Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee23/06/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain MS||Dirprwyo ar ran Tom Giffard|
|Substitute for Tom Giffard|
|Alun Davies MS|
|Carolyn Thomas MS|
|Delyth Jewell MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Hefin David MS|
|Peredur Owen Griffiths MS||Dirprwyo ar ran Heledd Fychan|
|Substitute for Heledd Fychan|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrew Gwatkin||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Dawn Bowden MS||Dirprwy Weinidog y Celfyddydau a Chwaraeon, a’r Prif Chwip|
|Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip|
|Des Clifford||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Mark Drakeford MS||Prif Weinidog Cymru|
|First Minister of Wales|
|Neil Welch||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Steffan Roberts||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Craig Griffiths||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Tanwen Summers||Dirprwy Glerc|
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 a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 11:19.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 11:19.
Bore da. Dyma estyn croeso i'r Aelodau i'r cyfarfod hwn o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. Heddiw, mae Peredur Owen Griffiths yn dirprwyo ar ran Heledd Fychan a gyda ni ar-lein, ac mae Altaf Hussain yn dirprwyo ar ran Tom Giffard, hefyd gyda ni ar-lein. Mae Hefin David yn ymuno ar-lein, ac mae Alun Davies, Carolyn Thomas a finnau yn yr ystafell. Oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan, os gwelwch yn dda? Dwi ddim yn gweld, felly fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen. Dŷn ni'n ddiolchgar iawn i Altaf a Peredur am fod gyda ni'r bore yma.
Good morning. I welcome Members to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee. Today, Peredur Owen Griffiths is substituting for Heledd Fychan online, and Altaf Hussain is substituting for Tom Giffard, also online. Hefin David is joining online, and Alun Davies, Carolyn Thomas and I are in the room. Are there any declarations of interest? No, I don't see any, so we'll move on. We're very grateful to Altaf and Peredur for being with us this morning.
Eitem 2 y bore yma ydy papurau i'w nodi. Eitem 2.1: gwybodaeth ychwanegol gan Criced Cymru yn dilyn y cyfarfod ar 4 Mai. Eitem 2.2: llythyr gan y Gweinidog dros Dechnoleg a'r Economi Ddigidol, yr Adran dros Dechnoleg Ddigidol, Diwylliant, y Cyfryngau a Chwaraeon—DCMS—yn Llywodraeth y DU, at Gadeirydd y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg, sydd wedi cael ei gopïo atom ni. Ac eitem 2.3 ydy llythyr gan Ddirprwy Weinidog y Celfyddydau a Chwaraeon, a'r Prif Chwip at Mike Hedges ynghylch sefydlu amgueddfa grefydd genedlaethol. Oes gan unrhyw Aelodau unrhyw sylwadau maen nhw eisiau eu rhoi ar y papurau neu ydych chi'n hapus i ni nodi'r rhain?
Byddwch chi'n sylwi bod Chris Philp, y Gweinidog dros Dechnoleg a'r Economi Ddigidol, wedi cynnig papur briffio technegol ar y Bil Diogelwch Ar-lein a'i ddarpaiaethau. Mae'r pwyllgor plant a phobl ifanc yn mynd i drefnu hyn, ond byddwn ni'n gwneud yn siŵr bod aelodau'r pwyllgor yma yn cael gwybod am hwnna, felly mae yna groeso inni fynd i hwnna hefyd. Fe wnawn ni eich cadw chi yn y lŵp gyda hwnna. Ocê.
Item 2 this morning is papers to note. Item 2.1: additional information from Cricket Wales following the meeting on 4 May. Item 2.2: a letter from the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the UK Government to the Chair of the Children, Young People, and Education Committee, which has been copied to us. Item 2.3 is a letter from the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip to Mike Hedges regarding establishing a national museum of religion. Do Members have any comments to make on the papers or are you happy to note these?
You will note that Chris Philp, the UK Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, has offered a technical briefing on the Online Safety Bill and its provisions. This is being arranged via the children and young people committee, but we will make sure that members of this committee are notified of this, and we are welcome to attend that as well. We'll keep in touch regarding that. Okay.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 4, 6 ac 8 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4, 6 and 8 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Os yw'r Aelodau'n hapus, dwi'n cynnig, o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42, i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod heddiw ar gyfer eitemau 4, 6 ac 8. Os ydy unrhyw un yn ein gwylio ni nawr, byddwn ni nôl yn fyw yn hwyrach pan fydd y Prif Weinidog gyda ni. Ond, am nawr, ydy'r Aelodau yn hapus inni barhau yn breifat? Dwi'n cymryd eich bod chi. Grêt. Fe wnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni yn breifat.
So, if Members are content, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public from items 4, 6 and 8 of the meeting. If anyone is watching us now, we'll be back live when the First Minister will be with us. But, for now, are Members content to continue in private? I take it that you are. Great. We'll wait to hear that we are in private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:22.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:22.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:30.
The committee reconvened in public at 11:30.
Croeso nôl i'r sesiwn yma. Dŷn ni'n cyrraedd eitem 5, sef craffu ar waith y Prif Weinidog yn sgil ei gyfrifoldebau gweinidogol ar gysylltiadau rhyngwladol. Dŷn ni'n falch iawn i weld chi gyda ni y bore yma, Brif Weinidog. Croeso, ac i'r officials hefyd, wrth gwrs. Dwi methu cofio beth ydy 'officials' nawr yn Gymraeg. Dŷn ni'n falch iawn taw dyma fydd y sesiwn gyntaf mewn cyfres o sesiynau craffu blynyddol ar y cyfrifoldebau yma. Eto, dŷn ni'n falch iawn o gael chi gyda ni y bore yma. A fyddech chi'n gallu cyflwyno eich—? Beth ydy 'officials' yn Gymraeg?
Welcome back to this session. We're now on item 5, which is ministerial scrutiny of the First Minister as a result of his ministerial responsibilities on international relations. We're very pleased to see you this morning, and a warm welcome to the officials as well—I can't remember what 'officials' are in Welsh now. We're very pleased that this will be the first in a series of annual scrutiny sessions on these responsibilities, and we're very pleased to have you with us this morning. Could you introduce your—? What's 'officials' in Welsh?
Swyddogion—diolch. Mae'r gair jest wedi mynd mas o fy mhen. A fyddech chi'n fodlon cyflwyno eich swyddogion ar gyfer y record, os gwelwch yn dda?
Swyddogion—thank you. The word had just gone out of my head. Could you please introduce your officials for the record?
Diolch yn fawr. Mae gyda fi y bore yma Des—siŵr o fod, rŷch chi wedi cwrdd â Des o'r blaen—sy'n bennaeth fy swyddfa i, ac Andrew Gwatkin, sy'n arwain ar bopeth rŷn ni'n mynd i siarad amdano y bore yma.
Thank you very much. Joining me this morning are Des—I'm sure you've met him before—who is the head of my office, and Andrew Gwatkin, who leads on all the issues we're going to discuss this morning.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Useful people to have with you, in that case. The worst thing is when that happens to me and I can't remember the English or the Welsh word, and then that's not helpful at all. Anyway, thank you again for being with us. We'll go straight into questions, if that's all right.
We're delighted, all of us, of course, that the men's football team have qualified for the final stages of the football world cup. Could you talk us through the work's that's been started and the work that will go on about how we can maximise to get the economic cultural benefits from that for Wales, please?
Well, Cadeirydd, diolch yn fawr. The world cup is one of a series of major international sporting events where Wales will be represented on the world stage over coming months—the biggest, of course, with the largest international reach, but not the only one, by any means—and we will take the same approach to the football world cup as we were developing in relation to the others, and, indeed, which we put into practice in Japan at the Rugby World Cup in 2019. That's an approach that marshals resources across the whole of the Welsh Government, but then seeks to work with key partners. So, for example, when I went to Tokyo as part of our Rugby World Cup preparations, it was to be with a trade delegation. So, we had a series of companies from Wales using that opportunity, the llwyfan, the stage of the world cup, to be able to promote Wales in all its different aspects, and that's the same approach we will take to the world cup.
So, yesterday, there was a meeting of senior officials across the Welsh Government to make sure we're capturing all the contributions of different facets of the Welsh Government's work. That will result in a meeting of Ministers across the Welsh Government at the start of next week that I will chair. I then intend to ask one of my ministerial colleagues to lead the day-by-day activity as we prepare for the world cup and then to make sure that we're doing that with our partners, whether that be the FAW, of course, a key partner in all of this, or all the others that we will want to draw in to making sure we get the best we can out of that opportunity.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Obviously, our committee will be very interested—we'd be very grateful if we could be kept abreast of that work; it's something that we're very interested in. I think Alun wants to come in on this point.
Yes. It's an interesting thing, isn't it, Wales's relationship with the world. I think, sometimes, we almost fall into—. I don't want to say it's an error, but we see our relationship with the world almost in transactional terms. One of the things I was really fascinated by—. I thought the videotape of you yesterday with the refugees from Ukraine was absolutely fantastic; I saw it across different news media. It really fills a heart, doesn't it, in terms of the relationship and what's being done, and I think it's a great achievement for a Welsh Government to have done what it's done there. But, it speaks to a relationship with the world that isn't a transaction, doesn't it? It speaks about a real responsibility as being a part of the world, and I'm interested as to how those wider—I'm trying to avoid using the word 'moral' because I think we're going down a bit of a hole then sometimes—sorts of relationships would inform your approach to your work as a Minister for international relationships, because the work you're doing with Ukraine isn't a part of any strategy; it's about doing the right thing and about Wales's place in the world, and I'm interested in your approach to that.
First of all, I'd just thank you for what you said. I'm wearing this tie deliberately this morning, Chair, knowing I was coming here and we would be talking about international matters. This was a tie given to me when I was in Llangrannog. The motif here, it was knitted by somebody who came to Wales immediately after the second world war as a refugee from Ukraine, and wanted to give this to me in recognition of all the things the Welsh people have done to respond to the current crisis. And there's nothing transactional at all about that; that is a recognition of human values and the importance of those human contacts.
There are parts of the international strategy that are absolutely in that part of the sphere—our Wales for Africa programme. There are, I hope, economic benefits in it. We benefit hugely from what we learn from the people we meet and the people who come to work and study in Wales as a result, but it's not driven by those sorts of outcomes. It is driven by our wish as a small nation to be able to respond to the needs of other places that don't have the same fortunate circumstances as we do.
Interestingly, Chair, in a further development of Alun's point, there are some parts of the world where you can't do transactional work until you've done that investment in relationship building and getting a sense of who you are and how that fits with how the people you're trying to work with are, and that was very much, I thought, part of the Japanese experience. We've recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Ōita, the province that the Welsh rugby team were based in while they were in Japan, and the head of the Government in Ōita came and visited here in this building before the Rugby World Cup, and it's taken four years of patient building up of understanding and relationships before that memorandum of understanding was ready to be signed. It will lead to economic, cultural and links for young people, all of that sort of things, but it's not a matter of getting in the room, signing a piece of paper quickly and thinking that's the job done. It needed all that investment in that wider, human sense of contact between Wales and another part of the world to make that happen.
Chair, if I could just add a sentence.
Yes, of course.
If it's helpful, it might also just be worth saying in respect of the world cup—and this doesn't only apply to the football world cup; obviously, we have the women's Rugby World Cup and the men's Rugby World Cup next year, and other events that the First Minister talked about—the place, the venue, where the competition is being held we see as being only one part of the story and, actually, maybe not the biggest part of the story, because the raising of awareness of Wales will be on an unprecedented global scale, obviously, with the football world cup, and I think, off my top-of-the-head calculations, we already have existing offices for the Welsh Government, of one sort or another, in seven of the countries that have qualified for the football world cup. So, that's the United States, Canada, Qatar, Belgium, France, Germany and Japan. I think those are the ones; if I've missed any out, I'm sorry. So, we do very much see this as an opportunity globally to take advantage of the raising of Wales's profile in the way that the First Minister's been talking about.
That's great. Thank you so much. I think Peredur wanted to come in on this as well.
Yes, if I may. I think you're on the record, First Minister, as saying that you're not going to miss any opportunities to raise human rights issues with the Qatari authorities, and I think the Minister for Economy has done so already in a visit in May. How do you plan on doing that during the tournament?
Well, Chair, we'll be doing it in the run-up to the tournament as well as at the tournament itself. I met the ambassador from Qatar here in Cardiff last week; he came as a result of Wales's qualification. I was able to say to him that, had he come into the Welsh Government building in Cathays the day before, he would have seen the rainbow flag flying over the top of the Welsh Government building. I was able to raise a series of trade union issues with him. I explained that we were a Labour Government here in Wales with important links to our trade union partners and, therefore, to ask a series of questions about all those issues we know have been raised about the construction of venues associated with the world cup. I was due tomorrow to meet the UK ambassador to Qatar, but he has fallen ill with COVID and so that is postponed, I think, until Friday of next week, but that will be another opportunity to explore ways in which we are able to use the influence we have now to make sure that the things that we would regard as important are fully communicated and expressed, and that opportunities are taken to bring whatever influence we can to bear.
Thank you for that, First Minister. I think Altaf wants to come in on this as well. After Altaf's question, we may need to move on.
Good morning. It's just about Qatar, really. Are you taking a cross-party team with you when you next visit Qatar?
Visits to Qatar during the World Cup itself are still being thought through, and we're in discussions with the FAW and so on. If there is to be a visit, then you want the visit to be at a point when it can have the maximum return on the time that would be taken to do that. And there are a number of choices there. The very first game is on the very first day and will probably have the largest global audience. So, you can make a case for saying that the Welsh Government should be represented there. But, there are other choices that are possible as well and, Altaf, those discussions are not concluded, but I can assure you they are actively being pursued.
Get your bids in now. [Laughter.]
I'll give you a ticket now. [Laughter.]
Right. Thank you very much for that. Just moving on, I want to ask about ministerial changes, and I'll try to put this into one question. Since the role of the international relations Minister was discontinued in 2021, could you talk us through how international relations is spread across different roles within the Government, please? And could you also say what impact that has had in terms of working arrangements? And, finally on this point, some stakeholders have raised concerns with us about the fact that that ministerial role as a standalone role doesn't exist anymore; could you explain to what extent you've continued with that previous role's duties and to what extent they're shared with other ministerial portfolios, please?
It has always been the case that responsibilities for international relations are spread across the whole of the Welsh Government. Just to give a couple of examples, Jeremy Miles as the Minister for education has responsibility for our educational links with a series of other countries. He's responsible for the Taith programme, which will be one of the flagship parts of our relationships with other countries. Eluned Morgan, as the health Minister, has oversight of our links with medical schools in India and the exchange programme we have with them. As you said earlier, I think, Chair, Vaughan Gething was in Qatar as part of our economic links. So, it has always been the case that a range of Ministers carry out those responsibilities.
There is a Minister for international relations in the Welsh Government, because that's me—not as when there was a standalone Minister doing it, but I have taken those responsibilities into my office, and that means that I carry out the co-ordinating role, the oversight of all of that activity. We have a dedicated team that Andrew leads. I meet monthly with the team to make sure that I'm able to offer whatever decision making lies with me and to get a sense of everything that is going on. And, in some ways, in terms of what did Eluned do and what do I do now, I was lucky enough to inherit, as a result of all her work, the international strategy, the action plans; all of that heavy lifting and getting that in place had already happened. So, my job is to help put that into practice.
A lot of the outward-facing stuff I would have done anyway. I meet very, very regularly with ambassadors and international visitors from the rest of the world. I met the Irish ambassador yesterday. I think I worked out that that was the sixth time that I had met him, one way or another, in the last 12 months. I'll be meeting the Polish ambassador in the next couple of weeks. That will be the second time that I will have met him. And just in the time covered by the annual report, I will have met the ambassadors from Slovenia, Japan, the EU, Finland twice, Hungary, Holland twice, Moldova, Latvia, France and Germany. I'll have met the high commissioners of India, Bangladesh, Canada three times, New Zealand twice, and, at a regional level, the minister-presidents of Brittany, Baden-Württemberg and Catalunya. I would have met the Flanders president this week, if it were not for the rail strike that led to the cancellation of that visit. And I hope to be myself in the Basque Country following up our contacts there during this calendar year. So, in terms of profile and the outward-facing role of the Welsh Government, I would have probably done quite a lot of that in any case, but I probably do more of it myself directly now.
Thank you for that, First Minister. In terms of to what extent you're able to meet stakeholders or Welsh non-governmental organisations, is that something that would come into your role or is it something that you would share with another Minister?
Some of it will be shared, some of it I will do directly myself. Amongst our key partners in all of this would be, for example, arts organisations. A lot of what we do involves the promotion of cultural links with the rest of the world, and so that would be led by Dawn Bowden more. But we've done a great deal collaboratively with the office of the commissioner for future generations, and I lead on that. So, I have worked with her. We've had a key partnership with the Urdd in recent times, both as part of our Rugby World Cup endeavours—Jeremy shares that with me—but I went to Oslo alongside the Urdd for their centenary celebrations. So, it varies. Sometimes it will be the portfolio Minister, but not exclusively.
Thank you for that, First Minister. Alun, did you want to come in? No. Finally from me, when the visits with ambassadors take place, is the Senedd informed of that usually as a routine? If not, would it be possible for our committee to be informed when those meetings happen? That would just be really useful for us to know the relationships.
It does vary. They're all captured in the annual report. We report on the waterfront there. Written statements are issued, but not invariably. How can I put this, Chair, in the best way? Some of the visits from ambassadors have a work programme and a lot of practical things that we work through, and they're involved in a wider programme. Sometimes, that is sufficient to warrant a written statement. Sometimes, they are of a more ceremonial sort. They will be a new ambassador to the UK making a first visit to Wales. I meet them as part of making sure they feel welcome, and so on. Probably the content doesn't necessarily amount to a written statement, but keeping the committee informed of that I'm sure is something we'd be happy to do.
Diolch. Thank you very much.
Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Carolyn Thomas.
We'll move on to Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. Will the international strategy be updated in light of several things that have been happening lately, like the pandemic, Brexit, the climate crisis and Black Lives Matter? And also, will Welsh Government publish regular reports on overall delivery of the strategy, including progress of action plans that run until 2025? I think that goes back to our stakeholders who've been giving evidence. They appreciate the really high profile of the First Minister leading on the international strategy, but just that they're kept informed of what's going on. And also, they were saying that since Brexit has happened as well, they feel that some of the decision making and what's happening between Wales and international companies—. They feel like maybe Wales is getting a little bit excluded now and that decisions are being made by UK Government. So, there's quite a lot there; I've just got it all in—all in one.
[Inaudible]—as I can. I say to my team all the time I want our efforts as a Welsh Government to be focused on delivering the strategy, not going over and over the strategy. The strategy was designed, and the action plans published, after we left the European Union, after the pandemic had struck us. These are not events that the strategy didn't know about. Lots of the strategy is derived from our wish to make sure that we minimise the adverse impacts of Brexit on Wales and that we create new opportunities, wherever we can, to make sure that Wales goes on being known as an outward-facing, globally engaged nation.
I don't think that, at the moment, spending a lot of time redoing the strategy is where our efforts are best directed. I am keen that the strategy itself—. I mean, it is a strategy, you know. It's not a delivery plan. The detail of the delivery plan, how we make it happen, does get revised all the time, particularly during the pandemic, when the way that our offices could operate and the way that we were able to be in touch with people had to reflect the circumstances of the time.
The strategy itself, I think, still has the things that we are most focused on at its heart. We do formally report on the strategy through the publication of the annual report, through written statements, which are more than just meetings with ambassadors. If I go—as I will be the week after next, I think—to the British-Irish Council, then there will be a written statement published afterwards, as there was after my visit to Oslo, for example, and after Vaughan's visit to Qatar.
So, we use written statements as a way of publicising major milestones in relation to the strategy. Occasionally, Chair—very occasionally—I get asked a question, and I answer questions every week. So, there are opportunities every week for questions about the international strategy to be asked of me. It doesn't happen very often, but the opportunity is there every week.
Chair, could I add something?
Yes, of course.
It was just to say, really, I suppose, that the point of a strategy is to create a framework within which we can operate. One of our key existing strategic aims is to establish Wales as a globally responsible nation. In the way that Alun Davies was talking about it a while ago, once we accept that as an objective—that Wales should act as a globally responsible nation—that provides a context within which we respond to Ukraine in the way that the First Minister was talking about, for example. The donation of PPE equipment to Namibia arises from that strategic aim.
So, I think that we would argue that the point and purpose of an existing strategy is to be sufficiently flexible to provide that framework within which we can then take our instructions, as unexpected or unforeseen—. The point that Alun Davies made was that all sorts of things happen and that, no doubt, sitting here in 12 months' time, a whole bunch of other things may well have happened that we will need to respond to, which we couldn't begin to describe at this point in time. But the strategy that we have got gives us, I think, the licence and the framework to act. Thank you.
Can I just come back quickly?
Yes, of course, and then we'll come to Alun after that.
Thank you. The strategy is not a 10-year strategy; it's just an open-ended strategy. And then the action plans, which run until 2025, are not action plans that are dated and need reporting against. I'm just trying to get my head around that.
We have a five-year strategy and five-year action plans. The action plans are something that, genuinely, we are constantly looking at to see, 'Is it right? Do we need to adapt what we are doing?', because that then flows through to many plans. But actually, what we are doing is operational delivery. The action plans were devised and then launched in November 2020. So, we were very much in the pandemic.
We have worked flexibly as a result of that digital engagement. We have been able to do quite major events as well, such as our Wales in Germany year. We did a lot of that digitally. We have done Diwali digitally as well during that time. So, the action plans still very much give us a sense of direction, particularly the export action plan. We have got a whole series of new initiatives that we have been able to launch and implement as a result of that.
So, I'd genuinely say that we are regularly making sure that what we are doing is relevant in operational delivery, and the action plans still feel very relevant in terms of that. But, they are five-year plans; you are right.
I think that it's really important that we promote all that goes on. A lot of people that I talk to didn't realise about Wales and Africa. I know we talk about it quite often, but I try to make the most of opportunities to get these amazing things across. I think it's important.
Carolyn, I was going to go to Alun for a supplementary, was there anything else you wanted to come back on?
No, that's it, thank you very much. Thank you.
Okay, thank you. Over to Alun.
The purpose of a strategy and action plan is twofold, isn't it? It provides you with that context and that ability to plan the way forward and the rest of it—and I agree with you, I think the strategy should be a strategy and not a straitjacket, and I think it's important to be fleet of foot and agile in responding to things, but also—the second part of it, of course—it provides accountability and democratic oversight as well and it gives the Senedd as a Parliament the opportunity to hold you to account for what you deliver.
I think those two things need to be balanced. I think it's important that the Senedd, holding the Government to account, understands the context in which Government is operating, and that the Government takes opportunities and doesn't slavishly follow a statement that was made four or five years ago. I think everybody understands that.
So, it might be useful if the committee were to write to the First Minister, rather than to take more time this morning, to understand the process over this coming Senedd by which the plans will be refreshed and republished. Because you will be publishing a new strategy or plans by the time that this Senedd comes to an end, and it might be useful to understand the process by which the Government intends to approach that, because that would then enable us and others to have an input into those matters prior to the Government reaching its conclusions.
Would you be happy?
Yes, absolutely happy to have that sort of discussion—set it out on paper to begin with, and then at a future occasion to discuss it, if that was useful.
Great. Alun, was there anything else you wanted to ask at this point?
Not on that, no.
Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Hefin David, os ydy Hefin gyda ni.
We'll move on to Hefin David, if Hefin is with us.
Your video is working. I know that Hefin's video was not working well earlier, so let me just see your face, Hefin.
Yes, a couple of technical issues this end today. Does the Welsh Government have any plans to undertake an independent review of its network of overseas offices to evaluate their impact and value for money?
Not at this point, Chair. The offices are really only now being able to get back to doing the sort of things that we would have normally expected them to be able to do. At the height of the pandemic, they were pretty fundamentally repurposed. Our people on the ground spent quite a lot of their time working alongside the UK representatives on the ground simply doing things like trying to get people home, and spent a lot of their time on the pandemic effort as well. Colleagues here will recall that we had loads of personal protective equipment coming into Cardiff Airport early on in the pandemic, and that was the result of our offices on the ground using the contacts they had to make the arrangements for that to happen. They weren't able to do all the normal things they would do in terms of incoming trade delegations and so on. So, that is all resuming. Those more previously normal sets of activities are being picked up again by our offices overseas, but I think we would want that to run for longer before it would be right to review, because what we would be reviewing would not be the standard experience or what we expect our offices to be doing in a post-pandemic world.
So, how do those international offices, then, provide an opportunity for organisations based in Wales? Where are those links happening and how effective are they?
Well, the primary focus of those international offices is on trade and on making sure that, where there are opportunities either to identify and work with inward investors or where there are exporters from Wales wanting to find opportunities elsewhere—. That is the primary focus of the offices. It's not exclusive, because they do other things as well, with the diaspora, which is another important part of the international strategy, and, as I say, often in the field of cultural and sporting exchanges. But the major links that they will have will be of people looking for trade, investment and business opportunities, and every office has a monthly report that they make of all of that; I get to see them every month. It sets out the leads that they are following up, the meetings that they will have held. There is a very detailed programme that is undertaken by every office, and it is reported on on a monthly cycle to make sure that we can be confident that the offices are delivering on what they are set up to do.
With that in mind, can I take a scenario as an example? So, Castle Dairies, for example, is based in my constituency. They make butter and cheese for supermarkets in the UK. What would be their route to gaining an international foothold using those international offices and international branches that you've mentioned?
Sure. Well, look, maybe I'll ask Andrew to explain what the process would be, because it is a well-trodden path, so he can set it out for you.
Absolutely. For any business in Wales, the first port of call is always Business Wales. That's that fantastic gateway into our services and our support. We also have a really excellent food and drink team within Welsh Government, very experienced individuals who can support any business of that type in terms of their exports. They are running specific food and drink trade missions as well, alongside our more general trade missions.
So, Business Wales is the first port of call. That can then redirect, if necessary, a business to wherever within Welsh Government would be most appropriate. Within our own export support services, we have the market visits, which are probably the most obvious, but there are so many more. There are webinars specifically on particular issues that businesses are facing when they're exporting. We have clusters now, export clusters, where you get that real sense of businesses working together and sharing information, and we have export exemplars as well, some really fantastic Welsh businesses that have been very successful, and just demonstrating what's possible, and then inspiring others to do so.
Hefin, before you come back in—
Can I just ask my last question?
Yes, sure, that's fine, and then we'll come to Peredur after that.
Just wondering, following from what was said then, is there any understanding and analysis of the usage of Business Wales for those purposes by those foundational businesses—do you have any information that you'd be able to share that demonstrates that value, and demonstrates, perhaps in statistical terms, the amount of companies that use those direct routes?
With our business and regions colleagues, absolutely. I can talk to the people who are looking at all of the Business Wales services and give a sense of how they're interacting with businesses. Yes, I will certainly take that action and speak to, as I say, colleagues who are running the Business Wales service. We ourselves work very closely with that. Our direct, face-to-face export team receives referrals from Business Wales on a very regular basis, so I can also talk about that and give a sense of the numbers that we're receiving and how we respond to those.
Thank you. Thank you, Andrew.
Oh, I think the First Minister wants—
Just to give you one practical example from the same sort of field that Hefin raised, it's Wales in Canada Year, and, as part of that, three major supermarket chains across Canada have been promoting Snowdonia cheese. And that will have happened in exactly the way that Andrew has described. They will have come into the Welsh business support system. We will have used our offices on the ground in the work they're doing as part of Wales in Canada Year, and, as a result, there's a major promotion of a company in the dairy field, making sure that those export opportunities are available.
Fantastic. Thank you. Hefin, did you want to come back in after this? I'm going to go to Peredur for a supplementary, but are you happy?
I've finished, thanks.
Okay, diolch. Over to Peredur.
Just a quick supplementary on what Hefin was saying there about people like Castle Dairies. When we're out and about in our regions and our constituencies, talking to businesses, talking to people, what would be the expectation from yourself, with those offices in the countries where we've got offices, if we wanted to possibly advocate on behalf of our constituents with those offices, or get some information out to them? Is that something that would be possible?
Absolutely possible, and, of course, having a Senedd Member to speak up for you and to make that case is always a great advantage. There, there may be more direct routes. I'm always very pleased to hear, myself, directly from any Senedd Member that has a company that would benefit from the help and support of our network of international offices. So, I hope Members will be willing to just pass that information our way, and then we will pick that up in the way that the system would always want to do.
May I add something?
Just to add, talking about Business Wales, talking about the type of export support we give, it's really helpful to have a conversation with a business first, rather than just purely pointing them to an office. The office can often be of help, but it's much better to have that complete conversation, understand the real need of the business, and then, if the office is the right place to direct them, that's brilliant. I've no issue with anyone contacting an office directly—that's perfect too, but that more complete conversation can often give a better level of support to a business.
Great. Peredur, was there anything else you wanted to ask?
No, not on that bit, no. Thank you.
We're over to you now anyway.
Oh, sorry. Yes, no problem. With regards to the memorandums of understanding that we've got with regions and countries, some are listed on the website, and some are referenced in the overseas office reports, and others are referenced elsewhere. Would it be possible to provide an updated list of the memorandums of understanding to the committee, and will you commit to make these publicly available in one place on the Welsh Government website?
Chair, there is a list of the extant MOUs in an annex to the annual report [correction: international strategy] but it's always in the business of being redeveloped. So, I referred to the Ōita MOU as a very recent example. As part of Wales in Canada Year, we are exploring a very specific MOU on medical radioisotopes with Canada. So that won't appear there yet, but it will be added if that matures. And yes, of course, we are very happy to provide the committee with the most up-to-date list, and, if it helps to make that list public, we can do. But the annual report is the place where we consolidate all of that. And even if, as I say, we put one up tomorrow, in a few weeks' time, there may be something that will be added to it. We're in the middle of discussions at the moment with Baden-Württemberg, where we've historically had an MOU, and where the Government of Baden-Württemberg approached us, saying they would like to update that MOU; they think there are new possibilities that could be pursued with us.
We've had an approach just in the last few weeks from Silesia. Silesia in Poland was one of the places we had a very early MOU. I remember my former boss at the time, Rhodri Morgan, setting off to meet the Marshal of Silesia, dressed in a very elderly overcoat, as I remember, and very heavy snow as well. [Laughter.] So, Silesia—the original MOU was because of its coal-mining history and our coal-mining history, and the heavy industry context made it a natural partner back in 2002. That was an MOU with a four-year life, and, recently, the Government of Silesia has re-approached us—this time in the context of Ukraine—to see whether there are opportunities for us to redevelop the MOU we had with them. So, all I'm trying to say—sorry, it's a long way to answer Peredur's question—is that we can put up a list, but it's a dynamic business, and the list would need to be—. At least an annual list gives a definitive account of where we are at that moment in time.
Chair, can I have 10 seconds on that, just to complete the picture?
Of course. You can have longer than 10 seconds; it's fine. [Laughter.]
Thank you. It was just to say—. An important feature, I think, of operating internationally is the way that pursuing one opportunity can produce dividends in a different context down the line. And the Marshal of Silesia that the First Minister referred to—. And I went with his predecessor, Rhodri Morgan, on that visit, wearing the very old overcoat, which I think had belonged to his uncle, who had had some business in Katowice half a century earlier.
I demand to see a photograph of this overcoat. [Laughter.]
There is a photograph.
There was a typically Rhodri-esque story around the overcoat, which you can imagine. [Laughter.] But the Marshal of Silesia, with whom we formed that relationship, was a guy called Jan Olbrycht, who, subsequently, went on to become a Member of the European Parliament, and for a good number of years he sat on the—I forget the name of the committee now—the committee that looked after structural funds. So, he was a really first-class contact for us that we used to send Ministers to go and see and maintain a dialogue. So, it’s just an illustrative example, really, of how, if you pursue one opportunity, you can produce benefits for Wales in different guises over a number of years.
Thank you. That’s really useful to know. Thank you so much. Peredur, was there anything else you wanted to ask?
Thanks, Chair. That partially answers part of the question that I have on what impact these MoUs have and have had, and, maybe in relation to the international strategy, how do they link together?
Thank you, Chair. So, one of the things that I have been talking to the team about over the last 12 months is that I don't think the focus of our actions on the MoU front should be on collecting bits of paper. There's more than one approach to MoUs. I think there are some parts of the world where the signing of the piece of paper is the purpose of the MoU. I want us to have memorandums of understanding that lead to results for Wales, and sometimes that means we're not able to pursue potential links, because it is a relatively small team with finite resources, where, in the end, you have to make choices about which opportunities you are able to pursue. So, we pursue those opportunities where there are practical outcomes that we can point to. That Canadian example, I think, is a good one. If we do have an MoU on medical radioisotopes, that's because we have a real opportunity in Trawsfynydd and the redevelopment of the Trawsfynydd site. The United Kingdom doesn't have an indigenous supply of medical radioisotopes. Leaving the European Union has made our position much more fragile in that regard, because while we were in the European Union, with manufacturers in Germany and France, the export of those materials to Wales was very straightforward. Now it’s surrounded by a whole new thicket of barriers to that trade, and there is a strong case for an indigenous supply of that for the United Kingdom, but for Ireland as well. We don't necessarily have all the expertise immediately available inside the United Kingdom, but Canada is a real global source of expertise in this area. So, if we strike an MoU, it will be because there is something very practical that we will be able to get out of it.
The majority of our country MoUs are with other European regions. So, that’s another thing, I think, to say about our approach to MoUs. We strike them with key regional partners in Europe. So, Flanders, Baden-Württemberg, Brittany and the Basque Country are the places that we are currently focused on, and each one of them has a whole series of reasons why that is a priority region for us. And the MoU is therefore—. I just don’t want it to be a piece of paper; I want it to be something that genuinely develops opportunities for Wales and mutual relationships with those key partners.
Thank you. Diolch. Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Altaf Hussain.
Thank you. We'll move on to Altaf Hussain.
Thank you very much. I have a question on the budget. Following our scrutiny of the Welsh Government’s draft budget, you provided further information at the committee's request in March. The information showed cross-cutting expenditure on activities in Ireland, Canada and France for 2022 and 2023. Now, could you set out what actions will be delivered in these countries through this spending and how their impact will be measured? Thank you.
Thanks to Altaf Hussain for that question. Llywydd, I was—
Oh, you've upgraded me there. [Laughter.]
I know—a promotion. So, Cadeirydd, I was glad to provide the committee with the additional information, following the last time I was here with you. The budget that is not allocated directly to action plans is used to promote those cross-cutting further themes—so, international visits and so on—but also those flagship initiatives that lie above and beyond the action plans. And the question, Chair, was about two examples of that: Wales in Canada, which is our chosen overseas focus for this year, and Wales in France, which will be our focus for next year. The annual report provides a detailed account of Wales in Germany, which exceeded about expectations, particularly given the circumstances in which it was created and delivered. Wales in Canada is a mixture now this year of some virtual events and quite a lot of practical activity on the ground. We're working closely with the Canadian high commissioner, who's been to Wales. I have visited the Canadian high commission in London and spent an evening there with the high commissioner, and that was looking not only at the activity that's going on in Canada, but the Canadian Canada Goes Cymru initiative, which the high commissioner is helping to lead, and he was in north Wales not long ago helping to launch that too.
Amongst the events, to give some specifics in answering Altaf Hussain's question, the launch reception in Canada was a launch reception on ice. That's very Canadian, isn't it, and I think of the Cardiff Devils team here as well. It was a launch reception on ice on 1 March. We did it at the high commissioner's residence in Ottawa, so it was a combination of St David's Day celebrations and launching the Wales in Canada activities, and a chance to showcase Welsh food and drink products particularly. We've had an alumni event in Toronto already. That's part of the diaspora strand in the action plan to make sure that we are using people from Wales who are in Canada already to be part of our promotion. I've mentioned the Snowdonia cheese and the medical isotopes. We're doing a lot on marine renewables as part of this year. As I say all the time, it is such an opportunity for Wales to be involved in marine energy developments, and Canada has a number of sources of expertise on that. It is possible—it is not confirmed; it is possible—that the Minister for Climate Change will be able to visit Canada in September, as part of a wider visit she's making on climate-related issues, to have a ministerial input into a number of those discussions. So, we will report fully in the annual report, with a much bigger list of activities that the Wales in Canada year will encompass, but that's where the budget is used there.
Preparations for Wales in France, which the Member asked about, are beginning, of course. I have met the French ambassador here in this building. The UK ambassador to France is Menna Rawlings, so a very distinguished representative of Wales in the international programme. We're very lucky to have Menna as the ambassador, and she's likely to be there next year. She came over and came to Wales to discuss with us the different opportunities that we will want to promote as part of the Rugby World Cup. That's why we're in France in 2023—sorry if I didn't say that—because the Rugby World Cup will be there, and we will used that to showcase key Welsh messages across the sectors: tourism, culture, sports diplomacy, language. All our links with Brittany and the linguistic side of all of that are really important to us. So, a lot of work is going on already to make sure we are able to use that opportunity, and, again, that will be captured in the annual report that covers the next calendar year.
Thank you so much. And thank you, Altaf, for that. We have just over 10 minutes left, and for the final question, or the final set of questions, we'll go back to Alun Davies. Diolch, Altaf.
Thank you. There are two areas I'd like to cover with you, First Minister. Firstly, international agreements, and secondly, relationships within Europe. In terms of international agreements, we see a number of different debates and discussions we have around those, and I'd like to ask you about your relationship with the UK Government about these matters, and how you, as First Minister, engage with the UK Government as a part of the debate and discussion around international agreements, because we've heard a great deal from UK Ministers that Australia, New Zealand and the rest of it are going to open new opportunities for us; we hear differently from the farming communities, for example, in Wales. I understand that Vaughan and other Ministers will have their day-to-day relationships, but, from your perspective, Government to Government, how would you characterise that engagement?
My second question on this area would be on maximising advantage or minimising disadvantage. And the third question: if I look at a map of the world in terms of the offices, there seems to be a gap, if you like, in Australia and New Zealand, where we have long-established historical, cultural and sporting relationships, and I was wondering if you had any plans to fill that gap in the future.
Thank you, Chair. I think the only characterisation I could offer you of the state of play with the UK Government is that it is mixed. I can't give you a more precise answer, really. Our relations with the Department for International Trade have been amongst the better relationships—in some ways, unexpectedly. But, even when Liam Fox was the Secretary of State, we had a better relationship with him and his department than you might have originally feared. So, at a practical level, the support we have from UK embassies overseas, for example, is always very good. When I was in Oslo with the Urdd, for the whole of the visit that I made, the deputy ambassador was part of that programme. They were hugely helpful in helping us to be able to set up meetings, not just with companies, but I met, for example, the council for indigenous languages in Norway, which was really interesting and there have been some follow-ups with them on language planning and normalisation and really interesting things there. I met the youth council for Norway when I was there, and I particularly wanted to meet them, because, as I know Alun will know, political parties in Norway have a much stronger tradition of youth wings and youth participation in the political process. And given our 16 to 17-year-olds, I wanted to meet them and to hear how that works and what they do, and so on. And those doors were opened for us by the embassy on the ground. So, in those practical things, the relationships are often perfectly good and positive and well-disposed towards Wales in helping us to do what we do. So, that's the good side of it.
The meta picture is much more difficult because we disagree so much on fundamentals here. The UK Government trumpets the trade deals that it has struck with Australia, for example, and New Zealand, and, for us, we're much more anxious about that for two reasons—three reasons, perhaps. There's that economic dictum that trade halves as distance doubles, so, for us, we have long-standing relationships, as Alun Davies said, in Australia and New Zealand, but, economically, the European Union is so much more important to us, so I much wish that they would put their efforts into making that work rather than trade deals remotely in the rest of the world. Then, we are worried that part of the doing of a deal elsewhere in the world will make new barriers to trade with the European Union, because of comparable standards and regulatory alignment, and so on. And then—and this is my belief—the UK Government has been willing to sacrifice the interests of UK agriculture, particularly hill farmers, in order to get a deal on things that are more important to them, but from our point of view are much more worrying. So, on some of those broader, bigger political themes, the relationship is much more difficult because we fundamentally disagree on the day-to-day delivery, and the help we get on the ground is a more positive picture.
Our resources are thinly spread. I'm not in a position to agree to further development of the overseas network at the moment. If I were to do that, do I think that New Zealand and Australia would be where we would go next? I actually think probably not. This is my own view now; I haven't rehearsed it extensively with colleagues. But I think there is a very good argument that future economic opportunities will come more from those middle-sized countries, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, rapidly growing economies, some of them with existing links for Wales—very definitely with Bangladesh, also with Vietnam—and if we had more resources, I think I might be inclined to invest them in those middle-sized, emerging economies, where I think there are new opportunities for Wales.
I'm grateful to you, First Minister, and Europe is the spectre at the feast, I suppose, in all our conversations, and I think most of us—well, all of us—welcomed the appointment of Derek Vaughan as a representative to the European Union. And I'm interested in the steer that you gave him in terms of how he would approach the role. I was in Brussels last month as part of the parliamentary assembly and had the opportunity for an informal discussion with the head of the Brussels office, who's doing a fantastic job—really, really impressive, the work that's being done there. And I'm interested as to, first of all, the approach you take—I think it's fair to say the UK Government's ham-fisted efforts at diplomacy are poisoning the well in terms of relationships with Europe—whether you think that is impacting us in any way, and how you wish Derek to approach the role he's fulfilling and the approach that you want to take over the next few years in supporting and sustaining the office in Brussels and the role that they will play in the future.
Well, Chair, I think those are some of the most important questions we'll have had this morning, because Alun Davies is absolutely right: the pall that there is over our relations with the European Union has a greater impact on Wales because of the nature of—[Inaudible.]—and its relationships with our closest and most important market. I think we're very lucky that, on the whole, people in the European Union are willing to distinguish Wales from the poor state of relations with the United Kingdom, but we can't just escape from it either.
So, I've had a series of meetings over the years with some very senior people in the European Union, and they do recognise that our relations with them has been different, our intentions are different, but the overall state of relations does have an impact on us as well. That's partly why I was very keen to be able to get the services of somebody who'll be able to keep doors open for us, which civil servants can't.
So, you're right, I completely agree: I think the people in our Brussels office have done a fantastic job, and they keep all sorts of avenues open and all sorts of conversations and participation in all sorts of European networks and events. But there are some doors that civil servants can't knock on in the same way, and I was very keen that we kept those doors open for Wales as well, and I wanted somebody who would be well connected with the European Parliament, with the Commission, whose profile with those organisations would be one that would be respected, where Wales's interests could be advanced. But, crucially as well, where we would learn things, things that are going on inside the European Union that we might not hear from the more official sort of channels, and I think Derek has been able to do exactly that. His period as a Member of the European Parliament means that he's very well recognised, very well respected. When I went over myself, around St David's Day, I was able to meet the vice-president of the Parliament, I was able to meet the chair of the most senior committee that's of interest to us, and I would not have had that opportunity if Derek hadn't gone there first and made those opportunities happen. So, I think it's worked out very well indeed as an appointment, and those are the key things I wanted that appointment to do: to help to sustain and enhance the profile of Wales in those key relationships.
Alun, you took part, along with other colleagues, in the Committee of the Regions event we had here in the Senedd. Derek was there as part of that. He's been in San Sebastian recently with the Atlantic Arc group of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions. They may come to Wales now, as a result of that, and I said earlier on in the session, Chair, against the adverse background that we know is there, we have to work even harder to communicate the knowledge and understanding that Wales has a different view of this, that we want to go on being engaged and bringing those people to Wales. If it happens later this year, it will be another fantastic opportunity to advertise the particular approach that we've continued to take in Wales to our European Union friends and partners.
Can I say it's something that I agree with very much, the approach that you're taking on these matters? It would be a useful thing if we could have a conversation about how we approach this relationship, because we attended the Committee of the Regions in Brussels in September, we had the parliamentary assembly, and we have a great resource, if you like, if Derek wouldn't mind us describing him in those terms, in Derek. It would be useful if we were able to agree a way for the Parliament, for the Senedd, to work and the Government to work in tandem, whilst recognising the proper roles of a civil service appointment, of a political appointment, and the difference between the Government and the Parliament. So, it might be useful if we were to pursue those conversations offline and reach some agreed way of working forward.
I'm very happy to make sure that we take up that offer.
Thank you very much. Well, I'm very aware that time has defeated us. Forgive me that we've run a couple of minutes over. We've managed to cover a great deal in this session. There may be one or two things, with your permission, we'd like to follow up with you in writing, but we have been able to cover an awful lot.
Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi am eich amser y bore yma. Bydd transgript o'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei ddweud yn cael ei ddanfon atoch chi ichi wirio, ond, eto, diolch yn fawr iawn. Un peth yn gyflym—
Thank you very much for your time this morning. A transcript of what was said will be sent to you so you can check it, but, once again, thank you very much. Just one thing very briefly—
You mentioned, First Minister, about work that you've been doing in Norway with the council for indigenous languages and some follow up. That would be really interesting for our committee to find more about that work.
That would be really—. That would be fantastic. We'll put that in the letter to you.
There's a note of the meeting and so on, so we could turn that into some information for the committee.
That's right up our street.
It was a fascinating chance to meet them, so very happy to share that.
Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi eto.
Thank you once again.
Diolch yn fawr.
Gyda chaniatâd yr Aelodau, fe wnawn ni nawr barhau yn breifat. Ydy’r Aelodau'n hapus inni barhau yn breifat? Iawn, ocê. Gwnaf i aros i glywed ein bod ni'n breifat.
With Members' permission, we will now move into private session. Are Members content? Okay. I'll wait to hear that we are now in private session.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:33.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:33.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:30.
The committee reconvened in public at 13:30.
Prynhawn da. Croeso nôl. Mae rhai o'n Haelodau gyda ni yn yr ystafell; mae Hefin David ac Altaf Hussain yn ymuno gyda ni trwy gyswllt fideo. Mae Altaf yn cymryd rhan ar ran Tom Giffard. Dŷn ni'n symud yn syth ymlaen at eitem 7, sef i mewn i'r ymchwiliad i gymryd rhan mewn chwaraeon mewn ardaloedd difreintiedig. Mae gyda ni sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Llywodraeth Cymru.
Good afternoon. Welcome back. We have some Members in the room and Hefin David and Altaf Hussain are joining us through video link. Altaf is substituting for Tom Giffard. We move straight on to item 7, which is our inquiry into sport in disadvantaged areas. We have an evidence session with the Welsh Government.
Minister, could I please ask you to introduce your officials for the Record? Or, if you'd like to introduce yourselves, that's also fine.
Indeed. You can introduce yourselves.
Prynhawn da, good afternoon. I'm Steffan Roberts, deputy director of tourism development and sport.
Fantastic—lovely to see you.
Hi. Neil Welch, head of sport, working under Steffan.
It's lovely to have you all with us. Thank you so much. If it's all right, we'll go straight into the questions. Firstly, could I ask, in terms of the thing that's on everyone's minds at the moment, the qualification of the men's team for the football world cup, how do you think that that might—? Will it lead towards any increase in participation in sport in disadvantaged areas? Because obviously that's the focus of what we're talking about today. But do you think that that might open up any opportunities?
Well, I think the focus of everything that we want to do is about opening up sport activity for everybody—equal access, that's there for everybody, but particularly in disadvantaged areas. Wales qualifying for the world cup gives us a huge opportunity. Football is the—. well, it's not actually the biggest participation sport, which I recently found out, but it's a huge participation sport anyway. It's actually—. In terms of participation, it's bigger than rugby union in Wales in terms of the number of people that play. The girls' game in particular is growing like Topsy, which is really, really good. So, I don't see any reason why the world cup would not give that participation a boost. We see it every year after Wimbledon, don't we? Every year after Wimbledon, everybody goes out and gets their tennis rackets out the garage, dusts them off, and off they go again. So, I would hope that one of the legacies of Wales qualifying for the world cup is that we do see much greater participation and greater participation from those disadvantaged groups, all of those groups in our communities that are less—the less diverse representation that we see in some of those sports. So, I hope that's what the legacy will be in that respect.
Thank you. Alun, did you want to come in on that, or were you just—?
I was just going to ask the Minister what the biggest participation sport is—
I know—I was going to ask that too, yes.
—if it's not football or rugby.
Well, there are—. I'm trying to find out—
Sorry, I was just intrigued by that.
Yes. No, it's something like—. Now, I'm going to be called up on this, but it's something like—. It's not squash, but it's something like that. It's swimming, is it? It's a sport that you wouldn't automatically think of as being the greatest participation, in the number of people actually involved. It might actually be swimming, actually.
Basketball is the fastest growing sport.
Yes, basketball is a very fast-growing sport, yes.
It's something new.
Yes, interesting. Okay. Well, that's obviously something that the committee will be really keen to keep abreast of.
Of course, yes.
So, whenever there are developments, please keep us in the loop, and we're all obviously wishing the team the very best of luck.
And I think—.I will also say, Chair, that obviously this is very early days post the qualification of the world cup, and there's going to be an awful lot of discussions that we'll be having with all of our partners, with the Football Association of Wales in particular, about all of the legacy aspects of that qualification.
I just notice that, any time this comes up in conversation, everyone ends up smiling.
I know, I know.
It's just so nice to have a topic where everyone is—
Yes. Quite rightly so, yes.
That's great, thank you. Thank you for that. Turning to some of the other areas, could you talk us through, please, whether you think that the funding for Sport Wales reflects the physical health impacts and the mental health benefits that can come about to kind of try to reverse or address some of the negative things that happened because of the pandemic?
Of course, yes. I suppose I'll take that in two parts, I think, Chair. Firstly is to look at what happened through the pandemic, and how we funded sport through the pandemic, because we were obviously in a crisis situation; most of our sports organisations, national governing bodies, teams and organisations were in dire straits, and we had to repurpose our budget throughout COVID because lots of sports weren't taking place and, as a result, they lost a huge amount of income. So, we had to repurpose. We put £66.5 million into some of the COVID funds to help get us through COVID. We're now coming out of the other end of that, and we have to look at what we are doing post COVID. So, we've got the organisations that we supported, but the purpose of our funding now is to meet our programme for government commitments.
Our programme for government commitments, as you well know, cover access, inclusion, participation in all sports, and that's very much the way in which our funding is being directed, both in capital and revenue funding, as was set out very clearly in our remit letter to Sport Wales. Now, what we are waiting for—. Steffan and Neil may be able to give you more information on this at the moment, because officials are then having conversations with Sport Wales about their operational and strategic plans that they have to draw up on the back of the letter they have from me telling them what my expectations of them as an organisation are. And for the first time this term of Government, of course, it's a whole-term remit letter—it's not an annual remit letter. And, for the first time, Sport Wales has been given a three-year indicative budget. So, it's a slightly different position that we've been in. But I don't know, Steffan, whether you want to say anything about the conversations you've been having with Sport Wales.
Just a quick addition in terms of the remit letter. The remit letter was issued to Sport Wales back in December and the Minister has some clear goals and aspirations in that that we're setting Sport Wales, around addressing inequality, anti-racism, improving access and participation, decarbonisation, the health and well-being agenda, young people et cetera. So, there's quite a broad list of ambitions that are set in the framework of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. So, whilst that's a term-of-government remit letter, Sport Wales will then have its own vision, strategy and an annual business plan that it shares with us on an annual basis. And we, of course, monitor Sport Wales in various ways through the Deputy Minster having meetings with the chair and the chief executive, and ourselves as officials having quarterly monitoring meetings as well.
I suppose the only other thing I would add to that is that, although we are directly funding that through Sport Wales, in terms of the element of the responsibility that Sport Wales has for those things, we're not doing that in isolation. So, Sport Wales is not acting in isolation. We are working with partners in other departments, particularly around how we can use the value of sport for things like social prescribing. You'll be familiar as well with the exercise referral scheme. So, sport is used for that, but that's not our budget. Those are budgets in other departments, but we use the benefit of sport for those physical and mental health and well-being aspects as well.
Thank you for that, Minister. That may have anticipated, in a way, what I was about to ask. Sport Wales said something interesting when they were giving evidence at the beginning of our enquiry sessions on this. When they were talking about the gap in participation, when you look at people facing different disadvantages, they said that the funding that they have at the moment is helping them to make sure that the gap doesn't get wider rather than closing the gap. With that in mind, would you consider giving further funding, looking at, again, still coming out of the pandemic, and addressing that impact, again, specifically about this gap that exists when people face disadvantages? I take on board what you've just said.
What we saw through COVID was all the indices of deprivation that we've identified—. We saw those gaps grow throughout COVID. The greatest impacts on everybody, adverse impacts on people throughout COVID, were in those areas of the highest deprivation—not just in sport, but across everything. But what I would say is that one of the things that we have done to try to address participation gaps is introduce things like the Summer of Fun and the Winter of Well-being. So, this year alone we’re going to be putting £7 million into the Summer of Fun activities through the school holidays, and a lot of those will be sporting activities. I’ll just give you a couple of examples of things that have been going on in my constituency that we did last year. We didn’t just use traditional sports, we used things like street games. There was an incredible scheme going on in the upper Rhymney valley with StreetGames and Valleys Gymnastics and so on—so, getting kids involved in activity that they perhaps wouldn’t otherwise get involved in, because they might not necessarily want to be involved in team sport, for instance, but street games like skateboarding, BMXing, and doing stuff like that. I don’t know if you saw the Urdd urban games at the weekend and what a success that was, with the kind of kids that that’s attracting, because ultimately the objective for participation is about physical activity, mental well-being, and that is not necessarily always delivered by organised team sports.
If I can just add an example as well, as I said, we monitor the budget and we monitor the financial spend through and with Sport Wales, but where there are opportunities to increase the budget, we have done that as well. An example last year is that we increased the capital allocation by £4.5 million as we progressed through the year, so we will be looking at opportunities such as that in future as well.
It’s all peanuts, isn’t it, really? I don’t disagree with what you’re saying and what you’re doing. I don’t disagree with the programmes that you’re running in terms of the Summer of Fun and the rest of it, but there’s a fundamental structural issue here, isn’t there, in terms of the amount of investment that is made in Wales in sporting facilities and what is done in other parts of the world. And as a consequence, you can run the different programmes that you do run—and they’re all very good programmes, I have no issue with any of them; I’ve participated in them myself, I’ve supported them, I’ve seen what happens in my own constituency—but they’re not delivering the facilities that people require in order to participate in sporting activity.
I think we probably would all like to see our facilities improved, being much better than they have been in the past. What I would say is that the starting point for me as a new Minister is that we have the highest level of capital investment in sporting facilities ever—£24 million.
Yes, but that’s comparing Wales with Wales. I’m comparing Wales with elsewhere.
It’s difficult to do that, really, isn’t it? Because it’s like comparing apples with pears. Other nations fund their sporting activities in different ways. All of our sporting activities are not just funded through Sport Wales. It’s funded through the national governing bodies, it’s funded through the third sector, it’s funded through local authorities. A lot of the facilities that we see, and some of the facilities that really could do with a bit of TLC, to say the least, are not necessarily directly funded by Welsh Government. They wouldn’t be directly funded by Welsh Government. They are funded by local authorities, local clubs and organisations, some of whom have access to Government grants, some of whom don’t. But what we’re talking about, Alun, I think, basically, is an underinvestment in facilities that is the direct consequence of 10 years of austerity. We’ve got local authorities that have not been able to invest in facilities to the extent that we would want them to.
I don’t think we can simply say there’s been underinvestment over the last 10 years, but before then there was a huge amount of investment. If we did the research and provided numbers I’m sure we would see that. All the issues that you’ve described are more difficult in areas like those you represent and I represent. I was speaking to pupils and students from Tredegar comprehensive this morning who were visiting the Senedd—my old school. When I asked them what they would like to see—well, they asked themselves what they would like to see—in Tredegar, the overwhelming answer, right across the visiting group, was greater investment in sporting facilities. All the different sources of funding that you’ve described—all of which exist; I’ve got no issue with that—are all operating at a reduced level in a place like Blaenau Gwent when you compare it with somewhere such as Cardiff. So, you’ve got that differential, and it’s addressing the differential that I’d like you to do, Minister.
Yes, and I think that’s a fair challenge. That’s why I’m saying that we’ve put the highest level of capital investment ever into trying to address that. So, £24 million over three years, that's just directly from—
That's a very small amount of money in a Government. In governmental terms, that's a very small amount of money.
It's more than has ever gone in before—
But that reflects on your predecessors, rather than anything else, doesn't it?
You will appreciate, because you've sat in my seat before now, that you work within the budgets that you've got available to you, and within that, you work to maximise the money that you've got. And we have absolutely maxed out on capital investment over the next three years. I think it's also fair to say that a lot of our national governing bodies have a lot of responsibility in this area and are investing in this area. The FAW, on the back of the World Cup, have announced again this week that they're going to put their £4 million profit from the qualification prize money for the World Cup—. They're going to invest that directly in grass-roots facilities. So, we are working with the national governing bodies, and we have put funding into some of the national governing bodies as well to develop sporting facilities, grass-roots facilities that will be multifunctional as well. So, what we are doing—. I'll give an example. When we are talking, for example, to the FAW about a new 3G pitch, we won't be talking to them about investing in a 3G football pitch, we'll be talking to them about investing in a 3G pitch that is multi use—football, rugby, hockey, and so on. So, that widens again the access and availability—
I'm grateful to you for that, Minister. Do you think that the Welsh Government should use an index of deprivation as a means of relatively investing more in areas where there is a higher degree of poverty or more people living in poverty than areas where you have fewer people living in poverty? And do you think—because we already do that, largely, through local government, of course—that the Government has a role in stepping in where the third sector and where individual clubs have less ability to raise their own funds than in areas where fundraising themselves is not as difficult?
Again, I think that's a fair point and it's something that—
But do you agree with it? That's the question.
Yes, absolutely, because again that is very clearly set out in the remit letter to Sport Wales that those are exactly the considerations they have to take into account when determining how they're going to spend the capital allocation on grass-roots facilities. I don't want to see millions of pounds being spent in very wealthy areas where they've already got top-hole facilities. We want to see those areas of deprivation being targeted for improvement.
I think Neil wanted to come in.
You're right; I spoke to Sport Wales in preparation for today, and when they receive expressions of interest, when they make a call for applications for capital investment, they use the Welsh index of multiple deprivation for consideration. So, if they have more applications than there is money available, they do prioritise based on areas of deprivation. That I had assurance of recently.
Thank you for that. We had a really fascinating technical briefing from some colleagues from New Zealand a few weeks ago on this. It was fascinating, and one of the things that they highlighted was that Sport New Zealand has an individual hardship fund. Looking particularly at coming out of—we all hope—the pandemic, it helps individuals, particularly children and—. There's a Māori word, which I can't remember, but it means the extended family or the nucleus of the family. It's about how they can overcome barriers to participate in that. Is that something that the Government would consider looking at, particularly, again, looking at trying to close the gap rather than just making sure it doesn't get bigger?
Again, they're very fair points. I think what we perhaps forget, because we don't see it necessarily as a sport fund but it actually does assist in the way that you're talking about, is the pupil development grant. The pupil development grant is available for access to all sorts of equipment, not just school uniform, but sports equipment, anything that a child needs, particularly in that transition from primary to secondary school, where the purchase of equipment is usually part of the uniform process—gym kit and all the rest of it. And that's why it's higher. It goes up from £125 per pupil to £200 per pupil in that transition to secondary school. So, that is part of what the pupil development grant is there to do, but there are also a number of other schemes in place at the moment. We know, for instance, that the Football Association of Wales has got a scheme running where they do provide football boots and shin pads, and that sort of thing. The Welsh Rugby Union, I think, are also running a scheme through their Fit and Fed programme.
I think where we could have a greater role, because there are lots of these kinds of schemes out there and there are more coming through, and we've had conversations with a number of sporting organisations about them wanting to do something similar to that, where the Welsh Government role could be in that is co-ordinating some of that activity, because at the moment it is a bit ad hoc and it's being done here, there and everywhere. And I think we could perhaps get hold of that and co-ordinate that so that it's a little bit more holistic.
Just to add to that—thank you, Chair—I think it's an important principle how we look across the world for good and positive examples, and you've pointed to New Zealand there and Norway, I think, as an another example. I think the best practice comes from not seeing sport in isolation or sport on its own; it's where sport works alongside everything else. One of the main initiatives that Sport Wales is looking at at the moment is sport partnerships across Wales, using that as a vehicle, really, to co-ordinate Sport Wales and Welsh Government investment, looking at where the local needs are, looking at priorities and opportunities, and bringing sport alongside health and well-being, housing, transport, et cetera. So, I think there's something there where we're at the very early days of a very positive addition to the scene.
Fantastic. Thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Hefin David.
Thank you very much. We'll move on to Hefin David.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. As I'm driving through the various county boroughs that surround my constituency, one of the things that I see quite often is closed school gates and, behind them, playing fields that are not used after 3 o'clock. Does the Deputy Minister have concerns about that? And why is that the case? Why is that happening?
Okay. So, I certainly think that school facilities should be available to the community. You will appreciate that I'm not the Minister for education, so I don't actually have an awful lot of control over that, and schools do make their own decisions. Governing bodies make their own decisions in terms of whether schools can be open and available to the wider community. Where we can have more direct influence is where there is direct grant funding to schools. I'm not talking about the general funding of education via local authorities; I'm talking about where there has been direct Government funding through what was previously twenty-first century schools, where we've seen—I've seen it in my own constituency—and where we've now got schools that have benefited from that direct funding, and have really got state-of-the-art sports facilities. And those schools are opening up their doors to the local community. Afon Tâf High School is a classic case in point in my constituency. They've got a fantastic running pitch—I'm sounding like that woman Nadine Dorries now. [Laughter.]—a running track. [Laughter.] But they've got fantastic sport facilities, and they do open it up to the community, and Active Merthyr Tydfil use it regularly, and so on. And I think that's the way forward, Hefin; that is the model that we should be aiming for. I know my colleague Jeremy Miles, the education Minister, has just recently announced a £20 million programme for those schools whose facilities are not easily physically accessible now. And part of that is to run a pilot to have on-site community facility managers, because one of the challenges that we all know is that headteachers are often very concerned about security on a site, and if they open up their site after school hours, who's going to take responsibility for the security, the maintenance and so on? There are issues of insurance as well, which we'll put to one side at the moment.
But that is going on at the moment, so we've got two things there. One is that there is these pilots going on through the education department, where they're looking at how schools can make those facilities more accessible. We then have pilots that are running with 14 schools. I think that you'll be aware of that, that there are pilots running with 14 schools, and Sport Wales is one of the contributors to those pilots, where they're looking at how we can utilise school facilities beyond the school day. So, that work is going on, and it just needs to be expanded. We've got to look at finding ways, not only schools, but all our community facilities, to see how they can be more readily accessible than they are at present.
That was a bit of a long-winded answer, Hefin.
Hefin, just before you come back in, I think Alun wanted to come in on something that the Minister just said, and then we'll come straight back to you, okay, Hefin.
I would simply ask the Minister if she could write to us with details of those pilots, providing the committee with the information about where they are and what you hope to achieve and progress, and perhaps write to the committee when you report—[Inaudible.]
Absolutely, we'll do that, Alun, but just to say, Chair, that those programmes, those pilots are being evaluated in August this year. So, I can certainly write and tell you about them, yes, but we'll have the full evaluation after August.
That's fine. Thank you.
Great. Thank you.
Alongside those pilots, do you think it would be useful for local authorities to do an audit of their school playing facilities and pitches across their areas, so we can understand when those facilities are being used and not being used?
Yes, I think that would be a reasonable thing to ask local authorities to do. Local authorities could be having conversations with schools that have good facilities. As I say, it is a matter for the governing bodies of those schools, but there's no reason why the local authority can't be having those discussions, because all local authorities will also have their own well-being objectives for their local communities. And schools are actually the heart of the community, aren't they? And it does seem—
Well, sometimes, yes—
Sometimes—that's the problem. The problem is that they aren't the heart of community in many areas; they are open between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and that's about it. So, there are schools that are just not, and I've seen them in my constituency. Some schools are excellent, but some schools just aren't the heart of the community in any meaningful way.
Yes, and I think that is absolutely right. And when I say they're the heart of the community, they're the heart of the community in the sense that, at some point in time, everybody has to use the school, or nearly everybody has to use the school. And, again, the education Minister talked about schools being porous. What he meant by that was that he wants to see everybody having access to those schools. So, that's his ambition as education Minister, although I'm not speaking for him, clearly. But—
I'd like to come to that.
But it would also be my ambition as the Minister with responsibility for sport, and participation and activity in sport, that we can access those facilities.
So, I'd like to that as my last question, really. The comment that you opened with was that a lot of issues are the responsibility of the education Minister, and also, of course, the responsibility of the economy Minister as well, with economic well-being. Some witnesses that we have spoken to have called for a high-level, cross-departmental strategy for sports participation, including targets for physical activity, and I would say perhaps targets for usage of community facilities. Would you be open to that? Would that be a helpful way forward?
Well, certainly, the cross-party working, I think, is already happening. I talked earlier on about some of the things that we are already doing through social prescribing, through the work that I do with the Deputy Minister for mental health. I've just talked to you about the work that I'm doing with the education Minister. So, there is this cross-portfolio work going on already, and, again, in other areas of my portfolio—I know we're concentrating on sport today, but in other areas of my portfolio—like we're talking about the arts in health project, for instance. That is clearly cross-departmental work going on. In terms of targets, I'm not totally sold on targets because I think targets can sometimes drive you in the wrong direction, because targets can—
It's up to you to set them.
Well, no, I don't mean about that. You can set the targets, but then how those targets are delivered sometimes can be driven for the wrong purposes and the wrong way. So, I wouldn't rule it out, Hefin, but I'm not a big fan of targets.
Just regarding that, I think the issue is that not all pupils are going to be interested in team sports, in structured field activities. Some are going to be interested in things like active travel and walking—
—and those things that don't necessarily involve a specific skill. So, I think there is a danger that we might understand this policy for sports participation in too narrow terms.
Yes, and that was, I think, what I was trying to allude to earlier on when I was talking about some of the activities that we've seen, for instance, in the Summer of Fun activities, the kind of stuff that we saw with the urban games at the weekend. Those are not traditional sports; they are activities that require physical involvement. So, they do deliver that physical well-being, hopefully, if people are getting involved, but physical activity takes many forms. And you're absolutely right—I hated playing hockey and netball, when I was at school, absolutely hated it, but what I did like doing was dancing and doing an aerobic type of activity, and that sort of thing. So, the objective is to get people active. It's not necessarily to get them involved in organised or team sports; it's about getting them active, and Sport Wales do have a role to play in facilitating all of that.
Hefin, I think, Steffan wanted to come in here, but, quickly, before I bring you in, Steffan, it wasn't in this inquiry but when we were doing the pre-appointment scrutiny of Baroness Grey-Thompson, a point that she made has really resonated with me and I think with lots of us. She was talking about how, with sports participation, it's so important to make sure that children from a young age are taught that it's about enjoying it, not necessarily about excelling. It shouldn't just be children who are good—whatever 'good' means—at that kind of thing who feel that it's something for them; that it should just be about being able to find joy. And that's such a really powerful thing, but I know it's not always easy to get that across.
I think that's right. Hefin was saying to me recently—we were having a conversation about this, and he was telling me—he used to hide in the changing rooms when he was at school, because he didn't want to get involved in school—
That was a confidential conversation. [Laughter.]
I can relate to that.
I hated gymnastics. I know that gymnastics can be absolutely wonderful, but it wasn't for me. But there were other things that I really enjoyed.
But there were other things, and I think—
I've just become a governor in my old school. Now I'm going to have to explain myself.
Hefin, I just said that about gymnastics, so it wasn't just on you; you'll be fine.
He's now going to have to explain why he was changing in the changing rooms in his school.
The subway was a very good place to hide if you wanted to avoid sport.
I think Steffan wanted to come in, forgive me.
Well, just two points very quickly, Chair. I think the vision we have, the vision Sport Wales has, is exactly as you stated there. We want Wales to be an active nation, where everybody has lifelong enjoyment and fun from sport and being physically active. And then, just in response to the Member, part of the new Sport Wales investment model is this approach of engaging directly with children and having the voices of children in the decision-making process. So, the school sports survey, for example, is a key element of the investment model. So, decisions are made based on what children are saying, how they want to participate and take part in sport and physical activity.
That's really helpful. Thank you. Hefin, was there anything else you wanted to come back on? No. I will just say for the record, I know that gymnastics is a fantastic sport. I'm not knocking gymnastics at all. We'll move on to Alun Davies.
The other thing, of course, that I was told today by pupils at my old school was facilities that are all-weather facilities. You have them here in Cardiff. You don't have them in anything like the same degree in places like Blaenau Gwent and potentially in Merthyr as well. So, how is the Government going to address the differential of access? And this is at the heart, really, of this inquiry—that you have access to sport facilities in a city, which is obviously a different context to small towns, and we understand and accept that, but there must be, surely, a baseline where the Government says—. If the Government does take the view that all young people in this case, for example, would have access, or should be active or have access to being active in whatever way they choose, then you can't just say that in a vacuum. You have to then deliver the facilities or the ability for that actually to happen. So, how is the Government going to ensure that in places where you don't have those facilities—wet weather facilities, for argument's sake, in Tredegar? How do you deliver that?
Well, I think, it goes back, actually, to your earlier question, Alun, when you were making the comparisons between us and other countries. I started by saying that we've got the highest level of capital investment ever in sporting facilities and my remit letter to Sport Wales is telling them that they have to spend that capital investment in areas that need it the most. So, I would expect that to be part of the process—that those areas would be prioritised because (a) they don't have those facilities now, and (b) if they did have those facilities, that might encourage kids in those areas to get more involved. So, I think that is absolutely directly part of the investment strategy to do exactly what you're suggesting.
To go back to the point that Hefin was making that it's not all about playing on all-weather pitches, it could be about any kind of activity, the Government, again, not in my portfolio, has a very clear strategy on active travel, for instance, and active travel routes. Even in my own local authority, I've seen them building active travel routes. So—
Does the Government know the relative delivery of active travel policies across the face of the country?
With local authorities? Well, each local authority has to put an active travel plan together and submit to Welsh Government—
Sure. I understand that—
So, I assume the department that's responsible for that would know that.
It would be useful if the Minister could speak to her colleague to actually understand how that policy is being delivered in different parts of the country, because I'm not convinced it is being delivered equally across the country.
I'd add the wider point that, when it comes to investing in facilities, a number of considerations come into play. Those are location, access, affordability, sustainability—when we replace pitches and so on. So, there's a wide list of considerations when it comes to investment and Sport Wales will consider those in the round. I think part of this is also that it's not just about the playing surface; it's about the changing rooms and the floodlights and everything else. So, it's a bigger picture—
Almost all of those things are delivered in wealthier areas in a way that they're not delivered in poorer areas. That's at the heart of my problem. I don't disagree with you.
That my be true in general terms and that maybe truer in some areas than others, but what I can say is that, in my own constituency, which happens to fall into the same kind of area of deprivation as your own, we have seen local clubs that have applied for funding through the community facilities grant, and, as a result of that, have had all-weather pitches delivered. We've seen clubs get involved with the Sport Wales crowdfunding initiative, which delivered them new changing facilities—state-of-the-art changing facilities—down in the south of the constituency. So, those funds and grants are available and they are given that priority consideration because of where they are.
I don't disagree with that. I've seen the improvements that have happened in Blaenau Gwent in different times and I've worked with clubs to deliver some of that at different times—I accept that. But there's still a differential, which I'm focused on.
Of course, yes.
The FAW gave evidence to us earlier and they described Wales as a 'shocker' when it comes to facilities and that grass-roots facilities are absolutely disgraceful. I'm sure you saw the reports and read the transcript. I hope that you have been talking to the FAW about how you address those issues. When you've got a serious governing body speaking like that—. The reason I quote the FAW there is because I recognise it; I've spoken to football clubs in Blaenau Gwent about these matters. You do have that extraordinary differential between areas we represent and other parts of the country. And what I want to understand is that the Government agrees with that analysis and then that the Government has a process in place, which is with Sport Wales—I accept all of that—but also is going to go further. I thought some of Hefin's comments were very well made in terms of maximising the impact of existing facilities in developing facilities and opening them up for the community. There are examples in the world where that has actually delivered significant change.
That is very much the direction of travel. I can give that guarantee to you. I assume, Chair, that the committee has seen the remit letter that I issued to Sport Wales. That does set out all of those things to them very clearly. Obviously, the Welsh Government is not a delivery body. We set the objectives, we give the funding, and then the arm's-length body and the national governing bodies will deliver the objectives that we set out. That's the conversation that officials are now having with Sport Wales, about how those outcomes will be achieved. But that is very clearly in the remit letter, that those are the priority areas and that's how we expect that capital investment to be prioritised.
Within different communities, of course, we also know that there are parts of the population who have multiple elements of disadvantage. When I think of different parts of Blaenau Gwent and elsewhere, I'm looking at how we ensure that people have the opportunity—not that you're pulled screaming and kicking out of the changing rooms and forced onto a pitch for whatever reason, but that you have the opportunity. And you also have the opportunity, then, to understand role models and stuff. Gareth Bale coming to Cardiff would be a marvellous thing—not for Bristol City, but it certainly would be for Cardiff City.
You haven't heard about his signing, have you?