Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

12/01/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant MS
Janet Finch-Saunders MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Jonathan Baxter Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Sian Giddins Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:03.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:03.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good morning, bore da. I welcome everyone to this virtual meeting of the Petitions Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I've determined that the public are excluded from attending this meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants will be joining by video-conference. The meeting is bilingual, and translation is available. A Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. Apologies—we have apologies from Michelle Brown MS.

2. Deisebau newydd Covid-19
2. New COVID-19 petitions

Item 2, COVID-19 new petitions. So, 2.1, P-05-1050, 'Require local lockdowns to be subject to a vote of the Senedd for approval before being implemented'. This petition was submitted by Caleb Harris, having collected 127 signatures. And the text of the petition is as follows:

'In light of the recent amendment in the U.K. Parliament by Sir Graham Brady for further restrictions to require the approval of Parliament, the same requirement should be made for restrictions in Wales. Civil liberties being curtailed should require the democratic consent of the people of Wales through a vote of Senedd members before being implemented. It will help to provide accountability for those areas which are placed under local Coronavirus restrictions.'

So, we received a response from the First Minister on 11 December. A research brief has been provided. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not done so. So, I would like to invite Members to discuss this petition and any actions you wish for us to take. Jack.

09:05

Thanks, Chair. I believe there's another similar petition due to come in front of the committee in the next committee meeting in early February, so perhaps we could link them together and look at the two of them as one. I think that would be more sensible to scrutinise them as one.

Thank you.

Item 2.2, P-05-1052, 'Give Nurses a pay rise in line with other frontline staff during COVID-19 pandemic'. This petition was submitted by Ffion Rees, having collected 2,078 signatures, and the text reads:

'The Welsh Government has announced it would be awarding doctors and dentists a 2.8% pay rise, staying that the pay rise "reflects the commitment of the people who make sure our NHS is there for you"

'Despite this, nursing staff, many of whom contracted the virus while working, were not included in the pay rise.

'As a newly qualified mental health nurse, I am asking the Senedd to reflect the dedication of nursing staff by giving them the pay rise they deserve.'

Now, a response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 15 December. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

I think this is a really important, crucial issue. The nursing workforce have gone way over and above during this pandemic, and, of course, have put themselves in danger in doing so. I understand the arguments about the three-year pay review and the fact that it's due to come up in April and May, but nurses feel as though they are being treated in a way that is different to their colleagues in other parts of the health service, and many feel aggrieved and angry as a result of that. So, I would like to see this committee do what we can to support their cause.

I welcome the fact that the Minister has asked for the due pay review to be brought forward, and I think that's something that we can all support, but if there's anything at all that can be done between now and that pay review, whether it be something like a commitment to backdate any future pay award to the beginning of the pandemic, something like that, in order to ensure that this group of very, very valued workers feel valued, then I think that that's something that this committee should pursue.

So, we need to note the petition now, I think, and await the further views of the petitioner, while keeping a watching brief, and if we can write to the Minister with the views that I've expressed, because I think I speak on behalf of quite a large number of the population when I say that this group of workers deserve to be recognised. It's easy to clap on doorsteps, but this is something that they really want. They want to be recognised in their pay award.

Yes, I fully agree. I said last week, Chair, I wouldn't just clap, I'd fight, so this is part of fighting, so I fully agree with Leanne.

Yes, thank you.

Moving on, 2.3, P-05-1075, 'Don't impose a 15 person limit on organised indoor activities, such as swimming lessons and fitness classes, after firebreak lockdown'. This petition was submitted by Sean McCue, having collected 2,394 signatures, and it reads:

'Activity and sport is part of the solution to Covid. This country is losing the fight with obesity and increasing potential for wider mental health issues in the population and physical activity needs to be classed as an essential service

'Limiting numbers causes sessions to be spread out across a normal timetable of venue availability and limits the number of sessions available to an individual

'This also has a financial impact on Community Amateur Sports Clubs.'

A response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 9 December. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. The committee should note that the petition and the response from the Deputy Minister were both received prior to the announcement that Wales would move to alert level 4 from late December, which does include the closure of gyms and swimming pools. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

09:10

Thanks, Chair. I think, as you said then, we received this petition prior to the new situation that we find ourselves in, and the response. Given that, I think we are in a new wave of this virus and in a very dangerous time at the moment. I can't see this changing in the short term, certainly, with gyms being closed and so on, so perhaps I could propose we note this petition. We've sent it to the Minister, the Minister knows how the petitioners feel as well. When we hopefully do go to a better and safer environment, he can take this petition into account when making new decisions. But for now, I don't think there's much more the Petitions Committee can do. 

I agree with that, but I also feel that not enough is being done to ensure that people can have access to safe and suitable exercise within the COVID restrictions. I've got a huge amount of sympathy with people who say that, if they can't access their usual ways of keeping fit and accessing exercise, then that's impacting on their mental health. Could a response to that from Government be putting together a package of resources of ways in which you can exercise and access different ways of being safe in terms of your exercise? There are things people can do—running, walking, cycling, things you can do as individuals that don't necessarily mean going into indoor venues. Yes, I know that that's not where people might feel most comfortable, but at least the Government is being a bit more proactive than just saying, 'COVID—shut down all these facilities, people who were previously using these facilities to improve their physical and mental well-being, well they'll just have to manage'. Well, we can be a bit more proactive about this. This obesity crisis is real, and it's linked to diabetes. We all know about how people with certain illnesses are at a greater risk from COVID, so it's not as if these things are not linked. So, I wonder if we could write back to the Government and ask if they would be prepared to put together some sort of package of resources, ideas, for people to be able to access exercise in different ways, because this is coming up time and time again, isn't it? This is not the only petition that we've received on this. It's clearly an issue and it's clearly going to keep coming up, so let's try to provide an alternative solution if we can't provide the one that the petitioners are asking for. 

Okay. Item 2.4, P-05-1087, 'Stop the mass isolation of healthy school children!' This petition was submitted by Victoria Codling, having collected 1,177 signatures, and it reads:

'Children isolating for 14 days is so detrimental to their mental and physical well being, it is disproportionate to the risk of their exposure to corona virus in the first place.

'Some children are enduring their third period of isolation in as many months! Children with additional needs or from disadvantaged backgrounds are even more adversely affected.

'Working (non isolating) parents are suffering with employers not always sympathetic in these tough economic times.'

A response was received from the Minister for Education on 2 December. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

I think this is a real issue, Chair. Can I say from the start that employers should be understanding and sympathetic to this? Absolutely, we need to make that clear, I think, as a Petitions Committee and as a Senedd. So, let's make that clear first. This is a real issue. I do note, obviously, the reduction in self-isolation periods to 10 days, and this was before that was announced, but given that, I'd like to hear a bit more from the petitioner and perhaps bring this back to committee, because I think there's a lot of people out there who are having problems, particularly working non-isolating parents with employers who perhaps aren't as sympathetic as they certainly should be. So, I propose that we give the petitioner another opportunity to come back to the Petitions Committee with their views.

09:15

Okay. Item 2.5, P-05-1080, 'Introduce anti-racist teaching materials to children in schools in Wales to reduce hate crimes'. This is page 65 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Fatima Altaiy, having collected 4,053 signatures, and it reads:

'Children need to be educated on how to be anti-racist. Although introducing POC and black history into the curriculum will be extremely beneficial, children need to have direct conversations about racism and how to be anti-racist. This will reduce bullying in schools and allow children to grow up in a multi-cultural environment, regardless of whether that have been surrounded by other cultures or not. This way, children will understand other cultures, and defeat stereotypes and discrimination.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Education on 18 December. A research brief has been provided. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting that has not done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

This is not the only petition in this area, so I think it would make sense for us to look at this petition with 'Make it compulsory for Black and POC UK histories to be taught in the Welsh education curriculum' and consider those petitions together in the future. I'd like to await the further comments from the petitioner following the response to the petition that's been provided to us by the Minister for Education before considering further action on this petition, but I'd also like to see the committee taking the views of Show Racism the Red Card. They've done some very good work in relation to racism within the Welsh education system, and have compiled an excellent report. If we can seek their views in relation to the petitions that we've received—not just this one, but the other ones that are in front of us as well—then I think that would enable us as Members to have more information before deciding what further action can be taken on this.

Okay. Moving on, the following two items will be considered together: 2.6 and 2.7. Item 2.6 is P-05-1084, 'Teach Welsh children about Wales' colonisation of Patagonia'. This petition was submitted by Jessica Dyer, having collected a total of 103 signatures, and it reads:

'Wales' colonisation of Patagonia must be introduced into the curriculum. It is taught to be a beautiful unity of two countries worlds apart when in reality it erases civil rights history. It was always taught as a means to keep the Welsh language alive by introducing it to a South American country, when in reality Welsh people were introduced to Patagonia to "civilise" communities which derives from racist ideologies which don’t get taught in school.'

The next one, 2.7, is P-05-1098, 'Make Wales' role in British colonial history a compulsory school subject'. This petition was submitted by Anthony Cusack, having collected a total of 50 signatures:

'Currently the debate around race is very much in the forefront of everybody's mind. As majority white population this it is a fortunate position that we can choose when we think about race. For many in the BAME community this is not a choice but a daily truth. Wales and Welsh people played an active role in British Colonial history. With figures such as Thomas Picton later celebrated with statues.'

Responses to both petitions were received from the Minister for Education on 15 December. Research briefs on both petitions have been provided. The petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but neither has yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

09:20

Thanks, Chair. I know there's work being done by Estyn and also the group led by Professor Charlotte Williams to complement the curriculum for Wales, but perhaps we could wait to hear the petitioners' views again on this. I do understand that this Senedd Petitions Committee is coming to an end, but this is an important issue, so I think we should give them the opportunity before considering what to do next. 

The next one is 2.8, P-05-1086, 'Create a National Museum for Welsh Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic History and Heritage'. This petition was submitted by Yasmin Begum, having collected 490 signatures. It reads:

'We, the undersigned, petition Senedd Cymru to create a museum to celebrate Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Welsh history.

'As part of the national establishment, we hope that the rich heritage of Tiger Bay will be preserved and offer a home for the Tiger Bay Archive.'

A response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 11 December. A research brief has been provided. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. The committee has recently considered petition P-05-1073, 'Create and build a new branch of National Museum Wales dedicated to Welsh involvement in colonialism', and has written to National Museum Wales to seek further information on its current work in relation to diversity. We are currently awaiting a response.

Chair, all of these issues are linked in together, aren't they? Because if we're serious about teaching children and young people in schools about colonisation, empire, the role that black people have played in our history, and so on, then teachers need resources to draw on, and museums, and the archives that have been created around that, are really important resources in that teaching. So, there does need to be some linking up here between the work that's going on under Professor Charlotte Williams, the work that's going on further within the national curriculum that we've already touched upon, and the development of resources within the museum system. So, I think we need to hold on to this petition in the spirit of the other ones that we've just discussed as well, and see them as a whole, and await now the response from the petitioner before we can take any further action. As I've said, if we can consider this petition in with the others as a general issue, then I think that might make more sense, for us to see the issue as a wider whole.

Item 2.9, P-05-1081, 'Ensure owners of second homes & holiday lets in Wales register to vote only at their primary address, in devolved and local elections'. This petition was submitted by Gorau i Gymru—Best for Wales, having collected 4,896 signatures. It reads:

'The Electoral Commission has confirmed there are no systematic checks on whether someone has voted twice. We do not believe that the mere fact that electoral fraud is illegal in itself provides sufficient safeguarding if no systematic checks are made. This is akin to having speeding laws in place but no functioning speed cameras. The serious potential for fraud & the harmful impact of that on our country is immense and should be urgently addressed prior to the 2021 elections.'

A response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 14 December. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack, and then Leanne.

Thanks, Chair. I think it's a fair point made. I'd suggest that we write to the Electoral Commission to seek their views and gain a fuller explanation on what the specific residency criteria are. I think the Minister refers to that in her response. So, yes, I think it's a fair point and we should find out a little bit more about this.

09:25

Yes, I agree. This argument that there's no evidence to suggest that voting twice is a problem, how would you know if you're not looking at it, if you're not researching it? So, I would like to seek the views of the Electoral Commission before seeing if we can take any further action on this. 

3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
3. Updates to previous petitions

Item 3 on the agenda: updates to previous petitions. Item 3.1, P-05-920, 'School Budgeting for ALN'. The petition was submitted by Iwan Williams and was first considered in December 2019, having collected 106 signatures.

'​We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge Welsh Government to allocate an additional budget for schools across Wales, to be able to provide the additional learning needed for pupils with additional learning needs (ALN) and achieve the objectives of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018.'

Now, the committee has considered this petition on three occasions. We last discussed it on 3 November when the committee agreed to write back to the Minister for Education to ask for an outline of the next steps for additional learning needs funding following the recent publication of the review of school spending in Wales, and in light of the concerns expressed by the Welsh Local Government Association; and also the information about what funding is provided to support the diagnosis of additional learning needs. A response was received from the Minister on 8 December and it's in your pack. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

This is quite frustrating, isn't it, because we all know that there are children with additional learning needs in schools that are not getting the funding or support that they need, yet the additional funding just doesn't exist. There's money for the transition, but it's not really about providing additional support and additional services, which is what we all know is required. That said, I'm not sure where we can take this now as a committee. It's very clear that although the petitioner wants dedicated ring-fenced funding for this, the Government is not going to move on that and the WLGA fully support that money not being ring-fenced, for local authorities to have maximum flexibility in terms of how they spend.

So, I'm not sure where else we can take it at this time. I'm at a loss to make any further suggestions, so I think the only thing that we can do now is to say thank you to the petitioners, close the petition, but as Members to keep an eye on this and to argue the case for additional funding in schools for children with additional learning needs in our other political platforms that are available to us, hopefully beyond the election.

Yes, I'd agree. Perhaps local Members can take this up with individual local authorities if they see fit to do so.

Yes, okay, and I'd like to place on record our thanks to the petitioner for raising this.

Item 3.2, P-05-972, 'To provide a minimum of 4 hours a day of live teaching during COVID closures for all school children'. The petition was submitted by Siobhan King and was first considered in July 2020, having collected 100 signatures. The text reads:

'Welsh children have not been in school since March 20th and very few in the state education sector have received any face to face teaching. We the undersigned want a minimum of 4 hours a day face to face live teaching on line.'

So, the committee considered this for the first time on 7 July and agreed to write to the Children, Young People and Education Committee to share this petition, and request that it is considered as part of their ongoing consideration of the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on children and young people in Wales. The CYPE committee inquiry is ongoing, with that committee having recently sought further evidence from the Welsh Government. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not done so. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. Again, I think it's an important issue raised, but I think we've done the right thing in giving this to the Children, Young People and Education Committee. I think they're the right people to look into this, to take this forward, and offer the right scrutiny of the Welsh Government. I would suggest that we reiterate the importance to the children and young people's committee, but from our Petitions Committee I don't think there's much more we can do other than that, so I'd like to thank the petitioner for bringing this forward—an important petition—and close it on our behalf, but certainly push CYPE to continue looking at this during their scrutiny work.

09:30

Okay. Agreed? Thank you.

The next one, P-05-1033, 'Abolish Education Workforce Council (EWC) registration fees and completely reform its organisation'. This petition was submitted by Robert Southall and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 371 signatures. It reads:

'The registration fee is regressive and deducted from our wages on behalf of the EWC and Government. It is the same if you are full time, proportional or part time. It is a tax on education professionals. The EWC is not a representative body, it has failed to provide comprehensive CPD or promised bursaries for career enhancement. It is not accountable to, or representative of, its registrants. It is a regulatory body, accountable only to the Minister, so there should be no registration fee.'

We considered this for the first time on 3 November, and we agreed to write to the Education Workforce Council to ask, (1) for its response to the petition and the further issues raised by the petitioner, and, (2) for further information about the vision of the organisation, how it supports teachers and school staff to perform their roles, and for notable achievements since it was established. A response was received on 10 December, and the petitioner has also provided further comments. What action would you like to take? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I'm not too sure there's much more that the Petitions Committee can do now. We've sought a number of views from the Minister and the Education Workforce Council itself. I do note the petitioner's disappointment and dissatisfaction with the position of both, but I don't think there's much more as a committee we can commit to taking forward today, so on that basis I suggest that we have to close the petition, but obviously thank the petitioner for bringing this forward and sharing his views.

Okay. Is everyone agreed? Yes. Item 3.4, P-05-963, 'Require supermarkets to donate excess food to charity'. This petition was submitted by Crosskeys My World My Home Group, and was first considered in June 2020, having collected 84 signatures. The text reads:

'Throughout the world, one third of all food produced annually is wasted. In the UK, that equates to about 9.5 million tonnes, which represents a huge waste of resources and unnecessary pressure on our environment. Despite this, from 2018 to 2019, Trussell Trust charity had to distribute a record 1.6 million food bank parcels in the UK. We believe that food should not be thrown away when there are people going hungry in this country.

'In February 2016, France decided to take action against the food waste problem and mandated that its supermarkets donate all food nearing its sell-by-date to charity—a law that now rescues 46,000 tons of food from being thrown away every year, and has increased food bank donations in France by over 20%.

'In 2019, the law was extended to encompass the institutional catering and agro-food industries. We believe that WE CAN DO THE SAME here in Wales by saving edible food and preventing our nation’s supermarkets, restaurant chains and food suppliers from sending decent food to landfill. The Welsh Government has already been working with Fare Share Cymru to redistribute the equivalent of over 8 million meals since 2011.

'By adopting the solution used in France, we can take a much bigger step towards ending hunger in Wales, as well as the Welsh Government’s goal of halving food waste by 2025, which will also put us on the path to becoming Zero Waste by 2050.

'Please sign this petition calling on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to pass a law similar to the one in France to take a stand AGAINST food waste and FOR those in need.'

So, we've considered this particular petition now on three occasions. We last discussed it on 13 October and agreed to write to the committee in the House of Commons responsible for scrutinising the UK Environment Bill to note its support for the relevant provisions being provided to Welsh Ministers, and to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to urge that additional powers be used, when available, to require supermarkets to donate excess food. A response was received from the Minister on 18 November. The petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but have not done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

09:35

Well, for me, this is a classic example of our powers as a Senedd being not up to scratch in terms of enabling the Government to deal with the climate crisis that we're facing. There are so many people right throughout this country who are involved in these food share schemes, which are not quite the same as foodbanks because I'm involved in running one in the Rhondda, for example, and it's about eliminating food waste as opposed to meeting food need, although, of course, people who are in food need take full advantage of the scheme in many cases. This is something that Wales should be able to do and I do have a great amount of sympathy with the Minister on this when she says that many of the supermarkets are already participating, in a voluntary way, in a scheme like this and she would like to do this, but she doesn't have the powers and she would like to have those powers devolved, but they aren't and now we're seeking to influence legislation going through Westminster. That is not an ideal situation for any Minister to be in. You want to be able to have that box of tools to be able to change things as you see fit.

So, I do have sympathy with the Minister on this and I certainly have sympathy with the petitioners, but having said all of that, given where we are, given the correspondence from the Minister and the fact that she doesn't have the powers and that she is seeking to influence Westminster legislation, then I think that this petition has gone as far as it can with us here in this committee. So, therefore, there's not much more we can achieve with it, so we should say thank you to the petitioner. But this is an issue that's not going to go away and from my personal perspective, it perfectly highlights the problems that we've got in terms of not having the right level of powers to be able to deal with the crisis that we face. It's like the Government is trying to deal with this with one hand tied behind its back. And, of course, as a Member of Plaid Cymru, I perhaps would say that, wouldn't I? But, really, this highlights the problem that we face here with a lack of powers.

Yes. Chair, could I encourage those who support this petition to write to their MPs as well, to express their views during the passage of the Bill through the UK Parliament? I think it's important that they should share those views. I'm sure that they have anyway, but anyone else watching should also consider doing that.

Okay, thank you. Moving on, 3.5, P-05-1010, 'An independent inquiry into the 2020 flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf so that lessons are learned'. This petition was submitted by Heledd Fychan and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 6,017 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 29 September and agreed to seek time for a Plenary debate. The debate was held on 9 December, and the petitioner has provided further comments following the debate. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

I think it's fair to say that many of the people involved in this petition and the campaign for an independent inquiry in Rhondda Cynon Taf—and I'm one of those people—are quite frustrated by the way that this has panned out. Because it went to Plenary and everyone was delighted that we managed to get as many signatures to get that far, but then the debate really wasn't adequate; it failed to address many of the issues by saying that everything would be dealt with under the section 19 reports. As the petitioner has pointed out, there were insufficient answers in terms of whether or not flooding of this scale would be prevented from occurring in the future through these reports, whether adequate answers would inform a whole-Wales plan and approach to flood prevention, and it will fail to give an insight into the impact the floods have had on people's physical and mental health in those areas and, of course, we all know about the impact on business. And so, while the Minister argued against an independent inquiry in the debate, the entire Senedd was able to vote in favour of noting the petition. So, nothing was really resolved or taken further forward as a result of having that debate in the Senedd.

I'd like to write back now to the Minister for Education and put those questions that the petitioner has outlined to us in her response about what the current section 19 process and reports will be able to provide. I'd also like to see us write to NRW to seek their response to the petition and the further information received to date and their view on the role and possible role that an independent inquiry could play in all of this. And we will need to await the publication of the section 19 reports. They should be produced before mid February, which was when the worst of the flooding happened in Rhondda Cynon Taf. But I don't want to see progress on any other aspects of any other potential inquiries being held up to wait for those reports, because, as the petitioner has pointed out, in all likelihood those reports are going to be insufficient in terms of answering the questions that the people who have been flooded have had. 

09:40

Thank you. Item 3.6, P-05-964, 'Extend covid-19 financial support and paid leave to vulnerable and pregnant NHS wales bank workers'. The petition was submitted by David Adam Clarke and was first considered in June 2020, having collected 174 signatures. Now, the committee is—. Sorry, I beg your pardon—the text of the petition:  

'NHS wales bank workers who are vulnerable, require safeguarding or are over 28 weeks pregnant might not be given the same financial support or safeguarding as full time NHS staff by health boards. Some of these NHS wales bank HCA's, Nurses, Midwives et al. have worked for the NHS for years and this is their primary income. The vulnerable and pregnant could be facing working or receiving no pay, and that is subject to them being offered alternative work.'

Now, we have considered this petition on three occasions. We last discussed it on 17 July and, at the time, we agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for an update on the consideration being given to this issue and the conclusions reached. We have received a response from the Minister and the petitioner has also provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward? Jack. 

Thank you, Chair. I support this petition. I think the petitioner has come back and said he is seeking clear and concise public commitment. I'd like to write back to the Minister for health in the Welsh Government to ask that he would consider issuing clear and concise communication to the health boards and trusts on this issue. I think we should be supporting those financially, where we can, absolutely. I asked the question to the Minister for health on pregnant workers in retail shops and whether furlough should be an option for them, and I think it absolutely should be, and supermarkets should certainly have that conversation with employees. And, whilst we're at it, Chair, if I may, I take this opportunity as well to once again urge the UK Government to financially support those 3 million people who are excluded at the moment, 10 months on. 

So, I support this petition. We should be supporting people financially. These are NHS workers. They might not be full time, but they are still NHS workers and we should recognise, respect and support them where we can. So, if we could write to the Minister for health, and let's hope he issues that clear and concise communication that's required.

09:45

I agree with that, and can I just add that failure to do this is direct discrimination, either against women or people with underlying health conditions? So, I think, perhaps, we should make that point as well.

Okay. Item 3.7, P-05-1035, 'Allow birthing partners to be present at scans, the start of labour, birth and after the birth'. The petition was submitted by Hannah Albrighton and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 7,326 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 3 November, noting the importance of the issues being raised. We agreed, in light of the Minister's indication that updated guidance on this issue was being produced, to await a further update and a copy of the guidance before deciding what further action to take. On Wednesday 9 December, the Senedd held a Member debate on support for babies and new parents during COVID-19, during which I made a contribution to highlight the petition. The Welsh Government has also published updated guidance now on hospital visits during the coronavirus outbreak, which does include specific information about maternity services. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide a further response following the debate but has not done so. What actions would you like to take on this issue? Leanne.

I'm not sure whether the situation has changed again as a result of the latest lockdown rules—the tier 4 situation. So, it would be helpful if we could have some information from the Minister as to any changes that may have happened and the implementation of the framework since it was last published and if anything has changed since the publication.

I'd just like to note that in the Minister's response he stated that all women will be supported with at least one partner during active labour, birth and the period immediately after, whereas the petitioner is asking for partners to be present from the start of labour. So, that's before active labour. So, I just think we all need to be aware of what is meant by these terms, because it's the beginning of the whole of the labour process that certainly I've received representations about, and this petitioner is very clear about as well. So, I think that's an important point to make in any correspondence back to the Minister. So, if we can include that in our letter back, and if we could find out that information about the implementation and if anything's changed since the latest lockdown, then I'd be very grateful.

Yes, fully support. I was speaking about this with a constituent last week. And in that debate, I think you both spoke very well in that, and our good friend Bethan Sayed as well was exceptional, sharing her personal experience. And she's not the only one. So, I think we need to get that clarity and certainly keep pushing on this issue. As Leanne rightly says, this petition is about being present at the start, and I think we need to do all we can to make sure that it's safe to allow people to go and do that.  

Okay. Thank you. Moving on, 3.8, P-05-1013, 'Provide financial support for self-employed individuals within the Welsh live music industry'. This petition was submitted by Peter Phillips and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 189 signatures. We've considered this petition on three occasions and last considered it on 17 November, when we agreed to write back to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, first to seek information on the number of people supported by the freelancer fund, and also to ask whether the Welsh Government will now consider providing further prioritised support to people who are not eligible for the self-employed income support scheme. In doing so, we noted that we were interested in the support available to people working as freelancers across the events and creative industries. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 22 December and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

09:50

Has there been any information provided as to whether or not there's been any change in economic support for freelancers, for small, self-employed people since the latest COVID announcement? I know that there was an announcement by the Chancellor, but I'm not sure whether or not any additional announcement would cover this group from that. So, I'd like to ask that first—if we can get that information.

The petitioner has also suggested a live music bounce-back fund that would be targeted and support the smaller entertainers, like pub singers and the people who provide support for those kinds of entertainment acts. So, I think that's something that we can possible support as a committee.

I'd like to see what the Welsh Government are going to say in response to recommendation 5 of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee's recent report into the impact of COVID-19 on the arts before we can consider where else we can take this. But I think we should also write back to the Deputy Minister and make the point yet again that this group, and the wider group that we've previously talked about, in addition to those in this petition, do need to have something available to them over and above what's been provided to date. The freelancer fund is great but it's limited, it's only providing up to a certain point and it's just not sufficient to keep this group of people within a livelihood that enables them to bounce back after this COVID pandemic is under control or, hopefully, over at some point. 

Okay, 3.9, P-05-1027, 'Allow Welsh domestic football clubs to play friendlies and allow supporters to attend matches'. This petition was submitted by Callum Howen and was first considered in October 2020, having collected 2,045 signatures. So, we considered this for the first time on 13 October, and we agreed to write to the Football Association of Wales to seek their view on the issues raised by the petition and information on the latest position in relation to domestic football in Wales, including discussions taking place in their working group with clubs, the possibilities for supporters to attend matches safely, and the ongoing financial viability of leagues and clubs. We also agreed to write to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport to ask for details of test events, the scientific basis of restrictions on supporters, consideration being given to funding for domestic clubs, and to ask for further consideration to be given to allowing some spectators to attend football matches if this can be done whilst adhering to social distancing. Responses from the Deputy Minister and the FAW have been received. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would you like to go forward on this issue? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. If I can put on record first that I sit on the board and I'm a club ambassador of one of the elite clubs in Wales. So, I'll put that first. I'd like to keep this petition open. I think it's an important issue. Obviously, we've now moved into alert level 4 and, essentially, lockdown in Wales, which means all Welsh football has stopped, and sport, so it's not just the lower league clubs. However, I do note that, before, more clubs and leagues gained elite status, but there were certainly a lot that didn't. We have to keep this petition open. We could lose a lot of leagues and a lot of clubs throughout Wales, certainly grass-roots clubs, if we're not careful, so I'd like to keep a watching brief on this as a committee before committing to do anything else.

Okay. Is that agreed? Okay. Item 3.10, P-05-1037, 'Allow children to enter lockdown areas to continue to train with their existing sports clubs'. This petition was submitted by Wendy Brady, and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 9,867 signatures. The committee considered this petition for the first time on 3 November, and welcomed the changes made by the Welsh Government to allow children to travel outside of local lockdown areas prior to the introduction of the firebreak lockdown. The committee agreed to write back to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport to ask whether he anticipates that this ability would continue to apply in the event that future local lockdowns are required. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 9 December, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

09:55

Chair, I think this is similar to the last petition, isn't it? Of course, it's an issue that we want to support, but, given that it's a tier 4 situation that we're in now, it's unlikely that—well, it's not going to change until that changes, but it's an issue that we need to keep a watching brief on, I think. So, if we can consider this petition again once we know where we are on the other side of this current lockdown, then I think that might be useful.

Okay.

So, now, updates to petitions on COVID-19. The following two items will be considered together—3.11 and 3.12. So, 3.11, P-05-1099, 'Don't shut the Hospitality Sector (Pubs, Restaurants, Cafes) without providing scientific evidence'. This petition was submitted by Nathan Gill, and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 25,301 signatures. And 3.12, P-05-1100, 'Allow pubs and restaurants in Wales to serve alcohol/stay open after 6pm'. This petition was submitted by Gwilym Owen, and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 4,619 signatures. 

So, we considered these petitions for the first time on 15 December, and we agreed to await a formal response from the Welsh Government before considering whether there is any further action that could be taken on the petitions at that stage. A response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 22 December, and the petitioner for P-05-1099 has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

We've been superseded by events in terms of both of these petitions. I think it's fair to say that whilst we may not all agree with every decision that the Government has made, they have been quite clear that the decisions have been made having looked at all the scientific evidence, so, given all of that, and given where we are with the tier 4 now and that these issues have been superseded, I can't see where else we can take either of these petitions.

Okay. All right.

Moving on, 3.13, P-05-1036, 'Allow support bubbles during lock down'. This petition was submitted by Louise Vaughan, and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 108 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 3 November, and agreed to await the imminent publication of new, detailed guidance on the rules that would apply from 9 November, with a view to closing the petition if the issues raised by the petition no longer applied, or to return to the petition if there were still matters requiring further considerations. What would you like to do with this petition? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. Again, we have been superseded by events. I think this is very important—support bubbles are crucial for many, and we note that single adult households can join up with another support bubble. I don't think there's much more the Petitions Committee can do to further enhance that. It is the case at alert level 3 as well. I'm not sure that the Government will move further than where they are on this, so I'm not sure that we can do much more, but I do welcome this petition. I think it was very important that support bubbles remained, certainly for those who are vulnerable and on their own as well. 

10:00

Okay. Right. So, now we move on to petitions with no recent contact from the petitioner. The committee has been awaiting further petitioner comments on the following petitions, with a view to deciding whether it is able to take any further action once these have been received. The petitioners have all been regularly contacted over recent months to offer the opportunity to provide comments, but none have been received. Therefore, the committee is invited to conclude that the petitioners no longer wish to actively pursue the petitions and to agree to close them at this stage. Individual background has been provided on each of the petitions for Members' information. So, as the Chair, then, I will note the petitions individually and invite Members to agree to close them at this stage, given the absence of further contact from the petitioners. 

So, 3.14, P-05-826, 'Pembrokeshire says NO!! To the closure of Withybush A&E!'. So, this petition was submitted by Myles Bamford-Lewis and was first considered in July 2018, having collected 40,045 signatures. And the committee has previously considered this petition on six occasions, including holding a Plenary debate in September 2018. We last considered the petition on 6 June 2020, agreeing to await a response from the petitioner and to keep a watching brief on this matter and consider any further updates received during the remainder of this Senedd term. The petitioner has not provided any additional comments during the committee's consideration of the petition. Agree to close?

Item 3.15, P-05-947, 'Make GP letters for Students gratis'. This petition was submitted by William Bremner and was first considered in June 2020, having collected 144 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 6 June, agreeing to await the views of the petitioner on the Minister for Health and Social Services's response before agreeing whether to take further action on the petition. The petitioner has been contacted four times to offer the opportunity to provide additional comments, but no response has been received. Close the petition?

Agreed. Okay. So, that brings us now to the end of today's meeting. The committee's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 26 January 2021. A Plenary debate will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, 13 January, on three petitions concerning access to facilities for sport and physical activity during lockdowns.

Okay. So that brings us to the end of this meeting. Thank you to the Members, the clerking team and the IT support. I now declare the meeting closed. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you. 

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 10:03.

The meeting ended at 10:03.