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Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

10/03/2020

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
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 09:19.

The meeting began at 09:19.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest
2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

So, we move on to our first item on the agenda, new petitions.

P-05-940, 'Reduce cancelled operations'. This is page 48 in your pack. This petition was submitted by Claire-Louise Walker, having collected 100 signatures. So, the text of the petition reads:

'An article published on 31 July 18 stated that 178,000 operations in Wales were cancelled in the last 2 years (2016-2018), 70,000 due to non-clinical reasons. 90,000 were cancelled in 2017/18.

'In 2012 my son passed away, he was placed on the waiting list for an emergency tonsillectomy in September 2011 the first operation was cancelled because of no HDU bed being available, the second and third was cancelled by ourselves because Dylan was not well enough. The fourth and final operation was cancelled because of no HDU bed being available this was scheduled to take place the day he died.

'An investigation concluded that had he had the operation he would have made a full recovery.

'We are now fast approaching almost a decade since his death and Cardiff and Vale heath board assured me that changes had been put in place. It has become apparent given these diabolical high figures that nothing has changed.'

So, the petitioner is calling on

'Vaughan Gething, and the Welsh Assembly to put changes in place to ensure that the number of cancelled operations are dramatically reduced.'

So, an initial response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 14 February. A research brief has also been provided and the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, but has not provided further comment.
 

09:20

Well, I put a freedom of information request in recently about cancelled operations and the figures were, oh, astronomical.

In the last—you know, in the last 12 months, and certainly the last six months.

Yes, if you look at 2015 non-clinical, there are 33,982 cancelled across Wales. In 2019-20, it's 31,295. So, there's not a great deal of change there. I wonder what the petitioner would make of the Minister's letter. I think we could write to the petitioner to ask, as a starter, I would say.

I'd agree with Neil. It isn't good enough, but it's also a really sensitive subject. I think we need to be guided by the petitioner and family, really, before we take it further, just so we're on the same page as them. 

Yes. So, if we could ask the petitioner again.

So, the next one is P-05-942, 'The Golden Hour when Suffering a Stroke—Ambulance Response Times to be recategorised from Amber back to Red Status'. This petition was submitted by Ralph Rees, having collected 117 signatures.   

'Current Welsh Assembly Policy has categorised Ambulance Response Times to a Stroke Victim to the "Amber" Category—meaning there is NO SET Response Time Target to meet or achieve.

'This Petition requests that the Response Time Target for a person suspected of suffering a stroke be recategorised and return to the "Red" Category, thereby ensuring that any stroke victim has the quickest possible Ambulance Response.

'There is a well known fact of the "Golden Hour" which is the most critical 60 minutes in getting the much needed and relevant medical assistance to anyone suffering a stroke. Every single person in Wales should not have this "Golden Hour" jeopardised through having to wait for an "Amber" Category Response Time for an Ambulance.'

And the final bit is:

'Give Stroke Victims the Response Times they deserve and require—Make it a Red Response Time Target Today.'

An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 20 February, and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, but has not provided further comment.

Would it be worth writing to the Stroke Association on this? A note at the end of our pack here—it says the Government are working with the Stroke Association and other partners on a review and it should be published in early 2020. So, just ahead of that—whenever 'early 2020' will be—but just ahead of that, maybe getting the views of the Stroke Association, so we're again on the same path, really.

09:25

Well, yes. But we can write. We could write to the Minister as well, couldn't we?

I think to the petitioner as well. So, if we write to both of them. We'll probably have more information then. 

Okay. So, we'll write to the petitioner again, and chase them for a response, and also to the Minister.

To the Stroke Association—

The Minister's response to the committee was received on 20 February, so not a lot of time has elapsed. Early 2020 can be interpreted in different ways, but—

The Minister has responded saying that there's a review going on that includes the Stroke Association. So, it would be good to get their independent view on this, I think, because with the process of a review like this, one organisation's voice can end up being diluted. So, I'd like to know what the Stroke Association would say about this anyway. So, if we could get their views, that would be good. By the time this comes back, there will be more time lapsed between now and the Minister's response. So, perhaps we can chase it again. We are moving beyond early 2020 now—we're in March. So, we're heading towards mid 2020 quite soon. So, we need to keep an eye on this and make sure that time doesn’t lapse too far.

Okay. Thanks.

Moving on. P-05-943, 'We call on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to secure improvements to the A487 between Gellilydan and Maentwrog'. This petition was submitted by Carron Jones, having collected 2,595 signatures online and 2,855 on paper. That brings it to a total of 5,450 signatures.

'We are asking the Welsh Government to take urgent action to ensure that tangible improvements are made to the A487 between Gellilydan and Maentwrog following the tragic and devastating accidents that have occurred there in the last two years. We must make sure that a definite change is made to the road so that such disasters do not happen again.'

Looking to the background on this, an initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 12 February, which you will have. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments. The Minister does state that works to improve road safety at this location began on 3 February 2020, and so far, the work includes: signing and safety barrier work; a new 40 mph speed restriction; and speed measuring equipment. The letter also outlines that road surfacing work will take place, following an investigation into the nature of the existing surfacing. This will include the laying of high-friction surfacing and improved road markings.

It's good that some improvements are being made, but it's not clear from the information that we've had whether or not the people behind the petition are happy with what's going on—whether they want to see more measures taking place. I think, given that the people have got the support of their local councillor and Liz Saville Roberts, the local MP, it would be useful if we could write to those people and ask what their views are, to see if there are any additional safety measures required on this stretch of road. I think we could write to the council in Gwynedd as well, to see what their views are, and if they've got any views on the current measures as well. It's a substantial petition. It's clearly a petition that has got quite a lot of emotion behind it, for obvious reasons, and my heart goes out to all of the people who've been affected by that stretch of road, and I think that we, as a committee, need to do what we can to help the people behind the petition.  

Yes, definitely. It says here that the A487 is assessed as low-medium risk right the way through, but, obviously, on this stretch, there seems to be a massive issue, really. I think we'd like to express condolences to the family, who have come down today. Clearly, a year later, there was another fatality. I support Leanne in what she's saying there completely, and maybe we'd want to see exactly what else can be done. If there's a reduction of speed to 40 mph, how is that going to be enforced? Because otherwise it can be ignored. So, I think we'll move this along as best we can.

09:30

I fully agree with both. Just picking up a bit further on Neil's comments about how it's going to be monitored and so on, there is a comment from the local MP and councillor about having speed cameras there. I'm not sure of the processes for having them installed on that type of road, but perhaps that's something we could find out as a committee, to see where we can push along that. And, if not, and that's not feasible, what are the other options available, obviously, to—? It's certainly a difficult situation, with no words, really, so, again, I'd like to pass my condolences to the family and hopefully we can try and do something that should have been there in the first place.

And then there's the petition handover today, if Members could be mindful of that. Okay. So, you know the direction of travel on this one. 

Okay. So, just to confirm, we'll write to Councillor Elfed Roberts and Liz Saville Roberts MP because both have been vocal in the media about improvements being made to this stretch of road. So, we'll seek some further information from them about the measures they believe should be taking place. We'll get a view from Gwynedd Council as well. Albeit the road is the responsibility of the Welsh Government, as the local authority, they may well have a view on matters relating to that stretch of road, and I think we'll use that information with a view to seeking some more information about the average speed cameras or any other measures that are proposed through those bits of correspondence from the Government at the next step.

Given the number of people who have signed this petition, there may be an opportunity for us to get a debate in Plenary at some point in the future. Given that we've got to gather some information before that point, do you think that that will happen in this Assembly term, or is it more likely to happen after next year—next May, basically? How are we in terms of the timetable for Plenary?

I think there should be plenty of opportunity for that still to happen if that's the step that the committee would want to go down.

Yes. We would expect responses within the committee to consider the petition again probably shortly after Easter. So, there's plenty of opportunity if a Plenary debate was ultimately where the committee wanted to progress. 

I know we do it anyway, keep in touch with petitioners and so on, but can we make sure we do the extra on this and make sure we're guided in the right way? We don't want to go off on a tangent that may not be suitable. 

No, I know. And if you could express the views of the committee, to express our sincere condolences. 

Of course. Will do. Thank you.

Okay, thank you. Moving on, P-05-944, 'Reverse the cuts to commuter train services in North East Wales'. That's page 71. This petition was submitted by Dr Mihela Erjavec, having collected 953 signatures. The text of the petition reads:

'In recent years commuters along the North Wales Coast have seen a reduction in rush hour train services despite paying some of the highest train fares (when measured per mile) in the UK. These cuts to services have already resulted in a reduction in the numbers of passengers using North East Wales railway stations as more and more commuters are forced to drive adding to congestion on the A55. Transport for Wales now plan to cut the only direct evening rush-hour rail service between Bangor and Colwyn Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn and Flint, the 17:16 service from Bangor. This will force commuters to change trains a Llandudno Junction, where they will have to wait over an hour for a connection. The cancelation of this train service goes totally against Welsh Government policy in a number of respects: 1) It will result in increased greenhouse gas emissions by forcing people from public transport into their cars, at a time of a "climate emergency". 2) It will deny access to Bangor University by those living in some of Wales' most deprived communities. We therefore call on the Assembly to force a rethink on TfW and to ensure the rail service in North Wales is sufficiently frequent and affordable to encourage commuters off the roads and onto the trains.'

So, some background. An initial response to the petition was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 13 February. A research brief has been provided. The petitioner has provided further comments. So, you've got the points of discussion there. What actions would you like to take on this issue?

09:35

We could write to Transport for Wales and make sure these concerns are raised with them in the work they're doing with the metro, alongside the Government, because the plan of the north-east Wales Metro is to have an affordable and available service. That's needed for everyone, so maybe there should be—. We just need to highlight it to Transport for Wales, to make sure they are looking at this.

Okay. Item 2.5, that's P-05-945, 'The Climate Emergency and a National Forest for Wales'. This petition was submitted by Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust in Wales, having collected 4,354 signatures, and the text of the petition reads:

'We call on the National Assembly for Wales to urge the Welsh Government to urgently increase tree cover to help address this climate emergency & the well documented collapse of nature. The Welsh Government's "State of Natural Resources Report" said no ecosystems in Wales are resilient. We need more trees in urban & rural areas to address high levels of air pollution, lessen heatwaves & floods, increase wildlife & create a carbon store above & below ground. Rivers, hedgerows & verges can provide quality habitat connectivity, these criss-cross Wales from mountains to coast....Placed & funded correctly, a new national forest can deliver many solutions for all future generations, a more "resilient Wales".'

So, an initial response to this petition was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 11 February. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments.

Can I say something on this, given that I represent a constituency that recently experienced nightmare floods? A lot of the woodlands in Wales have been compromised because of larch disease and have had to be removed, and that is one of the reasons cited as additional water not being able to be held by some of the mountains. So, aside from the climate change emergency, which should be the top priority for all of us, there's also this priority of mitigating flood damage.

I'm disappointed at the level of inaction by the Government on tree planting. We've heard a lot about ambition, and aims of big numbers of planting trees, but we're talking about doing it over a very long period of time. That isn't an emergency. We are in an emergency situation, both in terms of climate change and in terms of increased water that is going to be impacting on our communities. This is not a one off, what we've recently experienced.

So I'd like us to do what we can to really push the Government on what they say is their stated ambition to ensure that we're not talking about a 20-year project; that we press them on what their tree planting ambitions are for the next two, three, five years, and we also ensure that the diseased larch that has been lost, that there is a long-term plan for replacing that as well, which we can link in to some of the aims of this petition.

So, if we could agree to put the points that have been provided to us by the petitioners to the Minister, and see what kind of response we get back, but I would really like this committee to take the lead on this in terms of whether we press the environment committee to inquire into the issue, or whether we do a detailed piece of work ourselves on this. But for me, this seems like one of the central political issues of our time now, and we can't abdicate our responsibility from it any longer. 

09:40

It's sort of frustration, really, because we have all these conversations, and we have all these strategies, and yet there were three beautifully mature trees cut down on Sunday in Cardiff West, and in the west of the city, hundreds, if not thousands of trees will be going with the local development plan. So, I just—.

I support it, absolutely, but I just want to express my, I suppose, frustration, really—

—with the mismatch between the double-speak between policy and, actually, reality. 

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

Moving on. P-04-667, 'Roundabout for the A477/A4075 Junction'—page 103. This petition was submitted by Pembroke Town Council and was first considered in January 2016, having collected 597 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 21 May and agreed to await receipt of a 36-month road safety audit before considering whether to take further action on the petition. An update was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 11 February and the petitioners have provided further comment. The Minister states that the trunk road agent is

'carrying out an enhanced review of the A477/A4075 junction, along with a CCTV survey'.

This should be completed after the Whitsun period, to ensure high traffic volumes over a holiday period can be included. The Minister says that the outcomes will inform any further work needed.

I think as this is going under review there's not much more we can do, is there? As a committee, maybe we can pass the comments that we've had back—we've had further comments back, so we could pass those on and make sure they're in the hands of the relevant people, and we'll wait for the review, really. We can't really do much more as a committee. 

Okay. Is that supported? Okay.

P-05-907, 'Change the speed limit in Cemaes to 30 mph'—this petition was submitted by Manon Pughe and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 93 signatures. We considered this for the first time on 5 November and we agreed to await the views of the petitioners on the Minister's response. The committee also agreed to provide information to the petitioner about how they can engage with the ongoing Government review of speed limits in Wales. The petitioner has provided further comment. 

It says here that there's a Government review of speed limits on trunk roads and the Minister has committed to considering the data, as well as the correspondence received. 

Yes, I'd agree with that. Given the review, I don't think there's much more—

Okay. So, the committee agrees to close the petition, on the basis that the Welsh Government is conducting a review of speed limits on trunk roads in Wales and the Minister has committed to considering data, as well as correspondence received, during this process.

Yes, absolutely. It's had the desired effect. 

P-05-750, 'For single use items: introduce a Deposit Return System for drink containers and make fast food containers and utensils compostable'—page 111. This was submitted by the Marine Conservation Society and was first considered in May 2017, having collected 1,993 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 21 January, agreeing to write to the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government to request an update on the Welsh Government's input into work to develop a deposit-return scheme for drink containers in England and Wales, following the previous consultation in 2019, and to ask what more the Welsh Government can do to support the introduction of a deposit-return scheme in Wales. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 24 February and the petitioners have provided further comment.

I think this is certainly going ahead; I know the Welsh Government are doing it. I raised this in the Chamber last week, and the response back is that they are doing some detailed work with the UK Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and so on. So, I think it is going ahead. What the detail of that scheme is—obviously, we don't know yet, and that's still to be decided. So, whether we can pass the comments of the petitioner over to the Welsh Government on their behalf, and then I suggest we close the petition as the work is going to be taken forward. We can thank the petitioner.

09:45

Yes, and thank the Marine Conservation Society. Do all Members agree with that action? Thank you.

P-05-864, 'Ban the use of "Hostile Architecture" '—page 119. This was submitted by People Over Profit and was first considered in March 2019, having collected 120 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 5 November and agreed to write to the Welsh Local Government Association to seek their response to the issues raised by the petition and the evidence received to date. A response was received from the WLGA on 17 February. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting but has not provided further comments. How would you like—?

We could write back to the Minister, sharing the evidence from charities. I note, though, that there are big, big issues with the practicalities of this, and maybe if we had better housing policies, then this discussion would be redundant.

I think we should write back to the Minister. There could be quite a simple way to indicate to local authorities that the Minister wasn't favourable towards this kind of architecture. It's obvious that when you're planning your street furniture or your general high street that there are certain things that are put in place deliberately to stop people either congregating there or being able to sleep there, and I think the Minister could write to local authorities and say, 'Please don't do this. This is not how we want to view or treat people who find themselves in a homeless situation.' Now, it may not be binding, and it may not be legally sound, but it would signal a strong message in terms of attitude towards people who find themselves homeless. I don't know if that's something we could suggest to the Minister when we write back.

Yes. We can do that on behalf of the committee.

P-05-927, 'Changing Places toilet facilities'—page 122. This petition was submitted by Llanelli Changing Places Campaign Group and was first considered in January 2020, having collected 1,273 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 7 January and agreed to write back to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask her to provide timescales for considering advice about the options for increasing Changing Places toilet provision, and information about the opportunities and criteria for accessing funding. A response was received from the Minister on 13 February. The petitioners have provided further comment.

I think it's good that some progress is being made on this and there's a commitment to consult on proposals for certain new buildings. I would, however, like to see what that guidance looks like before closing this petition. I'm aware that this has been an issue for a long, long time. I think I sat on an equalities committee in 2003 to 2007 where this was looked at, and I'm pretty sure that one of the recommendations in the report that we did then was for all new buildings to have this requirement, and I'm pretty sure that the Government agreed with it at the time. So, I don't want to be cynical or sceptical, but I would like to see exactly what the Minister is asking for in terms of the provision of Changing Places toilets in new buildings before we sign this off completely.

Okay. P-05-871, 'Make baby and toddler changing available in both male/female toilets'—page 127. This petition was submitted by Antony Esposti and was first considered in April last year, having collected 125 signatures.

So, the background on this: the committee last considered the petition on 21 January and agreed to await a response to recent correspondence in relation to increasing the provision of Changing Places toilets, before considering further how planning policies can strive to improve the availability of a range of toilet facilities. The committee also agreed to write to the Assembly Commission in relation to gendered signage in the Senedd. The response on Changing Places facilities was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 13 February. Signage relating to the parent and child room within the Senedd has been removed and is in the process of being redesigned. The petitioner has provided further comments.

09:50

This is a bit similar to the last petition, isn't it? We're going to do things in the future for new buildings but it doesn't actually address the existing buildings. I think we should wait for further information from the Minister about what provision will exist in the future before considering further action. I think we also need to think about what happens with existing buildings, because new buildings in the future will be few and far between, really, and this is something that's an issue now for everyone, or for every parent, anyway. 

Yes, I agree. I'm glad the signage is being changed. [Inaudible.] What do people say—everyday sexism? 

I think as a result of this petition it's made of mindful of what, you know—. Okay. 

Yes. Okay. So, P-05-890, 'Second Home Tax'—this petition was submitted by Alun Roberts and was first considered in July 2019, having collected 1,281 signatures. The committee last considered the petition in July 2019, agreeing to await the outcomes of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee's inquiry into empty properties in Wales. The committee's report was published in October 2019 and a debate on the Welsh Government's response was held in December. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting today but has not provided further comments.

Chair, I was on the committee that looked into the issue of empty homes and this question of council tax and it was quite an illuminating debate, really. We took a lot of evidence and the official that came from Gwynedd Council informed us that they were aware of a number of situations where the loophole in the law was being exploited, but it's very difficult to actually prove that. The debate in the Senedd was quite illuminating as well in terms of the Government's response not really seeing it as a loophole. So, I think this is going to be an ongoing issue. It's not resolved by the local government committee report at all and I think it'll keep coming back, but I'm not sure how much further this committee can take it now. It's been taken elsewhere within the processes of the Senedd, so I think we could close the petition now and thank the petitioners for their work on it, and assure them that this is not an issue that's going away. 

Okay. So, we've had a proposal to close the petition. Are all Members in favour? 

Okay. We'll close that petition and thank the petitioners.

P-05-806, 'We call for all premises in Wales to be awarded an Access Certificate number similar to the Food Hygiene Certificate'—page 130 in your packs. This petition was submitted by Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People and was first considered in April 2018, having collected 3,040 signatures. We last considered this on 5 May last year and agreed to accept the offer of an update on progress from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, and an update from the petitioners and Disability Wales in due course. Updates have been received from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Disability Wales and the petitioners. How would you like to go forward on this one? 

We either close it or keep a watching brief, really. I suppose those are the options. 

I wouldn't mind keeping a watching brief on it. I know it's slightly different now; it's not going to be a scored system, but, actually, the scoring system for the hygiene rating has actually worked really well in Wales. So, I think we could keep a watching brief just to see how we progress, with a view to closing it in the next stage.

09:55

Sure. So, just in terms of—. We're slightly unclear on the timescale of that work being taken forward. As you'll see, the Government's framework on independent living has made a commitment to progress a pilot, and it specifically mentions this petition as the reason as to why that's being taken forward. But funding is likely to become available in the next financial year to do that, with a view that the pilot would be developed in the autumn. So, a watching brief, with the committee maybe revisiting in six months' time to understand when that is happening.

Okay. P-05-683, 'Call on the Welsh Government to provide free sanitary products to all women in low income households'—page 139. This petition was submitted by Malpas Women's Institute, and was first considered in February 2019, having collected 141 signatures. We last considered this on 21 January, agreeing to await the views of the petitioners on the information provided, and also to keep a watching brief on any further developments on this subject matter. The petitioner has now provided further comments.

Can I say that this has been a tremendous campaign? And I'd like to say well done and congratulations to everyone. We're talking about periods and menstruation now in a way that was completely taboo around five years ago. So, I just wanted to put on record my personal gratitude for that, because I think once something is out in the open, you can actually discuss it properly.

The petitioners need to be congratulated as well. It's good the progress that has been taken so far. It's very good to see what the Scottish Government is doing as well. The petitioners have suggested that they are happy with progress, but that they'd like some further actions to be taken: phasing out single-use products completely; addressing stigma by ensuring that all initiatives include boys and men, so that they are well informed; abolishing tax on products, which is something that might be outwith the remit of our Senedd; providing reusable products on repeat prescription; and providing sustainable products to students and people of low income studying outside of Wales. I think all of those are excellent suggestions that we should put forward to the Welsh Government. And I think we should keep an eye on what has been said by the Government, to make sure that they are delivering what they've promised to deliver. But, overall, I'm really happy with the progress that's been made on this issue. 

And I reiterate: well done everybody who's been involved.

So, do we keep it open, or do we close it? Watching brief or close?

Yes, I'd agree with that. I know it's a really big issue, and it's good that we can talk about these issues now. I know, just before dad passed away, he was looking in his budget for some money around this issue, so he'd be pleased as well. So, we can keep a watching brief and maybe in six months again it would be a good idea to get a response. 

You mentioned the further points being made by the petitioners, which are mostly actually moving on to being about environmental concerns rather than cost concerns. Do you want us to make those comments directly to the Government?

Yes, if we could write to the—. Some of them are related to the environment; the point about stigma is more of a kind of education issue, really. But if we could—. There's no one specific Minister that covers all of those points, but if we could generally make them to whoever, and ask them to consider this as a cross-cutting Government issue. 

Responses on this petition have been coming from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, so—

So, we can go back to her on a kind of equalities point of view.

Okay. The next petition comes under health and social services: 'Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently'—page 142. Now, this petition was submitted by Nathan Lee Davies, and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 631 signatures. We've done quite a lot of work on this to date. We published an interim report on the petition in February last year. Members last considered the petition in September, whilst agreeing to note the progress made, and await a further update from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, once the independent assessments of people's care needs have been completed. And also, we agreed to congratulate the petitioner on the fantastic work and progress made by his campaign to date. A written statement providing an update on independent care assessments was published on 13 February and the Deputy Minister has also written to the committee. The petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward?

10:00

I think one of the concerns initially, when the fund was proposed to be abolished, was that, although statements were made that people wouldn't be left worse off, some people would end up being worse off. And I'd like to have an understanding of exactly how this review has panned out—how many people have lost support or have had support reduced?

The petitioner, Nathan, is someone I've met myself on many occasions. He is pretty formidable, and he is concerned about the outcome of his own independent assessment. So, he can't be on his own, and I think we should go along with his request, really—to keep this issue open and to ask for further updates from the Deputy Minister.

Yes. Okay. P-05-857, 'Create a national task force for children's mental health'—page 149. This petition was submitted by the National Organisation for Children's Mental Health and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 91 signatures. So, we last considered this petition on 2 April and agreed to keep a watching brief on this subject in light of the ongoing scrutiny being carried out by the Children, Young People and Education Committee, following its 'Mind over matter' report and the existence of the joint ministerial task and finish group. In August the CYPE committee wrote to the Minister for Education and the Minister for Health and Social Services, outlining its conclusions and recommendations from the follow-up scrutiny of its 'Mind over matter' report. The Welsh Government has now responded. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, but has not provided further comments. What action would you like to take, going forward on this issue?

It seems to have been covered pretty well by the Welsh Youth Parliament and the children and young people's committee, so I think we could close the petition and thank the petitioner.

Okay. We have a proposal to close this petition. Everybody in favour?

Okay. And obviously our thanks go to the petitioners.

P-05-914, 'Equal Access to Health Care for the Disabled'—page 151. This petition was submitted by Tracy Locke and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 121 signatures. So, the committee considered the petition for the first time on 19 November. We agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to provide the additional information from the petitioner; to ask for a response to the proposal that the Government should ensure that every GP surgery has a wide adjustable treatment bed and hoist available; also to ask for examples of best practice that we could share with health boards; and ask what consideration has been given to formalising the requirements in legislation, beyond the guidance currently available. A response was received by the Minister on 20 February. The petitioner has provided further comments.

I think this sounds quite positive for new, future buildings, but it doesn't address the problem again of equipping existing general practitioner surgeries. I think a view from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission about the issues raised in the petition would be helpful to us. I also think we could seek advice as to what the Welsh Government can do to ensure the available appropriate equipment and facilities in GP practices. I know the Minister has said that they're private businesses, but this is an issue that affects the equalities agenda, so I think the Government does need to provide a better answer than just fobbing it off and saying that it's part of a GP's business and so, therefore, they've got to just provide it themselves.

10:05

Okay. So, we can write to the Equality and Human Rights Commission and we'll seek to look at what options—[Inaudible.]—prompts this to happen. We'll provide a paper to the committee. Thanks, okay.

P-05-926, 'To Provide a Chronic Fatigue Department in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Marjorie Ann Lasebikan and was first considered in January 2020, having collected 155 signatures. The committee considered this petition for the first time on 7 January, and we agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for information about the membership, remit and programme of the steering group, including an overview of how service user representatives are identified, and for the Welsh Government's response to criticisms made by Dr Charles Shepherd about the provision of services in the Welsh NHS. A response was received from the Minister on 14 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments.

It'd be good to seek the views of the Welsh Association of ME and CFS support. Clearly, there's a bit of frustration from the petitioner in the response, so we should take note of that, really—yes, that's what I would like to do.

I wonder if we can have some more information on this. I'm aware from my own personal experience that this range of conditions can be extremely debilitating and can impact on the mental health of people suffering from the conditions as well. As the petitioner points out, the services that are available concentrate on pain reduction, which is an important aspect of the range of illnesses, but there are other treatments that could be provided to people as well. I think that there's generally a lack of understanding as to the cause and as to exactly what can help patients suffering from these conditions, just to make them more comfortable. It seems to me that the petitioners are asking for some much more comprehensive centre to be able to research and provide that range of services, over and above the pain-management side of things. So, I would like to see more information, but also for us to seek the views of the support groups and to see what we can do in terms of pressing the Minister to provide more comprehensive services for this group of people. I think they've been let down for a long, long time now.

Yes, I'd support that. I've got a constituent who's raised this with me—with fibromyalgia. I welcome both comments.

Okay. Education: P-05-877, 'Children's used uniform scheme'—page 161. This petition was submitted by Rachael Mackay of Topaz class at Monnow Primary School. It was first considered in May 2019, having collected 54 signatures. The committee last considered this on 7 January and agreed to await the views of the petitioner on the response provided by the Minister for Education and the actions taken by the Welsh Government, with a view to closing the petition if the petitioners are satisfied. Following that meeting, the clerking team wrote to the petitioners to outline the information received by the committee. No comments have since been received.

I think we—following on from what we said last time, really, we would try to get back in touch with the petitioners, but if there was no comment, or positive comment, we would close the petition. So, I would suggest that—. Again, I thank the petitioners, as it is a very good scheme.

Okay. So, I have a proposal to close this petition. All agreed? 

Okay, we'll close that one and thank the petitioners.

P-05-884, 'Amendment to Education (Student Support) (Wales) Regulations 2018 to include UK institutions with operations overseas'. This petition was submitted by Alanna Jones and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 299 signatures. We last considered this on 21 January and agreed to write back to the Minister for Education to seek a further response on the issue of designating the specific causes at the University of London Institute in Paris as eligible for funding, as an alternative to making more widespread changes to the regulations. A response was received from the Minister on 25 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments.

10:10

Is there anything more we can do on this? I don't think there is from what I can see here, is there?

I think we've got to the point where the Government is very clear that it will not change the requirements of the regulations overall. They require at least half of teaching and supervision of any course to be provided within the UK, but the Minister has said that, if the university so wishes, it can apply for a designation to make its courses, or some of its courses, eligible for student funding from Wales. I think there's probably little else that the committee can do in that situation.

Okay. So, we close the petition, and thank the petitioners for bringing this forward.

P-05-909, 'Promoting the use of Makaton sign language in all Welsh schools', page 198. This petition was submitted by Isabella Evans, and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 5,024 signatures. We last considered this on 21 January, agreeing to write again to the Minister for Education, noting the position that schools will be able to determine which international languages are most appropriate in their specific circumstances under the new curriculum, and also to ask what opportunities there would be for the Welsh Government or others to encourage or support more informal provision of Makaton in classrooms, such as through a daily sign. A response was received from the Minister on 25 February, and the petitioners have provided further comments.

I think this is a great initiative from the petitioner, and I'm really encouraged that they wanted to take this action, but I can also see the point on the part of the Government, which is introducing a new curriculum. We've come up against this argument on a number of occasions now, where there have been demands for inclusion of particular issues within the curriculum, and we can all think of really, really important things, but there are only so many hours in the week. I think we have to allow schools to have that flexibility. If Government insisted on every aspect of the curriculum, then there would be no point in changing it, because the point is that schools are given that flexibility.

So, I think we could write back and say thank you to the petitioner and maybe suggest that she could lobby the schools that she's connected with, or the schools in her local area, to provide them with the information and to see if some time could be made within their local curriculum to address the issues. Given what has been said by the Minister, I don't think this is something that we can take up on a national basis, given where we are with the curriculum development now.

Okay. So, we've got a proposal to close this petition. Again, I can remember the handover of this petition, and I think it's marvellous to have those concerns aired. The points that have been made are quite valid. So, just to thank the petitioners once again.

It's not the end of it, though, is it? She can take it further; that's the point.

Yes, absolutely. P-05-932, 'Education On Food Allergies In Schools & Mandatory EPI PEN Training', page 173. This petition was submitted by Archie's Allergies and was considered for the first time in January 2020, having collected a total of 172 signatures. So, we considered this for the first time on 21 January, and we agreed to write to the Minister for Education to seek clarification on the monitoring of the implementation of the guidance, and to also ask that the petitioner and other people with lived experience are consulted when reviewing the approach to allergies and immunology from a health perspective. The committee also agreed to propose that the Minister's officials meet with the petitioner to discuss the current support for children with allergies in schools. A response was received from the Minister on 19 February and the petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to take this forward?

10:15

Could we seek the views of Allergy UK and Anaphylaxis UK to see what their views are on the current situation? I would imagine if there is a child and they know about their allergies that there would by systems in place within that school; you'd hope that there would be a care plan around that individual child, and part of that should be the rest of the school knowing what the problems are and how to respond. But given the information we've got so far, I'm not convinced that that's the case. So, it would be useful for us to know what the official bodies' view on this would be, and I think perhaps Public Health Wales have a role here as well in terms of the advice and support that's provided to schools from them. I'd like to think that the care plans and everything are in place, but given the petition is asking for what it's asking, I don't think we can be complacent about that.

Yes, I'd like to write to Public Health Wales as well and seek their view.

Okay. So, we're going to write to Allergy UK, Anaphylaxis UK and also Public Health Wales. Everybody agree?

What about the Association of Directors of Education in Wales, to seek their perspective on how schools support children with allergies as well?

Yes. Do you want to write to the Association of Directors of Education in Wales as well? Okay. 

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer y busnes a ganlyn:
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business:

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We now move to item 4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business: item 5. I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for item 5 of today's meeting. Are Members content? Okay.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:17.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:17.

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