Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd

Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd

13/10/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

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

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Andy Falleyn Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr yr Is-adran Cyflenwi Seilwaith, Llywodraeth Cymru
Deputy Director Infrastructure Delivery, Welsh Government
Ken Skates AM Gweinidog yr Economi, Trafnidiaeth a Gogledd Cymru
Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

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 09:16.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:16. 

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

Good morning. Bore da. Welcome to the Petitions Committee. Before the meeting starts, it's with regret that I have to make a short statement about recent events relating to this committee. I'm aware of comments that were made on social media by a member of this committee following the previous meeting. These related to a particular interpretation of a private conversation that took place during an unplanned technical break on an issue that was not under discussion by the committee at that meeting. I consider this to be wholly inappropriate and factually incorrect. I wish to make it clear to all members of this committee that it is my expectation as the Chair that any contents of private discussions held during committee meetings should not be recorded outside of the committee, and I will consider any future instances of this as a matter of order. This committee has always operated on the principles of agreement and consensus wherever possible, and I am becoming increasingly concerned that some of the behaviour inside and outside of committee meetings could have the ability to undermine the functions of this meeting. Thank you.

So, this public session of the meeting will be broadcast live. Microphones will be controlled centrally by the broadcasting team. Members will need to approve changes made centrally to their microphone status using the on-screen prompts.

So, I welcome everyone again to this virtual meeting of the Petitions Committee. 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 available. 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, no apologies have been received.

2. Deisebau newydd Covid-19
2. New COVID-19 Petitions

We move straight on to new COVID-19 petitions. Item 2.1, P-05-997, 'Give Citizens of Wales use and access to the German Track and Trace APP! We can't wait for England!'

The petition was submitted by Thomas Rex, having collected 62 signatures.

Sorry, Neil. I'm moving on with the agenda.

'The UK Government have wasted £12 million on developing a Trace and Trace APP and it is no where near ready.

'Sir Kier Starmer at Prime Ministers Questions cited a German APP which is ready and in use. As we are still part of the EU it should meet GDPR requirements.

'The App will allow Wales to control Covid in a targeted way.'

Now, a response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 2 October. The petitioner has been offered the opportunity to provide additional comments on several occasions, but has not done so. How would Members like to take this forward? Members? Hello, can people hear me? 

09:20

Janet, I'm signalling with my hand up, can you not see?

No, you're just a blank—. Ah, I've got you now. Your picture's come on now. I think there's some freezing going on of other Members. Leanne, go ahead.

I was just going to say that this petition was obviously compiled and circulated prior to the Government's app being launched on 24 September. Now, it may well be that the app that we're currently using is not as good as the German app, I don't know. But it's not going to be realistic to think that there are going two apps being run now. So, given that the petitioner hasn't come back with any further information, I think we can just accept that time has passed and the issue has moved on, and this petition can, I think, be closed now. 

Okay. Any other points from any other Members? I think we have a technical fault. 

Ah, yes, I can hear you now, but your screen has frozen. 

Oh, I'm not too sure—. Just to say, Chair, I fully support Leanne—Leanne's call to—.

You're okay again now. Thank you. All of the Members, yes? Okay. Now, Clerk, am I correct, we now go into a break?

Yes, I think, Chair, as—we were intending to do some petitions before an evidence session at 09:30, but as you're experiencing technical problems, then we could break now and see if we can fix those in the interim.

Okay. So, to any members of the public watching, we'll be back shortly, and we will be taking evidence from the Minister as part of our committee proceedings today. Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:22 a 09:32.

The meeting adjourned between 09:22 and 09:32.

09:30
3. Sesiwn Tystiolaeth - P-05-886 Stopio'r Llwybr Coch (coridor yr A55 A494)
3. Evidence Session - P-05-886 Stop the Red Route (A55/A494 corridor)

Good morning, again. We have experienced some technical difficulties today, and in the event that those happen again, I would ask Jack Sargeant to take over as Chair of the committee for today.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Minister, Ken Skates, and his officials to this meeting. We go straight into questions and I'm going to start with the questions. Minister, can you hear me okay?

I can hear you loud and clear, Chair, thank you.

Thank you. Can the Minister provide an overview of the development of the scheme today and outline the remaining stages of the process and likely timings? When is the public inquiry likely to take place?

Thanks, Chair. I'm joined, as you say, today, by Andy Falleyn, who heads up roads within Welsh Government roads policy and delivery. I'm really pleased to be able to join you today—thanks for the opportunity.

I should say from the outset that the proposal is not, as some people believe, a road-based solution to congestion for the benefit of private car users, private vehicle users. This scheme was developed alongside what we called the north-east Wales area based transport study. That essentially became known as metro, and the red route is an integral part of metro; it's designed to liberate road space for public transport.

If the red route is stopped, essentially and effectively, metro is stopped, and with it we will see a reduction in the proportion of people using public transport—10 per cent by 2037; we will see a continuation for people living between Shotwick and Northop of the poisoning through excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide; and we will see a vast increase in the number of cars and HGVs using that existing route—it's estimated that it could rise by as much as 20 per cent to 30 per cent between now and 2037. So, this is an essential programme of work to deliver the north Wales metro vision.

Corderoy are being supported by Capita; they were appointed as technical advisers back in July of last year, and their support will include providing environmental, sustainability, technical and commercial advice. We're programmed to award a contract for a designer, along with an environmental specialist, in the spring of next year. That will be important in terms of delivering the environmental impact assessment. We had hoped to go out to public information events in the spring of this year, but, obviously, because of coronavirus we were unable to do that. So, we've sent out—hopefully all Members will have received it—the stakeholder briefing note; it went to MSs and MPs in September. That also went to Flintshire County Council—we've asked for it to be circulated amongst members—and to town and community councils. And it's also gone to landowners and to stakeholders.

As soon as we're able to safely hold public information events, we hope to do so, and environmental investigations are going to be taking place this autumn, particularly in the wooded area, which I know is of great concern to the people who've signed this petition. A public inquiry is likely and that's likely to take place in the summer of 2023, and then dependent on the outcome of the inquiry, construction could begin in late 2024.

09:35

Thank you. Now, the fact that the scheme was assessed using 2008 Welsh transport appraisal guidance that predates the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, how does the Minister respond to the petitioners' suggestion that the scheme should now be assessed in accordance with the latest WelTAG guidance?

Okay. Well, a few important points on this. First of all, WelTAG 2017 is an evolution of WelTAG 2008, and within the supplementary guidance of WelTAG 2017 it clearly states that on transitional arrangements, schemes that are being taken forward through WelTAG 2008 should move across to WelTAG 2017 at an appropriate point in their development; they shouldn't have to go right back to the beginning. And that's very clear in that supplementary guidance for WelTAG 2017. So, moving on to the next stage of the development of this scheme, WelTAG 2017 is going to be used to make a full and detailed assessment of the Flintshire corridor at stage 3 and that aligns perfectly with the WelTAG 2017 supplementary guidance. 

I think it should also be noted, Chair, that whilst the transport planning objectives for the study were produced in 2010, and that was prior to the well-being of future generations Act, they have been reviewed, they will be reviewed to ensure that they comply with the Act. 

Morning, Chair. Morning, committee. It's Andy Falleyn here. Just to add a little bit of flesh to what the Minister's saying, the next stage of this scheme development is extremely important. Once we have done environmental surveys, once we have designers appointed, we will then be analysing the scheme in great detail, subject to scrutiny at the public inquiry. And that public inquiry will analyse all aspects of the project and all aspects of the scheme, going forward. It'll analyse and scrutinise the environmental impacts of the projects and the mitigation measures that we would develop for the scheme. It will analyse traffic forecasting, going forward. I think the important thing and possibly to understand is that that process will be aligned to WelTAG 2017, but it will be subject to public scrutiny, it will be subject to development in conjunction with the local community and stakeholders.

So, I just wanted to make that point that, by the time we arrive at a public inquiry, which undoubtedly there will be in a project of this nature, we will have had to demonstrate and be prepared for scrutiny on all these important aspects that are being raised in the petition. Thank you.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Bore da, Minister. You mentioned that some of the environmental investigations are going to be starting this autumn. I wonder if you can provide details of when the assessments will be undertaken and actually published.

Sure. Thanks, Leanne. You're right: the environmental surveys are going to commence in the autumn and there will be investigations taking place. And then, following the appointment of designers and environmental specialists in the spring of next year, they'll undertake a full environmental impact assessment, and that'll be in full accordance with EC directives. Then, the EIA will be formally reported in an environmental statement. That'll be published at the same time as the draft orders and it's currently programmed to take place in late 2022 or early 2023. Consultation is going to be taking place with Natural Resources Wales and other key stakeholders as we go through the process of assessing the environmental impact, with a view to not just mitigating but compensating wherever we can for any loss of ancient woodland.

09:40

Can you expand on that? Clearly, the threat to the ancient woodland is something that the petitioners are very, very concerned about, as we all should be, so what specific mitigation measures are being considered as part of the scheme to protect that ancient woodland?

Thank you. First of all, it's worth just saying that we don't know the quality of the ancient woodland at the moment, and ancient woodland that is not managed or where there is excessive overgrowth can be of low quality and it can require work. It can require some management. So, actually, once we've carried out some investigations this autumn, we'll be better placed to actually appreciate the quality of the ancient woodland and what mitigation, compensation and enhancement schemes can be put in place to improve the ancient woodland that is currently there. 

In terms of the direct impact, we anticipate that less than 5 per cent of Leadbrook wood would be affected, and that's because we're taking forward a programme of work that will see the road elevated using a 200m bridge above the wooded area. At the next stage of work, we'll be further refining route alignment so that we can minimise further, hopefully, the impact on Leadbrook wood. But we'll also, as I've mentioned, be developing a comprehensive environmental strategy that will seek not just to mitigate—i.e. not just to replace what is lost—but to actually enhance and to compensate with additional new areas of woodland. And we'll also be looking at the quality of the soils, whether the soils can be retained, whether the soils can be utilised for additional tree planting and, potentially, wood pasture planting as well. 

So, we're confident that as a result of this scheme, we will see not just an increase in volume of woodland in that area, but we will also see the quality of the woodland improved as well. 

So, it sounds like you do accept that there are going to be indirect impacts on the ancient woodland. You said that 95 per cent will be protected, but that's a large chunk of woodland that will have an impact. I wonder if you can tell us about the decision not to proceed with the M4 corridor around Newport on environmental grounds, and your claim that this doesn't set a precedent for other highway schemes. Why is this case, and how do the environmental concerns for the M4 project not apply to this project?

There are a number of really important points that you make there. First of all, I just want to say that neither 'Planning Policy Wales' nor the future generations Act state that you should not do something. It doesn't explicitly rule out schemes on the basis of environmental impact and, actually, what they say is that it's a balance between environmental impact—environmental benefits in some cases as well—and economic and social impacts and benefits. And if you look at the scheme, yes, there will be a very, very small impact on Leadbrook woods, but as I've said, we will be able to use this opportunity to enhance the quality of that ancient woodland as well, and to develop more woodland so that the actual volume of woodland, the geographical area, will be increased.

In terms of the M4, the First Minister made it crystal clear, I think, that the decision on the M4 does not set any precedents for any future schemes, and all schemes have to be developed and considered on their own merits. So, there were some particular significant issues regarding the M4, of course—the site of special scientific interest—whereas with the Flintshire corridor, this is part and parcel of the metro programme. It's a very, very different scheme indeed. This is about allowing space on roads to be used for active travel and for public transport. Metro north will be very different to metro south, in that it will be mostly bus based. More than 100 million journeys are undertaken on buses at the moment across Wales. We wish to see that increase significantly, but if we are to drive up patronage using buses, we have to liberate road space for dedicated bus corridors, so that they can operate in a reliable way, so that people choose to leave their cars and get public transport instead.

Now, as a result of delivering this scheme, we'll see a reduction between 25 per cent and 35 per cent in traffic through Sealand, Queensferry, Higher Shotton, Aston Hill and Ewloe. With that, we'll be able to develop those dedicated bus corridors that will deliver bus rapid transport and become an attractive alternative to private car use, and we will also drive down levels of nitrogen dioxide in some of the most challenged communities in north Wales. It's simply unacceptable that so many children are still breathing in excessive amounts of nitrogen dioxide in those areas. And stopping the red route, I'm afraid, will stop our ability to reduce those levels of nitrogen dioxide.

09:45

Can I come in on exactly that point? Because you've mentioned your concerns about the levels of nitrogen dioxide being too high as a justification for this project before. How does the pollution problem on Aston Hill compare to, say, Mountain Ash in Rhondda Cynon Taf? And I'm not going to put you on the spot; I'll tell you the answer. In Mountain Ash, the air pollution is three times as high. So, what urgent traffic solutions are you putting in to Mountain Ash? 

I also wanted to raise the point about the growth of electric vehicles and the forthcoming ban on diesel and petrol. So, how much of a problem will nitrogen dioxide on Aston Hill still be by the time this road is actually built? And isn't it the case that you're just using these arguments to justify building a climate-busting new road that you've already decided that you want to build because of the wider schemes that you've talked about already regarding the metro?

Well, I can't answer the question on Mountain Ash, about what specific solutions are being implemented there. But I don't think it's fair to play off one area of Wales against the other, and belittle—

But if you're saying nitrogen dioxide is important, then it's three times the level in Mountain Ash. So, you do have to address that, don't you?

I agree, but that's a separate issue. That's not related to the red route. But I entirely agree that nitrogen dioxide levels have to be addressed in many parts of Wales, and we're doing just that. In the case of Aston Hill, we've brought in those 50 mph cameras to reduce average speeds, to try to drive down levels of nitrogen dioxide. But I'm afraid the view that electric cars are going to come to our saviour and reduce not just emission levels but also particulate levels is misguided, because you will still have particulates from tyres being shredded, from brakes being used, and that also affects human and environmental health as well. If we do not deliver this scheme, we will see an increase of around 30 per cent in the number of vehicles using that existing route. That's 30 per cent more particulates from brakes; it's 30 per cent more particulates from tyres being used and shredded on the roads. 

I think anybody who has any recognition of the health impacts of those particulates would agree that doing nothing, that stopping the red route at this point, and failing to deliver the north Wales metro, will have a significant detrimental impact on people's health. And this is also about, as I've said repeatedly, liberating that space so that we can ensure that people shift their modes of transport, by making bus travel more attractive, because we'll be able to put into use dedicated bus rapid transport services. We'll be able to develop those bus corridors. Stopping the red route will kill the metro. 

Thank you. So, moving on to 3, the red route plus option put forward by Flintshire County Council. Jack Sargeant. 

Thank you, Chair. Minister, just before I go into questions about that, I've just got one question on what you said at the end there with regard to if you stop the red route—and I should say, Chair, for the record, I have supported this in the past; it's very important that those residents in north Wales get their voice heard on important issues like this and environmental issues. If the red route is stopped and then the metro is stopped, and that's not delivered on, what will that do to the north-east Wales economy?

Thanks, Jack. Essentially, the metro cannot go forward unless this scheme is delivered, because there are no alternatives for bus rapid transport services, for bus corridors. It's simply not possible, unless you were to bulldoze through entire housing estates, to create an entire network of active travel opportunities and bus services and bus infrastructure. If the red route were to be stopped, we know that it would have a significant impact on the economy as well. I'll give you one example of an opportunity that was lost because of a lack of road resilience on the A55 and the A494 and the local roads being congested as a result of that, and it concerns Talgo. We were incredibly close to securing the rail manufacturing site for the UK from Talgo, a Spanish operator. That would have gone to Mostyn, in the Delyn constituency. It would have regenerated an entire community, provided 700 well-paid jobs for people who could develop high levels of skills. We lost it in part because of a lack of resilience on roads. And that's just one example. The other reason that they cited was the lack, at that moment in time, of people with those high levels of skills because employment was so high and unemployment was so low in the area. But road resilience was a key element in it. 

And we're hearing this from businesses all of the time, across north Wales—that the competitiveness of the area is being held back by a lack of road resilience, by excessive congestion, by a lack of ability for people to be able to access public transport. And it's a social justice issue as well, this is. One fifth of people in that area—in the Flintshire area, the Wrexham area, and then further as you go into Denbighshire—don't own their own car, they have no access to a private car. One fifth of young people can't get to job interviews on public transport because they can't afford it or it doesn't exist. And it doesn't exist in many cases because we do not have the routes available for viable and reliable bus services to operate. If we are to drive down levels of inequality in Wales, we have to make more provision for public transport, and to do that, we have to have the infrastructure. There's this belief among some quarters that every single road enhancement scheme is designed for private car use—it's not. Roads are used by buses, roads are used by bikes; roads should be designed for bus use and for bike use, not just for car use. And that's precisely what we're doing with the red route.

And on that point about—were you asking about the red route and further enhancements?

09:50

Yes. Thanks, Minister. I just want to move on quickly to the red route plus—and I know a lot of Members have got questions as well. The red route plus option was put forward by Flintshire County Council. When did you as the Minister decide to appraise the additional works that the stakeholders have suggested are needed as part of the red route plus scheme? And then the fact that they are going to be appraised by a separate commission, the trunk road agent—when are the results likely to be published, and will they be published before the public inquiry that is going to take place?

I may bring in Andy on the time frame, Jack, but I think the fact that we are taking forward the suggestion of red route plus demonstrates that we are open to ideas and open to the suggestions of the public and of key stakeholders—in this case, Flintshire County Council, who proposed it. It's being taken forward by the north Wales trunk road agency, so that, if at all possible, it can be delivered ahead of the red route. So that's the idea—that we don't couple them together. Because if that were to happen, then you'd have major roadworks on the A55 whilst the corridor was also being developed. So the idea is that we publish before the public inquiry, and that gives us the ability to deliver on those road improvements ahead of the Flintshire corridor being developed and delivered. But I don't know whether there's anything further to add, Andy, on the time frame.

I think you covered it very well, Minister. The intention is that that study work is starting very shortly, and the study work will be complete and will be able to inform the public inquiry into the red route. And if there are quick wins that can be made also, then they will be in a position to be implemented before the red route comes along. They key thing is, even though the work is being carried out by the north Wales trunk road agency, those agents work for Welsh Government, so the two pieces of work will be completely aligned as far as that's concerned. I think the important thing is that we get a handle and understanding on what those options could be, and if they can be implemented in advance of the red route then they will be. But certainly the findings of the report will be available at the time of the public inquiry for the red route.

09:55

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, Minister. I'd like to have a word with you about the Flintshire bridge. Obviously, as you're probably well aware, the bridge is 25 years old—it was designed 25 years or more ago. The red route that you're proposing is going to result in—the intention is that it's going to involve a vastly increased traffic flow over the Flintshire bridge. Now, you said in June last year in a letter to this committee that you didn't believe an upgrade was necessary to the Flintshire bridge. Can you explain to us how you came to that conclusion and on what basis you made that judgment?

Yes, sure—[Interruption.] Sorry, I had terrible feedback there. I'll bring in Andy on that point, but just for the benefit of anybody who is not familiar with the area, there are two key bridges that can be used by motorists: there's the Queensferry bridge and there's the Flintshire bridge, which you mentioned there. The Queensferry bridge, I should just point out, is going to be subject to significant improvement work that's required on safety grounds. That's the primary bridge that traffic currently uses and there are very regular bottlenecks there—terrible congestion. The idea is to shift traffic away from there so that we can create those dedicated bus corridors and bus rapid transport in and around Deeside industrial estate, and then to utilise the Flintshire bridge, which is being underused. The maximum capacity would still allow a very significant increase in the number of vehicles using it and that's why we are confident that the Flintshire bridge, even though it was designed more than two decades ago, is still capable of taking significant additional traffic. Andy, is there anything further to add on this point?

Obviously, during the development phase, one of the advantages or attractions of the red route is that we are using, as you say, what was an underused piece of infrastructure—the Flintshire bridge. Our technical advisers consulted closely with Flintshire on the bridge. Just out of interest, bridge structures such as this are normally designed for a 120-year design life and the standards that are adopted to carry main road traffic would be the same as if it was being designed now. The cross-section is adequate for the traffic. The only area of consideration that we would be looking at would be putting some protective measures on the bridge for wind to reduce any closure of it. But structurally, and capacity wise, it's more than adequate and the design standards are sufficient to carry any traffic that a red route would direct across it.

So you're saying, Minister, that that bridge was more than 25 years ahead of its time—is that what you're saying?

Well, schemes such as the Flintshire bridge are always designed on the basis of the very latest traffic modelling, and the traffic modelling that was used when it was designed and constructed allowed, as Andy said, for increase in use. And so, yes, it is futureproof, and it is capable of taking a significant increase in traffic. 

Right. So, can you tell me your assessment of the increased cost of maintenance, then? Because, obviously, the more traffic a bridge takes, the more maintenance is going to be undertaken on it long term and the more repair work. Can you give us an assessment of how much that bill is going to be?

I'll bring in Andy on any scientific evidence on how much the maintenance of a bridge increases when you take into account an increase in traffic use, but it should be said that we have statutory duties that we have to meet in terms of road safety, and that includes bridges. We have to maintain them to a certain standard and there's no avoiding that. So, I think it's vitally important to recognise that if you are going to be utilising an alternative piece of infrastructure—in this case, the Flintshire bridge—then use on the other bridge, the Queensferry bridge, will be reduced. So, you might actually say that a saving in terms of maintenance from less use of the Queensferry bridge would then be utilised for any additional costs in maintenance for the Flintshire bridge, so it all irons out, essentially, in the future. The key issue here is that if we do nothing, if we don't deliver the red route, we will see a very significant increase in traffic of up to 30 per cent. That, then, will put more pressure on the maintenance budgets. So, actually, delivering the red route could lead to that increase in traffic being constrained and contained and, as a consequence of that, it may well be that we see savings to maintenance budgets in the future for the routes. Andy.

10:00

Again, you made the point very clearly there, Minister. As far as the bridge is concerned, should the red route proceed, and that become the main trunk road route, then the responsibility for maintenance of the bridge would then revert to or transfer from Flintshire County Council to Welsh Government. And as you rightly say, we have a statutory duty to maintain standards on all our road structures and all our pieces of infrastructure.

As far as bridges of that nature are concerned, ironically, much of the stresses and strains on bridges of that size and scale are the weight of the bridge itself, rather than the traffic that's on it. So, whilst there may be certain wear factors on bridge joints that might need replacing more often, there won't be a fundamental change to the maintenance regime of that structure again. Most of the weight and the strength of that bridge is designed to carry the bridge itself and the weight of traffic on top of it—it might seem ironic—can be a relatively small factor. But it's a very important point, and it is something that will need to be factored into our calculations. But that consideration has already been made, but will be demonstrated in great detail for scrutiny as we develop the scheme going forward. 

I think what I've been trying to ask you, Minister, is whether you've actually made that calculation. Coming back to the suitability issue, you've said that you've had conversations with Flintshire council about the matter—have you actually done a study on the bridge and actually had a technical report from specialists regarding whether that bridge will need to be upgraded? 

Well, you're just giving me your word, Minister. I'm not saying that you're— 

I just want to know what the technical advice is and the technical advice you've taken before you made that decision to not upgrade the bridge. 

So, the technical advice is based on the original design of the bridge and, as Andy has already said, that design allows for an increase in capacity, and as Andy said as well, any increase in maintenance from an increase in traffic is associated with the surface and the joints, so replacement of the tarmac and replacement of joints.

I'll put this across as simply as I can: if we do nothing, if we don't deliver the red route, we will see traffic, by 2037, at about 120 to 130 per cent of what it is today, and that with it carries a significant increase in surface use of the road and, therefore, maintenance costs would be increased likewise. And so, if we deliver the red route, if we deliver the Flintshire corridor, free up space for public transport and contain and hopefully reduce that level of increase in traffic, then, as a consequence of that, there may be fewer requirements for significant maintenance budgets, because the use of the surface isn't going to be so intense, because we're trying to contain that level of increase in traffic on the road. 

Okay, I need to bring Neil McEvoy in now—[Interruption.]—sorry, Michelle. 

Okay, thanks, Chair. I'm looking at the impact of COVID-19 on the scheme. So, the first question is: how has the pandemic affected the development of the scheme in terms of timescale and affordability?

Thanks, Neil. In terms of the time frame—it's not been affected. Unfortunately, we weren't able to hold the public exhibitions, but, apart from that, it's proceeded as planned. Affordability—it remains that the benefit cost-ratio is about 2.7 and that's classed as a high-value-for-money programme. If we were to incorporate the crawler lane proposals, then, in all probability, the value would be improved still further. I hope that answers the question.

10:05

Okay. Another one is: do you intend to run post-COVID-19 modelling on travel demand in north Wales, taking into account the fact that, maybe, fewer people now will travel to work?

Yes, we do. Transport for Wales is currently looking at conducting that work on an all-north Wales basis, so capturing all commuter flows. It's interesting, actually, the A55/A494, through coronavirus and immediately after the lockdown was lifted—it's a very different story to that which the M4 is. We saw in May a very significant decrease in the amount of traffic on the A55, as you'd expect, but then, by August, levels were back to what they were, pretty much, in 2019. And, in fact, on certain days in 2020 in August, there were daily records. So, that's owing very much to the fact that options for working from home and working remotely are fewer in that part of Wales than they are in the south-east, where the M4 serves commuter traffic. And that's because of the high proportion of businesses that are engaged in manufacturing, particularly in and around Deeside industrial estate.

Sorry to interrupt—just to reinforce what the Minister was saying, that Transport for Wales are finalising the development of a transport model for north-east Wales, and any traffic and transport modelling work that's taken forward as part of that scheme will link into that, and that will inevitably be reviewed in the light of COVID-19 to refresh the forecasting. By the time we get to a final development of the scheme, or even to the public inquiry, those traffic forecasts and transport forecasts will be open to public scrutiny.

Thank you. Do you want to ask one quick question, Michelle?

I wanted to ask about the travel routes across the bridge, and there aren't currently any active travel routes across the bridge. It's clear that you're not going to upgrade it, so where are cyclists et cetera expected to go? Are they expected to wade across the Dee?

No, they wouldn't be expected to do that, Michelle. I think you're quite familiar with the area—I believe you are; you represent the area—so you'll be familiar with the Aston Hill area and Ewloe, Queensferry, Sealand. It's that area where we're looking at working with Cycling UK, with Sustrans, with Flintshire council on an entire network of active travel routes, and that's only going to be possible through liberating road space. And that's the purpose of the Flintshire corridor. I don't know how many times I need to stress this—the corridor is being designed to allow for more public transport in and around Deeside, and then further into north Wales where we can create those bus corridors. But the active travel opportunities are going to be largely focused on the Deeside area.

So, if you're a cyclist and you're working on the Deeside industrial estate— 

Okay, we're going to have to bring this evidence session to an end now. Okay, thank you.

Well, can I thank the Minister for his attendance and, of course, his official, Mr Falleyn, and for answering the committee's questions? Note that a copy of the transcript will be sent to you to check for any factual inaccuracies. Following this session, the committee will consider the evidence it has heard and we will agree the next steps that the committee wishes to take. Thank you.

Thank you, committee. 

4. Deisebau newydd eraill
4. Other new petitions

So, we move on now, or back to 2.2, P-05-1014—back to our petitions—'Give Dental practices and their staff the "key worker" status'. This petition was submitted by Owain Dimmick having collected a total of 233 signatures.

'During the initial Covid-19 outbreak dental practices were staggered to be classed as "non essential medical" despite our roles saving lives through urgent infection care and early oral cancer detection. There are huge systemic risks associated with poor oral health which can't be ignored. We also don't want to be in a position again where our patients could be left in pain due to Welsh Government regulations severely limiting the range of emergency treatments possible.'

A research brief has been provided. A response has not yet been received from the Minister for Health and Social Services, despite the committee writing on 12 August. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. So, what issue would you like to take on this? But could I just ask the Clerk—have we chased the Minister for health?

10:10

Yes, Chair. We've chased for a response to this petition letter on several occasions, but it hasn't been received in advance of this meeting. 

Okay. Well, in that case, I feel that we need to make some representations about why we've not had—. Do Members wish to come in?

Yes, I think we should express our disappointment that we've not received a response from the Minister on this. I understand that this issue has been aired by a committee, which is good news, but it's not clear whether dental workers will be considered as key workers in future lockdowns that are being considered now at the moment. So, given the big implications for childcare with this particular group of workers, then we really do need to see a response from the Minister. So, can we express the committee's disappointment and urge a response as quickly as possible? Because these issues are going to become live again quite soon, potentially, aren't they?

Yes, I think that's a very good way forward. Any other Member comments? Okay.

We'll move on to the next petition: P-05-1021, 'Do not make face masks or face coverings mandatory in ANY (inc secondary) schools'. This petition was submitted by Lindsey Jones, having collected 214 signatures. The text of the petition reads:

'There is so much evidence to suggest face masks do not stop the spread of viruses including COVID-19/coronavirus.'

A research brief has been provided. A response was received from the Minister for Education on 5 October. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide additional comments prior to the meeting, but has not done so. She has had limited time, however, to comment on the Minister's response due to the date it was received. How would you like to go forward? Any Member?

Thanks, Chair. Due to the fact the petitioner has had limited time, as you've stated, I think we have to wait a little bit before moving forward on this. 

Okay, thank you. Any other Member comments? Jack—sorry, Leanne. 

I just wonder, given that face coverings in schools are a matter for local decision making, whether that's the best outcome, really. I mean, it would be useful to know from the petitioner whether the current situation is more in line with what they want as compared to when they first submitted the petition, but I can't really see how we can improve upon a situation where local headteachers are able to make this decision in their own schools for themselves. That seems like the most sensible way to deal with it to me, and that seems to have come about since this petition was submitted.

Okay. Any other comments? Okay, Clerk, are you clear on that position?

Right, Neil. If you could come in—. As you've probably gathered, there are some issues with Tŷ Hywel—technical issues. So, if you could speak up. Yes, that's fine.

10:15

I'd like to write to the health Minister, really, to ask what guidance and education they've given on masks, because there's little education, as I see it. I think the petitioner alludes to this. And, also, what facilities has the Government provided, or are being provided by local authorities to actually dispose of masks? Two key issues, really.

Is that supported, yes? Clerk, are you clear with the actions on this?

Thanks, Chair. If I could just clarify the last point Neil made there, so, is it in terms of the guidance specifically for people in schools, or the guidance generally about mask wearing?

It would be interesting to know what guidance has been provided in schools. That's the context of the petition. I know there's very little education about masks. There's more education on YouTube, actually, than is coming out of Welsh Government, as far as I can see. So, yes—what has been sent to schools?

Okay. So, if that's supported by the committee, then, yes, we could write back to the Minister for Education to ask specifically about guidance and the disposal of masks around schools.

Okay. Everybody happy with that? Could you just say 'yea' or 'nay'?

Yes, okay. Moving on to P-05-1025, 'Ensure fairness for students taking exams in 2021'. This petition was submitted by the National Education Union Cymru having collected a total of 2,022 signatures. This is the text:

'As the Education Minister acknowledges, the last few weeks have been exceptionally hard for young people, who have already been disadvantaged by Covid-19. We welcome the Education Minister’s apology. Now it is vital that the Welsh Government takes urgent steps to ensure students due to sit A-level, Welsh Baccalaureate and GCSE exams in 2021 are treated fairly and are not disadvantaged.

'The planned independent review is very welcome, and we look forward to hearing further details.

'We also believe that Welsh Government should now focus on:

'Reducing the curriculum content assessed across GCSE, Welsh Bacc and A-level exams next summer, by making some topics optional across all subjects.

'Working with educators and trade unions to develop a Welsh system of moderated centre assessed grades in case there is further disruption to exams next summer.

'Using this opportunity to develop a robust system which ensures young people are rewarded for their achievements and not held back due to their background.'

So, the background to this is that a response was received from the Minister on 14 September. You have had a research brief provided, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

I think, as with everything in these times of COVID, things are moving fast on this issue. We can't have a situation like we had last year next year. There's time now to plan to do things differently, and I think this approach from the trade union is a positive one. However, given we're in a political world and context is everything, I'm aware that the Scottish Government made an announcement last week to say that the GCSE equivalent exams in Scotland won't be going ahead next year and that it's going to be more based on teacher assessments in Scotland. The English education Minister has announced that they are going ahead with GCSEs in England but that there's going to be a three-week delay. We've yet to hear what the Minister in Wales is going to say. It may well be that she is waiting for this review before making an announcement, or it may be that an announcement will be made prior to half term, given where we are with the English and Scottish decisions.

So, I would say this is a really important petition. I don't want it lost, but I don't think we can proceed with anything much at the moment until we know what the Minister's view is on this. We can seek more information. We could write to the WJEC and ask what they're doing in terms of adapting course content in the interim. That's a major point raised by the petition, so we could use the time, while we're waiting for the Government announcement, to get more information and, then, consider this petition again in the light of any future decisions that would be made, when we have our next meeting at the beginning of November. 

10:20

If you could unmute your mikes, and say 'yea' or 'nay'. You're muted, Jack. 

Okay, thank you. Moving on, P-05-1027, 'Allow Welsh domestic football clubs to play friendlies and allow supporters to attend matches'. This petition was submitted by Callum Howen, having collected 2,045 signatures, and the text of the petition reads: 

'At the moment, only 'elite' athletes can play football matches in Wales. These games are being played behind closed doors, without spectators.

'In England, clubs below the sixth tier are now admitting spectators at a reduced capacity...In Scotland, fans are back at PRO14 matches.

'Providing clubs meet the guidelines presented, they should be allowed to play friendlies with spectators.'

Now, the background to this: a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 18 September, a research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

Thanks. I think the issues raised in this are important, and I don't think the Deputy Minister's response deals with the issues in the petition. It stands to reason that football pitches—and this goes for other sports as well—are large areas, and so confining audiences in large areas to 30, while it makes sense for, say, family gatherings in the park or whatever, it doesn't really make sense in the context of sporting events or concerts. Now, of course we need to keep people apart, and having football matches as they used to be is not an option. But that's not what they're asking for here; they're asking for socially distant, safe measures to be introduced to enable lower league teams to carry on playing, provide entertainment, enable people to get out for an hour, and the impact on mental health has been argued really, really well, I think, by the petitioner. 

So, I think we should write to the Football Association of Wales and to Sport Wales to seek their views on the issues raised in this petition, and I think we need to also write back to the Deputy Minister and make the points that these grounds are large enough to have a bit more flexibility than the rule of 30, and if they would be prepared to consider that, especially in terms of the mental health impacts, then I think that would be useful information for us to have as a committee, Chair. 

I missed that. So, we're writing to the FAW, are we? 

Chair, can I just add one point on that? Again, for the record, I sit on the board of a domestic football club in Wales, so I should put that on the record as well. I agree with Leanne on the points we have to do there: writing back to the Minister specifically to ask—. He's mentioned the free trials. I'd like to know what the outcome of those trials were and when we find that out. I'm particularly worried about funding for clubs. I've written separately to the Minister regarding funding, following the English Football League and Premier League looking at giving money to English clubs with the UK Government, to make sure that any Barnett consequential from the UK Government funding does go to sport, grass-roots football and the Welsh national league. I think that would be important. 

I know there's also a working group that the FAW have put together with clubs. I think it's important, when we get the response from the FAW, that their response is tailored to support the clubs' position as well as a whole. I think if we could mention that in our correspondence to them, Clerk, that would be useful. But I support Leanne's points as well. 

Chair, could we ask for the scientific basis for the regulation as well, because, obviously, at this level of football, you're not talking about huge crowds? Never mind six feet, nobody's going to be within 16 feet of each other if it's spaced out properly. It just seems to be, again, a complete overreaction. You look at Barry town football club—the island is rammed with people and nothing is done, and yet the football club, where they could space people out really well, is not able to have crowds in. It's ridiculous, and it's going to kill football.  

10:25

Okay. So, we'll move on. P-05-1028, 'Relax the excessive restrictions to allow motor sport rallies to take place in Wales'. This is page 70 in your pack. The petition was submitted by Jamie Edwards having collected 3,889 signatures, and the text of the petition is as follows:

'Car rallies taking place in Wales bring around £15 million into the Welsh economy each year. The impact of COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed on events has decimated the rally community in Wales - affecting jobs, businesses, careers and also having a major impact on rural communities across Wales who benefit from rally 'tourism'. The current restrictions mean it is impossible for organisers to plan ahead into 2021 - meaning many more events, businesses and jobs could be lost permanently.'

So, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 23 September, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Anyone? It would be best to unmute your mikes.

I'm unmuted, I think, now. The same as the last one really. I think, again, these are events where people do not have to be close together; they can be well spread out. We need a bit of common sense here, and it seems to be in short supply at the moment. So, write to the Deputy Minister—

Okay, and then the other new petitions. P-05-1022, 'To follow the Scottish Parliament and have LGBTQ Welsh history taught in all Welsh schools'. This petition was submitted by Natalie Bowen, on behalf of Rhondda Pride, having collected 116 signatures. The text of the petition is:

'As someone who grew up under the shadow of Section 28 lack of LGBTQ+ education in schools has affected my entire life. It is unacceptable that the next generation of LGBTQ+ people should grow up this way. Wales has a rich and varied LGBTQ+ history and we believe that teaching this in schools will create a safer and more accepting environment for all.'

Now, a response was received from the Minister for Education on 14 September. A research brief has been provided. The petitioners have provided further comments. Petitioners with petitions relating to subjects taught in schools have recently been sent an invitation to contribute to scrutiny of the curriculum Bill being conducted by the Children, Young People and Education Committee. What action, Members, would you like to take on this issue?

I think the issues are really important. We've spent quite a lot of time in this Senedd discussing history and what aspects of our history should be taught within the new national curriculum. That is going through as legislation now, and there is quite a lot of scope within the national curriculum to be flexible. So, I think we can just write back to the Minister and make the point that we think this history is important. But, given where we are with the legislation cycle, I'm not sure how much further progress we can make with this particular petition now.

Okay. Do, any Members have any other comments? All in agreement with Leanne?

Yes. Okay. Thank you. So, moving on, P-05-1023—. Sorry. Did you speak, Jack, sorry?

10:30

Okay. P-05-1023, 'Welsh Government funding for recycling bins and collections in all education settings in Wales.' This petition was submitted by Kathryn Davids, having collected 81 signatures. So, the text of the petition reads:

'Presently, councils in Wales charge schools to collect recyclable waste. With limited annual funding this is a cost that schools find difficult to meet. As a result, a huge amount of recyclable waste is going into landfill as recycling bins and collection are not provided.

'In April 2019, the Welsh Government declared a climate emergency, yet teachers and learners are not able to contribute to reducing their carbon emissions in their place of work or learning. Many teachers take recycling from their classrooms to recycle at home, or Eco Clubs in schools collect waste, but there needs to be consistency nationally, so that recycling becomes a habit at home and at school.

'I am calling for Welsh Government to provide funding to enable this to happen across the country, to really show their motto of being a small country with big ambition.'

Now, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government on 24 September, a research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

Chair, I was encouraged by the petitioner's response in that they seem to be quite content with some of the answers that the Minister gave in the letter. There are still some outstanding questions around the scale of the fund available for the circular economy: 34 projects have been funded so far and there are 1,500 schools in Wales, so it's only really touching the tip of the iceberg. But it is a really good point that the petitioner makes, I think: we want children to be doing more to recycle, we want to be teaching children more about recycling, and yet the costs are falling on the school. 

So, I think we can keep an eye on this issue. I don't think we can do anything further with the petition, given what the petitioner has said, that they're quite content with the responses. But I think, as members of the committee, we do need to keep an eye on this issue and press for more funding and more projects to be available to enable schools to recycle. So, if we can write back to the petitioner and say, 'Thank you very much for raising this really important issue. There is some work going on, but, as always, there can be a lot more.'

Thank you. Moving on, P-05-1026, 'Petition to ban the snaring of wildlife for use in the fur trade.' This petition was submitted by the National Anti Snaring Campaign, having collected 2,481 signatures, and the text of petition reads:

'While fur farming was banned in the UK in 2000, fur trapping is still legal for certain wild animals such as foxes, rabbits and mink.

'We are campaigning to close this loophole to prevent more animals suffering in these barbaric traps, being killed inhumanely and skinned for their pelts.

'We request that all snaring of wild animals for use in the fur trade be abolished and for this law to be upheld by the appropriate authorities and monitored closely.'

A response was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 24 September, a research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

Chair, can I suggest we write back to the Minister? I believe the committee has previously dealt with a petition similar to this and actually closed the petition following some work done by the climate change committee in the Senedd. I'd like to write back to the Minister to ask what work the Government has done following the publication of that report by the climate change committee.

10:35
5. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
5. Updates to previous petitions

Okay. So, we now move to update previous petitions. P-05-825, 'Protect children's lungs from harmful pollution whilst at school'. This is page 141 in your packs. The petition was submitted by British Lung Foundation Cymru, and was first considered in July 2018, having collected 159 signatures. We last considered this on 21 January and agreed to await the outcome of a consultation on the draft clean air plan for Wales, and any changes or amendments that the Welsh Government take forward a result, before considering the petition again. On 6 August, the Welsh Government published 'The Clean Air Plan for Wales: Healthy Air, Healthy Wales' and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward?

Can we go back to the Minister with the petitioner's comments?

I'd like to specifically ask how does the siting of incinerators in the vicinity of schools tie in with any kind of clean air strategy.

Chair, if I could just—

It's the Clerk, sorry. If I could just note that the petitioners make some quite detailed comments about the content of the clean air plan, which the committee could write back to the Minister about, but it's significantly wider than the original scope of the petition, which is about clean air zones around schools, protecting children in schools from polluted air. So, if the committee wished, it could write back to share those comments to inform the development of the White Paper and a clean air Act with the Minister, but it may be that doing so doesn't progress the specific focus of the petition significantly, so the committee may want to decide whether it wants to do anything further with the petition beyond writing that letter to the Minister.

Can I ask the clerk, what are our options there for doing that?

So, there are a couple of—. As has already been suggested, there are some quite detailed comments from the petitioners about what might be included in a White Paper for a clean air Act. The Minister says that that White Paper would be brought forward before the election, but, obviously, the Act itself is an intention for the next Senedd.

Alongside that, the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee is also running an inquiry into air quality at the moment, so it may be suitable for the committee to provide those comments to that committee to take forward as part of its inquiry, rather than the Petitions Committee doing its own further work on this.

That makes a lot of sense, Chair, if it's being looked at elsewhere, that it's considered as part of that inquiry. So, I would move that.

Thank you. So, moving on, P-05-937, 'STOP BOILING CRUSTACEANS ALIVE (lobsters, crabs, crayfish, prawns etc)'. Page 150, and this petition was submitted by Cardiff Animal Rights and was first considered in February 2020, having collected 2,008 signatures. The committee last considered this on 4 February and agreed to request legal information on potential changes to the Animal Welfare Act 2006, await the views of the petitioners on the response provided by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, and also the petitioner has provided further comments and legal notes are included in the committee brief and information. How would you like to go forward? Anyone?

I'd like to write back to the Minister and ask her what evidence she's gathered in relation to the suffering caused to crustaceans by being boiled alive—what evidence she's gathered and what evidence she's considered in making the decision that the definition of 'animal' shouldn't be extended.

10:40

Thank you. P-05-963, 'Require supermarkets to donate excess food to charity'. The petition was submitted by Crosskeys My World My Home group, and was first considered in June 2020, having collected 84 signatures. We last considered this on 23 June, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to seek further details about the Welsh Government's current assessment of its powers in relation to surplus food distribution and the powers being sought by Welsh Ministers through the UK Environment Bill. A response was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 3 August, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? 

Chair, I very much welcome this petition. It's a dear shame that we're faced with this sort of issue in this current age. I do note the Minister is also in agreement that the Welsh Government could use this power if the UK Environment Bill, which is currently being scrutinised by the House of Commons, allows us to do so. I don't think there's much more we can do as a committee with this petition, unless Members feel that we should write to the committee that's scrutinising in the House of Commons with our support. I'd like to see that going forward, because I think it's a big issue now. We've seen Marcus Rashford doing lots of work on this; it's taken a Premier League footballer to get somewhere, for the UK Government to start listening. And I think we should—. Well, I propose we write—

Everybody support that view and actions to be taken forward?

I support that view. I think we should definitely write back to the Minister, and I think we should express that we want those powers to be used, that we want supermarkets to be forced to hand over the food that they can't sell. At the moment, it's operated on a pretty good voluntary scheme. Some supermarkets give their excess produce over to local charities. I'm running a scheme in the Rhondda, which is very, very well patronised and well received, but we could always do with more food, and some supermarkets don't participate at all. So, there has to be some movement on this. Other countries— France notably, as has been mentioned by the petitioners, has made great strides on this, yet we are still operating within voluntary codes, and it's something that needs a bit more Government intervention than we've seen to date. So, I would support further action, and I would support keeping this on the agenda, so that we can push for legislation if the UK Environment Bill doesn't deliver what the Minister hopes that it potentially could.

Okay. Okay. Right. Moving on, P-05-798, 'Male domestic violence victim support services to be independently run & funded'. Page 164 in your packs. The petition was submitted by Both Parents Matter Cymru, and was first considered in February 2018, having collected 138 signatures. We last considered this on 9 June, and agreed to write to the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip to share the concerns expressed by the petitioners and to enquire when the commissioning of support services for male victims of domestic violence will next be reviewed. And we also asked whether a commitment can be given to offering the opportunity for other providers to submit tenders to provide specific services. Now, a response was received from the Deputy Minister on 20 July, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Anyone? 

Yes, I'm really not sure how the recommendation could be to close the petition, because the Minister's clearly not answered what people would like to see answered. I'll declare an interest because I was a service user with Both Parents Matter; I have worked on a voluntary basis for Both Parents Matter, including going to court as a volunteer McKenzie Friend. If we look at the reply from the charity Both Parents Matter, they make the valid point that service provision for male victims at the moment, as provided by the Welsh Government, is grounded in, I'd say, a radical feminist philosophy. Some people wouldn't actually say it's feminist, really—

10:45

I'm really looking for actions to take forward, Neil. Any—

What I would say is that men up and down Wales kill themselves because of these very issues week in and week out. We've discussed it in the Assembly, but this is the sharp end, really. What should be happening is that the questions that have been asked by the charity—. We should write back to the Minister and specifically ask for these questions to be addressed. I'd like to know why the—. So, if we say—. My proposal is that we write to the Minister. I'd like to know why the Dyn Project discriminates against men, as decided, as ruled, by the equality commission. Because if you present to the Dyn Project, which is connected to Safer Wales, which is connected to Welsh Women's Aid—. If you're male and you present to them in any way whatsoever, you will not be believed. The starting point is that, because you are male—

Again, Neil—Neil, we're going around in circles on this one. Are there any other views from Members?

Can you at least give me the opportunity to talk about what I'd like in the letter, Chair? You can then vote against it—

Well, we need to see—. I need to take—. I need to take a view from other Members, as I do on every petition. Any other Members have comments, or do you agree—

You're not—. I'm in a situation here where I have points to make, which the charity has tried to make. I want those included in the letter, which I'd like to propose, and you've interrupted me; you're not allowing me to speak. I'll leave it there.

Okay. We've got a proposal for a letter to go forward. Do all Members support another letter going forward?

Chair, I'm dubious about that. I'd like to see the content of that letter. As someone who has worked as both a probation officer and as a support worker in the domestic abuse field, it's vitally important that, when people present to services, a full risk assessment is carried out, and that is done on everyone who presents, and that has to be done by people who understand the issues around domestic abuse, what causes it, and how it's perpetrated within society. And unless those risk assessments are carried out, then other service users are potentially at risk. So—I mean, I can't see the point of writing back to the Minister. But, if we do, I would like to have a line included in there that the committee accepts the importance of full risk assessments in order to keep people safe within the refuge and the outreach process within domestic abuse services, and that goes whether it's male or female service users presenting.

Okay, so we've a proposal for a letter, with some amendments. Michelle.

To be honest, I think that the Deputy Minister's response is a little bit—. It's an example of passing the buck a little bit. They've not really—. All they've basically said is they acknowledge that the experiences of men and women of different forms of abuse can be different. Fine. They're saying that the Act requires a nuanced response to men and women. Fine. And then they start talking about local strategies and what the health boards should be doing. I'd be interested to know whether the Deputy Minister thinks that it's appropriate to give any guidance to the local authorities as to how such support for abuse—. Sorry, I'll start again—how support for abused people is going to be delivered across Wales, so that at least there's some consistency.

That consistency already exists, because, in order to apply for funding to run services, charities have got to apply to local authorities and they've got to have a service-level agreement, and there has got to be criteria met. It's not just randomly handed out to—

Okay. The criteria already exist, is what I'm saying. That is already in existence, and that should be applied consistently throughout Wales. 

The criteria are that men are routinely discriminated against. For example—. I actually agreed with what Leanne said about everybody being risk assessed, as long as they are risk assessed in the same way. Is my mike on? It is. Okay, just checking. 

10:50

The point, Chair, is that the Dyn project screen males; they do not screen females. Males are screened as potential perpetrators of domestic abuse.

But it's a service for men, so why would they screen women in a service for men?

Because Safer Wales—. Safer Wales, which is the parent company of the Dyn project, do not screen females in the same way, and that's why the equality commission ruled in the way that they did. So, I think we should—

We have had some suggestions for actions, going forward. Jack, do you have any comments to make?

Yes, Chair. I think the suggestion was to write to the Minister, which I'm fine with, but I also support Leanne's amendment in there, for the added line. I support that as well.

We could be in a position where we want to send two letters, Chair.

Chair, I'd like to see a copy of that letter before my name goes to it, please.

Of course. Absolutely. That will be—. That will be fundamentally carried out. Moving on, P-05-906 'Save Sam Davies Ward at Barry Hospital'. This petition was submitted by Unison, and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 13,265 signatures. We last considered this on 17 July, agreeing to write back to Cardiff and Vale University Health Board to seek a response to the concerns raised by South Glamorgan Community Health Council and an update on the current position in relation to the patient pathway for frail older people and the Sam Davies Ward. A response was received from the health board on 28 August, and the petitioners have provided comments. How would you like to go forward?

Chair, it seems that the petitioners are happy with the current situation, so I think we can thank the petitioner and close the petition.

Okay. P-05-743, 'End the Exotic Pet Trade in Wales'. This petition was submitted by David Sedley and was first considered in March 2017, having collected 222 signatures. We last considered this on 15 October, agreeing to await a further update from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on the timelines for developing a code of practice for primates before considering further action, and also to request a legal brief on what legislative power Wales does have in this area. A legal brief was provided. An update was received from the Minister on 17 August and the petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide additional comments prior to the meeting but has not done so. The petitioner has not provided any further comments on the petition since June 2019. So, what action do you want to take forward now on this petition?

Chair, it's clear from the Government's response that, given the COVID situation, nothing is going to be progressed on this issue now before the next Senedd elections, even though there was an intention to do something with it. So, given that we haven't had any responses back from the petitioner for quite a long period of time, and given that there's going to be very little that we can do to influence the situation before the election now, perhaps we could write back and say thank you, close the petition, and maybe suggest that this could be an issue for lobbying ahead of the Senedd elections.

Okay. Thank you. P-05-864, 'Ban the use of "Hostile Architecture"'. This petition was submitted by People Over Profit and was first considered in March 2019, having collected 120 signatures. Now, we last considered this on 7 July, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask about the membership of the placemaking Wales partnership and to seek assurances that appropriate organisations that support homeless people will be involved in this work, with a view to closing the petition if sufficient assurances are received.

A response was received from the Minister on 5 August. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide additional comments prior to the meeting but has not done so. The petitioners have not provided further comments on the petition since March 2019, during which time the committee has considered further evidence from the Welsh Government, the Welsh Local Government Association and charities working on homelessness. So, again, we do have a situation here where we seem to have lost engagement with the petitioner. However, I'll take your direction on how you want to take this forward.

10:55

Chair, could we write back to the petitioner and explain what the Minister has said and maybe suggest that the petitioner could try to influence the placemaking partnership to ensure that this issue is included in their programme of work?

I don't see much point in keeping the petition open if we take that course of action, Chair.

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

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

And then, finally, item 6, a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the remainder of this meeting. Can I have a proposer?

Yes. Thank you. So, we're now going into private and we're just waiting for the public broadcast to end.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:56.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:56.