National Assembly for Wales

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Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

25/02/2020

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
Clerk
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 9:01.

The meeting began at 9:01.

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 of Welsh to English. No need to turn off your mobile phones or other electronic devices, but let's ensure that they are in silent mode. No apologies have been received. 

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

So, we move straight on to new petitions. Petition 2.1, P-05-938, 'Make Welsh universities consider the Welsh Baccalaureate as an A Level'. This petition was submitted by Bronwen Clatworthy, having collected 71 signatures. The text of the petition is:

'As it is compulsory for young people studying AS and A Levels to complete the Welsh Baccalaureate, surely universities in Wales should accept the qualification, just like other A levels, for all courses.'

An example of courses in Wales that do not accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as an A-Level is speech and language therapy at Cardiff Met University. There are no other speech and language therapy courses in Wales. An initial response was received from the Minister for Education on 14 January. Your research brief is in your pack. The petitioner has provided further comments.

So, possible actions going forward—how would you like to take this forward? 

I think we could write back to the Minister, just to ask about the detail of the list of universities and where they are with that. But I think we should also note that another committee is taking this forward in the future. So, I don't know how far we could take it, but certainly I think we could write to the Minister and try and find out what universities are accepting it, and where that list is, and how we can put that out to the public.

Okay, fabulous. P-05-939, 'Immediate embargo on new dog breeding licences, licence renewals and planning applications until regulations are fit for purpose and enforceable'. This is page 52 in your packs, and this petition was submitted by C.A.R.I.A.D.—Care and Respect Includes All Dogs—having collected 1,738 signatures. An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 15 January. You've got your research brief, and the the petitioners have provided further comments.

I think some of the concerns are that, until such time as new, robust, fit-for-purpose regulations are laid by the Welsh Government, no further licensing, licence renewals or planning applications for new dog breeding establishments or extensions to existing breeding establishments should be approved.

The Minister indicated that she will be bringing forward a statement. It sounds like it's quite imminent, so we could maybe wait until the next meeting and see what the statement is before replying. 

I'd agree with that, yes. I think we need to wait before taking any other action; we need to know what the Minister's going to say. 

Well, she's technically mentioned that she's going to bring forward a statement after February recess. We are talking fairly imminently, then. So, I would guess for now, maybe, then, we wait. 

We could postpone it until after the statement and then take it from there to see if we want to hold an evidence session. 

09:05

Okay, do Members agree with that? Okay. P-05-941, 'Biodiversity Remit for NRW'. Now, this petition was submitted by Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru, having collected a total of 1,195 signatures, of which 873 were online and 322 on paper. The text of this petition: 

'The Initiative for Nature Conservation Cymru (INCC) is calling on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to explicitly include "Biodiversity" when setting their strategic remit to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) for 2020 / 2021 and in future.

'Since the inauguration of NRW six years ago, there has been a steady and noticeable deterioration in Wales' commitment towards biodiversity and nature conservation. Wales has been described as one of the most nature depleted areas of the world, having already caused the extinction of many of its native plant and animal species. A great number of the species that do remain are now rare or threatened, surviving in fragments of their often isolated habitats.'

So, an initial response to this petition was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 15 December. We've got a research brief on it in your pack, and the petitioner has provided further comments. The petitioners outline concerns over species loss in Wales. They argue that making biodiversity an explicit element of NRW's remit would have a number of advantages. What actions would you like to take forward? 

I'd like to see detailed comments from NRW and the Minister responding to the points raised. So, maybe throw those over to them and see what they come back with. 

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

We now move to updates to previous petitions. P-04-477, 'Support for the Control of Dogs (Wales) Bill'. Page 87 in your packs. This petition was submitted by Councillor Dilwar Ali and was first considered in April 2013, having collected 1,119 signatures. We last considered this one on 5 November, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to request further information on the actions that the Welsh Government is taking, or even considering taking, to address the issue of dangerous dogs. A response was received on 19 December. The committee subsequently received a request on behalf of the petitioner to postpone consideration of the petition until after the end of January, which we did. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting but has not provided further comment. Now, this has been with us since 2013. 

It's difficult, really, isn't it? Because the Wales Act was in 2017, so it puts this in the UK Parliament's area, really. So I don't really—as much as I think we want to take this forward and continue with it, there's actually nothing legally that we can do, within our powers of the Assembly. So maybe, I suggest, we write back to the petitioner highlighting that and the evidence we've compiled, maybe we can send that to him, and he might want to forward that to the relevant person in the UK Parliament, whether that be the MP, or so on. Unfortunately, I don't see what more we can do. 

Yes. Jack's quite right to point out that the devolution settlement has changed since that time, and Schedule 7A to the Wales Act 2017 states that legislative powers over ‘Dangerous dogs and dogs dangerously out of control’ are reserved to the UK Parliament. Therefore, the actual action requested by the petition is no longer within the competence of this Assembly. So our hands are quite well and firmly tied. 

Yes. I think it's an indication of how silly our settlement is, because this could easily be dealt with by us here and we're not allowed to do it. Westminster has been tied up for three years with Brexit, so there are lots of things that we could do, but we're not able to, so we'll have to close it I think, as Jack said.

09:10

So, can I, as Chair, on behalf of the committee thank the petitioner for bringing it forward and, to be fair, staying with it all this time, and regret that, as it doesn't fall within our competence, unfortunately—

Yes, I think, if we had the powers, it would be something that we could take forward, wouldn't it, without a doubt? It's a shame really.

Yes. And then they can make repsresentwaitons to the UK Parliament.

P-05-839, 'Adopt WHO Guidelines and Introduce a Clean Air Act for Wales', on page 91. This petition was submitted by the British Heart Foundation Cymru and was first considered in November 2018, having collected 688 signatures.

We last considered the petition on 7 January and agreed to write to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to ask for more information about how she intends to put the World Health Organization guidelines into Welsh law, as stated in the draft clean air plan, and to ask about the potential for accelerating the timetable in order to introduce legislation on air pollution during this Assembly term. We've received a response from the Minister on 5 February. The petitioners have also provided further comments. Welsh Government is currently consulting on a clean air plan and they intend to publish a White Paper on a clean air Act before the end of this Assembly term.

It's difficult again really. I think everyone would like to see it as soon as possible, but there are restrictions in this Assembly to passing legislation in this Assembly now. The Minister has also made that clear in terms of the legislative plans, so I don't really think that—we're not going to go anywhere with this petition or this committee, are we? I think it's ran its course in terms of what we've tried to do and what the petition has tried to do. So, I suggest we have to close this petition, and individual Members may want to take it up within the Chamber—just keeping the pressure on to get it as soon as possible really.

I'd probably agree because there is a White Paper. It's disappointing. We've spent so much time over the last three years debating things we can't actually affect, like Brexit, and stuff like this that could've been done has not been done, so it is frustrating. But there is a White Paper, so I think, as Jack said, we're at the end of the road on this. Maybe if they're not satisfied, they can come back with a new petition in future, possibly.

Okay. So, again, on your behalf, we will thank the petitioners. 

P-05-895, 'Rosa's Legacy: Introduce a scheme to help people access veterinary care for their companion animals'. So, this is requesting to introduce a scheme to help people to access veterinary care for their companion animals—page 96 in you pack. This was submitted by Linda Joyce Jones and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 95 signatures.

We considered this on 15 October and agreed to seek further evidence from the Companion Animal Welfare Group Wales and the British Veterinary Association. Responses have been provided by both organisations and the petitioner has provided further comments.
 

I've got a lot of sympathy for this petition really. I'm doing some work on homelessness and dog owners and one of the things within that is access to services, such as veterinary services. You know more than anyone, Chair, about how good animals and pets can be as companions—welfare for you mental health. So, I've got a lot of sympathy for this, and I would suggest going back to the Minister to get them to respond, firstly, to the recommendations from the animal welfare group Wales, and also ask for an update on what's been done by Animal Welfare Network Wales, because I think this is an area where we should be looking as widely as possible really, because no-one likes to see a pet suffer and also because of the long-term effect it has on the owner.

09:15

Yes, I think we could write to the Minister—definitely. 

Okay, so that's an instruction to write to the Minister and ask how the Welsh Government is responding to the recommendations contained in the letter from the Companion Animal Welfare Group Wales and for an update on the work being done by the Animal Welfare Network Wales on veterinary provisions, assistance and advice. 

So, we're going to consider now two items together, and those are 3.4 and 3.5 on pages 104 and 108 in your packs. Item 3.4, 'Save our Countryside—Revise TAN 1', this petition was submitted by Councillor Mike Priestley and was first considered in November 2017, having collected 706 signatures. And then P-05-786, 'Fix our planning system'. This petition was was submitted by Ruth Parker and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 250 signatures.

We last considered these petitions in June 2019, when we took oral evidence from the Minister for Housing and Local Government. The committee agreed to return to these issues once the Welsh Government had made an announcement about the next steps for its review of the delivery of housing through the planning system. The petitioner for P-05-786 has provided further comments, which are in your pack. Of course, you'll be aware that there was a consultation. The relevant section of TAN 1 does remain dis-applied while the process was ongoing. The changes proposed would appear to meet the aspirations of both petitions, and the petitioner for P-05-786 has restated the aim of his petition, which is to establish realistic targets for house building based upon past build rates.

So, how would you like to go forward on this petition?

I'd like to wait for the announcement really, because I completely agree with what the petitioner is saying there. I know it's irrelevant really, but I just wanted to say that. We're losing countryside all over Wales, so I'd like to wait and see.

Yes, I'd support that. I'd agree with that. It makes sense.

Yes, okay. Item 3.6, this petition was submitted by Councillor Russell Spencer-Downe and it's P-05-903, 'Filming and Recording of Council Meetings', on page 110 in your pack. This was submitted, as I said, by Councillor Russell Spencer-Downe, and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 58 signatures.

We last considered this on 3 December, agreeing to write to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask what guidance is provided to community and town councils in relation to the ability of the public or journalists to record meetings. A response was received from the Minister on 28 January. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments.

I think, looking at this, this is another area where we're miles behind England. I'm a fan of recording, because it's accurate then and you can prove things. Because I'm sick and tired of going to meetings where things are said and then, after the meeting, it's not in the minutes and people deny it's said, whereas if you're recorded, if you're on film—. We're doing politics in public, so let's just record it—no issue.

I think it's fair to say that this institution is a good model of transparency, isn't it? Because everything we do—

I would. Everything we do is under the spotlight and gaze of the public and is recorded.

09:20

I think the Government intend to issue guidance, don't they? We could maybe wait to see what that—

Because I don't think—it's not been open too long, and I don't think we're waiting—. I think it's March 2020, so I think it'll be sensible just to wait and see what they say really.

There's so much in Wales that is not recorded. To be serious, it should be. And it should be a matter of practice, because you can just put it in the cloud—it's recorded then. So, if at any point that, further down the line, things are disputed, there's a record. It makes sense.

And I think really, it's fair to say, there's an inconsistency across Wales, because some local authorities just do it as a matter of course, don't they? And town councils, I think, have been provided with some budget to do—

I'll welcome Michelle Brown to the meeting—welcome. We're on page 22, moving to 3.7, petition P-05-736, 'To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible'. That's on page 112 in terms of reference in your packs. 

This petition was submitted by Laura Williams and was first considered in February 2017, having collected 73 signatures. We last considered this on 7 January, when we considered the Government’s response to its report and agreed to wait until the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan 2019-2022 was published, due to the importance of this to the committee’s recommendations. The delivery plan was published in January 2020, and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but has not provided further comments. How would you like to take this one forward?

I think the Government have committed to improving mental health services and there's no doubt that they need it. So, I don't see how far really this petition can go. I think, again, it's helped us to get to where we should be in trying to improve mental health services and push the Government to do so. Of course, I would stress that there is always more to do and I think maybe that's for Members to do individually in the Chamber and continue to do so.

So, I would suggest closing this petition, because I think it's helped us in our cause of pushing the Government to improve the services in line with the 'Together for Mental Health' plan, and I think we should thank the petitioner for their hard work as well and what they've done to support people.

Yes, I think we're probably at the end of the line on this, but I think the petitioner was being really brave to do this petition and start the debate. So, there may well be another one in future, but I think on this particular one, we've come full circle.

Okay. So, let's close that, and again, pass the thanks of this committee on for coming forward.

And then the next one is 3.8, P-05-764, 'Better Mental Health Services for Adults'. This was submitted by Megan Tudor and was first considered in June 2017, having collected 84 signatures. We last considered this in January 2018 and agreed to group the petition with P-05-736, 'To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible'. The committee’s report on the petitions was published in September 2019 and the Government responded in January 2020. The petitioner has not provided any further comments during the time that both petitions have been under consideration.

I think it's the same as the last one really. It's helped us in our publishing of the report, and the Government has accepted those findings. Again, thank the petitioner on behalf of the committee, and hopefully we'll see a better outcome to mental health services in Wales.

09:25

Okay. Thank you. Welcome, Leanne. We're now on page 26 in your pack. So, that's 3.9, P-05-812, and this petition text is that 'We call for the Welsh Government to encourage trusts to implement the NICE guidelines for Borderline Personality Disorder or justify why they do not do so'. And if you're looking in your pack, it's page 122. This was submitted by Keir Harding and was first considered in May 2018, having collected 137 signatures. This committee last considered the petition in September 2019 and agreed to await the Welsh Government's response to its report on petition P-05-736, 'To Make Mental Health Services More Accessible', in particular to the recommendations on access to psychological therapies before considering whether it is able to take further action on the petition.

On 7 January 2020, the committee considered the Welsh Government's response to the committee's report and agreed to await publication of the Welsh Government's 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan 2019 to 2022 before deciding their next steps. The delivery plan was published in January 2020 and the petitioner has provided us with further comments.

I think it's a really, really good petition, raising issues we don't talk about, so I think it's done its job there. I note the happiness with the petition from the petitioners, and they feel satisfied with progress. So, maybe we could close the petition but thank the petitioner and everyone who signed it for putting it forward. It was news to me that men are 47 times more at risk of suicide around the perinatal period, which is shocking, really.

Okay. Any other comments from Members? [Interruption.] If you see the next petition, that's specifically on paternal mental health. But it's on this petition. Leanne.

I think the mental health delivery plan goes so far, but I think that we could look at asking the Government, the Minister, to further consider the recommendations that have been recently produced in the Royal College of Psychiatrists' position statement on personality disorders. There's a group of people here that are being let down. There is a greater risk of people in this category dying by suicide, and so we need to make sure that we do all we can to try and cater for this group, I'd say.

Sorry, Chair. I turned two pages, actually, to the next petition.

I agree. My only question would be: the Welsh Government has said that it expects all health boards to take full account of NICE clinical guidance, what happens to them if they don't take account of it and don't follow it? What's the action from the Minister then? Who holds the board accountable? So, that's the only outstanding question from me.

Yes, okay. So, we move on to the next one: 3.10, P-05-902, 'Paternal Mental Health (New Fathers Mental Health)', and that's page 126 in your packs. This petition was submitted by Mark Williams and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 116 signatures. We last considered this in November 2019 and we agreed to await the publication of the 'Together for Mental Health Delivery Plan' and seek the petitioner's views in relation to its contents at that time. The delivery plan was published in January of this year and the petitioner has provided further comment.

09:30

Yes. I agree with Neil's earlier comments. [Laughter.]

I think it's a result. We should thank them. As individual Members, again, there's always more we can do, but this certainly has helped us start that conversation—

Yes, absolutely. It's actually good for us as a committee when we see that, when someone's taken that initiative to bring it right to the door of the National Assembly for Wales, an outcome like this is achieved. So, our usual sort of thanks. Okay.

Item 3.11, P-05-860, 'Make Curriculum for Life Lessons Compulsory', page 129 in your pack. This was submitted by Emily Jones and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 286 signatures. We last considered this on 19 November, agreeing to await the views of the petitioner on the latest developments, including the recent report produced by the Welsh Youth Parliament, before considering whether we can take any further action on the petition. Following that meeting, the petitioner was invited to provide comments in December and February, but none have been received. Now, the petitioner has not corresponded with this committee since the petition was submitted in late 2018, which does cause us some difficulty, really, moving it forward.

Given that the youth parliament is looking at this, and I'm not sure whether they've completed their work or whether it's ongoing, there's no point in a number of different institutions looking at the same thing, and it's a perfect thing for the youth parliament to be looking at as well, because the young people are the subject of the petition. So, I would say: let them carry on with it. Given we haven't heard from the petitioner as well, that's a good way forward, I'd say.

And we could reference in the closure letter the work of the youth parliament and how, if they want to pursue it further, to engage with them.

Okay, thank you. 3.12, P-05-861, 'Make political education a compulsory element of the new national curriculum', page 130. This petition was submitted by Kaiesha Ceryn Page and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 117 signatures. We last considered this on 19 November, agreeing to continue to await a further response from the petitioner to the information received by the committee, including the report of the Welsh Youth Parliament, before considering whether we can take further action on the petition. The petitioner has now provided further comment. Again, the Welsh Youth Parliament have been doing work.

I think, given the fact that the youth parliament is doing some work on this, and the petitioner seems largely, at least, content with progress, we should thank the petitioner for raising the issue and close the petition.

I'd like to keep an eye on this. I can understand why there's a need to close the petition, but I'm acutely aware of the difference in political engagement in this country compared with Scotland, a country that's had political education at the heart of their education system since the beginning of devolution. They've had votes at 16 since the referendum in 2014, and we saw massive engagement on the part of 16 and 17-year-olds in that referendum and subsequent elections.

I'm concerned that we'll see votes at 16 in this country, but there won't be the corresponding level of information so that young people can make a fully informed decision, unless there is a full opportunity to discuss it in schools. I note what's said about the new curriculum and the work of the youth parliament, but I think we need to keep an eye on this, because having an understanding of the way politics operates and how you can influence things is a key part of being a citizen. And if our children are going through the school system without having a comprehensive education on that front, then all of us suffer as a result in terms of the effect on our democracy. So, I think we should keep an eye on this, although I do support closing the petition in this instance.

09:35

Yes, I echo the same concerns really, because I think there are some schools that think that learning about politics is not part of education. I'm thinking of a letter there from Willows High School, actually, in Cardiff. It is part of the education process, and it does need to be looked at seriously. 

My concern with this, and it's a general concern, is that we need to make sure that, if political education is being given in schools, it needs to be given on an impartial and fair basis. It's very, very tempting for political influence to come into those lessons, and I think that needs to be guarded against. But I would support closing the petition.

Okay. And again, we thank the petitioner. Item 3.13: P-05-879, 'Add Mental Health Education to the mandatory teaching curriculum for all schools in Wales', page 133 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Annie Harris and was first considered in May 2019, having collected 1,947 signatures. We last considered this on 5 November, agreeing to await the views of the petitioner on the further information received. Following the meeting in November, the petitioner was invited to provide further comments in January and February but none have been received.

I think this has been given some scrutiny in the Children, Young People and Education Committee with the 'Mind over Matter' report, and I think that mental health is going to be seen more in the national curriculum as well, in the new curriculum. So, given that, and the fact that we haven't received a response back from the petitioners, we could close this petition. It's not as if it's not getting attention; it is getting attention elsewhere.

Yes. I think it's a very good petition as well, I fully support this petition. But as you said, it is being looked into by another committee, it has had a lot of scrutiny from the Chamber, and the curriculum encompasses well-being across all of the curriculum, really. So, I think mental health will have an increased look in the new curriculum, and I think it's up to Members to make sure they scrutinise that going forward in the implementation phase. But I very much thank the petitioner for bringing this forward, I think it's an excellent petition.

Yes. All Members agree. Okay, thank you. Item 3.14: P-05-888, 'Make GCSE Welsh Language compulsory in all schools in Wales', page 135 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Gwion Rhisiart and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 175 signatures. The committee last considered this on 21 January and agreed to wait a short time for further views from the petitioner, with a view to closing the petition on the basis that there appears to be little more that the petition could achieve in light of the information received from the Welsh Government and the Welsh Independent Schools Council. The petitioner has responded to state that he is happy for the petition to be closed.

Okay, and again, thank you to the petitioner for raising this issue through the petitions process. Item 3.15: 'P-05-925, Don't leave Wales behind—teach menstrual wellbeing in schools', page 137 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Jade Morgan and was first considered in January this year, having collected 846 signatures. We considered the petition for the first time on 7 January and agreed to write to the Minister for Education to ask whether the Welsh Government would consider adding specific reference to menstrual well-being into the 'What Matters' statement on physical health and well-being, and this was proposed by Endometriosis UK. A response was received from the Minister on 4 February, and Endometriosis UK have provided further comments.

09:40

Can I just say: I think that Endometriosis UK have asked some really pertinent questions on this, and I think that we should write back to the Minister and share their concerns? We've come on great strides in terms of how much we talk about menstruation in the last few years. It was a taboo subject up until at least five years ago. We need to incorporate this new way of thinking—this more liberal way of thinking, if you like—into the national curriculum, because there are a significant number of girls affected by this, and they shouldn't be allowed to suffer in silence without the support of the school with them and the understanding of fellow pupils as well. 

I think that it would be very helpful for girls in schools to be given some awareness of the things that can go on with your body. Depending on your age, obviously, it's a new thing that's happening to you; you don't understand it. Your body hasn't settled down. You don't know what's normal and what's not. So, I think that it's a very, very good idea that the petitioner has raised, not just on the basis of the condition specifically cited in the petition, but for all other kinds of problems that girls might experience. Now, how the message should be handled is a matter for the school, but I do think that it's a really good idea to have that at some point in the curriculum. 

Dwi'n cytuno. Mae'n syniad da i ysgrifennu yn ôl at y Gweinidog. 

I agree. It's a good idea to write back to the Minister.

I agree. It's a good idea to write back to the Minister.

Dwi'n ceisio ymarfer.

I'm trying to practice.

I was trying to practice.

Economy and transport now. Item 3.16: P-05-913 'Creation of Lôn Las Môn Multi-Use Path'. Page 144. This petition was submitted by Gethyn Mon Hughes and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 2,216 signatures. We considered this for the first time on 19 November, and we agreed to write to the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport to ask for details of how the Welsh Government responded to the Network Rail industry consultation concerning this line, also for the current status of the new station proposal for Llangefni and also, whether the Welsh Government would consider funding the reopening of this line.

We also agreed to write to Anglesey County Council to seek its views on the potential future uses for the Anglesey Central Railway, and whether it would consider providing funding to support any of those being progressed. Responses have been received. The petitioners have provided further comments and a number of letters of support, including from the local medical cluster, Llaneilian Community Council and also walking and cycling groups. How would you like to take this forward?

I think that this is a really difficult one because it looks like you have got the same piece of land, a path, that could either be used for active travel or for a railway, and both of those are desirable. So, it's difficult to keep a piece of land just in case a railway line becomes feasible and finance becomes available over the longer term. But then, at the same time, it's also foolish to close off the idea by building over it.

We've seen so many of the lines that were closed by the Beeching cuts in the 1960s have development on those lines, and it's prevented future rail development. So, I'm torn on this, if I'm honest, because we need to do much more as a country in terms of enabling people to get on bikes and exercise, but we don't want to limit future infrastructure development either. So, I'm just not sure how far we can take this, given the lack of information in terms of Network Rail's plans, and the fact that Anglesey council are in discussion about that line for the development of rail on it. So, I'm just not sure where we can take this, now.

09:45

I agree. I think it probably falls in the matter of Anglesey council's discussions at the moment. If we don't know where that's going, there's not really much we can do. I think the Government have outlined their position on it, so I think it's for Anglesey council to take it forward, and not this committee.

A point of clarity, if I may, Chair, on that side. Anglesey council doesn't feel it's appropriate to comment, but the discussions are ongoing between Network Rail and the company—

No. So, Network Rail is the owner of the line—albeit, the line has fallen into disrepair—and it's Network Rail who is discussing with a company who want to set up a heritage railway using the line, and they're in discussions over a lease around this. So, Anglesey council is not offering an opinion at this stage.

So, they need to stay neutral in this process then, do they?

That's the take they're giving. Yes. The petitioners would like to use the land that the line is on, as you said, for a different purpose, because they don't believe that there's a future for a commercial or a freight or passenger rail line on there. But, at the moment, Network Rail are in discussions around a heritage railway as a tourist attraction.

Yes, I think we should write to Network Rail to see what the—

To see where we are with the conversations. I can understand the desire to keep the line reserved and capable of taking future rail traffic. We're trying to get people out of their cars, onto public transport, so I agree with what Leanne said—it makes it very difficult to put those back once you've built over them. I think that we should write to Network Rail, see what the situation is, and then perhaps go from there.

Okay. All Members seem to be in agreement with that.

Item 3.17, P-05-887 'Stop regional AMs elected to represent specific parties from defecting', and this is page 156. This was submitted by Ifan Morgan Jones and was first considered in July 2019, having collected 1,301 signatures. We considered this for the first time in July 2019, and we agreed to await the views of the petitioner on the response provided by the Llywydd, and also to encourage the petitioner the engage with their elected representatives to take forward legislative amendments to the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill. Information about the then Bill was provided following the meeting in July. The petitioner was invited to provide further comments in August, then again in January and February, but none have been received.

I've got some sympathy with what is said here. It has been a bit of a joke in this Assembly, really—people moving the deckchairs around on the Titanic. But I can't see, in practical terms, what can be done, especially given that the legislation is where it is now, and given that the petitioner hasn't followed up in terms of further comments, I think we have no option other than to close the petition.

Yes. I declare an interest. I think, obviously, that there's some merit to it, but I think when you've been expelled from a party, it gives the party way too much power over the individual, to control that individual, to say that you're not allowed to change groups. But I think it should be okay, as you long as you set up your own political party.

Well, I'll declare an interest as well. I genuinely can understand where the petitioner is coming from on this one, but perhaps an unintended consequence of this would have been, if this had been in place in the last two years or so—12 months, two years—Gareth Bennett would still have a group. Gerard Batten's hand would have been vastly strengthened. So, on the one hand, I can understand where the petitioner's coming from, but in reality, it might end up with some unintended consequences that, perhaps, the petitioner might not like.

So, there's a proposal to close the petition. Yes? Okay.

So, this is the end of the meeting. I thank all Members and our clerking team. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 10 March. I therefore close the meeting. Thank you. Diolch.

09:50

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 09:50.

The meeting ended at 09:50.

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