|Alun Davies AM|
|David Melding AM|
|David Rees AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Delyth Jewell AM|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM|
|Mandy Jones AM|
|Ed Sherriff||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jeremy Miles AM||Y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a'r Gweinidog Brexit|
|Counsel General and Brexit Minister|
|Simon Brindle||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Aled Evans||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Sesiwn graffu gyda’r Cwnsler Cyffredinol a’r Gweinidog Brexit||2. Scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Brexit Minister|
|3. Papurau i’w nodi||3. Papers to note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
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 13:30.
The meeting began at 13:30.
Good afternoon. Can I welcome members of the public and Members to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? Before we move on to the rest of the agenda, can I remind Members of some of the housekeeping? If you require simultaneous translation from Welsh to English during the meeting, that's available on the headphones via channel 1. If you require amplification for any purpose, that's available on the headsets via channel 0. Can I also remind Members please to turn their mobile phones off, or any other equipment that may interfere with the broadcasting, or onto silent, so that we can ensure that work continues without interruption? There is no scheduled fire alarm this afternoon. If one does take place, please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe location. We have no substitutions and apologies this afternoon. I'll just welcome all Members. Any Members wish to declare an interest at this point in time?
My standard declaration, Chair, in particular, the chairing of the European advisory group for the First Minister.
We move on now to the next item on the agenda, which is a scrutiny session with the Counsel General and Brexit Minister, Jeremy Miles. Can I welcome the Minister to this afternoon's meeting? And, Minister, would you like to introduce your officials for the record please?
Thank you, Chair. I have Ed Sherriff and Simon Brindle.
Deputy directors [correction: Director and deputy director] in both their respective roles in the European transition team.
Thank you very much. We move on to questions, if that's okay with you, Minister, to go straight into questioning, and we'll start off with Huw.
Thank you, Chair. Minister, good afternoon, and to your officials. Last time you were in front of us, we had some discussion around the fact that you hadn't been able to see the non-papers, hadn't had engagement on the non-papers, but we now have the proposals—as much as they are now—out in the public domain. You've had something of a good chance to have a look at what is out there. Just one question, before we talk about the detail. Short of what's been released into the public domain to everybody else, has there been further engagement with UK Government on these non-papers and their full proposals now?
Well, thank you. I had a conversation, a private conversation, with the Minister who came before this committee last week or the week before last at this point, and he repeated to me what he, I think, had said to the committee in relation to the unwillingness of the UK Government to share those non-papers with us, on the basis that they were technical. My argument is, as I'm sure you'd acknowledge and recognise, the fact that they're technical isn't, in a sense, neither here nor there. They need to be shared so that the functioning of JMC(EN), which is predicated on oversight of negotiations and seeking to agree where we can, can continue and can function. So, we haven't seen the non-papers and we have not had a commitment to share the non-papers. We've had very little discussion with the UK Government in relation to the proposals that the Prime Minister made last week. I had a brief 10-minute call perhaps with Stephen Barclay following the publication of the documents, but nothing in advance.
Just to absolutely clear, you are saying that, in effect, apart from a 10-minute conversation—a courtesy conversation—what you have is what is in the public domain. Let me just push it the other way then: do you give credence to the Minister, who was in front of us last week and was very polite and informative, as much as he could go on various issues, but the UK Government's argument is this is a retained issue so, in effect, it's neither in their interest nor is it in your remit to actually have view of non-papers, proposals on the backstop and everything else?
Well, I don't subscribe to that view in the slightest. The point of establishing the joint ministerial committee with oversight of European negotiations is to enable oversight of European negotiations and the devolved administrations to play a part in that. The terms of reference effectively talk about seeking to achieve agreed outcomes, where that's possible, in certain contexts. So, I think the sharing of these papers is an important part of enabling JMC(EN) to fully do its role, so that's why it's been disappointing not to have those papers, and that's why I've expressed my disappointment directly to the UK Government in those terms.
I wonder then if you could take it one stage further, beyond the, if you like, point of principle issue of the way the JMC could and should be operating and so on, to why this makes a material difference to the people of Wales, the fact that this information is not being shared. Now that you've had a chance to look at what has been put out there in the public domain, what are the impacts for Wales? Because that might help people who are listening into this committee to understand the importance of sharing and engaging on these proposals.
The first point to make, if I may, is that the EU has been very clear, hasn't it, that infrastructure on the island of Ireland and avoiding that and maintaining the integrity of the single market are principles of fundamental importance to them. And so, in publishing the proposal as he did, I think, the Prime Minister’s going over very old ground in relation to that. And I think the fact that the regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic can only take effect if the Northern Ireland institutions vote for that—they don't even begin to take effect without that—and we don't have institutions that are functioning in Northern Ireland at the moment, I think that the EU's reaction to that is unsurprising. They've raised legitimate, longstanding, previously expressed concerns, so I think the UK Government need to engage seriously with that, and I'm afraid that if they don't engage seriously with that, we will, I think, be entitled to conclude that the proposal is really an attempt to lay blame rather than seek agreement.
Insofar as the proposals affect Wales specifically, I think there are a number of questions really that we have for the UK Government on which we haven't got the information that we need. One is: how will goods flow between Great Britain and the island of Ireland? Border inspection posts, where will they be located? If the Northern Ireland Executive doesn't vote to introduce the alignment, where will infrastructure need to be placed on the island of Ireland? That could have an impact on us in Wales.
But I think, taking a step back from the operational detail, if you like, to the extent that it’s there in the letter and the accompanying memorandum, the proposal is clear that the UK Government is now seeking a far looser economic relationship with the European Union than the administration of Theresa May was seeking, and we know and we have published as a Government significant amounts of material that describe the fact that the looser the economic relationship is, the more economic damage that will visit onto Wales. Just to complete that point, if I may. If it is right that this—. That fact in itself, arguably, makes it just impossible to see this going through Parliament. What that tells us is that the most likely outcome, I think, remains 'no deal', off the back of that proposal.
Thank you, but I wonder if I can follow there. Your reading might well be right, that this might go nowhere, but I'm going to take it in good faith that what the Prime Minister has put forward is a genuine attempt to try and find a way forward.
But on that basis, from what you're saying, and the committee is limited to what it has seen and what is out there that has been made publicly available, but it is correct that the veto on this would be held, if they were sitting once again, by the Northern Ireland institutions, which aren't sitting at the moment. If they took the decision not to continue with the arrangements that have been proposed, which are this not one border, but two borders set back proposal—. If they decided once every four years not to do that, then the implications for Wales could be quite interesting, and we would have no say in what could potentially be a border down the middle of the Irish sea. Am I correct in that?
Those kinds of questions are the ones that we have yet to have deep discussions with the UK Government about, but they're exactly the kinds of things that cause concern, for the reasons that you say.
So, what are your feelings, as the Brexit Minister, in that as we get to the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour here, as we head towards a very critical moment, that your ability to engage in this and help perhaps shape and influence, or maybe object or maybe suggest nuances to positions here that directly affect trading and the future relationship of Wales with our Irish cousins across the water, as well as Northern Irish cousins across the water, in effect, you have had no say in, and you continue to have had no say in. What's your interpretation of that for the relationship here that the UK Government is saying about Welsh Government, Scottish Government and frankly the Northern Ireland Executive as well?
Well, just to be clear, there's a JMC meeting later this week, which I'll be attending, and I will obviously be making it very clear that we regard what's happening as unacceptable. But I've made that point both to Michael Gove and to the Minister who was here last week, and, indeed, to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. We have to have a situation where the terms of reference of the JMC(EN) are being complied with and I share your, I think, frustration that they are not.
Chair, I only have one other question, because we could talk about the implications of this on common frameworks and so on and so forth, but I just wanted to ask you, one part, we understand, of the proposals now put forward is that there will also be, again, a new Northern Ireland, a new deal, an offer of financial support and so on. Now, historically, ever since John Major and Tony Blair worked so hard with many people behind the scenes to put in place the peace dividend, part of that peace dividend was, indeed, making sure that additional funding went into Northern Ireland to drive their economy, to get beyond the Troubles and get into the idea of an economy that was driving itself forward. So, we get all of that, but we're now in a situation where it strikes the impartial observer outside that we're not talking about peace dividend investment. I guess the question of the people that I represent would be: if there are additional moneys going into Northern Ireland to support this, whilst at the same time talking about imposing some sort of non-border, two-border solution set back a little bit, it strikes me as where's the dividend for Scotland, Wales and others, if there's some additional sum of money being put into Northern Ireland? Because the last sum of money we saw was £1 billion-whatever.
Yes. I share your frustration around that. Clearly, what we saw with the £1 million-or-so [correction: £1 billion-or-so] payment in relation to the DUP's agreement was a completely unacceptable act on the part of the UK Government. We have funding arrangements across the UK that are already imperfect and certainly don't reflect what we think should be the funding arrangement for us in Wales, but the fact that you would make a payment to one part of the UK that isn't then reflected in payments to other parts is obviously unacceptable. The nature of what's proposed in relation to this, in the document, is one of many areas of really significant uncertainty. And whilst I think it is important to look at the proposal on its own terms, I think the fact that it seeks a much looser economic union and has the infrastructure and the lack of guarantee of alignment, I think that, in itself, suggests to me that the proposal is unlikely to become a deal.
Yes. I found reading some of the detail of this proposal immensely disturbing, from some of the issues that you've raised in answer to questions, but also issues such as the question that would be asked every four years of the Stormont Assembly, asking consent for a continuance of all-Ireland arrangements, which invites a veto from the DUP, essentially, given the politics and the mechanisms that exist within Stormont. A more usual way would be: do you wish to change the status quo, which, of course, would transfer a veto, essentially, to the other side? So, it appears to me to be something that doesn't have the ability to withstand scrutiny.
But, for us in Wales, we are seeing a United Kingdom Government that is intervening, that breaks the consensus that Huw has spoken about, about the UK Government being a fair broker between different communities within the north of Ireland, and coming down, essentially, as part of a DUP bloc, if you like. Where does that leave us? Because Wales is supposed to have a Secretary of State who speaks up for Wales in the Cabinet; clearly, he doesn't on these matters. We don't know where we are in terms of the shared prosperity fund; we're told that the shared prosperity fund is going to be—details are going to be published at some point. Does it appear to you that the UK Government is acting on behalf of a part of a community of these islands, rather than acting as a fair broker in the interests of all the peoples of these islands?
We certainly have a set of arrangements that are intended to make sure that the UK Government deals fairly and inclusively with all parts of the UK equally. I think it's unsurprising to you to hear me say that I don't think we have a relationship that reflects that parity with the UK Government in our current arrangements, and I'm absolutely clear they need to change because of that.
The First Minister, in his first appearance at this committee—was it December or January; January of this year, wasn't it—said that the relationship with UK Government was a very good relationship. I think he was quite bullish, in some ways, about that. It doesn't appear to be so today, nine months later, 10 months later. And it appears to me that there are two issues here. First of all, the change of Government in the United Kingdom has led to a more brutal approach, if you like, an approach that doesn't have the hallmarks of good planning, shall we say, and, secondly, that the structures in place depend too much on the 'good chap' approach to government, and not enough on the structures of governance. Does the Welsh Government see the last few months as evidence of the systemic failure of the UK constitution and its ability to deal with a federal structure, as we have at the moment, or it's evolving into at the moment?
Two points in relation to that: I think the first point that you make about the change of Government can't be underestimated. I think, in a sense, it's much more than a change of Government, isn't it? You don't have a new Prime Minister who, effectively, is endorsing or standing behind even the broad approach, really, of their predecessor, and, in a sense, it almost feels like a different party in terms of the approach to Brexit specifically. I think it was challenging to engage with the May Government on issues in relation to—. Obviously, we had a very different political view of Brexit. We didn't get to a position, even with her Government, of being properly engaged and integrated into the discussions around the negotiations. But I think you will know from previous appearances that I've made, and certainly the First Minister's made, to this committee, that there were individuals around that table, at least, who understood the principles that we were seeking to espouse. That isn't, I think, the case now.
And the broader point about the constitution: I think it's absolutely clear that there needs to be a fresh look at how the constitution of the UK works, both in the context of the minutiae that we've been discussing of Brexit and how we negotiate positions around that, but even, if you take a step back from that, the events of the last two or three or four weeks, where we've seen the UK Government really taking steps that most of us would have regarded as unimaginable to be taken by a Prime Minister in good faith in the UK. So, I think those put an urgency under the need to revisit and reform the constitution in potentially fundamental ways.
Yes. I'm a little concerned that you do not seem to be accepting that there is a chance that the Prime Minister's offer to the EU may not be accepted under some modification, and I should point out that the initial endorsement that the UK Government wants from Northern Ireland will be via, as I understand, the Northern Ireland Grand Committee, because, as we know, the institutions are not up and running in Northern Ireland. So, it's wrong to say it can't be initiated. I do agree—I think it's unlikely the EU will allow that element of the proposal to stand. So, it seems to me that's what they're going to be negotiating on, but I can see this—I don't think it's as good as the May deal, but I can see this offer being the basis of getting us into the transition zone, when we then deal with the long-term matters about our enduring relationship with the EU. So, isn't it incumbent on you to do a bit more in terms of preparation, because I think it's a pretty even chance at the moment that we will see a deal next week?
Well, the preparation I've talked about is seeking clarity from the UK Government on things that are fundamental to Wales, and that isn't forthcoming at this point, so I think—. I think whether this ends up being an agreed deal with the European Union depends on the response of the Prime Minister to what remain, it seems to me, legitimate and long-held concerns, which the document that we have seen doesn't address. Now, we will see—that will unfold in the coming days, and we are talking days, and it will depend upon that. I'm just giving you my assessment of the likelihood of success of that. But, in relation to the impact of that for Wales, there are a number of questions that, had we been properly engaged in accordance with the JMC(EN) from the start with regard to the technical papers and the broader discussions, I would be able to answer, David, but I'm afraid I can't.
You know, what I find—. And it does mean some quite partisan questions, so I—. I don't like going into this territory normally, in these sharp tones. We're up against quite a deadline, we have a national crisis, let's face it, we have a referendum result that we've not been able to implement yet, we have our democratic structures under profound stress because of this, and your party, and indeed the Government you're a member of here, ultimately did nothing to get Mrs May's deal over the line. In fact, you formed an alliance with the arch-Eurosceptics, the diehards, and I don't think it's that surprising that the Prime Minister, although he was part of the former machinations, it must be said, and you will know where my sympathies lie—but candour with you is a bit difficult given how much you poisoned Mrs May's well, isn't it?
Well, not to put too fine a point on it, the Prime Minister voted both for and against her deal as I recall, and a significant number of Conservatives, before they had the whip withdrawn, did the same. We were very clear that we thought there was a possibility of a kind of leaving of the European Union that reflected the 2016 result, reflected the promises made in 2016, and also did the least damage possible to Wales. We agreed a paper with Plaid Cymru that described that. So, I don't think it's fair to say that there wasn't a kind of deal that we were prepared to support.
The point about Mrs May's deal was Wales deserves better than any old deal, and that was, I'm afraid, not good enough. We did articulate in the cross-party—. I'm not here to answer on behalf of the UK parliamentary Labour Party, as you obviously will be keenly aware, but there were discussions between the two front benches that, for reasons I think are obvious with hindsight, fell by the wayside as a consequence of the Tory leadership election. I think that's just a matter of political and historical fact at this point. But the notion we didn't seek to get a deal I think is just not true.
And what would be structurally difficult and destructive of Welsh interests in a regulatory border down the Irish sea?
Well, the additional regulatory checks would be a key, significant issue, wouldn't they? We have a set of preparations at the moment in relation to the arrangements in the ports, for example, which are predicated on certain assumptions, and I think if you increase—if there's a border down the Irish sea, that just increases the barrier to trade through those important ports. So, I think there's a significant issue there for us.
It's friction, but is it likely to be material in terms of having a dramatic effect on trade flows?
Well, these are the sorts of things we're hoping to discuss in more detail behind the material that's in the public domain with the UK Government. And I'll be happy to update you on that.
Just for, I think, clarification, to be fair to most of those who've had the whip withdrawn, I think they all voted for Mrs May's deal—they are the ones who voted for the deal, compared to some who are in the Conservative Government at the moment, who voted against the deal.
But one point that Huw raised, and I think, before I move on, I want to just clarify this, because you've talked to us this afternoon, saying you've only seen what's in the public domain, you've not been involved in the preparation of those or the non-papers, but the political declaration that's attached to it now, as you say, is a lot looser than it was under the Theresa May Government. Have you had any discussions in relation to that political declaration? Because that is clearly a major change as well by the Government, because that changes the dimensions we have in discussions going forward, and at this point in time I'm not aware of the Welsh Government being able to be involved in those discussions on any future trade arrangements or trade deals with the EU.
There are two aspects to that question, Chair, if I may. The first is in relation to the document itself, and the letter from the Prime Minister refers to a legal text, which I've requested, but it has not been provided. And the second aspect of it relates to, if you like, the mechanism for ongoing involvement in future economic relationship negotiations. You'll know—the committee will know that the Welsh Government's position is that the UK Government should not normally proceed with a negotiating position that impacts on devolved matters without the agreement of the devolved administrations. It's not a veto; it's an application of the Sewel convention beyond its current parameters. The UK Government have not agreed that, and so we are not in a position where we can have that level of engagement.
This is a matter of pretty intense exchange at the moment, Chair. Clearly, our position has been, I think, clear for some time—. By the way, it's—. This is important from the point of view of the devolution settlement, because it is within our power to implement these arrangements. And I think it's just a matter of practicality on the other side; we are negotiating with partners in the European Union who obviously know what the UK's constitutional settlement and devolution settlement is. They will know, as we will know around this table, that matters related to devolved matters are for the devolved Governments. And so I think, just from the point of view of the UK Government's credibility in those discussions, it would just be helpful from their point of view, let alone the devolution settlement, to involve us more fully than they appear prepared to do.
By the way, as you will also know, if I may, there are plenty of examples of devolved Governments—including the Welsh Government—leading on negotiations with the European Union in relation to certain areas: agriculture; biodiversity, in particular; some aspects of fisheries, I believe. This is something that works and has worked, and we, as anybody sitting in that chair, represent the agreed UK position. So, this is not new, and I think we would all find it intolerable for devolved Governments to have less input into those sorts of relationships than they have had whilst the UK was part of the European Union.
Thank you for that. I assure you that we have made those views very strongly before, but this change of the UK Government's position as well highlights even more so the importance of the Welsh voice being heard in those discussions, to ensure that at the table where the future relationship with the EU is being discussed, we are able to have our input and that that input is recognised and listened to and acted upon, and we are either in the room or we actually are there at the time of those positions; I think the Welsh Government and the people of Wales will expect that type of representation. But it is important to recognise, with the change being put forward, that that still has not been agreed to yet by the UK Government.
Yes. A benign view, Chair, would be that this is early days in the life of the new Government, so—. And I don't make that point in a glib—. It is, in a sense, early days, but we are pressing for progress that we have not yet seen.
Diolch, Chair. Minister, in September your Government published 'A brighter future for Wales', and there are lots of things in that document that I think are very welcome. it does, however, talk about introducing ID cards, and the document says:
'Some have argued that a national ID card might be a price worth paying to address concerns about so-called "uncontrolled" migration from the EEA.'
Minister, there are a number of things that concern me in that sentence, but the principal thing that concerns me is actually the use of 'so-called'. So, could you please confirm whether it is the Government's view that migration from the EEA is uncontrolled, and, if that isn't the Government's view, why do you think that we need to assuage concerns that you believe are unfounded?
I'm happy to engage on the detail of this with you. The reason for publishing the document was to update people on our position following the three years since the 2016 referendum result. It is our view as a Government that we have been able to have most impact when we've been able to work on a cross-party basis in the Assembly. 'Securing Wales' Future' was a very good and powerful example, I think, of that. So, what I would say gently to you is that it is, I think, a bit of a shame that given the focus that you have borne to bear on one or two aspects—important aspects—of this document, that I think an opportunity has been missed perhaps to acknowledge the fact that there is much in this document that I would hope that you agree with.
In relation to the specifics—
Oh, as I said at the beginning, there is much that I and my party would agree with, and I think there would be a lot of agreement around this table for a lot that's in the document. But, as you've referred to it, I think that these are important aspects, even if they seem minor.
Well—and I will address this specifically—they are, I think, from what you're saying, points of language rather than substance, because the document reflects the principles of 'Brexit and Fair Movement', which Plaid Cymru itself welcomed.
Yes, certainly, and that's why I was confused about seeing this language, because it doesn't seem to sit well with other things that are in the document.
I can address the language, but as I think you will know, I would have been prepared to amend language that you had specific concerns about in order to secure agreement from you. But let me address the substantive points that you make. The document refers to national ID cards in the context of a broader discussion, as I think is evident from the context, about how other European Union countries address the questions of managing employment-related free movement within the existing rules of the European Union. And that is completely consistent with membership of the European Union, and completely consistent with the practice of many European Union states. It talks about ID cards, but that is as a prelude to discussing a range of alternatives. And the language around 'so-called uncontrolled migration'—that is a reflection of the kind of language that people use. We are not saying for a second in this document anywhere that migration is uncontrolled.
And I just want to say—and I don't for one second take away from the right and obligation of scrutiny in this context—I just happen to think that, in the context of this particular subject area, when the document mainly talks about the advantages of migration from the European Union, and the importance of making sure that EU citizens are welcomed and continue to have their rights preserved, that aspects where you may not be comfortable with particular forms of expression, but are, essentially, foursquare with the document that Plaid Cymru have already accepted and welcomed—I think that's unfortunate.
Well, Minister, I think that it is unfortunate that this isn't actually just about language, because talking about introducing ID cards, again—
I want the questions to be asked and answers allowed to be given. So, if we can avoid interruption, that would be very helpful. Delyth.
Thank you, Chair. Again, if I could press you on this point—and I do have other points to raise with you—but you do say in the document that this is about addressing 'so-called uncontrolled migration'. The document does set this up as one of the reasons why we might need to introduce ID cards. That's not me reading that into the document; that is there, in plain.
Well, the use of the word 'so-called' refers to the fact that people use that term and we don't support its use. That's the common usage of that expression, it seems to me. And, just to make the other point—just to repeat the point, I think, just to give you full context—the document does not advocate ID cards. The document talks about the range of alternatives that other countries use in the European Union, and, again, those alternatives are the sorts of alternatives that 'Brexit and Fair Movement' itself describes. So, I think the notion that there's a substantive change here I just don't think is a fair reading, if I may say that, of the document.
Well, Minister, we will disagree on that then, but the document also does talk about the legitimate removal of migrants and benefit tourism, and it advocates again possibly tracking migrants through national insurance. Could I ask how you think that squares with your Government's determination for Wales to be a nation of sanctuary?
Well, it talks about benefit tourism being an unfounded suspicion, to be fair, so whilst it uses the term, it makes the point that it's an unfounded suspicion, which I think is important in the context of what you're saying. And I think what the document mainly does, overwhelmingly does, is, as I say, explain the value of EU migration and how welcome EU migrants are in Wales. And I think alongside the document—I just want to be clear that we are seeing the whole picture, if I may—we've spent the last few weeks promoting a new online facility that explains and supports EU citizens in Wales in seeking their settled status. And we, as I know you know, have funded advice services, expert immigration advice services, third sector organisations, and we have a programme of engagement with the UK Government to support this, which I think is extensive and is supportive. And I wouldn't wish to have that part of this important discussion underestimated, if I may.
Thank you, Minister. The context of, as I see it, how much positive work the Welsh Government is doing with relation to EU migrants is, actually, precisely why I am raising these points, though, because I believe I might not—. I'm making an assumption here that I probably would not be alone in the committee, but I certainly can speak for myself in saying that if these sections of the document were removed, it would be a fairer reflection of what the Government's own belief about EU migrants is, rather than, again, going back to the 'so-called uncontrolled'—. You've talked about how it's—you made the point that this is about language. On 30 September, we as a committee held a number of focus groups with non-UK EU migrants who are living in Wales, and when we talked about the proposal about tracking national insurance numbers, some of the points that were made to my table—I'd just like to quote them: 'It sounds like more of the same hostile environment; that's what we've come to expect from the Home Office.' Someone else said: 'It makes me feel less and less wanting to live in this country. Do you just want to find a reason to get people to leave?' And another person spoke about feeling complete devaluation. So, again, I think language is important. And so I would ask you, Minister, whether you would be prepared to revise the document, to take out this section, which, as you say, is not actually in keeping with much of what the Welsh Government is doing.
Well, I'm not planning on revising the document. I think that what the document makes as a point in a number of places is that perceptions need to be addressed as well as realities. Part of the reason why the debate that we've all been living through has become so unilluminating, at the lowest end of expression, if you like, is that a set of perceptions have arisen, and we have to reflect the realities of what migration is bringing to the UK, and to Wales, which I think the document does. And it talks about the importance of addressing both perceptions, and partly by outlining the realities, as we do in this document. I just think you need to see this as a part of a larger whole, if I may say that. And some of the language that you referred to is in the context of saying that we don't stand behind that language, effectively—'so-called', and so on.
In those instances, then, I would take back what I've said—if it isn't in those contexts. But, again, I would urge you, please, so that a point of view can be put across to EU citizens living in Wales, who are dealing with a lot of feelings of threat and of unwelcome, almost, in Wales, if this language—and not just language—but if these points about tracking national insurance, which I think are very concerning, were to be removed, I think this document would be welcomed far more by that community.
Minister, I think you've answered very clearly the Welsh Government's position on this document. I don't want to have a repeat of that, but I think also that we may well come on to some of the points being expressed when we look at EU citizens' rights, if we get a chance to get on to that, which reflect perhaps how EU citizens sometimes feel in relation to their experiences at this moment in time. I think you made yourself quite clear, I think the Member has made herself quite clear in the positions, so we'll leave that there.
But in relation to 'A brighter future for Wales', I suppose what I want to try and find out is what response, if any, have you had from the UK Government, or perhaps our European neighbours and colleagues, in relation to—. Because, obviously, you put that forward before, in 'Securing Wales' Future'. Have you had a similar response in relation to this document from elsewhere?
Nothing directly, but I'm in Brussels tomorrow, Chair, and I'm at the JMC(EN) on Thursday, so I hope to have—
Will you be making a written statement or an oral statement as to the outcomes of both of those meetings?
Over the last few weeks, we've seen legislation lost as a consequence of the UK Parliament being prorogued. I assume then that that legislation is reinstated when Parliament was not prorogued, and now I assume it will be lost again this week, when Parliament is again prorogued. Now, whilst this is a commentary on quite a chaotic situation in the UK Government, I think it's also fair to say there's a real failure of policy from Welsh Government as well, because the Welsh Government has relied on the United Kingdom Government to seek its legislation in order to achieve its own policy objectives. And that is now out of your control. You don't have any ability to understand when it's happening, and you're relying on a Government that you yourself have said is pretty unreliable.
Well, I don't accept the principal point that you're making there, if I may. I think that the Assembly is entitled, as is the Government, to assume that the Parliament would be allowed to sit to consider the legalisation that we've asked it to enact on our part. We've had a very significant programme, obviously, of secondary legislation here, which we have discussed previously, and I'm happy to discuss again of course. You will know that the reason I intervened in the Supreme Court proceedings was in order to protect the Assembly and Government's interests in relation to that specifically. And I was, as I'm sure we all were, pleased with the outcome of that. There are some examples where problems are specifically posed as a consequence of the prorogation. The fisheries Bill is a good example of that. We need primary UK legislation in order to extend our competence. That was an obvious reason for supporting fisheries legislation, to extend that. In relation to agriculture, for example, we don't anticipate needing to use the powers that are in that Bill before the Bill is likely to be reintroduced. So, in practical terms, I don't envisage that being a particular challenge on that Bill. I think we made a sensible set of judgments about when to legislate here and when to ask the UK Parliament to legislate on our behalf.
These matters. You said you'd taken a decision on when to legislate here and when to allow UK Government to legislate. I haven't seen or heard any date for a Welsh agriculture or fisheries Bill yet.
The fisheries Bill in Parliament extends our competence, so we still advocate that position as the best outcome for us. In relation to the agriculture Bill, our officials here have been in contact with DEFRA officials and they've confirmed that they're looking to reintroduce the Bill as soon as possible. As I say, because we don't anticipate needing to use the powers that we would be getting in the Bill before that Bill is likely to be reintroduced, we don't need to bring forward legislation in relation to that.
At this point, based on our current understanding around agriculture, I think that's the case, yes.
You appear to be taking advice.
I'm not sure that I find that a very comfortable position, if I'm completely honest with you. You have in earlier answers described a very difficult relationship with the UK Government and a relationship that is becoming more difficult. You've also described UK structures that aren't working systemically for the interests of the UK in the way that you've answered questions. It therefore appears a somewhat bizarre decision for Welsh Government to say, notwithstanding everything I've already said, 'This is the way we're going to pursue this policy.'
From the point of view of a legislature, I would want to know when I can get my legislation, and from the point of view of a policy maker, and the policy community outside of this place, they would want some certainty. And I accept certainty in today's world is a somewhat difficult objective, but surely Government should act to reduce uncertainty, not to increase it.
Absolutely; you're right. We've undertaken a very extensive programme of ensuring that the EU law, from which we've all benefited and all support in a way I don't need to enlarge upon here, is translated into the law applicable in Wales—on a 'no deal' Brexit basis, by the way, from the start; the worst possible outcome, as it were—so that work has been work that we have either done ourselves or asked the UK Government to do on our behalf with our consent on a programmed basis. That's the overwhelming majority of the legislation that we are talking about. As I say, on the fisheries basis, we look to that Bill to extend our competence, so that's a matter for the UK Parliament. On agriculture, as I say, in the short term, we don't need the powers in that Bill, but obviously we keep that under review.
It appears from what you're saying in answer you don't intend to introduce any agriculture legislation to this Assembly before the election in 2021.
That is absolutely not what I'm saying. That's not a matter for me to comment on. But, in relation to this particular issue, in relation to Brexit and the one aspect of the agriculture Bill that we had asked, effectively, the UK Government to legislate on our behalf, we will not need that before, in our best assessment today, that will be reintroduced. But you make a valid point about a set of assumptions made under the previous Government not being applicable under the new Government, and I absolutely share that instinct, for reasons I outlined earlier. But our best assessment of that is as I've just described, at the moment.
So, going forward, we can anticipate the Welsh Government wishing to have far greater control of the legislative processes surrounding Brexit and post-Brexit arrangements than the policy that has been pursued up till now, which has been to rely on the UK Government where necessary.
I wouldn't characterise what's been done to date in any way as lacking in control. It's been done on an agreed basis and subject to our consent. So, I wouldn't accept that characterisation of it. Obviously, we'll always want to make sure that whatever we ask the UK Government or Parliament to do is done on a basis that is agreed with us and that we are satisfied protects the interests of the Assembly and the Government, and, obviously, by extension, the people of Wales.
Can I clarify that, because technically—if I'm right—the Welsh Government has made a decision, and, on a legislative consent motion, we simply agree or not on the Bill that is put forward in Parliament? It is not the Assembly that makes the decision as to whether it accepts that's the right way to go about it or not; it's the Welsh Government's decision to accept that's the right way to go about it or not, because it's the Welsh Government that decides to put a Bill forward or not.
Well, the question is a matter for the consent—. Where UK legislation engages devolved competence, obviously it becomes a matter for the Assembly to consent or otherwise to that in the usual way.
If the Welsh Government decided not to put something forward so there was no alternative to that consent—
Well, it's a matter for the Assembly whether it wishes to consent, having understood what the provisions in the Bill are, and there are obviously some Bills that attract other protocols, aren't there, which we've discussed in the context—
But not to consent in the agriculture Bill circumstances would have been saying that there would have been no agriculture Bill we would have agreed to, because the Welsh Government wasn't bringing one forward. And we would have said 'no' to what the UK Government was bringing forward. So, it was the Welsh Government's decision not to bring a Bill forward. Actually, it was the decision as to whether the Assembly would be able to choose or not. I think that's the right legal position of it. You might want to come back to me on that one, Minister.
Well, I'm happy to clarify that back to you, Chair, if I may? But just on that, as I say, in the short term, we don't regard the powers that the Bill is providing us as ones—[Inaudible.]
Are you able, therefore, to produce for either this committee or the whole Assembly a list of Bills and dates at which you expect those Bills to come through as a consequence, because you talk about the agriculture Bill maybe sometime in this Assembly—you wouldn't confirm if not—or possibly in the next Assembly? Are you in a position to actually give us an indication as to what Bills the Welsh Government will want to bring forward as a consequence of Brexit on its own back, rather than on the back of UK legislation?
The impact on what we might want to bring forward is a subject of discussion at the moment, and discussion with the UK Government on the basis of confidential exchanges. I'm happy, Chair, when we have information, which is, in that sense, reliable, having undertaken that exchange, to provide information where I can do that.
I don't want to pursue this line of questioning, but I don't think it's a satisfactory situation to find ourselves in, and I'm not convinced by the argument that this isn't a policy failure, frankly. I'm not convinced by the argument that the Counsel General has made on that. I think it would be useful for the committee to return to this matter at an appropriate time, because it's clear that the Welsh Government does not understand what its legislative programme is going to be for the next 18 months or so, and that, to me, is something that does lead to some concern, I think.
Chair, if I may, I think there are two questions of the prorogation of Parliament that have stood in the way of what were very reasonable assumptions the Welsh Government have made. We are operating in real time, which is what the effect of these things are, and I think the context of my replies need to be seen in that broader setting.
And in that broader setting also, James Duddridge, when he came before the committee, confirmed to us that, in fact, they saw the transition period ending on 31 December 2020, not beyond that, which gives us basically 14 months to complete the next step.
Do you think that's sufficient time now to get all this legislation that is required through by the time, if a deal is agreed, we will actually be leaving the EU institutions and regulations?
Well, I can't give you that assurance, Chair. There is a lack of clarity from the UK Government in relation to that. I think that the other point to make is that, under this Government pursuing this strategy, needless to say, if we end up with 'no deal' we'll have no transition period. So, the challenge is magnified in that context.
Alun, do you want any more? Mandy, do you want to come in on a question?
I'd like to come in on—. I was actually quite happy when the First Minister said there'd be a two-year transition period, allowing some of the Brexit legislation to come back. However, James Duddridge, like it’s just been said, for exiting the EU, told us that the UK Government would not be extending the transition period further than the end of 2020. You’ve just said in the event of a 'no deal', there wouldn’t be any transition period. The way I read this is that the transition period still carries on until the end of December 2020.
And what discussions have you had with the Welsh Government and the UK Government on the withdrawal agreement Bill?
Well, we've had some discussions with the Minister who was here last week in relation to that. That requires there to be an agreement, and for that to be the subject of a meaningful vote and so on. I’m not confident in the time frames that they were describing in which they would be able to bring a deal forward to be agreed through Parliament and for legislation to be passed in time. I have absolutely no confidence that that is remotely realistic.
Have you got any more talks scheduled with James Duddridge or anybody else in the Department for Exiting the European Union?
The JMC(EN) on Thursday is the next opportunity to engage with UK Government Ministers. I did make the point, whatever timescales the UK Government was assuming for its own legislation, if we were ever to get to that point, that it’s obviously essential—with reference to the conversation we’ve just had—to ensure that adequate time is provided for the Assembly to consider whether or not to give its consent to that. And, again, I didn’t leave with a clear proposal from the UK Government in relation to that.
Minister, before we leave legislation, you worked closely with the Scottish Government on many aspects that are very common between the two nations and the UK Government. At the beginning of last month, the Scottish Government talked about continuity legislation once again. What is the Welsh Government’s thinking behind pursuing a similar avenue on continuity legislation, particularly in line with the proposals you’ve now seen and the freer, looser relationship with the EU as a consequence?
Yes, well, on the substantive point of keeping pace with EU legislation, obviously that is our aim and objective as a Government, and I know there’s a strong measure of cross-party support in the Assembly for that approach. We are in discussions both with the UK Government and the Scottish Government in relation to that aspect. You mentioned the indication that the Scottish Government has given, I believe, in its legislative programme statement in relation to its intention to bring forward what I think they’re calling a continuation Bill—effectively, a continuity Bill—which is a keeping-pace mechanism, I understand. We’re considering what we would need to do in those circumstances. So, there’s a distinction between the principle and practice of keeping pace and the mechanism for how that occurs. Candidly, I’m very mindful—I’m not seeking to imply this in the Scottish context; I’m limiting my observations to a Welsh context—and I’m obviously very keenly aware of the reservations which the Assembly and committees have expressed about broad-ranging, Henry VIII powers for the Government, and so we would need carefully to consider how that relates to any keeping-pace legislation or consideration of that. So, those are the kinds of things under consideration at the moment.
I don’t want to test this too far, because these are hopefully situations that we don’t get into, or don’t want to get into necessarily, but these are turbulent times. Continuity legislation—there will be areas of this that—. There are practical issues around continuity legislation where we could end up in a different constitutional stand-off, I can well anticipate. And where does that end up? It ends up in the Supreme Court. So, I guess, in some ways, the Minister has got to be guarded at the moment, but, based on the position of the Welsh Government in terms of its position now on 'no deal'—absolutely ruled out—and what it would see as laid out in its paper 'A brighter future for Wales', that leads us to some interesting points here if you were exploring continuity legislation, as to where you would stand against the UK Government.
Perhaps I wasn't very clear, but the continuity legislation, I believe, is what the Scots are referring to as their mechanism for keeping pace with EU law in devolved areas.
So, forgive me—I wasn't referring to the kind of continuity legislation we had previously. I think it's more limited to the question, as I understand it—I haven't seen any of their proposals—of keeping pace with EU law in devolved areas. Of course, the common frameworks exist and are premised on an ability for different parts of the UK to diverge on a regulatory basis from other parts. And I didn't address the point the Chair made in relation to the looser economic relationship. Obviously, if you have England and devolved areas, as it were, taking a much more deregulatory approach, then it's conceivable the level of divergence we will see is greater than we anticipated. But the frameworks are there, or they will be there, to govern those processes of divergence in a way that is intended to smooth out and make that manageable across the UK.
On that particular point, in talking about frameworks, we're getting close to the end of our session, Minister, and we have quite a lot of questions still to go through—
Okay, just to give a bit of flexibility. Before I move on to David's questions on inter-governmental relationships, I want to ask you about the common frameworks, as you mentioned frameworks. The situation is that, obviously, if we have this proposal and there are different regulatory alignments between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland compared to Wales and southern Ireland, how will that impact upon the common frameworks, because all of a sudden—? Now, Northern Ireland is party to that—the Executive's still not sitting, but officials are still sitting in on those discussions.
Well, to the extent that the alignment is alignment with European Union law, and we would, in Wales, wish to keep pace with EU law, my own view is that isn't the greatest source of challenge to the principles of the frameworks. The greater challenge comes from, if we see this, a drive towards deregulation in the context of the English economy. I think that is where the divergence is more likely to come from, probably.
So, it's more likely to come from the point at which those frameworks are then frozen, and each nation is going to decide upon which way it wants to move forward with those frameworks.
Well, I just think in terms of the—. The frameworks exist to govern divergence. That's essentially the point of them, isn't it? It recognises that governments in different parts of the UK will wish to take a different direction, perhaps, in some of these areas. The only point I'm making is that if you have a UK Government, which now appears to be the case, which has been clear, I think, that it doesn't see itself tied to the level of close engagement and close relationship that Mrs May's Government had, then you can imagine the divergence increasing, but I think you're making a point about the freezing regulations, Chair. I don't, at this point, myself, see the section 12 regulations as being the principal issue because that's a mechanism for preventing—. I think, if you have a large economy that's seeking to deregulate, the economic effect of that is going to be potentially quite significant.
Can you just give us a quick update on where frameworks are and when we might see them published and, presumably, laid before the Assembly?
Well, we obviously do want to do that—to lay them before the Assembly. So, I'll give you a commitment in relation to that. Some of them have been out for piloting with some stakeholders—two or three of them, I think, at this point. Progress hasn't been as rapid as we wanted, to be absolutely candid. I think that's a mix of two things. One is the focus on 'no deal' planning in terms of policy work. Secondly, these issues, I think, are more complex than probably any of the governments thought they would be. What's emerging, I think, is a recognition, certainly on our part, that because some frameworks may take longer to put in place than we had hoped, we will need interim measures to manage divergence, which isn't going to be a full-blown, if I can put it like that, framework, but a sort of way of working that's understood and acknowledged. So, I think there needs to be focus on how that can be addressed in the interim period. The current scheduling for the frameworks to be in place if it were to come to pass would be the end of 2020, the end of the original transition period, with some obviously being much sooner than that. But, the principal source of uncertainty in that projection remains a question of a 'no deal' exit.
And, under 'no deal', will the interim arrangements expand or will the frameworks come along more quickly? How would we try to manage that?
In the context of a 'no deal', then actually those powers immediately fall to the respective legislatures, and actually then it's a question of seeking those interim arrangements to make things operational. They are not full frameworks in how they're described. The interdependence between how they operate from the four nations of the UK to international agreements or the future economic partnership with Europe, which will be in negotiations in that period, and how the inter-governmental relations work and the [correction: work with the] dispute resolutions systems and all that would need to come on stream to actually—. So, actually, there'll be a lot of activity to try and hold things together on an interim basis whilst those building blocks, the frameworks, will come into place.
That's helpful, but it's obviously quite complicated, and in a 'no deal' situation, are you confident that you'll be able to ensure that the Assembly has reasonable scrutiny and oversight of what the Government's doing?
I certainly absolutely want that to be the case, and we've been pressing for that, as a Welsh Government. We've been absolutely clear from the start, not least because of the—. I'm very mindful of coming before the committee and the questions that your committee is asking, which obviously are questions we're all concerned with, really. And I have been able, as a result of that, to reflect back in those discussions with UK Ministers the fact that Assembly committees—and our Scottish counterparts are able to say the same—are anxious to make sure that that is the case, and we completely support that and are pressing for that. I think this is an issue where each Government would have wished to have made more progress than we've been able to. Just having to say that, as I've said before, the working relationships in the world of the frameworks have been good, it's just that other pressures from a 'no deal' Brexit planning perspective, principally, have come to bear.
In those relationships, which helpfully you say have been productive, the way common frameworks are delivered, either through legislative or non-legislative processes, or even other less formal means, will this be clearly outlined in any submissions you're making to the Assembly? Because it's going to be difficult, sometimes, to track these because frameworks may combine more than one approach, as I understand it, because they're so intricate, or at least that's my understanding.
I'll ask Simon to give some detail on that, but the answer to your question is, essentially, 'yes'. There'll be a two-stage process. One is a summary of the framework when it's in development and then a fuller version of that for scrutiny after stakeholder engagement, effectively.
We designed with the other Governments an outline framework agreement, which, if you like, is a template that sets out the key areas that will be set out and need to be completed to shape a full framework. And that work outlined explicitly the legislative basis by which the work will be taken forward, whether that's parallel legislation in each separate Parliament, or whether it is the overarching joint legislation that would turn it into that particular legislative framework. So, that will be set out in the detail of the framework, as has been tested with stakeholders in the hazardous substance area, for example.
Thank you. I think that's helpful. Assuming, more optimistically, we get a deal, you indicated in earlier answers that you thought it would be quite a challenge to get the legislation in place by the end of the transition period, given that the current UK Government, anyway, have said that it won't last longer than 2020. Is that the same for frameworks, or do you think it's more realistic to achieve them by the end of 2020?
They're currently planned to be done within that time frame. I think it remains to be seen whether that is achievable in all cases, certainly. We would envisage some coming forward before that, as well, to be clear. That's why, really, I'm highlighting to you this need for interim working relationships and working arrangements where frameworks are taking longer to get in place than they might, and, of course, just to reflect the point you've made really, to allow for proper stakeholder engagement and proper scrutiny.
Finally from me, the review of inter-governmental relations, is it still extant or has it been overwhelmed by the current crisis, or indeed does the current administration in Downing Street not have as high a level of commitment to it? What's your analysis of the situation at the moment?
As you know, firstly in this context we've been pressing very hard for progress to be made in relation to the inter-governmental review generally. The First Minister has expressed to this committee and others his dissatisfaction with the level of engagement we've had in the past from the UK Government in relation to this. We have been working to a timetable that has two critical stages, two important milestones, really. One was by the end of September to have a set of interim proposals for heads of Government to be able to consider. That hasn't been possible, but the next time point, if you like, is the end of this year for those to be moved forward to agreement. So we're still working to that. And whilst there hasn't been a meeting between the heads of Government, there has been significant engagement, under the new Government as well, between officials in relation to some aspects of that.
If we move on to EU citizens' rights, Minister, just before we complete this, we haven't talked about the Brexit 'no deal' action plan yet, although I do appreciate there were quite a few statements last Tuesday that would have covered a lot of that work.
But on EU citizens' rights, as Delyth Jewell highlighted, we attended a stakeholder session last Monday as part of our committee work where there were non-UK EU nationals and organisations that worked with those individuals and groups of individuals. It became quite clear that, whilst your Government is taking action positively to support people to go through the pre-settled and settled status process, for many that was demeaning, but also very difficult, because there were many who had families, children born in this country, who then had to return to their embassies to get documentation, and sometimes were required to go back to their home countries for the documentation. Some of those costs were excessive for some families. What is the Welsh Government doing to help families in situations like this, so that they don't face the extra burden of those costs being placed upon them, and they are not just supported in producing the documentation, but supported actually throughout the whole process?
There are several things that we are doing, Chair. I mentioned briefly earlier the support through Citizens Advice to support people to apply for settled status, and I fully recognise the point you've just made. I've had many, many of those discussions myself, about the level of uncertainty that people have about engaging with the process. I think in Wales, generally speaking at the moment, the percentage of EU citizens resident here who've applied is around the 30 per cent mark. We would want it to be 100 per cent, wouldn't we? But I think it's marginally ahead of where the rest of the UK is, as I understand it.
The figures we have are the UK average being 40, Scotland 33, Northern Ireland 30, Wales 29 and England 41, so we're the lowest.
Okay. I don't wish to mislead you. I hadn't thought that was the case. I take your point.
But there have been a number of interventions. One is in relation to the support from Citizens Advice, one is through Newfields Law, which is the immigration law service, and we've also been pressing for additional document-scanning facilities in Wales and also supporting the provision of assisted digital centres across Wales, where people can be given physical support to make the application themselves. So we've been taking very specific steps. We've recently launched an online portal that brings together the various routes for support in one place so that people can easily access that.
We're particularly concerned to make sure that people in vulnerable groups are able to access the support, with vulnerability defined quite broadly really, so people who may feel because of minor convictions, perhaps, that if they were to apply that might involve police engagement and cause them concerns around that; and people who feel they may not qualify, let alone anything else. They may just not feel that they were able to comply with the requirements. So we're defining that reasonably broadly to seek to engage.
We've had a number of initiatives where we seek to reach communities of EU citizens living in Wales. For example, in the next, I think, couple of weeks, we have a meeting with the honorary consuls across Wales, who are able to use their networks within their relevant communities to cascade some of this information out further, and we're also planning a further push on social media in the coming weeks in relation to some of the support that we're providing.
And what discussions are you having with the UK Government to ensure that the situation where families who have children born in this country, but who have to go back to their own embassies for papers and documentation, are supported to do so, because that could be two, three, four children possibly? We had one citizen last week who actually had one child born as a British citizen and another one born in the UK who is not a British citizen, so they're going to end up with the family being split totally under this sort of situation. So, what discussions are you having with the UK Government to ensure that these matters are resolved, so that EU citizens feel that they are actually citizens here and not guests?
On that specific point, I'll be happy to send a note to you, Chair, if I may, on that specific point. But the point you make about the guest part, I think, is very powerful. We've been very clear, and we seek to be clear at all points, that people who've chosen to make their home in Wales continue to be welcome to make the contribution they'd be making here, and I absolutely recognise what you're saying in terms of people having a sense of vulnerability and uncertainty around settled status and more broadly.
That's one of the main points we heard at the meeting we were at—that the Welsh Government have really not been clear to these EU citizens. They're absolutely aghast, and all of them said that the Welsh Government have done nothing to put their minds at rest or anything. Can you do something about that in a broader sense because, obviously, you think the Welsh Government's done something? These people are absolutely petrified.
And they bring up the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government have said from the beginning, 'Yes, you are welcome, et cetera, et cetera', but they say Welsh Government has done nothing.
Well, I'm just—. I've outlined the steps that we have taken, and the First Minister and I and other Ministers have made statements comparable to what the Scottish Government have made. But, at the end of the day, what really is important here is to make sure that the practical steps that have been put in place, that people are aware of those and are able to engage with those. And we are, obviously, mindful of making sure we extend that into various networks as far as we possibly can.
But on the specific point that you raised about the issue of returning to embassies, Chair, I'm happy to send you a note on that.
Thank you, and we've come to the end of our session, and the extended session as well, Minister. I'll close on that last point in the sense that it is important that, since the referendum, individuals feel related and they feel—. In a sense, they've had some nasty words said to them and they need to be reassured that they are citizens of this country and have rights here as well, so that every bit of action and the way that we word those actions are going to be crucial to them to understand how—. They often said the words need to make them feel and the actions need to make them feel welcome and part of our system. So, whatever you do in the future, please take that on board from their voices.
You will receive a transcript of the session, as you know, and any factual inaccuracies, please let us know so we can get them corrected as soon as possible. So, thank you for your time this afternoon and for your evidence. We will probably be writing to you on Brexit preparedness because we haven't done anything yet on that, although I did say that there were several statements last week in the Chamber on that, and we'll be writing for updates on the UK Government's proposals and impact on Wales, and the update on Brexit legislation, which you've talked about already. So, we will be asking you for a few things on that, Minister, in our letter that will follow this session. Thank you for your time.
If we move on as a committee to the next item on the agenda, which is papers to note. There is one, which is the correspondence from the Auditor General for Wales to the Chair regarding the follow-up to the auditor general's report, 'Preparations in Wales for a "no deal" Brexit', dated 27 September 2019. We will be discussing this, probably in agenda item 7 later on this afternoon. Are Members content at this point to note that for discussion later? Thank you; we'll do that.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
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.
I move on to the next item of business, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting. Are Members content to move into private session for the remainder of today?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:45.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:45.