|Ann Jones MS||Y Dirprwy Lywydd, Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Deputy Presiding Officer, Committee Chair|
|Caroline Jones MS|
|Dai Lloyd MS|
|David Rees MS|
|Helen Mary Jones MS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jayne Bryant MS|
|John Griffiths MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS|
|Lynne Neagle MS|
|Mick Antoniw MS|
|Mike Hedges MS|
|Nick Ramsay MS|
|Russell George MS|
|Andrew Slade||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Dr Andrew Goodall||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jeremy Miles MS||Y Gweinidog fydd y Cwnsler Cyffredinol a'r Gweinidog Pontio Ewropeaidd|
|Counsel General and Minister for European Transition|
|Mark Drakeford MS||Prif Weinidog Cymru|
|First Minister of Wales|
|Simon Brindle||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Tracey Burke||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Mared Llwyd||Ail Glerc|
|Matthew Richards||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Ross Davies||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Ymateb Llywodraeth Cymru i bandemig Covid-19 a'r adferiad||2. The Welsh Government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery|
|3. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod||3. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting|
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.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:02.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:02.
Well, bore da, bawb—good morning, everybody. Can I welcome you to this virtual meeting of the Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister? In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending this committee meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is, however, broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants will be joining by video-conference. The meeting is bilingual and translation is provided. A Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place.
So, I welcome the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and the Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, to the meeting, as well as the officials that are supporting them today. Can I also welcome Helen Mary Jones to her first meeting of this committee, following her appointment as the temporary chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, and also Caroline Jones, who has been invited to ensure that all party groups in the Senedd are represented in this meeting, in the light of its focus on the COVID-19 situation? And I've had no other apologies. So, I wonder whether Members feel they need to declare any interests. If you do, put your hands up now. No. That's fine. Thank you.
Can I just, then, say that the focus of the meeting is on the ongoing COVID situation and the Welsh Government's approach to the recovery from this, and the committee has this morning published the research document summarising the key issues that may have arisen from the scrutiny work carried out to date by all of you in your committees as Chairs, and so can I thank you for that work? I know it's been challenging, but it's also a vital part of where we go in the recovery. We will begin with some overarching questions, I think, about the impact of how the pandemic has played on the Welsh Government itself and its policy programme, before moving into each of the major policy areas that you as chairs individually cover. And, hopefully, we aim to conclude around—I say 'around' 11 o'clock, but, certainly, I do know that people have got an awful lot of work on, so we will try and stick to that.
So, as I say, welcome, First Minister. Thank you very much for coming. Perhaps—could I ask you to make some opening remarks, just to set the scene, please?
Chair, thank you very much indeed. In terms of opening remarks, I suppose the first thing I would say is that the impact of the coronavirus crisis has been felt as deeply inside the Welsh Government as in any other part of Welsh life. We have had many, many members of staff affected directly by the illness, by the need to be self-isolating, by the need to be shielded, by illness in wider family members. We work in a completely different way. The building that Jeremy and I are in would normally have around 2,000 people here every day—it's a tiny handful of that number who are actually able to come physically into work, and therefore everybody is working remotely, and this has meant that the huge impact of coronavirus has been carried at some times by relatively few shoulders who have had to work astonishingly hard, and I'm enormously grateful to them for everything they have done to help us.
Looking, as you said, Chair, to the future, then the future for us can be divided into a number of phases. There is the very immediate future: coronavirus has not gone away and we continue every week to have to deal with new issues—new issues that are often very pressing and very time consuming, as you can imagine. Last week the health Minister and I spent hour after hour dealing with the outbreaks of coronavirus in north Wales and the incident at Merthyr, and every week throws up immediate challenges of that sort. In the slightly more medium term, we have the challenge of maintaining what we can of the original programme for government, and to complete whatever aspects of it we can during the rest of this Senedd term. And there is the challenge of our legislative programme. Our original legislative programme for this final year was a very full one indeed, of both primary and secondary legislation. There are capacity issues there for the Senedd itself as well as for the Welsh Government. We also, inescapably, have the issue of Brexit, which is beginning to loom over us again, and will be a second dominating theme of the autumn. Even if we see a second wave of coronavirus, we will have to be dealing with the consequences of leaving the European Union—possibly without a deal of any sort.
Beyond that, there is the reconstruction work that Jeremy has been leading—the sort of Wales we want to see beyond coronavirus—and Jeremy I know will be happy to help the committee with questions that look beyond the immediate crisis to the sort of Wales we want the other side of this pandemic.
Thank you very much. I wonder whether you or the Counsel General could tell us how the Welsh Government's response to the pandemic and the recovery and the reconstruction—how do you see that working across Wales? So that we have a good understanding across Wales of how that recovery programme may—or how people can help shape it.
Well it is very important from our point of view, Chair, that we have an all-Wales approach to all the things that we do, while recognising that there are some particular challenges in particular parts of Wales. We've certainly seen that in the way that the local outbreaks have taken place. We've seen the very real challenge in north-east Wales just this week, with the major employer in that area itself facing a crisis—an existential crisis, as Airbus itself has said—arising out of the pandemic. So, our approach is a combination of all-Wales approaches, but sensitivity to local implementation of that. The virus itself has not had an identical impact in every part of Wales, and we've needed to be sensitive to that. To give you just one example, we have had an all-Wales programme of testing every resident and every member of staff in our care homes. We needed a different approach in Ceredigion, where not a single care home has had a single case of coronavirus throughout the crisis. The anxiety there was not to send testers into homes, who might completely inadvertently have taken coronavirus with them. So, while we've had that national approach, we have tried to calibrate the delivery of it locally and we will continue to do that. We'll marry that with our regional approach, particularly in the way we respond to the economic needs of different parts of Wales, and Jeremy's work in helping us to face the future and shape the future will continue to take that essential approach, all-Wales in its scope with some local differentiation in its delivery.
Thank you very much. I wonder if I can bring in Mick Antoniw, then, around legislation. Mick, you've got some questions.
First Minister, a few really quite technical questions to do with my portfolio in respect of legislation and justice issues, and, of course, you hold the justice responsibility and chair the new justice sub-committee. I understand there have been, obviously, difficulties in that committee's work during the COVID focus. But, although many aspects of the justice system are not devolved, the consequences of those, and in particular families, children and so on, are devolved. It's very clear that, during COVID, there has been a massive retraction of the capacity of the justice system to deal with many of the important issues that Welsh Government and local government have to actually deal with—as I say, I mention families and justice. I wonder what contacts may have taken place with the Ministry of Justice to talk about this backlog, the resources that might be needed to get back on track with the completion of hearings, the engagement with families, and all the services that are associated with that.
Thank you, Chair. So, of course, Mick Antoniw is right that our ability to carry out the programme that we had hoped to carry out in responding to the Lord Thomas report, for example, has been fundamentally affected by coronavirus. The lead official in that area has had to be reassigned to coronavirus work and has been helping us with the very significant volume of guidance that we have needed to provide to many sectors. Nevertheless, we have continued to have contact. Jeremy, in his Counsel General capacity, and I both met with the Lord Chancellor recently, and the focus of that meeting was indeed about how the Ministry of Justice plans to deal with the backlog of cases that have arisen in the system.
I think, from the Ministry of Justice's perspective, the way in which courts in Wales have been able to get back to work is at the leading edge of what has been possible across the United Kingdom, and the Lord Chancellor was very complimentary about the way in which local agencies, including devolved as well as non-devolved agencies, have co-operated to begin reopening the courts. He said to us that he anticipated that the backlog at magistrates' court level might be clearable within six to nine months, provided they can continue to make the progress that they have made, and I committed then that we would deploy devolved services on which the courts rely—mental health services, housing services and so on—alongside the efforts that they are making.
Chair, we have also taken steps in the Welsh Government to prepare for the reopening of visiting, particularly to young offender institutions. We changed the regulations at the end of the last three-week period to allow people to travel more than a local distance to go to Parc prison in Bridgend, for example, where visits to the young offender wing were expected to begin ahead of visits to any other establishment in Wales. There are plans in the Ministry of Justice to allow families to visit, again, some institutions, where that is safe to do so. That hasn't begun yet, but I know the preparations are in place in a number of prisons in Wales to allow that to happen safely.
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. Of course, part of the justice system relates to administrative justice, and that is quite a number of tribunals that are in fact devolved and form the devolved justice sector. We do now have a president of tribunals, who I understand is due to lay his second report shortly. I think my committee will be scrutinising the president of tribunals at a future meeting. That, of course, will be a historic meeting because it will be the first time there has been parliamentary scrutiny of a specific justice sector from the Welsh Parliament, from the Senedd.
Now, there are two things on that. One is, firstly, the first report wasn't debated in the Senedd; it's this Government's intention the second report would be debated in the Senedd. And secondly, with the tribunals, of course, as we've all learned new ways of operating, through the use of Zoom, Teams, and so on, I wonder what consideration has been given, or what lessons there might be to learn, from the use of technology in order to improve and increase access to justice and to facilitate the efficient operation of our own Welsh tribunal justice system.
Well, again, Chair, I thank Mick Antoniw for that question. He is right—Sir Wyn Williams's second report is complete and will be formally presented to the Welsh Government, and then I will lay it in front of the Senedd. I'm very glad to hear that Mick's committee will take a direct interest in it. I think it has been very much to our advantage to have a president of the tribunals here in Wales, and he has had to play a very active part during the coronavirus crisis in proposing new directions that the Welsh Government has to ultimately sign off; it's my responsibility to do that. But, in every case, I have followed the advice provided to me by Sir Wyn, and those directions have been issued in order to allow tribunals to continue to operate in Wales, albeit in very different ways.
I think it's a matter, then, of learning the right lessons from what has happened over the last few months. There are some aspects that I'm sure we will want to retain; there are other aspects where we've had, inevitably, to curtail some of the direct physical access to tribunals that people have appreciated in the past and may want to be able to return to those rights in the future. But a lot of what tribunals do, I think, can very successfully be transacted remotely without needing to ask people to travel along inconvenient distances for what sometimes are routine hearings. We wouldn't want to, I think, replace that burden on people in a world where we've all learnt to do things differently. But, equally, where, for example, in a mental health review tribunal case an applicant feels that it is important to be able to appear themselves in front of the tribunal, with their advocate, to make their case, I don't think we would want to deny that ability in the world to which we will return.
Chair, I should just say that the Counsel General is having a lot of technical difficulties in joining us this morning. A number of these questions I would normally have deferred to him, in answering on the justice side particularly, but he's got no access to the meeting at the moment and we're trying to put that right as we're talking.
Just a couple more, then, questions that relate to the legislative framework and issues related to post-COVID jobs, legislation and Brexit and so on. The first one of those that I want to ask relates to, obviously, the enforcement work that has had to take place. Now, of course, Welsh Government and local government have responsibilities for environmental enforcement and, indeed, prosecutions within that area. But one body we would've expected to have seen active legislatively and enforcement-wise during the COVID scenario would have been the Health and Safety Executive. Now, it's a body that has been massively denuded in terms of powers and in terms of resources. Do you believe that now might be the time to start calling for the Health and Safety Executive to be devolved to Welsh Government—that, within the COVID scenario, had we had greater access, engagement and, I suppose, overarching engagement with the Health and Safety Executive, there might have been the capacity to massively improve operations within that area?
Well, Chair, I mustn't be unfair, I'm sure, to the HSE, but I think I do remember a point quite early in the pandemic where we looked to get some advice from the HSE on a safety matter to be told that it itself was closed on safety grounds. Now, it has since resumed work and we've had some very active engagement from the HSE in relation to the outbreaks in north Wales and in Merthyr, and I know that the Health and Safety Executive has been visiting those premises, has agreed a way of the 2 Sisters plant preparing to reopen, and will be inspecting it again once the reopening takes place. So, when their help has been most needed, they have been very helpful and very present.
I plan, on Monday, to chair the first meeting of a health and safety forum for Wales, which our social partners, both the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress, have been keen to see established. That will be a first meeting, and we will try to draw together both the devolved and the non-devolved players in the enforcement field and have a standing group that can look at policy issues in the enforcement field and advise the Welsh Government in our social partnership way together. That, I think, will be an opportunity to test the proposition that Mick Antoniw has just made—that we would be able more effectively to discharge these responsibilities were there to be a greater suite of devolved responsibilities. I think that forum will be a very good place to test that proposition.
And, as a very final, short point to you then, First Minister, of course, with the forthcoming EU trade deal, the issue of a United States trade deal, all the legislation that is going to be forthcoming, the development of framework agreements, one of the issues that have, of course, arisen is the Sewel arrangements in terms of where UK Government will not legislate in devolved areas. Now, what we've seen increasingly is that where there are Welsh Government red lines, UK Government has refused to move on those, and they've effectively been bypassed then by the development of memoranda of understanding in order to make progress. Now, on the basis that we were told after the core legislation went through that Sewel was, effectively, being restored because the breach previously was exceptional and it would only be in such exceptional circumstances, it does seem that the UK Government is not abiding by that. Is it time now for Welsh Government to take a stand and to refuse any further memoranda of understanding to ensure that UK Government, if it's prepared to agree something in a memorandum of understanding, should be prepared to put that into legislation?
Mae pethau yn gweithio, rwy'n credu, nawr.
Things are working now, I think.
I could hear Dr Lloyd slightly in the background.
Yes, the mic is open for Dai Lloyd, so we could do with it being switched off until we're ready to come to Dai.
Thank you, Chair. I think there are two different strands in that last question. Sewel actually hasn't been further tested, because Sewel only comes into effect when there is a legislative consent motion in front of the Assembly, not a memorandum of understanding, and, since the one event that Mick referred to and was described by the UK Government as wholly exceptional, we haven't had any further examples of when the Assembly has denied consent and the UK Government has proceeded in the teeth of that. So, we will see whether or not Sewel is now capable of doing the job that it was supposed to do. We have long argued for Sewel to be entrenched rather than simply to be a political convention, as the Supreme Court found. We would much rather that it was on a far more formal and reliable basis.
Memorandums of understanding will continue to be developed between Governments. They're a very long-standing feature of devolution in good times and more challenging times, and where we are able to reach an agreement, I would rather have that agreement codified in a memorandum than just simply being left to a sort of general understanding between us.
So, I think the jury is out on the first aspect of Mick Antoniw's question. On the second aspect, the memorandum of understanding, then I just think they are a very normal way of inter-governmental operation, and we continue to deploy them where we think they are to the advantage of Wales.
Diolch. Can I talk about third-party sales of kittens and puppies, known as Lucy's law colloquially? Lesley Griffiths has gone out to consultation on it—there's eight weeks of consultation that has already started. Can I ask: is the First Minister committed to ensuring that legislation goes through during the rest of this term, and will the Government publish a timetable for implementing that legislation? This is probably the one issue that I get most people contacting me on, and I also know that a number of colleagues have also had lots of people who are really keen on stopping this horrific trade.
Chair, the Welsh Government is committed to doing everything we can to put legislation on the statute book during this Senedd term. It's why we've immediately published the consultation paper with a truncated consultation period. The timetable, however, is not in the hands of the Government. The timetable is in the hands of the legislature, and the Business Committee sets the timetable for consideration of legislation. The Government will be ready to put that legislation in front of the Senedd in a timely way so that it can reach the statute book before the end of March next year, and then we will put those proposals to the Business Committee and it will be for the Senedd to decide whether or not it's able to find time for that to be accomplished.
Thank you. If we can now turn to the Children, Education and Young People Committee, and Lynne Neagle's got some questions on that. Lynne.
Thank you, Chair. First Minister, I wanted to start by asking about children's rights. As you know, these are crucial because children can't vote, they don't have a group of trade unionists who can come in and bat for them, and they have been largely hidden in this pandemic. There haven't been any CRIAs, child rights impact assessments, published during this pandemic, and I guess lots of people would think that's understandable; it's been an emergency situation. However, going forward, what assurances can you give? We have got a particular recognition of children's rights in Wales. We have the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 in law in Wales. What assurance can you give going forward not just that children's rights will be considered, but that you can show us your workings on children's rights by actually publishing CRIAs?
Thanks to Lynne Neagle for that. I agree with her that children's rights are of particular significance and have been throughout the devolution era. We published at the end of the last three-week cycle a combined impact assessment document, drawing on extensive work carried out in relation to every measure that we proposed in lifting the lockdown, to be able to scan its impact on not just children, but on a wide variety of other people with protected characteristics, for example, in Wales. I'll ask Jeremy, who's had some additional oversight of that, to say something in just a moment, but I do want just to provide the committee with an assurance that, beyond impact assessments, we have done our best in an emergency to attend particularly to the views of young people. I myself have appeared in front of the Youth Parliament. I'm going to do that again next week to make sure that we hear directly from those young people who've been elected as our counterpart. We've sponsored, through the Children's Commissioner for Wales's office, that very successful survey of the views of young people in Wales, with 24,000 young people spontaneously taking part, to make sure that we captured the impact of this crisis in their lives—the things that mattered most to them, the messages they wanted us to hear most clearly. Impact assessments are important, and Jeremy will come in on that now, but they are one strand in the different ways in which we have tried our best to stay in touch with the impact of this crisis on the lives of children and young people in Wales.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you, First Minister. For the Coronavirus Act 2020, of course, we didn't undertake a full assessment at that point, given the circumstances in which the Act was being passed, which I think your question acknowledges, Lynne. We relied on the UK Government's arrangements in relation to that. In the early stages, we prioritised the article 6 provisions, essentially, the right to life in those difficult questions of balancing rights and risk.
Since then, I think the approach has been one that has been a common-sense approach in the sense of saying this: where there are steps being taken that are likely to have an impact on children in a particular sense, then we have in those circumstances been able to do more than, perhaps, in other circumstances. So in the document you will have seen published at the end of last week that the First Minister mentioned, there's a table there that describes the level of analysis that we've done in relation to children for each of the key easements being considered during that cycle. For example, in relation to the reopening of schools, a fuller rights assessment was made than in relation to reopening non-essential shops, for example. But there are other approaches that we've taken. So, there have been combined assessments across some aspects of education, some aspects of childcare, and there have been other examples, for example in relation to the survey that we did with the children's commissioner and Children in Wales, that provides a very substantive set of responses, which guide our actions when a full assessment hasn't been made.
Thank you for those answers. If I can turn to schools now, it's a huge relief that children have returned to school this week. I think everybody is agreed that what we need to be aiming for in September is to maximise children's safe time in school, but also recognise that that may unfortunately have to involve an element of blended learning. Now, what we have seen during lockdown is a very variable approach to the support that children and young people have been given in their learning at home, and I would argue an unacceptable variation, really. We know that the challenges with getting children back to school have been substantial, and I'd like to ask, really, what is going to be done to ensure that children are prioritised for September to ensure that we can maximise their time in school and that the issues that there have been with trade union partners are not going to be an impediment to addressing what we need to do to maximise children's high-quality learning in the autumn.
Chair, can I thank Lynne for that? I thought she—
Yes, sorry. I have. Apologies. I was just saying, Chair, that I thought Lynne Neagle captured our approach very succinctly when she said that our objective was to maximise the safe time of children in schools from September, and all of the aspects of that sentence are important to us. We absolutely want to put the needs of children at the forefront of what we do, we want to maximise the amount of time they're able to return to direct face-to-face learning, and we have to do it in a way that makes them safe and the people who we rely on, both teaching and non-teaching staff, we have to keep them safe as well.
We have the huge advantage, Chair, beyond any other part of the United Kingdom, that we have children back in school in Wales today and for the next two or three weeks, and we will be able to learn a great deal from that, in planning for September. I think one of the things we've learned even in this week is that, with everything that was done alongside our trade union partners and our local authority colleagues to make schools safe, that members of staff who have returned to work there and parents who are anxious about returning their children have been hugely reassured by what they find when they've returned to the workplace. And that will stand us, I think, in enormously good stead for the autumn, because our staff and our parents now know what it is to return to school and how schools can be made safe environments.
So, I met yesterday with the Minister for Education and we will meet again next week to capture the learning from this week and from into next week as we plan for that safe return in September, maximising the amount of time that children are able to be in school, and where there are aspects of blended learning, to make sure that we have a set of national expectations that draw on the very best that has happened in Welsh schools over the last three months. While I agree with the points that Lynne Neagle has made and John Griffiths has made to me over the last couple of weeks, that the experience has been too variable, nevertheless, where it's been good it has been outstanding, and we must capture that and make sure that that is what is available to all children. That's why we will set these national expectations, it's why we will deploy Estyn, our inspectorate, in September to make sure that the best practice is available to all.
Thank you. I'd like to ask about mental health. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health repeatedly told our committee that children have suffered collateral damage as a result of this pandemic. And as you know, mental health has been a huge priority for my committee, and we've also heard concerns, despite the assurances that Dr Goodall gave the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee that mental health work was to continue during the pandemic, that children and young people have not had the access to mental health services that they've needed during lockdown. Plus, it's a huge concern that we have stored up lots of mental health problems when we come out of the pandemic. That's not to medicalise children and young people's response to what is a very frightening and traumatic experience for all of us, but what assurances can you give that as we come out of the pandemic that the services are going to be there to flex and respond to children and young people's needs?
Thank you, Chair, and Dr Goodall is supporting me and the Counsel General this morning online, so maybe he will want to add, but he did write to all health boards in Wales very early on in the pandemic to make it clear that the Welsh Government's expectation was that mental health services would continue to be a key priority during lockdown and throughout the pandemic for all the reasons that Lynne has said. She will know and you will know that during the last few months, we have invested further funding in trying to strengthen mental health services to provide them to a greater age range than was previously the case, launching an online mental health toolkit for children and young people during the pandemic, and looking to scale that up so that it is as available as we can make it as we recover from the crisis we have been in. All health boards have plans for increasing activity across the range of health services, and mental health is very much part of that.
It is impossible, Chair, to say that we have been able to do all the things that we would like to have done in the circumstances that we have faced, and it's not always been a matter of money; it's also been a matter of key staff not being available, people themselves being unwell, facing major challenges in their lives and those of their families. I think a huge effort has been made by staff, both in the education world and in the health service, to do whatever they can in the circumstances they have faced to continue to be able to provide services for those young people who need them the most. It hasn't done everything we would have liked, it hasn't reached everyone we would have wanted to reach, and that is why the education Minister herself met the royal college of paediatrics last week here in Wales, to make sure that we have the best possible advice from them as to how we can strengthen those services as opportunities to do so strengthen, provided—provided always—that the circulation of the virus in Wales remains under control, and that is by no means to be taken for granted.
I see—before I fetch the Chair back in—that Tracey Burke had her hand up, and also I don't know whether Dr Goodall wants to come in as well. So, I'll go to Tracey first, then I'll come to you afterwards, Dr Goodall. Tracey.
Diolch. Bore da, bawb. I was only going to add to the comments that the First Minister had said that we have added over £2.5 million to local authorities to improve emotional and mental health support in schools since April. And that's both to increase school and community based counselling provision, but also to target support to younger children—so, below year 6. We've made it clear to local authorities that, with the phased return of learners to school, the initial focus needs to be supporting their well-being. So, in addition to funding the recruitment of more specialist staff, we're also making a range of resources available before the end of the summer term, which will support young people, teachers and others around pupils' mental health and emotional health and well-being. And, as the First Minister pointed out, the young person's mental health toolkit is the first of those resources that we will be rolling out.
Bore da. Just, really, to build on the comprehensive response from the First Minister, it was a really deliberate choice for us to make sure that we were able to continue our focus on mental health, particularly through that first set of immediate responses, and, both in my correspondence and my communication with the service and, of course, my contact, we've been really clear about that. I think it has meant that we've had to adapt to delivering in a range of different ways, of course, and I'm really struck that, with mental health, and particularly for children, we are reliant on the delivery across a wide range of settings. So, clearly, we ended up with a number of services that were stepping away from some of their more routine activities, even if we were focusing on more of the urgent access needs within the system.
I think one of our advantages in Wales is that we've been able to maintain really good relations around the whole series of decisions we made about the NHS more generally, including the current resetting process. And that does include our engagement with all of the royal colleges at a very personal level, just to broker. But, to give you some reassurance going forward, again, within our quarter 2 framework, we've been very clear about mental health and its ongoing priority, and it's more ensuring the implementation that's happening on the ground, including some of the problems that may be being experienced, And in particular on quarter 2, we are putting a lens on children, just to make sure that, on the return to routine activities, we draw the service along, because, clearly, there remains some hesitancy within the system. But we have to make sure that we ensure that people are able to access—including children—the services that they really need.
Okay, thank you. First Minister, I'd like to ask about vulnerable children, please. I was very relieved that the Welsh Government took the decision not to relax the law in relation to vulnerable children in Wales, as, of course, they did in England—they relaxed the safeguarding. So, in theory, it should have been business as usual, but with the challenges of remote working. We heard from heads of childrens' services that they are concerned that, as we come out of lockdown, there will be a significant increase in the numbers of children and young people needing support. Many children and young people will have actually become vulnerable during lockdown that we don't know about.
So, I'd like to ask you: what plans are in place to ensure that services can meet the needs of those children? And also to ask you for your assurances—. It was put to me yesterday, by Voices from Care—the young people there—that they were unclear what was happening with looked-after children reviews, what their involvement was going to be in those, which is, of course, an entitlement. How can you assure me that we're going to get back, as soon as possible, to delivering those services with the children and young people most affected at their heart?
Well, Chair, we will get back to normal as soon as we safely can, and that is always the calibration here. Of course, we want—and those people providing services want—to be able to get back to seeing young people face to face, to resume some of the regular work that they would have been doing, but it'll have to be—it will have to be—in ways that protect the health of those young people and of those people who provide those services. And thanks to Lynne Neagle for her recognition of the fact that we didn't simply strip away some of the ways in which services operate in Wales during the pandemic. Nevertheless, much of the work that would have normally been done by people—visiting other people in their own homes, seeing for themselves the conditions in which children were living—has not been possible during the pandemic, and those services are slowly resuming, but slowly, because safety has to be at the heart of them. My colleague Julie Morgan has issued guidance routinely and regularly through the pandemic to local authority departments, making sure that they have the best advice as to how they can continue to provide services to vulnerable young people, but to do it in a way that matches the conditions that we have all been working within.
I'm not immediately familiar with the arrangements in relation to looked-after children, but I certainly would expect that those reviews are resumed. I want those reviews to be real. We have learnt a lot, for example, from Neath Port Talbot social services department and the approach they have taken to actively reviewing all looked-after children with a view to seeing whether or not it's possible for those young children to return to the care of their own families, and the involvement of young people themselves in those decisions is, I think, crucial. So, I am very keen to see that resume and to see it resumed not in a bureaucratic, fill-the-form-in sort of way, but in a way that is genuinely purposeful and is focused on the best futures for those young people, and their voice being central to the way those decisions are taken.
Just finally from me, Chair, on money, I'd like to ask about funding. The committee was given some fairly eye-watering figures that are needed to shore up our higher education sector in Wales as a result of the pandemic and also warned that there is a very real likelihood of some universities actually becoming insolvent. I hope that there will be some money announced by the UK Government, so I'd like to ask for your assurances that, should that be the case, that money will indeed find its way to the higher education sector in Wales, and also to ask the same about the catch-up money that's been announced in England. I'm assuming there is a consequential, and I'd like to ask for your assurance that that money will go to schools in Wales, because we know that there is a very urgent need to mitigate some of the impacts of the pandemic and to prepare for September. Thank you.
Thank you, Chair. Well, I'm afraid we've learned never to assume that money announced in England leads to a consequential for us here in Wales, because there are far too many examples of what is announced simply being a rehash of announcements made many times before. The new deal announced by the Prime Minister on Tuesday turned out to be no deal for Wales, because there's not a single penny coming to us that we didn't already know about.
In relation to the catch-up money, though, we do expect to have some consequential. All of that money is not new and not all of that money happens in this financial year, but we are expecting now a consequential of it, and then the Cabinet will make decisions about how that money is best deployed. But I do know that, as you would expect, the education Minister is actively making plans for how she would use that money were it to come her way, and you can be sure she will make a very persuasive case for it.
On higher education, there were announcements over the weekend of two new funds—a research stabilisation fund and a transformation fund. I very much regret that those funds are not to be Barnettised, that they are to be UK funds, whereas higher education is devolved to Wales and those funds ought to be put through the Barnett formula and we would have had the money to deploy in Wales in the way that we think would have best suited our sector. I don't want to sound ungrateful for the money that will come, and I know, for some of our higher education institutions, this money will be significant and will make a very real difference. So, what we will be doing next week as these figures become clearer—because there's always something opaque about these announcements, but, as the figures become clearer, what we will be doing is looking again now at where that help doesn't reach the sector in Wales, to see if there is anything further that we can do. The sector has to look to its own resources first, as every sector in Wales has, but we remain in very regular contact. I think I have a meeting with Universities Wales myself next week to hear directly from them. The picture is an evolving one and we will work closely with the sector to do what we can to support it.
Thank you. I am now going to move on to the health and social care committee Chair. I'm pleased that you managed to be able to get in to join us. So, I'll move over—. And this is—. I've got quite a number of speakers in this section, so over to you, Dai.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd, a diolch yn fawr am eich amynedd. Wrth gwrs, mae yna sawl her wedi bod o ochr y rhyngrwyd yma yn Abertawe, yn amlwg, y bore yma—un o'r rhesymau dwi wastad yn galw am ragor o bwerau yma yng Nghymru, fel fy mod i'n gallu gwneud yn siŵr bod Cadeirydd y pwyllgor iechyd yn gallu bod yn gallu cyfathrebu efo chi ar amser. Ond nid dyna ydy bwrdwn fy nghwestiynau i, yn naturiol.
Mae'r pwyllgor iechyd wedi bod yn cynnal adolygiad i ymateb ein gwasanaeth iechyd, ac, wrth gwrs, Llywodraeth Cymru, i'r pandemig COVID-19, a'r peth cyntaf i'w ddweud ydy mae ymateb ein gwasanaeth iechyd a'n gwasanaeth gofal ni wedi bod yn hollol, hollol arwrol a dyw e ddim yn bosib gor-ddweud hwnna ynglŷn â chyd-destun y pandemig yma. Efallai rydym ni'n anghofio ei ddweud ef yn ddigon aml, a dweud y gwir, o gofio'r nyrsys, y meddygon, y gofalwyr ac ati sydd wedi dioddef, ac am ambell un wedi marw o achos eu swydd, ac yn mynd y filltir ychwanegol yna yn y pandemig presennol yma. Nid jest jobyn o waith yw e, ond galwedigaeth.
Felly, mae yna gwestiynau penodol—mae yna nifer ohonyn nhw, wrth gwrs, fel mae'r Cadeirydd wedi olrhain. Yng nghyd-destun cyntaf yr holl strategaeth profi, olrhain a diogelu sy'n mynd ymlaen, wrth gwrs, mae yna ddiffygion amlwg ac mae yna ddala lan. Y cwestiwn hanfodol ydy: byddech chi'n cytuno, Prif Weinidog, ei bod hi'n hanfodol i unrhyw system o brofi, olrhain a diogelu pobl, ein bod ni'n gallu gorfod gwarantu cael canlyniad unrhyw brawf COVID o fewn 24 awr er mwyn i'r olrhain fod yn llwyddiannus?
Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you very much for your patience. Of course, there have been a number of challenges in terms of the internet in Swansea this morning. It's one of the reasons I'm always calling for more powers in Wales: so that we can make sure that the Chair of the health committee can join you on time to communicate with you. But that's not the main burden of my questions, naturally.
The health committee has been conducting a review of the response of our health service and the Welsh Government to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first thing to say is that the response of our health and care services has been heroic. That cannot be overstated in the context of this pandemic. Perhaps we forget to say it and don't say it often enough, bearing in mind all of the nurses, doctors and carers who have suffered, and some have passed away because of their jobs, and they've all gone that extra mile during this current pandemic. It's not a job of work, but it is a calling.
So, there are specific questions, and there are a number of them, as the Chair has already mentioned. Now, first of all, in the context of the whole testing strategy and test, trace and protect, of course, there have been clear problems and there's some catching up to do, but the fundamental question is: would you agree, First Minister, that it is crucial for any test, trace and protect system to guarantee that the result of any COVID test should be available within 24 hours so that the test and trace element can be successful?
Wel, diolch i Dr Lloyd am y cwestiwn yna. Jest i ddechrau, i gytuno gyda fe am bopeth roedd e'n ei ddweud am y staff yn y gwasanaeth iechyd ac yn y maes gofal gyda ni yma yng Nghymru a phopeth maen nhw wedi'i wneud i helpu pobl eraill yng nghyd-destun y pandemig.
Mae system gyda ni o brofi ac olrhain, ac mae'r system sydd gyda ni'n gweithio, ac mae wedi gweithio nid jest yn gyffredinol ond mae wedi gweithio yng nghyd-destun beth sydd wedi digwydd ar Ynys Môn, ac yn Wrecsam ac ym Merthyr Tudful hefyd. Mae'n dibynnu ar gael y system yn gweithio'n gyflym ac mae mwy dŷn ni eisiau ei wneud i gael mwy o brofion yn ôl mewn un diwrnod, ac mae pethau ymarferol ar waith nawr i helpu'r system i wneud mwy yn y maes yna.
Wrth gwrs, mae mwy a mwy o brofion yn cael eu gwneud ac mae mwy a mwy o brofion yn dod yn ôl mewn un diwrnod, ond pan fo mwy a mwy yn dod i fewn, mae'n rhaid i'r system redeg yn gyflym jest i gadw gyda'r galwad sydd arnyn nhw. Ond dwi a'r Gweinidog dros iechyd yn dod gyda'r bobl sy'n gwneud y gwaith yn y maes bob wythnos nawr i gynllunio gyda nhw i wella'r system ac i adeiladu ar y profiadau llwyddiannus dŷn ni wedi eu cael dros y mis cyntaf o'r system newydd sydd gyda ni.
Well, I thank Dr Lloyd for that question. First of all, I would agree with everything that he said about the staff both in the NHS and in the care sector here in Wales in terms of everything that they have done in supporting others in the context of this pandemic.
We do have a test and trace system in place, and that system is working. It has worked not just in general terms but it has worked in the context of what has happened in Anglesey, Wrexham and Merthyr too. It does depend on speed and there is more that we do want to do in order to get more of those tests returned back within 24 hours, and there are practical steps currently being taken in order to help the system to do more in that area.
But, of course, more and more tests are being carried out and an increasing number of those results are available within one day, but, when more tests are done, then the system has to run more quickly just to keep up with the demand placed upon it. But myself and the Minister for health are in contact with the people undertaking this work on a weekly basis in order to plan with them how we can improve the system and how we can build upon the successes that we've had over the first month of the system that we have in place.
Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynna, Brif Weinidog, ac, ydy, mae'n bwysig eto ein bod ni'n canmol lle mae yna lwyddiannau. Wrth ddelio efo'r pandemig—ac fel rydych chi wedi cyfeirio eisoes, rydyn ni'n dal yn ei chanol hi, ac yn gobeithio dod allan, wrth gwrs, ond hefyd yn cynllunio i'r dyfodol—beth sy'n dod yn glir i ni o'r dystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi ei chael o flaen y pwyllgor iechyd ydy bod cryfhau timau iechyd cyhoeddus Cymru yn lleol ar y llawr a Llywodraeth a systemau llywodraeth leol ar y llawr i olrhain pobl yn bersonol, felly, yn defnyddio'r wybodaeth sydd wedi bod gyda ni ers degawdau efo iechyd cyhoeddus, a hefyd efo iechyd yr amgylchedd o fewn llywodraeth leol, er enghraifft—adeiladu a chryfhau'r systemau hynny sydd ei angen yn ddybryd, yn lle, o bosib, dyfeisio system newydd breifat, fel rhyw haenen uwchben, sydd wedi dod o'r newydd, fel sy'n amlwg yn Lloegr o dan law Serco ac ati, sydd efo datgysylltiad cyfan gwbl, weithiau, rhwng y profi sy'n digwydd a'r angen am y canlyniadau a'r olrhain ar y llawr, achos y timau lleol sy'n dal yn gwneud y rhan fwyaf o hynna, hyd yn oed yn Lloegr, er dydyn nhw ddim yn gallu cael y profion yn ôl yn aml, neu wybod beth ydyn nhw.
Felly, wrth feddwl am y dyfodol, mae'r dystiolaeth gerbron y pwyllgor iechyd yn dweud bod angen cryfhau timau iechyd cyhoeddus ac iechyd cyhoeddus Cymru yn gyffredinol, achos roedd eu hymateb blaenorol yn gyntaf yn ôl ddechrau'r pandemig hwn yn rhagorol, ond mae eisiau adeiladu capasiti iechyd cyhoeddus a llywodraeth leol yng Nghymru i ymateb i hyn, yn lle bod rhaid dibynnu ar unrhyw system newydd breifat mae rhyw Weinidog yn Lloegr yn meddwl amdano ar hap yn y dyfodol. Fyddech chi'n cytuno?
Thank you very much for that, First Minister, and, yes, it is important that we give praise where praise is due. In dealing with the pandemic—and as you've already mentioned, we're still in the middle of it and hoping to come out of it, but we're also planning for the future—what becomes clear from the evidence that we've received as a health committee is that strengthening public health teams locally on the ground and local authority systems in terms of tracing people, using the information that we've had available over decades in terms of public health, and environmental health within local government, for example—we need to build and strengthen those systems, rather than perhaps devising a new private system, such as the one that's emerged in England under Serco and so on, which has a total disconnect, very often, between the testing that happens and the need for the results and the tracing on the ground, because it's those local teams that still do most of that, even in England, although they can't get the tests back very often, or know what they are.
So, in looking to the future, the evidence before the health committee suggests that we need to strengthen public health teams and public health in Wales more generally, because their initial response at the beginning of this pandemic was excellent, but we need to build public health capacity and capacity within local government in Wales to respond to this, rather than depending on some private system that some Minister in England may come up with for the future. Would you agree?
Dwi yn cytuno, Gadeirydd, a dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi bod yn lwcus yma yng Nghymru. Dwi'n gallu cofio, wrth gwrs, y ddadl oedd gyda ni nôl yn 2008-9, pan oedd Edwina Hart yn Weinidog dros iechyd, a'r ddadl oedd gyda ni am y maes iechyd y cyhoedd, a sut i ddyfeisio y system o dan y system newydd o fyrddau iechyd lleol. A'r system y cytunodd Edwina arni ar ddiwedd y dydd oedd un oedd yn cadw corff cyhoeddus oddi tani, ond hefyd yn cadw y timau lleol i wneud y gwaith ar y llawr gwlad. Rydyn ni wedi gweld pa mor gryf yw'r system sydd gyda ni, nid jest yn y cyd-destun presennol, ond er enghraifft pan oedd measles, y frech goch, yn Abertawe nifer o flynyddoedd yn ôl nawr.
So, does dim bwriad o gwbl gyda ni i breifateiddio pethau; y timau sy'n gweithio yn y system brofi ac olrhain yw'r bobl sy'n gweithio nawr, ar hyn o bryd, yn y gwasanaeth cyhoeddus. Maen nhw'n gweithio yn y gwasanaeth iechyd, maen nhw'n gweithio yn yr awdurdodau lleol, ac maen nhw wedi dod at ei gilydd achos mai pobl leol ydyn nhw, ac maen nhw'n nabod y bobl leol, ac maen nhw'n adnabod sut mae pethau lleol yn rhedeg. Pan maen nhw'n codi'r ffôn i siarad â phobl, mae pobl yn fodlon rhannu gwybodaeth â nhw, ac maen nhw'n fodlon helpu ni i gyd i redeg y system hollol bwysig sydd gyda ni, os ydyn ni'n mynd i ddelio gyda'r coronafeirws mewn ffordd newydd, a dyna'r ffordd rydyn ni eisiau ei wneud e.
Un o'r pethau dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi'i ddysgu yw pan rŷn ni'n siarad â'n timau lleol yn y maes yma, mae'n bwysig tynnu pobl i mewn i'r timau o nifer o gefndiroedd. So, yn Ynys Môn ac yn Wrecsam, mae'r Gweinidog Vaughan Gething wedi bod yn glir ei fod e eisiau i lais yr undebau fod yn rhan o'r timau sy'n gweithio yn y maes yna, achos maen nhw'n gallu cynrychioli llais y bobl sy'n gweithio yn y rheng flaen.
So, dwi'n cytuno â beth mae'r pwyllgor wedi'i glywed am ei wneud e mewn ffordd leol, i gryfhau'r timau sydd gyda ni, ac i dynnu pobl i mewn dŷn ni ddim cweit fel arfer yn meddwl amdanyn nhw yn rhan o'r timau sy'n gallu ein helpu ni i droi'r system sydd gyda ni i lwyddo yn y cyd-destun lleol.
Yes, I do agree, Chair, and I think that we have been fortunate here in Wales. I can recall the debate that we had back in 2008-9, when Edwina Hart was the health Minister, and we had that debate on public health and how to devise an appropriate system under the new regime of the local health boards. And the system that Edwina agreed on at the end of the day was one that retained a public body underneath it, but also retained those local teams to do the work on the ground. We have seen just how strong and robust our system is, not just in the current context, but also, for example, when measles emerged in Swansea a number of years ago.
So, we have no intention at all to privatise these teams; the teams working in test and trace are people who are currently within public service. They work within the health service, they work within our local authorities, and they have come together in this, and because they are local people, and that they do know people on a local level, and they know how things work at a local level. When they pick up the phone to speak to individuals, then those people are willing to share information with them, and they are willing to help us all to run this crucially important system that we have, and it is crucial if we're going to deal with coronavirus in a new way, and that's how we want it to work.
One of the things I think we have learnt is that when we talk about local teams in this area, it's important to draw people into those teams from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. So, in Anglesey and in Wrexham, the Minister Vaughan Gething has been clear that he wants the voice of the unions to be part of the work of the teams working in those areas, because they can represent the voice of those people working in the front line.
So, I agree with what the committee has heard in evidence in terms of working at a local level and strengthening the teams that we have and drawing people in that perhaps we wouldn't usually think would be part of the teams that would help us to ensure that the system that we have is successful in the local context.
I think Dr Goodall wants to come in, so I'll fetch him in and then come back to you, Dai. Thanks. Dr Goodall.
Diolch. Just to complement the First Minister's comments as well. I think there have been some distinctive features of our approach, and we've absolutely been able to make sure that we've embedded the TTP approach within the local stakeholder arrangements, so I do think that's been distinctive to Wales. We've been able to really clarify the strong role of health boards, which are population health organisations, and make sure that they are aligned with the approach rather than just relying on national organisations like Public Health Wales. And it was really striking the infrastructure that we've put in place that when those outbreaks occurred in north Wales, also in Merthyr, that actually mutual support was provided from the rest of Wales where they didn't have outbreaks and where there was a lower level of community transmission, so we actually had an advantage of that national infrastructure. I also just wanted to comment that the Minister did make a decision 18 months or so ago to actually invest more in the national protection service for Wales as a significant strategic decision to make, which has also helped us in our organisation of this approach, and obviously we'll continue to make sure those investments take place.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Dwi'n ymwybodol o'r amser felly y cwestiwn olaf gennyf i, ac fe wnaf i adael—. Mae iechyd meddwl yn bwysig, ond dwi'n credu y gwnaf i ei adael i Jayne Bryant ac eraill i sôn am bwysigrwydd iechyd meddwl a beth rydyn ni'n ei wneud. Gofal cymdeithasol roeddwn i jest eisiau—ac eto, mae gofal cymdeithasol—. Mae'r pandemig yma wedi profi pa mor fregus yw gofal cymdeithasol. Roedd y system yn fregus cyn hyn, ac, wrth gwrs, mae hi wedi dod yn amlwg pa mor fregus, â phobl wedi dioddef yn ein system ofal ni, hynny yw cleifion—pobl a hefyd staff. Nawr, eto yn meddwl i'r dyfodol, achos mae'n rhaid inni ddysgu gwersi—mae pawb yn dweud bod yn rhaid inni ddysgu gwersi—mae'r system ofal yn rhanedig iawn ar hyn o bryd rhwng system breifat, system gyhoeddus a hefyd system elusennol. Dyna beth roedd iechyd yn arfer bod cyn dod â fo at ei gilydd mewn gwasanaeth iechyd. Beth ydych chi'n ei feddwl, felly, am y syniad yma mae nifer ohonon ni yn credu y dylen ni fod yn ymdrin â'r gofal yn union fel rydyn ni'n ymdrin ag iechyd, a chael system gofal cenedlaethol hefyd gyda staff cyflogedig wedi'i hintegreiddio efo'n system iechyd ni? Ydych chi'n cytuno?
Thank you, Chair. I am aware of time so just one final question from me. Mental health is hugely important, but I think I will leave it to Jayne Bryant and others to discuss the importance of mental health. Now, social care—and once again, this pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable social care is. The system was vulnerable prior to the outbreak, but it has become clear that people have suffered in our care system, both patients and staff. Now, in looking to the future, everyone says that we need to learn lessons, and our care system is split between the private sector, the public sector and also the charitable sector. Well, that's how health used to be before it was brought together in a single health service. What do you think about this idea that many of us believe that should be adopted, namely that we should treat care exactly as we treat health, and have a national care system with designated staff integrated with our health service? Would you agree with that?
Wel, Gadeirydd, rŷn ni wedi gwneud lot o waith y tu mewn i'r Llywodraeth, cyn y coronafeirws, i feddwl am y maes gofal yn y gymuned yn y dyfodol. Rŷn ni wedi derbyn yr adroddiad gan yr Athro Gerry Holtham sy'n rhoi inni nifer o syniadau am sut i dalu am y gwasanaethau yna yn y dyfodol, achos dyna un o'r problemau mawr y tu ôl i'r syniad mae Dr Lloyd wedi ei awgrymu—rŷn ni'n talu am y gwasanaeth iechyd mewn un ffordd, ond rŷn ni'n talu am ofal cymdeithasol mewn ffordd hollol wahanol. Ac mae'r syniadau yn adroddiad Gerry Holtham yn ein helpu ni i ailfeddwl am sut rŷn ni'n mynd i ffeindio'r arian i gael system newydd am ofal yn y gymuned yn y dyfodol. Rŷn ni wedi gwneud lot o'r gwaith yn fewnol am y syniadau yna cyn y coronafeirws, a dwi yn cytuno â Dr Lloyd fod y profiadau rŷn ni wedi'u cael wedi dangos unwaith eto taw sector bregus yw'r sector, ac mae nifer o bethau rŷn ni eisiau eu gwneud i gryfhau y system sydd gyda ni cyn yr hydref. Dŷn ni ddim wedi dweud eto, ond y tu ôl i bopeth rŷn ni fel Llywodraeth yn meddwl amdano yw'r posibiliad y bydd y coronafeirws yn dod nôl yn yr hydref. So, y peth i ni yn y tymor byr yw i feddwl am beth sydd wedi gweithio'n dda a beth fydd rhaid inni ei wneud cyn yr hydref.
Well, Chair, we have done a great deal of work within Government, before the coronavirus pandemic, to think about care and care in the community for the future. We've received a report from Professor Gerry Holtham, which provides us with a number of ideas as to how we can pay for services and fund services in the future, because that's one of the major problems underpinning the idea suggested by Dr Lloyd—we are paying for the health service in one way, but we're paying for social care in an entirely different way. And the ideas within the Gerry Holtham report assist us in reconsidering how we could find the funds to put a new care in the community system in place for the future. We've done a great deal of work internally on those ideas before the coronavirus pandemic, and I do agree with Dr Lloyd that the experience that we have had has highlighted once again that the sector is vulnerable, and there are a number of things that we want to do to strengthen the system that we have before the autumn. We haven't said this yet, but it's underpinning everything that we as a Government are considering—that there is that possibility, of course, of a second spike in the autumn. So, the most important for us in the short term is to think about what has worked well and what we will have to put in place before the autumn.
Chair, you know, three quarters of residential care homes in Wales have experienced no coronavirus at all, and not a single death from coronavirus. What we've learnt is is that once the virus gets into a residential care home, then you have a context in which the virus is really virulent: elderly people with pre-existing health conditions living very close to one another. So, one of the things that we are focused on is to learn how three quarters of homes succeeded in having no virus through the door at all, and what we can do to put more homes in that position for the future. Because prevention is very, very—as in many other contexts, but in this context particularly, preventing coronavirus from happening is much, much better than dealing with it once it has begun to circulate.
There are very active steps being taken to make sure we've learnt those lessons, put those safeguards in place, so that we can strengthen the sector for the immediate challenges that it may face over the months ahead, and then to look to ways in which we can rebalance the sector.
One of the things I've long believed is that the sector is unbalanced. It is essentially a private sector set of providers relying entirely in Wales, more or less, on public money for the businesses that they run, with not enough in the hands of not-for-profit providers. Sometimes, it's strengthening the capacity of local authorities themselves to be direct providers so we have a more balanced marketplace in this very important area. And there may be some possibilities that will come out of the last few months to allow us to do more in that space than we might have anticipated before coronavirus hit.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, First Minister. This week, for the first time since February, the Royal Gwent Hospital has had no confirmed cases of coronavirus. While this is really positive news, there's absolutely no room for complacency. I know that that's what the dedicated and hard-working loyal, heroic staff think too, and they've been on the front line of this since the very start and continue to be under a huge amount of pressure. We've heard in the health committee so much about the potential burn-out of staff in the coming weeks and months. How can the health and social care staff throughout Wales be supported through the next phase of coronavirus and throughout the recovery period?
I thank Jayne for that question, and am very pleased to hear her report from the Royal Gwent. I think Dr Goodall will be able to confirm that we don't have a case of coronavirus in the Hywel Dda health board at the moment. So, there are parts of Wales now that are becoming COVID-free. That is no guarantee that they will stay that way, because this is a virus that travels from one place to the other. And as we lift lockdown and people are able to travel more widely in Wales we just have to face the fact that those risks are likely to bring consequences, but consequences we have to find ways of managing successfully.
One of the key ways, Chair, that we are thinking about the well-being of our staff is in the way that we resume the more routine activity in the health service. We're doing that in a way that of course puts the needs of patients at the forefront, but also thinks about the astonishing period that our staff have lived through, and not expecting that they will be able to switch from full-on dealing with the coronavirus crisis to running the health service in the way that it was before coronavirus arrived. We will bring back activity across the range of the health service in a way that is manageable for staff, as well as prioritising those patients where the clinical need for services is greatest. And that is to make sure that our staff have a chance over the summer period to regroup, to take some leave. People need to be able to do that. The prospect is of a long, hard autumn and winter in which we could see coronavirus in rapid circulation again.
We have to take this opportunity to think about the welfare and well-being of our staff during the part of the year when coronavirus is in the lowest circulation that we have seen ever since the pandemic began, and allow this to be a period in which they too are able to regroup, to restore some well-being to them as well, so that they are fit to help us with the challenges that will lie ahead during the rest of this calendar year.
Thank you, Chair. In the health committee, we've heard some evidence around those who were asked to return to work and those who volunteered to come back from retirement, and how they weren't utilised and used as much as, perhaps, they could have been. When we're talking about mental health of staff, as well, and we know that that's going to be a continuous issue, is the Welsh Government looking to support staff through, perhaps, those volunteers and other people who'd returned to work who perhaps might be of an age themselves and can't go back into front-line work in the way that they would have done before? Is there a way to utilise those people who've come forward to perhaps support those staff through schemes like peer support, where they can utilise their experiences to support staff who work on the front line?
Well, Chair, that's very much part of the way we have thought of using the skills and abilities of people who have come back to work as a result of our call to them to help us through the crisis. We hope to be able to use these weeks, where the virus is not in such violent circulation, to allow those people to step back from some of the things we've asked them to do in case we need to call on them again later in the year.
But we have, I think, thought very carefully about how we could best deploy the contribution of those people. So, we have very positively, for example, advertised to returning nurses the possibility of going to support staff in care homes, where you're not expecting them to carry out a full day's work as though they were in their 20s or 30s but you are looking to them to use that experience to give confidence to people who maybe haven't faced these sorts of things in the past. And I spoke, myself, to a GP only a few weeks ago who had volunteered to come back into work, and he said to me that he thought the most valuable thing that he had done was to be able to stand alongside much younger colleagues who'd seen nothing like what they were being asked to deal with, and just draw on 40 years of having had to live through some pretty traumatic incidents over that career, and being able to draw on that to just be alongside, to be supportive, to give some comfort, sometimes, to people who are having to deal with things that they had never anticipated having to see in such sustained volumes at that point in their career. And deploying returning staff in that way, not, as I say, expecting them to be able to pick up a full clinical load of the sort they would at the height of their careers, but to use that experience to be able to support other people and to contribute to the well-being, dealing with the mental health impact of being at the very front line of a global pandemic—.
Thank you, Chair. It's just around key workers in terms of childcare. They have made a big impact, an incalculable impact, over this pandemic, and they will continue to, especially those working in the NHS and social care. I'm just wondering what Welsh Government can do to ensure that we give clarity and support and resources to local government to ensure that those families and those key workers who've played such a key role in this pandemic get that support in terms of childcare throughout this really difficult time and over the summer.
Well, Chair, conscious of time, I might simply say that we anticipate a written statement by the Welsh Government today setting out childcare arrangements over the summer, including some further financial assistance to local authorities to support them in the work that they will do in helping key workers over the period when schools will be closed. Teachers do themselves need to regroup and prepare for the autumn. It will be a different, more blended set of arrangements over the summer, but we will publish a written statement setting out the details of that later today.
Thank you very much. And, as ever, I'm sure there are never 60 minutes in our hours when we come to have scrutiny; we're moving on at such a pace. We've still got some really big issues that we want to cover around economy and around equalities and local government, so I'm going to have to ask for some brevity here or else we're not going to get everybody in. So, we'll move on to economy, infrastructure and skills. Russell George.
Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Bore da, First Minister. First Minister, the UK Government and the Welsh Government have given a great deal of financial support to support businesses during the pandemic, and I wonder if you could—. I'm conscious that a number of businesses and self-employed people have fallen through the gaps of support from either Government. I won't outline those gaps, because you'll know what those gaps are, but can I ask what consideration you've given to introducing a discretionary fund or a start-up bursary, and, if you have considered those potential funds, when might they start coming into place?
Thank you, Chair. Well, first of all, as I always do, I say how much we recognise the help that the UK Government has provided, how fast it was mobilised and the scale on which that help has been provided. It is inevitable, when you're doing things on that scale, that there will be some rough edges and not every gap will be covered. So, our £500 million economic resilience fund has always been targeted at filling the gaps in the UK Government's provision. We did announce money to help start-up businesses as part of the second phase of the ERF—£5 million specifically for start-ups who hadn't been covered by our first round or by the UK Government, expecting that to be able to offer around £2,500 to a large number of start-up businesses in Wales who weren't registered and therefore not capable of applying for UK Government help before—sorry, they were not registered after 1 April last year. I'm looking forward very much to being able to offer that assistance to that sector as a result of that announcement.
Thank you, First Minister. So, can I just ask whether you have considered a bursary or a discretionary fund following the second phase of the economic resilience fund?
As I say, I think we've produced a different solution. It isn't entirely discretionary; it will be rules based, because we are dealing with public money and, even at a time when we're trying to make sure we get that money out as fast as we can, we still have to have some checks and balances in the system to make sure that we can account for that money. The more discretionary you make a fund, the more opportunities there can be for people who are not bona fide—and there are people; most people who look to us for help are absolutely people who are in real difficulties and are as genuine as you will find—tolook for an opportunity to obtain money to which they would not be entitled. So, rather than a discretionary fund, ours is a rule-based fund, but we still think it will reach many hundreds, maybe even into thousands, of start-p businesses.
Thank you, First Minister. I appreciate what you say, and, of course, there's a limited pot of funding that can be available. So, turning to what support the Government could provide businesses, perhaps without a financial package attached to it, can I ask in regard to what consideration you've given to being more flexible in terms of planning and licensing and allowing businesses more flexibility in terms of opening hours and trading times? I'm particularly thinking of the example of the trading hours for supermarket delivery times, which you relaxed. What more can you do to give more flexibility to local authorities and to businesses to perhaps extend the summer season, and, of course, this will perhaps not have a financial package attached to it, but would be greatly supportive for businesses. I wonder what consideration you've given in that regard and when any change might happen.
Well, Dirprwy Lywydd, we are looking to see whether more flexibilities might be possible. For example, in the tourism industry, we know that the conditions under which some caravan parks, for example, operate are that they're required to be closed during two or three of the winter months, depending on the local arrangements. The sector are making the case to us, because they weren't able to operate in April and May, whether it would be possible for them to operate in December and January, where people might still, in the extraordinary circumstances of this year, be looking to spend some time away from home? So, we're very actively looking at that. We have, as Russell George said, deployed some flexibilities in other ways in removing some of the competition regulations to allow companies to co-operate more during the pandemic, and we will continue to allow those flexibilities for as long as they are necessary.
The licensing flexibilities will come to Wales because licensing is not devolved, and, when the Bill before the House of Commons reaches the statute book, a public house that has an alcohol licence for serving indoors will be able to passport that licence to serve outdoors, in the way that my colleague Eluned Morgan explained yesterday. But one area in which I think we are unlikely to follow what has been announced elsewhere is in—well, I'll put it the way that I feel about it, Dirprwy Lywydd—tearing up the planning book. Planning law is there to protect everybody, including existing residents and people who have rights that need to be respected. I don't anticipate that, in Wales, we will be removing those protections.
First Minister, you talked about extending the hospitality season. Can you put a timetable on that? When might we expect a decision in that regard, and in regard to what you referred to?
Dirprwy Lywydd, I've explained to the sector a couple of times that the timetable in many ways is in their hands more than mine, because we have agreed that self-contained accommodation can reopen from 13 July, including caravan parks, and then it is for the sector to make a success of that first move. There are many communities in Wales who are nervous about the return of outsiders or visitors to those parts of Wales that have seen very, very few visitors for many months now. Part of the reason we've agreed with the sector a step-by-step approach is to allow those communities to get used to seeing visitors again, once, as we now are able to confirm, the 'stay local' regulations will be lifted on Monday. Provided the sector is able to demonstrate to its local population and to the rest of us that it is able to reopen safely and with community consent, then that will accelerate our ability to offer them new flexibilities, but it has to be on the basis that that success has been demonstrated rather than we rely on assurances that we have had. As soon as we're able to see things happening in the way that I know the sector is very committed to happening, and we very much support them in those ambitions, then we will have the ground firm enough under our feet to offer further opportunities to the tourism sector, including being able to extend the season in ways that would not normally be available.
First Minister, you referred to discussing with the hospitality sector and you referred to the decisions being very much in their hands. Representatives from the tourism and hospitality sector came to give evidence to the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee yesterday afternoon, and what they said is that Wales needs a national recovery plan led not from themselves, but from either the Welsh Government or tourism Wales. That's what they suggested. Do you agree with them in regard to a national recovery plan, and, if you do, when might that come forward, and, if you don't, why not?
Well, they have the elements of a national recovery plan already being agreed with them. We have agreed the first steps. That will begin, actually, on Monday of next week, when outdoor attractions will reopen and day visitors will be able to return to the tourism economy. It will be followed on 13 July by the reopening of self-contained accommodation. And we are in discussions with the sector. Leaders of the sector and the group that meets every week to advise the Welsh Government are very much involved in putting together the plans for further reopening, provided it is able to be done successfully. That is the national plan for Wales, Dirprwy Lywydd. It is a step-by-step approach to reopening our economy in which we put the public health lens at the forefront of everything we do, and, as soon as we are confident that we have the headroom to do so and the plans in place to reopen safely, that we reopen more and more of the economy. That is the plan that we are following, and the detail of it in different sectors is worked out with the sector itself.
I think, First Minister, the hospitality sector, in giving evidence, were talking about a longer term plan. You're talking about plans in the short term, which I understand, but they're specifically asking for a longer term plan—a Welsh national recovery plan for the longer term for the hospitality and tourism sector. Is that something that you're willing to consider?
Well, Dirprwy Lywydd, of course I'm prepared to consider anything that people from the sectors that we work closely with put to us. I hear often demands, both from political colleagues and others, for certainty from the Welsh Government, but as I've explained many times, certainty in an inherently uncertain world isn't something that you can give with any reliability. I don't know what the state of coronavirus in Wales will be in another three weeks' time, let alone another three months' time. Our chief medical officer provides very sobering advice about the risks of a second wave in the autumn and the winter, so while I'm very happy to work with all sectors to try and give them as much assurance as we can, we are peering into a glass very darkly here, and I don't think it's helpful for me to offer a spurious certainty to any sector by pretending that we or they can know what the autumn and the winter will bring us. Jeremy may want to say something about the work that we are doing in relation to the longer term future, but I'm afraid that the state of the virus and the state of our knowledge of what it might be like during the rest of this calendar year mean that a step-by-step approach to planning and doing things in a way that we can all be confident will not damage the health of the public has to be the way ahead.
Thank you, Chair. One of the things that the First Minister has asked me to do is to help get a cross-Government picture of what the landscape is that lies ahead of us. In doing so, I've been convening a series of round-table discussions with various experts, commentators and others in Wales and beyond, and I would commend some of the reports of some of those round-tables to Russell George and the economy committee. I think there are some interesting and quite challenging reflections in some of the things that we've heard. But to echo the point that the First Minister made, the consistent theme, I think, is that whereas in the very broad strokes it's possible to make some sensible hypotheses about some sectors that are more or less likely to be adversely impacted, an awful lot of the specific analysis that one would want to base policy on is at the moment just too uncertain.
In terms of the sectoral impact in particular—. It's pretty obvious in terms of cohorts of individuals which cohorts are most likely to be adversely affected: women and young people are overrepresented in sectors that have been locked down, for example, and there's a particular responsibility, then, that flows from that. But in terms of the sectoral distribution, we're contending with the impacts of COVID on the one hand, but then on the other hand also the impact of leaving the transition period at the end of this year, and there's a sort of grim complementarity, really, between sectors impacted adversely by one and sectors impacted adversely by another, really. And some, unfortunately—automotive and aerospace—are impacted by the two. So the task at the moment is to try and bring that learning together about the impact, that combined, conjoined impact, of those enormous events, if you like, in understanding how best Government can support sectors and individuals into the future.
The thrust of the discussions so far from those round-tables has been that the sorts of business support that Government offers, which encourages innovation, decarbonisation, fair work and research investment, those remain the right sorts of interventions, but a focus on human capital and investment in skills, and so on, is a principal consideration, really. I think, if you have an opportunity to look at those reports, there are some interesting challenges, I think, for all of us and some of our preconceptions about what might lie ahead, but also, bluntly, some challenges to spot the opportunities as well, if you like.
So, some sectors, like manufacturing, have developed in the last few weeks, as we know, opportunities to develop new product lines in support of NHS care and other workers in personal protective equipment, and so on, and the Government itself has learned to work in a way perhaps that is more agile in supporting some of that transformation. So, there are some positives from there as well, which it is incumbent, I think, on us all to try and build upon, but I would encourage anyone who hasn't had a look yet at those reports to do so—they cover a range of areas, and the economy is obviously a principal focus.
Yes, that's fine. Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and I will look at those reports that the Counsel General mentions ahead of the Minister, Ken Skates, coming to committee the week after next. I'll roll my last question into two parts if that's all right, Deputy Presiding Officer.
A couple of transport-related points. Obviously, capacity is an issue for public transport; we'll all be aware of that. There's been a historic lack of rolling stock in Wales, and I wonder what work has taken place to accelerate new rolling stock coming on track, and when we might see that happening.
Secondly, in regard to the bus emergency scheme in the statement that you issued yesterday, clearly, there's—. Well, the industry, I think, have been quite critical of the Welsh Government in terms of wanting some detail on support for the industry, but the statement, all very well in itself, it's a good step forward, but there's no funding attached in the short term or the long term that the statement mentioned yesterday. So, I'm wondering what you could say in terms of providing assurance for funding attached to the plan that you announced.
In relation to the rolling stock, I'm not aware of any changes to our plans to bring new rolling stock into being in Wales. The Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles factory in Newport has continued in operation during the pandemic, and we look forward very much to the industry delivering the rolling stock that has long been on order from some companies, and has been very slow indeed to be delivered.
The pressures on public transport in Wales are more on the bus side than on trains at present. Train travel remains at a very low ebb as people continue to have anxieties about using public transport, but bus services, as you would have seen from Lee Waters's statement, three out of every four journeys on public transport are made by bus in Wales. I will be disappointed if the industry didn't recognise the enormous public subsidy that is being put today into keeping bus services running. Again, these are privately owned companies, but without public money they wouldn't be businesses at all. Every time somebody gets on a bus in Wales at the moment, it costs the public purse £30 to subsidise every journey that is made. That tells you something about the extraordinary impact that coronavirus has had.
The bus emergency scheme that was set out in that document does have funding behind it for the next three months, to make sure that we continue to provide that level of public support to an industry on which so many people in Wales rely to be able to get to work and, as the economy begins to recover, so the need for bus services, a fundamental enabler of that resumed economy. We will use that three months, as the written statement said, to work with the industry to make sure that the public get a greater return on the investment that is being made on their behalf, so that we can be more confident that the level of public money that is provided to the industry results in an industry that works to the public's advantage.
Thank you. I have got a number of people who want to speak in this, but I'm going to ask you for one question each. I'm going to bring in Mike Hedges because he said he will do his environment question now, so that will take another one out. And we're running into the last half hour, so just be aware of the time. Mike.
Diolch. A lack of food processing capacity is a problem in Wales. There's very much of the raw food material going to England to be processed and to have value added to it, rather than it being processed in Wales. Twenty years ago, I tried to convince the Welsh Government of the benefits of developing the Felindre site as a food processing site, bringing in lots of different companies to process food from Glamorgan, Powys and Carmarthenshire, which were very much on its doors, as well as Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, which were just out of the area. Will the Welsh Government look at that as a proposal?
Well, Dirprwy Lywydd, I'm afraid, I'm not aware of that proposal specifically, but very grateful if Mike Hedges would be able to provide some further detail of it. I definitely, though, agree with his general proposition that adding value to the extraordinarily good food that is produced here, in Wales, has to be a very important part of the future of that sector. It's why, for example, that we invest in schemes like Food Innovation Wales: a sector-led scheme, together with experts in our further education and higher education sectors, designed to help those primary producers to do more to convert the food that they produce through processing into value added products that can then be sold. And I'm very happy to look at the specific idea that Mike Hedges has proposed this morning.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Thank you. First Minister, you obviously will be very well aware that there are some businesses, and I'm thinking particularly of some in the hospitality sector, but certainly the cultural sector, things like theatres, cinemas, music venues, that are unlikely to be able to reopen in the short term and, even if they are able to reopen, because of social distancing, they are unlikely to be able to reopen profitably, because they won't be able to have large enough audiences in. It's ironic, I suppose, that the crisis has affected some of those of our cultural organisations that have more effectively been able to create more commercial income, which is what, of course, we've been asking them to do. I'm sure the First Minister and the Counsel General will agree with me that Wales has traditionally punched above its weight in the cultural sector and that our cultural businesses are very important in presenting Wales to the world, and hopefully, in our own recovery from the crisis.
So, if I can ask you two specific questions about that. One is about ongoing support for those in the creative sector who are self-employed, our freelancers. Some of them have been helped, but may need longer term help. And, of course, that's a very mobile workforce, and if we lose them at this time, they may very well not come back. And the other question is about longer term support for some of the important cultural venues, and that's the big theatres as well, but also smaller music venues. Is the Government giving consideration to what longer term support may be needed by those institutions? Because I'm sure that you'd agree with me that if we lose them, that will have a real impact on our ability to build back.
Well, thank you to Helen Mary Jones for that. I agree with everything she said in her preamble. The cultural industries in Wales have been at the forefront of what makes Wales what it is today and the face that Wales turns to the world. I worry as much about this sector as any other in the Welsh economy, because the impact of coronavirus on it is not a short-term impact. I worry hugely about tourism, but we've at least been able to do some things to help the tourism sector to recover in this season, whereas the opportunities for arts venues to reopen are not on the immediate horizon at all.
Our colleague Dafydd Elis-Thomas published a written statement on all of this on 26 June, setting out the help that we have provided already, including a focus on freelancers and what we're able to do. But this is an area where the UK Government really does have to step up to the plate. We just don't have the firepower in the Welsh Government to support a whole sector who are not going to be able to resume work in the ways that others are going to be able to. So, our efforts have been focused on trying to persuade the UK Government that its self-employed income support scheme as well as the job retention scheme have to be regarded not as blunt instruments that will be turned off right across the economy, but as things that need to be calibrated, so they continue to support those parts of the economy that will not be able to resume, not just in the weeks ahead, but probably in the months ahead. That is the way in which individual workers are best supported, and that, as a results some of our larger venues can be supported as well. But of course we continue to be in regular consultation with the arts council. The £8 million—sorry, £7 million, I think it was—arts resilience fund, alongside the £8 million for the sports council, are part of the support we are offering to that sector, and we will go on thinking hard about the part we can play, but our part will not do what the sector needs if it is not accompanied by a continuation of a calibrated and focused sector-specific set of arrangements from the UK Government to support these vital industries.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. First Minister, restaurants, cafes and pubs are vulnerable at the very best of times, with 30 per cent closures or change of ownership in the first year. With social distancing in place, it will be difficult, particularly those with smaller premises, to meet their financial obligations. Some do not have outside space, and those that do are dependent on the weather. So, those who have turned to takeaway are also dependent on people queueing outside, and therefore the weather. Our town centres need these businesses to survive, so as Wales begins to recover, could you tell me what support is available for this sector in the short, medium and long term? Diolch yn fawr.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Well, in the short run, the sector has benefitted very significantly from the help that the Welsh Government has made available through small business rate relief and through the UK Government's job retention scheme. In the immediate future, then, our support to the sector is to support it in reopening, and to reopen in a way that puts its public health obligations alongside its financial obligations. Nothing would be worse for the sector than that it would reopen in a way that would cause damage to the health of the public. There will already be anxiety on the part of many, many people in returning to cafes, restaurants and bars, and I don't think we will necessarily see a huge rush of people back to those venues. What people will be looking to see is that they are open successfully and that they are run in a way that delivers on the mitigating measures that the sector has agreed with the Welsh Government and which need to be in place in order to allow for self-opening. In the same way as I described with the tourism sector, the early weeks are about establishing confidence in the minds of the public, and in the minds of those of us in the Senedd who make the decisions about the rules for reopening, that the sector is reopening in a way that observes all the things it needs to observe in order to be able to reopen safely. If we're able to demonstrate that, then more will be able to follow, provided we keep coronavirus under control. But it is in the interests of the sector to do these things in a way that gives confidence to people that these are safe places to visit, that you'll be able to go and enjoy yourself and have the great experience that is available in so many hospitality venues in Wales, but to do it in the new ways that operating in a coronavirus context demands of us all.
Thank you, First Minister. I believe we've lost the Chair's connection temporarily. She was intending to move to John Griffiths next.
Okay. Diolch yn fawr. First Minister, we've discussed a number of times the way that the pandemic has put inequalities in Wales into stark relief—pre-existing inequalities—but with a fresh degree of suffering through the pandemic, so inequalities of social class, of ethnicity, of disability and gender. I think there is quite a powerful feeling that we have to get some positives as we come through this pandemic and amidst the misery that's involved we have to find better ways of organising ourselves and better ways of doing things. I know Jeremy Miles is taking forward work in this area. I wonder whether you or Jeremy might be able to say a little bit about the process, because there are so many groups on the ground working in Wales in dealing with these inequalities—they really need to have a strong say if we are going to organise ourselves better and make the necessary improvements.
Well, providing it's technically possible, I'll go to Jeremy to answer some of this, but just to assure John Griffiths that our colleague Jane Hutt, who leads on equalities for the Welsh Government, has been indefatigable in the level of contact that she has had with those organisations in Wales over the whole of the pandemic. Only last night I received a note from her of her meeting yesterday with a disability forum here in Wales, and that is just one example of the ways in which she has worked tirelessly to make sure that the views of those people at the sharp end of disadvantage in Wales have been able to talk directly to the Welsh Government through the whole of this pandemic.
But John's question was about the underlying way in which we're approaching the issue of inequality and to try to get something positive out of this experience, and I'll ask Jeremy just to come in on that, if I can.
Thank you, First Minister. One of the key themes in the work that I've been leading relates to the impact in terms of inequalities and equalities of COVID on our communities, and as I mentioned earlier, there are clearly particular groups in Wales who are particularly adversely affected, and the reason for that is principally because COVID has had the effect of exacerbating pre-existing inequalities, effectively, whether that's in the black, Asian, minority ethnic community, whether it's people with disability, and there's a gender dimension that is very strong here, and also a very, very strong inter-generational dimension as well. And that's been very evident in the work that I've been doing. Clearly, it's incumbent, therefore, in the response to COVID to have that particularly in mind and that our reaction and next steps aren't a question, as it were, of returning to normality, because for an awful lot of people in the groups that we've just been describing, normality wasn't that great a deal anyway and the task is to reconstruct in a way that addresses those inequalities fundamentally.
In terms of engagement, which John Griffiths's question was targeting, I think, specifically, as the First Minister said, I've had the opportunity of attending a number of the forums alongside Jane Hutt—that she's been convening in order to discuss issues around the cross-Government work in this area. I just want to be really clear that the work I'm leading isn't instead of the work that the Government does in these areas on a day-by-day basis—it's in addition to that, really, and it draws on the mature and well-functioning, I would say, network of stakeholder relationships that the Government has, and we want to continue to make use of those so that we get the sorts of on-the-ground experience and the lived experience that, John, your question was identifying.
One of the means by which we've been informing our position as a Government in relation to our work in this area, alongside the round-table work that I mentioned, which I was keen to ensure had a range of voices and reflected the diverse communities of Wales, is we've also issued an invitation and a call to action, if you like, to people in Wales to contribute directly to the process through e-mailing their proposals and suggestions to a dedicated e-mail address. And we've had, I think, over 1,000 submissions, the last time I looked, which was about a week or so ago, which, actually, in quite a short period of time, as you will appreciate, is a very large number indeed.
So, we're really keen to make sure that the work is informed not only by the work of people who find it easy to speak with us but the work and experience of people who may not always have that direct link. So, I'm keen to encourage that and I'm keen to invite Members to do what they feel happy to do to encourage that as well.
Thank you. I apologise for that. My broadband crashed out there, so thank you for doing that. I'm going to move on to finance, if I can, because we have about 10 minutes left before the First Minister has to go. So, finance and public accounts, and then I think what we'll do, if that's okay with you, First Minister, is the rest of the questions that we had we'll send to you, and we'll ask for you to respond to those. So, if I can go to Llyr Gruffydd, please. Llyr.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Mae'r argyfwng mae'r Prif Weinidog wedi tynnu sylw ato, wrth gwrs, yr issue systemig o ran y cyfathrebu rhwng Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig a Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyhoeddi polisïau arfaethedig ac wedyn, wrth gwrs, o safbwynt cyllid—ar y cyllid sy'n dod i Gymru sy'n gysylltiedig ag efallai penderfyniadau sy’n effeithio ar Loegr—allwch chi ddweud wrthon ni pa wersi ydych chi'n credu sydd wedi'u dysgu o hynny, a pha newidiadau ydych chi am weld yn cael eu gwneud i wella'r berthynas rynglywodraethol yna wrth inni symud ymlaen?
Thank you, Chair. This crisis, First Minister, has highlighted a systemic issue in terms of the communication between the UK Government and the Welsh Government, in terms of the announcement of the proposed policy and in terms of finance and the finances that come to Wales arising from decisions affecting England. So, can you tell is what lessons you think have been learned from that, and what changes would you like to see made in order to improve those inter-governmental relations as we move forward?
Diolch, Cadeirydd. So, y wers dwi'n tynnu mas o'r profiad rŷn ni wedi ei gael yw pwysigrwydd rhoi'r berthynas rhyngom ni a Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig mewn ffordd sydd yn fwy dibynadwy nag y mae wedi bod yn ystod y cyfnod. So, pan rydyn ni wedi cael cyfleon i siarad â'r Gweinidogion yn San Steffan, ar y cyfan mae'r trafodaethau wedi bod yn dda, wedi bod yn adeiladol, ac rŷn ni wedi gwneud penderfyniadau gwell trwy gael y cyfleon yna. Ond dyw'r cyfleon ddim yn dod aton ni mewn ffordd ddibynadwy, ac ambell waith mae wythnosau yn mynd cyn cael y cyfle i drafod pethau. So, beth dwi eisiau ei weld, fel dwi wedi dweud fwy nag unwaith, yw system lle gallwn fod yn glir beth sydd yn y dyddiadur, mewn ffordd sy'n regular, reliable and has a rhythm to it. So, dyna fe; rydw i wedi ei ddweud e unwaith eto, ac os rŷn ni'n gallu cael system fel yna, y pwynt i fi yw bod y penderfyniadau rŷn ni i gyd yn eu gwneud yn benderfyniadau gwell trwy y broses o rannu gwybodaeth, trafod pethau a deall safbwynt pobol eraill sydd â chyfrifoldebau am y Deyrnas Unedig mewn llefydd eraill o'r Deyrnas Unedig.
A'r wers arall, Cadeirydd, yw un rŷn ni wedi ei thynnu dros y blynyddoedd am fformiwla Barnett. Mae fformiwla Barnett wedi gweithio, ond dydy'r fformiwla ddim yn addas am y dyfodol, ac rŷn ni wedi gweld hynny yn ystod y pandemig hefyd.
Thank you, Chair. The lesson that I've drawn out of our experience is the importance of placing the relationship between ourselves and the UK Government on a more reliable foundation than it has been during this period. So, when we've had opportunities to have discussions with Ministers in Westminster, generally speaking those discussions have been positive and constructive, and we have made better decisions as a result of having those opportunities. But those opportunities don't arise in a reliable way, and on occasion weeks can pass before we have an opportunity to discuss these issues. So, what I want to see, as I have said more than once, is a system whereby we can be clear what is diarised, and that it is regular, reliable and has a rhythm to it. So, I've said that once again now, and if we can have such a system in place, then the important thing for me is that the decisions that we all make are better decisions because of that process of information sharing, of discussion and understanding the views of others who have responsibilities for the UK in other parts of the UK.
And the other lesson, Chair, is one that we have been discussing over the years on the Barnett formula. The Barnett formula has worked, but it is not fit for purpose for the future, and we have seen that clearly during the pandemic too.
A jest yn fyr, gyda chyfnod pontio'r Undeb Ewropeaidd yn dod i ben, mae yna ansicrwydd pellach, wrth gwrs, nawr i lawer o sectorau'r economi, fel y dywedoch chi yn eich sylwadau agoriadol ar ddechrau'r cyfarfod. Pa hyblygrwydd, felly, sydd gennych chi yn eich cyllideb i ddelio gyda'r gwahanol senarios posib? Ac a allwch chi jest sôn yn fyr am y rôl yn amlwg a fydd gan y Gweinidog cyllid yn hynny o beth, ond hefyd y berthynas wedyn gyda'r Cwnsler Cyffredinol, wrth inni edrych ar wneud penderfyniadau ynglŷn â dyraniadau cyllid wrth ymateb i'r gwahanol senarios yma?
And just very briefly, with the EU transition period coming to an end, there is now greater uncertainty for many sectors of the economy, as you said in your opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting. So, what flexibility do you have within your budget to deal with the various possible scenarios? And can you just speak briefly about the role that the finance Minister will have in that regard, but also the relationship with the Counsel General, as we seek to make decisions on funding allocations in responding to these various scenarios?
Wel, Gadeirydd, does dim lot o hyblygrwydd gyda ni o gwbl, ac, wrth gwrs, does dim cyllid gyda ni o gwbl ar ôl y flwyddyn ariannol bresennol. So, dyma ni ym mis Gorffennaf, a dŷn ni ddim yn gwybod dim byd am y cyllid fydd gyda ni ym mis Ebrill y flwyddyn nesaf. So, ar hyn o bryd, coronafeirws yw ein blaenoriaeth ni, ac rŷn ni wedi defnyddio'r arian newydd sydd gyda ni i helpu'r sectorau rŷn ni wedi clywed amdanynt trwy'r sesiwn y bore yma.
Mae ffordd ar gael i osgoi'r broblem, a'r ffordd yw mynd nôl i siarad â'r bobl yn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, i gael mwy o amser i wneud y trafodaethau ac i gynllunio i ddod mas o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd mewn ffordd sy'n gwarchod ein heconomi ni yma yng Nghymru a dros y Deyrnas Unedig i gyd. A dyna lle gallai'r hyblygrwydd ddod, trwy ymestyn yr amserlen, achos does dim Llywodraeth ledled yr Undeb Ewropeaidd nac yma yn y Deyrnas Unedig sydd â'r capasiti i ddelio ar yr un amser â'r argyfwng yn y maes iechyd a gyda Brexit hefyd. So, gallaf i fynd draw i Jeremy jest i esbonio sut mae ef wedi gweithio gyda Rebecca Evans, ond yr ateb cyffredinol yw does dim lot o hyblygrwydd gyda ni yn y cyllid; does dim cyllid gyda ni. Mae'r hyblygrwydd yn gallu dod, ond yn nwylo'r Deyrnas Unedig y mae hwnna.
Well, Chair, we don't have much flexibility at all, and we don't have any guarantees of funding after the current financial year. So, here we are in July, and we know nothing about the budget that we're likely to have in April of next year. So, at the moment, coronavirus is our priority, and we have used the new funding available to us to assist those sectors that we have been discussing throughout this morning's session.
Now, there is a means to avoid this problem, and that is to return to negotiations with the European Union, so that we have more time for those negotiations and to plan for our exit in a way that safeguards our economy here in Wales and across the UK. So, that's where the flexibility could be, in extending the timetable, because there is no Government anywhere in the EU or the UK with the capacity to deal with the health crisis that we're currently facing and with Brexit simultaneously. So, if I could ask Jeremy just to explain how he will be working with Rebecca Evans, but the more general response to your question, Chair, is that we don't have much flexibility in the funding; we don't have funding. The flexibility could be provided, but that's in the hands of the UK Government.
Jest i ddweud wrth Llyr Gruffydd, mae'r berthynas rhyngof fi a'r Gweinidog cyllid yn y maes hwn yn un agos wrth gwrs. Rŷn ni'n gweithio ar y cyd wrth edrych ar yr un llaw ar y gofynion cyllidebol, ac wedyn, ar y llaw arall, ar y darlun sy'n datblygu o ran anghenion yn y dyfodol i sicrhau bod y ddau beth hynny'n cydlynu ac yn cydweithio mewn ffordd sydd rhyngom ni yn dryloyw. Hefyd, roedden ni'n cydweithio ar y broses greiddiol o gael perswâd ar y cyllidebau ar draws y Llywodraeth i greu'r gronfa ar ddechrau'r broses hon. Ond, jest er mwyn rhoi sicrwydd i Llyr, mae cydlynu agos rhwng y ddau ohonom ni ar y ffactorau sydd yn dod ag impact ar y gyllideb ar yr un llaw, ac ar ddatblygu'r darlun cydlynu ar draws y Llywodraeth yn y dyfodol.
If I could just respond to Llyr Gruffydd by saying that the relationship between myself and the finance Minister is very close. We work jointly in looking on the one hand at the budgetary requirements, and then, on the other, at the emerging picture in terms of future needs, in order to ensure that both of those things co-ordinate and work in a transparent manner. Also, we collaborated on that core issue on getting agreement on budgets across Government in order to create the fund needed at the beginning of this process. But, just to give Llyr an assurance, there is close co-ordination between the two of us on those factors that have an impact on the budget on the one hand, and on developing the co-ordination across Government for the future also.
Mae hynny i'r dim, diolch yn fawr, gan fod amser yn brin.
That's fine, thank you, as time is short.
Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I'll keep my questions concise. First Minister, during a Public Accounts Committee meeting with Andrew Slade, the director general of the economy, we heard that a number of staff, or many staff, who'd been working on Brexit had been transferred to deal with the COVID crisis. Are you confident that the Welsh Government has the staffing resources and expertise to support both Wales's recovery from COVID and oversee our exit from the EU?
Well, Cadeirydd, as I said in my opening remarks, the Welsh Government has been as much affected by the coronavirus crisis as any other public sector organisation, and we have had to move key staff from any number of previous responsibilities—I mentioned the justice responsibilities earlier—to deal with coronavirus, and the burden has fallen on a reasonably small number of people to deal with the enormously challenging issues that we have faced. Our ambition is, provided coronavirus remains under control, to be able to release people back from some of those duties to resume the important other work, and nothing is more pressing for us over the autumn than to deal with the impact of leaving the European Union. But I don't want to say in any glib way to Nick Ramsay that we can be completely confident of that, because if coronavirus were to come back again in the autumn, then we will be very stretched indeed. And as I said in my answer to Llyr Gruffydd, the real way to respond to that is not to allow these two things to happen at the same time, and simply by a simple request to extend the transition period, not because it makes any difference to the fundamental decision—we're leaving the European Union—but to make up for the time that all Governments across Europe have not been able to spend focusing on that issue and to allow the Welsh economy not to face the impact of coronavirus and the impact of leaving the European Union simultaneously.
Yes. Lockdown restrictions in Wales have been eased at a slower rate than in England, yet Welsh businesses rely on UK Government financial support schemes. How is the First Minister proposing to support Welsh businesses if the UK Government financial support schemes are withdrawn before business as usual in Wales?
Well, it's an important point that the Member raises. The Prime Minister has always said that he understands that things will need to be done at different paces in different parts of the United Kingdom. We have reopened schools where they're not reopened in England, so there's an example of where we have done things more quickly than any other part of the United Kingdom. It would not be an encouraging lesson for those of us who are interested in a successful future for the United Kingdom if we were obliged to make decisions in Wales because decisions made at a UK level constrained unfairly our ability to make decisions in a way that is right for Wales.
Okay, thanks very much. I will apologise to those committee members who haven't been able to ask their questions. But, thank you, First Minister—I think we're just on 11 o'clock and I do know that you have to go and prepare for your press conference. So, thank you very much for coming. As usual, you'll get a note of the meeting to look at for accuracy.
Also, we're going to go into private now to consider. So, those questions that we didn't reach, if we could send you a list or at least send you a way in which we could have some answers to those, that would help us to continue to push our—
—well, to help you to recover from this pandemic. So, thank you to you and your officials, and to Jeremy Miles for coming.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
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.
If committee is happy, I propose, under Standing Order 17.42—it's a long time since we've said that one, as well—to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. So, if everybody's happy with that, we're going to go into private. Okay, thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:01.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:01.