Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Good afternoon. The National Assembly for Wales is now in session.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I’m sure Members would like to join me in welcoming Members of the Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions from the Parliament of the Irish Republic, who are in the public gallery today. I think they’re behind me up there, somewhere—I’m not sure.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I wish to inform Members that, on Friday, I received written notification from Antoinette Sandbach of her resignation with immediate effect as an Assembly Member following her election as Member of Parliament for Eddisbury. And, today, I have received notification from Byron Davies that he too is resigning his seat at the Assembly following his election as Member of Parliament for Gower. His resignation will be effective from 15 May.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
I have informed the regional returning officer for North Wales of the vacancy that now exists for that region, and I’ll be writing to the returning officer for South Wales West in the same vein. I will await the returning officers’ notifications regarding new Members for their respective regions, and I will make further announcements to Members in due course. I’m sure you would all like to join me in wishing Antoinette and Byron all the best for the future.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to questions to the First Minister, and question 1 is from Julie Morgan.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Polisïau Llywodraeth Cymru
1. What assessment has the First Minister made of the impact of the outcome of the UK general election on Welsh Government policies? OAQ(4)2262(FM)
Nid ydym yn gwybod eto, wrth gwrs. Rydym ni’n disgwyl yr hyn y bydd Araith y Frenhines yn ei ddangos a’r hyn y bydd y gyllideb yn ei ddangos. Ond, wrth gwrs, rwy’n nodi'r ffaith fod addewid wedi ei wneud y bydd deddfwriaeth ar gyfer datganoli pellach i Gymru yn cael ei chyflwyno o fewn 100 diwrnod. Arhoswn i weld a gaiff yr addewid hwnnw ei gadw.
I thank the First Minister for that response. Does he think that a key priority for the Westminster Government must be to deliver the commitments it made to the people of Wales, in terms of cutting the Severn bridge tolls, providing the resources to put in a city deal for Cardiff, funding the electrification of the Valleys lines and the First Great Western main line? And will he be pressing the incoming Government to give the attention to Welsh issues that the people of Wales deserve, so that it doesn’t spend all its energy on Scotland?
Yes. I have a phone call with the Prime Minister very shortly. I will be saying, of course, there is a need to move forward with the Wales Bill, as he has promised. In terms of the Severn bridge tolls, the view of the Welsh Government is that it should be controlled from within Wales, rather than the profits going entirely to pay for English roads, as they will once the bridge returns to public ownership. And, of course, with the metro, there will be a need for the UK Government to deliver alongside us, particularly, for example, if light rail is the option that is preferred in terms of the future of the metro.
During the general election, one of the repeated concerns raised on the doorstep applied to devolved matters, such as housing and health, and, nine times out of 10, the comments related to—wrongly—the UK Government, rather than the Welsh Government, which, of course, has been responsible since 1999. Is this a concern that you share with me, and, if so, what action does the Welsh Government propose to try and improve public understanding in places like north-east Wales, and elsewhere, around the matters for which this place is responsible, ahead of the Welsh general election next year?
We know that part of the problem is, of course, that more than 80 per cent of the population get their print news from outside Wales, and the London media don’t bother with Wales, in terms of publishing separate editions, as they do for Scotland. We know, of course, that it’s the broadcast media that is most responsible for informing the public here in Wales. Of course, in the north-east, historically, there was a tendency to turn aerials to transmitters away from Moel y Parc, as the transmitter for the area. My suspicion is that, as people have begun to understand more about the Assembly, they have taken more interest in terms of what it does. But, the Member is right to say, of course, that the understanding of who does what is not entirely clear to the public yet.
Un o ddatganiadau cyntaf y Llywodraeth newydd yn San Steffan yw un i ddiddymu Deddf Hawliau Dynol 1998. Nawr, mae’r Ddeddf Hawliau Dynol nid yn unig yn amddiffyniad i bobl yng Nghymru, ond mae hefyd wedi ysgrifennu mewn i gyfansoddiad Cymru, drwy Ddeddf Cymru 2014, ac mae’n rhan, yn wir, o’r cyfansoddiad Prydeinig yng Ngogledd Iwerddon a’r Alban hefyd. Felly, pa drafodaethau, os ydych am gael sgwrs gyda’r Prif Weinidog yn fuan, fyddwch chi’n eu cael gyda’r Prif Weinidog i wneud yn siŵr bod llais Cymru a’r buddiannau sydd yn llifo i Gymru o’r Ddeddf Hawliau Dynol yn cael eu cadw yma yng Nghymru?
Well, my view, of course, is that that Act should be retained. I don’t think any comment had been made on the situation of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That won’t be their initial thought, obviously. I met with a group that looked at a British rights Bill some years ago, and it’s true to say that they didn’t have very much of a clue about how it would work alongside devolution. However, we will have to see what will be set out as a replacement for the Act.
Brif Weinidog, a ydych chi’n cytuno â mi bod yn rhaid i ni barhau i bwyso am gonfensiwn cyfansoddiadol ac, yn rhan o hynny, fformiwla ariannu teg ar gyfer holl ranbarthau'r DU? A ydych chi hefyd yn cytuno y dylai Cymru ymgysylltu'n rhagweithiol â rhanbarthau eraill y DU i bwyso am newid sydd er lles ac yn gynaliadwy i’r DU gyfan?
Yes. We should work, of course, with our fellow nations and with the English regions. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a situation where we have the stability that we need without such a convention. Now, I note the views of my colleague in Northern Ireland, Peter Robinson, who is also in agreement with the principle of a convention. This is not something to be afraid of; this is something to strengthen the constitution of the UK for the twenty-first century.
Strategaeth yr Iaith Gymraeg
2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the progress made over the last four years in relation to the Welsh Government's Welsh language strategy? OAQ(4)2264(FM)
Over the last four years we have made large strides in implementing our ‘A living language: a language for living’ strategy. These include notable developments in the fields of education, legislation and promotion. We have more important work to do over the remaining two years of the strategy.
Your emphasis four years ago was on increasing the number of Welsh speakers and providing opportunities to use the Welsh language. What steps within the strategy that you mentioned do you believe will contribute most to achieving these objectives?
The principles, of course, are contained within the policy statement ‘Bwrw mlaen’, in relation to how we ensure that the Welsh language is a living language and one that is used, and ensure that there is a change in people’s habits when it comes to its use on an individual and community basis. One way of doing that is to ensure that Welsh has a place in the technological sector, and I have seen it being used here—the Urdd has done very good work with its Welsh apps—and to ensure that young people view the Welsh language as their natural, day-to-day language and one that can be used on Facebook and Twitter. We want to ensure that Welsh is spoken, and it is extremely important that we ensure during this century that Welsh is used as a language of technology.
First Minister, I’ve heard today about the national entity that you created, but it’s a matter of choice as to which language people use, and that’s a very personal choice. So, what would your personal message be to adults who are a little uncertain and perhaps aren’t quite sure of the value of learning and using the Welsh language?
What we do know is that very many adults start to learn Welsh every year, and we also know that very many don’t continue with this learning. So, we must ensure that people have the confidence to continue to learn the language and to use the language. Of course, we all know of people who are truly fluent in Welsh but are apprehensive, or afraid, of using the Welsh language in an official way, or using the language without a script, as it were. Boosting people’s confidence is one way of ensuring that those who learn the language then use the language and have the confidence to use it in many fields.
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
Symudwn nawr at gwestiynau gan arweinwyr y pleidiau, ac arweinydd Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, sydd gyntaf y prynhawn yma.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
First Minister, the Secretary of State for Wales yesterday made a comment indicating an unwillingness to consider further meaningful devolution, and it’s looking increasingly likely that the previously agreed timetable regarding further devolution no longer stands. Now that we have a Westminster Government without a mandate from this country, would you agree with me that the time is now long overdue to strengthen the Welsh devolution settlement?
Yes. Well, I saw what the Prime Minister said in terms of delivering for Wales within 100 days. We’ll have to wait and see. There are signs that that has been rowed back from. I’ve never agreed with Wales being treated differently from Scotland in that regard. I would hope that there was a recognition that there is a mandate for the UK Government in England, not so in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Prime Minister must show that he can be the Prime Minister of Britain and not just the Prime Minister of England.
Thank you for your answer, First Minister. As the person leading Wales’s Government and following on from the response that you’ve just given, can you tell me whether or not your Government’s position has changed regarding this, from before? What measures, for example, do you now support that might help to mitigate the cuts that we know are coming? Do you support measures, for example, that go beyond Silk? And will you be articulating any changed position to the Prime Minister when you speak to him?
Yes, I do think that we should go beyond Silk. We know that the Smith commission, in terms of Scotland, has offered more devolution for Scotland. I think that offer should be made to Wales. She will know—and I’ve said this before—that that doesn’t automatically mean we should accept everything, because, sometimes, there are bear traps that are laid for us. Nevertheless, Smith changed the nature of devolution as far as Scotland is concerned. It is naive to think, in Whitehall, that, somehow, this has no effect on Wales, but I think the first step has to be for us to see delivery on what is, at least at this moment in time, agreed by all the parties, and then, of course, to look at how the settlement can be strengthened in the future. But, the first thing to do is to make sure that the promise of action within 100 days is kept by the Conservative Government.
I think it’s clear, First Minister, that many Welsh communities will be looking to your Government for some sort of protection from the further cuts and the coming reforms that don’t have support from the majority of people in this country. Now, the Tories haven’t been upfront about where the axe is going to fall. We know that we can expect a further £12 billion-worth of welfare cuts. I’m not sure whether or not you’ve considered whether or not a UK-wide welfare system will continue into the future, and, if not, what we are going to do about that. Now, it’s likely that Scotland will get powers over welfare. Will powers over welfare be something that you will now be seeking from Westminster for Wales?
Two points: first of all, we don’t know what the scale of the cuts will be. We have to wait and see what happens. We have an idea, but we don’t know until we see the first financial settlement. Secondly, the welfare system does transfer money into Wales and we should be very wary about changing a system that provides us with a positive benefit. There is no UK-wide benefit system, of course, it’s a GB-wide benefit system. In Northern Ireland, welfare is devolved, but we see what’s happened there is that there is no agreement in terms of what should happen with the bedroom tax, for example, but there is no money to pay for what the Northern Ireland Executive, or part of it, would want to do. So, having the powers is one thing; having the money to deliver on people’s expectations is another. We should examine very, very carefully whether wholesale welfare devolution is actually in Wales’s interests if it means we then lose a chunk of money that is, at present, being transferred into Wales. That said, I do share her concern about what’s in the pipeline, but neither she nor I will know what’s going to be proposed by the Conservative Government—it’s a change from coalition—and we’ll have to wait and see and then, of course, make our assessment in terms of what it means for Wales.
We now move to the leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, Amnesty International have said that human rights must not be a political plaything to be bestowed or scrapped on a whim. My party, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, agree with them. Do you?
It seems pretty clear now, First Minister, that one of the priorities for the new Conservative Government is to put us in the same category as Belarus and Kazakhstan in terms of how we view human rights. In fact, to achieve what they really want, they actually need to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights. What assessment has your Government made of the potential impact on our devolution settlement of any changes to the legislation that protects human rights in this country?
Well, it makes us look like a banana republic, frankly. I mean, most countries in Europe, including Russia, are signatories and members of the European convention. The European convention was drafted by British lawyers. It’s a British invention. There’s a complete lack of understanding of history, of course, in Whitehall at the moment, but that is the reality of it. Now, when I met, as I said earlier on in answer to another Member, with the group that was looking at creating a British Bill of rights, it was clear to me they had absolutely no idea what they were being asked to do and they had absolutely no idea where devolution fitted in that regard. We still don’t know, if the Human Rights Act is scrapped, what that means for the different settlements. It’s an essential part of the Northern Ireland settlement. I don’t believe that any thought’s been given to that—it’s all been focused on what it doesn’t mean for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. A lot of work will need to be done by the Conservative Government in terms of ensuring that that is got right.
Well, First Minister, QC Phillippe Sands is on the record, this morning, as saying that to do that we’d have to have a complete rewriting of the Government of Wales Act. First Minister, what steps will your Government take to protect the principles enshrined within the Human Rights Act here in Wales and what will you give us as your guarantee that you will fight alongside others, including my party, to ensure that any moves by the UK Government to abolish the Act are resisted?
It’s a strange scenario that we find now, where she and I are on the same side, after many years of combat across this Chamber. [Interruption.] I very much welcome that. But she is right to say that we should not move to a situation where the rights of individuals are weakened as a result of proposals by the Conservative Government. We will do, as a Government, all that we can to ensure that the rights that our citizens presently enjoy are not eroded by any proposals that come from Westminster.
We now move to the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, do you agree with the Member for Blaenau Gwent that the Labour Government here has completely lost the argument when it comes to the NHS in Wales?
Well, let me give you some statistics in terms of the NHS. Every day, 100 babies are born, 50,000 people see a GP, 20,000 people see a dentist, 280,000 individual medicines are prescribed, 12,000 people have an out-patient appointment, 2,500 people are discharged from hospital and 10,000 x-rays are carried out. We know that most people get good treatment most of the time. There will be occasions when that doesn’t happen, and it’s important to rectify matters when there are weaknesses in the system.
That said, I accept, of course, that there are lessons for us as a party in terms of our messaging. For us, we have very high standards, and we did not reach those standards last week. For us, 25 seats are too low. For him, it would be marvellous, but for us it’s too low. There are, I think, lessons for all parties within this Chamber. There are lessons for us in terms of what happened last week and, as a party, we must listen to the people of Wales and understand what they are saying to us. Particularly, we need to appeal to those people who are running small businesses, for example, who are not millionaires, but are working very, very hard. We must appeal to them and to all sections of society. Plaid will have their own ideas in terms of what happened to them, and the Lib Dems as well, but I have to say to the leader of the Conservatives as well: his party did well last week, I grant him that, and they gained seats. It is still only 11 out of 40, and the people of Wales did say very clearly that they didn’t want to have a Conservative Government. The test for his party will be to make sure that the preferences of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are well understood in London.
First Minister, we live in the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom voted for a Conservative Government last week, and comprehensively voted for a Conservative Government. I’m sorry to hear your narrow nationalism here today in response to the nationalists and in response to my first question, which was in relation to what one of your own Members had said: that you had comprehensively lost the argument. Also, it is interesting to know that a former employee and adviser to the public service Minister and a special adviser to the former Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain—David Taylor—said that you were in denial. Well, we can see from your answers that you are in denial. What assurances can we get from you today that you will change tack, you will listen to people’s concerns on the NHS and you will start to address the loss of services in communities and, importantly, the one in seven people who are on a waiting list here in Wales?
We hear that message loud and clear, and we will be working hard to make sure that the NHS sees its improvements over the next 12 months. I do not underestimate the worry that some people have in some parts of Wales in terms of the NHS. As a Government, we recognise that and we will be working to deal with that. But I’m worried about what he said about the general election. He cannot possibly claim that he can ignore Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and what happened there. There are great dangers there. One of the issues that has to be addressed is how we keep—and he is in the same position as me on this particular issue—the UK together. Denying what happened in Scotland will not do that. I hope that that is not within the thought of David Cameron as Prime Minister; otherwise, the union is lost.
First Minister, first of all, I do have to pass on my former colleague in this institution’s sincere thanks for your canvassing in Barry last Wednesday. Mr Alun Cairns wanted to pass that on, because you doubled his majority by going out and canvassing for him.
But I do agree with you entirely that the United Kingdom is vital—and the integrity of the United Kingdom. That is why the Prime Minister, not only on the steps of Downing Street but in his acceptance speech at his own declaration, referred to the importance of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in the United Kingdom, and the commitment that his Government will have in its first 100 days to deliver for those parts of the United Kingdom. But I do want to take up—[Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
[Continues.]—and offer our support on the comments that you made after the election about business. It is vital that business is encouraged and motivated here in Wales. We need to be speaking more kindly to businesses here. That is why we have brought forward so many proposals—Invest Wales, lowering business rates, inward investment strategies, housing strategy—and I make this commitment to you: where you want to work, we will work with you to make sure Wales is a more prosperous place. We have the ideas. Those ideas can come forward and become a reality if you want to embrace them, First Minister.
Well, I ran a small business. I know what challenges small businesses face.
I’m running one.
Well, some of us are full time in this job. He’s not. I understand what he’s just said then, but there we are. I guess that’s the background that I come from. [Interruption.]
Can we listen to the First Minister? Thank you, First Minister.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We have the best foreign direct investment figures for 30 years. We’ve seen unemployment come down. That’s a tribute to the economy Minister and the work that she has done, together with her officials. It is important. I understand full well that if you encourage the private sector you create more jobs, you create more revenue for the public sector and for public services. In return, the public sector delivers the healthy, well-educated workers that the private sector needs and doesn’t have to pay for in the way that they would in the US, for example, with health insurance. That’s a big, big burden on companies in America, believe me.
But I have to make this point to him: the UK is in an exceptionally difficult position. To ignore what happened in Scotland is a mistake. Your party has one MP—as does mine—in Scotland. To try and say, ‘Well, that doesn’t really matter in terms of the whole of the UK’, is a mistake. Now, in order to ensure the future of the UK—and you’ve heard me say it many, many times before—the convention is important in terms of getting the structure right. I heard what the Prime Minister said about delivering for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within 100 days; I look to him to keep that promise of delivery within 100 days. Then, of course, we can see, and we can judge, whether what he says and what he delivers are the same thing.
Thank you very much. We now move back to the questions on the agenda. Question 3 is Nick Ramsay.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
3. Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government policies for supporting our road infrastructure? OAQ(4)2265(FM)
Mae cysylltiadau trafnidiaeth yn hanfodol i'n heconomi ac rydym ni wedi ymrwymo i sicrhau rhwydwaith ffyrdd cadarn sydd wedi’i gynnal a’i gadw’n dda.
Thank you, First Minister. In last week’s questions, you indicated that the port of Newport’s major concerns over disruption to their operations by the Welsh Government’s M4 black route could be mitigated by a new bridge. Now, given that some estimates have already put the cost of your chosen M4 black route at over £1 billion, will you give us the current assessment of how much you think that that route is going to cost, and how much will a new bridge add to the price tag?
Well below £1 billion. The reason why we would not reveal an actual cost at this stage is because we have to negotiate with contractors. The last thing we would do is declare our hand up front in terms of how much money we’re prepared to pay. But it’s a long, long way underneath £1 billion. Now, we have to get clarity from his party. His Prime Minister has said that the Brynglas tunnels are, as he put it, throttling the Welsh economy—he means the south Wales economy. I agree with him. That much is true, but we need to understand two things. First, whether his party is, in fact, in favour of an M4 relief road. We don’t know that. We know that there are different views; we’ve seen them expressed on Twitter. But secondly, we need to understand what is the best route. The preferred route, of course, is the black route. There are still, of course, issues that need to be addressed—we understand that—but it would not be correct to say that there are easy alternatives that are simply being ignored. There are not. If we’re going to get this done, we need to get it right.
First Minister, would you agree with me that one way of supporting our road infrastructure in Wales and easing the pressure upon it is by taking forward policies that will achieve modal shift and get people onto the trains and onto the buses in greater number through, for example, the metro system, and also that if we implement our Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 effectively to get more people walking and cycling, that, too, will ease pressure on our road infrastructure?
I think that is self-evidently true. When it comes to modal shift, it's easier to get individuals to do it than it is families, for example, because if there are four or five of you it’s cheaper to go by car than it is by train. That can be difficult. It's more difficult again to get modal shift in terms of freight, because of the freight that goes on lorries. So, whilst I agree entirely with him that modal shift is important, in terms of taking pressure off the roads, I don't think we can rely on that in terms of the M4. There's a lot of freight traffic on it that can't be moved easily onto the railways. Especially on weekends, a lot of tourists are coming in with a lot of luggage in their cars adding to the traffic, and it would be difficult to get them to move onto the trains for physical reasons.
As somebody who uses public transport regularly, I'm more than happy, of course, to promote its merits. But, I think, sometimes you have to accept, where you have a problem, yes, you can promote modal shift to an extent, but, nevertheless, there will be occasions when, actually, building a new road will be important. The same applies, of course, to the Newtown bypass, where it would be unrealistic to expect modal shift to reduce traffic in Newtown. That's why, of course, we are so pleased to be able to take forward the Newtown bypass and to finance it.
Recently, the Conservatives have been tying in promises of security on funding for Wales, vital for infrastructure spend, to proposals for the devolution of more powers. Now the BBC is reporting that there will be no rush to bring in further devolution, certainly not in the first year of this Government. How does that affect your proposals for investing in infrastructure, including road infrastructure in Wales, and how do you plan to lobby UK Government on that funding and devolution issue?
We don't know. He is right to say that there has been much talk that there will be a rowing back from the promise that was given. We have to wait and see. But, it would be extraordinary if the promise not to move forward with further devolution in Wales was not kept and broken within a week of the Government coming into power. You know, I think that the people of Wales would find that very difficult to accept—to see a promise broken that quickly. But, let's wait and see.
From our point of view, we do not accept that, somehow, Scotland and Wales have to proceed at different speeds in terms of the legislation proceeding through Westminster. If this is going to be done properly, as I've said many, many times before, there has to be a proper four-nation approach to devolution and to the constitution. Unfortunately, I don't see signs of it so far and I think that will not be to the UK's good over the next five years.
4. Will the First Minister provide an outline of the main objectives of orthodontic service provision in Wales? OAQ(4)2261(FM)
Our main objective is to ensure health boards provide orthodontic services that meet the clinically assessed dental health needs of their population—that is evident. A recent independent report highlights the improvements that have taken place.
Thank you. I’ve received a number of complaints recently that young people are on waiting lists for up to three years. What discussions are being had on this and what direction is given to the health boards to reduce these waiting times? What support have they outlined to improve the situation?
I understand that Hywel Dda Local Health Board has secured outreach clinics within its area, and I understand now that the time people have to wait for an assessment has been reduced significantly. So, we hope that this trend will continue over the ensuing months.
Brif Weinidog, maddeuwch i mi, ond roedd yr ateb yna’n swnio braidd yn hunanfodlon gan Lywodraeth Cymru. Methwyd yr amseroedd aros hyn ar gyfer triniaeth orthodontig flwyddyn ar ôl blwyddyn am gyhyd ag yr ydych chi wedi bod yn Brif Weinidog. Mae rhai pobl yng Nghymru’n aros dros dair blynedd a hanner i gael eu hapwyntiadau gydag orthodeintydd yn ysbytai Cymru. Mae hynny'n gwbl annerbyniol. Os ydych chi mor hunanfodlon am hyn, beth ydych chi'n mynd i'w wneud am y broblem amseroedd aros cyffredinol sydd gan eich Llywodraeth yma yng Nghymru, a wrthodwyd mor bendant yn y polau mewn rhai rhannau o’r gogledd, yn enwedig yn Nyffryn Clwyd?
Well, he clearly didn’t listen carefully to what I’ve just said, but then he wouldn’t, would he, because he had his view that he wanted to put beforehand. Hywel Dda provided additional outreach clinics and referral to assessment—
I’ve listened very carefully. What are you doing about it?
That has reduced significantly—. If he listened carefully, he might learn something. And the time has been reduced significantly to some four to six weeks.
Darren Millar, will you wait to reply?
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
That is what we have done. If he’d listen more carefully, he would get the answers that he seeks.
Darren Millar. Have you finished, First Minister?
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you. Lindsay Whittle.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, you’ve told us about Hywel Dda, and thank you for that, but what specific achievements can you tell us about, regarding orthodontics, measured against the actual oral health plan? Is any of the oral health plan working? It’s clearly doing okay in Hywel Dda, but there are some serious inconsistencies in services available across Wales. What’s happening with the rest of Wales? We don’t just represent Hywel Dda, with the greatest of respect to Hywel Dda.
Well we have been—[Interruption.] I don’t want to add to the discord on the Plaid benches there, but we have been driving through efficiencies and improvements in orthodontic services over the last three years; for example, there has been a 59 per cent reduction in the number of assess and review appointments—that’s a major efficiency gain. It’s meant that health boards have been able to commission an additional 533 patients per year starting treatment, and those actions, of course, are helping to improve the efficiency of the system, and we will continue to drive that efficiency in the future.
Economi Wledig Cymru
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the future prospects for the Welsh rural economy? OAQ(4)2268(FM)
Gwnaf. Rydym ni wedi ymrwymo i ddarparu swyddi a thwf ledled Cymru, ac rydym ni’n cydnabod pwysigrwydd yr economi wledig, ac rydym ni’n darparu cymorth i fusnesau gychwyn, tyfu a ffynnu trwy Busnes Cymru a Chyswllt Ffermio.
I thank the First Minister very much for that response. At a recent meeting of local farmers in mid Wales, significant concerns were expressed regarding the current lack of grid capacity in the area to connect renewable energy projects. First Minister, what assessment have you made of how many businesses have been dissuaded from inward investment and expansion, particularly in the Newtown and Welshpool area, by this current problem? What engagement do you plan with the newly appointed Minister for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, in this regard?
The mid Wales grid is fragile; we know that. It doesn’t have a lot of capacity, and we do know that it is a potential brake on growth in the area. Of course, that does mean that in order to expand, or to improve rather, grid capacity, and indeed resilience, there need to be bigger pylons, and we know where that takes us in terms of the discussions that have been in previous months and years within this Assembly. But the reality is that the grid is fragile. If the grid is to be expanded in the future, and made more resilient and stronger, it’s inevitable that there’ll be a need to examine once again what the cabling looks like. These are matters for the UK Government, of course. These are not matters that are devolved, and it’s for the public to assess how that balance is actually created between, on the one hand, the need to ensure resilience and greater capacity, and on the other hand, the visual impact of what that capacity would mean.
You have referred, First Minister, to the grid being fragile and this being a barrier to businesses that need an increased supply, but it’s my understanding that the project proposed by National Grid is to only take power out and not to bring power in. But, can I just confirm: do you have a different understanding to me?
No. As far as the National Grid is concerned, the grid changes that they propose—and it’s for the Conservative Government to examine—involve primarily the power being taken out of the areas where there are proposed windfarms. Nevertheless, the fragility of the grid, in terms of it being able to service businesses, is clear. As I say, it’s now a matter for him and his party to decide what the grid network will look like in his constituency.
A gaf i ehangu’r cwestiwn i’r mater o raglen datblygu gwledig yn gyffredinol a gofyn i’r Prif Weinidog a all e roi sicrwydd i’r cymunedau gwledig y bydd y cyllid a arbedwyd gan Lywodraeth Cymru—gan y Gweinidog blaenorol—i’w ailddosbarthu drwy ddatblygiadau rhaglen datblygu gwledig, y bydd hwnnw’n cael ei fuddsoddi yn sylweddol mewn mentrau a fydd yn ychwanegu gwerth at gynnyrch amaethyddol, fel y datblygiad ardderchog yn y diwydiant llaeth sydd ar y foment hon yn dechrau cael ei adeiladu yn Rhydygwystl ger Chwilog yn fy etholaeth i?
Yr Arglwydd / Lord Elis-Thomas
Of course, I would expect that to happen and also to assist businesses that aren’t part of the agriculture sector in order to secure more jobs in rural Wales. So, I would expect that to happen anyway. One of the things that, of course, will be of great help is Superfast Cymru and the fact that 96 per cent of buildings in Wales will have access to Superfast Cymru by September of next year, and we’re considering at present how to reach the remaining 4 per cent too. That will be a significant investment as regards the broadband network in rural Wales.
The Independent Retail Sector
6. What action is the Welsh Government taking to support the independent retail sector? OAQ(4)2271(FM)
We’ve taken action to support businesses in Wales across all sectors, including retail. For example, last month we launched the Wales retail relief scheme, which will provide up to £1,500 of business rates relief to qualifying retail and food and drinks premises.
Thank you, First Minister. In Pontardawe, in my own constituency, we have seen a swift increase in the number of independent retailers: Fresh to Go, Decorum and Blissful Bakes. I can particularly recommend their banoffee cakes. All of these have established over the past year and all are doing very well. As we know, variety on the high street is a great attraction for tourists and in small towns such as Pontardawe, which has a population of 5,000, this is particularly important. The Welsh Government has done excellent work in supporting business improvement districts in many larger towns. Do you believe, First Minister, that it would be of great value to promote applications from smaller towns also, or even to create a new scheme to target smaller towns with high tourist potential?
Well, it’s true to say, of course, that the BIDs themselves—there are 10 of them, some of them in quite rural towns and others in larger towns—this is a scheme that will benefit those areas. In future, ultimately, we will have to continue to consider how that scheme, or a new scheme, might assist towns such as Pontardawe and towns of the same size, in order to ensure that they can grow in a sustainable way in future.
Bydd y Prif Weinidog yn gwybod mai’r diwydiant manwerthu yw'r ail gyflogwr preifat mwyaf yng Nghymru, yn cyflogi dros 130,000 o bobl. Nawr, i lawer o gwmnïau, mae’r dreth gorfforaeth yn llai o bryder nag ardrethi busnes. Onid yw'n bryd erbyn hyn i ymestyn eich cynllun, yn enwedig ar gyfer busnesau bach?
We will not put our small businesses in a more difficult position than exists elsewhere in the UK. However, if it is a proposal from the Welsh Conservatives that they wish to extend any scheme, they will have to explain where the money comes from to do that. That, I think, is the responsible thing to do.
Brif Weinidog, fel rŷm ni i gyd yn gwybod, mae yna her yn ein wynebu ni o ran cynyddu’r economi a chreu economi hyfyw y tu allan i goridorau’r M4 a’r A55. A ydych chi’n gallu gweld manwerthu fel modd nid yn unig i greu economi hyfyw yn ein trefi bach ni, ac yn enwedig trefi marchnad yng nghefn gwlad, ond yn fodd hefyd i fod yn hwb ar gyfer busnesau eraill yn yr ardal?
It depends, in a way, on how the BIDs work. Aberystwyth is one, of course, and Abergavenny is another; Colwyn Bay, Caernarfon, Bangor. We’re talking about towns that aren’t large, but they are significant in their areas and extremely important as centres within their regions. So, we understand, of course, that we must secure sustainability in Welsh towns, and the only way of doing that is to use the businesses improvement districts, the BIDs, and also, of course, the money that we’ve invested through the ‘Vibrant and Viable Places’ scheme.
Brif Weinidog, mae'r siambr fasnach ym Mhort Talbot yn amcangyfrif yn fras mai gostyngiad o 20 y cant i nifer yr ymwelwyr fu effaith cau cyffordd 41 ar fusnesau lleol, yn enwedig manwerthwyr annibynnol. A allwch chi roi syniad i ni pryd bydd yr ansicrwydd ynghylch dyfodol Port Talbot yn dod i ben, ac y byddwch chi’n gallu cyhoeddi penderfyniad ynghylch pa un a fydd cyffordd 41 yn cau’n barhaol ai peidio?
Yes, there will be an announcement later this month.
Cwpan Rygbi’r Byd 2015
7. Will the First Minister make a statement on maximising the benefits of the 2015 Rugby World Cup matches that will be played in Cardiff? OAQ(4)2269(FM)
Gwnaf. Rydym ni wedi bod yn gweithio ar y cyd â Lloegr 2015 i sicrhau bod yr wyth gem yng Nghymru yn sicrhau'r budd mwyaf posibl i Gymru, gan gynnwys hyrwyddo unwaith eto y cynnydd i broffil rhyngwladol Cymru a fydd yn codi o ganlyniad i'r digwyddiad.
Thank you for that answer. First Minister, the Rugby World Cup will be a fantastic opportunity to showcase the very best of what Wales has to offer to an international audience. What action is the Welsh Government taking to encourage fans to visit tourist attractions in Wales?
We’re working with VisitBritain to encourage official tour operators to include Wales in their fan itineraries. We’ve taken advertising space in the relevant official travel guides with which visiting fans will plan their trip around the UK. We’re also undertaking marketing activities with selected overseas fans who are travelling to Wales to see their home team play.
Further to my friend’s question, the Rugby World Cup affords a great opportunity to promote Wales abroad. The fact is that only 3%—only three 3%—of overseas visitors to the United Kingdom spend a night in Wales. This demonstrates that the Welsh Government has failed to successfully promote Wales as a tourist destination. What action will the First Minister take to ensure we maximise the full potential presented by the Rugby World Cup with the promotion of Wales to foreign visitors?
We’ve just had some of the best tourism figures, in terms of visitors to Wales, we’ve ever had, so it shows the work that we are doing is working. Bear in mind that when his party was in Government in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, the Wales Tourist Board was banned from marketing Wales abroad. So, we’re not going to take any lessons from people who actually prevented Wales from being marketed abroad, especially as we celebrate the best tourism figures that we’ve had for many, many years.
Jest yn dilyn ymlaen o’r cwestiwn blaenorol, gyda’r wyth gwlad sydd yn mynd i fod yn chwarae eu gemau yma, sef Uruguay, Fiji, Iwerddon, Canada, pa waith a ydych chi wedi bod yn ei wneud yn y gwledydd penodol hynny er mwyn eu hannog i aros yng Nghymru tra’u bod draw fan hyn, oherwydd, os oes gemau ganddynt yn y stadiwm, mae’n gwneud mwy o synnwyr iddyn nhw wario eu harian a threulio amser yma yng Nghymru nag yw e i dreulio’r amser hynny yn Lloegr?
To return to what I was saying previously, we’ve been working with the companies that will be running the tours for people coming in to the world cup in order to ensure that the tours themselves include Wales. Also, we’ve been working with VisitBritain to target people who will be coming in as individuals in order to ensure that they stay in Wales itself. Very many people will be watching the matches, staying overnight and then moving on; others will wish to stay for longer and, by working in the way that I’ve already mentioned, we’re confident that more people will stay in Wales because of the world cup itself.
Brif Weinidog, yn ôl eich datganiad ar uwchgynhadledd NATO ar 16 Rhagfyr, dywedasoch fod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi gwario £1 filiwn yn hyrwyddo Cymru ar lwyfan y byd gan ddefnyddio’r digwyddiad mawr hwnnw. A allwch chi ddweud wrthym pa ddadansoddiad yr ydych chi wedi ei wneud o ba fath o weithgareddau sydd fwyaf effeithiol ar gyfer cyrraedd cynulleidfa fyd-eang a faint ydych chi’n bwriadu ei fuddsoddi yn ein hyrwyddo ni yn ystod Cwpan Rygbi'r Byd hefyd?
In terms of the NATO summit, it was hugely important in terms of showcasing Wales—it was NATO Wales. It worked very well in terms of the fact that many people came to Wales who probably would not have come to Wales, or who were coming to Wales for the first time. It was important to ensure that it was understood that we had in Wales a facility that could host an event of that size, as it did with the Ryder Cup in 2010. In terms of promoting Wales for those coming in for the Rugby World Cup, as I say, we’re working with organisations such as VisitBritain to make sure that, when people come to the world cup, they come to Wales and stay in Wales as well.
Gofal Iechyd Llygaid
8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Welsh Government's eye health care delivery plan? OAQ(4)2272(FM)
Ni yw’r unig Lywodraeth yn y byd o hyd sydd â chynllun cyflenwi gofal iechyd llygaid. Bu cynnydd sylweddol dros y 12 mis diwethaf. Mae hyn yn deyrnged i bawb dan sylw, gan gynnwys staff y GIG a'r trydydd sector.
Thank you for that. This lunch time, I was delighted to sponsor the annual Wales vision strategy event here in the Senedd, where the Deputy Minister gave a speech outlining the work of the Welsh Government, which was widely welcomed. Many of the people present have been central in the drive to improve eye care services in Wales, and I know that you recognise their dedication and hard work, but, over the next 25 years, the number of people with sight loss is expected to double. So, First Minister, can you provide an update on the work that’s going on to ensure health statistics and demographics are being routinely included in NHS needs assessments?
Yes. The integrated medium-term plans of health boards, and, indeed, our trusts, are underpinned by comprehensive needs assessments. They cover both the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the resident population. Those plans are scrutinised by the health boards and the trusts, and ourselves as Welsh Government, to ensure that health statistics and demographics are routinely included in order, of course, to make sure that the plan continues to be effective.
Minister, the delivery plan acknowledges the need to work on the delays—and that was raised a lot in the plan—in patients being seen for follow-up treatment. Will the Minister provide an update on the action taken by your Government to work with the NHS Wales Informatics Service to develop electronic referrals and electronic patient records for eye care in order to deal with this problem?
Yes, we work very closely with them. It’s important that the patients involved do not experience any delays. We have invested £34 million in extra eye care in terms of primary and secondary care over the past three years, and, indeed, provided new treatment. It was only in 2007 that there was no treatment available for wet age-related macular degeneration. Now, of course, 16,000 courses of treatment are being provided in Wales, and that helps, of course, to prevent sight loss that was caused by wet AMD—a treatment that wasn’t available, of course, before 2007.
Brif Weinidog, rwy’n derbyn bod y galw yn cynyddu, ond, yn ôl y cynllun gweithredol, mae yna dros 7,800 o bobl yn y gogledd ar hyn o bryd yn aros am driniaeth ar eu llygaid, yn cynnwys 568 sydd wedi aros dros 36 wythnos. Felly, os ydych yn gwneud yr holl fonitro yma, sut y gallwch chi sicrhau pobl yn y gogledd bod y sefyllfa yn mynd i wella, wrth ystyried, ar hyn o bryd, mai prif ymateb y bwrdd iechyd, mae’n amlwg, ydy prynu gwasanaethau o Loegr?
Well, what’s important is that people should receive the service, in my view. In terms of where it comes from, in terms of England or Wales, historically we’ve used services in England, and that’s not going to change. Can I say that eight out of every 10 people wait fewer than 26 weeks for treatment, and, of those, half again are waiting for fewer than 11 weeks? We want to ensure that the waiting time reduces again over the next months.
Diolch yn fawr, Brif Weinidog.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to item 2, which is the business statement, and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Diolch, Lywydd. I’ve one change to announce to this week’s business. My oral statement on EU funding ambassadors has been postponed from today to next Tuesday, 19 May. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement, which can be found among the agenda papers available to Members electronically.
Two issues I’d like to raise with you, Minister: firstly, last Sunday was World Lupus Day, which focuses on the need for increased public awareness and understanding of lupus, as well as improved diagnosis times and treatment for the condition. It’s a serious chronic illness, for which there is no cure, and there are a number of people living in Wales who struggle with it every day. I wonder if we could have an update from your Government—maybe from the health Minister—about how Welsh Government policies are specifically helping to raise the profile of this condition and to help the sufferers.
Secondly, I have long been a campaigner of the dark skies project—along with William Powell, of course—which saw the Brecon Beacons National Park granted official dark sky status back in 2013. As part of Cadw’s support for this project and Welsh Government support, Tintern abbey will be hosting late-night astronomy sessions this coming weekend. I will be attending, and you are more than welcome to join me as well, if you like. This is a great opportunity for young people to learn more about the night sky. Ninety per cent of Wales already has dark sky status; I wonder if you could tell us how Welsh Government policies will help us push forward to, ultimately, 100 per cent status.
I thank Nick Ramsay for both those questions. I’m sure that the Minister will consider updating on raising awareness, as you say, most importantly, in terms of the first point you made. Secondly, I know of your interest and support for the dark skies project—I think we might have once jointly-sponsored an event here in the Senedd on this matter—in terms of opportunities, and also the educational opportunities in terms of astronomy with our young people. So, I’m not sure whether I can join you at Tintern abbey, Nick Ramsay, but I know that members of the public will be. Of course, I’m very much aware of the facility we’ve got in my constituency, in Dyffryn Gardens, which you will also be aware of, where we can look at the night sky.
Minister, the Conservative Government has made it very clear that it intends to put on the parliamentary agenda the abolition of the Hunting Act 2004 to re-allow hunting of live animals by dogs. Now, this is a matter that is not devolved to us, although it clearly fits in with the agricultural agenda, but also it is very clear that around 80 per cent of the population of Wales is dead opposed to the ripping apart of live animals as a sport with dogs. Now, will the Government be considering making time available, so we consider the implications of those proposals, but also that this is clearly a matter that should be devolved to Wales, so that we can decide it in this Chamber?
Well, of course, Mick Antoniw, this is one of many items, I believe, in the Conservative manifesto that will raise concerns, as you say, with 80 per cent, at least, of the population. I think there will be many other items also in the manifesto; we will see what emerges in the Queen’s Speech. I’m sure that we will have to find time to address these items to represent the people of Wales in terms of their opinions in terms of those concerns.
Weinidog, rŷm ni newydd glywed y Prif Weinidog yn dweud y bydd yn cael galwad ffôn neu sgwrs ffôn gyda Phrif Weinidog y Deyrnas Gyfunol brynhawn yma. Rwy’n cymryd mai dyna’r sgwrs gyntaf ffurfiol y maen nhw’n ei chael—ers yr etholiad beth bynnag. A ydych chi’n cofio, yn ystod ymgyrch yr etholiad, fe ddaeth George Osborne mor bell dros y ffin â’r Clas-ar-Wy, ger y Gelli, a datgan y byddem ni’n gweld Deddf Cymru o fewn 100 diwrnod o ddyddiad yr etholiad cyffredinol? Mae nawr yn ymddangos bod y 100 diwrnod yna wedi mynd yn ofer ac yn angof, a bod yn rhaid i ni aros hyd at flwyddyn, efallai, ar gyfer Deddf o’r fath. A oes modd i ni gael datganiad, felly, gan y Prif Weinidog, yn sgil ei sgwrs heddiw gyda’r Prif Weinidog yn Llundain ynglŷn â’r amserlen ar gyfer y Ddeddf, gan fod yna gytundeb pob plaid, yn y lle hwn, ar gyfer gweithredu argymhellion Silk a rhannau o argymhellion rhan 2 o gomisiwn Silk hefyd?
Wel, rwy’n ddiolchgar iawn i Simon Thomas am y cwestiwn buddiol ac adeiladol iawn yna. Mae angen eglurder arnom, fel y dywedwch, yn sicr gan fod yr addewid hwnnw wedi’i wneud ac mae'n rhaid inni sicrhau na chaiff Cymru ei gadael ar ôl, ac yn arbennig, byddwn i’n dweud, oherwydd bod gennym gytundeb trawsbleidiol ar sut y dylem fwrw ymlaen â hyn o ran comisiwn Silk, ac yn wir mae hynny wedi’i adlewyrchu mewn maniffestos o ran rhoi’r cyllid gwaelodol ar waith.
Minister, it is Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and I’m sure you’ll join me in welcoming the campaigns that have improved the position for people who do suffer from mental ill health. However, I would very much welcome a statement from the Welsh Government on the importance that they place on good mental health. Also, what work has been done in the last year to improve the awareness among public sector workers of the role that they can play in assisting people with mental ill health—particularly, perhaps, health workers, who are not always as aware of the impact of their words as, perhaps, we would wish them to be? That would be most appreciated.
On a second matter, I was shocked to discover yesterday that Roath Library in Cardiff is scheduled for closure—just two months after we were told by Cardiff Council that it was saved, along with all of the other libraries in Cardiff. Obviously, this throws all of the consultation process into absolute chaos. It means that the people of Roath have had no opportunity to represent themselves. I wonder if I could ask for a written statement from the Minister, outlining what dialogue he’s had with local authorities on their obligations to make sure that library provision is adequate across our cities, our communities, but also that, when closures are, sadly, considered, they will be properly consulted upon in an open and honest and professional manner.
In terms of your first point, clearly, the awareness that we raise—not just in terms of our funding of mental health services in Wales but also tackling the stigma and raising awareness, of course—is at the forefront of the priorities of the health and social services Minister, and I’m sure the Minister will want to update us on that in terms of not only the financial prioritisation that we’re giving but also in terms of the awareness campaigns that, of course, we’re supporting, many of which are taken forward by some of the third sector organisations, in terms of raising awareness about mental health.
Of course, the issues in terms of decisions made by local authorities are for those local authorities. In the context of the most difficult time, because of the cuts that, of course, we have suffered in Wales—cuts of £1.4 billion—we are protecting the local authorities as far as we can, but, obviously, we’re getting to the point where local government now has also to make very tough and difficult decisions. What I would say is that not only the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism but also I as Minister for Finance and Government Business have produced very important guidance, particularly in terms of community asset transfers. Of course, I’ve made a statement on this, and you’ll be aware of this to share with your constituents.
I call for a single statement on women’s clinical services at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. The Minister might be aware that at Mold Crown Court last Friday, the British Medical Association legal team successfully applied for an interim injunction prohibiting the health board from implementing its plans and for full disclosure of documents relating to the closure decision by the health board. Now, I know you cannot comment on legal matters and ongoing legal proceedings, but I’ve been advised—I’ve had feedback from midwives who feel under extreme scrutiny and great pressure—that the health board are trying to engineer some sort of crisis so they can get around the injunction, with staffing so tight that they wouldn’t need many to resign before rotas become unworkable, and that at least five midwives have already accepted jobs in Chester, following open interview, and that another similar sort of day is planned at Arrowe Park Hospital soon, when other nurses and midwives from Ysbyty Glan Clwyd will be attending. I hope you won’t, on this occasion, pass the buck to the health board, because, if you do, we’ll have to question what your Government is for. I hope you will take responsibility and intervene to ensure that, if the outcome of this legal action is to lead to the unit staying open, they aren’t closed by default because the staff have all been forced to leave.
Well, of course, Mark Isherwood is clearly aware, and he made this point in terms of what we can and cannot say, that the legal challenge against the health board’s temporary changes was heard on 7 and 8 May, and we do await the outcome from the court.
Minister, you’ll be aware that the human papilloma virus vaccine has been offered to young women and teenage girls for some time now to protect them from the cervical cancer caused by the warts virus. I wonder if you’d arrange for the health Minister to issue a statement on his intention or otherwise to extend this to the other 50% of the population to protect them from the cancer that they might develop from the exact same virus.
I thank Jocelyn Davies for that question, and I will ask the Minister for Health and Social Services to update on the matter.
Minister, today, children from year 5 and year 6 of Rhayader primary school were visiting the Assembly. They were greatly concerned over their future, given that Powys County Council has raised questions over the future of secondary education in Radnorshire, proposing, potentially, the closure of Llandrindod High School. One of the reasons why Powys say they need to make these devastating changes is the difficulty in the recruitment and retention of headteachers and senior leaders in schools. What steps is the Welsh Government taking to ensure that there is an adequate supply of headteachers and those people willing to take on senior leadership roles within our secondary schools so that we don’t have to resort to closing institutions and making pupils travel ever increasing distances to receive their secondary education?
Well, I believe, Kirsty Williams, you will be reassured by the work that the Minister for Education and Skills is undertaking to ensure that we do have routes to ensure we have the leadership that is required in order to encourage and train teachers to move into those important roles that they play, because, of course, this is key in terms of being able to sustain primary education at that excellent level in your community.
Thank you, Minister.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move on to item 3, which is the statement by the Minister for Public Services on the anniversary of VE Day and working with and supporting our armed forces community today. I call on Leighton Andrews.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Llywydd, Members will be well aware of the events that have taken place over the last few days to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day.
On 8 May, the First Minister attended a service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in London, laying a wreath on behalf of the Welsh Government and people of Wales, and also attended a service of thanksgiving at Westminster abbey on 10 May. I attended commemorations in Wales at a service of remembrance in Cardiff castle on 8 May, laying a wreath on behalf of the Welsh Government and the people of Wales in remembrance of those who fought and lost their lives.
Many people who were present at other events held at towns and cities across Wales were present and celebrating on VE Day itself, in 1945. But, this is also an opportunity for the younger generation to learn and appreciate the sacrifices our servicemen and women went through in defending our freedoms. With this in mind, and in remembrance of all the other conflicts that have taken place over the years that involved our armed services, I’d like to set out the support and services that the Welsh Government is providing today to those who have served and to their families.
Transition into civilian life can be a very daunting experience for an unfortunate few from the services, and their families, as they leave. Of course, the majority of service leavers adapt into civilian life effectively, using their skills to find themselves meaningful employment, and contributing to the communities in which they have settled. A few require our support, as a failed transition can lead to multiple and complex problems, leading to a breakdown of relationships, unemployment, or health issues. The Welsh Government has measures in place to support people where necessary, through our package of support.
The package of support was first published in 2011, and reviewed in 2013, and sets out the support available across ministerial portfolios, such as health and social services, housing, and education. I have agreed that the package of support should be reviewed again this year, to include new and developing commitments, both within Welsh Government policy areas, and support organisations, such as the Royal British Legion. This will also ensure current changes to new information and appropriate signposting are included in the updated version. I will be launching the updated package of support in late autumn.
You will all have noted the recent announcement by the Deputy Minister for Health of increased recurrent funding of £100,000 from 2015-16, which is additional to the £485,000 per annum for Veterans’ NHS Wales. This will ensure demand is met and waiting times minimised for those accessing the service in Wales. This is the only service of its kind in the UK. In addition to this, on 13 March, the Deputy Minister for Health also announced a £50 million investment in programmes to tackle drug and alcohol abuse over the next year. Ex-service personnel will benefit from this funding, demonstrating our clear commitment to supporting our veterans and reducing the harm caused by substance misuse. Welsh Government has also invested £650,000 in improving access to psychological therapies during the last year.
We have also extended the homebuy scheme to cover widows and widowers of personnel killed in action. The £2 million funding made available in 2013-14 to provide housing for armed forces service leavers in Wales has been allocated to local authorities in Wales. To date, this has helped eight service leavers and their families for—[Interruption.]
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Sorry, there’s a sound coming on from behind.
Yes, carry on.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
To date, this has helped eight service leavers and their families find suitable accommodation, with other new-build homes awaiting completion for occupancy by ex-service personnel and their families. In Wales, we have maintained full entitlements to our council tax support and housing benefit for a further two years, for all local authorities, in order to disregard war disablement pension and armed forces compensation scheme when means testing for council-delivered support.
The Minister for Education and Skills and I will jointly sponsor the launch of Supporting Service Children in Education Cymru on 23 June. This provides guidance, advice and signposting on supporting service children in education in Wales. It also looks at the potential issues affecting service children as a result of mobility and deployment. The project has been funded through the community covenant grant.
I’m pleased to tell you that, earlier in the year, the Welsh Government received a silver award from the Ministry of Defence’s employer recognition scheme for our exemplary reservist policy. We currently employ nine reservists who bring many benefits to the workplace. We will continue to look at our employer support for reservists; we value their contribution and commitment to our organisation and the wider community. At the last covenant champions event in November 2014, I launched an awareness campaign to promote the benefits of signing up to the defence privilege card with Armed Forces personnel in Wales. The campaign is being run until Armed Forces Day in June. I’m delighted to tell you that the increase in veterans signing up for the card has already exceeded the target and is currently standing at 52.3 per cent, compared with a UK increase of 13.9 per cent. These bi-annual community covenant events, supported and managed by the Welsh Government, are a platform for sharing information and good practice and for discussing more joined-up working and shared services across public, private and third sector organisations.
As mentioned previously, this year is an important year for commemoration. The events, commemorations and celebrations that have taken place across Wales throughout the VE Day events are a fitting tribute to those who gave so much for our freedom. To ensure that we don’t forget these very important milestones in our history, and to build a better future and improved welfare for our armed forces community today, we must continue to work together across organisations and service providers to identify priorities going forward and the best ways to deliver those priorities for our armed forces personnel.
Three days of VE Day celebrations paid fitting tribute to those who did so much to defend our United Kingdom and ensure victory in Europe. It was right to take time to reflect on the sacrifices made not just by those in the armed forces, but by civilians, such as land girls and those in reserved occupations, and to make sure the whole of the UK had the chance to take part in commemorating this momentous anniversary, remembering those who gave so much for our freedom.
In your statement, you refer to the £2 million funding to provide housing for armed forces service leavers. I presume this is the Ministry of Defence LIBOR money. I’ve been pleased to write in support of the Wales Homes for Veterans Initiative for further money as we go forward, but how is the Welsh Government ensuring that the properties on the various housing association sites under this scheme will be earmarked for ex-forces personnel, or even targeted at them to ensure that they don’t just become general needs housing, particularly noting that you only indicate eight allocations so far?
With reference to matters raised in this Chamber many times about the treatment of the war disablement pension within the financial assessment process for social care, and its disparity with the treatment of people receiving the armed forces compensation scheme, the First Minister wrote to me advising that the Minister for Health and Social Services is now considering the disparity in the treatment of these different schemes, with a view to developing a new charging and financial assessment framework. I wonder if you’re able to update us on that, as that letter was now two months ago.
At a recent cross-party group on armed forces, chaired by my colleague, Darren Millar, a question was raised on how much Welsh Government received via the Barnett formula as a result of the school cadet expansion programme in England. I wonder if you could indicate that for us. There was an early trial in Llanwern and Treorchy, but, other than that, Wales hasn’t yet been involved, although another school, namely Aberdare Community School, has expressed an interest, and there’s a need to develop links with north Wales schools as well.
In terms of the armed forces covenant, we heard again at the cross-party group that the covenant is full of strong words but it needs to link to action, and that armed forces champions in local authorities and NHS Wales are trying hard but often lack understanding. Again, will you take that on board, and will you and your colleagues advise how you propose to address that?
In terms of Veterans’ NHS Wales, which, of course, you do refer to, the point was made by the clinicians at the meeting of the cross-party group that the initial funding of £100,000 was over seven months, the additional £100,000 recently announced is over 12 months, and that there’s £170,000 gap. They also said that the veterans funding in Wales for this service is well below that for Scotland and England, and that issues with funding had created a massive level of uncertainty amongst staff and patients. They estimated that they actually needed £0.5 million to start doing outreach work in Welsh prisons, with female veterans, families of veterans and serving personnel sick at home who are going to be medically discharged to the NHS. I wonder if you could comment on their concerns.
In terms of calls for an armed forces commissioner for the armed forces community in Wales, we heard that this is doing well in Scotland, where a good understanding of veterans and their needs is providing dividends, but there is a need to sustain momentum. Again, can you update us on the Welsh Government support regarding this scheme? A concern, finally, was raised at the meeting regarding finding premises for Veterans’ NHS Wales in north Wales, where there were problems, they told us, with Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board.
Finally, if I may refer to neurolinguistic programming—an alternative therapy for ex-forces personnel and others with post-traumatic stress disorder and other complex psychological needs—noting that, apparently, the scheme is going to be accredited by the Royal College of Nursing later this year. There is a Bridgend-based charity working with Dr Neil Kitchener, Professor Neil Greenberg, Professor Jackie Stuart and King’s College London in developing research into a neurolinguistic protocol for the treatment of military complex PTSD. Would the Welsh Government look at supporting the research into this NLP protocol that would add to the available therapies for the treatment of PTSD for ex-forces personnel in Wales? Thank you.
Llywydd, Mark Isherwood is right to refer to the three days of commemoration and the way in which it has been supported across Wales and across the United Kingdom. Indeed, I was very pleased to be present on Sunday at the opening of the new war memorial in Maerdy in my own constituency, which provided a focus for intergenerational understanding of these events. I think it will play a very valuable role in that community and I want to commend the work done by John Thomas and other volunteers in bringing that war memorial into operation.
The Member asks specifically about housing, and I think it’s important to say that not only do we have, of course, the £2 million of funding made available in 2013-14, which was allocated to local authorities and was advertised, let me say, through the Ministry of Defence joint housing advice office as part of their referral scheme—and we had, I think, 15 expressions of interest initially on that—but we also, of course, have the Housing (Wales) Act 2014 that introduces a new framework for tackling homelessness in Wales from 27 April, which will strengthen the protection for all groups, including veterans. A new duty to help prevent homelessness will require local authorities to work with other agencies, including welfare services for veterans, to help them when they are at risk and, indeed, if they become homeless. A consultation on the statutory guidance to support this legislation has invited views from the armed forces welfare sector on how the guidance can be strengthened.
The Member asked about the issue of the charging regime under the new framework. That is being taken forward and will come into effect under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. There will be a tranche 2 consultation on that. The treatment of war disablement pensions will form part of the overall review of the current charging disregards. That will feature in the consultation on the regulations to be made under the Act.
I’m very pleased he drew attention to the school cadet expansion scheme, because, of course, Treorchy comprehensive in my own constituency was the first state school in Wales to support a cadet scheme. That has been very successful and I was very pleased that the headteacher of Treorchy comprehensive was present with me at Windsor castle at the event of the new colours being given by Her Majesty just two weeks ago. I’m also pleased at the developments in Llanwern. There are opportunities, I think, for further expansion, and I know that the armed forces themselves are very keen to give that support.
In respect of the covenant, as I said, we will review the package of support, and I would certainly want to take on board any suggestions that come from the armed forces welfare sector as to how we strengthen the covenant and, indeed, its delivery at a local level. I am attending a further event in that regard in Wrexham later this week.
In respect of the specific moneys made available through the health service, the £100,000 on the Veterans’ NHS Wales, I think that that has been a successful investment. It’s provided flexibility to maintain demand for the service and to sustain shorter waiting times for veterans to access the service. We have also, of course, invested £650,000 in improving access to psychological therapies during the current year. To embed talking therapies in the longer term, we’ve also commissioned a national action plan that will enable health boards to ensure consistent provision of talking therapies for all their population, including veterans. The health Minister has obviously heard what the Member had to say in respect of PTSD, and I will have further conversations with him about that.
Thank you, Minister, for your statement. As you said, transition can be daunting for people moving back into civilian life, and, often, they may have seen dreadful things either happening to their friends or things that they’d been asked to do on our behalf. So, post-traumatic stress disorder is a major issue, and I was very pleased recently to visit the British legion shop in the high street in Cardiff, which does provide a very useful open-access, easy-to-find place where people can seek help, either for themselves or for their neighbours who they may be concerned about. However, it’s clear to me that the general public is absolutely signed up to this idea that we need to support our armed forces and give very generously to the various charities that exist. I suppose my question is around how well do we encourage all those different charities to collaborate and work well together, because I have a sizeable number of former armed forces personnel living in my constituency, and some of them don’t seem to be getting the services that they require. Clearly, some outreach is needed to ensure that they are offered what they need. So, I wondered if you could just say what the Government’s role is in ensuring that all the different armed forces charities are working together.
Well, I’m sure my colleague the Member for Cardiff Central will be aware that I, of course, opened the pop-in centre run by the Royal British Legion in St Mary Street just last year. I think it’s had a very significant impact on providing visibility to the Royal British Legion and providing the opportunity for veterans to access services directly. I think the main forum in which we enable third sector organisations that operate on behalf of ex-servicemen and women is through our armed forces expert advisory group. That meets regularly during the course of the year, and a number of those organisations are represented on it.
A gaf i groesawu’r datganiad yma gan y Gweinidog a chroesawu’n fawr iawn yr hyn y mae e wedi ei ddweud ynglŷn â’r gwasanaethau sy’n cael eu hestyn i gyn-filwyr sy’n ei chael hi’n anodd i ddychwelyd i gymdeithas, a hefyd i weddwon milwyr ac i’w teuluoedd nhw? Mae’n eithriadol o bwysig ein bod ni’n sicrhau bod y bobl yma, sydd eisoes wedi cael eu creithio gan ryfel a gan eu profiadau nhw yn y lluoedd arfog, yn cael pob cynhaliaeth bosib. Rwy’n mawr obeithio y bydd yna gefnogaeth drawsbleidiol yn y lle yma ar gyfer y gwasanaethau yma ac y gallwn ni gydweithio er mwyn hyrwyddo’r gwasanaethau hollbwysig yma.
May I also take this opportunity to put on record the need, as we commemorate, to learn the lessons of history? I and some of my fellow Commissioners had the opportunity, with the Deputy Presiding Officer, to visit Bosnia recently, witnessing what happened in Sarajevo and Srebrenica, which reminded us of what can happen as a result of war, and some of the things done by the Serbian forces in that place that were totally inhuman and of the way that people’s lives were scarred and destroyed by those events.
We will have an opportunity here in Wales in July—8 July—to participate in events to mark 20 years since those most appalling events. When we look at what happened in the last century with the two world wars, we must also bear in mind that both wars created the conditions for additional tensions—the first world war led directly to the second world war, and the second world war created those tensions between east and west that led to the cold war. It is exceptionally important that we learn those lessons as we look to the future. In that context, will the Minister agree with me that the European Union is exceptionally important in terms of maintaining stability, not only within Europe but on a global level, and that our membership of the European Union is a means of trying to ensure that we don’t have to face war in Europe ever again?
Diolch i lefarydd Plaid Cymru am ei sylwadau. Rwy'n credu ei fod wedi ein hatgoffa, nid yn unig am yr aberth, ond hefyd am yr anghyfiawnderau a all ddigwydd mewn sefyllfaoedd rhyfel. Bydd yn ymwybodol, yn ogystal â dathliadau diweddar Diwrnod VE, wrth gwrs, ein bod bellach, yn ystod y flwyddyn neu ddwy ddiwethaf, wedi cymryd rhan yn y digwyddiadau Cymru'n Cofio sy’n ymwneud â'r rhyfel byd cyntaf. Mae rhaglen sylweddol o ddigwyddiadau a gweithgareddau ar y gweill yn hynny o beth. Tynnodd sylw penodol at yr ugain mlwynedd ers y digwyddiadau yn Srebrenica ar 8 Gorffennaf. Gwn y bydd yn annog yr Aelodau i nodi’r digwyddiadau hynny. Wrth gwrs, rwyf yn cytuno ag ef mai un o'r pethau sydd wedi galluogi lleihau tensiwn yn Ewrop oedd creu’r Undeb Ewropeaidd, ac rwy’n siŵr y bydd ef a minnau, ac eraill yn y Siambr hon, yn cael cyfle i ddangos yn glir ein hymrwymiad a'n cefnogaeth i barhad yr Undeb Ewropeaidd ac aelodaeth y Deyrnas Unedig ohono yn y dyfodol agos.
Can I thank the Minister for his statement and for reminding us in this Chamber of the importance of VE Day and commemorating those many millions of people who have given their lives in war over the last century? I was very pleased to be able to lay a wreath in Neath, as I am sure you were, on Sunday. Also, I think it’s good that we do commemorate that and join with those who have direct experience of those conflicts, and try to get that lesson across to younger people in terms of what that conflict can mean. Can I also join with Rhodri Glyn Thomas in pressing upon the Chamber the importance of Europe as an institution that has helped us to keep peace, and, of course, of the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights, which came directly from that second world war conflict, and how important that is as well in terms of respect for fellow humans and in trying to ensure that we learn the lessons of those conflicts and the appalling tyranny that spawned the second world war in the first place?
With regard to what we’re able to do here in Wales, Minister, I am aware of the recent report by Professor Rosemary Kennedy into residential provision for veterans, which concluded that there was no evidence of strong support to warrant a residential facility to support veterans with PTSD in Wales. However, there does need to be sufficient capacity in the NHS for members of the armed forces community in Wales who suffer from PTSD to access suitable care, including access to specialist and adequate emergency and respite support. Given that we have no residential facilities here, how is the Welsh Government going to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to support those suffering with PTSD? Will you keep under review the potential need, with your colleague, the health Minister, of course, for such a centre in the future?
The Liberal Democrats also recognise the importance of mental as well as physical health, and acknowledge that, particularly for veterans, mental health issues have previously been untreated due to the perceived stigma attached to seeking help. What action is the Welsh Government taking to work with the Time to Change Wales programme to tackle stigma about mental health problems with a focus on the armed forces? Since 2010, the Welsh Government has invested around £0.5 million annually to support the all-Wales veterans health and wellbeing service in Wales, and an additional £650,000 was announced last summer for the Veterans’ NHS Wales. Could the Minister give an update on how this funding is being spent? Do you have a target for the number of mental health professionals that the Government hopes to employ with this funding, and how is the spending being measured to ensure that we see tangible results rather than just throwing money at the issue in the hope that it will improve?
Finally, Presiding Officer, in relation to the community covenant scheme, there is some excellent work going on in local authorities such as Ceredigion, where the council has launched a dedicated telephone number for members of the armed forces community to receive advice and information from the staff trained by the legion and elsewhere as well. What is the Welsh Government doing to capture good practice around Wales and ensure that it is shared and replicated across the country?
Llywydd, I thank the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for his comments. He started, again, with an endorsement of what had been said by the Plaid Cymru spokesperson in respect of the importance of Europe. He also raised the importance of the Human Rights Act, and, certainly, today I have commissioned work from my officials on the implications of the new UK Government's proposals around the Humans Rights Act, which may well be a subject I need to discuss with the new Justice Secretary, Michael Gove.
He referred specifically to issues around mental health of veterans and, clearly, as a Welsh Government, we have developed a comprehensive strategy, ‘Together for Mental Health’. The work, I think, that we have undertaken with Time to Change Wales in tackling stigma has been supported by all in this Chamber, and a number of Assembly Members have given prominence and have been courageous enough to speak of their own experiences in supporting the issue of tackling stigma.
In respect of the specific issues that he raised around the funding, we continue to meet our programme for government commitment in respect of mental health needs of veterans through support for Veterans’ NHS Wales, which, of course, provides dedicated veteran therapists in each health board, with £485,000 of Welsh Government funding. Since its inception in 2010, the service has received over 1,100 referrals. Last year we had figures that, to 2013-14, it received 395 referrals. Recognising the need, of course, to ensure timely access to treatment, we announced the additional £100,000 already referred to during 2014 to reduce waiting lists. That had a significant effect, which has been seen across Wales.
I certainly am happy to commend best practice in local authorities in respect of services for veterans. That is why we have the community covenant champions in local authorities across Wales and why we meet with them to discuss what can best be done by local authorities and others.
Minister, I, too, want to echo some of the comments that have been made about the tremendous commemoration activity across the United Kingdom last week and over the weekend. It was wonderful to see so many veterans in London, at the cenotaph, to mark the very special anniversary—the seventieth anniversary, of VE Day. Will you join me in condemning those left-wing activists, though, who vandalised war memorials in London over the past week, which I thought was an insult, frankly, to those brave men and women who we, as the rest of the nation, were saluting on that very important day?
Can I also ask you, Minister—? There's been a bit of dithering from the Welsh Government, frankly, on the proposed creation of an armed forces card for Wales. It was some two years ago now, in fact almost three years ago now, when the then Minister responsible for the armed forces told us very clearly that consideration was being given to the establishment of a veterans ID card for Wales and that a task and finish group would be established. That was very welcome news indeed by the armed forces family, and, indeed, by all members on all sides of this Chamber. However, that task and finish group, as I understand it, has completed its work and has reported to the Welsh Government, but I'm not aware of any progress having been made. I'm not aware of any announcements in the pipeline on this and it would be helpful if you could just give us an update as to the status of the work of that task and finish group, so that we can deliver some of the additional benefits that we want to see, on top of the defence privilege card, which has already been established by the work of the UK Government and the Ministry of Defence. We made it quite clear that we want to extend free bus travel, free entry into council swimming pools and Cadw heritage sites, and to create a greater emphasis on identifying veterans in the health system, so that they can ensure that they get access to that priority treatment that they deserve, and are entitled to, as a result of any military service causing them problems with their health.
Can I also ask, Minister, in terms of the resource, which has been—very welcome—put into the Veterans’ NHS Wales service? There is a clear shortfall in the capacity of that service to meet the current levels of demand. That £100,000 has helped to clear some of the backlog, but there is a rising demand for that service as people are becoming more and more aware of it. I know that it’s something that the Government is committed to, and I appreciate that very much indeed, but it would be helpful if you could identify the timescale by which you intend to look again at the resources that that service receives, to make sure that they are actually adequate.
In terms also of the work of the third sector, you made reference—.
Sorry, Minister, I didn’t quite catch that. You made reference to the third sector in your statement—I think it was just to the Royal British Legion. There are obviously many, many organisations that are out there supporting the armed forces community, not least of them are Blind Veterans UK in the north and indeed Cais, through their Change Step programme, which is supporting those individuals who, sometimes, are on the brink of falling into serious problems, but are being rescued from those. The other organisation that is doing some tremendous work, of course, in Wales, is Alabaré, which are establishing, or hoping to establish, a number of veterans homes for those people who need supported accommodation. They have come up with all sorts of problems in the planning process when trying to secure the provision of new homes. Most recently, for example, in Carmarthen, where lots of scaremongering has been going on in communities about the sorts of individuals that they are supporting. What work is the Welsh Government doing to support them in overcoming some of those barriers to delivering these very important supported accommodation places for those people who’ve served in the forces that need them? Thank you.
Llywydd, can I start by saying that I condemn absolutely and without reservation the actions of anyone who vandalises war memorials?
The Member asks specific questions around the possible establishment of the armed forces card, and I will give consideration to that within the context of the review of the package of support that we are taking forward, but I do want to stress the success that we have had in respect of the armed forces discount card, since we launched the advertising campaign last November. As I said, the increase in take-up of that card in Wales is 52.3 per cent, compared to a UK increase of 13.9 per cent. Our campaign on this will run until Armed Forces Day in June, even though it has already exceeded its targets.
In respect of the resources for mental health services, I think that we have to recognise that the additional resources that are being put in have enabled all health boards to reduce waiting times to access treatment considerably. For example, as at December 2014, the waiting times ranged from no waits at Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board to a maximum of 17 weeks at Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board, and this is within the Royal British Legion’s general election manifesto, which was calling on the next UK Government to commit to a maximum of 18 weeks’ wait for veterans to access mental health treatment.
He’s right to draw attention to third sector organisations. Another of those that he could have referred to, of course, is SSAFA, which does excellent work, and again, is represented on our armed forces expert group. I have, in fact, met with Alabaré, and I will be visiting one of the facilities that they provide in the near future. If there are issues that they want to raise with me in respect of problems that they have experienced on planning in future, I’ll be happy to discuss those with them.
The next item has been postponed.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
We now move to item 5, which is a statement by the Minister for Natural Resources on the introduction of the Environment (Wales) Bill. Carl Sargeant.
Y Llywydd / The Presiding Officer
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I’m pleased to announce and introduce the Environment (Wales) Bill into the National Assembly for Wales today. Following on from the groundbreaking Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, the environment Bill focuses on the management of resources, which is fundamental to our ability to develop sustainably.
In order to secure prosperity for Wales, safeguarding the resilience of our natural resources and the services they provide, ensuring a clear pathway for decarbonisation and managing our resources effectively is vital. If passed, this legislation will put in place the primary legislation needed to manage Wales’s natural resources sustainably in line with the framework in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and complement the wider legislative reform I’m bringing forward with the Planning (Wales) Bill.
The Bill has been informed by both Green Paper and White Paper consultations in 2012 and 2014, and secures the changes needed to enable a more joined-up, proactive and effective approach to managing Wales’s resources. The provisions have been designed in a way that not only helps to tackle the strategic challenges we face, such as climate change or the continuing decline in biodiversity, but also focuses on the opportunities sustainably managing our resources can provide to support lasting benefits for our communities and the economy.
The Bill delivers directly against the programme for government commitment to introduce environmental legislation and supports the delivery of related programme for government commitments in relation to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy, effective implementation of European legislation, and enhanced measures to reduce waste and build on Wales’s current successful recycling performance.
Specifically, the Bill addresses fundamental weaknesses in the current statutory framework; and, puts in place modern legislation for managing Wales’s natural resources based on acknowledgement of international best practice that, as well as helping to tackle the challenges we face, is equally focused on identifying the opportunities our resources provide to develop sustainably. It puts in place a stronger legislative framework to tackle the causes of climate change with at least an 80% emission reduction target by 2050. Wales, along with the UK is part of a leading group of countries taking legislative action to tackle climate change in this programme. The Bill provides the Welsh Ministers with the necessary powers to ensure that there is greater flexibility to adapt to any emerging consumer trends or unintended consequences of the single-use carrier bags charging scheme and further improves Wales’s waste management processes by making provision for waste recycling, better food waste treatment and increased energy recovery. The Bill also enables the removal of unnecessary complexity, and simplifies processes in relation to other regulated industries of shellfisheries, land drainage and flood-risk management. It also enables the marine licensing authority for Wales to charge fees associated with administering the marine licensing scheme.
The combined impact of the Bill provisions enable significant economic, social and environmental benefits for Wales, and builds on the approach of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 that has already been recognised by the UN as world leading. Working with the wellbeing of future generations Act and the Planning (Wales) Bill, the Environment (Wales) Bill will put in place the legislation needed to secure the long-term wellbeing of the people of Wales and ensure that current and future generations benefit from a prosperous economy, a healthy and resilient environment and vibrant and cohesive communities. Thank you.
Minister, thank you for your statement today, and in particular your explanation of the legislation as you see it that the Government is introducing into the Assembly for scrutiny in the first instance, but obviously then taking it forward for adoption after it has passed its Stage 3 process. There is much water to go under the bridge and I’m sure there will be much evidence taken by the committee, and hopefully the Minister will be in listening mode. I think, as a Minister, he has most probably taken more legislation through the Assembly than other Ministers on the front bench there, so he’s becoming a bit of an old hand at this, but I do hope that he will be in listening mode, because obviously the environment is something that concerns us all, and it is surely incumbent on us all to make sure that we hand over a legacy to the next generation that is better than the legacy that we inherited. Given the challenges that we do face in the environmental field, he will find a supportive ear certainly on this side of the Chamber, but a critical opinion where that opinion needs to be expressed, and where change needs to be brought forward, because we need to make sure that this legislation is sound, is correct, and ultimately can deliver the benefits that I think we’d all aspire to.
I do have my concerns, though. Obviously, the Minister in his statement refers to Natural Resources Wales, and the ability for Natural Resources Wales to deliver some of this legislation. We all know that the recent staff survey showed that that organisation is not in a good place at the moment, and in fact he does touch on it in his statement when he says that NRW remains bound by weakness, albeit he is talking about the legislative framework. I’d be grateful if the Minister could explain in some detail how he believes Natural Resources Wales will evolve from the current very low morale that exists within that organisation to be able to work to deliver on the aspirations that are contained within this legislation, and, indeed, how they have informed his department in the creation of the legislation that his department have laid before the Assembly today.
I’d also be interested to see an explanation from the Minister when he’s talking about the Bill containing:
‘the necessary powers to ensure that there is greater flexibility to adapt to any emerging consumer trends’.
That, to me, is just civil-service speak, to be honest with you. I’d be really grateful to understand how he believes this legislation will respond practically to ‘emerging consumer trends’ and what he believes are ‘emerging consumer trends’ as we sit here today, because, as I said, to me, it just looks very much like civil-service speak.
It talks about enabling the ‘removal of unnecessary complexity’ and simplifying the process. Again, could you offer an explanation of where you believe this complexity exists at the moment, and how this legislation will, in the first instance, remove that complexity, but also, as we move forward, continue to remove the complexity? Certainly, again, from this side of the house, we are all for lessening the burden and lessening the regulatory red-tape stranglehold that we hear about from businesses and consumers that seems to drive them so mad, and that, in practice, seems to grow day by day and week by week.
Also, I’d be interested to hear, when he’s talking about the Bill setting,
‘requirements for the development of a State of Natural Resources Report, a National Natural Resources Policy and Area Statements’,
how he sees those statements and reports actually coming forward. Is it from within his department—therefore, the same civil servants who are devising the legislation and, maybe, responsible for delivering Government policy, ticking their own boxes, as it were—or will that be passed to a third party group or organisation so that we genuinely do get an independent report and oversight as to the progress that has been made?
I’d also like to find out from the Minister how he believes, working across Government, some of these aspirations in the legislation will be able to be enacted; in particular, the rural development plan, for example, because you talk about,
‘sustainable land management practices to provide habitats for wildlife’.
That, to me, could’ve jumped out of any rural development plan that a Minister and his Government might be bringing forward. So, I’d be grateful to hear how the legislation might well complement the policy aspirations that the Government, obviously, would have in that particular field.
Again, I’d also like to understand exactly how the,
‘statutory targets supported by carbon budgeting’,
that he refers to will work, because it talks about it in the statement, but I’ve tried to read the legislation, and I’m not sure how, in practice, those targets are going to be supported.
Also, I think one of the key things to understand is the capacity of the industry and capacity of public bodies to meet the aspirations for better recycling, better food waste treatment and increased energy recovery. Again, I’d appreciate understanding from the Minister what actions, in formulating this legislation, the officials and, in particular, the Minister have taken in discussing the legislation and understanding the capacity constraints that might exist within the recycling industry or, indeed, many of the public bodies that would have to hit some of these key targets that the legislation would seek to set.
Above all, what we have to remember is that if we are going to succeed in our environmental objectives, education is a very important part of delivering those objectives. There was very little reference to education in the legislation or in this statement, or to how the Minister will be working with the departments across the rest of Government to make sure that the legislation that he is bringing forward is compatible with the wider goals of Government. If we can, through education and information, seek to change people’s perspective and roles, and the way they go about their daily lives, whether that be in employment, in leisure or in family life, then we really will be on the path to creating a more sustainable and environmentally friendly country here in Wales. I hope that the Minister will be able to bring forward an explanation as to how that will all fit into this legislation that he’s brought forward this week.
Thank you for the positive comments from the Member. I will try my best to answer, initially, some of the questions he raises. First of all, he raised issues regarding the legislation profile and how that will be streamlined in this Bill. The current environmental legislation is around 230 separate pieces of legislation, and, when we integrated the three bodies into NRW, they were still operating very differently, according to each particular establishment that was as an external agency. What we’re doing now, because we’ve created one agency, we’re going to modify the framework so that we can pull those pieces of legislation together.
Daeth y Dirprwy Lywydd (David Melding) i’r Gadair am 15:15.
Byddai'n deg dweud, mewn byd delfrydol, gyda mwy o amser, y byddem yn ôl pob tebyg wedi gwneud rhywfaint o waith i gyfuno deddfwriaeth amgylcheddol, ond nid oes gennym y capasiti i wneud hynny yn y Bil hwn. Credaf fod sut y mae integreiddio hynny a chyfuno rhywfaint o'r ddeddfwriaeth honno, wrth symud ymlaen, yn rhywbeth y bydd angen i Lywodraeth yn y dyfodol ei ystyried. Ond, am y tro, rydym o’r farn y bydd y gweithgarwch y mae angen i CNC weithio arno, ynghylch datganiadau ardal a phethau y mae’r Aelod yn eu codi, yn llawer symlach drwy ddod â'r ddeddfwriaeth gyfredol ynghyd mewn un man lle y mae un asiantaeth yn cysylltu â hynny.
The Member used my words from the statement of course, interestingly, when he said there was a fundamental weakness. Can I assure the Member that wasn’t in relation at all to the recent staff survey that the organisation has had, and it’s just about process as opposed to personnel? But I do recognise and I’ve asked my team to raise it with the chief executive of Natural Resources Wales around how he can improve staff morale. Change is difficult for any organisation, and members do feel transition is challenging. But I have every respect for the organisation; they’ve done a great job in getting to the position where they are of transition, and moving forward now is an important part. The Environment (Wales) Bill gives them the tools to start changing and managing the environment as we see fit for the future, informed by, as I said, the White and Green Papers of earlier years. We’ve designed this piece of legislation working with many stakeholders, both in public bodies but also in third sector organisations, too.
The civil-service speak that the Member talked about, I think he related that to the carrier bag charging and future trends, perhaps. What I hope I can give him comfort about—. One real-term example of this is that there is a carrier bag charge currently in use in Wales, and England and Scotland are looking at that closely to see whether to introduce it there, because of its great success. It wasn’t about increasing funding from carrier bags; it was actually trying to get people to use carrier bags less. The Member will notice, if he does the weekly shop perhaps, when he goes into the supermarket, that it’s very rare now that you’ll see the 5p recycling bags. Actually, they’re generally the 6p or 10p ones, which the levy doesn’t apply to. So, what we’re doing here is seeking, where imaginative supermarkets have used a way to move to a different funding regime—. We are trying to capture that in this piece of legislation. So, that’s the future trends, which people are using to escape some of the charging systems that are currently in place.
The Member is absolutely right: areas of the Bill are complex, but another real example would be—and I hope the Member would support this—in terms of the shell fisheries and the management of shell fisheries. Currently, there are Orders in place from many years ago, in terms of the legislation, but what that doesn’t help businesses to do is plan for the long term, because we aren’t able to apply licences as we were in the past, because of risk factors around sites of scientific interest around Wales. Where a business wants to make a long-term investment of 15 or 20 years, of course they’d like a licence to accompany that, but we can’t do that, because we can’t prove the science to give comfort to organisations, saying, ‘It will be okay to do that for the next 15 or 20 years’. So, this legislation will allow us to have break clauses in that process, which is comfort—. Therefore, we can give businesses longer term contracts for business plans, but it gives us and regulators the ability to have comfort to say, if this isn’t working right, then we can put a break clause in that business plan. It just gives us a bit more flexibility to work with business in that process.
On the waste management area, we’ve worked with Constructing Excellence in Wales. I met with the waste recycling membership body last week. There is a great opportunity. People are seeing—. There’s two sides to this—either it’s a burden or an opportunity. We certainly see it as an opportunity, because we know that by protecting waste streams—so, first of all, minimising waste and understanding what your usage is in the first place, and, secondly, making sure that we’ve got sorted waste at source, gives you a better cost opportunity. So, instead of feeding your waste stream into landfill, by early sort—and yes, there is more work involved in that—actually, you get a better price and you can move that waste stream on. Understanding your procurement processes there is better for your business. In fact, looking at your waste streams stops you buying in the first place if you’re better-informed longer term, and Constructing Excellence Wales are doing some work with SMEs in and across Wales.
This Bill, as I said—and I made several references to it—is one of the tools in this portfolio of legislation’s toolkit. It fits absolutely with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and some of the issues around measuring performance and young people, particularly in how we engage and educate people to look after the environment, all fits in with the milestones and the targets within the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, and in this Bill. We did launch the environment Bill with a poster competition, which was run through Keep Wales Tidy across schools across Wales and we had that event about three weeks ago—very successful. Environmental impact is generational, I think—us oldies, we sort of get it, but actually the younger people absolutely get it and they will be the game-changers, and we have to make sure we’ve got the right legislation in place, and work with them to make a better future. But I’m grateful for the Member’s initial support.
A gaf innau hefyd groesawu cyhoeddi’r Bil yma? Yn sicr, mae yna sawl agwedd i’r Bil, a dweud y lleiaf, ac rŷm ni’n edrych ymlaen at chwarae ein rhan ni wrth graffu ar y Bil ar hyd ei daith drwy y Cynulliad yma. Nawr, o’i wneud yn iawn, wrth gwrs, mae’r dynesiad ecosystemaidd i reoli adnoddau naturiol yn cynnig llawer iawn o fanteision a buddiannau ac yn egwyddor rŷm ni, wrth gwrs, yn ei chefnogi. Ond, os yw e i weithio’n iawn, a fyddech chi, Weinidog, yn cytuno bod angen sicrhau bod system gref o adfer bioamrywiaeth yn ei lle? Nawr, yn amlwg, mae nifer o randdeiliaid eisoes wedi bod yn galw am dargedau statudol ar adfer bioamrywiaeth, a byddwn i’n gofyn i chi efallai i achub ar y cyfle i esbonio pam eich bod chi’n teimlo nad yw hi’n addas i gynnwys targedau o’r fath yn y Bil—oherwydd, wrth gwrs, rydych chi wedi cynnwys targedau newid hinsawdd statudol, ac mae hynny’n rhywbeth y mae Plaid Cymru yn ei gyfrif yn fuddugoliaeth, ac yn wir nifer o gyrff a mudiadau sydd wedi galw am hynny ers talwm. Rŷm ni yn croesawu hynny’n fawr iawn. Ond, wrth groesawu hynny, byddwn i yn gofyn i chi esbonio pa waith y mae’r Llywodraeth wedi’i wneud i adolygu y targedau arfaethedig fydd yn y Bil er mwyn sicrhau eu bod nhw yn dal yn addas ac yn dal yn ddigonol, a hefyd, pa ddarpariaeth fydd yna yn y Bil i adolygu y targedau hynny yn y dyfodol, wrth gwrs, wrth i amgylchiadau newid dros y blynyddoedd i ddod.
The Bill, as far as I can see, provides over 40 new powers for you, as Minister, through subordinate legislation and so on. Do you agree, therefore, that that, on occasion, can make it difficult for stakeholders, and for us as Assembly Members, to fully understand your intentions in relation to certain sections of the Bill? One of those perhaps is the section concerning the incineration of waste. Now, I and many other Members, of course, have warned that 25-year contracts to provide waste for incineration, when recycling levels are increasing, are irresponsible to say the least. So, doesn’t limiting in this Bill the waste that can be incinerated underline how unsustainable and irresponsible it is to actually construct more incinerators?
I also see that this environment Bill takes the opportunity to amend the planning Bill, which has yet to be adopted by this Assembly, of course. It also takes the opportunity to amend the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, just a few weeks after it became an Act. I wonder if you would, therefore, acknowledge that there are some who would question to what extent the Government has managed to co-ordinate this legislative programme as a single, cohesive and comprehensive programme rather than three separate pieces of work.
The Bill, of course, does establish a list of new duties for Natural Resources Wales, and the chief executive and chair made it clear at the Environment and Sustainability Committee last week that any new duties would have to come with greater resources attached to them. So, can I ask you, Minister, what additional resources will you provide to NRW in order to achieve these new duties, and, if you will not be providing further resources, perhaps you could explain what aspects of their current responsibilities will be downgraded or set aside?
Finally, there is concern, of course, that the Bill would move the purpose of NRW further away from achieving nature conservation and focus more and more, and more exclusively, on the management of natural resources. The environment committee has received a great deal of evidence that NRW’s purpose needs to better reflect its conservation role. Wouldn’t, for example, aligning the purpose more closely to the objective of creating a more robust Wales, which is in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, achieve that more effectively?
Diolch i'r Aelod am ei gwestiynau. Rwyf yn ddiolchgar i'r Aelod am nodi yn gynnar ei farn ynghylch y Bil. Mae gan yr Aelod obsesiwn, yn amlwg, â thargedau statudol mewn Biliau o bob math, ond rwyf yn fwy na bodlon cael mwy o drafodaethau ynghylch hynny wrth inni symud ymlaen. Ond rwyf yn ddiolchgar am sylwadau'r Aelod. O ran y targedau bioamrywiaeth y cyfeiriodd yr Aelod atynt, mae'r Bil yn disodli'r ddyletswydd bresennol yn adran 40 o Ddeddf yr Amgylchedd Naturiol a Chymunedau Gwledig 2006 mewn perthynas â Chymru â dyletswydd ar awdurdodau cyhoeddus i geisio ac i gynnal a gwella bioamrywiaeth, ac felly rydym yn credu ein bod yn ategu'r Bil o ran y ffordd y mae wedi'i ddrafftio o ran y disgwyliad ar gyrff cyhoeddus yn y broses hon.
The framework and the regulatory powers are no different to any other Bill. It’s for the Minister—me in this case—to explain to the committee exactly what our powers and our intentions are to do that. In other Bills, we’ve issued statements of intent, and that’s something that we would be quite keen to work with committee on too in terms of exactly what the framework and the regulatory powers would allow a Minister to do or not to do.
I don’t accept the issue where the Member said about making amendments to the planning Bill or the future generations Act. All three pieces of legislation were definitive in their own right. The fact is that we’re there for the grace of this Assembly and the benefit of Members that allows passage of that Bill. This is the third and final piece of that jigsaw of Bills and, therefore, we have to consider, as we’re laying the Bills, if, for instance, the environment Bill didn’t pass, then would the legislation of the planning Bill or the Well-being of future generations Act still work. That’s why we have to make amendments as new Bills come forward. So, I would not accept that they are not joined up. It’s absolutely been a key plank to make sure that they do work within my department, but making sure that the legislative profile allows us to make amendments as and when they pass and we see passage through this Assembly with the gift of the Members.
I’m not sure, again, on NRW and additional resources. You know, this is about what NRW was set up to do, and this is how we expect them to do these things. It’s a transition phase for them and we do understand that, early on, there will be costs around how they do work differently that will be involved. But, actually, they’ve got their business plan, they knew the environment Bill was coming and they’ve been very engaged in the whole programme. The regulatory impact assessment will indicate how the financial structures will operate. They fully understand that, and we haven’t had any concerns raised by them in terms of management of the environment Bill, subject to passage.
Again, I think it’s the use of language. I don’t think we disagree; I just think it’s about the broader narrative. You suggested that NRW are moving away from the conservation aspect of their duty. Actually, I think the management role of their duty is much more important, and that includes conservation. It’s not one or the other; actually, they can do both. I think, again, I wouldn’t like to put NRW in a box and say, ‘This is only what you do and are perceived to do’. Actually, the management of natural resources and the broader natural environment—land, sea and air-based—is a fundamental part of how they operate and do business. I think we’ve captured that in the whole Bill, but I welcome the Member’s comments and will look forward, through the scrutiny process, to strengthening the Bill.
Minister, I want very much to welcome the introduction of this Bill. It’s been quite a long time in the making, but its reach and its bearing will be much longer. It is the third in a series of connected Bills, following the future generations Act and the planning Bill, and I look forward to scrutinising it over the next few months on the Environment and Sustainability Committee and also to holding you to account, as a backbencher. I’ve had a brief opportunity to look over it, and I’m particularly interested in the provision to establish a flood and coastal committee for Wales. On paper, it reads like a go-between for Natural Resources Wales, local authorities and Welsh Ministers. Can you elaborate on how it will function and what authority it might have, Minister? In terms of membership in England, these committees are made up of Environment Agency appointees, and councillors, with a Government appointee as chair. Members of the public are invited to attend meetings, as observers, but I think that it’s worth exploring how you, Minister, can consider how else people might interact with the proposed Welsh committee, and have their particular voice heard. I’m sure you’re aware, Minister, of the shoreline management plans for north-west Wales, and the concerns around them, particularly by the group Fairbourne Facing Change. I think we need to have some wider dialogue about that, to afford some greater understanding of what we’re trying to do, with those people who live in those communities.
Again, as I said earlier, we are talking about the environment, we are talking about two Bills that have already gone before. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised, Minister, when I ask for another chance to reconsider the surface water elements of planning. Because they greatly are affected by climate change, by massive downpours of water, and it isn’t very often the case that the people who have caused the problem suffer the result. So, I would ask you, Minister, to consider in your Planning Bill an element of tree planting when we do large-scale housing builds. Because, we all know, don’t we, that trees hold substantial amounts of water, and they hold it where it is, rather than letting it run down the road?
The other area that I’m particularly interested in is recycling, but also waste management. And we all know people who, on the street, give somebody their rubbish because they can take it away for £20, instead of paying a licence or permit holder the true cost of getting rid of that rubbish, while not understanding exactly what they’re doing. They have no idea that these people need some licences, that they need permits, so that they can then dispose of that in the right manner, rather than putting it in a farmer’s field, or a play area, or a hedgerow. So, Minister, do you think that we can strengthen, somewhere along the line, that information—that knowledge—and maybe put the onus on people to actually have to ask for a permit, or a licence, before they hand over their rubbish?
Again, I’m going to flag up some areas of best practice, when people are getting rid of their furniture. The likes of FRAME, in Pembrokeshire—and there are many, many others around the county, and the country—actually do successfully recycle household goods, and actually offer job opportunities, and training, to those people. So, we are actually joining up the economy, saving the environment from fly-tipping, and giving people a real, real opportunity to be part of their communities, in a way that they might not otherwise have.
I thank the Member for her comments—again, well-constructed—and look forward to working with her on committee, as with all Members.
She raised the first issue around the flood and coastal committee. We put in the Bill here—this is from an historic piece of legislation, again, stemming, in fact, from the Environment Agency. I’ve looked at the committee, and how it functions, and I think the Member is absolutely right to raise the issues about how relevant it is to Wales, and how we interact with Wales. I think NRW have done a great job; we’re the only place in the UK that has flood wardens, in communities across Wales, and I think that’s just one example of where we can do something different for the good.
Because it’s in statute, we have to put in the ability to remove this statutory function, and therefore I’m looking forward to committee, to understand better about the very questions that the Member has asked, about how as a committee—and engagement with the community, and public, with Government bodies—we can better do that. But I think this gives us the ability to start our own framework—a made-in-Wales solution, to some of the issues that the Member raises.
She takes every opportunity to raise with me the issue of surface water drainage, and I’m happy to meet with the Member, if she’d like to contact my team, to have a further discussion about that—maybe not with this, in this Bill, but I’m more than happy to have another conversation with her as she pushes that continuously and moves forward.
On the issue around recycling, again, with municipal waste, we’re the fourth in Europe, the best in the UK, and our targets have been driven very hard, with the support of communities and people engaging in that whole process. I know, indeed, that in Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas’s constituency, he takes pride and tweets regularly about how successful they are in recycling in his particular region and the area that he represents. I welcome his contribution, and that of many Members in this Chamber as well, in driving that whole narrative forward. There are things that we already have about illegal fly-tipping, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 et cetera, but I think the Member is right to raise with us the issue of responsibility, where we, collectively, have ownership of the state of our nature and of our environment. Again, this is an early stage for the Bill moving forward and I look forward to understanding better what the Member may have in mind in terms of giving additional powers or opportunities for enforcement agencies, or people taking responsibility, as we move forward to bringing the Bill to the floor.
We hail the publication of this much anticipated Bill and are looking forward to studying it in much detail in the days and weeks to come. Broadly speaking, we welcome the Bill’s intention to promote the sustainable management of our natural resources and, indeed, to provide the legislative framework to tackle climate change and to do so in a proactive manner. I’m pleased that the Bill will place a new statutory purpose on Natural Resources Wales and that this will be more clearly and closely aligned to the natural resource management plan. This is particularly welcome if this clarity helps to address some of the issues that were highlighted in the Environment and Sustainability Committee’s scrutiny session of NRW just last week, many of which evidently need working through, and need that urgently, if the organisation is to fulfil its remit as effectively and efficiently as we need it to do.
I note that there are some additional duties and requirements being placed upon NRW in the form of preparing and publishing area statements for instance. It is important that as much evidence and feedback as possible is gathered from the three area trials that are currently under way, so that any problems can be identified at an early stage and, indeed, the lessons learned. It is also important that NRW is adequately resourced to carry out these additional duties. This is an organisation that has been through some difficult times, as was laid bare in committee last Wednesday, but it is, hopefully, through the worst. It is, however, imperative that NRW has the capacity to carry out what is being asked of it by this new legislation.
We welcome the fact that existing duties on public authorities to have regard to biodiversity are being strengthened, but in terms of providing real protection for biodiversity, I agree with others who’ve already spoken that we must maintain the drive for statutory targets for biodiversity so as to ensure recovery, and that should be on the face of the Bill. The environment strategy for Wales 2006 stated the Welsh Government’s commitment to halting the loss of biodiversity and seeing a definite recovery from losses already occurred. Wales has international biodiversity commitments, which we must uphold, including goals set under the UN convention on biodiversity. Yet, a report produced recently by Oxfam, and published two months ago in fact, found that Wales had exceeded proposed safe boundaries by 55 per cent in terms of biodiversity loss.
It’s also important to note the inter-linkage between climate change and biodiversity loss. For instance, many biodiverse habitats, such as peat lands, hold a substantial amount of carbon, as has been well-rehearsed. With such habitats in decline, this carbon being released into the atmosphere could actually help to sequester carbon. As such, protecting and restoring these habitats can have a major benefit. In the light of this, Minister, do you agree that Wales’s biodiversity levels will be a key indication of whether the new natural resource approach is actually working? Will you also commit to introducing a long-term statutory biodiversity target, as others have already raised, not only to reflect Wales’s international biodiversity commitments, but also to work in tandem with the proposed climate change targets, which we welcome?
I welcome the comments made by Joyce Watson earlier in response to your statement regarding the local flood panels, but will you give us your reassurance, Minister, that these flood panels will draw on local knowledge? That’s absolutely critical. We know from bodies such as the Powysland Internal Drainage Board, the importance of the knowledge and expertise over the years that landowners and other land managers can bring to this process. Also, the importance to protect communities against vexatious objectors who can cause difficulty with regard to delivering particular schemes on the ground.
I would also like, Minister, to see the Bill including stronger commitments to decarbonising the power sector, in order to ensure that we are able to move towards a zero-carbon Wales. Reports have shown that, given the predicted increase in electricity requirements in the UK and in Wales, it is only through the provision of low or no carbon sources of electricity to meet this demand, that emission reductions can be achieved.
Given that, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, this Bill does show a commitment by the Minister to tackling climate change, which we welcome, and to implementing targets, Minister, do you agree that this is consistent with the recent declaration by Baden-Württemberg Minister, President Winfried Kretschmann, and California State Governor, Jerry Brown? Will you commit, Minister, to re-energising the work of the four motors for Europe approach so as to show international leadership on this vital issue?
We will, of course, be looking at all sections of this Bill, Minister, in detail. As I say, at this stage, it is the inclusion of a statutory target for biodiversity, as well as measures around decarbonisation and energy efficiency that we feel need to be significantly strengthened within this Bill so as to demonstrate a true commitment to tackling climate change and to meeting our international obligations. On that, we remain firm.
Thank you for your contribution, again, with many opportunities to strengthen the Bill as we move forward. Can I start with some of the issues around the NRW purpose of this? I think, what I’d like to say on the record is that NRW have done an extremely good job. I believe, moving forward with Emyr and Peter, who’ve established the board in transition, that change has not been without challenge, as the Member is right to say. But I believe that they’ve done an incredibly good job in managing the environment. We are now, with this Bill, giving them the tools to move forward into managing our natural environment, which is welcomed by the Member.
I think there is much debate to be had around biodiversity targets. I think both you and Llyr have made reference to them today and I’d be happy to engage with you around that, on exactly what you are seeking to do. I hope to give you confidence that, within the Bill, we can make some progress there. I’m grateful for the issues around climate change and recognising that we are committed, as a Government, to making a stance and making a clear, positive commitment to our global impact and our local domestic footprint and how we manage that carefully.
With regard to the flood committee, I think the Member is right. I don’t know quite what the structure should or would look like in the future, but it is absolutely paramount that we do understand what the local demographics are in understanding how the area floods and the activity around there. I also have concerns about individuals who often make vexatious claims about activity in their area, which prevents the good of the community, which does cross my desk. I know that you and other Members have raised this issue with me most recently.
I’d like to say, Deputy Presiding Officer, that the laying of this Bill today has given us much opportunity to come together in terms of protecting our environment across parties and it’s a welcome opportunity to understand how passage of the Bill will be smoother, now that I understand where Members sit with regard to the provisions that we’ve laid. But, I’m looking forward to working with the committee and stakeholders as we move forward.
Thank you, Minister.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Item six is the anti-social behaviour, crime and policing Act Order, and I call on the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty to move the motion–Lesley Griffiths.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Cynnig NDM5754 Jane Hutt
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 27.5:
Approves that the draft The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) (Wales) Order 2015 is made in accordance with the draft laid in the Table Office on 25 March 2015.
I don’t have any speakers. The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Paul Davies, and amendment 2 in the name of Elin Jones.
Item 7—debate on the liver disease delivery plan. I call on the Deputy Minister for Health to move the motion—Vaughan Gething.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Motion NDM5753 Jane Hutt
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
Notes the Liver Disease Delivery Plan, a framework for NHS Wales to improve liver disease services until 2020.
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. Rwyf yn hapus i gynnig y cynnig ar y papur yn enw Jane Hutt. Amlinellaf farn y Llywodraeth yn fyr ar y ddau welliant, ac yna rwyf am siarad am y cynllun cyflawni ar gyfer clefyd yr afu. Ni fyddwn yn cefnogi gwelliant 1, ac ni fydd hynny’n syndod i’r Aelodau yma. Bydd yr Aelodau'n gwybod yn ddigamsyniol fod Llywodraeth y DU wedi torri, mewn termau real, £1.4 biliwn o gyllideb Llywodraeth Cymru. Er gwaethaf hynny, rydym wedi buddsoddi £500 miliwn yn rhagor yn y GIG yng Nghymru dros y ddwy flynedd ddiwethaf, gan gynnwys £1 miliwn y flwyddyn, wrth symud ymlaen, sy’n gysylltiedig â'r cynllun cyflawni hwn y byddwn yn dadlau yn ei gylch ac yn ei drafod heddiw.
We will, however, support amendment 2 in the name of Elin Jones. We are committed to exploring minimum unit pricing and this will help us tackle alcohol-related liver disease. Elin, of course, will be aware that there is still uncertainty about the timing of the European Court of Justice’s deliberations on similar Scottish Government legislation. The First Minister has made clear that we aren’t introducing legislation in this Assembly term, but will publish a draft Bill for consultation in due course, whilst we await the outcome of the European court’s decision.
The liver disease delivery plan, which we’ll be discussing over the next hour or so, has a simple purpose: to help deliver an agreed set of priorities to improve liver services and, crucially, to improve outcomes for patients. Achieving that will be anything but simple. The prevalence of liver disease is rising. Mortality from liver disease is rising. Some of that is unavoidable—for instance, autoimmune or inherited metabolic liver disease—but most of the increasing demand is avoidable. The Caerphilly cohort study that we continue to mention, and rightly so, gives us hard evidence about the health impact of lifestyles, emphasising that poor health is often avoidable. We know that deprivation is associated with poor health, and we must, of course, make continued efforts to lift people out of poverty. But, for some people, the opportunity to live healthily is limited by affordability. However, for large numbers of people, over-drinking, over-eating and under-exercising have led to an inevitable rise in alcohol-related liver disease and fatty liver disease. These factors, combined with the impact of blood-borne viral hepatitis, have fuelled the doubling of liver disease deaths in the past 20 years. For example, in 2013, in Wales, there were nearly 500 deaths from liver disease.
The health service in Wales cannot be expected to keep on picking up the pieces of poor lifestyle choices. The future sustainability of the health service must be based on a balance between action on the underlying causes of poor health and a measure of personal responsibility to look after one’s own health and wellbeing. This, of course, is a matter that this Assembly debated and agreed upon at the start of this Assembly term in debating and agreeing the first report from the Bevan commission.
Delivery plans act as frameworks to drive service improvement and improve outcomes. They bring stakeholders together, with a common aim, and facilitate clinical leadership in the development of services. This delivery plan takes forward the chief medical officer’s recommendation that we develop a liver disease plan and, in doing so, we are the only UK country to respond substantively to ‘The Lancet’ campaign, started in November last year, to take action on liver disease. The chief medical officer’s annual reports and the ‘The Lancet’ campaign show how important this challenge is. All Members from all parties should be pleased to see Wales taking a proactive approach to this issue.
Specifically, the plan seeks to address the rise in liver disease and liver disease-related deaths, to give patients more support, to improve the quality of services and to improve specialist knowledge on liver disease throughout the health service, and, of course, we will encourage patients to take responsibility for their health and care choices. To enable this, we have announced £1 million of annual funding to support the implementation of this plan. I’m also pleased to confirm that the £1.4 million of annual funding that was associated with the blood-borne viral hepatitis action plan will continue now that the delivery plan has taken over the effort against blood-borne viral hepatitis.
Our delivery plan has prudent healthcare principles running through it. I’ve already alluded to some of them. Co-production is about patients being equal partners in their own health and care. This plan is underpinned by patients taking increased responsibility for reducing risk factors and playing a greater role in self-managing their condition.
Tackling variation in services is inherent in our approach to improving specialist hepatology expertise throughout NHS Wales, raising standards of care and improving access to diagnostics and treatment. We recognise the need to help support people to live independently with their condition; the need to deliver highly specialist care, such as paediatric surgery and liver surgery; and when necessary to support people to deal proactively with end-of-life care.
The final elements of the plan are about improving information and targeting research; improving information for patients to help them understand and manage their condition; and improving the information available to clinicians to better manage care. Targeted research is about developing more insight into the causes and treatments for liver disease, and crucially, linking findings back into improving care and improving outcomes for patients. This plan is meant to help prevent disease, to enable better care for patients with liver disease, and to improve outcomes. It is in all of our interests that we succeed in these ambitions.
I look forward to hearing what Members have to say in today’s debate.
Rwyf wedi dethol y ddau welliant i’r cynnig. Galwaf ar Darren Millar i gynnig gwelliant 1 yn enw Paul Davies.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Amendment 1—Paul Davies
Add as new point at end of motion:
Regrets that the financial challenges faced by local health boards as a result of the Welsh Government’s record-breaking budget cuts may hamper the delivery of the liver disease delivery plan.
Diolch, Ddirprwy Lywydd. Cynigiaf welliant 1 ar y papur trefn yn enw fy nghyd-Aelod, Paul Davies. Rwyf yn falch iawn ein bod yn cael y ddadl hon ar y mater pwysig hwn yn y Cynulliad heddiw. Gwyddom mai clefyd yr afu yw'r trydydd achos mwyaf cyffredin o farwolaeth gynamserol yn y DU a bod cyfraddau’r cynnydd yng nghlefyd yr afu yn y DU a Chymru, yn anffodus, yn uwch nag yng ngwledydd eraill gorllewin Ewrop. Mae hynny, yn fy marn i, yn destun pryder mawr. Felly, mae'n dda bod Llywodraeth Cymru wedi datblygu’r cynllun cyflawni hwn, yn nodi ei gweledigaeth ar gyfer mynd i'r afael â chlefyd yr afu, ac yn wir ar gyfer ei atal hefyd. Rwyf hefyd yn croesawu'r buddsoddiad y mae'r Gweinidog wedi cyfeirio ato—y buddsoddiad gwerth £1 miliwn. Byddai'n dda gweld dadansoddiad o ble y mae’r buddsoddiad hwnnw mewn gwirionedd yn mynd i fynd, pa rannau o Gymru sy’n mynd i elwa arno, ac yn wir â pha rannau o'r cynllun y mae’n benodol gysylltiedig â hwy oherwydd, o'r dystiolaeth a gefais gan wahanol sefydliadau sydd â diddordeb mawr yn hyn, yn enwedig Ymddiriedolaeth Afu Prydain, maent wedi ei gwneud yn glir nad ydynt yn teimlo bod yr £1 miliwn hwnnw'n ddigon i lenwi'r bwlch yng nghapasiti gwasanaethau ledled Cymru y mae angen inni sicrhau eu bod yno ar gyfer cleifion afu.
I want to put on record my party’s support for amendment 2 in the name of Elin Jones. We do support the need for minimum alcohol pricing here in Wales. We very much look forward to the public health (Wales) Bill being laid before the Assembly with that very clearly on the face of the Bill. But, of course, it is important that whatever minimum price is set, that it is an appropriate minimum price that doesn’t undermine the viability of many of those food and drink businesses that are active out there. So, it is important that we have a minimum price in order to reduce the damage that alcohol does to society, and to discourage people from drinking it, particularly the cheap alcohol that we see available from supermarkets, but we have to get the price right. I look forward to working with the Government in supporting their proposals as they move forward.
I’m very pleased to see that there’s an emphasis on de-stigmatising liver disease as well. People coming forward with problems associated with alcohol consumption in particular can sometimes feel as though they don’t want to report that they have a problem or that they have symptoms of liver disease, simply because they don’t want to expose the fact that alcohol is a problem in their lives. So, I’m very pleased to see that that’s an emphasis. I do want to just ask the Deputy Minister, though: what work has been done in terms of engaging patients in the development of this plan? Because, I can’t see a great deal of evidence that patients have been engaged in its development. This is something that I know that the British Liver Trust, again, has flagged up as a concern. I would like to know how you’re going to ensure that patients are involved in ensuring the delivery of this plan on the ground.
There are also some concerns, which have been raised by different organisations, about how you’re going to measure success and whether the measures that are attached in the plan are actually appropriate and will enable you to see whether there has been any progress in tackling liver disease across Wales. I, for one, would welcome further discussion on what is the appropriate suite of key targets to measure any performance, because if we can't measure outcomes and progress against them, then, unfortunately, this will just be another document on a shelf that is not actually having the sort of impact that we all want it to have here in Wales.
Hepatitis C, of course. There are about 12,000 people in Wales who are infected with hep C and, of course, it can cause some very serious health problems—fatal liver damage and cancer, of course—if untreated. I wonder, Deputy Minister, whether you'd be able to tell us what part of the £1 million investment is actually going to deliver some of those new treatments that are available to help prolong life and improve the quality of life of patients with hepatitis C in Wales in your response to today's debate.
Time is short, so I just want to make one reference, if I can, to end-of-life care. Obviously, the emphasis on end-of-life care in Wales, palliative care, over the years has been very much on cancer and it’s been great to see that other conditions are now becoming more of a focus for those organisations that are involved in the delivery of palliative care, particularly cardiac care, et cetera. Marie Curie have expressed a keen interest in ensuring that there is a greater emphasis on palliative care for liver patients in the future and I wonder what consideration you have given to ensuring this high-quality palliative care for liver patients who do require it in the future.
Galwaf ar Elin Jones i gynnig gwelliant 2, a gyflwynwyd yn ei henw.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Amendment 2—Elin Jones
Add as new point at end of motion:
Calls on the Welsh Government to implement a minimum unit pricing for alcohol as soon as possible.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I move the amendment in the name of Plaid Cymru. Mortality rates as a result of liver disease have risen 400 per cent since 1970—a significant figure—and, significantly as well, liver disease is now the third highest cause of premature deaths in the United Kingdom. It is a disease that is increasingly caused by changes in lifestyle—too much alcohol, obesity—and also an increase in viral hepatitis. Liver disease is prevalent in our poorest communities as well. The number of admissions to hospitals as a result of liver disease is also on the increase and most of the patients have end-stage live disease, cirrhosis of the liver or liver failure.
The most important step, therefore, for this plan to take, and the most important step in my opinion too, is to reduce the number of factors that lead to liver disease. The first of these, as our amendment today mentions, is to look at introducing minimum unit pricing for alcohol. I know that the Government shares the Plaid Cymru view on this and I accept the fact that the Government will await the European court judgment before legislating here in Wales on this. But, the evidence now is very clear in showing that there is a need to increase the price of alcohol in order to reduce the level of overconsumption. The World Health Organization has shown that an increase in the price of alcohol and reducing the availability of alcohol substantially reduces the consumption of alcohol. The Government in Scotland, of course, is a few steps ahead of us here in Wales on this, and the modelling in Scotland shows 225 fewer deaths in 10 years as a result of introducing minimum unit pricing of 45p per unit, and a minimum unit pricing of 50p, as well as a ban on alcohol discounts, would mean 8,400 fewer people being admitted to hospital in Scotland. These are important contributions towards the NHS.
Of course, a high level of alcohol consumption isn’t the only contributing factor to liver disease. Obesity also leads to liver disease. There is an obvious link, of course, between drinking too much and obesity, but there are many steps that could be taken in society to ensure that obesity is reduced—reducing sugar in our diets specifically, as a number of experts recommend. We also in Plaid Cymru want to see the next Welsh Government move to introduce a levy on fizzy drinks, so that we reduce the number of sugary drinks that are now consumed as an everyday drink by so many people.
In terms of viral hepatitis, there are two main aspects that need to be focused on, and, in fairness, this plan before us today does that: first of all, very importantly, diagnosis and encouraging people to get the tests and that diagnosis, along with reducing the stigma around these tests, and taking steps to deal with the requirements of this disease. But also there are new drugs and treatments coming forward to eradicate the hepatitis C virus and its implications for the liver, and I would like confirmation from the Minister that the Welsh Government is looking to ensure that these treatments are available as soon as possible on the NHS.
In conclusion, there are five high-level aims to this plan, but only one of those five aims is really measurable, namely the first, which commits to halting the growth in ill health and deaths associated with liver disease before 2020. The four other aims in the plan before us today are, to all intents and purposes, completely immeasurable and don’t have a specific timetable. We would like to move to a point where the Welsh Government, in all of its plans and strategies, sets clear objectives that are measurable and have a specific timetable, in order to demonstrate leadership to the various sectors in terms of what the Welsh Government expects to be achieved, and is accountable to us for that achievement.
Mae pob un o'r tri siaradwr blaenorol wedi sôn am y cysylltiad rhwng alcohol a chlefyd yr afu, a chredaf fod hynny bellach wedi ei hen sefydlu ym meddyliau pobl, er, yn amlwg, fod yr ateb i ddarbwyllo pobl i yfed llai ac i ofyn am gymorth pan fo angen, yn amlwg, yn rhywbeth sy'n parhau i fod yn benbleth. Ond mae'n debyg mai'r agwedd bwysicaf ar y cynllun gweithredu hwn ar gyfer clefyd yr afu yw’r pwysigrwydd y mae'n ei roi i'r cysylltiad rhwng gordewdra a chlefyd yr afu, ac mae gordewdra yn her gynyddol ym mhob grŵp oedran, a gallai fod yn brif achos—yn brif achos—clefyd yr afu yn y dyfodol. Mae hynny yn y cynllun. Felly, rwyf am gyfyngu fy sylwadau i'r her arbennig honno, oherwydd credaf mai dyna'r un sy'n sicr fwyaf amlwg i mi.
So, we know that a quarter of children aged four to five are overweight or obese, and that it is more than that in the most deprived areas. Recent research by the Overseas Development Institute in London, which was reported yesterday in the papers, shows that this is not just a problem in Wales or the UK or even the United States, but it’s also become a major problem in four of the biggest emerging industrial countries, namely Brazil, Mexico, China and Korea. So, this should be a huge concern to all of us, and particularly because junk food continues to go down in price, whereas real food continues to be more expensive. For example, in the UK, the cost of an ice cream—rarely containing any cream or, indeed, milk—has actually halved between 1980 and 2012, whereas fresh vegetables have tripled in price. So, it is hardly surprising that the stagnation of earnings and the reduction in benefits has driven people to choose the cheaper options, even though we know the costs in the long term will be borne by all of us in increasing healthcare costs.
So, as well as a minimum alcohol pricing scheme, which I strongly support, and I’m sure that we’ll all be voting in favour of that amendment, I wondered whether the Government would also consider a fat, sugar and salt tax to counter the trend, as part of the need to systematically tackle the obesogenic environment. There are many things that we have already done, namely the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013, namely the healthy eating in schools initiative, but the size of the problem is so great, and the cost to society in terms of premature deaths, that I feel that this is the sort of thing that we should be considering. Mexico has already imposed a junk-food tax, and it is terrifying how quickly their culinary customs have changed as a result of the free trade act and the undermining of their national dishes. So, if they can do it, why can’t we?
I’d just like to point out that research in the UK in 2009 calculated that a 17.5 per cent tax, similar to VAT, on junk food, used to subsidise fruit and vegetables, would save between 3,600 and 6,400 premature deaths. If you compare that to the 3,600—. Even the lower figure of 3,600 is more than twice the number killed on the roads, on which there is a great deal more money spent than there is on trying to tackle the obesity problem. So, I think we should be seriously considering this, either as part of the public health Bill or as a separate Bill.
Could I welcome the publication of the plan? I think sometimes we are guilty of ignoring this particular disease area and group of patients, and it’s very welcome to see this renewed focus on tackling liver disease in all its forms.
If I could talk to some of the specifics within the plan, Deputy Presiding Officer, key to the Government’s policy is fast and effective diagnosis and care for those suffering from liver disease, yet the plan does recognise that the ability to do so at present is limited by the availability of appropriately trained specialists and the infrastructure within our hospital system to enable that to happen. So, it does the beg the question, having acknowledged that problem within the infrastructure, as to what plans does the Government have to ensure that we have the appropriately trained staff, both medical and nursing, to deliver the plan that is ahead of us. If they have recognised that there’s a shortage to date, what active steps are they taking to recruit into this particular area?
The plan also goes on to say that one of the monitors of the delivery of this plan will be referral-to-treatment times, and this, of course, is an area where the Welsh Government struggles to meet its own aspirations and targets. Again, I would interested to hear from the Deputy Minister what proactive steps he’s going to take to ensure that referral-to-treatment times are met with this particular group of patients.
If I could move to the issue of minimum pricing of alcohol, I think the opposition spokesperson is mistaken, or certainly didn’t listen to what the Deputy Minister had to say in his opening remarks with regard to the ability to legislate in this Assembly term. It’s not the Deputy Minister’s or the Government’s intention, my understanding is, to legislate on the face of the public health Bill. There will have to be a separate piece of legislation in the next Assembly following the outcome, I suspect, of the European Commission’s deliberations on competence issues, which have led to the Scottish legislation running into difficulty.
On these benches, I have to admit, there is a difference of opinion as to whether minimum pricing is an evidence-based intervention in this particular arena. I personally am in favour of it, and I will have a job of work ahead of me in convincing my colleagues who sit alongside me that this is the case. But I think we have to be realistic if we believe that minimum pricing alone is the answer to our alcohol consumption issues in this country, because we do know, from the drug and alcohol strategies and reports the Government has undertaken, that one of the major problems that we have in terms of alcohol misuse in Wales is older, middle-income, high-income drinkers who are drinking at home, probably at a price point that is way above the minimum alcohol price point that we’d be setting. This particular measure will influence drinkers, perhaps, at one level in our communities who are drinking in a certain kind of way, but it is not going to actually impact upon the area that the Welsh Government itself recognises is where the main problem with alcohol misuse is in Wales at the moment—it will not be affected by these measures. So, this alone is not going to solve those problems, but I, personally, think it is an important element of what we can do, as a Government, to intervene and to try and influence people’s alcohol choices.
Could I turn to the issue of hepatitis C and the conundrum that arises out of the miracles of science? The development of sofosbuvir and simeprevir is a wonderful challenge to have, but it is a challenge nonetheless. We know that these particular drugs will transform—transform—the treatment options available for those suffering from hepatitis C. They are shorter interventions, the side effects are far fewer than the interferon interventions that we have at present and they can, effectively, cure people of their disease. But what we do know is that they are hugely expensive upfront; that’s why the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has given permission for the Westminster Government to delay its implementation of its recommendations. Let’s be clear: these drugs have been approved for use by NICE. We know that they work, but there is a job of work to be done now by Welsh Government on understanding how these drugs will be issued in Wales, because there is a real conundrum: who gets it first? Is it the intravenous drug user who often is not a very sympathetic patient, or is it that person who acquired their hepatitis via NHS blood-borne transmission? What do we do? How do we get these drugs out in a fair, timely—
Finish with this now, please.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
[Continues.]—and equitable fashion to those people who are desperate—desperate—to receive them?
I think that every point that I could have made has been covered, so I will try and be brief on this. Everybody’s discussed that the core of the delivery plan must be prevention. People eat too much, they drink too much and they exercise too little, and that has caused an increase in liver disease. But, of course, there are the other medical reasons, like hepatitis, that have been mentioned as well.
I would like to know, Minister, what we’re going to do about a public health campaign, because I think, if you say to people that there’s a huge increase in deaths from liver disease, they’d be quite surprised, because it isn’t all that well known. I do think that it is something that would benefit from some sort of publicity campaign. I do realise, though, that money is limited, and I do also welcome the amount of money that has been put into this plan. I think, in the circumstances that we’re in, it is a reasonably generous amount of money.
One of the things that people have been talking about—and I think Darren mentioned Marie Curie—was the fact that, when people are diagnosed with liver disease, there isn’t always a look to the future to look at what palliative care they may need if that disease is going to be terminal. We know that people are dying in hospital when they do not wish to die in hospital. They share that with many other people, don’t they? If you ask most people, ‘Where would you prefer to spend your last days if you were ill?’, most people would say, ‘I want to spend them in my home, with support, if that is possible’. That is common to all palliative care, and I think that it means that we must look more and more at what services we are providing in the community, because they don’t only apply to cancer or to liver disease, in this case, or to many of the other diseases that can, sadly, prove to be terminal. So, I think that we do need to that.
But also, if we do do that, we must see that the services provided are consistent, and that means that health boards must sign up to this. Not one health board, but all of the health boards, must sign up to this so that what does happen, if, sadly, people do need palliative care, is that they can get it wherever they are.
I can’t really say much else. I certainly support Elin Jones’s amendment—I think most people here do—and Kirsty Williams is absolutely right in saying that it’s not the only thing that needs to happen. Because you are absolutely right: the statistics are that it is older people and middle-class people—people who can afford it—who are drinking in the home, and who are doing more and more damage to themselves. They’re not all in Ibiza, doing whatever they do in Ibiza.
Ed Miliband is in Ibiza. [Laughter.]
I’d forgotten about that. Well, he deserves a break.
But, seriously, I think that, in palliative care and in caring for people who are terminally ill, there are a lot of things that are common and we shouldn’t, when we’re looking at one disease, not learn those lessons in other areas. We have a palliative care strategy, but I hope that we continue to develop resources and realise that we need to look at the community, we need to look at community-supported initiatives, and we must do as much as we can to see that health boards are completely signed up to this and take responsibility for their part in it.
Galwaf ar y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd i ymateb i’r ddadl.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Diolch ichi, Ddirprwy Lywydd, a diolch i'r Aelodau am eu cyfraniadau i’r hyn a fu’n ddadl adeiladol iawn am y cynllun cyflawni clefyd yr afu. Byddaf yn cael cyfle i fynd drwy rai o'r sylwadau, ond nid pob un ohonynt, neu fel arall byddwn yma tan tua 7:00, a gwn nad yw amynedd y Dirprwy Lywydd yn estyn mor bell â hynny.
I thank Darren Millar for his first contribution, which, again was constructive, dealing with a number of the choices that we have to make and in the focus on this particular area and, again, a number of other Members mentioned that it’s welcome to have a focus on this particular condition and this particular area, which often doesn’t get lots of publicity and activity within this Chamber or in our committees. It’s fair to deal with, perhaps, the point he made about the choices over the £1 million allocated to the plan, and other Members took an interest in this as well; I recognise that. The implementation group will be determining how that money is used. It won’t be a central directive from myself or the Minister about how that money will be used. I think this all helps to deal with a number of points that both Darren Millar and other people raised about who will be involved in doing that.
There’ll be clinical leadership coming together from across Wales, but also the third sector will have a role, both campaign and advocacy groups, but importantly it’s about ensuring that the voice of the patient is part of helping to design the outcomes and then to determine the priorities for the spend of the money that goes with the delivery plan. We’re inviting the British Liver Trust and the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation to take part in the implementation group and also to help deal with the issues specifically mentioned by a number of Members around hepatitis C. We’re looking for third sector groups to take part in infrastructure around the plan to have an input in that particular area. I’ll give way to Darren Millar on this point.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. I’m very grateful for that response, particularly in terms of the engagement with different groups. Can you tell us how the £1 million was arrived at, though, in terms of your estimate of the figure that Wales needed to spend in order to bring these services up to scratch so that this plan can be implemented? I can’t see any science behind that figure; I think it’s been plucked out of the sky.
There was a choice made to give each of the delivery plans £1 million to help advance their areas of activity. So, there’s commonality and equality for each delivery plan about how they take that forward. What really matters in each delivery plan is it combines clinical leadership from across Wales and the third sector, so the voices of the campaign and charitable groups and the patient are there to help to determine what the key priorities will be and then how that money is used. There’s always got to be a choice about how much and how far we determine from the centre what the priorities will be and how you actually involve the clinicians and their patients in determining not just resource but priorities for action as we go forward—and not all of those will be finance intensive.
I welcome support from pretty much every Member who spoke for the principle of minimum unit pricing, and everyone recognises the challenges that we have on actually being able to get a law that every party here would recognise actually passed. In particular, Elin Jones made a very constructive argument for why minimum unit pricing is part of the solution but not all of the solution—the point made by Elin, Kirsty, Sandy and Jenny in particular about the phenomenon of middle-class drinking, because this is not an area where you look at a straight line of a greater challenge of deprivation. It’s one of the few significant public health challenges where there is a greater problem for middle-income groups, and it’s not something that we avoid or ignore; it will absolutely be something that the implementation group will need to look at and, in particular, in terms of our delivery on substance misuse as well.
I’d like to thank Jenny Rathbone for her contribution. Again, she is nothing if not consistent in her focus on the areas of obesity and the significant challenge that brings, not just in this area, but in a wide range of others, in terms of a very major public health challenge for the whole country, and it’s impact on health services and what it will mean if we’re not able to persuade our public to take a different view and attitude to managing their own health and health behaviours. It’s not for me in this debate to try and set out a new path for the Government on fat, sugar and salt taxation, but there will be a lively debate around that with the public health Bill, and other opportunities in this Chamber and beyond.
I’d like to return to my closing remarks, and I will pick up some other points mentioned by Members. We recognise that we do need to keep a focus on prevention and enabling strategies that reduce the burden of liver disease. This goes to the point Sandy Mewies made about public awareness of this issue, which is relatively low. The plan has an important role in supporting this, but is not the place to lead the wider effort against obesity and alcohol misuse. We have bespoke approaches to increasing physical activity, improving diets, tackling alcohol and substance misuse, and those efforts all have an impact across a number of diseases and conditions. But, it is always something that is in our mind in a whole range of areas of activity in the health service.
This plan now provides leadership on blood-borne viral hepatitis and it is the successor to the blood-borne viral hepatitis plan. Now, we have had mentioned in the debate by a number of Members, including Kirsty Williams, the genuinely exciting developments aimed at the treatment of hepatitis C. There are new medicines coming onto the market that can more effectively clear hepatitis from the liver, with a better safety profile and tolerance by patients. So, it’s not just the outcomes; it’s the patient experience that is being improved as well. And, as Kirsty Williams mentioned, sofosbuvir has the potential to save the health service a significant amount of money in the long term and improve outcomes. The challenge, as you identify, is that the cost of treatment is very high and the number of individuals requiring treatment in the first year has been estimated already in NHS Wales at more than 400. The challenge for the NHS in Wales is how we roll out those new medicines in a targeted and phased manner to ensure the greatest impact on hepatitis C transmission and patient outcomes. And, I won’t pretend that it’s an easy challenge.
I agree, it is a very difficult problem the Government faces. Would you agree with me, though, that, at present, the emphasis is on treating, quite understandably, those who are the most ill first? Those who have tried to manage their condition feel a sense of injustice, that because they’ve tried to manage, and they’re a little bit better, they will wait longer. There’s almost a disincentive for people to try and manage their health.
I understand the point you’re making. Indeed, I’ve had representations from people who had contaminated blood. Some of those contracted hepatitis, and they’re actively trying to manage their condition. I recognise the argument they make. However, we must always look at where the greatest benefit lies and how we do that. So, I’m not pretending it’s an easy issue, and I won’t try and give a glib answer that says we can do this all in one go, or that there won’t be challenges as we try to roll this out. But, the message about managing your condition, and how to successfully manage it, is about much more than just access to drugs and treatment.
I need to move on and make some progress so I don’t run out of time. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the NHS in Wales will be how it grows its hepatology workforce and expertise at a time when workforce requirements point to the need for more generalist care and especially more care in the community. So, a proper balance has to be struck between growing that generalist medical care and access to specialist advice from hepatologists. For some patients access to specialist secondary and tertiary care is key to improving their outcomes. Health boards will need to consider how best to provide a balance of generalist and specialist care in areas to meet their population need. This plan has been developed in collaboration with Public Health Wales, the Welsh association of gastroenterology and endoscopy, and hepatologists from the NHS in Wales. I’m pleased that the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board director of public health, Dr Sara Hayes, has agreed to chair the implementation group and help to drive forward implementation of the plan. In line with the other delivery plans and their implementation groups, membership will be sought from health boards, the third sector and key stakeholders.
Briefly before I finish, I do want to mention that I recognise the points made by a number of Members, including Sandy Mewies, about end-of-life care. I do, of course have an end-of-life care delivery plan, and there is absolutely an ambition to see a much greater level of achievement and consistency in end-of-life care here in Wales. This document and this plan isn’t just a vision statement or a strategy; it is supposed to be a specific action plan for NHS Wales, developed by NHS Wales with its partners and stakeholders. And, I expect, as do Members, to see improvements in outcomes in the coming years and a greater link to integrated medium-term plans.
I thank Members who have contributed to today’s very constructive debate, and I look forward to discussing this issue in the future with Members. Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.
Y cwestiwn yw: a ddylid derbyn gwelliant 1? A oes unrhyw wrthwynebiad? [Gwrthwynebiad.] Gohiriaf bob pleidlais ar yr eitem hon tan y cyfnod pleidleisio.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Voting deferred until voting time.
Mae’n gyfnod pleidleisio. Cyn imi gynnal y bleidlais, a oes tri Aelod sy'n dymuno i'r gloch gael ei chanu? Nid oes, felly pleidleisiwn yn awr ar y ddadl hon am y cynllun cyflawni ar gyfer clefyd yr afu. Galwaf am bleidlais ar welliant 1, a gyflwynwyd yn enw Paul Davies. Agor y bleidlais. Yn gyflym os gwelwch yn dda. Cau’r bleidlais. Pleidleisiodd 9 o blaid. Pleidleisiodd 29 yn erbyn. Roedd 9 yn ymatal. Felly, nid yw'r gwelliant wedi ei dderbyn.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Gwrthodwyd y gwelliant: O blaid 9, Yn erbyn 29, Ymatal 9.
Galwaf am bleidlais ar welliant 2, a gyflwynwyd yn enw Elin Jones. Agor y bleidlais. Cau’r bleidlais. Pleidleisiodd 44 o blaid. Un bleidlais yn erbyn. Roedd dau yn ymatal. Felly, mae gwelliant 2 wedi ei dderbyn.
Result of the vote on amendment 1 to motion NDM5743
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Derbyniwyd y gwelliant: O blaid 44, Yn erbyn 1, Ymatal 2.
Galwaf yn awr am bleidlais ar y cynnig wedi'i ddiwygio.
Result of the vote on amendment 2 to motion NDM5743
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Cynnig NDM5753 fel y’I diwygiwyd:
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
Notes the Liver Disease Delivery Plan, a framework for NHS Wales to improve liver disease services until 2020.
Calls on the Welsh Government to implement a minimum unit pricing for alcohol as soon as possible.
Agor y bleidlais. Cau’r bleidlais. Pleidleisiodd 47 o blaid. Nid oedd dim pleidleisiau yn erbyn. Felly, mae’r cynnig fel y'i diwygiwyd wedi ei dderbyn.
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
Derbyniwyd cynnig NDM5743 fel y’I diwygiwyd: O blaid 47, Yn erbyn 0, Ymatal 0.
Motion NDM5743 as amended agreed: For 47, Against 0, Abstain 0.
Result of the vote on motion NDM5743 as amended
Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer
That concludes today’s business.
The meeting ended at 16:26.