Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd

Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant AM
Janet Finch-Saunders AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood AM
Michelle Brown AM
Neil McEvoy AM

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second 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 09:15.

The meeting began at 09:15.

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

Good morning. Bore da. Croeso. Welcome. Headsets are available for translation from English to Welsh and vice versa. There is no need to turn off mobile phones or other electronic devices, but please ensure that they are in silent mode. No apologies have been received. 

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

We move straight to new petitions. 'Petition for Ferryside Surgery'—page 65. This was submitted by Ferryside village forum, having collected 117 signatures. Text of the petition:

'We feel very strongly that it is essential to maintain a surgery in Ferryside. We need a doctor, a nurse and a dispensary to provide the vital services required by a village where most residents are over the age of 50. It is an integral part of Calon y Fferi Community Centre which is very accessible. Visiting the centre is an opportunity to meet people and mitigates against loneliness and isolation. It helps to maintain physical and mental health at a local level. Public transport is very infrequent which makes using other medical centres very difficult for people with mobility problems.'

The background to this is: an initial response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 10 January. You have a research brief in your pack, and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments. 

Shall we wait for them, Chair, to come back with a further comment?

In advance of the first time a petition comes to the committee, we will provide them with the correspondence from the Government a week in advance of the meeting, and then send them a chaser halfway through that time. So, they would have been contacted twice with this letter.

It might be worth the committee noting that the general practitioner surgery has already closed, to my knowledge. It closed on 31 December. 

Well, in that case, if it's closed, and they haven't responded, I suppose we need to close it, unfortunately. 

Well, it does seem that it's probably too late, but I do think this case gets to the heart of the questions around accountability and who takes decisions, and this question of a shortage of doctors—. I know that the Minister has said that 186 GP training places have been filled compared to the target of 160, but services right across the health service, and particularly in rural and more deprived communities, are losing their services. Ministers say, 'These are decisions for health boards', and health boards say, 'We can't do anything because there's not enough doctors in the system or not enough doctors who want to work in these particular communities.' So, I accept that there's probably nothing we can do on this particular case now, but, you know, people get very angry when they can't see a direct line of accountability for decisions that are being made, and these decisions are being obfuscated all the time.

And so I would like this committee to keep an eye out for these kinds of petitions, because I think we are going to get more of them as more and more communities lose their services, and give some consideration as to how we can address the issue of accountability for this decision making across the board, and maybe link up a number of different petitions as they come in over time. 

I can't see that we can take this any further now. If the surgery's been closed, and the petitioner hasn't given us any further comment, I can't see where else we can take it. 

Okay, so we close that petition.

We move to the next one, 2.2: P-05-933, 'Ban Goldfish from being given away at funfairs. #OperationGoldfish'. It's on page 72 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Holly Rosalie Homer having collected 498 signatures online and 1,918 on paper, making a total of 2,416 signatures. And the text of the petition reads:

'We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to ban goldfish from being given away at funfairs. Goldfish are still being given away as prizes at funfairs all over the country, they are complex creatures that can live up to 25+ years and grow between 25-45cm. They are kept in poor conditions and given away to someone who won on an impulse and due to this they usually only last a couple of months. This in an archaic tradition that through recent education we've realised is unethical.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 3 December. A research brief has been provided as well as a legal note on the possible routes for introducing a ban. The petitioner has provided further comments and a copy of a briefing paper has been produced by the RSPCA.

There are a few actions that you can take going forward. 


If we can ask for this to be referred to the Wales animal health and welfare framework group, it would be useful for the Minister to consider advice from that group, I think.

We could write to the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain as well regarding self-regulation.

We understand that Government has had a conversation with the Showmen's Guild who oversees these types of fairs and establishments. So, yes, there's some kind of suggestion that there's some self-regulation going on, but we need to seek the answers. 

Okay. Moving on—2.3: P-05-934, 'Public Transport in Blaenau Gwent', on page 90. This petition was submitted by Ebbw Fawr business community, having collected 1,332 signatures on paper. And the text of the petition:

'The people below would like to raise their concern about the poor public transport within Blaenau Gwent. This has led to residents having difficulty travelling to their place of work. They also experience problems attending hospitals and doctors for medical attention. The cut backs have also made travelling at best time consuming and arduous and in some cases impossible.'

So, an initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Economy and Transport on 14 January. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments.

There seems to be a lot of plans in the future, and discussions. But, as the petitioners have pointed out, there have been discussions and consultations over many years, and the outcomes don't seem to have made any improvements to public transport. I think it would be worth us writing to Blaenau Gwent council to see what they have got to say. It makes sense for there to be discussions between the different providers in order to integrate the transport—that doesn't seem to be happening at the moment. So, perhaps communication with the council might help facilitate that.  

Yes, I'd agree with that. I do have sympathy for this, because it's not just Blaenau Gwent, it's across the board right across Wales. It frustrates me quite a bit as well. I mean, we have got the buses Bill moving forward, but, essentially, that's trying to get back to maybe where we were all those years ago, and through no fault of the Welsh side, really.

So, I'd agree with Leanne on writing to the council, because I'd like to see an integrated solution, but everyone having a say at the table and really see—. For me, the key thing is the opportunities coming from the buses Bill from the Senedd.

I think, as Jack said, it's the same all over. Where I live in Fairwater, there's no train to the Bay on a Sunday, you can't get a bus to the Heath Hospital for 9 o'clock—you've got to get one at a 6.45 a.m., or a ridiculous time. It's very difficult if you're a pensioner. I think we should write to Transport for Wales as well as the council. 

Okay, we've got all those options. 

Okay, 2.4: P-05-935, 'Ban Pavement Parking—Pavement Promise'—page 108 in your packs. This was submitted by Rhian Morris, having collected 801 signatures. They're calling

'for the National Assembly of Wales to urge the Welsh Government to impose a ban on pavement parking',

and they're

'campaigning to end pavement parking. It is an increasing issue that impacts on myself and so many others in Wales daily risking their safety. It is a massive issue for those with a disability and those with pushchairs. This is especially difficult when vehicles park on the drop kerbs or tactile paving. On many occasions, the vehicle that is parked on the pavement causes the view of the road to become restricted. This causes the situation to become dangerous for anyone who has to enter the road to pass the vehicle. There is a much higher risk for those who have a visual impairment or wheelchair users to move into the unknown dangers.'

As a parent,

'I want my son to have as much independence as he can in his future safely. Please help me to keep our communities safe'

is the plea from this petition.

So, the background: an initial response to the petition was received from the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport on 11 December; a research brief has been provided; the petitioner has provided further comments.


If vehicles are illegally parked like this, then the police can issue fines.

I mean, legislation is available in Scotland, and I think there's a call for us to follow that model.

I think it's not being enforced, is it? We see parking on the pavement all the time. So, if it is illegal, then it's not currently being enforced. So, the legislation in Scotland probably makes it easier for the authorities to enforce it.

Given that the Minister has set up a taskforce group, though, and they're going to be looking at, presumably, the Scottish legislation, then I don't think we can do much until that taskforce reports. It's due to report in June 2020. But the key point from the petitioner is that that taskforce reflects the views of the people who've got the problems at the moment. So, those organisations like RNIB Cymru, Living Streets, Sustrans, Disability Wales—those people have to have their views in that taskforce somehow, and so I think we should write to the Deputy Minister to seek clarification as to who exactly is going to be on that taskforce so that we can ensure that the issues being affected are going to be discussed with people who've got the right expertise. I remember—my daughter's 15 now, but I remember when we had a pushchair when she was small, this was a nightmare issue, especially on busy roads, because you're forced to take the pram out behind the car and around on the road, which is very, very dangerous. And, if you've got a disability and you may have partial sight or whatever, that can be beyond dangerous, can't it? So, we do need to look at this, I think.

Okay. So, we write to the Deputy Minister and First Minister.

Could we write maybe to the chief constables at all, or the commissioners, to ask why it's not being enforced?

It happened to me the other day, Leanne. Yesterday, actually. Early in the morning, pushing a pram, I had to go out into the road and I was just hoping that a car wasn't coming the other way. 

Okay. We'll do that. And Sustrans and Disability Wales.

Item 2.5: 'Offer Bowel Cancer Screening After the Age of 74'. This petition was submitted by Andrew Lye, having collected 69 signatures. The NHS in England, Scotland and Wales all offer bowel cancer screening every two years between the ages of 60 and 74. In England and Scotland, you can request a screening kit every two years after 74. This is not available to those over 74 in Wales. This petition asks the Welsh Government to make bowel cancer screening available as it is in England and Scotland. An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 15 January. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comment.

I think, as the petitioner says, really, we should try and find out what the costs are of this from the Minister, because he hasn't noted it in his correspondence back. And let's write to the older people's commissioner as well to seek their  views on it. Because it's simply looking at the—

Yes, absolutely. Looking at the headline, if you like, the title of it, it doesn't seem fair, does it? So, I think we should just get their views as well, get some more information, before taking it any further.

One thing that caught my eye in the letter was, it says:

'all screening programmes have the potential to do harm.'

So, I'm just wondering what harm this could do, really. So, if it's not doing harm up to the age of 74, why is it suddenly doing harm, potentially, at the age of 75?

Yes. Perhaps we can get some clarification on that from the Minister.

I think, as well, the UK National Screening Committee do not recommend screening beyond the age of 74. That doesn't mean they recommend stopping it at 74, does it? That doesn't mean the same thing. So, seeking clarification on that point, I think, would be useful as well—what exactly are they recommending? Because it does look like discrimination, doesn't it, against people over 74.


As the petitioner suggests, in Scotland and England, you can have self referral into the scheme, into the screening programme, after the age of 74, and the Minister suggests that the committee that looks at this in Wales, the Wales Screening Committee, has written to its UK counterpart to ask for their take on the value of that kind of self referral. So, the committee could ask for a copy of that response when it comes. 


Item 2.6, P-05-937: 'STOP BOILING CRUSTACEANS ALIVE (lobsters, crabs, crayfish, prawns etc)'. This petition was submitted by Cardiff Animal Rights, having collected a total of 2,008 signatures, 1,253 online and 505 on paper. They're calling on

'the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to implement greater protection for crustaceans and to ban the cruel practice of boiling lobsters, crabs crayfish, prawns etc alive.'

'The Animal Welfare Act is designed to protect animals on the understanding that sentient creatures can feel pain and we have a moral duty NOT to cause suffering. The Act makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal, both in their keeping and at the time of slaughter. It means that people or organisations who neglect or abuse "protected" animals can be prosecuted. "Farmed animals", fish and reptiles are all protected under this Act. However, invertebrates such as crabs and lobsters, crayfish & prawns are not.'

So, they want us—well, the Welsh Government—to extend the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to include crustaceans, including lobsters, crabs, prawns and crayfish. 

So, an initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 6 December. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comment.

Well, I would imagine the petitioner isn't going to be very satisfied with the Minister's response, but working out what we can do about this is difficult. I would assume that, if this doesn't fall within the scope of the Animal Welfare Act, the animal welfare advisory group that the Minister takes advice off wouldn't be able to cover this kind of issue either. So, I'm not sure what we can suggest in terms of taking this forward, although, clearly, they've got an issue that they want to take somewhere. Does the clerk, perhaps, have any further advice as to what we could do within the Senedd on this at all?

So, we could seek a legal advice paper for the committee if you wanted to explore what—

—angles there might be. So, whilst the 2006 animal welfare Act doesn't include crustaceans within its scope, we could seek advice as to whether the Assembly could pass a further Act to amend that legislation to widen the scope in that way. 

It doesn't sound like the Minister is very enthusiastic about going down that sort of route, though, from what I can see. She'll argue to wait for more evidence, I guess. 

Yes. I think you'll be aware that there's a wider discussion in the scientific community about sentience amongst different species of animal, and I think this falls into that, although it is worth noting that the research brief alludes to various campaigns that have been run on this issue over the years to say that, actually, a species like crustaceans—well, a group of animals like crustaceans—should be included in the same way that mammals are, for example. So, there are wider campaigning movements on this, both at UK level and in Wales. So, would you like us to produce that legal paper whilst we await further comments? 

Yes. I don't think that would do any harm at all, to see if that opens up any further avenues for us. 

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

Okay. Item 3.1, P-04-522: 'Asbestos in Schools', page 132. Now, this petition has been with us since December 2013. It was submitted by Cenric Clement-Evans and it's collected 448 signatures. They called on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to put measures in place to ensure that parents and guardians of children across Wales can easily access information about the presence and management of asbestos in our school buildings. The committee last considered this on 3 December, agreeing to write to the Minister for Education to ask for an update in relation to the publication of high-level information about asbestos management in schools. A response was received from the Minister on 23 December. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not provided further comment. But, as I say, this has been with us now seven years, nearly. 


But it's still unresolved. And so—. Yes, okay, we've got some information being available online in early 2020, but I'd like to know what information that's going to be. Is it going to be providing information on a school-by-school level as to the extent to which each building has asbestos and then explaining to parents in the community exactly how that is being managed? I doubt it will go down to that level of detail, yet that is what the petitioner appears to be asking us for. So, can we go back to the Minister and clarify exactly what this high-level information about asbestos management in schools is going to contain?

We have corresponded on a number of occasions with the Minister over this—

—and this commitment to publishing what the Minister describes as high-level information, I think, has been around since some time early to the middle of last year. The Minister's latest letter states that the information, when it's published,

'will be able to take account of any building works that have been completed during 2019 which have resulted in the removal of asbestos from school buildings.'

So, they'll tell you after the event when it's gone, rather than before the event when it's there.

Yes, and I think what we don't know from the correspondence we've received is whether it will be at a school-by-school level or at a local authority level, for example—

—as to how they will do that. And you're right: the petitioner has been calling for school-by-school information to be available online for the lifetime of this petition.

Members have also—. When I was—. Before I was Chair, we were urging for that information to be published. 

But they've still not been clear about exactly what information's going to be published from that perspective, then. Can we have further clarification, do you think?

So, I think the two options would be that the committee writes back to clarify exactly what is going to be published and when, or the other suggestion that's been made is that the Minister's made an undertaking that that's currently being finalised to be published in early 2020; the committee waits to see what that is and then takes it up from there.

I should note as well that the petitioner did get in touch with us yesterday, to not provide substantive comments, but to apologise that pressure at work had meant that he hadn't been able to. He did say, however, that he had met with the Minister and officials in mid January, so—.

I think that's what he'd intended to provide to the committee, but just hasn't been able to do so in the timescale. So, given those pieces of information, perhaps the committee would want to wait for an update from the petitioner or the publication of the information before taking a further view. 

Let's wait for the petitioner and see where we are then. 

Item 3.2, P-04-576: 'Allow Children in Wales to Have a Family Holiday During Term Time', page 134. This petition was submitted by Bethany Walpole-Wroe and was first considered in July 2014, having collected 1,008 signatures. We're taking this with 3.3, another petition: P-04-606 'Ensure schools exercise their statutory powers under regulation 7 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 without interference or bias'. This petition was submitted by Pembrokeshire Parents Want a Say and was first considered in December 2014, having collected 812 signatures.

So, we last considered both petitions on 3 December, agreeing to write to the Minister for Education to request an update on the review of school attendance policy and an indication of timings for the next steps, including a public consultation, and also to seek the Government's latest view in relation to the discretion of headteachers to authorise absences for holidays in term time when appropriate. A response was received from the Minister on 23 December, and the petitioner for P-04-576 has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward?


I've got a lot of sympathy with the petitioners on this, because I do think that there is a question of affordability of holidays, but that does need to be balanced by children missing school, there's no doubt about that. That's why I think leaving it to the headteacher's discretion is probably the best way to deal with this.

What I don't understand is why, in some cases, local education consortia have apparently removed the H code from forms, which means that the headteachers can't authorise an absence for a term-time holiday. Is that something that the Minister can influence? Is that something we can ask the Minister to do? Because if there's been some sort of central determination and a removal of the headteacher's discretion in this, then I think that could potentially be a problem.

Yes, I'd agree with that. As the Minister says, headteachers are the best equipped. So, if they're not equipping them, it makes no sense, really, does it? I'm happy to support Leanne.

But then you've probably got some headteachers who have a more relaxed attitude than others to it. If it's not uniform, I think it's quite unsatisfactory, really, for parents.

Do you want to write to the Minister asking about the H code?

Yes. I think we need to clarify. I'd like to clarify that.

I would say, as with the previous petition, there's a lot of background history of communication back and forth on this petition, and I think it's fair to say a significant degree of frustration amongst the petitioners.

In recent times, the responses the committee has been receiving from the Government state that this will all be tied up into the school attendance review, for which the timescales have been provided, and a consultation will be published no later than autumn this year. Although I should note that we've previously been told autumn 2019 for a consultation on that issue as well. But it is a review of a comprehensive set of guidelines.

In the petition's early days, the previous Minister, Huw Lewis, had written to all local authorities, education consortia and headteachers to stress that the Government's view was that this should be at the discretion of headteachers. So, that activity has been done by the Government, albeit not for some years now. Although, on the other side of that, we haven't received recent evidence either that demonstrates that the H code is not available to headteachers.

So, I think this feels like a situation where the petition's been running for a long time, the committee has come up against this attendance review, which is taking longer than originally anticipated, and it doesn't feel like there's any movement happening from the Government before that. And if the consultation is going to be published in autumn 2020, we are looking at the end of this Assembly, really, when that result's going to come back.

Yes, fair enough. Okay. So, then they could, potentially, set up another petition in the next Assembly term if they're not happy with whatever ends up coming out.

Yes. It might well be that the review leads to the Government proposing changes to how school holidays in term time happen and this issue becomes—

Okay. I'll support that, then. We should end the petition, if that's the case.

Okay. 3.4: P-05-807, 'Review and change the guidance for attendance awards in Welsh schools'. This was submitted by Laura Charles-Price and was first considered in April 2018, having collected 123 signatures. We last considered this on 3 December and, in common with the previous petitions, agreed to write to the Minister for Education to request an update on the review of school attendance policy and an indication of timings for the next steps. A response was received from the Minister on 23 December. We informed the petitioner that it would be discussed, but they've not provided any further comments.


This falls into the same category as the last petition, doesn't it, in terms of waiting for that review.

Yes. I do have a lot of sympathy for the petition, but there's not much we can do as a committee, is there?

Item 3.5: P-05-880, 'Wales is Rapidly Losing its Musical Reputation and Heritage', page 141 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Active Music Services and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 2,226 signatures.

Some background to this: the committee last considered the petition on 19 November, and we agreed to write again to the Music Education Council and the Welsh Local Government Association to seek responses and, in the case of the latter, information about the distribution of previous funding provided to local authorities; we also agreed to write back to the Minister for Education to seek further information about what has caused the delays in commissioning and receiving the feasibility study report; and also to inquire with the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee about any intentions it has to follow up its previous inquiry on this subject.

Responses have been received from the Minister, the Music Education Council and the WLGA. The petitioner has provided further comments and support has been received from the Welsh Association of Male Choirs.

Given the fact that the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee are writing to the Minister and they're committed to scrutinising the delivery of music services, I think this is probably an area for them, potentially, to take forward. Our work as a Petitions Committee has run its course, really. So, perhaps we could write to the Chair of that committee, highlighting this petition and the evidence that we've had to date, and ask if they'll take it forward as part of their role.

Okay. And again—as with all petitions when they do come to an end in this committee—if we can write and thank the petitioners in the first instance for bringing this forward.

Yes. Just to add to that aspect, the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee wrote to the Minister on 30 January making a number of points that have been raised, similar to the ones raised by the petitioner, which were raised out of their inquiry. They've asked for a response by the end of February, so the matter is actively being pursued

Okay. Now, we've got two petitions that will be considered together. One is 3.6, P-05-922, 'Withdraw the proposed home education guidance', page 151, and also 3.7, P-05-923, 'Are you listening to us? Home Education Rights and Respect!', page 154. The first petition was submitted by Wendy Charles-Warner, having collected 5,447 signatures, and the second one was submitted by Mountain Movers Education Charity, having collected 512 signatures.

We last considered both petitions for the first time on 3 December, agreeing to group the petitions and consider them together in the future, given the similarity of the matters that they raise. We also agreed to write back to the Minister for Education to ask for details of the response rate to the Government's consultation on proposed new guidance. We also wanted to seek confirmation that the legal opinion provided by the petitioners is being considered as part of this, and for an indication of the timescales for determining the next steps.

A response was received from the Minister on 23 December, and the petitioners for both petitions have provided further comment. All the comments are there in your pack. How would you like to take this forward? There are a number of possible actions going forward. 


The views expressed are very, very strong. Would colleagues want an evidence session, possibly?

Yes, I'd be happy to support that. I think, either through evidence or in writing, we need to hear from the children's commissioner, really—a bit of evidence.

I'd like to hear from Welsh Government about why they are seen to be not paying this legal opinion from—I think the gentleman was a QC who gave the opinion. I would dearly like to understand from Welsh Government why they don't seem to be giving that the attention that I think they should be giving it, given the issues that it's raised. So, I'd support an evidence session, and then afterwards, a debate in the Chamber. 

I can understand the Government's preference for most children to be in school, but the reality is that there are some parents who, for a range of reasons, choose to home educate. And then there are some children who are home educated through no choice, because they've been excluded from school. I'm keen to ensure that every single child in Wales has a high-quality education, and that they're safeguarded. So, the guidance has to try to balance those two things. If the guidance is drawn up without reference to people who are currently home educated, then it is going to be found wanting.

So, I am concerned that this petition does seem to be almost like a UK-wide petition, with the vast majority of signatures not coming from Wales. There's a precedent issue there that we need to be careful about. But a number of people have written to me about the issue of school education and the problems with the guidance, so I think we should take the advice of the children's commissioner at the very least, and more evidence on this, if that's possible, to see if we can try to get some movement in the right direction on this, because clearly there are a lot of people who are very unhappy with the current state of affairs. 

Okay. So, all Members are in support of taking this forward for an evidence session.

In terms of the practicalities of who that evidence session would be with, or the balance between seeking written evidence and oral evidence in person, who would you see as being the right witnesses to have in front of the committee? Who would we do that with?

Is there one overarching organisation that represents home educators, or are there a number of different groups? 

I think there are a number of different groups. I'd say the petitioners for both petitions have provided some quite detailed comments, not least the legal opinion they've received. And, in your packs for this meeting, both have provided detailed responses on the current situation. The committee could seek further written evidence from someone like the children's commissioner with a view to holding an evidence session with the Minister once that's been received, perhaps, so that everyone would have had an opportunity to contribute in writing, and then the scrutiny—write to them and write to the Government and get their take in a future evidence session.

Just in terms of home education organisations, just following on from Leanne's question, is there a Welsh specific one? This looks like a UK-wide petition, but if there is a Welsh organisation that focuses on this, it might be worth getting their view rather than a UK one.

Both the petitioners are Welsh based. One is certainly an organisation; I'm not quite sure of the status of the other, but it's certainly a group representing home educators in Wales. I think it's the signatories to the petition that went wider than that, but both organisations are Welsh based. I don't know if there are any others. We could see whether there are any other groups that represent home educators and write for their views as well. 

Okay. 3.8: P-04-408, 'Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Service', page 160 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Helen Missen and was first considered in July 2012, having collected 246 signatures. The other one, the similar one, is 3.9, P-04-505, 'Eating Disorder Unit in Wales', page 160 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Keira Marlow and was first considered in October 2013, having collected 526 signatures.

So, we last considered both petitions last February and agreed to continue to keep a watching brief until the Welsh Government formally responds to the review of eating disorder services carried out by Dr Jacinta Tan of Swansea University. An update was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 17 January. The petitioner for P-04-408, 'Child and Adolescent Eating Disorder Services', has provided further comments. They have been under consideration for a considerable period of time, having been transferred from the last Assembly Petitions Committee. A detailed independent review of eating disorder services has been carried out and the Welsh Government is scrutinising health boards’ responses to the review's recommendations, as well as providing additional resources itself. 


Yes. There is some satisfaction from one of the petitioners. How do you want to take this forward? 

Given where we are, we congratulate them. I have, again, real, real sympathy with this, and I think where we've got to with it is fantastic and they've done really well, but it's a chance for individual Members now to take this on board in the Senedd Chamber and keep an eye on it themselves, and where we go. Certainly, with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines, I think that really needs to be implemented, but, as far as the committee goes, we can't really take this any further, apart from congratulating them for the work they've done and the success they've got. 

So, that's everybody unanimous. Okay. So, we'll close those petitions and, again, thank the petitioners for bringing them to this committee. 

Item 3.10, P-05-804, 'We need Welsh Government funding for play!!', page 164. This petition was submitted by RAY Ceredigion and was first considered in March 2018, having collected 328 signatures. We last considered this in June 2019, agreeing to write to the Children's Commissioner for Wales and the Welsh Local Government Association to seek views on the petition. A response was received from the Children's Commissioner for Wales on 12 July 2019, though no response has been received from the WLGA. Have we written to them since then? 

We have, yes. This has not been an isolated case, and I am meeting with someone from the WLGA later this week. 

Well, as Chairman of this committee, I'd like to put on record my disappointment, if we're sending letters as a committee of the National Assembly for Wales, that the WLGA feel unable or not prepared to respond. I think that needs to go down in our Record of Proceedings, my disappointment. So, I hope that we relay that on. 

Sure, and we'll be seeking a mechanism that works better for both parties, I think, in terms of where those responses go, or—. 

Have we been having responses and they haven't been coming here, or—?

No. The WLGA has been responding some of the times we've written to them; we have written to them quite a lot at times in the last six to 12 months, and some of those responses have been missed, I think.  

Right. Okay. The Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services published a written statement on a ministerial play review on 9 January. The petitioners were informed that the petition would be discussed but have not provided further comment. 

I think firstly we write to the Deputy Minister to ask for this petition and the correspondence from Play Wales and the children's commissioner to be passed to the ministerial review. But also I think we wait to see the outcome of next week's meeting. 

Yes. I'm happy to be present at the meeting, if needs be. I think that somebody needs to stress that, as a committee, maybe, as you rightly point out, we could perhaps send one with more than one petition in as an inquiry, but I do find it bad form when an organisation the size of the WLGA isn't responding to letters from this—


They should be able to cover it, shouldn't they, particularly given the fact that the correspondence is from a committee of the Assembly? I would expect them to give this committee, and other committees of the Assembly, as much priority as they would a Westminster committee. I think it's a pretty poor show, if they're not responding. I think they're the ones who need to—.

I question how feasible it is to collate a number of different petitions into one letter. It's fine if all of those petitions are being considered in the same committee meeting, or closely thereto, but we can't wait for—because we sit every fortnight, we can't wait a month before we write to the WLGA, surely.

Since July.

July of last year. I suppose you could argue that in the summer period—September—there's recess and things like that. But, you know, the back quarter of the year—I can't see why we couldn't have had a response. But those are my views. So, let's hope that we can sort something out there.

Item 3.11 is P-05-831, 'End the unfairness and discrimination in the financial support for victims of the contaminated blood scandals who were infected in Wales', page 172. This petition 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 19 November, agreeing to seek a response from the Minister for Health and Social Services to the statement made by the petitioner about differences in payment levels between Wales and England, and for information about how decisions such as these are reached. The committee also requested further information about current scheme benefits in Wales and England from the research service. Both have been provided. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not provided further comment.

If there is a scheme available to people in England, then surely the Welsh Government should be funded for that, in terms of a Barnett consequential. So, if there is not parity, then I'm not clear as to why. But the fact that there is now a commitment to work across the UK to ensure the parity of schemes—I think we need to ensure that we get an update on those discussions, because it isn't right that people in one place who've got exactly the same set of issues get more of a financial recompense than people in Wales. There are too many of those kinds of examples, and we shouldn't be prepared to accept them. 

I should note that the Minister states that those discussions were put on hold due to the general election, so it may still be early days in relation to whether those have been picked up, but—.

But if we put pressure on, that might make things move a little bit faster, hopefully—that's the idea.

Item 3.12 is P-05-849, 'All men in Wales should have access through the NHS to the best possible diagnostic tests for prostate cancer'—page 180 in your packs. This petition was submitted by Stuart Davies and was first considered in December 2018, having collected 6,345 signatures. We last considered this on 3 December and agreed to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask what arrangements he would expect to be in place for patients who need investigation in health boards yet to implement pre-biopsy multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging, or mpMRI, scans, as recommended by the revised National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines. A response was received from the Minister on 15 January and the petitioner has provided further comment. We've had a Plenary debate on this as well.

We need more information, don't we? We need to wait for a further update from the Minister on the progress of implementing the MRI scanning.

We wrote to the Minister following the meeting in December. The Minister replied in the middle of January. At that time, he said that Government officials were to be meeting with health boards in late January to make sure that everything was going to be in place for these NICE guidelines to be implemented—


Yes. So, it effectively will be what was agreed at the meeting.

Great. Item 3.13, P-05-859: 'Provide Child Houses in Wales for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse', page 185. This petition was submitted by Mayameen Meftahi and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 227 signatures.

We last considered this on 19 November, agreeing to write to the Mayor of London to seek information about the Lighthouse Project, any findings which can be shared from the first year of its operation, and for details of the evaluation of the project, to include timescales. We also agreed to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask whether the Welsh Government would consider any interim findings arising out of the Lighthouse Project pilot, in order to expedite consideration of its applicability to Wales.

Responses were received on 9 January. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments.

I've said before on this petition that waiting until 2021 is a lot to ask people who are going through abuse to do, but it does look as if the Government aren't going to move until that evaluation is available. I know we could close the petition, because that evaluation isn't going to be available until the next Assembly term, but what I'm concerned about if we do that is that the issue will be lost, and that the Government won't learn from that evaluation. There may be a new Minister in place by then, previous assurances will have been lost, lots of time will have gone by, and the issue will, potentially, go off the agenda, and I would be concerned about that happening. So, is there any way we can put this petition on ice until the evaluation is available, and then almost like re-ignite it when that information's available and to see if we can take it forward then? I presume we may not even be—. We'll be different people on the committee, it'll be a different Chair, it'll be a different Government, potentially, but at least if there is a mechanism to do that then we're not losing the issue. 

It's certainly possible for the committee to pass issues that it feels have not been resolved on to a future Petitions Committee, if one is established following the next election. That happened between the last Assembly and this Assembly, as you can see by the age of some of the petitions.

I know you want to reduce the amount of times that happens, but I think, in this case, given that the Government have kicked it off into the long grass, it would be problematic for us to do the same, I think.

Sure. And one of the things I've promised to the Chair is that, in one of the next couple of meetings, the committee will consider options for the last few months of the Assembly, when that comes, and how many petitions or in what circumstances we'd wish pass issues across. So, yes, we can certainly put this petition on hold until the committee makes those wider decisions.

Yes. I just want to say, because I've been mentioning this or raising this issue of child protection in Plenary—there's been just radio silence from almost everyone. Not all—some parties have responded. But it says here—I just wanted to say on the record, really—where do children run to? Well, that's a really good question, because there's no-one, there's no mechanism for them to go anywhere, really. And then when you get people like me raising issues, you've got the public services ombudsman intervening and then kicking me out of local government for four months. So, we're in a situation in Wales where children have no avenue to talk about the abuse they may or may not be suffering. 

Okay. I've gone on. Thank you, Chair. I appreciate that.

All right. Okay. Thank you. So, we're going to put this on hold until after we've had the meeting to decide what we're—

We'll keep a watching brief for now and then—

Can you say something about that, Leanne, from your side, because Plaid have been silent, again?

Shall we move on? Item 3.14, P-05-896: 'Prevent the closure of Ward 35 at Prince Charles Hospital', page 190. This petition was submitted by Beverly Gillespie and was first considered in September 2019, having collected 281 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 19 November and agreed to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health board to ask for an overall assessment of the number of elderly and dementia care beds lost from hospitals in Wales and Cwm Taf respectively over recent years. Responses were received from the health board on 13 December and 20 January. A response was received from the Minister on 17 January. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed, but has not provided further comment.

Now, actions there: ward 35 has closed last summer. So, you need to decide whether the objectives of the petition can be achieved going forward.


Well, they clearly can't be achieved, but, again, this is an issue that highlights problems within the health service, and this is a ward that's gone now. So, we can't really do anything with it, but that overall question of how many beds have been lost, and the Minister says that the number of beds available for the elderly and those with dementia is a complex question—well, it's complex if you've got a family member who needs that sort of provision and it doesn't exist anymore because all the beds in the wards have been removed. So, whilst I accept that we can't do anything with this petition, this is another issue that's going to come back to us, I think, because I'm sensing from my conversations with people that there's a lot of concern out in the community about provision for dementia. 

Yes, I propose we close it now, given the ward has closed. 

So, 3.15: P-05-905, 'Call for an Independent judicial Inquiry into the reorganisation of services within Cwm Taf Health Board'—page 194. This was submitted by Mark Adams and Robert Bevan and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 387 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 9 November and agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for a direct response to the petitioners' call for an independent inquiry into the reorganisation of services within Cwm Taf health board and Royal Glamorgan Hospital in particular. A response was received from the Minister on 17 January and the petitioners have provided further comments.

It's a massive concern that the Minister is rejecting a call for an independent inquiry. This is something I'd like to take evidence on, really. I'd like the Minister here to explain his position.

Well, the changes that are being implemented now—and this is slightly out of date now because there have been further announcements since this petition was received—. The decisions were taken back in 2014, and they weren't implemented—some of them, anyway, particularly in relation to A&E services. So, to plough ahead with a programme that was signed off six years ago when lots of things have changed within that health board area since then—for example, Bridgend hospital has come within the health board area; it wasn't when the south Wales programme was first agreed. So, there have been a lot of changes and there are huge pressures on the system. This is my local hospital, so I'm very much in tune with what people feel about this.

I don't think it's satisfactory for the Minister to just step aside and say, 'Let the clinicians decide what should happen there.' They've got to take political responsibility for the failings within the system. So, I would support writing to the health board to ask them to respond to the issues that were raised in the petition, but I also think we need to go back to the Minister on this. As I've said, further information and decisions have been taken, or the board has indicated that they want to do further work on future proposals, so that adds to the points that were raised in this original petition, and if we can take it somewhere—. I mean, if we can take evidence on it, that would be really good, because there doesn't seem to be anybody at the moment bringing together all the different pieces of information. There are things going on in different places and in different parts of the health board and in different hospitals. So, if we could get some scrutiny on that, I think that would be very useful for everyone concerned. 

Yes. I'd like to invite him in as a matter of urgency, really.

It might be worth the committee noting as well as you may well have seen yourselves, there's a significant-sized petition currently gathering signatures.


There's more than one petition, I think. There's certainly one on the Assembly's website that is gathering signatures at quite a fast rate. So, I don't know exactly a date at which that would come to you for consideration, but a petition specifically about the changes in A&E now will be in front of the committee at some stage.

Is it possible, then, given that we know that that's likely to be coming within the next few weeks, to arrange a scrutiny session prior to a potential Plenary debate, because that is going to hit the 5,000 signatures mark, if it hasn't already, so a Plenary debate will be the eventual outcome of this, and if we can start putting something in place to lead to that, then we may not have to wait so long, because these decisions are being made quite quickly, really.

And is it the Minister, or the health board, or both?

I think we could write, in the meantime, couldn't we, to the health board and get their—?

It would be good to do that as a matter of urgency—just to get them in.

The next one: 3.16 P-05-912, 'Supporting Sudden and Unexpected Death in Children and Young Adults'. This petition was submitted by Rhian Mannings and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 5,682 signatures. We first considered this on 19 November and agreed to await the findings of a review into bereavement services in Wales, and the petitioner's response to those, before considering further action on the petition.

The committee also indicated that it would likely seek time for the petition to be debated to be held in Plenary following this. The 'Scoping Study of Bereavement Service in Wales: End of Study Report' was published in December 2019. The petitioner has provided further comments, as well as letters of support from each police force in Wales.

I've received a few e-mails from the petitioners, and also we've all as Members received a letter from Lynne Neagle, Assembly Member, expressing some concerns about this.

We held a debate. My colleague Lynne Neagle put forward a Member's debate, supported by Members from across the Chamber, on suicide bereavement, and I think that was a very significant debate, and I do think it needs talking about more. Just reading some of this does give you the shivers, really. I spoke in that debate, but losing anyone suddenly is a difficult situation for anyone, but I do think this—. 

The numbers of signatures and the expressions of support we've had today, not just as Members, but various e-mails that we've all had. I'd like to see this debated on the floor of the Senedd.

Yes. So, we can write on the committee's behalf to Business Committee, asking for that debate to be scheduled.

Would it be useful to have a scrutiny session with the Minister on this review that Lynne Neagle has written to us about in the letter? She says she's not happy with the outcome of the review. Is there a point to scrutinising the Minister on that, or should it just all be done in the Plenary debate? I mean, the Plenary debate—the purpose of that is scrutinising the Minister as well, so it could all be done in the one place.

I think maybe in the interests of time as well and the committee's workload, the bereavement review is—. Central to the petition is the support that is available around Wales—that's what the review study looked at, and I think as Members have received, there's been some questions raised about the situation in reality of some of the services that have been flagged up, and points are also being raised about the petitioner's own organisation, and how referrals are made by all health boards in Wales, but no funding is received from any of them to support the work that they do—

Those are issues that are best fleshed out in Plenary. Okay.

—so a Plenary debate is probably the place to bring that out.


Moving on—3.17: P-05-898, 'Ban the use of A boards in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Angharad Paget-Jones and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 80 signatures. The committee considered this on 1 October, agreeing to gather further evidence on the issue.

We have received responses from the Federation of Small Businesses, Guide Dogs Cymru, Living Streets Cymru, RNIB Cymru, Wales Council of the Blind, and the Welsh Local Government Association. Case studies of personal experiences from people across Wales have also been received from RNIB Cymru. The petitioner has indicated that she doesn't wish to make any further comments at this time.

I'm not sure if we can do much more on a national level on this. The Minister points to local enforcement, and I think we should probably support local enforcement of this.

I think that's a little bit of a cop-out by the Minister, passing the buck back to the local authorities. I think Welsh Government certainly has a role in providing guidance over what local authorities do. At the end of the day, that's page 2 of this. I'd like to write back to the Minister and ask whether they'd consider giving consideration to producing additional guidance on the use of A boards for local authorities.

Okay. I can bring something to the table on this. I know that in my own town, the property owners own half the—roughly, approximately, half the pavement. They own, say, three of the—. So, the land is actually privately owned.

That doesn't stop local authorities telling you to take A boards away, though, if they don't like them, and introducing bye-laws to—

I know this has come up in town council agendas and things, and I know that some local authorities are quite worried about getting involved in the legal processes that would ensue because there are several different landlords that you would have to—. If a landlord was to take action against—. I think the bigger problem is when they extend into the more walking area.

Again, like I said, I do think Welsh Government have a role in providing guidance for this. I believe there are some local authorities that actually charge shop retailers to put A boards out outside their shops. So, I do think that—

We need more clarity on this, then, don't we? So, what would you like to do?

I'd like to go back to the Minister and ask whether they'd be willing to consider issuing guidance on the matter. I don't think it's a big ask; we're only asking them to consider.

Do Members support that? Yes. We'll write back to the Minister.

'Fairer business rates for Welsh businesses'—this petition was submitted by the Your Pontypridd Business Improvement District and was first considered in September 2019, having collected 80 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 17 September, agreeing to await the views of the petitioners on the response provided by the Welsh Government before considering whether to take further action on the petition. The petitioners have now provided further comments.

Given they're happy, I propose we close the petition and congratulate them.

Great. Any other comments? All agreed. Thank you.

So, 3.19: P-05-897, 'Stop Developers netting hedgerows and trees'—page 241. This was submitted by Chris Evans and was first considered in September 2019, having collected 1,508 signatures. We considered this for the first time on 17 September, agreeing to await the views of the petitioners on the response provided by the Welsh Government before considering whether to take further action on the petition. The petitioner was asked for comment when the petition was first considered in September 2019 and has been contacted in November and January. However, none have been received.

I can't see where further we can go with this if the petitioner isn't engaged, so I propose we close the petition.


Yes, I don't think the Minister's particularly amenable to this one either, by the looks of it.

Okay. Moving forward: economy and transport. The following two items will be considered together, and that's 3.20 and 3.21. So, the first one, 3.20, 'Put an end to the Cross Border and Sub-contracting Taxi Licensing loophole.' That's page 242 in your packs. This was submitted by Taxi Drivers of Cardiff, and was first considered in November 2017, having collected 390 signatures. And the next one, 3.21, 'Allow Free Movement of Taxi Drivers to Carry Out Private Hire Work Anywhere in Wales', page 244. This was submitted by Taxis Without Borders, and was first considered in October 2018, having collected 136 signatures.

We last considered both petitions on 3 December, and agreed to write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to ask for an update on the Welsh Government's future plans in relation to reform of taxi licensing and, in particular, the plan for short-term measures that could be taken forward in advance of legislation. A response was received from the Minister on 14 January. Both sets of petitioners were informed that the petitions would be discussed, but neither has provided further comment.

I think again, like the last petition, perhaps we should close this now. The Minister's ruled out legislative change in this Assembly. I don't see there's much more we can do if there's no engagement.

So, moving on, 3.22, P-05-886, 'Stop the Red Route (A55/A494 corridor)', page 248. This petition was submitted by Linda Scott and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 1,409 signatures. We last considered this on 1 October, when we held evidence sessions with the petitioners, North Wales Economic Ambition Board and Flintshire County Council.

Following the session, Members agreed to write to a range of other environmental and business stakeholders to seek additional evidence. We also agreed to write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to ask further questions relating to the development of detailed plans over the route of the new road and planned environmental mitigation measures.

Responses have been received from the Minister, Natural Resources Wales, the future generations commissioner, Woodland Trust, Iceland, and the North Wales Mersey Dee Business Council. Members have been provided with a research paper that summarises the evidence received. The petitioner has also provided further comments.

Chair, if I may, I just declare an interest in this. I've supported this in the past, so I'll let Members carry on with this and step back. 

I suppose I'd better declare as well. I oppose the red route. I went on record right from the beginning.

Can I just ask a point of clarification? Does it preclude you from speaking in a petition discussion, then, if you've got a local connection with the petition? Because I haven't been declaring interests all the way along with these things.

It's a good question, because the next one, for instance, I was involved in.

I think it's for Members, obviously, to determine what counts as a relevant interest to declare. That being done and a matter of public record, I don't believe there's anything in the Assembly's Standing Orders that would prevent a Member then contributing to a discussion.

So, it's a financial interest you need to declare, really, isn't it, rather than any sort of political interest, surely? Because I haven't declared interest in lots of petitions that I've got a political interest in and a local interest.

I just wondered. You're opting out of this discussion now, and I don't think you need to.

Perhaps we didn't need to declare an interest, because there isn't an interest to be declared. Certainly, from my point of view, I'm against the red route because I don't think it's the right solution for north Wales, but that's the only skin I've got in the game.

Okay, let's handle this petition with the actions that we need to take forward.

Can we write to the Minister? That's one suggestion.

I'd like to have the Minister in. I think this is such a big project, it affects the whole of north Wales, indeed the north west and beyond. It's a major, major decision.


Okay. So, we now have a proposal to write to the Minister and to invite the Minister in for scrutiny. 

I'll go along with what the local Members want, because they've got the expertise on this, which is why I didn't want them opting out of the discussion.

The committee could agree either approach, really: a set of detailed questions in a letter to the Minister, or a session with the Minister in front of the committee. 

So, correspondence?

We could do correspondence first and see what comes back. 

All right. 3.23: P-05-778, 'Protect the Razor Clams on Llanfairfechan Beach', page 303. This petition was submitted by Vanessa Dye and was first considered in October 2017 having collected 459 signatures. We last considered this on 29 January 2019 and agreed to keep a watching brief to allow a stock assessment of razor clams to be completed before considering further action. Further information was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 14 January 2020, and the petitioner has provided further comment. So, possible actions there?

I think the petitioner's made some comments, haven't they, so we could just highlight them to the Minister. Go back with the comments from the petitioner and see where we are, if there's any consideration of new legislation or regulation for governing this. I think we should raise that directly with the Minister. 

Okay. Does everyone agree with that? Okay. So, we write back to the Minister to welcome the progress being made, and ask her to give consideration to introducing new legislation or regulations for governing razor clam harvesting along the lines proposed by the petitioner.

Item 3.24: P-05-876, 'Protection of Red & Amber listed species in Wales', page 309. This petition was submitted by Chris Evans and was first considered in May 2019 having collected 173 signatures. We last considered this on 5 November and agreed: to note Natural Resources Wales's intention to conduct a review of all wild bird licensing during 2020; to write to Natural Resources Wales to encourage them to consider the importance of biodiversity as part of that review; and also to highlight the petition to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, while suggesting other issues relating to biodiversity and balancing competing issues within Natural Resources Wales's remit are raised in a future evidence session with the organisation. A response was received from Natural Resources Wales on 4 December, and the petitioner has provided further comments.

I think, given that the petitioner is pleased that the species mentioned have been removed from the list, and although they want to see the new general licences and the decision-making processes—that's already available on the website. So, there's not much further we can do, I don't think, on this now. So, I would propose we close the petition.