Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd

Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd

09/02/2021

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
Michelle Brown MS
Neil McEvoy MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy 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 committee meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is, however, 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. So, we start. No apologies have been received. 

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

We start with COVID-19, new petitions. So, 2.1, P-05-1092, 'Do not delay the May 2021 elections'. This petition was submitted by David Hopkins, having collected a total of 470 signatures. And the text reads: 

'The right to vote for democracy should not and cannot be removed by those in power as it undermines democracy. The current government must not be allowed to extend out their government as a result of Covid. All other countries have managed to hold elections.'

We received a response to this petition from the First Minister on 19 January, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like us to take this forward? Jack. 

09:05

Thanks, Chair. I think everyone wants the election to go ahead on 6 May. I certainly do, albeit it has to be safe to do so. The petitioner says he'd like to understand what conditions there would have to be for any postponement. So, on that basis, we should write back to the First Minister just to get some clarification on the circumstances. But, as far as I'm concerned, I personally want it to go ahead on 6 May, and look forward to it. 

Okay. Item 2.2, P-05-1108, 'Issue guidance and voucher scheme to save baby & toddler activity sector in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Rebecca Edmonds, having collected 91 signatures. This text reads: 

'Following the petition for this sector in England, we in Wales would like the same clarity and guidelines for us! Baby and toddler groups are crucial for the wellbeing of new parents who are desperate for them to return after lockdown. Providers are struggling to reopen due to conflicting guidance. We call on government to issue targeted guidance and a voucher scheme for this overlooked sector. Bespoke guidance will enable businesses to return and save new parents from extended isolation.'

We received a response to this petition from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on 13 January. 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? Jack. 

Thanks, Chair. I think the correspondence between the Minister and what we've received back is quite clear. Organised activities can take place, except when we're in alert level 4, and that guidance has been produced. So, on that basis, I don't think we're going to take this petition any further ahead. So, I would suggest we close the petition and thank the petitioner for using this process. 

Okay, thank you. Item 2.3, P-05-1114, 'Allow traditional acupuncturists in Wales to practice during lockdowns'. This petition was submitted by Gwenan Evans, having collected 1,022 signatures. The text reads:  

'We are urging the Welsh Government to re-classify traditional acupuncture alongside similar medical treatments for illness or injury, so that acupuncture clinics can remain open during this and any future lockdowns. During the Welsh firebreak lockdown chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists have been allowed to treat patients who need urgent care. They are seen as essential health service providers.'

And, then, some additional information:

'However, acupuncturists were named by the Welsh Government as close contact services (listed alongside tattoo and hair and beauty services) having to close during the firebreak, despite frequently seeing patients who need urgent care.'

So, a response to this petition was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 13 January, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack. 

Chair, if I'm reading it correctly, the petitioner has welcomed the latest version of the regulations and the Minister's response and, on that basis, has decided to withdraw the petition. I believe that the Minister's response says that acupuncture services are listed as—. They can take place if they are providing medical treatment. So, it seems the petitioner is happy with that. Therefore, I think we should thank the petitioner and close the petition.  

Do all Members agree that we will thank the petitioner and close this petition? 

Item 2.4, P-05-1116, 'Prioritise people with a learning disability to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Wales'. This petition was submitted by John Gillibrand, having collected 1,913 signatures, and the text reads:

'With the big news that there’s a COVID vaccine that’s been approved and the rollout will soon begin - it’s crucial we get this right. The current list of who will get inoculated first does not prioritize people with learning disabilities - even though they’re SIX TIMES more likely to die of coronavirus according to Public Health England (Wales stats are yet to be published). Even worse, those with learning disabilities between 18 and 34 are 30 times more likely to die.'

So, a response to this petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 28 January. The petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

09:10

Thanks, Chair. I'd like to speak in support of John Gillibrand and his campaign. I know him, so I need to declare an interest there. But I think it's a real issue that there are groups of people who are in great need in terms of the vaccine who've not been prioritised.

Now, it is the case that priority group 6 includes people aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions, and this includes those suffering from a severe and profound learning disability, and it's quite close to getting to and, in some cases in some areas, priority group 6 are actually being vaccinated now. But the point that John Gillibrand makes is that that doesn't cover everyone, and what he is asking us to do, in his further comments to the committee, is to write to the Minister and further make the case that people with learning disabilities who live in shared accommodation, of all ages, are at much greater risk, and they need to be considered for priority for the vaccination.

There is a campaign run by Mencap in England pushing for this. I know we're in different circumstances here in Wales, but, nonetheless, a consortium of different organisations have come together to highlight this need, and I would like us as a committee to support what they're saying, if we can. There are other priority groups as well, and we've had other petitions here in the last committee where we were asked for particular groups of workers like those who work in education, police officers, prison officers and so on. Of course, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation makes the decision, ultimately, but that doesn't mean that we can't place political pressure for different groups to be considered on the basis of risk and on the basis of the fact that if they do catch COVID, they're at much higher risk of dying as a result. And so, those groups of people, like the over-80s, who are prioritised first, need to be given priority status, I think.

I think it would be a fair question to ask the Minister when he foresees that this group of people will receive a vaccination. I have every sympathy with this petition and the petitioner's position. I support writing back to the Minister to ask him to consider and give his comments. But, realistically, if he prioritises one, he's going to have to deprioritise somebody else. To be fair to Welsh Government, I think they're in a very difficult position, having to come up with a priority list. It's a finite number of doses. But I think it's fair to ask the Minister for his justification for where people with learning disabilities come on the priority list, and why they're being put in that priority level.

Okay. So, are we agreed on the content of the letter, then, going to the Minister? Yes? Yes, so we're agreed. So, the clerk will take forward the request for a letter to the Minister outlining the priority list and the criteria. Thank you.

So, P-05-1121, 'Only open schools for children of key workers over the January 2021 lockdown.' This petition was submitted by Anna Copperwaite, having collected 560 signatures. The text of the petition reads:

'When wales is in lockdown in January schools should only open for children of keyworkers to minimise the spread of COVID 19. If all nonessential shops are closed during this lockdown there should be no childcare issues for non essential workers. Children should revert back to online schooling and stay home if they are able to do so and let the parents decide without fear of being fined whether it is safe for their children to attend school.'

A response to this petition was received from the Minister for Education on 18 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not done so. So, I invite Members to discuss this petition and any actions you wish our committee to take. Jack.

09:15

Thanks, Chair. I think this committee could note that the aims of the petition were achieved during this period, so, on that basis, we could thank the petitioner and close this petition.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Okay.

Moving on to other new petitions. Item 2.6, P-05-1085, 'Make anti racism training compulsory for all elected Councillors and Members of the Senedd in Wales.' This petition was submitted by Jennifer Geroni, having collected 142 signatures. And it reads:

'Structural racism places Black and ethnic minority groups in Wales at a significant disadvantage. All elected representatives funded by the taxpayer have a duty to uphold principles of fairness and equality for all. Anti racism training will provide them with a better understanding of structural racism and equip them with the tools to help dismantle it. This is an important mechanism for moving the conversation forward at both a national and local level.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Llywydd on 19 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would Members like to take this forward? Neil.

Thanks, Chair. This is a really serious matter for me. I'm very disappointed by the response of the Llywydd, the Presiding Officer, but I'm not surprised. I think training is a really good idea. I'd like the committee to write to the Minister for local government to explore the opportunities of providing that for councillors and maybe tie it in with, I'd say, other held prejudices on the base of class, gender and the other protected characteristics.

What I would say, being a brown person in the Senedd and the first person of colour born in Wales elected to our national Parliament, I've actually found the environment very oppressive in the last four and a half years. And I was extremely concerned to be advised that an ethnic minority male was actually chosen by Commissioners to be the chief executive, but I'm also advised that the Presiding Officer refused to appoint him and scheduled another round of interviews. So—

Neil. Neil, I really need to know how we're taking this petition forward. I don't think it's appropriate to bring in any other comments in relation to—

I'm highlighting—. Chair, the petition is about structural racism and I'm highlighting what I see as a problem of structural racism in the Senedd, and there should be an inquiry. But in terms of this petition—. So, I've put that on the record; it's out there now. People know that it happens, I'm told, and I think—

Yes—. Neil. Neil, as Chair, can I just speak? The text, actually, of the petition, is about training, so, really, how do Members feel we should take this forward? Michelle.

To be honest, I take the Presiding Officer's point. I find it difficult to see how the Commission or the Presiding Officer can enforce training on elected Members who, at the end of the day, aren't employees of the Senedd. Members' staff are employees of the Member, so I think while every encouragement can be given to provide certain types of training, there's a limit to what can be done. And, to be honest, I think we're going to get this—. If we write to the councils, if we write to the Minister for housing and local government to ask them, I think they're going to probably come back with the same answer. So, I struggle to see—although I have sympathy with the aims behind this petition, and the purposes for which the petitioners want this training to be given, realistically, can we really do—can we actually further those aims in a meaningful way, given the fact that the Senedd Commission and local authorities won't have the power to enforce it?

09:20

I hate—as you know, I don't like closing petitions, but I struggle to see what we can do with this one. So, my proposal would be—

—to contact the petitioner and express our support for this petitioner's aims, but close the petition.

Well, I think it's worth trying to ascertain the views of the petitioner on this. The petition has been gathered in good faith. The Llywydd has said that it's not enforceable, and that may be correct, but it may be that the petitioner has a view on that, and it could be that the petitioner accepts that point and is happy to withdraw the petition, or it may be that they suggest another course of action. I know we're running out of time, in terms of the time available for this committee at the end of term, but, as other Members have said, this is an important issue, and I think we can just perhaps hold fire on it for just a little while longer so that we get the comments of the petitioner before considering whether we can take this any further at all. It may be that we can't, but let's exhaust all avenues first.

Okay. So, we've had proposals to write to the Minister for housing and local government, and then we've had a proposal to sit and wait for the petitioner to come back. Which way would Members like to take this?

Chair, I support Leanne's proposal to wait until the petitioner comes back.

Okay. So, we have a consensus there. Thank you.

Item 2.7, P-05-1090, 'Road Safety: Reduce the speed on the A487 trunk road to 20mph through Penparcau, Aberystwyth'. This petition was submitted by Dylan Wilson-Lewis, having collected 335 signatures. And it reads:

'A reduction in the A487 trunk road speed limit to 20mph within the populated urban community of Penparcau, which is home to over 1000 children, the highest in the county of Ceredigion, would enhance safety, promote well-being and encourage sustainability through alternative Active Travel options. The A487 facilitates access to a primary school, the Penparcau Community Forum's Community Hub facility, and provides the only means of access to the local Post Office and community shops.'

Now, a response to this was received from the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport on 12 January, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Anyone? Leanne. Oh, I thought—Leanne's switched her mike off. And then I'll come to you, Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I believe the petitioner welcomes the correspondence back from the Deputy Minister, and, within that, there's probably little we can do at a national level at the moment, but can I suggest the committee writes to the petitioner with the suggestion that he takes this to the local authority, including the correspondence from the Deputy Minister? And then, with that being said, we should probably close the petition there and thank the petitioner at the same time.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Thank you. 

Item 2.8, P-05-1094, 'Stop the erosion of Pontypridd's heritage - save the White Bridge'. This petition was submitted by Councillor Mike Powell, having collected 304 signatures. And it reads:

'We the undersigned ask that the Welsh Government via CADW take action to ensure that the White Bridge in Pontypridd is preserved so that the town does not lose yet another important piece of its and Wales's heritage.

'The White Bridge was built in 1907 and at the time of its construction was the longest reinforced concrete arch in Britain. It was Grade II listed by CADW on 26 February 2001.

'RCT Council have stated their intention is to demolish the bridge following storm damage in early 2020 which they say has made it unsafe.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 14 January. The petitioner has provided further comments and a number of other documents. How would you like to take this forward? Can I have some views? Leanne.

09:25

We could try to get some more information from Rhondda Cynon Taf to find out exactly what their plans and options are for this before we take any further action.

Okay. Do all Members agree?

Item 2.9, P-05-1105, 'Make Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Compulsory in Schools'—page 94 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Matthew James Copp, having collected 1,170 signatures.

'It was announced last year that CPR would not be part of the national curriculum in Wales. This is different from England and Scotland, where CPR is being made compulsory in schools. While Kirsty Williams has stated that there is nothing stopping schools from teaching CPR, the Welsh Parliament will not enforce this. We are worried that this will lead to some schools not providing access to learn the life saving procedure, leading to an increased death rate from cardiac arrests in Wales.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Minister for Education on 12 January and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

Well, now is a good time for this petition to be on the books, so to speak, because the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill is going through the Senedd as we speak. There was an amendment to include life-saving skills and first aid on the face of the Bill in committee at Stage 2, as I understand it, but that was not agreed. But there is further opportunity for Members to lay down amendments, so I'm not sure whether amendments have been submitted at Stage 3 for this, but, given where we are with the curriculum Bill, it's difficult to see how we as a committee can make any further progress on this petition now, because it's up to the whole Senedd, now, really, to determine this legislation.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Yes. Could you just show and then I'll know that all Members are—? Thank you.

Item 2.10, P-05-1109, 'Supply dedicated and free onsite parking to all hospital staff in Wales during their shift'. This petition was submitted by Councillor Mike Powell, having collected 55 signatures. And it reads:

'We must give hospital staff the ability to park where they work and not have to drive around looking for places in shared car parks taking up valuable staff time.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 19 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not yet done so. How would you like to—? What action would you like to take forward on this?

I can't see where further we can take it, Chair, given the comments of the Minister. So, I think we should close the petition in that case.

I think we can maybe write to the petitioner to see what he's got to say about it. We may not be able to do anything ultimately, but, to tidy it up, we could write to the petitioner and give him a final opportunity to respond.

09:30

Okay, so we've got a proposal to close the petition, and a proposal to write to the Minister. Do Members have any other comments? Okay. So, who would agree with closing the petition? That's carried. Okay, thank you.

Item 2.11, P-05-1112, 'Help Welsh Communities Buy Community Assets: Implement Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011'. This petition was submitted by Daniel Evans, having collected a total of 655 signatures, and it reads:

'Welsh communities continue to lose community assets such as pubs and sports grounds at an alarming rate. Unlike England & Scotland, Welsh communities still do not have the statutory right to bid for assets.

'We urgently require new legislation relating specifically to Assets of Community Value. We call on the next Welsh Government to immediately introduce the provisions of Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 to ensure groups in Wales have the legal right to buy & manage community assets.'

A response to this was received from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip on 11 January and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

In an ideal world, of course, we wouldn't need communities to take over these assets, because they would be run and fully funded and supported in the public sector. But that's not where we are after almost a decade and a half of austerity. So, it is necessary in some cases for communities to take over assets, and I'm of the view that Government should do all it possibly can to support communities when they want to do that. It doesn't always work, of course; some of these schemes will fail, for all kinds of different reasons, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a go, because, sometimes, if it's not run by the community, it's not run at all and it's closed down and it's lost as an asset to the community and to future generations.

So, given that this is very useful information—lots of detail has been provided to us here—but it is a matter now for the next Senedd, I would propose that we pass this petition on to the sixth Senedd for further consideration. It's a big piece of work; it's not something we've got some time to do in this Senedd now, but, if it's put on the agenda early on in the next Senedd, there's a chance that there might be some result as a result of this petition.

Okay, do all Members agree? Can I have just a show of—? Yes. Okay, thank you.

Right, item 2.12, P-05-1113, 'Introduce road safety measures on the A44 in Llanbadarn Fawr, Ceredigion'. This petition was submitted by Councillor Gareth Davies, having collected a total of 242 signatures.

'The A44 is a main trunk road for vehicles heading towards Aberystwyth. This road runs from before the industrial estate, under the railway line, through the populated village of Llanbadarn Fawr and is often busy with pedestrians, cyclists and heavy traffic. Pedestrians often have to run under the railway bridge as there is no footpath and also across the A44 on a blind corner in the Pwllhobi part of the village. Representations have been made to the Welsh Government yet no action has been taken.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 13 January and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I think it's very similar to the previous petition about road safety we had just a short while ago, where—perhaps we could write to the petitioner and suggest he takes this up with the local authority. I believe that the Deputy Minister has said that a crossing will be installed and further work will be considered in the next financial year, so I don't think there's much more we can do as the Petitions Committee, so, therefore, I'd close the petition and thank the petitioner.

Okay, do all Members agree? Thank you.

Item 2.13, P-05-1137, 'Call for fair funding for the National Library of Wales by the Welsh Government'. This petition was submitted by Sue Jones-Davies, having collected 14,338 signatures. The text reads:

'We call for fair funding by the Welsh Government to the National Library of Wales, one of the world’s great libraries, a repository of the historic, artistic and intellectual treasures of Wales. With no increased support from Welsh Government, 30 jobs are to be cut and services seriously curtailed. Freedom, prosperity and the development of society and individuals are fundamental human values, attained by well-informed citizens with unlimited access to thought, culture and information.'

A letter was sent to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 22 January. The petition was brought forward for consideration due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue and so that the committee could consider the possibility of a debate prior to the end of this Senedd term. However, on 3 February the Deputy Minister announced additional funding for the national library and Plaid Cymru held a Plenary debate on this subject, during which the petition was raised. The petitioner has provided further comments both before and after the announcement, and the national library trade unions have also submitted information. I invite Members to come forward with any actions you wish the committee to take. Leanne.

09:35

Can I first say 'llongyfarchiadau' to Sue Jones-Davies for this campaign? She wasn't on her own; there were many, many people who recognised the importance of this national institution to our country. It's a proper treasure trove, really. So, securing funding has been a really good achievement, but it hasn't resolved all the issues and the problems. I understand that there is still a plan to reorganise, and that there still may be threats to staff. I think we should pass on the further comments of the petitioner when we receive the further, formal written response from the Deputy Minister, to make sure that the comments about the concerns regarding the future in terms of staff are relayed to the Deputy Minister, and that those campaigners' concerns are properly aired. 

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

Item 3.1, P-05-795, 'Causing Nuisance or Disturbance on NHS Premises'. The petition was submitted by Claire Thomas and was first considered in January 2018, having collected 74 signatures. The committee has now considered petition on three occasions. It was last discussed in September 2018, when the committee agreed to await an update from the Minister for Health and Social Services following legal advice expected on enacting sections 119 to 121 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008. The clerking team sought updates from the Government on several occasions in the intervening period but was informed that there was no update to provide at those times. A response to correspondence, however, was received from the Minister on 12 January. The petitioner has not provided any further comments since the petition was first submitted. What action would you like to take? Jack.

I don't think there's much more we can do as a Petitions Committee coming to the end of a Senedd term, so unfortunately I think we'll have to close this petition on the basis of what you've described in the introduction.

Do all Members agree? Okay. 

The following two items are going to be grouped together for consideration—3.2 and 3.3. Item 3.2 is P-05-1001, 'Hold an independent inquiry into the choice of site for the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre'. This petition was submitted by Amelia Thomas on behalf of the Save the Northern Meadows campaign and was first considered in September 2020 having collected 5,348 signatures. Then the next one is 3.3, P-05-1018, 'Support for the current proposed plans to build a new Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, in any future inquiry'. This petition was submitted by Natasha Hamilton-Ash and was first considered in September 2020 having collected 11,392 signatures.

The committee has now considered these petitions on four occasions. We last discussed these on 15 December and we agreed, in light of the new evidence received from a number of parties and the recent publication of advice provided by the Nuffield Trust, to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to draw attention to the information received in the context of the Government’s scrutiny of the outline business case; to request an update on the current status of this work following the publication of the Nuffield Trust advice, and an indicative timeline for further consideration of the business case by the Welsh Government; and also seek a response to further points made about a full independent review of the clinical model being required before a decision is reached. A response from the Minister was received on 19 January. The petitioners for P-05-1001, Save the Northern Meadows, have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Neil. 

09:40

Thanks, Chair. First of all, I will declare an interest, because my interest is having the best cancer care possible in south Wales. I'm not on either side of the argument, as I've said previously. If there is no other place to build the new cancer hospital, and it is the best model, and it has to go on the meadows, then if there is no option, it has to proceed. But what campaigners have been saying for a very long time is that there may be other sites available. What concerns me hugely is the concern expressed by clinical practitioners in hospitals—those dealing with cancer at the sharp end—who passionately want, as I think we all do, the best care possible going forward, which I'm told does include any new facility having surgery provision, and it also would include emergency beds, which are not in the current proposal. 

What concerns me here is that after the committee meeting in September, I wrote to Velindre. I've had no response to any of the questions. I've read through what has been sent through by the petitioners, which causes me more concern, really. I've seen a letter from the BMA that talks about retribution towards staff who may want to give a point of view. I think when you have the BMA, British Medical Association, talking about retribution from management for staff, then I think that underlines the very serious position that we're in, in points of view being suppressed. I want to deal with what has been sent in for us to read through, because the board of Velindre has relied upon what was called, I think, the Barrett report, but it turns out the report does not exist, so I'd like the committee to write to Velindre to enquire why it's been referred to in their literature, but it doesn't exist.

I'd also like to take issue with the figures that have been provided, again by the health board, that fewer than 30 patients a year on average need an unplanned emergency transfer. If you read the freedom of information request that was sent to committee members, the board of Velindre has no mechanism to actually calculate that figure, so they've actually just plucked the figure out of the air. If you look at the freedom of information request to the ambulance service, then there have been over 100 emergency calls made, 999, to that service. Velindre state that they're amber 1 calls, not red calls. Well, an amber 1 would include somebody having a heart attack, would include somebody being unconscious, would include somebody having grave breathing difficulties. 

We're in a situation where the site that is being considered is said to be minutes away by ambulance. If you look at the waiting times for amber 1 calls, we're not talking minutes at all; we're talking significant amounts of time. There's a letter signed by a number of consultants—161, I believe, medical practitioners—who are asking for the co-location of a new hospital at the site of the Heath. The one petition calls for an independent clinical review. If you're going to spend hundreds of millions of pounds using a private finance initiative model, now renamed the mutual investment model, then surely there should be a clinical review of what you're doing. If specialists in the cancer area are telling us that the model being proposed is not fit for purpose, then I don't understand why they're not being listened to.

What concerns me also is the number of contracts that have already been given out—I'm advised, again. No reply on that from Velindre. There are a number of questions that I would like to write to Velindre about, Chair, and actually demand answers. The problem with the devolution settlement that we have is that some people see themselves as almost above the law, and they don't feel that they have to answer questions. When people like me put questions, then there's an attempt to close us down and shoot us down—

09:45

If you could just be quite specific in how you want to take this forward.

I'd like to write—. I understand that this will be an issue for the next committee, but having seen the concerns in writing about the misleading information put out there, it would seem, by the trust, the management of the trust, then I think we really should collate a number of questions to fire in and ask again, so that the next committee will have something to look at—

I think you need to be more specific, Neil, with all due respect. Can you give me a solid proposal?

I'd like to know why the BMA are talking about retribution. I think that needs to be addressed, with—

To Velindre. Okay. I need to ask the other Members whether they support writing to—

I'd like to know how many patients have died in transfer, how many emergency calls have been made from Velindre for patients over the last five years, every year, so we've got an average. I'd like to know why consultants appear not to be listened to, in terms of the actual model. In terms of a conflict of interest, the one petitioner is actually the wife of the No. 2 driving the project at Velindre. My concern here is—

Okay. I think, really, now, I need to open this up to other Members. Sorry, Neil. Can I ask for some views from other Members please? Leanne.

Thanks, Chair. I know that this has been a contentious issue and there are very, very high feelings on both sides of this. I wonder, given the numbers of people who have signed both petitions, is it feasible for us to hold a Senedd debate on this question, looking at the two petitions together?

The request could be made of the Business Committee. As it stands, ahead of the Easter recess and then a planned dissolution period before the election, there are a limited number of weeks left in this Senedd and the committee has already got two other debates allocated in March. The committee could make the request of the Business Committee, I would anticipate, if it wanted to do so. The Business Committee would then consider that request after the half term. So, the time is quite short, but it may be possible to schedule a short debate before the end of term.

I accept that time is short, but I think even if we manage to secure some time in Plenary, then given the numbers of people who feel very, very strongly on both sides of this—it would be difficult for us not to do something, I think, in terms of airing these questions a bit wider. A lot of questions have been asked here today, and there are probably a lot more, and I think they do deserve being given some attention, if the Business Committee would allow that.

Neil, would you support that we take this forward for debate?

I would, Chair. Could we just write a brief letter, just on the responses? Velindre is saying that the transfer will take minutes, that the Heath is minutes away, and yet for an amber 1 call, the average waiting time is 59 minutes. So, if you're in real dire need of emergency treatment at Velindre, you may have to wait almost an hour before you're taken to the Heath.

09:50

Okay. So, am I right, then, that you would like a letter to go to Velindre and then you support the action of taking this forward for a debate?

Do all Members agree to both proposals? Okay. Then, I'm just thinking, in terms of what the letter to Velindre is asking, maybe we can see a copy of that before it goes off.

Certainly, Chair, yes.

Okay, thank you. Moving on, 3.4, P-05-1045: 'To make shared-decision making and monthly mental health care-plan reviews a legal requirement'. This petition was submitted by Tesni Morgan and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 1,462 signatures.

The committee considered the petition for the first time on 15 December and agreed to write again to the Minister for Mental Health, Well-being and Welsh Language to express its disappointment that a response had not been received to the committee’s initial letter, and also to enclose the further information received from the petitioner and ask for a response to be provided at the earliest opportunity. A response was received from the Minister on 12 January, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I remember this petition well from December. I think we said then that we've got to do more in terms of mental health support, but we've got to do better. I think that's quite a clear message from me. I'd like to send the petitioners further comments, because they have provided some further comments that need looking at. Therefore, can we send those comments and proposals from the petitioner to the Minister for mental health and then request that she also sends them to the Mental Health Network Board and the national mental health forum for service users and carers, for their use and consideration in the work that they're currently undertaking on the services? But let's be quite clear—and I think we should send a message as a committee—that we have to do more and we have to do better. I think that's the message that needs to be said.

Yes, I can see Members agreeing there. Does everyone agree with that proposal? Thank you.

Item 3.5, P-05-1068, 'Allow socially distanced meets in private gardens to follow science and avoid isolation'. This petition was submitted by Rachel Emma Ovett, having collected 273 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 26 January and agreed to await further comments from the petitioner before considering whether it is able to take any further action on the petition. The petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Was that you, Neil, then? Yes.

I'd like the committee to write back to the First Minister to urge that consideration is given to allowing garden visits to tackle social isolation. It's a huge problem.

Do all Members agree? Yes, okay.

Item 3.6, P-05-1070, 'Advise all people who are extremely vulnerable or previously shielding in Wales to stay home, not work, during periods of high covid 19 community infection'. The petition was submitted by Carol Dent and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 252 signatures. The committee considered this petition for the first time on 15 December and we agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to share the further concerns expressed by the petitioner and others, and also to ask what action the Welsh Government would consider taking, or is able to take, against employers who do not make workplaces safe or respond appropriately to the circumstances of vulnerable members of their workforce. A response was received from the Minister on 19 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not yet done so. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

09:55

Right, the situation has changed, hasn't it, since we first received this petition, because the advice changed a week afterwards. That shielded group now have these protections until March—the end of March 2021. I think that the advice was changed, in part, as a result of the representations being made by many, many people, Assembly Members included—sorry, Members of the Senedd included—and this petition as well. I think that there were many groups organising to try and ensure that those protections were in place, and I could understand the Government's argument that they were reluctant to imprison people, as they put it, but the COVID rates necessitated the change in advice.

I think that there are further questions around protecting people in the workplace, although the petition has been met. I am not convinced that the Health and Safety Executive are as powerful as they should be in terms of dealing with workplace breaches, because I come across people on a regular basis who are concerned about their place of work, make reports, and things seem to be quite difficult to change.

Nonetheless, we should congratulate the petitioner on achieving the outcomes that they wanted for this petition. But, I think that, as a committee, and certainly from a personal perspective, I will be keeping an eye on the workplace situation, and hopefully work with the trade union movement in order to ensure that people in the workplace are protected from COVID and all other workplace dangers.

Okay. Do all Members agree?

Item 3.7, P-05-1056, 'Give Local Authorities powers to control the housing market in rural and tourist areas of Wales'. This petition was submitted by Osian Jones and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 5,386 signatures.

So, we considered this petition for the first time on 15 December. We agreed to write back to the back to the Minister for Housing and Local Government, to ask what urgent action she is considering taking to mitigate the affordable housing challenges in many Welsh communities; to seek a further response to the proposals put forward by the petitioners, including, for example, possible changes in land transaction tax and council tax; and also to ask that further powers be granted to local authorities to enable them to rectify the current situation; and ask that the points raised by the petitioners and the committee are addressed by the Minister in the statement that she intends to make in January. The Minister wrote to the committee on 26 January and issued a written statement on second homes in Wales on 29 January. The petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

I genuinely don't think that this is something that can wait until the next Senedd before any action is taken at all. There is a real crisis, and it's happening now. We are quite unclear on what the picture will look like once tourism starts opening back up again. We are already seeing some distortions in the housing market, so we can expect those to be amplified in areas where this is already currently a problem.

I know what we said earlier on about Senedd time for debates, but I would like to propose that we have a Senedd debate on this. I don’t think that the Minister's response to date has been adequate. I'd like to see some sort of way of ensuring that there is a commitment given to legislating in the next term, to ensuring that there is meaningful discussion with local authorities to ensure that they are doing whatever they can to help on this issue, and amendments to the minimum period for letting a property so that it can be registered as a business, and an increase in the minimum premium to 200 per cent, for example. There are things that can be done by local authorities to address this really urgent situation, but I don't think we can wait another six months before something is done on this because the situation is really urgent now.

10:00

Okay. You've heard the proposal. Do all Members agree? Yes. Okay. 

The next one is 3.8, P-05-903, 'Filming and Recording of Council Minutes'. This petition was submitted by Councillor Russell Spencer-Downe and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 58 signatures.

So, to give you some background. The committee's now considered this petition on four occasions. We last discussed it in February 2020, agreeing to await the publication of new Welsh Government guidance about increasing public engagement in the work of community and town councils, expected in March 2020. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, publication of this was postponed until autumn 2020. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not yet done so. What action would you like to take on this? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I'm not too sure there's much more we can do on this as a Petitions Committee, given the fact that we're coming up to the end of the term. We also could note that the guidance has been issued to, and published to, community and town councils, and good practice advice is available. Therefore, I would suggest we close this petition and thank the petitioner. 

Okay. Do all Members agree?

Item 3.9, P-05-1025, 'Ensure fairness for students taking exams in 2021'. The petition was submitted by National Education Union Cymru and was first considered in October 2020, having collected 2,022 signatures. So, we've discussed this petition now on three occasions. We last discussed it on 15 December, and we agreed to write to Qualifications Wales to seek their response to the petition before considering whether there is any further action that it could take. A response was received from Qualifications Wales on 12 January, and the petitioners have provided further comments. So, possible actions please. Jack, and then Michelle. 

Thank you, Chair. I believe the petitioner is satisfied and welcomes the response and what's happened with these decisions to date. Therefore, I would thank the petitioner for their kind words as well about the committee, congratulate them on their success and close this petition. 

Do all Members agree? Okay.

The next one, 3.10, P-05-1026, 'Petition to ban the snaring of wildlife for use in the fur trade'. This petition was submitted by the National Anti Snaring Campaign and was first considered in October 2020, having collected 2,481 signatures. So, the committee has now considered this petition on three occasions. We last discussed it on 1 December 2020 and we agreed to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to ask whether the Welsh Government draws a distinction between different reasons for using snares, and whether she would consider taking stronger action specifically in relation to their use for the fur trade. Now, a response was received from the Minister on 13 January and the petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to go forward? Anyone? Jack.

Given the timescale, Chair—and I believe the Government has indicated its intention to introduce a White Paper in the next Senedd term—I don't think there's much more we could achieve as a committee in this term. Therefore, again, I would suggest we would have to close this petition and thank the petitioner, and perhaps we could suggest to those who've signed the petition to contact their local Members, or perhaps new local Members, after May. 

Okay. Thank you. All Member agreed? Can I have a clear sign? Thank you.

Item 3.11, P-05-1040, 'Introduce a moratorium on the approval any new large scale waste incinerators in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Amanda Jenner and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 938 signatures. So, we considered the petition for the first time on 17 November last year, and we agreed to write back to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask whether non–recyclable waste could be transported into Wales to support the viability of incinerators and, if so, whether this would impact on the efforts to meet our recycling targets; also, whether the Welsh Government has seen any impact arising from the decision made by China to no longer accept the import of plastic waste for recycling; and, also, for a full reasoning as to why the Minister feels that a moratorium on the development of new incinerators would not be appropriate at this time. A response was received from the Minister on 21 January and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Neil. 

10:05

[Inaudible.]—the environment. I'd like to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, and ask for a full reasoning as to why the Government feels that a moratorium on the development of new incinerators would not be appropriate. Importing other people's rubbish seems to be a growth industry for this Government, so I'd like to write to the Minister about that. 

Okay. Do all Members agree? Yes. Michelle, yes? Okay.

Item 3.12, P-05-1051, 'Allow Welsh junior athletes to train with the same covid regulations as equivalent English juniors'. The petition was submitted by Andrew Brown and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 219 signatures. Now, we considered this for the first time on 1 December, and we agreed at that time to write to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, and to Sport Wales, to ask for further information about the reasons why different rules are in place for different sports, and whether greater harmony could be achieved between different governing bodies. A response was received from the Minister on 13 January. No response has yet been received from Sport Wales.FootnoteLink  The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not yet done so, and has not commented since the petition was submitted. So, how would you like to take this forward? Jack. 

Thanks, Chair. I do have some sympathy with this. Deeside ice rink is in my constituency, which is now obviously the Rainbow hospital—a mass vaccination centre—so, there is obviously no ice rink there at the moment and, obviously, people haven't been able to practise their sport in north Wales. But I think the situation has changed, and, given the Minister's response and that the situation has changed with regard to tier 4, I don't think there's much more we can do at this current time. So, I would suggest that we close this petition, but there is certainly sympathy there and it's something to be looked at, and I think the Minister's response acknowledges that, in the future.  

Thank you, Jack. Does everybody agree with that proposal? Thank you.

Item 3.13, P-05-1061, 'Give financial support to Pet Boarding businesses'. The petition was submitted by Ryan Lee and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 2,114 signatures. Now, we considered this petition for the first time on 1 December and agreed to write back to the Minister for finance to ask that the further information and proposals made by the petitioner in relation to the difficulties this industry has had in accessing existing financial support programmes be taken into account in the design of the next phase of the economic resilience fund or other support programmes. A response was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 13 January, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack. 

Thank you, Chair. Can we write back to the Minister for economy to call for the eligibility criteria for restrictions business fund grants to be amended so that they can be available for small pet boarding businesses? I'll put on record, Chair, as a local Member, that I'm working on a case at the moment for a local business in my constituency with regard to this, and it is proving some difficulty. So, I think it does need looking at, and this petition is clearly a valid one.

10:10

Okay. Do all Members agree with that course of action? Okay.

Item 3.14, P-05-1069, 'Save the farmland and green fields at Cosmeston'. This petition was submitted by Michael Philip Garland and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 5,272 signatures. So, we first considered this petition for the first time on 15 December 2020, and we agreed to write back to the Minister for finance to share the further detailed concerns raised by the petitioner and to ask for these to be considered in relation to the development, and to seek a response to the specific points raised by the petitioner. We also asked how the Welsh Government seeks to balance the competing interests of protecting the environment and developing additional housing, including affordable properties. A response was received from the Minister on 15 January, and the petitioner has provided further comments, and Friends of the Earth Barry and Vale have also written to the committee. How would you like to go forward? Neil.

I don't think this is something that we can just close. This is going to run. I'll declare an interest, because I've met the petitioners. This has happened all over Wales with local development plans, and it just seems that the most profitable option is always taken, and it just simply isn't right. The Minister is clear the Government won't withdraw its application. It is the responsibility of the local planning authority and the planning inspectorate, which is highly undemocratic. I don't want to close the petition; I'd like to keep a watching brief on it for the next committee, because this is going to run.

Okay. Do any other Members have any comments? Okay. Do you support that action? Okay.

The next one is 3.15, P-05-1072, 'Investigate what powers the Welsh Parliament has in relation to banning conversion therapy'. The petition was submitted by Samuel Fletcher and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 114 signatures. So, we considered this for the first time on 15 December, agreeing to write back to the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip to ask for further information to be provided about the steps that the Welsh Government has considered or would consider taking to prevent conversion therapy being able to take place in Wales. A response was received from the Minister on 15 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

I think we should wait for the views of the petitioner on this. I feel very strongly that we should do what we can to support the petitioner's request. This issue has just been brought alive on Channel 4 with the amazing It's a Sin programme—a series of five episodes—which documented how horrific life was for gay men in the 1980s when the AIDS outbreak first happened, and there's a scene there where there's an attempt at conversation therapy and it's absolutely horrific. So, more people will be aware of this now in the light of that programme, and I think, as a committee, we should do what we can to support the petitioner in getting this barbaric practice outlawed.

Okay. Do all Members agree with that course of action? Yes. Okay.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, now we move to item 4 on the agenda, a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business: item 5. Therefore, Members, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today's meeting. Are Members content? Yes, Michelle? Okay. I declare the meeting closed.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:14.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:14.

Correction: The Committee has subsequently been made aware that no correspondence had been sent to Sport Wales following the previous meeting, as a result of an administrative error.