come in the next couple of weeks on 8 July? You’re going to have to take responsibility. It’s your party now that’s entirely in charge of our economy and the relentless adherence to fiscal reduction and austerity.
 
But, of course, at these meetings, one can say, ‘Yes, health and social care’—a strong acknowledgement of the impact of the integrated intermediate health and social care fund, and the fact that it’s continuing is very much welcomed, as is the engagement of housing, as well as health and social care, and a recognition that we’ve put over £1 billion extra into the health service in Wales, but also the challenges that that has meant in terms of addressing the priorities across the budget.
 
14:50
Mike HedgesBiography
Can I welcome the Minister’s statement? Can I, again, remind people it was the international banking crisis that got us into the mess the country ended up in? It had nothing to do with the last Labour Government. Austerity is not working. It is stifling growth in the economy. This, in turn, is reducing the income tax take of the Government and leading to further cuts—an unvirtuous circle. The more people cut, the bigger the problem they have, as they’ve discovered in Greece, though I’m sure that the Conservatives want to blame the Labour Government in London for the problem in Greece.
 
Whilst the Government has done everything possible to maximise the resources available to support their priorities, this has been done against a background of substantial cuts from Westminster. While areas such as local government and further education are suffering cuts in Wales, they are not at the level of their equivalent bodies in England. I again note that Wales spends 5 per cent more per head on health and social care compared to England. Does the Minister agree that we want to reduce health demand and reduce waiting times, and to get people out of hospital as quickly as possible, and that spending on social care is the way forward, to make sure that people are kept in their home by social care expenditure, and while they’re in hospital are able to go home and be looked after in their homes rather than staying in hospital for an extended period? So, does the Minister really believe that the Government’s view of spending money on social care is the right way as opposed to the Conservatives’ view of cutting that along with everything else?
 
14:51
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I thank Mike Hedges for putting the record straight and for recognising the fact that we’ve had five years of a Tory-led Government, now taking us into another five years. with not only £12 billion of cuts to welfare benefits but also at least £12 billion cuts to our departmental budgets, which of course are already now having an adverse impact on our Welsh budget, in terms of the block grant to Wales.
 
Also, looking at the important lessons to be learned about the ways in which investing in health has to go alongside investing in social services as well, certainly, some of the representations that were coming forward in terms of commenting on that integration of health and social care, I think—and, again, this was demonstrated in terms of the response from participants in the budget tour not just this year but last year—were very clear. There was a recognition that not only do we want to have a speedy discharge, but we want to avert admission, of course. Of course, that’s why we’ve been able to invest in our primary healthcare services as well as in health and social care.
 
I would also say there was strong support for our investment in social housing, affordable housing, and indeed in extra care, to provide the best opportunities in terms of enabling people to live independently in their own homes and settings, with care packages. So, it’s an opportunity for me to hear from people on the ground what is working and in what ways we can support those who are delivering our services with reducing finance, but also to be very clear about the priorities when we face a spending review and budget setting with yet more cuts and more impacts that it will have on the delivery of our public services.
 
14:54
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
Thank you very much for the statement. Meeting bodies that work at grass-roots level is something that I would expect a Government Minister to do regularly. So, how will you ensure that this tour provides value for money, and how will it feed into the process of setting the Government’s budget, rather than being simply a PR exercise?
 
I heard clearly what you said about the cut that there has been to the Government’s budget and the inevitable impact that that has had on public services—and I agree with that—but could you just tell us very clearly whether it was also the Labour Government’s intention to cut the budget in the election before last and in the most recent election? If so, do you have any idea as to what the scale of those cuts would have been?
 
You have also referred to the cut that’s happened, of course, during this current year's budget by the Government, which is worth some £50 million in Wales, according to you. Where will that money come from, and which services will be affected by that cut? You also referred, as Mike Hedges said—and I agree with what Mike Hedges said100 per cent, and he did emphasise the value of social services—in your statement to the key contribution of social services. On your tour around Wales, will you meet with the owners and managers of companies and groups providing care, who have made it clear to me that their current situation is not sustainable, and that it will not be sustainable for the future, and that there will be a very real threat to those care services—care provided at home, and those sorts of services? Therefore, may I ask you: will you meet with some of these managers? I would be very happy to present you with some names. They are very keen to meet with Government Ministers.
 
Finally, the question you should ask is: what will the consequences of these cuts be for local government? For example, in Gwynedd—and the same is true in every county—they are looking for cuts over the next three years of £34 million, from a budget of less than £300 million, of course. Now then, bearing in mind the increasing pressures on social services—and you can’t cut any of that expenditure, in reality—you’re looking, therefore, at cuts of 20 per cent or more, I would guess, to other services. Certainly, in Gwynedd, they are looking to abolish £9 million-worth of directly provided services—that is, they will cease to exist. The question therefore is: given your priorities as a Government, which services do you believe could disappear as a result of these cuts, which are inevitable? We know that they're happening. So, which services do you think are those that local government should actually get rid of? I don't think it’s good enough for the Government to say, 'Well, that’s a local matter’. I do think that there should be a clear steer from the Government on the kinds of cuts that you believe will be less damaging, if such a thing is possible, within our public services. Thank you.
 
14:57
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I thank Alun Ffred Jones for those very thoughtful questions to me about the point and the impact of the budget tour. Clearly, I am covering the whole of Wales. I’ve got meetings and visits scheduled, where I am going to be meeting with people—including people from local government, as well, as I’ve said, as those in the third sector, housing and health—who are now, and have been, at the sharp end of making difficult decisions about priorities. If you look to our final budget for this financial year—which now, of course, has been attacked by this £50 million cut that’s coming our way, which was unexpected and unprepared for, in terms of the announcement a couple of weeks ago and the July 8 budget—our budget was clear, as supported through this Chamber, that it was investing in health and social services and in young people, and also demonstrating a commitment to a shift towards prevention and early intervention, which, of course, quite rightly, the Finance Committee was focusing on in terms of its scrutiny.
 
I think that, in terms of local government and our support for local government and social care, we did, if you recall, continue to fight for the interests of local government in Wales. An additional £10 million we invested for social services did mean that the local government settlement for this financial year was better, on average, than local authorities were expecting. But clearly, we had evidence, particularly in terms of health spend from the Nuffield report, to make sure that we did respond in prioritising investment in health.
 
We have a difficult challenge in terms of meeting the in-year cut, as you questioned me on, this year, and we have to look very carefully at those data. Today, of course, I’m publishing my supplementary budget for this year, in terms of how we’re managing already not only announcements made by the UK Government, which can provide us with consequentials, which, of course, are negative as well as, on occasion, positive—. I'd be very happy—and of course I am meeting people who are at the sharp end of providing care across Wales—to, again, engage with them. For example, I know there are organisations like Care Forum Wales that do provide a very good umbrella body for the independent care sector. But, of course, I'm also meeting people already—registered social landlords and local authorities—who are providing care at the sharp end.
 
I think the quite important question you pose is about the impact of the cuts that are forthcoming. You know, we have to take on board, as we prepare for the spending review later on this year and in terms of being a responsible Government, and we again have to learn from the experience of talking to people at the sharp end about: if there are more efficiencies that we can make, well we will make them; if we can do more out of procurement, we must take this forward. Someone has reported back how important and what progress we’ve made in terms of value for money, in terms of our Wales procurement policy statement, and the fact that we can now regulate in that area is very important. But also, not just in terms of efficiencies, but opportunities like invest-to-save, community asset transfer, all these, of course, will be discussed at these meetings and visits across Wales.
 
15:01
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, as excited as I am about you repeating your budget tour, I am a bit disappointed at how thin on detail this statement is in terms of dates and venues and where exactly you're going and who you'll actually be speaking to. I note you refer to one group you have already spoken to, but, clearly, I think it would be useful if we knew where you are going, how many venues you are going to and what the extent of the tour is going to be. I don't really want to wait for the tour T-shirt to find out the dates and venues; I hope that perhaps we can have more detail on that in answer to my questions or, possibly, at some future date. And I'd also suggest that, given Mike Hedges's comments, you may also want to take Greece into that tour as well, so you can see what actually happens when you try to ignore the economic situation and plough on regardless. I think that is something that does need to be taken into account.
 
Minister, I have just three questions, really. In terms of the supplementary budget that you'll be publishing later today, can you confirm whether that supplementary budget will contain details of how you will find the £50 million in-year cuts that have been imposed on the Government by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? And, if not, when will you have details of how you will be accommodating or trying to accommodate that reduction in your budget?
 
Secondly, when you're on tour, can I suggest that you talk to as many providers as possible around preventative spend, which is an issue that the Finance Committee has been particularly keen to look at, and, in particular, the value that many providers find in Supporting People in terms of a sort of Government spending that actually helps to offset other expenditure and actually produces real savings, I think, for this Government and for local authorities, so that when we come to have the new budget, that is taken account of?
 
And finally, Minister, I don't think I heard you mention talking to businesses at all. I heard you mentioning in the response to the last set of questions that you were looking at procurement. I think it's important, when you do talk to people about procurement, that you do talk to local businesses about their impression of how procurement is working out in terms of local authorities and whether contracts that local authorities design actually do assist local companies in bidding for them—on a level playing field, it has to be said—in actually making sure that they don't exclude local companies from bidding for those contracts and ensuring that procurement enables suppliers to be local, rather than having to go outside Wales to supply goods and services. Thank you.
 
15:04
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you very much, Peter Black. Well, you will be glad to hear that I shall be in your neck of the woods—well, in Swansea—on 23 July, but I will publish the list of venues and places that I'm going and visiting. Of course, it is very important that these are meetings for those at the front line who had been invited to come, but I'm sure, and I hope, that—. You know, my first meeting was last week, and we also accompanied that with visits where I met a number of people, and I’m sure there’ll be some local publicity as a result of that, in terms of the projects that we were visiting.
 
In answer to your question, my supplementary budget will of course account for how we are managing up to this point of the financial year, and of course that has to be brought forward in terms of the consequentials announced by the Chancellor in the March budget for this financial year. Any consequentials from any statement—autumn or budget—would be acknowledged in the supplementary budget. You’ll have a chance to scrutinise me on that in terms of the Finance Committee. Clearly, as to the difficult decisions that we have to make in terms of finding the £50 million, I will be reporting to the Senedd on that in due course.
 
Your point about prevention is very well taken. It’s already a key theme in terms of budget setting, but also, with these visits and discussions with people on the front line, we can and are identifying where they feel we should invest in prevention, and that will form part of my report. Of course, we have had five years of managing cuts, of that £1.4 billion, and managing those cuts responsibly and making sure that we’re clear on our principles and priorities and programme for government. I think, in terms of consulting with business, this is very much to do with how we meet people on the front line in delivery of public services and the third sector and in communities, but I am very engaged with business in terms of delivering on procurement. You know that I’m meeting shortly with the procurement board. They are also engaging more, and you made a very valuable point recently about how they engage with the business sector. Also, of course, last week, I was very glad to launch with Joyce Watson a very important report on procurement in construction, which was well attended by the private sector, particularly in construction.
 
15:07
Jenny RathboneBiography
The Tories on the opposite benches laugh at the proposal that their UK Government colleagues have failed to regulate the banks, and we could once again see the economy pulled down by their gambling activities. We can only work with the money we get from the UK Government, so I strongly support you, Minister, in your tour of Wales to see how we can deliver some services more cost-effectively with less money by sharing ideas and opportunities to innovate. I’m certain, having accompanied you last time, last year, to visit a Flying Start in my area, that it wasn’t inspired by the Member for Monmouth. I just wanted to focus on the particular cuts that we can expect in in-work benefits, particularly working families tax credits and child tax credits, which are what enables families with children to go out to work. How are we going to be able to address that and the cost of childcare so that it is not such a barrier for people who are not able to earn large sums of money?
 
I just wondered what consideration has been given to how we can use community-focused schools more effectively in ensuring that they’re open at all times of the working day, as well as the role that the voluntary sector can play in delivering a greater provision of childcare so that more people can go out to work and not suffer too much from the cuts that are no doubt going to be announced by the Government on 8 July.
 
15:09
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Jenny Rathbone. I think you are absolutely right: it is how we can, together with those in the front line, deliver our priority services that do work and which deliver more cost-effectively and with less money. But it isn’t an easy discussion to have because, clearly, people, groups, individuals and communities have lost out as a result of the £1.4 billion of cuts that we’ve had to make, which have come our way and impacted on the budget decisions we have made. I was very struck, in looking at the big demonstration in London last week, on Saturday—the anti-austerity demonstration—how many young people were there, with one placard from a 15-year-old saying ‘Your cuts, our future’. We’ve got to recognise that this is what the impact of these forthcoming—let alone what we’ve had—cuts are going to be.
 
But, we can do things with what we’ve got here in Wales, with community-focused schools, working very closely with the childcare sector, with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, and in ways in which we can demonstrate, as we do around Wales, how we can integrate Flying Start in our schools, with free breakfast schemes and with after-school provision in order to find a way forward to have sustainable and affordable childcare. That is the important benefit of having these visits and these meetings with people at the front line. I think the frightening impact of what will happen in terms of in-work poverty, in terms of the announcements that are going to be forthcoming very shortly, with the £12 billion cuts for welfare benefits and what that could mean in terms of cuts to in-work benefits, on our poorest families and, indeed, on our children in Wales is obviously of great worry to us all.
 
15:11
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
15:11
4. Statement: Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan for Wales Annual Report 2015
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move on to item 4, which is another statement by the Minister for Finance and Government Business, on the Wales infrastructure investment plan for Wales annual report 2015. I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
15:11
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
Llywydd, when I first launched the Wales infrastructure investment plan in 2012, I signalled a more strategic and focused approach for infrastructure development in Wales. Through the plan, the Government has set a clear direction for capital investment in Wales, shaped around seven investment priorities and based on collaboration. Central to the plan was a commitment to maximise capital resources that we had available to us and maximising the social and economic impact of our infrastructure projects. Today, I have published the latest annual report, setting out the significant progress that we’ve made.
 
It is evident that our approach is delivering for Wales. Through our focus and commitment, we have boosted levels of investment, despite the UK Government’s cuts, and targeted this towards infrastructure projects, with an economic stimulus approach that is helping to increase and sustain growth and jobs and to deliver modernised public services in Wales.
 
The UK Government’s cuts to the capital budget have been unprecedented. Our capital budget in this financial year, 2015-16, is 30 per cent lower in real terms than at its peak in 2009-10. In reflecting this, our published budget plans for this period presented a daunting picture of declining departmental capital budgets, with all indications pointing to more cuts to come. However, we have not allowed these cuts to define our capital ambitions. Instead, we have looked at every opportunity to supplement our capital resources and boost spending on infrastructure in Wales. Through additional allocations to departments and developing new innovative sources of funding, our plans are on track to provide additional investment of £3.6 billion across Wales. The impact of that investment can be seen the length and breadth of Wales in a range of projects and the economic contribution this investment makes.
 
We have developed a major programme of innovative finance schemes. We have already implemented around £0.5 billion of innovative finance schemes to invest in housing, schools and highway projects across Wales, through the housing finance grant and the local government borrowing initiative, continuing to deliver our priorities despite budget cuts.
 
I have also announced a forward pipeline of projects, forming an investment programme of a further £1.9 billion, which will provide vital economic and social infrastructure across Wales. Part of this programme will be delivered through the non-profit distributing—NPD—investment model. Our NPD schemes will allow us to develop specialist cancer care facilities that will enhance the work of Velindre NHS Trust and they will allow us to complete the dualling of the A465. They will also support a new wave of investment in our schools. In addition, we are developing innovative finance schemes to invest in flood and coastal risk management, and to extend provision of social and affordable housing through the housing finance grant. This, along with the £500 million of borrowing capability that is contained within the Wales Act 2014, completes our current programme.
 
When we have completed all of these initiatives, we will have delivered nearly £2.5 billion of additional investment. This is over and above the funding that we receive from the UK Government. We have also continued to explore European sources of funding to help deliver our priorities and enhance our budget. European funding has already supported projects across Wales and is helping to make a positive difference to communities. Last week, I provided an update on President Juncker’s European fund for strategic investment and how it might benefit Wales. I’ve identified schemes that could benefit from the EFSI or other instruments, including dualling sections 5 and 6 of the A465 scheme, the Green Growth programme, the tidal lagoon schemes, Energy Island projects and the metro. We can use our own funds and our investment plans to lever in additional funds. With next generation broadband Wales, for example, we’ve worked in partnership with BT to improve vital communication networks both to businesses and households across Wales.
 
Taken together, these represent a significant boost to our capital plans and a significant boost to the economy, but all evidence highlights that we can maximise the impact of our investment by the way in which we invest our resources. So, the priorities and approaches set out in the plan have helped to shape our capital spending plans since 2012. Against a backdrop of cuts, we’ve strengthened our approach to prioritising between projects and improved our approach to business assurance. We’ve used these approaches to allocate an additional £1.2 billion of funding, over and above core departmental budgets, to projects that support our WIIP priorities and which provide real benefits to people across Wales.
 
Since our plan was launched, we’ve increased investment in housing and regeneration by over £350 million. We have boosted our investment in our education estate by £128 million to deliver learning facilities that will help support better educational outcomes for our young people. Our investment in health infrastructure has been increased by over £153 million, including investment in the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales, providing dedicated facilities to support children’s surgical, diagnostic, outpatient and critical care services. There’s been in the region of £45 million for flood and coastal defences and over £300 million to improve our transport networks.
 
The projects that we invest in are making a major contribution to the delivery of our service priorities. For example, £19 million of additional capital funding has been provided to support the doubling of Flying Start. This has supported schemes such as the Flying Start centre at Bryn Deva primary school, helping families give their children the best possible start in life. Projects that we support are winning awards, such as at the recent Construction Excellence in Wales awards event, where amongst those recognised was the Penarth Learning Community, winning the integration and collaborative working award, as well as the project of the year.
 
Throughout our investment, we’ve looked to deliver the maximum benefits across all of our priorities. Our community benefits approach is a prime example of how we can deliver benefits that go beyond the immediate construction jobs and beyond the bricks and mortar of our projects. This approach helps to ensure that we maximise the jobs in Wales, deliver lasting training and provide the widest benefit to communities. This is reflected in my refreshed Wales procurement policy statement published this month.
 
With the publication of the Wales infrastructure investment plan, I signalled a change to how we plan, manage and deliver our capital projects. It acknowledged the impact that spending our money effectively can have. It stressed the importance of working closely with our partners in the public and private sectors to achieve our goal. The pipeline and its regular updates have provided information to a wide range of stakeholders. We’ve regularly expanded the pipeline to give a comprehensive picture of infrastructure investment in Wales. It supports private and public sector decision making, facilitates strategic planning and promotes collaboration.
 
The seventh project pipeline update is published today as part of the annual report. We’ve looked to improve the pipeline at each update, and this year I’m making it more accessible by improving the ease with which partners can access and use the information. Collaboration with our partners and stakeholders is at the heart of our approach to infrastructure investment, and I look forward to building on these valued relationships during the coming year. The annual report provides a clear demonstration that we’re both achieving the goals set out within the Wales infrastructure investment plan and helping to deliver economic and social benefits for the people of Wales.
 
Earlier this month, the new UK Government announced a £50 million in-year cut to our budget, which had been approved by the National Assembly in December. The UK Government is indicating that the financial constraints will continue and we await the 8 July budget to assess impacts for this year and in the forthcoming spending review. So, it’s now more important than ever that we supplement our core capital budget, using innovative approaches and that we steer resources towards meeting the priorities set out in our plan. Our commitment to growth and jobs remains steadfast and I will continue to explore opportunities to increase funding for Wales. We will take advantage continually, too, of the agility and the flexibility we have within Wales to create the investment opportunities to support growth and jobs, continuing with an economic stimulus approach to boost our infrastructure and deliver our public services and economy.
 
15:20
Nick RamsayBiography
Thank you, Minister, for this, your second statement of the afternoon. There’s a sense of déjà vu in many ways. In fact, some of the points that I raised in the previous statement I think would also hold true for this. We do, on this side of the Chamber, issue our broad support for the Wales infrastructure investment plan, which I’ve been reading through as you were speaking. I think some of the basic questions that we, and I, would ask is about a concern that was originally vented when the plan was first launched three years ago: how is the Welsh Government actually monitoring value for money from these investments, which you’ve spoken about this afternoon? We are three years on now: what specific mechanisms are being used to monitor value for money for the schemes? What real outcomes have been witnessed from the Wales infrastructure investment plan as a result of the implementation of the model you’ve gone through? There are a number of schemes, old and new, in your statement today: how are those schemes, and the numbers and figures associated with them, producing real outcomes? What are those outcomes? Where we are seeing best practice across the Welsh public sector, how is that best practice filtering across the country? Perhaps, you could highlight some examples of how that best practice is being spread. Your statement and the document contain a lot of figures; I don’t propose to go into those or indeed the case studies, one by one. I will look at that after today’s proceedings. But can you confirm, not only the total amount of private sector money the Welsh Government is levering into these projects, but also a breakdown per annum?
 
On targets, what targets have you set for the number of construction jobs to be created over the next 12 months? You’ve spoken about a number of construction projects in that document and in your statement, including the Heads of the Valleys A465 and the next phase of that, and you mentioned the developments in the rail infrastructure in Wales as well. I noticed Pye Corner in Newport is mentioned there, and that opened, I think, at the end of last year. But what about the number of jobs that you hope will be created and, indeed, the number of construction jobs that have grown out of the projects to date, because it’s all well and good to say that you’re putting this investment in and that you’re supporting it with capital investment, but, at the same time, we need to know exactly what those outcomes on the job front are? Can you confirm, for the record, that the Welsh Government has met every jobs pledge that you have made since this plan’s launch in 2012 and relating to the jobs that you previously promised? Indeed, perhaps, you could commit to publishing clear job creation statistics with each update so that Members of this Chamber can see exactly what new jobs have been created as a result of your plan.
 
What reviews have you made of the sectoral priorities to ensure that each of the priorities are being met and that the Welsh Government is delivering outcomes in these areas? Are there any plans to review the framework to reflect any new emerging technologies or industries?
 
15:23
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Nick Ramsay. And thank you for continuing to support the approach that we’ve taken with the Wales infrastructure investment plan. It certainly is an approach that is supported widely in the private sector, particularly in the construction sector. Of course, we’ve been engaging with the private sector to understand ways in which we can make the pipeline more open and available and accessible to them in terms of planning for the future.
 
You raise important points about the impact of the delivery of the Wales infrastructure investment plan. I think, if you look again at the ways in which we are strengthening our approach to appraisal and prioritisation of resource allocation, this is crucial in terms of the impact, and driving through the delivery of the plan since 2012, it set the direction of infrastructure investment. Decisions are more outcome driven. They’re evidence based and they’re promoting the best use of available resources in the context of reducing resources. We have targeted £1.2 billion of additional Welsh Government capital funds to support our core investment priorities, as well as, of course, as I outlined, developing innovative finance solutions, boosting levels of investment by £2.4 billion. But, I think importantly in relation to your first question, we are standardising our approach to business assurance and scheme delivery across the Welsh Government and the wider public sector. To that extent, in terms of business assurance, we have a rigorous appraisal system to ensure that we deliver the outcomes that we want. And we have a Better Business Case approach, a collaborative cross-Government process, which maximises benefits, and, of course, then, that’s identified through best practice for developing spending proposals, making sure we’ve got a strategic fit. Actually, that Better Business Case approach is jointly owned by HM Treasury and Welsh Government, and it’s an accredited standard and global brand that is now being used elsewhere.
 
I think one of the important points about what this means for jobs and benefits is expressed, really, through the ways in which we’ve driven our community benefits policy through procurement, which has been widely adopted across Wales—78 projects worth over £674 million reporting outcomes, and projects seeing 84 per cent of the expenditure retained in Wales. But also, just to see the impact this has, for example, in terms of education with the investment in twenty-first century schools—the impact that has on educational attainment, and the fact that £40 million has been invested in supporting the improvement of transport networks, £10 million to support improvements to telecommunications networks and £32 million in terms of increased housing provision in Wales. These are the impacts, of course, that make a difference to our economy in terms of growth and jobs and, indeed, to our now modernised public services. Of course, this will continue in terms of our approach with the infrastructure investment plan, because we are committed to that investment against the backdrop of continuing cuts from the UK Government.
 
15:27
Mike HedgesBiography
My constituency of Swansea East has been a major beneficiary of Welsh Government capital expenditure. Morriston Hospital is continuing to receive substantial capital funds to update and expand the hospital, not just for the benefit of my constituents but for the whole of Swansea and the whole of west Wales. In education, we’ve seen the building of two new secondary schools in Swansea East—Morriston and Cefn Hengoed—based on the same sites as the old schools. Burlais school is to replace Manselton and Cwmbwrla schools is nearing completion. The Welsh-medium school Lôn Las, which my daughter attended, and which was a semi-derelict ex-junior comprehensive school, is now going to be replaced by a whole set of new buildings. I’ve got three questions for the Minister. Will the Minister commit to continuing the financial support for twenty-first century schools? Secondly, does the Minister agree that capital expenditure is one of the best ways of stimulating the economy? And thirdly, as someone who supports the tidal lagoon—which puts me in agreement, I think, with every other Member representing the South West Wales region—how can the tidal lagoon itself access the EFSI funding that you mentioned?
 
15:28
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you for also highlighting the impact of our capital investment, not just in your constituency in terms of health and education, but also more widely, and regionally particularly, in terms of the role of Morriston Hospital. Yes, we’re committed to continuing our investment in the twenty-first century schools programme, and this, of course, is being taken forward as a result of our approach in terms of the non-dividend financing model. And, of course, only in the specialist press over the last few weeks, there’s been recognition of what this means in taking this forward. Also, clearly, it’s not just myself as finance Minister, or this Welsh Labour Government, that is committed to capital investment to stimulate the economy. I think we’re joined by many economists and, indeed, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which says that investment in skills and infrastructure is the best way forward in terms of the regeneration recovery of the economy. Finally, not only have we expressed support for the tidal lagoon project by giving some financial support, but also by putting it in our bids for the Juncker package—the European fund for strategic investment.
 
15:30
Alun Ffred JonesBiography
I welcome the statement and congratulate the Government on seeking and enabling innovative ways of raising capital and borrowing money in the face of the cuts from Westminster—cuts that would have happened under Labour, of course, as various statements by those in the Labour leadership race prove. This search for innovative ways of raising capital was part of Plaid Cymru’s manifesto in 2011 and one such vehicle was the Build 4 Wales company. This was pooh-poohed by the First Minister in a big way. According to the First Minister, this was pie in the sky, and yet, in this statement, we find the Government extoling the virtue of the non-profit distributing investment model. Giving it a boring title does not change the fact that this is Build 4 Wales under another name. There we go; all’s well that ends well, I suppose.
 
If I can refer to the Superfast Cymru programme with Government, private and European money, one problem with this scheme—and I extol its virtues as well—is that BT refuse to share information as to which areas will benefit from the scheme, and consequently we do not know which areas will be left out and therefore we cannot plan for that eventuality. So, what is the Government doing about that so that some forward planning can be done?
 
Some of the programmes that you refer to, and are in the document as well, are all-Wales schemes, but most of the big schemes mentioned in your statement are in the south-east—not unexpected, not surprising. So, could you provide a map showing the distribution of the site-specific capital schemes in the pipeline, or recently completed, and their value? Of course, smaller scale capital spend brings greater benefits to businesses in Wales, although a few big bangs are necessary as game changers.
 
I cannot see any reference to the M4 relief road scheme in the statement. Is there any reason for that? Perhaps the Government has had a swift change of heart. Lastly, all our spend should be based on well-researched strategy, and presumably now you’ll have to adhere to the principles laid out in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Can you explain whether the investment plan has been revised in any way, given that the FG Act is now the guiding principle for all Government activity? Will you make a commitment that all structures built by public money, or partly built by public money, be they housing or industrial units, will have to be built to the highest energy-efficient standards found in the best models in Europe?
 
15:33
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Alun Ffred Jones, for acknowledging that it is a Welsh Labour Government that’s delivering on the all-important ways of levering in innovative finance through the non-profit distribution model. We are actually delivering on this and, indeed, we share the same goals in terms of using that innovative finance programme. It is about delivering a non-profit distributing investment model, and I just think that it’s important that, out there, the people of Wales hear what that actually means in terms of, for example, the Velindre cancer campus and completing the dualling of the A465.
 
Also, I think you make an important point about all-Wales investment because the twenty-first century schools programme of course does include all-Wales investment, as do, indeed, many of the other aspects of the Wales infrastructure investment plan, not only pan-Wales investment in capital, not just in terms of transport, but pan-Wales in terms of housing. Also, more than once I’ve mentioned investment and our clear commitment to Energy Island and also, very importantly, to some of those capital investment projects that we are making, for example, in terms of Flying Start. I know that the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty has been opening new Flying Start buildings, where there is capital investment in every part of Wales. But I certainly can share the all-Wales investment plan that we have, in terms of the Wales infrastructure investment plan.
 
I think it is important to see the fact that, in terms of the programme for government, just recently, the First Minister was able to account for delivery in terms of the programme for government, including, of course, superfast broadband. And, of course, that is something that is recognised not just here in Wales and the UK, but in Europe as well, in terms of delivery, and the ways in which we are making an impact. In fact, it’s interesting—back to the outcomes of our capital investment—that our programme for government latest report shows that, despite tough financial times, more than 95 per cent of our commitments have been either delivered or are on track to be delivered.
 
Of course, that does go back again to the opportunities that we have taken through. In terms of capital investment, we are using a clear scenario in terms of financial priorities: priorities on an all-Wales basis, and linking that to the budget for this financial year. That is expressed in terms of our commitment to innovative financing, which, of course, takes us beyond the restricted capital programme, which I know you recognise—the 30 per cent cut that we’ve had to our capital programme.
 
So, it is about targeting our infrastructure investment appropriately, and making sure that we access all other sources of finance, like the Juncker package, which of course we hope that we will benefit from. Clearly, the impact, and it’s reflected in the plan when you read it, on some of the key investments, such as construction costs for the M4 relief road, and clearly recognising there’s a significant investment in the transport network of Wales. Much of this of course is also linked to—and within my portfolio—investment through the European structural funds.
 
15:37
Peter BlackBiography
Minister, thank you for the statement. A cynic suggested to me that the Wales infrastructure investment plan was not really a plan as such, but more a gathering together of the six separate priorities of the service departments in one document. So I’d be grateful if you could enlighten me as to how exactly you determine the priorities for capital spend between those six departments, to ensure that you actually have an overall strategic view in terms of that capital investment.
 
Secondly, Minister, despite the substantial capital investment, unemployment in Wales does remain stubbornly high, indicating that the idea that investing in capital does not always lead to greater prosperity and reduced unemployment. Can I ask you exactly how you relate the expenditure in this plan to the targets of the Welsh Government in terms of reducing unemployment and getting people back to work? What training schemes or apprenticeship schemes, et cetera, are linked to these capital schemes, to ensure that we’re able to get a benefit for jobs, and that Welsh companies are able to deliver on the scheme, employing local labour?
 
Thirdly, Minister, I note in the statement, regarding what you’ve just said, about President Juncker’s European fund for strategic investment, and how it might benefit Wales, and that the schemes you have identified in there—very important schemes, I think, which will be greatly beneficial to Wales, particularly in terms of the tidal lagoon scheme, the Energy Island project, and the metro—can benefit from that scheme. Can I ask you: what sort of timescale is now attached to getting the funding for those schemes so they can get under way? When would you expect to see—particularly, the metro—actually start work in Wales, so that we can all start reaping the benefits of that, and, hopefully, as a result of that, not need to extend the M4 at all in south-east Wales?
 
And, finally, Minister, you referred to the next generation Broadband Wales initiative—and a very important initiative that is, as are, of course, Superfast Cymru and the broadband initiatives around Wales. However, there are still a large number of communities in Wales that do not yet benefit from that superfast broadband. In my own region, Skewen and Birchgrove, for example, were promised that they would have it in April. We’re still waiting for that investment to take place in terms of the box, and even then BT tell me that, once they’ve upgraded the box, they still have to roll out the cabling. So, nobody will be able to benefit from it until that cabling’s been rolled out. Can I ask you, therefore, if we could get a realistic update in terms of how that broadband is being rolled out across Wales and in terms of the number of households and businesses that actually have access to that broadband, as opposed to the number of boxes that have been upgraded and that are awaiting the cabling being installed? Thank you.
 
15:40
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Peter Black. I think it’s an important question about the benefits of investment via, for example, the £1.9 billion programme of innovative finance. That has the potential to create 6,500 sustainable jobs in the Welsh economy. That is the impact of a Wales infrastructure investment—around 6,500 sustainable jobs. You know, also, if you look at it—. I know your commitment to housing, for example. On the housing finance grant, we announced a £250 million extension of the housing finance grant, tripling the size of the scheme. We launched that back in September 2013. That’s going to deliver a further 2,000 housing units and create 5,000 jobs in the construction sector. You should be cheering those figures as well as recognising that they have important benefits to the Welsh economy and are clearly creating those jobs.
 
Just in terms of new transport infrastructure, it’s clearly having an important function in facilitating journeys to work and crucial for helping people into employment and work. Of course, there will be more on delivery in terms of the metro and plans for the metro in due course, and in terms of a statement from the Minister. So, clearly, we can show—. I think you will be able to go back pre-Wales infrastructure investment plan, Peter, when we did not have the strategic approach to infrastructure investment. I think that, if you engage with the private sector and business and our partners in the public sector, you will hear from them—and that, of course, includes local government—a recognition that this is more coherent, this is more strategic and we transparently today are publishing not only an annual report on past progress, but a project pipeline for the plan for the future.
 
15:42
John GriffithsBiography
Minister, in terms of the mention in your statement of borrowing ability and, indeed, the metro, could you confirm what the Welsh Government’s position is with regard to that borrowing ability? For example, should Welsh Government be able to use that ability for whatever is its future preferred option regarding the problems on the M4 around Newport, so that it’s not restricted to an M4 relief road, but could be used for the metro, for example?
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair at 15:42.
 
John GriffithsBiography
In terms of your mention of health infrastructure, obviously, it’s very important to get the community facilities—health centres and so on—in place before provision is pulled out of the acute sector. I wonder if you could say anything in terms of Welsh Government’s ability to provide capital to allow that rolling out of the community provision and health centres right across Wales in a timely manner to enable that reshaping of services to take place without any gaps at the community level.
 
Community benefits and procurement policy statement, Minister: we know from the poverty report that the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee has recently published that in-work poverty is a very major problem for us in Wales and particularly for people trapped in low-wage jobs. I wonder if there’s anything in the procurement policy that might enable people not just to get into entry-level jobs—important though that is in itself—but also to progress to more highly skilled and better paid employment once they commence work.
 
Finally, Minister, I wonder if there’s anything you could say in terms of some of the important economic developments with potential in south-east Wales, such as the city business improvement district for the Cardiff capital city region and, indeed, Newport’s collaboration with Cardiff and Bristol, in terms of what provision might be possible to support those developments?
 
15:45
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, John Griffiths, for those questions. Of course, we are, as a result of the Wales Act 2014, going to have £500 million of borrowing power, on which, I think, in terms of priorities, we would look across Wales, recognising our needs in north and west, as well as south, Wales, and indeed, of course, in terms of the construction costs of an M4 relief road.
 
I think it is important that we recognise that we don’t acquire those borrowing powers until 2018, although we have got borrowing powers pre 2018 with respect to the M4 relief road.
 
I think your point about new opportunities in terms of developing a non-dividend, not-for-profit primary healthcare provision is something that I’m working with with the Minister for Health and Social Services.
 
Your points about community benefits are also important, because this is a real opportunity, particularly strengthened by the new EU directives and our designation Order to enable us to regulate, so that we can use community benefits to maximise the economic and social benefits of our investment through procurement, and, of course, that includes jobs, and, in terms of our most useful discussions with the Finance Committee and also the Enterprise and Business Committee, that we can use procurement to good effect in terms of our new powers.
 
15:46
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
15:46
5. Statement: An Update on Ports
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 5 has been postponed to 7 July.
 
15:46
6. Statement: Investment in Delivery Plans
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 6 has been withdrawn.
 
15:46
7. Statement: Actions Being Taken to Combat the Risks of Grass Fires in Wales
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 7 is a statement by the Minister for Public Services on actions being taken to combat the risk of grass fires in Wales, and I call the Minister, Leighton Andrews.
 
15:47
Leighton AndrewsBiographyThe Minister for Public Services
Deputy Presiding Officer, Members will recall my written statement of 21 April, when we were experiencing a significant number of grassland fires across Wales. South Wales Police detained more people allegedly involved in starting fires than they had in the previous five years, resulting in 10 grass fire related arrests being made from March to the end of May, with a further five arrests in Gwent and three in north Wales.
 
People and property were put at risk through the criminal acts of a small number of individuals. Setting grass fires is a crime, and people who engage in this criminal practice will be prosecuted. I strongly condemn those who set these fires and support the tough stance taken by the police in bringing them to justice. In south Wales alone, there were 933 fires during April, with 902 of those believed to have been started deliberately. These fires potentially put lives at risk and caused extensive damage to pastureland, which led to the loss of wildlife. There is a significant cost to the public purse in dealing with these fires. Resources could be more productively spent elsewhere. Clearly, we need to find a way to prevent these fires from happening.
 
The First Minister held a summit on 29 April, which I attended along with the Ministers for natural resources and for education and skills. The summit brought together key organisations to formulate a co-ordinated programme of action to address the issue of grass fires in the short, medium and long terms, based on education, land management and deterrence, with commitments from the police, fire and rescue, Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and Welsh Government.
 
In the light of the summit, we have developed a joint action plan and I will receive regular reports on the progress being made by all agencies on the agreed actions. The accessibility of grassland areas and their proximity to Valley communities provides ample opportunities for those who are drawn to setting these fires. Our focus, therefore, must be on educating people on the seriousness of these crimes, changing their attitudes and behaviour, and removing any motivation that they may harbour, as well as other preventative activity.
 
The fire and rescue service already has a strong record in this area, which I saw for myself when I visited Tonypandy and Caerphilly fire stations last month. Their flagship Phoenix programme, for those who have offended or are at risk of doing so, has a reoffending rate of under 5 per cent. At the height of the outbreak, fire service officers visited every secondary school in the worst-affected areas to deliver a hard-hitting presentation. We will continue to support these campaigns and the connections between the fire service, the police, schools, local authorities and others.
 
The South Wales Fire and Rescue Service swiftly and safely extinguished all fires without having to call in extra support from other brigades or military sources. This placed extreme demands on firefighters, and, without their professionalism and dedication to duty, the outcome could have been much worse.
 
Nevertheless, the fire service needs the best possible tools at its disposal. The south Wales and mid and west Wales services are now actively considering options for airborne surveillance, including drones. This would prove invaluable in informing the effective deployment of fire crews and appliances, especially in upland areas. The same surveillance could also help to identify and deter those trying to set fires in the first place.
 
Local authorities will support schools and their pupils to become involved in reducing grass fires through social media campaigns and extra-curricular activity. With the support of Welsh Government funding, the fire and rescue services currently provide a range of programmes in school settings and elsewhere that aim to divert children and young people away from deliberate fire-setting.
 
To supplement initiatives on prevention in relation to potential fire-setters, the summit also considered ways to inhibit the spread of fires. Natural Resources Wales is exploring how changes in land and forestry management methods could be used to make grasslands less conducive to fires or be better structured to control the spread of fires. They’re working with the fire service and landowners to develop such methods. Firefighters have also been involved in developing fire breaks on some of our valleys hillsides, using the latest techniques learned internationally.
 
The Welsh Government also has an important role to play. We will work with the fire and rescue services, police, local authorities and Natural Resources Wales to deliver a co-ordinated public engagement strategy. We will ensure adequate planning and co-ordination of work to tackle grass fires through the Wales resilience forum. We are also considering how we could use our schemes to support farmers and landowners, such as Glastir, to promote land management practices that reduce the risk of fire. Working through the joint arson group, the joint emergency services group will continue to co-ordinate multi-agency operations and initiatives across Wales to reduce the instances of grass fires.
 
It became apparent during the height of the recent spate of grass fires that there was huge public and community concern over grass fires, and a great willingness to help reduce them. Many offered their support to the emergency services by reporting incidents or identifying culprits. I know that the chief fire officer for south Wales has personally met and briefed the community groups that have come forward to help, and that his service will continue to support them. A smartphone app has also been created for those who access the affected areas, such as walkers and commercial companies, to record information and report it to the fire and rescue service.
 
Whilst the weather and environmental conditions are no longer, at the present time, conducive to grass fires, the threat has not gone away. We cannot be complacent.
 
15:52
William GrahamBiography
May I thank the Minister for his excellent statement this afternoon? It answers a great number of the questions posed to him on previous occasions, and over the years of the Assembly, when Members have raised this. Your action in calling together all the interested parties is certainly greatly appreciated. You quite rightly paid tribute to the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. I would add to that, if I may, the emergency call centres also, who actually deal with the initial false call on so many occasions.
 
Minister, I did raise with you previously whether it was worth while your Government contributing to the sentencing guidelines and whether they need increasing for crimes of this kind. We all know exactly the consequence and the mindless nature of them in the first place. Could I just support what you have said in your statement by giving an example, which fully illustrates the drain upon vital public services both in time and manpower, finance, and destruction of the environment? On Wednesday 10 June, there was a deliberately-lit grass fire on Eglwysilan mountain in Caerphilly. Fire crews were engaged for over six hours at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately £1,200 an hour, and 6 hectares of mountainside were destroyed. Minister, I am grateful that you have called this special meeting. I would ask, in future, if you could also report by statement from time to time as to the progress made by that joint committee.
 
15:54
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Yes. Deputy Presiding Officer, I’m grateful to the Conservative spokesperson who raised this issue, of course, earlier this year himself. It’s very clear to us that this is, sadly, an annual series of events and therefore needs to be properly addressed through our resilience work through the Wales resilience forum. That’s why we now have the joint arson group and the joint emergency services group looking actively at what may be done on a planned basis for the future.
 
I discussed these issues in detail this morning with the chief constables and with the police and crime commissioners, and last week with the chief fire officers. I’m glad that he’s paid tribute to the work of the emergency call centres. Of course, their work on this has been very important. I think I’m right in saying—and I think I mentioned this in a previous session in this Chamber—that one incident alone in the Gwent area drew hundreds of calls to the emergency call centres. Clearly, they have a role in filtering those calls and ensuring that the demand is properly managed. He’s also right, let me say, to draw attention to the cost of these fires. I’m pleased that, over time, there has been a significant reduction in the number of grass fires over the last decade or so. But it is still the case, of course, that the fire and rescue authorities—and so do the police—have to plan for likely events and, therefore, are making budgetary allocations against these events every year.
 
In respect of what he said about sentencing guidelines, I think that what I would like to do is to review that question subsequent to the arrests that have proceeded and any observations that we have from the police on those. But I think it’s an interesting idea, as I said to him at the time, and I will return to it.
 
15:56
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
Minister, you referred to the summit held on 29 April, and you referred to some of the things that stemmed from that summit. Could you expand a little on the kinds of issues discussed and agreed in terms of collaboration between the different agencies, not only to prevent these fires, but to try to ensure that they don’t happen in the first place, because, of course, the costs and the pressure on the emergency services this year are huge? Do you agree with me that there is room for concern about two issues in the context of the fire and rescue service? I endorse entirely what has been said in acknowledging the work of that service and the call centres. They’ve been exceptionally efficient and effective in their response. But there is room for concern, in my opinion at least, about the fact that the level of absence within the fire and rescue service is increasing. Is there room for concern, possibly, that the pressure, in the context of this kind of event, has affected those absence rates? Is there room also to look at what is happening in the context of the fire and rescue service, namely that many full-time officers are leaving the service at present but that there is a tendency to employ people on part-time contracts? Are they truly going to be able to shoulder the workload in these circumstances?
 
Also, the Welsh Government published a report on the efficiency of the fire and rescue service, and you stated at that time that you wanted to see progress in the following areas. First,
 
‘Continually and sustainably reducing risk and enhancing safety of citizens and communities’.
 
Secondly,
 
‘Responding swiftly and effectively to incidents;’
 
Thirdly,
 
‘Being clearly and publicly accountable for delivery and funding, and manifesting the highest standards of governance;
 
‘Maintaining downward pressure on costs and taking all opportunities to realise efficiencies;
 
‘Working effectively with partners to improve efficiency and citizen and community well-being’.
 
And finally,
 
‘Valuing and developing the workforce to the highest standards.’
 
Has this happened, Minister, and do you want to see more progress in these areas?
 
15:59
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Deputy Presiding Officer, the Plaid Cymru spokesperson raises a significant number of issues. Let me start by saying that I think, resulting from the summit, there has been increased collaboration amongst all of the services represented, and that includes, let me say, fire and rescue, police, Natural Resources Wales and, indeed, local authorities, and I think that they are looking in a co-ordinated way at what needs to be done. It was said to me today by one of the chief constables that there has been greater co-operation with, for example, Natural Resources Wales over some of these issues, and I think that's important, and, indeed, with fire and rescue as well. So, I think the way in which we’ve highlighted these issues this year has contributed to something of a push to ensure more collaboration around issues of prevention, and also, not only prevention, which is itself important in many ways, but also in terms of the follow-through on detection and so on.
 
He asked a series of questions more broadly about the fire service. Let me start by saying that the fire service in general has been highly successful in reducing the number of fires—not just grass fires over the last decade, but fires in general since 2004. I think we should show our appreciation of that. He raises issues to do with the level of absence, the balance between full-time and part-time contracts within the service, and, of course, these are matters for the chief fire officers and for the fire and rescue authorities that provide the governance for them. I am satisfied at the present time that the governance model is one that works under the current system. Certainly, we would not want to see a system being adopted, as seems to be suggested in England, where there may be a role for police and crime commissioners in respect of the fire and rescue service. However, I'm sure that there are issues of governance that we may wish to return to at some point in the future.
 
In respect of efficiencies within the service, I think it's fair to say that we've seen significant efficiencies being made within the fire service. They have had to cope, as have all parts of public service, with reduced budgets as a result of the cuts that have been made to the Welsh budget overall.
 
16:02
Jenny RathboneBiography
I fully acknowledge the excellent work that's been done by the fire and rescue service, but I feel that we also need to look at this problem from the other end of the telescope, namely the small number of young people who actually play outside after school and, therefore, their failure to engage with and be passionate about nature and the local environment. I just wondered what could be done using the services of organisations like the Wildlife Trusts, like RSPB, like Plantlife, like the Guides and the Scouts to really engage with young people and give them appreciation of the importance of nature, for the wellbeing of the whole community, but also as a possible future source of livelihood, because there's nothing more fantastic than the views from the Valleys, and I feel there's an awful lot more that can be done to develop tourism as well as leisure amenities in the Valleys. If we can get our young people to appreciate and be comfortable with nature, then, hopefully, they'll be much more minded to be protectors of nature.
 
16:03
Leighton AndrewsBiography
Deputy Presiding Officer, it's obviously the case that we want to encourage young people to enjoy the valley hillsides, the valley countryside, and, of course, the foundation phase has at its heart a great commitment to the outdoors and to the environment. Therefore, within our own education system, formally, we promote the values of the wider environment throughout formal education. There are many third sector organisations. She mentioned some; there are many more on a more local basis that engage with young people specifically around the virtues of the outdoor life, if you like, and they range from walking groups to cycling groups, to groups that are specifically focused on animal welfare, husbandry and so on. So, I'd say that there is a wide range of organisations already engaging with young people in our schools, both in the Valleys and elsewhere.
 
I think it's also important not to make the assumption that these fires are always started by young people. Those arrested by South Wales Police include a man in his 30s and another in his 50s. So, the challenge that we have goes beyond a challenge of addressing concerns about the behaviour of some young people.
 
16:04
Eluned ParrottBiography
I'd like to join, if I may, in the condemnation of these reckless individuals who endanger life, directly with the fires that they set and, of course, indirectly from those calls that our fire services are diverted from as a result of their actions. I’d like to put on record my thanks to the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service for the work they do, not only in keeping us safe, but also for the preventative work they do.
 
Thank you, Minister, for your description of some of the actions that you’ve taken since this stark increase in fires in April. I very much welcome the action plan that you are developing, and look forward to the updates that we will receive. Now, clearly, one of the major priorities is identifying the reasons why people are engaged in this behaviour, and then finding ways to prevent them, because prevention is always going to be much better than cure in these circumstances. So, I wonder if you can tell us what assessment you have made, along with the appropriate services, of the reason for the sudden increase in incidents this year. Clearly, dry weather conditions allow fires to take hold, but that doesn’t necessarily account for the incredible number of fires that have been set this year.
 
You did also talk about the age of those responsible being very varied, actually, and I wonder if there’s any analysis of how that’s changed year on year, and whether or not there are perhaps younger people. I understand some of those caught were perhaps as young as 10, so this is clearly a cause for real concern, and I’m wondering again if there’s some analysis of why those individuals have engaged in this kind of behaviour.
 
I refer back to work that was done a few years ago by Cardiff University, particularly by Dr Sue Peattie in the business school, looking at the social marketing techniques that can be used to try and prevent things like grass fires taking place. The research team at the Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society, I understand, were critical in helping set up Project Bernie, which was very successful in trying to control the spread of grass fires. One of the things that they did was first of all look at the reasons why young people particularly were engaging in these kinds of behaviours, and they were suggesting two particular things. You’ve talked about some of the preventative work that the fire service is doing in schools, and looking at, if you like, shock tactics to really bring home to people the impact of their actions, and I think that is incredibly important. But they also looked at diversionary tactics and what you call nudge tactics, to try and encourage people to more positive pathways more gently. I’m wondering if there’s been any further work to look at the effectiveness of these two approaches with different groups of people—different age groups, perhaps—but also to see if there are ways in which we can combine both approaches to even better effect.
 
In terms of some of the diversion tactics that have been used in the past, which have been very helpful, activities such as after-school clubs and holiday clubs have been very, very important because they literally take the young people off the streets and give them something purposeful to do with time. They do say that the devil makes work for idle hands; well, one of the solutions there is perhaps to make sure that these hands are not necessarily so idle. I wonder if you can give us some indication of the availability of after-school clubs and these kinds of holiday projects in places badly affected, and also whether transport is available so that those young people can actually access them.
 
Another issue mentioned by another Member is of course whether we can encourage young people to feel a sense of ownership about our natural environment. Can we, through some of these after-school clubs and diversionary tactics, encourage that sense of conservation of our local environment, which will make people less likely to want to destroy it?
 
Finally, when it comes to public engagement, I very much welcome the establishment of the app, which I think, for those who are actively engaged and very involved with the hills, will be a really useful tool. I welcome as well the activities of spotters and volunteers, who did indeed engage with the emergency services on this occasion. I’m wondering what we can do to encourage more people to get involved in that very positive kind of way, and engage with these apps, and, if you like, to pull them towards us rather than try and push information out to them.
 
16:09
Leighton AndrewsBiography
I welcome what’s been said by the Liberal Democrat spokesperson. I think it’s fair to say that there are a series of initiatives now under way. Let me start with what she said about research: there was significant research done some time ago on the motivations of people who get involved in fire-setting, including mountain fires, and that work has been drawn on by the fire and rescue service and by others. South Wales Police has very recently, just since the recent spate of grass fires, commissioned the Universities' Police Science Institute at Cardiff University to undertake some action research, focusing on the drivers and cultural conditions of those events, and also to look at the effectiveness of operational interventions and the role of social media. I’m pleased to have had that report just in the last week from the police and crime commissioner for south Wales, which I think is very valuable and repays further reading. My own department is currently looking at what may be done in respect of behavioural techniques in order to discourage fire-setting as well.
 
In relation to activities with you