Y Pwyllgor Deisebau
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Buffy Williams MS|
|Jack Sargeant MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Joel James MS|
|Luke Fletcher MS|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Kayleigh Imperato||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Mared Llwyd||Ail Glerc|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 14:00.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 14:00.
Blwyddyn newydd dda, bawb, a chroeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.
A very happy new year and a warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.
Can I welcome everybody to this hybrid meeting of the Senedd Petitions Committee this afternoon? The meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations for conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place.
I will move to item 1 on today's agenda: apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We have received apologies from Rhys ab Owen for today's meeting. I remind committee Members that they should note any declarations of interest either now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings.
Item 2 on today's agenda, new petitions. Item 2.1, P-06-1309, 'The Welsh Government should hold a referendum before expanding the size of the Senedd':
'Welsh Labour in a cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru are proposing to increase the numbers of Members of the Senedd from 60 to 96. Neither party laid out this number in their manifestos in recent elections. The people of Wales should be asked via a referendum if they want to expand the Senedd, as this proposal will lead to a lack of proportionality in representation. Public services and the NHS in Wales are suffering badly and this should not be the Welsh Government’s priority costing Welsh tax payers millions.'
This petition was submitted by Richard Taylor, with 1,633 signatures. I ask Members to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take on this petition. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. I'm conscious we have discussed similar petitions like this in the past. As you know, I fully agree with this. I think that we should be having a referendum on whether or not we expand the size of the Senedd, because it's not just about the expansion of Members, it's the proposed changing of the electoral system as well, which I think is key. That is another reason why I would support a referendum on this. I'm conscious that the First Minister has already responded to the initial petition, and I think we should go back to him again and outline the case that we need a referendum on this.
Thank you for that, Joel. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. I take on board that the number and the electoral system weren't in the manifesto, but the expansion of the Senedd was. The majority of parties elected to this Senedd had it in their manifesto. We've had a number of committee reports as well into this particular issue that have all recommended an expansion of the Senedd. I'm conscious as well, of course, that further down the line, the Welsh Government's going to be putting a Senedd reform Bill on the floor of the Siambr, which will give another opportunity again to scrutinise the proposals by Members. Of course, it gives Joel the opportunity to vote against if he wishes, and those of us who are in favour to vote in favour. I'm also conscious—as Joel's already mentioned—that we've had petitions like this already and that we have closed them on the basis that the further scrutiny will be coming down the line in the Siambr. So, I'd like to give a different proposal to Joel and ask that we do the same here, and thank the petitioner and close it.
Thanks, Luke and Joel, for those two proposals. We have had a number of petitions into this committee, and of course, Members have had the opportunity as Members of the Senedd to discuss various proposals for Senedd reform. Clearly, there are political differences here. I'm looking to the screen in the Rhondda as well. I think I agree with Luke's proposal to close this. We do have an opportunity to scrutinise further as Members of this Senedd, and I think parties will make their voices clear in that. I don't think that the committee perhaps can do much more than that. But certainly, views have been noted, as they have been before by Members. So, Buffy is an agreement, I can see, nodding on the screen there. So, on that point, the majority view of the committee is to thank the petitioner and close this petition. I'm sure Joel James, although not agreeing with the action of the majority of the committee, still wishes to thank the petitioner for submitting. Of course he does.
Item 2.2, P-06-1310, 'Protect Mynydd Eglwysilan and Cefn Eglwysilan':
'We call on the Welsh Government to formally recognise the archaeological, historic and prehistoric environment of Eglwysilan.
'There is a wealth of important sites that date back at least to the bronze age including "prehistoric" burial cysts and ancient rock art. There's also a major settlement and large zodiac map marked out with major stones.
'The concern is that the proposed wind farm will cause irreparable damage.'
There is additional information available to Members and members of the public regarding this petition. It was submitted by Kelvyn Ross Broadstock, with 719 signatures. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition now. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. I'm conscious that we are unclear at this moment in time whether a development of national significance application has been submitted. Of course, that gives an opportunity for stakeholders and members of the public to be consulted on any proposal that might go forward. It does muddy the water a bit for us, not knowing whether it's been submitted, but, even if it has been submitted or if it hasn't been submitted, I don't see that there is much we can do as a Petitions Committee in taking this forward. But I do thank the petitioner for bringing it forward. It's good in terms of raising awareness around this particular proposal. But because I don't think there's much more we can do as a committee, I think we should close it.
Thank you for that, Luke. I can see Members are in agreement with that. It is the appropriate way forward for those who seek to make their views clear if a development of national significance application has gone in or if it does go in—that is the appropriate mechanism. But, nevertheless, this has, of course, again, raised the importance and the awareness of this particular issue through the committee.
Item 2.3, P-06-1311, 'Exert Welsh interests and defend international law against EdF-Hinkley fish-kill in Severn Estuary':
'We call on the Welsh Government to urgently approach Westminster’s George Eustice over England’s regulators blatantly disregarding the "no harm principle" in relation to the Marine Protected Area (MPA) status of the Severn Estuary. This relates to permitting the dumping of Hinkley sediments and solid materials into the Severn and continuing the licence for Hinkley’s seawater cooling system which kills fish and juveniles on a massive scale with significant ecological damage.'
Again, there is further information available to committee members and members of the public regarding the petition. It was submitted by Cian Ciaran, with 565 signatures. I'll invite Members to discuss this particular petition and any actions they may wish to take. We will go across to the Rhondda. Buffy Williams.
Thank you, Chair. After having a look at this petition, I can see that there have been two other petitions in the fifth Senedd that were submitted on similar areas. I'm not quite sure where we can go now with this petition, given that the Minister has already shared the findings of her group with UK counterparts and that the public inquiry was upheld. So, as a committee, I'm not quite sure where we can go with this petition. I think that, given the Minister has already shared her findings, we should close this petition and thank the petitioner.
Diolch yn fawr, Buffy, for that suggestion. I remember the previous petitions from the last Senedd coming to committee and the outcomes of that, and I think Members agree with your suggestion there. So, we'll go ahead and thank the petitioner and close the petition. I think it's reached that point on this occasion.
Item 2.4, P-06-1312, 'To help improve water quality in the River Usk by upgrading sewage systems in the Usk valley':
'The River Usk is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Yet water quality in the River Usk is such that 88% of its water bodies are failing to meet their targets. Improvement targets could be set. (For example: 50% by the end of 2023, 25% by 2024 & so on). Salmon, sea trout and eels are all seriously on the decline. Ranunculus weed growth in the river has virtually disappeared. People who wild swim in the river are at risk of picking up infections.'
This was submitted by Michael George Cowburn with 1,612 signatures. I bring committee members in now to discuss the petition and any potential actions. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. Interestingly enough, I led a short debate on this subject in the Chamber just before Christmas. I'm conscious that Welsh Water have now issued plans to upgrade the sewage system around Brecon, Usk and Llanfoist. Obviously, I know the petitioner has raised concerns that this doesn't necessarily address issues around Newport. I know that the petitioner has, in his correspondence with us, asked that we share this with the incoming future generations commissioner for his views on that. So, I was thinking that, if the rest of the committee were mindful, we'd do that and then we'd keep it open to see if there is a response, and continue on, depending what that response is, really.
Thank you, Joel. I can see Members nodding with agreement. It's also worth congratulating you on your short debate and the movement you made there. We'll certainly forward that on to the incoming future generations commissioner and await his response.
Item 2.5, P-06-1313, 'Allow exemptions to the 182-day occupancy rule to reduce harm to real Welsh self-catering businesses':
'The Trade Associations that represent genuine self-catering businesses in Wales (Wales Tourism Alliance, UK Hospitality Cymru and PASC UK Wales Branch) will meet Welsh Government with a view to agreeing mitigation measures to reduce the harm that the introduction of the 182-day occupancy rule will cause real Welsh-owned self-catering businesses. These are not second homes or casual lets. Over 30 per cent of these businesses have said that they will have to close or sell without these exemptions.'
There is further information, including some key asks from this petition. It was submitted by our former colleague Suzy Davies, with 1,750 signatures. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. I think we considered a similar petition in December—I think that was more relating to reducing the number of days to 108, I believe. At the time we closed that petition due to the fact that Welsh Government were aware of issues relating to this particular policy and were monitoring its impact. We've also had a recent consultation on the exemptions as well, which has closed. I think given that that's in the pipeline now, and the Welsh Government is monitoring it, I don't see that there's much we can do as a Petitions Committee, so I would like to propose that we thank the petitioner and close the petition.
Thank you, Luke. Joel.
Thank you, Chair. I know Suzy quite well and I know she's extremely passionate about this issue. I'm conscious that the consultation has just closed. Would it not be mindful or wise for us to hold to see what comes of that consultation before closing this? Because I'm conscious we've had petitions on this matter in the past, but I think this is the only one that's come from such bodies as the ones that have been recognised, like the Wales Tourism Alliance, UKHospitality Cymru and so on. I wonder whether it might be worth while just holding back to see what the outcome of that consultation is.
Thank you for that suggestion, Joel. Do any Members have any issues regarding that? No? Happy to keep it open and see? Okay, so we will keep this petition open and perhaps schedule it back for when it comes—. I'm not sure when the outcome of that consultation will be.
The consultation's closed, but when it gets published and the results get published, we'll keep an eye on that and bring it back in two or three months.
So we'll postpone this coming back to at least three months for the time being. And of course, on that note, I thank Suzy Davies for using the Senedd Petitions Committee. I think it's a real positive outcome of our work as a committee that such an esteemed figure as the former shadow frontbencher, Suzy Davies, notes that our committee is making good progress.
Okay, 2.6, P-06-1314, 'Insulate all Welsh homes against both the heat and the cold...introduce grants that are open to all!'
'With energy prices sky rocketing and millions of Welsh families facing extreme fuel poverty, its time to introduce grants, open to all, which would allow all the people of Wales to properly insulate their homes against both the heat and the cold.
'It is shocking that Wales has some of the worst insulated homes in the whole of Europe. A grant of 25 to 50% towards the cost of insulating properties would encourage people to invest in making their homes more energy efficient and reduce their emissions.'
There is further additional information available to members of the committee. This was submitted by Robert Curtis with 279 signatures.
It is worth noting that the committee has taken a positive look into this particular petition, and after our public session, in the next five minutes or so, we will be hosting a round-table discussion with those on the side of consumers to gauge their views on this particular petition and fuel poverty as a whole. We will then meet again as a committee on the back of that to discuss any further actions we may wish to take, whether we will produce a short report with findings, or we'll do some more investigation work, or, of course, find that this is all we can do with this particular petition. But it's a first for the committee, I think, in the entirety of the Welsh Parliament where we'll host a round-table discussion. So, again, a new initiative from our committee, and I think it's right that we leave that particular petition open for now and come back to it in the future. I see Members agree. Okay.
Moving on then to item 3 on today's agenda, updates to previous petitions. Item 3.1, P-06-1302, 'Protect Mid-Wales’ unique Cambrian Mountains: designate them an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. This was submitted by Lorna Celia Brazell with 20,856 signatures. We do remember just before we broke for Christmas that we actually had a debate on this issue. I was very grateful and committee members were very grateful to the Senedd Business Committee for tabling it in such a way where we could celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the initial calls to make that area a national park. It's worth noting as well the response from the lead petitioner, and I quote,
'Overall, the Petition process has been extremely valuable in moving our proposal forward and we are very grateful to the Committee and staff for your assistance in getting it to this point.'
I think that draws us to a close, and a very good way of ending this petition, thanking the petitioner, noting the correspondence we've had further, and closing this particular petition now. Do Members agree? They do.
Item 3.2, P-06-1291, 'Hold an enquiry into the corporate takeover of the veterinary profession in Wales'. This was submitted by Dr Linda Evelyn Joyce-Jones with 308 signatures. This afternoon, Dr Linda Evelyn Joyce-Jones is here in the committee with us, watching proceedings. As agreed the last time we considered this petition, I met with Linda this morning to have a discussion about the petition and where further the committee may wish to take things.
As committee members know, there is an event planned by Linda for the middle of this year. I think it's worth asking the clerking team and the support staff around them whether we, as a committee, can in some way support that particular event in the Senedd in terms of awareness raising and anything else that we may be able to do, and on that point, bring the petition back to discuss further actions, if there are any. But, certainly, we want to make it clear that an event will be taking place later on this year, and Members will of course be invited to that, as well as the rest of the Senedd Cymru Members. But there may be opportunities for the committee to be able to get involved in some further way with this petition. Are Members agreed that it's a good idea to ask for a scoping paper on that? Yes, they are. Great.
And it's worth noting as well, I think, that this particular petition has made its way into Dogs Today, so for avid weekend readers, and I'll pass it round the committee later. It's important to raise that; so, again, another way in which this committee is doing some good work. Luke, you wanted to join in.
Just a fun fact for you, Chair: this is the second time we've been in Dogs Today.
We must be very grateful to Dogs Today for that. I didn't know it was the second time, but, there we are, that's probably the most publication we've had in all magazines. So, no, we're very grateful to them for taking consideration of that and, of course, on any future petitions that may come forward of interest to them, we'd be keen to speak to them. Joel.
Thank you, Chair. And just for a side note, really: I've been meeting a lot of charities and community organisations like Dogs Trust and Blue Cross and that, interestingly in relation to the greyhound petition, but I have actually been having discussions with them about this matter and it's something that they are quite interested in as well, really. So, I think there are positives there as well.
Okay. Thank you for that, Joel. And that I think gives help to the team around us when they're scoping any potential work where we can further this petition, but certainly with a view to looking at how we can support the Senedd event planned by Linda in a way that highlights, of course, this petition and the process, and any actions we may wish to take. Okay, I think Members are agreed with that.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Therefore, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix) that this committee now does resolve to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting. We will be discussing our forward work programme as a committee, and then, as mentioned, going into a round-table discussion arising from petition P-06-1314. Are Members content? They are; thank you very much. On that note, I will close the meeting and we'll meet again on 23 January. Diolch yn fawr.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:23.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:23.