|Jack Sargeant AM|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Leanne Wood AM|
|Neil McEvoy AM|
|Ross Davies||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant||1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Deisebau newydd||2. New petitions|
|3. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol||3. Updates to previous petitions|
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.
Good morning and welcome. Bore da. Croeso. I'd like to welcome everyone today to the meeting, and a particular warm welcome to our colleague Jack Sargeant AM. Welcome to your first meeting. But I would also like to put on record our thanks as a committee to Mike Hedges AM, who's been a long-standing member of this committee and I know he was a very dedicated and interested member, so thanks to him.
There's no need to turn off mobile phones or other electronic devices, but please ensure that they are in silent mode. Apologies: we've had one apology from Michelle Brown AM. And so I'll move straight to new petitions.
So, item 2.1: 'Save Our Parks In Wales'. You'll find this on page 42 in you pack. This was submitted by Crispian Huggill, having collected 244 signatures. Basically, it states:
'Parks and play areas are falling into disrepair or are under threat of being built on or sold to developers. This is despite the vital health and social benefits that our much-loved green spaces provide. This petition is to galvanise support to save our parks, playgrounds and open spaces from being lost forever, to serve the needs of today's and those of future generations and to uphold the obligations councils in Wales have under the Well-being Of Future Generations Act 2015 and the Environment Act 2016.'
So, they've actually made some specific requests, Members. So, they want
'A statutory requirement for councils to ring-fence funding for parks at £30 per household per year.'
They feel there should be
'a legal duty for all green space to be managed to a good standard.'
'New rules banning the development on, selling off or the inappropriate use of, parkland.'
There's also a suggestion of
'A new Welsh Government fund to provide emergency help for parks most at risk and ensure the long-term future of Wales's green open spaces.'
And they believe there should be
'A legal requirement for all councils to operate an Open Spaces Strategy in accordance with the Fields In Trust Standards, the Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015, and the Environment Act 2016 and to work with Fields In Trust to protect and enhance all public green open spaces in Wales.'
How would you like to take this forward?
We need to wait for the views of the petitioner and maybe write to the Welsh Local Government Association as well.
The next one is 'Fairer business rates for Welsh businesses'. This was submitted by Your Pontypridd Business Improvement District, having collected 80 signatures. They're calling on the Welsh Government to recognise
'the changing nature of retail in Wales over the past decade and look at exploring ways of introducing a fairer business rates as part of more progressive Welsh tax system for large and small businesses in our town centres'.
A response was received from the Minister for Finance on 19 July. A research briefing on the petition and related issues has been provided. The petitioners were informed that the petition would be discussed but have not provided further comments. So, how would you like to take this forward? We could wait for the petitioner's comments to the representation from the Minister and see—.
So, 2.3: 'Prevent the closure of Ward 35 at Prince Charles Hospital', and you'll find this on page 60. This was submitted by Beverly Gillespie, having collected 281 signatures. And, basically, they want to stop the closure of Merthyr Tydfil's only dementia ward:
'Ward 35 at Prince Charles Hospital provides vital respite to the families and loved ones of local residents suffering with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.'
An initial response, in your pack, was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 2 August. 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 further comment. The Minister's letter does state that he appreciates
'the concerns about the possible transfer of patients to Ysbyty Cwm Cynon and the practical issues this might raise for some families.'
Due to additional travel demands, the health board has put in place a transport service and is exploring the potential of extending this. The Minister makes the point the number of patients requiring this care has now reduced, according to the health board, due to improvements in community services and advances in treatments.
So, there are some actions you could consider. You could write to Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to seek its views on the issues raised by the petition, and how it is supporting people affected by this, or you could wait for the views of the petitioner once again.
I think we should write to the health board, and obviously go back just to update where we are with the petition, and, again, await their further comments, but at least tell them we are looking into it.
I'd do both. If the demand is reduced at the moment, I don't see that continuing going forward as the age of the population increases. So, yes.
Okay. So, we've got some firm proposals there. Thank you.
P-05-897, 2.4: 'Stop Developers netting hedgerows and trees'. The petition was submitted by Chris Evans, having collected 1,508 signatures. They want to
'Make "netting" hedgerows and trees to prevent birds from nesting a criminal offence. Developers, and other interested parties are circumventing laws protecting
birds by "netting" hedgerows and trees to prevent birds from nesting. This facilitates the uprooting of hedgerows and trees which aid biodiversity and provide the only remaining nesting sites for birds, whose numbers are in sharp decline. "Netting" hedgerows and trees threatens declining species of birds, presents a danger by entrapment to wildlife, and produces large amounts of plastic waste. The practice also falls foul of the Future Generations legislation already passed by the Senedd.'
So, an initial response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 13 August. A research briefing on the petition has been provided and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed today. The Minister has recently written to local planning authorities, development industry representative bodies and house builders to state that she does not support the use of netting as routine practice. She's provided a copy of this letter, which states that it should be only considered as a last-resort measure. The Government does not have hard evidence on the extent of the practice. Officials and Natural Resources Wales have initiated data gathering, but initial indications suggest that the practice is not widespread. She states that the need for a new legislative framework to control this practice is not recommended but she's willing to keep it under review.
I'd dispute the assertion that it's not widespread. It's probably because where developments are taking place maybe there aren't that many hedgerows. But, certainly, in the west of Cardiff this was done, and then social media being social media, a load of other stories came up as well. So, a grave concern. It's a huge concern, really, but I do think we need to wait for the petitioner again to get back and tell us what their views are.
So, we now move to updates to previous petitions, and 3.1: 'Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently'. This has been a very, very successful petition, really. It was submitted by Nathan Lee Davies. It was first considered in October 2017, having collected 631 signatures. The text of the petition is:
'I am a recipient of the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) and a disability activist who intends on asking Welsh Government to reconsider their decision to close WILG as of April 2019.'
The background to this is we actually published an interim report on the petition in February 2019 and we've held an evidence session with the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on 5 March. The committee at that time agreed to request an update on the transition process and the outcomes of reviews carried out by independent social workers in six months’ time. The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services issued a written statement on 18 July and wrote to the committee with an update on 24 July. And the petitioner has provided additional comments.
Now, in February of this year, the Deputy Minister introduced changes to the transitional arrangements for people previously in receipt of the Welsh independent living grant. So, now, people dissatisfied with the outcome of care assessments carried out by their local authority are being offered the opportunity to receive an independent assessment as a second opinion. The Government has appointed ICS Assessment Services to carry these out. People were asked to request a reassessment by 14 June. By that date, 55 requests had been made across 14 local authorities, from a total number of WILG recipients of around 1,400. The petitioner had not yet taken part in a reassessment at the time that he submitted his comments. However, he expresses broad satisfaction with the new arrangements and his recent interactions with the Government and has thanked the committee. So, the committee could note the progress made and await a further update from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services once the independent assessments of people’s care needs have been completed.
Just to say well done again to Nathan. I think it shows that activism has changed things.
Yes. Really, I'm quite heartened by the amount of profile, and a change in direction, really, of the Government on this. And I do feel the petition was largely instrumental in that. So, assurances are there that these assessments are being undertaken. So, do you want to put it back for six months?
Well, I think the Minister, in her statement, has indicated that she expects these to be done—now that they've appointed a company to make the assessments for the 55 people who have requested them, she would expect them to be done quite swiftly. So, it shouldn't be a case of waiting six months, but the Minister has offered us a further update in due course.
Fabulous. Okay, thanks. Welcome to Leanne Wood. Good morning.
So, the next petition: 3.2, 'We call for the Welsh Government to encourage trusts to implement the NICE guidelines for Borderline Personality Disorder or justify why they do not do so'. This was submitted by Keir Harding and was first considered in May 2018, having collected 137 signatures.
We last considered the on 21 May, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for further information on: how the additional funding for psychological therapies will be spent; the content of the national psychological therapies management committee’s implementation plan; the number of therapists currently available, and the per person cost of providing treatment, including for out-of-area placements, and also for any analysis relating to the effectiveness of treatment for borderline personality disorder. We received a response from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 3 July. A further letter from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was received on 10 May, but there was an error and it wasn't previously published. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward?
For me, I think we need to await the Government comments on this. I don't think we should be closing it completely. This style of petition—I think we definitely need to wait for the response.
Just to add a bit of context to that, that's because there are similarities, I think, between this petition and the petition that the committee published last week—a report on making mental health services more accessible generally, where the committee made recommendations around access to psychological therapies. So, we could await what action the Government is going to take in relation to that and consider it in the context of this petition at a future date.
Okay. The next one: 'Specialist prosthetics for child amputees'. This petition was submitted by Rebecca Roberts and was first considered by the Committee in June 2018, having collected 116 signatures. The text of the petition is:
'We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to ensure that funding is in place to enable each child amputee in Wales to have
access to a specialist sports prosthetic. We welcome the news that Westminster have made a further £1.5 million available to develop specialist prosthetics for young amputees in England. We ask that the same level of support be made available to children and young people living in Wales, so that any child or young person who would benefit from having a specialist sports prosthetic is able to have one made by the NHS.'
So, we last considered this on 21 May, agreeing to write to back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for an update about his intentions in relation to the future availability of sports prosthetics, his anticipated timescales for considering a full business case on this issue and also to request a copy of the business case once it has been produced, and also whether the Welsh Government is aware of, or has supported, research into the development or suitability of 3D printing for this purpose. A response from the Minister for Health and Social Services was received on 5 July. Further comments have been received from the petitioner.
So, the points, really, to discuss are the fact that a detailed, costed business plan to commission a service across Wales to provide specialist sports prostheses—running blades—for children was due to be provided by the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee to the Government by mid-July. This will be analysed and presented to the Minister for final sign-off in due course. The Minister will then consider whether it is able to share a copy of the business plan at that point. The petitioner welcomes the progress and speed of the latest developments and has reiterated the benefits that she believes access to such prosthetics will bring, including for her daughter.
So, you could await further announcements in relation to the Minister's decision, or you could request an update at the end of 2019 if no announcement is made, or we could write now. It's entirely up—
Can I suggest that we write and ask for an update now, because we're already two months over the date from when this report was meant to be received by the Minister? I can't see why it would take a long time to decide whether that report can be shared with us or not. The petitioner has already said that they are happy with the progress and speed; to me, that's not progressive or speedy to be two months delayed. So, I think we should ask for an update now, and also ask for a copy of that report.
Okay. So, 3.4: 'Pembrokeshire says NO!! To the closure of Withybush A&E!' You'll find this on pack-page 93. This was submitted by Myles Bamford-Lewis in July 2018, having collected 40,045 signatures. It was a very strong petition. We last considered this on 12 February, agreeing to offer people who've previously contacted the committee on this matter an opportunity to provide their views, and to write to Hywel Dda Community Health Council to seek their reflections on plans outlined by the health board. A response has been received from Hywel Dda Community Health Council and two submissions have been provided by people living in the area.
So, the CHC states it was unable to support or oppose the health board's proposal for service changes following its public consultation as it felt that a number of issues needed to be clarified. These included the ability of the Welsh ambulance service to meet demand under a new local system and other developments such as a major trauma network. They state that the planned build of a new hospital with an emergency department and trauma unit, and related work on transport links, will be crucial. With much currently unclear, they say,
'the public must be given the opportunity to have their say as a clearer picture of future NHS urgent care emerges. Until this happens we would oppose any changes to the current configuration of A&E units in Hywel Dda'.
The views received from local residents focus largely on the distance that some people in Pembrokeshire will have to travel to get to an accident and emergency department if this is lost from Withybush hospital. It is argued that it could take some an hour or more to reach hospital. One response suggests that recruitment issues should be addressed by funding additional medical training places in Wales, while another argues that the needs of Pembrokeshire have been ignored by Hywel Dda health board for a number of years. So, how would you like to move forward with this petition?
Chair, this is an issue that doesn't just affect Pembrokeshire, but obviously the issues in Pembrokeshire, given the rural nature of that county, do exacerbate the travel times. I've got huge sympathy for this, because the A&E department in the hospital that covers where I live is being run down in a similar way.
I think the points that they make about everything being in place before any changes are made are really, really important, and if there's anything we can do to push that message with the Minister, then I think we should. I think it would be useful if we could write to Hywel Dda and get an update on the work since we had previous correspondence with them back in January of this year, and I think we need to keep a close eye. Is it possible to have regular updates?
Regular updates from the health board or the Government, or—?
Well, you know, on something like this where, really, we've not—. I mean, it was a large petition.
So that we know what decisions are being made. I mean, I don't watch Pembrokeshire, but if we keep an eye, as a committee, as decisions are made, if we could just be informed of those decisions—.
Yes, we can certainly make that request, either of the health board or the Government. Probably the health board, most relevantly, in the sense that the Government might be called in to sign off investment for a potential new hospital, which is being talked about in the area, but most of those decisions will be taken at local level. We can ask the health board for a regular update—quarterly?
Okay. Moving on to page 107 in your pack, 3.5, 'Give young people a voice when commissioning local services in Wales'. This petition was submitted by the Changing Minds campaign group and was first considered by the committee in October 2018, having collected a total of 4,252 signatures. 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 were requesting 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 9 July, agreeing to seek the views of the petitioner on the response received from the Minister, including the commitment to identify a young person to act as a representative on the working group, before considering whether to take further action on the petition. A response from the petitioners was received on 7 August.
So, in June, the Minister for Health and Social Services stated that, following previous comments made by the petitioners and the committee, officials were working to identify a young person to be part of the strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales working group. The Minister had previously offered to keep the committee informed of the outcomes of work under way to explore options for strengthening equality and human rights in Wales. He also committed to writing to public bodies to remind them of the expectation that children can participate in decisions affecting them. He will update the committee on this work at the beginning of the autumn term. So, the petitioners have welcomed the Minister’s commitment. They argue for a statutory right for young people to be included in the commissioning of children and young people’s services. So, we could either await a further update from the Minister or we could even write.
—to ask for his update at the beginning of this term. This is a really important petition, so I don't think we have to wait. We can just remind him that—
Yes, I just wonder whether or not that this point that the young people want a statutory right to be included in the commissioning of children and young people's services—. That isn't quite met, is it, by the inclusion of a young person on the strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales working group. I'm sorry for the length of the names of these bodies. It doesn't quite do the same thing. I can see the advantage of having a young person on that working group, but, in terms of the commissioning of services, that's the key question here, and I think we should press the Minister. I don't know whether we can do this in the form of writing while we're waiting for further information from the Minister, to see what can be done to ensure that those young people's voices are included in the commissioning process specifically.
Yes, certainly. I think, previously, the Minister has indicated that, whilst the Government is supportive of the need for that and, indeed, due to that has written to public bodies in the way outlined by the Chair, they have said that they don't consider there to be a need for a statutory right. But, that's some of the work that this working group, I think, is undertaking as to how equality and human rights is included within all public services. So, I guess the door is open on that—slightly, anyway.
So, yes, we can certainly write to ask for that update but also push the point about the statutory right.
Item 3.6, 'All men in Wales should have access through the NHS to the best possible diagnostic tests for prostate cancer'. This was submitted by Stuart Davies in December 2018, having collected 6,345 signatures. We held a debate on this petition on 6 March this year. On 21 May, the committee agreed to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to seek an update on the actions of the Welsh Government and the Wales Urology Board to ensure that the final National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline on prostate cancer is implemented across Wales and also to ask for consideration to be given to the interim solution proposed by the petitioner to enable patients to access private scanning facilities whilst capacity and equipment is built up within the NHS. A response was received from the Minister on 1 July and the petitioner has provided further comments. So, how would you like to take this forward now? The Minister does expect that all health boards will come into line with guidance by the end of the financial year, potentially earlier, and he will be monitoring progress closely.
I think 2,500 men in Wales are diagnosed with this condition every year. Almost two men per day are dying from prostate cancer in Wales, and I think it needs to be taken more seriously. So, I'd like to write to the Minister.
The valid point here is that Prostate Cancer UK is encouraged by many aspects of the letter. However they are concerned that while the new guidelines are implemented, there will be inequitable access to scans in different parts of Wales. The Minister is saying he'd like to think these scans are paid for by the health board, but, in reality, that's not the case. The petitioner is disappointed with the pace of progress. He suggests that his local health board is able to arrange scans with a private provider at approximately £350 per patient. However, some patients are having to pay £900 to access it. And I have got people within my own constituency and the only way they could have a scan was to pay nearly £1,000.
Yes. I came across this through casework. There was a man who educated me, in fact, on this, and he had to go private. He felt he had no choice, and he told me, if anyone's watching, about the prostate-specific antigen blood test, which costs about 50p, I think, to the NHS. Every male over a certain age—probably over 40, actually—should get this done every year. It's not 100 per cent proof, but it can give a really good indication if you're going to be susceptible to prostate cancer. People don't know this, and I think, because it's a male issue, there's a huge lack of urgency.
I think the scans are fundamental on this one. When you've got to that stage where you need a scan, I think it's pretty bad that people have to pay. What if you haven't got £1,000?
For me, it's a gender equality issue as well, and I think we need gender equality across the board. This is not a good enough response.
I'd like to write to the health Minister and push him a lot more on this.
Yes, I think we could write to the health Minister outlining the points of Prostate Cancer UK. As you say, right when you need a scan—.
The justification, as well, for the position—how they can adopt this position. Would you agree with that, Jack?
I think we need to welcome this progress to date, albeit the position, I'm not too pleased with it, but we are making progress. As for the update, does he still expect the health boards to be up to a high quality standard, as they all should be? But also, press a little bit further on the support that men need.
If I may, Chair, there are two distinct aspects to this, I think. There's the speed in which the new NICE guideline published earlier this year will be implemented fully across Wales. There are at least two health boards that had implemented it prior to the NICE guideline and were operating these scans, and another health board in Wales that was operating them to a kind of median standard that wasn't quite what the NICE guideline expects now. So, all the other health boards have got to develop the capacity and maybe the equipment around this as well. So, there's the speed of that, and then there's this issue being raised by the petitioner whereby, in the meantime, if that's going to take another nine months, is it a position that the committee agrees with that the Government should be helping them to go and have those scans privately as a sort of interim solution?
Is there another way forward in terms of some health boards who are operating the new system already, where the health boards that are not can refer to those? What I'm concerned about with this is you've got the private sector on one side, and if everybody who needed a diagnosis quickly wasn't able to get one—and let's face it, there's that situation with lots of different conditions—then the response of just paying the private sector to do it potentially undermines the ability to provide that for everyone in the public sector. So, I'm not convinced of the argument that we should pay privately in the interim if that service is already being provided within the public sector, because I think it opens a potentially concerning precedent in terms of how much cost could be borne by the public sector if everyone who needed a quick diagnosis was sent down the private route. Do you understand my argument?
A compromise: maybe write to the Minister to outline what Leanne has said there. So, if there is extra capacity in the Welsh NHS, then refer them to the Welsh NHS but, if not, then get them those scans as soon as possible, and pay for it as well. We've got an NHS in Wales that is not catering for basic need—people are dying here, almost two men every single day. So, the scans should be free at the point of delivery. If the Welsh NHS is not capable of doing that, then throw it out to the private sector and get it done until the Welsh NHS is able to do it.
I was wondering if it's worth trying to get a view from some of the third sector cancer organisations. I know in the past Plaid Cymru has put forward cancer diagnosis centres, so if you are referred by your doctor with suspected cancer, whatever cancer that is, you can go to a specific place and the tests can be done very, very quickly. So, I would prefer to develop a system similar to that, so that we can get as many people with suspected cancer through the system as possible. The danger is putting all resources into one particular type of cancer, and then you're potentially not able to test for others. So, I think the question needs to be looked at as a whole, in terms of the whole of cancer diagnosis, and the people with the expertise on this are the third sector, like Macmillan and Tenovus, those kinds of organisations.
With respect, there are 2,500 diagnosed. We're not talking a huge amount of cost here. I'd like to formally move that we write, including what Leanne has said about using extra capacity in the Welsh NHS if possible. If not, then we suggest that men should be allowed to have those scans and be reimbursed, so that healthcare in Wales is free at the point of delivery. And, then, I think—
Write to the third sector as well, as a separate letter, but we need to write to the Minister.
I think we need to understand the Minister's thoughts on an interim, whether that is private, public, whatever it is. I think as a committee, you need to understand that before pushing one way or another. But, clearly, something needs to be done. I agree with Leanne as well—it's not just prostate cancer; it's a whole range of things. And, again, we welcome the NICE guidance and so on, but I think we just need to understand before we go one way or the other what the Minister's and the Government's thoughts are, and if they have any thoughts. And that might be a different conversation.
Just in terms of pecking order, with the Petitions Committee, we're here to, I suppose, make a noise really. We're not decision makers and I think it's pretty poor if we don't write to the Minister and say—
Stating that we want the NHS to be free at the point of delivery in Wales, for everyone.
What I don't want to be doing is advocating the private sector when we need to build up capacity in the public sector.
Advocating the use of the private sector because if they're £900 when they could be done for £350. Yes.
Look, if we're going to write as a committee, we all need to be in agreement, don't we? We're not.
If the NHS can't cope—. So, what we're saying is 'The Welsh NHS can't cope. Tough, you guys; you're going to have to pay anyway. If you're unable to pay, then you may very well end up with a cancer that kills you.'
So, as I understand it, we're going to write to the Minister, and just see, as Jack put it very well, where we are with his thoughts and things going forward, and how he's managed to persuade maybe all the boards to learn from good practice from the ones—. If some are doing it and some aren't, there's something not quite right there. I agree with Leanne's point about if it can be done for £350, then why would be persuading public money to be used, where, in the private sector, it's costing £900.
You can do a deal, can't you, and say 'Right, you put these amount through; we're not paying £900, we'll pay you x amount.'
If we're worried about numbers here, and we want these scans to take place, then you've got to look at it logistically, haven't you? Are you clear at all with the points that we want to get into that letter?
I think so, Chair.
So, we can write to ask for—. Push them on the implementation, because—
Can we send—? I know you have minority reports. Can we send two letters? Because I think this should be from different points of view.
Well, we're sending two. We're doing one to the third sector.
With the different points of view from the committee, because I strongly feel that we should not be charging people for these scans, that they should not have to pay for the scans. If the NHS can't cope, then there should be a deal done with the private sector to enable people to be treated. I don't think that's Leanne's position; that's my position.
Well, I feel strongly that nobody should pay for any scans in relation to cancer, full stop. The whole thing needs to be considered in the round as a whole, and, at the moment, if we are saying that if people can't get a diagnosis on the NHS, then they should automatically be moved into the private sector, then we are backing up the private sector—
—which is to the detriment then of the public sector's capacity. So, I think there are dangers and traps within all of this that I don't particularly want to be drawn into.
Okay. So, what we'll do—. If we do the letter and then we can circulate it.
Yes. Certainly, we can circulate it to members before it goes to the Government. I think there's a clear—. There's a consensus in the committee, I think, for writing and asking what interim access the Government is willing to consider.
Yes. We want something more solid than what we've got so far from the Minister. So, I think that's fairly agreed across all the Members. And, then, the additional points that Leanne has raised about writing to the third sector. Do all members support that?
Okay. And then if we put the letter together, get you to sign it off, and then everything—. Okay.
We're now on 3.7, page 120, 'Provide Child Houses in Wales for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse'. This was first submitted by Mayameen Meftahi, and was first considered by the committee 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. In the UK, two child houses are available in the city of London; in Wales, there is none. We last considered this on 9 July, agreeing to seek the views of the petitioner on the national action plan on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, once it had been published. This was published on 15 July, with a written statement by the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services—that's in members’ papers. And the petitioner has provided additional comment.
So, the petitioner welcomes the Deputy Minister’s commitments. She does continue to express concerns over the decision to await the evaluation of the pilot of the child house model in London—the Lighthouse pilot—before considering further its applicability here. The petitioner also has concerns over the suitability of current sexual abuse referral centres, on the basis that these are not always appropriate for dealing with children. She also calls for centres to be provided across Wales that children can access without needing a referral.
Previously, the Deputy Minister told the committee that a new model for the SARCs is being established for south, mid and west Wales, following concerns raised by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales and the committee. It was intended that the new model would be agreed by partners in July and set up as a priority. There is a commitment across partners to retain two paediatric SARC hubs with a number of local centres. The committee noted this action at its previous meeting.
So, in light of the current action being taken in this area, including to establish a new model for SARCs and to await the evaluation of the Lighthouse pilot in London, the committee could keep a watching brief for a short time or request a further update from the Deputy Minister following the end of the current consultation on the national action plan on preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.
Do we have any idea when this Lighthouse evaluation is due to report? I mean, it seems to have been going on for a long time.
So, the Lighthouse pilot in London—the two buildings—were opened in December 2018 and the funding is for two years. So, presumably—
How long post the end of that two years it would take for the evaluation to be produced, we don't know.
And do we have any further information as to what's happened with the SARCs that were agreed by partners in July, and set up as a priority?
Okay. So, if we can find out how much of a priority that's been since July, that would be useful, I think, and where they are as well, just to make sure that we've got a geographic spread. But I share the concerns of the petitioner that, if we have to wait until the evaluation of a two-year project in London before we decide to do anything here, then how many people are going to be losing out in the interim?
I agree. I also share the concerns of the petitioner regarding the access without needing referral in these cases, because quite often you may not be able to get a referral. So I think that's another major concern really, to be able to access this support.
Perhaps we can also ask what the waiting times are as well for accessing the SARC, because I understand that, to access counselling through the SARC, it can take up to a year. And, obviously, for anyone that's terrible, but for children it's even worse.
I just want to make the point, really, that this is a huge concern, especially because I think it's compounded by the closure of youth centres and play centres across Wales, where these play and youth centres used to be places where children used to be able to be safe and used to be able to confide in adults, and those adults were looking out for signs of abuse, whereas now they've all been closed—or not all, but most. I just wanted to make that point.
Okay. So, the following two items are going to be considered together. Those are the 'Proposed New Fishing Bylaws and Failings of Natural Resources Wales' and 'Give Welsh Fishing Clubs and Salmon and Seatrout a Chance'. So, the first petition was submitted by Sian Godbert and was first considered by the committee in May 2018, having collected 1,070 signatures. They want:
'As a matter of urgency, the Cabinet Minister of the Welsh Assembly investigate the conduct of the Natural Resources Wales Executive during the consultation process and recommendation for changes to rod and line fishing bye-laws at the (NRW) Board Meeting held at Bangor University on the 18th January 2018, before accepting any proposals to change existing fishing bye-laws.'
They maintain that:
'1. The NRW Executive failed to follow democratic procedure by refusing the NRW Board members to vote on new proposals to new fishing Bye-laws by rod and line fishermen. The NRW Executive adopted a draconian stance and ignored the concerns of, the stakeholders during the consultation process and NRW full board members at the meeting.
2. The NRW Executive recommended changes to the Bye-laws to the Welsh Assembly having endorsed at the board meeting that the proposals will have little, to no effect on reducing Salmon and Sea Trout stocks within the Inland River catchments throughout Wales.
3. The NRW Executives having recognised "other issues" contributing to reduction in Salmon and Sea Trout stocks, failed to prioritise and take action on these "other issues" and have done so, over a number of decades with no future planning.'
'The NRW Board are therefore in breach with Section 6 (6) Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and failing to achieve its objective in reducing risk to Salmon and Sea Trout stock levels in Welsh Rivers, particularly with:
(a) Pollution prevention, monitoring, effective enforcement and prosecution.
(b) Wildlife predation monitoring and recommending proportional controls.'
And then the next petition: 'Give Welsh Fishing Clubs and Salmon and Seatrout a Chance' was submitted by Reuben Woodford and was first considered in May 2018, having collected 1,710 signatures. And their text is:
'Prevent the excesses of catch and kill of Salmon by implementing bag limits for catch and keep on all Welsh Rivers for 4 years developed on the basis of catchment specific data in close consultation with fishing clubs.'
They want to see tightening and
'enforce current legislation to eliminate the menace of farming pollution and industrial pollution.'
They want to see a suspension of,
'all large scale commercial net fishing and factory ship operations around the welsh coast for a minimum period of 10 years.'
And they want to see
'Prioritise resource allocation to assist in managing catchment specific issues linked to excessive natural predation rates and barriers to fish migration.'
We last considered this on 25 September last year, whilst agreeing to keep a watching brief on the issue during a local planning inquiry into the proposed bye-laws being conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs issued a written statement on 16 July—this is in your papers—and the petitioners have provided further comments.
So, whilst the Minister recognises lessons should be learnt from this process, she also intends to bring regulations into force in January next year in order to tackle agricultural pollution, and has asked NRW to bring together all the current work being taken forward by relevant parties, including some anglers.
The petitioners have provided a detailed critique of the local inquiry and the inspector's report. They express a large number of concerns over the development of the bye-laws by NRW, the evidence heard, and not heard, at the inquiry, and the validity of the inspector’s findings. They have argued that decisions should be taken at a river or catchment level, rather than through these bye-laws. How would you like to proceed with these two petitions?
I know that there's a lot of—. I think there's a lot of distrust in the system, really, about how it was all conducted, the inquiry and the consultation. I know certain evidence wasn't available at the meetings with NRW, and even NRW board members were expressing concern.
I know Planning Inspectorate inquiries are always controversial. I've had to raise my concerns previously, generally, on them, in the main, because they feel very heavily stacked in favour of developers, Government, or whoever is actually fighting these inquiries, because they have the ability to put legal briefs in that members of the public and people in the fishing industry wouldn't be able to do. So, it's up to you, really.
Where would they want to take it next then, the people petitioning? Because, if this particular avenue has been exhausted now, is there another petition they should raise? Is there something more that can be done with this petition? Can we ask the environment committee to consider any aspect of it?
I think the difficult situation for this committee and, indeed, any committee at the Assembly now, is that the Minister decided that the Planning Inspectorate should look at this, because the view was that they would be able to give independent scrutiny and enable everyone's voice to be raised. And the inspector has taken that evidence and recommended that the Minister does confirm NRW's bye-laws, which she's indicated she is doing. They'll come into force from next year, so—.
I think a committee could look at that process—
—but whether it could do so in the timescale required or indeed whether—. Ultimately, the Government has decided that the Planning Inspectorate's advice is where it wants to go.
Will any of this be affected by any Brexit-related decisions later on that we can then come back to?
Not to my knowledge, no. The Minister has indicated that she realises that fishing of salmon and trout is not the only reason why stocks are low, and that's why, as the Chair spoke about, they're looking to bring groups together. They realise, I think, that bridges need to be built and that there are other issues, such as agricultural pollution, that come into this, but—.
I think, because it's river fishing, I don't think there's a direct Brexit link.
Okay. So, that's closing both of the two petitions.
So, moving on, page 145, 3.10, 'Ban the USE of LARSEN TRAPS (Multi Corvid Traps)'. This was submitted in May 2018, having collected 1,943 signatures, and they're calling on
'the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to BAN the USE, Sale & Manufacture of LARSEN TRAPS (Multi Corvid Traps).
'The Larsen trap is a cage bird trap where a live wild decoy bird, (call-bird)'—
they call it—
'is kept trapped inside one compartment to encourage another bird to come down to it. When another visiting bird lands on top s/he falls through a one way gate or false floor into a compartment, where s/he awaits their fate.
'Larsen traps were invented in Denmark but are now BANNED in that country, as they are now considered inhumane and extremely cruel.
'Larsen traps are mostly used by gamekeepers & smallholders to trap magpies, crows & other corvids. The bird suffers a terrifying ordeal by being trapped day and night without food, water or any shelter from the elements, which causes extreme distress.
'Because they use a captive wild bird (technically contrary to the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act) these traps have to be used under the terms of a “General Licence” issued by Natural Resources Wales, where magpies, crows, jays, jackdaws and rooks can be trapped.
'The wild “decoy call-birds,” with their most vital instincts frustrated & abused by confinement, suffers the most terrible fate. Close to the ground they are terrorised by predators and watch as fellow birds are brutally killed in front of them. A number end up being found dead through neglect.'
We last considered this on 5 March, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs. A response was received on 2 April. A response was received from NRW on 4 July. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided any further comment. How would you like to take this forward?
I think we need to encourage NRW to carry out this investigation as soon as possible, because this sounds quite barbaric really, this practice, to me.
Yes. So, we write to NRW.
I see, following a judicial review, Natural England have revoked three general licences allowing the killing or trapping of certain species of bird. NRW is currently reviewing and revising its own general licences. But that's quite vague, isn't it? So, if we—
Yes, and that concerns a broader issue, not simply around Larsen traps. That concerns challenges over the legality of licences generally to catch and keep birds that, as said, has forced Natural England to revoke theirs, and NRW obviously need to look at their own in light of that ruling.
'Okay. So, 3.11—'Ban the sale of puppies by pet shops and all commercial 3rd party dealers in Wales'. This was submitted by C.A.R.I.A.D. and was first considered by the committee in January of this year, having collected 11,195 signatures.
'A ban on third-party sale of puppies for profit has been named Lucy's Law, and its implementation in England was recently announced. Lucy's Law has huge public, media and cross-party support and we call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to deliver Lucy's Law for Wales as a matter of urgency.'
So, we last considered this on 19 March, agreeing to keep a watching brief until the outcome of the Welsh Government's current consultation on a ban, before considering what further action may be required on this petition. The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs issued a written statement on 18 July, and the petitioners have provided further comments. Following a public consultation, the Minister does propose to introduce a ban on the third-party sale of puppies and kittens. The Minister also intends to revisit the current breeding regulations, to improve welfare conditions at breeding establishments, and to consider how to help the public make more informed choices when buying a pet. The petitioners welcomed the Minister's announcement. They are awaiting a timeline for this, and are urging the Welsh and Scottish Governments to adopt the implementation date in England of 6 April, 2020. They note that 20 local authorities have also passed motions of support for Lucy's Law, and some are using their powers over pet shop licensing to prevent the selling of puppies at a separate location.
So, you could write to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to welcome the announcement that she intends to introduce a ban on third-party sales of puppies and kittens, and to ask for details of the intended process and a timescale for it happening here.
3.12—'Ban the sale of goods packaged in single use plastics on Transport for Wales services'. This was submitted by Lydia Jackson, first considered by the committee in May of this year, having collected a total of 125 signatures. And the text of the petition is pretty clear. They're calling on
'the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to ban the sale of goods which are packaged using single use plastics on Transport for Wales services. As stated by the Welsh Government: "Transport for Wales exists to drive forward the Welsh Government's vision of a high quality, safe, integrated, affordable and accessible transport network that the people of Wales are proud of."
'We feel that banning the sale of single-use plastics which are damaging our natural environment would be a significant step in reaching this objective, and demonstrating the Welsh Government's commitment to providing a fairer and safer future for the citizens of Wales.'
So, on 7 May we agreed to await the views of the petitioner on the response provided by the Minister for Economy and Transport, and we agreed to write to Transport for Wales to seek their views on the petition, ask for further details of the initiatives referred to by the Minister for Economy and Transport, and ask whether targets for reducing or eliminating single-use plastics could be incorporated into the procurement for a not-for-profit 'at-seat catering' service. A response was received from TfW on 12 July and the petitioner has provided further comments.
They state—TfW—that they have
'already begun to phase out all single-use plastics'
in catering services on board trains. They expect to have
'completely phased out single-use plastics by 2023.'
They note that packaging labelled as compostable or biodegradable cannot currently be recycled or composted at large scale in Wales. Therefore, this target is based upon the availability of suitable alternatives and a concern that a short-term switch to compostable or biodegradable alternatives could result in an increase in general waste. TfW is working with its supply chain and tenants to identify a specific date by which it can commit to the elimination of single-use plastics by third-party retailers. The petitioner welcomes the action being taken but expresses misgivings at the timescales outlined. She argues that the climate emergency declaration should mean a need to accelerate changes.
So, we could close the petition and thank the petitioner for bringing this forward. Transport for Wales have made it clear they want to do it, but they've also got these difficulties about what can be recycled or composted. So, whether you want to chase TfW up further—
Well, that's a Government question, isn't it? There are major issues now with various countries saying they're no longer going to take our rubbish—rightly so— and I'm not sure what effort is being made to process as much plastic as close to home as possible. But that's a separate issue to the one that's being used here, because Transport for Wales can't really take that issue up.
I'd question the commitment, to be honest with you, because I'm not sure how they can say they expect to have everything completely phased out by 2023 when you can't recycle certain things like crisp bags. We may be able to by 2023— Transport for Wales might know something that's not available to the rest of us; I don’t know. But not everything is able to be processed at the moment. So, I think we just need to keep an eye on the commitment, really, to make sure that they deliver what they say they're going to deliver, not just on this, but on everything else in relation to the contract as well.
I guess the question about that wider point is whether that's something you wish to do as a committee through keeping sight of this petition or—
We can do it separately, I think, as Assembly Members in our scrutiny role. We can close the petition. We don't need to keep the petition open to do that.
Then the next one is 'Fire sprinklers are for life, not a fast buck!' and it's calling
'upon the Welsh Government to amend paragraph 2.6 of Approved Document B in such a way as to make it mandatory that the design, installation and maintenance of residential and domestic fire suppression systems is conducted only by those that are members of appropriate third party certification schemes. This will ensure that such life saving systems are correctly designed, installed and maintained by suitably qualified personnel. Sadly this is currently not the case.'
We last considered this on 11 June, agreeing to write to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask for an update on the review of fire safety regs and details of the consideration given to requiring third party certification for the installation of fire suppression systems. We received a response from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 16 July, and the petitioner has provided further comments.
The Minister’s update states that considering fire safety requirements within building regs forms part of a wider ongoing review led by the ministerial building safety expert group. Currently, guidance proposes that third-party certification schemes are an effective means of ensuring installations are appropriate, but it is not a compulsory requirement. The petitioner describes the complexity of installing sprinkler systems in properties. He states that installers should be required to demonstrate competence, which is what is tested by third-party certification schemes, and argues that obtaining certification is not prohibitively expensive or tantamount to protectionism. However, the committee has previously received correspondence arguing against the introduction of a requirement for third-party accreditation on the basis of cost and creating monopolies for larger suppliers.
How would you like to take this petition forward?
I think we should close the petition, given the wider review of fire safety requirements.
Yes, I'd commit to looking at it individually, really. Certainly, I would never want something to happen where the fire system wasn't installed competently. But, I don't think there is much more we can do.
Okay. So that's agreed to close the petition.
Item 3.14: 'Make the "Cofiwch Dryweryn" Mural a designated Welsh landmark'. This was submitted by Joe Williams and was first considered by the committee in March 2019, having collected 1,016 signatures. It's basically very straight to the point,
'It's ridiculous that such an important landmark in 20th Century Welsh History is the subject of vandalism, while a recent Banksy work is being protected. It's time that this landmark be granted official protected site status within Wales.'
We last considered this on 7 May, agreeing to write to Ceredigion County Council to ask what involvement it could have in helping to protect the mural, and to write to Llanrhystud Community Council to ask for information about the work it will be leading to devise a long-term management plan and the likely timescales for this. A response was received from Councillor Roland Rees-Evans on behalf of Llanrhystud Community Council on 6 June. A response was received from Ceredigion council on 4 July. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comment.
Ceredigion point out that previous discussions have been held with Cadw with regard to listing the mural, but that there is a limit to what this would achieve and it could, in fact, be counterproductive and frustrate attempts to remedy vandalism in the future. They say the council will continue to monitor the situation and assist if appropriate to do so.
In June 2019, Llanrhystud Community Council indicated that discussions had been held with the owner of the wall and the National Trust and that they were seeking to reach a solution. In August 2019, news reports indicated that the mural has been purchased and that the charity Tro'r Trai will take charge of protecting it.
The Welsh Government, Ceredigion council and Llanrhystud Community Council have all now expressed the view that it would not be appropriate to list the mural. Given that the mural has now been purchased by a local charity and there are commitments of support from the council and community council, the committee may consider what you want to do.
I think things have moved on since this petition was first received and quite a lot has happened in terms of not just this particular location for the mural, but there are now lots and lots of murals right throughout the country. So it's been a good reaction, I think. And given that the various authorities don't want it to be listed and given that the petitioner hasn't responded to requests for further information, I think it would be worth us writing to the charity to ask what their plans are. But I don't believe that the urgency of the situation as was, when we received this petition, is the same now as it was then.
Yes, but I'd like to say that I think I'd like us to write to the charity Tro'r Trai and maybe thank them for purchasing the wall. I hope I'm not going to embarrass her now, but I'd like to personally thank, and maybe the committee could also thank, Dilys Davies, for making the finance available, and congratulate Councillor Freya Sykes-Bletsoe for doing the mural in Bridgend—the first mural outside of Llanrhystud, and they've spread all over Wales now. In the first meeting, I think I said that I'd like to see these murals all over Wales, and, actually, Freya acted on it and got one up in Bridgend. She's had a lot of hassle actually off Bridgend council for putting the mural up, a lot of hassle, but it's still there and they're all over Wales now, so great.
Next, 3.15, 'Amendment to Education (Student Support) (Wales) Regulations 2018 to include UK institutions with operations overseas'. This was first submitted by Alanna Jones in 2019, having collected 299 signatures, calling on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to amend the current wording of the Education (Student Support) (Wales) Regulations 2018.
'We call on the National Assembly to make the amendments to the Regulations to address the current limitation of Regulation 6, Condition 5 which prevents Welsh students accessing student finance to study at UK higher education institutions where the location of study is at their overseas campus which we consider could be achieved in one of either two ways, by either: widening the criteria in Condition 5 to include courses which are provided by UK higher education institutions at either their UK or overseas campuses; or amending Condition 5 to include courses which are provided by higher education institutions offering designated courses and to include the University of London Institute in Paris on the list of institutions offering designated courses, using your discretion under Regulation 8.'
We first considered this on 25 June. We wrote to the Minister for Education to ask whether she would consider designating the courses provided by the University of London Institute in Paris to enable Welsh resident students to receive student support to study there, and whether any discussions have been held with the institution about this. A response was received from the Minister for Education on 11 July. The Minister provided information about the consideration given to designating courses at the University of London, so that students could receive public funding. She states that courses at the ULIP do not meet the criteria for designation because the Welsh Government has not been able to establish that the provider of the courses is regulated by the Office for Students. Officials have written to the Office for Students but had not received a response at the time of the Minister’s letter. Therefore, she states it would not be appropriate to amend the regulations to enable an unregulated provider to have courses designated.
How would you like to take this forward?
I think that we need to write to the University of London Institute in Paris, asking for clarification and their views on what the petition says.
'Make GCSE Welsh Language compulsory in all schools in Wales.'
'Currently, Welsh Language is compulsory as either first or second language in all state schools in Wales. However, this does not apply to private schools, who do not have to follow the national curriculum. In many cases, pupils leave private schools not being able to speak a word of Welsh. If we are to progress with our language, and want to reach the government's target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, we must give every child in Wales the chance to learn. We call on the Welsh Government to: Make Welsh Second Language GCSE compulsory in all schools in Wales by law for the new curriculum in 2022.'
We last considered this on 25 June, and agreed to write to the Welsh Independent Schools Council to seek their views on the petition, and to request further information on the teaching of Welsh in independent schools in Wales. We received a response on 18 July. The petitioner was informed that we'd be discussing this petition, but has not responded. The Welsh Independent Schools Council states that it agrees with the sense of the petition. They believe that the vast majority of independent schools in Wales do offer their learners the chance to have Welsh at key stage 3, and optional Welsh GCSE at key stage 4 and key stage 5 A-level. However, they argue that parental choice is key, and that it would set a dangerous precedent to impose subjects on the independent sector. They also provide a number of reasons why some independent schools do not offer GCSE Welsh. These include: language and communication difficulties experienced by pupils in special schools; a large percentage of international students in some schools, for whom English is a second language; and the fact that many independent schools do not offer GCSEs. So, how would you like to take this forward?
I wouldn't want to close it. I'd like to write back to them and ask what percentage—if they say, 'the vast majority', I just wonder how many actually offer it. And if they were an independent school in England not offering English, I'm sure that there would be an outcry.
Okay. So, a letter to go, to establish exactly how many independent schools are allowing—
Yes. Okay. That's supported.
So, that's the end of this meeting. Thank you. The committee’s next meeting will be held on 1 October, when the committee will hold evidence sessions on petition P-05-886, 'Stop the Red Route (A55/A494 corridor)', with the petitioners, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board, and Flintshire County Council.
The following petition handovers have been scheduled: Wednesday 18 September, petition P-05-899 'Buses for people not profit'; Wednesday 25 September, petition P-05-898 'Ban the use of A boards in Wales'.
That's it. Okay. That's the end of the meeting. Thank you.
Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 10:17.
The meeting ended at 10:17.