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The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Dame Rosemary Butler) in the Chair.
 
13:30
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
 
13:30
Statement by the Presiding Officer
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Before we go to the first item, it gives me pleasure to announce that, in accordance with Standing Order 26.75, the Planning (Wales) Bill was given Royal Assent on 6 July.
 
13:30
1. Questions to the First Minister
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the agenda, and the first item this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is from Paul Davies.
 
Broadband in Rural Communities
 
13:30
Paul DaviesBiography
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on improving broadband provision in rural communities? OAQ(4)2383(FM)
 
13:30
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The Welsh Government remains committed to the provision of broadband to rural communities, through the continued delivery of the Superfast Cymru programme. To the end of June, the programme has provided superfast connectivity to nearly 0.5 million homes and business premises throughout Wales.
 
13:30
Paul DaviesBiography
Well, First Minister, broadband continues to be a problem for some of my constituents. I received correspondence recently from an individual living in a rural area who has had to reject work because of the variability of broadband speed between 0.01 MB and 0.05 MB. That, obviously, has a huge impact on my constituent’s business. I’m sure you’d agree with me that this level of broadband speed in the twenty-first century is simply unacceptable. So, can you tell me what particular digital support is available for people living in areas such as these, and what advice can you give my constituent?
 
13:31
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the market, of course, will never be able to provide this service to many rural communities, and that is why we as a Government have committed to ensuring that 96 per cent of people and premises across Wales have access to broadband by September of next year.
 
13:31
Bethan JenkinsBiography
First Minister, the BBC had responsibility for rural broadband in the licence fee settlement in 2010, as well as responsibility for S4C. We are now given to understand that the UK Government has allowed the BBC to reduce the funding available for broadband to nothing by 2020, saving £150 million for the corporation. Given that the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport told my parliamentary colleague that it would be reasonable for S4C to shoulder the same sort of cuts as the BBC, would you today contact the UK Government to say that this is not acceptable and that you will campaign against further cuts to S4C, which, over the past five year, has seen more cuts than are necessary?
 
13:32
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It is unacceptable, and a letter is being drafted as I speak, which will be sent to party leaders this afternoon so that we can hold a cross-party meeting to deal with this issue, because this is extremely important in terms of the future of Welsh-language broadcasting.
 
13:32
Aled RobertsBiography
First Minister, it’s not only rural areas that suffer as a result of broadband problems. You’ll be aware, I’m sure, of problems in the Deeside enterprise zone and the Wrexham industrial estate. The Government does have a programme—the stage 1 infill programme—which is out to tender at present, dealing with 46,000 sites, but there will be far more after that. So, is it your intention now to have a second stage to that programme, and when will these businesses on the industrial estate that remain be able to say that they are receiving an acceptable level of broadband?
 
13:33
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
As I said, by September of next year, 96 per cent of premises will be able to access broadband. In terms of those that remain, we will, of course, have to consider alternative in dealing with their problems. But this, of course, is something that puts us ahead of the rest of the European community, and it demonstrates the Welsh Government’s commitment to ensure that people do have access to fast broadband.
 
Onshore Wind Energy
 
13:34
Simon ThomasBiography
2. What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding abolishing subsidies for onshore wind energy development? OAQ(4)2393(FM)
 
13:34
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Ministers have been very clear with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change that we expect at least discussions between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved Governments on decisions that will have an impact on us all in Great Britain.
 
13:34
Simon ThomasBiography
Thank you, First Minister. The development of wind energy on the uplands in my area provides employment in constructing those sites, provides apprenticeships for people—for example, in Llanidloes—and provides jobs in the supply chain in terms of maintaining these developments. Now, I am given to understand that the Westminster Government is to withdraw the renewables obligation certificates—the ROCs, as they are known—for onshore wind energy developments by next year, and, as far as I am aware, that is with hardly any discussion with you as a Government, and certainly no discussion with this Senedd as the Senedd of Wales. Is this a situation that you believe to be acceptable, and do you see this as being an economic blow for rural Wales?
 
13:35
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It is not acceptable. Of course, we as a Government have always argued that Wales should manage the ROCs, as Scotland and Northern Ireland do. That is not the case at present. It will be a blow for jobs, and it will have an impact on the Welsh economy and on how we generate energy ultimately. If there is no wind energy and no solar energy, then what will be left? More fracking, perhaps, is what’s on the agenda of the United Kingdom Government.
 
13:35
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Janet Haworth.
 
13:35
Janet HaworthBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.
 
13:35
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
No; I’m the Presiding Officer.
 
13:35
Janet HaworthBiography
Sorry. First Minister, I know that you, like me, are a keen supporter of devolution. Therefore, can you explain the rationale of the Welsh Government potentially bringing decisions in-house for windfarm developments between 25 MW and 50 MW, as suggested in the consultation on developments of national significance? In addition, will you provide an assurance that local authorities will continue to have a say in matters that have such an impact on so many people across Wales?
 
13:36
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
If the Member speaks to people in Powys, she will know that neither they, nor the local authority, nor the Welsh Government, have any control over the mid-Wales conjoined inquiry. It’s being determined entirely by the UK Government, using English planning guidance, which is the bizarre scenario that we find ourselves in. We take the view that where there are developments of national significance, they should be dealt with by Welsh Government, and we believe that local planning authorities have a very strong role in the planning system, something that is being denied to them in England.
 
13:37
William PowellBiography
First Minister, given the turbulence that’s been unleashed by the announcements on ROCs, what can the Welsh Government do ahead of the enactment of the Planning (Wales) Bill to ensure that live applications currently in the system in local planning authorities across Wales are given urgent attention to give them every prospect of being consented, if appropriate, so as to take advantage of the new timetable?
 
13:37
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
The UK Government has said that there will be a grace period for applications that, on 18 June, already had planning consent, already had a grid connection and, indeed, had land rights. We understand that there are now plans to say that unless the windfarms are up and running and commissioned by a certain date, then they will be prevented as well. We know, in Powys, that there are many communities that actually want to have wind power and wind turbines. Some don’t, and we know that, but that choice is now being denied them. We know that there are communities in Powys, like Carno, who have benefited from their ability to access funds from windfarm developments, but they will no longer be able to do so as a result of the UK Government’s decision.
 
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
 
13:38
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to questions from the party leaders, and first this afternoon is the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
 
13:38
Kirsty WilliamsBiographyThe Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats
First Minister, the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 swept away nearly every existing law relating to community care, but it did not set out the standards of care that sick, elderly and disabled people could expect. Now that you have set out those standards and the regulations to be voted on next week, it’s clear that vulnerable people will only be eligible for support if their needs can, and can only, be met by the local councils. Isn’t this a green light for local authorities to reduce social services support?
 
13:39
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
No, I don’t believe that that’s right. It shows the duty that we place on local authorities to provide the kind of care that people would want, and local authorities are aware of the challenge that they face and I’m sure they’ll meet it.
 
13:39
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Right now, as we speak, some local councils are already reassessing people’s care needs with a view to reducing support, and their excuse is that what they’re doing is in line with the Government’s changes. Now, I’m sure that your Government would not want to trigger such a massive shift without having carefully thought through the impact on individuals. So, let me ask you: how many people do you estimate will lose their support as a result of these changes, and how many people will no longer be eligible for support once these regulations are passed that would have been eligible for support under the current system?
 
13:40
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We do not anticipate that anybody will be in that position. Local authorities must, of course, provide the level of care that people would expect. It has been the case for many, many years, of course, that local authorities will make an assessment every year in order to understand what level of care they would be expected to provide. If you look at case law, for example, local authorities have had, in the past, to outline who they would support, what criteria would be applied, and then, if people fit into those criteria, then support and help must be given. What they cannot do is to deny help and support to people once those criteria have been established.
 
13:40
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
I’m well aware, First Minister, how the system works now, and how it will work in the future. The crucial element is, of course, as you’ve just said, whether they fit the criteria. I’m asking you, because I’m sure your Government will have wanted to do this work, how many people you anticipate will no longer fit eligibility criteria as a result of those regulations, and whether you anticipate a drop in numbers that will be eligible for support under the new system as opposed to the old system. The reality is that, if those regulations are passed next week, your Government will offload responsibility for care to the voluntary sector, unpaid carers, friends and relatives, who are already struggling, if they’re in the voluntary sector, to maintain their funding, and struggling, if they’re carers, to do what they want to do for their relatives. First Minister, I’m glad that you’ve said that no-one who is currently eligible will lose their support. That, actually, is very welcome, and I’m sure you will want to hold local authorities to that next year. But, First Minister, are you satisfied that your Government is allowing local authorities to offload support in this way?
 
13:41
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There’s no evidence at all to support what the leader of the Liberal Democrats has said. The objective of the Bill, and subsequent regulations and guidance, is to ensure that local authorities are able to provide the service that people would expect, and to ensure, of course, that the method by which they provide that service, and the criteria they use to provide that service, are more transparent. The objective of the Act is to make sure that people are able to get a better level of support than before; that much is true. There is no evidence to suggest that somehow care is being offloaded to others that would lead to detriment to members of the public.
 
13:42
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
 
13:42
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiographyThe Leader of the Opposition
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, last week, ‘Week In, Week Out’ did a programme on care in north Wales and, in particular, they raised concerns about the Gwanwyn ward in the Heddfan unit in Wrexham Maelor Hospital. There were 47 allegations—and I use the word ‘allegations’ because, in fairness, they are unproven. But your Deputy Minister, Vaughan Gething, was asked whether he believed that the ward was safe in Wrexham Maelor Hospital. He did not answer that question. Can you confirm that that ward is safe, and, more importantly, is it your view that it has been safe in the past, given that these 47 allegations have been made?
 
13:43
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We have spot checks in place now that examine facilities such as these. They have not identified serious concerns in any facility across Wales. One thing that has to be said is that there have been no allegations of any assaults by staff on patients. The BBC did not make that clear last week. I make it clear now: that has never been the case.
 
13:43
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
I did ask for a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because it was a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’: is there safety on that ward? I think that’s important for people to understand. Obviously, the Deputy Minister was offered that opportunity in the programme and chose not to. That programme, along with many reports that have come forward, such as the ‘Trusted to Care’ report on the Princess of Wales Hospital by Professor Julie—June Andrews, the report that came out last week of the independent inquiry into Cardiff and Vale accident and emergency services, the survey by the BMA, the targeted intervention at Betsi Cadwaladr undertaken by Ann Lloyd, give a general direction of travel, of report after report, showing that there have been serious faults in many aspects of delivery of the NHS in Wales. Two years ago, I asked you whether your Government would commission a Keogh-style inquiry. You have said to me that the reason why you would not commission such a Keogh-style inquiry is because it would cost too much, yet all these reports and all the revelations over the last two years clearly show that a Keogh-style report would have got in under the skin of many of these issues, giving you, the Government, recommendations to deal with, and people could have had confidence restored. Will you now, in light of all these reports, and the revelations that are out there, commission a Keogh-style report in Wales?
 
13:44
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, the very fact that there have been these reports, and action has been taken as a result of them, shows that the system is working. Yes, there have been problems in the Welsh NHS. Nobody is going to deny that. We all saw what happened at Tawel Fan. My own hospital, the Princess of Wales, has had difficult issues that it’s had to deal with, and action was taken. The ‘Trusted to Care’ report has shown that. Professor June Andrews—and it’s June Andrews, not Julie Andrews, as he put it—has followed up on the work that she has done, and that work still continues. The fact is we have a robust reporting system. We have spot checks in place, and those spot checks have revealed no serious problems with the delivery of the Welsh NHS. An inquiry as he has described, the public inquiry that he has called for, would involve lawyers and would cost millions. Best spend that money on patients and not lawyers.
 
13:45
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
First Minister, you can try and divert attention by trying to take the mick out of what I’ve said to you today. I did say June Andrews. Everyone understands exactly the point I was making, and everyone understands that you were acting as the roadblock to actually getting an overall impression of exactly where the NHS is, led by a clinician who could deal with many, many of these serious allegations. Time and time again, we deal in a pocket battle-type situation, with postcode reports done in various parts of Wales, rather than looking across the whole of Wales to see how we can look at best practice. And there is much good practice in the Welsh NHS, but, sadly, these reports identify many areas that need dramatic improvement.
 
I also called for a duty of candour to be brought forward some two years ago. That is in the Green Paper. You could bring that forward now, if you so chose, as a Government, rather than have it in a Green Paper that will not see the light of day this side of the Assembly election. Why, why, First Minister, do you constantly stop making these improvements in the Welsh NHS that could give confidence to people, whether they’re patients or clinicians working in our NHS? We need a Keogh-style inquiry. We need a duty of candour. I’ve asked for two years for that. Why won’t you grant it?
 
13:46
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There is no need for a Keogh-style inquiry. We already have the reports that have been mentioned. They have done their job, they have dealt with situations as they have arisen, and spot checks have been put in place to ensure they don’t arise in the future. I have to say to the leader of the opposition: he stands here and asks questions about health. We’ve just had an in-year cut of £50 million to our budget. Let me tell him what that would’ve bought: 62 community hospital wards, 50 medical wards in terms of 50 people on those wards, 327 consultants, 500 doctors, 1,100 nurses, 12,000 orthopaedic operations, and it would pay for 75 per cent of the cost of our district nurses. I am not going to take lectures from him on health when he says absolutely nothing when our own budget is cut. If he’d have stood up against his own party leader in London and said, ‘A £50 million cut to the Welsh public service budget is unacceptable’, I’d have more respect for him, but now, he stands there and complains, but will not stand up for Wales.
 
13:47
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We finally move to the leader of Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood.
 
13:47
Leanne WoodBiographyThe Leader of Plaid Cymru
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, the Westminster Government has stated that S4C will be expected to make substantial cuts. What is the Welsh Government’s position on the future of S4C?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s unacceptable, of course, as I said in my earlier reply, and a letter is on its way to the party leaders so that we can, of course, discuss the subject across the parties.
 
13:48
Leanne WoodBiography
Thank you. As you know, most of S4C’s funding comes from the licence fee. Part of S4C’s funding also comes from the Westminster Government. It is likely that that funding will be cut. What assessment have you made of the financial needs of S4C?
 
13:48
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Some reports state that S4C should lose £30 million. That would be a big cut. The problem is this, of course: the licensing system is extremely shaky. If the BBC thinks that there’s a way of extending the licence fee to people who watch the BBC on iPlayer, for example, how is that going to be policed? How is that going to be able to be monitored? No— what we have seen here is an attempt by the United Kingdom Government to impose an additional cost on the BBC for something that they want to do as a Government, and S4C will have to pay because of that. Therefore, I am willing, of course, as I said earlier, to work on a cross-party basis with the other party leaders in order to ensure that the future of S4C is safeguarded.
 
13:49
Leanne WoodBiography
First Minister, I welcome your cross-party approach to this, and I’m sure that you would agree with me that S4C is much more than a tv channel—it’s a catalyst for creativity with significant cultural and economic benefits for the country, too. In light of further cuts, S4C now faces a fight for survival. What has also come to light is the shoddy way in which the UK Government has decided upon the future of the BBC without proper scrutiny, without consultation and without transparency. Are you now, then, of the view that this Assembly should now take greater responsibility for broadcasting, to secure and prioritise not just S4C, but public broadcasting in general?
 
13:50
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I’m sympathetic to the idea of looking at how we can have a greater say in broadcasting, that much is true. For example, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have equivalent powers to the Scottish Government when it comes to the BBC charter. In terms of funding S4C, it’s a substantial amount of money. The UK Government take the view that broadcasting isn’t devolved. Therefore, they have a responsibility to fund all broadcasting properly. I can’t quite understand the BBC’s thinking in taking on board a £650 million burden for someone else’s policy, and in some way extending the licence system to pay for it. We all know that the licence system is becoming more and more difficult to collect, because more and more people are watching BBC programmes on electronic devices. How do you monitor that? How do you police that? It is very, very difficult. It is becoming more and more difficult to see how the licence model will work in the future and that, of course, then imperils the future of S4C. But this is typical. When Jeremy Hunt was the culture Secretary, he had no real idea of what he wanted to do with S4C. I met him, and it was fairly clear that they hadn’t thought very strongly about it. It’s the same this time around. It’s about time the Welsh language was not seen as an afterthought by the UK Government.
 
13:51
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move back to questions on the paper. Question 3 is from Christine Chapman.
 
Child Poverty Levels
 
13:51
Christine ChapmanBiography
3. What consideration has the Welsh Government given to the effects on child poverty levels in Wales of welfare system changes brought in by the UK Government? OAQ(4)2392(FM)
 
13:51
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on the impact of the changes in Wales suggests that it is those around the poverty line, and particularly those with children, who are expected to see the largest income losses. That is bound to impact negatively on child poverty.
 
13:52
Christine ChapmanBiography
Thank you. You will be aware, First Minister, of the call by the four UK children’s commissioners, including Welsh commissioner Sally Holland, for the UK Government to think again and cancel its policy of savage welfare cuts, as they rightly recognise the devastating impact these have had on children and young people, including here in Wales. The commissioners say that any changes should not impact on particular groups such as disabled children or children from single-parent families or larger families. How can the Welsh Government best protect these vulnerable children from the worst effects of UK Government changes?
 
13:52
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There are two points here. The Member asks what we can do to help people. We have Communities First, Families First, of course, and Flying Start. We know, through the evaluation report on Families First, that it has led to improvements in people’s situations and, indeed, helped to mitigate child poverty. But we know that the UK Government will abolish child poverty, because they’re just going to change the definition of it. That’s what the plan is. It’s as obvious as that. Last night, I was talking to somebody who works hard, who does have in-work benefits, and who’s going to lose them. She said to me: ‘Why am I being targeted in this way?’ We used to say to people, ‘If you get a job, then your income will improve and your financial situation will improve’. That’s no longer the case. What the Prime Minister has done is say, ‘We’re not going to help people who are in work by helping them with benefits; we’re going to plead with employers to pay a living wage and, if that doesn’t happen, tough luck’. Typical Tories.
 
13:53
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Across the UK, the proportion of children living in low-income households is at its lowest level since the 1980s, but in Wales, of course, your Government’s responsible for tackling poverty. Why do you think it is that child poverty in Wales is at the highest level amongst the UK nations, and why is it falling at only half the rate in England and Scotland?
 
13:54
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s incredible. He doesn’t even attempt to defend his own party’s policy. The reality is there is an attack on housing benefit, an attack on hard-working people—that’s what they’re doing: attacking hard-working people by removing their incomes—and an attack on people who have worked hard. I mean, in England, now, they’re going to say to people, ‘If you have two people in a household and you earn £15,000 a year each’—below the average salary—’we’re going to penalise you with your rent’. A tax on aspiration. It carries the resonance of people having to know their place. Well, we on this side of the Chamber believe that people should have opportunity, and that people should have the chance to make sure that they can develop themselves to their best potential. We will not tax people for their aspiration, as the Tories want to do.
 
13:54
Ann JonesBiography
First Minister, I think the greatest divide between the people on these benches here and the Tories is in the way we actually tackle child poverty. With the Tories, it goes up even when they try to define what child poverty is. The figures are rising, and we’re seeing that now. I was therefore very surprised to hear Helen Mary Jones make a comment recently—I know she’s reflected on it since—that her best political moment was when Neil Kinnock lost the 1992 election, to see his face then. That actually put more and more children into poverty for those remaining years that that Tory Government stayed in power, and that’s the reality of what we do. So, do you agree with me that there are more children now facing poverty, and we hold our breath tomorrow, but we don’t hold out any hope that this present UK Tory Government will actually address the issues that many of the families that we’re trying to represent will face from their cuts?
 
13:55
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It was a very odd comment by Helen Mary Jones. I know that Plaid Cymru have claims to be a left-of-centre party, I don’t know how it is that, by celebrating the election of a right-wing Government in 1992, that claim is actually supported or bolstered.
 
The Financial Situation in Europe
 
13:56
Gwenda ThomasBiography
4. What discussions has the Welsh Government had with the UK Government regarding the current European financial situation? OAQ(4)2382(FM)
 
13:56
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
We regularly discuss a range of issues with the UK Government, including the current developments within the European Union. I think it’s right to say we all hope that European leaders can reach a deal that will put Greece back on the right course. It’s important not just for the eurozone, but for Britain as well.
 
13:56
Gwenda ThomasBiography
Thank you, First Minister. As you’ve shown, I’m not alone in this Chamber in hoping that, following Sunday’s referendum in Greece, a fair, just and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis can now be found. Unfortunately, in the interim, the situation in Greece and the continuing uncertainty surrounding the future of the euro will almost certainly take its toll on European markets. In the last financial year, the value of exports from Wales to the European Union was around £6.5 billion. Given this, First Minister, can you outline what measures the Westminster Government is putting in place to assist Welsh companies that may be facing cash flow difficulties as a result of the current troubles?
 
13:57
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
First of all, we all hope to see a solution to the crisis. I think there’s a level of reality that’s needed on both sides. I think, from the Greek point of view, shouting at people whose money you want is not a wise tactic. On the side of the European Central Bank, I think it has to be recognised, for example, that the people of Greece work more hours. I think it’s right to say that they are the second highest in terms of number of hours worked in the world, in terms of developed countries, so we’re talking here about people who work very hard and who have seen their incomes hit year after year after year, and that has to be recognised. So, I hope that there is a level of compromise that’s reached between the two sides.
 
I can say, in terms of businesses working in Greece or exporting to Greece, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Treasury have issued guidance for business on temporary capital controls that are in place in Greece. Where Welsh businesses believe they may be at risk from the Greek capital controls, they should contact the business debt line for advice on cash flow, which available on the Gov.uk website. I can say that total exports to Greece represent under 1 per cent of total Welsh exports. So, there will be some businesses, of course, that will be affected, but in terms of the overall impact on Welsh exports, that, at the moment, is small. But the effect on Wales and on Britain of a Greek default and a Greek exit from the euro are significant.
 
13:58
William GrahamBiography
First Minister, what advice would you give to Welsh tourists going to Greece, other than to take a lot of cash with them? It appears that the systems there are about to break down even further. Although I’m sure we would all welcome a resolution of this long-standing problem, you will know, First Minister, that Greece, unfortunately, has had a period where corruption appears to be endemic, paying tax appears to be voluntary, and the economy’s been mismanaged for many years. Let’s hope that this can be resolved quickly.
 
13:59
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, I would advise tourists to look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website. It provides travel guidance for all those going to countries across the world. That website gives advice to people in terms of carrying cash, that’s true, and in terms of security, but it does not say that people shouldn’t go to Greece. Tourism is an exceptionally important part of the Greek economy. If people don’t go to Greece, then of course that will have an even greater negative effect on the country.
 
13:59
Rhodri Glyn ThomasBiography
First Minister, would you agree that ensuring stability within the European Union—including Greece, of course—is exceptionally important for Welsh businesses, because that market is one that represents the main market for Wales, and the United Kingdom, for that matter? Are you holding any discussions at present with the Westminster Government and the European Union in order to ensure that that market is safeguarded for Welsh businesses?
 
14:00
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I’ve already mentioned the guidance available for businesses. It’s true to say that nobody yet knows what will happen over ensuing weeks, and how much money there will be in the Greek economy. We know that they have reserves of some £2 billion to £3 billion; that’s virtually nothing given the scale of the country’s economy. What’s important is that agreement is reached and that money can be put into the Greek economy, and that the banks can access finance again, and things can be normalised there.
 
The ‘Trusted to Care’ Report
 
14:01
Bethan JenkinsBiography
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the implementation of the Trusted to Care report? (OAQ(4)2385(FM)
 
14:01
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Yes. An extensive programme of work has been undertaken at a local and national level to address the concerns raised within the ‘Trusted to Care’ report. We will be publishing a report in the early autumn setting out what’s been done, which is leading to improved quality of care.
 
14:01
Bethan JenkinsBiography
Thank you for that answer, but recently some of the campaigners, who actually live in your constituency of Bridgend, received an anonymous letter from some people who work at the hospital, and they are still saying that morale is very low and that they feel that nurses are being scapegoated in all of this. They say the board has appointed six new nurse directors, six medical directors and six unit directors on salaries of up to £100,000. Those promoted to these positions include middle management in charge of the wards that prompted this particular Andrews review. Now, First Minister, this doesn’t really reflect to me that things are changing as fast as they need to in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board area. So, what are you doing in your leadership capacity to make sure that changes are happening and not just that spot-checks are being administered? What more are you doing, First Minister?
 
14:02
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
I can say that the ‘Trusted to Care’ report has the support and confidence of the vast majority of my constituents. That I can say. If Professor Andrews is unhappy with anything that has been done since, she is of course free to say so. I can say that the last and final meeting of the chief executive and the executive team took place on 1 June 2015. Professor Andrews is still involved, because, this month, a follow-up review is scheduled to take place; Professor Andrews will be there, and we await, of course, the outcome of that review. If the allegations in the anonymous letter are true, then we would, of course, expect Professor Andrews to refer to that.
 
14:03
David ReesBiography
First Minister, last month, I actually attended a briefing for all AMs in our region on the work undertaken by AMBU in relation to the Andrews report, and actually was pleased to see the progress that was being reported on the recommendations in that report relating to ABMU. As you’ve said now, I’m aware Professor Andrews is actually returning this month—in fact, I think she’s actually there this week—for follow-up work. I also await the outcome of that follow-up assessment and her views on the progress being made. However, there are four recommendations for the Welsh Government in that report. You’ve indicated briefly that you will make a statement or report later this year, but what actions have been taken on these to date, and when will we receive the update from the Minister on that report and the actions taken on those recommendations specifically?
 
14:03
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, as the Member has already said, there will be a further statement in the autumn. I should add that Professor Andrews herself will be visiting both Neath Port Talbot Hospital and the Princess of Wales Hospital this month; she will be speaking to clinical staff, to managers, and to board members as well as others, and it’s entirely a matter for her to determine who she speaks to. She is not under any instruction of any kind. The whole point of the report was to provide an independent and objective assessment, and that’s precisely what Professor Andrews has done.
 
14:04
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, one of the problems identified in the ‘Trusted to Care’ report, and, indeed, the recent report into the problems at the Tawel Fan unit, was that complaints were often being made but not properly being addressed by the individual health boards concerned, and very often there was no learning from complaints once they had been upheld. What action are you taking as a Government to ensure that there is learning from the complaints system—and not just complaints made by patients and their families, but also by members of staff, who were often discouraged from making complaints for fear of retribution by managers?
 
14:04
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, of course, the whistleblowing procedures are in place, but I can offer evidence of what’s happened in terms of complaints. He is right—he won’t hear that often from me, but he is right to say that there was a severe problem with the dealing of complaints at the Princess of Wales Hospital. There were, I understand, some 200 complaints that were literally sitting on a desk. The new complaints manager came in and visited, I understand, personally each and every one of the people who had made complaints in order to apologise to them and take those complaints forward, something I very much welcome: that’s how people should be treated when the system has not worked as they should expect. But as a result, of course, of ‘Trusted to Care’—in fact, before ‘Trusted to Care’ was actually commissioned—work was carried out to make sure that complaints were dealt with in a timely and thorough fashion, and that’s been done with the new team that’s in place at the hospital.
 
14:05
Peter BlackBiography
First Minister, I noted that the number of complaints in ABMU has, in fact, reduced quite significantly, and that’s very welcome. Like David Rees, I was also at the briefing on the implementation of ‘Trusted to Care’ in ABMU. There is, though, a lot of concern about the appointment of the senior management posts, as Bethan Jenkins has outlined. Can I ask you what scrutiny does the Welsh Government apply to health boards in terms of the sort of ratio of management costs to staff costs in this, and are you satisfied that that extra expenditure on management is actually justified and will make a difference in terms of how the health board is run?
 
14:06
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
There’s no reason to suggest otherwise. One of the issues at the Princess of Wales Hospital was that nobody was taking responsibility, and sometimes then there is a need to appoint managers in order for there to be somebody with whom the buck stops, if I can put it that way. LHBs must make a judgment as to what the balance should be between managers and clinical staff. It’s important, clearly, to have sufficient clinical staff in place. It’s also important to have the right level of expertise, for example, so that people can negotiate contracts, which doctors couldn’t do in terms of what they’ve been trained to do and their time, in order to provide the equipment for the clinical staff to use. And it’s for the LHB to determine how that should be done. But he is right to point out—I’ve seen it myself in terms of my caseload—that the number of complaints has dropped substantially, certainly since this time last summer.
 
Tackling Scams
 
14:07
Lindsay WhittleBiography
6. Will the First Minister make a statement outlining progress made in tackling scams? OAQ(4)2391(FM)
 
14:07
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
It’s primarily a matter for the UK Government, but we have provided funding to increase the number of no-cold-calling zones in Wales, which help to protect vulnerable people from scams.
 
14:07
Lindsay WhittleBiography
Thank you for your answer, First Minister. Many of our older people are actually being mugged in their homes every day. What can help is more no-cold-call zones. That’s hard to say, isn’t it? The guidelines regarding the setting up of no-cold-call zones was written over a decade ago by the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading. The process for setting up no-cold-call zones is difficult and overly complex. Since local government is responsible for those zones, can you tell us how can national Government work closely with local government and really take a lead now in easing the processes for setting up the no-cold-call zones, and will you call, please, for the formal devolution of powers over this area of policy to end any more confusion? We need to decide this in Cardiff, not London, because London has failed.
 
14:08
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, there are two points here. First of all, the Member asks the question: what have we done? In November 2013, we invited local authorities to bid for funding to support the creation of no-cold-caller zones. Twelve authorities responded and just under £35,000 was provided to local authorities. The difficulty is, of course, the scams that are set up by telephone and online, and devolution won’t help that. I would urge the UK Government to ensure that the Telephone Preference Service, for example, has more teeth. People register with it, but they still get cold calls from one of them, and other people will find themselves in that situation, because it’s voluntary—not every organisation has to, I understand, register under the Telephone Preference Service system, and some therefore ignore it and keep on cold calling. That has to change and the UK Government could do that. With regard, of course, to online scams, it’s more difficult as many of them—most of them—originate abroad, and it can be very difficult then in terms of the police investigating them and in terms of being able to control them from within Wales or, indeed, within the UK. But a start could certainly be made in terms of telephone cold calling, which is the bane of many people’s lives.
 
14:09
Mike HedgesBiography
There are many different types of scam—the internet and technology have made it much easier to attempt scams. As the First Minister just said, many of them start off abroad in countries with limited laws to deal with it. In part of Morriston, the Clasemont Park area, a no-cold-calling zone has been set up, which has made a huge difference to the lives of the people living there. Will the First Minister support the development of more no-cold-calling zones in Wales in order to stop one of the most common scams of cold calling and demanding huge sums of money for little or no work?
 
14:10
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, yes, the old story of ‘your chimney is falling down, so therefore I can fix it for you for an enormous amount of money’—that was one of the oldest scams in the book. That, unfortunately, is still continuing, and many vulnerable elderly people particularly do fall prey to that kind of scam. I can say first of all that the number of homes covered by no-cold-calling zones is about 38,000, and the Minister, indeed, issued a written statement on 4 February to inform Members of this. But, of course, we will look at ways of extending no-cold-calling zones in the future whilst at the same time looking to lobby the UK Government to tighten up the law particularly with telephone cold calling.
 
14:10
Russell GeorgeBiography
First Minister, I hear your answer in regard to telephone preference calling. Many of my constituents often report a frustration themselves on this matter. I’ve heard your answer with regard to the UK Government responsibility, but I’d be grateful perhaps if you could speak to Ofcom yourself with regard to tighter regulation.
 
14:11
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it needs tighter law. The system has been largely voluntary in the past, and those organisations who are respectable businesses have ensured that they’re part of the Telephone Preference Service system. People are now getting cold calls from organisations that are not part of that system, inevitably trying to sell something. And at UK level, I think it is time—and I don’t make this point in terms of a party political point—to ensure that that system is tightened up and that anybody who is looking to cold call an individual should be bound by whether that individual has agreed or not to be part of the TPS system.
 
14:12
Eluned ParrottBiography
First Minister, one scam that is perpetrated by cold callers is the distraction burglary, and one community that’s been particularly badly affected by this in my region over the last few years is the Asian community, who have been targeted for burglaries of gold jewellery. I’m wondering if we can encourage local authorities to be broader in their description of what a vulnerable community actually is and not just assume that only people who are elderly could possibly be vulnerable and that, actually, a community that is being specifically targeted can also be considered vulnerable as well.
 
14:12
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a matter for the police and crime commissioners, I would argue. They have responsibility for crime prevention in their areas, and they should be working with local authorities in order to run awareness weeks—I’ve seen it happen in Bridgend in my own part of the world—to inform people of the dangers. I know, for example, that Dyfed-Powys Police ran a week of action in line with the national week of action for cyber crime in March of this year. They, along with Gwent Police and South Wales Police, have also introduced digital media investigation officers to increase awareness and identification of online scams. So, we have examples of the police understanding the challenge of dealing with crime of this sort, and, of course, it’s a matter for the police to run awareness-raising of distraction burglary as well, working with local authorities and with the police and crime commissioners.
 
14:13
Darren MillarBiography
First Minister, one of the issues that has been raised by my constituents is that the Telephone Preference Service—the opt-out within that—does not apply to Government surveys. I’ve been alarmed at the number of individuals in north Wales who are being contacted by Government agencies undertaking surveys and the impact that that’s having on them in their homes. What action do you intend to take to address that intrusion, particularly in respect of Welsh Government surveys?
 
14:13
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, it’s a reasonable point. I would hope that Government surveys of any kind are not seen as a scam in that sense, but there are some people who don’t wish to be contacted at all. We’ve all, I’m sure, in this Chamber, stood upon a doorstep with the dilemma of whether to knock the door where there is a sign saying, ‘No Cold Callers, Please’ and whether that applies to political canvassers. We soon know, if we knock the door, what the response is of that individual as to whether we should have taken notice of it or not. I think it’s time to look very carefully across the board, it’s fair to say—public sector and private sector—in terms of people being able to have a reliable service that they can opt out of, and, perhaps, options within that opt-out. In other words, ‘Are you happy to be contacted by Government surveys of any description, but you don’t want to be contacted by anybody selling you something?’ I think there is perfect scope there to change the law in order to provide that level of flexibility.
 
Kidney Patients
 
14:14
Julie MorganBiography
7. What plans does the Welsh Government have to improve the lives of kidney patients in Wales? OAQ(4)2399(FM)
 
14:14
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, we continue to invest in improved services for kidney patients, including increasing capacity and modernising facilities for dialysis across Wales. And, of course, we’re taking action to increase the number of transplants, including introducing a new system of consent for organ donation from 1 December.
 
14:15
Julie MorganBiography
Thank you. On Friday, I was very pleased to host a coffee morning in the New Theatre in Cardiff, along with Jenny Rathbone, in support of the Welsh Kidney Patients Association, and one of the key issues they brought to us was the strain of having dialysis, particularly if you have to have it in hospital rather than at home. So, I wondered if the First Minister knew if there were any plans to extend the scheme run by Morriston Hospital in Swansea, in Mike Hedges’s constituency, which is teaching patients not only to have dialysis at home, but also to have dialysis in their sleep, which is, obviously, much less stress on them in their daily lives.
 
14:15
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
That’s true. The renal unit in Morriston has developed a whole nocturnal haemodialysis service; it is the first of its kind in Wales and it is far less stressful and, indeed, more convenient for patients. It has been piloted. We are now looking to roll this out nationally to make sure that more patients can take advantage of this.
 
Meningitis
 
14:16
Mohammad AsgharBiography
8. What action is the Welsh Government taking to tackle meningitis in Wales? OAQ(4)2388(FM)
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Meningitis and meningococcal disease is under constant surveillance to identify trends and to evaluate prevention and control measures. Evidence-based immunisation programmes are in place and kept under review.
 
14:16
Mohammad AsgharBiography
Thank you for that reply, First Minister. The charity Meningitis Now has expressed its concern that the Welsh Government has not made a firm commitment to roll out the ACWY vaccine, which prevents 17 and 18-year-olds from contracting meningitis W. This vaccine will be available in England and Scotland from August this year. When will this ACWY vaccine be available in Wales, please?
 
14:16
Carwyn JonesBiographyThe First Minister
Well, this particular strain of the virus has been much more of a problem in England, but of course, we cannot say, therefore, that we in Wales are, in some way, immune to it. The Member asked the question: when will this be rolled out? We’re looking to do that. The next step is to agree payments per vaccination with GPs in order that this service can then be examined and rolled out across Wales.
 
14:17
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, First Minister.
 
14:17
2. Business Statement and Announcement
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
 
14:17
Jane HuttBiographyThe Minister for Finance and Government Business
There are no changes to report to this statement for this week’s business. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement available to Members electronically.
 
14:17
Andrew R.T. DaviesBiography
Minister, could we have two statements, please? The first was raised during First Minister’s questions by the Member from Neath, around businesses trading with Greece, but more importantly, southern Mediterranean countries that, as I understand it, especially in the agricultural sector, are struggling to get insurance for goods being sent out there at the moment and obviously are reticent to release goods without payment. This is causing huge problems in the supply chain, particularly in the agricultural sector, as a lot of small lambs normally go out to that market.
 
I appreciate the Government here in Wales does not have direct powers over this particular area, but I would hope that it would have avenues of communication with the banks, with UK Trade and Investment and other trade organisations that deal on the international trading stage. And, a statement outlining what the Government is doing to facilitate secure trading lines for companies that have strong southern European connections would be most welcome.
 
The second statement I would seek is a statement in relation to the improvements of the Cardiff west service junction with the M4. I’ve raised this matter on several occasions. Last night, again, this junction was closed. It does seem as if the improvements, while they’re going to be very welcome, seem to be going on forever and a day on that particular junction and some sort of timeline, which, hopefully, could be put into a statement so that we could have some security as to when that junction will be fully operational and thus avoiding the traffic delays, would be most welcome.
 
14:19
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Andrew R.T. Davies. In fact, I can’t add more to the First Minister’s response to the question from Gwenda Thomas, except to say that the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport has got this in hand, and I can assure you that she is clearly also looking at the issue in terms of trading lines in southern Mediterranean countries, as well as Greece, and she will be updating Members on her engagement, as far as that’s concerned.
 
On the second point, of course, I think improvements have been very much welcomed in terms of that particular junction at Cardiff west, but, clearly, the last-minute, final conclusion of those substantial improvements has to be secured. Again, if there’s anything to update, the Minister will do so.
 
14:20
Gwenda ThomasBiography
As you will be aware, Minister, the Alzheimer’s Society is today launching a report on dementia in Wales. The society states that—and I quote:
 
The £1.4 billion annual care costs are unsustainable, and families cannot continue to shoulder the hidden costs of caring for relatives with dementia.
 
Will you agree to a debate on this issue, which would consider a national strategy, comprised of integrated teams working within the health board footprint, bringing together the health service, social services, the independent and voluntary sectors, and based on the model of the successful integrated family support teams for children services that are already operational?
 
14:20
Jane HuttBiography
Well, I thank Gwenda Thomas for very much for that question. Of course, our aim is to make Wales a truly dementia-friendly country. We have, of course, recently announced an additional £6 million of extra funding to help us achieve this. I think the way in which you associate this with the very successful integrated care teams is very helpful, but we are, of course, as a result of the extra investment, recruiting new primary care support workers, and also the new primary care link nurses visiting residential and nursing homes to provide training for staff about how to identify dementia, provide post-diagnosis support link-up with local GP services, and advise how to make buildings more dementia-friendly. But I think, also importantly, is more funding to the Alzheimer’s Society’s campaign to train more dementia friends. This, of course, is in addition to the £130 million invested in new elderly mental health facilities across Wales. So, I mean, these are key issues for the Welsh Government.
 
14:22
Bethan JenkinsBiography
I wanted to ask for a statement from the Welsh Government on the nature of professional standards your Government and this Assembly expects from those institutions that it provides funding to. I’ve recently seen a series of e-mails from Professor Niall Piercy, a chair of entrepreneurship at Swansea University’s School of Management, in which he repeatedly refers to a member of staff with a German Christian name as ‘ant brains’. In another e-mail, he calls a School of Management research committee ‘pathetically incompetent’ and says,
 
‘I’m increasingly of the opinion that we need to move beyond considering redundancy for academic staff and just move to euthanasia for general good of the species.’
 
Do we really expect staff of such seniority to deal with staff in such an insulting, intimidating and downright bullying manner, particularly when this institution is in receipt of public money, and has, to date, not done anything to bring these particular people to account? I would like to have a statement from the Welsh Government in light of these comments.
 
14:23
Jane HuttBiography
Well, this is, of course, a matter for the university. I know that you will have raised this with the university, and I think it’s very important that you raise this again today, Bethan Jenkins, to draw attention to these alleged remarks that have been made, which of course are inappropriate if they have been made in that way.
 
14:23
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, you know that the warm weather and the good weather traditionally brings motorcyclists out onto our trunk roads. Recently we’ve seen yet more motorcycle fatalities, not in my constituency this time but in other parts of Wales. I wonder whether the Minister for transport would be able to update us on the action that she is taking with regard to trying to reduce motorcycling fatalities, especially in Brecon and Radnorshire where a community campaign has been left very disappointed by the response of the Dyfed-Powys police and crime commissioner to their concerns and their application for funding to address some of these issues, which has been turned down and has left them feeling as if their voices are simply not being heard and their concerns are being trivialised and ignored. I’m sure the Minister would want to assure them that that’s not the case from the Welsh Government’s perspective.
 
14:24
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, these are times when there is particular concern about road safety, not just in terms of trunk roads but all roads, and of course in terms of opportunities for road safety grants, for which the local authorities then have to put in appropriate proposals. Also, of course, the Minister is responding and already has made statements and written to Members about road safety on trunk roads. But, again, it’s an important point to raise in terms of public awareness and concerns on these issues.
 
14:25
Nick RamsayBiography
Minister, last week I asked the Minister for economy and transport why the town of Monmouth has been dropped off the latest metro proposals map, and she responded that this was an area of concern. I think you said, Minister, that you were in discussions with Monmouthshire County Council about this. Can I ask for an update from the Minister at the earliest opportunity on what the Minister is planning to do regarding these anomalies? It is of concern to my constituents that some areas that previously seemed to have been included in the metro map have now not been included.
 
14:25
Jane HuttBiography
Thank you, Nick Ramsay. I think the Minister responded to these points last week. Of course, the map was produced to aid in initial engagements with industry on the next phase. It hasn’t got planning status, and the services and stations that will form part of the metro in the next phase and beyond have yet to be decided. But there will of course be an update on the metro in the autumn by the Minister.
 
14:26
Simon ThomasBiography
I wonder whether it would be possible to have a statement from the Minister with responsibility for statistics within Government—and that may well be you, Minister—particularly in relation to education statistics. I see that the most recent figures demonstrate a fall for the first time in a decade in terms of per capita expenditure for education in Wales. Those figures would be a fair bit lower if it weren’t for the agreement that you made in the past with Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats too to add, through grants, to education expenditure. What concerns me increasingly is that it’s impossible now for us to compare fairly our expenditure here in Wales with the nation over the border, namely England, and through that, with nations as well. I have seen the chief statistician’s report on this matter. He says that it’s impossible to make a comparison between education spend in Wales and education spend in England because of the change in pattern that’s happened in England. I accept, of course, that England has aspects of education that are entirely different to Wales—free schools, academies and so on. But what’s important, it seems, in the name of transparency and so that people can understand what’s happening in Wales, is that we can make that comparison with England, Scotland, France, Finland—and every other part of the world also. What holds us back, therefore, in actually having those statistics, and are you working hard to put that right?
 
14:27
Jane HuttBiography
Of course, we have to be very clear and transparent in terms of the opportunities that we have and the figures that we can demonstrate in terms of the commitments that we’ve made. As you say, comparisons are now very difficult between England and Wales, because of the difference in our education systems, but I want to be very clear that we have met our commitment to increase funding for Welsh schools by 1 per cent above the money we receive from Westminster, and this has meant an additional £106 million being made available for Welsh schools over the course of this Assembly term. But also, local authorities have played their part, and many have exceeded the required level of protection over the Assembly term.
 
I think also, if you look at the figures from the Treasury themselves, they are important in terms of your understanding of the statistics—in 2013-14, our spend was 8 per cent higher than in England, on the Treasury programme for international student assessment figures. But we have been very transparent about the very challenging financial position that we are facing, and, of course, as you well know, by this year, the Welsh budget will be nearly £1.7 billion less than it was in 2010-11 as a result of UK Government cuts. Nevertheless, the importance of transparency I accept, and will ensure that we can give the information as fully as possible.
 
14:29
Aled RobertsBiography
Minister, a number of Members this afternoon have alluded to the ‘Trusted to Care’ report, which includes the report on the Gwanwyn ward in Wrexham. I did contact the health inspectorate in Wales, because that reports includes some issues on which urgent action needed to be taken, but they say that it was a visit on behalf of Welsh Government. Nothing has appeared on your website or on the Betsi Cadwaladr website. Therefore, may I ask the health Minister whether he’s willing to confirm the response given by the health board in north Wales to the issues that were raised in the report?
 
14:30
Jane HuttBiography
That is for the health Minister to respond to. But, very clearly, as the First Minister said, there are not only spot checks, but also, of course, the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales inspections, and they are undertaken independently, in order to ensure that that is rigorous, in terms of that inspection.
 
14:30
Russell GeorgeBiography
Can I ask you, business Minister, for a statement on a particular traffic order from Welsh Government? The traffic order is in regard to works being carried out on the A483 between Kerry Road junction in Newtown and the entrance to Tesco. This is obviously a very congested spot, as many will be aware, and probably one of the most congested spots in mid Wales, I’d suggest. The traffic order states that the road will be closed on July 19, between 8 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. July 19 is one day before the Royal Welsh Show starts, so I would be curious to know why this particular date has been chosen, given that it could be one of the busiest Sundays of the year, and why the works aren’t being carried out later into the evening.
 
It would also be useful to know exactly what the works are in relation to. Clearly, if it’s to help traffic flow, then that’s to be welcomed. But, I think it would be useful if people could be made aware of exactly what’s being carried out there and why it’s being carried out at this particular time. I think clarity would be very helpful indeed.
 
14:31
Jane HuttBiography
Well, of course, these are always difficult operational decisions, aren’t they, for the engineers who are involved in ensuring that the work is undertaken appropriately and with minimal disruption? I’m sure that you can obtain clarity, in terms of the timeline and purpose of that, from the highways officials who are involved in that.
 
14:32
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister.
 
14:32
3. Statement: Superfast Broadband
Y Llywydd / The Presiding OfficerBiography
We now move to a statement from the Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology on Superfast Broadband, and I call on Julie James.
 
The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Melding) took the Chair at 14:32.
 
14:32
Julie JamesBiographyThe Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
 
Today, I want to provide you with an update on our plans to provide access to superfast broadband for homes and businesses across Wales. Our ambition is to move to a position as quickly as possible where every business or home in Wales is able to access superfast broadband. This is reflected in our programme for government commitment. We set ourselves the challenge of bringing superfast broadband to parts of Wales where the market would simply never go, and we have made extraordinary progress through Superfast Cymru.
 
Ensuring everyone can have access to superfast broadband is key to Wales becoming a truly digital nation. Fibre will continue to be the predominant technology, but there will be a need to have a greater mix to reach the final few per cent of premises. Technological advances and the commitment by the mobile network operators to improve geographic coverage of 4G mobile mean that other technologies are becoming increasingly viable alternatives.
 
In my written statement of 21 May this year, I briefly outlined a new scheme we are developing to make superfast speeds available to all homes and businesses across Wales. It will build on the success of the Access Broadband Cymru scheme and will use a range of technologies, including satellite, wireless, and 4G, to deliver superfast speeds. I hope to launch the new scheme this year.
 
Turning back to Superfast Cymru, to the end of June, we have provided superfast broadband to nearly 0.5 million premises, that is around 480,000 that would not be able to receive superfast broadband speeds without our intervention. Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf are all over 90 per cent complete, with Gwynedd, Anglesey and Neath Port Talbot around 70 per cent complete. When you combine roll-out under Superfast Cymru with the commercial roll-outs of BT, Virgin and others, around 79 per cent of homes and businesses in Wales now have access to fast broadband. This puts Wales ahead of the EU average and of countries like France and Italy.
 
We are making sure that rural communities are not left behind and, through the Superfast Cymru contract, we have ensured that the costs of broadband will be no more expensive in rural areas than in cities. The progress to date is in no small part thanks to the significant efforts of the BT workforce, and their subcontractors. They have taken on 123 apprentices, created 254 jobs, provided 992 hours of work experience for pupils and students, and delivered 60 10-week adult placements.
 
The recent Wales Audit Office report was very positive, finding that the project was making reasonable progress and that it is being properly managed both in terms of delivery and costs. We are reviewing the communications arrangements for deployment information, including a revamp of the Superfast Cymru website to make it more transparent and to give residents and businesses a greater level of certainty over when they will be able to access superfast broadband.
 
Since the Superfast Cymru project began, the number or premises that we need to address has increased either because they are new premises or where premises due for roll-out under telecommunications’ companies own plans have subsequently been deemed to be economically unviable. We have identified an extra 45,000 premises. I am pleased to announce today that we have extended the Superfast Cymru contract with BT to cover over 42,000 of these premises. Accordingly, the date for completion of the build phase of the contract will be extended to June 2017. BT will still achieve the original contract target of 655,000 premises by next summer. The maximum grant payable under the project will increase by around £19 million and BT will also invest significant extra funding.
 
We all recognise the importance to businesses of having access to the right broadband speeds and that a number of business parks and industrial estates need urgent action to improve their connectivity. Therefore, on 30 June, we let a contract with Airband, specialists in high-speed wireless broadband, to target a further nearly 2,000 of the 45,000 extra premises in business parks and industrial estates across Wales, also to be completed by summer 2016.
 
Through our negotiations with BT in Wales, fibre on demand will be available across the majority of the country. This is a business-focused, ultrafast broadband technology, which will be available by the end of summer 2015 to the majority of premises in Wales. Coupled with our ultrafast connectivity voucher, businesses in Wales have an extraordinary range of options to allow them to connect more effectively to their customers and suppliers
 
Swansea is being used as a test bed for BT ultrafast technology, called G.fast, which can provide speeds of up to 500 Mbps, which is based on the superfast technology being deployed across Wales. Wales is also benefiting from the broadband delivery UK £10 million innovation fund to explore ways to take superfast broadband to the most difficult- to-reach places in the UK. A trial of a hybrid fixed line and fixed wireless superfast rural broadband network is being used to connect around 1,600 premises in Monmouthshire.
 
Looking to the future, as the deployment gets to more and more homes and businesses, we need to focus on ensuring that businesses and homes take up superfast broadband so that they can make the best use of the technology for the benefit of the economy and society generally. Today, 22 per cent of premises that have had access to the service for over one year have taken up the service. Take-up in Wales is amongst the highest in the UK. This is important because the Superfast Cymru contract includes a clawback mechanism where Welsh Government receives funding back from BT. The level of funding is dependent on take-up levels. This will provide a future funding stream for reinvestment in broadband technologies, helping us to continue to extend and improve the reach of fibre broadband or to invest in other technologies. We have set ourselves the ambitious target of 50 per cent take-up to be achieved by the end of the operational phase of the contract in 2024. We want to see at least half of everyone who can connect to superfast broadband doing so, and I would be very grateful if all Members could raise awareness of the availability of superfast broadband in their constituencies and regions
 
To sum up, we are making extraordinary progress through the Superfast Cymru programme and we are adding to that to ensure that even more premises in Wales have access. We are also developing new schemes so that all premises in Wales can access superfast speeds. Finally, we are looking to the future by securing clawback funding to continue to bring faster speeds to more areas and working with industry to bring the best new technologies into Wales for our citizens and businesses.
 
14:38
William GrahamBiography
I’m most grateful to the Deputy Minister for bringing her statement today; it is most timely. She will know that there are many questions about the capacity of this particular programme, both for and against, and, certainly, this gives a very good example of best practice in the way in which BT are rolling out this scheme right across Wales. There remain significant problems, as the Minister is aware but, clearly, this also demonstrates good co-operation between Governments, with the Prime Minister here last year announcing the £57 million being made available for this very comprehensive scheme.
 
I note that the Deputy Minister is quite rightly proud of many of the achievements that have been achieved, but I hope there’s not a note of complacency here, because she knows that there is only a really short period where we will actually be ahead of other countries; very quickly they will catch up an may exceed us. It’s good news about what’s happening in Swansea and in Monmouthshire, but, more recently, I was in the Deeside enterprise zone in north Wales, where they had very significant problems. The Deputy Minister will no doubt be well aware of that, but I ask her to comment on that.
 
Also, there remain a number of notspots here in the city of Cardiff and within a few miles of this building, between Newport and Cardiff, where there are significant problems that have not yet been correctly addressed. I mention to the Deputy Minister that one contributor to the Enterprise and Business Committee reported how his business spent £20,000 a year on leased lines so he would have a reliable broadband connection to customers. Will the Deputy Minister also confirm that the option will remain to allow businesses in a fibre to the cabinet-enabled area to be able to upgrade to fibre to the premises on demand, should Welsh businesses want to upgrade to even faster speeds?
 
14:40
Julie JamesBiography
Thank you for those comments. We are rightly proud, I think, of the scheme. I think it’s worth mentioning that we’re only second to the exemplar projects in Cornwall, where the take-up, for example, is around 25 per cent, and we’re at just about 22 per cent here in Wales, so we’re doing very well on that. Also, the roll-out is much faster than it is elsewhere in the UK and in large parts of Europe, so we’re also doing very well there.
 
I do, however, acknowledge the Member’s point that there are some areas where we’ve had some difficulty, and that, of course, is the purpose of my announcement today. So, the announcement today is to cover those premises that were hitherto uncovered. He mentions Deeside in particular, and I specifically mentioned the ultrafast scheme that’s now available, and also the roll-out of superfast using alternative technologies, which was in my statement. So, we are confident that that will address the issues in Deeside that have been brought to my attention by a number of Members from the area.
 
In terms of notspots, the difficulty there is that this is a scheme that is intended to cover those areas that are not commercially viable. The areas the Member mentions, whilst frustrating, are, of course, in the commercially viable areas. So, it’s not until, I’m afraid, the end of this programme that we’ll be able to see what the actual problem across Wales is, and to have a negotiation with the UK Government, the European funding programme and, indeed, the commercial operators to see what the issues are there and whether those notspots are, in fact, commercially unviable. I’m afraid that is one of the complications of this programme, and those people will have to be patient for a couple more years until we get to the end of the roll-out.
 
14:42
Rhun ap IorwerthBiography
I thank the Deputy Minister for the update today. It’s quite right, of course, as you say, that we aim towards universal roll-out in order to ease our transition to a truly digital economy. A few questions arise from your statement today. You say that the recent Wales Audit Office report was very positive. I know my constituents, for example, won’t be excited, as they wait with bated breath for their superfast connection, to hear from the Wales Audit Office that the scheme is making reasonable progress. I’d certainly like it to be making more than reasonable progress at this point, but you point out yourself that Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf are 90 per cent complete, with Gwynedd and Anglesey amongst areas with 70 per cent completion. It is confirmation, is it not, that there is a lag related to rurality with the roll-out at the moment? You point out two schemes that the Government is involved in to ensure that the last 4 per cent, if you like, are targeted for superfast broadband. Is there a place, moving forward, to bring in the inclusion of, say, 4G connectivity into the superfast programme, rather than just relying on the market itself to reach those last 4 per cent?
 
You mentioned that 42,000 new premises have been targeted and will now be included in the scheme, and that, accordingly, the date for completion of the build phase of the contract will be extended to June 2017. Does that mean the whole scheme is extended until 2017, or is that just additional time for those 42,000 premises? You say that BT will still achieve the original contract target of 655,000 premises by next summer, but has there been now a change of prioritisation? Will some premises in some parts of Wales find that they may have to wait an additional period—an additional year—or is that additional year only for those additional premises? It would be good to have a response on that.
 
There have been concerns raised with me regarding the funding for Superfast Cymru. It’s jointly funded by the UK Government, the Welsh Government and the EU. The contribution from the EU is made under the agreement that the Welsh Government would match fund it. Can the Deputy Minister reassure the Assembly that the match funding from the Welsh Government is committed, that it is in the budget, and that it certainly hasn’t been spent elsewhere?
 
There is excitement in Swansea about the prospect of super-superfast broadband. One last point, though: given that the EU’s definition of ‘superfast’ is speeds in excess of 30 Mbps and that the Superfast Cymru project only commits BT to delivering speeds in excess of 24 Mbps, is there a danger that, when the project is complete, Wales will be lagging behind what will, by then, become the new benchmarks for the success of superfast roll-out?
 
One other point, actually: on take-up, 22 per cent of premises that have had access to the service for over one year have taken up the service. You say that Wales is amongst the highest in the UK. Frankly, I still find it a desperately low figure. We need to be aiming much, much higher. I find the 50 per cent take-up by 2024 to be rather low, still, for a period that is nine years in the future. I’ll certainly do my bit, as you appeal for AMs to make constituents aware of the availability of superfast broadband, but what’s the Government going to do?
 
14:46
Julie JamesBiography
There was quite a range there. I’ll do my best. In terms of the additional premises, most of those will be in the final year of the phasing, because actually a lot of them are difficult to reach, so that’s why they’re in this second phase. Having said that, it’s not all of them. Some of them are in areas with new build, which are reasonably easy to fix. So, we haven’t said that they have to be phased in accordance with the original programme, although actually, in practice, that is more or less how it will work out. There are a couple of new builds and so on in the new set of 43,000 premises, which will be relatively easy to fix, so they’ll go fast, although they won’t be reached before—. It’s not disrupting the other programme, which is, I think, what the Member was asking me.
 
The roll-out is dependent, obviously, on the difficulty of reaching the premises and the difficulty of the technology involved. The other question you asked me is whether we were looking at 4G, and the answer is simply ‘yes’ to that. We’re actually looking at all technologies that will get people superfast speeds—and, indeed, ultrafast speeds at some point. We’ve had a lot of negotiations with mobile providers about coverage and so on. In terms of the match funding, I can confirm the match funding is there.
 
In terms of the average megabits per second, we had to have a floor, but it’s a floor not a target, and, actually, most of them are way above that. That’s the floor, so if they don’t get the premises to the floor, they don’t get paid. That’s how the mechanism works. They’re paid by premises passed, not by premises planned. So, it’s not until the actual premises could get speeds of that amount that BT are paid under the contract.
 
In terms of take-up, I take the Member’s point, because obviously it’s tempting to say it should be 100 per cent and so on, but we’re actually going by average take-up across countries with superfast and so on, and so we are actually doing very well. We have set the ambitious target of getting half of the people to do it. I would just remind the Member that you can take a horse to water, but you can’t necessarily make it drink. So, obviously, this is a matter for people. If they don’t wish to purchase it, then we’re not in a position to make them do that.
 
14:48
David ReesBiography
Deputy Minister, I actually appreciate the statement today and I welcome it, because it’s important that we see how broadband is going to be delivering for Wales and how we are getting to a stage where a large proportion of Wales is now able to access superfast broadband. It’s not just rurality, which was identified by Rhun ap Iorwerth, because Neath Port Talbot was one of the 70 per cents, and that’s obviously got areas that are in the Valleys, which we’ve got to look at as well, in difficulty.
 
There are a couple of points I want to raise with you. As you know, I’ve raised with you and your predecessor the issue of industrial estates, particularly the two in Baglan, but I’ve also got the one in Kenfig Hill. It’s important they can access, because broadband is about getting to the businesses, so businesses can actually drive forward and grow the economy. We have concerns over the linkages for those business parks as such. You’ve identified here that you’ve actually let a contract. Can you clarify a couple of points for me? Why weren’t they perhaps included in the change of contract, or the additional contract, for the BT 42,000 premises? There are 3,000 clearly in there, so why weren’t they included in that type of agreement, particularly as many of those industrial estates are surrounded by residential areas, which probably are delivered by the contract by BT in one sense? Can you confirm the speeds that those businesses will have access to? We talk about the 500 Mbps for the superfast, but what speeds and megabits are those going to expect to receive, and is that futureproofed? If we’re in a situation where the infrastructure is in place for many areas to deliver future possibilities of 500 Mbps, will these services be able to deliver the same, or will we see the possibility of businesses saying, ‘I won’t go there because in 10 years’ time, I can’t have the speeds everyone else will have’? So, what is going to happen with those speeds?
 
Can you also confirm the service providers, because we’re talking about infrastructure here, but, to access broadband, you need a service provider for broadband? What service providers will be available on that particular contract so businesses will have a choice of providers, so they’re not stuck to a particular provider, which may then mean they’re stuck in businesses?
 
Can you also clarify—and I agree with you—the take-up issue? It’s a big thing, because I’ve had a situation in Glyncorrwg where someone contacted me to say, ‘We haven’t got superfast broadband; we’ve got a business here’. We’ve checked it. They did have it, they just didn’t know they had to actually apply for the connection and service use. So, who’s going to fund this promotion to actually encourage people to take up this? BT may do the commercial aspect, but is the Welsh Government going to provide any funding to promote the actual take-up? It is all about futureproofing. It’s about putting things in place for the future, for businesses and our communities.
 
14:51
Julie JamesBiography
Well, I’ll start with that last point first. The answer is ‘yes’, we are funding it. We’re funding it in partnership with BT. Just to confirm once again that the roll-out is the wholesale bit of it, so if you think of it like electricity, it’s the pylons and the supply, and actually you can buy your electricity off any service provider. So, the internet service providers who choose to provide a commercial service on the infrastructure that’s been rolled out by Superfast Cymru can do so if they want to. So, virtually everywhere in Wales, there will be a range of service providers who are doing that. Actually, Members will have noticed recently that a number of service providers have started to advertise services in Wales, which they weren’t doing earlier on. It’s not until you get to a critical mass of infrastructure that it’s actually worth people providing it, but there are now a number of ISPs—including BT, obviously, as a provider—who supply that. All the usual names that Members will be familiar with are providing those services.
 
In terms of the businesses and how that’s being rolled out, on the specifics, I don’t actually know which provider it is off the top of my head, so I’ll write to the Member and say specifically which one it is in his particular area. Basically, we’ve gone for the one that’s most likely to be able to get it there fastest in any particular area, but I’m afraid I don’t know off the top of my head which one it is in your constituency.
 
The speeds will be the speeds that we’ve promised. So, the floor speed is as discussed with Rhun ap Iorwerth earlier, but I would just point out, for businesses, you can, of course, go for ultra-connectivity as well, but you have to pay the price for that. So, it’s obviously more expensive to get, but it’s a lot faster when you’ve got it. We are providing connectivity schemes in enterprise zones and business areas and so on. So, again, if the Member wants to write to me specifically about a particular business or area, then I’d be happy to provide the best information for that specifically, but we have a range of options for businesses, including the ability to purchase much faster speeds if that’s what the business requires.
 
I think I’ve covered most of the things that you raised. In terms of the original contract, this is just the whole complication about this as a European-funded programme, and therefore it’s interfering in a market, and we have to prove that the market has failed in order to be able to conduct the interference. I’m afraid that, until the service providers told us that commercially they wouldn’t cover areas, we weren’t able to extend the programme. That’s why most of the business areas are last not first, because actually they did intend to commercially roll out into those areas, and it’s only very recently that we’ve realised—or they’ve realised—that they’re not intending to do so. So, it’s driven, I’m afraid, by the market, and not by us.
 
14:54
Eluned ParrottBiography
Deputy Minister, I recognise that when it comes to scrutinising broadband, obviously we’re trying to hit a moving target with things moving on very quickly. Clearly, constituents, for all of us, are reporting to us issues that they have with their broadband, and you will know that I have issues within my own region as well. If I could just turn to a few specifics within the statement, if I may, you talk about the mixture of technologies that you’re hoping to employ to meet, as you describe,
 
‘the final few per cent of premises’.
 
Many constituents will be concerned that mobile solutions might not always be a viable proposition given the mobile coverage that we currently have in Wales. Whilst that’s improving, I’m wondering if you can tell us what percentage of Wales is currently covered by 4G. Sadly, it tends to be the same places covered by 4G that are already covered by relatively decent infrastructure in other ways. I’m wondering if you can tell us as well how fast that situation is improving. Clearly, I know that some of the networks are investing in further infrastructure, but there are planning issues in the way of developing masts, as I understand it, and I’d be interested to know what discussions you’ve had with the Minister with responsibility for planning about removing some of those hurdles.
 
Also, clearly, between 4G and fibre-based broadband, there will be differences in terms of the connection speeds, and I’m wondering if you can explain to us, across all of the technologies, what speed is the floor that you have set, and is this likely to change over time as broadband speeds generally increase? Do you have any kind of idea of how quickly that might happen?
 
Turning to the Superfast Cymru infill project, I wanted to query some statistics. Clearly, when you have come to the Enterprise and Business Committee previously, you have been talking about releasing places like the Penylan notspots into the infill project. I was working under the understanding that they would be in there, but it would seem, in answer to other Members, that you’re suggesting that perhaps they will not be necessarily in there.
 
As I say, on specific points, in evidence to the Public Accounts Committee, you talked about phase 1 reaching 46,000 sites. You also talked about there being a phase 2 to reach some of those more tricky premises. Today, we’re down to 45,000 sites, so we’ve lost 1,000 premises, and there is no mention of phase 2. I am wondering what has happened to those 1,000 premises, and is phase 2 likely to be going ahead. If so, on what timescale? Once phase 2 is complete, I’m wondering if we are leaving any premises unreached, because clearly there will be people who are struggling to do business in the modern world without having a decent broadband speed.
 
I’m wondering if you can confirm the commercial element of the infill project. I was under the understanding that it was to reach those places that hadn’t been commercially reached previously, but if BT do not release places into the superfast or the infill, the problem we have is that BT are holding on to places that cannot get broadband because, while they may be commercially viable in the future, they are not deemed to be so now. I met someone from the chamber of commerce just earlier, and she told me ‘My mother can’t get broadband’. I was able to tell her where she lived before she volunteered the information to me. We have some existing issues. In my own office, my constituency office, they’re devastated they can’t watch me in Plenary live because the broadband speed is inadequate. But in the centre of Cardiff, people are still unable to get the kind of broadband speeds that they are anticipating. So, I would welcome some clarification on that.
 
In terms of fibre on demand, you talk about the majority of the country being reached by this particular technology. I’m wondering if you can confirm what that majority is likely to be. What percentage are we going to cover? Previously, we’ve talked about it being rolled out across the country, and I had anticipated that ‘across the country’ was perhaps more comprehensive than ‘the majority of the country’ now appears to be.
 
Just finally, in terms of futureproofing, I’m afraid this is another one regarding the commercial behaviour of British Telecom. I was surprised to discover that a number of new estates in my region had not been covered by either superfast broadband or, indeed, had not had adequate reparations made to their own existing broadband provision, because despite the fact that British Telecom installs the telephone lines to these hundreds of new homes, they had not actually told the broadband department that they had done so, and therefore the broadband department did not know that these homes existed. Can you please raise this with BT and ask them if they have improved their commercial operations to make sure that new homes are not left behind when planning is being done?
 
14:59
Julie JamesBiography
Okay, there’s quite a list there, so I’ll do my best to get through it all. In terms of the futureproofing—because I should have answered that in response to David Rees’s question as well, and I’m sorry I forgot—I’ll just say that that’s actually one of the reasons we’ve got the clawback mechanism in place. So, once BT break even, we get a clawback amount, and that will be reinvested. The idea of that money is that it’s an ability to constantly reinvest in emerging technologies and also to ensure that we have the widest possible spread. So, that’s the futureproofing, if you like.
 
In terms of mobile coverage, I’ve had an enormous number of meetings with various mobile providers, and we are assured that we will have very, very widespread coverage of mobile 4G within the next couple of years. I’m not at liberty to say exactly what, I’m afraid, because obviously some of that is commercially confidential, but we are assured it will be happening, and we will be contracting with people accordingly in order to get some of the coverage that we need. We are talking about 100 per cent, so the 4 per cent that we always knew would be left out of Superfast Cymru, we’re talking about getting to those 4 per cent with other technologies, because technology is moving very quickly, and, obviously, since the beginning of this programme to now a lot of the technology has improved, and so we are confident we will get to everyone eventually.
 
In terms of fibre on demand, that’s an ultrafast business product, of course, and that will be available across the country very shortly. In fact, we are in negotiations with BT at the moment about that.
 
In terms of planning and wayleaves, that’s a very complicated area indeed, but I have been in discussions with colleague Ministers in the UK Government as well as colleague Ministers here in the Welsh Government about some of the issues. That’s actually tied up with the Member’s questions about some of the issues around notspots and all that sort of stuff, because some of those have turned out to be quite complicated issues around how you can get across to premises, and so on.
 
I confess I don’t know whether Penylan is one of the notspots that is or isn’t in it, and so I’m afraid I’ll have to write to the Member on that point, in that I don’t have a list in my head of the ones that aren’t and are included. So, I can’t answer the specific question but will write to you about that. Some of them are in and some of them aren’t; it does depend on this commercial roll-out point that I was making.
 
In terms of that, obviously, BT is a commercial operator but it’s not just BT; we have got other infrastructure providers here in Wales—Virgin, for example, has a large number of infrastructures, and there are others. So, it’s not just BT that’s rolling out the infrastructure commercially. BT is rolling out the superfast for us, but there are other commercial operators, and it does rather matter where you are. I’m afraid in my own constituency I have a place that’s not covered by either of them either, so it’s very frustrating. But it won’t be until the end of the programme that we can address some of those issues, because we’ll be able to see that they’re the ones that are left, I’m afraid.
 
15:02
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Right. I have five people who still want to be called, and we are about to go into extra time, so all the other contributions will have to be superfast rather than broadband. [Laughter.] I will cut you off after a minute. Russell George.
 
15:02
Russell GeorgeBiography
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Thank you for your statement, Minister—very welcome. I do have to say that the Welsh Government does seem to stonewall me a little when I ask questions relating to premises that fall outside the scope of the Superfast Cymru roll-out. Can I ask why is the Government reticent to obtain and publish precise details of the addresses that are affected from Mott MacDonald, who conducted the open-market review, so that the 45,000 residences and businesses in Wales who will not benefit from the project can make contingency plans and make arrangements, of course, to approach such schemes as Access Broadband Cymru?
 
Secondly, with regard to the 78 per cent of premises that are enabled but have not yet received Superfast Cymru, could I ask what budget has the Welsh Government put forward to marketing more the access opportunities?
 
15:03
Julie JamesBiography
In terms of the specific premises, we just don’t hold the information; we only hold it on postcodes. It’s as simple as that—we’re not holding it back from you; we haven’t got it. So, the whole information is done on postcode areas, and I think we’ve written to you to that effect as well.
 
In terms of the budget, it’s £1.5 million for the comms budget for it.
 
15:03
Elin JonesBiography
Quickly.
 
15:05
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
[Continues.]—to people through the new website.
 
15:05
Elin JonesBiography
Wel, mae 41.35 y cant o’r cyflwyno yng Ngheredigion wedi’i gwblhau ar hyn o bryd ac mae 18.3 y cant wedi dechrau ei ddefnyddio. Felly, nid yw hyd yn oed hanner ffordd eto. Felly, rwy’n deall rhwystredigaeth yr Aelod, ond mae yn y rhaglen. Rydym yn symud ymlaen mor gyflym ag y gallwn. Mae rhywfaint o'r rhaglen wedi cael ei hailbroffilio. Rwyf yn derbyn pwynt yr Aelod bod y wefan yn peri rhwystredigaeth. Un o'r materion yw, os ydych chi’n byw yn bell oddi wrth y cabinet, yna mae gennych chi broblem; mae'n rhaid inni eich cyrraedd gyda ffibr i'r eiddo. Caiff y wefan ei diweddaru i ddweud hynny. Rwy’n rhannu rhwystredigaeth yr Aelod am rywfaint o'r wybodaeth. Felly, byddwn yn gwneud hynny. O ran lle y maent, mae arnaf ofn y bydd yn rhaid i'r Aelod roi codau post penodol i mi er mwyn imi allu rhoi’r manylion hynny iddi, ond rwy’n hapus i wneud hynny os hoffai hi roi’r codau post hynny imi.
 
15:05
Julie JamesBiography
Well, the roll-out in Ceredigion is currently 41.35 per cent complete and we have 18.3 per cent take-up. So, it’s not even halfway yet. So, I appreciate the Member’s frustration, but it is in the programme. We are going as fast as we possibly can. Some of the programme has been re-profiled. I take the Member’s point about the website being frustrating. One of the issues is that, if you live a long way from the cabinet, then you’ve got a problem; we’ve got to get to you with fibre to the premises. The website will be updated to say that. I share the Member’s frustration about some of the information. So, we will be doing that. In terms of where they are, I’m afraid the Member will have to supply me with specific postcodes for me to be able to give her that detail, but I’m happy to do so if she wants to supply me with those postcodes.
 
15:05
Jeff CuthbertBiography
Can I thank the Deputy Minister for her statement? As a former Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, I do understand some of the practical problems that this scheme has encountered, such as, for example, being able to locate cabinets in urban areas. Can I, however, ask you about bringing the benefits to our more deprived communities—the benefits of better broadband access? Can you confirm for me that you will continue to work with your colleague the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, as well as the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, to ensure that our disadvantaged areas are not inadvertently overlooked by the superfast broadband roll-out? I have in mind, particularly, close working through initiatives such as the successor scheme to Communities 2.0, Digital Communities Wales, and using our local libraries, such as those at Caerphilly and Bargoed in my constituency, as hubs to encourage widespread community internet usage and engagement, providing better access to jobs and training opportunities?
 
15:06
Julie JamesBiography
It’s a very good point the Member makes. As he knows, the successor to Communities 2.0, Digital Communities Wales, is now up and running. Actually, I had the privilege and pleasure of being at the new Royal National Institute of Blind People project only very recently, which was illustrating the real benefits for people with sensory deprivation of this kind of roll-out and the connectivity that they can then get and the re-engagement with society that they can then get through that programme. So, the Member makes an important point, and I can assure him that we are very alive to it and working very closely together to ensure that no community in Wales is left behind.
 
15:07
Kirsty WilliamsBiography
Minister, in ensuring that the information available to customers and potential customers is improved, will you ensure that that information is useful? I’m still unable to get answers from BT for my constituents living in the Cwmdu, Tretower and Pengenffordd area about when their lack of broadband will be addressed. Will you ensure that that information is correct and adhered to? Dan yr Ogof caves, a well-known business in my constituency, invested heavily in IT apps for their tourist attraction on the promise that broadband would be available this year. It’s not. We finally got confirmation that it will not be available until March next year. That’s a huge opportunity lost to that particular business. And will you ensure that, when work is actually carried out, it leads to an improvement in services? I’ve been contacted by a number of constituents and the community council in Llanwrtyd Wells who’ve said that, since their cabinets have been addressed, services have actually been worse in that particular community, leading to a great deal of frustration that the expectations that local businesses, often small-scale tourism providers, had about the programme have been dashed as a result of the reality of what they’ve been left with.
 
15:08
Julie JamesBiography
On that last point, I’m not aware of that, so I’m very happy to look into that for the Member to see what’s happened there. That’s obviously not the intention, and I’ve not heard that before. So, I’ll look into that and write to you about it. In terms of being useful and correct, I agree. I think that, as we get much further into the programme, it’s actually much easier to provide more specific information about the distances from the cabinet and so on, which people find useful. In terms of the exact timing, that’s more difficult, because we find that, if we do provide exact timings and then we have problems with wayleaves or planning or something and it gets put off, people are even more frustrated—as indeed has happened in the example she quoted—to have been told something only to be told that that’s actually not happening. So, I have a little sympathy with BT about the fact that, sometimes, it’s beyond their control. What I have asked for them to do is to be much more explicit about what the problems actually are, so people can understand whether there is a planning or wayleave issue or what exactly the problem is. So, I hope that the website will contain much more useful and correct information in that regard and, indeed, that people who write in separately can be given more accurate information as well.
 
15:09
Janet Finch-SaundersBiography
I’d really like to ask you, Deputy Minister, what steps you’re taking to ensure there is full consultation and engagement with the local community. I’m actually in touch with the chairman of Conwy County Borough Council, where they’ve put a cabinet in Dolwyddelan right in front of the chapel gates, and also in front of two planters that the community has volunteered and purchased. Despite several e-mails going back to Ann Beynon—backwards and forwards—and the local authority, there was no consultation whatsoever.
 
Quite rightly, the chairman of Conwy County Borough Council believed, as I did, that some recognition of historical heritage would be considered as part of the siting of these cabinets. Having now discussed their possible movement, the local community have been told that they may have to find £2,000 for this. These are volunteers. What are you doing? I will work with you on this case, but I can tell you the community of Dolwyddelan are not happy and I, as the Assembly Member, am not happy at all, because this is not the way to go about it.
 
15:11
Julie JamesBiography
I’m afraid I can’t comment on the individual case, so I don’t know any of the details, so we’ll have to do that in correspondence between us.
 
15:11
Mark IsherwoodBiography
Only today, I met four primary schools from Flintshire that highlighted the issue of ‘superslow’ broadband in rural schools. What action are you taking to prioritise digital access for pupils in rural schools, such as those who visited the Assembly today?
 
15:11
Julie JamesBiography
Primary schools are not part of the superfast roll-out, actually, they’re part of a different programme for roll-out for Hwb and Hwb+, so I’m happy to write to the Member separately about that, but it’s not actually part of the programme that we’re discussing today. I’ll write to you separately about it.
 
15:11
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Thank you, Minister. Very crisply done, if I may say.
 
15:11
4. Statement: An Update on Ports
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding OfficerBiography
Item 4, a statement by the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport—an update on ports. I call Edwina Hart.
 
15:11
Edwina HartBiographyThe Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I thought it would be helpful to bring Members up to date on the devolution of ports policy in light of the integral role they have to play in supporting economic growth and jobs in Wales.
 
Welsh ports are nationally significant, servicing a range of markets and acting as a gateway to economic hubs in the Republic of Ireland, the rest of Europe and beyond. They are uniquely placed to be a driving force for economic wealth through the co-location of commercial, industrial, logistics, leisure and fishing activities. The St David’s Day agreement recognises the importance of the devolution of ports policy as appropriate for Wales and I expect it to be taken forward as part of the Wales Bill that will come forward in the autumn.
 
My department is preparing the ground so that we can hit the ground running when we receive the powers next year. The future of our ports is in diversification. I believe there is a real opportunity for an increase in short sea shipping through Welsh ports and am awaiting final advice from the Welsh ports group on short sea opportunities for ports, and other developments that would support the trans-European transport network.
 
We are working with the EU Commission to look at innovative solutions that could attract European funding through the motorways of the sea concept, and I will be hosting a two-day visit to Wales next week by the TEN-T corridor co-ordinator, highlighting Wales’s importance to that European transport network. We will pursue all feasible opportunities for integrating port developments with other infrastructure project improvements to make sure that the sum is greater than all the parts.
 
Holyhead, the north Wales main line, and its potential to play a key role in the development of Wylfa Newydd, are a good example of this approach. The master plan for Holyhead that we are developing will test what is possible in terms of boosting the local and regional economy and provide a blueprint for other ports. Welsh ports will continue to be an integral player in the low carbon energy agenda and I’m committed to unlocking the energy in our seas in order to develop and grow the marine sector in Wales. The Welsh marine demonstration zones, such as the Morlais marine demonstration zone, will provide further opportunities for ports.
 
Ports also provide a recreation space that enhances our growing tourism sector and I’m delighted that we have made available over £700,000 for the phased redevelopment of the Saundersfoot harbour, long recognised as one of the jewels in the crown of Pembrokeshire, with one of the most idyllic settings for a harbour. The investment will significantly enhance the visitor experience, offering major benefits for the local community in securing the long-term future of the harbour.
 
We are also supporting the use of ports in Wales as cruise liner call ports, and encouraging ports and marinas as tourism gateways. In 2014, we saw a 155 per cent increase in cruise ships visiting Wales on the previous year, with an economic impact on Wales of some £2.9 million. This year, we will welcome 41 cruise vessels, carrying more than 21,000 passengers.
 
Again, adopting a co-ordinated approach, we are working with Anglesey to develop the on-land visitor infrastructure to improve the sense of welcome for cruise visitors. The project is one of the three regionally prioritised projects from north Wales to be included within Visit Wales’s European regional development fund destination programme.
 
In Fishguard, we are also exploring an option to deliver a floating pontoon to allow cruise ships to berth from 2016 onwards.
 
Fundamental to the delivery for the ports sector will be an integrated approach to the management of the land/sea interface and to ensure our terrestrial planning reform and marine plans are joined up to provide a seamless framework that supports sustainable growth.
 
In developing our ports along commercial lines, we are committed to working closely with the ports sector, the enterprise zone boards and other external partners to ensure that we maximise the commercial opportunities that the change in devolution arrangements will bring. I will keep Members informed of the progress and will provide a further update on that work before the end of the year.
 
15:15
William GrahamBiography
May I thank the Minister for her timely statement this afternoon? I share her confidence that the Wales Bill will include the importance of the devolution of ports policy to Wales, and trust that this will be forthcoming as soon as parliamentary time allows. I also share the Minister’s remarks that the future of our ports is clearly in diversification. Many of our ports throughout Wales have achieved this in a relatively short period. Could I ask the Minister, when she is meeting with the EU Commission, to highlight our concerns with regard to the designation of Liverpool rather than our north Wales ports? I’m sure the Minister has this on her agenda, and no doubt we will hear from her about that in due course.
 
In terms of Holyhead and the north Wales main line, the potential there remains enormous. You touched on the increase in cruise ships, which is also to be welcomed. I’m grateful for the report on that. May I also say that your willingness to engage with the Enterprise and Business Committee on the tourism aspect has been greatly welcomed?
 
Minister, you don’t actually say very much about Milford Haven, which is, as Nelson said, the finest port west of Trincomalee. Although it has some challenges it has great potential, and a remark on that would be welcomed. Fishguard you did mention, then. Let’s hope that that particular project is worth while.
 
Minister, you will know that as a former chairman of the harbour commission in Newport, we welcome your M4 infrastructure report, and also the fact that there’s a possibility there may well be a direct link to the M4—something that many ports, not only in Wales but throughout the United Kingdom, would greatly welcome.
 
15:17
Edwina HartBiography
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