|Ann Jones AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Dai Lloyd AM|
|David Rees AM|
|Llyr Gruffydd AM|
|Lynne Neagle AM|
|Mick Antoniw AM|
|Des Clifford||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jo Salway||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Mark Drakeford AM||Prif Weinidog Cymru|
|First Minister of Wales|
|Kath Thomas||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Sesiwn Graffu Gweinidogol||2. Ministerial Scrutiny Session|
|2.1 Datganiad Ysgifenedig gan Lywodraeth Cymru - Ymateb i Ddyfarniad yr Uchel Lys||2.1 Written Statement by the Welsh Government - Response to the High Court Judgment|
|2.2 Blaenoriaethau’r Prif Weinidog ar gyfer gweddill y Pumed Cynulliad||2.2 The First Minister's priorities for the remainder of the fifth Assembly|
|2.4 Materion Amserol||2.4 Topical Matters|
|2.3 Materion yn ymwneud ag ymadawiad y DU â’r Undeb Ewropeaidd||2.3 Issues relating to the UK's withdrawal from the European Union|
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 09:31.
The meeting began at 09:31.
Good morning, everybody, and welcome to the scrutiny of the First Minister committee. Can I say we've had apologies from Jayne Bryant, Janet Finch-Saunders, Russell George, John Griffiths, Mike Hedges, Nick Ramsay and Bethan Sayed, but I'm sure that the meeting will be a very fruitful meeting? Can I welcome the First Minister to his very first scrutiny of the First Minister?
I wonder, First Minister, would you just introduce your officials just for the record.
So, I have with me this morning Des Clifford and Jo Salway.
Okay, thank you very much. I think this is the first time I've certainly chaired a meeting in this room, but I think the things still—. The usual translation—the amplification, if you need it, is on channel 0, translation on channel 1, and then, in the event of a fire alarm, the ushers will direct us and provide further instructions.
We've slightly altered the agenda in light of your statement yesterday, First Minister, on the response to the High Court judgment. So, we're going to take that first, and to avoid any possible conflict of interest from me personally, I will remove myself from the chair and leave the room whilst you discuss what we are now calling item 2.1, which is to allow Members to scrutinise your statement. So, can I just ask, then, for a temporary Chair just to take that item through?
You move Dai Rees. Thank you. Anybody else? Happy with Dai Rees. So, Dai, thank you very much, and I take it that you're happy to do that. So, can I now vacate the chair and ask you just to come and chair this meeting for 2.1? Thank you.
Penodwyd David Rees yn Gadeirydd dros dro.
David Rees was appointed temporary Chair.
Thank you. I'll wait until Ann leaves the room. Clearly, we're focusing only at this point on the written statement provided by the First Minister yesterday in response to the High Court judgment, and I'll be opening questions in a second, but, before I open the questions, First Minister, can I just confirm, from that statement, as I get the impression, that the Welsh Government will not be appealing the court judgment because it does change circumstances if it tends to appeal?
Okay, thank you. We can now, therefore, have some discussions on it because we wanted to make sure we didn't have discussions while it was still an issue in court. Dai Lloyd.
Thank you, Chair. Could I just ask are we right in thinking, based on your written statement yesterday, that you are retaining the right to agree the final contents of the operational protocol having considered the advice of Jonathan Jones QC, Treasury solicitor and head of the UK Government Legal Department, and, if that is so, how does that sit with the fact that your predecessor was found to have acted unlawfully precisely because it was he who retained the final authority of the operating protocol, breaching the legitimate expectation that this would not be the case because we were told this would be an independent inquiry? Are you now explicitly saying, contrary to the way in which the Government's press statement on 10 November 2017 setting up the inquiry was interpreted, that although this will be an independent investigation, the terms of that investigation will not be independently constituted but decided by you? If this is the case, is it because you believe that the need for independence is now not as strong, since you are now the First Minister, obviously, and not Carwyn Jones, who is at the centre of events?
And my last point is: don't you accept, as a Cabinet colleague of the First Minister at the time of these unfortunate events, could you also not have a personal interest in the exoneration, or otherwise, of Mr Jones? Wouldn't it be better, therefore, as suggested by the justices in the High Court judgment, that you delegate the final decision over the operating protocol to an independent person, as provided for in the Government of Wales Act for circumstances precisely such as this?
Well, I thank Dr Lloyd for that quite complex set of observations and questions. I might ask Dr Lloyd to remind me at various points if I'm neglecting to answer some of the points.
Let me take your last point first and make it clear to the committee that, until I became First Minister, I had no involvement of any sort in the events that surrounded the operational protocol, the decision to have an independent investigation. So, my involvement does not begin in any way until I became First Minister, and, in that sense, I don't agree with the final point, that, having been a member of a Cabinet that was headed by the previous First Minister, that somehow implicates me in any way in the way in which previous events unfolded. I come to it with a completely fresh set of eyes and abilities to make decisions.
I think what Dr Lloyd said about the fact that the previous First Minister was the subject of some of the investigations, and I clearly am not, does put me in a different position in relation to these events than he was in. Nevertheless, I have taken the decision that the issues that were in play a year or so ago and which led to the High Court case should be resolved entirely independently of me and of any other person within the Welsh Government, whether that be political or official.
So, the answer to the substantive point is twofold. In relation to those issues, those issues will now be resolved by Jonathan Jones, and I am not seeking to retain any decision-making authority in relation to those matters. I am asking him to look at the representations that were made a year or so ago, at the issues that were in play in relation to the operational protocol, to the way in which those were resolved, and to make those decisions. I will implement whatever decisions he comes to, and we will publish an updated operational protocol, reflecting the conclusions that that independent person has come to. So, that's stage 1. But I am retaining the right, in this way, that post the coroner's inquest and the publication of the coroner's report, the Hamilton report, the updated version of the operational protocol and the leak inquiry, that, at that point, what still needs to be investigated by the independent investigation may need to be reshaped in the light of all that information. And at that point, as the First Minister, I would be bound to have a role in making that determination. Anything that I do, I will make sure that I report on that publicly so that there is no sense that those decisions are being made out of the public view. But I think it is inescapable that at that point I have to come back into the picture.
Just to clarify, you said you will publish the operational protocol. Will you also publish the report by Jonathan Jones?
I will publish the results of Mr Jones's work. So, he's asked to resolve a series of questions. Those resolutions will be reflected in the operational protocol, and I will publish the consequences of his work.
I welcome the comments you make about the publication of the reports, and I understand the intention to publish all of the reports at the same time post inquest. One issue that potentially arises, of course, is that it may be that there will be nothing in those reports that is of relevance, but there may be issues that arise in reports, of course, that are relevant to the inquest before the inquest is concluded. I presume that's a matter you have taken advice on and will be in a position to review were that to arise once you've seen the various reports.
If there are matters that would be relevant to the coroner, my intention would be to make sure that those matters are known to the coroner in advance of the coroner making his final report, yes.
Much of the discussion around whether or not to publish the leak inquiry previously centred around the need to protect the identity of the complainants. Can I just ask, with all of the issues that you outlined now, how you will ensure that the identity and the confidentiality of the complainants in the beginning of all of this are protected, because that's clearly very important?
It is very important and continues to be a matter that I regard as being very significant. I'm very alert to the need to make sure that nothing is done that cuts across anybody who might want to come forward and have their complaint aired, and not only in relation to this specific set of very difficult circumstances but future possibilities too. However this is resolved, Chair, we need a culture in the National Assembly for Wales and in the Welsh Government where people who have things they think they require to be said know the culture is on their side in saying them. We want people to feel confident that they can come forward and that their rights will be protected, and so on.
The objections to the publication of the leak inquiry report—. For the record, Chair, I should say that I have never seen the leak inquiry report and will not see it until it is published. It isn't relevant—I'm not making a decision on the basis of having seen it. I'm making the decision on this basis: that, in the unique set of circumstances that we are faced with here, those unique circumstances have led me to override, in my mind, the very important consideration, which is about people being willing to come forward and give evidence to a leak inquiry in the future.
All of the people who gave evidence to this leak inquiry did so on the basis that those conversations, and the result of them, would be confidential. The outcome would be reported, but nothing more than that. Nobody is compelled to take part in a leak inquiry investigation, and I want to make sure that future inquiries of that sort, should there need to be any, are not compromised by people now feeling that their confidentiality would not be respected.
So, I want to emphasise this morning that I make the decision because I believe that these are a unique set of circumstances and they do not set a precedent for the future. In agreeing to release this particular leak inquiry, nobody should believe that that is creating some sort of new precedent for the way that the leak inquiries and their resulting reports will be treated in the future. Here, we have a situation where a Member of the Assembly has died—died under circumstances that the coroner will eventually determine, and where those circumstances have been said to have been connected to events that happened as that person left the Government.
I cannot see how those circumstances would repeat themselves—they are absolutely sui generis, as the lawyers would say. They belong specifically to this case, and I've made the decision in that light—the very significant and serious but very particular circumstances—and that's why I've decided that those other very important considerations can be set aside and that the leak inquiry can be published in this case.
Are there any other questions? Can I just ask one final question, First Minister? You've just said that you haven't seen the leak inquiry—I understand that—but in answer to Mick Antoniw you said that if the coroner requires it or if there's information that would be helpful to the coroner, it would be made available. I'm assuming you've taken legal advice as to what is in that leak inquiry, and, as a consequence of that legal advice—that's the decision that would decide whether it becomes available to the coroner, or not.
Well, the coroner has initiative powers of his own in this matter, Chair, doesn't he? The coroner, as you will have seen from the way the coroner has conducted proceedings so far, is very alert to the context in which his work is being carried out, and if the coroner felt that seeing the leak inquiry would be helpful to him, then he has initiative powers of his own to secure it, or to request it. And, as I've said, if he felt it was helpful to him, then of course I would make sure that he had access to it.
Okay. Thank you. As there are no other questions on this matter, we'll move on to the next matter. We'll recall the Chair and we'll take a short break to allow that event to happen. We'll go to a short break.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:46 a 09:49.
The meeting adjourned between 09:46 and 09:49.
Daeth Ann Jones i’r Gadair.
Ann Jones took the Chair.
We'll reconvene the meeting now and we'll turn to the paper that the First Minister has provided on priorities for the remainder of the fifth Assembly. First Minister, there are a number of questions and the Members here have read the paper, so we'll go straight into questions. The first set of questions is around the paragraph on a more equal Wales. Lynne, you're going to start that off, and then Dai.
Okay. Thank you. My first questions are on poverty. You'll be aware that Assembly Members have been raising concerns for a while, really, about the focus on poverty that has been in place since the start of this Assembly term, in terms of the fact that we haven't really had a clear Minister with responsibility for it. We've got no overarching poverty or child poverty strategy any more. I really welcome all the issues you've highlighted in your paper, which demonstrate the practical work that's going on to tackle poverty in Wales, and I know that you personally made some commitments in your leadership campaign, which are also very welcome. But do you recognise the call that there is now to have an overarching strategy that we can actually measure progress by? And do you also recognise the need for there to be more clarity in who is responsible for delivering this in Government? Because when you looked at budget scrutiny last year, bits of the anti-poverty work were scattered across lots of different departments. Although I can see the need for it to be cross-cutting, unless you've got something that is driving that cross-cutting work, then I think there is an argument that it won't be as successful as it should be.
There are a number of points there, Chair. First of all, just disposing with the issue of titles, because I made a very conscious decision that I am not going to go down the road of putting words in titles simply because—
Sure. But I'm often asked why haven't I got a children's Minister, why haven't I got an older people's Minister, why haven't I got a fair work Minister. I made a decision from the beginning that that's not how I intend to approach those things. I think what Lynne says is important, Chair, in that poverty is everybody's responsibility in this Government. I intend myself to be the place in which those different strands come together, because for me poverty is at the very heart of what we have to do as a Government in Wales. The creation of a more equal Wales—one of the seven goals of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015—is one that I am determined we will take absolutely seriously. You don't do that unless you make it everybody's business. But, I agree that all that has to be pulled together.
I've been in discussions this week with Des and others about how we create some machinery of Government to back up my wish for the First Minister's office to be the place where those things, and a small number of other agendas, come together and re-harness the efforts that everybody makes. I want to do it in the way that I set out in the paper. I want us to be focused on those things that we can do. That's difficult in poverty, because so many of the major levers are not Assembly levers and you can spend a lot of your time thinking about the things that you haven't got powers to do, but I want us to focus on the things that we really can do.
And because I want us to be a very practical Government in relation to poverty above all, then the strategic side of it is not where I want our primary efforts to be. That is not to say that I don't see the case for and that we won't do some things to make some strategic decisions about it all, but there's a vulnerability in the Welsh Government to a criticism that we have been very good at strategy and not as good as we would like to have been in turning those strategies into practical things that make a difference in people's lives.
In the poverty field particularly, I want us to reverse that polarity. I want our primary focus to be on the practical things—small things, very often, but cumulatively I believe they make a difference—and our main focus to be on that. Yes, you need a strategic sense of what you're trying to achieve, but I don't want all our effort to be put into another big strategy discussion while we don't focus on the things that actually make a difference.
I can talk, Chair, if you like, if you've got time, about—
Well, let me say that I think the big strategic thrust for successive Welsh Governments—and I want to make more of this over the next couple of years—has been in the way that successive Welsh Governments have made decisions that leave money in the pockets of people when otherwise they would have to be spending on those things for themselves—the social wage, as Barbara Castle used to call it, or cash-equivalent services. Successive Welsh Governments have made decisions about how collectively we will provide those benefits, and that means that, particularly for those who have the least to begin with, the more you can leave in their pockets of what they've got, the bigger the difference that makes.
If you've got £20,000 to spend and the cash-equivalent services of the Welsh Government amount to somewhere between £1,000 and £2,000 every year, then that is a bigger impact in your life than if you've got an income of £50,000. I can build up the picture for you, but the obvious things are: free prescriptions; the fact that you don't pay to park in hospital; free breakfast in primary schools; in the current Assembly term, our free childcare offer; the things that we are doing in relation to the school uniform grant and doubling that, if circumstances allow—I'm very keen to do more there; and the new initiative of this Assembly term, the holiday hunger schemes that we have.
All of those mean that there are services being provided that otherwise people have to pay for themselves, and that is the strategic thrust of the Welsh Government, because those are things that we can do, and doing more of those—. I thought the children's commissioner's recent report was very helpful to us in pointing to a number of other practical measures of that sort that we can take. In that way, those people who are at the margins of managing are enabled to manage better because they are left with more scope to do that for themselves.
I find it interesting that you said that you've made a conscious decision not to appoint a Minister for poverty, a Minister for older people, for children. But of course you have appointed a Minister for north Wales. I just feel there's an inconsistency there, because surely all your Ministers, according to your rationale, would be Ministers for older people and children. Well, likewise for north Wales, surely.
That is a fair point. It's not an absolute rule. I made reference during the Labour Party's leadership election to appointing a Minister for north Wales, and I still think that there are very good reasons for doing that. Having made that commitment, I was determined to honour it. More broadly, in constructing a Government just before Christmas, it wasn't a track I wanted to go down more generally.
Thank you for that answer. That's very interesting. It will certainly give us lots of food for thought. I am interested in how you set it out, though, in terms of putting more money into everyone's pockets. Because there is a tension there, isn't there, between universal provision and how you target the help at those who need it most. The school uniform help, which I really welcome and pushed very hard for, as you know, is a very progressive policy because it targets those most in need. You'll be aware that the childcare offer came in for a lot of criticism, particularly from my committee, that it wasn't progressive because it's benefiting everyone. So, how will you reconcile that tension to actually ensure that we give sufficient help to the very poorest, and still, it seems to be as you're saying, give a little bit to everyone?
I'm being offered a grand opportunity, Chair, to provide my lecture on progressive universalism—[Laughter.]
No, we haven't got time for your lecture. Perhaps for another day. [Laughter.]
The point of it is that I'm a great believer in universal services where we are able to provide them, because universal services provide the glue that pulls together a diverse and disparate society. Universal services mean everybody has a stake in them—the articulate and the well informed, as well as people who struggle to get their voice heard. Services that are exclusively for poor people, as the saying goes, quickly become poor services. So, that's the case for universal services.
What we're trying to do in Wales is to provide a service for everybody, and then to add on the top of it an extra increment—that progressive universalism, that extra increment, that goes particularly to those whose needs are greatest. So, you try and marry the two. I don't believe myself in what was essentially the Thatcherite mantra—that anybody who's any good can look after themselves, and the state's only responsibly was to those people who couldn't manage to do that. No. We've all got a stake in making those universal services as good as they possibly can be, but we recognise that there are some people who will need help over and above that, and that's how you end up with the progressive part of universalism.
Yes, yes. I was just—. You'll be aware that I'm very concerned about funding for education, as is my committee. We're in the final stages of an inquiry into school funding, and some of the evidence has been pretty torrid, really, about the pressures schools are facing. Your paper refers to the reforms that are under way, which are unprecedented really—the curriculum, additional learning needs, teachers' professional learning. There is probably a bigger reform agenda in education than in any other part of Government. How confident are you that we've got the resources in the system to deliver on those reforms?
Well, Chair, I'd begin by saying what I say every time, that all Welsh public services are starved of the funds that they need to do the sort of job that we would like to see them do. We are £880 million less in our budget for this current financial year than we were a decade ago, and had we had our share of growth in the way the economy has grown, we would have £4 billion more to spend on public services. So, nobody can start the conversation from a belief that we are able to do everything we would like to do. We clearly are not, and education feels the impact of that, as does our health service, and as does housing and as does everything else that we want to do.
The position the Welsh Government faces, and so does the National Assembly for Wales, is that any decision to spend more money on one thing can only be made by taking money away from some other cash-strapped part of Government. There is nowhere to go where money is just standing idle and not doing something that is vitally important in the lives of some of our fellow citizens. So, that is the huge dilemma that the Government faces. If the Assembly believes that the Welsh Government is making those decisions not in the optimum way, then the Assembly always has an opportunity to make proposals as to how that could be put right. But that is what the Assembly has to do as well. If the Assembly, in the budget-making process, believes that not enough is being spent on A, the rules say that the Assembly has got to say where that money is coming from, and that will mean spending less on B. So, that's a dilemma that we share right across the Chamber.
The Welsh Government will put £100 million more into education over the course of this Assembly term, and that's an absolute minimum—we will do more than that, when you look at everything else that we are doing, and we are targeting that new money in ways that support that reform agenda. So, over half of that money is actually going in to the development of the profession, and that is on the basis that the single most important resource in any classroom is the teaching staff and the people who support them. So, over half the new investment is going in to making sure that we have the very best equipped teaching profession to deliver the new curriculum, to do the job we want them to do.
That is not to say—and I'm not wanting to say for a minute, Chair—that I'm suggesting to you we've spent everything that we would like to spend. That isn't the case, because the money isn't there to do that. But what I do want to say is that I'm confident that the new money that we are providing is as closely aligned as it can be with that major reform agenda that we have set out for the education service in Wales, and which we are trying to deliver during this Assembly term.
Dai, you've got—on homelessness, and then I'll come back to others after.
Ie, diolch, Cadeirydd. Ynglŷn â digartrefedd, rŷch chi'n ymwybodol, dwi'n siŵr, mae yna wirfoddolwyr yn Abertawe, fel yn nifer o'n trefi a dinasoedd mawrion ni, sydd yn mynd allan yn rheolaidd i fwydo'r sawl sy'n ddigartref ar ein strydoedd. Dwi'n mynd allan efo nhw yn achlysurol, ac mae yna—tro diwethaf es i allan efo nhw—rhyw 25 o bobl ar strydoedd Abertawe sydd tu allan i bopeth. Maen nhw'n cysgu ar y strydoedd yn rheolaidd. Mae'r strydoedd yn amlwg yn llefydd peryglus iddyn nhw. Maen nhw'n gorfod dioddef ymosodiadau ac ati. Wrth gwrs, mae yna heriau cyffuriau ac alcohol ac ati, iechyd meddwl hefyd. Ond mae yna broblem real yn fanna sydd i'w gweld yn cynyddu ac, wrth gwrs, mae yna heriau dwi'n gwybod yn wynebu pawb. Ond byddech chi'n cytuno yn y lle cyntaf bod angen i Lywodraeth Cymru allu gwneud mwy—yn naturiol, mewn cydweithrediad â'n hawdurdodau lleol—i ffeindio ateb i hyn? Fel dwi'n dweud, rhyw 25 sy'n rheolaidd ar strydoedd Abertawe. Wrth gwrs, un syniad ydy creu parthau saff—safe zones—achos nawr mae pobl wastad yn cael eu herlid. Buaswn i'n leicio meddwl, fel cymdeithas buasen ni eisiau gofalu am y bobl yma. Dwi'n gwybod mae yna lefydd i'w cael, ond weithiau dŷch chi ddim yn gallu cael mynediad iddyn nhw am wahanol resymau. Wedyn, buaswn i'n gobeithio buasai'r gymdeithas wâr yn gallu gofalu am y bobl yma sydd yn rhaid iddyn nhw fod allan ar y strydoedd am wahanol resymau, yn lle eu herlid nhw neu eu harestio nhw weithiau. Felly, am y gweddill o'r Cynulliad yma, gallaf i jest ofyn i chi am eich syniadau a sut y buasech chi'n datblygu'r agenda yna jest i wneud rhywbeth gogyfer y bobl yma sydd wedi cwympo drwy bob rhwydwaith bosib sydd allan yna?
Yes, thank you, Chair. On homelessness, I'm sure you will be aware that there are volunteers in Swansea, as there are in a number of our large towns and cities, who go out regularly to help to give food to the homeless and so on on our streets. I go out with them occasionally, and the last time I was with them there were some 25 people on the streets of Swansea who are regularly sleeping rough. The streets are obviously very dangerous for them. They suffer attacks and so on. Of course, there are challenges of drugs and alcohol, mental health problems and so on. There's a very real problem there that seems to be on the increase and, of course, there are challenges facing everyone, I know. But would you agree with me in the first place that the Welsh Government needs to do more—naturally, in collaboration with our local authorities—to find a solution to this? As I say, there are some 25 who are sleeping rough regularly on the streets of Swansea. One idea is to create 'safe zones' because these people now seem to be persecuted. I would like to think, as a society, we would seek to care for these people. I know there are places available, but, on occasion, you can't access those various places for various reasons. So, I would hope that a civilised society would seek to care for these people who are forced to be on the streets for various reasons, rather than persecuting them and arresting them on occasion. And, for the rest of this Assembly, can I just ask for your ideas on how you'd develop that agenda just to do something for these people who have fallen through every safety net out there?
Wel, Cadeirydd, jest i ddweud, dwi'n cytuno, wrth gwrs, bod mwy rŷn ni i gyd yn gallu ei wneud i drio meddwl gyda'n gilydd am bosibiliadau newydd i helpu pobl sydd yn y sefyllfa mae Dr Lloyd wedi cyfeirio ati. Does dim enghraifft fwy o'r effaith o gyni ar y strydoedd ledled Cymru na phobl sy'n byw ar y stryd. Pan oeddwn i'n tyfu lan ac yn mynd i Abertawe o Gaerfyrddin, dwi byth yn cofio gweld un person yn byw fel yna, ond nawr, yng Nghaerdydd, yng Nghasnewydd, ac yn Abertawe, yn Wrecsam hefyd, rŷch chi'n gallu gweld pobl fel yna bob dydd. Mae'r sialensiau sy'n eu hwynebu nhw'n gymhleth achos dydy rhywle i fyw ddim yr unig ateb y bydd yn rhaid i ni drio tynnu at ei gilydd.
So, rŷn ni yn gweithio gydag awdurdodau lleol, gyda phobl sy'n gweithio yn y trydydd sector, i drio meddwl am beth arall rŷn ni'n gallu gwneud gyda'n gilydd i helpu wynebu'r sialensiau mae'r bobl yn y sefyllfa yna yn wynebu hefyd. So, Housing First yw un ateb newydd, lle dŷn ni ddim yn mynd ati i drio creu rhyw fath o gyrsiau lle mae'n rhaid i bobl fynd lan ac ar ddiwedd y dydd maen nhw'n cael rhywle i fyw, ond rhoi rhywle i fyw yn gyntaf, ac, ar ôl gwneud hynny, trio tynnu'r gwasanaethau gyda'i gilydd i helpu pobl gyda phroblemau iechyd meddwl, gyda chyffuriau, ac yn y blaen. Dŷn ni wedi dechrau gwneud hynna lan yn y gogledd, a rŷn ni wedi jest dechrau ei wneud e yma yng Nghaerdydd, ac ym Merthyr hefyd maen nhw'n gweithio yn y ffordd yna'n barod. So, mae mwy nag un syniad—safe zones, fel roedd Dr Lloyd yn cyfeirio atynt; mae hwnna'n syniad newydd hefyd. So, dwi'n cytuno â beth ddywedodd Dr Lloyd i ddechrau. Y sialens yw i ni i gyd i drio meddwl am bethau newydd rŷn ni'n gallu gwneud gyda'n gilydd i helpu pobl mewn sefyllfa sydd wedi tyfu a sydd mor anodd i bobl sy'n ffeindio eu hunain yn y sefyllfa yna.
Well, Chair, just to say, I agree, of course, that we could all do more to try to think collaboratively about new possibilities to help people who are in the situation that Dr Lloyd has referred to. There's no bigger example of the impact of austerity on our streets in Wales than the people who live on the streets. When I was growing up and going to Swansea from Carmarthen, I never remember seeing one person living in that fashion, but now, in Cardiff, Newport, Swansea and Wrexham, we can see homeless people every day and the challenges facing them are complex, because a place to live is not the only solution that we will have to try to pull together.
So, we are working with local authorities and with people who are working in the third sector to try to think about what else we can do together to help to tackle the challenges facing people in that situation. So, Housing First is one of the new solutions, where we're not trying to create some kind of courses where people have to advance and then at the end of the day they have somewhere to live, but give them somewhere to live first and then after that try to pull services together to help people with mental health and drug problems and so forth. We've started doing that up in north Wales and we have just started doing it here in Cardiff and in Merthyr as well—they are working in that way already. So, there's more than one idea—safe zones, which he referred to; that's a new idea as well. So, I do agree with what Dr Lloyd said at the outset. The challenge is for all of us to try and think about new things that we can do together to help people in a situation that has expanded and grown and which is so difficult for people who find themselves in that situation.
Mick, do you want to go on the Equality Act 2010, and then, I think, after you've had your session, I'll bring Llyr in on the Welsh language?
Yes, please. I do want to ask something later on about the social partnership issue.
Only because there can be a certain overlap. But, in respect of your commitment to implement Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010—and I say this within the background, of course, of, specifically on the wages thing, the announcement of the details today of the UK Government's first assessment of pay within work places and the fact that gender imbalance is actually getting worse rather than getting better—the UK Government continues to oppose the implementation of Part 1 of the Equality Act. You decided that you are going to implement it. Just a couple of questions as to why. With the UK Government saying it's not necessary and they're choosing not to, why does the Welsh Government want to implement it? Secondly, what would be the main purpose to actually doing so? Thirdly, bearing in mind that much of equality is a reserved matter, this would seem to be quite a significant extension of the competence of the Assembly, if implemented. Is that something that you agree with?
I thank Mick for those things. So, why are we now committed to implementing Part 1 of the Equality Act, the socioeconomic duty? Well, Chair, I suppose the short answer is that I'm an old-fashioned socialist, really, and that means that I have always believed that, at root, the thing that most shapes people's chances in life is their relationship with the economy. There are many, many other things that then come in addition to that, but the single most important thing that shapes your chances in life is social class and those economic prospects. What the socioeconomic duty does is that it requires public authorities when making decisions to test the impact of those decisions against that economic and social impact.
That's why I want to do it, because I think it helps us to get to the most basic set of shaping circumstances. In that way, it's another part of the answer I could have offered Lynne about the sort of practical things that we can do. I've put enacting Part 1 of the Equality Act into that 'practical' box. It is something that we can do, and my belief is that we have the competence to do it. This will mean that public bodies in Wales in future, making those big spending decisions, have to take into account the point that Lynne asked me about—how can they be sure that those decisions are having the impact we would like them to have on those whose needs are the greatest?
It's a shaping power. I don't say that operates at the front-line end of things, but, in the way that big decisions are made, I think it has that shaping impact and that's why I'm committed to doing it.
There are some other aspects of it, but I think they begin to tie into the social partnership thing, so I'll defer them to later on.
Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. Mae cynyddu defnydd o'r Gymraeg, yn enwedig yn y gweithle, wrth gwrs, yn rhan ganolog o strategaeth eich Llywodraeth chi i gyrraedd miliwn o siaradwyr. Wrth gwrs, rŷn ni wedi gweld yn ddiweddar achosion, er enghraifft yng nghyd-destun y llyfrgell genedlaethol, sydd wedi bod â pholisi mewnol o blaid y Gymraeg ac wedi gweithredu hwnnw'n llwyddiannus dros y blynyddoedd, lle gwnaeth un o'ch Gweinidogion chi, wrth gwrs, wneud popeth o fewn ei allu i geisio herio dymuniad y llyfrgell genedlaethol i benodi prif lyfrgellydd lle oedd y Gymraeg yn ofynnol.
Yn fwy diweddar, yr wythnos yma yn y Siambr, mewn ymateb i alwadau i sicrhau bod dirprwy brif weithredwr Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd yn medru'r Gymraeg, mi wnaeth eich Gweinidog iaith Gymraeg chi ddadlau bod galw am ofynion ieithyddol yn cynrychioli discrimineddio annerbyniol. Nawr, beth mae sylwadau dau o'ch Gweinidogion chi ynglŷn â hyn yn dweud am agwedd y Llywodraeth tuag at y Gymraeg?
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. Increasing the use of the Welsh language, particularly in the workplace, is a central part of your Government's strategy to reach a million Welsh speakers. Of course, we've seen recently some cases, for example in the context of the national library, which has had an internal policy in favour of the Welsh language that it has implemented successfully over the years, where one of your Ministers did everything within his ability to try to challenge the wishes of the national library to appoint a national librarian where the Welsh language was essential.
Even more recently, this week in the Chamber, in response to calls to ensure that the deputy chief executive of Cartrefi Cymunedol Gwynedd is able to communicate through the medium of Welsh, your Welsh language Minister argued that calling for linguistic requirements represented unacceptable discrimination. Now, given those comments by two of your Ministers, what does that tell us about the Government's attitude towards the Welsh language?
Well, Chair, the specific issue in relation to the library is the subject of a complaint that has been made to me under the ministerial code, so I don't want to get drawn into the specifics of that. The position of the Welsh Government is that we want to do everything we can to encourage and support the use of the Welsh language in the workplace, because we want to see the Welsh language being as ordinary and normal part of the way that life is conducted in Wales as it can be. Is it possible to boil that down to a single requirement in a job description? Well, I don't believe it is.
The national library, to give the example that Llyr started with, has many people on its staff who joined the library not able to speak Welsh, but were entirely committed to making sure that, as part of their contribution to the workplace, they would make themselves fluent in the Welsh language and are now able to do everything that they need to do in that very bilingual workplace in English and in Welsh. I think that is something absolutely to be applauded and to be encouraged.
So, I don't believe, myself, that the argument boils down in the way that Llyr suggested. There are jobs where the ability to speak Welsh is central to that job, but people can acquire that ability as well as coming with it, and I think we've just got to be open to that possibility. We've many, many examples in our public services of people who have committed themselves in that way and, as a result, extend the range of people who are able to provide a Welsh language service, and to be examples to others of the way in which bilingualism can be made a live part of what we do.
Ond os yw'r sefydliad yn ewyllysio neu'n dymuno cael gofyniad bod y Gymraeg yn rhan hanfodol o'r swydd yna, yna does bosib mai lle Gweinidogion y Llywodraeth—heb gyfeirio at unrhyw achos yn benodol; fe allai ddigwydd mewn unrhyw sefyllfa—nid lle Gweinidogion y Llywodraeth yw tanseilio hynny, does bosib. Achos mae wedi bod yn frwydr hir i gyrraedd y pwynt lle mae pobl yn derbyn bod swyddi lle mae'r Gymraeg yn ofynnol yn ddilys, a'r naratif rŷm ni'n ei gael nôl oddi wrth y Llywodraeth yw naill ai bod nhw'n ymyrryd ac yn trio herio hynny'n uniongyrchol, neu fod yna Weinidog arall yn awgrymu bod yna elfen o ddisgrimineiddio yn digwydd pan fo hynny'n digwydd.
But if an institution wishes to have a requirement that a post should be Welsh-essential, then surely it's not the place of Government Ministers—without making reference to any specific case; it could happen anywhere—but it's not the place of Welsh Government Ministers to undermine that, surely. Because it's been a long battle to reach the point where people accept that there are posts where the Welsh language is essential and that is a valid requirement, and the narrative we're getting back from Government is that either they are intervening and trying to challenge that directly, or another Minister is suggesting that there's an element of discrimination happening when that is the case.
I don't think it's a matter of surprise that Welsh Ministers get drawn into conversations about the level of obligation that there would be in any post, not just in relation to the Welsh language, but into other skills that would be required for that post, because the Welsh Government is often the funder of that public service, and there is nothing wrong at all in the Welsh Government having conversations with organisations about the skill set that is required for any of the major appointments that are carried out on our behalf. I think that is right and proper, and I think it's actually productive as well.
There will be differences of view. There are many places where the Welsh Government's role is to be part of the conversation, but not to be the organisation that makes the determination, and that is exactly—without getting drawn into it again—that is exactly the position in relation to the library.
Jest i gloi ar hwn, a fyddech chi'n defnyddio'r term 'disgrimineiddio' pan mae'n dod i'r drafodaeth yna?
Just to conclude on this, would you use the word 'discrimination' when it comes to this discussion?
Well, it's possible to discriminate positively as well as negatively, so I'm not quite as allergic to the term as the Member appears to be.
I think we've gone as far as we can on that particular—. And I know we'll probably return to it again. Can we move to the health issues, and, Lynne, you've got some and I know Llyr's got some as well?
Yes. I wanted to ask about mental health, Mark. I'm very pleased that Welsh Government is now engaging with my committee's 'Mind over matter' report; that's very welcome engagement. We're still, obviously, pushing for a lot of pace and urgency on it, but there have been a number of reports from Assembly committees in this term on mental health. There's also been my committee's report on perinatal mental health, the vital suicide prevention report undertaken by the Health and Social Services Committee, and all of those reports have highlighted the distance that we need to travel, really. It's a priority in 'Prosperity for All'. I think that having parity between mental and physical health is where we need to be in Wales. How far are we, do you think, from making that aspiration a reality in Wales, and what will your role be as First Minister in driving the change that we need?
I wouldn't say for a moment that there is not a significant distance still to go, but I think that that's been an ambition that successive Assemblies and Welsh Governments have shared. It is one of the genuinely distinguishing features of devolution that there has always been a strong cross-party consensus in the Assembly about having parity between mental and physical health services in Wales. And the amount of time that we spend debating mental health issues, and the amount of time that committees give to it, is very different to what you find in legislatures elsewhere inside the United Kingdom. So, I think that is a long-run issue that devolution has grappled with and, as a result, I think things are better in Wales than they would have otherwise been.
Mental health remains the single biggest category of expenditure in the national health service, and when, at the request of Assembly Members, we had an independent audit done of the mental health ring fence, what we found was that almost every health board—at the point that the audit was done it was every health board but one—was spending more on mental health services than the amount of money in the ring fence. The anxiety was that the ring fence was leaky. The money went in there—we've always ring-fenced mental health money for this reason—that money would escape the fence and would be spent on other things. In fact, the truth turned out to be the opposite—that local health boards were spending more than that.
So, I think that if you look at all the things that have happened over the 20 years of devolution—the way in which, in the learning disability aspect of mental health, we have moved so purposefully to close the old institutions to create community-based services; the way in which, following the Mental Health (Wales) Measure 2010 of two Assemblies ago now, we have a primary care mental health service that didn't exist at all here in Wales; the fact that although there is definitely more to do, we have drawn more mental health patients back into Wales who, a decade ago, were being placed in private profit-making facilities on the other side of our border—we've brought that money together, we've created new facilities. Those patients are now being cared for closer to home here in Wales. There is a great deal that that entirely non-partisan focus on mental health has achieved here in Wales.
Is there more to be done? Well, clearly, from all the reports we've seen, the slight difficulty for Government is that not all reports made by different committees say the same thing, and sometimes—
It's not guaranteed, given committees have different emphases and want things done in slightly different ways. But there's a clear agenda, isn't there, for work during the rest of this Assembly term set by the 'Mind over matter' report in relation to children and young people? There is a very clear agenda in relation to suicide prevention. To give you just one example there, Chair. Because it was known that there would be an incoming First Minister, some modest capacity was built into the work programme of the Welsh Centre for Public Policy, and I've had my discussions with them now. There are two priorities that I have asked them to focus on additionally to use that capacity, and one is that I'm asking them to do a piece of qualitative research to help us to understand why there is that spike in suicide amongst men in early middle age. When we talk about suicide figures, we are essentially talking men and we're talking men at two points in their life.
And boys as well. But we know an awful lot about the figures. We've got fantastic work done by Dr Ann John in ‘Talk to me 2’. So, the epidemiology—we're as good as anywhere in knowing patterns, places, figures. What we don't have such a handle on is the why. What do we learn from people who have found themselves in that position? What has driven them to be in that position? And that's why I wanted qualitative research to be done to help us to do more in that area as well. So, I think we've got a very clear mental health agenda, and I want us to find as many new ways as we can of making further progress.
Thank you, and I really welcome that research that you referred to. That's very interesting, and, of course, I would argue that the reforms in 'Mind over matter' are key to tackling that rise in male suicide by building that resilience when people are young.
We could have a whole meeting about mental health, but if I could just ask about one specific area of perinatal mental health, which is mother and baby units? You made a commitment in the Chamber—I think it was on the back of a question. I don't know if it was Llyr who highlighted the fact that this was something that Steffan Lewis was very committed to. My committee made recommendations on it. The BBC are running a story today that there are going to be four new mother and baby units in England on top of the ones they've already got. We don't have one in Wales. When do you think we will be in a position to have appropriate mother and baby provision in Wales for some of our illest mothers, mindful of the fact that suicide is a leading cause of death for women in the perinatal period?
Well, there is a very important word in what Lynne has asked me, and that's the word 'appropriate', isn't it? So, I'll just say again, as I say every time, Chair, I think in this area, as in every other area, stronger primary services—that's where we've put our greatest focus in recent times, to make sure that we build up those services in the community, so that women don't need to leave their own homes to get the help that they need.
But do you recognise, First Minister, that there will always be some women, especially who've got postpartum psychosis, who need in-patient treatment, and at the moment they're having to go to either adult psychiatric wards without their babies, or they're at home, being managed in what is inevitably a risky situation?
So, I do recognise that there will be some, but I want that number to be minimised, because I want the other services to be there so we end up with only those people who really, really need that sort of service, because I do think that it is better for them if we can find ways in which people can stay together, stay within their communities and their localities and things, and Welsh geography is not easy on this, is it? Because, you know, one unit in Cardiff for somebody who needs it from St David's is not a terrifically better answer than that unit being in Bristol.
And then you have to face the issues in your question about 'appropriate'. The reason that the previous mental health unit that we had for perinatal mental health in Wales closed was because it simply didn't have enough women attending it to allow the people who ran it to keep their skills at the level that was required for that very specialist provision. So, that's another set of issues that have to be thought through. The more specialist provision there is, the more the royal colleges and others, quite rightly, say that unless you have a certain level of throughput there, they're not going to license you to do that sort of work anywhere else, and the previous unit had periods when there was nobody in it, and when they did, the numbers were very small, and finding the staff with the skills that were able to do it was not easy. Now, Vaughan Gething, as you know, has made a commitment that there will be a unit, for the reasons that we've discussed, but I'm just trying to suggest to the committee that there are some real challenges in providing that service in a way that does the job that we would like it do, and there is the whole issue of north Wales. I think that was the question that Llyr—. It was Llyr who asked me about it. The health Minister has made a commitment to a unit in the south of Wales. There are women in north Wales who will have the same very serious postpartum experiences, who need help as well, and Vaughan has made a commitment to looking to see what more can be done to provide the service that they need, too.
So, I think it's complex and I think there are lots of issues you've got to think through very carefully to make sure that the service that we provide doesn't act as a magnet to draw more people into it. That's one of the big themes of the health service. You provide a tier 4 service, and people will be presented for it, whereas what we want to do is to push down the layers of intervention so that we get better preventative services, better services close to people, and then when you do recognise that a level 4 specialist service is needed, that it is delivered in a way that means that we can staff it properly, run it properly, provide the service that those women would require.
A number of us from north-east Wales will be rather concerned at the announcement that the Countess of Chester Hospital is no longer taking out-patient referrals from north Wales. Now, it's been no secret that there have been 'unresolved financial issues'—I think is the term that's been used—in relation to providing those services, but I'm just wondering, how could it have come to this, because we've known since last year that this was an issue? We're now in a situation where the Countess of Chester is closing its doors to out-patients from Wales. So, I'm just wondering, what have you go to say to people from north-east Wales in that the Government and the authorities, the health authorities there, haven't been able to address this?
Well, Chair, I've heard those reports in the last 24 hours, so I've no detailed update from the local health board itself on how they intend to resolve that issue. So, I don't want to sound as though I'm answering questions on the basis of knowledge I don't have. But, as you say, there are long-standing tensions along the border because we run very different regimes in terms of how patient care is paid for. And it is for both of those parties to sort that out, and it is for the Countess of Chester as well to recognise that, if they were to decide not to offer services to Welsh patients, then the money that they receive every year—substantial sums of money that they receive every year—for the services that they provide, quite rightly, that money will not be flowing to them in the future.
So, there is a very direct interest that they have at stake here, which they sometimes, it seems to me, underplay in the public statements that they make. Welsh patients are part of their bottom line in the way that the English system is run, and, if they choose not to provide those services, then they will have to face up to the fact that the income stream that they rely on that comes from Wales is not going to flow to them in future. So, there are very good reasons why the Countess of Chester needs to come to the table in a constructive way of resolving these things, as we will too. We've always paid our bills. Over the period of devolution, there have been regular suggestions from English providers that, somehow, Wales doesn't pay its bills. And every time that has been looked at, that has turned out not to be true. We always pay our bills, and we will, of course, pay our bill in relation to north Wales patients in the Countess of Chester.
And when the Countess of Chester closes its doors over winter periods to its accident and emergency services, then those patients end up coming into the Welsh NHS, and we never turn them away, nor ever would we. So, some sense of reciprocity is essential in all of this, and reciprocity from the Countess of Chester needs to be part of that conversation.
Well, clearly it does. But, of course, for the patients, they can no longer access the Countess of Chester, and the question, therefore, is whether they go to Wrexham Maelor or Glan Clwyd hospital, and whether the capacity is there within those hospitals to deal with what was up to 20,000 patients who flow into Countess of Chester every year. So, do you have the confidence that the capacity exists within Betsi Cadwaladr to handle that increase in footfall?
Well, it will be for the health board. As I said, Chair, I'm not in a position to offer detailed answers to how the local managers of that health service intend to resolve that position. The real way to resolve it is to have a sensible agreement between the north Wales health board and those who run services on the other side of the border. That's where I want the focus to be immediately felt.
But the north Wales health board is in special measures, which means it's under the direct management of the Welsh Government, so surely you can't just offload that responsibility to them without feeling a degree of responsibility.
I'm not attempting to do that for a moment, Chair. I've explained how I think the problem ought to be approached and resolved. There is a world of difference between having a strong sense of how these things ought to be resolved, and being expected to answer questions about how individual out-patient arrangements are to be organised. That's not the role of the Welsh Government.
I just think, though—if I just jump in here, which I don't do very often, but I just think, for patients in north Wales, people in north Wales, this is another issue they will get upset about in a way, and they won't understand finance of how different parts of the NHS—. And there are the historic problems that we've always had along the border, you've quite rightly pointed to, in other specialities that will suddenly start to bubble up. And I just think it's about managing that, and I hope that you can, as part of the special measures, help to direct the board management to actually resolve this quite quickly so that our patients—I declare that interest that I am from north Wales—actually feel that they're getting that equality. So, they don't feel that by living close to the border they will get a poorer service because of their—. It's postcode lottery, really. So, I hope that the Government can just put that pressure onto the health board.
Of course we want it resolved as fast as possible in order to make sure that north Wales patients don't feel those anxieties. The big picture, Chair, as you know, is that we face this issue right across the border—the relationship between Chepstow and Gloucester, right up through Powys; we do it every single day. We have more English patients using primary care services in Wales than there are Welsh patients using primary care services in England, and we do that day in and day out, and the same pragmatic and sensible and reciprocal way of dealing with those matters needs to be applied in the issue that has flared up in the last 24 hours.
Okay. I want to move on, if we can, to the—. We've spent quite a lot of time, but I think it's important to do that. We've got a small issue of Brexit that we want to discuss a bit further on down the line, and I'm conscious of time, so I want to move on to your section that's around a more prosperous Wales, if we can. David, you've got a question around economy, and then we move to Dai for transport and then Mick for his social partnership.
Thank you, Chair. It's a very—just a quick one, in one sense. Clearly, the paper you provided focuses very much on the foundation economy, and you've set your stall out quite clearly as to how you want to see how that can help the Welsh economy develop and grow, and the input it can have in that, but my concern is that that's all well and good, and it's great to see that happening, but there are still high-paid jobs we may be losing as a consequence. We know—. Airbus were here on Wednesday night, highlighting the high skill they have, both in north Wales and in south Wales; we know that there's the semi-conductor sector in south-east Wales. But there are many foundational industries that exist in Wales that bring high-paid jobs into those local economies. Can you give reassurances that you're looking at how those industries can be maintained and sustained to ensure that it's not just the foundational economy that's being addressed, but, actually, the wider economy—the high-skilled, well-paid jobs—will be fought for and maintained? Because you've mentioned so many times this morning that the economy is a driving agent for many things you want to try and achieve.
Of course, Chair. I'm very happy to do that. It's not a competition between the two sectors, is it? What I've been trying to do is to just draw more attention to the 40 per cent of the Welsh economy that is to be found in the foundation economy and which often didn't seem to be talked about at all. And, when people talked about the economy, they always talked only about the sort of inward investment type jobs, the sort of jobs that David has just referred to, Chair. And my effort to try and create a bit more space to think about that 40 per cent of our economy—jobs that are not footloose, because they stay in those places, and they have to stay in those places, because they are provided, inevitably, by people who live in those places. We just give a bit more prominence to that sector in our thinking and a bit more energy to thinking about how we can make more of it in the future, but it's absolutely not intended to be at the expense of the focus we have to put on all those other very important sectors that we have in the Welsh economy, whether that is automotive or whether that is aeronautics or whether that is steel making. Those are still absolutely important parts of the Welsh economy; they bring those highly skilled and paid jobs into the Welsh economy, and those remain very important indeed to the Welsh Government.
We continue to work as hard as we can alongside those sectors, particularly in the Brexit context, in making the points that they make to us, to Ministers in the UK Government, who need to take the interests of those parts of the economy very much in their minds when they are making the decisions they are about the way we leave the European Union.
It's very small. You just mentioned the UK Government—obviously, the industrial strategy of the UK Government has been heavily criticised by its own select committees in Westminster. Are you having discussions with the UK Government to see how your own strategy fits in with that and how that should be strengthened to make sure the Welsh economy can grow?
Yes, we do have those discussions, Chair; they are mostly conducted by Ken Skates. I had a brief opportunity to raise some of those points with Greg Clark when I attended a sub-committee of the UK Cabinet on Wednesday of this week, and I believe that he was meeting with Ken yesterday in Swindon to talk about the Honda position, and Ken was there because of the supply chain consequences that Honda's decision has for us in Wales, and that was being done under that broad umbrella of the industrial strategy, and we take every opportunity we can to make sure that Welsh interests and the needs of the Welsh economy are understood and represented in the way that that strategy is being developed.
Ie, diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Cyfle i athronyddu ychydig bach, os ŷch chi eisiau, achos mae rhai ohonon ni’n ddigon hen i gofio pan oedd ein bysys ni i gyd yn fusnes cyhoeddus, a hefyd ein trenau, yn rhyfeddol, yn dal o dan reolaeth y sector cyhoeddus, ac, wrth gwrs, dwi’n gweld yr angen i ddatblygu systemau. Mae gyda ni gyfle, buaswn i’n gobeithio. Dŷn ni’n gallu rhagweld datblygu systemau metro yn y de ddwyrain, bae Abertawe, yn y gogledd—cyfle i ni ddatblygu system integredig, fodern o dan ofal cyhoeddus, buaswn i’n fodlon dadlau. Fyddech chi, felly, yn cytuno bod yna gyfle fan hyn i ddatblygu awdurdodau trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus, un ai’n rhanbarthol neu’n lleol? Buasai hynny’n gam positif ymlaen. Ac, wrth gwrs, buasen ni i gyd yn gallu cytuno bod y farchnad wedi ffaelu mewn sawl lle ynglŷn â darpariaeth trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus ar hyn o bryd, felly, fyddech chi hefyd yn cytuno bod datblygu cwmnïau bysys a threnau sydd o dan berchnogaeth gyhoeddus hefyd yn fodd i lenwi’r bylchau yn ein system trafnidiaeth bresennol ni yng Nghymru?
Yes, thank you very much, Chair. An opportunity to philosophise a little, if you like, because some of us are old enough to remember when all of our buses were in public hands, as were our trains, which were also in the public sector, and, of course, I believe that there's a need to develop systems. We have an opportunity now, I hope. We can anticipate developing a metro system in the south east, Swansea bay, as well as in north Wales—so, there's an opportunity for us to develop an integrated, modern system that would be in public hands. Would you agree with me that there's an opportunity to develop public transport authorities, either at a local or regional level? That would be a positive step forward. And, of course, we could all agree that the market has failed in a number of areas in terms of the provision of public transport at the moment, so would you also agree with me that developing bus and train companies that are in public ownership would also be a means of filling those gaps in our transport system as it currently stands in Wales?
Wel, diolch am y cwestiwn. Wrth gwrs, rŷn ni'n dweud, onid ydyn ni, ambell waith, fod y system reilffordd sydd gyda ni'n dal i fod o dan y sector cyhoeddus, ond Llywodraeth yr Almaen a'r Llywodraeth yn Ffrainc sy'n ei rhedeg, nid ni. Dyna pam mai fy mhlaid i, y Blaid Lafur, yn yr etholiad cyffredinol diwethaf, oedd yn awgrymu tynnu'r rheilffordd nôl o dan y sector cyhoeddus. Rŷn ni'n dal i feddwl mai hwnna yw'r ffordd orau i greu system trafnidiaeth integredig ar ochr y rheilffyrdd yn y dyfodol. Rŷn ni wedi trio ein gorau glas, o dan y pwerau sydd gyda ni'n barod, pan oedden ni'n rhedeg y system, o ran sut rŷn ni'n mynd i'w wneud e ar ôl Arriva yma yng Nghymru, i drio ei wneud e'n fwy fel yna.
Dwi'n siŵr bydd Aelodau wedi gweld y Papur Gwyn y mae Ken Skates wedi'i gyhoeddi ar ochr y bysys. Mae hwn yn awgrymu ffyrdd i ddefnyddio'r pwerau newydd sydd gyda ni i roi mwy o bwerau i'r awdurdodau lleol, neu i greu rhyw fath o system ranbarthol, ble rŷn ni'n tynnu'r awdurdodau lleol at ei gilydd i ddefnyddio'r pwerau newydd i gynllunio ein system am y dyfodol. Mae lot mwy o bobl yn defnyddio bysys nag yn defnyddio trenau; rŷn ni'n gwybod hynny. Ac mae mwy rŷn ni'n gallu ei wneud gyda'r arian rŷm ni'n ei wario ar ran y cyhoedd yng Nghymru yn y ffordd yna i wneud mwy i gynllunio am y dyfodol a chreu system trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus sy'n tynnu bysys, trenau a ffyrdd eraill at ei gilydd ac eu tynnu nhw o dan ymbarél y public interest, fel rŷn ni'n ei alw e yn Saesneg.
Thank you for the question. Of course, we say sometimes that the rail system that we have is still in the public sector, but the Governments of Germany and France are the ones who run that, not us. That's why my party, the Labour Party, in the last general election, suggested taking it back into public hands. We still think that that is the best way to create an integrated transport system on the rail side in the future. We have tried our level best, under the powers that we have already, when we ran the system, in terms of how we were going to do it after Arriva here in Wales, to try to do it in that kind of fashion.
I'm sure that Members will have seen the White Paper that Ken Skates has published on the bus side. That does suggest ways to use the new powers that we have to give more powers to local authorities, or to create some kind of regional system, where we pull the local authorities together to use the new powers to plan our system for the future. Many more people use buses than use trains; we know that. And there is more that we can do in terms of the funding that we spend on behalf of the public in Wales in that way to do more to plan for the future and to create a public transport system that pulls buses, trains and other means of transport together under the umbrella of the public interest, as we call it in English.
Okay. Fine. Dai, do you want to bring up your question on the M4 relief?
Well, okay. Obviously, First Minister, you've highlighted the M4 relief road as an important part of your consideration. In previous answers to many questions in the Chamber, you've said that you can't make a decision because of the Newport West by-election. It's now completed. Do you want to take the opportunity to give us an indication as to when you might now make a decision on the M4 relief road? [Laughter.]
Chair, I can't imagine the trouble that I would be in on the floor of the Assembly if I were to announce a decision just as the Assembly goes into recess and with no opportunity for Assembly Members to question me or to hold me to account for it. So, the timing of these things is not in any way under the control of the Welsh Government; it's just the way that things have panned out. I won't be saying anything until the Assembly is here to hear what I have to say and to be able to hold me to account for that.
Do I take from that that you'll make a statement when we first meet back after recess?
I hope to be able to say something as soon as I can when I'm back. I can't promise you that that will be the decision, but what I am very keen to do—and I've been pressing with officials and lawyers and people who advise me—is that when we come back, as a minimum, I want to be able to publish for Assembly Members the decision-making path, so people know when the decision is going to be made, even if I'm not in a position to actually announce the decision that day.
I've just had visions of the press all running down the corridor then. I'm sure they've all turned back to sit to listen to it upstairs. Mick on social partnerships.
Yes, I'd like come in on that, because it's obviously a significant part under your paper, under 'A More Prosperous Wales'. Your statement there is:
'At the heart of our commitment to social partnership is an understanding that government, business and trade unions have interests in common and that all stand to gain from working together.'
And you then say:
'We will legislate to put our successful social partnership model on a statutory basis.'
At the moment in Wales, we have probably the highest levels we've had of in-work poverty, the highest levels of dependency on food banks, for example, and I'm wondering what you see as the reasoning why, having really had a successful social partnership policy so far—what the benefits are now for putting this on to a statutory basis. What are the weaknesses it aims to resolve? What will it do to actually strengthen the social partnership, and, of course, what the objectives of the social partnership are?
Well, the objectives of the social partnership model are the ones that we rehearsed extensively, very often jointly with Plaid Cymru, in the first year of this Assembly term, when we were taking the trade union Bill through the Assembly, because the basis on which that Bill was constructed was that we had a successful model here in Wales. When we face really difficult moments and difficult decisions, the way that we try to do it is to get the key partners around the table and then to thrash out a way of resolving those problems together. Those are often challenging discussions, but we have always believed that they are better made by the partners—the trade unions, the businesses, the Welsh Government, the local authorities, the health boards—whoever the key partners are, that they are around that table and do the hard yards of finding a way in which we can have a common agreement on those things. That was the basis on which we took that Bill through the Assembly, and what I wanted to do was to strengthen that model further.
The way that I think we can help to do that is by putting some statutory underpinning to the voluntary arrangements that we currently have. Because at the moment, although I think they're very successful, they are, in the end, all voluntary. When those arrangements reach the compromises that are almost always necessary to find a way forward, every partner needs to have the confidence of knowing that those agreements will be delivered in practice. I think statutory underpinning to the social partnership model will help to give all players the confidence of knowing that that is what will happen, and if it is not happening, that there is a means of recourse, that you can report back any failures to the social partnership arrangements and know that they will then be resolved.
Now, I think we've reached the limit of the voluntary model, and I want to push the limits of the voluntary model, because I think when people commit themselves voluntarily, that is better than people committing themselves because they've got to. But, nevertheless, when there are those voluntary arrangements made, the people who have worked hard to bring them about need to know that those agreements then will be honoured. That's what a statutory underpinning helps us to bring about, and it animates the model again with that extra level of confidence.
One of the aspects of social partnership is the way it leads into the socioeconomic duty—we've referred to that a little bit on the equality side—and, of course, the broader socioeconomic responsibilities. A key part of all that is that Welsh Government commissions somewhere in the region of about £6 billion of procurement each year, and, of course, there are guidelines and frameworks around that. But what we do know from, for example, the work of the ILO—I think the much-undervalued work of the International Labour Organization—is that, for example, there is a direct link between poverty and, for example, collective bargaining. That is, where collective bargaining occurs, there are normally higher standards of living and employment. This is not just within the UK, but this is across the whole of Europe, and in fact internationally. Obviously things like procurement and state aid are matters that are under discussion within the framework, depending on what happens with Brexit. But we do envisage that in some way legislation might commit to actually incorporating some of the key objectives of ILO conventions, which we are already supposed to be tied to, but to give emphasis and focus. You think that would contribute to what the objectives are.
I'm very keen that we do learn some of the lessons from the ILO. It's the ILO work that coined the term 'precariat' to describe some of the families that Lynne was asking about in her original questions about poverty—those people who live on the margins, and who have better times and less good times. In-work poverty is very much part of the experience of that group.
So, the social partnership model certainly relies upon that wider set of work that the fair work commission is doing, because through the social partnership model we want to drive forms of employment in Wales that offer people decent terms and conditions where people know that it's not their holidays and their pensions that are under attack as a result of employers trying to cut corners, and where costs aren't loaded onto the employee that properly belong to the employer. That's why we've done the work that we have done—again, in the foundational economy setting—in social care, to make it clear that when public money is being spent, we will not tolerate things like clipping, as it's known in the trade, where the costs that belong to the employer are handed over to the employee.
That corpus of work that the ILO contribute to—but not only the ILO; the World Bank and the IMF say that where there are good collective bargaining arrangements in place then you get more equal outcomes in society—and the work of our own fair work commission, which is coming to fruition very shortly now, becomes the body of work that we can draw on as we shape the social partnership model that we want to see in Wales.
Just one follow-on question, one final question on this. Of course, you may have seen the report—it was one of the world's leading economists and one of the leading Indian industrial businessmen in the world that issued a statement saying he thought capitalism was out of control. To some extent, that reflects the state we're in with, for example, the way in which state funds are used in procurement. One of the essences of procurement that is complained about by companies is, of course, that it is a downward 'race to the bottom' process, competing with one another and continually undercutting, and therefore good employers, good companies in Wales complain about the fact that there is not a level playing field. Do you see this as being a mechanism that might actually, uniquely within the UK, start creating a level playing field for companies that want to have that community and socioeconomic ethos?
Well, Chair, the greater willingness that we have in Wales to use the powers, for example, of regulation is always, it seems to me, done on the basis that that protects the good people in the marketplace. That's what you're trying to do, isn't it? Markets are poor masters. You need to be in charge of the market, not the other way round. If the market is in charge of you, then you have races to the bottom and the good people, the people who try to do the right things, get squeezed out because there is always somebody else able to cut a corner that they can't. Our approach to regulation throughout—. You think of the way we've done it in Rent Smart Wales; it's all been designed to ensure that the playing field is level for those people who do things in the right way, and to be in charge of that way of doing things in a way that makes it more difficult for people who want to cut the corners and get round the way of doing the things that they ought to be doing. So in that sense, I completely agree that the social partnership model is about supporting good businesses, as well as everything else that we want it to do.
Okay. Happy? I'm conscious of time. I think what I might do is I might look at taking the topical questions now, just in a brief time, and then return to Brexit so that we can discuss Brexit. We just feel we need to have an update on it. So, if you're happy with that, we'll do that.
Right. Because I'm getting really old these days, I remember talking first about a tidal lagoon in Swansea bay back in 2006, and it's been Plaid policy since that time, in fact. We heard this week that the world's first test centre in accelerating the development of materials and structures for tidal energy, though, is to be built in Scotland now. So, are you concerned that here in Wales we seem to be losing momentum in terms of positioning ourselves as a world leader in tidal energy? I'm slightly concerned that it's gone a little bit off the agenda. Obviously, I don't want to rehearse everything that's happened, but in terms of Welsh Government providing direction and leadership in the whole Swansea bay tidal lagoon scenario—. Because some of us still believe fervently that we could bring that about as a pacesetter for other tidal developments.
So, can you provide some reassurance, really, about how you envisage Welsh Government running with this project? And also, do you agree, in terms of the long-term financial return to Welsh taxpayers of this innovative technology that we want to see developed, that it would be better as some sort of, again, public interest in this in terms of being a public company, or at least some sort of energy company for Wales that is under the auspices of the public sector, as opposed to leaving it to the private sector to cream off any potential future profits, and then we lose control over it as well? So, given all that, what are you doing to bring about a tidal lagoon in Swansea bay?
The general point I want to make is that I am absolutely committed to doing everything that we can to help create a sector in Wales that is about renewable energy from the sea. Tidal lagoons are one part of that, but there are many other components to it as well. This time last week, almost exactly, I was in north Wales and meeting a group of people at the SEACAMS institute on Ynys Môn: people from Morlais, people from Minesto, people from the university, talking there about the devices that are being trialled in the Menai straits, and in the Ramsey sound as well, of course, and the way in which one of these experimental technologies is going to be the breakthrough technology. In Wales, we are so well placed to be part of that. We've invested large sums of European money in trying to create those experiments.
There are two things that they said to me that they think are the major things we need to get right next. One of those is in Welsh hands, one of them isn't. The one that isn't is an equivalent to the feed-in tariffs that allowed wind to become a genuinely mass viable industry, and we've got to do more to persuade the UK Government they've got to fund a tariff for marine energy in the short run. It will inevitably be expensive in the early stages, but that is an investment in creating that industry, where prices will fall, as they have so sharply in wind. We continue to lobby and work with the industry to do that.
Consenting regimes were the second thing. Those are more in our own hands. A contrast is sometimes drawn with Scotland, where some people feel they have a more sympathetic approach to experimental technologies. What I undertook at that meeting last Friday is that I will broker a meeting that I will attend myself, that Lesley Griffiths will attend, between NRW and the industry, so that we have everybody in the one room to share concerns. NRW have legitimate concerns that we would all share about protecting the environment and not allowing things to happen that damage environments in the long run. I think the thing that is in my mind, Chair, is that if we don't find a way of creating renewable, sustainable energies in the future, then our chance of addressing global warming will be affected, and then all the environment. So, let's have some sort of proportionate conversation, but getting people in the room so everybody is there and we don't have people—so that I don't get separate conversations fed to me when really they should be talking to each other. That's what I've agreed to try and broker on that.
On the tidal lagoon front, I had a message from the leader of Swansea earlier this week saying that the work their task and finish group is doing is coming to an end. He thinks that there is something emerging from it that he would wish to put to us in the Welsh Government. We will now make arrangements to meet up to see what we can do to align ourselves with—. If there is an emerging model that can make the Swansea bay tidal lagoon work, then of course we will want to be part of that. But we have to have a bit of time to interrogate that model and satisfy ourselves that it really does deliver.
Thank you, Chair. Obviously, you wouldn't expect me not to ask a question on steel this week, following the announcement of the likely sale of Trostre. Trostre is a viable sector, so is Shotton, which means that there's a problem therefore for Port Talbot, which is in my constituency obviously. I'm going to be parochial here, because I understand that about 300,000 to 400,000 tonnes of steel from Port Talbot goes to Trostre, so it's a huge client. What discussions are you going to be having to look at how you can protect that industry? Because the Welsh Government has done so much for the steel industry. It's been the one Government in the UK that's stood up and said, 'We believe in steel.' But we are now facing another challenge, just two years down the line. I know that commitments have been made from Tata about 2026, but that loss of steel could end up losing a blast furnace, as an example. It also means that the long-term future comes under question once again. So, what are you going to do to have discussions—I think it's discussions now at an India level, but also discussions with UK Government to ask them are they serious about a steel industry in the UK, because this could end the steel industry in the UK.
I had a lengthy telephone conversation with Hans Fischer, who David and I both met in Port Talbot, who is the senior vice-president in the proposed new joint venture. He explained the background to me, which is the one that Dai will know, that this is all about the efforts of the two companies to persuade the commission to give the go ahead to the joint venture, and their need as they see to divest themselves of some of their current holdings in order to persuade the commission to give the go ahead. They won't know whether those efforts are successful until June of this year.
The main point I hammered away at in that conversation was that if Tata have decided to divest themselves of Trostre, then they must make sure that the terms on which the divestment takes place protects the viable business that Trostre is today. I said to them that is a serious obligation that I believe they have. If they're doing this because they say they've got to in order to pursue their bigger picture—and the bigger picture, to be fair, he said to me, is, in their view, to protect the long-term future of Port Talbot. That is what they want to do. But, in doing so, they have continuing obligations to make sure that the terms on which Trostre is to be sold to somebody else create a long-term future for Trostre as well.
The long-term future for Trostre I fully accept and understand. That can be achieved, though, by them buying steel from outside because it's cheaper. Tata has been a family within Wales—it's got Shotton, it's got Trostre, it's got Llanwern, and Port Talbot feeds them all. So, the question is, if you're losing a large proportion of your client base, it could be up to 20 per cent of the steel, then that's a huge impact upon Port Talbot.
I completely understand that, Chair. We will have further opportunities, I know, to speak with more senior people in Tata about that, and of course we will take all the opportunities we can to make those points, as Welsh Government has done throughout this Assembly term. As David Rees said, it's partly as a result of all those efforts together with the industry that we are in such a different position at the start of 2019 than we were at the start of 2016.
Can I just ask one quick one? I'm meeting with the unions next week. Will you give a commitment to meet with me and the unions at some point in the near future to have that discussion?
Absolutely happy to do that. I'm due to visit Port Talbot within the next week or so to meet with some unions on another aspect of the work that they do there. So, I'm very happy to do that, of course.
I've got one more topical question—well, maybe one or two topical questions, if Llyr wants to raise it. Mick, do you want to come in with that and then we must go on to—
Yes, First Minister, I'd just like to ask a question really about general relations with the Wales Office. It's no secret that they have been difficult and they've been controversial in recent times. We know desperately that the Wales Office is desperately looking for a knight in shining armour to come and rescue them, to some extent, and we now learn, of course, that apparently they've appointed one Kevin Costner—I beg your pardon, Kevin Foster—as a Wales Office Minister. I was just wondering what your plans are to urgently travel to Torbay to rescue the Wales Office and the future of the Welsh economy.
I have no current travel plans that include Torbay, Chair, and that's partly because a succession of junior Ministers have come and gone at the Wales Office. I've never succeeded in meeting any of them, nor, to be frank, have the discharge of their responsibilities very often passed across my desk.
Look, I want to be fair, Chair, as ever, that, at the day-in, day-out level amongst officials, a lot goes on with the Wales Office that is perfectly amicable and satisfactory, and they are helpful to us at that level in sometimes needing things to get changed in proposals that are coming forward from the UK Government. So, I don't want to just act as though there is nothing useful that they do.
But I do think there is a much bigger question about what the role of territorial Secretaries of State needs to be or, indeed, if there is a need for such an office to exist in the post-Brexit organisation of the United Kingdom. And that's an issue that the Welsh Government has consistently tried to inject into the Brexit discussions and have generally found it a pretty uphill struggle, because the UK Government has just been unable, under the pressures of the immediate crisis of Brexit, to find any time or capacity to focus on those really vital questions of how, without a common European rule book to help to knit us together in the future, we are to find those mechanisms. A sensible discussion—not one in which we're just accused of making partisan political pot shots—a mature discussion about what the role of a territorial Secretaries of State should be in that post-Brexit UK world would be just sensible and valuable, but we're quite a long way away from having the UK Government engaged in it.
Dawlish is not on my list of holiday destinations this Easter. [Laughter.]
Sorry, I'm just going to propose a short adjournment now of the committee, for just a couple of minutes, if that's okay, and then we'll go into Brexit. We'll just move that.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:08 ac 11.13.
The meeting adjourned between 11:08 and 11:13.
Thanks for that, and we're just reconvening in public now. Can we turn to Brexit? We're at the end of the agenda now, or we're coming to the end, but can we turn to Brexit? I know Llyr's got a particular question he wants to ask first, and then we'll see how it pans out.
Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. Dwi jest eisiau gofyn ble rŷn ni arni ar y shared prosperity fund? Ydyn ni rhywfaint yn gallach beth fydd e'n edrych fel a sut bydd e'n gweithio?
Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I just wanted to ask where we are with the shared prosperity fund? Do we have any idea what it will look like and how it will work?
Wel, dw i ddim yn meddwl ein bod ni, Cadeirydd. Dwi ddim wedi gweld dim byd eto. Fel dŷch chi'n gwybod, roedd Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig wedi dweud sawl gwaith eu bod nhw'n paratoi dogfen i fynd mas i'r cyhoedd er mwyn i ni i gyd ddweud beth oeddem ni'n meddwl am yr awgrymiadau. Roedden nhw'n dweud hynny cyn y Nadolig, ac roedden nhw'n dweud eu bod nhw'n mynd i gyhoeddi'r papur yn gynnar yn y flwyddyn newydd, ond rŷn ni'n dal i fod yn yr un sefyllfa. Dŷn ni ddim wedi gweld dim byd. Fe alla i jest dweud yn glir unwaith eto dydy hi ddim yn dderbyniol i ni o gwbl os bydd y papur yn awgrymu ffordd ymlaen lle mae arian yn gallu mynd mas o Gymru a phwerau’n mynd mas o Gymru hefyd. A jest i fynd yn ôl nawr i'r cwestiwn roedd Mick wedi'i ofyn am y Swyddfa Gymreig, jest i fod yn glir, os mai dyna beth maen nhw'n mynd i'w awgrymu, bydd ffrae rhyngom ni a nhw.
Well, I don't think that we do, Chair. We haven't seen anything yet. As you know, the UK Government said several times that they were preparing a document to go out to the public in order for all of us to be able to say what we thought about the suggestions in it. They said that before Christmas, and they said that they were going to publish the paper early in the new year, but we're still in the same situation. We haven't seen anything yet. I will just say clearly once again that it's not acceptable for us at all if the paper is going to suggest a way ahead where funding can be withdrawn from Wales and powers can be withdrawn from Wales as well. And just going back to the question that Mick asked about the Wales Office, just to be clear, if that's what they're going to suggest, there will be an argument between us and them.
Wel, mae'n debyg bod ffrae ar ei ffordd felly, achos mi wnaeth Jonathan Edwards, Aelod Seneddol Plaid Cymru, ofyn i Alun Cairns, yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol, am hyn yn y Pwyllgor Materion Cymreig yr wythnos yma, ac mi wnaeth yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol wrthod cadarnhau y byddai'r arian yn dod i Gymru i'w ddosbarthu, fel y mae arian Ewropeaidd yn ei wneud ar hyn o bryd, wrth gwrs. Ond gwnaeth e hefyd awgrymu efallai bod yna ffyrdd mwy creadigol o rannu’r arian. Gwnaeth e sôn efallai byddai’r arian yn gallu mynd yn uniongyrchol i awdurdodau lleol neu’n uniongyrchol i brojectau unigol. Felly, yn amlwg, byddech chi’n teimlo, felly, os ydy hynny’n digwydd, byddai hynny o ofid i ni i gyd.
Well, that argument seems to be in the pipeline, because Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP, asked Alun Cairns, the Secretary of State, about this at the Welsh Affairs Committee this week, and the Secretary of State refused to confirm that the funding would come to Wales for distribution, as European funding does currently. But he also suggested that there may be more creative ways of distributing the money. He mentioned that it could go directly to local authorities or directly to individual projects. So, clearly, you would feel, if that were to be the case, that that would be a matter of concern for us all.
Wel, Cadeirydd, dwi ddim yn meddwl—dwi ddim wedi gweld cyngor yn union ar y pwyntiau yna, ond mae'r cyngor cyfreithiol dwi wedi ei weld yn awgrymu does dim pwerau, ar hyn o bryd, gyda Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i ariannu pobl yn syth fel yna. So, bydd yn rhaid iddyn nhw fynd â Deddf newydd trwy’r Tŷ Cyffredin i helpu’r Ysgrifennydd Gwladol i wneud beth mae e’n awgrymu ei wneud, a dwi ddim yn gweld hynny’n digwydd.
A hefyd, jest does dim y mecanwaith gyda nhw i wneud e. Dydy Cymru yn 2019 ddim yr un lle ag yr oedd hi cyn datganoli. So, does dim pobl ar lawr y tir gyda Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i wneud y gwaith ymarferol i weithio gyda’r projectau fel yr oedd yr Ysgrifennydd Gwladol yn ei awgrymu. So, jest ar lefel ymarferol, dyw hwnna ddim yn mynd i weithio, oni bai—. I ni, dydy’r syniad ddim yn gweithio ar ochr y berthynas rhwng y Llywodraeth yma a Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig mewn cyfnod o ddatganoli.
Well, Chair, I don't think—I haven't seen advice on those exact points, but the legal advice I've seen suggests that there are no powers with the UK Government to fund people directly in that fashion. So, they will have to have a new Act through the House of Commons to help the Secretary of State to do what he's suggesting he's going to do, and I don't see that happening.
Also, they don't have the mechanism to do that. Wales in 2019 is not the same place as it was before devolution. So, the UK Government doesn't have people on the ground to do the practical work to work with these projects as the Secretary of State suggested. So, just on a practical level, that is not going to work, unless—. For us, the idea doesn't work in terms of the relationship between us and the UK Government in a period of devolution.
Can I just add a sentence as well, if I may, Chair, just to add that the other thing that is completely unacceptable to us is that—? Any shared prosperity fund approach to post-Brexit funding would be completely unacceptable to us if it's doled out on the basis of a Barnett formula. Because currently, of course, we get finance from the European Union on the basis of a needs-based formula reflecting the realities of economic difficulties on the ground. So, a Barnett-based approach would be completely unacceptable for that reason, because it would mean we're getting a lot less than we were promised during the referendum.
A’r peth arall methodd Ysgrifennydd Gwladol Cymru ei wneud yn yr un Pwyllgor Materion Cymreig oedd cadarnhau y byddai’r arian sy’n dod i Gymru yn cyfateb o leiaf i’r symiau rŷn ni’n eu derbyn ar hyn o bryd. Nawr, petai hynny’n digwydd, petawn ni’n derbyn llai o arian o dan unrhyw drefniant newydd, a ydych chi’n credu ei bod hi’n deg i bobl Cymru deimlo eu bod nhw wedi cael eu twyllo, wedi cael eu bradychu?
And another thing that the Secretary of State failed to do in that same meeting of the Welsh Affairs Committee was to confirm that the funding that would come to Wales would correspond at least to the sums that we currently receive. Now, if that were to happen and we were to receive less money under a new arrangement, do you think that it's fair for the people of Wales to feel that they have been misled and betrayed?
Wel, wrth gwrs, achos, yn y refferendwm, roedden ni’n clywed arweinydd y Ceidwadwyr yma yng Nghymru yn dweud—
Well, of course, because, in the referendum, we heard the leader of the Conservatives here in Wales saying—
—an absolute guarantee, not a penny less would come to Wales the other side of Brexit than we get as a result of our membership of the European Union. It's always been my biggest fear that the shared prosperity fund is a way of sharing some of the money that we have in Wales with the needy burghers of the royal borough of Berkshire, and that, you know—. 'Not a penny less, not a power stolen', that's my approach to the shared prosperity fund, and I'm very happy to repeat it again today.
Yes, well, healthcare in terms of—. We didn't hear that much about Brexit and the health service, only it was obvious, obviously, when people were going on about immigration, that you were far more likely to be treated by a migrant doctor than you were, actually, to be stuck in a queue in A&E behind a migrant. But, obviously, there are huge issues as regards the workforce, basically, that we are dependent upon, both in health and in social care—and that's regardless of what the final relationship is going to be with the EU—that workforce gap potential. And it's also magnified, or not helped by, the fact that we have deficient, if you like, indigenous workforce planning down the years; I don't know whether you want to agree with that, but, you know, work needs to be done, both on workforce planning here and, obviously, commissioning of training places here—more training of doctors, nurses, physios and the training places that go with them—because we've got a talented cohort of young people every year, not many of them manage to get into medical school or nursing or whatever, and one of the reasons is, later on, we haven't got the sufficient, mature mentors/training places people to actually do the training later on.
So, there are two things there: No. 1, there's an immediate issue of EU and general people from abroad working—because lots of them do in our health service and social care at the moment, and the challenges there—plus the challenges of we need more people, anyway, trained.
Well, just to agree with the basic proposition that, of course, Brexit done the wrong way will pose enormous challenges to our ability to go on attracting people who we need to work in our public services, in businesses and in universities in Wales. So, mutual recognition of qualifications is another one of those areas where the Brexiteers told us that it would be as easy as you like, that there'd be no problem at all: 'We recognise them today; of course they will all recognise them tomorrow.' Well, that simply isn't going to be the case. As a third country getting mutual recognition of qualifications, we will have to work in the way that the European Union requires any other third country to work. So, that becomes an immediate blockage to getting people who otherwise would come here.
Secondly, there is the whole migration policy of the UK Government, the one that it is developing alongside Brexit, and the migration policy, far from mitigating the impacts of Brexit, is just going to make them even worse. So, the current proposals to have a division of people into high and low-skilled applicants just doesn't work for us. I find it offensive in itself, truthfully. A person turning up to look after an older person in their own home and make sure that their well-being is being protected—those people have skills that are absolutely relevant and necessary, and to describe them as low skilled I think is demeaning to the job that is being done, and we need people to do those jobs, and, if they're put in a category where we are not going to recruit people, then—. We are less exposed in Wales, as it happens—there's a smaller percentage of our workforce that comes from the European Union into social care—but we are exposed nonetheless.
And the salary cap, that £30,000 salary threshold, doesn't work for Wales either. It doesn't work in the health service, either, when we want to attract nurses, who are not in the low-skilled category. If we want to attract nurses to come and work from other parts of Europe to Wales, a £30,000 salary threshold wouldn't allow that to happen at all. So, the UK's proposals on migration simply compound the difficulties that Brexit creates, rather than helping to solve them.
What do we do in the meantime? Well, there are other parts of the world we can recruit from. Dr Lloyd, I know, will be aware of the very successful programme that we have drawn up with India over the last couple of years, where we now have over 100 doctors from India working in Wales for two years, where they get something back. I'm really keen that this is a reciprocal arrangement—we get the advantage of their skills and their abilities for those two years; we need to send them back equipped with experiences and things that they've learned here so that they are more useful in their own country as well. That scheme is going very well, but we also need to further expand the indigenous training paths that we have so that we get a greater supply of people into those professions. We've turned the tap on year after year in this Assembly term, particularly in the professions allied to medicine, but, in the Brexit context, we're going to have to do even more of that.
Three quick ones—very quick ones. The first one is, just following on that on the EU citizens, the status of EU citizens within Wales, because the real concern is this: whatever system is put in place to make it easy for people to come from Europe to work within Wales and so on, the fact of the matter is that immediately treats everyone else from the EU, whatever their status, as almost the enemy within, as having to justify their status, because, suddenly, criteria have been set as to whether you fit within the category or whether you don't. So, it has implications right across the board, and I'm wondering what your views are in terms of how we might be able to do anything to alleviate that.
The second one is that you've seen the announcement in terms of a possible extension to 30 June, which raises for me all sorts of concerns about the EU elections and potential legal challenges. I don't know whether you know any more, whether it's appropriate at this stage—that's just something that came up.
But, thirdly, a matter you will be more familiar with, and that is the issue around international treaties, and, of course, the Scottish judgment on their continuity legislation was actually quite definitive in terms of the devolved areas in international treaties are a matter for implementation by the devolved Governments themselves—quite a significant delineation there. We know already that there are informal discussions going on with the United States in terms of health and the environment. We know we've not been given any guarantees by Theresa May in terms of the protection of health, and this all ties in with the total dysfunction of the JMC. So, I'm wondering what—if you've expressed what your concerns are or how you envisage approaching what is really quite a distinct series of challenges in this post-Brexit environment and the post-Brexit constitutional environment that we might be in as well.
Well, to take the questions in order, Chair, the fact that, the other side of the European Union, people who have lived settled lives here and made such great contributions to our society will now have to register separately—however easily that is to be done, it marks people out and people feel that very strongly. They feel that somehow their right to be here and the basis on which they'll be here is being called into question. Our efforts as a Welsh Government are focused on trying to make sure that we reach those parts of the EU population who maybe are less likely to be following this debate. So, it's not the university professors and the NHS consultants, who probably are in touch with it; it's the people who work in meat processing and in social care and who maybe aren't as close to what has been developing as others might be. So, our efforts are focused on trying to make sure that we get those people as well informed as possible and offer them some extra help if necessary in order to deal with the settled status registration process and so on. We found some money from our transition fund, the EU transition fund, to help with that.
I've seen the Prime Minister's letter to Donald Tusk seeking an extension to 30 June. I'm yet to understand it fully, to be honest. I know that there was a difference of legal opinion inside the European Union. The Parliament's legal advice, as I understand it, was that we could have an extension to 30 June without having to take part in European elections because the new Parliament will not meet until after 30 June, so there would be no decisions that could be made that would be challengeable in the European Court. But the Prime Minister's letter appears to say that she is seeking an extension to 30 June and recognising that, in order to get that extension, we will have to have European elections as well. It's beginning to look to me like the worst of both worlds there—the 'flextension' that was Donald Tusk's extension suggestion overnight at least didn't create another cliff edge, and that's what 30 June will do. I may be being unfair, because I haven't had a proper chance to consider it. I imagine it is just a counter-proposition to the one-year extension that causes such mayhem on Mrs May's own benches, but I hope that's not her motivation, because this whole process has been bedevilled by the fact that the Prime Minister has sought to placate the unplacatable people behind her as her first point of reference when what she should have been doing from the beginning is what she very belatedly appears to be doing now, and that is to reach out to other parts of the political firmament and to find an agreement in a different spot on it. I'm not sure that 30 June doesn't say to me that she's retreating again to trying to find a bit of meat that she can throw to the people behind her, who will never be satisfied whatever she does.
Oh, I'm so sorry. On the international treaties, well, if we have the sort of Brexit that we are looking for, with a customs union, with dynamic regulatory alignment for goods and some services as well, then the ability to strike these free trade deals around the world will be very different. You couldn't have the sort of trade deal with the United States that Mick Antoniw referred to. So, we approach it in that way: a different sort of Brexit helps us to deal with those dangers.
Thanks, yes. Just a brief question, because it does feel like we're at crunch time now, really, with the talks between Labour and Theresa May. I just wanted to put to you the question that I put to Jeremy Miles in the Chamber this week, really. If a compromise does arise from those talks, either common market 2.0 or a customs union, do you think they should be put to a confirmatory referendum, and, if not, why not, given that they are both a long way from what people voted for in the referendum three years ago?
Well, I agree with that final point, that the outcome of all of this is very different to what people were told it would be in the beginning. The discussions going on between the leader of the opposition's office and the Prime Minister's office have six different strands in them, and the sixth strand is a confirmatory vote. So, that issue is being discussed between the two parties. I'm happy that that is happening, and I'm happy, for the moment, just to see how those discussions develop. For our party as well as other parties, this is a deeply divisive issue. I attended a meeting of the shadow Cabinet on Wednesday when I was in London, and I'm not at liberty to disclose what went on there, but there was a very significant debate about this issue, and people feel strongly about it. And the outcome is as you've seen: that issue is on the agenda for those discussions.
Very briefly. I recognise how divisive it is. Can I just ask, then, whether you have said to Jeremy Corbyn what the feeling of the National Assembly is on the need for a confirmatory vote?
I did have an opportunity to speak at that meeting, and I've had other opportunities as well, and I've always impressed upon the Labour leadership in London the fact that the centre of gravity on this issue amongst the Labour group and the National Assembly more broadly is in the place represented in the motions that the two parties here in this room today have voted for, which includes all the things about a second referendum as a way of finding a way through all of this. So, I've done my best to faithfully represent that in those discussions.
I won't take much time, First Minister, because you are before the committee on 29 April, after we come back from the recess, so we will have opportunities to explore things then. But I suppose I want to find out what's happening between now and then, as a possibility. We are where we are. We have no agreement. She has written to Donald Tusk to ask for an extension, and I think it's more likely, like your view, that it's more protection from the ERG than anything else. That's more likely. But if an agreement is reached on a withdrawal agreement, between now and then—and my feeling is that they will lay the withdrawal agreement Bill quickly—what are the intentions of the Welsh Government, because that might happen during our recess? What's the intention of the Welsh Government on that, in particular? We haven't seen it. You've seen it, but you haven't seen the finished version of it, but we haven't seen it as Members. We need time to look at this, because it needs a legislative consent motion. What is your action going to be as a Welsh Government in that situation?
Well, our action will be to do everything we can to protect the rights of the National Assembly in terms of scrutinising and debating a decision that the Assembly would have to make. I hope Members will know that I distributed a note yesterday to the leaders of the other parties in the Assembly, saying that I had a conversation with the Llywydd on Wednesday of this week and that, if we still appear to be leaving the European Union on Friday of next week without a deal—and remember that that is still the default position. It is still the legal position and it is still the basis on which the UK civil service is preparing over this weekend. If that is the position by the early part of next week, then my intention is to write to the Llywydd, seeking her agreement to recall the Assembly on Thursday of next week.
Now, if we're not leaving without a deal, I don't intend to make that request. But if, the other side of Easter, there were to be an agreement, there were to be a Bill, and the Bill was on some sort of accelerated timetable and the only way for the Assembly to be able to take a view of the Bill and to come to a view as to whether or not the LCM should be supported, then of course I'll revisit that position and talk further with the Llywydd about what arrangements would need to be in place. You don't necessarily have to recall the whole Assembly for that, do you? And committees do have the ability to meet outside the normal times of the Assembly. So, it would be a matter of taking the advice of the Llywydd and a discussion with her as to how the scrutiny role of the Assembly could be protected. And I have always, and very regularly, made the point to UK Ministers, as does the Scottish Government, that both legislatures have a role to play in providing LCMs or not in relation to the Bill, and that the timing of that Bill has to respect that.
Okay, thank you. We have run out of time, but can I just thank you very much for coming, and that's the bulk of the committee? But in light of what has been discussed today, does any Member feel that they should declare or may need to declare an interest for the record?
Yes, because you didn't take—. Well, there were no declarations of interest taken at the beginning of the meeting. Can I just say that I'd like to declare that a temporary member of staff in my office may have been involved in discussions in relation to item 2.1?
All right, thanks very much. That's great. Sorry, I normally do run quite a tight ship; we've gone five minutes over, so thank you. I hope you found that first meeting interesting. You'll be sent a transcript to check for accuracy, but you can't put bits in—we'll spot it. And the next committee meeting is scheduled for July, and we're going to go up to north Wales, so I believe you've accepted that. Thank you very much, and to your officials, for coming. There are no other items on the agenda, so with Members' agreement, we're going to declare the meeting closed. Thank you.
Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 11:36.
The meeting ended at 11:36.