Y Cyfarfod Llawn
This is a draft version of the Record that includes the floor language and the simultaneous interpretation.
The Senedd met in the Chamber and by video-conference at 12:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
Welcome to this Plenary session. Before we begin, I want to set out a few points: this meeting will be held in a hybrid format, with some Members in the Senedd Chamber and others joining by video-conference. All Members participating in proceedings of the Senedd, wherever they may be, will be treated equally. A Plenary meeting held using video-conference, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Welsh Parliament, constitutes Senedd proceedings for the purposes of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Some of the provisions of Standing Order 34 will apply for today's Plenary meeting, and these are set out on your agenda. And I would remind Members that Standing Orders relating to order in Plenary meetings apply to this meeting, and apply equally to Members in the Chamber as to those joining virtually.
That takes us to our first item, questions to the Minister for Climate Change, and the first question is from Tom Giffard.
1. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the impact of local authorities' plans for housing developments in Wales? OQ56606
The scale and location of new housing is a matter for local planning authorities to determine as part of their local development plan, reflecting the issues they have identified in line with the requirements of national planning policy and 'Future Wales'.
Diolch. Can I thank the Minister for her answer and congratulate her on her appointment? Because of the movement of housing and planning into the climate change portfolio, I therefore assume that this will see greater protection for green spaces and our natural environment when it comes to planning policy. But, as councils work through their local development plans across Wales, I note that many proposals—. There are many proposals for some significant builds on green spaces, some of which are well used and treasured in our communities. But I also note the Welsh Government have new housing targets you hope to meet as well. So, therefore, can I ask about the Welsh Government's priorities and the threshold for intervention in these areas? So, where these two aims conflict, will you prioritise house-building projects to the detriment of our green spaces or use the powers at your disposal to prevent such projects and protect our natural environment?
So, I'm very committed to a plan-led approach to development across Wales. Maintaining an up-to-date LDP is essential to deliver certainty in the decision making and the delivery of homes, jobs and infrastructure for local communities. An adopted plan well-consulted on means that local planning authorities and communities can positively steer and influence the future, and that's exactly the point of the plan, to answer the question that Tom Giffard asked me. And can I also welcome him to the Senedd? I haven't actually spoken to you directly yet, Tom, but congratulations on your election too.
Bridgend County Borough Council, for example, has decided to maintain an up-to-date LDP for its area, and they commenced a revision of the adopted LDP in June 2018. We are encouraging councils across Wales to ensure that their LDP is up to date in order for them to be able to take full account of the new 'Planning Policy Wales' and 'Future Wales: the national plan 2040', which this Senedd passed in the last Senedd, just towards the beginning of this year. Those will give councils the right tools to be able to construct their local development plan in such a way that they protect the spaces that their local communities wish to protect and also bring forward the right kinds of land with the right kinds of development to make sure that we have sustainable housing and, indeed, other infrastructure projects in the future. The LDP process is, of course, transparent and involves an enormous degree of public engagement with local communities, developers and other key stakeholders, including our community councils, to ensure that all the aspirations and concerns are considered and taken into account when the plan is presented.
Congratulations on your appointment, Minister, and congratulations to the Deputy Minister, too, on his appointment.
One of the things that local authorities had to include as a core consideration in developing their local development plans was population growth forecasts provided by Government. Each of the LDPs was based on that data, reflecting those forecasts. It's since become apparent that these forecasts were entirely inaccurate; in some cases, populations have fallen rather than increased. This means that the LDPs are deficient because they are based on incorrect data. However, the LDPs, although based on the wrong information, continue to be statutory documents and are in force. Isn't it time to accept that these LDPs are incorrect and to restart the process from the beginning? Thank you.
Thank you for your congratulations, and welcome, also, to you to the Senedd and to your new role. So, we're encouraging—. As I just said in answer to the first question, we're encouraging local authorities across Wales to do a review of their LDP, depending on the age and extent of it. Many of them have already started that process. We also now have a process in place that allows them to come together in corporate joint committees to put together a strategic development plan for the region. We've already put in place 'Future Wales', so we will have a plan-led system in its entirety, which gels together once those elements are in place.
Local authorities are required to understand housing availability in the area through what's called a local market housing assessment, and forgive me if you already know this, but that's what they're supposed to do. They form a key part of the local development plan itself. We're currently working with a series of local authority experts to develop and improve the local housing management assessments, including publication of a new tool to support local authorities to produce the assessments. We're going to give guidance, training and ongoing support to the local authorities in order to do that. Local authorities, of course, are in the best position to have a good understanding of their local housing market, and to have a robust LHMA in place to inform the decisions. So, I suppose I'm sort of agreeing with you. We encourage local authorities to ensure their LDP is up to date. We are currently working with them on a new local management housing assessment tool. We expect the local authorities to redo their land-based housing assessments in the light of that new tool, and then, when the strategic development plans are put in place regionally, we expect those plans to reflect that on the ground. So, we will be working very closely with local authorities in order to do that.
There is a slight misunderstanding about the targets in the previous predictions: they were never targets; they were always predictions. That's why we're working on the tool, and I look forward to a good relationship with local authorities across Wales in coming together on an agenda we all agree on, which is to make sure we have the right housing in the right place for the right communities.
In my constituency of Bridgend, I am delighted that we have seen first hand a local authority and Welsh Government working together to protect housing developments and businesses in Porthcawl from the impact of climate change. As part of the coastal risk management programme, Welsh Government and Bridgend County Borough Council have jointly invested £6.4 million on sea defences that will immediately protect more than 500 homes and over 170 business from the risk of flooding. Looking to the future, can the Minister tell us how Welsh Government will continue to work with the local authority to ensure any future housing developments and regeneration in Porthcawl continue to be sustainable and live up to our low-carbon housing goals?
Thank you very much for that question, Sarah. It's lovely to actually see you in person here in the Senedd. Yes, Bridgend council have been, as I said, an early adopter of reviewing the LDP process, and sustainable development is very much at the heart of that development plan process. All the development plans must comply with the requirements of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, and they must contribute to achieving the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being goals required by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
So 'Planning Policy Wales' sets out issues to do with climate change. It sets out the principles of sustainable development, air quality, maximising renewable energy generation and the scale and location of new homes, and then LDPs are tested against those policies through a public examination process. So, as I just said in answer to another question, the LHMAs play some part in that as well.
Simultaneously with that, we're also bring forward a review of our building regulations. The new building regulations—the response to our energy efficiency plan was published in March last year—set out a decision to introduce a 37 per cent reduction in carbon emissions for new dwellings across all sectors, not just social housing, compared with the current standards. The new standards will be implemented from 2022, so next year, and will save, we think, homeowners averagely around £180 a year on energy bills. So, they work towards fuel poverty as well as preserving the planet. All new homes will also need to be futureproofed with low-temperature radiators and improved fabric standards to make it easier to retrofit upcoming low-carbon heating systems as they become more available and more widely implementable. The 37 per cent reduction, though, is a stepping stone towards the next change in energy efficiency in building regulations in 2025, matching our carbon targets, where new homes will need to produce a minimum of 75 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than the ones built to the current requirements.
So, you can see that we have an incremental progression to both building the right homes in the right place, so the LDP process reflects that, and also to build them to the standards that future generations deserve and expect, and I'm delighted to say that Bridgend council has been an early adopter of both of those processes.
Question 2—Altaf Hussain.
Thank you very much, Presiding Officer. Congratulations on your re-election, Minister, and also on the appointment.
2. Will the Minister set out the Welsh Government’s approach to planning policy in Wales? OQ56589
Thank you very much for those congratulations, and congratulations to you too. The Welsh Government’s approach to planning policy is set out in 'Planning Policy Wales' and in 'Future Wales: the national plan 2040'. Both of those documents seek to promote the sustainable development of places throughout Wales.
Thank you. Minister, for too many decades, our planning system was based on the notion of building as many homes as possible for people to merely occupy, but without considering what people would need to fully live. 'Planning Policy Wales 10' aims to ensure that planning decisions improve the lives of current and future generations, while the concept of placemaking adds social, economic, environmental and cultural value to developments. The future generations commissioner, in her 'Manifesto for the Future' published ahead of the Senedd elections, called for developments of community services to mirror the placemaking approach in the delivery of community-based services. To what extent are public services being challenged by you as to the location of key services, such as the NHS, where more can be done to improve the well-being of people who can access services more easily near where they live? Thank you, Minister.
Yes, thank you very much. So, it's a development of what I was saying in answer to the previous question. So, national planning policy, as I've already said, places a strong emphasis on placemaking and the steps we need to take to create places that meet everyone's well-being. The national planning policy also ensures that we think about how our places make us both healthier and improve our well-being. I'm very confident that planning policy will help us create the places that COVID has highlighted we need and that provide good-quality housing for all, support local services, shops, jobs and facilities, and reduce the need to travel.
But, of course, we also have a climate emergency, so this comes together very much with the learning that we've had during the pandemic about the importance of place. We need to encourage people to find new ways of working, including some home working or remote hub working, to provide opportunities for active travel in your daily life, to create healthy, accessible green spaces, and they are all supported by both strong local and regional planning that gives the tools and the power to local places to help shape their own future. So, the whole essence of this is very much to put communities at the heart of what they would like their community to look like, and, as I said, to build the right houses in the right places, to build the right infrastructure in the right places, and to make sure that our communities can access the services and support that they need within a reasonable distance of their place of—you know, where they live, so that their community feels like a well-being-of-future-generations community should. Through the suite of documents we've put in place, we are confident that we can achieve the Wales that we would all like to see.
I was very pleased to see the Minister continue with the responsibility for planning in her new, very important portfolio now, and along with the Deputy Minister; I was pleased to see the establishment of that important ministry.
Minister, for a variety of reasons, it's taking councils longer than they'd hoped to finalise an LDP. This often leaves communities and residents without the planning protections they would want. It is planning by appeal to the inspectorate, with less local influence than if an LDP were agreed. Now, this has left communities like Penyffordd frustrated, and, as you know, I work closely with the Penyffordd Community Council, and they would like to see the voices of residents amplified if an LDP was delayed. Can I ask what consideration has the Welsh Government given to upgrading the status of the place plan to allow its official recognition in the planning process, to allow local communities like Penyffordd official input without relying directly on the inclusion via an LDP?
Thank you, Jack, and I'm really delighted to be in this portfolio. It was good to work closely with you in the last Senedd, and I'm looking forward to doing that again. It's really nice to see people in person, I have to say.
So, yes, we're very—. Obviously, the first thing to say is we're very keen to make sure that each local authority does have an up-to-date LDP, that it goes through the process efficiently and effectively and it makes sure that that has as wide a community consultation as is necessary, and that the communities feel very strongly that they have had their say in how their communities should be shaped in the LDP process. That's the whole purpose of the process. And as you know, we're also putting the strategic regional plans in place so that the LDP can concentrate on those local issues. And we'll know what the regional infrastructure plans already look like and, of course, the national plan, 'Planning Policy Wales', 'Future Wales', has made some of the choices nationally for us after an extensive consultation process that will allow those processes to take place.
But I'm very interested in making sure that, for each local area, the local area has a say in what its place plan might look like—we don't call them that in Wales. So, it's perfectly possible to put a strategic plan in place that covers a particular area, a subset, if you like, of the LDP. At the moment, the LDP is required for that to have force, but I'm more than happy to explore what we can do in the interim periods. It is a very difficult position where the LDP has been delayed, as it has in your area, and then you're right, we have speculative planning developments and we don't have an LDP with which to put them in context. So, I'm very happy to work with you on that, but I'd be much happier to see the local council sort out its LDP as soon as possible, in the light of the new planning policy document, so that we can actually get the process under way.
Questions now from the party spokespeople. The Conservative spokesperson, Janet Finch-Saunders.
Diolch, Llywydd. May I take this step to congratulate you, Minister? I've worked with you previously and I look forward to working with you positively as we aim to get a grip on the issues facing our communities.
Now, Llywydd, this Monday marked the fourth anniversary since the tragic death of 72 people at Grenfell Tower. I'm sure that the Minister and, indeed, this Senedd will join with me in expressing our deepest sympathies to all who were affected by this disaster. Now, just after Grenfell, our late, dear colleague Carl Sargeant quite rightly informed this Senedd that we should learn these lessons and act upon them. The Welsh Government, however, has not yet, to date, delivered quickly enough on that determination. Even the cross-party Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee wrote the following earlier this year:
'At times we have been frustrated by the slow progress in responding to some of these critical and urgent issues.'
Only last week, a partner at the law firm Watkins and Gunn threatened to initiate High Court proceedings and to seek a judicial review of Welsh Government handling of financial support to assist those with fire-safety problems in high-rise flats. Legal proceedings have not yet commenced, but the possibility does highlight the desperation many residents feel across Wales.
Now, to be fair, Minister, you have made a clear commitment in the manifesto, and I quote, to
'develop a fire safety fund for existing buildings.'
You do need to ask a question now. I don't think you need to quote the Labour manifesto at the Minister.
Okay. You said the same on 15 February 2021. So, will you make a clear statement today as to the exact timeline for creating this Welsh fund and exactly how much finance you are going to make available? Diolch.
Yes, of course, Janet, and welcome to your new brief as well. But of course, Janet, my heartfelt sympathies go to the victims of the Grenfell fire and, indeed, actually, to all of the people who are living in high-rise buildings who have these issues affecting them. It is absolutely a scandal that the buildings were ever put up with so many faults. However, as I said many times in the previous Senedd, this is incredibly complicated in terms of the way that land law works, the way that property law works, the way that leaseholder law works, the way that the buildings are managed, the way that they're constructed, and so on. And unfortunately, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to this. Each building has a set of problems that are unique to it, and it's very difficult, therefore, to put in place an overarching thing that works.
The UK Government has had some serious difficulty in this area as well. It has put in place a number of funds, but those funds have been less efficient than I think they would have liked, to be charitable. And also they only cover some of the cladding issues, whereas we know that very large numbers of these buildings also have compartmentation issues, escape issues, alarm issues and all sorts of other things wrong with them. So, we are currently looking at a holistic approach to the remediation of buildings, which includes the compartmentation—it's very hard to say—of the buildings, fire alert systems, evacuation systems and fire-suppression systems. So far, we've only had one set of consequentials off the UK Government, despite the very large amounts of money that have been announced. I have received, via MP colleagues, assurances from the Secretary of State that a consequential will be forthcoming, but so far it is not forthcoming and we have absolutely no indication at all as to when and how much that money will be. So, I would very much like your assistance to get the Secretary of State to tell us quite how much money he is thinking will come to us in a consequential, because it's very difficult to plan without that level of detail.
Nevertheless, with the money we already have, we are working hard on putting a scheme together that is likely to be able to assist building owners—I say 'building owners' as a global term, so just to be clear, that's not the technical term, because there are a large number of complexities, but the people involved in owning the building—to understand what's wrong with their building, because that's the first problem, because none of the people who live there are experts in that and actually even just asking people, 'What is wrong with this building?' is a really difficult thing to do. So, we are working really hard to put something together that allows people to get the right result in, 'What's wrong with this building?' and then to be able to assess the right kind of finance to put it right afterwards. But it is fiendishly complicated, and we are not going slowly because we don't want to do it, we're going slowly because we want to get it right.
Thank you. I think what I'm seeking, really, is the clarity. As somebody who is shadowing you in your portfolio, I'm really concerned to examine really exactly how much you've had to date, how much you intend on receiving, or where you need my help. The UK Government has already led the way in protecting hundreds of thousands of leaseholders from the cost of replacing unsafe cladding on their homes. Last December, you wrote to me advising that the £58 million received as a consequential from the UK budget is not ring-fenced to be spent on the same purpose in Wales, so I question that. I acknowledge that you've invested £10.6 million in the social sector to fund remediation in the last financial year and that the budget had £32 million set aside for further remediation of buildings. However, to my mind, there's a missing £15.4 million. So, will you commit today to this Chamber to spending every single penny that you do receive from the UK Government for that purpose, to ensure that important remediation actions go ahead? And would you confirm today, Minister, where is that £15.4 million?
So, unfortunately, Janet, that's just not how consequentials work. So, the consequentials come as part of a funding package to the Welsh Government, which have negative consequentials in them as well as positive ones. I always say to people who ask me to give them the positive ones, 'Be careful what you wish for, because you might also get the negative ones that come with it, and find that you end up with less money than you started with.' So, actually, the more important thing is to put the fund in place that actually does the job that we want.
I would very much like to know what the consequential from the billions announced by Robert Jenrick might look like for Wales, but in previous iterations of this, I'm afraid we've discovered that when the positive consequential comes, it also comes with a cut to departmental spending that balances off the consequential and we get less money. So, I'm afraid it's not quite as straightforward as you would like it to be. I wish it were that straightforward, but it is not.
When we first got that consequential funding, we were right at the beginning of the pandemic, and we rightly put all consequential money into combating the pandemic, because that was the immediate problem in front of us, so we put all the money into that, but then slowly, as we understood what the pandemic looked like and so on, we were able to release funding to do some of the things you've just said, so we've already done the remediation for social buildings and we've put £32 million into the budget for the initial fund for looking at this building safety thing. It's very difficult to plan for the rest of it until we know what we're looking at, not just in terms of positive consequentials, but in funding overall in terms of the department. I'm more than happy to do a briefing for Members on how some of the complexities of this work and, Llywydd, I'm very happy to offer that to Members across the Senedd, because this is a very important thing that we need to get right for Wales.
Thank you. I've started so I'll finish, but it may well be that we need those conversations to happen, but I'll carry on with this.
So, my focus on available resources is essential as they are key to securing progress on creating safer buildings in Wales. The ELGC response to the 'Safer Buildings in Wales' White Paper noted that one of the common themes heard from all the respondents was the impact of the proposed new regime on resources, including the fire and rescue services, who have warned that they may have to scale back on traditional community safety activities, and that a whole host of resource implications arising from the proposals in the White Paper are not captured. The CICAIR stated that there will be a need for a significant increase in appropriately qualified surveyors to join this sector, and then of course there is the impact on leaseholders with the calls being made for complete clarity on who will be responsible for paying for each element of those proposals.
So, will you clarify, please, today, what steps you are already taking to address the resource crisis that we need to overcome to have an effective new regime in Wales? I would like to take you up on your offer to learn more exactly where these figures are, and then we can make sure that words that were spoken four years ago are certainly not ignored. Thank you.
Thank you, Janet. There's a huge consensus across the Chamber that we need to implement a new building safety regime in Wales, and we worked very closely together in the last Senedd on putting together the proposals, and so on. We were very anxious before the election, and we all worked across the Chamber, to make sure that the industry out there realised that all the big parties in the Senedd were committed to this agenda, and I'm very grateful for your work alongside me in doing that. We will be putting the formal consultation responses in front of the Senedd from the White Paper in due course, when we're ready to do so, and I'm very happy to have a briefing session once more on what is a fiendishly complicated set of proposals. You'll remember the massive graphs—I think, Llywydd, we were able to put it up on a screen at one point, to show the complexity of it, and our former colleague David Melding was asking me a range of questions. So, I'll offer again a briefing session on where we are with the White Paper and what the new regime for new building—as I say, that will not correct the problems of the past—looks like, so that before Members have it in front of them on the Senedd floor, Llywydd, they have the best information available on which to base their judgments.
The Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Delyth Jewell.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. Minister, I will be asking my first two questions in Welsh. May I welcome you to your new role? I look forward to being able to work with you on this vital topic.
It is clear that Wales is facing a climate emergency, and a climate emergency was declared during the fifth Senedd. But the crisis that we are facing is not just about the climate. There is also a nature and biodiversity emergency as well. Indeed, it was disappointing that there were no statutory targets on biodiversity loss in the programme for government that the First Minister published, because the situation is an emergency. Last week, 50 of the world's leading scientists said that we must solve these two emergencies together—nature and the climate—or we will not succeed in solving either of them. Surely now the Welsh Government must give the same level of attention to the nature emergency as is being given to the climate emergency.
Therefore, could I ask first whether you agree that there is a need to declare a nature emergency? And can you make a statement on the possibility of developing and introducing nature recovery targets that will reverse the deterioration in nature by 2030?
Thank you for that, Delyth, and it's nice to be working with you again as well.
We see it as another part of the climate emergency. The nature emergency is being driven by changes in the climate, the reduction of habitat, and all the rest of it that goes alongside the climate emergency. So, I don't think there's any disagreement with us that we're in that kind of emergency. We have shocking species loss and loss of habitat across the planet, and indeed in Wales, and we clearly need to not only protect what we have left, but also to enhance what we have left, and try to assist it to recover. That will be very much part of what we're trying to do as part of the new portfolio, and my colleague Lee Waters is going to be doing a statement later on today setting out some of the first things that we're going to do. Llywydd, we're very much trying to do it between us, because this is an enormous piece of work, and the two of us will be sharing a lot of it, so you may find us covering bits of it, both of us, and so on, because, Delyth, of the extreme nature of what you've just set out.
So, at the moment we're waiting on some advice that will come from the world organisations on this, so we're hoping that they will report back to us in October with global targets. We're going to take part in COP26 to get some learning from that, and then I'm very happy to bring to the Senedd a range of proposals to put in place, so that you can, if you like, hold our feet to the fire to make sure that we do it, but actually more importantly, to tell the story to the people of Wales as to what each one of us will have to contribute to, both personally and in our communities, to make sure that we follow the science. So, we've got used to that during COVID, haven't we? We've got used to a set of scientists coming together and setting out for us a set of parameters that allow policy makers to make some choices. So, we're very much seeing that in climate change and the nature emergency alongside it. We will be bringing a set of choices to you that allow us to come together as a Senedd, because I think this is a shared agenda, very much, across Wales.
But, Llywydd, I'm now stealing the thunder of my colleague Minister, so I'll stop there.
Thank you, Minister. Collaboration will be very important in this area, I'm sure, across the Government but also across the parties. I sincerely hope that there will be things that we can collaborate on. Certainly, there will be areas where I will be pushing you to go further, I'm sure. I was very pleased that you talked about the stories and how we give the narrative on climate change, and how we convey that. As you know from what we've discussed about eco-anxiety, that's something that I'm very eager to work on with you. Thank you for that.
Moving on to the next topic, of course, if we are to tackle climate change, we will need to persuade more people to use public transport, and that brings us to a problem. People travelling across Wales have complained about feeling unsafe on public transport since the COVID travel restrictions were further relaxed. Many have complained about safety concerns on Transport for Wales services, citing dangerous overcrowding and situations that force people to sit side by side, failing to comply with social distancing measures—
I need a question by now please, Delyth Jewell.
Could I ask you therefore, Minister, what will your Government be doing to respond to these concerns about overcrowding on public transport?
My colleague Lee Waters will be primarily responsible for transport, but I'll just set out very briefly that we will bring forward a range of things that we want to say about public transport, both its structure and purpose, and some of the issues you've raised around the way that the current operations exist alongside the COVID regulations, which are very difficult problems to solve. All of the so-called solutions lead to different sets of problems. But we will bring forward very soon for the Senedd's consideration a range of proposals, both to sort out some of the anomalies in the current set-up, but actually to set out a much better future for public transport across Wales in line with our new transport for policy for Wales, which we announced just before the election term.
Again, Llywydd, I fear I'm stealing the thunder of my colleague Minister if I give a fuller answer, but, Delyth, we'd be very happy to work with you on a range of really difficult issues around not only the very specific issue you mentioned there, but actually a range of issues around access to better forms of transport for people right across Welsh communities.
Thank you, Minister. Finally, I'd like to ask about the Welsh Government's membership—or, rather, absence, apparently—of the UK Energy Research Centre's steering committee. That committee is undertaking a review of energy models being used across the UK by public bodies, universities and the energy industry. The Welsh Government's absence from that committee is notable, because it would be the only UK Government body not to be represented. I'd be glad to be proven wrong on this, but given the importance of the issue, I'd like to ask: has the Welsh Government been invited to be a member of the steering group? Did the Welsh Government decide not to join and, if so, why? And finally, what institutional experience and, indeed, access to information would you calculate has been lost as a consequence of that decision to not participate in the advisory process?
I have to respond to that, Delyth, by saying, 'Oh, you've got me there'. I don't know the answer to that. I'll have to write to you.FootnoteLink
Question 3, to be answered by the Deputy Minister. Question 3, Sam Rowlands.
3. Will the Minister outline the Welsh Government's plans to tackle the effects of climate change in north Wales? OQ56605
The advice and report issued today on the risks and opportunities of climate change underline the importance of our work to make every part of Wales, including the north, more climate resilient.
Thank you, Deputy Minister, for your response. Congratulations to you, of course, on your appointment, and to the Minister, too, Julie James, on your appointment as well. And thank you for the engagement so far in my role as shadow Minister for local government. I want to raise the issue of rising sea levels and the impacts of this across north Wales. According to a climate change study by Climate Central, large parts of the coast along the north Wales region could be underwater by 2050 if appropriate measures are not put in place. Current projections show that areas of Flintshire that border the River Dee, along with coastal areas such as Prestatyn, Rhyl and Llandudno, could be lost to rising sea levels in the next 30 years. So, with many options available such as adaptations, tidal lagoons and sea defence infrastructure, what specific action are you taking and what investment are you providing to reduce the risk that rising sea levels pose to communities such as these in north Wales?
Can I just at the outset make it clear that I want to congratulate everybody on getting re-elected? I'm very glad to see everybody, and I thank them for their question. Perhaps, with that pro forma, I can not say that every time we get up.
I think you're absolutely right to highlight the fresh evidence again in the report today about the impact of rising sea levels caused directly by man-made global warming. Much of the consequences of that are baked in and we're going to have to deal with it, while we simultaneously try and make sure the problem is not exacerbated. The fact that most of our large settlements are based on along the sea in the north and the south of our country clearly places enormous challenges on us in managing that process. We have put in place a range of measures. We have published our national flood and coastal erosion management strategy, in October 2020, setting out a plan for the next decade, including lessons learned from the recent flooding. We've put £65 million into the budget for flood management this financial year, which is the largest amount ever in a single year, and we have recently completed major projects, including in St Asaph, in Borth, and in Llanberis. The programme for government commits to funding flood protection for more than 45,000 homes and, importantly, nature-based flood management in all major river catchment areas. This is a huge challenge for us all, and I do hope that we can work collaboratively to come up with solutions, both in this Chamber but also, of course, crucially, with local authorities, who are at the sharp end of this.
I'd like to congratulate the Minister and the Deputy Minister. You've got a huge portfolio there, and very interesting, too. Can I start by commending the Welsh Government and the work it has done to put climate change at the centre of its agenda for this Senedd term? As the WWF pointed out, and Delyth earlier, one of the devastating impacts of climate change is biodiversity loss, with hundreds of species at risk of extinction. I want to ensure that action is taken at every level of Government to protect species in my region of north Wales. The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 placed a duty on local authorities to seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity. Will the Deputy Minister outline the Welsh Government's plans in tackling biodiversity loss in north Wales and ensure local authorities play their role in conservation as well? Thank you.
I agree that this is a deeply worrying trend. The Welsh Government's plan is set out in our nature recovery action plan for managing biodiversity loss. We have created the nature networks fund with the National Lottery and we've invested close to £10 million in that. That is already showing its results in communities right across Wales. In the north in particular, Natural Resources Wales is funding Dee LIFE to restore natural habitats around the Dee and Bala lake special areas of conservation. The Member and I have had an exchange on social media recently about the impact that mowing practices across Wales can have in particular on biodiversity loss. I was pleased to note that the Llywydd even joined in with some helpful suggestions on how we might use the way that we manage our highways, but also the local authorities that manage the land in their operation. Having tapped into the knowledge and expertise of the Member, as a former cabinet member in Flintshire for highways, clearly there is some really good practice going on across Wales, and that was evident from the range of contributors to the thread. But there does seem to be some unevenness, and there seem to be things that others can learn from the practical experience they're having. So, Llywydd, I was very pleased that Carolyn Thomas has agreed to do a short piece of work for us, trying to collect examples of good practice from local authorities and then trying to identify what barriers might be being put in the way, preventing them from applying that more evenly, and making a set of recommendations to me and Julie James to see how we might address this and roll it out. Innovation is a great thing; diffusion is always the greater challenge. I very much welcome Carolyn Thomas's help in trying to spread good practice.
4. Will the Minister provide an update on delivering a clean air act for Wales? OQ56611
Oh, that's me again. The Government has made a commitment to a clean air Act for Wales. Officials are developing proposals for a clean air Bill in light of responses to the consultation on the White Paper published in January 2020, and the Government will shortly announce our legislative programme.
Thank you for that answer, Minister. Air pollution is a silent killer, contributing to almost 1,400 early deaths and costing the Welsh NHS millions every year. It's something that we must tackle urgently and I fully support the Welsh Government's commitment to a clean air Act. However, Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation Wales are concerned that current proposals indicate that we might not see new regulations until the seventh Senedd term. While the White Paper sets out to improve air quality levels to be better than the World Health Organization recommended levels, what consideration has the Minister made to including regulating air pollutant levels during the progression of the Bill so that residents in some of the worst affected areas can gain the benefits as soon as possible?
Thank you for that important challenge. We are committed to introducing a piece of legislation. Clearly, the programme for government covers the whole of this Senedd term, and there is much legislation that we want to introduce. So, it's going to take time for all the pieces of legislation to be introduced. Clearly, air quality is an urgent challenge and we can't wait simply for legislation to pass in order to start tackling it, nor are we. I am assured by Welsh Government officials that we will have regulations in place in this Senedd term to tackle the agenda that Jayne Bryant has outlined. But just as important are what actions we can do in the meantime to tackle the issue. I'm very pleased to be coming to Newport tomorrow, on Clean Air Day, to look at the electric buses and the active travel routes that the authority have invested in and developed there. I think they're showing some great leadership in the work that they are doing.
The commitment in the Wales transport strategy, the modal shift, is essential; the work of the Burns report and the South East Wales Transport Commission, again, is vital. It's about getting people out of polluting cars and into more sustainable, environmentally friendly forms of transport, which can have a real impact in the short term on air quality; not simply waiting for legislation, which has its part to play. We're expecting, in the coming months, fresh recommendations from the World Health Organization, and we want to make sure that those recommendations are built into the legislation that we bring forward. We want to do that—let me just reiterate—on a cross-party basis if we can. We know that there are other parties in the Assembly who are committed to a clean air Act. It'll be interesting to understand, beyond the headline, what substance they support within that, because it's easy to say it, it's harder to do it. I'm reminded of the quote of Aneurin Bevan, who accused the Conservative Prime Minister of putting flamboyant labels on empty luggage. I'd hate to see that repeated in the commitments of the Conservatives to a clean air Act, because I think it's easy to talk about clean air, but the tough stuff you need to make it happen is often difficult and controversial. I'd be very pleased if we could sit down together and see what areas of commonality there are, because this agenda, clearly, is important for us all.
I would like to congratulate both Ministers on their new appointments. I must say, I'm very much looking forward to working with both of you and I'll definitely be taking you up on that invitation to work together.
Minister, I welcome your commitment to reduce air pollution and to improve air quality. It's a fact that Wales has some of the worst air quality in the UK with Cardiff and Port Talbot having higher PM10 levels than either Birmingham or Manchester. Stop-start traffic not only emits more greenhouse gases than free-flowing traffic, but it also causes more particulate pollution to be emitted. Schemes such as the M4 relief road would have increased the flow of traffic and, as the independent inspector stated, would lower pollution and provide widespread and significant air quality improvements for communities living alongside the M4, similar to myself. Will you confirm that your clean air strategy will consider measures to improve the flow of traffic and include a review of speed limits on sections of the M4? Thank you.
The search for consensus goes on, I would say. The issues around the M4 have been well rehearsed and we take different views on that. The way to reduce harmful pollution from cars is to have fewer cars, not to make the cars go faster. I think it's the emphasis on modal shift that we want to see, rather than creating additional roads, which, in turn, as we know through the induced demand principle, results in increased traffic and increased volumes. So, that, in a sense, is a very short-term fix. We need a sustainable long-term fix to this and I don't think that building large motorways through protected wetlands is the way to achieve that. But, certainly in terms of speed limits, I'd be very happy to include that in part of our discussions.
5. How has the Welsh Government been supporting Natural Resources Wales to take forward the recommendations listed in its report on the 2020 floods? OQ56603
Diolch. It's clear lessons needed to be learned following the devastating flooding in 2020, which NRW’s review acknowledges. This year, we are investing record levels of funding for flood risk management. In 2020-21, NRW’s revenue funding was increased by £1.25 million to £21 million, which is being sustained in 2021-22.
Thank you for that response. It's clear from the report that staffing levels in NRW have been utterly inadequate to deal with the destructive floods of 2020, as was confirmed by the fact that 41 more staff have been working on flood risk management since then, which is still lower than the report reveals is required. Time and time again, the Welsh Government has refused to hold an independent inquiry into the floods, which would, as is clear from the NRW report, reveal totally inadequate funding for the body established by Welsh Labour to protect us from flooding.
It would also reveal, as the NRW report does, that there are too many bodies and groups that have responsibility for flood mitigation. Isn't it time now to establish a task and finish group that would include experts from across the water sector in Wales to advise the Senedd on a better way of managing surface water particularly, so that there are clearer lines of responsibility in terms of flood management and mitigation related to that?
Thank you for that. I understand where the Member is coming from, for sure, but it's simply not true to say that we've been underinvesting in it. In 2021-22, the Welsh Government will be investing over £65 million in flood risk management, which is the largest amount invested in a single year since the beginning of devolution.
This financial year, we've allocated NRW £21 million in revenue and £17.211 million of capital funding to progress their flood risk management programme. This represents 56 per cent of our total flood and coastal erosion risk management budget for the year, so not insubstantial amounts of money.
Since February 2020, we've increased NRW's revenue budget to record levels of revenue, with £21 million, which represents a 6 per cent increase from the year prior to the flooding. That represents nearly 90 per cent of the core flood revenue budget for the year.
The NRW review is an honest assessment of their own performance and contains recommendations for how they can improve their flood response. Flood risk management funding in NRW is ring-fenced for those activities. As the Member actually said herself, since February 2020 NRW have themselves increased their staff working solely on flood risk management by 41 posts, full-time equivalent.
Last financial year, NRW received over £13.5 million worth of capital funding for flood risk management activities, which included an additional £3.7 million allocated in year, including repair work following flood events, mapping, modelling work and further work on improvements to the flood warning system. Last financial year, NRW put forward three requests for additional funding during the year, all of which were granted.
The Government has clearly set out its priorities for flood and coastal risk management in its new national strategy, published in October 2020, incorporating some of the initial lessons learnt from the February flooding. We're looking forward to the section 19 report from Rhondda Cynon Taf, so that we can pull together the lessons learnt from the flooding, Llywydd, to ensure that we do as much as we can to ensure that no other community experiences what the communities experienced last year during the floods.
Minister, on three separate occasions over the last 14 months, the town of Carmarthen has suffered major incidences of flooding as the River Tywi burst its banks, affecting a number of businesses along the quay and the Pensarn area. Looking at the programme for government, launched yesterday to big fanfare, the climate change section had little reference to improving flood defences. With climate change likely to make such occurrences more regular, will you outline what progress has been made on providing immediate protection for the town of Carmarthen against further such flooding events?
As I said, I've just outlined a series of additional funding that we've put into NRW. That funding is, of course, across Wales, and not for any specific community. We also work very closely with our local authority partners in ensuring that they do the right assessments and we have the right kind of flood management projects coming forward for capital funding. Local authorities themselves have a range of projects in this regard, and we work very closely with them and NRW to ensure that we have a holistic programme right across Wales.
Back in March, a £65.415 million programme of flood risk management activities across Wales was announced for this financial year we're currently in. That includes £36 million capital spend on new projects and maintenance of existing assets. As I've already said, it's our biggest capital budget ever.
The capital budget this year includes £4 million for post-storm repairs, following the flooding in December 2020 and January 2021, and to date, £1.9 million of that has been already allocated for the purpose. So, we have a number of—. So, we have—I'm sorry, I can't do the maths off the top of my head—around £2 million left to allocate, which we will be working with local authorities across Wales, to make sure that we have the right schemes in place. But I can assure the Member that we work very closely with our local authority partners to make sure that we have the best protection available and to understand what their capital and revenue requirements for flood prevention schemes look like, and to make sure that we also have maintenance programmes in place for existing flood protection assets.
I'd also like to congratulate both Ministers on their new appointments. Minister, the NRW report following the floods of 2020 matters a great deal to the Rhondda residents, in particular, residents of Pentre, where 169 homes and 12 businesses flooded internally. The NRW duty manager at the time said, on record, and I quote:
'From the photographs and pictures available it is evident that wooded material entered the watercourse and ended up blocking the grid.'
I recently met with RCT council leader Andrew Morgan, who confirmed to me that the council's section 19 report is in its final stages and will be released later this month. If the report confirms wooded debris significantly contributed to the flooding in Pentre by blocking the culvert grids, will the Minister meet NRW with me to discuss the impact and cost on the community I represent?
Well, thank you very much, Buffy, and I don't share my colleague Lee's tendency, I'm afraid, Llywydd, to overcome the congratulations all in one burst. I think we should take congratulations where we can find them—[Laughter.]—so, I'm very pleased to be welcomed to my post, and I'm very glad to see you here too, Buffy.
I'm with Lee on this, I must say. [Laughter.]
Long may it last is all I can say. So, absolutely, just to start with the question at the end: I'm very happy to meet with NRW to discuss it. I'd also like to suggest that I arrange a briefing for yourself, alongside the RCT leader, to just discuss some of the issues upfront, before we get the section 19 report, so that we can understand where we're coming from. We've been working very closely with both NRW and the council in the production of the section 19 report. It's a very important report, as I said to Heledd earlier, that we will want to learn the lessons from. So, it's very important to get it right, and we understand the lessons learnt coming out of it. As I said, we have provided additional funding to local authorities to support their section 19 investigations into the 2020 flooding, and RCT is, right now, in the process of finalising its report into the devastating flooding at Pentre last year. I can't obviously comment on the content of the report, as I have not yet seen it; that would be inappropriate anyway. But we absolutely want to fully assess the findings of the report and learn the lessons that I'm sure it will set out for us.
I absolutely recognise the strength of feeling from Pentre residents, and, indeed, from residents around Wales, who experienced very, very significant levels of flooding. Absolutely, if there are ways to reduce the risk of a repeat of such events, then we expect our risk management authorities to work together to implement them. We conducted, right at the end of the last Senedd, an exercise— a civil contingencies exercise—to look at how our response to flooding works. We will be doing a leadership version of that across the Welsh Government, NRW and local authorities, to make sure that each leader plays their role, if we do experience such an event, and that we have the maximum amount of speed, and we all know what we're doing, if something of that sort does happen again. But, actually, I very much hope that the lessons we learn will help us to assist in making sure that it does not happen again, including a review, for example, that we're doing across all coal tips, a better data management system, and you'll know, Llywydd, that the Government has also got, in its manifesto, a commitment to improving coal tip safety across Wales, which will be very much a part of that work.
Thank you to the Minister and the Deputy Minister.
The next item is questions to the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, and the first question is from Sam Kurtz.
1. What support is the Welsh Government providing to local authorities to assist pupils who have lost face-to-face teaching time due to COVID-19 restrictions? OQ56597
There are a range of measures to support learning. We've committed over £150 million in additional investments to support learners and practitioners in this financial year. This is additional to around £130 million in the last financial year. This funding supports our Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards programme, increasing capacity to support learners.
Thank you, Minister. I've received correspondence from the parents of children with hearing difficulties in my constituency who have raised concerns that their children, because of the use of masks, can't lip read and they are facing ongoing barriers to their learning experience. In addition to losing educational time over the past 18 months because of efforts to slow the spread of the pandemic, these pupils have felt feelings of isolation. What additional support has the Welsh Government provided in order to tackle specifically the unique challenges that the past 18 months have placed on children?
I thank the Member for the additional question. In terms of face masks, we have administrative guidelines that advise schools and educational institutions to look carefully at the impact of wearing face masks on people who have hearing difficulties, and to ensure that they do understand clearly that the impact of that can be significant on people who do depend on seeing people's faces clearly to communicate. The guidelines are public; they're available on our website and they include links to a variety of other pieces of advice that can provide a context for schools to understand what to do.
And, of course, over the last year, we have provided financial support to schools in order to ensure that they can adapt the way that they work in order to ensure that they work in a way that's as inclusive as possible under very difficult circumstances of COVID.
Joyce Watson. Joyce Watson, can we have the—? There we go. Oh—. Can we have the microphone on? Yes.
Diolch, Llywydd. I've been reading the 'Renew and reform' proposals this morning, Minister, and I've also spoken with teachers, and I would say that your decision to retain the 1,800 full-time tutoring staff that have been recruited will make all the difference this year to pupils and teachers. The previous Welsh Government was, of course, recognised internationally and by the Education Policy Institute for its response to the pandemic, particularly how they led the way by speedily providing laptops and Wi-Fi devices to disadvantaged learners. So, how will today's announcement build on that targeted support for disadvantaged learners?
Well, I thank Joyce Watson for her positive review of the publication this morning. As her question implied, one of the key areas of focus for the Government in the 'Renew and reform' proposals, which I've published this morning following my statement in the Chamber before the half term recess, is indeed a focus on disadvantaged and vulnerable learners, because everything we know from the experience of COVID suggests that they have suffered disproportionate impacts from perhaps not being in the customary educational setting.
Amongst the things we'll want to be doing with the funding that I've announced this morning—and I should stress that this has all been done in conjunction, of course, with schools and with education professionals; it's very much a question of co-designing, if you like, the interventions that this funding is intended to support. But whether that's around reviewing the use of the pupil deprivation grant to make sure that's targeted in the way it can be; whether it's the provision of extra coaching support, personalised learning programmes; whether it's supporting practitioners through additional professional learning to understand better how best to support disadvantaged learners to deal with the impact of COVID; whether it's additional funding for the additional learning needs transformation scheme programme that we have. There's a range of specific ways in which this funding will be deployed. And I echo the point that she made: I was very pleased to hear that the EPI acknowledged specifically that the funding we've been investing in Wales has had a beneficial impact. That is designed to have that sort of impact on our disadvantaged learners.
Question 2 [OQ56589] has been referred by the Government for a written answer by the Minister for health, so question 3, Delyth Jewell.
3. Will the Minister make a statement on teaching children about climate change in schools? OQ56613
Learning on climate and environmental challenges will be mandatory in the Curriculum for Wales. The statements of what matters for the humanities and science and technology areas of learning and experience include explicit references to climate and the environment, to ensure that learners engage with challenges such as climate change.
Thank you for that response. I'm very eager that we address climate anxiety, which is affecting more and more schoolchildren. There is a danger that we as a society are causing this concern as a result of our approach to climate change in the media, but also in the classroom—talking about climate change as an inevitable crisis and a spectre of devastation on the horizon, come what may. And studies show that people who are overly concerned, or who suffer from anxiety about a subject, may think that they're less likely to do something about that situation. So, I'm keen to see more space in the curriculum, Minister, to discuss climate change, but for those discussions to focus on what we could do to change the situation and to empower children. And I would like to see more resources and support for teachers to recognise climate anxiety and deal with it. Is that something that you'd be willing to consider introducing for children and schools?
Well, providing those resources is part of the work that's currently ongoing. I fully accept what the Member has said on the context in terms of learning about and raising awareness among children and young people of climate change, not only on the impact of climate change but also, as she said, that idea of personal agency—the ability to be part of the response to climate change in way that can open one's eyes when they're on their educational journey. The 'what matters' code in a number of different places is based on that concept of the learner as someone who can have an impact on what happens in their surroundings. And I think we have seen over the past year just how important it is for our pupils and students to have that sense of how to respond to the world around them, and not just in a way that accepts what happens but in a way that supports pupils in being innovative and flexible in doing that. So, that's one of the things I want to ensure that we will get out of the new curriculum.
Questions now from the party spokespeople. The Conservative spokesperson, Laura Anne Jones.
Diolch, Llywydd. May I start by welcoming you again to your role, Minister, as I am now formally the shadow education Minister, and it's now official? May I say that I'm very much looking forward to working with you, opposite you, on this hugely important brief, particularly at a time when we're coming out of a pandemic, and we edge closer and closer to the biggest change in education delivery for decades?
Minister, our schools and universities should be places of learning and development, not places of intimidation, abuse and harassment. Therefore, it was very concerning—and I'm sure you're concerned too—that 91 Welsh education establishments are included in that Everyone's Invited website, with some truly shocking behaviour described. I welcome your written statement this morning that Estyn will be conducting a review, but we mustn't leave out our higher education settings in that, as these allegations have shone a light on what appears to be a systemic issue across all the age groups across Wales. Having spoken to my councils since this topic hit the headlines last week, it's clear to me that schools and colleges are already taking action, Minister, and I'm pleased your officials will now be speaking, contacting these schools and offering them support; I know you've been asking for e-mails already. But we need to find a way of collating this information on a national level, because we need to deal with this on a national basis, because it's obviously systemic across the board. And so that's something we need to look into so we can see if things are working and your proposed solutions are working or not. And I believe that this—
You'll need to ask a question now, please.
Yes. And in the last term, I said that the new curriculum would be a perfect way of us beginning to have these conversations in schools. Minister, your statement outlines a great deal of advice, guidance, toolkits that are already taking place, and yet these allegations are still coming forward. What do you expect to change, Minister, as a result of issuing another report, or more guidance, when there is so much available? And how are you going to ensure that these new toolkits are really reaching the places they need to reach, and actually that behaviours start to change?
I've been very, very patient—that's two minutes now. So, I think there were enough questions there for you to attempt an answer, Minister.
Diolch, Llywydd. I'll try and do justice to the questions, because it's a very sensitive topic, in the way that the questions are asked. I welcome the fact that you welcome the statement that issued this morning. I feel that this is a cross-Government priority, in the sense that it engages a number of portfolios. Because some of the underlying causes of the behaviours that we have seen demonstrated in that very painful report, and some of the very searing remarks and testimony, if I can use that language, in the Everyone's Invited report and material, those are behaviours and those are experiences that exist outside educational settings as well. So, I think it's very important that there's a cross-Government approach to how we can respond.
I just want to be clear that, in requesting that Estyn should conduct a review, I am not in any way suggesting that action should await the outcome of that review. So, I just want to be quite clear about that. And there are some practical steps, which I set out in the statement, which are firstly about understanding whether the resources that are currently available are sufficient, are sufficiently easily accessible, and, if they aren't, obviously we will do something about that. Some of the resources that have already been issued, including some comparatively recently, have been well used, have been well accessed at least, and what I want to understand is whether there's more we can do to provide training around that to schools. As you say in the question, there is a significant amount of material that is already available. I want to make sure it's as easily available as it can be, and I want to encourage people to use the various helplines that the Welsh Government and others already fund in order to be able to support people to come forward with their concerns and their personal stories, if I can use that term.
I do want to say I think there is a very clear message for us here in the new curriculum about how fundamental it is to make sure that our learners have the kind of relationship and sexuality education that we envisage for them. We're consulting on the code for that at the moment, and I was pleased to hear the children's commissioner acknowledge over the weekend that she feels as well that the curriculum provides an underpinning for helping us tackle this question, certainly within a school setting.
Thank you. Minister, I'd like to just hone in on upskirting, and, for those who aren't aware of it, it's when boys are taking pictures up girls' skirts and sharing them on social media platforms. It's a serious matter, Minister, as I know you're aware, and I don't believe that the answer is forcing girls to wear trousers or shorts. Why are we punishing girls? Girls are not to blame. So, forcing them to wear trousers or shorts is entirely the wrong response. If schools are concerned about the length of girls' skirts, then surely they should be enforcing school uniform policies and cracking down on inappropriate behaviour, and tackling upskirting by better educating boys about the need to treat others with respect. What discussions has the Minister had on uniform policies and the right of girls to wear skirts?
I do agree entirely with the implication in the question that we must not be in a situation where, by virtue of the sort of policy that she's referring to, we create the impression that girls are responsible for the sorts of incidents that the Member is referring to. I don't imagine for a second that that is the intention behind any of the policies that I think she's implying and referring to. And I think it's really important, in our schools, that the way we teach boys and girls addresses this question and teaches the nature of respect in this context. I don't think it is a helpful signal to send—I'm sure it's completely unintended—but I do think the point she makes is a valid point: we must not be in a situation where girls feel that it is their responsibility, if you like, to dress in a particular way.
Thank you, Minister. I think it would be completely remiss of me not to ask you today about sport and PE in our schools at a time when our country is Euro-crazy at the moment. And I'm sure you'd like to take this opportunity, Minister, to join me in wishing our national Wales football team all the best in this afternoon's match. But there are some people across this Chamber, I was aware yesterday, who don't like football, and for a sport nut like me that's quite hard to understand. But I know that something we can all agree on is the fact that there are a multitude of physical and mental health benefits that sport and physical activity bring. Sport is a proven benefit for mental health. It's a known leveller, bringing people together from all races, all backgrounds, rich or poor, as well as a key tackler of obesity, especially in children. Sport teaches you discipline, how to work together as a team and individually, and it shows you respect. I could go on, Llywydd, but I won't.
But, Minister, my point is, with all these things in mind, don't you agree that it's sad that we often hear that sport and PE are often the first thing to be dropped from a school day when something else comes up, but its importance is huge. Never has that been more apparent than during lockdown and in the effect that sport and exercise have had on children's mental health. Minister, what are you doing to ensure that sport and PE are given the status and level of importance that they should have within our schools, and ensuring that this is reflected within the school timetable within the new curriculum, going forward? It is important that we capture that interest and promote good habits early on, something that, I'm afraid, private schools do better than public schools, because they see the benefits academically and the key life skills that they teach.
And you have a Llywydd who is football crazy as well and is trying to urge brevity in questions and answers in this Chamber and is failing miserably. [Laughter.] And thank you, Lee Waters, for your support in trying to curtail all contributions by not congratulating each other and thanking each other all the time. Anyway, Minister—brevity.
Brevity. Well, certainly my sports career was very brief, Llywydd [Laughter.] I was an incredibly ineffectual sportsperson when I was in school, and I actually regret that in many ways. I think the qualities, which the Member outlined in her question, are spot on in terms of the development of young people, and I share with her the regret that, over the last year perhaps, we haven't been able to, because of the circumstances in which we have found ourselves, to make sure that children and young people have the full access to sporting opportunities and sport in schools and colleges that we would want to see. And I'm really confident that the prominence given to health and well-being in the new curriculum will help us make sure that sport continues to be properly valued in our school system.
The Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Siân Gwenllian.
Thank you very much. It’s good to see you across the Chamber in the flesh, as it were, for the first time in quite a while.
We are following a different regime again this year in terms of GCSE, A-level and AS examinations. It is an assessment standardisation exercise led by individual schools and teachers, to all intents and purposes. Earlier this year, the Scottish Government announced that they would provide a one-off payment of £400 to teachers who were engaged in additional assessment work as recognition of that additional burden. How is the Welsh Government going to ensure that teachers who do have additional responsibilities in the current examination round are going to be properly recognised for this work, including in financial terms—that is, the teachers who wouldn’t be external examiners for WJEC usually?
Well, the Member is right to emphasise how important the role of teachers is for the system this summer, following what we heard last summer—how important it is in terms of the trust of learners and the system in general in relation to results. So, I just want to put on record my thanks to teachers across Wales for the work that they’re doing to ensure that that’s possible this year. In the four countries of the UK, the four Governments have taken slightly different approaches in looking at the system. What we’ve done in Wales is ensure that the majority of the work that’s being done happens during the term, rather than cutting into the summer period. So, we’ve emphasised more of the work earlier on in order to level it out a bit more. We’ve also provided a budget of just under £9 million to allow schools to increase capacity in order to be able to do this and to introduce flexibility into the system, for INSET use and end-of-year assessments, so that that creates flexibility in the system for teachers to undertake these additional responsibilities.
Thank you. I’m pleased that you recognise that it is quite a substantial amount of extra work in some cases. And there is funding in the system, because I’ve been made aware of a case where one secondary school is paying a great deal—around £100,000—to the external examining bodies, although they, of course, are not delivering the same functions in this year’s examination round. It’s important that the funding in the system is used or vired, where appropriate, in order to recognise the unique arrangements in place for this year.
Staying with the theme of school funding, I turn to the commitment in the programme for government, published yesterday, namely that your Government will fund up to 1,800 tutoring staff in our schools. Your written statement today—and I welcome that, of course—refers to retaining and supporting over 1,800 members of full-time equivalent staff, recruited under the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards programme. Now, the word 'tutor' doesn't appear in your statement this morning, so can you confirm first of all that we are talking about the same thing here? Is the figure of 1,800 mentioned in the programme for government and described as tutors the same people as the teachers and additional staff that you mention in your statement? So, what kind of staff are we talking about here? Are they new staff and is the funding announced new funding, and will they be permanently available within the system, post dealing with the pandemic?
Well, the answer to the final question is that we intend that they will continue to do their work until their work is done. That's our commitment. In terms of their functions, they provide education. The word 'staff' means people who teach or support—teaching assistants and so forth—to allow the pupils to have more support in terms of their learning. And that's the commitment. And I think that this builds on the three Rs work that we've done over the last year. It allows us to provide a broader range of support for our learners. In England, for example, the emphasis is on individual tutoring—catching-up on content. That's not the concept that we have at the heart of our plans. We have a broader definition of what our learners need to ensure that their confidence and motivation is being supported so that they can engage with learning again. And that's part of the capacity we're creating in the system in order to provide for those who need it—even one-on-one support, perhaps—but also to create capacity in the system to support the learning skills, the basic skills, that have had a tough time in the last year.
Thank you. I'm still not entirely clear on the issue, but hopefully we can discuss this further outside the Chamber, and I would appreciate some clarity as to where the funding is coming from. Is this new funding—
—or is it a continuation of the funding that Kirsty Williams mentioned in the previous Senedd?
Now, you've mentioned closing the attainment gap as one of your early priorities and I agree with you on that—it is crucially important. There is clear evidence, of course, that the one most effective thing that we can do in delivering this aim is to provide a nutritious free school meal to all school pupils as an addition to the formal education programme provided. But it's very disappointing to see in the programme for government, published yesterday by the Government, that you mention finding the resources and that any expansion of qualification for free school meals is conditional on finding additional resources. I would say that we must find the funding in order to support Wales's poorest pupils and that your Government must take that very first step on the journey towards universal free school meals provision.
Well, of the four UK Governments, we were the first ones to take the first step in most contexts in terms of FSM provision in our schools. So, I do accept what the Member says in terms of how important it is for us to be able to meet that need. We've said already, and we reiterate, if I can say that, in the programme for government, that we intend to look again at the eligibility criteria for having access to this scheme, and that's our intention and that's our plan. Additional data will be available by the end of the summer and that will give us an opportunity to look at who is eligible for this. But we've just had a conversation about investing in the well-being of pupils more broadly and an emphasis on those who need more support than others. All of these interventions call for resources, and we want to ensure that the package of support that we give our pupils is one that meets the demand and it's inevitable therefore that we need to look at where the resources go and where the resources come from. And that's why we're making the commitment that we are making. We are ambitious, but it is responsible that we look at the range of interventions and, when we can expand the criteria—and we are eager to do that—we will do that in a way consistent with the resources.
4. What action is the Welsh Government taking to support student mental health in Wales? OQ56601
Today, I published the 'Renew and reform' plan, a framework for this Government's response to the impacts of the pandemic on learning. The plan focuses on supporting the foundations of learning, including learner well-being, and supporting learners to make progress by focusing on their capacity for resilience.
I met with the National Union of Students Wales last week, and they've been running surveys amongst university students that find that 60 per cent of their members say their mental health is worse than before the pandemic and it's exacerbated social pressures, financial pressures and the academic work that they're facing. As a result, students are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems. I saw that the—. Well, last year, we welcomed that—the last term—the last Welsh Government introduced £10 million in mental health services during the pandemic, which had a great effect on university students. I saw your written statement this morning, which you just referred to, in which you said that the Welsh Government was committed to helping—and I quote—
'post-16 learners to progress to the next steps of their journey,'
and provided a little bit of outline on how that would be achieved. But can I ask for a little bit more detail, then, on how post-16 mental health will be addressed as part of that strategy?
Certainly. In a further education context, obviously, individual institutions provide their own well-being and mental health support for students in a wide variety of different ways, from counselling, online support, resilience training—there's a wide range of options that individual institutions deliver to their students. They've all developed and are implementing well-being strategies to support those. What we've seen in the projects undertaken in the last financial year is that a range of resources have been developed that can be mainstreamed and made available across the profession, if you like, and they'll be available on Hwb, in fact, this summer, so those resources are available more widely. And we've made a further allocation of £2 million for this financial year that will help maintain some of the partnerships that underpin some of those initiatives, and we're basing some of the interventions that we're making on recommendations from project reports that we had back in March, which gives us an evidence base for what works.
In higher education, as the Member mentions in his question, we invested £10 million most recently, and I met, as well, with the NUS president a few weeks ago to discuss the priority this is—the shared priority, if I can put it like that—for us and the NUS. She was very clear to me on how significant some of the challenges are that students are facing. What that funding enabled universities to do was introduce a range of measures and interventions, and the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales is undertaking an evaluation of those measures at present. There are some interim results that will be coming shortly, and then, in July, a fuller report on how effective some of those have been, and I'll be looking forward to seeing what impact those have had on the ground then.
Minister, I know we already had our congratulatory message at the lifts earlier, so I'll spare you of the horror of saying it in front of you all today. I just want to ask you: research by the NUS Wales reveals that students are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems than the general population. Many people first encounter mental health problems when they are at university or college, with academic pressure and the anxiety of living away from home for the first time, combined with other factors, actually making students susceptible to poor mental health. This situation has been made worse by the pandemic, which has disrupted many students' education. I'd like to know what is your response to the NUS's call for the Welsh Government to introduce a joined-up strategy that connects provision in education with NHS services to ensure students receive the help and support they so desperately need. Thank you.
I thank the Member for that question, and I think she underlines how significant the issue is. I think, in the way that I responded to Hefin David, there are two aspects to this. One is the investment of £10 million, which was specifically around increased support for emotional and mental health difficulties, but there was also a further package of support prior to that, which was about hardship more broadly. I think the point the Member makes in her question is that the source of mental health challenges for many of our students actually lies beyond the immediate, perhaps, and the sense of vulnerability that I heard the NUS president tell me about herself amongst the student body over the last year contributes, I think, to some of those mental health challenges, and I hope that the support we've been able to provide will help universities tackle that.
5. Will the Minister provide an update on discussions the Welsh Government has had regarding ensuring that school governors have the right to complete online DBS checks through the medium of Welsh in line with his predecessor's pledge on 17 March 2021? OQ56604
We've had discussions with the Welsh Language Commissioner. I understand that the checking processes of the Disclosure and Barring Service are not available to be completed online in Welsh for school governors and other postholders. That, of course, can cause delays in filling posts. I have already sent a letter to the service to ask them to improve the Welsh language service.
Well, thank you for writing to them. I'm sure that the process won't finish there if you need to go further, and I hope—and maybe you'll confirm that in your response. But there is an example here of where Welsh is losing the digital battle. If you want to complete your DBS through the medium of English, you can do it online; if you want to do it through the medium of Welsh, you have to go back to the dark ages and do it on paper, and I don't think that that's acceptable. I'm going to refuse to do that as a governor, and if that means that I am exempted from being a governor, I will consider that that is happening as a result of linguistic discrimination. And I'm not the only governor in that situation. So, I would appeal to you, Minister, that if we are serious about ensuring that the Welsh language is accessible to all in all contexts, particularly in the digital context, then this is one thing that has to change.
Well, I agree with the fact that it is entirely unacceptable that people should suffer because they choose to do something that they should be able to do easily—that is, respond in Welsh. And you're right to talk about the specific impact online. Of course, there is an opportunity to do it on paper, but, as you mentioned, the dark ages—that's not sufficient now. Many weeks of delay come from that. There is a practical opportunity for the body, given that they are about to renew IT plans, and so, in terms of the practical element, we're trying to push that idea—that they use that opportunity in practice to be able to provide the service in Welsh, which is certainly needed.
6. Will the Minister make a statement on investment in education in Clwyd South through the twenty-first century schools programme? OQ56582
The Clwyd South region benefited from a total investment of over £20 million during the first wave of funding of the twenty-first century schools and colleges programme. A second wave of funding began in 2019, involving significant further investment for the school and colleges estate in the Clwyd South area.
Previous Welsh Labour Governments have invested very heavily in education institutions, including schools, through the twenty-first century schools programme in the past, and I'd like to congratulate the Minister on his very, very well-deserved appointment and also invite him to Clwyd South to view some of the twenty-first century schools investment. And I'd be very grateful for any further updates regarding investment in school estates across Clwyd South in the months and years to come.
I thank the Member for his kind words and for the supplementary point that he made. He will know that there are proposed projects, including Ysgol yr Hafod, Brymbo and Ysgol I.D. Hooson, which are exciting developments, I think, in his part of the world. I think it amounts to about £12 million-worth of investment, with an intervention rate from the Welsh Government of around 65 per cent, generally speaking. So, I think there are very exciting opportunities in his part of the world, and we both share a sense of opportunity and excitement about the investment in the schools and colleges estate in north Wales and right across Wales. And I think the opportunity in the years ahead is to expand the number of net-zero-carbon schools. There's an exciting pilot under way at the moment, and the more we can do there to contribute to meeting our climate change goals in the school estate, I think, the better.
7. How will the Welsh Government expand opportunities for outdoor education during this Senedd term? OQ56598
Outdoor education has an important role to play in enriching teaching and learning, and this is reflected in the curriculum for Wales. We are at the moment providing £2 million to the residential outdoor education sector to support them between June and September 2021 to respond to COVID restrictions.
Thank you, Minister, for that answer. Learning in the outdoors can bring so many benefits to learners of all ages and abilities. However, perhaps the greatest benefits can be seen amongst those learners who have struggled to settle into mainstream educational settings. This is particularly true of an outdoor educational setting in my constituency, Cynon Valley Organic Adventures, based in Abercynon. Minister, would you accept an invitation to visit this setting with me to meet some of the learners who have defied the odds to thrive there and to discuss in greater detail how important alternative learning pathways such as this can be in ensuring that all young people in Wales are able to meet their full potential?
I absolutely agree with the Member about how important learning outdoors can be and the opportunities that that brings for our children and young people. And as it happens, I was recollecting with somebody this morning that this is the kind of day that when I was a school kid, it would have been spent outside for most of the day, learning in the outdoors, and actually that brought back some rather fond memories. But this is an important part of the new curriculum, as I said in my first answer, and I think there are real opportunities for us here, and I absolutely understand how important educational visits are to centres like the Cynon Valley Organic Adventures. As it happens, they had previously been in touch with me and I couldn't in fact take the opportunity at that point to visit them, but now that you've offered the opportunity of arranging that, I would be delighted to do that and look forward to doing that.
Finally, question 8, Heledd Fychan.
8. How will the Welsh Government ensure that Welsh-medium education is accessible to all children and communities, especially in Wales's most deprived areas? OQ56602
Every child who wants to attend a Welsh-medium school should be able to do so, wherever they live. Our new statutory framework through the Welsh in education strategic plans sets out a clear ambition for local authorities to plan their Welsh-medium education provision in order to meet that expectation.
Thank you. I know that the Minister is aware of a campaign in my area in terms of Welsh-medium education, specifically in the north of Pontypridd, where campaigners tried to persuade the local council to consider alternative options, rather than the option that's being taken forward, which will move access to Welsh-medium education further from the communities of Ynysybwl, Glyncoch and Coed-y-Cwm and totally out of Cilfynydd. If we are serious about reaching the target of 1 million Welsh speakers, isn't it a requirement on us to ensure equal access to Welsh-medium education, rather than taking education further from these communities, communities that are deprived? And will the Minister commit to meet with campaigners and myself, perhaps whilst you're visiting Abercynon, which isn't too far away, in order to discuss their alternative proposals, because this wasn't a campaign to save a school, but to secure equal access to Welsh-medium education, which is different to many other campaigns, and they have a number of exciting ideas that we should listen to?
I thank the Member for that important second question. I think that reforming the legislation that is the basis for the strategic plans is going to have a positive impact in this context, and there are many ambitious things in the Welsh in education strategic plan of the council to which you refer, and I'm very pleased to see that. But I do accept that as well as looking at the numbers—this is at a local level and a national level—I think that we also need to look at communities and the geography of the Welsh language. I think that's an important factor in this context as well. I do know that there is a great wish in the north of Pontypridd to maintain Welsh-medium education in that area, and I'm clear that we, through our grant partners—for example, Mudiad Meithrin—are looking at how we can support the best pathways for learners to access Welsh-medium education and the opportunity to be bilingual, and I'd be happy to discuss this further with the Member.
I thank the Minister.
The next item is a statement on climate change, and I call on the Deputy Minister to make that statement. Lee Waters.
Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. Today, the Climate Change Committee published its third UK climate risk independent assessment. It makes for difficult reading. It sets out 61 risks and opportunities from climate change to Wales, including to business infrastructure, housing, the natural environment and health. Twenty-six of the 61 risks have increased in severity over the last five years. We can see this for ourselves. In 2018, we witnessed the hottest summer on record. Two years later, Wales recorded our wettest February and our worst flooding in 40 years. These are no longer freak events; this unpredictable and extreme weather is something we're going to have to get used to.
Within the lifetime of our children, the report warns of wetter winters, drier and hotter summers and sea level rises of up to two and a half feet along the Welsh coastline. These could have devastating effects. In every category studied by the report, there are a raft of risks with the highest possible urgency score. This advice is very timely. The establishment of a new climate change ministry makes it easier to mobilise the main areas of devolved Government that have the greatest impact on our emissions: housing, transport, energy, planning, environmental policy and digital ways of working.
This institutional change allows us to build on the foundations of vital policy work in recent years. Our adaption plan, 'A Climate Conscious Wales', is now in its second year of delivery. Our national flood strategy, published in October 2020, sets out how we will manage flood risk over the next decade. And this year we are investing £65 million in flood risk management, the largest amount invested in Wales in a single year. What’s more, our programme for government commits to funding flood protection for more than 45,000 homes across Wales, and delivering a nature-based flood management system in all major river catchments to expand wetland and woodland habitats.
We are doing a lot in Wales. Our legal framework in legislating for the needs of future generations is being studied across the world. Our practical action on recycling is nudging the top of the global league table. Our tax on single-use carrier bags has been widely followed and has succeeded in significantly cutting down on plastic use.
Since 1990, Welsh greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 31 per cent. But, Llywydd, the scale of our challenge is stark. In the next 10 years, we are going to need to more than double all the cuts we have managed over the last 30 years. If we simply maintain our current pace, we will not achieve net zero until around 2090. We have committed to reach this by 2050, but given the gravity of today’s new advice from the adaptation committee, we cannot be complacent, nor can we assume that this target will remain static.
Over the last 16 months we have all become used to public policy being based on the science. We have all become familiar with the First Minister telling us that the data gives us headroom to make choices, and as the data and the science change, the choices we have to make alter. We have followed this approach to tackle coronavirus. We must follow the same approach to tackle climate change.
This Government will take a lead, but we cannot do it alone—no Government can. Each business and organisation, and each of us, have to consider our own responsibilities, to consider the impact of the choices we make, the way we heat our homes, why and how we travel, what we eat, where we shop, how we relax, the way we work, and where we work.
This will throw up tensions for all of us. We should acknowledge that. These aren't simple trade-offs. We have to work them through together. But nor should we assume that these choices will make our lives worse. Many of the things we need to do to respond to the science on climate change will bring benefits: new jobs, new technological advances, cleaner air, quieter streets and fewer accidents, less time commuting, a stronger sense of community, flourishing nature on our doorstep, nurturing and nourishing our well-being. These are all things we’ve already seen in the last year or so. Things that seemed impossible proved to be possible, and sometimes better.
None of this is easy, but as today’s report from the Climate Change Committee sets out again, the price of not doing so is too great. Today, we are publishing our response to the Climate Change Committee's progress report from last December. We’ve made decent progress and are on track for the 2020 target. We will outline the full Government response to today's report in due course to the Senedd, along with our next emissions reduction plan, a net zero Wales, as we look towards COP26 and COP Cymru.
It is important that this Senedd contributes fully to developing Wales’s response. We must all play our part, and we must test each other’s ideas to make sure we are doing all that we can in pursuit of a fairer, greener and stronger Wales. Diolch.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. Now, the publication of the CCC report is a serious wake-up call for Wales, and especially you as the Welsh Government. In fact, towards the end of the last Senedd, the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee's 'Report on the Climate Change (Wales) Regulations 2021' warned that
'rhetoric must now be met with bold and decisive action.'
It is all well and good your programme for government stating that you
'have the vision and ambition to address the climate and nature emergency',
but your past record and the CCC report do not support that. Of the 61 risks and opportunities, more action is needed in Wales now to address 32 of them. In fact, sustaining current action is only deemed appropriate in five cases. Therefore, Llywydd, I welcome the Minister's recognition that this report makes for difficult reading.
Many of us are seeing climate change first hand in our constituencies due to flooding. The situation is getting worse, yet our communities are not being listened to. Since 2019, I have been calling for an independent inquiry into flooding in the Conwy valley and, more recently, a similar request has been made by the community, and, indeed, Members here now, in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Well, it's time for you to rethink, because section H3 on people, communities and buildings states that more action is needed, and that risks are not being managed effectively. So, will you commit to doing more on flooding than the just the two paltry lines in the programme for government?
Urgent action is needed to address the risk to nature also. Section N1 notes the magnitude of current and future risks from climate change, both now and in the future, and is considered to be high due to the number of species so adversely affected and more likely to be affected going forward. This is no surprise because Welsh Labour has presided over a decline in Welsh species over the past five years. So, I will be pleased to hear what targets you will set regarding wildlife conservation to monitor and inspire progress.
The report also details urgent action needed to improve preparedness and surveillance of pests, pathogens and invasive species, and the report found that important knowledge gaps remain on the issues of agriculture and forestry. So, Minister, what urgent steps are you taking to rectify this knowledge gap? Can you also confirm that your response will look to include details on how you will fund and implement the necessary new surveillance structures?
There is also an increased risk posed by heat. Heat-related deaths in Wales could increase from 2.4 per 100,000 people a year in 2016 to 6.5 per 100,000 by the 2050s. So, Minister or Deputy Minister, can you confirm that the Welsh Government will look to build increased cooling demand into your future energy policies, and look at introducing a scheme to incentivise the uptake of passive cooling methods?
Finally, the study also found that current policy lacks detailed actions and specific outcomes for the marine sector and environment. So, what action is the Welsh Government taking to bring forward detailed implementation plans to address the impacts of climate change on fisheries within the fishery sector objective, or for marine species? We need to discuss this CCC report in far greater detail, but I'm glad that we have started today. Diolch.
Thank you for those remarks. I completely agree that more action is needed and I believe I set that out, and I agree that we need to discuss this in far more detail. I don't think today is the time to do that. I think Janet Finch-Saunders set out a series of fair and reasonable challenges and, as she said, rhetoric must be matched by bold and decisive action. And I would say to her, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. That is true for her and her party just as it is for ours, and standing up and calling for us to build six-lane motorways through protected wetlands does not correlate with that challenge she poses to me. So, I think we all have to reflect on what the impact this science has on many of the policy positions we've held until now, and together try and find a way that matches our rhetoric with what the science tells us we need to do.
I would just say briefly to close that more than half of what we need to do falls in areas that are not reserved to the Senedd and to the Welsh Government. The UK Government has a significant role to play to make some of the macro changes, and we need to work closely and carefully with them. At the moment, we do see the world in a slightly different way. Their enormous road building programme, for example, is not consistent with the science. It's not a policy that we shall be following, but we do all of us need to be putting the rhetoric to one side and carefully studying the science, and thinking through its implications for policy. And I look forward to working together to try and reach as much consensus as we can.
Thank you for your statement, Deputy Minister, and for sharing a number of reports with us today. It's quite clear that we must tackle the nature emergency alongside the climate emergency, as we've already discussed, and we can't deal with one without dealing also with the other. But now, a number of environmental and nature groups are concerned about the funding of projects and policies by this Government. The concerns about the shared prosperity fund and new funds to replace EU funding are numerous.
First of all, the criteria for these funds either ignore or downplay environmental concerns, and therefore the funding isn't planned in a way that helps us in Wales to develop a joined-up response to the nature and climate emergency. It's likely that key domestic legislation in Wales will not be included in the process of decision making on funding projects, and this specifically includes the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. This means that projects could conflict with the legislative mechanisms in Wales in ensuring sustainable development and maintaining and supporting biodiversity.
There is a key EU fund that doesn't appear to have been included: a tailor-made EU programme for diversity under the LIFE programme. It has been crucial in Wales in terms of delivering nature restoration projects. With the UK Government promising not a penny less, I would ask you, Deputy Minister, what corresponds to the EU LIFE programme and how is that put in place in order to restore and protect nature?
Turning to something that has already come up, actually, the emphasis in the Welsh Government's ambitions for the environment is largely focused on land-based solutions and a lot of it is on woodland creation. Of course, I welcome this, but as has already been mentioned, actually, I think that more emphasis needs to be put on our marine environment. Could you please, Minister, make a statement on how you will ensure parity between green and blue spaces, terrestrial marine habitats and landscapes, in your approach to addressing climate change and biodiversity decline?
Finally, it's clear that the Government has an ambitious agenda. Everyone has a part to play in the journey towards net zero. The task ahead of us is substantial, and we want everyone to be able to play a part. Whilst it's clear how the Government intends to put this work in place—it's becoming a lot more clear—there is not as much clarity on how normal citizens of all ages, in addition to communities, can contribute to this as well, to addressing the emergency. I'd like to ask how the Government will support individuals and communities to act for the good of nature and the environment at a local level. Diolch yn fawr.
Thank you for that series of questions. I completely agree that the changes post EU—to what were structural funds—are very, very troubling. As Delyth Jewell said, we have over a number of years developed a strategic approach for a range of programmes, particularly focused on biodiversity and climate change, which now don't neatly fit into the structures the UK Government has set out. Indeed, they seem more concerned about giving Conservative MPs local discretion to fund things that will look good for them, rather than taking a whole-system approach, which is what the science today demands that we need to do. So, I think we all need, as a Senedd, to make sure that those concerns are understood, and that we develop those funding programmes as we go forward in a way that is consistent with the responsibilities we all have to tackle the nature and climate change emergency.
On the specific point on the EU LIFE programme, I will write to her on that. I'm not aware of any equivalent replacement in the funds, but I'd be keen to take that up with the UK Government, and if we're able to do that on a cross-party basis, I think that would be all the better.
In terms of the impact of marine, I completely agree. In my briefing, it's referred to as 'blue carbon habitats'. I must say I've never heard that phrase before, but it is rather neat, because the marine environment both stores carbon and promotes biodiversity through saltmarsh, seagrass beds and shellfish beds, and they are under considerable pressure from sea level rises and acidification. NRW are currently mapping areas of marine and coastal habitats, including those that store and sequester blue carbon, to understand the potential and further opportunities for restoration of these important habitats. I think Delyth Jewell is right to highlight that as an important piece of work, to put that on an important footing.
The final point about individual action and making that relationship, not just on a large land management approach but in terms of human beings and families and communities, and restoring that link to our behaviour and its impact on our local environment, I think is a critical one. One of the things I hope to be doing under the deep dive on tree planting that Julie James announced last week is to both look at the large-scale issue of aforestation, but also to look at the individual, the community level. I think our nature networks fund has shown real progress in a very short period of time in local biodiversity projects and showing that relationship that individuals can have. But I'd like to do more than that. I'm particularly interested in what we can learn from our Wales for Africa project, where, in Mbale in Uganda, our funding, working with the Size of Wales project, is giving people there free trees to plant. I think in something we are telling Africans to do with our money, we should be applying those principles to ourselves as well.
We've spent an awful lot of time trying to unlock the problem of NRW's approach to planting trees at scale, which is important, but there's a great deal that we can do at the community level. I think one of the real challenges we have here is that this is all rather arid and abstract on a scientific level, and we need to make this real for people. One of the things that we've seen through the lockdowns is that people's relationship with their own doorstep nature has been quite profound. I myself have become suddenly interested in the trees where I live and the trees in my garden in a way that simply wasn't true before. We need to capitalise on that by making people realise that they have a role to play, and through a multitude of small actions, that can make a difference too.
Can I thank the Deputy Minister for the statement? Starting with the science, carbon oxidates to form carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and traps heat. We know this because Venus, which has mainly a carbon dioxide atmosphere, despite being much further away from the sun than Mercury, is substantially hotter. Whilst saying these few words, I've been expelling carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through the act of breathing. Does the Minister agree that reducing our carbon footprint by exporting industries that produce carbon dioxide will not help reduce global warming but will probably make it worse?
Can I say how really pleased I am with what the Minister said on tree planting? I raised it yesterday in the business statement. If everybody in Wales with a garden planted one tree, we'd have 1 million trees planted in a year. We did have a scheme in the 1970s that worked. I represent the lower Swansea valley, which has gone from a moon-like landscape to being now very much tree lined and that shows what can be done.
I have two key questions. When will the Government change planning policy to ensure that all new houses are net zero? We don't want to build houses that have to be retrofitted in the near future. The second one is: will the Minister continue to support the tidal lagoon in Swansea? This is an opportunity to create green energy that will last forever.
Thank you for that, and particularly for the references to Venus and the moon. It's not often that they feature in our discussions on climate change. I completely agree, as I've just set out, on the role that tree planting on a family and community level can have. I'm very keen to understand what barriers might stand in the way and make some recommendations to the Senedd before the end of the summer term on how we can start to make further progress in that regard.
In terms of the tidal lagoon, Mike Hedges will know that the programme for government contains a commitment to a challenge fund. We are very keen about the impact and potential that marine renewables, in their broadest sense, can have, and lagoons are obviously an important part of that spectrum of technology. We need to do thousands of little things, but we also need to do some big game-changing things. The lagoon, the micro hydro, as well as individual tree planting, all have their part to play in responding to the science that's been spelled out to us today by the UK Climate Change Committee.
Minister, you and the Minister for Climate Change will have my absolute support in doing everything that is needed to take forward this agenda, both on climate change mitigation and adaptation as well, and also on the nature crisis and the biodiversity crisis we face as well. There'll be a time that will come for very detailed questions and very detailed scrutiny of how we achieve this and how we drive it forward. The complexity of some of the solutions can sometimes be completely overwhelming and sometimes you put your hands up in despair. So, I want to ask you the big question. Yesterday, I spoke at a biodiversity event arranged by Wales Environment Link, with cross-party support within it as well, and biodiversity and climate change, of course, are interlinked in this. One of the speakers there was Poppy Stowell-Evans, a youth climate change ambassador. What hope can we give to Poppy and to others that we are committed and that we will deliver the change that is needed, no matter how difficult, and we will do it in a way that will create better communities, fairer communities, more just communities, green jobs, better environments and so on? What hope can we give young people that we can actually deliver on that?
First of all, can I just pay a very sincere tribute to Huw Irranca-Davies for the role that he's played, both before he came to the Senedd, in Westminster as a Minister and as Chair of a select committee, and since he's come here? I worked very closely with him in the cross-party group on active travel in the last Senedd and I hope to continue to do so again. I think we've made real progress. That combination of challenge and support is very deftly deployed by him, and I look forward to continuing that relationship.
I'm optimistic about the way we tackle this challenge. Whether we deal with it or not is not a question; we must deal with it. It's an imperative; this is an existential crisis and threat to us all. So, there really is very little debate to be had about 'do we do it?', and I'm very pleased that some of the more absurd voices that were in this Chamber on this question are no longer here. So, at least, hopefully, we can all start from the starting point that the science is legitimate and this is a challenge that we need to engage with.
I'm very interested in doing this in a way that has additional benefits, because I think people will respond better—and the evidence suggests this is the case—if the measures that are required to respond to the scientific challenge of climate change also have other benefits that may be more immediate to their everyday lives; so, clean air, a better local environment, less traffic congestion—a whole range of things that we could mention—and warmer homes.
I think we should be highlighting the practical day-to-day benefits to make people's lives better, not just the doom and gloom if we don't do it. Clearly, that needs to be there for us, as policy makers, to focus our minds on the urgency of getting this done, but in communicating this to people I think we can all be optimistic that if we do this in the right way and in a just way, with proper urgency, we can unleash potential here that will make people's lives better.
I just want to come back to what you said earlier about how the Government can't do it on its own and it's down to every organisation and every individual. I want to home in on something that Mike Hedges asked, which is around new-build housing, but, first of all, I just wanted to understand why we're delaying challenging social landlords to meet energy performance certificate rating A in their retrofitting of social housing, not starting until January next year. I had assumed that the announcement that was made in April 2021 about new buildings also applied to existing buildings. So, that would be a useful clarification.
On top of that, I'm also a bit frustrated that we still haven't amended Part L of the building regulations, which continues to allow private house builders to build homes that are simply not fit for purpose—that do not have solar panels on their south-facing roofs and that do not have ground-source heat pumps fitted, in new homes. There's an abysmal level of fitting of that, even in areas where there is no mains gas and, therefore, ground-source heat pumps must be the most economical thing we can be doing. You don't appear to want to mandate any change from private house builders until 2024-25, based on the statement that you put out around the response to the Climate Change Committee, so it'd be really useful to understand why we're not stepping up the pace on this, given that we have an emergency on our hands and we're not going fast enough.
Thank you very much. Could I echo what I said about Huw Irranca-Davies about Jenny Rathbone as well, who's been a passionate advocate of this agenda? I very seriously appreciate her efforts and look forward to continuing her challenge.
She raised a series of questions about housing. As Julie James explained earlier, the carving up of this mammoth portfolio is a daily challenge. One of the things we have agreed is I will lead on particular areas; I will lead on transport, regeneration, energy and digital, and work broadly across the other areas—hence the tree planting, for example—and Julie will lead on the rest. So, housing remains with Julie, but I will nip and tuck as directed by my colleague.
But I would say, on the energy standards, I think one of the things I don't think has been said enough is the enormous progress that we have made through the Welsh housing quality standards over the last 18 years. And this is an example of an issue that we were told could not be done. We were told it was just too difficult to get 225,000 homes up to the energy efficiency standards of EPCD, and we have done it. Through £1.8 billion of investment, this has been an enormous achievement by the Welsh Labour Government over that time. And the new iteration—Welsh housing quality standards 2.0, niftily named—is starting in 2022. So, to directly answer the question of why we're waiting until the end of this year, that's because the new standards come into force from that time, which will accelerate social housing's journey towards net carbon zero. So, I think we genuinely should be proud of what we've achieved over the last 18 years with Welsh quality housing standards, and we should expect more of it in the next period, and I think we have reason to be optimistic about that.
Similarly, on part L, I understand that is coming in this year. And this is one of the challenges of this agenda. We know the science is urgent, there are a great deal of things that we'd like to do immediately. The process of getting them through the Government legislative, regulatory machine, working with partners, making sure it's designed properly, so that it works rather than goes off half-cocked, is slow and complex. And I said in my statement earlier, there are tensions here that we're going to have to manage through together, and this is one of the tensions. I can promise you that Julie James and I are as impatient as anybody else in trying to do this as quickly as we possibly can, but it's not as simple as we would like it to be.
Finally, on the example of the ground source heat pumps, I think that's a really excellent example of the new opportunities that this agenda brings. There are jobs to be created from installing ground source heat pumps. Now, currently, we do not have a trained workforce who can do this. So, that is something we're working very closely with Vaughan Gething on, to make sure that we create opportunities for people to upskill, to be able to take advantage of the huge economic opportunities that come from the necessary changes we need to make to respond to the climate crisis.
I'd like to state very clearly that, when it comes to the climate and biodiversity emergency, there is no place for party politics, and I am committed to work cross-party to secure and support your work. And I'm pleased to hear the Deputy Minister reference the need to take a data and science-led approach to the climate emergency. However, this is at odds with your refusal to commit to an independent inquiry into the floods, an inquiry that would give us the answers, because, time and time again, people still don't know what happened and why. People trust Welsh Government due to COVID, because of that openness in terms of data, and yet, they do not have the answers they need and deserve in terms of what happened in 2020. Therefore, we can throw money reactively at flood management, and until we actually acknowledge that things like the section 19 report will not give those answers, we have a whole array of reports, but we need a way of bringing all of that data together, to understand also the impact on mental health and well-being. And I would like to ask, you've referenced the national flood strategy, and in that it references a need for a national conversation, and the NRW report states the same. When will those difficult conversations take place and we take forward those conversations, but actually listen to communities, who at the moment do not trust this Welsh Government to protect them from flooding?
Thank you, Janet. I think that is a fair challenge. Clearly, as the science indicates, these are going to become more and more frequent occurrences, and the ability of all agencies and all parts of Government—local and central—to deal with them is going to be incredibly challenged. There are lessons for us to learn from the flooding in Pentre and in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area a couple of years ago and all across Wales. I think there's a pragmatic judgement to be made about where the finite resources and time we have are best placed. Is that through a formal independent inquiry, as she asks, which will not be quick, and will not be cheap, and will snarl up other progress, or are there more rapid lessons that we can learn and apply in real time, because these things could be upon us within the next year again? That is our instinct, is to do that. I can promise her that there will be no lack of appetite to have difficult conversations with any Government agency or partner, and we are beginning our dialogue as we speak. So, I can give an assurance on that.
So, there's nothing to stop the Assembly committees, once they are convened, eventually, to do some work into this, which will be helpful to us. We are not against having enquiring minds finding better ways of doing it and learning lessons. Far from it. We do have, as a set of Ministers, a real challenge about the resource available to us and the set of challenges available to us over a vast number of areas, and I think we just need to be pragmatic about where we put our effort. But I would like to work closely with Heledd Fychan, on how we can look at the proposals in your manifesto, and how we can work together on some of them; I think there are some very interesting ideas there that we would be very happy to talk about. But I think we need to stop butting heads on what's happened with the flooding, and start working together to find solutions quickly.
I think it's fair to say that most of us are familiar with the forest restoration and the emphasis on planting more trees, and I support that. There are many more maybe less known nature-based solutions like the restoration of peat land and seagrass habitats. Both of those have been severely degraded in recent years, but are equally important for reducing carbon emissions and increasing biodiversity.
I've chosen these two areas particularly because those habitats were once very common in my constituency of mid and west Wales. Ninety per cent of seagrass meadows have been lost in the UK, with pollution and a range of boating activities thought to be the biggest culprits. Swansea University are currently highlighting an exciting project where they're trying to restore seagrass habitats in Dale Bay in Pembrokeshire. A seagrass meadow can store about half a tonne of carbon per hectare per year, and are a fantastic habitat for a whole range of marine species.
I'd like to know, Minister, what assessment the Welsh Government have made of that project, and the feasibility that it offers to being rolled out across other suitable marine areas in Wales.
Restoration of peat land in Wales is such an important aspect in helping to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. I do welcome Natural Resources Wales and the Welsh Government's national action programme, which has set targets to restore 600 to 800 hectares of peat land in identified areas across Wales between 2020 and 2025. But the use of peat in gardening really does concern me, and I'm keen to know what steps the Welsh Government are taking to encourage Welsh gardeners and horticulturalists to go peat-free. The writer and broadcaster, Monty Don, recently said that using peat in your garden is an act of eco-vandalism and I couldn't agree more.
Thank you very much, Joyce Watson. I wasn't aware of the project that you refer to in Pembrokeshire; it sounds very interesting and I'd like to find out more about it, and to properly answer your question about what lessons can be learned from it. So, if you're willing, I will go away, find out more and write to you about that.
I completely agree, as I set out earlier, that the potential of natural carbon stores is something that we need to be properly harnessing. As I mentioned, NRW are currently mapping areas of marine and coastal habitats, including those that store and sequester blue carbon to understand their potential and the opportunities for restoration of these important habitats, and that includes seagrass.
And, also, in terms of peat land restoration, I also agree with the points she made there. We have funded a five-year peat land action programme to restore peat land, with a budget of £1 million a year. The project is funded from 2020 to 2025, and aims to restore 600 to 800 hectares of peat per annum, and there will be a full review of that programme for us to learn what's gone well and how we become more ambitious with it, and I would be very pleased to work with her on both those areas to see what even more we can do.
Thank you, Deputy Minister. That concludes that item. We will now take a short break in order to allow for changeovers in the Chamber.
Plenary was suspended at 14:40.
The Senedd reconvened at 14:49, with the Llywydd in the Chair.
Our next item is item 5, which is the 90-second statements. The first statement is from Vikki Howells.
Diolch, Llywydd. The tenth of June 2021 marks the centenary of the formation of Cwmbach Male Choir. The past 16 months have been challenging for choirs across Wales, but Cwmbach Male Choir has weathered the pandemic, as it has all the hardships of the past century—weathered and emerged stronger, making Cwmbach one of Wales's foremost choirs. They've enjoyed considerable success over the years, winning prizes at eisteddfodau, including first place in the 1966 Port Talbot Eisteddfod, and two years later in Barry. They were the first choir invited by the Welsh Rugby Union to perform at the Arms Park, and they've performed many times in venues around the UK. They also have an enviable international reputation, performing in Europe, north America and Africa, putting Cwmbach on the map. There have been competition wins, such as their first place in the 1966 Limerick festival, and they were the first Welsh choir to sing behind the iron curtain, in Hungary, in 1961. The choir regularly performs for charity, supports memorial events, and shares the concert platform with many of the best-known singers, musicians, orchestras and bands in the world. Their repertoire marries modern songs with older classics, a willingness to adapt that has ensured their survival. I am immensely proud to serve as their vice-president. Happy one-hundredth birthday.
Happy birthday to them. Sioned Williams.
Thank you, Llywydd. This is Refugee Week, which is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the contributions made by refugees to our communities, and also the long and proud history of Wales of welcoming people who are escaping oppression and violence. World Refugee Day is marked every year internationally on 20 June, which is next Sunday. I hope we will all take the opportunity to learn more and to consider the state of millions of refugees across the world. As Plaid Cymru spokesperson on social justice, I am very proud to support the aspiration of making Wales a nation of sanctuary, and take pride in the fact that groups such as Swansea City of Sanctuary, in my region, work hard to support refugees. And I would want to take this opportunity to congratulate Swansea City of Sanctuary on celebrating its tenth anniversary this year by staging a conference this week.
But there is more that we can do. The pandemic has revealed and deepened many of the problems with our refugee and asylum-seeker system. At a Government level, I think we need to urge the Westminster Government to change their plans that would make it more difficult for people to seek refuge here, and I want to see the Welsh Government going further in terms of the nation of sanctuary scheme, delivering against the pledge to extend the educational support for pupils who are asylum seekers, as well as securing access to free school meals and the pupil deprivation grant. It's a duty upon us all to do everything within our ability to help these most vulnerable people, and I thank you, Llywydd, for the opportunity to raise the issue. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Presiding Officer. Today marks a very sad day for all residents across south-east Wales, as it marks the first anniversary of Mohammad Asghar's, the regional Assembly Member, or Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, passing. Known to many here as Oscar, he was a pre-partition baby and born in Amritsar, India, and raised in Pakistan. He came to the UK in 1970 and made his home in Newport, a city he loved dearly. A man who always got whatever he wanted in life through sheer determination and drive. He married his wife, Dr Firdaus Asghar, after seeing her at a high commission event in London. He told his friends, 'This is the woman I want to marry', and, in his words, the rest was history.
Oscar was not a typical politician and undoubtedly paved the way for many other people of ethnic minorities to enter the Senedd, and I know that he would have been delighted to see more people from diverse backgrounds enter the Senedd in various roles, from Members to support staff and the service teams we rely on every day to do our jobs. He was a man of the world and knew that he was in a position of privilege, and was the first to invite the Israel and Palestinian high commissioners to the Senedd to discuss peace between Israel and Palestine. He was also the first to hold a traditional kirtan in the Senedd, amongst many activities that he held so dear. He was passionate about eradicating inequality for anyone who experienced it, and genuinely cared about his region of south-east Wales. Oscar loved his job and worked tirelessly for all of his constituents. I know he would often stand in the Chamber, and one debate would be on one subject and he'd go off on a tangent completely, for example, and speak on the concerns of dentists within his region. When asked about it afterwards rather sternly by his family, he would often say, 'This is the most pressing issue for me and for them right now, and it should be heard by everybody.'
You could never find someone more passionate about Wales and its culture alongside seeing the formation of a Welsh cricket team than Oscar. Oscar was a people's politician and is still sadly missed by many in this Chamber and beyond. On behalf of myself and his loving wife Firdaus, I'd like to thank everyone for their unwavering support and for this opportunity to pay tribute to a groundbreaking, trailblazing and unique politician: my father, Mohammad Asghar, the Conservative regional Member for south-east Wales. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Natasha. We all remember your father very, very fondly in this place, and we know how proud he would be that you are now serving the people of south-east Wales. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you.
The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Lesley Griffiths, and amendments 2 and 3 in the name of Siân Gwenllian. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2 and 3 will be deselected.
Item 6 is the next item, and that's a debate by the Welsh Conservatives on sport, and I call on Tom Giffard to move the motion.
Motion NDM7712 Darren Millar
To propose that the Senedd:
1. Recognises the growth and interest in Welsh sporting teams on the international stage.
2. Believes that the Welsh Government should build upon Wales’s recent sporting achievements by working with the UK Government to attract major sporting events to Wales, recognising the significant benefits of such events for the Welsh economy and the regeneration of local communities.
3. Further calls on the Welsh Government to inspire the next generation of sporting excellence, and promote participation in sport to improve people’s mental and physical well-being by:
a) establishing a Welsh talent sporting fund to support talented Welsh athletes to succeed on the world stage;
b) creating a community sport bounce back fund to help community clubs to rebuild following the COVID-19 pandemic;
c) improving access to sport facilities including establishing a larger network of 3G and 4G synthetic turf pitches throughout Wales;
d) introducing a network of Welsh sports ambassadors to encourage young people to participate in sport and other physical activities; and
e) enabling free access to local authority gyms and leisure centres for young people in Wales.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd, and it's a real pleasure for me to open this debate today, tabled in the name of Darren Millar. And what a time it is to be debating this topic, with our recent sporting successes and Wales playing in the Euros this afternoon—and I, like you, Llywydd, hope we finish in time today to catch the kick-off of the match against Turkey. The last few years have shown that perhaps there's never been a better time to be a fan of Welsh sport.
Sport is one of the few things in our country, and even in this Chamber, that has the power to unite us all. I'm sure that Members from across the Senedd celebrated with enthusiasm when Kieffer Moore scored his equaliser on Saturday against Switzerland, because watching Wales is a communal experience that makes us proud of who we are and proud to be Welsh. We see ourselves in our sporting heroes, our shared experiences, our love of our country and our determination to succeed.
But these are the same reasons why people across Wales celebrated when Andy Murray won Wimbledon, or Rory McIlroy wins a golf major, or when Mo Farah wins an Olympic gold for team GB. Because we see ourselves in these sporting heroes too. Because people in Wales are also very proud to be British; we see our British identity in these athletes, and those shared experiences and values I mentioned earlier. Because we understand that we can be both proud to be Welsh and British, and that's no contradiction.
But the reason this debate has been submitted today isn't just to revel in our sporting success; it's to recognise the benefits of sport in our society, our economy and our everyday lives. The economic case for investing in sport is very clear. Recent research conducted by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University found that for every £1 invested in sport in Wales, there is a return of £2.88, whilst major events held in the Millennium Stadium alone are estimated to boost the Welsh economy by £32 million every year in Welsh economic output, with £11 million of this being gross value added, as well as the role it plays in supporting jobs in the supply chain.
It's disappointing, therefore, that the Welsh Labour Government hasn't fully realised Wales's economic and sporting potential. For example, the Welsh Government decided not to progress with a bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, despite the Welsh Government's own feasibility study outlining many benefits to our economy, such as the creation of additional jobs and income for Welsh businesses, which are things that Glasgow benefited from when they hosted the 2014 games.
But it's not just in elite sport that we see the benefits of proper investment. The Welsh NHS spends about £35 million each year treating preventable diseases caused by physical inactivity. So, that's why we want to see increased investment in participation in sport in our communities across Wales. That's why we're calling in our motion today to invest in a larger network of 3G and 4G pitches throughout Wales, and our ask to enable free access to local authority gyms and leisure centres for young people. That should mean that the people of Wales have access to good-quality sporting facilities in their areas and communities, regardless of their skill level or postcode.
Our motion also calls for the Welsh Government to build the sporting excellence of tomorrow in Wales by establishing a Welsh talent sporting fund to support talented Welsh athletes on the world stage, and a network of Welsh sports ambassadors to encourage young people into sport. Because unless we invest in our sporting heroes today, we will never be in the position to celebrate their sporting achievements tomorrow and secure Wales's place on the sporting world stage.
I'm also sure that every Member in this Senedd will be aware of sporting groups and clubs in their constituencies and regions that have struggled in the last year or so. In fact, sport may well be one of the hardest hit sectors since the onset of the pandemic. According to the Football Association of Wales Trust, for example, grass-roots football clubs have lost, on average, £7,000 each, and 97 per cent of football clubs say they've been affected financially, and over half have said they'll lose volunteers. Meanwhile, the Welsh Rugby Union has described the pandemic as catastrophic to its sport, particularly with the financial impact on the grass-roots game. That's why the motion has a plan to turn this situation around, not only by increasing participation, but also creating a community sport bounce-back fund to support these community clubs following the pandemic.
So, it's for these reasons that it's really disappointing to see the Welsh Government taking their usual 'delete all' approach to our motion, particularly when it makes specific calls that will deliver real change for people in Wales. The amendments literally delete the prospect of a post-pandemic recovery for some of these sports clubs, and do very little to increase participation in sport in Wales. We all know that all of us can do more to support the sector, and that's why we will not be voting for their amendments tonight; we’ll be abstaining on them.
By contrast, I'd like to welcome Plaid Cymru's second amendment to increase the amount of teenage girls and people from under-represented backgrounds in sport. I think it's a vital and very topical one, and I congratulate Plaid Cymru on doing that. The proposals by the FAW to restructure the women's league, for example, do nothing to increase participation of teenage girls in football whatsoever. For that reason, we'll be supporting the second Plaid Cymru amendment today.
Therefore, I ask Members from across the Senedd to support our motion today, as we know the best way to have a successful sporting tomorrow is to support it today.
I have selected the three amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendments 2 and 3 will be deselected. I call, therefore, on the Deputy Minister to formally move amendment 1, tabled in the name of Lesley Griffiths.
Amendment 1—Lesley Griffiths
Delete all and replace with:
To propose that the Senedd:
1. Welcomes the Welsh Government’s commitment to:
a) champion Welsh sporting successes, harness the creativity and sporting ability of our young people, and enable our sports industry to maintain its proper place on the world stage;
b) invest in our world-class sports facilities, promote equal access to sports and support young and talented athletes and grassroots clubs.
c) invest in new facilities such as 3G artificial pitches.
2. Recognises the Welsh Government’s successful record of bringing major cultural, business and sports events to Wales.
3. Joins the Welsh Government in wishing the men’s senior Welsh football team the very best of luck in the remaining matches of the European Championships.
Amendment 1 moved.
Thank you, I now call on Heledd Fychan to move amendments 2 and 3, tabled in the name of Siân Gwenllian.
Amendment 2—Siân Gwenllian
In point 3(d), after 'activities' insert 'especially amongst teenage girls and under-represented groups;'
Amendment 3—Siân Gwenllian
In point 3, insert as new sub-points:
'ensuring post-16 education institutions provide sport and leisure facilities while encouraging participation by attendees;
encouraging public broadcasters to devote a greater percentage of broadcast time to women’s sport;
working with clubs and organisations to reduce homophobic, and sexist behaviour and be trans-inclusive;
investigating the potential for an Olympic size swimming pool to serve north Wales.'
Amendments 2 and 3 moved.
Thank you, Llywydd. I'd like to move amendments 2 and 3 formally, and note my thanks for the opportunity to discuss these issues on a day when we're all looking forward to Wales's game against Turkey. On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I'd like to wish the squad well.
The aim of our amendments is to add to the original motion in a constructive manner, and I would like to see the Senedd working in a cross-party way on this issue in order to secure the necessary investment so that everyone in Wales has the opportunity to participate in sport for the benefit of their health and well-being and to reach their full potential. Research commissioned by Sport Wales in 2018 shows the following: that, for every £1 invested in sport in Wales, there is a benefit of £2.88. But it's not just economic benefit in terms of job creation and expenditure in Wales that we get as a result of sport; it also generates huge savings in terms of the health service, helping people to live more active and healthy lives and to reduce the risk of serious illness. In the context of COVID, this is very pertinent indeed.
Like all other sectors, the sports sector, on all levels, has been impacted by the pandemic. Today is therefore a good opportunity for us to look to the future and to discuss positive steps that can be taken by the Government in order to ensure that the sports sector in Wales goes from strength to strength.
The first Plaid Cymru amendment highlights the need to focus particularly on improving the participation of teenage girls and under-represented groups, therefore strengthening the original motion. As the sports ambassadors programme by ColegauCymru has shown, having ambassadors does bring benefits in three different ways: first of all, at a strategic level, it will lead to increased resilience for the future workforce, providing opportunities that increase the skills, experiences and confidence of people. Secondly, for schools and colleges, it will mean that the voice of young people will be incorporated into college activity, and, thirdly, in terms of the ambassadors themselves, it will lead to the development of new skills, including research, media and communication. It'll also develop the opportunities for volunteering and mentoring for themselves and other young people within their colleges or local authorities.
The aim of our second amendment is to add further points that we believe are crucial in terms of improving access to sport and participation. The benefits of having gyms in educational settings goes way beyond particular sports training. A physical fitness programme using strength training equipment does help students to develop healthy habits that will stay with them into their adult lives and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
In terms of the broadcasting of female sport, although there has been improvement, there is still further work to be done if we are to normalise women's sport in the media. According to a survey from 2019 of over 10,000 people across the UK, 61 per cent of young girls agreed that they would feel more confident if there were more people like them on television, as compared to 43 per cent of the general population. Importantly, viewers said that the main barrier to watching more women's sport is the lack of coverage, not the quality of the sport played.
It's everyone's responsibility to fight homophobia, sexism and transphobia in sport. The objective of this battle needs to be twofold: on the one hand to ensure respect for the human rights and dignity of all individuals, and, on the other hand, to tackle violence and discrimination.
And finally, we believe strongly that we should look at the potential for having an Olympic-sized swimming pool in north Wales. At the moment, talented swimmers from north Wales selected to represent Wales have to travel to Manchester, Liverpool, Swansea or Cardiff for their coaching. This would make it easier for the next generation of Welsh swimmers to reach the highest standards and deliver their potential.
I very much hope that other parties will support these amendments to strengthen the original motion today, and will reject the Labour Party's amendment, which would miss out many of these important points. And I'm pleased to say that I've finished in time, Llywydd, so hopefully we'll be able to watch the match.
Da iawn. Something to aim for, everybody—25 seconds off your contribution. [Laughter.] Huw Irranca-Davies, give it a go.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, and I will indeed, Llywydd. I will keep this very short indeed. I welcome the debate. I will be supporting the Government amendment. Although there are good aspects, I have to say, of both amendments down, the Welsh Government amendment here, championing Welsh sporting successes, harnessing the creativity and sporting ability of the young people, investing in world-class sporting facilities, new facilities, including 3G artificial pitches and so on—it's a good amendment and is worthy of support.
But can I just say, at this moment, Llywydd, it's not only the football that we are looking at at the moment and turning our minds to? Some Members are also thinking about the Tokyo Olympics—no, no, not those Tokyo Olympics, the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where Lynn Davies, ever known as Lynn 'The Leap' Davies of Nantymoel, leapt in the wind and the rain into the legend book, taking the gold medal in the long jump. He did it because the conditions were appropriate for a boy from Nantymoel. And he beat, completely against the odds, against all the prophecies, the world champion in doing so. And the reason I mention that is because of the ability of people like Lynn Davies—1964 he won that gold medal, but I sat with him in Bridgend Athletic Club and I sat with him in the Nantymoel Boys and Girls Club, where he brought his gold medal out, tattered and battered and weathered, and he shared it with the young people sitting around him, and you could see their eyes light up about, 'Why couldn't this be me, as somebody who also goes to that boys and girls club as well?' It's important we have those sporting heroes, including the sporting heroes we currently have running onto the pitches in Welsh colours this evening as well.
But it's not only the sporting heroes, it's also the grand gestures of the events we bring here to Wales, which we have done before, with Welsh Government support. And I want to make one suggestion, and I'm sorry to bang on about Nantymoel once again, but we have the Bwlch mountain going just across the top—a spectacular intersection of three roads coming together on the mountain tops. It is glorious, it is spectacular, it lends itself to actually having spectators lining those roads, watching a stage of the Tour of Britain. Let's bring it here in future. Let's showcase the best of the south Wales Valleys. Let's showcase the best of active sport of that type right here, against that massive splendid grandeur of the south Wales Valleys, and show the world the best of what we have as well.
But beyond all of these grand men and women of sport, but also grand events as well, what matters to most of us tends to be grass-roots sport. It's the football games that we go to watch in the wind and the rain and the hail, and stand on the side of, with our children, with the community, with teams that we know, and some teams that we oppose as well. It's the rugby, it's the netball—it's all of those local grass-roots sports that are so important, and they have had a pasting during the pandemic, an absolute pasting. And it's not simply, although importantly, the fact that they have got young members coming through who have gone a year, or 18 months now, without that ability to transition into the higher levels of youth teams and adult teams and so on, and we know that is causing difficulty, but it's also the loss of income in their bars and their meeting rooms and their venues. It's really hit them hard.
So, Minister, my one plea to you in supporting the amendment today—and I guess we would all make the same plea here—is it's what more we can do to do two things: to make sure that these clubs, of all sports and all types, for everybody, not just the rugby and football clubs and not just the male sports but for everybody, can viably get through to the other side of this pandemic, with additional support if needs be. And secondly, how do we actually bridge that gap where young people are in danger right now of falling off the edge and not transitioning through to those more senior levels in sport? If we don't do it, we don't just lose grass-roots sports, we lose the next Lynn the Leap, the next Welsh football team players and so on. So, anything you can do on that front would be much appreciated.
Diolch, Llywydd. I will try to be brief, as much as I can. It's great to have the opportunity to speak in this debate today. As a proud Welshman, sport plays a huge role in my life and, as a nation and from our past glories, we hope—fingers crossed—for future successes. In Brecon and Radnorshire, we love our sport, from our community cricket clubs, rugby and football clubs, our darts teams, our bowls clubs—you name it, Minister, we have them all. We also have an amazing project planned in Rhayader for 4G pitches and a sports hub for mid Wales. And I would be absolutely delighted if the Minister would come and visit my constituency to see the work that has been done to date to see how we can boost sport in mid Wales.
Physical activity is scientifically proven to have a hugely positive impact both on an individual's physical and mental health and their overall well-being. Throughout the first lockdown, gyms and all sporting activities were stopped, and this had the public's support. We needed to slow the spread of COVID and ensure we saved lives to protect the NHS and the most vulnerable people in our society. But, when the second lockdown came into place at the end of 2020, the Government knew full well the risks to public health that enforcing another lockdown would entail. People and the public massively struggled with their physical and mental health, with many unable to see loved ones and friends for months on end. Your Government knew this would happen, and you could, I think, have worked proactively with the sports sector to ensure that people could continue to play sport, go to the gym in a safe way and be physically active to ensure their physical and mental health did not deteriorate. But we are where we are, and we cannot change the past, but I really hope we can change the future. So, Minister, now that the economy has reopened, and given the fact that the vaccination programme has been a great success, it's time that we start properly recognising the wide range of benefits that sport and physical activity have on the nation's health, and I hope that everyone in the Chamber and virtually today can support the Welsh Conservative motion, and that the Government takes serious consideration of making gyms an essential service in the future. Diolch, Llywydd.
At the outset, I'd like to w