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Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

09/07/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Janet Finch-Saunders AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood AM
Michelle Brown AM
Mike Hedges AM Yn dirprwyo ar ran Jack Sargeant
Substitute for Jack Sargeant
Neil McEvoy AM

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Kath Thomas Clerc
Clerk
Ross Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

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.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The meeting began at 09:00.

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

Good morning. Bore da. Welcome, everyone, to the meeting. There is no need to turn off mobile phones or other electronic devices, but please ensure that your phones are in silent mode. We do have—apologies have been received from Jack Sargeant, and, of course, Mike Hedges AM is attending as a substitute.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

So, we go straight in to new petitions: 2.1, 'Transforming the response for older people experiencing domestic abuse—a call for action'. The text of the petition is that they're calling on

'the National Assembly to urge the Welsh Government to: raise awareness among the public, third sector organisations and statutory agencies of the number of older women and men in Wales who experience domestic abuse by family members, and ensure that essential levels of support and protection are available to older people experiencing such abuse.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip on 6 June. A research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided, and the petitioner has also provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward?

Well, as we normally do, send those comments back to the Deputy Minister. Can we also send them to the older persons' commissioner as well for their view?

Yes. I think it's a real gap that the figures only cover people up to 74 years of age, especially nowadays with so many people living much longer. I think the older you get the more vulnerable you are, so I think something should be done about that in terms of research. The latest figures as well show that three in seven victims of domestic abuse are male now, so I wonder if we can ask some questions about the provision for men within the system, because—I know it's just not there, but it would be good to establish.

I'm happy at sending—anything we can do. The only other thing I would add is that, sometimes, people suffering dementia act differently to the way they did before they suffered from dementia. I think that that's something that needs to be looked at as well. Clearly, with dementia sufferers—I know of several occasions where people have got violent after suffering with dementia who were nothing like that before. So, I think there are a lot of questions, but let's get the answers from the two people.

—and to the older people's commissioner.

Okay, the next petition: 'Accessible and Inclusive Public Transport for Citizens with Learning Disabilities in Wales'. This is page 73. This was submitted by Joe Powell on behalf of All Wales People First, having collected a total of 203 signatures. A response was received from the Minister for Economy and Transport on 2 July; I'd written on 3 May. A research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided, and the petitioner has also provided further comment. How would you like to take this one forward?

Well, can I start with taking us back some time? We had a petition from Whizz-Kidz, which I'm sure you all remember, and we had a very positive response from the Minister. We had a very positive response from both the taxi companies, the bus company and the train company. In fact, it was more positive than the people who were using it were aware of. I think that I would very much like us to go back to the Minister with this, but I think that we really—I mean, we get so far with some of these petitions and everybody says, 'Yes, something should be done, yes we're going to do something', and then that seems to be the end point. We have a debate on a petition, everybody says nice things, having had an investigation and everybody saying nice things, and yet we don't get on the ground the actions that the people concerned are looking for. So, yes, I think we want to go back to the Minister for Economy and Transport. I think at some stage we need to have a petitions review of those we've taken to debate to see exactly what's happened.

Okay, all in favour of Mike's proposal there to go back on that one.

So, the next petition—. Welcome, Leanne Wood and Michelle Brown to the committee.

The next petition is 2.3, P-05-887, and this is page 83: 'Stop regional AMs elected to represent specific parties from defecting'. This petition was submitted by Ifan Morgan Jones, having collected a total of 1,301 signatures. So, the background to this: an initial response was received from the Llywydd on 13 June; a research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided; the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comment. However, the Llywydd has responded to the petition as the Member in charge of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill, saying that:

'The Commission does not have a view on the issues raised by the petition as it has not been mandated by Assembly Members to legislate on these matters, nor has it consulted the public.'

So, the Llywydd or the Assembly Commission intend—they don't intend to bring forward their own amendments to the Bill on this matter. On a related matter, the Business Committee recently considered a letter from Mick Antoniw AM, which asked Business Committee to consider an amendment to Standing Order 1.3 on political groups. It produced a report of its consideration, which contained a commitment to review aspects of Standing Orders relating to political groups in preparation for the next Assembly.

So, potential actions, going forward: you could await the views of the petitioner on the response provided by the Llywydd before considering whether there is any further action you can take, or, given that Stage 2 of the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill will be considered by the Committee of the Whole Assembly and Members will be able to propose amendments to the Bill, there may be little practical action at this point that the Petitions Committee could take in relation to the issues raised by the petition. Members could therefore agree to keep a watching brief, or—it's whatever you want; however you want to take this forward.

09:05

I think that we've got a tradition of, whatever it is, giving the petitioner an opportunity to come back. I think we need to give them further time. If they don't come back, the petition will end, if they do come back, then we can decide what to do with it, but let's see what the petitioners say first.

Yes. Do I need to declare an interest? [Laughter.] Yes, I agree; I think we should go back to the petitioner.

I wonder if it's worth, in that correspondence with the petitioner, mentioning that there is legislation coming before the Senedd, and, as often is the case, members of the public get in touch with Assembly Members and ask them to pursue particular courses of action through amendments. And so maybe the petitioner could petition, I think, the Member for Ceredigion to see if those amendments could be put through, and if not the local Member, because, obviously, she's the Llywydd as well, then maybe the regional Members would take it up.

Yes, okay. Everybody agrees with that one. Thank you.

Page 90 in your pack, 'Labelling of Religiously Slaughtered Meat'. This was submitted by Leslie Freke, having collected a total of 348 signatures. So, a response was provided from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 23 May. A research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward?

It's outside our competency, isn't it? We have European Union rules, we have UK rules; I don't believe that we can actually do anything. I think the best thing we can ask the petitioner to do is to take it up at Westminster.

Yes, it does say in the brief—the research brief states that there is currently no requirement for religiously slaughtered meat to be specifically labelled. Proposals have appeared in draft European legislation in the past, but have never made it into the final legislation. So, you could decide to await developments around the UK’s departure from the EU before considering—. Yes.

Can I just say how ridiculous it is that, in Wales, with the Parliament here, we're unable to even label our own food? But there we go.

Just to clarify, I think I should say that, technically, we do have—the European regulation around it does allow for additional requirements to be put in, but that's subject to a procedure in the European Union, then. So, the Welsh Government could put it forward, but that would be subject to the EU agreeing to that, then, and I think—

After we leave, it'll be within our power then, but it's not saying we couldn't do—. It wouldn't be outside, necessarily, now, it would just be subject to consent. So, they could put it forward, just to clarify that point there.

It might be best if we wait and see what happens with us and the European Union in October.

09:10

Yes, the situation will change.

Okay, let's see. We'll have this one again, then.

Okay, 2.5, page 100, 'Second Home Tax'. This was submitted by Alun Roberts, having collected a total of 1,281 signatures, calling

'on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to take immediate steps to close a legal loophole which allows second home owners in Wales to avoid paying neither council tax nor business rates, at a time when local councils are forced to increase council tax to local ratepayers to plug the shortfall in their budgets.'

Now, an initial response was received from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd on 5 June, a research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not provided additional comment. How would you like to take this one forward?

Well, Chair, I'm a member of another committee, which is looking at empty homes, and we took evidence last week from an officer from Gwynedd who highlighted exactly this problem. There is a legal loophole; I don't accept what the Minister has said. The loophole is that those properties that are deemed to be holiday homes get additional council tax premium. What they do then is switch it to business premises, and it makes the difference between something around £2,000 a year plus in council tax and nil, because these businesses qualify for full rebate and so they don't pay any business rates at all. So, there are 800 properties just in one local authority. Now, I know that this local authority is the one likely to have the most, but, nonetheless, as they rightly point out, this money could be recycled back into providing homes, affordable homes, social housing for local people. So, I think we should definitely do something on this. I don't want to see it drop, but, at the same time, another committee is looking at it as well, so it might make sense for us to wait and see what the other committee comes up with in terms of the empty homes inquiry, and then for us to revisit this, because I think it is an issue that we need to address.

All the Government have to do is stop giving rate relief on domestic properties, and they'll just have to say that the rate relief will not exist on these properties. I'm not quite sure why we had rate relief on holiday cottages, even if they are used as holiday—. You give rate relief to support businesses, you're supporting businesses, especially retail businesses, that are under pressure. That's why you're doing it. I don't see why you're giving rate relief on holiday cottages when you're not giving it on hotels. It just needs to change, and that's really what the Government need to do.

Okay. So, we've agreed to wait. Okay.

Item 2.6, 'National Reading and Numeracy Tests for children from as young as age 6 need to be discontinued with immediate effect'. A response was received from the Minister for Education on 3 June; a research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed today, but has not provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward?

We've got to wait for the views of the petitioner again—

So, could we chase up their response? Thank you.

Item 2.7, 'Appoint a Learning Disability Commissioner for Wales'. This petition was submitted by Cardiff People First, having collected a total of 568 signatures. A response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 20 June, a research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward?

The Minister is not convinced 

'of the need to establish a Learning Disability Commissioner at this time.'

The petitioners do welcome the work of the Improving Lives programme and the representation from people with a learning disability. But they do state that representation on the ministerial advisory group does not provide direct influence on issues that do affect people in their everyday lives. They state that self-advocacy is the most important right that people with a learning disability can have, but that local authorities are increasingly focusing only on statutory advocacy at the expense of supporting this.

We could write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to actually share the response provided by the petitioners and we could ask for information about how people with learning difficulties are supported to express concerns about services or support, and then for them to engage in self-advocacy. 

09:15
3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
3. Updates to previous petitions

So, we're on to updates to previous petitions. Page 126 in your pack. This petition was submitted by V.P. Driscoll, A.R. Robertson and R.T. Harrod. It was first considered in April 2017 and it's a 'Public Petition for the Dinas Powys By-Pass'. It collected 3,305 signatures. We last considered this petition on 7 November 2017 and agreed to write to the Vale of Glamorgan Council to request an update when the results of the Welsh Transport Planning and Appraisal Guidance Stage 2 report had been considered by the council’s cabinet. Several holding responses have been provided since and a substantive update was received from the council on 20 June. Further comments have been received from one of the petitioners.

So, the stage 2 study is not yet complete, in part because the council was unsuccessful in obtaining funding from Welsh Government. The council was anticipating being more certain about the future position by the end of June 2019. One of the petitioners is concerned that the council has discounted the blue-route bypass option, which he favours, before the WelTAG Stage 2 work is complete. This decision was confirmed by the Vale cabinet on 15 April following a recommendation by the environment scrutiny committee.

So, we could write back to Vale of Glamorgan Council to request an update on the situation with regard to funding to complete the WelTAG Stage 2 study into transport options in Dinas Powys, or we could write back to them to ask for further background on the reasons for the decision not to progress with further work on the blue-route option. We could also or instead write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to ask what role the Welsh Government intends to have in the development of proposals to address transport issues in Dinas Powys.

Okay. We'll write to both.

Page 132 in your pack, 'School Buses for School Children'. This petition was submitted by Lynne Chick and was first considered in April 2017 having collected 1,239 signatures. The actual thrust of the petition is

'Our children have a right to feel safe. Public buses can become over crowded. We have no clue who may board a public bus. Public buses are for public use not school transport. We are not asking for this service to be free, We don't want something for nothing, Just peace of mind that our children are safe when traveling to and from school.'

We last considered this on 7 May, agreeing to write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to ask for details of relevant actions taken by the Welsh Government since the children’s commissioner’s recommendation that the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 should be reviewed. The committee also agreed to propose that safety for pupils travelling on public transport should be incorporated into such a review. So, we received a response on 21 June. Further comments have also been received from the petitioner. How would you like to take this forward?

I don't think there's a lot more we can do. I think we all have a huge amount of sympathy for the petitioner, but I'm not sure what they're asking for is actually feasible, because free school transport is provided over two miles for those under 10, but normally moved up to 11, and it's over three miles for over 11s. So, those outside of those areas will have to use public transport or some other means of getting to school anyway. So I'm not sure we could actually do what the petitioner wants. I think we need to write to the petitioner expressing our regret and our sympathy with the petitioner, but I don't think there's anything further we can do.

09:20

We close the petition and write to the petitioner expressing our sympathy again and regret that we cannot take it any further forward.

I actually think this is a serious issue. It's something that's been concerning me for some time. I took a trip with a group of teenagers who were ex-pupils of John Summers High School, who have been moved up the road. They were coming back in the dark on public transport. As the petitioner says, you don't know who's going to be on that bus. Nobody's there to supervise and get on the bus, nobody's there to supervise them alighting from the bus. I think it would be nice if we could investigate it further, perhaps by suggesting maybe that the education committee takes a look at it, because this is being farmed out to the local authorities at the moment, and I think Welsh Government do have a place in setting a direction and setting a standard. 

Okay. How do other Members feel? We've had one suggesting that we should close the petition and another that it should be, perhaps, referred over to—

I've got a lot of sympathy for what Michelle says and also with what Mike has said, because going back to the point that I made earlier, it's the UK Government that decides this. So, in Wales, we can't even decide whether or not our children travel to school safely or not. 

It's the local authorities that determine who gets to go on a school bus, though, isn't it?

Yes, but in terms of the public, we've got no power over it. I'd like to see a pilot run in some areas by councils—

—providing buses for all children. I think that would have a huge effect on traffic, as well. 

You mean even those who live within two or three miles.

You've only got to see—you're a football fan—when a major football match occurs and you're moving fewer than the number of secondary school children in Cardiff up to watch Cardiff playing in a play-off match, for example, and you'll have buses from the whole of south Wales—Swansea buses, Neath buses, you'll have Newport buses. The capacity is nowhere near there. 

I think we have to realise we are the Petitions Committee, and we've gone as far as we can actually go on this in terms of—. The Minister states the Government accepted the commissioner's recommendation to review the 2008 Measure in principle, but then it does say that there is no current intention to review the Measure itself. 

But it was reviewed in 2014. I don't think we can go any further with this. The idea that you could put on a private bus or a local authority-run bus for maybe two or three children to go to a school from a particular area—. The expense of that would be—. There are problems at the margins with the current system, because if you live just across the road from where the boundary is, you can lose out on free transport, so I can see the problems there. But the children who go to school on public transport (a) are very small in number and (b) are going from all the outlying areas where the main bus can't travel from. So I can't see how it could be economic at all to change what's currently in place, unless you just increased the catchment area where the free school bus goes from. I'd be happy for this to go to the education committee for them to look at it again, I'm just not convinced it's going to go anywhere, and I think that sometimes we raise expectations among people that we can do something when we can't.

So, how shall we take this forward? Do you want to—? Can I just get some indication of who would like it to go to education?

I think throw it over to the education committee with the realistic expectation that not a great deal could be done. I think it's important to let the petitioner know that, but I think, as a final shot, throw it over to them. Failing that, then, we'll have to close it. 

I'm quite happy to do it. They'll only hit the same reality that we've hit. 

Can I just clarify, do you want to keep the petition open in the meantime, or do you want to forward the details to the education committee and close the petition?

We're asking the education committee to look at it. 

But they're not going to anything, are they, really? Unless we ask them to—

We're at that stage now, as a committee, where we have gone as far as we can go.

09:25

Yes. Shall we close the petition? Is that what you're saying? And then just ask the education committee if they'll look at the issue in general. 

Okay, we've got a consensus there. 

Page 137: 'End the Exotic Pet Trade in Wales'—first considered in March 2017, having collected 222 signatures. We last considered this on 21 May, agreeing to write again to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to ask when the process of updating existing animal welfare codes of practice, and the development of new codes of practice as required, will be complete. A response from the Minister was received on 19 June, and the petitioner has provided further comments. 

The development of a code of practice for primates kept as pets will commence in July. The Minister will provide an indicative timescale following the initial meeting. The Government will continue to discuss priorities for revising or creating other animal welfare codes, such as exotic pets. So, we could await an update from the Minister for environment on the timescales for developing a code of practice for primates kept as pets, or, given previous comments expressed during committee meetings, the committee could write back to the Minister for environment to express its support for the calls to introduce a full ban on the keeping of primates as pets.

Personally, I'd like to write back supporting a full ban on the keeping of primates as pets. I think it's fundamentally wrong. The other thing I would like to do is write to the Minister to ask for an update, rather than await it. 

Yes. Neil? Okay. Page 142, 3.4: 'Declare a Climate Emergency and fit all policies with zero-carbon targets'. So, this petition was submitted by Matthew Misiak on behalf of Extinction Rebellion Cymru, and was first considered in May of this year, having collected 6,148 signatures. They were calling on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to:

'1. Declare a Climate Emergency.

2. Ensure all current and future policies are consistent with averting further climate change and ecological collapse.

3. Enact legally-binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.

4. Implement a Citizen's Assembly of Wales to oversee the changes.'

And it is predominantly calling upon the Welsh Government to declare a climate emergency immediately, which, of course, the Welsh Government has done, hasn't it? 

At that time, we considered the petition and agreed to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to seek an update on the latest actions taken by the Welsh Government, including its declaration of a climate emergency on 30 April and the updated advice from the UK. A response was received from the Minister on 11 June and was circulated by e-mail at the time. A debate on the petition was held in Plenary on 19 June, and the petitioners have provided further comments.

So, you need to decide, really, whether you wish to take further action following the Plenary debate. You could write to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to ask for a response to the petitioners’ call for a citizen's Assembly and for further information, including a timescale, about the review of actions in 'Prosperity for All: A Low Carbon Wales'. Leanne. 

Right, well, I share the concerns of Extinction Rebellion and others about the capacity, willingness and ambition of the Government to deliver on what the climate emergency declaration actually means. And so, what this petition does is that it asks for there to be additional information specifically around the timescale, because it's all very well saying, 'We'll cut carbon emissions', but if you don't say by when and you put those milestones in place to show that you're reaching them, it's pretty meaningless. 

But I think this point about a citizen's Assembly is really crucial as well, because what we've seen is that, with the creation of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, the advisory body, the people who used to advise the Minister—it's no longer a similar set-up. So, there needs to be a group of people who work at ground level, ordinary citizens as well, making sure, keeping an eye, monitoring exactly what the Government's actions are. And so, this demand for a citizen's Assembly is crucial if we can have any confidence in the Government's ability to deliver on what they've set out with the climate emergency. So, I definitely support writing back to the Minister to ask for a response for this call for a citizens' Assembly. The motion in the Senedd, I think, highlighted that, and I think it's something that's going to keep coming back from a campaigning perspective as well. 

09:30

Can I add one other thing? Can we also write to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee asking them if they would also raise it with the Minister during an oral session?

Okay. The next petition—page 148 in your pack: 'Protection of Red & Amber listed species in Wales'. We've had this—. It was first considered in May 2019, having collected a total of 173 signatures. It was submitted by Chris Evans. We considered the petition in May, agreeing to write to Natural Resources Wales to seek its views in response to the issues raised by the petition. We received a response from Natural Resources Wales on 18 June. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but they've not provided any further comment. How would you like to take this forward?

Do we know how big the problem is—how many licences NRW issue each year to kill amber and red species? I'm not sure; I didn't see it in the documents. 

There may have been something about it in the initial research brief. I can find out and let Members know, if that's helpful. 

Yes. So, let's see—we'll chase for the responses.

Health and Social Services: 'Lack of support for children with disabilities at crisis'. This was submitted by Rebecca Weale, having collected 200 signatures. This was in June 2017. So, she was trying to highlight the need for the Cwm Taf children's crisis team to recognise there's a vital need for children with disabilities to be supported through crisis and have the right to be treated as any other child would. We last considered this on 7 May, to ask what provision there is for children with autism or learning difficulties in cases where mental health support may not be the most appropriate solution. A response from the Minister for Health and Social Services was received on 17 June. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not, again, provided further comment. So, do you want to chase those comments, to see what they felt about the Minister's response? 

Yes, with the comments, is it in relation specifically to—? There's the individual case here, and then there's the wider issue. And I can see previously the committee has sought to help the family situation by seeking a meeting. I'm not clear whether that meeting's happened or not. But that's one thing, because that's the individual situation, but this is something that's happening all the time. Children, or young people, or anyone who doesn't fit in to particular boxes within the mental health system, say, because they've got other issues to be dealing with, are not having the whole picture addressed, and it's causing severe anxiety, particularly for people who are on the autism spectrum, but I'm aware of others as well. So, this is not something that's a one-off individual case issue. It's a systemic issue, which I think needs to be raised at a higher level. So, I would oppose closing this petition at this stage, because I do think there's an issue, and it's entirely within competence, as far as I understand it. 

Okay. So, shall we chase the petitioner for her comments? 

I think we should. And I think we should also bring this to the attention—. Oh, we've already brought it to the attention of the Minister, this specific case, haven't we?

But we could find out whether that—. Because this is a particular—there is an individuality to it as well. But we still don't know whether that meeting's taken place. So, we could write to find that out, couldn't we?

Okay. 'Ensure access to the cystic fibrosis medicine, Orkambi, as a matter of urgency'—this has been with us now since January 2018, having collected 5,717 signatures. I think it's fair to say that this committee has felt some frustration throughout the process, with Government saying it was Vertex, and Vertex saying it was Government. There seemed to be this sort of thing. We last considered this on 11 June, agreeing to write to Vertex Pharmaceuticals, to urge them to make a submission of evidence to the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group. A response was received from Vertex on 27 June. The petitioners have indicated that they do not wish to provide further information on this occasion, in light of the response received.

09:35

Yes. I understand that they received the same correspondence from Vertex. So, I think they just felt that they had nothing to add at this stage.

Yes. So, how would you like to take this forward? We could await a further update from Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and confirm whether its evidence has been formally submitted for appraisal. Or we, as a committee, could write to the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group to seek information about the request referred to by Vertex, and details of its discussion with the company in relation to appraisal of its cystic fibrosis treatments.

Yes. It just seems like we're going round in circles with this, and getting nowhere, really, but I can't think of anything else to propose—sorry.

It's too important an issue, isn't it, to, you know—? Okay.

Page 158: 'Give young people a voice when commissioning local services in Wales'. This was submitted by the Changing Minds Campaign Group—first considered in October 2018, having collected 4,252 signatures. And they were calling on the National Assembly for Wales

'to urge the Welsh Government to acknowledge that the current level of young persons’ participation in the commissioning of services does not allow for the inclusion of marginalised groups.'

So, they wanted a review of the policies and guidance in place, and a recommendation that new guidelines are mandatory for services commissioned to work with young people.

We last considered this on 7 May, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to: accept the offer of a further update on the work under way; to ask for this by the start of the autumn term; and to share the concerns of the petitioners that the working group does not appear to include representation from children and young people. A response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 17 June. The petitioners were informed that the petition would be discussed today, but have not provided further comments at this stage. How would you like to take this forward?

I'm not clear now—so there is going to be a young person on the working group.

Officials are now working with Children in Wales to identify a young person to act as a representative on the group. So, can we find out from the petitioner whether that's satisfactory, or whether they want to pursue it further?

Let's go back to the petitioners, and see if they're happy with where we've got to. If they're happy, we can close it, but if they're not happy, we go back to the Minister.

Okay. And, then, page 162: 'Make learning disability training mandatory for hospital staff'. This was submitted by the Paul Ridd Foundation in January 2019, having collected 5,654 signatures. We last considered this on 5 March, agreeing to await the expected announcement of funding to support the Improving Lives Programme and the outcome of a consultation on mandatory learning disability training for health and care staff in England, being run by the Department of Health, before considering further actions on the petition. The Minister for Health and Social Services here issued a written statement on 8 March: 'Improving health services for people with a learning disability in Wales'. The Department for Health consultation closed on 26 April; the UK Government’s website indicates that responses are currently being analysed. And the petitioners have also provided us with further comments. So, how would you like to take this forward?

If it's over 5,000 signatures, I would urge us to ask for a debate. At least then it will get the Minister to start making lots of points on record.

Right, okay. So, we've had a proposal for this to go forward for a debate. Are all Members in favour? Okay.

'Provide Child Houses in Wales for victims of child sexual abuse'—page 166. This petition was submitted by Mayameen Meftahi and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 227 signatures. 

'The child house concept is based on best practice learned from the USA and Scandinavia. Recognising the vulnerability of the child victim and the harm caused to the child by multiple interviews, the child house uses a child-friendly response to child sexual abuse.'

We last considered this on 7 May, agreeing to write back to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for: an update on the work currently being carried out by Welsh Government and NHS Wales; her reflections following the debate held on 3 April and what changes she may consider following the vote in favour of Bethan Sayed AM’s legislative proposal; and to share a copy of the comments received from the Children's Commissioner for Wales and to ask for a response to the points raised, especially the concerns about sexual abuse referral centres.

A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 18 June. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments. So, we are where we are again. How would you like to take this forward?

09:40

Well, I'm guessing that, with a lot of these petitions, when the petitioner doesn't provide any additional comments, it's because they feel that they've already provided enough initially, and nothing's changed, so what extra comments are they meant to provide? So, I don't think we should take a view on a petition just because we haven't had additional comments back from a petitioner—that's a point I've been meaning to make on other petitions as well. 

I'm deeply concerned about the sexual abuse referral centres and the lack of staff and that people—children—now have to be seen in Cardiff from right across the region. The barriers to travelling times, and all the rest of it, could mean that children are not getting the support that they need. I'm also aware that there's a huge waiting list for adults wanting to access the SARCs as well. So, I'm not happy with the interim arrangements, but I can't really see what we can do while there's this change in provision over the SARCs.

And there's also this pilot project in London, which we could do with having more information about, I think. But although this is a petition that doesn't have a huge number of signatures compared to some that we see—there are only 227—it is a real issue, I think, in terms of providing a service to the small number of people who will want to access it. But it's really important that that service is provided.

We've got the national action plan on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse coming out. If we send that to the petitioner or make sure that the petitioner is aware of it, and ask them whether that meets their needs or their request.

Yes. I slightly disagree with Leanne; I think it is important that we do keep in correspondence with petitioners when we have a ministerial response, even if they only write back to us and say, 'We're not happy with it. We still want to reiterate what we said in the petition in the first place', because we need to keep that dialogue going, because we're really just intermediaries.

It is just a case of do they understand whether or not they're being judged for not sending in additional comments or not, and I'm not convinced that we should judge people for not doing that.

I think perhaps we ought to say, 'This is where we are from the Minister. What is your response to it in order for us to take it further forward?'

Even if they say they don't like it. Even if they don't like what the Minister has said.

[Inaudible.]—provided further comment. Maybe we could look at the general principle of why so many don't come back. It may well be that we just need to chase them one more time.

Or it could be, in a case like this, that she's put an awful lot of effort into creating a petition and doing all the publicity around it and now she does wants to put it behind her. It's a sensitive issue, isn't it? I think we need to be sensitive as well.

I think so too. So, I think we've got a clear recommendation there.

'Sepsis Public Awareness Campaign—Wales', page 172 in your pack. This was submitted by Siobhan Corria on behalf of Michelle Christopher and was first considered in March 2019, having collected 238 signatures. The text of the petition:

'44,000 people in the UK lose their lives to sepsis every year. Every 3.5 seconds, someone in the world dies from sepsis.'

The background to this is we last considered this on 21 May, agreeing to write to the Health and Social Care Committee to share details about the petition and the evidence received to date, and to ask whether the committee has any plans to look into this subject. We received a response from the Health and Social Care Committee on 25 June. The petitioners have not provided further comments, but have indicated that they intend to engage with the upcoming inquiry by the health committee.

09:45

I don't think there's anything more we can do if the health committee is looking into this.

Yes. The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee intends to commence an inquiry into sepsis in the autumn term with a call for evidence. So, the committee could note the intended inquiry by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee. 

I would imagine the petitioners have got an enormous amount of evidence to give to this inquiry and they should be encouraged to participate. They've already said they intend to anyway, so I think they'll get a better outcome through the health committee than we could give them here now. 

Okay, so the proposal is to close the petition. Everybody agree? Okay.

So, education: 'Ensuring Equality of Curriculum for Welsh Medium Schools e.g. GCSE Psychology'. This was submitted by Chris Evans in November 2017, having collected 652 signatures. It was last considered on 7 May, agreeing to write back to Qualifications Wales and the Minister for Education to ask for more information about the steps being taken in relation to securing Welsh and English-medium provision from the outset under the new curriculum. A response was received from the Minister for Education on 7 June. A response was received from Qualifications Wales on 26 June. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments.

The Minister has reiterated that regulatory decisions such as the approval of qualifications is a matter for Qualifications Wales, but that developing an approach that secures equal availability for Welsh and English provision has been central to the planning of the new curriculum. Qualifications Wales is currently reviewing the whole publicly funded qualification offer for 14 to 16-year-old students. They will launch a public consultation in the autumn. All approved qualifications—those designed in Wales—will continue to be required to be available simultaneously in Welsh and English. For designated qualifications—not designed in Wales—Qualifications Wales is considering a number of possible criteria for decision making in the future. This could include a presumption that these will be offered in both languages.

So, you could await the proposals contained within Qualifications Wales's consultation on the future shape of 14-16 qualifications before considering the petition, or the committee has now explored the issues surrounding the current lack of availability of GCSE psychology and the future design/designation of qualifications in detail and you may want to close the petition in light of the information received.

Await the proposals contained within—. Yes, is that—? Michelle, are you in favour?

It's a bit counterproductive, I think, of Qualifications Wales to drop subjects, meaning that they're only going to be taught in English. At the end of the day, we're desperate for teachers who can teach in Welsh, so drying off some of that supply doesn't seem to be common sense to me. I'm quite happy with the action proposed.

Can we as a committee, or if not as a committee—could we advise the petitioner to submit evidence to the Qualifications Wales consultation on this? Because there are two official languages in Wales and everybody should be given equal opportunity to learn every subject that's available in one language in the other as well. It's not acceptable, particularly in a qualification like this—you know, you're not going to go on to do A-level psychology and practice as a psychologist unless you can begin with the GCSE, and there's a real need for counselling and psychology services to be provided through the medium of Welsh. We've got a shortage of practitioners. So, this is at the root of the problem here. That means that there are many citizens in Wales for whom their first language is Welsh who are unable to deal with some of their adverse childhood experiences, which they need to be able to deal with, through their first language. So, this gets to the very heart of social justice as far as I'm concerned, and so if we, as a committee, could submit evidence to the Qualifications Wales consultation making those points, that would be good, I think. But if it's not appropriate for a committee to submit evidence to a consultation in that way, then I would ask that we advise the petitioners to do that, and encourage other people to do the same. 

09:50

To be honest, I think that the Minister's response is a little bit of a cop out as well. She's passing the buck to Qualifications Wales as if Welsh Government have absolutely no control and no influence on Qualifications Wales. At the end of the day, it's Welsh Government in control of the Welsh education system. If subjects aren't being offered in Welsh, which they should be, then it's Welsh Government who need to do something about it. At the end of the day, they're the only ones who can. 

Okay. Any other comments? Okay. So, we've got the recommendations going forward. 

Yes. Does the committee want to write or does the committee want to suggest to the petitioner that—? I think it's appropriate for the committee, if it agrees, to write to Qualifications Wales in the terms that most of you suggested, and we could ask the petitioner if he wants to write as well. They are aware obviously of the petition, because we've written to them on a number of occasions, so they know about the issues raised in the petition.  

Okay, thanks everyone. 'Fair Deal For Supply Teachers', page 181. This was first submitted by Sheila Jones, first considered in May 2018, having collected 1,425 signatures. And that's requesting

'that all supply teachers be paid fairly and have full access to training opportunities and other terms and conditions. There should be a qualified teacher in every classroom and taxpayers' money should be going directly into education and not into the pockets of private agencies.'

We last considered this on 2 April, when we took evidence from the Minister for Education and agreed to write to a number of stakeholders to seek their views on the petition. Responses have been received from the Education Workforce Council, Estyn, Welsh Local Government Association, National Association of Head Teachers, Association of School and College Leaders, National Education Union and NASUWT. The petitioner has also provided further comments. Two individuals also commented following the committee's evidence session with the Minister. A summary of all the responses has been produced by the Research Service. 

I think we should prepare a report on this issue.  

Can I just ask? Has anything—? Obviously, I'm new to the committee, so I wasn't here when this was last looked at. But have you had any communication with the supply teacher agencies themselves and the people who administer the framework agreements with those agencies? Because it seems to me that you've heard from the local government association, you've heard from a number of unions and, of course, they have an input, but I suspect the answers you're looking for are in that framework agreement and in the way that it's actually implemented and the way that it's negotiated. 

Can I just say? The answer I want is for local authorities either collectively or individually to take over once again the provision of supply teachers. 

Could we write to New Directions and ask them if they've ever provided free sporting tickets or any golf days for any members of any staff, any head teachers? 

You're frowning there, Chair. I'll do it individually. 

Yes, okay, Neil. Are you clear with the recommendations there? 

Great, thank you. Page 232, 'To amend the School Admissions Code Relating to Summer-Born Children'. This petition was submitted by Flexible Admissions Wales Group, was first considered in September 2018, having collected 241 signatures. 

'Owing to the timing of school entry points, summer-born children are put at a significant disadvantage compared to their peers. They may suffer adverse emotional and educational impacts as they start their formal education at a much younger age. As such, parents may choose to defer their summer-born child's entry into school until they reach compulsory school age, as is their legal right. However, most find that their child is put straight into Year 1, missing the crucial Reception year, which research shows to be the most important year in education.'

We last considered this on 21 May, agreeing to write to the Minister for Education to seek the details of any findings from her engagement work with local authorities on this issue; to ask for any emerging conclusions arising from the review of the school admissions code in relation to requests to delay entry for summer-born children; and to ask when a public consultation on the school admissions code will commence. A response was received from the Minister for Education on 26 June, and the petitioner has also provided further comments. So, what action would you like to take on this issue?

09:55

I'd just like to make one comment and then one suggestion. The comment is: if all summer-born children started late, you'd have the Easter-born—. The March and April children would be the youngest. I speak as someone who's birthday is in July—at a time when 31 July was the cut-off point before it moved to 31 August. There are disadvantages of being the youngest, especially if you are relatively small, but I found it much more in sport than I did academically. We've got the publication of the revised schools admission code consultation. Let's wait for that to come out. But moving it forward three months, you just have a different group of children.

Any other comments? Mike has proposed that we do agree to await the publication of the public consultation on the revised school admissions code, due in autumn 2019.

Okay. The next one is on page 238 in your pack: 'The Capping of Council Tax Rises in Wales'. This was submitted by Tom MacLean and was first considered in May 2019, having collected a total of 55 signatures. I think this was about the levy of a 'staggering' 11 per cent council tax increase. We first considered this on 7 May. We agreed to write to the Welsh Local Government Association to seek their views on the points raised by the petition and the potential impact of a policy to cap or limit council tax increases. A response was received from the WLGA on 28 June and the petitioner has provided further comments. The WLGA does oppose a policy of capping council tax rises

'because it weakens local accountability and dilutes local decision-making.'

They state that councils do not take decisions to increase council tax lightly, and that core grants from Welsh Government to local government have reduced by around £1 billion since 2009-10. The petitioner believes that Welsh Government should intervene when local authorities propose 'inflation-busting' increases. The Minister previously stated that decisions on council tax rest with elected members of local authorities, and outlined support schemes that exist to help people struggling to pay their council tax. How would you like to take this forward?

Well, Chair, I believe in the democracy of local government, and people are elected to take decisions on what councils spend, but also how they raise the money that they spend. Now, they're not in a position to have any influence over the block grant that's given to them by Government, but they are in a position to influence council tax, and then they stand for election on the basis of the decisions that they made. That is local accountability. And so if people don't like an 11 per cent increase in the council tax, and they don't feel that they're having value for money from their local authority, then the best thing to do is to vote them out at the next election and vote in a different group of people who pledge not to raise the council tax by so much.

That seems to be supported there. Everybody agree on that? So, how would you like to actually go forward?

Close the petition and tell them it is a matter for local determination.

10:00

Page 242, 'Control Rapidly Expanding Intensive Poultry Industry in Wales'. This was submitted by the Brecon and Radnor branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales and collected 4,567 signatures. They call on the Welsh Assembly

'to urge the Welsh Government to take long-term strategic action to ensure that the poultry product industry is environmentally sustainable through effective delivery of the Environment (Wales) Act, Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, the Well-Being of Future Generations Act and the Water Framework Directive'.

We last considered this on 2 April. We wrote back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to ask for a list of the membership of the working group, confirmation of its title and final terms of reference; to propose that the group's membership should include representation from environmental organisations and/or independent scientists; and to seek further information about the interaction between this work and the intensive agriculture health working group. A response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 25 June, and the petitioners have also provided further comment.

The intention is for the group to support the drafting of a technical advice note on planning for intensive agriculture by the end of 2019. The intensive agriculture health working group will consider any issues referred to it by the planning working group, and Public Health Wales will sit on both groups. The petitioners have welcomed that external participants will now be invited to participate in the working group, though they have not yet received an invitation themselves. They state the challenge for the group will relate to the definition of 'intensive agriculture', and they provide a commentary on several aspects of the terms of reference for the group. They identify several areas of their petition that fall outside the scope of the working group, including the 'polluter pays' principle. The petitioners provide a spreadsheet of planning applications in Powys since 2015, which they say demonstrates that over 100 units with more than 7 million 'chicken places' are already in the county.

I think the one thing that always concerns me is that in planning you don't take any interest at all in the cumulative effect. If Neil, sitting there, asks for 5 million chickens, I ask for 5 million chickens, and Leanne, next to me, asks for 5 million chickens, it would all be fine because each one of those is under 5 million, although the cumulative effect is 15 million. We have this with houses in multiple occupation as well. Each one is on its merits, but they don't take any—. The cumulative effect needs to be taken into account. Otherwise, yes that's only 3 million or that's only 4 million, but it's next to another 10 at 3 million or 4 million, so the cumulative can be 30 million or 34 million.

It's a similar point that we made with town centres and takeaway food outlets, isn't it? And it's been the same with betting shops and charity shops—you know, you can get a concentration. I think Mike's point about the cumulative effect is the right one. I think we should provide additional information to the petitioners along the lines suggested in the paper, Chair.

The committee could provide the additional information from the petitioners—yes—to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, and ask for a response to the proposal to apply the 'polluter pays' principle to the cost of regulation, monitoring and breaches, and we could also write to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to provide the petitioner's comments on the terms of reference for the town and country planning intensive agriculture working group, and await the outcomes of its work.

Can you throw a third one in, and ask the Minister covering planning to put cumulative effects into the planning Act?

Okay. Page 263, 'Guarantee fully plant-based options on every public sector menu to protect the rights of vegans and for our health, the environment and animals'. We last considered this on 7 May, agreeing to write to the Minister for Environment to ask her to incorporate this issue into the Welsh Government's work, following its recent declaration of a climate change emergency, and also the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health and Social Services, to thank them for the information provided, but ask whether this means that they would expect all daily menus in school and hospital settings to include vegetarian and vegan food options. Two responses have been received, one from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and a joint response from the Ministers for education and health and social services. The petitioners have also provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward?

10:05

Could we get further information from the local authorities and the health boards? We need to look at a timescale, as well, with the Minister.

I think that our principle should be looking to make a vegetarian or vegan option available for everybody. I think that there's no reason at all, when they're producing a substantial number of meals—i.e. hospitals and schools—why that can't be made available. And you should have a reason for exclusion, i.e. if somebody provides 20 or 30 meals it wouldn't be possible to provide different kinds of foods, where food is just one of the things they provide. But they need to have a reason for the opt-out rather than just take it as, 'We'll provide what we think we can and if we lose 10 per cent of our potential sales, we lose 10 per cent'.

Okay. And as well as gathering further information from local authorities or health boards, we could also write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for information on the timescale and process. Is that okay?

Could I also ask what consideration has been given to legislation in this field? I mean, I think there's a question of rights here. If people are in public institutions—hospitals, schools—and we're encouraging more and more people to find non-meat alternatives for food, then surely it should be an obligation on the part of the public body to provide at least one vegetarian and vegan meal. Now, I can accept that there would be difficulties in passing legislation like that, but unless the public sector demonstrates the best practice, then we can't really expect citizens to go along with other messages that the Government might want to give. They've got to show by example. So, is that something that we could look at—the possibility of pursuing a legislative option on this? 

Did you want to include in the letter to the Minister for Health and Social Services what consideration has been given, or do you want—?

And did you also want to include anything about the reasons for opt-out that Mike raised in that letter as well—to ask the Minister to suggest that? 

Because there may be good reasons for people to opt out, if they sell so few items, and some places may well only do heated-up food and they might sell 20 or 30 of them a day, sort of thing—just get them from the freezer. But we need to have a reason why they're opting out and there can be no opt-out for large-scale provision.

Okay. Page 272, 'Free Welsh Lessons for the People of Wales. This was first submitted by Sheryl Callard and was first considered in May 2019, having collected a total of 95 signatures. We considered this for the first time on 7 May, agreeing to await the views of the petitioner on the response provided by the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language and to write back to the Minister to ask whether there is sufficient teaching capacity to support an increase in demand for Welsh language lessons. A response was received from the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language on 28 June. No response has been received from the petitioner to date. Points for discussion: the Minister states that strengthening the Welsh for adults teaching workforce is a priority for the National Centre for Learning Welsh. It published a workforce development plan in 2018, which covers four key themes and is intended to be implemented by 2020. So, you could await further views or information from the petitioner before considering what further action we can take. 

Can we go back to the Minister and ask for more detail in terms of numbers of people who are planned to be trained to deliver Welsh teaching? I really share the concerns and the emotion, I suppose, expressed by the person who sent in this petition. We've been denied a big part of our heritage by not being taught Welsh to an adequate or fluent level within schools as a second language and the Government has a target of creating 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050. Now, the best way to do that is to do everything that you possibly can to encourage people to go to Welsh lessons and learn online or whatever. And the best way to do that is to offer lessons either really, really cheaply or, even better, for free. But the Minister's response here doesn't really address the core point of the petitioner. So, I think we should go back to the Minister and ask for more detail and to ask if there are any plans to make a certain number of places in Welsh lessons free, for example.

There was a question around English lessons for refugees and asylum seekers that were free, but the equivalent wasn't available through the medium of Welsh. Now, I don't know if that situation has been resolved now, but it is kind of tied into this, because, obviously, if there were a certain number of spaces for free Welsh lessons, then people with high needs or people in special characteristic groups, like asylum seekers and refugees, would be able to be applying for those places as well. So, I would like more information, and I think we should put pressure on the Minister to demonstrate to us what exactly they are doing in order to meet that target by 2050.

10:10

Dwi'n cytuno dydy e ddim hawdd i ddysgu Cymraeg. Mae'n syniad da i ysgrifennu at y Gweinidog. Mae'n bwysig iawn i roi i bobl y cyfle i ddysgu Cymraeg yma yng Nghymru, ac fel roeddwn i'n dweud, dydy e ddim yn hawdd. Yn bersonol, dysgu Cymraeg yw un o'r pethau gorau dwi wedi gwneud erioed yn fy mywyd, ac wedyn mae'n rhaid i ni gefnogi y ddeiseb, yn fy marn i.

I agree that it's not easy to learn Welsh. It's a good idea to write to the Minister. It's very important to offer an opportunity to people to learn Welsh here in Wales, and as I said, it's not easy. Personally, learning Welsh is one of the best things that I've ever done in my entire life, and so I think we have to support this petition, in my opinion.

I just want to declare a potential interest in that my daughter is currently studying Welsh in university.

We all have to declare an interest there. [Laughter.]

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

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We move to item 4 on the agenda: a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for item 5. So, therefore, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for item 5 of today's agenda. Are Members content?

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:12.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:12.

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