Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd

Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd

19/11/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Janet Finch-Saunders AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood AM
Michelle Brown AM

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Ross Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:19.

The meeting began at 09:19.

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

Good morning. Bore da. Welcome, everyone, to the meeting. Headsets are available for translation of Welsh to English. There is no need to turn off mobile phones or other electronic devices, but please ensure that any devices are in silent mode. We've had one apology from Neil McEvoy AM.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

New petitions: 'Promoting the use of Makaton sign language in all Welsh schools'. This petition was submitted by Isabella Evans having collected 5,024 signatures of which 4,914 were online and 110 on paper.        

They're calling on the Welsh Government to consider the use of Makaton sign language in all Welsh schools. She says,

'I am the 13 year old sister of a little boy with Downs Syndrome who's primary use of communication is Makaton sign language. I have taught myself Makaton sign language for the purpose of communicating with my brother and as a result have set up social media platforms to help other people in similar situations learn. I was surprised how much demand there is for people who want to be taught Makaton in order to communicate with friends and family who have learning difficulties.

'I believe it should be included in all schools in Wales alongside the everyday teaching to give every child the ability to learn to communicate via this method.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister, and it's on page 49. A research brief on the issue has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward with this?

09:20

I think we should write back to the Minister for Education to see what opportunities there are for the Welsh Government to promote the benefits of Makaton or other forms of sign language to schools in Wales, either through the new curriculum or through other means. 

I wonder, also, if it's worth trying to find out if there are any other ways of being able to learn. Are there adult classes available, night classes, that kind of thing? So, we could request further information before proceeding any further, I think.

Okay. The next one: 'Protect Wales' Ancient Yew Trees'. This petition was submitted by Janis Fry, having collected 77 signatures:

'Please sign my petition call for ancient Yew trees to be protected by law.

'Currently there is no legal protection for these beautiful trees. It's urgent that we protect this vital part of our heritage with specific legal protection before we lose any more. These Yew trees have been a part of Britain for thousands of years. They are our ancient living monuments, our ancient living witnesses to the history of our ancestors and our civilisation. We must protect them as a matter of urgency before any more are lost.'

Now, we had an initial response to the petition on 18 October from the Minister. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comment.

I wonder if we can ask the Minister for further details about what's happened to the recommendations that were previously made by the task and finish group. The petitioner makes a really good case, I think, for singling out this particular species of tree and for explaining why the tree preservation order system doesn't work. And I think that, given that these are very, very old trees and many of them are on church sites, but they're not exclusively on church sites, and the fact that people travel quite a long way to see them because they're so old, and that the UK is home to more yew trees than many other countries and Wales specifically is home to even more, then, I think we do need to do something to ensure additional protection.

So, it would be useful to know from the petitioner if there are any further specific steps that can be introduced on a legal basis. But, asking the Minister for additional information as to what's happened since the task and finish group recommendations would be useful information, I think, for us.

Okay. So, write back to them and to the Minister as well.

So, the next one, 'Supporting Sudden and Unexpected Death in Children and Young Adults'. You'll find this on page 66 in your pack. This was submitted by Rhian Mannings, having collected 5,682 signatures, and they're calling on the National Assembly for Wales,

'to urge the Welsh Government to provide support for a service here in Wales to ensure families who unexpectedly lose their child or young adult aged 25 years and under get the support they require.'

And she says that,

'In February 2012 my son George died suddenly in an Emergency Unit in Wales. We walked out into the night with nothing, alone and frightened. Nobody came, nobody reached out to support us and it was left to devastated friends and family to support my husband Paul and I. Five days after we lost our son my surviving two young children and I faced more heartache when Paul took his own life. Once again nobody came.

'Families require support immediately after such loss. They need to have a point of contact if they have questions and a friendly ear to listen. You never get over the loss of your child and families need to know there is long term support in place for to help them through the grieving process.'

We had an initial response to the petition from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 29 October, and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner has provided further comments.

09:25

Well, this is a pretty harrowing petition, isn't it? I know, from my own experience as a former probation officer and support worker for Women's Aid, that trauma happens in the lives of children all the time, and very rarely are there timely and useful interventions. And what we're doing is creating adverse childhood experiences for people, which then store up problems for them later on in life, potentially. And the idea that you can lose a child in a hospital and just walk out without anybody following that up in any way is awful, really, and I think we need to make sure that this petition is progressed however we possibly can.

I think the Minister's response is inadequate. Saying that the Welsh Government expects health boards to provide appropriate bereavement support, working with charities where needed, doesn't tell me how they follow up to check that, how they monitor those services, how they ensure consistency right throughout the country. So, I think there are questions to further ask the Minister from that perspective as well. But this is a petition that's got more than 5,000 signatures. It touches on a very sensitive and heartbreaking issue, and I think it's the kind of petition that we absolutely must do everything we can to try to get a resolution to.

Michelle, are you happy to support that, that we probe further to the Minister? I find the letter a little bit generic, to be honest, and it is such an important subject and such a sensitive issue.

Okay, so just in relation to the next immediate step, then, on this, you've referred to the petition having more than 5,000 signatures. In her response to the committee, the petitioner has requested that we wait, because there's a review. I think, initially, that review of bereavement services was meant to be published towards the end of October; I understand now that it's more likely to be the end of November. So, the delay is not likely to be long.

And that's been the request of the petitioner. Is that the initial action—

Are we able to make a request for there to be time made in Plenary anyway, so that that part of the system doesn't get held up, while we wait for the review outcome?

Yes, and the committee could write to the Business Committee and say that it will notify of its preferred date later down the line, but seek approval now. 

Great, yes. I think that would be useful, otherwise we risk losing even more time later on, I think, before we're able to do something about it. 

So, Michelle, are you happy to support it going to debate?

Great. The next one, 'Creation of Lôn Las Môn Multi-Use Path', on page 74 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Gethyn Mon Hughes, having collected 2,216 signatures. And they're calling on the Welsh Government to,

'withdraw its objection, and offer support, to the proposal for Network Rail to permit the Anglesey Central Railway to be re-purposed into an 18 mile traffic-free multi-user path from Amlwch through to Gaerwen. Having been out of service for the past 26 years, it is our belief that the line could no longer serve any useful purpose for passenger services or freight between Gaerwen and Amlwch. Instead, the Lôn Las Môn multi-user path would be open for use by families, walkers, runners, equestrian users and leisure cyclists, including those with disabled access requirements.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport on 4 November and a research brief has been provided. The petitioners have provided further comment.

09:30

I'd be interested to see what the Minister's response will be to the Network Rail consultation about the line. I'd also be interested to hear from the Minister what the current status is of the new station proposal for Llangefni and whether the Welsh Government will consider funding the reopening of the line. I'd also, actually, write to Anglesey council to ask for its views on the potential future uses of the central railway, and whether it'll consider providing funding to support any of the proposals.

'Equal Access to Health Care for the Disabled', page 85. This submission was submitted by Tracy Locke having collected 121 signatures. They're calling,

'on the Welsh Government to ensure that it is a legal requirement for all GP surgeries to have wide, adjustable treatment beds and hoists available for the use of disabled patients, so that they can be examined whenever there is need.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister on 1 November. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. I found this quite interesting, because I had a constituent who had had a new hip. They went to their GP for a basic check-up after the operation, and they were told that they had to wait. The chairs were at the height—. The patient was told that everything had to be suspended; they had all the supports in the home, but when they got to the GP surgery, they couldn't sit down, the chairs were too low, and they had to stand for over an hour, because there wasn't a chair for someone who'd had a new hip replacement, which is so common these days. So, it does beg the question why we haven't got the kind of equipment you would need to examine somebody with a hoist.

What are the requirements imposed on GP surgeries for what they have? Is it completely up to them what facilities they provide in the surgeries, or is there any guidance coming from the health boards or Welsh Government?

There's also the disability discrimination access legislation, which would govern, I would imagine, being able to get into a GP surgery with the use of a wheelchair and that kind of thing. But, whether it governs what kinds of facilities have to be in places, I'm not sure.

Well, in his letter, he puts,

'General medical practice premises in Wales 2017, which is the design guidance for new premises, states that GPs and Health Boards should consider provision for bariatric patients and adults with learning disabilities. This will depend upon local circumstances. These patients will require additional facilities over and above normal provision. The client should consider the use of one treatment room with specialist lifting equipment, either built into the building structure or provided as a mobile hoist, for these patient groups. The room should be flexible'.

And it says,

'All patients should have equitable access to healthcare services and health boards should work to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate patients'.

It just says 'should', 'should', 'should', but we don't really know how many are.

I can understand the need for this equipment to be in a GP surgery, but, personally, I'm not sure how feasible it would be to require every GP surgery to have a dedicated room. Although, it's a brilliant idea. From a physical point of view, how many of them would have space to dedicate a room for that? We're looking at spending the money on—. If you spend it on one thing, you have to take it from another. So, I'm wondering would there be any possibility of maybe a centralised service where people with particular needs for hoists and particular equipment that can't be accommodated, maybe, in the majority of surgeries, could have a dedicated centre, maybe? Is the petitioner asking for a wholesale special equipment room?

09:35

It calls for all GP surgeries to have wide, adjustable treatment beds and hoists available for the use of disabled patients so that they can be examined when there's a need, and the answer just refers to bariatric patients and adults with learning disabilities. Clearly, there are people who fall within a wide range of other conditions that are not covered by that, so it's not adequate, is it? But, I do accept the point as well that it's not possible to kit out every surgery with kit for every potential condition, although this one does seem like a very basic piece of kit to me.

The petitioner does make the distinction in her comments, I believe, that she's not looking for every single treatment room to have these kinds of facilities, but there needs to be a room provided in each surgery for this, where there's room for a wide-enough bed and a hoist.

I think the point about women not being able to have smear tests because this hoist material isn't there is really concerning. That's something that every woman should have access to. Can we ask for additional information, then, from the Minister?

To me, the letter doesn't seem to identify what the capacity is at the moment. We haven't got a clue, really; there may be some good practice going on in Wales that we're not aware of.

I think the petition is a brilliant idea—it's a very, very good idea. But, I would like to hear from the Minister some specifics on what standards are out there already and whether this is covered. Perhaps we could get some advice about whether the medical services of GPs would be covered by the disability discrimination legislation.

Just on that point, there's some information in the research brief about there being guidance in Wales specifically for general medical practice premises.

No. The requirements of the Equality Act 2010 in this instance are that it should be given consideration in the design and operation of primary healthcare premises. And whilst it gives general legal protection to disabled people against discrimination, it does not make explicit what constitutes discrimination in terms of standards in the built environment. So, the legislation is not specific to this type of case.

Yes. I think it'd be useful to know what's an example of good practice from the Minister's perspective, and also whether there's any other information that we can have. The petitioner specifically asks for there to be legislation, and the Minister's response is all about, 'should', 'should', 'should', which is not legislation—it's guidance, really, isn't it? So, there's a gap between what has to happen and what is happening. I wonder whether we can get some more information on the Minister's thinking on that front.

Thank you.

'Call for better enforcement of puppy farms in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Laura Clays, having collected 112 signatures. The text of the petition states:

'Following on from the disturbing footage of puppy farms in Wales we need to see greater enforcement of the licensing of puppy farms carried out by local councils in Wales.

'Recommendations: Closing puppy farms that do not meet the required criteria; prosecuting puppy farms that put animal welfare in danger; greater transparency on regulated visits—there should be public records like those published by the Food Standards Agency on the hygiene ratings of restaurants. The public should be able to review the inspection records.'

This is on page 92 in your pack. We received a response on 17 October and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not provided further comment.

09:40

We do have a similar petition, don't we, already in the system on puppy farms, which is about banning the sale—

—in shops and commercial third-party dealers. So, if we can look at the two together, I think that would be good. And, in the light of—. So, we'll look at it again after the—. What are we looking at here? We've had a letter from the Minister for environment—

The Minister has referred to several pieces of action that the Government is taking, most importantly that the animal health and welfare framework group has requested an urgent and immediate review of the regulations in this area. So, as you mentioned, the committee has a similar petition. We considered that, I think, at the most recent meeting before this one, and have written to the Government asking for what is meant by 'urgent' and how soon—

—they will have an idea of the next steps and the timescales, so—

So, we need to wait for that response really then, don't we?

I think that response would help inform both of these petitions. 

Okay? So, we'll group the two petitions together, which means that every time one comes to committee, we would bring both of them and you'd be able to consider whether there are separate aspects to each, or to take the same action. 

And this review is quite key in all of this really, isn't it?

It seems to be. 

Okay. So, the next one is 'Adequate funding to protect the welfare of farm animals in Welsh slaughterhouses', on page 100 in your pack. This petition was submitted by David Grimsell, having collected a total of 1,149 signatures, of which 110 were online and 1,039 on paper. They're calling,

'on the Welsh Government to provide adequate funding to protect the welfare of farm animals at the time of their slaughter in Wales.

'The Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing (Wales) Regulations 2014 are meant to provide protection to animals at the time of their slaughter. To do so, they must be properly applied and enforced by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and there must be sufficient funding for it to be able to carry out its duties under the Regulations.'

'At the moment the Welsh Government provides the FSA with only £20,000 per annum to protect animal welfare at slaughter across at least 23 Welsh slaughterhouses jointly slaughtering tens of millions of animals each year. This is a pitiful amount and entirely inadequate to cover all that is required including effective monitoring of welfare practice, investigation, enforcement, legal advice, and the staffing to do so. The amounts provided are far below what the FSA has itself indicated (in Board papers) that it needs to carry out its duties regarding welfare of animals at slaughter.'

You'll be aware there's been some rather negative publicity on this issue recently. And we've had petitions in, haven't we, wanting mandatory CCTV? 

It makes sense if we can look at these two petitions together as well, doesn't it, I think, given that they cover broadly similar issues? And we've previously agreed that we're going to produce a report on CCTV in slaughterhouses. So, can we include this issue in that report?

Yes, the committee agreed a version of that report at its previous meeting, but I think in light of some of the extra information that's been received in relation to this petition, we could produce an updated version and bring it back for the committee to agree to it.

I think it would also be useful to ask the Minister for confirmation about the levels of funding that the Welsh Government has provided to the Food Standards Agency as well for 2019-20, and for each of the previous three years, so that we can see what money has been spent on the overseeing of welfare controls in slaughterhouses.

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

The next one is on page 112 in your packs, 'Fair Deal For Supply Teachers'. This was submitted by Sheila Jones and was first considered in May 2018, having collected 1,425 signatures. We last considered this on 9 July, agreeing to seek the views of supply agencies and, once received, use all of the evidence gathered to produce a report on the committee’s consideration of the petition. The Chair wrote—well, I did—to a large number of supply agencies to offer them the opportunity to contribute their views. Six responses have been received. The petitioners have also provided further comments. So how would you like to take this one forward?

09:45

Well, this has been an ongoing issue for quite some time, and I remember we scrutinised the Minister on this and she explained to us how this new framework was meant to overcome many of the problems that had originally been part of the problem here. So I wonder if we can go back to the Minister and ask for an update on the implementation of the new service framework and for her response to the points that have been raised by the supply agencies and the petitioner about the national minimum pay rate not being followed or upheld by legislation. And I think we need to keep a close eye on this because, when the Minister was here, I had the feeling that it wouldn't resolve all of the problems and I think, from what we can see, some of those concerns have been shown to be true. 

'Make curriculum for life lessons compulsory', page 133 in your pack. This was submitted by Emily Jones and first considered in January 2019, having collected 286 signatures. We last considered this on 25 June, agreeing to await the findings of the work the Welsh Youth Parliament are taking forward on life skills in the curriculum before considering further action on the petition. The Youth Parliament’s report, 'Life Skills, Skills for Life', was published on 22 October. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments.

There's a lot that's gone on, really, with the Welsh Youth Parliament on this, isn't there?

Yes, they have. Shall we try and give the petitioner a bit more time to respond to the report from the Welsh Youth Parliament? I think it's quite pertinent to the petition, isn't it?

Yes. Obviously, the petitioner's had one opportunity to do that. We can write back saying the committee would welcome those views and give some more time. 

How much time would the petitioner have been given to respond?

Prior to any committee meeting, only one week. 

Okay. Yes, I think it'd be worth trying to get some more information, if we can. 

Okay.

'Make political education a compulsory element of the new national curriculum', page 157. This was submitted by Kaiesha Ceryn Page and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 117 signatures. We last considered this alongside petition P-05-860, 'Make curriculum for life lessons compulsory', and agreed to await the views of the petitioner before considering further actions on the petition.

The Welsh Youth Parliament’s report on life skills in the curriculum, 'Life Skills, Skills for Life', was published on 22 October. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments.

Can we do the same as we've just agreed to do for the last one, and is it possible to look at these two together, or are they very different, would you say?

They're not very different, but they are—. Previously, the committee has considered them together, but agreed last time that—

What that had meant was that the committee had focused quite heavily on this petition, which was looking at political education, and that the life skills issue might be slightly different. But I think in this case, we are awaiting the same kind of action.

Yes, fair enough then. Yes, okay. That makes sense, and I remember the discussion now, sorry. 

Okay?

'Wales is Rapidly Losing its Musical Reputation and Heritage', page 158. This was submitted by Active Music Services and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 2,226 signatures. So they're calling on the National Assembly for Wales,

'to urge the Welsh Government to produce an urgent National Plan for Music Education with dedicated central funding in line with the rest of the UK. This will ensure that affordable musical instrument and vocal tuition is available as a right for all children in Wales.'

So, on this one, we last considered it on 11 June, agreeing to await the publication of the Welsh Government’s feasibility study into options for delivery of music services and a national plan for music education. And we also agreed to write to the Welsh Local Government Association and the Music Education Council to seek their views on the issues raised by the petition, and the current provision of music education and music education services. At the request of the petitioners, an update was sought from the Welsh Government on 29 October and a response from the Minister for Education was received on 5 November. No responses have been received from the WLGA and Music Education Council. The petitioners have provided further comments.

Can I just ask: have we chased the WLGA and Music Education Council for a response? 

09:50

A couple of times, I think.

And we've had no information as to why there is this delay in their publication of the feasibility study, have we?

No. I think the Minister's letter states that there has been a delay.

It doesn't state the reasons. 

Is that information we can request to see if we can do anything to press that publication coming as quickly as possible? 

I think they indicate that it will be produced shortly. So, yes, absolutely.

But I'm disappointed we've not had a response from the WLGA and the Music Education Council, so can we chase again saying how extremely disappointed I am on behalf of the committee, as the Chair, that they've not had the courtesy to respond? 

Given that another committee has done an inquiry into this as well in the past, is it worth trying to contact the Chair of the previous committee that looked into it, to see if there's any intention to follow up?

Yes. Okay. Thanks, Leanne.

'Amendment to Education (Student Support) (Wales) Regulations 2018 to include UK institutions with operations overseas'—page 164 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Alanna Jones and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 299 signatures. We last considered the petition on 17 September and we agreed to write to the University of London Institute in Paris for clarification about its regulatory status, and also its perspective on the issues raised by the petition, and also details of any discussions held with the Welsh Government on the matter. A response was received on 30 October and the petitioner has also provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? 

I think we should bring this information to the attention of the Minister, and see if she has any further views in relation to the appropriateness of designating courses at that institution in the light of some of the clarifications that have been provided.

Okay. The next one—I think we all are mightily relieved with the decision that we've heard very recently.

It has been a long time coming. So, anyway, it's, 'Ensure access to the cystic fibrosis medicine, Orkambi, as a matter of urgency'—page 170 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Rhian Barrance and was first considered in January 2018, having collected 5,717 signatures. So, we last considered this petition on 1 October, agreeing to await Vertex Pharmaceuticals’s submission of evidence relating to Orkambi to the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group, which the committee understands to be imminent, before seeking further updates. The Minister for Health and Social Services issued a written statement on 13 November, and correspondence was also received from Vertex Pharmaceuticals on 13 November. The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has also provided comments on behalf of the petitioner.

Well, none of this would have happened without this campaign, and this petition has been an important part of that general campaign. So, I think we should congratulate the petitioner and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, for all the work that they've done on this, and the successful outcome of their campaign. And it's good to be able to close a petition when we've had a successful outcome.

09:55

Absolutely, yes. From my perspective, I know of the stalemate situation we ended up with Vertex and the Minister, and there were times when we were being told one thing by the Minister, another by Vertex, and it was really just about people coming together. And I think pressure from other parts of the UK, that's helped as well, but certainly the petition. It's great when you feel that people have been able to have an open door into the workings of what we do here, and actually have an influence. So, on behalf of the committee, I would like to congratulate Rhian Barrance, all the parents, and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, and everybody involved with this, because they have been very determined, and the improvement to the lives of all those people going forward, it's just fantastic. So, we just want to it all to happen now.

Yes. And I thank the clerk and the team for being so vigilant as well—thank you. That's that one. So, we close that one, then.

'End the unfairness and discrimination in the financial support for victims of the contaminated blood scandals who were infected in Wales'—page 175. This was submitted by the Contaminated Whole Blood UK Group, and was first considered in September 2018, having collected 159 signatures. We last considered this on 11 June, agreeing to seek the views of the petitioners on the information in the Minister’s statement of 6 March, before considering further action on the petition. A response from the petitioner was received on 7 November.

Can we get some more information on the compensation levels? What is the difference? Why is there a difference between what is paid out in compensation in England and Wales? And then, depending on what is found, we should then make a representation to the Minister on it, I think.

I'd like to ask him how he's come up with the figure—whatever figure in compensation that he's decided to pay victims of this blood contamination. I'd like to know how he's actually come up with that figure, whether it's just been—I'd like just to know what his thought process is.

Okay. So, would you like us to seek the extra information about the payment levels and those answers from the Minister simultaneously?

'Provide Child Houses in Wales for victims of child sexual abuse'—now, this was submitted by Mayameen Meftahi, and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 227 signatures. Now, we last considered this on 17 September, and we wrote to the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services to seek an update on the roll-out of the new model for sexual assault referral centres, including the proposed locations of the two paediatric hubs and local centres, and also to request information about waiting times for accessing existing SARCs, and ask whether there are existing support services in place for children to access without the need for a referral. Now, a response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 24 October, and the petitioner has also provided further comments.

I've said before, I've got an awful lot of sympathy for this petitioner. There does need to be a range of provision for adults and for children who have been sexually abused, but I can't see how the Government is going to move until the two-year pilot project in London, which opened in December 2018, is able to report. And that's going to take probably longer than December 2020, because they'll have to have time to evaluate the findings and so on. So, we're looking at mid-2021 before we see any research or pilot project evaluations, which means that there's all that time that people are not having access to a service that could potentially help them. So, I think it would be good if we can see if there are any interim findings from the Lighthouse project. But I think it's also worth going back to the Government and saying, 'Would you be prepared to consider looking at interim findings before waiting until mid 2021 before doing anything on this?'

10:00

Okay. 'Prevent the closure of Ward 35 at Prince Charles Hospital'—page 184 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Beverly Gillespie and was first considered in September 2019, having collected 281 signatures. We considered this on 17 September, wrote to Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to seek its views on the issues raised by the petition, and information on the changes affecting ward 35 and how it is supporting people affected by these, and also to await the views of the petitioner on the responses received before considering whether to take further action on the petition. A response was received from Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board on 23 October. The petitioners were informed that the petition would be discussed but have not provided further comment.

When was the petitioner informed that the petition was going to be discussed today? 

About a week and a half ago. We provide correspondence to petitioners and seek their views, and they have a week in which to provide those. This is the second time the committee has considered this petition, though, and the first time around we also didn't receive comments from the petitioner, if my memory serves me correctly.

Okay. There's very little we can do in terms of implementing the actual wording of the petition, because the ward is closed. But I think that there's a question that maybe we can put to the Minister, even though I would support closing this petition in the light of what I've just said—that there are many different organisations and campaign groups who are concerned about the loss of care beds, and this is in relation to elderly care settings, but it also impacts on the amount of beds that are available for people with dementia as well. I don't know if there's a way of asking the Minister if any assessment has been done as to how many overall care beds have been lost in Cwm Taf over the last few years, because the feeling is that many of these bed spaces have been lost. And, yes, they say that they want to provide different ways of caring for people more in the community, but can we really be satisfied that those alternative services are in place before these beds are actually removed from the system?

Yes. So, write to the Minister or write to the health board to seek that information?

We could write to both, I think. They may have different figures. So, that would be interesting.

Yes, okay. 

But to close the petition at this point, or wait for the responses?

Well, unless we can leave it open so that we can share the responses with the petitioner, that might make sense, but this petition in the current form is not going any further, is it? 

And stress that we do need responses. Thanks.

'Paternal Mental Health (New Fathers Mental Health)'—page 187. This petition was submitted by Mark Williams and was first considered in October 2019, having collected a total of 116 signatures. We last considered this on 1 October, agreeing to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for a response to the petitioner’s suggestion that new fathers should receive, or be offered, an assessment of their mental health and support needs as part of perinatal mental health services. A response was received from the Minister on 5 November. This was obviously then sent, I guess, to the petitioner. They were informed that the petition would be discussed but have not provided further comment.

Well, I was on the Children, Young People and Education Committee when we did an inquiry into perinatal mental health, and it was an absolutely shocking situation—the lack of provision, the difficulties that mothers with perinatal mental health issues experienced was heartbreaking, to be frank. I'd like to see what happens with the publication of the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan, ask the petitioner for their views on the plan. Because I think we need to make sure that paternal mental health, which is what this petition addresses, is actually addressed in that delivery plan. There's a question mark for me over whether paternal mental health will be adequately addressed. So, I think the petitioner needs to give their input into that plan, once it's published.

10:05

Yes. I think we have to wait for this 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan. The Minister says that all health boards are expected to work towards meeting agreed standards for integrated perinatal health services in Wales by March 2020, and these standards include considering the mental health and well-being of fathers and partners. But I know that there's been a downgrade in support services for perinatal mental health; there are no in-patient facilities, for example. I know this is something that my colleague, Steffan Lewis, was working quite hard on. And so there does need to be a serious look at the way we support people who are struggling with mental health after giving birth, and that includes both parents. And, if there isn't a clear outline within the new plan that supports perinatal fathers, then I think we need to look at it again in the light of that. Because the Minister has stated that it should be considered by the health boards.

Okay. 'Control Rapidly Expanding Intensive Poultry Industry in Wales', page 191— this was submitted by the Brecon and Radnor branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and was first considered in June 2018, having collected 4,567 signatures. Last considered on 9 July—we wrote to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, and asked for her response to the proposal to apply the polluter-pays principle to the costs of regulation, monitoring and breaches, and also wrote to the Minister for Housing and Local Government in relation to the petitioners' comments on the terms of reference for the town and country planning intensive agriculture working group, and to await the outcomes of its work. We also agreed to ask the Minister what consideration she has given to the cumulative impact of planning decisions, and whether she will consider amending the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 to take this into account. A response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 28 October, and the petitioners have also provided further comments.

Can we write back to the Minister for environment, and ask for a response to the points made about the polluter-pays principle?

Yes. Michelle, are you all right with that? Any other actions?

I note it says they welcome recent letters from the chief planning officer in relation to intensive livestock units and biodiversity, but note that there is a lack of focus on the issue of ammonia, and whether we could raise points with Welsh Government about the impacts of ammonia and phosphates.
 

I think there's a cumulative issue, which is something that does need to be considered, because the more of these outlets that are there, the more ammonia and phosphates are being, potentially, put into the atmosphere. So, further information from the Minister, seeking the views on that point, I think is really important.

Just one point, though. I think we should chase the working group to find out when their next meeting's going to be, why they've fallen behind on the schedule for this, and to find out from them when we're going to see an output of the work.

Yes. I think that's a good suggestion too. Are you happy with that, Leanne?

Okay. 'Green Energy for the Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales', page 205. This was submitted by the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance, and was first considered in October 2018, having collected 1,316 signatures. We last considered this on 29 January, and agreed to write to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to ask that consideration be given to reallocating funding that would have gone to Wylfa Newydd to support the further development of renewable energy production in Wales. No response was received from the Secretary of State prior to dissolution of the UK Parliament. The petitioners have provided further comments. How many times did we write?

10:10

We wrote once and then sent some follow-ups.

After the meeting in January. Sorry, I don't know the exact date.

Well, maybe there'll be a new Secretary of State after the election and we can try again.

The point is that none of this is devolved. I've got a massive amount of sympathy with the idea of spending the money that we would have been spent on a nuclear power station on renewable energy. You can create many, many more jobs by doing that and meet a lot of the objectives under the climate emergency, but there's very, very little that Ministers here can do about it. So, unless the Secretary of State is prepared to engage with us on this, then I can't see where else we can take it, to be honest with you. I think we should still pursue it—I don't think we should accept non-answers from them, but, being realistic in terms of what can be achieved in this Senedd, under this Government, this petition can't really go any further.

Okay. As you said, there's little further scrutiny that this committee can apply to the issues that the petitioners are raising with us now over Wylfa Newydd. And all indications are that there is a planning inquiry that is going on run by the UK Government on this. So, there is a forum for people to express their views.

Do you think that is why we've not received a response from the Ministers, then, because of that planning inquiry, do you think, or is that separate?

I don't know. The committee had written on the specific point about the reallocation of the funding. The indications at the time that the committee wrote that letter was that the project was not going to proceed. Clearly, that may not be the case, given that a planning inquiry is happening. But, yes, I would be supposing why they haven't replied—I don't know.

Okay. We'll close this petition. 

'Shut the Door on Wasted Energy', page 212 in your pack—we last considered the petition on 21 May. We wrote to the Welsh Retail Consortium to ask for information about relevant actions being taken by its members, and the major supermarkets to seek their views on the petition. Responses have been received from Morrisons, Aldi, Sainsbury’s the Co-op, Tesco, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer's and Lidl. However, no response has been received from the Welsh Retail Consortium. The petitioner has provided further comments. And I assume that we chased them.

Yes, I believe so.

I don't really see what Welsh Government can do about this. It's not a—. Welsh Government can't mandate what equipment supermarkets put in their stores. I think that's a central Government issue, and a post-Brexit one at that. So, I think, 'What can we do?'

I can't think of anything else we can do with this either, given that there aren't the powers here. There should be—the Welsh Government should be able to pass legislation, given the climate emergency that we keep talking about, to stop cold air going in, and energy being wasted in the way that it is in so many supermarkets, but, given that this is a Westminster issue, the best thing I think that we can all do in terms of this is to use our consumer power and maybe raise it with the supermarkets directly as consumers and refuse to shop in those shops that are clearly wasting energy in this way. 

10:15

Okay. That's another petition closed.

Okay. 'Buses for people not profit', page 229—this was submitted by Councillor Carolyn Thomas and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 3,705 signatures. Now, we considered this on 1 October, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Economy and Transport to request further information about the changes he intends to introduce through the public transport Bill, especially around franchising and powers for local authorities to run bus services, and the planned timetable for the Bill's introduction. A response was received on 24 October, and the petitioner has provided further comment.

Well, it looks as though some of the issues raised in the petition can be dealt with by the legislation. So, we should wait for further developments on the Bill. But I'm not sure of the point of keeping the petition open in the interim, given that the petitioner can influence or seek to influence the legislation when it's passing.

Okay, so we close that petition and perhaps make the information about how that Bill will be scrutinised available to the petitioner.

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

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for item 5. So, I propose that for item 5 of today's agenda. Are Members content?

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:16.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:16.