Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

01/11/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James MS
Luke Fletcher MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second 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 yn y Senedd.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.

The committee met in the Senedd.

The meeting began at 14:00. 

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

Croeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.

A very warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.

This meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv. The meeting is bilingual and translation is available. A Record of Proceedings will also be published at the end of the meeting. I welcome Members and our clerking team to today's session, and remind Members of the usual housekeeping arrangements that can be found in today's papers. Item 1: apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We have received apologies from Buffy Williams, and no substitutions have been sent. I remind Members again that members of the committee should declare any declarations of interest either now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New Petitions

Moving on to item 2 on the agenda, new petitions. Item 2.1, P-06-1187, 'Offer a Covid-19 vaccination to clinically vulnerable children'.

'The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination has been approved in the UK for use in children age 12-16. However, the vaccination isn't being offered to any children in that age bracket.

'Children who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable are more at risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 than the general child population.

'We want the Welsh Government to offer the vaccine to Clinically Extremely Vulnerable children in that age group.'

This was submitted by Lucy Williams, with 347 signatures. I'll ask Members to discuss this petition. Luke. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. It's my understanding now that all health boards have begun inviting 12 to 17-year-olds to get vaccinated, so I think that would mean that what the petitioner's calling for is already happening. So, I think, if that is the case, we should probably look to congratulate the petitioner, and then close the petition. 

Thank you, Luke. That's my understanding as well, so I think we'll take that suggestion forward. I can see nodding from Joel too. 

Item 2.2, P-06-1193, 'Ask the UK Government for permission to hold a referendum on returning devolved powers'.

'The Senedd has no powers to call such a referendum to gauge public opinion about how devolved powers are perceived in Wales. However, they can ask the UK Government for permission to hold a referendum for the people of Wales.'

This was submitted by Phillip Easton, with 392 signatures, and, again, I'll ask members of the committee to discuss this petition and any action they may wish to take. I'll bring Joel in. 

Well, funnily enough, I've just had a response today from Mick Antoniw, the Counsel General, about comments last week about doing the constitutional commission—going out to see where we are in terms of progressing further powers or what the people of Wales want. I queried with him that, if we were looking to do that, and I'm conscious of the First Minister's comment that independence is on the table, then we shouldn't ultimately have allowed people to have their say, or those people who didn't want it, to have their say in moving the discussion, if that makes sense. One of the concerns I had with the comments last week was it was very much a siloing of going down to and addressing those who all ultimately think the same way, even though there might be an opposing view. So, I'm quite supportive of the crux of this petition, really. And I know one of the comments here was about the constitutional future and what's recently happening, but the thing is they've said, 'We're not going to be discussing this matter; all it's going to be discussing is where we're going further as a devolved institution, rather than rolling back the powers.' So, I'm conscious that we'll probably be of a different opinion, but I do think that, if we were to have that discussion, we should at least be talking about that as well, rather than just talking about what, I assume, the Counsel General wants to hear about.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I think there'd be no surprise, really, as Joel indicated, that I'm a bit uneasy about this petition. I understand what Joel is saying, but we did have a referendum back in 2011 for more powers to the Senedd, where—off the top of my head—over 60 per cent of people voted in favour of more powers. We've literally just had a Senedd election where a majority Chamber has been elected that's in favour of further devolution. With this constitutional convention now happening, it strikes me that we wouldn't be able to really have a further conversation about this until we know what that convention has said. So, I would suggest that we thank the petitioner for raising the petition and close the petition for the foreseeable future.

14:05

Okay. On the back of that—and, obviously, I’ll take a chair’s view—I would agree; I think whatever my personal beliefs are, I’m not sure there is too much the committee can do at this current time. It is an important question that needs to be considered, but perhaps Members can raise those in the Chamber and with the Counsel General, like Joel has done already. I don’t think, at this current time, the Petitions Committee can actually do too much with this petition, given the fact it’s likely to take over 18 months until the work of the constitutional commission is concluded. So, I would support the call to close, but certainly thank the petitioner for raising a very valid consideration. Joel.

With that in mind, I know that we’ve held petitions open until the outcome of things that we’ve been waiting for. Could this be another one where we just wait to see what the commission comes back with? Or do you think it would just be too long to wait?

It could come back to committee, but it would be a very long time before it does. So, I'm conscious of giving the wrong impression on what the Petitions Committee can achieve with this.

So, that would be my view. So, I think we'll take the decision to close. But, certainly, as individual Members of the Chamber, I'm sure it will be a lively debate for some good 18 months, no doubt.

Moving on to item 2.3, P-06-1194, 'To legislate to give freeholders in new build properties the right to manage their own estates':

'The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 gives leaseholders the right to acquire the landlord’s management functions by transfer to a company set up by them. This same right does not apply to freehold owners on new developments, who have to pay a service charge to a company appointed to manage their estates. As a result they have no control over the amount of their service charge or maintenance issues. There needs to be reform to protect homeowners from excessive charges and poor management.'

This was submitted Peter Black, with 242 signatures. I'll ask Members to come in. Joel. 

Thank you, Chair. I’ve got some experience of this with my council hat on. We’ve got a number of estates that the council haven’t adopted and so the original developers have set up a management committee. In those instances it’s not that the council refuse—. Well, they refuse to adopt, but as you know, when developers build estates, they hand them over to the council, and then they hand over money for the future upkeep and everything. So, in one particular estate in my ward, that was the issue—the money the council was requesting was seen as too much by the developers, so they went down the route of management of the estate. This is causing a lot of issues, but how I would see it wouldn’t necessarily be to give those people the rights to purchase it themselves—it’s to stop these estates being formed in the first place, I think. I think there must be a way to encourage or to even legislate that if a new-build housing development is built, that is automatically, subject to various conditions, I suppose, adopted by the council, really. Because one of the issues that we’re having with the bit in my ward is that they’re still paying full council tax, and that’s an issue. Even though they’re benefiting from education and from bin collection and that, the street lights, the pavements, the drainage—they’ve all got to pay extra for it. I definitely think this is something that needs to be addressed, but I don’t necessarily think what they’re proposing is the answer.  

Okay. Thanks for that, Joel. I should say, to put on the record as well, the petitioner is satisfied, actually, with the Minister's response and the upcoming legislation around this. Again, it's a topic that's been discussed. Certainly in the last Senedd term, Hefin David from Caerphilly took a lead on this, and I think there's a cross-party consensus of doing something. We perhaps have different opinions on what that is, but, again, it is, I think, one for the Chamber. Just before we move on, then, Luke, you wanted to—.

Just to add on to what you said there, Chair. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done on this. I’m sure we can all agree on that. But I do think this is now something that we have to take up in the Chamber more than through the committee structures. So, I would say perhaps we should agree to close the petition, but thank the petitioner as well for raising these concerns. You know, these concerns have been raised with me several times in my own surgeries. As Joel has already said, he's had similar experiences; I'm sure you have as well, Chair. But I think this is now for the Chamber.

14:10

I would agree, and I can see nodding there too.

Item 2.4, P-06-1195, 'Conduct an independent inquiry into the death of Glyn Summers and the actions of Coleg y Cymoedd':

'We call on the Welsh Parliament to conduct a full public independent investigation, so Glyn's family can finally get clarity on the events surrounding his tragic death nearly 10 years ago.

'Glyn's family have reason to believe that college staff gave permission for Glyn to consume alcohol underage and enter an over-21 bar, without supervision whilst on a college trip. Shortly after Glyn fell from his hotel balcony and died a week later from his injuries.'

This was submitted by Sion William Summers with 834 signatures. I'm sure Members will agree that we deal with this with some compassion towards Glyn's family following his tragic death. So, can I ask Members to discuss this petition? Joel.

Thank you, Chair. Just for the record, I've been contacted by the petitioner about this issue, and I've been helping him and the family. I note from the report that there's a possibility of maybe the committee meeting with him and his family to discuss this further, just to see what more we could do or what more they'd like us to do. Maybe that might be an option for us going forward.

Thank you for that, Joel. I can see that Luke is in agreement with that. I think that we can certainly do that. I just want to state for the record the Minister's clear rejection of an independent investigation. I think it would be unfair to the family and Glyn's loved ones to suggest otherwise. But we certainly can explore, if there is room for the committee, to try and help the family where we can. So, we'll take that suggestion and be in touch with Glyn's family.

Item 2.5, P-06-1197, 'Heart screenings free for all 11-35 year olds who represent their school or county in sport':

'12 people under the age of 35 die suddenly every week in the UK, from a heart condition that could have been detected with a heart screening. 80% of these deaths show no prior symptoms. Cardiac arrest has a 7% survival rate. Since making heart screenings compulsory in Italy for all sports players, sudden cardiac death has decreased by 89%. Owen Morris, 13, died suddenly during rugby training in Cardiff from an undiagnosed heart condition that may have been picked up in a screening.'

This has been submitted by Sharon Owen, with 3,092 signatures. Again, I'll ask Members to discuss this petition. Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I understand that the Welsh Government receives its advice from the national screening committee, which I note in the report says that it doesn't see this as being appropriate at present. However, I would like us as a committee potentially to write to the Welsh Government to share the petitioner's view, and—I'll try and get this right now—to ask them to undertake a Wales-specific longitudinal study—I hope I pronounced that right—for the reasons that the petitioner has outlined. I hope Joel would agree with that.

Okay. Thanks, Luke, and I can see that Joel is in agreement; I would agree too. So, we can certainly write to the Welsh Government to request that and ask about that study. I won't try and repeat the word that you successfully delivered there.

Item 2.6, P-06-1200, 'Make horse tethering, with or without shelter, illegal and an act of cruelty in Wales':

'In Wales it is currently not illegal to tether horses. Everyone must have seen a beautiful horse tethered on a short chain at the side of a road with no shelter from the harsh weather.

'RSPCA appear have no power do anything about it! If a dog was tied up on the side of a busy road, there would be outrage. Both animals matter!

'Laws must be passed to stop this terrible cruelty to such sensitive creatures! These animals have no quality of life, it’s an absolute scandal.'

It has been submitted by a petitioner who wishes to remain anonymous, and I think, as a committee, we will agree to do that. But it has had 4,637 signatures, and I would ask members of the committee to discuss this petition. Luke. 

14:15

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I can see that the Minister has responded outlining that horses are afforded some protection through legislation in Wales, but I also note as well that the crux of the petition is about the lack of enforcement of this legislation. I would be interested, actually, in seeing if the committee could seek further information from some annual welfare groups relating to enforcement, and be able to feed that, then, hopefully, to the Government, once we have received that information.

I can see agreement from Joel there. Luke, thanks for that, and I think we'll take that forward as the action.

Item 2.7, P-06-1201, 'Ban the shooting of critically endangered birds...give them the protection they so desperately need':

'It is absolutely shocking that some of our most endangered birds, including Woodcock, Pochard, Black Grouse and Snipe are still allowed to be shot in Wales. 

'These species are currently on the RED and AMBER list of birds of conservation concern 4. That means that they are currently of the highest conservation priority in the UK.

'We fully understand that shooting may not be the main cause of their decline, but at the moment when they need maximum protection allowing them to be shot is madness.'

This was submitted by Robert Curtis, with 122 signatures. Again, I will ask committee members to discuss this petition. Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I can see by the report that the Minister is not minded to take any further action on this. However, she could be convinced if there was further evidence presented. Could I suggest that the committee gets in touch with the RSPB to seek their view on the matter, so that we can then, hopefully, if there is evidence, present that to the Minister?

Thank you, Chair. Just for transparency purposes, just to say, as you know, I'm a member of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. I agree with Luke about writing to the RSPB about this, but I was wondering whether or not there is scope for us to write to other organisations as well—for example, I mentioned BASC. I think that might be a good idea. Obviously, they might come from the other side or something, but I think they would have a good idea on population numbers and decline as well.

Thanks, both, for that. I'm sure we could write to other organisations, and if there are further organisations, then perhaps we could have a conversation with the clerking team outside.

Moving on to 2.8, P-06-1202, 'Ban the killing of day old chicks in Wales':

'To produce laying hens only female chicks are needed. Male chicks are killed shortly after hatching. The chicks are killed by gassing or maceration. Gassing is likely to be highly aversive, while maceration is brutal. Technology exists by which the sex of an egg can be determined, so male eggs can be prevented from hatching. France and Germany will ban the killing of male chicks by 2021 and 2022 respectively. Wales should now ban this practice too and provide a lead to the rest of the UK.'

This was submitted by David Grimsell, with 413 signatures. I'll ask—Joel.

Thank you, Chair. I believe I was contacted by the individual at the start of the term, and we did a little bit of digging in to this as well. I'm not 100 per cent certain now of the response, but I think the response we had was that this doesn't happen in Wales at the moment. There aren't the facilities to do it, I don't think. So, although I agree, I don't think it should happen, I don't think it is happening. Maybe there might be scope for us to find a bit more out about that, really. I note some of the options here about writing to the farming unions and the Humane Slaughter Association and that, but I think it might be good to clarify whether or not it happens in Wales at the moment. 

I would like to suggest that we try to seek a bit more evidence on this, just for clarity's sake more than anything else. Despite receiving the Minister's response on monitoring, I'm not minded to close this petition yet. I think we should get some further clarification as to the situation in Wales first, and then see where we can go from there. 

Okay. That makes sense to me. So, we can action that.

Item 2.9, P-06-1205, 'Invest in flood defences on the Towy in Carmarthen including the Quayside area':

'The Towy floods multiple times a year affecting businesses that sit alongside it. Something needs to be done as a matter of urgency, the public see plenty of meetings but no action.'

This was submitted by John Aitken, with 740 signatures. I'll ask Members to discuss this petition. Luke.

14:20

Diolch, Gadeirydd. It is very unfortunate that we're seeing more and more of these events happening. I'm sure Members are already acutely aware of my opinion on why these things are happening, but I'm conscious as well we don't want to double up on work or be doing work that potentially has already been done, so I would be interested, or at least would like to suggest that the committee writes to Natural Resources Wales to see if there's anything in place—whether there's a flood scheme being brought forward in relation to the Towy in the first instance, just so we know then where we can go from there, because, again, I'm conscious we don't want to double up on work if work has already been done.

I would tend to agree with that, Luke, so we can certainly write to NRW on the basis of what you've suggested.

Item 2.10, P-06-1209, 'Create a national list of all unpaid carers in Wales'.

'The Welsh government have said for a long time now that identifying unpaid carers is a difficult task, so this petition is to ask for the creation of a national carers register to make identifying unpaid carers easier.'

This was submitted by Mike O'Brien, with 77 signatures, and I will ask Members to discuss this petition. Joel.

Thank you, Chair. I know the petitioner, in the sense that I held an informal unpaid carers forum a couple of weeks ago, and Mike was the main instigator of that, really, to help with setting that up. I agree with the purpose of the petition, to be fair, in the sense of—I suppose it's always difficult to identify an unpaid carer, but I think it's definitely something that we need to look into. I note from the action that the Minister is waiting for a report back from the advisory group, so it might be a case where we hold off on doing anything until we get that back, so we'd know roughly, what we could do then.

Thanks for that suggestion. I can see Luke nodding, and I would agree too. So, yes, we can have a watching brief on this petition and accept the Minister's offer to report back to the committee at a later date. I think we should, as a committee, put on record our thanks to all unpaid carers and carers out there. Clearly, the pandemic has shone a light on what they do, so we will pay tribute there.

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

Item 3, updates to previous petitions. Item 3.1, P-05-954, 'Petition for a public inquiry by the Welsh Government into the historic child abuse on Caldey Island', and this was submitted by Kevin O'Connell, with 5,088 signatures. Can I ask Members to discuss this petition and any possible actions? Any thoughts from Members on the petition? Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. This is a very long-standing petition, and I am racking my brains on where we can go with this now, especially given that the Minister has already ruled out or rejected calls for a public inquiry. I think we're all very aware of how difficult the situation is. There comes a point, I think, with the Petitions Committee in particular, where we look back on some of these petitions and we see the amount of work that we've done on them already, and this is one of those petitions where we can see how much work we've done and we're at a loss as to where we can go forward with this now.

It is with some reluctance that I would suggest that we close the petition. I'm deeply sympathetic with the issue, but it's one of those things now where I just can't see where our own committee can go with this and that, perhaps, it's time for somebody else to take this on. It is something I say with a heavy heart, as well.

Thank you for that, Luke, and I would share your compassion of where you've delivered your thoughts there, and I would agree with them. I can see Joel in agreement too—

—sadly, I think this is something that we do now have to close as a Petitions Committee.

Item 3.2, P-06-1203, 'Do not roll out Covid 19 vaccine passports for retail, hospitality or other premises'. 

'We want the Welsh Government to commit to not rolling out any e-vaccination status/immunity passport to the Welsh public. Such passports could be used to restrict the rights of people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, such as preventing them from accessing shops, supermarkets or other premises, which would be unacceptable.'

And this was submitted by Stephen Pearce, with 336 signatures. Can I ask Members to discuss this petition? Luke.

14:25

Diolch, Gadeirydd. This is one of those issues, again, that's been debated in the Chamber now. I think, as the Petitions Committee, we've done our end of the work, I can't see where we can take this now, other than us as individual Members raising our own concerns or our own thoughts on vaccine passports in the Chamber. I do have my concerns, but I think it's best now that we scrutinise the Government in the Chamber. But, we should, I think, thank the petitioner and close the petition. 

I would be in agreement with that. As you said, we have had a lengthy debate in the Chamber, I would say an entertaining debate in the Chamber, as well, but it's not for the committee to carry this on. So, I would agree with that, and thank the petitioner and close the said petition. 

Item 3.3, P-05-1003, 'Demand an EIA now on the dumping of radioactively contaminated mud in Welsh waters'. This was submitted by Cian Ciaran, with 10,692 signatures. I believe this has come to committee—it certainly was in committee in the previous Senedd, and I believe we've discussed it four times in the Petitions Committee and, too, in Plenary, following a debate at the request of the former Petitions Committee last year. So, can I ask Members to discuss this petition and how we see taking this forward? Joel.

Thank you, Chair. Unfortunately—. It's quite a serious and emotive issue, but unfortunately I don't know what more we could do now as a committee. I note from the report that it's been discussed quite a few times in the Senedd Chamber now, and even if we were to keep it open, I'm not sure what more we could do. I'm open to suggestions, but I suspect we've probably come to the end of what we can do and we might just have to close the petition. 

Yes, I think just to add to what Joel said there, I hope members of the public realise it is something that I think all of us are reluctant to do is to close petitions when there are still unresolved matters, but I would agree with Joel on this. We've had this discussion in this committee four times already, it's been debated in the Chamber. I think, again, as a committee, we've held up our end of the bargain, so to speak, and we have championed this cause for quite some time. But, again, I'm racking my brains on this one and where we can take this now and it is, again, with a heavy heart—. We haven't had as much success as potentially the petitioner would have hoped, but I think we should be realistic here and say that we have done our end of the bargain, as it were, and thank the petitioner and close the petition. But, of course, that doesn't mean to say that we as individual Members can't take this up in the Chamber. It's definitely something I'll be looking into after committee.

Well, thank you, both, for that suggestion. I would agree with that suggestion. It has been discussed, as I said, four times plus once debated in Plenary at the request of the previous committee, so I do think, with a heavy heart, this is as far as we can take this particular petition. So, we will close and move on to item 3.4. 

P-05-1071, 'Print the vehicle registration on all drive through fast food packaging', submitted by Michael John Powell, with 8,341 signatures. And I'll ask Members to discuss this petition. Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I know my colleague, Peredur Griffiths, has done some work on this in his own region. Again, I think we've done as much as we can as the Petitions Committee on this subject. We haven't succeeded on all the specifics, but I would argue that we have had some successes and had some positive actions taken by Welsh Government here, but again, I think it's one of those things where I'm struggling to see where else we can go with this, and again, when we get to that stage, I think it's only right that we as individual Members take it up in our own time now, but thank the petitioner, of course, and close the petition.

14:30

Thank you, Chair. Just as before, I know the petitioner. If I'm honest, I think this idea is quite innovative and I think it would have been good if we were able to do something to see it come through, but I think I met with McDonald's a couple of weeks ago, a franchisee, and funnily enough, I spoke to them about it and although they weren't necessarily against the idea they did say there would be a lot of constraints in trying to do that; most importantly, I suppose, data protection. But from looking at the report, it does seem that the Welsh Government's been very proactive in trying to tackle this and I agree with Luke, I suppose it's probably best now just to close the petition.

Okay, and I think we should make it for the record that the last engagement we had, the clerking team had shared the most recent Welsh Government update with the petitioner. Again, we haven't succeeded on all of the specifics of the petition, but the Government has made some positive actions, so I think we should congratulate the petitioner on that basis and close.

Item 3.5, P-05-1083, 'Protect leaseholders in Wales from paying for cladding remedial works', submitted by Carl Tubbs with 133 signatures, and I'll ask Members to discuss this petition. Any thoughts from Members? Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Having read the report on this, it doesn't seem like it's a done deal yet. I think we're at a point where to me it seems that the work is going in the right direction here, and I think this is to some extent a success, so I think we should congratulate the petitioner here, and close the petition, but I do think it is incumbent on us to really scrutinise now what happens going forward. Some of the stories we've heard over our own Senedd term, but also in the last Senedd term, are harrowing, and so I think now it's on us as Members to really scrutinise where we go from here.

I would be in agreement with that, and I can see nodding from Joel, too, so you're right, I think it is on individual Members to scrutinise the policy of the Government, but again, we thank the petitioner for bringing this really important petition forward.

Items 3.6 and 3.7 will be grouped for consideration together as previously agreed by the Petitions Committee. So, 3.6, P-05-1073, 'Create and build a new branch of National Museum Wales dedicated to Welsh involvement in colonialism', and 3.7, P-05-1086, 'Create a National Museum for Welsh Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic History and Heritage', and they were submitted by Kieran Sawdon, with 103 signatures, and Yasmin Begum with 490 signatures respectively. Can I ask Members to discuss this? Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I think I said in a previous meeting that I knew Kieran, so just for clarity, I'll say that again. If we start with his petition first; I know they're grouped together, but I do think there are some differences between the petitions. With Kieran's particular petition, I can see that the Minister has noted that there is some work now going ahead, so for example, they're reframing the legacy of Thomas Picton, which is a positive step forward. There is also talk of some initiatives to highlight: BAME history, and of course we've had the statue of Betty Campbell that's been erected in the centre of Cardiff. There is a long way to go—I don't think we should kid ourselves—I think there's a long way to go in ensuring that there is adequate addressing of Wales's part in colonialism. I think we're on the right track, but again, I think we need to make sure as Members that we continue to bring this issue up. I do think we should definitely thank Kieran for raising this issue with the Petitions Committee. It is, like I said, you know, not to labour the point, but we do have a long way to go. But I think, again, it's for us now to keep pushing forward on this.

14:35

Okay. In terms of actions for the committee, then, I think one of the things we can do is write to the Heritage and Cultural Exchange as well, asking for an update on their discussions on a permanent home for the archive. There is a long way to go. We are seeing some results, but it's something the committee's—

Can I just clarify?

Were you suggesting closing the first petition?

Yes, sorry, I just wanted to come in on that one. Because if we talked about Yasmin's petition then separately, I do think that we should write to the Heritage and Cultural Exchange, as you've suggested there, Chair. But the Minister has said that the—I'm trying to think of the words here now—collection is in their hands, so I think we should ask what discussions they've had about a permanent home for the archive.

Yes, thank you, Chair. I agree with that, and I think it would be a good idea to write to the HCE for an update on discussions on a permanent home for the archive, but also whether or not we could seek clarification if they've ever tried previously to look for a permanent home, and if there were any—not drawbacks, but any—oh, it's gone. But any reasons why it didn't happen—that's what I'm trying to say.

I'm sure we can ask that question within the letter, Joel.

Sorry, Chair. Just to clarify, on Yasmin's petition, I would recommend that we do keep it open until we have a response, but that we close Kieran's petition.

Okay. I can see Joel nodding, and I would agree with that, as long as that is fine for the clerking team. Thank you, all.

Item 3.8, P-05-1130, 'The Welsh Government should re-purchase and refurbish Coleg Harlech', submitted by Sian Ifan with 6,661 signatures. We have discussed this a couple of times in the committee, but what I should say is that I think it's very important to note that the clerking team and I had some wonderful reading over the weekend, where we received a number of passionate letters from people who did use the college and who remember the college, and they do want to see it returned to its former glory. So, they're not for the public record, but I do want to put on our record our thanks for the nice read over the weekend. On that note, I will hand over to members of the committee to discuss this petition. Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. So, my understanding is that the building has been sold on now, so I think it's important that, of course, the new owners of the building work with campaigners now to try and ensure that that passion that you saw in those letters is harnessed, really, in what happens to the building going forward. But I do think we should thank the petitioner and close the petition on that note. 

Thank you, Chair. I suppose the only route that's left for the committee now is to close the petition, but one of the things I'd just like to highlight is that we see a number of these, where people have petitioned to save certain buildings, and it would be good to see if there's anything the Welsh Government could do—and I suppose it's what we can do in our own capacity as Members—to give more strength to local communities in trying to protect their buildings. Because I know I've been involved in a number of campaigns where a building has important community value, but it's not listed, or it's not seen by the powers that be to be of importance, and then it's just destroyed. I feel that we as Members should do more to try and push for that, so that local residents and communities have a stronger say in how their community's developed further, really. 

Thank you for that, Joel, and I think there's agreement around the table on that from Members to take up away from the committee. But certainly I thank the petitioner, and thank again those people who did take the time to write and share their memories. As I say, it was a very good read.

Item 3.9, P-05-1133, 'Adapt the teacher training syllabus to include Transformational Coaching and Emotional Intelligence', and this was submitted by Tracey Jones with 193 signatures. I will ask Members to discuss this petition before we move on. Luke.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. I can see in our reports that the Minister has attempted, at least, to show how he's looking to take the concerns of this petition seriously. I do note as well that we have written to the Minister twice here. Given the Minister's response and, again, struggling to know where we can go with this, I think we have taken it as far as we can, and we should thank the petitioner and close the petition.

14:40

Thank you for that, Luke, and I can see nodding in agreement from Joel, and I would agree too. So, we will take that action forward.

4. Trafodaeth bellach ar y trothwy llofnodion
4. Further discussion on the signature threshold

Moving on to item 4 of today's agenda, we're going to have a discussion about the petitions threshold now. I'll pass over to our clerking team to talk through the paper they've kindly put together for us.

Yes, it's not the first time we've discussed—. We've been talking about this since the committee was established really, and in the previous committee's legacy report, recommendation 4 was that we should look at this. They took the view that somewhere between 200 and 250 would be what they thought, but at the time they didn't have a great deal of data because the new petitions website had started in the April, and by the time they wound up in the March they didn't quite have a year's worth of data of how that had affected things. There was a suspicion that 2020 was an outlier because of COVID. We had so many petitions on COVID that it could have just been a one-off year, and it could have reverted to normal. What we've seen over the last few months is not that it's reverted to normal. We've already had more petitions in 2021 than in 2017 and 2018 put together. So, it's clear to me, and I think to all of us in the data that we've looked at, that something has changed and more people—. It's much easier and simpler to create and to sign a petition, and that's why we need to look at the threshold and see what we can do.

Thank you for that. I sat on the previous Petitions Committee in the last Senedd, and it was obviously something that we discussed heavily. As Gareth says, the data perhaps wasn't there. I do think now the data is in front of us for us to scrutinise and look at. I think there are a couple of decisions for the committee to take. Firstly, does the committee agree that the change is justified? It's my belief that it is. The second decision that we have to make, if all Members are in agreement, is what change. It would be my suggestion, and I will put the suggestion to members of the committee, that we look to raise it to 250 signatures, and you can see from the paper in front of you that still more than 56 per cent of petitions would come to our Welsh Parliament committee.

And I think, finally, the last decision that we need to take is when should we look to introduce this change, knowing that we would have to get the agreement of Business Committee and the Llywydd in the Senedd. It would be my suggestion to introduce it to and ask Business Committee to consider changing the threshold to 250 signatures for the Petitions Committee, and that we do that possibly at the start of the new year, so 1 January 2022, or as soon as it is practicable to do so, given the technical difficulties perhaps with the website and the process.

But if Members do agree to that, and I will bring Members in to discuss it now, I'd also like to make it clear that as a committee, and the vision for the committee, a petition at 251 signatures will be taken as seriously as one with 250,000 signatures. We will take each petition with open eyes and sound judgment, I think, and give major consideration to all petitions. But it is my belief that the national Parliament of Wales does need a bigger threshold, and that's hopefully what the paper suggests to Members and, hopefully, Business Committee will agree with that. I will bring in Members if they have any thoughts or disagreements. Luke. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. There were two points I wanted to make in relation to this. Firstly, if we do look to increase the threshold, that petitions that are currently ongoing, that that new threshold won't be the threshold for those petitions, because I am conscious that we don't want to be moving the goalposts for those who have already set up their petitions. 

The second point I wanted to make as well was that I'm conscious that this could be seen as a reduction, really, in the voice of people in Wales in the Welsh Parliament, but I also think that we do need to find a balance between the amount of petitions that we consider and the amount of petitions, actually, that we can do some deep-dive work into. We have a number of petitions now that we're already considering doing further work on, potentially holding inquiries, for example. If we want to be able to do that deep work, then of course we have to be realistic about how many petitions we consider. I think increasing the threshold will help us in that regard.

Those were the two main paints that I wanted to make on this. I am supportive of increasing the threshold, and I think especially as we hopefully see more powers being devolved to the Senedd, we will have to consider this eventually because there will be more subject areas that people can petition on. But I welcome the report and the data that's been given to us. There's some really good work there. I just want to thank the clerking team for putting that together for us.

14:45

Thank you for that, Luke, and I'll extend my thanks to the wonderful clerking team that we have for producing this report. Just to address the two points you made in your contribution then, the goalposts won't be moved. For those who have petitions open already, the threshold will remain the same. I think we should make that clear, as it's fair to do so. 

And then secondly, on the voice of the people of Wales, I think—and we've discussed this as a team, as a committee—we want to be able to shape policy and drive change for the better of the people of Wales, and I think this is one area, as you've suggested, which does help that, and I'll go back to the vision, or my vision, certainly, for the committee, whereby we take every petition, whether it has got 251 or 250,000 signatures. We will take every petition with the credit it deserves and we will judge them soundly as individual petitions and not be swayed by signatures. We will only be swayed by the benefits to the people of Wales in the work we do.

Joel, would you like to come in?

Thank you, Chair. I agree with what Luke said, really. I think the key thing is to get that balance where you're not necessarily stifling debate or stifling access to democracy, but I think a 250 threshold would be a suitable number, really. I note from the report that, for example, the Scottish Parliament makes it quite explicit that it only deals with issues of national importance. I don't necessarily think that's a route we might need to go down at the moment, because most of the petitions we've been dealing with, although they might have a local angle, the responses could generate a national response, really, for want of a better word, and I think that might be something to keep a watching eye on going forward, really. I know, in my local authority, we've just started a petitions committee there, but prior to that there wasn't anything—. People were submitting petitions, but there wasn't anything formal in place to discuss them. So, I'm hopeful that—. Yes. Maybe it's something to raise the profile of petitions with the local councils, so that when we have people putting in a petition to say X, Y or Z, we can say, 'Well, maybe this is something you should be bringing up with your local council first, before progressing it to us,' if they haven't done that.

Well, generally speaking, if it's a local authority matter we wouldn't accept a petition. That's why we don't do planning as a general rule. But, yes.

I think we should have a watching brief; those issues are important and we have a duty to be flexible where we can. But can I make the suggestion, then, to the clerking team, that we do write to the Business Committee requesting a change to the Standing Orders of the Senedd Petitions Committee, to request 250 signatures as the new threshold? And, of course, we would have to then get a slot for a debate within the Senedd Chamber where we could make those points on a wider scale, and then, obviously, a vote in Plenary on a change to Standing Orders. But we will do it in a way—. Perhaps we can share the letter before we send it, just to make sure that Members are content with what's in there. Happy? Good.

14:50
5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 6.
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from item 6 of the meeting.

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 6 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from item 6 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Moving on to item 5, that does conclude today's public business, so we will now go into private session to consider our forward work plan. So, can I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix) that the committee resolves to meet in private for the next item, item 6 on the agenda? Members are content, I see. Yes, thank you. And just to note that the committee will meet on 15 November. Again, thank you to all our clerking team and those behind the scenes. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:50.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 14:50.