Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig - Y Bumed Senedd
Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee - Fifth Senedd26/11/2020
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS|
|Joyce Watson MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS|
|Mike Hedges MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Neil Hamilton MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alexander Phillips||WWF Cymru|
|Dr Nick Fenwick||Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru|
|Farmers Union of Wales|
|Huw Thomas||NFU Cymru|
|Jemma Bere||Cadwch Gymru’n Daclus|
|Keep Wales Tidy|
|Jim Evans||Cymdeithas Pysgotwyr Cymru|
|Welsh Fishermen’s Association|
|Michele Hunt||RSPB Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
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 13:44.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:44.
Prynhawn da. Good afternoon. Can I welcome Members to the meeting? If, for any reason, I drop out, Jenny Rathbone will take over as Chair. Are there any declarations of interest? No.
Well, can I welcome Jim Evans, chair of the Welsh Fishermen's Association to the meeting this afternoon? And, if you're ready, Jim, can we start with some questions?
Yes, thank you, Chair.
I'll start first. The Minister has told the committee there has been no uptake of the aquaculture business support scheme. Do you have any idea why this is so?
As you'll appreciate, Chair, I have no direct experience of that particular scheme, but we are very closely engaged with colleagues. So, what I can provide, if it's any help, is some feedback from the sector and their experience, particularly the aquaculture producers on the Menai straits. They highlighted the following issues, and these are, more or less, quotes of they've said. They've explained that the scheme was not signposted very well in Wales. There was very little awareness of sector-specific funds almost until the scheme was published, or publicised. And, given the uncertainties, what they did was pursue other forms of assistance, through, I think, the economic resilience fund, where I think, because they had premises with rateable values, they were able to qualify for some assistance there.
But the final point was, due to the lateness of the scheme, and the lack of communication, it was felt that aquaculture was an afterthought. And, to be honest, that is as much as I can say, and that's from the sector's experience, not mine. I'm not qualified to make that comment, I don't think.
Okay, but thank you very much for bringing the sector's opinion. Now on to Joyce Watson.
Good afternoon, Jim. The Minister's highlighted to us—
Hi. The Minister has highlighted the European maritime and fisheries fund standard costs scheme as a means of supporting businesses focusing on processing and direct sales. So, from your perspective, or those you represent, do you think that that is sufficient, or do you think a bespoke support scheme would be more appropriate?
Thank you for that question. I think, to be honest, it's important to understand, probably, the background in relation to the EMFF programme altogether that created the standard costs scheme. Just for clarification, the standard costs scheme, where you mentioned that it was focused on processing and direct sales, I think there's elements that would add to that but the two measures that were provided for under the standard costs scheme were to address safety initially, and that's article 32, I think, and article 42, which was to address adding value. Both of those schemes are directly related to fishing applicants that are owners of fishing vessels, and you'll not be surprised, as a representative body for the catching sector, we were concerned initially because given the delay in launching the EMFF programme, it was due to launch in 2014, actually launched in 2016, and I think there was at least another further year's delay in terms of the implementation of the scheme or the programme in Wales because we decided to use a different process for applications than the rest of the UK, so there were some issues that arose for that reason.
Having said that, it was a very overly—. The intention was to make it an improved programme and experience, but I think the opposite is true in this case, sadly, and as a representative body, because the scheme and the full application process generated more obstacles to accessing the scheme than not, we took the view that—. We discussed the matter with the Minister, and thankfully, they developed a standard costs scheme, which was a simplified process. And as I said earlier, that focused on safety initially and adding value, and basically enabled the small-scale fleet to access funding for items and elements that were directly of benefit to them, which they weren't able to access or perhaps were put off accessing via the full application process.
So, the general reception of that scheme has been very positive. There will always be, I think, issues where someone's experience has been different to others. And there are always issues where, I think, we're not all administrators and sometimes you can get swept up with the technicalities around the regulations and so on. But to be fair, we've always found Rural Payments Wales to be very helpful in addressing these matters.
So, on the whole, a very good scheme, and I would hope very much that that is a feature, or certainly something that we could build on in terms of the EMFF successor scheme, which hopefully would be far less bureaucratic and more able to help and assist us develop and enable the industry to move forward and realise the opportunities in front of us.
Thank you, Chair. I'm just wondering whether you had any indication from Welsh Government, if there was to be another lockdown of significance that—have they indicated to you that there would be support for the sector if it's needed?
I think the short answer to that is—well, I think it's not positive, but reading between the lines, it sounds pretty much like a 'no' at the moment. I think the official line was more along the spirit of that they would keep matters under review, but any assistance and that would be determined, or subject to the outcome of the spending review—
So, would you expect—sorry.
Okay, but I'm asking you, really: would you expect or hope for the Welsh fisheries grant to be extended or offered in those circumstances? I presume you would wish for that to happen.
Absolutely, yes. I've written and specifically asked for that, but the response, essentially, didn't point to any clear routes for support and any support would be subject to, obviously, the spending review. So, I'm waiting with fingers crossed—
Okay. Thank you.
—and everything else.
Good afternoon. I just wonder if you could tell us how the Welsh Government has supported you so far, given that the hospitality industry had to close during lockdown and was clearly disrupted during the firebreak as well. Were you given any support to divert supplies to other fruitful outlets?
Thank you for that question. Obviously, there was the Welsh fisheries support grant—that was a very helpful intervention. I think I've included a bit more detail on that in written evidence. But since then, we've seen, over the summer months, and this is where—and I have also mentioned in the evidence—it's important to keep things under review. When we received the grant, or when the industry received the grant, that was preceded by the worst quarter, in terms of weather, in 2020. So, resilience—financial resilience—was pretty low. By the time the grant came through and the markets had failed, obviously, that opportunity to build resilience over the summer months wasn't there. So, the reserves that you would have hoped to have built in preparation for the more unreliable winter months weather-wise—that opportunity wasn't there. So, people managed to work through when the restrictions were lifted slightly, and they managed to remain in survival mode, I think, probably—a lot of people have used that term to me.
But having said that, then, with further restrictions, and with that resilience further weakened, then those shocks and those issues become more and more urgent, and at the moment, the bit that concerns me is we predicted that there would be a further impact, potentially, in the winter, and we needed to keep an eye on that, from what I've said previously, but then the unknown elements were then that there was a further firebreak, and there were tiered systems for the lockdown in England, and prior to all of that, obviously, wider implications from international restrictions, which all have implications on export markets and so on.
Okay, but one of the things I'm interested in is probing how we make you less dependent on exports, given some of the unknowns going forwards with the transition from the EU et cetera. There was an innovative grant given to Gwynedd and Anglesey, I think it was, part of the foundational economy grant, to get the fishing industry supplying the local schools. Now, obviously, that happened just before the lockdown, and obviously the schools were closed, but I just wondered if that sort of initiative was something you're looking at.
To be perfectly honest, you know more about that scheme than I do. That might speak volumes. What I could say is that that's certainly an initiative that's certainly worth supporting, and we'd like to know to more about. But there have been a variety of different attempts, obviously, given the issues with international markets and European markets and so on, where there have been quite patchy results altogether throughout the UK of people getting more organised within their networks to aim at more direct selling, and that has had some level of success. I think, probably, a little bit more patchy in Wales, so some have done quite well, and been able to realise those opportunities, but the truth of the matter is that even where that has worked well, it's not an alternative for the volumes that would otherwise have been caught. And then, you sort of end up having supply issues, where you've got too much supply and not enough demand.
So, it's something that certainly needs further attention and more thought, and there definitely is a place for it. To what extent that remains when restrictions are lifted and people's habits change, that's also something to keep an eye on as well. Because at the moment, a lot of supermarkets have stopped selling fresh fish, so people are interested in other outlets that are perhaps more direct, and I think that's been generally a good experience, but more work to do.
Okay. Well, we'd be very interested to know anything you can tell us about supermarkets stopping the sale of fresh fish, because obviously, people have been preparing fresh food more at home during the lockdown, so that would be worrying. So, perhaps not in the meeting, but if you could send us a note, that would be very helpful.
Okay, thank you.
Okay. Thank you.
Thank you, Chair. Hello, Jim. I have been asking questions, because I've got a lively fishing industry here in Conwy, and I have good relationships with the fishermen, but I have to ask questions on their and your behalf.
Now, whilst you've called the Welsh fisheries grant a welcomed lifeline, there are currently no plans to extend it, I understand, and when the Welsh Government were asked about this, if they were considering similar fisheries businesses, similar to that in England, the Minister actually pointed out there was an EU scheme. So, considering this, have you had any indication from the Welsh Government that the fisheries sector would be supported through any future lockdown, to cope with the instability in supply chains? Can you vocalise how these lockdowns, like the firebreak, have impacted on fisheries supply chains and, in turn, our fragile coastal communities?
There were quite a lot of questions in there. I suppose starting with the last first, we have had reports back, although they, thankfully, seem to be quite isolated. But it is a worrying trend. What happened is that, following the first lockdown, then there was media attention around which administration was seeking to do what measures and where, and then Welsh Government came out with the discussion around a firebreak. What was reported to me at that time was that where orders had been placed by hospitality businesses for half term in October, they were cancelled, obviously, before the decisions were made, which was unhelpful. But a more worrying aspect of that as well is that because that seemed to come as a shock to the hospitality sector, and they were recognising that they were picking themselves up after the initial lockdown, some were in a position where they weren't able to settle accounts at that point either. Now, that might change over time, but what is happening is then those sort of problems go to the point where, as I was saying earlier, you have that least resilience, and so that debt is an issue or a concern that needs to be kept an eye on going forward. I must admit I'm not aware of any EU funds that are available for the COVID situation, with the exception of the aquaculture scheme that you mentioned. I think there was another element that was included in there, but that was more to do with flexibilities to the EMFF scheme, based on the relaxation of state aid. Given what I said about the application process in Wales, I think that, again, would be a barrier, in some cases, to that being a solution to a problem that is more immediate.
Okay. Thank you.
Good afternoon, Jim. You say in your evidence that a wide range of businesses—
You're okay, Neil. We can hear you.
I thought I was muted. Sorry. Jim, you say in your evidence that a wide range of businesses that are integral to the coastal economy, and the tourism industry generally, could be in severe financial difficulties, which might possibly be fatal as a result of these continued lockdowns and further restrictions, unless there is an ongoing assessment of the impacts across the whole of the seafood chain. I think that's a commonsense view. So, are you aware of anything that the Government is doing to fulfil what you want to see in that respect?
I think, sadly, I'm going to probably repeat the answer that I gave earlier. I'm not aware of any assessment, and we've certainly not contributed to any that may be being made at the moment. More worryingly, in the answers that we've had to far, any potential assistance or avenues of support seem to be predicated on the spending review. I know that's been made recently; maybe some news will follow fairly swiftly. But, at the moment, the way I understand it is that we won't know if—let alone how much might be available for what. There are so many uncertainties in front of us. That's the concern that we have. We're still a long way from the end of this event, sadly, and it seems, though we've had an intervention, which was, like I say, very welcome—but given the state of the industry at that time and the issues around resilience, the further lockdowns have just impacted that. You kind of worry—understand, but worry—where do things go from there. Without a process of being able to regularly analyse and maybe highlight and react, or at least make efforts to identify where interventions can be perhaps more targeted—that is the bit that concerns me.
Thank you. Am I muted or not? No, I'm not. I'm sorry, I couldn't work out whether I was muted or not, then. Thank you very much. Moving on to Joyce.
I'm doing a mime act. I forgot to unmute. Could you outline for the committee the relationship between the catching sector and exporters, and your understanding of the requirements on both parties at the end of the transition period? We're talking Brexit.
I think whilst it's important to point out that the WFA isn't a marketing organisation, by definition in representing the catching sector, almost entirely all of our members are reliant on the export market, given that 90 per cent of the landings in Wales are shellfish and 90 per cent of those are destined for export markets. Of course, we, I think, are reasonably clear to the extent of what preparations need to be made in the catching sector, but again, very alive or concerned or anxious that it would be nice to hear that somebody is having very detailed discussions and perhaps even one-to-ones, where possible, to help and guide the exporters through what is quite a different trading relationship and a lot of complications that go with that. And of course, there are a lot of technical issues that are going to be required from them going forward. I think that, certainly on the level where they'll now be required to generate catch certification, becomes more complicated with consignments that have multivessel schedules.
Then there's the issue of export health certification. From what I gather, there are additional costs of that, which are a minimum of £50 to £100 per certificate. It might be the case that you require certificates for every consignment within a load, so there are those costs, and less optimised routes to market, due to the limited number of border control posts. Obviously through that there is a risk of bottlenecks and delays that will also add costs, and the possibility of spoiling highly perishable products at each European border, potentially. So, whilst that is perhaps the worst case scenario, a very negative view, it just highlights some of the issues that exporters will have to deal with. From where I'm sat, representing our members, it would be a comfort to know that—. And I think the reality is that everybody would expect this to be an issue that perhaps the Government would have in hand, but we don't know or have any communication to confirm that that kind of level of assistance is being provided to the exporters, who are critical to the supply chain.
So, you'd like the Government to give you more advice.
Not us specifically, but inform us, I think, or at least confirm that that kind of dialogue is taking place and that the exporters are fully prepared for what is essentially a new trading relationship.
Thank you. Janet.
Thank you, Chair. Following on from Joyce there, can you outline your understanding of the requirements on catching and exporting parties at the end of the transition period? And are you aware, if you're concerned about the lack of information over these requirements, that they have been discussed in the quarterly meetings of the Welsh fisheries advisory group? Do you share the feeling of the Conwy fishing community that these discussions often do not truly reflect the state of local industry and the struggles they face?
I think there is an issue there. To answer your question first of all, these discussions, certainly around the new trading relationships—given the sequencing or timing around these meetings, then it might not necessarily have been an issue for that particular meeting, because with them being every quarter, things have moved on a lot in that period. So, you might be looking at a very different situation. But just in respect of that particular group anyway, that's more focused on fisheries management issues, but it does pick up wider marine issues as well, but more on, I would say, probably, how they relate to the wider fisheries management. Because, obviously, environmental legislation impacts on activities as much as, if not more than, fisheries legislation. So, it's that kind of discussion. There have been more information-based updates in relation to Brexit and the developments that have taken place over the years, but we haven't had specific detailed briefings.
What I have done recently—and I'll crudely hold this up for Members—is passing on information that's been quite helpful that has come from the Marine Management Organisation. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs provide monthly updates, or very regular updates, but this document that I just held up—and I'd be happy to send that to the clerk, if that's okay—is entitled 'Getting ready for 1 January 2021', and this is basically a very short and concise document that points to, whoever you are within the seafood supply chain, what you need to be doing. So, it helps people to, first of all, understand that, then, at least if they don't understand that, they can ask questions from the various agencies and feed that back to their local officials and so on. I have asked, a few weeks ago, for Welsh Government to produce a similar copy, which, I'm pleased to say, was published I think Monday this week. I forget the title of it, but I'd be happy to send that to Members as well. That again is very much along the lines of this document, but very helpful.
Thank you. Do you want to move on to the next section, Janet?
Thank you. This is on engagement with the catching sector and exporters. Your recent evidence has highlighted that the sector was unaware of further preparations that the Welsh fishing fleet should take unless they land fish or shellfish directly into the EU. To what extent is this direct engagement taking place? What parties are privy to these conversations and in what format is this engagement taking place? Is it letters, leaflets, videos—other than the pamphlet that you've just shown us?
I think that is a very fair comment. As far as I'm aware, there is no real direct engagement on these issues, hence the earlier points that I raised about getting clarity around that information and trying to make that as public and as available as possible. Because I understand perfectly that everybody has a part in that supply chain, and if one of those links fails, the whole thing fails, and, ultimately, the primary producers are directly impacted by any failure. So, for everybody to be aware, and, for catchers, that we understand to the best of our knowledge what we need to do to prepare the industry, or what vessel owners need to do to prepare themselves to ensure that they're compliant. The only thing in respect of the Welsh fleet that we're aware of at the moment is International Maritime Organization registration for vessels over 12m, and vessels need to be registered as food businesses to ensure that they have the relevant registration number to ensure that you can generate an export health certificate. So, this is the latest information, and we're trying to make sure that we get that spread as far and wide as possible, but the bit that is needed is the push.
Now, I did have a discussion with an official earlier this week, because we wanted to try and get a handle on how many fishing businesses had actually gone down the process of registering with their local authorities as food businesses, and because this is already an existing regulation, it hasn't been a major issue in terms of exporting because of the single market. Obviously, things change in that respect and we need to address that, but it's not been on the local authorities' radar either, so they don't have a list of people in their area, or vessels in their area that need to be registered. I think there is a bit of difficulty in trying to determine how many are currently registered on the system and how many, then, that are reliant on the export trades are there remaining to be registered. Because this, obviously, places further demands on local authorities to get the inspections done and so on, and there are all the COVID elements that apply to that as well.
At the moment, what we've suggested might be the best way forward is that there's a relatively small amount of exporters in Wales, and if the Government approaches them to get them to identify the people who are their suppliers within that export supply chain, then they will know the people who are regularly engaged in that supply chain, and then be able to relate that with their vessel register and the local authorities to try and identify anyone who, then, is missing from that picture. So, to have a more targeted approach of being able to deal with, first of all, people directly plugged into the export market all year round, and then dealing with all the regulatory elements that would be supplying the domestic market. So, I hope that answers your question—
Yes, thanks, Jim. And then, in terms of engagement with the catching sector and exporters, in your recent evidence, you said that whilst you
'understand that it would be wasteful to replicate guidance...contact details for lead officials and the Welsh language provisions should also be available'.
So, how far have the engagement teams gone to provide for Welsh first-language fishermen, and how can the digital communications be improved?
I think that speaks to the point I raised earlier about the document that was produced earlier in the week. That has also been produced in Welsh, so that has been circulated broadly, I think, obviously, by the Government, but we've done that to all the contacts and through all the platforms that we have available to us as well. So, yes, it was a point that I raised at the time of writing that wasn't resolved at that time, if that makes sense.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you, Chair. Oh, I think Jenny wanted to come in—sorry.
Thank you. If that's all right, I just wanted to know, picking up on the request asked by Janet, on the assumption that we do come up with a deal at the twenty-fifth hour, what do you think are the risks and opportunities of using the Chesapeake bay of Europe to expand the industry and generally improve business?
I'm sorry, I don't recognise the Chesapeake bay—
Chesapeake bay in the United States is famous for the wealth of seafood around the world, and so, basically, what David Melding says is that we've got this resource here, and it's very underused.
Well, I think there's an important statistic to understand as well, which is that 83,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish are harvested from the Welsh exclusive economic zone annually. Of that, there are only between 5,000 and 8,000 tonnes landed by Welsh vessels. So, there's certainly an area to look at there to improve how Wales can develop our industry and enable it to realise those opportunities in a way that respects both economic, environmental and social justice issues.
There is also a discussion, at the moment, going on nationally around improving or strengthening economic links in line with the national benefit objective within the Fisheries Act, and I think when you look at those figures, there is perhaps a lot that can and should be done to address those. I think what is true is that, probably there are a lot of resources from our waters that we don't realise are being landed, and does Wales necessarily get the benefits?
I think there's a real opportunity to revitalise coastal communities in Wales, but of course we have other complications to work our way through as well, particularly regarding trade and the issues we discussed earlier. So, what I would like to see, and one of the things, I think, that is missing in terms of the term 'preparation', is that, recognising those statistics at least, maybe we should be doing a job of work to look at what the needs are, and particularly with a replacement scheme coming up for the European maritime and fisheries fund and a UK scheme, where that money could be best used to develop capacity at one level, and I don't mean adding capacity—what you're basically doing with the repatriation of quota or any potential uplift there, it will mean that that's not adding to capacity or fishing pressure; it's transferring beneficial ownership, and the economic implications to Wales from that. So, I think the preparations could be focused a lot more around what do we need to be doing now in terms of planning for the next five to 10 years so that we can realise or ensure that we have appropriate resources and investment for capacity and infrastructure to revitalise the fishing industry in Wales.
Now on to Llyr Gruffydd.
Yes, thank you. I would agree with a lot of that, Jim—absolutely. I just wanted to ask about the end of transition action plan that the Welsh Government published recently. It talks of the possibility of leading some sort of crisis intervention scheme if there were new trade barriers as a result of the end of the transition period, and if that led to a collapse in the fisheries export market, particularly, of course, around shellfish. I'm just wondering whether you had any indication of what such a crisis intervention scheme might include or what it would look like.
Sadly, Llyr, as far as I'm aware, we haven't been directly involved with the production of that document. I do recall it being mentioned or that there was some research being carried out by the Counsel General in that area, probably though the European advisory group, which, interestingly, there's no fisheries representation on. But they were carrying out that work, and I don't know whether it was related, but some time after that, there were some researchers from WCPP, the Welsh Centre for Public Policy, who did an interview over Zoom, a very brief interview, and some time later—well, I think it was last week—the action plan was produced.
Interestingly, that was very much drawn to that crisis intervention scheme, but I think it does highlight that that, again, like other interventions, is predicated on whether there's a UK scheme. So, again, some uncertainty there. It does highlight the issues, and specifies the purpose, but for me it falls short on commitment, because if the UK Government doesn't come up with something, does that mean that there's nothing that the Welsh Government can do?
Yes, that's a very valid point, I think. And in terms of what such a scheme should look like, do you have any thoughts around what a crisis intervention scheme for Wales should look like, particularly?
I think, to be honest, Llyr, as we were saying, a crisis intervention, by definition, would paint a picture of a worst-case scenario. We did experience that to some extent in March when we saw the collapse of the export market, but also the hospitality market. So where 'no deal' planning had just been looking at one route to market, we had a double whammy, so to speak. And I think that ought to be, perhaps, the area where there needs to be some research; there needs to be some thought and some discussion around what the experience was then and what worked and what didn't work, and to maybe learn from that to hopefully develop an intervention scheme that is right and appropriate and fit for purpose.
I couldn't tell you what you'd need, because if I said one thing, there's no one thing, there is a whole raft of things that need to be considered, otherwise things can fall down because you've forgotten one element of it. But I think to do that in a more confident way would be to analyse the experience we've already been through.
Okay, thank you.
I have just been unmuted. We've come to the end of our time. Can I thank Jim Evans for coming along to give evidence to the committee? I think I found it—well, I know I found it very beneficial, and I'm sure that other Members have as well. You know that you'll get a transcript and an opportunity to look through it. I'll tell you what I tell everybody: check, because if you're anything like me and you move around whilst talking, the odd word can be missed out. So just check it to make sure they haven't missed any words because of you moving away from the microphone. But thank you very much, it's been very helpful and we hope to see you again sometime. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, everybody. Stay safe and well. Bye.
Thank you. We'll now go into a short break.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:27 ac 14:34.
The meeting adjourned between 14:27 and 14:34.
Can I welcome Members to the second session of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee this afternoon? Can I warmly welcome Nick Fenwick, who is head of policy, Farmers Union of Wales, and Huw Thomas, political adviser, National Farmers Union Cymru? You've both spent a lot of time visiting our committee, so I don't think I need to tell you anything about the procedure. If I can start off with the first question, which is from me. During the first national lockdown, supply chains were disrupted creating dairy and meat price volatility. You've told the committee in evidence that the situation has now stabilised. Do you accept the Minister's comment that there's no plan to further sector-specific COVID-19 support? Who wants to go first? Huw.
Okay. Thank you. I think, obviously, we faced some considerable difficulties back in the spring, very acute difficulties in the dairy sector, and also the livestock sector, because of the change in consumer demand and buying pattern. We're grateful to the Welsh Government for the support that they made available to the dairy sector. I think some 160 or so farmers benefited from that. But I think, for many of them, the support available didn't go very far in terms of mitigating their losses, which ran into many, many thousands of pounds in some instances. So, as welcome as that was, it didn't recompense all the losses that were incurred there.
I don't want to be a hostage to fortune as to where we might go with coronavirus. We don't really know where we might end up, but I think, if it is appropriate, if further support and intervention is needed in some sectors where problems do occur, then I think that is something Welsh Government will need to consider—and UK Government, indeed. Thank you.
Nick, anything to add?
Yes, I was just going to say 'never say never', and reflect Huw's comments. The one thing that the coronavirus outbreak has taught us is that things can change very, very rapidly, and food supply chains can collapse very rapidly, and have particular effects for certain producers and certain manufacturers. And we need to be aware of the need to rapidly act to address problems when they occur, and we all hope that they won't occur, but who knows what might happen in the coming months.
Okay. Thank you very much. Joyce Watson.
Good afternoon, both. We did have the initial lockdown, and then, more recently, we've had the firebreak in Wales, and we've had a lockdown in England. Have either of those had any particular impact on your industries?
I'll start, Chairman. Thank you, Joyce. There were some quite immediate impacts of the English lockdown, in particular for the dairy industry. We have to bear in mind that the vast majority of our consumers that we supply to live in England. The population of England dominates the UK population, and so there were some very rapid changes there to the dairy industry, which had quite sudden, acute impacts. But the industry was more prepared this time than previously. I think, on the whole, the lockdown, from the FUW's point of view, and members' point of view, was supported—the firebreak was supported.
I think I'd just echo what Nick said there, really. I think people were perhaps a bit better prepared this time around, but, obviously, in Wales, we're concerned with producing livestock and milk, and our markets are over in England, by and large; the population centres are over there. And I suppose, looking towards Christmas, which is traditionally a busy time of year in terms of eating out, et cetera, we don't really know what sort of impact that potentially might have, irrespective of what sort of lockdown we are in at that stage. There is likely to be some impact from the perhaps lack of sales, or people not following the traditional spending consumption patterns there.
Can I, Chair, just ask: in terms of split, percentage split, what percentage of your sales that you mentioned, to restaurants and such like—what percentage does that account for? If you haven't got it now, to hand, it would be worth us understanding that.
I think roughly about half of the—. Using liquid milk as an example, traditionally, it was about half and half. So, about half of liquid milk sales went into hospitality, so things like cafes, et cetera, and half was consumed at home. So, it was about half and half. Things obviously changed in the spring, but I think things have got more back to the more normal situation now, accepting that it isn't entirely normal. But we are, in Wales, as I said, heavily concerned with the production of livestock. I think we only consume about 5 per cent of the red meat that we actually produce within the borders of Wales. We're looking to send most of that over to England. So, there are huge implications stemming from events beyond Wales's borders then.
Moving on then, Janet.
Sorry, Chairman, I was just going to provide some figures that I think—well, I know—are on page 3 of our evidence, which is that Hybu Cig Cymru estimates that the Welsh lamb and beef split between retail and food service is 47:53, so it's getting on for half and half.
Thank you. I wanted that on the record—thank you.
Thank you very much. Janet.
Hi, Nick. Hi, Huw. Good to see you. As you know, the majority of farmers—indeed, probably most of them—don't pay business rates. So, they obviously weren't eligible for the non-domestic rates grants. Do you know whether any of your members were able to or did apply for the discretionary local lockdown grant and how successful it was across the piste?
[Inaudible.]—information I can say. Our members, and I'm sure Huw would say the same, come from a—. It's a very broad church. Some people have very diverse businesses, supplying very specific supply chains; others are more mainstream providers, more traditional. And I know that many of them did access various different funding, while others found it difficult or weren't able to access funding. I'd be misleading the committee if I tried to say anything more than that.
Yes, I think I'd agree with that. I don't think I have anything I can usefully add. As I said, our membership is also quite diverse in terms of its—.
Yes, it's diverse, yes. And then, only around 10 per cent of dairy businesses were eligible for the Welsh Government dairy support scheme, yet 50 per cent of these have been highly impacted. What criteria do you feel should have been set to ensure that more dairy farmers were helped, and did the Welsh Government ask for your views before launching the scheme?
I think the issue with the dairy support scheme was that it was based on the percentage milk price drop: so, the farmer had to have had a drop of at least 25 per cent in the milk price from February as compared to April/May. It didn't take account of drops in income. A lot of farmers, as you might have seen from pictures on the television, were having to pour milk away, or at least reduce production, and that impacted on farm-gate revenues. So, I think we would say that you need to take greater account of income; using the metric of just the milk price alone did disadvantage a number of farmers, who incurred very significant losses because they were either scaling back production or, in some instances, having to pour milk away. Using the price alone was a bit of a blunt instrument, and we would ask Welsh Government to revisit that, to look again at some of the eligibility around that. Some cases were very close to the border line as well in terms of whether they qualified for support or not. It's deeply frustrating for those individuals as well.
Moving on then, Llyr Gruffydd.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Cadeirydd. Yn benodol efallai i gychwyn, roeddwn i eisiau holi Nick ynglŷn â'r dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig, lle rŷch chi'n sôn am y ffaith dyw Llywodraeth Cymru ddim wedi manteisio ar yr hyblygrwydd oedd gyda nhw o safbwynt rhai o'r cronfeydd neu'r ffynonellau ariannu Ewropeaidd—dydyn nhw ddim wedi defnyddio'r hyblygrwydd yna i gefnogi'r sector yn ystod y pandemig. Pa fath o weithredu byddech chi wedi hoffi gweld y Llywodraeth yn ei wneud, efallai yn defnyddio'r cronfeydd yna?
Thank you very much, Chair. Specifically at the outset, I wanted to ask Nick about the written evidence, where you mention the fact that the Welsh Government didn't take advantage of the flexibility that they had in terms of some of the funds or European funding sources—that they haven't used that flexibility to support the sector throughout the pandemic. So, what kind of action would you have liked to have seen from the Government and in terms of the use of those funds?
Diolch yn fawr, Llyr. Wel, daeth yr hyblygrwydd yna i mewn o dan rheolau Ewrop o ran sut roeddech chi'n gallu gwario pres Ewrop, sydd yn dal i ddod o Ewrop. Ac roedd un yn benodol lle roedd yn bosib rhoi i fyny at €5,000 i ffermwyr allan o gronfa'r RDP. A thrwy wneud hynny, yn ogystal â helpu'r rheini a oedd yn dioddef o dan yr amgylchiadau anodd yma, byddai hynny, byddem ni'n dadlau, hefyd wedi lleihau'r effaith negyddol o beth glywson ni ddoe o ran datganiad Llywodraeth San Steffan ynglŷn â faint o bres fydd yn dod i amaeth flwyddyn nesaf. Achos mae hwnna wedi ei seilio, i raddau, ar faint o bres dŷn ni ddim wedi gwario yng nghyfnod cyllideb presennol Ewrop.
Thank you, Llyr. Well, that flexibility came in under the European rules in terms of how you can spend European funding, which is still coming from Europe. And there was one specifically where it was possible to give up to €5,000 to farmers out of the RDP fund. And by doing that, as well as helping those who are suffering under these very difficult circumstances, we would argue that that would also have reduced the negative impact of what we heard yesterday in terms of the statement of the Westminster Government about how much money will be coming to agriculture next year. Because that is based, to an extent, on how much money we haven't spent in the current European budget period.
Cadeirydd, gaf i ategu'r hyn ddywedodd Nick hefyd? Rŷn ni'n teimlo'n gryf y dylai'r Llywodraeth wedi manteisio ar y cyfle yma i gael yr arian yma mas i'r diwydiant pan oedd yr angen ar y mwyaf, a dwi'n credu nawr rŷn ni'n gweld—mae'n eironig, onid yw e—ein bod ni nawr mewn sefyllfa lle mae problemau wedi datblygu o achos y tanwariant yn y cynllun datblygu gwledig. Mae'n drueni mawr na achubwyd ar y cyfle ar y pryd i gael yr arian yna i'r diwydiant. Diolch.
Chair, could I endorse what Nick said as well? We feel very strongly that the Government should have taken advantage of this opportunity to get this money out to the industry when the need was greatest, and I think that now we are seeing—it's ironic, isn't it—that we are now in a position where problems have developed because of the underspend in the rural development scheme. It's a great shame they didn't take advantage of the opportunity to get that money into the industry. Thank you.
Mi allen ni dreulio amser yn trafod y cyhoeddiad ddoe, ond dwi ddim yn gwybod os yw'r Cadeirydd yn hapus inni efallai jest gael bach mwy o eglurder ynglŷn â beth yw'r sefyllfa.
We could spend time discussing yesterday's announcement, but I don't know whether the Chair wants us to have a little bit more clarity about that situation—I don't know whether he is happy with that.
I think we do need to know more about it. We'd certainly be very pleased to have any written comments you'd like to note when it becomes clearer, but I certainly don't know enough about it at the moment to be able to ask sensible questions, and I'm not sure that anybody knows exactly what it means on the ground. So, when we do get further information, we'd certainly want written evidence from you, and we may well want to have a special session to discuss it. In fact, I was discussing that before the meeting started—about having a special session to discuss it. Thank you.
Moving on then, Jenny.
Thank you very much. I just wanted to touch on the impact of the closure of certain export markets during the pandemic, and what impact that had on your members, and what steps were taken to mitigate. I don't know who wants to go first. Huw, do you want to start?
Sori, Huw—cer di.
Sorry, Huw—go ahead.
Sorry. So, I think there were some issues, obviously, in mainland Europe with, perhaps—. They were more related to things like transporting, the practical matters of transporting products around Europe—the availability, sickness, unavailability of drivers, et cetera— perhaps the threat to processing capacity as well from sickness and illness in the food supply chain. It was quite concerning as well, but I think there were so many things happening, dealing in the immediacy of the domestic market, the collapse in the demand from the retail side of things, and we were trying to work with others to try and get the supply chains back into alignment, really. That was a particularly difficult episode there.
Okay, thank you. Nick, you mentioned in your evidence that the wool markets were closed—certainly, the export market to China was closed. I'm just trying to understand why that would have had such an impact on prices, given that this is not food, so the wool is still good some months later, isn't it?
Yes. It's not to do with perishability of the product; it's simply to do with, basically, the closing down of entire industries and people going into lockdown and potentially factories closing—people not being able to buy carpets, for example, because the carpet shops are shut. Or indeed the refurbishment of hotels—hotels are a massive market for the carpet industry, which is derived from wool. So, the closure of that industry then brings the whole global supply chain to a halt, and it demonstrates the degree to which the wool market does operate globally.
But if nothing else, I think—I may have said to committee before—this is a mild pandemic compared with what could happen. The mortality rates are horrible, but compared with other viruses that have come out 20 years ago in the same area of the world, actually— those mortality rates were far, far higher than they are with the coronavirus, or this form of the coronavirus. And if nothing else, it gives you an indication of why it is so important not to be complacent about our food supply chains, and it shows how rapidly things can alter within, simply, weeks, and therefore an over-reliance on global importers, for example, which are important, would make us very vulnerable.
Okay. So, what do you think—? A lot of people have talked about strengthening local food networks as a result of the pandemic, do you think—? Are you able to give us any concrete examples of where your members have been engaging in doing that?
We have lots of members who have, during the lockdown, been directly involved in supplying far more food locally. As I've, again, said to this committee before, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that 90 per cent of our market is outside the boundaries of Wales, but local food supplies are incredibly important. We have members who are butchers who are delivering not only meat to vulnerable people, but also delivering medicine and that sort of thing. And as one might have anticipated, things have slid back more to the more normal—if you can describe it as that—situation. I think we do need to make more effort to try and retain some of those positive outcomes that have come from a very sad situation in general.
Okay. Well, perhaps we can come back to this when we're discussing Brexit.
Thank you. Janet.
Yes, I'm unmuted. Given decisions by some countries to limit exports, what discussions have you had with the Welsh Government on food security, and the impact of these changing practices?
Do you want me to start on that, Janet? The food security issue is a big issue, and I think the pandemic and some of the empty supermarket shelves that we saw back in the spring reminded us all of that. There is a provision in the UK Agriculture Act 2020, as it is now, which will mandate the Secretary of State in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to report to Parliament on food security every three years, and I think that's welcome. We suggested, actually, it wouldn't be a bad thing if Welsh Ministers had the same duties imposed on them through legislation passed in Cardiff, that they took on that sort of mantle, really.
I think food security is obviously a big strategic issue, but I think, on a Wales level, we can play our part as well, and ensure that we keep an eye on food security issues. As you said, we did see a lot of countries slapping on export bans in response to changing demands, and that always does remind us of our vulnerability, especially if our primary production base is allowed to run down. So, we need to have the right policies in place in future agricultural support as well, to put productive agriculture at the heart of that if we are to maintain our food security as a nation. Diolch.
Thanks. And do you think that the Welsh Government should respond to the moves of countries like Russia, Ukraine and India, by placing greater importance on the production of food here in Wales?
Yes, I think so. We aren't as self-sufficient in temperate foodstuffs as we could be in Wales; we could be producing more. I think farmers need to have the right signals from Government, and one way they could usefully do that is signal that through their intentions around future support policy. We need to put productive agriculture really at the heart of that.
If I can add, Chair, I think there has been a welcome move, or maybe shuffle, more towards food production being central to our future rural policies, and we would argue that we need that to be far greater, alongside caring for communities and the environment, and mitigating carbon emissions et cetera. They're all part of the same thing, and they shouldn't be regarded as separate.
One thing, I think, that's maybe also important to note is we talk about food security being—we perceive it as being the lack of food going in and not being able to buy food. One of the biggest impacts of food security is to do with price volatility and the degree to which sudden spikes in food prices—so it may be there but it becomes very expensive—can cause terrible political destabilisation. That was a massive trigger for what happened in north Africa at the end of the noughties, if that's the right way to put it.
Thank you. Joyce Watson.
Thank you. The other thing, of course, that can cause instability is if you can't have enough people to actually manufacture, produce or pick the crops that might be grown. So, we did see through the pandemic that people couldn't travel. There were reports of people who were dependent on migrant workers not, obviously, being able to employ them. So, going forward, those sectors that do rely—and have relied—on migrant labour will still be doing that. So, how can we help to support that? Of course, we've got the whole other question of Brexit coming, which will probably help facilitate the problems in that sector.
I'll start, Chairman. I'm not going to reiterate what's in our evidence, where we've quoted others highlighting this issue. But, in broad terms, we have the importance of skilled and unskilled labour, and sometimes what is perceived as unskilled but is actually highly skilled labour, and the thresholds needed to ensure that those people can continue to come. We also have the issue of short-term migratory workers and long-term migratory workers. We have to be realistic about our reliance, whether we like it or not, on those people and how quickly things can alter, and the need to change and be able to rapidly accommodate those people and allow them to work, whether it's in light of a pandemic or in light of what will happen after December.
I don't think there's much that I can usefully add to what Nick has said, really. The situation in our sector and the processing sector is often—. We're often told we need to automate and move away from reliance on human hands and human labour, but a lot of tasks like animal husbandry and butchery and food preparation are not amenable to being automated. We keep trying to impress that message on Government, really, and sometimes it can be a bit frustrating trying to get that through.
If I might quickly add, Chairman, there is a skills issue there as well, because there is this aspiration to have more domestic people in those supply chains, doing that work, skilled or unskilled, and there is certainly a training issue there. But, it is very difficult for those—. When people try and be proactive about employing local populations in some of these jobs, they do come up against significant barriers.
So, just, if I can, Chair—. So, you mentioned the skills issue and the training issue, obviously, and we want to feed stuff back to Government, obviously. So, what do you need to help with that?
Speaking on behalf of the vast majority of our members, they wouldn't be directly affected, and those who are employing people in dairy farms, et cetera—I would suggest that things are not as bad as they would be in terms of training, et cetera, compared with—. Well, we don't have the challenges compared with the food manufacturing and processing industries. That's the sort of area where we need apprenticeships and that sort of thing, and I don't profess to be anything close to an expert on what is and what isn't available. I would suggest that people like the British Meat Processors Association and Dairy UK would be ideally placed to answer that sort of question.
Thank you. We'll ask them when we see them. Neil Hamilton.
Hi, Nick. I would like to go back to the COVID pandemic and ask you—because I don't see anything in the evidence that either of you have given in advance relating to this—are there any animal health and welfare impacts that we ought to be told about from the pandemic?
I wouldn't say there are any particularly direct impacts. There were concerns initially that we were raising, and I would guess that a lot of what could have happened was alleviated because we had rapid emergency meetings during which we highlighted the need to make changes. For example, the most basic one was to ensure that vets were treated as key workers, of course. So, that sort of early decision making negated a lot of the negative impacts that we might have seen. So, yes, there have been problems with vet availability and problems where certain practices might have gone down—. One member of staff might have gone down with the virus and then, of course, everyone else had to self-isolate and there would have been local problems. But we weren't made aware of any problems that arose from that. People just sort of filled the gaps. So, I think there was an awful lot of work done early on to negate that, to the extent that I haven't heard of any significant problems.
I can't relate any significant issues either, really, I think, for the reasons Nick has outlined, really—the mitigations that were put in place early on. I think we've seen some good instances of the Government, the farming industries and vets working together to find practical solutions around things like TB testing as well. So, obviously, on young stock, for example, that has sort of helped mitigate some of the pressures that were apparent as well. So, no, I don't think there's been any really significant issues that we're aware of.
And of course we don't have any mink in Wales, really, do we? So, that's another thing.
There's no shortage in this area, but they're not in cages.
Well, thank you very much for that.
Thank you. Moving on, Janet.
Thank you, Chair. As you'll be aware, the end of transition action plan makes it clear that the Welsh Government is working together with the UK Government to develop a UK-wide contingency plan in response to the potential impacts on the sheep sector. Whilst this is welcomed, do you think that further consideration needs to be given to ensure that any targeted intervention scheme is actually accessible also to beef, poultry, pig and dairy farmers?
Shall I start? I think it's welcomed that these things are in the contemplation of Government. We'd be concerned if they weren't. I think, of the sectors that stand to be impacted, perhaps, by an adverse Brexit outcome, I think the sheep sector is probably the most exposed. The modelling shows a 25 to 30 per cent drop in price for that sector. I don't think we would want to be prescriptive about which sectors. I think there will have to be an element of playing it by ear, really, and responding to events as they unfold. But I think the sheep sector does stand out as a sector that is especially exposed because of the reliance on export markets, really. It's really important that we keep those export markets open, because if we do lose them then we stand to lose them for a very long time. There were plans made before for the eventuality of a 'no deal' Brexit. I would hope that those plans could be dusted off and operationalised quickly if that were to come to pass this time around.
Yes, that was going to lead me to my next question, really. As you know, livestock and crop management have long and complex production cycles, and obviously they all want a trade deal, but we've known for quite some time now—in fact, some years—that a 'no deal' was a possibility. So, to me, it's always seemed sensible to stop arguing the point and to prepare for that scenario. So, what support do you think that Welsh farmers now require to assist them with the impact of a potential 'no deal' on their production cycles?
I can start, Huw. I think, at this point in time, information is all that we can provide, or try and provide. There is a dearth—if that's the right word—of information, in that there's a great deal we can't tell farmers, and there's a great deal we could tell farmers, and if they reacted to it and then we turn out to be wrong, we could be completely misguiding them as to what they need to do, because the trade negotiations are still ongoing. There's a long list, much of which is included in our evidence—. I'm sure Huw's put the same, or similar, issues to ourselves in the evidence. Those are unanswered questions. So, primarily we need to find ourselves in a position where we can give them solid information. When there are adverse impacts, as Huw said, we need to play it by ear, and we obviously hope there won't be, but there are these almost off-the-shelf plans that are being talked about ahead of the previous three or four, or however many it is, Brexit deadlines where we potentially could have left the EU without a deal very rapidly. But those will change slightly differently because of the times of year that those different exit dates came up at, because, obviously, the industry is seasonal. So, what might be appropriate in July would be very different to what's appropriate in January. Also, there are geographic differences between—. What is the priority for lowland sheep farmers in England, where there are more finishers, is going to be different to the priorities in uplands. And when you go up into the uplands of Scotland, you're talking about areas where people don't start lambing maybe until, I guess, mid May even. So, they're in a very different cycle to us, and therefore it's quite difficult to put something together that meets everyone's needs, and our argument would naturally be, no matter how difficult that is, that is what we need to do.
Could I just add—? Well, I don't think I have much to add to what Nick said, really, but maybe, in terms of what Welsh Government might do, we'd ask them, really, to pause and review the White Paper, the development of future support policy, until they really know what is going to happen with that. Pushing on with that when we're not absolutely sure, when we don't know what our trading relationship with the EU might be, or if we are facing a 'no deal' situation, I think it would be risky to pursue that policy. It is quite legitimate to pause and review at that juncture.
I think Jenny wants to come in with a supplementary at this stage.
I just want to go back to the wicked issue of fresh food supplies, because the transition action plan mentions that there's likely to be an impact on imports of fresh fruit and vegetables, and there is going to be a shortage of food, choice is going to be restricted and prices are likely to rise. And we know that this is a very sensitive issue, because the UK Government has actually instructed civil servants not to share this information with the devolved Governments. But yet, when I ask, 'Well, what are we doing about it?' not a lot comes back. So, given that you guys are at the coalface, what do you think we could be doing now to mitigate the worst impact of a potential 'no deal' and therefore massive disruption to food supplies from Europe?
I suggest, Chair, that the starting point would have to be in the key suppliers. We, as an industry, are continuing to produce the food that we produce best in Wales, from grass primarily, and I don't anticipate a problem in terms of the main types of commodity we produce in Wales. We are talking about the sort of food that is coming in from Brittany, for example—a lot of vegetables et cetera, organic, and that sort of supply chain as well. And in order to mitigate that, that work would have to start with working with those who are at that coalface, in a sense, in that they're the guys selling the food to the consumers, again, primarily in urban areas and primarily in England, and trying to mitigate it from that point of view and then work back through the supply chain. That would be my gut instinct as to how it should be mitigated. And maybe that work is already being undertaken, but, certainly, we're not involved in that. We would be happy to be involved, of course.
Yes. Okay. I mean, there's a certain amount of, 'Oh, we'll have to leave it to the supermarkets', but we know that they operate on a just-in-time basis, and that's also very worrying. So, I appreciate this is not the growing season now, but nevertheless there are things we could do. Is this something your members have been thinking about, talking about, hammering the Government about?
If I can just come back on that, I think it was this committee I gave evidence to, many months ago now, during the earlier days of the pandemic, about the need for supermarkets to diversify their supply chains and not only have a just-in-time model, which works well for them and does deliver in some ways—we may have concerns about it, but it does deliver in some ways, in certain conditions. But, obviously, the diversification of supply chains means that you're more resilient to things like the coronavirus, and it would be nice, wherever we live, whether we live in urban or rural environments, to see more local produce on the way into the supermarket, like you see in France and places like that. I think it's naive to think that we can rely just on the small shops that are doing a great job in selling certain types of produce. The majority are shopping in the supermarkets, and it would be great to see the supermarkets diversifying as well.
Moving on, to Llyr Griffiths.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Dwi eisiau dod nôl at y taliad creisis posib yma ar gyfer y sector ddefaid petai angen un. Roedd Nick yn sôn efallai fod anghenion gwahanol rannau o'r Deyrnas Unedig yn wahanol, ac mae'r tymhorau, wrth gwrs, yn amrywio, mae hynny yn mynd i 'dictate-o' i raddau beth fydd lled cynllun o'r fath. Ond petai angen cynllun o'r fath, mae'n golygu y byddai'r farchnad dan bwysau aruthrol, ac mi fyddai yna sensitifrwydd eithriadol wedyn petai yna gynlluniau a bod natur y cynlluniau yn amrywio o un rhan o'r Deyrnas Unedig i'r llall, ac mi fyddai yna gwyno ynglŷn â 'distort-o' y farchnad ac annhegwch oddi fewn i'r Deyrnas Unedig. Felly, ydych chi'n hyderus bod y math yna o hyblygrwydd yn mynd i fod yn bosib, oherwydd mi fydd yna bwysau gwleidyddol hefyd i sicrhau nad yw un rhan o'r Deyrnas Unedig yn cael mantais dros y llall?
Thank you, Chair. I want to return to the possible crisis payment for the sheep sector if it was needed. Nick mentioned that the needs of different parts of the UK would be different, and that seasonal factors would vary and dictate what the scheme would be. If we needed that kind of scheme, it would mean that the market would be under great pressure, and there would be extreme sensitivity then, if there were schemes and the nature of the schemes were to vary from one part of the UK to the other, and there would be complaints about distorting the market and unfairness within the UK. So, are you confident that that kind of flexibility is going to be possible, because there will be political pressure to ensure that not one part of the UK has an advantage over another?
Os caf i ddechrau, Gadeirydd, dwi'n cydnabod y dilema neu efallai'r tyndra dŷch chi wedi ei amlinellu, Llyr. Dwi'n gwybod y byddwn ni'n sicr yn edrych i Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i ariannu unrhyw gynllun o'r fath, ac efallai'r tebygrwydd yw y byddai Llywodraeth Cymru yn ei weinyddu fe. Dwi ddim yn gwybod, ond yn sicr dwi'n credu bod y pwysau ar Lywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig i wneud yn siŵr bod yr arian ar gael. Dwi'n credu y byddai'n anodd i ni petasai'r pedair cenedl yn mynd off mewn gwahanol gyfeiriadau gyda'r math o gymorth sydd ar gael. So, dwi'n credu y byddai'n rhaid bod tipyn o gydweithio i sicrhau nad oes yna wahaniaethau yn agor lan annhegwch o ran y cymorth sydd ar gael mewn gwahanol rannau o'r Deyrnas Unedig. Diolch.
If I can start, Chair, yes, I do recognise the dilemma or the tension, perhaps, that you've outlined, Llyr. We certainly would be looking to the UK Government to fund any scheme of that kind, and the likelihood is that the Welsh Government will administer it. I don't know about that, but certainly the pressure is on the UK Government to ensure that the funding is available. I think that it would be difficult for us if the four nations did go off in different directions with the kind of support that's available. So, I think that we'd have to have some collaboration to ensure that there are no variances that lead to unfairness in terms of the different provision in different parts of the UK. Thank you.
Byddwn i'n cytuno 100 y cant efo Huw. Bydd yn rhaid inni gael mwy o drafodaeth ynglŷn â hwn yn yr wythnosau sydd i ddod, oherwydd dŷn ni ddim dim ond yn sôn am effaith 'no deal' Brexit. Y tro yma rownd, dŷn ni'n sôn am effaith deal Brexit, os gallaf i ei roi o fel yna. Hynny yw, bu yna adeg pryd oedden ni'n gobeithio, o leiaf gobeithio, byddai zero friction wrth i'n cynnyrch gael ei allforio, ond mae'n amlwg rŵan y bydd yna dipyn o broblemau yn digwydd, hyd yn oed os dŷn ni ddim yn gorfod talu tariffs ar ein cynnyrch—non-tariff barriers. Felly, mae hwnna'n mynd i achosi problemau ac, o bosib, byddai fo'n gallu achosi problemau mawr sydd yn newid y llun dipyn bach o'i gymharu efo jest deal/no deal. Mae yna bryderon ynglŷn â'r angen i wneud yn siŵr nad oes market distortion, ond mae yna lot o fodelau fyddai'n gallu gadael rhai allan o'r cylch, fel petai.
I would agree 100 per cent with Huw. We will have to have more of a discussion about this in the coming weeks, because we're not just talking about the impact of a 'no deal' Brexit. This time, we're talking about the impact of a Brexit deal. That is, there was a time when we were hoping, at least, that we would have zero friction as our produce would be exported, but it's obvious now that there will be certain problems, even if we don't have to pay tariffs on our produce—there will be non-tariff barriers. And so, that's going to cause problems, and, possibly, it will cause major problems that change the picture, as opposed to conflict between a deal and no deal. There are concerns about the need to ensure that there is no market distortion, but there are lots of models that could mean leaving some people out of that cycle.
Mae rhywun jest yn teimlo efallai y byddai'n well i'r trafodaethau yna ddigwydd nawr yn hytrach na'u bod nhw'n digwydd ym merw'r sefyllfa lle mae'r pwysau yn aruthrol ac mae'r pwysau gwleidyddol hyd yn oed yn fwy, ond dwi'n clywed y neges ŷch chi'n ei ddweud. Mae hwnna'n dod â fi, wrth gwrs, wedyn, at Fil y farchnad fewnol, sydd wedi bod yn destun trafod yn ddiweddar a gofid ymhlith rhai, yn sicr. Nawr mae'r NFU, Huw, yn dweud yn eich papur chi y gallai fe 'trigger-o' ras i'r gwaelod pan fydd hi'n dod i safonau. Rwyf i'n credu ein bod ni'n gyfarwydd gyda'r dadleuon, ond efallai y gallwch chi ddweud a ydych chi wedi cael unrhyw drafodaethau gyda Llywodraethau Cymru a'r Deyrnas Unedig—y ddwy undeb—ar y mater yma. Yn sicr, dwi'n gwybod eich bod chi wedi mynegi eich gofid, ond ydych chi'n teimlo bod unrhyw ffordd o gwrdd â'r gofidiau hynny?
One feels that it might be better for those discussions to happen now, rather than that they happen at the boiling point of that situation where the pressure is great and the political pressure is even greater, but I do understand the message that you're conveying. That brings me to the internal market Bill, which has been the subject of discussion recently and of concern for some, as well. Now, the NFU says, Huw, in their paper that it could trigger a race to the bottom when it comes to standards. I think that we're familiar with the arguments, but perhaps you could tell us whether you have had any discussions with UK and Welsh Governments—both unions—on this issue. Certainly you've expressed your concern, but do you feel that there's any way to address those concerns?
Wel, dŷn ni ddim, a dweud y gwir, wedi cael llawer o drafodaeth gyda naill ai Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig neu Lywodraeth Cymru ynglŷn â hyn. Rŷn ni wedi gwneud ein barn ni'n eglur trwy dystiolaeth rŷn ni wedi ei rhoi i wahanol bwyllgorau ac yn ein hateb ni i'r ymgynghoriad ar y Papur Gwyn. Ond dwi ddim yn credu y gallai unrhyw Lywodraeth wadu eu bod nhw'n gyfarwydd â'n safbwynt ni.
Rŷn ni yn pryderu, wrth gwrs, ynglŷn â'r ffordd y maen nhw'n crybwyll y bydd, er enghraifft, mynediad at y farchnad yn gweithio o dan Fil y farchnad sengl, achos mae hwnna yn mynd i feddwl bod y cynnyrch sy'n deilwng o gael ei werthu yn Lloegr a, thrwy estyniad, yn cael ei werthu trwy gydol y Deyrnas Unedig—. Dwi'n defnyddio Lloegr fel enghraifft, ond petai Lloegr yn tynnu eu safonau nhw lawr, safonau cynhyrchu, a bod ffermwyr Cymru yn gorfod glynu at safonau uwch, wel, wrth gwrs, byddai'r maes chwarae yn un annheg wedyn ac mae ein ffermwyr ni yn mynd i fod ar eu colled, a byddai Llywodraeth Cymru mewn sefyllfa anodd lle mae'n rhaid iddyn nhw benderfynu a ydyn nhw'n mynd i ddilyn siwt a gwneud yr un peth â Llywodraeth Lloegr neu adael i'n ffermwyr ni weithio dan anfantais.
Rŷn ni'n rhagweld bod yna bosibiliad o ryw fath o ras i'r gwaelod yn digwydd, ac mae hwnna, efallai, yn fwy amlwg os nad ŷn ni'n cael cytundeb masnach gydag Ewrop, achos dwi'n credu y byddai hwnna, efallai, yn dod â pheth disgyblaeth i sut mae'r cenhedloedd yn rheoleiddio eu diwydiannau nhw, achos bydd yna oblygiadau yn deillio o hynny. Byddai goblygiadau yn deillio o unrhyw gytundeb masnach, ond hwnna, efallai, yw'r mwyaf amlwg. So, ie, byddwn i'n pryderu rywfaint ynglŷn â hynny. Dyw e ddim yn bryder rŷn ni wedi'i fynegi'n ysgafn.
Well, we haven't had much of a discussion with either the UK Government or the Welsh Government, in truth. We have made our views clear through the evidence that we've submitted to different committees, and in our response to the consultation on the White Paper. But I don't think that any Government could deny that they're familiar with our viewpoint.
But we are concerned, of course, about the way they're talking about the way access to the market will work under the internal market Bill, because that is going to mean that the produce that can be sold in England and, by extension, can be sold throughout the UK—. I use England as an example, because if England were to lower their production standards and Welsh farmers had to adhere to higher standards, well of course, it's not a level playing field then and Welsh farmers will be at a disadvantage, and the Welsh Government is going to be in a very difficult position where they have to decide whether they are going to follow suit and do the same thing as the English Government or let our farmers work under that disadvantage.
We do foresee that there are possibilities of that happening, and that would be more evident if we don't have a trade deal with Europe, because I think that that would perhaps bring some discipline in terms of how the nations regulate their own industries, because there will be implications stemming from that. But implications will stem from any trade deal, of course, but that would be the most obvious, perhaps. So, we would be somewhat concerned about that. It's not a concern that we have expressed lightly.
Does dim llawer y gallaf i ei ychwanegu. Mae'n anffodus iawn ein bod ni yn y sefyllfa yma. Fel rydych chi'n gwybod, Llyr, rydyn ni wedi bod yn siarad am hwn efo gwleidyddion ers bron yn syth ar ôl y refferendwm, a'r angen i'r drafodaeth gychwyn, achos ei fod e'n bwnc mor lletchwith, mor wleidyddol, achos bod gwledydd gwahanol a bod partïau gwahanol yn rheoli yn y gwledydd gwahanol. Ond doedd hynny ddim yn rheswm i beidio cael y drafodaeth yna yn gynnar, gynnar iawn, fel ein bod ni'n gallu dod at ryw benderfyniad lawer yn gynharach na'r ffordd y mae pethau'n digwydd gyda'r Llywodraeth—yn yr oriau olaf, jest cyn i Brexit ddigwydd. So, mae'n sefyllfa letchwith iawn, ac rydyn ni'n rhagweld problemau enfawr, o bosibl, pan fydd gwledydd yn dechrau mynd mewn cyfeiriadau gwahanol am y tro cyntaf ers canrifoedd, a bod yn onest.
There's not much I can add to that. It's very unfortunate that we're in this position. As you know, Llyr, we've been talking about this with politicians since the referendum, as regards the need for this conversation to be held, because it's such a political subject, because of the different countries involved and the different parties involved in governing each country. But hat's not a reason not to have that discussion very early in the process, so that we could have come to a decision much earlier, avoiding the way in which the Government is trying to reach a decision in the very final hours before Brexit happens. So, it's an awkward situation, and we do foresee problems that could well be very significant, where nations start moving in different directions for the first time in centuries, to be honest.
Ocê. Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd.
Okay. Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you. Jenny Rathbone.
I just want to ask you about organics, and the organic sector, because I presume some of your members are doing organic farming. What would happen in the event of the UK not securing mutual equivalence on organics? If you've got any quantitative assessment of how this might impact the sector, or indeed what contingency plans might be expected from either the Welsh Government or the UK Government, that would be helpful.
Shall I start there? I think the organic sector—. We certainly do have members concerned with organic production. I think Wales does have a larger proportion of organic production than England as well, so it would stand to be a disproportionate effect in Wales. If we can't secure the equivalence, then I think the implication is that that organic product would spill over onto the conventional market at a much reduced price, and obviously the costs of production those organic producers have are much higher than conventional producers. So, it would be incredibly detrimental to them, potentially, and for the availability of organic products. We hope that UK Government will be able to secure equivalence with the EU on organics, but obviously there are only five weeks to go before the end of the transition period, so I suppose we can't take anything for granted. We'll be crossing our fingers that everything will be okay with that.
There's very little I can add to that, Jenny, other than to say, as Huw suggested earlier, we need an open mind and we need to be able to act rapidly, because this is just yet another sector that could be rapidly impacted. So whether it's the sheep industry per se or a certain type of organic industry where it's rapidly adversely affected, we need to be able to move rapidly to negate the impact.
Okay, because I've had correspondence from some producers who are very concerned that the list of products that DEFRA is producing—. They've got an approved list in the common framework and, if you want to add your product that's not on that list, it's going to cost you several hundred pounds, which, obviously, for small producers is punitive. Is this something that you've made any representations on?
I haven't, because I haven't come across that.
The bulk of our members would be producing in the lamb, beef and organic industries, so I haven't come across those.
Okay. All right. So, the Government's work around common frameworks in relation to the UK-wide regulation is continuing, as far as we're aware, and the Minister told the committee that a framework wouldn't be produced for genetically modified organism regulation. I wonder if you've got any comment on that, because obviously that could have a major impact on everything that you do. Presumably you think a common framework on this would be desirable, but we might not be able to reach agreement on this matter.
Certainly GMOs were identified as one area needing a common framework. I wasn't familiar with the comments the Minister had made on that framework not being progressed, but I think that there is a whole range of areas where we need to have common frameworks, one of which is GMOs, of course.
I think the common frameworks programme began over three years ago. It was meant to be, I suppose, the glue that would hold together the functioning of the UK internal market. I've got some nervousness around exactly when these frameworks will be up and running, operationalised, and how the disputes within them will be resolved, et cetera. And just in conjunction with the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill as well, having the frameworks that set out minimum standards, you should not be able to sever that provision from the internal market Bill. If the internal market Bill is going forward, particularly with the provision around mutual recognition and market access, then it has to have the underpinning of common frameworks setting out minimum standards, otherwise we do risk getting into this race to the bottom. So, we've emphasised on many, many occasions that there has to be a redoubling of effort to get the common frameworks programme up and running and operationalised to take over when we end the transition period.
Okay. [Interruption.] The race to the bottom is certainly an issue. Sorry, Nick.
Yes, I was just reiterating what Huw said, really, that the internal market Bill and the issue of frameworks are inherently linked. They're effectively the same issue, in many respects, and the progress has been very, very slow, and GMOs are just one area of this endless list of areas where huge problems could develop. But we mustn't lose sight of the fact that we have had frameworks for many years that have caused frustrations, of course, but nevertheless work, and recognition of the need for divergence between areas and respect for devolution, while also operating within boundaries.
Okay. Thank you.
That's how the world works. That's how global trade works.
Or has done up to now.
Sorry, I'd forgotten I had another question to come. Can you comment on the Welsh Government's efforts to co-design the future agriculture scheme with your sector? It's not something you've referred to in your evidence, which, obviously, is concentrated on more immediate problems. But looking to the world after 1 January, what is Welsh agriculture going to look like? Obviously, you've had very detailed and deep discussions with the Government on this, but perhaps you can give me an overview of where we are.
Shall I start, Huw?
I think that we've seen some welcome changes, as I referred to earlier, but as we've made clear in committee, and in recent consultation responses, we do remain very concerned about the overarching principles of the scheme, and the degree to which they fail to encompass economic issues, et cetera, the full range of sustainable—[Inaudible.] In our mind, it's very, very focused on environment, and should be broader than that.
But, nevertheless, there is welcome engagement. I think the most positive thing that has happened recently is that we are finally, or Welsh Government is finally starting to genuinely embark on economic modelling of the impact, potential impact, of schemes, which is something we've argued for since immediately after Brexit. Economic modelling is absolutely essential, and it seems that there are very good people employed in doing that. So, that work is going to be very, very important in informing scheme design, and informing decisions made by individuals such as yourselves in the Chamber. Notwithstanding that, we do have major concerns about the size of the budget allocated for that, which is, in order of magnitude, less than the amount of money invested in looking at the environmental impacts of things that fall under the Brexit umbrella.
Just on the co-design issue, we've consulted, as I'm sure Nick has as well, with membership, very extensively really, as to what they want from a future support policy. We're very keen to be involved with Welsh Government on this, but I think it has to be a genuine co-design process. I think, in the past, maybe Welsh Government has tried to sort of sidestep the work of the unions really, and talked to farmers directly. But, from our experience, talking to those farmers who've been involved with that process, they've perhaps found that process a little bit leading, and it hasn't really allowed for a wider discussion on support, which is what we'd really want.
There's been good examples where Welsh Government has worked collaboratively, through things like RPW, Rural Payments Wales, the stakeholder groups there, and the development of the RPW online platform. So, it can be done, and we're up for the job, but Welsh Government need to ensure that they come and meet us halfway there. Diolch.
Might I add, Chairman, as well, people like Huw and I are paid by people who might be arable producers in Pembrokeshire or hill farmers on the side of Snowdon, and our job is to represent all of them, whether they're in a national park or outside a national park? And there is a real danger when you get a crew of farmers together, they are seeing things from their own point of view, as we all do, when we're not salaried to represent thousands of people.
I understand that, but there is a tension here that's been in existence ever since the creation of pillars 1 and 2, the debate between how important is the public goods issue relative to agricultural support, and where there is a political difference, obviously you're going to make limited headway. But, are you satisfied that your voice is being properly heard on this?
[Inaudible.]—don't listen to. [Laughter.] We are in a position—. The Welsh Government is well aware, as is this committee, I think, of our position on—. We think public goods is part of the picture, but it's not the picture. Jobs, economics, rural communities, that is another side of the picture. It's no good saying we have delivered all these wonderful public goods, but in the process put tens of thousands of people out of work or out of business, and have a severely degraded rural economy compared to what we used to have, when we had a different form of payment.
There's not much I can add to what Nick just said really. I entirely agree with that assessment.
Finally, Janet Finch-Saunders.
Thank you, Chair. During committee last week, I asked Professor Driver what assessment he had made of the impact on food production in Wales of his rewilding targets of at least 5 per cent rewilding and 25 per cent return to nature friendly land. He acknowledged that there would be a slight reduction in the production of food and gave a figure of approximately 1 per cent reduction in meat production. Do you have any views on this figure and what are your views of the impact of rewilding on food production?
I live in an area that was ring-fenced for rewilding many years ago in the Feral book and then subsequently became the target of a well-funded £3.4 million project, which has now changed quite radically with Rewilding Britain having pulled out of the project, due to their background, effectively, and their ambitions. I would start by saying that the 1 per cent is 1 per cent of an overall figure; it's not 1 per cent of what would happen in a rewilded area. I regard it as a naive, urban-based modern fantasy from people who seem to have watched too much of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams in the 1970s, maybe. And it is potentially hugely damaging to ecosystems that have become reliant on agriculture over 6,000-7,000 years. It is hugely damaging economically, because it basically is a sort of land abandonment, so that the economic value of land becomes zero, effectively.
The idea that people will come and visit these areas and pay lots of money to go on these pseudo safaris and that that will somehow replace what working farmland delivers, or indeed working forestry delivers, is a pipe dream. Because, yes, these types of projects will work at a small scale, and there's no denying that—we've heard about the Knepp Castle Estate, for example. So, at a certain scale they'll work, but if you scale it up, you very rapidly cross a threshold whereby there isn't a sufficient volume of people visiting those areas—you reach a saturation point very rapidly. So, from an environmental, economic, social, and all those other points of view, large-scale rewilding—the evidence shows us that it is a very, very dangerous and negative thing.
I think Joyce Watson wants to come in on that very point, and this will have to be the last question because you've got two minutes.
In two minutes: we've moved now to a completely different system and it's not called 'rewilding', it's 'wilding', and there's a completely different set of people involved within it. So, my question is: what sort of conversations have either of you had in terms of representing—and there are farmers involved in it too—the people that you represent? Have you had conversations and been involved?
I've had many conversations with Alastair Driver over the years, who is one of the heads of Rewilding Britain, as you know—you spoke to him last week or the week before—and various other charities. I think it's notable the degree to which genuine conservation charities—. And I would emphasise that conservation and rewilding or wilding, which I think is more appropriate actually—wilding—are two very different things.
Yes, that's what I was asking. It's changed now to wilding.
And even then, to wild an area, as Plantlife has pointed out, would be very, very destructive for the flora in those areas and the fauna and, therefore, it is good to see people like the RSPB and the Wildlife Trust coming out, often very strongly, in opposition, albeit carefully, to these grand rewilding schemes, which are often confused with species reintroduction. That's one small element of it. It's not about that; it's about massive landscape-scale changes to our homes, the places we have lived for thousands of years.
So, you're engaged in the new ones, yes.
On that point, we are going to have to come to an end, because it is 15:35. Can I thank Nick and Huw for coming along and talking to us again? I will reiterate what I said earlier in answer to—well, following a question: if we do get any information that does prove to be severely disadvantageous to the farming community, we'll probably want papers from you and we'll probably want to see you. But, thank you. Sorry—Nick.
Chair, just one point I would really like to emphasise: I did welcome your comment earlier on about the need to look into the whole funding issue, as announced yesterday, and the background to it. I would really urge this committee to undertake a thorough investigation into that, both from the Welsh Government's point of view in terms of Welsh Government figures and, indeed, scrutinising the Westminster figures and the announcement yesterday.
You've got the Chair of finance nodding to you at this stage. I think that not only this committee but the Finance Committee will also be looking at it. So, thank you both very much for coming along. Just a normal comment: please check the transcript. As I always tell people, the only thing it misses is if you turn around when you're talking, sometimes the odd word gets missed, and that happens to me quite often. So, please check that. Thank you very much for coming along. And we'll break until 15:40. Thank you.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 15:36 a 15:41.
The meeting adjourned between 15:36 and 15:41.
Can I welcome Members to the third session of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee? This time we've got Jemma Bere, policy and research manager, Keep Wales Tidy; Michele Hunt, head of funding development, RSPB Cymru; and Alexander Phillips of WWF Cymru. So, welcome to you all. If I can start off with the first question. Can you comment on the Welsh Government's plans for a green recovery, as set out in its 'COVID-19 reconstruction: challenges and priorities' document, which was produced in October this year? Who wants to go first?
I can go first, if you like.
So, we welcome the reconstruction document because there are bits in there about the circular economy and the national forest, but we don't think it says quite enough for nature. It doesn't quite say enough about nature based solutions. We've had really positive discussions over the last few months about a green and blue recovery, but we were expecting some budget to follow that in the reconstruction document, and that doesn't seem to have happened. So, we're hoping that the David Henshaw group for green recovery—NRW's group—will actually come back, and something will be said about that later on.
Thank you. Alexander.
One thing I'd add to that, really, is it's not entirely clear how much of this is new stuff, and how much of this is stuff we've seen before. Some of the figures in there are very reminiscent of what was in the budget back at the start of the year. There's not really that much clarity, given all that's been going on, in terms of what has been spent, what is left to be spent, and what's been repackaged as this. So, I think that's something that I know we're feeding into the Finance Committee about as well, more specifically, but it's something that's worthy of investigation.
Thank you. To echo Alex and Michele's points, really, I think our experience with COVID has only really served to highlight how interconnected nature is with our social and economic well-being. I think that the work of the green recovery group that Michele mentioned—that's really going to add the value to the reconstruction agenda, not just in terms of nature and biodiversity, but in terms of the social justice agenda and the economic priorities, going forward. So, we'd like to see both of them taken forward in tandem, really.
Thank you very much. Joyce Watson.
Good afternoon, everybody. I want to know what you'd like to tell us about the key actions that you think that Welsh Government's next low-carbon delivery plan should include to ensure a climate-focused recovery from the pandemic.
Are you going first, Jemma?
It's not my area of expertise, so I'll leave the details to the others. However, I think, again, the work of the green recovery group from Sir David Henshaw has also done a lot of work in terms of the stabilisation of the sector. We need to make sure that there's long-term funding for the long-term plan for carbon divestment and for nature and biodiversity restoration as well. But, I'll leave it to the others for details. Thank you.
Michele, do you want to go next?
Yes. I think this is a real opportunity to bring about nature based solutions in this plan, and by that we mean solutions for the climate that really work for nature too—they go hand in hand and they are win-win. They are peatlands, woodlands, seagrass, et cetera, so it's really about making the most of those. Then, obviously, when you're looking at climate solutions, don't damage nature in doing that.
Thank you. Alexander.
I think that's completely right, really. I think nature based solutions are the big focus for the next couple of years. We have habitats that need investment, and we need to be managing them in the right way, particularly their connectivity. What we've seen, when you look at things like flooding, is there's been a focus on concrete solutions. I think we are moving into a space where those will need to be nature based. NRW are still a little bit ahead of the game on this, a little bit ahead of where Welsh Government are on how we should prioritise these kinds of things. So, that's really what we need to focus on in the next couple of years.
Okay, thank you. Jenny.
The pandemic has impacted on Wales's ability to meet our climate change targets, both negatively and positively. I appreciate you mentioned the reduction in congestion, but what's the balance, because that hasn't been sustained?
I think, really, it's on the funding side that we're most concerned. I think a lot of the actual actions, we hope, will still take place, but it's really, 'Can we still react at the scale and pace that's necessary?'
Well, I would agree with that, but it's partly—. The Welsh Government doesn't have all the levers, because—. If local authorities don't apply for the funding for active travel routes, there's not a huge amount we can do beyond exhort.
Anyone else want to come in—Michele or Jemma?
I think I would agree with Alex, really. It's in relation to—. Obviously, we've seen a positive impact on air pollution and on noise pollution, and in relation to carbon and travel over the pandemic. We have to be able to say that that's a good thing, and also applaud the Welsh Government in relation to its plans in encouraging people to work from home, and for local communities to be able to be sustained in that way. But, again, it is about funding to enable those things, so to enable greener infrastructure in those local communities—so cycle routes, more biodiverse-rich areas. So, it's great to talk about it, but we do need some funding.
Okay, but we've got a really clear statement from Lee Waters that there's a hierarchy of importance, and active travel is at the top of that hierarchy. But, as I was saying to Alexander, the problem is, if local authorities don't come up with local solutions, it's quite difficult for this to be delivered from the centre.
I think, just in terms of the localness, there's something to be said for regional approaches as well. I think, a lot of the time, you can have very good local solutions, but do they join up, particularly across a catchment area for a river—that would be a good example, particularly if you look at some of the south Wales Valleys areas, where certain bits of ecosystems are crossing boundaries.
We had hoped that with NRW's area statement approach that we would get a little bit more in terms of regional planning. Because although you can do a lot with active travel and cycle ways, a lot of the big interventions might still be in your peatlands, in those kinds of areas at the top of systems. So, it's making sure it all fits together. Sometimes, that's beyond the scope of what an individual local authority has the ability or resources to look at. So, yes, I'd say the focus—. Maybe we need to look there a little bit more.
Jemma, did you want to come in?
Yes, I'd also like to say that there's a lot to be said about the focus on prevention as well. So, a lot of the actions that we can do very easily—individually, locally, regionally or, indeed, as a country—are about prevention and mitigation. So, there are a lot of things that we can prevent without actually actively spending money and putting in infrastructure, in the same way that, for example, when we put in recycling targets—. Now, 10 years down the line, we're looking at prevention of waste targets and reduction. So, there are an awful lot of mitigation measures that we can do, which will all help and will all be part of meeting those bigger targets without those bigger levers, if you like.
Okay. So, anything that springs to mind on these mitigation measures? Are you talking workplace parking levies, or what sort of things?
Yes. I think there's a move to remote working that could be facilitated. I think there's a lot of scope around the circular economy, which is, essentially, about reduction and mitigation of consumption and waste at source, which also has economic potential. So, there are a lot of things around that sort of agenda that we could be pushing in terms of repair and reuse and some of the softer things, which will help us to meet our climate targets in terms of prevention and reduce carbon along the way as well. And biodiversity restoration, of course—it's all part of the same package.
Moving on to the blue-green recovery—you've got a five-or-six-point plan, which is very helpful. How do you think we can take this forward now, given that legislation isn't going to be possible until the next Parliament? We just haven't got the bandwidth.
Who wants to go first?
I can speak a little bit more about the principles and the green and blue jobs that we've defined, if you like. So, I think, traditionally speaking, we've focused a lot of green job efforts in traditional economic growth sectors such as forestry, construction and energy. We, as Wales Environment Link members, said, 'This isn't necessarily a perfect definition, because, in part, they're only potentially green rather than green by default.' So, with the WEL members' definition of green and blue jobs, we've set out that those jobs are those that restore and protect the environment, those that rely on the sustainable management of natural resources and those that aim to create more sustainable practices.
So, if you take that definition, it both defines and broadens the scope of the sectors that we could be looking at in terms of a green recovery, and stimulating those sectors, in order to bring about some of the structural changes that are needed. One of the important things that I really want to underline is that the economy and the environment are so often seen as separate, and we see them as quite synonymous. So, there's a huge diversity in those roles within that WEL definition, and some of them are low-skilled, entry jobs, and they go right up to the more complex, higher skilled jobs. And in that sense, by using that definition and testing them against those principles of the green recovery, they fit in with the foundational economy and the social justice agenda and a lot of the Welsh Government reconstruction priorities, as well as furthering the circular economy agenda. So, I think there's a need to see these environmental principles as synonymous with the economic principles of our reconstruction.
Okay. Anyone else?
There's also a growing momentum that's come out of what's been part of David Henshaw's group that we fed into, in relation to something called a national nature service, which is an idea that's been brought about by the food and farming commission, which is an umbrella, basically, for stimulus for a nature industry, so to create jobs to be able to combat the climate and nature emergency and to really see long-term investment, and also fantastic jobs when we really need them, and skills and training opportunities for young people, and for those that then are out of work because of the pandemic. So, we are gathering pace with trying to think about what that means, but there's a broad church of people involved in the development of that at the moment, which is really exciting.
Okay. Well, clearly, there's going to be huge upheaval in the economy with lots of people losing their jobs, so have you got a clear list of skills that we're going to need to retrain people in to go into new jobs? Is that something that your organisations are able to assist the Government on?