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

Good afternoon, and welcome to this Plenary session. Before we begin, I want to set out a few points. This meeting will be held in 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 meeting, and these are set out on your agenda.

Before we start the meeting, and before any of you try and get in on being the first to congratulate the Welsh football team, let me the person to do that on our behalf, and to say to the football team, and the Football Association of Wales, how proud we all are as a Senedd of their tremendous success. [Applause.] And I can tell Members that I'm already looking into whether there's a conflict of timing between games and Plenary sessions in order to see how we can sort that out later on in the year. 

1. Questions to the First Minister

We'll move on to our first item this afternoon, which is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Darren Millar. 

Senedd Reform

1. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s position on Senedd reform? OQ58152

Llywydd, the Welsh Government will seek to implement the conclusions of the Senedd on this matter.

Thank you for that response. Of course, the conclusions of the Senedd committee tie in very well with the conclusions of the discussions between you and the leader of Plaid Cymru. And, of course, if those conclusions and recommendations are implemented, it will be the most significant shake-up to elections to the Senedd since it was founded back in 1999, scrapping the current system whereby 40 Members are elected on a first-past-the-post basis. Now, when such significant changes to voting systems have been presented in the past, they have been put to the public vote, for the public to have a say via a referendum. Back in 2011, when there was a proposal to scrap the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections, quite rightly, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, put that decision into the hands of the public via a referendum. Given that there was no specific mention of an increase in Members of the Senedd in your party's manifesto for the last Senedd election, do you accept that there is a need for the public to have a direct say on the package of proposals that is being put forward before this Senedd and will be debated tomorrow?

Llywydd, the public have already had their say. They elected Members to this Senedd in a sufficient number to bring about, as Darren Millar said, the greatest reform of the Senedd since its inception. Those of us who stood on manifestos in favour of reform look forward to taking this to a conclusion. 

I don't know what you were doing, First Minister, in 1973; I was in Dukestown Junior School in Tredegar. I'm not sure what Darren Millar was doing in 1973, but I'm sure he wasn't reading the report of Lord Kilbrandon, who reported at that time that Wales needed a Parliament of 100 members. Since then, we've had reports from Ivor Richard, from Laura McAllister, from everybody who's looked at these matters, and they've all come to the same conclusion. And yet, for most of, in fact all of Darren Millar's lifetime, the time has never been right. The reality is they stuff the House of Lords, as they have already today, with unelected peers. They put them straight in the UK Government without any democratic accountability, and they come here seeking a referendum, not because they believe it—and I don't believe any of them believe the nonsense they talk on these matters—but because they simply don't like Welsh democracy. Do you agree with me, First Minister?

Well, Llywydd, every nine months, the Prime Minister appoints more people to the House of Lords than we propose adding to the membership of the Senedd—every nine months. Where's the referendum on that, I wonder? 

Now, I agree entirely with what my colleague Alun Davies has said. You cannot find an independent report into the representation the people in Wales need in order to take the important decisions that are made here on their behalf that believes that 60 Members is a sufficient quantum to discharge those responsibilities. And that goes back to Kilbrandon and it goes back further than Kilbrandon, even to the 1950s and reports on what was then called the council for Wales. We have this opportunity; it doesn't come often. It's taken 20 years since the Richard review in order to find a moment where reform is possible. We must grasp it now, and those parties in this place who have an investment in making sure that Welsh democracy is able to deliver for people in Wales will, I think, gather round these proposals and want to see them succeed.

Green Spaces

2. What is the Welsh Government doing to encourage new green spaces in south-east Wales? OQ58154

Llywydd, I thank the Member for that question. Our Local Places for Nature programme has created over 300 green spaces across Wales in the last year alone. Twenty-two of them have been developed in Newport, including the work, which I know the Member will be familiar with, undertaken at the Pill community allotments.

Diolch, Brif Weinidog. Just over two years ago, I raised in this Chamber the terrible state of the infamous road to nowhere in my constituency—a piece of land that's been blighted by fly-tipping on an industrial scale, with 100 tonnes of rubbish stretching as far as they eye could see. I'm so glad to say that we've moved on since then, following some great work by Newport City Council and local volunteers. The land is now clear of the rubbish and is in fact being reclaimed by the community. Through the dedication and commitment of those local volunteers, particularly formidable campaigners Sue Colwill, Caroline Antoniou and Helena Antoniou, they are now transforming the road to nowhere into a road to nature. They're striving tirelessly to improve access ways and footpaths, working alongside the council and conservation groups, such as Buglife Cymru and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, to turn this area into a nature reserve that everyone can enjoy. This transformation embodies so much of what Welsh Government is striving to do in terms of biodiversity, the climate emergency and green spaces, but it has in no way been an easy process for those involved. So, how does the Welsh Government plan to ease the process in which local communities can reclaim land for green use, and will the First Minister join me on a visit to the road to nature, so he can see for himself the fantastic work being done, and to meet those dedicated volunteers?

Llywydd, I thank Jayne Bryant for that. I remember her contribution of that time ago, because, as I recall it, it was in the context of the new powers that were being provided to local authorities to tackle fly-tipping—proposals brought forward by my colleague Lesley Griffiths. And I know that, in turning the road to nowhere into a road to nature, those powers have been used by Newport council and by those local community activists who have done so much to transform what was a particular blight on the landscape of that part of Newport. I've seen pictures recently myself put up by the group of the transformation, showing what it was like before they started work, showing the fantastic green spaces that are being provided now, highlighting the work that the council is doing to provide greater access to the road, so people can now enjoy it. I'd be very pleased indeed to join Jayne Bryant on a visit to the site. And in thinking of her question about how we can make it easier for people to take part in these sorts of activities in the future, it seems to me that a very good place to start would be by learning from the people who've been involved in this scheme, hearing from them about any barriers that they may have faced, and ideas they will have for how that could be improved in the future. And I look forward to meeting them when that visit can be arranged.

I thank Jayne Bryant for raising this issue. Llywydd, whilst it's important that we create new green spaces for people to enjoy, it's also important that we protect and enhance existing green spaces too. Now, back in March of this year, revised plans were submitted for a large solar farm on the Gwent levels. This came after the original plans were rejected by the Welsh Government, due to their potential impact on the area, which is of course a site of special scientific interest. Llywydd, we all know that we need more sources of reliable renewable energy, but this mustn't come at any cost, and such developments should, as much as possible, work with nature and the environment rather than potentially being detrimental to them. First Minister, what action is the Welsh Government taking to ensure that new developments and infrastructure projects don't unnecessarily reduce the amount and accessibility of green space available to communities? And what consideration have Ministers given to strengthening planning rules to ensure developments are net contributors to the natural environment?


I thank Peter Fox for that additional question, Llywydd. I know that he's got expertise of his own; he was the leader of Monmouthshire County Council when the council created a solar farm, a scheme that the Welsh Government was very pleased to support. So, I know that he will have seen for himself the balance that has to be struck between renewable energy developments, which are absolutely necessary, and their impact on the local environment.

It is very good, Llywydd, to hear a voice on the Conservative benches here looking to preserve the environment of the Gwent levels. It's not always been the policy of that party, as we know. But, as you have seen, and Peter Fox pointed to that example, where there was a proposed development that the Minister felt did not weigh up properly the benefits and the disbenefits of it, she was prepared to take action and to prevent those developments from taking place. So, I give the Member an assurance that the Welsh Government continues always to weigh up those many factors, both the positive reasons why renewable energy developments could be given the go-ahead and also the impact that they have on the local environment and the need to strike that balance in each case.

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

Questions now from the party leaders. The leader of the Conservatives, Andrew R.T. Davies.

Thank you, Presiding Officer, and could I join you in congratulating the Welsh football team and the great prominence that will give Wales as a country on the international football stage, and wish the team well when the championships arrive? Obviously, hopefully, with planning, you can make sure there are no clashes with Plenary business, especially at the end of November in particular.

First Minister, two weekends ago, we saw traffic chaos and travel chaos here in south Wales with the Ed Sheeran event, and My Chemical Romance, which is a group, I'm told, rather than a night out in Cardiff on my part. Whilst we welcome all this activity here in south Wales, because Cardiff has truly become a destination city, the traffic and travel chaos that we saw over that weekend really cannot be allowed to continue when major events happen in this part of Wales. Because it does happen at sporting events, and now we've seen it graphically amplified over the three days of the Ed Sheeran concerts. What analysis has the Welsh Government taken about what actions need to be taken to address these traffic bottlenecks so that we do not see this occur again?

I thank the Member for that question, and it's undoubtedly the case that the confluence of two major events in Cardiff and the start of the half-term holiday resulted in very high volumes of traffic all trying to arrive in Cardiff in a limited period of time. Whenever there is a major event in the city, there is a team of people who meet afterwards to review the experience and to see what more could be done to either mitigate the impact of those high volumes of traffic, or to provide additional services. Transport for Wales are currently in the process of loaning two trains from Northern Trains, in addition to the new CAF trains that are planned to enter service this summer, in order to allow them to provide that additional capacity when we have busy events and a confluence of different factors that lead to the sort of delays that we saw over that weekend.

First Minister, I'm glad you introduced Transport for Wales, because one of the main criticisms was the ability to get onto trains and the supplying of information for people queuing at Cardiff Central station. That is a pretty basic function of any transport operation and doesn't cost a huge sum of money. The flow of information is critical for passengers understanding why they're stuck in those bottlenecks. Do you accept that, on this occasion, Transport for Wales did fall short? We knew it was, obviously, the start of the spring bank holiday, we knew that two major events were taking place, and yet greater emphasis should have been provided on capacity, but also the supply of information for people attending the city, who had a very bad experience to say the least, and these experiences were amplified on the broadcast media right over the bank holiday weekend.

Llywydd, I make a distinction between the two points that the leader of the opposition has made. I think, on capacity, it is genuinely difficult to expect a train company, with fixed assets and a fixed pool of staff able to provide those services, to turn the tap on in a major way around any sort of event, and that's particularly true of train services. You simply can't magic trains out of the air for a couple of days; you've got to be able to afford them all year round, and you have to have staff that are competent and capable of providing a safe service. So, I think that is a genuine challenge and I don't think Transport for Wales can be criticised for the efforts they made to mobilise the resources at their disposal.

Where I do agree with the leader of the opposition is in relation to information. Anybody who has been stuck in any form of traffic event, whether that's at an airport or at a train station, knows that the one thing you need is good information about what is happening. And, even when that information is difficult and is going to tell you that you are going to be delayed or stuck or whatever, you would rather know what you are facing, rather than feel that there's nobody able to tell you what it is that is going on around you. So, that is an important point for Transport for Wales to take away from that event. While I don't expect them to be able to find capacity out of thin air, I do expect, when there are events of the sort that we saw, that every effort is made to make sure that people who are attempting to travel are kept as well informed as they can be.


I accept the point on capacity, First Minister, but it was a case that the trains that were planned to run, in many instances, didn't turn up at Cardiff Central station. So, I accept that you can't magic trains out of thin air, but the trains that were supposed to run didn't even turn up on the nights of the Ed Sheeran concerts, which exacerbated the problem when the other concert was held in the capital city.

But we also saw, over three nights, the gateway into south-east Wales and south-west Wales, the Brynglas tunnels, do their usual trick of putting 'closed for business', because the traffic was piled up beyond the Severn bridge. Now, we have a policy difference here, First Minister. I believe that there should be a relief road built; you do not. I accept that you're the Government and that's your decision, and that's an argument that has passed us by now, but what cannot be allowed to continue, as we all want to see Cardiff capital city being a city that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the major cities and destinations of Europe, is that traffic cannot be brought to a standstill when major events are on. Do you believe that there needs to be a revision of your transport strategy, so that we can cater for these peak demand moments that obviously affect the freight industry, affect people going on holiday and people going about their everyday lives, because we cannot have the 'closed for business' sign over the gateway to south Wales?

Llywydd, the leader of the opposition will, I know, understand that even if a decision had been made to go ahead with an M4 relief road, it would have made absolutely no difference at all over the last weekend, because it would, even from today, be another five years before such a road could be opened. So, it's not a solution to the problem that he has identified. Where the real solution comes is through the UK Government's union connectivity review. So, what I am looking forward to is the next stage of that review. The UK Government has provided money for the next stage, the development stage, of the review. He will know that Sir Peter Hendy said that this was one of the schemes that fitted, more than almost any other scheme that he had seen, within the criteria set down by the UK Government for investment in transport infrastructure that would assist travel through the different component countries of the United Kingdom. And, if we can get the union connectivity review to put that investment into the second line—the line that is there alongside the current mainline—that will allow for far more services to be run on the railways between south Wales and on past Bristol into the rest of England. Had that been available over last weekend, then I think it would have made a genuinely material difference, and I look forward to the UK Government finding the money to go alongside the report that it itself has commissioned.

Thank you very much. This Sunday evening, some of us, such as the Llywydd, who had the incredible privilege of being there, but also the millions who were viewing on television, will have seen history being written, not only for Welsh football, but also on a broader level for the whole of Wales. So, First Minister, what to you think the legacy of reaching the World Cup for only the second time in our history will have in terms of our confidence as a nation? And doesn't it prove that with that sort of commitment and unity—the unity of the team, the staff, the supporters, all together—we can achieve anything as a nation when we focus our minds, our feet and perhaps, in the case of Wayne Hennessey, our hands too? But isn't Wales not only 'yma o hyd', still here, but, in terms of this generation, ready and confident that they can succeed on any stage, nationally or internationally?


I thank Adam Price for that question. It was a privilege to be present in the stadium on Sunday evening, and the feeling in the stadium was so strong behind the Welsh team. But not just for the Welsh team, the respect that people showed towards the people who were there to support Ukraine as well, that was something that struck me while I was sitting in the stands in the stadium. Where I was sitting and around me, what people were talking about was not just football—of course, football was very important—but what the team and the success of the team said about Wales today and the confidence they had. And we know that, over the years, as a nation, we have suffered from lack of confidence sometimes in our future, and our capacity to make decisions on things that are important to the people of Wales. And we've seen time and time again teams just on the boundary of reaching the world stage and then, at the final hurdle, just falling short. That's the important thing that people were talking about in the stadium: the football, of course, but the message that the team and everything that was happening there were giving to people, particularly young people, people who are growing up in Wales today. People were referring to the young people in the team, people who have come through and who are playing for Wales, and that's the stage that's important to us: the World Cup stage of course, but a broader stage than that to build that confidence in the people of Wales for the future and in terms of what we can do when we work together.

I think the fact that, even on this momentous occasion, the first thing the Welsh players did was to comfort the Ukrainian players and to applaud the Ukrainian supporters, I think was an encapsulation of the best of our Welsh values of compassion and internationalism.

The chief executive, Noel Mooney, if we could only bottle that Celtic energy, would be more popular than Guinness. He said that they're not just the football association, they're a movement, and in so many ways, they embody the values of the Wales we want to see: modern, bilingual, creative, inclusive. So, how can we use the World Cup, with its unparalleled global audience, to project that image of that Wales? The FAW have a lot on their plate, don't they, not least a few games they want to win this week? So, will the Welsh Government be setting up a team with people from across different sectors to exploit this fantastic opportunity for Wales? The FAW had their first meeting to plan for Qatar at 9.00 p.m on Sunday evening, and another one at breakfast the next morning. Can we show the same sense of urgency and commitment as them at the national level to maximise this opportunity?

Well, Llywydd, I'd like to just use the opening Adam Price has offered to pay tribute again to the team from Ukraine and their supporters in the ground. When you think of the background to that game, they were fantastically committed. The team never gave up, right to the very end to the game, and you could see just how much it mattered to them as well. I thought they were an absolute credit to their country.

And we should pay some tribute to the FAW too, under the leadership of Noel Mooney. It is an organisation transformed. The things that Adam Price just said about the FAW, you would not always have been able to say those things of it during its history, could you? But, under its new chief executive, the Football Association of Wales does see itself as playing a different part in the public life of Wales than simply running football teams. And the things that you will have heard him say—and you and I had an opportunity to discuss some of those things with him on Sunday night—I think absolutely does demonstrate an organisation that has captured the zeitgeist, that understands that this is a moment for them in which they can help embody a series of important values about the sort of Wales that we would all wish to see. And, of course, we will, as a Government, be working alongside them and with them to make sure that we maximise the opportunity that Wales's exposure on that national stage—. A first game against the USA—you know, I seem to remember President Trump saying that if Joe Biden were to win the presidential election, the USA would end up looking like Wales. I thought it played a significant part in Joe Biden's triumph in that election myself. [Laughter.] But now, we'll have an opportunity to show people across the USA just what Wales has to offer.


Football has given Wales this incredible opportunity. There is huge potential here to inspire, connect people, change lives, transform communities, build the nation, but we have to invest, don't we, to make the most of that. There will be a massive rise of interest in football among boys and girls—and we need to support the women's team to reach the FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year also—and we need to make the most of this sporting dividend, which is, of course, a health and well-being dividend, both physical and mental. In my own home town of Ammanford, it's the football club that is at the heart of mental well-being outreach following the tragic loss of one of its team members. So, how are we going to invest, as a nation, in the physical infrastructure, in the social infrastructure of clubs, so that we can make sure that this World Cup leaves a legacy not just in Qatar, we hope, in workers and human rights there, but also in every community in Wales and for generations to come?

Well, Llywydd, Adam Price touched on an issue there that we should not duck, should we? You know, we are absolutely delighted that Wales will be represented at Qatar, but we should not look the other way from the reservations that we would have as a nation from some of those human rights issues that we see there. And when my colleague Vaughan Gething was in Qatar in May, he took the opportunity, as he set out in his written statement to the Senedd, to raise those human rights issues directly with Qatari authorities in the context of the World Cup, and we must, ourselves, make sure that those opportunities are not missed while the eyes of the world are on that country.

Here, one of the things that—. As I sat next to the chief executive during the game, there was a man who had a £3 million cheque riding on the result of the game. He knew that if Wales proceeded to the next stage, then part of the way that the World Cup is organised is that £3 million would arrive with the FAW, and he said to me that he was determined that £2 million of that £3 million would be invested in grass-roots football and grass-roots facilities here in Wales. He was absolutely explicit in saying to me that while, of course, that shop window of football in Wales is what we were all watching, what really matters to him and to the FAW is the health of the game at that grass-roots level. It's why the Welsh Government, through Sport Wales, has invested £24 million in recent times in facilities for grass-roots sport in Wales. I very much agree with Adam Price that what we hope to get out of the sort of coverage and exposure that there will be of the World Cup is inspiration to young people to be out there playing football themselves, or taking part in whatever sport they find suits their aptitudes and abilities, and the Welsh Government will be there trying to make sure that we play our part in maximising those opportunities.

The Inclusion of Transgender People in Sport

3. What discussions has the Welsh Government had with UK sports councils regarding the inclusion of transgender people in sport? OQ58150

Llywydd, Sport Wales was established by royal charter on 4 February 1972. Since 1999, it, rather than UK bodies, has been responsible for inclusion policy in sport in Wales. The council nevertheless works with other sports organisations and, together, published joint advice on transgender inclusion in domestic sport in September of last year.


First Minister, I feel the need to be clear, and I think it's important that I make it clear, that protecting women's rights does not for one moment mean that you're anti trans rights. Female competitors deserve the same rights as male competitors. We all know the huge benefits that sports can offer, and we all, I'm sure, want to ensure trans athletes can participate in sport. But what we don't want is a situation where we're trying to be so inclusive that it is to the detriment of a particular group. We have a situation where women athletes are so disheartened that they are pulling out of their own female categories because they say that trans women taking part in a female category have a male puberty advantage. Welsh Conservatives are looking at ways that we can help ensure that every athlete can compete, looking at ways that we can work with sporting bodies across the board, and looking at creating an open category to ensure fairness, inclusivity and safety across the board. I'm sure that we'll agree above all that it is of paramount importance that we ensure fairness in sport. It is fundamental to sport. First Minister, do you believe that trans athletes should compete in female sports? However you feel on this issue, to resolve it, it is fundamental that one can define a woman. So, First Minister, can you do something that many other Labour politicians have failed to do so far, which is define a woman?

My starting point is the same as Penny Mordaunt's—the UK Minister responsible at the time—who said that the UK Government's starting point was that transgender women are women. That's my starting point in this debate. It is a difficult area where people feel very strongly on different sides of an argument, and an argument that divides people who agree on most other things. What I say to the Member is that in such a potentially divisive issue, the responsibility of elected representatives is not to stand on the certainties of their own convictions, but instead to work hard to look for opportunities for dialogue, to find ways of promoting understanding rather than conflict, and to demonstrate respect rather than to look for exclusion. I do not understand the point that the Member makes—that you can be too inclusive. To me, inclusivity is absolutely what we should be aiming for here. The way to resolve those challenging issues that she's identified—and I've got no objection at all to her identifying them—is not to assume that because we ourselves may have strong views, that allows us to cast doubt on the sincerity of views held strongly by others. It's only by dialogue and by understanding that you can reach a conclusion to the sorts of questions the Member has raised.

Child Protection Plans

4. What steps is the Government taking to support local authorities with the growing number of children who are subject to a child protection plan? OQ58156

We're providing additional funding to local authorities to safely divert cases from the child protection register using procedures that were developed in partnership with safeguarding boards. The Welsh Government works closely with those regional partnership boards, and with local authorities themselves, to strengthen and improve safeguarding practices across Wales.

Diolch, Brif Weinidog. I want to state firstly my thanks to all of those working in social services and social care who have worked, and continue to work, tirelessly to protect the most vulnerable in our society, especially throughout the pandemic. But I do want to raise again the need, in my view, for an independent inquiry following the terrible, tragic death of Logan Mwangi, looking at our children's social services across Wales. This is happening in England, following the terrible deaths of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and one-year-old Star Hobson. The author of the independent inquiry in England has said that failure to tackle major problems in children's services would lead to record numbers of youngsters entering care. As you will know, there are more children in care in Wales than in England or Scotland, and children in Wales are more likely to enter care than their counterparts in England or Scotland. Could I ask you, First Minister, to consider that children and families in Wales, and the workforce, deserve the detailed consideration that has been afforded in Scotland and in England through an independent inquiry? Diolch yn fawr iawn.


I thank the Member for that important question. She makes a series of points that absolutely deserve to be thought through carefully. I've said many, many times on the floor of the Senedd that the rate at which children are taken away from their families in Wales is unsustainable and that the gap between the rate at which children in Wales are taken into public care continues to accelerate away from the rate in other parts of the United Kingdom. The result is, and this is the reason why it is unsustainable, that local authorities find all the money they have for children's services taken up in looking after children who they have now direct responsibility for and nothing left to help families through difficult times where a bit of investment in preventative work could have helped those families to stay together.

On the specific issue of another inquiry, I certainly don't think this is the moment to commission such an inquiry. In the case that the Member highlighted from Bridgend, the serious case review is still to report. There are other cases in Wales before the courts still where court hearings are yet to be concluded. So, I don't think this is the moment to make a decision about an inquiry of the sort that Jane Dodds has advocated, and I think there would be other important questions that we would need to think through as well.

Are we short of advice, Llywydd? In 2018, we had the care crisis review here in Wales. In 2019, we had the Nuffield Foundation's 'Born into care Wales' report. In 2020, we had the public law working group's report into the way that public law proceedings can be improved in Wales. Last year, we had the legacy report of the improving outcomes for children ministerial advisory group chaired by David Melding, and this year we've continued to receive the thematic reports of the Wales Centre for Public Policy into looked-after children. This is not an area where anybody could argue that we are short of independent advice that has looked across the whole practice landscape here in Wales.

Are we confident, Llywydd, about what we might learn from the huge effort that would have to go into an inquiry of the sort that would do justice to the points that Jane Dodds has raised? We know we have to tackle issues of recruitment and retention in this workforce. We know that we have to invest in prevention and de-escalation in the system. We know that regional working is an important component in the answer to the challenges that children's services face today. So, I think it is incumbent on people who argue for a public inquiry to articulate where they think the gaps in our knowledge are to be found and where they think we would learn something that we don't already know about the challenge facing those services and the answers that have already been devised to meet those challenges.

First Minister, we saw a massive rise in the number of children on a protection register even before the pandemic, so Lord only knows what the situation is truly like now. Because we know that social services are under tremendous strain, short staffed and overworked, we simply don't know what's being missed or who's being missed. We do know that children's social care in Wales is in crisis. Those are not my words, but the words of Professor Donald Forrester, director of CASCADE and an expert in the field. He and many other colleagues, alongside us in the Chamber, are calling for an urgent review of children's social services. So, First Minister, will you now listen to the advice and heed the calls for a full independent review of children's social care in Wales, just like every other nation is doing? England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are all doing it. Because we can't keep burying our heads in the sand and doing nothing until another child dies of abuse or neglect. Thank you.

Had the Member been listening to my previous answer, he would have heard the answer to his question. If we are to have an inquiry, then it would be helpful, wouldn't it, to establish some basic accuracy in the facts that people put forward. It is simply not the case, Llywydd, as the Member suggested, that the number of children on child protection registers was growing in Wales in the period prior to the pandemic. In fact, the opposite is actually the truth. It would help a little, wouldn't it, if people took the trouble to establish a few basic facts before they offered us their opinions, because the numbers were reducing, not growing. That is the fact of the matter. Numbers have recovered post pandemic to where they were before the pandemic began. So, when Jane Dodds referred to the growing number of children who are subject to a child protection plan, she was referring to a recovery in those numbers. The number is not above today where it was prior to the pandemic. So, if we're going to have an inquiry, then I think a bit more light and a little bit less heat would probably assist in making it a worthwhile exercise.

Welsh-based Journalism

5. How is the Welsh Government working with media outlets to promote Welsh-based journalism? OQ58153

I thank John Griffiths for that question, Llywydd. Amongst the actions taken to promote Welsh-based journalism is a commitment to provide financial support to public interest journalism. That support will continue over three financial years, as confirmed in the co-operation agreement.

First Minister, last week was the 130-year anniversary of the South Wales Argus, a paper that's long been rooted in our local communities. As with many local people, the South Wales Argus was always in my house when I was growing up, and in fact, in my early teens I delivered the South Wales Argus on my bike as a paperboy. And now, of course, as a Member of the Senedd, it's still a vital organisation for me to engage with. First Minister, it's obviously very, very important for Wales, for life in Wales, for our communities here and indeed for our developing democracy that we have a thriving national, regional and local media in Wales, helping to inform people what's going on, including informing them of Welsh Government policies and action and engaging them with our democracy. I think the pandemic highlighted the value of our media in Wales when it was so important for people to understand the particular policies and measures of Welsh Government in combating the pandemic in our country. First Minister, given this importance, and given that we all want to see a thriving media in Wales, will you pledge to continue working with the media in our country, including local newspapers, so that they can continue to play this vital role long into the future?

I thank John Griffiths for that, Llywydd. I was very pleased to be able to send a message of congratulations to the South Wales Argus a week or so ago on its hundred-and-thirtieth birthday. John Griffiths is right, Llywydd, that the appetite for news about Wales and decisions being made in Wales was undoubtedly lifted by the experience of the pandemic. The Welsh Government has carried out over 250 press conferences during that period, 200 of them carried live by the BBC, and over 50 organisations have taken part to ask questions of Ministers during that period. John Griffiths is right—the span of interest in Wales went from questions from CNN for a global audience at the one end of the spectrum to questions from the Caerphilly Observer and Llanelli Live at the other end of the spectrum. Investment in grass-roots public interest journalism is very important to create a pipeline of journalists for the future.

It's always a slightly tricky thing, isn't it, for Government to invest in journalism. I'm always reminded of what the famous American journalist H.L. Mencken said—that the relationship between a journalist and a politician is the same as the relationship between a dog and a lamppost. And there's a good reason for that, isn't there? We want journalists to be separate from the political world. There is a way, and we are finding the right way, to make the sorts of investments that John Griffiths mentioned to be able to put investment into those grass roots without in any way compromising the capacity of journalists and news agencies here in Wales to carry out the job of scrutiny and, where necessary, criticism that they quite rightly fulfil.


I want to very much echo the comments of the Member for Newport East—Welsh-based journalism and Welsh language journalism can play a critical role in delivering our fantastic language to a really important audience, especially in our rural communities. Having started my professional career as a journalist working for local newspapers—and I'm not sure if I'm now the dog or the lamppost—I've seen first-hand the importance of BBC's local democracy reporting service, a public service news agency funded by the BBC and provided by the local news sector. Its reporting delves into our communities and ensures that local stories are given the attention they deserve.

However, the LDR service does not explicitly fund any full-time Welsh-medium journalism positions, although stories that are written by democracy reporters are shared with media outlets that have signed up to be part of the local news partnership scheme. Records show that there are 21 organisations that currently publish in excess of 70 individual titles for Wales-based audiences. Of those 70, only one is a Welsh-medium service. Given this, how are you, First Minister, encouraging Welsh language news outlets to sign up to the BBC's local news partnership scheme? Diolch, Llywydd.

Well, can I thank Sam Kurtz for that, because he makes very important points about the significance of Welsh language journalism? And the Welsh Government does, again, invest directly in this area in a way that is justified by the language component of it. So, the Welsh books council has a ring-fenced budget that funds Golwg360, Corgi Cymru and other news outlets.

The changing nature of Welsh-medium education in Wales actually, I think, will support a revival of Welsh-medium reporting here in Wales as well, as young people emerge from Welsh education with a capacity to read the language and to receive information through the language that maybe wasn't true even 20 years ago, and therefore that there will be a commercial as well as a cultural imperative to do that. And certainly it is part of our motivation in wanting to invest in these areas to make sure that we have a future of young, digitally skilled, inquisitive young journalists with an accurate grasp of devolution and who are able to operate fully in a genuinely bilingual environment.

Integrated Public and Community Transport

6. What support does the Welsh Government provide to deliver integrated public and community transport in the Ogmore constituency which meets the needs of transport-poor constituents? OQ58117

Can I thank Huw Irranca-Davies, Llywydd? Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked closely with the bus industry to keep services running, providing £130 million of additional funding to prevent communities from becoming isolated.

And that funding has indeed helped but, even before the pandemic, we'd had a decade of austerity that had impacted on local authorities and had impacted on cuts in services, including subsidised bus services. We're looking forward to the reforms that will give control back to people, I have to say—local communities and regions—to take control of co-ordinated bus services and wider public transport within their areas. But my question is about the here and now. We look to excellent initiatives like the Fflecsi bus schemes—community transport are involved in some of those. But what we fail to see is that joined-up-ness right at this moment. So, I have a direct question and ask of the First Minister—and I notice his colleague here, the Minister, is sitting right next to me—and it's whether he and his Minister would be willing to sit down with me and officials from Bridgend as well to look at how we can pull the very best of what's currently available so we can join this up, so we don't have hilltops like Maesteg park, remote Valleys communities, such as Pont-y-rhyl and others, who are isolated because of the cuts we've seen over the last decade and more, where we can really make sure that everybody who wants to get to see their friends, wants to get to the shops, to the surgery and so on can do so. What can we do right now? Could you help us with that?

Well, I thank Huw Irranca-Davies for that, Llywydd. He's right that the long-term answer—and by 'long term' I mean during this Senedd term—is the radical reform of bus services that we will bring forward through the bus Bill, to reverse those 30 and more years of marketisation in the bus industry, which has left communities of the sort that Huw Irranca-Davies has referred to without a service because there isn't a commercial case for doing so. And yet millions of pounds of public money is put into the bus service every year here in Wales. I hope I'm not anticipating an announcement that my colleague was about to make, but on top of the £130 million that we have provided to sustain bus services during the pandemic, I know that my colleague has agreed a further £43 million to go on sustaining those bus services over the rest of this calendar year, and that does give an opportunity to do what the Member for Ogmore has suggested. I know that Bridgend County Borough Council has been one of those councils where reductions in funding from the UK Government has constrained their ability to sustain those community services, but now, with a new Labour-controlled authority in Bridgend, it will be a very good moment to meet and to discuss with the local authority how that investment that we will provide can go on making a difference to the places that the Member has highlighted this afternoon.

Mental Health Services

7. How is the Welsh Government working with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board to improve mental health services? OQ58134

I thank Heledd Fychan. Llywydd, we continue to provide significant and sustained funding to support mental health services across Wales. Over and above its core mental health funding, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board will receive an additional £3.3 million of recurrent service funding this year to invest in improved mental health provision.

Lots of chatting going on behind the First Minister. If we can have a bit of silence for the First Minister, especially from his own Members. Heledd Fychan.

Thank you, First Minister. I'm sure you'll be aware that Healthcare Inspectorate Wales is currently conducting a review focusing and assessing the quality and safety of discharge arrangements for adult patients back into the community from inpatient mental health units within Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board. This follows a number of sad cases that have been reported in the media, such as the case of Lowri Miller, who died the day after her release from mental health care at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. And also, of course, the case of Zara Anne Radcliffe, who killed John Rees in a shop in Penygraig in May 2020 while suffering from schizophrenia, the same day that her father begged the health and social services board to support her and to take her to hospital.

Many other similar cases of people dying following discharge have come through my office as casework, and what's most concerning is, following the review in 2019 from Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales, that 14 recommendations made at that time remain open. I also know of people who need emergency treatment being told that there is no capacity for this, with specialists urging people to go private because, and this is a quote I received this morning from a patient who was told by a doctor—

'The NHS isn't fit for purpose and people are dying waiting for treatment.'

That's a doctor telling a patient to go private, and speaking those words. Is any consideration being given to placing Cwm Taf Morgannwg into special measures? And if no such consideration is being given, will you commit to look at this further as a Government?

Well, we already have a system, Llywydd. When we look into what's going on in any health board, three bodies come together to provide advice to the Minister, and they can provide advice on all of the boards or they can say that we need to provide support for any board working in any area or any part of the health service. I haven't seen anything from the people coming together to advise us to do what Heledd Fychan is suggesting.

As I said, Llywydd, in the original answer, we as a Government provide more funding, as well as everything else the board gets, and the funding they get for their mental health service—£3.3 million in this year, and in the next year, and in the year after that as well—to invest in better mental health provision. By doing that, of course we will be looking to the board to do more and to develop services in the community that help people with mental health problems and to help them to do everything they need to do in their everyday lives without the need to have more services within hospitals. 

Plas Menai

8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the future of Plas Menai outdoor centre in Arfon? OQ58141

Thank you very much, Siân Gwenllian. Llywydd, it is the responsibility of Sport Wales to manage Plas Menai, the National Outdoor Centre. Its future should be built on the strong reputation of the centre, providing thriving outdoor adventure all year round. It should also secure more local jobs and a greater impact on the local economy through that process.

I have raised concerns about proposed changes for Plas Menai with the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport. The process currently ongoing could lead to the privatisation of the centre, and there is concern that that would have a negative impact on the working conditions of the staff, the facilities available to local people and an impact on the Welsh language too. Will you join with me in sending a clear message to Sport Wales, stating that the whole process currently ongoing should be paused in order to agree on a way forward that would improve the centre but would also safeguard the crucial contribution of Plas Menai to the local community and the local economy?

Well, Llywydd, let me be clear: the Welsh Government does not support the privatisation of this important asset. We want to see the centre developing in the way that I've described, moving beyond the seasonal use that focuses mainly on water activity. And, in doing that, I and the Minister expect the development to be discussed carefully with the local workforce and the ownership of the centre to be kept for the public in Wales. 

2. Business Statement and Announcement

The next item is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the Trefnydd to make that statement. Lesley Griffiths. 

Lesley Griffiths MS 14:27:45
Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

Diolch, Llywydd. I've one change to today's agenda. Instead of a statement on COVID-19, the Minister for Health and Social Services will make a statement to update Members on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. Draft business for the next three weeks is set out on the business statement and announcement, which can be found amongst the meeting papers available to Members electronically. 

Minister, may I ask for a statement from the Welsh Government about the Future Valleys consortium and its contract regarding works to complete improvements to the A465 Heads of the Valleys road? In November 2020 your Government confirmed that the Future Valleys consortium had been awarded the contract to take forward improvements to sections 5 and 6 of the A465 Heads of the Valleys road, following its appointment as the preferred bidder five months earlier. It is now reported that one of the directors of the Future Valleys consortium was formerly finance director of Dawnus Construction, a firm that collapsed in 2019, with debts of nearly £50 million.

As well as the hundreds of private contractors from Wales and throughout the UK who were affected by the collapse, some public sector bodies have now lost out, including Powys County Council, which lost £1.3 million, and your own Government, which lost £0.5 million. Legitimate concerns have been raised regarding this appointment, which has resulted in someone involved in one of the biggest corporate failures in Wales now monitoring the expenditure of millions of pounds of public money on a major infrastructure project. Therefore, can we have a statement from the Minister about the appointment process that brought about this situation in the interest of transparency and accountability right here in Wales? Thank you, Minister.

Well, I don't think this is anything to do with a lack of transparency. I'm aware that information was gleaned via the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and I don't think that should be viewed as non-transparent at all. Obviously, Welsh Ministers have worked very closely and have invested equity via the Development Bank of Wales into the A465, and the investment is a key pillar, really, of our efforts to ensure schemes promote the public interest, particularly mutual investment model schemes. 

We are, Minister, this month, marking the fortieth anniversary of the war in the Falklands. And it's important, I think, that, as a Parliament, we recognise the contribution of Welsh servicemen and women in that campaign. I met recently with the Government of the Falkland islands, along with our Conservative colleague Darren Millar, and we spoke there about the contribution and the links between the Falkland islands and Wales. The British Legion in Ebbw Vale will be laying a wreath to remember those who were lost recovering the Falklands, and I'm sure, in communities up and down Wales and elsewhere, other wreaths will be laid to ensure that we do not forget the sacrifice and the loss of people who helped recover the Falklands. 

Would it be possible, Minister, for the Government to ensure that we have time here in this place to remember the Falklands campaign, and to mark the fortieth anniversary of it? I think many of us will want to join Ministers and others at the service in Llandaff cathedral, but, at the same time, as a Parliament, it is important that we mark this anniversary and we remember the sacrifice of people who were lost.


I think Alun Davies raises a very important point, and the Welsh Government has been working with partners right across the armed forces sector to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Falklands conflict, and, of course, recognise the sacrifices that were made by many Welsh service personnel. I know—I think it was last Sunday—that the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership took part in a Falklands 40 anniversary bike ride. That started at the Falklands memorial at Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff, and a group of veterans are making their way by bike, over eight days, to Aldershot, in tribute to all those who served in the conflict. 

Alun Davies mentioned the service that will be held at Llandaff cathedral. The First Minister will lead the Wales Falklands 40 service there, and I know, again, the Deputy Minister is attending the Royal British Legion Falklands 40 service at the National Memorial Arboretum.

In my own constituency of Wrexham, we're having a Welsh Guards memorial service and reunion to mark Falklands 40, and I know that wreaths will also be laid in the Falkland islands on behalf of the First Minister during upcoming services of remembrance. 

Could I call for a single statement, on rail services in north-east Wales? I don't know whether you read in our local press last Saturday reporting of the Wrexham-Bidston Rail Users' Association saying that Transport for Wales appears incapable of providing passengers with a reliable service, that they were operating a reduced service last Saturday on the Borderlands line running from Wrexham, Shotton and Bidston on to the Wirral, with the usual hourly service reduced, with direct trains running at two-hour intervals, and Transport for Wales's own journey planner website making no mention of that day's reduced service, and regular commuters going to catch their usual trains finding that they're not operating.

In fact, the users' association contacted me afterwards and said that the reduced service is also now being shown on the line on Sunday, and there's an intimation on social media that 150s from the Wrexham-Bidston and Conwy Valley lines have been redeployed to south Wales because of the football match in Cardiff. Quote: 'The Wrexham-Bidston line service continues to be perceived in the communities it serves as unreliable, and most of the long-promised service improvements have yet to be realised. This is not the sort of service your constituents should expect from Transport for Wales. Any assistance you could give to seek immediate and sustained improvement to passenger information and service reliability, through the Senedd, would be greatly appreciated.'

So, I call for a statement from the Minister for Climate Change, or her deputy, to explain what happened and to answer the concerns raised by the rail users' association regarding the service last weekend again being faced with such circumstances. 

Thank you. Well, you will have heard the First Minister saying in answer to Andrew R.T. Davies that there had been some disruption in relation to Transport for Wales. And I agree with what the First Minister said around a lack of information. It doesn't cost much to make sure that information is out, and I think Transport for Wales will be able to learn from the lack of information that they gave to passengers over the weekend. I should just say that Transport for Wales, they're the first operator—they're the only operator, actually, in the whole of the UK—to restore their full pre-COVID level of services, and I think they deserve recognition for doing that. But, unfortunately, we have seen some disruption, not just in north-east Wales, but across all parts of Wales over the past few days. 


Good afternoon, Trefnydd. To continue the transport theme, could I please request a statement from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change on discussions in relation to the renewal of the north-south air link? I understand that the value of the contract with Eastern Airways totalled almost £3 million between 2018 and 2021; subsidy ended up being about £142 per passenger in 2019. I'm aware that the contract for the north-south air link is due for renewal in 2023. And obviously, the public subsidy comes on top of our commitment to climate change and the need for a reduction in air travel, particularly short-haul flights. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Thank you. There will be a Welsh Government statement before the summer recess.

Trefnydd, can I ask for two statements from the Welsh Government this afternoon? Firstly, I'd be grateful if the Minister for Health and Social Services could bring forward a statement on ophthalmology services, following an increase in representations that I've received from people waiting urgently for treatment. Some of those patients have wet macular degeneration and, while there is no cure, it can be treated of course with eye injections to try to protect their remaining sight. However, these injections must be given, of course, in a timely manner, and, sadly, that's not the case at the moment. So, I would be grateful if you could encourage the Minister for Health and Social Services to bring forward a statement on the matter as soon as possible, telling us what measures the Welsh Government are now taking to address this issue.

Secondly, can I also request a statement from the Deputy Minister for Climate Change on speed reduction schemes across Wales? The Welsh Government initially committed to reducing the speed limit on the A40 in Scleddau in my constituency at some point in this financial year. However, I've now received a worrying response to a written question, confirming that current capital budget allocations for trunk road network operations in 2022-23 require all projects to be re-evaluated. Now, I did raise this with the finance Minister, who didn't comment specifically on this matter. And so, in light of that lack of clarity on this, could you implore the Deputy Minister for Climate Change to bring forward a statement on speed reduction schemes across Wales, so Members can understand exactly when many of these schemes will now take place?

Thank you. In response to your first question around ophthalmology services—and, particularly, you mentioned wet macular degeneration—obviously, it's a matter for the health board to ensure that treatments are given in a timely manner. I absolutely recognise the importance of that.

I will certainly ask the Deputy Minister for Climate Change, if he has any further information he is able to give you on top of the answer to your written question, to write to you.FootnoteLink

Minister, I wanted to raise the issue of the length of time it takes for replies from Ministers in terms of receiving correspondence back from Members of the Senedd when they write to them. Some Ministers reply in a very timely manner, other Ministers do not, and I give the example of the Minister for Climate Change. I sent a correspondence via e-mail in January, and I've yet to receive a reply, despite sending chase e-mails in February, March, April and again last week. Can I ask, Minister, what do you believe is a reasonable timeframe in which correspondence should be received back from Ministers to correspondence from Members? And can I also ask, Minister, if you would discuss this matter with your colleagues to ensure that Ministers do indeed send timely responses to Members of this Chamber?

I think you raise a very important point, and, clearly, not having a response from January is unacceptable. It's the biggest portfolio, obviously, in Government; however, I do absolutely accept your point, particularly if you have chased it up. I personally—. I think it's 17 working days at the moment, and I think that is about the correct time. However, I also appreciate it depends how detailed and how complex some of the responses have to be, and they can take a little longer. But I go back to what I was saying before, just a holding note is helpful, I think, so I will certainly raise this, both with my ministerial colleagues but also with the Permanent Secretary.

3. Statement by the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership: The Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill

The next item, therefore, is item 3, a statement by the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership on the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. And I call on the Deputy Minister to make that statement—Hannah Blythyn.

Thank you, Llywydd. On behalf of the Welsh Government, it's a pleasure to present the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill today. In doing so, I'd like to thank all our social partners—employers in the public and private sectors, and the trade unions in Wales—for all of their contributions to the work of developing this important legislation.


The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Rees) took the Chair.

The Bill fulfills a key programme for government commitment to place social partnership on a statutory footing in Wales. It provides for a framework to enhance the well-being of the people of Wales, including by improving public services and through social partnership working, promoting fair work and carrying out socially responsible public procurement. 

The Bill establishes a social partnership council for Wales, bringing together Government, employers and worker representatives nominated by the Wales Trades Union Congress. The function of the council will be to provide information and advice to the Welsh Ministers in relation to the social partnership duties, the pursuit of the 'a prosperous Wales' well-being goal by public bodies and the socially responsible public procurement duties. The legislation also provides for a public procurement sub-group of the social partnership council to be established.

The Bill places a new social partnership duty on certain public bodies and on Welsh Ministers. Certain public bodies will be required to seek consensus or compromise with their recognised trade unions, or, where there is no recognised trade union, other representatives of their staff, when setting their well-being objectives and delivering on those objectives under section 3(2) of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. This duty goes beyond a simple requirement to consult. Through it, we expect public bodies to be actively engaged with their recognised trade unions or other staff representatives as genuine partners in the setting and pursuit of their well-being objectives. Welsh Ministers will be placed under a separate duty to consult social partners, employers and worker representatives through the social partnership council when delivering on their well-being objectives under section 3(2)(b) of the 2015 Act.

The Bill amends section 4 of the well-being of future generations Act by replacing 'decent work' with 'fair work' within the existing 'a prosperous Wales' goal. Back in 2018, the Welsh Government established the Fair Work Commission to make recommendations to promote and encourage fair work. The commission’s report, 'Fair Work Wales', published in 2019, recommended that the actions by public bodies under the 2015 Act should incorporate fair work. 

The Bill also creates a duty for socially responsible public procurement. Almost £7 billion of public money is spent each year through procurement in Wales. Under the new duty, specified public bodies will be required to consider socially responsible public procurement when carrying out procurement, to set objectives in relation to well-being goals, and to publish a procurement strategy. Public bodies will also be required to carry out contract management duties to ensure that socially responsible outcomes are pursued through supply chains. Finally, the Bill imposes reporting duties on the relevant public bodies and Welsh Ministers in relation to the social partnership duty and socially responsible procurement duty.

As I said in my statement to the Senedd on 14 September last year, this Bill has been the subject of extensive consultation. Crucially, it has also been prepared in collaboration with our social partners. Through their help, wise counsel and occasional challenge, I am confident the Bill presented to the Senedd today is an ambitious yet practical step forward for social partnership in Wales, which will contribute significantly to the achievement of our well-being goals.

Social partnership is not new and is certainly not unique to Wales. However, social partnership has evolved to become a Welsh way of working and, over the course of the last two years, this way of working has demonstrated very clear benefits for workers, employers and Government alike, as together we sought to manage the impact of the COVID pandemic and to keep the people of Wales safe.

Welsh Government has a long-standing commitment to this way of working, and we want to futureproof social partnership to ensure future generations can benefit not only from better well-being, but also from strong, sustainable public services underpinned by a social partnership approach. The framework established by the Bill will help social partners work better together in pursuit of the well-being goals contained within the well-being of future generations Act.

The Bill aims to make Wales a better, fairer, more prosperous place to live and work. The mechanisms in the Bill are intended to help unite Government, workers and public services in Wales towards a common vision—that of a prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal Wales with cohesive communities, vibrant culture, thriving Welsh language, and a globally responsible Wales.

The Bill builds on the already extensive history and success of social partnership working in Wales. I'm committed to continuing to work in social partnership as this legislation progresses, and I look forward to further discussions with Plaid Cymru, as part of the co-operation agreement, on how we can maximise the impact of this new legislation.

In closing, Dirprwy Lywydd, I very much look forward to the contributions of Senedd Members both today and in taking forward the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill.


Thank you, Deputy Minister, for your statement and for the introduction of this Bill. However, despite your efforts, I do believe that there are overwhelming points of issue with it. Firstly, the social partnership council that is being proposed is likely to just consolidate existing social partnership mechanisms on a statutory basis, thus endorsing the status quo and removing the impetus to improve fair work through supply chains.

Secondly, there is existing legal duty on public bodies to protect people from discrimination in the workplace and in the wider society, as laid out in the Equality Act 2010, and so what this Bill will simply do is increase the regulatory burden on public bodies. This will be problematic, because public bodies in Wales are, in all likelihood, going to struggle with implementing additional regulation. We have heard in this Chamber that 5 per cent of public bodies still claim to have never heard of this Government's flagship policy of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and many more have struggled to fulfil its requirements. So, I ask the Deputy Minister why this Government believes that this Bill will improve public body procurement, when public bodies, with the help of this Government and the commissioner, cannot fully implement regulation that has been in place for nearly 10 years.   

Thirdly, I believe that there is insufficient quantifiable evidence that this Bill will bring any significant benefits to fair work in supply chains, because it is grounded entirely in the faith that there will be a positive impact. As you know, Deputy Minister, previous efforts to increase the social impact of procurement, such as the European social fund project, revealed no tangible evidence of positive results to either local economies or fair work practices. Dirprwy Lywydd, the best-case scenario that this Bill can hope for is that public procurement contracts ensure fair work practices in those areas where goods and services are at present being procured, which is a rather limited exercise since public bodies already have the means to do this, and, for the most part, they already do it. Furthermore, this Bill will not be able to address unfair working practices in areas outside of public supply chains, which is where most of the support is needed. 

So, I wonder, Dirprwy Lywydd, what is the real purpose of introducing such a Bill. I believe that this Government's purpose for the Bill is to increase the power of trade unions by giving them an equal say over public procurement contracts, which is a dangerous scenario to be in, because it will mean that trade unions will now be able to withhold or slow down public procurement at their discretion and effectively hold public bodies to ransom by stopping consultation on procurement contracts until their demands are met. This will be challenging for public bodies during disputes, as trade unions will now have even more leverage to stop public bodies from functioning. 

On another point, we must be mindful that trade unions are not infallible to corruption. As we know, Unite, the Labour Party's biggest supporter, has employees being investigated for bribery, fraud and money laundering, and current investigations have recently seen Unite properties, including the headquarters, raided by several police forces. Dirprwy Lywydd, it is not a hyperbole to say that this Government's Bill could see corrupt trade union officials receiving funds from prospective suppliers to manipulate favourable places ahead of the queue for public procurement contracts, as well as being able to bully and coerce suppliers into meeting their own specific demands, putting suppliers' backs up against the wall with threats of losing contracts if they do not comply. It could even create the scenario that trade unions may receive generous campaign contributions from prospective companies looking to secure lucrative public procurement contracts. 

Thirdly, because trade unions are now going to have to scrutinise public procurement chains, it will mean more than just facility time payments will be needed. Trade unions will need personnel who are properly trained, and their time will need to be appropriately paid for, because, Deputy Minister, you cannot expect trade unions to scrutinise fair work and fair pay practices without themselves receiving fair pay in return. So, undoubtedly, trade unions have to receive, at some point, public money to carry out these regulatory duties. And, for those Members of Plaid Cymru looking to support this Bill, you need to be very much aware that this Bill will ultimately be ploughing public money into trade union coffers, who will then be donating more money to the Labour Party, which is certainly a conflict of interest.

Surely, Deputy Minister, it is glaringly obvious that an independent body that can hire the best people without political affiliation, and that does not pay contributions to the Labour Party, would be much better placed to scrutinise contracts to ensure fair pay and fair work conditions. They can then report back to Government and public bodies and the appropriate decisions can then be made. I argue that, given all the points I have made, there is very little ground for trade unions to take on this role within the public procurement contracts. In conclusion, I'd like to say that ensuring fair work throughout supply chains is an immensely positive step. However, the current system already allows for that. Legislation from this Government already places a duty on public bodies to review proper working conditions and fair pay through the supply chains. So, ultimately, this Bill comes about from the mistrust of this Government towards public bodies and their ability to effectively review their own supply chains, and a desire by the Labour Party to give trade unions a suffocating grip on public procurement in Wales. [Interruption.] 


Before I ask the Minister to answer any questions that may have been in that, please remember that this is a statement and not a debate at this point in time. I have a request for a point of order from Jack Sargeant.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to raise this point of order, and I would ask the Welsh Conservative spokesperson to reflect on the language he has used during his contribution this afternoon with regard to trade unions and Welsh trade unions, based on no evidence—very disrespectful and distasteful comments around corruption in Welsh trade unions. And as a proud member of a Welsh trade union—two of them, in fact—and I'm speaking on behalf of the residents of Wales, not just Members of the Senedd, I'd ask the Member to withdraw those comments. 

I'm not clear whether that's a point of order, but you've made your statement quite clear at this point. Hannah Blythyn. 

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. I will try my best to address some of the more substantive contributions from the Member there, given this is a significant and landmark piece of legislation, and it should be treated with respect as such. However, I would say, once again, the Member does, at best, misunderstand the intent of the legislation, not least the content, but seeks to deliberately misrepresent it as well for his own political ends. And I extend the invitation, as we do to all Members, to a further technical briefing as part of this legislation. And I would be more than happy to sit down with the Member myself to go through the legislation in detail to address some of the points that he has made today, to give him reassurance and to make clear that, actually, what we are doing is about giving equal voice and equal weight—actually making sure that we strengthen fair work in Wales.

On the point that the Member made towards the end, I've taken that as, 'Fair work is great, as long as workers who are impacted by that aren't given an opportunity to shape that or have a voice'. So, what this legislation seeks to do is to underpin that social partnership work that we already have, to put it on a formal footing, and, actually, to give us that greater connectivity and consistency of approach so that we can be as effective as we possibly can, and to strengthen that with the legislative underpinning, but also through the social partnership duty on public bodies. And many good employers, not just public bodies, already work in social partnership, and what this does is just strengthen that and gives them the support and opportunity to do that as well. 

In terms of procurement, successive reviews of procurement in Wales have actually shown that we need to legislate in order to make good practice and make progress, and deliver well-being outcomes through procurement and make it more consistent. This legislation is responding to those reviews in terms of how we need to build on that and improve in the future. 

Just one final point to pick up what the Member said, to address the points he made around supply chains, actually, the contract management duties in this legislation seek to strengthen that around supply chains, particularly within, for instance, the construction sector, where we know there are significant challenges in terms of the way in which the sector works and the length and complexity of the supply chains, and also in terms of how we ensure we strengthen the statutory code of practice when it comes to the outsourcing of any public services. 

Thank you very much for the update today, Minister. There are elements within the draft that we welcome, and we look forward to the opportunity to influence its impact, as referenced by the Minister's statement.

Since 2012, Plaid Cymru has continually called for increased public procurement. We want to increase Welsh firms' share of contracts from 52 per cent to 75 per cent of the public procurement budget. It's estimated that this would create 46,000 additional jobs, and safeguard many existing jobs in the Welsh economy. That's a potential benefit that would be transformational for our local economy, our local businesses and our local communities. So, my first question is: how may the Bill be used to drive up public procurement from Welsh companies and businesses as part of supporting the Welsh economy, for example through exploring the use of targets?

I note from the consultation responses released earlier this year that several issues of concern were raised by key partners. The Bevan Foundation raised a number of important points during their consultation response, including the need to address the wider labour market context in which the social partnership Bill will operate. On fair work, they stated that the proposed processes seem very cumbersome and that there was a risk that processes consume too many resources—resources that could be better directed to achieving change on the ground.

Consultation responders such as the Trades Union Congress also raised concerns over the clarity of the definition and principle of social partnership, and suggested that the definition could be strengthened to acknowledge that while it is important that social partners recognise and respect each other's interests, it's also important that each other's mandates and respective areas of expertise are recognised and respected. How have these points been addressed since the publication of the consultation responses, and, in particular, how have they been incorporated into the Bill?

An emphasis on fair work, or, as you have newly defined it, decent work, has become even more salient amid a climate of poor working conditions in recent years. In 2019 and 2020, we saw Cardiff University staff take strike action over pay and working conditions. In September 2021, after heroism throughout the pandemic, workers in the NHS pushed unions to get behind their demand for a 15 per cent pay rise. And last November, bus drivers in Blackwood, Brynmawr and Cwmbran underwent strike action against low pay and cuts to basic terms and conditions. Could you please set out how the Bill would have helped workers in those situations and what it means for groups considering taking strike action?

Finally, Deputy Minister, this Government has suggested on multiple occasions that it intends to tackle the climate emergency in a holistic manner. The TUC made a suggestion that a commitment on green recovery could be made through this Bill by addressing the skills pipeline issues. This could be done by working with unions and others to identify how workers in impacted sectors could adapt their existing skills, whilst also creating new jobs for those who have lost their job in the pandemic. This could transform the retrofitting industry, for example. Is this Bill meeting this potential? Seeing as it seeks to align closely with the well-being of future generations Act, how is it meeting the environmental well-being of Wales? Diolch yn fawr.


Diolch. Can I thank the Member for his contribution and the commitment from Plaid Cymru to actually work with us? This Bill proposes to harness the power of public procurement and the broader benefits it can bring, because the measures outlined in the Bill seek to leverage the power of the public purse to pursue, and deliver more importantly, outcomes that are beneficial, more broadly, to our communities, to our economy and to our environment. The way we carry out our procurement and commissioning, and the rigour with which we actually manage that—those commercial arrangements in particular, and the supply chains—have a direct impact on fair work, but also other well-being outcomes in Wales and further afield. This legislation provides the opportunity to go further in delivering those well-being goals for procurement, and that's why we've chosen to include those broader well-being goals as part of the legislation as well as simply fair work.

Those procurement duties about contributing to environmental, social, economic and cultural well-being—. Apart from the contract management duties, the Bill contains no further details about expectations in these categories, and I think that's why there is a real opportunity here to work together in developing statutory guidance that sets out how public bodies should set out those socially responsible procurement objectives and what should be included in that procurement, such as in annual reports and, importantly, to get that data to include the data that we need to be collecting and reporting in order to actually better meet those objectives that the Member and colleagues on the Plaid Cymru benches have, as you said, been raising since 2012. We've been developing this Bill for almost as long as that, it feels, some of the time. 

I never thought that I would be stood somewhere saying that procurement is very exciting, but, actually, it does—. You smile knowingly there. This is a framework piece of legislation, but it does bring with it huge opportunities in terms of actually demonstrating what we can do here in Wales, in terms of where we place that social value when it comes to procurement and what we can deliver not just for fair work but, like you say, those broader benefits, whether that's for environmental benefits or, actually, in terms of our communities and actually making sure that we are investing in the Welsh economy and our communities right across the country. 

On the broader points around social partnership generally, we've tried to define, alongside the legislation, what we actually mean by social partnership, and that is working together with a common agenda to provide mutual gains for the benefit of all parties, but alongside the legislation—. The legislation is significant, but it is one part of that process, and alongside this legislation we are conducting a review of social partnership working right across Government and beyond, to give us greater clarity and consistency, and also to recognise the capacity of partners to be part of this process, to make sure that we better engage and better link across it. We've obviously been working very closely with partners such as the Wales TUC and also partners from the employer representatives as well, to make sure that that is done in a way that brings those broader benefits we want to see, and I'd very much welcome conversations with colleagues in the Chamber about actually how we can do that and to be part of that as we move things forward alongside this significant legislation.


I very much welcome the statement from the Minister. Procurement is one of the most powerful tools the Welsh Government has got in order to decide the type of Wales we're going to have. There is a very large procurement programme, not just by the Welsh Government, but by the whole of the Welsh Government-funded public sector, including health and local government. I, like many Members here, am massively opposed to the use of fire and rehire, exploitative contracts, and paying less than the real living wage. Will the Welsh Government use procurement to rule out companies that use fire and rehire, pay less than the real living wage, and use exploitative contracts from all Welsh Government and Welsh Government-funded bodies' contracts, and also, more importantly, the subcontracts? No-one who is getting a penny of money from the Welsh taxpayer should be running companies that are exploiting the workers who are doing the work for them.

I thank Mike Hedges for his contribution. I know this is something—. You demonstrated it then, but I know it's something you've raised time and time again, and, like myself and many others in this Chamber and beyond, feel very passionately about actually how we use all the levers we do have at our devolved disposal in Wales to make a difference when it comes to fair work. Of course, fair work spans both devolved and non-devolved areas, which impacts what we can do and how we can do it. I'm clear that this Bill respects and recognises what we can do in this space.

This is the first piece of legislation on procurement that we have actually developed in Wales, so it will enable us to put existing good practice and socially responsible procurement on a statutory footing but it will also put us in a position to strengthen that as well. As I go back to what I said to previous contributions, the statutory guidance that works on that looks at not just fair work, but the broader well-being objectives too, to get that balance right in terms of things like the foundational economy and fair work, to make sure we are supporting those public bodies too, to actually simplify the process for them in the first instance, but to make sure we get it right in terms of the social value that we want to achieve from it. This Government is absolutely committed to using every lever we do have at our disposal to achieve that.

Just on the point Mike Hedges makes on subcontracting and supply chains, one of the reasons why, in this first instance, the legislation seeks to legislate on the face of the Bill around the construction sector in particular is because, as I said, we know that there will be Members in this Chamber who have been part of those codes of practice we've put in place previously or campaigned for from the outside, around ethical employment in supply chains or umbrella employment opportunities, which we know is something that has been unfortunately all too common within the construction sector. So, this legislation on procurement and contract management seeks to go some way to address that, and also to address actually how that filters down throughout the supply chain as well.

Minister, I very much look forward to scrutinising this Bill at Stage 1 in the Equality and Social Justice Committee. I think it's a very exciting Bill.

I wanted to look at the public procurement aspects, and particularly the reporting duties on public bodies and Welsh Ministers in relation to socially responsible procurement. I just want to query why only socially responsible procurement, because the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 obviously isn't just about social responsibility. And as public bodies prepare to invest many millions of pounds, quite rightly, in the healthy eating habits of children as we roll out the universal free school meals programme, what role do you expect this Bill to play in ensuring that this particular additional procurement strengthens a prosperous, cohesive and resilient Wales, fundamental to the foundational economy objectives, as well as, of course, making an important contribution to a healthier Wales?


Can I thank Jenny Rathbone for her contribution? I very much look forward to the work that you will do. I welcome what you will do as a committee to quite rightly scrutinise this legislation, but also to work with us as we develop it and move things forward, and I really very much welcome your contributions in terms of recognising the value that this legislation potentially brings, and another person who is excited about procurement as well in the Chamber today.

Just to just try and clarify the point you make around why socially responsible procurement: actually, the Bill sets out duties on the public bodies as specified, which are referred to as 'contracting authorities', so it's called 'socially responsible procurement', but it ensures that when procurement is undertaken, there is consideration of social, economic, cultural and environmental well-being, and there are further duties set out concerning contract management and transparency. So, as I said previously, that's why it's socially responsible procurement and we're talking about well-being and fair work, but it goes broader than that, to capture the points that the Member made there. So, the work will be around the statutory guidance about actually how we can work with Members, work with colleagues across the floor and with our social partners to ensure that we are getting that balance right in terms of actually where that social value is placed and how we can support those public bodies to make sure that we are achieving what we need to achieve. But socially responsible procurement is—. I'm sure it's something we can discuss further when we come to committee, but also in terms of the Member, if it would be helpful, I'm more than happy to write to provide further clarification in terms of what that would encompass, and what the intention is behind that.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. I thank you for the statement today, Deputy Minister, and I want to completely dissociate myself from the comments of Joel James and his anti-trade-union stand, and accusing them of all sorts of unsubstantiated statements. I'm a proud member of a trade union myself.

So, I do welcome this Bill. It is a key component of a wider push to make work in Wales much fairer, and it's a timely intervention too, when Tory taxes, benefit cuts and economic mismanagement are increasingly eroding pay and pensions across the board. And as always, the constructive model of social partnership here in Wales is in direct contrast with the Tories' failed confrontational approach. They're currently picking fights with rail workers as they have with teachers and junior doctors in the past.

So, my question to you, Deputy Minister, is: when we're talking about procurement and social partnerships, which you are here, that we will fully engage with everybody and also, I want to reinforce the question that Mike Hedges asked previously, that anybody that benefits from public funds in Wales both looks after the staff, but more importantly, that we keep the majority of that money here in Wales as well. Thank you.

Can I thank Joyce Watson for the contribution? I know it's something you've particularly been involved with in the past, particularly within the construction sector too, in terms of tackling unjust and unfair work practices, and I know you've worked with both colleagues and me in terms of actually how to take forward codes of practice around this. This legislation seeks to strengthen the work that's gone before by, for the first time, legislating around procurement and how we strengthen not just socially responsible procurement, but going back to what we said previously around using all the levers we do have at our disposal, whilst recognising the constraints of the current devolution settlement, and using the power of the public purse to leverage, particularly in those sectors like construction and also more broadly around socially responsible procurement, which encapsulates fair work as part of that.

4. Statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services: Update on COVID-19
5. Statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services: Update on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

We therefore move on to item 5, a statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services: update on Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. I call on the Minister, Eluned Morgan.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. Further to ongoing concerns at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, many of which have been raised in this Siambr, I asked the chief executive of NHS Wales to hold an extraordinary tripartite meeting on 26 May as part of the NHS Wales escalation framework. The situation in Betsi is unacceptable and it needs serious work and effort to correct. Services are not as good as they should be, and we are determined to improve the situation for the thousands of people in north Wales who rely on these services.

Following the tripartite meeting between the Welsh Government, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and Audit Wales, the NHS chief executive has recommended that the targeted intervention status at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board should be extended beyond mental health and governance issues to incorporate Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, focusing in particular on the vascular service and emergency department in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, and I have accepted that advice. They did not suggest that we put Betsi back into special measures.

We will therefore ensure that significant new additional external clinical and practical expertise will be put in place to ensure that we embed sustainable change and improvements in the quality of the service. In this way, we'll be making improvements with the health board rather than doing things to the health board. The decision has been made in line with the escalation framework and reflects serious concerns about the leadership, governance and progress that have been a feature of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. My decision has been communicated to the chair of the health board.

Firstly, let me address the issue of governance, leadership and oversight of Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. It's clear the current challenges facing Ysbyty Glan Clwyd require a focused intervention to support cultural change and promote leadership at all levels. I have therefore instructed Improvement Cymru, the improvement service for NHS Wales, to work with the health board to bring in external clinical and organisational development expertise into the hospital. The aim of Improvement Cymru is to support the creation of the best quality health and care system for Wales, so that everyone has access to safe, effective and efficient care in the right place and at the right time. I want to emphasise that this in no way reflects on the hard work of the staff in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, but this is a source of external help and support to embed the change that is needed urgently, and we need to do this at pace.

Secondly, vascular services have been challenged since the service was centralised. This does not mean that the decision to centralise was wrong. Following a series of concerns raised by the Royal College of Surgeons and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, the health board has responded rapidly and progress has been made in a number of areas, but the service remains fragile. There have been some serious incidents over the last few months and the benefits of the recent changes have not yet been realised. A new clinical leader has been appointed but has yet to take up post. My officials will continue to monitor the implementation of the action plan at least twice a month.

Thirdly, the emergency department at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd has been designated a service requiring significant improvement by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. We have made £3 million available to the health board for the local six goals for urgent and emergency care programme. I have instructed clinical leads from the national programme to work closely with the health board to address the concerns identified by HIW.

Fourthly, mental health. This service is, without doubt, in a much better state than the one that went into special measures. But, while progress has been made, there is still much more to be done, particularly around culture change, and this will take time. Following discussions with the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being, I'm asking the health board to move with pace to ensure that there is a permanent leadership team in place, and to develop a robust recruitment plan to minimise vacancies and the use of interim staff. We must make this a sustainable service. I have asked Welsh Government officials to commission an independent assessment of the sustainability of the progress that has been made against the various mental health reviews over recent years, and ministerial oversight of these arrangements will be led by the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Well-being.

Finally, it has become clear that the health board's current systems are largely reactive. External reviews have pointed to significant gaps in fundamental aspects of clinical service standards. That includes record keeping, incident management, team working, reporting concerns, leadership and morale. Many processes are in place, but there is not sufficient capacity in place and they're not broad enough to provide systematic assurance in these areas. The health board must become a self-improving organisation, sustained by clinical staff with the skills to practice continuous improvement in their daily work. This focus needs to be evident right through the organisation, from ward to board.

I am asking the health board to do the following things: review current governance, audit and effectiveness capacity and work arrangements with Improvement Cymru to invest in a rapid education and support programme that will be put in place quickly in order to improve skills. I have also asked the health board to ensure that a senior appointment is made to a director of safety and improvement post. This individual will support the new executive director of nursing to ensure that joint governance improvements and arrangements are put in place across the health board. On top of this, the board must do better to connect with and engage with its staff and the public. There have been a series of concerns raised about workforce well-being, cases of harassment, bullying and staff feeling unable to speak out. The board must build on the work it has started in terms of its organisational development, and it must do this quickly. Given the seriousness and exceptional nature of this escalation, these arrangements will be monitored closely and reviewed early to ensure that progress is made. A further tripartite meeting will take place no later than the end of October this year. 

Dirprwy Lywydd, this is an extensive and far-reaching set of targeted intervention arrangements for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, and we will review these regularly and robustly over the coming months. Let me be clear that there are pockets of brilliant work being done in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. What we need to see now is that that quality is replicated across the whole system, most specifically in Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. But more importantly, this is a set of arrangements that will support the health board on its continuing improvement journey so that the people of north Wales can be proud of their local health service. Thank you.


Thank you, Minister, for your statement, although I have to say that I'm disappointed by the lack of courtesy that you've extended to Members of the Senedd who have a direct interest in the hospital to which your statement has referred. As you will know, I've taken a great interest in the services at Glan Clwyd Hospital for many years, and yet, you didn't even give me the courtesy of a briefing before your statement this afternoon, nor did you give other Members who represent that hospital the courtesy of a direct briefing either.

You say that this is targeted intervention, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's a scattergun approach that you are now taking in north Wales. We have targeted intervention already for mental health services, for strategy, planning and performance, for leadership, including governance, transformation and culture, and for engagement because of the poor engagement with patients, public, staff and stakeholders. Yet, today, you've announced even more targeted intervention, this time at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in respect of its leadership, which is already in targeted intervention, we are told, its mental health services, which are already in targeted intervention, or so we're told, and, of course, its vascular services now and emergency department. I have to say it's long overdue in terms of intervention required for those.

Some aspects of these services, which you say you are now putting into targeted intervention, have been in special measures or targeted intervention for seven years—seven long years. In fact, the seven-year anniversary is this week that mental health services have been in special measures. This week. It's the same with the leadership issues. And yet, time and time again, we have Ministers here, including your predecessors, who come and say, 'We're determined to get things changed. We're determined to kick things into shape. We need to move things on, with pace.' That word, 'pace', seems to make all the difference in your ministerial statements, doesn't it? Well, the reality is it doesn't. When does targeted intervention on such a wide number of things actually become special measures? Because I don't know, and I don't think it's very clear to the public either. You said that if there was not improvement in vascular services within three months, the health board would face consequences. Well, if this is the only consequence they are facing, another targeted intervention label, I don't think they've got much to be concerned about, frankly, because we know that targeted intervention doesn't work. It hasn't worked for seven years, as I've already said.

If you've got a leadership of a health board that is absolutely incapable of making improvements, why aren't you moving that leadership on? Why are you saying that we now need to appoint another executive director, at huge cost to the taxpayer, this time for safety and improvement? Why can't the extremely highly paid executive team already in place at the health board deliver the improvements that they are employed to do? That is their job. And if they're not up to it, they can ship out and go somewhere else, because we don't want them in north Wales. We want a team that works, that delivers the improvements that we've been promised. Because people are being let down, patients are being let down, the staff are being let down with the appalling working environment that many of them are having to endure, as a result of this dysfunctional health board that you as a Welsh Government have also been incapable of turning around over all this time.

You talk about the emergency services at Glan Clwyd needing intervention—and they do—but what about elsewhere in north Wales? What about down the road in Wrexham Maelor Hospital? That hospital has actually had worse emergency department performance over the past 12 months. In eight out of the past 12 months it's had worse performance figures than Glan Clwyd Hospital, so why have you left that out of this targeted intervention approach? You talk about a bullying culture, you talk about staff not being listened to, you talk about a culture of fear. We heard reports about the situation in Ysbyty Gwynedd, with staff there complaining about those things just a couple of weeks ago. Why isn't that hospital being put in targeted intervention for these things? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

You now tell us you're going to work with the health board, rather than work for the health board, in order to sort these problems out, and you've appointed Improvement Cymru as though it's some white knight on a horse that's going to ride in and turn this situation around. Why on earth haven't you deployed Improvement Cymru before? This organisation has been in place for years, and yet you haven't deployed them up until today. Why don't you use the experts that are out there to turn the situation around? Why not call the Royal College of Emergency Medicine in to turn around the emergency departments in north Wales? Why not call in the royal college that did the reports on the vascular services to actually come in and turn that situation around? Because they know best, I would suggest, in my view. I'll come to my concluding remarks now, Deputy Presiding Officer.

You say that you want to improve things with pace, and you say that this situation will be carefully monitored and reviewed, and yet you've said the next tripartite meeting won't take place until the end of October. That doesn't sound like an organisation that's going to make significant improvements at pace, if you're prepared to wait until the end of October for a further tripartite meeting. Minister, I have absolutely zero confidence that Welsh Government targeted intervention in these extra areas, on top of the other targeted intervention, is going to make any difference at all in this health board. We need to kick the current leadership out that has been failing people for so long. That's the only way to drive the significant culture change—


—that we need. We need that action now, sooner rather than later.


Diolch yn fawr. I did, of course, offer a briefing to your political representative on the health committee, and I'm sure he communicated to you what that information contained.

There is nothing scattergun about this approach. We formally had measures in relation to mental health and governance, and now we are targeting this additional intervention at the area where we have greatest concern, and that is Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, vascular and the emergency department. You can't have it all ways; you can't tell me in one breath that it's scattergun and now you want me to spread that approach to Wrexham Maelor and everywhere else. You can't have it both ways. I think this is the right way to go. This has been identified by the tripartite group to assess where we can make the biggest difference in a short space of time.

There's a difference now in terms of Improvement Cymru. You're quite right, it was a question that I asked: why didn't we bring them in before? It was because they didn't exist until 2019. We had this little intervening issue of COVID that actually knocked a lot of things out of action during that time. The approach, in terms of Improvement Cymru, was based on 1000 Lives. What we have now is a very different focus for the organisation, and that's why things will be different this time.

On top of that, of course, we've put significant additional resources in place, £297 million until 2024. We have had, of course, detailed discussions with the chair and the chief executive in terms of how we can improve the situation in a practical way and to do it at pace. When you say we won't be doing anything until October, if you'd listened carefully to the statement, it was very clear that we would be taking the temperature on a fortnightly basis from the Welsh Government point of view to make sure that we see improvements on a regular basis. It will then be an opportunity to bring in Healthcare Inspectorate Wales again to see if that intervention has made any difference by the end of October.

Thank you for the statement. I fear that, however you look at this, the timing of this today doesn't reflect well on the Welsh Government. Indeed, it demonstrates once again how little understanding and how little appreciation there is within the Welsh Government of the gravity of the situation at Betsi Cadwaladr health board.

This is a very weak response to an extremely serious situation, I fear—an extension of targeted intervention, rather than a real rolling up of sleeves to deal with a problem that is causing so much anguish to staff and patients across the north. An extension of targeted intervention—why end here when there are so many problems right across Betsi Cadwaladr? The problems I've brought to your attention among nurses at Ysbyty Gwynedd and the fears of bullying and intimidation and working conditions that are not up to it in terms of retaining the staff, their knowledge and experience—why not include Ysbyty Gwynedd?

And in terms of the timing, which one is it? Is this yet another example of Welsh Government acting at the eleventh hour to try to take the sting out of a Senedd debate and a potentially difficult vote, acting because they have to to try to avoid embarrassment? Welsh Government does this all the time. It's a Government dragging its heels. Or is it that the Minister really failed to register the seriousness of report after report—that damning report on vascular in particular—and she decided to see how things went for another three months before deciding on the next step and if action was required, when it was pretty obvious that we needed further intervention? Government failed to act in a way that reflected the urgency of the situation.

The Minister says that there are pockets of excellence within Betsi Cadwaladr. Well, yes, there are. I wrote to the chief executive and chair recently following the publication of cancer figures showing that there was good work happening in north Wales. We do understand that. The Minister, I know, is eager for us to bear in mind the need to support staff through all of this. I couldn't agree with her more. Without staff, there is no NHS. In those departments facing the greatest challenges, there are staff that we need to retain, and we do remember them today and thank them for their work. But staff are many of those people raising concerns with us about health services in north Wales. Staff raised concerns about the loss of vascular services from Bangor. Today, despite the damning report, the Minister still insists that that decision to centralise services had been the right one. Well, if it was, why not centralise at Ysbyty Gwynedd where there was a centre of excellence already? In terms of mental health services, it is staff who have been describing to me, and to other Members, time and time again, why mental health services weren't ready to come out of special measures when the Government decided to do that prematurely just before the last election.

So, we do listen to staff, we do respect the staff, and we are mindful of the support that staff need. But does the Minister accept that many of those staff members will see that there has been far too much delay in taking these steps today, and that the steps taken are inadequate? And in the absence of any suggestion in this statement of how we will be able to gauge success or otherwise, does she accept that we still don't have a vision as to how a successful, sustainable Betsi Cadwaladr would work for the future? And that's why we on these benches, in tomorrow's debate, will be arguing that we need to take an honest look at the possibility of reorganising healthcare in north Wales. These plans are weak, I fear. I hope, for the sake of staff and patients, that they will make a difference, and that these plans can make a difference. But it's a very serious situation that needs a plan B ready to go. 


I am extremely aware of the seriousness of the situation, and it is clear that the situation in Betsi, in particular in those areas we've highlighted, is unacceptable. This is something that I made very clear to the chief executive and the chair when I met them last week. Can I be absolutely clear that this statement was earmarked before any suggestion of an opposition debate on this matter? It was very important for me—[Interruption.] It was important for me to—[Interruption.] It was important for me to speak to the chair and the chief executive face to face, and that's why I needed the opportunity to go and do that in front of them last week. So, I'm glad that I was able to do that, to go through the detail of what we were proposing.

The three months that we used to give us time to assess exactly what interventions were necessary not only allowed us to recognise the seriousness of the situation, but also made sure that we had a clear programme of action that we could put in place. I am not in the business of putting a label on something and not having a follow through for that label. And that's why it's absolutely clear to me that making an announcement that there will be an extension to the targeted intervention, with a clear programme of action to run alongside that, is the right way to go. 

In terms of the staff, I have been speaking to representatives of health unions in recent days. Certainly, they have been uncomfortable in certain situations of being moved around from place to place, but some of the unions are telling me that, actually, they don't recognise some of the issues that have been highlighted. So, I would suggest that, if there are issues, they also talk to the unions about those issues because they are not hearing some of the things that are being heard by Members here. 

It is important also for us to make sure that we focus on the staff within the organisation. The staff are the backbone of any improvements that we are likely to see here. It is why we have said that we are going to be standing with the staff and doing any interventions with the staff rather than doing things to them. That is the only way we're going to get sustainable change. 

Thank you, Deputy Llywydd. Can I just express my concern about a remark that the Minister made suggesting that this statement has been planned for a number of weeks? I'm a member of the Business Committee. The Business Committee look at the forward work programme each time we meet. We were not notified of any changes until today in respect of this statement; it was not agreed until today. Papers were circulated yesterday to the Business Committee, confirming this change. That suggests to me that the Minister may have inadvertently misled the Senedd.


Thank you for that point of order. I'm sure the Minister will reflect upon when the Government had decided it would introduce such a statement. Perhaps that may be an issue rather than simply the business statement.

Before we move on to the—

Minister, I will in a second. But before we move on, can I remind all other contributors of the timescales, please? We have already used up a large proportion of our time, so can everyone keep to their timescales, please? Minister.

If you don't mind, I would like to respond to that. This is a statement that we've been preparing. Clearly, I did not want to put that on any agenda until I had the opportunity to speak to the chair and the chief executive of the health board, and that happened last week. And since then, we've been working very hard since that meeting last Tuesday to put in place these measures. So, we've been working this up. You might have noticed, Darren, that, actually, there's been a four-day bank holiday, so maybe that is part of the reason why you haven't heard anything about it. [Interruption.]

The Minister has given her response—[Interruption.] The Minister has given her response, and we will now move on to the next person. Janet Finch-Saunders.

Thank you. Whilst I thank you for the statement, Minister, I would like to thank my colleagues Darren Millar and Rhun ap Iorwerth more for actually calling you out on this statement, because it's far too inadequate. I've been here 11 years, and, prior to that, I had dealings, going back over the years, with the Betsi health board, under the late Mary Burrows, when she was the chief executive. And we've had countless numbers of chief executives since, we've had countless numbers of chairs, and we've had several health Ministers, and yet, the fundamental problem we have here is that this health board is going backwards. There are no improvements that I believe that will be forthcoming.

I, like other Members, have undertaken numerous meetings with the chief exec, deputy chief exec, and listened to several statements here since first being elected in 2011. The responses to serious casework issues are abysmal—

Yes, I know. I've got to be honest, things are so bad, Deputy Llywydd—

I will get to it. But it's a fact, and it's been raised by Plaid Cymru, the current model simply doesn't work. I asked you two weeks ago, Minister, whether we could have a meeting of north Wales Members, yourself, the chairman and the chief executive, and then we could have some full and frank discussions. Will you now agree to that meeting, please? That's all I have to ask.

Well, if we need any proof, this statement, in my view, shows that the Welsh Government is going round and round in circles on Betsi Cadwaladr. You're tinkering with the symptoms rather than fundamentally tackling the illness that is stifling services in north Wales.

How many times have we been here before on Betsi Cadwaladr, Minister? How many times do we have to come here, and, quite frankly, listen to your cut-and-paste statements about more targeted interventions, more new directors, more tripartite meetings? You're like a broken record. It's a statement that you and your predecessors have made in various forms time after time, month after month, for the best part of the last decade. Front-line workers in north Wales are doing heroic work, but their Government is fiddling whilst Rome burns. Will you accept that the time has now come for a more fundamental consideration of how services are configured across north Wales? And, look, if the conclusion is that this current model is the best that we can be, then so be it—I'll accept that. But until you as a Government instigate that discussion, then you will have to be dragged back to this Chamber month after month, to give us more of the same excuses and more of the same guff.

I believe that reorganisation at this point would be costly, it would be a distraction from the significant issues in relation to planned care, it would divert resources, and my focus at the moment is on patient care. There is nothing 'cut and paste' about this statement; I can assure you I've spent a lot of time working on it. I think that I will retain my focus, as I'm sure the board will, on ensuring that we are doing the very best for the people of north Wales, and a costly reorganisation is not the answer.


Thank you for your statement this afternoon, Minister. The sad reality is that, back in the 1980s and the 1990s, Glan Clwyd Hospital was one of the best-performing hospitals not only in Wales but the UK, so it's sad to see how times have changed, to say the least.

I have just a couple of questions this afternoon. Do you honestly believe that these measures you've outlined can deliver improvements quickly and in a timely manner? And what additional support will be on offer to my constituents working in YGC? After all, this is not a failure of the staff working on the front line, it's a leadership failure—too many middle managers and bureaucrats. Do you have confidence that the leadership can deliver safer, improved services? And as you state in your statement, there are concerns surrounding morale and workforce well-being, so what steps are you taking to monitor the well-being of the staff working in YGC and what instruments are you going to use to measure that over a sustained period of time? And will staff at YGC be offered external reporting measures until the culture within the health board improves? And, finally, Minister, you have asked the health board to create a new director of safety and improvement. Given the recruitment issues facing the board, when do you anticipate the post being filled and how will the new director be able to drive these improvements that are well needed? Thank you.

Thanks very much. There are some things, Gareth, that I expect to improve very quickly. I think there have already been some improvements in relation to vascular. There will be others that will take more time. The cultural shift that is necessary within the organisation—the acceptance that it needs to be a self-improving organisation—is something that will not be able to be switched on overnight, but it's something where I expect to see improvements. The issue that you referred to in terms of the appointment of a new director for improvement is something that we discussed with the chief executive and the chair last Tuesday, and they have now gone away to think about how exactly that would work within the executive organisation that they already have in place.

Diolch, Deputy Presiding Officer, and thank you, Minister, for bringing forward today's statement. Before I get into the thrust of my comments, I would like some clarity from the Minister around the statement that bringing in Improvement Cymru was only possible because it's only been around since 2019. I understood that the 1000 Lives campaign, which was the predecessor name, has been around for quite a long time, so perhaps you could respond to that in just a moment.

As you state in your statement, Minister, the situation in Betsi Cadwaladr is unacceptable and needs serious work and effort. That's kind of written down like it's new news, but we've been saying this for years, as Members have already stated. Your rightfully point out that many of the issues have been raised in this Chamber by Members of all parties, and this is because we are representing residents, sometimes our own family, our own friends, our loved ones, who continue to be let down by this lack of access to quality health services in north Wales, which ultimately is your responsibility and the responsibility of Welsh Government. My concern is that many of my residents will think that this is only talk coming from Welsh Government to see improvements. So, I want to know, Minister, how will you personally be assured that these improvements will take place and that the people of north Wales will see the radical improvements that we need to see?

Thanks very much. First of all, on Improvement Cymru, you're quite right that it was an organisation that focused before on the 1000 Lives programme, which was a safety programme to support health boards and trusts in their efforts to reduce harm, waste and variation in Welsh healthcare. That included work on eliminating hospital-acquired pressure ulcers, assessing patients for risk of deep vein thrombosis, and ensuring the World Health Organization's safer surgery checklist is implemented in every surgical theatre. Now, what it didn't do is this broader approach that we are talking about now, and that's what changed in 2019 when Improvement Cymru was developed in its current form.

You are quite right, Sam, to focus on the need to improve the services that are struggling. That is precisely what we are trying to do with this approach. I will personally be overseeing this, having my regular meetings, as I did again this morning, yesterday. Last week, I had a meeting with the chair. I had another meeting with the chair of Betsi this morning. So, there's a continuous dialogue happening between me and the chair of the health board. Obviously, my officials will be doing the same thing at an executive level, and I can give you my assurance that I will be intervening personally to make sure that they are keeping on track.

I'd just like to say one other thing, and that is: let's just make sure that people are aware that there are literally tens of thousands of people being seen on a monthly basis in Betsi Cadwaladr who are actually getting good care—


Well they don't, and that's the point. And that's the point. I think it's really important that we don't lose sight of the fact that, actually, there are people who are satisfied with the support and the service that they are having in Betsi. 

6. Statement by the Minister for Social Justice: Tackling institutionalised and systemic racism—Anti-racist Wales Action Plan

item 6 this afternoon is a statement by the Minister for Social Justice on tackling institutionalised and systemic racism, 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt. 

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. Last October, the whole Senedd endorsed a motion to support wholeheartedly the global fight to root out racism and racist ideology and strive towards a more equal Wales, tackling systemic and structural race inequality. Following our consultation last year, we've continued to co-design with black, Asian and minority ethnic people across Wales the actions we must take to tackle institutionalised and systemic racism. I'm therefore proud to be publishing today the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan'. At its heart is a shared vision to create an anti-racist nation by 2030, where everyone is treated as an equal citizen and is enabled to thrive and prosper.

The plan sets out the goals and actions we will take over the next 24 months, covering all aspects of public life that shape and influence the experience and life chances of ethnic minority people. We want to make sure that we continue to walk in the shoes of people with lived experience, and that the experiences of individuals and communities keep shaping our thinking and the decisions we make. We developed the plan by involving people and communities and in collaboration with organisations across all parts of Wales, and this will continue as we move to implementation.

To provide the necessary and continuing confidence that this plan is being implemented an accountability group will be established, led by Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna, from Cardiff University, and Dr Andrew Goodall, Permanent Secretary at the Welsh Government. It will mainly consist of ethnic minority people, and will be further strengthened by including experts with lived experience of racism, and will benefit from evidence and insight coordinated from our recently established race disparity unit. 

We knew that we needed to shape the goals and actions with ethnic minority people, so we made valuing lived experience one of the values underpinning how we developed the plan. And, quite rightly, we were also asked to embrace the values of a rights-based approach and that of openness and transparency. Ethnic minority people’s expectations are clear: they want action that makes a meaningful difference to their lives. An anti-racist approach is a fundamental shift that we need to take. Adopting an anti-racist approach requires the Welsh Government, public services and us all to be proactive in identifying and tackling systemic racism in all aspects of how Wales works. It requires us to look at how racism is built into our policies, formal and informal rules, and the way we work and involve people in the decisions that affect them, and then do something about it.

This plan will play an important part in creating a united and fairer Wales for all. This is a commitment at the heart of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, sharing a determination to tackle institutionalised and systemic racism now, as racism is a pernicious feature of the lived experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic people. The agreement with Plaid Cymru also commits us to ensuring that the justice elements of the action plan are as robust as possible and address these matters with the police and the courts. We continue to work with partners from the criminal justice in Wales board to develop and fully embed a collective anti-racist approach to criminal justice in Wales. We must also ensure that the experience of racism is not passed on to future generations. No-one should be held back or left behind. 

Many people gifted their precious time and their experiences to shape the plan. Earlier today, I joined the First Minister for a stakeholder moment to thank everyone for their contribution to this work. I, with many of you, want to recognise the willingness of ethnic minority people to extend their trust in securing the possibility of change and in providing their leadership and sharing their lived experiences to help make this plan what it is.

I want to record my thanks to Professor Ogbonna and the Permanent Secretary as co-chairs of the steering group for this work and to all members of the steering group who have helped shape and guide this work over the last two years. The generosity of those contributions and what people were willing to share freely to bring about change was inspiring. 

Through this plan, we're making clear the contribution this Government will take to tackle systemic and institutionalised racism. Achieving the more equal Wales well-being goal and an anti-racist nation by 2030 will require a collective effort. Tangible improvements will come as a result of change within public services and in those in positions of power. 

We do this acknowledging the immense leadership within the ethnic minority communities and leadership at all levels—as individuals, as political leaders, as community activists, as academics and as leaders of organisations. Ethnic minority people, for generations, have contributed to all spheres of our economy, education, social care, and cultural and sport heritage, to name a few.

Visionary leaders and activists like Betty Campbell worked with passion to be a good example to the rest of the world about how we can live together regardless of where we come from or the colour of our skin. Professor Charlotte Williams's pioneering work means that learning about the cultural heritage and ethnic diversity of Wales is now a mandatory element of our national curriculum.

Many of our key services, like our health and social care services, would not be possible without ethnic minority people working in them, and during COVID-19 we would have been lost without this workforce.

We are committed to provide the leadership, our resources and our influence to tackle systemic and institutionalised racism within Wales. This is a whole-of-Government plan, with commitments and actions from across ministerial portfolios and within the Welsh Government civil service. This is reflected in the statements made today by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language and the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip, taking forward key actions within the anti-racist plan.

We're asking everyone to work with us in creating an anti-racist Wales, a Wales in which we can all be proud to belong and in which each of us will thrive.


Thank you, Minister, for your statement. Despite the Welsh Government's previous efforts to eradicate racism in Wales, the number of racially motivated hate crimes is on the rise. It is estimated that 65 per cent of hate crimes are racially motivated. These sorts of facts have led some to consider Wales as the most racist country in the United Kingdom. Many young people from ethnic minority backgrounds believe racism is just a part of normal life for them and no Government plan will stop the racism they receive. This is truly sad.

A BBC report into racism in Wales found young people in general don't always feel safe when they leave their homes, out of fear of what might happen to them. The Welsh Government's plans are undermined by the reluctance of the police in Wales and England to acknowledge institutional racism within their organisations. This is despite complaints of young ethnic minorities suffering injuries during their time in police custody. 

Trust in public services, including Government policies, can often be heavily influenced by the relationship with enforcement agencies and services on the ground. Despite the BAME communities making up around 6 per cent of the Welsh population, only 3 per cent from ethnic minority backgrounds are appointed to public office positions. Within the general job market, employees from ethnic minority backgrounds earned 7.5 per cent less than their white counterparts. All these issues can have major implications for the mental and physical health of people of all ages from ethnic minorities. The notions of self worth and acceptance are things we all want. For ethnic minorities, these fears are sometimes a sad reality.

My question to the Minister is: the Welsh Government have made previous attempts to end racism and discrimination in Wales; with their new programme, can the Minister outline what they have done differently to prepare a plan to address the issues they have previously failed to solve? Thank you.


Well, thank you very much, Altaf Hussain, for your contribution and your questions. I started my statement by actually referring to that debate that we held last year, where we, the whole Senedd—. In fact, I remember speaking to Darren Millar about the motion that we all agreed, every party, as we did the year before. We did support that motion to wholeheartedly address the fight to root out racism and strive towards a more equal Wales. And I think this plan will help us actually deliver this. We can't have a debate every year without actually the kind of change that you know and that we know we have to address in terms of the racism that does blight people's lives in Wales. And that's why we've been very clear that this is an 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' and it's got a robust set of actions to help us make a real difference to the lives of people in Wales.

Now, this is a leadership issue; it's a representation issue. This morning we had 300 people join our virtual launch and there were people signing up to, for example, the zero tolerance of racism campaign, very much led by Race Council Cymru and the Wales TUC. We had people from all over Wales. North Wales Race Equality Network—Professor Robert Moore—has played a key role in ensuring that we have a pan-Wales approach to this, as well as all of the community organisations who we funded, with the community mentors in every part of Wales who actually contributed to getting these actions, these goals, into the plan. It's been developed collaboratively, together, with black, Asian and minority ethnic people and, if we do get this right, then we can become truly anti-racist.

We have to actually get rid of policies, systems, structures and processes that result in very different outcomes for ethnic minority people. I've already mentioned the fact that we have a rich contribution of black, Asian and minority ethnic people to our society, and it can be felt everywhere, in every sphere of life, but not enough has been done to ensure that all can play their part, and to have that opportunity and that confidence that they are not going to face barriers as they grow up, go through school, education, opportunities. It is important that we do have those goals and outcomes.

I think you have actually referred to issues around crime and justice. Now, this is not devolved. I co-chair the policing partnership board with First Minister, and I think it's very important that, in fact, working together, in terms of devolved and non-devolved, we're trying to address this, because the criminal justice in Wales anti-racism action plan, alongside our anti-racist action plan, is going to be crucial in terms of ensuring that our partners in criminal justice—. And, of course, we would rather we were responsible for justice, and are pursuing the case—and, indeed, for policing, as, not your party, but this Chamber supported only a few weeks ago. But I think, when this is published, you will welcome, I'm sure, the criminal justice anti-racism action plan, because it is those police and crime commissioners and chief constables who've agreed to take this approach, and what they would like to see is one public service approach to advance race equality across Wales.

I just want to say, in terms of hate crime, we fund the Wales hate support centre. It's run by Victim Support Cymru—24/7 support, advocacy and advice, and also it's the first service in the UK to offer a national children-and-young-person-friendly hate crime service. And, of course, the campaign, actually, is part of our Hate hurts Wales campaign, which we've looked at, and it's going to help us identify where we need to address issues. The campaign highlighted the hugely negative impact of hate crime on victims in their own lives, and also referred to the bystanders who actually do not call out the racism that we all know about. I think it's important that we do see that race hate crime is recorded in Wales, and that our national hate crime statistics did show an increase, but it also highlights why our work in this area is needed, and that's why our hate crime in schools project is so important and our community cohesion programme as well. So, this is where we feel that Wales will lead the way with our anti-racist action plan, and we want you to be part of this, and I'm sure you will be.


It's a sad fact, isn't it, that it took a global pandemic and a movement ignited by a horrific murder in the United States, that of George Floyd, to open the eyes of many in Wales to the blatant truth of race inequality and its devastating and too often deadly consequences—a truth lived by thousands of Welsh black, Asian and minority ethnic people, an everyday experience of living with prejudice, with disadvantage, with fear. So many reports, so much research, which many of us have quoted here in numerous debates, has demonstrated this truth and has shown why the approach and implementation of previous strategies were not sufficient.

The aims of the anti-racist action plan are without question welcome, and Plaid Cymru is proud to have been part of the work of forging the plan through our co-operation agreement with the Government. Hearing Professor Ogbonna speak about the groundbreaking approach of the plan at the launch this morning was a moment I won't forget. It made clear the potential of Wales as a nation to take an independent lead such as this in social justice. The sharpened focus within the plan on the need to actively tackle structural and institutional racism is vital if we are to see real and long-standing change—the institutional racism​ within organisations and overarching societal systems that results in inequitable outcomes and extends beyond the prejudice that can be more easily identified and rooted out.

I welcome the acknowledgement in the plan that we must do things differently if we want to see different results, and the need for goals to be set, be reviewed and monitored better to ensure agile, robust, tangible actions that will have a real effect on people's lives. Given that implementation has been identified as a major failing in past strategies, what will ensure accountability and transparency around the plan's measures and goals? Will the Minister ensure that the feedback of the external accountability group, for example, is made public in regular reports to the Senedd? How will the voices of ordinary people, ordinary communities, continue to be heard now that this plan has been published?

By 2030 the plan aims for our nation to be free of that hatred that scars, oppresses and defers dreams. We must recognise that it is not enough to ensure that the structural racism that exists in our society is eliminated; we must stop it from taking root in the first place. And it starts, I think, with our youngest citizens, who represent our future.

The requiring of reporting of racist incidents and harassment in schools and colleges through strengthened data collection is most welcome, therefore. But I'd like to understand why this will take until a year next September to change. The recent terrible and terrifying case of racist bullying of Raheem Bailey has shown the urgent need for the tackling of this problem in our schools, and without adequate reporting we are tackling this issue blind. So, what does the plan say to young people who could be maimed and scarred for life by these terrible experiences, who cannot wait for the effects of the new curriculum to educate and enlighten their peers, and with over a year to pass before the whole-school systems are put in place to begin the process that can effect real systemic change?

One of the measures to ensure that high-quality, consistent further education and adult learning is in place to meet the needs of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers is to commission a review of the English for speakers of other languages policy. Given the plan's recognition of the need to remove the barriers to Welsh-medium education for minority ethnic people, should this also include free Welsh language lessons?

The aim of increasing the number of minority ethnic people in public positions and elected office is also one that is vital to achieve anti-racist institutions and systems. The plan includes a measure to expand the access to elected office fund for the next local government elections in 2027. So, why doesn't the plan include measures to increase ethnic diversity and representation as part of the forthcoming Senedd reform measures, and will the Government advocate for doing this for the next Senedd elections?

Finally, the plan rightly places a firm focus on the criminal justice system as an area in which there is racial injustice as regards its treatment of, and the outcomes for, people from ethnic minorities. We know this in part due to the research of the Wales Governance Centre and others. So, can the Minister provide an update on what additional research work is required to ensure the plan delivers the required actions that should be taken in line with the aims of the plan and the commitment in the co-operation agreement?

The plan states that

'it is only when we have full oversight of the justice system in Wales that we will be able to fully align its delivery with the needs and priorities of minority ethnic communities of Wales...devolution of the police and the justice system is the most sustainable way of creating a justice system that is anti-racist and fully meets the diverse needs of people in Wales.'

This surely must be the ultimate aim of the plan. In the words of Coretta Scott King,

'It doesn't matter how strong your opinion are. If you don't use your power for positive change, you are indeed part of the problem.'

To truly tackle the hate and injustice that plagues, hampers and shames our society, and the systems that permit this, we must be united in using the power we have to take the power we need. Diolch.


Diolch. Thank you for such powerful statements, which indeed show just the strength of the coming together in our co-operation agreement, about the importance of strength, which I believe could come from across this Chamber, but it has to be delivered as a result of our joint commitment and the sharing of our goals and values in the co-operation agreement. I think it's important that it is expressed and publicly clear as a high-profile commitment, the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', in both our programme for government and the co-operation agreement. I'm pleased that we've had productive discussions, you've had an opportunity to review the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', and actually you've influenced the fact that crime and justice particularly are being addressed. I have responded to some of those points, in terms of our determination to—. Even though it isn't devolved, we are moving on with the Commission on Justice in Wales, the Thomas commission, but also there's the recent jointly signed report by the Counsel General and me, and we are progressing this in terms of the opportunities that we have to influence the justice system in Wales.

I think the importance, really, that you focus on a number of areas of policy is crucial, but it has to be about leadership. We decided, as a result of the consultation—extensive consultation—that race equality action is not enough; it has to be very clearly stated as an anti-racist action plan. People have to embrace and recognise, as we do in Government, the institutionalised and systemic racism that actually holds people back and affects every minute of every day of their lives. We've learned this from working with the people we've worked with in terms of the steering group, the Wales race forum, which actually I've been working with for many years, who called for this to be an action plan—not another strategy, but a plan with those goals and actions to take forward. 

So, leadership within Welsh Government and across the public sector is crucial, and the zero tolerance of racism throughout the public sector. And also, only two and a half years ago, we launched the diversity and equality strategy for our public appointments. It was called, 'Reflecting Wales in Running Wales'. We know we have a long way to go to reflect Wales in running Wales, but if we can see that change by 2030—. We have power over this, we can make those changes, but you need goals and actions to do this. We need to remove the barriers and we need to use all the levers that we've got.

There are many issues relating to education, which I know the Minister for Education and Welsh Language will be mentioning and responding to in his statement. But, we have remit letters, we have financial arrangements, and, importantly, as you said, we have a new accountability group—you'll have heard about that this morning. Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna, who helped take us to this point, co-chairing with the Permanent Secretary, has made it clear right from the start that we need that accountability. We need a new accountability group, and I can assure you that I will make sure that we feed back to the Senedd. I know that they will want to feed back, I'm sure, to committees and to the Senedd as well what their expectations are.

We'll take actions to tackle racism in terms of monitoring actions annually through the accountability group, but it won't be just for us. Actually, someone said this morning—one of the speakers said—that this is about community accountability as well; it's about the accountability of all those public sector bodies, and that, of course, includes all the statutory bodies, but also business as well. So, chairs of public bodies will be pressed to proactively champion diversity and inclusion, including a performance objective around anti-racism.

I think it's also very important just to look at some of those wider issues that you raise. For example, in terms of the hate crime and victim support centre, I've already mentioned, in terms of children and young people, that we've now got a new team working to address hate crime.

As far as Senedd reform is concerned, I'm really pleased that we can learn from that in terms of the special purpose committee report that we will be debating tomorrow, because of that recommendation that there should be a further inquiry into the merits and implications of quotas, for example, for characteristics other than gender. We have a lot to learn, but we could lead the way in the UK, and we can certainly help lead the way in terms of looking at these issues, and I know that there's strong support for that. Local government: now we've gone through the elections, I'll be meeting all local government leaders very shortly to talk about the anti-racist action plan.

One of the recommendations that came—finally, Deputy Llywydd—from the socioeconomic report on the impact of coronavirus on black, Asian and minority ethnic people was that we needed a race disparity unit in the Welsh Government. Well, we've got one now. It was set up and it's part of an equality evidence unit, but there is an issue about data, particularly data that is held by the UK Government. So, the Wales Governance Centre has done some pioneering work, particularly led by Robert Jones, who's actually exposed the disproportionate impact of criminal justice, particularly on black, Asian and minority ethnic people and women. Well, we are going to, again, address that through working together. We met just a couple of weeks ago to talk about the ways in which we can work together with the Wales Governance Centre and the equality, race and disability evidence unit. And a commitment to sharing the justice element of the anti-racism Wales action plan, as part of our co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, and to start a conversation now about how we can work together, and, indeed, look to other research that will be helpful to this.

So, your commitment, your support is crucial for us to get this right, but you will have heard and seen this morning that there will be expectations, and the expectation on us as a Government has to be the key point. And I know that you will hold us to account, the people with lived experience of racism must and will hold us to account, and that's what we need to deliver on the anti-racist action plan.


Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, and I'm really pleased to have an opportunity to speak on the statement today, and I really, really do welcome it. If we're going to look at—and this plan is—ending institutional racism and systemic racism, then we clearly have to tackle those institutions where we find the prevalence. Of course, that will be in education and it will also be in health. We've seen the inequality within the system of women's health that came forward under COVID, which has already been mentioned just now.

And we have to look at sport. We all know that, in terms of football, black, Asian and minority ethnic players are heroes when they're scoring, but should they miss a penalty or something, the racial abuse that they suffer afterwards is somewhat appalling. So, we have to look at the positives and the contribution that is made. We have to change the narrative and we have to, without a doubt, move forward with that at all levels. We have to change minds, in my opinion, by changing the narrative, and the narrative all too often is one of being negative rather than being positive. So, I really do welcome this.

I'm reminded here today that we talk about, 'Me, you, other'; we need to start talking—


Diolch yn fawr, Joyce Watson. You've absolutely spelled it out so clearly—this is about ending institutional racism. Therefore, we have to look at those institutions, including our own, and tackle that. I will leave it to the Deputy Minister, who I'm sure will be addressing the questions particularly in her portfolio around sport, and the education Minister on education. We thought it would be good to have several statements. This is not just for the Minister for Social Justice; indeed, every Minister could be standing up and making a statement today, because it's relevant to every Minister, and you'll see that in the action plan.

But, just quickly on health, I've already mentioned the contribution, the role and the experience of the health and social care workforce in terms of the role that they play, not just in the pandemic but always in our health service. They have exposed to us the inequities in the workforce, time and time again recognising that this is something where they haven't always been recognised and had a level playing field in terms of their opportunities. So, it is good that the Minister for health is establishing an NHS health inequalities group. This is going to particularly draw on lived experiences to identify the barriers that black, Asian and minority ethnic people have experienced in accessing health services. And, obviously, these are issues that we've been discussing in terms of access to women's health—this is very intersectional—in terms of the anti-racist action plan.

We need to ensure that we have anti-racist leadership and education in NHS Wales at every level and in every board, and we have to—it goes back to data—underpin this with data collection so that we have an evidence base for our progress.

7. Statement by the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, and Chief Whip: Culture and Heritage Update: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic History, Culture and Heritage

Item 7 is next, a statement by the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, an update on black, Asian and minority ethnic history, culture and heritage. I call on the Deputy Minister, Dawn Bowden.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. I'd like to thank the Minister for Social Justice for her statement announcing the publication of the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan'. For my part, I'm committed to delivering the goals and actions set out for culture, heritage and sport, which focus on the themes of leadership, funding, celebrating cultural diversity, the historical narrative and learning about our cultural diversity. The ambitious actions under these key areas are informed by lived experience; they aim to be transformational, delivering demonstrable change and leading to equal outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

We have a rich and diverse culture and heritage in Wales. Our programme for government commits to properly represent and reflect the history of black, Asian and minority ethnic people, aiming to ensure their immeasurable contribution is recognised, and to enable equal access and participation. This will improve outcomes for all and will better reflect and promote a multicultural, vibrant and diverse Wales, which is fundamental to delivering our vision of a truly anti-racist Wales.

Delivering this change has already begun. In the last financial year, we undertook initial preparatory work, investing nearly £350,000 with organisations including the National Library of Wales, the Archives and Records Council Wales and Race Council Cymru. Our national organisations play a critical role in addressing inequality and achieving an anti-racist Wales. This is a shared objective for all sponsored bodies in my portfolio, and supporting the action plan is a key deliverable within their new remit letters.

I've expressed my desire for our cultural sponsored bodies to work in collaboration to increase their impact in this area. Members will be aware that the Arts Council of Wales and Amgueddfa Cymru—National Museum Wales have co-produced a widening engagement action plan, with actions now embedded into both organisations' operational and strategic equality plans. People's Collection Wales, a federated partnership between Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, has published a charter for decolonising the collection.

Of course, while collaboration between organisations is important, collaboration and co-production with the ethnic minority communities themselves is crucial to developing this work and implementing change that will have a real impact. I am pleased to see our organisations focusing on this; for example, the Arts Council of Wales has undertaken a major review of its arts associates programme, and recruited new associates with lived experience of cultural and ethnic diversity, as well as an agent for change.

As a result, a cultural shift is already happening in discussions at funding meetings, with an increase in the number of successful applications targeting diverse communities and artists. Amgueddfa Cymru and the national library are appointing to roles focusing on engaging with black, Asian and ethnic minority people. The national library and the Archives and Records Council Wales, funded by Welsh Government, have created a toolkit to enable the sector to engage better with black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities.

We provided funding to Race Council Cymru to carry out a pilot project to develop its Black History Wales programme, including the record of stories right across Wales. Six culturally diverse people, each with black history expertise and trusted community engagement experience, led the development of Black History Wales networks in different parts of Wales. I attended the launch of Black History Cymru 365 in October last year and saw for myself the powerful Windrush Cymru exhibition.

I made a statement in January to update on the progress of the audit of commemoration, and I am pleased to say that this work has been continuing at pace. Cadw is preparing guidance for local authorities and other public bodies to support them in making decisions about public commemoration—both historical and in the future. Development of the guidance has been informed by a series of workshops with a wide range of stakeholders. There will be a full public consultation on a draft later this year. Cadw has also been working on improving its website, recognising a more diverse range of stories that contribute to the histories of Wales. It has worked in partnership with several organisations to create content, including personal heritage stories and creative responses to commemorating people of Black heritage in Wales. The new content will be available from mid June.

Our local cultural sectors also have a vital part to play. There are over 100 local museums across the country, all working at a grass-roots level. Last year, 41 museums took part in the innovative training and support programme that we funded—the first of its kind in the UK. This included workshops on looking at collections from new perspectives, to enable stories connected to slavery and the empire to be told from a local perspective. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with many reporting that they had gained the understanding, knowledge and confidence to make change.

Since the programme ended, we know that many have found new connections in their collections and are starting to reinterpret their displays. I am proud of the significant progress we have already made, and I look forward to our continued progress as we deliver our goals and actions in the action plan and the programme for government commitments. This will be supported by a further £4.25 million funding over the next three years, through the launch of an innovative new grant scheme. Three distinct strands will be covered: our national sponsored bodies; a competitive grant process across our sectors, which I am pleased to say we will be launching in the coming weeks; and a ring-fenced fund specifically for grass-roots organisations, which we are developing at present for launch later this year.

We are also preparing to recruit community mentors to work with my officials over the next year. They will offer critical advice for the delivery of the action plan, support the development of the grant scheme and the establishment of a sector-specific lived-experience advisory group. Together, and at national, local and grass-roots level, we will continue to deliver meaningful change for black, Asian and minority ethnic people across Wales and take vital steps to making our vision of an anti-racist Wales a reality.


Can I thank the Deputy Minister for her statement this afternoon in highlighting how important it is that our cultural sector and our heritage sector is as welcoming as possible for as many people as possible? It's important that the work the Minister for Social Justice mentioned and that review is carried out, and I'm pleased to see it happening in your portfolio too, because as the Minister for Social Justice said, it's not just her responsibility as the Minister for Social Justice, but something that cuts right across Welsh Government, so I'm glad to see this piece of work is happening. I'm also thankful to hear from your statement about that cultural change you mentioned in organisations that's taking place, and I think that's really welcome too.

Can I also start by welcoming the £4.2 million in additional funding announced over the next three years, which will give funding for grass-roots organisations? I'm hopeful it'll deliver change, building on our rich and diverse culture and heritage in Wales. You do however also mention a new grant scheme that couples this, so I'd be grateful for further details on this and wonder whether you can provide clear expectations on what you would expect from those organisations. What in your view does success look like? What metric can we used to hold you accountable to ensure that this new funding is providing value for money? I'd also like to focus on some of the points in the 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan' published by the Welsh Government earlier today as it relates to your portfolio. Under the culture, heritage and sport section, it states that one of the goals is to

'Review and decolonise our public spaces and collections by appropriately addressing the way in which people and events with known historical associations to slavery and colonialism are commemorated, acknowledging the harm done by their actions and reframing the presentation of their legacy to fully recognise this.'

I agree with that, and what I think is important here is that the public at large buy into that as well. I think most people would agree with the sentiment of that part of the plan, but what the statement, I feel, lacks is a definitiveness about where that line is being drawn. It is a line that differs depending on your perspective, and it's a live debate that is happening all the time. We've seen some people say that figures with perhaps tenuous links at best to the slave trade are dragged into this debate years after they've passed away. I've seen some commentators mention the likes of Winston Churchill in this sort of space, which I hope we would both agree is not the intention of this proposal. This, in my view, comes down to accountability as to who will be making such decisions and what perspectives they'll be considering, because we know, as I said, those perspectives can differ and we don't want people who agree with the sentiment of the action plan disagreeing with the outcome of what is actually achieved by it.

A good example would be the decision by National Museum Wales a few months ago to review a replica of the first steam-powered locomotive in Wales by Richard Trevithick over claims it was linked to the slave trade. Officials at the museum admitted there were no direct links between the Trevithick locomotive and the slave trade, but they said the use of the invention is rooted in colonialism and racism. A review is fine, but we need to be careful about where we draw those distinctions about our past to ensure that people are not deleted from our past simply because they existed in the past. So, an understanding on that kind of threshold would be quite important, I think.

The action plan also states that it will

'Identify a specific ring-fenced resource to support grassroots cultural, creative and sporting activities among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups and promote this to encourage applications, taking account of intersectional disadvantages and specific issues relating to community languages.'

Can you, Deputy Minister, confirm exactly how that will work? How much will this pot be? it wasn't really clear from your statement whether this would form part of the new funding announced in your statement or whether this is a separate element of funding again.

Another point I'd like to mention was one of your actions to work with black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities to identify and lift barriers to accessing heritage and cultural collections. Given this, what impact assessment has the Welsh Government done in the sorts of ways that diverse communities are facing barriers to accessing heritage sites, and can you share the findings with the Senedd? Another point to note in the action plan was to ask Sport Wales and its partners to increase the participation in active lifestyles of women and girls from diverse groups, taking into account intersectional disadvantages, languages and the most disadvantaged groups. How will you be measuring that progress, Deputy Minister? And, again, what does success look like, and also what tangible targets will you be setting to reach, whilst working with stakeholders? 

You also mentioned the over 100 local museums across the country—they're expected to play quite a big role, actually, in many of these schemes, such as the charter for decolonising the collection. It's crucial we get that right as well. Many involved with local museums perhaps don't necessarily come into regular contact with structures of Welsh Government, and many involved are volunteers. So, how are you ensuring we're not placing unintentional, additional bureaucratic work on their vital volunteering work in local museums across Wales, and work out ways that we can continue to attract and enhance volunteering experiences within our museums? And how also will you make sure that there's a consistent understanding within groups like this, so we don't have different museums interpreting this in different ways?

And finally, one of the first things you said was about the lived experience, and I think that's really important. There is no single diverse experience. So, how are you using this strategy to ensure that plurality is recognised and accounted for in this strategy? Thank you. 


Can I thank Tom Giffard for those many questions? I'm not sure that I've got all of them, Tom, but I'll try and wrap it all up in an overarching response. If I can deal first with the culture grant scheme that you were talking about initially. What we are looking to do, really, is to introduce a scheme in readiness to launch in the coming weeks. So, the detail of that is still being worked on, and I will be back in this Chamber with more information on that in due course. I think I've set out in my statement the three strands of that, and that was covered in part of your question, but I don't have the detail of that yet—that is being developed and we will be bringing it back. But one of the key elements of that is to ensure that some of the smaller groups, who we have had quite a lot of criticism for across the cultural sector—they find it very difficult to access grant funding, because they are small, because they don't have the experience of having staff that work on grant applications all the time and so on. Those kind of organisations won't find themselves in competition with big organisations that are coming in for that particular pot of money. So, there will be a very specific pot, a very specific element of that funding pot, which will be aimed at those other organisations. But they will be setting out and helping us to deliver what we see as very ambitious goals. Now, you will ask the question, 'What are the ambitious goals?' Well, the ambitious goals are, clearly, to create an anti-racist Wales. Now, I'm not going to stand here, as the Minister for Social Justice isn't standing here, saying that we can do that overnight. But we have to start with the institutions that we have some responsibility for, that we can influence, that we can work with and that Welsh Government money goes into. So, those are the organisations that we are working with in particular.

I think the point that you have made around decolonisation is a very fair one in terms of who do we look at, what d