Y Cyfarfod Llawn



In the bilingual version, the left-hand column includes the language used during the meeting. The right-hand column includes a translation of those speeches.

The Senedd met in the Chamber and by video-conference at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.

Statement by the Llywydd

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 noted on your agenda. I would also 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.

1. Questions to the Minister for Finance and Local Government

The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the Minister for Finance and Local Government, and the first question is from Adam Price.

Local Apprenticeship Opportunities

1. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for Economy about providing additional funding to local authorities to promote local apprenticeship opportunities for young people? OQ56999

Apprenticeships help people, especially young people, to improve their skills and careers, and help employers to meet their skills needs for the future. I discuss our ambitious programme for government commitments to support growth, widen participation in training and drive social mobility with the Minister for Economy at every opportunity.

A reference was made by Jenny Rathbone during questions to the First Minister yesterday regarding the acute shortage of apprenticeships in the construction sector, and figures from the Construction Industry Training Board show a decline of 20 per cent over the past year. I've received correspondence from many young people in my constituency who need an apprenticeship to secure their qualification but are unable to find one. One young person phoned every electrician in Carmarthenshire and was unable to find an apprenticeship. I've been referred by the Minister for Economy to the Government's browsing website, Find an Apprenticeship, and I tried myself to find apprenticeships in all fields across Wales. Only 107 apprenticeships throughout Wales are available at the moment on that portal. Clearly, that's insufficient for young people in my constituency and throughout Wales. Isn't there an opportunity to resolve the situation by talking and providing resources to local authorities that have the connections with local businesses and local knowledge in order to incentivise them to offer the apprenticeships that are needed?

Welsh Government's been working very hard to incentivise employers to recruit apprentices to help people back into work and to help the economy to start moving again, and we've recently extended our incentives to support businesses in Wales to recruit apprentices up until February 2022. The apprenticeship employer incentive scheme is a key part of our COVID commitment to support businesses and workers to help them recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. And those incentives have already seen more than 5,500 new apprentices recruited since August 2020. 

The points you make are well made in terms of the construction industry and other industries that will be particularly impacted by both the pandemic and, of course, Brexit. I will ask the Minister for Economy's officials to have a further discussion with the CITB to explore what more can be done in this area to ensure that there are construction apprenticeships available for our young people in Wales. 

You'll see that our programme for government does have commitments to increase apprenticeships in care particularly, because that's another area where we're seeing particular challenges in terms of recruitment and, actually, particularly for Welsh speakers in that regard. We have a commitment to create 125,000 all-age apprenticeships during the course of this Senedd term and to expand the use of shared and degree apprenticeships. So, certainly I'll explore further with the Minister for Economy and ask for his officials to explore further with the CITB what more can be done in that specific area.

Apprenticeships will play a key role in supporting job creation as we recover from this pandemic, but several sectors, as has just been discussed, are still struggling to recruit new staff members since the end of lockdown. Following on from Adam Price's question and your answer just now, what assessment have you made—has the Welsh Government made—to increase the scope of the Welsh Government's apprenticeship scheme to fill these key skilled jobs? 


Well, over the course of the previous Senedd term, we created more than 100,000 apprenticeships, and that exceeded our target, in fact, but, this time, we're even more ambitious, recognising the need that the economy has for these skills, and we've raised our target to 125,000 starts by 2025. So, clearly we've recognised that there is a great need in this area, and are continuing to invest, particularly in those areas where we understand there to be skills shortages. I've already referred to our programme for government commitment to increase apprenticeships in the care sector in particular. 

The 2021 Spending Review

2. Will the Minister outline the Welsh Government’s priorities for the UK Government spending review 2021? OQ57021

I want to see the UK Government follow through on its commitment to work with the grain of devolved Government policies. In areas such as net zero and addressing regional inequalities, there are opportunities for action on investment that will really make a difference for people in Wales.

Thank you for that answer, Minister. As you know, over £150 million risks being lost annually to Wales as a result of the HS2 project, which will increase the attractiveness of the north and north-west of England. It's essential that Wales gets its fair share and is not left behind. Minister, would you agree with me that the UK Government have the perfect opportunity to do this in the forthcoming spending review on 27 October by committing investment that can deliver the essential rail infrastructure package set out in the Burns recommendations for Newport, including mainline rail upgrades and six vitally needed new stations? 

Thank you. Llywydd, Jayne Bryant's absolutely right to recognise that the UK Government's own analysis does show that HS2 has the potential to harm Wales, and particularly south-west Wales, and yet they still categorise it as an England-and-Wales project. They do have the opportunity to address both this and the historic underfunding of and underinvestment in rail in Wales at the forthcoming spending review on 27 October.

But, in particular response to the questions around the Burns commission, its 58 recommendations were accepted in principle by the Welsh Government, and they do align very well with our new transport strategy for Wales. The delivery unit has been established now in Transport for Wales, and that's pressing ahead with making those recommendations a reality. Burns did recommend six new stations at Newport Road, Cardiff parkway, Newport west, Newport east, Llanwern and Magor, and we accepted those recommendations, but those stations do require upgrades to the non-devolved south Wales main line to enable them. So, there's a great opportunity for the UK Government, at the forthcoming spending review to make real its talk of levelling up and to invest in this area in particular. 

Minister, one of the main aims of the UK spending review is levelling up across the UK to increase and spread opportunity. However, as we've heard in the previous question today, Wales continues to face significant skills shortages, hindering the Welsh economy and the ability of the workforce to adapt to ever-changing industries and technologies. Research from the Open University shows that the Wales skills gap in 2020 was higher than in Scotland and six of the eight English regions. Out of 50,000 apprenticeship programmes started in 2019-20, just 740 were in manufacturing and 5,000 in construction. Minister, what guarantees can you provide that one of the priorities of the Welsh Government for allocating any increased funding coming to Wales will be used to level up the Welsh economy by meeting the needs of businesses to ensure that the skills shortages here in Wales are actually filled?  

Well, there's a deep irony in that question, of course, because the UK Government is not funding the Welsh Government in respect of the £375 million that we would previously have received from the European Union, and much of that funding actually went into investing in skills, employability, apprenticeships, the Development Bank of Wales and other strategic infrastructure projects. So, there's clearly a disconnect between the Member's desire for additional funding in this area and the actual reality of what the UK Government is doing in terms of not living up to its promise that Wales wouldn't be a penny worse off. 

Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople

Questions now from party spokespeople. The Conservatives spokesperson, Peter Fox.  

Diolch, Llywydd. Good afternoon, Minister. Minister, do you agree with the First Minister's previous claim that Plaid Cymru believes in voodoo economics and has a habit, and I quote again, of

'promising people things that I know are simply not possible'?


Llywydd, I'm not going to mediate between the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru on the floor of the Senedd. I will leave that to them to have those discussions themselves.

I've mentioned this, Minister, given that Welsh Labour, your Government and Plaid are currently negotiating a co-operation agreement. Yet, Minister, we still do not know what is in the agreement. What will it mean for the Welsh Government's budget in December? All we have had so far is a vaguely worded Welsh Government statement published last month, and I don't think that's acceptable. And as a responsible opposition, we need to have the opportunity to scrutinise this deal and to look into what it will mean for the hard-working Welsh taxpayers. After all, it is taxpayers that will ultimately foot the bill for this deal. Plaid's manifesto shopping list included, as we know, full devolution of justice, which the Silk commission estimated would cost about £100 million, and they were also talking about borrowing £4 billion from the private sector to fund various policy commitments. Just let that sink in for a moment.

So, will these policies tackle the most pressing issues of the day? No. Will these policies create jobs? No. Will these policies help Wales bounce back post COVID? No. These commitments will instead handcuff the financial recovery that we need. Such eye-watering sums of money risk saddling future generations with unsustainable levels of debt. This will not create jobs, support public services or help Wales's financial recovery from the pandemic. So, Minister, in the spirit of accountability and scrutiny, will you outline what commitments from the Labour-Plaid agreement will feature in the upcoming budget, and how will these be funded?

Llywydd, I do try to be as helpful as I possibly can be in questions, but I'm not going to be drawn into any commentary on discussions that may be taking place between my party and Plaid Cymru. I don't think this is an appropriate time to do that. 

That said, I think that there are important things that the Conservatives can be bringing to this discussion in terms of what's good for people in Wales. We have a perfect opportunity on 27 October for the Conservatives to really demonstrate their commitment to Wales and to give that better future that you've just suggested that you wanted. One way they could do that, of course, would be funding the coal tip remediation in Wales. Let's remember that's £500 million to £600 million over the course over the next 10 years, which, if the UK Government doesn't fund it, and Barnett never was intended for this purpose, then that's funding that we'll have to divert away from other things, such as building social housing, investing in schools and hospitals, and in road maintenance and so on. On 27 October, they can address the historical underfunding in rail that we've just discussed in response to Jayne Bryant's question, and can address that dearth of EU funding that we've addressed in another previous question this afternoon, and, more broadly, provide that certainty that we won't be returning to austerity. So, I think that Welsh Government is keen to work with all of those who share our ambition for a fairer, greener and more equal Wales, but I do think that the Conservatives have a chance to influence their own Government at this important point. 

Well, I can't thank you for that, Minister; I think you've ducked the question. It's a legitimate question from a party that is supposed to hold the Government to account. The Welsh Government's upcoming budget is one of the most significant that we will see in this place, and given the impact that the pandemic has had on people across Wales, this needs to be a budget that is focused on not just recovery, but one which is focused on aspiration.

But the deal that your party is proposing to do with Plaid risks taking more money out of the pockets of our people. Plaid's manifesto included a number of potential stealth taxes, such as a junk food tax, a tax on drivers, a tourism tax, which has been mentioned and would have dire consequences for the hospitality sector in Wales. Of course, Welsh Government are also looking into the potential of a road tax and tourism tax—a double whammy for families across the country. Ultimately, we need an ambitious plan that embraces the future and puts an end to this dark COVID chapter we've all lived through. So, Minister, can you confirm that it is not your intention to introduce any new taxes in your upcoming budget, and can you outline whether your agreement with Plaid includes a specific agreement on the reform of council tax? Put simply, what will your co-operation agreement mean for the hard-working families of Wales? Thank you.

Llywydd, I'll be publishing the Welsh Government's draft budget and departmental budgets on 20 December, and there will be ample opportunity for colleagues to scrutinise the draft budget following that.


Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. It's quite sweet, isn't it, to hear the whingeing from Conservative benches about Plaid Cymru tax policies when they can't even keep their promises when it comes to taxation on a UK level. And it really is a graphic illustration, I think, of the jealous irrelevance of the Members who are allegedly the official opposition—and an official opposition who can't even muster their Members to vote when the time comes.

Now then, Minister, if we can discuss some of the issues that are of real interest to the people of Wales—there are huge challenges facing a number of businesses in Wales at the moment, who are having to cope with a substantial increase in energy costs. And that's having a particular impact on businesses that are intensive users of energy. We are aware of negotiations happening at a UK Government level. Can you tell us what discussions are happening within the Welsh Government, with you as finance Minister, to look at the possibility of providing additional support to those businesses in Wales affected by this?

Well, the Minister for Climate Change has written to the UK Government, to urge them to take all possible action to protect people and businesses at this point. And I know that she received a briefing from Ofgem on 21 September, where she sought assurances on the part of consumers. In terms of businesses, clearly, we are concerned about the impact of the increase of energy costs, as we are in terms of the impact on public services as well. Ultimately, the UK Government does need to step in to this place, because this is the kind of area where it does need the fire power that the UK Government has, which we don't have. Beyond that, I'm having further discussions about support for businesses for the remainder of the financial year, through the additional funding that we have in respect of COVID, which is yet to be allocated, although I don't want to suggest that that's necessarily tied to energy, but I just want to reassure that additional support for business is being discussed at the moment.

Well thank you for that. You've made the point for us, I think, that the UK Government has powers that we don't have in this place to respond to this. And once again, exceptional circumstances, as we're facing at the moment, show how few powers and macroeconomic levers we have here in Wales to be able to respond to different crises. We saw elements of that with regard to the pandemic. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that devolved governments had been held back in their fiscal response to the pandemic by insufficient reserved funds, by limited borrowing powers, and so on. Now, your argument as a Government debate last week took us in that direction as well, regarding the failures and deficiencies of the current settlement in the fiscal context. So, in the light of all of this, do you acknowledge that the current settlement is insufficient, that we need to renegotiate the fiscal framework, and to do that to strengthen, of course, the fiscal powers that we have here in Wales, to empower us to respond better to situations as they arise?

Yes, I do agree that the fiscal framework and the statement of funding policy, which sits alongside that, do need to be revisited, and particularly so in relation to fiscal flexibilities. I have the opportunity tomorrow, at a finance Ministers' quadrilateral, to make exactly that point, alongside Ministers from Northern Ireland and Scotland, who share our concern that we should be able to carry funding over for a 12-month period, for example, when we get late additional consequential funding announced in the year. We should have the ability to draw more down from the Wales reserve, and we should have the ability to have greater borrowing powers. And those are some examples of the additional flexibilities that would be useful purely for good budget management, if nothing else. So, those discussions will be ongoing with the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury tomorrow. When we previously discussed it with the previous Chief Secretary, it was agreed that this would be an ongoing discussion. So, I do hope that we're able to make some progress.

Thank you very much. And of course, in the meantime, it's important that this Government does turn over every stone in order to create the revival that we all want to see. The Federation of Small Businesses, for example, is proposing a package of possible measures that would contribute to that, through using procurement. They also talk about encouraging more start-ups, and including the employment levy, and so on. But procurement, certainly, that you do already have as a Government here in Wales, could have that transformative impact that I'm sure that we all want to see with regard to the economy. Now, we've all argued that we need to increase how much public procurement funding stays in Wales from around the current 52 per cent. We as a party have said that we would want to aim towards 70 per cent, and of course, with every 1 per cent in addition, that means 2,000 jobs, so an increase of 20 per cent would mean an increase of 40,000 jobs, and that would be achieved without spending more money. That money is being spent already, but we'd be able to do that in a much smarter way. So, what are you going to do to achieve that potential and fulfil it, and will you commit to a target, as Plaid Cymru is aiming towards, to maximise the value of the Welsh pound, which would have such a positive impact on the economy and on people's lives?


I would commend the Sell2Wales dashboard to the Member and to all colleagues as an opportunity to have a really important snapshot of the situation in terms of procurement here in Wales. So, between July and September there were 1,078 contracts awarded to suppliers on that, and of those, 706 were awarded to Welsh suppliers. So, clearly we want to keep improving on those figures, and there are different ways to do that. One of the things I'm particularly interested in, and we've started off a piece of work on it, is better understanding the supply chain voids that we have here in Wales, where we can step into those areas where there's no logical reason why we're purchasing from elsewhere, and to create those jobs here in Wales.

Procurement is about even more than that, really. We're really focused on the social value and the environmental value of procurement. So, we recently published our new social value themes, outcomes and measures, which is an important intervention there, and we've also published a new Wales procurement statement, which sets out the kind of additional value that we want to see brought to our public procurement here in Wales. And we're also looking at our grants, because of course grants outweigh public procurement in many ways in terms of the funding that is allocated through those, so we're looking again at what social value we can be deriving from our grants here in Wales. But it's clearly an area where we both have a shared interest in ensuring that more of these contracts are won by businesses here in Wales.

I'd like to declare an interest at the outset, as I am a member of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council until May of next year. 

The Local Government Settlement

3. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the sufficiency of this year's local government settlement? OQ57010

In the current financial year, we provided local government with a 3.8 per cent increase in their core budget, building on the significant increase we provided in 2020-21. In addition, we have made over £325 million available through the local government hardship fund to help local government to respond to the pandemic.

Thank you, Minister. Earlier this year, Welsh Government also provided an additional £40 million in resources to support social services specifically in 2021-22 through the social care recovery fund. Through this, RCT council has made the decision to extend the real living wage to all contracted adult social care workers and personal assistants from December onwards, which of course is very welcome news. Given that Welsh Government has committed to paying care workers the real living wage as part of your programme for government, will councils in the future receive the additional finance to deliver this annually as part of their annual settlement?

Thank you for recognising the important work that RCT have been doing in terms of investing in their staff to retain and value them. I think that's been really important, and an excellent intervention on their behalf. The Welsh Government is currently working with partners to better understand the full implications of our move towards ensuring that all staff in the social care sector are paid the real living wage, and in doing so, to better understand the ways in which we can ensure that it is the staff who benefit from the uplift that is provided.

The £42 million that you referred to for social services I know has been welcomed by local government, but I've had some good discussions with them recently where they've been very, very clear with me that additional funding this year will still be required. So, I've been working with local government and with the Minister for Health and Social Services to identify a figure for that to ensure that we're able to respond to that as soon as possible. We'll do that through the COVID reserve and I hope that either I or the Minister for Health and Social Services will be saying more on that very, very shortly.

Thanks to my colleague for raising this important issue in the Chamber today around local government settlements. Minister, there does seem to be a significant differentiation at times between what council leaders and locally-elected members are saying is the funding needed through the funding formula to deliver many of the important services against what you seem willing to support at times. An example of one of the areas that I know will have been raised with you is the ability of rural authorities to deliver services across, at times, vast areas of geography, and how the current funding formula manages to reflect this. Of course, this isn't anything new. It seems to be a regular battle that local authorities have with Welsh Government in terms of the funding formula because, of course, it does represent around 70 per cent of a council's ability to spend on and deliver those services. So, my question is: in working with the Welsh Local Government Association, what consideration would you give to commissioning an independent review of the funding formula for local councils? 


Thank you for raising the question, and I also have discussions with local government in terms of the funding needed. But I have to say, it's not a question of what I'm willing to support; it's what I'm able to support as a result of the Welsh Government budget that we're provided with by the UK Government. So, clearly, I would want to do more for local government, but we were able last year to fund their identified workforce pressures in full, and that was a significant pressure so I was pleased that we were able to do that. And the past two settlements for local government have been the best offered for over 12 years. 

In our budget discussions ahead of the summer, we agreed as a Cabinet that health and social care would continue to be our priority, and also we would seek to give local government the best possible settlement. So, I have a meeting with the finance sub-group, which includes local government leaders and others—their finance spokespeople, I should say—next week, where I'll be hearing directly from them what their pressures are for next year.

In terms of a funding formula review, I've been really clear with local government that if they want that funding formula reviewed and come to me with their request for that, I'm more than happy to instigate that review and have further discussions about that with them. That request hasn't come forward yet, but if it does I'd be very, very happy to have those discussions.  

Public Services in Pembrokeshire

4. Will the Minister make a statement on the delivery of local public services in Pembrokeshire? OQ56992

I'm grateful for the ongoing work of local government, including Pembrokeshire, and other public service leaders in delivering public services to support the COVID recovery and protect vulnerable people in our communities. Local government continues to do excellent work in challenging times.

Minister, you may be aware that Pembrokeshire County Council is currently considering the future of its waste and recycling centres, and the options include reducing the number of sites operated by the council and reducing the opening hours of all sites. Now, I can't emphasise the importance of waste collection and recycling to our environment and, indeed, to our health, and should residents have to travel further afield for these vital services, it may undo some of the good progress done by Pembrokeshire County Council in recent years. Therefore, can you tell us, Minister, what support can the Welsh Government offer to Pembrokeshire County Council to ensure that they can keep their sites open so that people in Pembrokeshire have access to waste and recycling centres? 

Well, it's good that Paul Davies does recognise the good progress that we have made in Wales in recent years in terms of household recycling. We're absolutely one of the best in Wales, and we want to maintain—. 

I can't hear the Minister's response. I'm sure Paul Davies wants to hear the response. 

So, I was referring to our good progress in Wales in terms of our household recycling, putting us as one of the best in the world and, clearly, we want to maintain that and continue to improve our performance there.

As you say, Pembrokeshire is currently consulting on this. This is a matter for Pembrokeshire County Council. However, I will make your concerns known to the Minister for Climate Change, who has responsibility for waste.  

Economic Outcomes in South Wales West

5. What consideration does the Minister give to the improvement of economic outcomes in South Wales West when allocating funding to the economy portfolio? OQ57002

Economic resilience continues to be one of the core aims of this Government, which is why we have invested over £600 million in grant funding to support businesses this year, and over £250 million has been provided to businesses in south-west Wales since April 2020.

Can I thank the Minister for that answer, and start by declaring my interest as a sitting councillor in Bridgend County Borough Council? Minister, you may be aware that in a recent report from Bridgend County Borough Council it was revealed that average weekly wages in Bridgend county fell from £525.90 in 2019, which was near the all-Wales average, to just £464.10 in 2020, and is now the second lowest of all of Wales's 22 local authorities. I'm sure you'll agree, Minister, that sliding from mid-table to second bottom in the space of a year is surely a cause of concern to many about the job both the council and the Welsh Government is doing in improving economic outcomes in Bridgend. If that performance was replicated by a Premier League football manager, they'd have been sacked by now. Given this, what expectations does the Government place on local authorities to enhance their local economies in their areas, and what specific intervention will the Welsh Government take in Bridgend to stop the slide continuing?


I have expectations of the UK Government in terms of ensuring that they're not restraining wages in the public sector, for example, as we've seen most recently from the UK Government, so it's very difficult for me to respond to this question. I'll try and be helpful and point to the role of the corporate joint committees and what they can do in terms of working together to improve the economic situation in their local areas, but I find it very difficult to respond to questions from Conservatives about people's pay when it's the UK Government that is holding pay back and which is also taking £20 out of the pockets of some of our most poor workers as a result of their changes in terms of universal credit.

Minister, if we want to improve the economic situation of the people of South Wales West, we need to tackle the high and unfair levels of council tax in local authorities and get to grips with the increased problem of council tax arrears. Neath Port Talbot council is setting regularly one of the highest levels of council tax in Wales. Residents can't understand why it costs so much more to live in Neath Port Talbot council and why they provide services that are so much more expensive as compared to nearby councils. I asked the First Minister in July whether the Government intended to hold an inquiry into higher taxation councils, with the aim of ensuring more consistent levels across Wales, but unfortunately I didn't receive a response to that question. So, could the Minister respond to that question today? And, of course, council tax arrears have increased significantly during the pandemic, with 55,000 homes now in arrears with their council tax between January and May. So, I'd also like to ask whether the Government has any intention of announcing new plans to tackle the increased problem of council tax arrears, because this is impacting low-income families in my region. Thank you.

Thank you for raising this question. Ultimately, of course, the setting of council tax is a matter for local authorities—or for the councils, I should say—themselves. That said, Welsh Government is keen to support people with council tax and the payment of council tax, and we support over 200,000 households with their council tax. Often, households aren't aware of the support that's available to them, so I would suggest in the first instance that they could contact the council or look on the Welsh Government's website for the information about the support that is there for them. The inability to collect all of the council tax through COVID I know has been a particular issue for local authorities, so last year I was able to provide local authorities with additional funding to recognise that they had found it more difficult to collect council tax, and I think that that was a useful intervention.

In terms of arrears, we've worked really hard with local government now to find a way in which arrears are sought to be collected in a way that is person centred. So, we very much ask local authorities to explore with that individual what the cause of the arrears is in the first instance—perhaps they're not claiming all of the support that they're entitled to, for example—and then to find a way that is sensitive to go about claiming those arrears. But, you know, it is a genuine issue during COVID, and we've worked hard to support local authorities, in recognising that they haven't been able to claim as much tax, and put in a much more person-centred approach to the collection of arrears.

Business Rates

6. Will the Minister set out the Welsh Government’s business rates policy for this parliamentary term? OQ56991

We are developing an ambitious programme of local tax reforms that support a stronger economy, stable communities and vibrant public services. Within this, we are considering how to improve our non-domestic rates system while sustaining vital revenue for local services, which deliver significant benefits for everyone.


Thank you, Minister. Minister, your party leader, Keir Starmer, has said that the Labour Party favours the abolishing of business rates and that they should be replaced. We all know that many businesses in Wales have struggled and, with our towns needing an economic boost, it is time that our approach to business support is addressed. Was Keir Starmer talking on your behalf too, and, if he was not, what is the view of this Welsh Labour Government on the future of business rates?

Well, it's very exciting to see how interested the Conservative benches are in the UK Government's approach to non-domestic rates. I decide non-domestic rates here in Wales, and we do so based on the situation here in Wales, which is somewhat different in terms of our economy, and we're very pleased to be in a position to do so here in Wales.

What I will say is that we're looking at an ambitious programme of reform for local taxation, considering various options for the future. I hope to say more, ideally this side of Christmas, specifically in terms of local taxation for council tax, but we're looking to see what more we can do to improve non-domestic rates. Again, there's a big opportunity for the UK Government on 27 October, through the spending review, to set out its plans for non-domestic rates in England for the next financial year, and of course it has a big impact on what we're able to do here.

You'll be aware of our scheme that we have in Wales, where retail, leisure and hospitality businesses have a full year of rate relief, which is much more generous than that which is available across the border, but to do that costs £380 million, so these are not small interventions that we're making, and they do—. If the UK Government manages to put in place a scheme that is able to support businesses in that significant way, obviously we would be looking to do something similar here in Wales. And UK Government is also undertaking the fundamental review of business rates in England and we're looking very closely at that to understand what it means for us here in Wales. For example, will they take action on taxing digital sales and so on? There are lots of questions that remain unanswered, but we look forward to that review reporting.

Good afternoon, Minister. May I ask you again about business rates? Because, like many colleagues in this Chamber, we're asked about business rates by small family businesses, which, at this particular time, are under a great deal of pressure. I'm just interested to know how the Welsh Government communicates to those businesses, particularly small family businesses, what reforms are taking place and indeed the control that the Welsh Government has or has not in relation to their particular situation. And may I ask as well what investment relief you are looking at in order to support those small and medium-sized businesses to invest in order to boost both productivity and decarbonisation efforts? Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you for raising that issue this afternoon. There are a number of ways in which we communicate directly with businesses. One is through Business Wales, which has an excellent database of businesses here in Wales, so we're able to get information to them very rapidly and that was extremely useful to us during the pandemic. And, of course, all businesses that are subject to non-domestic rates will be on the local register of their councils, which should, again, be a useful way to share information. And again, that was extremely useful to us during the course of the pandemic when we were able to get grants to businesses very, very rapidly indeed.

In terms of the future of business rates, I think that much depends on the outcome of the fundamental review and what that will mean for us here in Wales. Business rates here provide around £1 billion of our Welsh budget, so this is a significant amount of money, so we need to be thinking, in any kind of review of business rates, what the implications would be for public spending. I did have an excellent meeting yesterday with the Welsh Retail Consortium and they were able to talk quite passionately about the potential ways in which business rates could change to maybe further recognise investment in decarbonisation, for example. There were lots of ideas that they able to share with us, which were all very interesting. I don't have a road map for any changes today, but I'm keen to hear ideas as to what might improve the situation in the future.

The Delivery of Services

7. How is Welsh Government working with local government in Wales to improve the delivery of services? OQ57015

Welsh Government works closely with local government in Wales through a range of formal and informal engagement mechanisms across all portfolios. Ministers work with leaders, and our officials work together, to achieve better policy development and service delivery outcomes for the people of Wales.

Diolch yn fawr, Gweinidog. I think it's fair to say that there was a general view that, during the pandemic, Welsh Government worked very well with local authorities and local authority leaders, with, sometimes, the new technology aiding that in making weekly meetings and very regular meetings much easier to do, and also that local authorities working with the voluntary sector were able to do so more quickly and with less bureaucracy.

I just wonder, Minister, to what extent that experience of working during the pandemic has been, and is being, evaluated, so that some of those better ways of working, more effective ways of working, might be retained where appropriate. I guess that some of them might have only been appropriate for more or less an emergency situation, as we had. But, presumably, some of them could be retained to benefit the people of Wales.

Also, to what extent is digital transformation, which again has been very important during the pandemic in terms of the delivery of services and new ways of working—? To what extent will the Welsh Government work with local authorities to make sure that those digital possibilities are fully used and utilised, again for the benefit of our communities here in Wales? 

John Griffiths is right to say that relationships were excellent through the pandemic, and the new ways of working really did enable that. It's important that we build on both the relationships and the new technologies that have enabled those relationships to be very strong throughout the pandemic.

So, I just—last week, I think it was—chaired a meeting of the Welsh Government Cabinet and all 22 local authority leaders in Wales, and that was the first time that we'd come together in a forum like that, and we did so digitally. It was an excellent meeting, where we really focused down on two of the big problems and big challenges that we're facing—so, the challenges in social care and also the challenges of climate change—exploring how we can work together to address those two big challenges. So, that was a really, really useful, informative and exciting meeting in terms of the new ways of working and the outcomes of it.

The digital strategy for Wales was published in March of this year. So, it was published very much in the context of COVID, and it sets out a really strong vision and ambition for a co-ordinated digital approach here in Wales. So, we're now working on delivering that strategy, and, as part of that, we are considering what more we can do through the Centre for Digital Public Services Wales, which was set up last year to support the whole of the Welsh public sector in the delivery of better public services, and that's critical, really, to the strategy's success. An example of where it's demonstrating the value of collaboration and designing services around user needs is by working with three authorities, so far, on a digital transformation project on accessing adult social care services and sharing learning. So, huge opportunities, I think, with digital, for us to improve public services and people's experiences.  

Minister, can I ask you about support for community councils, in particular, from Welsh Government? I'm aware that, under the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021, there's a requirement for community councils to put in place systems to allow for in-person, remote or hybrid meetings. Many community councils, of course, meet in community centres or village halls, and don't have access to the internet. So, there is an issue for those councils, in particular, that need support. I'm aware that the Welsh Government did have a fund that was available for people to apply for, but that particular fund is now closed to new bids. So, can I ask what further support the Welsh Government will be giving to local community councils in this particular regard?  

Well, I very recently approved funding for a new digital delivery manager for town and community councils in Wales, and the expectation is that they will build on the good work that has already been established. Of course, we consulted on the requirement in terms of future hybrid working, and it should be clear that what's required of town and community councils is that the person who's attending remotely should be heard and can hear. So, I think that that can be done very simply at low cost, if necessary. But I'm keen to work with town and community councils, through the new digital delivery manager, to better understand what the specific issues are and if there are ways that we can help resolve them.

Coal Tip Remediation

8. What progress has been made in securing a sustainable financial settlement from the UK Government to support effective remediation of Wales's 2,100 coal tips? OQ57006

UK Government must act to tackle the long-term legacy cost to Wales of remediation, reclamation and repurposing of coal tip sites, which are a legacy of the pre-devolution mining industry. At least £600 million is needed over a decade and a half, far more than anticipated when devolution and our current funding arrangements began.

Thank you, Minister, for your answer. The physical scars of the industrial revolution are a legacy that we live with today, with nearly 40 per cent of all disused UK coal tips being here in Wales. As you so rightly said, the reclamation costs are on a scale in excess of anything that could have been anticipated when devolution began, but it’s important that we deal with this issue now. So, will you press the UK Government in the forthcoming spending review to commit the investment needed to tackle this long-standing issue, in areas like the Cynon Valley, to ensure the safety of all our communities?

Yes, I can absolutely give that commitment to press the UK Government on this particular issue. Ahead of the spending review I’ll be writing to the Chancellor outlining our priorities for Wales in that letter, and I will be requesting that the UK Government works urgently with us to develop a formal strategy and funding programme for long-term remediation, reclamation and repurposing of coal tip sites, to manage the climate change impacts, and address the public safety concerns in that area.

At the introductory meeting I had with the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury recently, I took the opportunity to outline our key priorities for the spending review, and I was very clear that coal tip safety is our key concern that we want to see addressed in this spending review. I look forward to a meeting with the Chief Secretary tomorrow where I’ll again be pressing the exact points that you’ve raised this afternoon.

2. Questions to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

The next set of questions are those to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and the first question comes from Samuel Kurtz.

The Protection of Marine Life

1. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for Climate Change regarding the priority given to the protection of marine life in deciding the Welsh Government's fisheries policy? OQ57001

Lesley Griffiths MS 14:18:02
Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

I have regular discussions with the Minister for Climate Change, and we are working across portfolios to develop the joint fisheries statement to set out policies for sustainable fisheries management to deliver the fisheries objectives. This will include our commitment to the delivery of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management.

Thank you, Minister. You will be delighted to hear, I’m sure, that I’ve been recently appointed the Atlantic grey seal champion, and last week I enjoyed a meeting with the Marine Conservation Society on Tenby north beach to discuss some of the challenges that these creatures face from human actions while undertaking a beach clean. At this time of year the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire coastline sees many new-born seal pups venturing forth for the first time into the wild Atlantic ocean, but, sadly, one of the main threats to these amazing creatures is the pollution created by marine traffic. With the responsibility for protecting our marine wildlife falling under your colleague the Minister for Climate Change, and the responsibility for fisheries within your own portfolio, can you detail what action you and your ministerial colleague are taking to ensure that the future of these welcome visitors to our coastline are safeguarded for generations to come?

Well done on being appointed the Atlantic grey seal champion. You should have a little competition with your colleague Darren Millar how many times you can say what you're champion for in the Chamber. [Laughter.] I think it's been very lovely to see how many seal pups we have seen around our coast over the summer. Going back to your specific question about the conversations that the Minister for Climate Change and I have around our policies, it is really important that we make sure that, for instance, all our designated features within our marine protected areas are assessed against any potential harms from activities such as those you referred to.


Protection of the marine environment is something that I've been championing for many, many years, and one particular issue that I've raised in the Chamber on a number of occasions is the reintroduction of scallop dredging in a small area of Cardigan bay, a special area of conservation, and the impact on marine life in that area. Minister, it's been several years now since this activity was restarted, and I'm keen to know what assessment has been carried out with regard to the environmental impact of scallop dredging on this site since it was reintroduced in 2016.

Thank you, and I can reassure Joyce Watson that dredge fishing for scallops is highly regulated in Welsh waters, and that includes through spatial restrictions as well. We closely monitor the activity. We take enforcement action wherever necessary, and this is principally done by tracking vessels using the vessel monitoring systems that we have on our fisheries patrol vessels, which include the Rhodri Morgan, for instance, and also through port and harbour-based inspections by our marine enforcement officers. And each year before the scallop fishery reopens, the Welsh Government conducts a comprehensive habitats regulatory assessment, and that is only done with further agreement from Natural Resources Wales.

Could I first of all, just as the salmon champion of the Senedd, ask the seals to play gently? [Laughter.] But I have a particular interest, as the Minister knows, in the partnership working that underpins both fisheries and marine management, the exploitation, sustainably, of our natural resources, alongside the ecosystem approach, which she rightly said would form the basis of Welsh Government thinking. So, I wonder whether she is taking the time to look at the effective working of both the national and the local groups—the Wales marine action and advisory group, but also those that underpin it on a local basis—to make sure that we've got that balance right, that all voices are being heard, and that there's an effective partnership. It's been quite a few years now since they've been put in place, so it seems that it's an appropriate time to say, 'Are they working effectively, are they getting the balance right for nature and also for sustainable exploitation?'

Thank you. I haven't had any discussions, certainly with this part of the portfolio; I would imagine the Minister for Climate Change, that would now fall within her remit. But I think it is really important that we work with the groups, such as you suggest, because if we're going to get good environmental status, for instance, for our waters, which we are trying to achieve at the moment, we really need to listen to what these people are telling us and what work is being carried out. But I will ask the Minister for Climate Change to update you.

Local Produce for School Meals

2. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for Education and Welsh Language regarding the sourcing of local produce for school meals? OQ57003

The Welsh Government is progressing a foundational economy policy, of which food is an integral part. Cabinet colleagues and I regularly discuss linkages between our portfolios and the wider procurement of local produce. Local authorities and schools are responsible for purchasing food for school meals and procuring from agreed suppliers.

Thank you, Minister. In the interests of lowering carbon emissions, procuring local produce for school meals would help towards the Welsh Government's targets and obviously help tackle climate change. I'd be grateful if you could outline how the Welsh Government is working with local authorities to understand, monitor, measure, assess how much local produce is being used in school meals and where it comes from.

Thank you. We obviously recognise the very clear benefits of procuring local produce in terms of issues, and that includes food miles, which, obviously, would play into the significant part of your question. I also think if you use local produce, it helps children and young people really connect with their local environment too. There are a couple of local authorities that are working very hard in this area. I know Caerphilly County Borough Council and I think Carmarthenshire County Council are currently looking at the way we procure food, and, obviously, the monitoring of the carbon emissions would be part of that work going forward. Sorry, it was Monmouthshire, as well, that are really working hard in this area. But, again, this wouldn't really sit within my portfolio, but I will ensure that if there is any further information that the Minister responds.

Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople

Questions from the party spokespeople.

Sorry about that pause. I was on the wrong part of my script.

Questions from the party spokespeople. Conservative spokesperson first of all, Darren Millar.

Diolch, Llywydd. In your capacity as Minister for north Wales, what action are you taking to unlock the moratorium on capital investment in roads in the region?


So, you will be aware that the Deputy Minister for Climate Change has brought forward a road review. That has not yet reported, but, obviously, once that reports, we can see what schemes will continue to proceed and we can look at the funding issues then.

Thank you for that answer, Minister, but many people in north Wales will not consider it to be good enough. The Labour Party made pre-election promises that it would deliver significant improvements to the trunk road network in north Wales. You said that you would deliver a Menai crossing—a third Menai crossing—but it's been put on hold. You said that you would remove roundabouts in Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr on the A55, and those projects have been put on hold. And you also said that you'd deliver on the promise to address congestion around Deeside, but that's been put on hold. So, these are big projects, which you've promised to deliver for the people of north Wales, which are now in the deep freeze as a result of the decisions being taken by this Government. People in north Wales would expect that, as the Minister for north Wales, you would be shouting out to unlock those projects and ensure their delivery. But isn't it the truth, I'm afraid to say, that this Labour Government simply doesn't care about north Wales, and that's why other projects are proceeding while these are on ice?

Well, Darren Millar knows that that is absolutely not true. I'm a Member from north-east Wales and I would never allow that to happen. The fact that we have a Minister for north Wales and we have had for a significant number of years, with a Cabinet sub-committee for north Wales, absolutely shows that, so please don't mislead in that way. You say that they're in the deep freeze; they're not in the deep freeze. There is currently a review going on. As you say, there were manifesto commitments made. This is a five-year Government, we're five months into it, so I don't think you can say that these things will not happen. There is a review process going on, and once the review process has reported and we see what goes on, then perhaps you can start shouting.

But given that they are manifesto commitment, and you've just suggested they'll be delivered within the five years of the Labour Government's term, why on earth would you put them in the deep freeze in the first place? The reality is that they should be progressing, because you've given a clear commitment. I accept what you say in terms of your care for north-east Wales: that is a place that you have ably represented for many years. But I'm afraid that the voice of north Wales around that Cabinet table doesn't appear to actually carry a great deal of clout, because if you look at the record of this Government on north Wales, our health service, the worst A&E performance of all of the health boards is the one that serves the north-Wales region. We've got the longest waiting times of the whole of Wales—in fact, amongst the worst in the whole of the United Kingdom. We know that local authorities, on average, in north Wales get worse settlements than other parts of the country, and we know that the road projects that have been put on ice in north Wales have been frozen while projects are still proceeding in south Wales and in other parts of the country. Doesn't that evidence clearly show that this is a Government that doesn't actually prioritise north Wales, that that's always the second on its list of priorities, and that it's actually time that this Government levelled up across the whole of Wales in order that we can have some fairness for our region in the north?

Well, there could be a short answer, and the short answer is 'no', but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and try and engage in a much more positive way with you. You are cherry-picking. So, you referred to local authorities, for instance. You know how local authorities are funded—you know that. It's a formula. We've just heard the Minister for Finance and Local Government explain to Members who, perhaps, weren't aware of the way local authorities are funded. It's a formula. It's a formula that's done—

It's a formula that is done with the Welsh Government and local authorities, and until local authorities request—. And I've been local government Minister and I was never met with a request to have a look at the formula, because they know, if you've got—[Interruption.] If you've got a list of 22 local authorities, somebody's going to be at the top and somebody's going to be at the bottom, and whatever formula you use, that will happen. That will happen. So, it's okay cherry-picking all these things.

Now, just to go back to the road review, which is the question you asked me in the beginning. You talk about 'putting on ice'. Now, I accept, at the moment, there is a road review, so these things have been put on ice—not in the deep freeze; they've been put on ice. And once that road review is published with the recommendations—[Interruption.] I know you've never been in Government here. A manifesto commitment covers five years; a programme for government covers five years. We are five months into that programme for government; there is plenty of time to continue to deliver for north Wales.

Thank you very much, Llywydd. The Minister will be aware that this is Wool Week, and last year, my fellow Member Llyr Gruffydd raised concerns with you about the state of the wool market in Wales. As a result of the pandemic, the decline in the wool market meant that farmers were paying around £1 to shear a sheep and only getting 19p or 20p back for every roll of wool. Now, thank goodness, the prices have gone up slightly since then, but it is far from being sufficient. It is clear, therefore, that we need to think about alternative ways of using wool in order to assist the industry. And wool, as everyone knows, has long been used as a very effective insulator. In light of the increasing attention given to climate change and improving our environment, the benefits of this become increasingly important to house builders and home owners. So, are you willing to consider supporting the wool industry in Wales and using wool to insulate the homes that the Government intends to build, including the retrofitting programme? Thank you very much.


You make some very pertinent points around the price of wool. I'm trying to think—I think it was the end of the last term of Government where we saw the wool prices really drop and I had meetings with the British wool authority to try and see what we could do to help Wales. I made representations to the UK Government along with ministerial colleagues from Scotland.

Certainly, the Minister for Climate Change, who obviously has responsibility for housing and for retrofitting, I know has had discussions around this, because, as you say, wool is a very good insulator. So, if that's one way we can continue to help support Welsh wool, we will certainly be looking to do that. I'm not sure how far the Minister has got with her discussions, but I know she has had initial discussions around this. 

Thank you very much. Scab is a very important issue, again in relation to sheep in terms of animal welfare, and it's an issue that hasn't had sufficient focus over recent years. It is an extensive and increasing problem, unfortunately. The Welsh Government announced that it was to allocate some £5 million to help eradicate sheep scab at the beginning of 2019. It was disappointing that, in November last year, it was announced that the £5 million would be diverted to support COVID programmes. The agricultural sector is very keen for the Welsh Government to restore this £5 million in an effort to eradicate sheep scab and to realise the commitment and promise you made to the industry. There is funding, as you know, in the rural development plan, and, in Plaid Cymru's view, the Government should allocate £5 million from that to help the industry to eradicate scab. So, will the Minister commit to adhere to her original pledge in order to tackle this important challenge?

I quite agree; sheep scab is a very complex and difficult disease. I don't think it's just down to the Welsh Government; I think it is down to the industry together. Certainly, we have been working together to do that. Unfortunately, because of decisions I had to take regarding the budget in relation to COVID, I wasn't able to put that funding forward, but certainly I am having discussions now about the next stage of the rural development plan, and I certainly can assure you and the industry that funding to assist in relation to eradication of sheep scab will be very high up in my priorities.

Thank you very much. And the final question: Members will be aware that last weekend was designated World Mental Health Day. Given their nature, rural communities can be very isolated, and as a result of the lack of opportunities for people to meet with others on a day-to-day basis, families can often suffer social isolation with mental health problems emerging from that. Unfortunately, 84 per cent of farmers under the age of 40 say that mental health issues are the biggest invisible challenge to farming in Wales. A report commissioned by the Prince's Countryside Fund has outlined how markets can secure a more healthy future for farmers and rural communities as places where people can meet and socialise. So, can the Minister outline what steps the Government is taking not only to help to support the mental health of farmers, but also to support the economic role that community centres such as markets play in providing social benefits, which are so important? 


Thank you. I think that is the most important of your three questions, and it's something that I've always taken a very close and particular interest in since I've been in this portfolio. Because whilst the agricultural sector and farming communities are some of the most close-knit groups I've ever met, you can see that when you're on a farm you sometimes are a bit isolated. Particularly during the pandemic, I think that's certainly been highlighted. So, I've given significant funding to agriculture mental health charities.

You asked at the end around markets, for instance, and one of the things is the funding that we were able to allocate to the DPJ Foundation. I'm sure you're aware of that charity. They looked at how they could train other people to recognise symptoms of mental health issues in places like farmers markets, where perhaps you wouldn't think, if you were a farmer with concerns, that you could be signposted to the most appropriate place. So, that's an area we've worked on. Also, we launched FarmWell during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was like a one-stop shop, where, if you accessed that, you would know where you could then go on to get further assistance.

I meet quite regularly with all the agricultural charities, and they all, I think, every single one of them—there were about half a dozen I met with regularly over the past 18 months—said that during the pandemic the referrals to them had increased. So, it's something I keep a very close eye on, and, if there's anything further I can do to help, I will certainly be happy to do so. 

Question 3 has been withdrawn. So, question 4, Siân Gwenllian. 

Question 3 [OQ57022] not asked.

Illegal Fishing

4. Will the Minister make a statement on measures to tackle illegal fishing? OQ57024

Thank you. The Welsh Government monitors and, where necessary, enforces compliance with fisheries regulations through a range of assurance and inspection activities. These include patrols, surveillance and inspections onshore and at sea, and we also take appropriate and proportionate legal action.

A group of local fishermen has contacted me about alleged poaching that is taking place, and the lack of enforcement of fishing byelaws. The allegation is that there has been a significant decline in the enforcement teams of Natural Resources Wales, leaving only a team of 15 to do this work the length and breadth of Wales. The group of fishermen has said that this is insufficient to safeguard our fisheries, and reports that poachers are taking advantage of this, and are causing major damage to fish stocks and to the viability of the waterways for the future. What specific steps will you take to improve the situation? 

We've certainly increased the number of marine enforcement officers that we as a Government have, and, in north Wales, it has increased also over the last couple of years. The number of onshore inspections has increased significantly. Just in this year alone, up until the middle of October, obviously, we've had 350 onshore inspections, and that compares to 310 in 2020. So, we are seeing far more inspection work. I'm very concerned to hear of the particular concern that you raised, and if you want to write to me, I will ask for that specifically to be done. But, as I say, the level of inspections has increased significantly, and, as we are bringing in new recruits, because we are continuing to recruit enforcement officers, I would hope to see activity much more closely monitored, and obviously enforcement put in there. 

As the Minister will be aware, despite every effort to stop and prevent illegal fishing, some people are still determined to break the law and illegally overharvest our seas for their commercial gain. This, unfortunately, has a huge knock-on effect, with fish stocks being depleted, the livelihoods of law-abiding fishermen being affected, and the placement of endangered fish species into more perilous population decline. As many in this Chamber will know, Brexit has led to more than just heated words regarding the fishing of European countries in British territorial waters, and a current issue that is emerging is that fishing vessels are switching off their automatic identification systems and long-range identification tracking devices in order to fish in waters undetected. I have little doubt that Welsh waters are likely to be targeted by this behaviour, so could the Minister make a statement about what conversations they and their colleagues have had with the UK Government regarding this practice, and what measures are they able to take to prevent it?


This is something I've obviously discussed many times with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State and with the UK Government as a whole, certainly as we approached the EU transition period. Sometimes the UK Government's answer was, 'We'll send in the navy', which I don't think was the answer at all. But any illegal fishing is unacceptable.

What we did as a Government, because that was the second part of your question, was we ensured that we had new fishing patrol vessels, because, certainly when I came into portfolio five years ago, the vessels that we had at that time were not fit for purpose. So, you'll be aware we had new fishing enforcement vessels, which I think has certainly helped. But any illegal fishing is unacceptable. I meet with the DEFRA Minister and my counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland again, I think, at the end of this month, and certainly, fishing is always on the agenda. 

River Pollution from Agriculture

5. What measures will the Welsh Government introduce to tackle river pollution from agriculture? OQ56990

Pollution of any kind impacts us all and we must tackle it for the benefit of our environment and communities. On 27 January this year, I introduced the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021, and initial measures came into force on 1 April.

Can I thank the Minister for that response? Whilst last week the major public debate was about safety from COVID, my e-mail account had more contact regarding pollution of the River Wye than it did about anything else. I'm also aware of the pollution of other rivers from agricultural run-off. People are also concerned about run-off from chicken farms and nitrogen and other chemicals going into the river. Can we expect to see an improvement in river quality in the near future? Because from what I hear from people regarding the River Wye, it is in a very delicate state at the moment, and I'm sure other rivers will be in exactly the same position fairly soon. We need to protect our rivers, and whatever it takes to protect our rivers needs to be done. 

I absolutely agree with the Member, and we do have concerns around the River Wye at the moment. You ask whether we'll see an improvement in our rivers. What I want to see is an improvement on the scale that we've seen with our bathing waters, for instance, where we've made huge improvement strides. I will certainly want to see that with the rivers. I am working closely with the Minister for Climate Change, because preventing pollution from poultry farming certainly has a role to play, as you referred to. And obviously, planning authorities are having to consider the environmental impacts of any planning proposals for new poultry units, so that's why I've been working with the Minister in relation to planning, because we have seen an increased number, certainly in the number of poultry farms and the applications as well. So, we need to make sure that the cumulative impact doesn't have a detrimental effect. 

Thank you, Minister, for answering Mike's question; it's really helpful. The situation with some of our rivers across Wales is extremely worrying, and we share that worry. An urgent shared endeavour is needed to address the pollution levels currently being experienced. I'm sure you would agree, though, Minister, that river pollution isn't all due to agriculture, as we have seen in the River Usk, where regular discharges of raw sewage into the river are taking place, even when it seems there haven't been significant episodes of rain. Hundreds and hundreds of local people are really concerned about that. I know you will be as well, and I furnished you with evidence of that. Minister, would you agree that the majority of farmers care for the environment and do the right things? And would you finally agree that we need our regulators, NRW, to step up and deal with anyone or any body that breaches the rules, and that includes water companies? What we're seeing at the moment is totally unacceptable, certainly on the Usk.

I will certainly agree with both of your statements. I would never say that all pollution is caused by agricultural practices. There are many sources of pollution, and I would say the majority of farmers absolutely care for the environment. However, we are seeing unacceptable limits of agricultural pollution—and I referred to the regulations that came into force earlier this year.

In relation to your other point, around other sources of pollution, obviously, where water companies fail to comply with their permit conditions, or they operate without a permit—and you'll be aware that NRW issue permits for storm overflows, for instance—NRW will investigate and, where appropriate, will take enforcement action. So, you're absolutely right—it is important that our regulators play their part as well.


Good afternoon, Minister. Just following on from my colleague's question around the River Wye, living on the River Wye as I do, in Hay-on-Wye, I do get additional questions and issues brought up around this issue. It's a very live concern. The River Wye, like other rivers, runs through both England and Wales, so there is a complex issue here about how we work across borders. This week, The Times newspaper featured an admission, for the first time, from a big chicken supplier, Avara Foods, that the use of chicken farms contributes to the pollution in the Wye catchment area. And having met with organisations locally and nationally who are concerned about the pollution in the River Wye, including—very important to say this—representatives from farming unions, who themselves are very, very concerned and committed to tackling river pollution, I would like to ask you, Minister, how you intend, as my colleague has mentioned, to work to strengthen the abilities of Natural Resources Wales, and their active role with Natural England, in order to ensure that we tackle river pollution with the appropriate resources and budget to deliver a clear action plan. And I wonder if I could ask you to meet with me—and perhaps there may be others as well—to discuss strengthening Natural Resources Wales. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

In relation to the last question, around meeting with you to discuss NRW, that actually falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Climate Change—she has responsibility for NRW. So, I would suggest you write to her to ask in relation to that specific part of your question.

In relation to the poultry farms and the pollution around the River Wye, as I said, preventing pollution from poultry farms has a massive role to play in the quality of our rivers. And it is important that the planning permission threshold, for instance, is correct. So, at the moment, the threshold is so that if you have—I forget what the figure is—this number of chickens, you don't have to apply for planning permission, which certainly concerns me. And that's part of the discussions I am having with the Minister for Climate Change, who, as you are aware, also has responsibility for planning. The regulations that we currently have, which are from 2016, require intensive poultry units to obtain a permit to operate, and that does include measures to protect the environment. If we need to strengthen those regulations, I think we need to look very hard at doing that, but, as I say, that's part of the discussions I have with the Minister for Climate Change.

Dog Breeding Laws

6. Will the Minister provide an update on the Welsh Government's review into dog breeding laws? OQ57000

Thank you. The Government’s response to the review was published on 4 March 2020. To address the recommendations, officials are working closely with local authorities on tackling barriers to enforcement, enhanced training, better guidance and improved use of resources within local authorities, as part of a three-year Welsh Government-funded project.

Can I thank the Minister for the answer, and actually welcome some of the recommendations that you mention and have been taken up by the Welsh Government? However, one of the recommendations not yet taken up was an accredited or graded system for dog breeders, which was described as a,

'system of assigning scores to breeding establishments based on existing licensing inspections'.

To me, this is a no-brainer. It would bring much-needed consumer confidence to those looking to purchase dogs and increase the reputation of those that follow the rules. It would ensure puppies are healthy and looked after before leaving for their new owners. So, with this in mind, what further consideration has the Welsh Government given to this recommendation to protect not only dogs but their breeders and customers too, by introducing a scoring system for breeding establishments?

Thank you. It is something I am currently considering as part of the animal welfare plan. So, I've asked officials—the chief veterinary officer and her officers—to look at a five-year animal welfare plan for Wales so that we can build on the progress that we've made on animal welfare, certainly over the past 16 or so years, and my plan is to introduce an animal welfare plan later this year that will look at what we should do for the next five years of this Government. This is certainly something I'm considering within that. I think there's a broad range of policies we need to bring forward, not just about dogs, but I think if we are going to maintain the momentum that we have, because I think we have very, very high animal welfare standards in Wales, we need to look at that momentum of reform, and the plan will absolutely do that.

Animal Sanctuaries

7. How is the Government ensuring that animal sanctuaries are taking sufficient steps to meet welfare standards? OQ57014

Thank you. The Welsh Government work closely with the Animal Welfare Network for Wales group, who published their voluntary code of practice for animal welfare establishments or sanctuaries in 2020. Further consideration on better regulation of animal welfare establishments, which include sanctuaries, will be addressed via the programme for government commitments and the proposed animal welfare plan for Wales I just referred to.

Diolch, Minister. We have some incredible sanctuaries here in Wales doing vital work to rescue animals that have been abandoned or injured. The vast majority of sanctuaries and rescue centres are models of good practice. However, there is no regulation of them. Anyone can establish one, whether or not they have the experience and the know-how. It is the view of the RSPCA, one of the leading authorities on animal welfare, that sanctuary and rescue centre regulation is long overdue in Wales to show that animals have the protection that they need. The legislation would also ensure that established sanctuaries and rescue centres that are models of good practice will be protected and not tarnished by rogue establishments. Can you give an indication whether you're looking into this legislation and, if so, when it would be implemented?

Thank you. So, you're absolutely right—they play an invaluable part in animal welfare services, and, unfortunately, there are times when things have gone wrong, and certainly, since I've been Minister, I've had a couple of issues highlighted to me, but the majority of them, as you say, are models of good practice. I mentioned the code of practice in my answer to you, and I am aware that that group that worked with us on that do have a desire for the introduction of statutory measures. They would like statutory regulation or some sort of licensing system to come into place. It is, again, something I am considering within the animal welfare plan that I will be publishing later this year.

I'm sure all parties across the Chamber rightly support steps to ensure animal welfare standards are being met, and I'm always happy to declare an interest as the owner of a lovely two-year-old Glen of Imaal terrier. It's really important that we have the right animal welfare standards in place. I'd certainly echo the words mentioned in terms of the vital role that animal sanctuaries play in facilitating animals and giving them a safe environment to live in for a time. We do know, though, Minister, that a lot of the work in terms of ensuring the regulations are kept to are undertaken by local council officers, and as and when there's more regulation put in place, that puts more work on already stretched budgets within local authorities to support the enforcement of those regulations. So, Minister, what discussions are you having with local authorities to understand what those current budget pressures are to enforce existing regulations, and what discussions are you having with them to understand what those pressures might be in the future with further regulations as well?

I mentioned in my previous answer to Tom Giffard that the Welsh Government had funded a project with local authorities. It's a three-year project that we began as part of our work around bringing legislation forward in relation to banning third party sales of dogs and cats, which I brought in a few weeks ago. So, we have funded that project, working with local authorities, to see what the barriers were, because I think it doesn't always need legislation, does it? We certainly wanted to see what those barriers were, and funding was clearly a barrier, so we funded the project, which I think has now really helped local authority enforcement officers be able to keep up with the latest statutory guidance, for instance. They've had additional training and, I have to say, they've been a very good partner in bringing these guidelines forward.

Tuberculosis Compensation Policy

8. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the Welsh Government's TB compensation policy on farmers? OQ57019

Welsh farmers receive full market value for cattle removed under the TB eradication programme. I will be making an oral statement next month regarding a refreshed programme for TB eradication in Wales. Arrangements for making TB payments to farmers will feature in that statement.

Thank you. Two thousand, nine hundred and ninety cattle were slaughtered in the second quarter of this year, pushing the number of animals killed due to bovine TB to 6,175. Now, through me helping one of my constituents, where they are struggling with a bTB breakdown, you wrote to me advising, and I quote, that valuations do not have to be agreed by the farmer and the market value cannot be appealed. Welsh Government guidance notes on TB compensation state, 

'The market value of an animal slaughtered for TB will be paid as compensation in most cases.'

What is unfair, though, is the cap on compensation being £5,000, because this particular farmer has some that are worth considerably more thousands than five. He shows them as well, you see. So, a pedigree bull could easily be worth well over £5,000. So, Minister, would you have a look again at the cap and extend that right to allow farmers to appeal, to challenge that value given to them? They're already devastated at the time of slaughter, but let's make sure that they get true and equal compensation. Diolch. 

Thank you, and I am aware that you wrote to me last week again, I think about the same farmer. I will ensure you get a response by next week. 

Animal owners are paid compensation, as you know, and it is really important that we strive to ensure that the payment policy is fair not just to the animal owner, or to the farmer in this instance, but also to the taxpayer, because obviously that is public money. And I know, it's inevitable, isn't it, there'll be occasions when the owner is not satisfied with the valuation given. But I have to say, complaints are rare. We do intend to consult on changing the way that we pay compensation, and I think, as part of my oral statement and looking at a refreshed programme in relation to TB eradication, this is something that we should certainly look at. I think it's the appropriate time to review those arrangements. 

I should say, to establish the market value of an animal, a fully trained and experienced valuer must determine, by valuing the animal concerned on-farm, the price that the animal might reasonably obtain if it was for sale on the open market and was not affected by or exposed to TB. You mentioned compensation being capped at £5,000 for high-value animals, and I brought this in when we refreshed the TB eradication programme last time. And the advice at that time was, if you have cattle—and you referred to the fact that your constituent shows his cattle—it might be better then to look at insurance, because obviously the cap is £5,000. 

Emergency Services in North Wales

9. What consideration has the north Wales Cabinet committee given to the provision of emergency services in north Wales? OQ57011

The Cabinet committee on north Wales discusses a wide range of important topics. The first meeting of this Senedd term included a discussion on the pressures faced by health and social care partners, involving the chief executive of the health board, chief executive of NHS Wales and all local authority leaders.

Thank you very much for that answer, Minister, but I do have concerns that extend beyond the current crisis in ambulance response times. Last week, an arson attack at Rhyl Football Club occurred at the same time as a fire at a hotel in Prestatyn. North Wales Fire and Rescue Service reported that they were stretched dealing with those two incidents in my constituency. I dread to think what would have happened had there been a serious collision or a house fire elsewhere in the Vale of Clwyd that day. Minister, what steps will the north Wales Cabinet committee take to ensure that there is sufficient fire and rescue service provision covering north Wales, and my constituency in particular? 

Well, I don't think that would be a decision for the north Wales Cabinet sub-committee. Obviously, the cover of emergency services across north Wales has to be appropriate at all times. You just mentioned two significant incidents that happened at the same time and, of course, while they're going on, there are always other incidents where our emergency services are being called to attend. And, obviously, there continues to be immense pressure particularly on the Welsh ambulance service at the current time. There's a really complex range, I think, of challenges at the moment that are coming together to get a perfect storm, but it's really important, obviously, the Minister for Health and Social Services works very closely with the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust. You'll be aware of a review that is being undertaken by the trust at the current time, and obviously fire services come under the remit of the Minister for Social Justice, I think—it might be local government, but it will be a different Minister for that. But obviously, across Government, we will work very closely to make sure—. One of the good things that has happened over the previous few years that we've seen—I've certainly got one in my own constituency—is where emergency services come together in one building. So, in Wrexham, we've got the ambulance service and the fire service working together, and I think that has really improved issues.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones

10. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the impact of nitrate vulnerable zones? OQ57004

The designation of nitrate vulnerable zones was a requirement of the EU nitrates directive, and the effectiveness of the NVZ designation was assessed as part of our commitment. Natural Resources Wales review NVZ designation on a regular basis to determine areas for new designation, continued designation or de-designation.

Thank you, Minister. The NVZs in Wales limit agriculturalists to spread no more than 170 kg of nitrates per hectare, whilst the zones in other nations enable farmers to spread up to 250 kg per hectare. This limitation means that slurry is held back and can't be spread and causes difficulties to farmers, or it will do so. Can you explain, therefore, what the rationale of the Welsh Government is for limiting to 170 kg here, whilst other places limit it to 250 kg?

We no longer have bespoke designated nitrate vulnerable zones in Wales, as you're aware, and on 27 January this year, I introduced the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution)(Wales) Regulations 2021, and as you know, those initial measures came into force on 1 April. Those regulations revoked and replaced the Nitrate Pollution Prevention (Wales) Regulations 2013, which obviously previously designated NVZs, and as you know, at the moment, permission has been granted for those regulations to be reviewed by the courts.

3. Topical Questions
4. 90-second Statements

Therefore, the next item is the 90-second statement, and the first statement is from Huw Irranca-Davies.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. Today, in my role as Chair of the cross-party group on active travel, and after many months of behind-the-scenes cross-party work, we launched the much-anticipated active travel school toolkit at Penyrheol Primary School in Gorseinon. In Wales, we've made important steps to change the way we get to school, but the figures show we need to do so much more, especially on cycling, where fewer than 1 per cent of Welsh children regularly ride a bike to school, in stark contrast to European neighbours like the Netherlands, where 49 per cent of pupils travel to school by bike every single day. So, it was lovely to join the headteacher Alison Williams and pupils and others today on my bike as well along with children who travel to school on their bikes and scooters and by shanks's pony, too. Active travel benefits the physical and mental well-being of children, reduces emissions, helps combat the climate crisis, reduce congestion and pollution around school gates, improves the attentiveness of pupils in the classroom by giving them an energetic start to the day, and so much more. And our toolkit is not a fixed prescription; each school faces a unique set of challenges, but with this initiative, we provide school leaders and parents and governors with the ideas and resources they need to determine their own path towards being an active travel school and community. And by emphasising the importance of persuading others to travel to school actively, this kit aims to create an overwhelming local consensus on active school travel.

From start to finish, this has been about collaboration, partnerships between schools and families on the ground and the behind-the-scenes work of the cross-party group. So, the toolkit will be sent to all Members of the Senedd, to ask them to link with schools on this active travel journey. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd.

Thank you very much. I'm sure that each and every one of you will wish to join me in congratulating the Welsh darts player, Jonny Clayton, on his excellent victory in the World Grand Prix of darts last Saturday evening, the first time he has won that championship. As it happens, he won by defeating his great friend and fellow Welshman Gerwyn Price in the final. In addition to winning the Grand Prix, one of the major darts titles, he's also won the Masters and the Premier League this year, and he was also part of the victorious Welsh team that won the World Cup of Darts last November when, of course, he played with his great friend Gerwyn Price. Yes, it has been quite a year for him.

Jonny, or The Ferret, as he's known, is a Welsh speaker who lives in Pontyberem and the people of Pont, the Gwendraeth Valley, Carmarthenshire and the whole of Wales take great pride in his success. But astonishingly, despite his success, he continues to work as a plasterer on a part-time basis for Carmarthenshire County Council, and I understand that he intends to continue with this work for some time to come. It's clear that he can turn his hand to virtually anything. I'm sure that we would all want to wish Jonny Clayton and Gerwyn Price well over the next 12 months as the darts season picks up pace, and congratulate him once again on his success over the weekend. Thank you.


Arthritis is the most prevalent disease in the world, and affects 1 in every 4 individuals. World Arthritis Day is globally commemorated on 12 October—which was yesterday—every year, to educate the public on timely diagnosis and management of arthritis. Today is the last day of National Arthritis Week here in the UK. The theme of this year’s campaign is 'Don’t Delay, Connect Today' with a focus on work with the strapline 'Time2Work'.

In 1996, Arthritis and Rheumatism International established World Arthritis Day. The aim of the day is to raise awareness of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases all over the world. Most people don’t realize that there are over 100 different kinds of arthritis. Arthritis is a disease that affects approximately 350 million people worldwide. There are around 120 million people currently living with a rheumatic disease like arthritis, in Europe.

Pain is the most disabling symptom of arthritis. Many myths surround the management of arthritis, which can be a barrier to effective management. Many believe that exercise is dangerous, that findings on imaging—that is, x-ray and MRI—dictate what one can do, and surgery and rest are the only treatments. We now know that excessive rest and avoidance of activity can make pain and disability due to arthritis worse. While a small proportion of individuals will benefit from surgery—that's like a knee replacement—not everybody requires surgery or will benefit from surgery. Graded exercises and activity are safe and good for your muscles and joints. Thank you, Presiding Officer. 

Motion to elect a Member to a Committee

The next item, therefore, is the motion to elect a Member to a committee, and I call on a member of the Business Committee to move the motion formally. Darren Millar.

To propose that the Senedd, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Alun Davies (Welsh Labour) as a Member of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee in place of Jayne Bryant (Welsh Labour).

Motion moved.

It has been moved. The proposal, therefore, is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No, therefore the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

We will now take a short break to allow a few changeovers in the Siambr.

Plenary was suspended at 15:08.


The Senedd reconvened at 15:19, with the Deputy Presiding Officer (David Rees) in the Chair.

5. Member Debate under Standing Order 11.21(iv): Community benefits of energy projects

Welcome back. The next item is item 5, a Member debate under Standing Order 11.21 on the community benefits of energy projects. I call on Rhun ap Iorwerth to move the motion.

Motion NDM7794 Rhun ap Iorwerth

Supported by Adam Price, Altaf Hussain, Delyth Jewell, Heledd Fychan, Janet Finch-Saunders, Luke Fletcher, Sioned Williams, Tom Giffard

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Notes the importance of renewable energy in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

2. Agrees that there is a need to ensure that energy developments bring benefits to the communities in which they are located.

3. Calls on the Welsh Government, either through regulations or new legislation to insist that developers of energy projects must prove the community benefits of their proposed developments by having to conduct community impact assessments and present a community-benefit plan as part of the planning process.

Motion moved.

Thank you very much, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I'm very grateful to the Business Committee in the first instance for giving me the opportunity to set out this motion before the Senedd today, and I'm also grateful to the Members who have supported the motion in front of us.

It's a very timely debate, I think. We are just before the beginning of COP26 in Glasgow. Later on today, Plaid Cymru will lead a debate on the energy sector and the nature and climate crisis.

Point 1 in the motion asks us to note the importance of renewable energy in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. I don’t think anybody's going to disagree with that. Energy, the way that we use energy, the way that we save energy, distribute it, and, yes, the way that we generate it, are issues that are at the heart of how successful we are going to be in the battle against climate change. But our relationship with energy is also at the heart of our daily lives, and I will be arguing this afternoon that it can have a major impact on the kinds of communities we live in.

I'm asking the Senedd to agree with the second statement in our motion, which is that there is a need to ensure that all energy developments bring benefits to the communities in which they're located, and this is so important, I think. We as a nation have so much to offer in terms of energy development; we could be supplying and fulfilling not just our needs in terms of clean energy and low-carbon energy and renewable energy, but we could be a major exporter, and that could bring significant economic benefits as well as environmental benefits.

But when we are asking communities to provide a home to developments of this kind, we need to realise that they can have a significant impact, so we need to support those communities and consider their needs and their aspirations as communities. I could refer to one proposed energy scheme in Anglesey that exists because of its community—the Morlais scheme to develop a tidal flow scheme on the coast of Anglesey, which is run by a social enterprise, Menter Môn, to keep the profits local. There are a whole host of similar schemes across Wales. I visited Ynni Ogwen recently. I welcome the principle in the Government's target to ensure that at least 1 GW of renewable energy in Wales should be under local ownership by 2030, and I'll remind you that one of the major functions of the Welsh energy company that Plaid Cymru wants to see established—with its headquarters in Anglesey, hopefully—would be to promote community schemes. But it's a very small minority of energy generation that currently happens in this way.

Let me contrast that kind of vision with what is happening on Anglesey at the moment in the field of solar energy. Now, recent decisions by the Welsh Government to earmark large parts of Anglesey as a solar development site have provided opportunities for major international companies to have an easier pathway towards permission to create solar farms—huge farms. The results are to be seen already. It's frightening how quickly things have happened. Enso Energy has announced plans for a 750-acre solar farm; Lightsource BP have plans to create 350 MW of solar energy that extends to over 2,000 acres; the Low Carbon company has identified 150 acres for Traffwll solar farm; EDF has bought a 190-acre site with permission for a solar farm on the north of the island, and that's on top of the plans that have been developed already. We're talking here about huge areas of land, including, of course, Môn Mam Cymru, good agricultural land, and we're talking about the communities around those areas and within those areas.

I have no doubt that Anglesey can make a major contribution in solar energy developments, but the truth is that the plans on the table are going to leave a huge footprint on parts of rural Wales with very little benefit for those communities—almost no jobs and no expectations in terms of wider financial benefits or otherwise. What do developers allege as local benefit? EDF's website says that £10,000 will be paid as a community benefit on an annual basis—only £10,000. Now, the developers of the Alaw Môn farm invite plans for a sustainable project in the area. They also promise that their scheme will provide opportunities to rest land that has been intensively farmed—I think that that is an insulting attempt to put a spin on the loss of agricultural land.

What this tells us is that there is nothing in place to ensure that there is community benefit at all, and that's why, in this proposal, I'm calling on the Welsh Government, either through regulations or new legislation, to insist that developers of energy projects have to prove the community benefits of their proposed developments by having to conduct community impact assessments and present a community benefit plan as part of the planning process.

Real benefit could come in several forms. Significant financial benefits are the most obvious, of course. But, in an e-mail to me this morning outlining the payments to communities that they say that they make, emanating from their projects in Wales, RWE say:

'The provision of community benefits from renewables development is currently a voluntary initiative.'

And that's one of the problems. I put forward a motion for new legislation to the Senedd recently after the Senedd legislative team confirmed that there would be a need for primary legislation to demand an assessment of community benefit of this kind. I wasn't selected in the ballot, but the debate is certainly still live. In that context, I welcome RWE's statement today:

'We support the concept that there should be a legislated standard amount of community benefit per megawatt or megawatt hour produced from projects that proceed.'

That would, I think, be an important step forward. But benefit can come in other forms too. It can mean real promises for jobs—economic prosperity of that kind—strengthening supply chains; cheaper energy bills, possibly, or, more environmentally positive, investment in energy efficiency within those communities; charging networks for electric vehicles; home batteries or solar energy for the home that is subsidised. What about sharing profits genuinely with communities? Buying permission for the solar farm: that's what EDF did. What about the profits that the company that got that permission and sold it on? A proportion of that company's profits, I think, should stay local.

But it's not just listing benefits of that kind that I would want developers to do through holding an assessment. That's not just what we are talking about, but measuring the impact on rural areas, on losing those green areas that are so important to us; the impact on property prices in rural areas, and the impact on people's quality of life too. That's difficult to put a price on, perhaps, but it's so important. Considering that the impact of an individual scheme, or the cumulative impact of multiple schemes, and that's the problem that we are facing on Anglesey—. Considering that impact, what I would want to see is efforts to provide that energy generation that we do need in different ways.

Rather than using a block of thousands of acres, what about hundreds of smaller blocks, following the energy distribution lines— more landowners benefiting a little, rather than a few landowners benefiting a great deal? What about using, through strengthening the distribution system, agricultural shed roofs, factory roofs, the roofs of chapels, churches, schools, community centres and so on? What about installing panels alongside land boundaries and hedgerows over large areas, creating biodiverse corridors, while keeping the fields productive? What about verges on roads? One idea that was suggested to me today: using the central reservation of the A55 for solar panels. I don't know; maybe that's possible too.

So, let's think outside of the box. By being creative, I think that we could generate energy on a very large scale by working with, rather than against, communities. I have talked about solar mainly today, because that is the major issue with regard to energy projects on Anglesey, but it could include all kinds of other generation methods.

Some have argued with me that not thinking in this creative way could create a risk of turning people against renewable energy projects and could prevent progress. One of the major net zero prizes would be to be able to engage with communities with regard to decarbonisation and facilitate it. We are already seeing some frustration locally, I have to say, as a result of losing influence over whether plans will receive permission or not, and I think that holding the community benefit assessments would bring the community back to the heart of planning decisions with regard to energy. I look forward to hearing the contributions this afternoon and the response of the Government.


Thank you, Rhun, for bringing this debate forward, and whilst you do have some concerns about solar, it’s fair to say, along the north Wales coast, those concerns now extend to the huge windfarm projects that are coming our way.

Dirprwy Lywydd, we know that around 58,000 work in the energy and environment sectors in Wales, generating over £4.8 billion in revenue, and this sector is primed for continued expansion over the coming years. Wales currently has 86 operational windfarms, the potential to generate around 10 GW from marine energy, a mature solar energy sector, and a tidal range capable of providing significant generation opportunities along the Welsh coastline.

The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 required the Welsh Government to take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status of marine waters by 31 December 2020, and the Minister and I know that that deadline has been missed. Marine biodiversity continues to decline. Why not reverse the trend by seeing offshore windfarms and the seabed connectors used as the basis for seabed ecosystem recovery and blue carbon sequestration?

I’ve been undertaking some very constructive discussions with Professor Chris Baines who lives in my constituency, and he’s a renowned author on such matters. He has rightly outlined that if windfarms can become—. If they’re going to be there, can they become sanctuary areas with minimal seabed disturbance? And if this can be combined with proactive habitat restoration in the form of such things as artificial reef application to the turbine bases, then the wind energy infrastructure could actually make a unique and enormously positive contribution to marine recovery and carbon net zero, while subscribing to our biodiversity and conservation aims. So, Minister, could I ask, what steps are you taking to encourage the involvement of any future renewable energy developers in Welsh marine habitat regeneration projects such as this? What steps are you taking to encourage the diversion of community spend towards planting efforts, like those of seagrass meadows, which are known to capture carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rain forests?

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’s proposal for a marine development plan would provide clarity on how much development is sustainable within Welsh seas, and where it is best placed. In reply to a written question to you, Minister, you confirmed that the Welsh Government were initiating a two-year programme of work to map potential strategic resource areas. So, with this in mind, would you update us on the progress of this mapping activity and confirm to us today a deadline for delivery?

A report by Zero Waste Scotland estimated that as many as 5,613 turbines will be decommissioned between 2021 and 2050, generating between 1.25 million and 1.4 million tonnes of material. And, of course, I’ve raised concerns myself recently about how the turbine blades, at the moment, are not recyclable. So, in Denmark, the Re-Wind Network is repurposing these structures into various architectural elements, such as bicycle shelters and footbridges. Rotterdam has a 1,200 sq m children’s playground featuring a slide tower, tunnels and ramps, all made from decommissioned wind turbine blades. What steps are you taking to produce data on the windfarm decommissioning process, Minister? And will you commit to working with new developers to introduce a requirement that sees in advance them to repurpose their equipment in a way that actually benefits our communities and, indeed, our environment?

Finally, the Minister knows that the Awel y Môr, BP Morgan and Mona offshore windfarm projects are of a major concern to many. In fact, when these are developed, it has been said by many experts in the field that there will be an over-proliferation of wind turbines on the north Wales coast. Conwy County Borough Council, to date, one of their committees has now shown their true objections to the huge scheme that is the Awel y Môr scheme. It cannot be right that there is such little protection for our fishermen who, Minister—Minister—will be actually, you know, their livelihoods could be threatened by a scheme on the close horizon, just 10.6 km off the coast. We are in a nature crisis, yet there is a real risk that these schemes could have a detrimental impact on marine species, our tourism offer and, indeed—


Yes. And, indeed, the impact of night visuals on our much treasured darkened skies. We need renewable energy, but I implore this Welsh Government, and the Minister, to ensure that any new renewable schemes, that there is that perfect healthy balance between our biodiversity and conservation efforts. Thank you.

I'm grateful to you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I'm grateful as well to Rhun ap Iorwerth for bringing forward this debate. When I was reading the order paper and I read the title of the debate—community benefits of energy—the word that stuck out at me was 'community', of course, and it's something that, quite often, is forgotten when we talk about having a much richer energy mix than we have at present. And I would like to put the word 'community' back into our energy policy.

I'm very pleased that both Ministers are here with us this afternoon. I think, in the past, it's probably been true that the machinery of Government has actually worked against having a Welsh energy policy rather than enabled it. Certainly, when I was in Government with responsibility for energy, I was one of three Ministers in that Cabinet who had responsibility for energy, and the inevitable consequence, of course, wasn't a single energy policy but three energy policies, and we managed to achieve virtually nothing except a publication of plans and strategies, because you had a level of confusion. The Government didn't know what its policy was, and I believe that the opportunity we have now, with the new machinery of Government, is for the Government to have a clear idea of what it seeks to achieve, but more importantly, how it seeks to achieve it.

I believe we do need to look hard at what the energy mix is going to be in the future. The recent news about—[Interruption.] Yes, if you let me finish the sentence. The recent news about the development of modular nuclear reactors is good news, I believe. It might well be good news for sir Fôn; it might well be good news for other sites as well, and good news in terms of lowering our carbon output at the same time as securing baseload supply.

Thank you. I found your comments really interesting, but do you not think it's a bit disappointing for anybody watching this debate that both Ministers are on their phones?

No, it isn't. I think we need to elevate the debate rather than try to reduce it. And, do you know, Jayne—? I'm looking at you, Jayne. Janet, I would implore you not simply to read out a speech, but to appreciate what that means, and that goes beyond simply reading somebody else's words. And I think it's important—[Interruption.] I think it's important that we have a serious conversation about where this is going. So, allow me to make progress, please.

I appreciate what the new Government is seeking to achieve, and I appreciate and I very much agree with what both Ministers here have said, at different times, about what their ambitions and what their visions are. What I would say to them is this: keep a close eye. Quite often we talk about the deficient settlement that we have as being a bad thing, but in this case, actually, in energy terms, it means that we could have a much stronger focus on the community aspects of where we are. And my fear is that we would go down the road that Rhun and Janet have described, where we have very large-scale developments that are inappropriate for the places in which they are placed and located, and also inappropriate as to what we want to achieve as part of a wider climate policy and a wider community policy.

For me, what I would like to see the Welsh Government focusing on is distributed generation; a focus on what a community can do in order to deliver generation, both for its needs and for the needs of the locality. I'm interested to understand how the Minister, in responding to this debate, will speak about how we can deliver the mechanisms and means necessary to have local generation providing energy for local needs, but also contributing to a grid. And I want to see the Welsh Government working at this.

When I was doing some research on this recently, I realised that the last time the Welsh Government had uploaded any information on community energy to its website was five years ago. There's been very little work from the Welsh Government in the last Senedd on how we will deliver community energy. The evaluation of the previous community energy scheme, Ynni'r Fro, was quite mixed, but that's not necessarily a bad thing because lessons were learnt. Some of the mistakes that were made were made in seeking to deliver a scheme for the first time, and that's always going to happen. But we're not learning the lessons of that and applying it in a new way, with new schemes to support community regeneration. And, as a consequence, those of us who represent different parts of this country are put in the terrible situation of having to say, 'Yes, we support renewables, but do we really support the industrialisation of a community, the industrialisation of a landscape that at the same time we wish to protect?' And we don't want to be in that situation, but we are being forced into that situation because we don't have the rich energy policy that delivers the community generation and the distributed generation that means that we can achieve our climate ambitions, our energy ambitions, our social ambitions and our economic ambitions. And I believe that—. And I can see even without my glasses, Deputy Presiding Officer, that your patience is being exhausted. [Laughter.]

So, I will bring my remarks to a close, but I hope that the Minister in replying to this debate will, first of all, make a commitment to launch a community energy scheme as soon as possible within this Senedd and learn the lessons of past schemes; and will ensure that the machinery of Government that we have in place now, which I believe is a great improvement on what we've had in the past, will be able to deliver an energy policy that means that we achieve our ambitions, both in terms of our vision and how we seek to do that.


I did give extra time because you had that intervention, but you were stretching it a little bit. [Laughter.] Altaf Hussain.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I am delighted to be a co-sponsor of this debate. We are a country with the most incredible landscape and seascape, rich in windy mountain ranges and spectacular coastlines, with the ability to generate green energy in a way that would benefit not only Welsh communities, but add significantly to the UK’s future energy needs.

There is of course the potential for green energy to provide a higher number of jobs in the future, highly skilled and better paid in developing and constructing the new technologies to deliver our energy needs. A new industrial revolution fit for the twenty-first century. The Welsh Government has talked of the potential growth in the green economy, and whilst I welcome economic development and renewal based on utilising the might of our environment, I know that energy developments need also to be focused on the benefits that such investments can bring to local communities.

There are of course the obvious local benefits to infrastructure, and the chances of employment in planning and engineering, but there are also many examples of energy projects that have worked to provide additional benefits to their local communities. Examples from some energy developments have included measures to combat fuel poverty, with funds being made available to support the retrofit of local homes to make them more energy efficient.

Some companies have invested in community funds, locally established and managed by local people, providing grants to organisations and projects, not just as a one-off but as a sustained community investment. In some cases, these local funds have used hundreds of thousands of pounds.

There are, however, challenges for the Government. Ministers need to understand the potential of their role as enablers. There needs to be a greater ambition in Government to work with industry to deliver new energy projects that will change the economic profile of Wales for the better, increase the supply and range of jobs, and maintain local benefits to the community.

To attract development in Wales, we need people with the vision and skill to articulate why energy developers should invest here. Why come here when they could invest elsewhere in the UK? What is it about Wales that makes development here an attractive proposition? If Government wants a green jobs revolution, then it needs to build a relationship with those in the sector—ambition on its own won’t make it happen. And it needs to be a relationship where developers understand the importance we place on community, utilising the benefits of investment and working together to build a greener Wales, not forgetting that, here in Wales, we are very near to nature, and we don’t want to spoil that by erecting 850 ft tall turbines, making our Wales ugly, as is planned for Y Bryn. Thank you very much, Presiding Officer.


I had a very timely visit last week to the Pen y Cymoedd windfarm. For anyone not familiar, it's the largest onshore windfarm in England and Wales, and it straddles the top of my constituency and several others. It has got 76 turbines, hardly any of which are visible from the valley floor, and in an average year it will power the equivalent of 188,000 homes. To put that in perspective, that's about 15 per cent of Welsh households—a really important contribution. It has also put a lot of money in the Welsh economy; 52 per cent of the original £400 million investment went directly to Welsh firms, and this secured work for more than 1,000 workers in Wales during its construction. It has created apprenticeship opportunities, and it has also protected the environment and boosted biodiversity. I'm a species champion for the nightjar, which nests at this site, so I've welcomed the opportunity to be able to follow this aspect of their work.

The windfarm has also operated a particularly ambitious community benefit fund. Each year until 2043, £1.8 million is available for businesses and groups across the Cynon, Afan, Neath and Rhondda valleys. And importantly, I think, the fund hasn't been imposed by external agents. Rather, the people who have been involved in drawing up the vision are the local experts—people who live and work in those communities, who know and use local services, who understand the area they live in, what's available and what's missing. This fund has been supporting communities since the windfarm went operational in 2017. Between then and April 2021, in my constituency alone, 129 organisations and businesses have been directly supported. That funding, just to groups in my constituency, is worth around £3 million. Some grants are small, for example hundreds of pounds made available through a microfund grant, but other funds, accessed through the vision fund, are more substantial, for projects that contribute to delivering the communities' vision.

So, what's been supported with that money? Well, businesses, choirs and cultural groups, mental health support and well-being promotion, environmental initiatives, community halls, heritage projects, sports teams, family groups, schemes to support older people and to commemorate those who served their country. The fund has also supported transformational large-scale projects like Aquadare, the popular splash pad in Aberdare park. It's helped repurpose St Elvan's church to become an attractive community space, and it's played a role in creating the newly opened Cynon Linc community hub. The fund has supported everything from arts societies to defibrillator charities, and, more recently, it launched a COVID emergency fund, which can be accessed to provide urgent-needed cashflow or to support diversification for something COVID-specific. Over £0.5 million has been distributed through that to support 32 businesses and organisations, and it's enabled a further 23 COVID response projects to get off the ground and support those most in need within local communities.

It's clear that we need renewable energy. But with that, we need projects that benefit their communities. Turning to the third point of the motion, that calls on Welsh Government to insist that developers of energy projects must prove the community benefits of their proposed developments by having to conduct community impact assessments and present a community benefit plan as part of the planning process. I fully agree with this proposal, and I'd like to see us empower our communities to have the very highest expectations from community benefits, to co-produce plans for community benefits and to think more about upfront investment schemes, such as one seen in Scotland recently, where the community weren't content with the traditional fund that local good causes could apply into, and instead, what they wanted was a fleet of electric cars that could be shared by the village, and they got it. The opportunities for community benefits are truly endless, but this potential can only be fully exploited if people are given ideas and information about what is possible.

I just want to close by noting one important point that the motion omits, and that's how we can best encourage community and co-operative energy production. The cross-party group on co-operatives and mutuals heard last week from various speakers who all emphasised the benefits of community schemes. Robert Proctor of Community Energy Wales, for example, described how 100 per cent of the profits from these go to the local communities that control them. They produce green energy at a local level, but they also create—


[Inaudible.]—economic benefits. So, there is much more that we can do, and that must be the focus of the Welsh Government.

Thank you to the Member from Anglesey for bringing this debate to the Chamber.

Wales has a wealth of renewable and green energy potential, and it would be remiss of me not to start, given that Rhun ap Iorwerth has secured this debate, by mentioning the opportunities in Ynys Môn. He's mentioned solar, but the Wylfa Newydd nuclear energy site is a campaign I know his constituency colleague, the Member of Parliament for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosbie, has championed powerfully. But I'd like to focus on a project off the coast of my own constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire: the groundbreaking, multimillion pound Blue Gem Wind project, a joint venture between TotalEnergies, one of the world's largest energy companies, and Simply Blue Energy, a pioneering Celtic sea energy developer. The project will develop floating offshore wind, known as FLOW, in the waters of the Celtic sea.

FLOW is set to become a key technology in the fight against climate change, with over 80 per cent of the world's wind resource in waters deeper than 60m. Independent studies have suggested there could be as much as 50 GW of electricity capacity available in the Celtic sea waters off the UK and Irish coasts. This renewable energy resource could play a key role in the UK meeting the 2050 net-zero target required to mitigate climate change. Floating wind—FLOW—will provide new low-carbon supply chain opportunities, support coastal communities and create long-term benefits for the region. In my own constituency, it is estimated that Blue Gem's first 1 billion watts of floating wind energy could potentially deliver over 3,000 jobs and £682 million in supply chain opportunities, opening up a whole new world of offshore renewables with Pembrokeshire at its heart, unquestionably benefiting the community.

The first demonstration project in the Celtic sea, the 96 MW Erebus project, will become one of the largest floating offshore wind projects in the world when constructed in 2026. This will then be followed by Valorous, a 300 MW early commercial project, again, in the Celtic sea, which would see nearly 280,000 homes powered per year, while saving over 455,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. But what is truly incredible about the Blue Gem Wind project and the opportunities that present themselves in the Celtic sea is that not one area alone truly benefits, and neither can it deliver the project alone. It has to be spread across a number of areas and number of ports. This brings further spread of the community benefit of these new projects, as skilled jobs and economic benefits are not concentrated in a small area.

Communities in south-west Wales, the south-east of the Republic of Ireland and shipyards in Northern Ireland and Scotland can all benefit from this project. But these benefits aren't going to appear without active involvement from Government on all levels. Commercial projects such as these work at a speed not normally seen within governmental departments, and I know the Member from Blaenau Gwent raised the historical concerns around energy policy previously. Speed is of the essence when it comes to these projects, to ensure that they are not missed and the community benefit isn't missed either. We need to understand the constraints that these businesses and projects work under and do what we can to streamline the process. This isn't a call for bypassing key planning and regulatory constraints, but working in a speedy and constructive manner to help these projects get off the ground and deliver their environmental, economic and community benefits. In every corner of Wales, we have examples of projects striving to make a difference. They have the determination, they have the enterprise, we just need the confidence to unleash it. Diolch yn fawr.


Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. I think there's been a great deal of consensus in the Senedd this afternoon on the importance of renewable energy and how vital it is to make sure that this is rooted in our communities, both in terms of getting acceptance, but also in terms of realising the benefits beyond the broader benefits or helping us to reach net zero. We agree with the Member's position that we should ensure our communities feel the benefits of hosting these essential developments, and I've a lot of sympathy with the discomfort he expressed about large-scale solar farms, in particular, popping up across the country, not mentioning any in particular. I think we are better off focusing solar on buildings than we are taking up large bits of land.

This was a theme that came across in a number of Members' speeches; there's obviously a balance to be struck on the environmental impact. Janet Finch-Saunders, in her remarks, made reference to the ocean bed regeneration. That's an important point, as well as other examples given of where developments weren't quite a fit with their local communities. This, I think, is one of the delicate balances we have to strike. We know that, in order to reach net zero, we're going to have to make more cuts in our emissions in the next 10 years than we have over the last 30 years, and that pace and scale are going to have to quicken in the years beyond that. So, there's an imperative for us to act at scale, at pace, but we also need to bring communities with us and we need to be mindful of the other impacts of these developments. We're going to have to feel our way through that, frankly; there is no template for doing that sensitively.

I completely agree with the thrust of the debate about the ownership of renewable assets locally, and we must develop strong Welsh supply chains and job opportunities, as Samuel Kurtz just outlined. In terms of the specific project he mentioned of the floating wind in the Celtic sea waters, I know my colleague Julie James spoke at a UK ports conference this morning, and it is a project that we are looking at carefully. We want to develop as many different varieties of projects as we can, and, as I say, involving communities is key.

The most effective way of securing benefit is through local ownership, and our programme for government has a target to increase public and community-owned renewables by 100 MW by 2026. We recognise the need to have support in place to meet this ambition. The Welsh Government energy service is doing excellent work supporting public bodies and communities to develop schemes, and we are giving financial support to progress projects. To give one example, the energy service helped the Egni co-op to invest more than £4 million in rooftop solar across Wales, generating free power to community organisations and to schools, in fact, including shares in the co-op to some schools in the upper Amman valley, which I think is an excellent project I'm keen to see how we can spread more widely across Wales.

Despite the challenges of COVID, in the last financial year, we did support the installation of £35 million-worth of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, including 9 MW of renewable energy. By 2030, we have a target of 1 GW of renewable energy generation to be locally owned. Rhun ap Iorwerth mentioned two projects in north-west Wales that I visited recently, in fact, Ynni Ogwen and Menter Môn. Both have done excellent work with communities, capturing the benefits locally, as well as doing it in a way that is sensitive to the local environment. I think there's a lot we can all learn from their excellent work. We have set an expectation that all renewable energy projects should have at least an element of local ownership in them from now. Again, this is one of other dilemmas we face, because, clearly, in order to reach these targets, we want significant developments that can help us get towards our objectives. But that too often does mean large foreign-owned multinational companies having the wherewithal and the capital to come in and take these developments forward.

That is obviously something we want to encourage, and we've worked closely with that sector over recent years, but we know there are limits to what the private sector can do to support renewable energy generation in Wales and to bring communities with them, and to give the scale of the rewards from the schemes that they deserve. And there were a number of examples mentioned of how trivial the sums being offered to some communities are. And clearly that is not what we want to see. So, we are, through the Government energy service, working with communities and public bodies to explore ownership options, and we've been developing guidance with their input to assist with their negotiations. And we're beginning to see evidence of large developers taking positive steps to engage with our communities, but it's fair to say we're not where we need to be. Engagement is patchy and the approach is inconsistent. 

Tomorrow, Dirprwy Lywydd, I'm beginning another deep-dive exercise, this time into renewables in Wales, and I'll be exploring what more we can do to extract wealth from private development and support more community ownership and development in Wales. And we'll be exploring the possibility of establishing a publicly owned energy developer to accelerate the delivery of renewables that will bring a greater level of community and public benefit than the current models offer. We do, of course, need to work with private developers and, as has been mentioned, with the supply chain. There are opportunities here for green jobs and green skills, and we need to make sure we maximise those benefits. 

So, we're building a picture of the pipeline of projects coming forward and their supply chain and workforce needs, and we're working with our colleges to develop the skills of the future and supporting local businesses to supply into the new market. And also, crucially, we are pressing the Crown Estate and the UK Government to make local economic benefits a material consideration in the granting of sea-bed rights and contracts. And we're also looking at how we can use the Welsh Government woodland estate and other publicly owned land to offer immediate opportunities to develop projects that help their communities. 

So, I think there is a lot going on. I recognise Alun Davies's point about approaches being fragmented and a focus on strategies rather than delivery marring too much of Government's efforts across the world, and we need to make sure that, with setting up this portfolio, we are focused on action and delivery and pace, and I can pledge that we are doing what we can to do that. We can't move as fast as we want to do, that is one of the great frustrations of this role. These are incredibly complex projects, and the process of bringing all the different moving parts together can often be far slower than we'd like them to be. And that is the challenge for us all, because we know the science and the challenge is urgent, and we all have a responsibility to try to make sure that the pace of delivery matches that. But, I certainly would say to Alun Davies that I wouldn't mistake—


I will, but I would just say to him that I wouldn't mistake the uploading of information to a website with a lack of activity on community energy. 

Well, there's certainly a lack of activity in terms of communicating what you're doing to anybody in the world at all. But the point I'd like to make is that, quite often, and it's one of the lessons from Ynni'r Fro, a great deal of Government time is spent arguing over proposals with other parts of the public sector. And what is required from Government is to ensure that Government not only sets the lead, delivers some of the seed funding that is required in order to do this, but also ensures that you don't have public money being spent on two sets of barristers arguing with each other over a single application. And Government could take a real lead in that. 

Well, clearly that's unarguable. And one of the focuses of the deep dive that I'm starting tomorrow is going to be how we energise and mobilise a coalition for change across the public and private sector to really get some pace going. Because, as we all agree here this afternoon, the prize is great and the cost of inaction is too difficult to contemplate. Diolch.

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. I think this has been a really valuable discussion, actually, and can I first of all thank the Minister for those words, when he said that he is coming close to establishing, hopefully, a body that will encourage and promote publicly owned energy in Wales? That sounds very much to me that Plaid Cymru's long-standing campaign to establish an ynni Cymru, an energy Wales body, has come to fruition and I'm delighted that it sounds as if Welsh Government is about to put something very, very similar to that in place. And I think that that's something very, very positive, because it's a means, I think, to have a real focus on the kind of energy developments that we want in Wales.

Thanks for the contributions. Yes, some interesting ideas, not just community benefits; Janet Finch-Saunders talking about even environmental benefits that we can gain from renewable energy projects, enhancing marine biodiversity, even. But we're talking today about the community benefits—I'm pleased that in Vikki Howells's constituency, she's happy that the benefits are coming—but you said yourself that they're voluntary, and that is the point here: we need mechanisms to ensure that they flow automatically from such projects, and whilst no, the motion doesn't mention community and co-operative energy, I'm sure you will have picked up on the fact that that is at the very heart of the kind of vision that I certainly have and I think most Members here have too.

Just a special mention to Alun Davies and his contribution: exactly the kind of vision that I have, and in saying that 'community' is a word that has largely been forgotten from energy policy and it needs to be reinstated there, that is exactly the point, I think, that I'm trying to make today. We can have all sorts of bold visions in terms of reaching our climate change goals, which absolutely we need to pursue with vigour, but we have to remember that many of the projects take place within, and affect directly, communities where people actually live, and it has to be a symbiosis.

So, the Minister said in opening his words that there is a lot of consensus here today, and I think that's very, very important. I didn't quite pick up on whether Government is going to be voting for the motion as it stands today; I do certainly hope that the Senedd today will back this motion. The Minister said that we have to bring communities with us. Local ownership absolutely has to be the aim, but as it stands, Welsh Government has enabled and empowered the large multinationals to pick on parts of Ynys Môn and other parts of Wales as areas where they think they have an automatic, almost, right to pursue their developments. That can't be the case, and I will gladly work with Government to be a bridge between my communities and Government in putting forward the case that somehow, those multinational companies have to go beyond the voluntary, have to go beyond the lowest possible threshold they think they can get away with when it comes to local benefits, and hopefully, we can work towards strong regulation at the very least, and I think legislation also to make sure that our communities don't become victims of renewable and other energy developments, but become real partners in them, too. Thank you.


The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, the motion is agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

6. Plaid Cymru Debate: The energy sector and the climate and nature emergencies

The following amendments have been selected: amendment 1 in the name of Darren Millar, and amendment 2 in the name of Lesley Griffiths. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected.

Item 6 on the agenda is the Plaid Cymru debate on the energy sector and the climate and nature emergencies, and I call on Delyth Jewell to move the motion.

Motion NDM7803 Siân Gwenllian

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Notes:

a) the Senedd’s declaration of both a climate emergency in 2019, and a nature emergency in 2021;

b) that the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will meet this Autumn to agree coordinated action to tackle climate change;

c) that the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will meet next spring to agree to a global biodiversity framework;

d) the Welsh Government’s target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050;

e) the Senedd’s belief that there should be parity of action to tackle both the climate and nature crisis (NDM7725);

f) the Senedd passed NDM7725 calling on the Welsh Government to introduce legally binding requirement to reverse biodiversity loss through statutory targets.

2. Calls on the Welsh Government to:

a) seek the full devolution of the management of the Crown Estate and its assets in Wales to the Welsh Government;

b) seek the full devolution of energy powers;

c) maximise Wales’s potential for renewable energy development by establishing a state-backed energy development company;

d) develop a net-zero workforce in Wales by facilitating cross-sector efforts to upskill workers in the energy sector;

e) facilitate the expansion of renewable power necessary to meet net-zero by investing heavily in upgrades to the Welsh electricity grid;

f) develop and implement a strategy for Welsh ports, and seek further UK Government funding of ports infrastructure in Wales to support the emerging offshore wind sector;

g) develop and implement a marine development plan to provide certainty to energy developers by guiding the citing of renewable developments away from the most ecologically sensitive areas.

Motion moved.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. Any emergency requires urgency in response. That is the message at the heart of our debate today, because an emergency is defined as requiring immediate action; it is what makes it an emergency. We in Wales have declared both nature and climate emergencies in recent years, but to date, enough action has not been taken to reinforce those declarations. I fear that waiting is not a luxury we can any longer afford. Wales and the world face climate and nature disaster, and just as these crises are intertwined and their causes interconnected, so too must their solutions be interwoven. We must have parity in approaches to tackling both of these crises, both climate change and biodiversity decline, because Dirprwy Lywydd, we stand at a turning point in human history. It's not often that we can truly say something of that magnitude, but it is true. The choices we make now or those we fail to make won't just set the scene for generations, they'll ensure whether or not that scene still exists.

COP15 opens this week and COP26 is on the horizon. Now, they offer the world a chance to turn the tide of climate change and biodiversity decline. The stakes are high, but many fear that the frameworks that will come out of COP could be a cop-out, a collective burying of heads in the sands of time at the very moment that those sands run out of the hourglass, and at the hour of destiny world leaders could fall short. But it needn't be that way, and Wales can help set the tone. Instead of waiting for COP26 and COP15 to conclude and take from those frameworks our own solutions, we could show the way and prove again how a country the size of Wales can be world leading.

I said that we can't afford to wait, but the declarations we've made and the conferences that await us afford us an opportunity to be radical, to be innovative and to be trailblazing, because urgency is required. The climate emergency is already hitting our communities hard. The Rhondda, Llanrwst, Ystrad Mynach—streets in almost every corner of our country have faced horrific floods. Homes and businesses have been destroyed, and the threat of landslips from unsafe coal tips looms over our heads. Wildfires and droughts have become commonplace, and temperatures that break new records and wreak destruction are set every year, inexorably rising like the seas at our feet.

Just as some things go up, so others go down. The decline in biodiversity on our planet is set to wipe out a million species. In Wales, the RSPB and other partners have warned us in their State of Nature 2019 report that 666 species in Wales are at threat from extinction, and 73 are already gone, a calamity we shouldn't just note and move on from. Those species have left us because of how we live our lives. Butterflies have declined by 52 per cent since 1976, and 30 per cent of terrestrial mammal species are at risk of disappearing from Wales altogether, like the red squirrel and water voles. Dirprwy Lywydd, the science is clear, and Wales is feeling the impacts of these co-existing crises, the one that charts forever upwards, the other that pulls us down into the depths of loss.

So, what can we do to change this? Well, the second part of our motion sets out a series of bold and ambitious actions that Wales can and must take in order to grapple with the severity of these crises. We call on the Government to maximise our nation's potential for renewable energy development by establishing a state-backed energy development company. We call for the development of a net-zero workforce in the energy sector, the expansion of renewable capacity through investment in upgrades to the electricity grid, a strategy for Welsh ports that would support the offshore wind sector, and a marine development plan that will provide certainty to energy developers and ensure that renewable developments don't get planned in the areas that are the most ecologically sensitive.

I said that we have resources at our disposal, but not all Welsh resources are under our control, which is why we furthermore call on the Welsh Government to seek the full devolution of the management of the Crown Estate and the full devolution of energy powers, to ensure we have all levers we need to tackle these crises head on.

Now, a lot of what we're talking about in this debate will be on a massive scale, global targets and pathways and plans that stretch decades into the future, but the impacts of Government inaction in these areas aren't only measured in graphs or numbers or pylons in the sky. People's lives on the ground are affected in a devastatingly personal way too. The recent energy crisis that we're still in the midst of has underlined our dependency on markets and resources that are outside our control, and how susceptible we are to their shocks. Customers face higher bills and the industry faces supply cuts and shut downs. Families least able to afford higher prices will be hit most harshly. The floods I mentioned earlier don't just devastate houses, they rip people's lives apart. That is the consequence of inaction.  

Dirprwy Lywydd, when we had our debate in June, which ended in the Senedd declaring a nature emergency, Mike Hedges said that so many beloved creatures known to us from children's books could soon disappear from our world. And I think that that image of storybooks is compelling. What storybooks, what history books, do we want our grandchildren to read declaring what we did in this moment, when so much could still be changed, if there is paper left to write on? Do we want the narrative to unravel, to trap future generations in a dystopia of scorched earth, depleted landscapes and ever-rising tides? Or do we want a page to be turned today, a chapter opened that will allow those children to tell a tale of triumph? The eyes of the future are on us today. Their destiny is in our hands. Let's start their stories now while we still can. 


I have selected the two amendments to the motion. If amendment 1 is agreed, amendment 2 will be deselected. I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move amendment 1, tabled in the name of Darren Millar. 

Amendment 1—Darren Millar

Delete point 2 and replace with:

Calls on the Welsh Government to:

a) work with the UK Government to deliver major energy projects for Wales;

b) welcome the fact that the UK Government has committed £90 million to innovative Welsh net-zero projects;

c) build on the fact that the UK Government and industry have committed to invest over £40 million to support the cluster of industries in south Wales to transition to net zero;

d) acknowledge that the UK Government has made available £4.8 million, subject to business case and other approvals, to support the development of the Holyhead hydrogen hub;

e) welcome the £100 million UK seafood fund designed to level up coastal communities across the UK, and work to implement rather than delay the creation of a freeport in Wales;

f) maximise the potential for renewable energy development by establishing a package of support for private investment in renewable energy schemes;

g) facilitate the growing dominance of renewable energy by placing greater urgency on ensuring that infrastructure can accommodate demand;

h) develop and implement a marine development plan;

i) create 15,000 new blue/green jobs.

Amendment 1 moved.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. I move this amendment in the name of Darren Millar, and I'm very grateful once again to Plaid Cymru for this important debate. Now, with COP15 under way, it is very appropriate that we ensure that our Welsh Government is doing its utmost to tackle the climate and, indeed, our nature crises. Across the Siambr, there is agreement on the need to achieve net zero by 2050 and to protect at least 30 per cent of land and sea by 2030. But where we differ is on how we go achieving those aims.

Plaid, of course, are true Welsh nationalists, seeking further devolution of powers and creation of a state-backed company, a new state-backed company, but why would you want this Welsh Government to do that when only a few weeks ago, when we were talking about the coal tips, they were looking to put that responsibility on the UK Parliament, saying we haven't got the resources here in Wales? [