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.

1. Questions to the First Minister

Good afternoon and welcome to this Plenary meeting. The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Jane Dodds.

Ambulance Response Times

1. Will the First Minister make a statement on ambulance response times? OQ59013

I thank Jane Dodds, Llywydd, for that question. Record levels of demand have placed real pressures on ambulance response times, with lengthy delays for some patients. Nevertheless, in December—the most difficult month—the service responded to the highest ever number of red calls within the eight-minute target.

Thank you for that response.

It's 13:30. If somebody phones 999 now because they have chest pains, when would you expect an ambulance to arrive? I'm sure you'll recognise that question from the leader of the Labour Party in Westminster, Keir Starmer, to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister refused a straight answer, so I'm hoping that we can get a straight answer from you this afternoon. But, from NHS Wales stats, we know that, for the person who's just called 999 with those chest pains—surprisingly not a red call, but an amber call—they will likely wait over an hour for an ambulance to arrive. If the person who'd just called 999 was in a life-threatening situation—a red call—they could wait as long as 15 minutes in Powys. The target, as you know, for those red calls, is eight minutes, and the last time those targets were met was July 2020, and the figures have been in free fall ever since. Our ambulance staff work incredibly hard under very difficult circumstances. 'Diolch' to them all. So, could you tell me when you expect these targets to be met? Will it be another two and a half years before the red call targets can be met? Diolch. 

Well, Llywydd, let me, first of all, answer the specific question that Jane Dodds asked in introducing her supplementary question. The management information provided in the Welsh NHS suggests that, last week, the week beginning 16 January, had it been a red call, the standard waiting time—the median waiting time—from the minute a call is dispatched to it arriving with a patient was seven minutes, 43 seconds. That means, given the time that a first question on a Tuesday normally takes, by the time the question is over, the ambulance would have left and arrived. And if it were an amber call, as Jane Dodds suggested, then the average response time last week—the standard response time—was 38 minutes, 52 seconds. 

On the broader point, when the ambulance service last reached the target that we have set for it, it had done so for 48 months consecutively. And what happened was, in July 2020, the impact of the pandemic undid those four years of absolutely consistently meeting the targets that had been set. It is a slow recovery from all of that. But, Llywydd, as I said, it is not necessarily because the supply of service has diminished; it's because the demand for the service has gone up. In December, more calls than at any other time—more than any month in that 48-month period—more calls were answered within the target time. It is simply that the volume of calls far exceeds anything that happened in any one of those months, and despite, as Jane Dodds very fairly said, the enormous efforts of ambulance staff, when you have a rise in demand of that sort, the percentage of calls that are answered within the target time cannot be sustained. The combination of additional investment and, particularly, additional staff, is the way in which we will succeed in returning the ambulance to the level of achievement that it itself would wish to see for its patients. 

First Minister, in December, less than 40 per cent of life-threatening calls received an ambulance response time within your Government's eight-minute target—a record low. And if that isn't a crisis, then I wonder what is a crisis. But, given the pressure on the ambulance service, which I understand the reasons for, the Wales air ambulance service is, of course, all the more crucial for constituents like mine in mid Wales. So, given the state of the overall ambulance service in Wales, can I ask if the current service levels will be taken into account in the Wales air ambulance review, which is currently under way, and, if they aren't, do you think they should be? As you know, there is great respect and support for the Wales air ambulance, and it's greatly appreciated by the people of mid Wales. There is anxiety at the moment with people who are waiting for an ambulance, and their families as well, but there's even greater anxiety in mid Wales, and I hope you can understand how the current proposals are causing significant anxiety across my constituency.


Llywydd, as I know Russell George will be aware, the chief ambulance service commissioner is leading a review on behalf of the Emergency Ambulance Services Committee. That review is now in the period of formal engagement; no decision on the outcome has been made. And the points that the Member makes, and makes powerfully on behalf of his constituents, will of course be heard in that review, alongside all the other evidence. The aim of the Wales air ambulance service, which is absolutely a very highly respected and very effective service, is to use the resources it has in a way that reaches the largest number of patients and delivers them that effective service. That will be the basis of the review.

There are so many things, of course, that contribute to the pressures on the ambulance service, the kinds of pressures that forced a constituent of mine to wait 24 hours for an ambulance, having broken her hip. Now, the five-point plan for health and care services, published today by Plaid Cymru in partnership with many health organisations, touches upon some of the elements that could help in the short term and the longer term in responding to those pressures: the need to settle the pay dispute, supporting the workforce, improving patient flow through the system, and operating in a more preventative way in order to reduce pressures on the ambulance service and other services. It all interweaves. Does the First Minister agree with me that what we are seeing in the pressures on the ambulance service is the best example, possibly, of the unsustainable health system that we have, and a health system in crisis, and that we must acknowledge that in order to start providing solutions and resolutions?

Llywydd, I thank Rhun ap Iorwerth for that question. I've had a brief opportunity to have a look at the plan that Plaid Cymru published today. What the pressure on the ambulance service means is that demand for health services over the winter has been very great—greater than at any time in the history of the NHS. We have a plan already. Of course, we're willing to consider the points in the Plaid Cymru plan to see whether there is more that can be done. But, through the financial investment that we're making, but also, as I said in my reply to Jane Dodds, our investment in more people to work in the area, that's the way to try and help us to do better in the future.

First Minister, it is important that all of us here in Senedd Cymru, the Welsh Parliament, are candid about the real challenges facing our beloved national health service right across the four nations of the United Kingdom. In England, in December, calls from people with life-threatening illness or injuries saw an ambulance response time of 10 minutes and 57 seconds. In Wales, in December, the average response time was 10 minutes, where previously the average, over the four years up to that month, was six minutes. So, two neighbouring countries with almost identical ambulance response times in December for the most urgent calls. Yet, there is one fundamental difference between Wales and England: Wales is led by the Labour Party, which created the national health service and will do all that it can to forever ensure that it continues to be free at the point of care for those who call on its services, whilst in England, the Tory UK Government and ex-English health secretary Sajid Javid are openly theorising about introducing changes and charges to even see a GP—privatisation through the front door. First Minister, what assurances, then, can you give the people of Islwyn and Wales that our NHS will be prioritised in Wales as a truly national, free public health service that lives up to its illustrious legacy, is fit for purpose and offers peace of mind that, when 999 is called, an ambulance will promptly arrive? 


Well, Llywydd, the urgent call ambulance that was dispatched when Jane Dodds asked me her question has now been at the scene for the last three minutes. I say that just to give colleagues here some sense of the service that continues to be provided in every part of Wales. I give Rhianon Passmore an assurance, of course, that here in Wales there are no plans to use the pressures faced by the national health service as an excuse to do away with that service. There's no doubt at all, is there, that there are elements in the Conservative Party nationally who think that the pressures that the health service faces are an excuse to undo the work that that service provides across the whole of the United Kingdom. We will never do that here in Wales, where the health Minister and the First Minister, who are responsible for these services in Wales, are able to give Rhianon Passmore exactly the assurance she was asking for. 

Public Transport Accessibility

2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the accessibility of public transport for those who are visually impaired? OQ59018

I thank the Member for that question, Llywydd. We recognise the importance of making public transport in Wales safe, welcoming and accessible to everyone. We will continue to work with Transport for Wales, local authorities and the public transport providers to ensure services are designed and delivered with the involvement of those with direct experience of visual impairment. 

Thank you, First Minister. As I am sure you'll agree with me, the experience that some disabled people have in Wales when they're accessing public transport still falls woefully short of the standards that we expect and they deserve. I regularly receive communication from residents in my region complaining about the lack of thought and care for them and their needs, and a recent e-mail from a resident who has just lost her eyesight shows how frightening and dangerous travelling by rail from the Valleys into Cardiff, and then on to elsewhere, can be. There was no assistance available for them when boarding or departing any of the trains, which was terrifying for them because of the large gap between the train and the platform. They also received no help whatsoever in trying to get through the ticket barriers, which caused considerable panic as they struggled to find the ticket slot. Moreover, not only were they unable to purchase a ticket prior to travel, as there was no ticket office and the machines weren't suitable for those with visual impairment, but they were even prevented from using their railcard by the onboard ticket collector as they had not purchased their ticket prior to travel, which was actually the wrong course of action. Therefore, First Minister, I'd like to know what assessment has the Welsh Government made of the problems of those who are visually impaired or suffer from blindness are experiencing when using rail services in Wales? And what assurances can you give that assistance will be made available for those with visual impairment and other disabilities when accessing the new south Wales metro system? Thank you. 

I thank Joel James for that. It's never good to hear of the sort of experience that he has set out, but I am able to say to him and to the Chamber that this topic was absolutely at the forefront of a recent meeting of the ministerial disability equality forum, chaired by my colleague Jane Hutt, at the end of November—a meeting that focused on the experience of people with disabilities, including a good representation of people who are themselves visually impaired, together with the chief executive of Transport for Wales and senior Welsh Government transport staff. That meeting will be followed up with a further meeting in February. The meeting did explore some of the barriers that people who face difficulties in using public transport have experienced in making their voices powerfully heard with the providers of that transport. But it was a very full and frank exchange of those views, and the conclusion was that it had opened up the way to make sure that, for those people who give their time voluntarily to be part of the accessibility panel that Transport for Wales holds, the work can be more effective in making sure that services are properly available to people who are visually impaired or have other disabilities in the future. That disability panel has been there for some time; it has already had an impact on the work of Transport for Wales. I'm sure, given the account that Joel James read out, he will want to congratulate Transport for Wales on its decision not to close ticket offices in Wales as has been announced for every station in England.


First Minister, turning to bus services, which are, of course, the most heavily utilised part of our public transport system, and, obviously, in light of the fact that the Welsh Government is developing its proposals for legislative change and a new model for running bus services, talking signs are one solution whereby people affected by sight loss can access travel information at bus stops. Has any consideration been given to introducing similar schemes here in Wales in light of the proposals around the future of our bus services?

Llywydd, I thank Vikki Howells for that. The White Paper that we published in advance of the bus Bill set out plans to include passenger voices at the very top level of a new bus system, to make sure that direct feedback from people who use that service, and particularly those who need additional assistance to do so, are heard powerfully in the system we intend to create. The idea that Vikki Howells has suggested of bus stops being able to provide information that you can hear as well as information that you can see is something that we will discuss with local authorities as part of a wider programme of work to make bus stops more accessible to a wider range of people. The legislative proposals that we will bring in front of the Senedd will certainly make it easier to share high-quality and up-to-date information about bus services and, therefore, to make them more accessible to passengers.

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

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

Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, many of us would have watched the tv programme last night and found it deeply uncomfortable, the revelations on BBC Wales about the culture, and the weekly and monthly difficulties that women in sport, in Welsh rugby face. These allegations, obviously, some are proven and some are unproven. I make no direct allegations against any individual, but the programme set out a very troubling sequence of events that was corroborated by several witnesses who had been at the coalface at the Welsh Rugby Union.

I understand that the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport has spoken with the Welsh Rugby Union today, or certainly very recently. Are you able to update what actions the Welsh Government are taking to engage with the Welsh Rugby Union in light of these allegations? And are you minded, on what you've seen so far, to engage further so that these allegations can be put to rest, and make sure that whoever chooses to play rugby here in Wales, whether they are men or women, plays in a safe environment, an environment that values the contribution that they make to the sport and, above all, the national position that the Welsh Rugby Union holds within our great country?

Llywydd, I entirely agree with the sentiments with which the leader of the opposition ended his question. The meeting between Dawn Bowden and the Welsh Rugby Union took place yesterday afternoon. The Welsh Government, in that meeting, made it clear to the WRU that we need to see urgent and transparent action that helps restore confidence in the WRU itself, and that requires a public recognition on the part of the WRU of the scale and nature of the issues that were rehearsed in that programme. We will absolutely continue to engage with the WRU. As Andrew Davies says, it occupies a place in Welsh public life and it needs itself to recognise that significance. We will continue to be in a challenging, where necessary, conversation with them to make sure that a future is set out for the Welsh Rugby Union that commands the confidence of all of those who are players of the game and who are engaged in wanting to see it have a successful future.


Thank you for that response, First Minister. I today have written to the Chair of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee here in the Senedd, inviting that committee to give consideration to what role it might be able to play in supporting those who've obviously found themselves on the receiving end of this treatment, but also working with the Welsh Rugby Union to, obviously, put in safeguards and make sure best practice is brought to the fore for our national institution, which many of us care very deeply about.

If I could raise another subject with you, which, as you said in response to an earlier question from the Member from Islwyn, is your responsibility, and that of the health Minister, and that is the fabric of our hospitals here in Wales. Last week, a report highlighted the poor fabric of buildings within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board area, in particular the Abergele hospital, where 85 per cent of the estate of Abergele hospital is deemed operationally unsafe and does not meet the requirements of the health and safety regulations that any other place would have to meet. Across the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area, only 62 per cent of the estate meets that operationally safe caveat or requirement. As you said in response earlier to the Member from Islwyn, you are responsible, your health Minister's responsible, this health board has been in special measures for six years under direct Government control, why has this situation developed, and will you apologise for it?

Let me begin for a moment, Llywydd, by agreeing with what the leader of the opposition said in opening this second question, which is that I think that there is a potential role for a Senedd committee in helping to secure a path for the WRU to a better future by using the powers that a committee here has to look into the allegations and to assist in, as I say, finding a better way ahead. 

As to the second question that the Member asked, we have committed more than £335 million in this financial year, in capital expenditure, to the Welsh NHS. We will commit a further £375 million next year for the same purposes. We face sites that are 30 years and more old, where there are compliance issues being identified, as organisations undertake survey work. And the call on that capital is huge. Last week, I answered a question from the leader of the opposition's colleague Darren Millar, who made a case that he's made regularly on the floor of the Senedd, for investment in a new hospital that would serve people in his constituency. I said then that that scheme would have to be assessed by the board, alongside its many other priorities. It is simply the fact that the call for capital expenditure in the Welsh NHS exceeds our ability to fulfil that demand—and some of the figures, actually, you have to treat them a little bit more carefully than I think the leader of opposition was treating them in his question—and you have to find a way of meeting the most urgent demands from the capital that we have for those purposes.

First Minister, the figures I have quoted you are directly out of the board papers from the Betsi Cadwaladr health board. They're not figures that I have made up. At Abergele hospital, only 15 per cent of that hospital is deemed operationally safe. As I said, across the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area, only 62 per cent of the health estate is deemed operationally safe. Across the whole of Wales, that figure rises ever so slightly to 72 per cent.

If we are ever going to get on top of the waiting times, if we are ever going to offer staff and patients a twenty-first century environment to work in, surely making sure that the health estate across Wales—leave alone the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area—is operationally safe should be a priority for your Government, which, as you said, is your responsibility, and your health Minister's responsibility. So I ask you again: will you apologise to the staff who have to work in the environment that I've described in my question to you? And can you give us an indication of when we will start seeing real improvement in the health estate in Wales, so that we do not find hospitals where 85 per cent of their area is operationally unsafe?


The capital budgets available to the Welsh Government go down every year; they are 8 per cent lower next year than they are this year. Where does the Member think the money comes from to do the things that he suggests? Not only that, but our capital borrowing limit has remained unchanged since 2016. These are not decisions of the Welsh Government; they are decisions of the Government that he supports.

I would just say to him again—I'll do it slowly, so that he can think about it—that the amount of money available to the Welsh Government is—[Interruption.] I would prefer that he didn't point at me from where he is sitting. I'll try again, because he doesn't listen, but I'm going to try again to explain to him that if your capital budget is falling every year and your ability to borrow is capped at the level that it was, now, seven years ago, then our ability to do the things that we would like to do is constrained by decisions that are not in the hands of the Welsh Government, but are in the hands of his friends and his colleagues, and there we are. Let him think about that and maybe he'll have a better question for me next time.

Diolch, Llywydd.

'So for one week will he stop blaming others, take some responsibility, and just admit that on his watch the NHS is in crisis, isn't it?'

I'm quoting the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, to Rishi Sunak last week at Prime Minister's questions, but they're words that could equally apply to you, First Minister. Labour in Scotland has described the situation in the NHS as being in a state of crisis there also. Why is it that you, as a party, are prepared to declare the NHS to be in crisis everywhere else apart from here in Wales, where you have responsibility and have done so for over 25 years?

Well, Llywydd, I will have lost count of the number of times that I have said in this Chamber that the NHS in Wales is under enormous pressure and that it is not able to do all of the things that we would like it to do in the way that we would like it to do them. If the leader of Plaid Cymru thinks that attaching a label to that somehow, by itself, makes all of that any better, then that is not a point of view that I share.

Well, words matter because actually admitting that it's a crisis is an important acknowledgement of the scale, the seriousness and the urgency of the challenges that we face. I think the reason that you don't want to use that word is because the crisis has developed and deepened under you and under your Government. Health is devolved. Five Ministers in your Government—a majority in the Cabinet—have been health Ministers, and it's time you took collective responsibility for the mess the NHS is in.

In refusing to provide health workers with a decent pay rise, you, the Labour Party, are turning your back on health workers, while it's us, in this party, who are standing shoulder to shoulder with them on the picket line. You're rightly proud in the Labour Party that you were there and responsible for the birth of the NHS, but if you don't fundamentally change your policy then you will be responsible for its demise.

The UK Government is refusing as well to acknowledge there's a crisis; they haven't held any COBRA meetings during the NHS emergency there. In Scotland, the equivalent has met three times over the last few months to discuss the problems in the NHS. How often has the Welsh equivalent been convened over this winter to reflect the national emergency we are now facing?

Well, Llywydd, there were figures published last week of performance in the Welsh NHS. Here is the crisis service that the Member described: all waits in the health service in Wales fell in November. The total number of people waiting fell; the total number of people who were waiting over 26 weeks fell, over 52 weeks fell, over two years fell. The number of people waiting for a therapy appointment fell; the number of people waiting for—[Interruption.] These are the facts of the matter. If you want to describe a service that has succeeded in every one of those things as a crisis, that is fine for you to do.

This was a service that, in November, had recovered in-patient and day cases to 93 per cent of the level before the pandemic. It has been above 90 per cent in three of the last four months. Out-patient activity recovered to 114 per cent of the month immediately before the pandemic began. It's been over 100 per cent in three of the last four months. 

The service is under enormous pressure. There are more people working in it than ever before. There is more money invested in it than ever before. And despite all the additional things it has to deal with—COVID, flu, group A streptococcus, strikes—the service manages every single day to reach thousands and thousands of people who, if the health service wasn't there, would never have access to the services that they need. If he wants to describe it as a crisis and thinks that somehow a psychodrama solution is what the health service needs, it's not the view that I take of it.


That is beneath the First Minister, to be honest with you. These are not my words; they're the words of the NHS workforce that we've been speaking to and listening to on the picket lines. We have nurses, doctors and others, through burn-out, who are crying on wards, and patients and their relatives because of the experience that they're facing. I'm afraid the state of denial that we've just heard from the First Minister reflects your complete misunderstanding, your complete disconnection from what is happening on the ground.

I welcome the fact that you're willing to look at our ideas positively in the five-point plan. At the heart of them is getting a long-term workforce plan to address this crisis of recruitment, retention and morale, and the problem of burn-out in the health service. Can being more flexible be part of the solution? Well, you could look at not just our ideas, but the ideas in the Senedd committee presented today in terms of a four-day working week. Could that provide some degree of solution in terms of, as well as improving productivity, reducing overwork and exhaustion, but also providing the dual benefit of a happier, healthier workforce, less stressed and sleep deprived? You're committed, you say, as a Government to being innovative and to evidence-based policy; why not look at this idea as part of the potential solution to the crisis of recruitment and retention in our health service?

First of all, many people in the health service do work less than a five-day week. It's part of the changing nature of the way in which people who occupy those very pressurised roles choose to make their own future. It's part of the reason why we have more people working in the Welsh health service, in every single aspect of it, than ever before.

We're always willing to look at ways in which the working conditions of people across our public services can be improved. It's part of the discussion that the health Minister has been having with our health service trade unions. A four-day working week is something we know that some businesses in Wales have already embarked upon because they believe that it delivers better productivity and a more contented workplace than would otherwise be the case. We will look carefully at the lessons of that. There is to be an experiment in Scotland. It's yet to begin, but I've discussed it with the Scottish First Minister and we will look to see whether there is anything we can learn from that. The notion that a rapid and wholesale move to four-day working in the health service would be likely to lead to better outcomes for patients is something that I think would need a good deal of examination.

Renewable Energy

3. Will the First Minister make a statement on investment in renewable energy in Wales? OQ59021

Last week’s awarding of a seabed lease to the Mona project is a milestone moment. Providing that conditions are right, major private sector investment can be mobilised to create a renewable energy future for Wales. 

King Charles said last week that he was eager to see a percentage of the Crown Estate's profit used for broader public good. Many of us would argue that all of the income of the Crown Estate should be used for the broader public good. It's a policy for many of us to devolve the Crown Estate, and I'd be very pleased to hear what work the Government is currently doing to move that agenda forward. But also, do you agree with me that income generated from the Crown Estate shouldn't be the basis of the sovereign grant that maintains the royal family? 


The Government's policy is to have the Crown Estate devolved here to us in Wales. We have had more than one conversation with the Crown Estate and we've presented the same idea to the UK Government as well. As I know Llyr Gruffydd will know, with the current UK Government, there will be no opportunity, I don't think, to move ahead with that idea. But in the opinion of the Government, that's the best way to do it. By doing things in that way, the money from the natural resources here in Wales will be in the hands of the people of Wales, and that's the best way to proceed. 

Development plans, and, indeed, our national development plan, are the backbone when we're looking at future planning on land. We've asked, for many reasons, why there isn't the same detailed approach out at sea. This is a point we've spoken about for several years. I was proud to see a majority in this Welsh Parliament back our legislative proposal to create a national marine development plan for Wales. You've yet to progress with these proposals, and they're backed by RSPB Cymru, other non-governmental organisations and lots of conservationists. Would you agree with me that a spatial approach is key?

Turning to the 2023-24 budget, as Wales Environment Link have highlighted, it's really concerning to see the contrast between the budget lines of marine policy evidence and funding, which is around £1.9 million, and marine energy, set at £7 million. That's quite a gap. Will you explain the £5.1 million gap? I know we need renewables, First Minister, but you have to balance this, and we've been calling on the Minister to do this by having this plan. Would you not agree that more evidence is important now, if Welsh Government are continuing to plan to accelerate offshore renewable deployments, so that these don't come at the cost of our natural biodiversity and our conservation? Thank you.  

We have a marine plan. The first Wales marine plan was published in November 2019 and the first three-year review of that plan was laid before the Senedd on 10 November. So, I'm not absolutely sure what the Member is asking for when that plan exists and it's been reported here to Senedd Members. On the specific issue of the budget, the Minister is in front of committee tomorrow and will no doubt be able to respond to that point. However, Llywydd, it is difficult for me to know quite how to respond to the contradictory messages that I receive from members of the Conservative Party. I receive letters from the Secretary of State for Wales urging me to get on with development and not to allow environmental considerations to hold up the necessary work of renewable energy, and I have the Member here from the same party urging me not to rush ahead with energy development so that we can protect the environment.

The truth of the matter is you have to balance both of those considerations, and it's a difficult balancing act. As I said last week in answering Sam Kurtz, I want Natural Resources Wales to be an enabling organisation. I want it to be able to give confidence to renewable energy developers, including developments of marine energy. I want those developers to have confidence that the system exists in Wales to get them the consents that they need. At the same time, NRW must discharge its responsibilities as an environmental regulator. In Wales we won't sacrifice the precious environment that is the sea in a short-term dash to see developments that aren't capable of being consented. But holding those two things in balance is a challenging business. And we discuss it; I know the Minister was discussing it with NRW only last week. 

I welcome the First Minister's statement in answer to Llyr Gruffydd supporting the devolution of the Crown Estate. I think that's a very important move in terms of providing renewable energy supplies for Wales, and I'm looking forward to the Minister for Climate Change's statement later this afternoon on those targets. But, First Minister, as well as ensuring that we have the ability to deliver the large-scale developments that are required to meet net-zero targets, is it also possible to balance that with a greater emphasis on local community-owned renewable generation? Because when I speak to my constituents, they have fears about some of the larger scale developments that could take place on the valley tops around Blaenau Gwent, but what they want is a commitment to net zero, and they want to play their part in delivering net zero. And that means local schemes, which we can feel an ownership of and which we feel we can be a part of, to ensure that every part of our community has access to renewable energy generation at a reasonable cost.


I certainly agree about the importance of local community energy. In the statement that the Minister will make later this afternoon, I anticipate that she will have something to say about new and more ambitious targets in that part of what we do.

The Welsh Government has significantly increased our support for Community Energy Wales. It's chaired these days by our former colleague Leanne Wood, and I was grateful for some recent discussions with her about some potential community energy developments in the Cardiff West constituency. So, I think, as Alun Davies has said about his constituents, so in every part of Wales there are individuals and organisations that want to see, in addition to the absolutely necessary large-scale commitment to renewables, the ability to do things in that local sense. We're committed to a very significant proportion of renewable energy in Wales generated through that local route, and the support of communities across Wales for it is part of the strength that Wales brings to this agenda.

Drug Addiction Support

4. How is the Welsh Government supporting people with drug addictions in South Wales West? OQ58991

The Welsh Government continues to support people who experience problematic use of both drugs and alcohol. We are investing almost £64 million in our substance misuse agenda in this financial year, and that will increase to almost £67 million in 2023-24. 

Thank you, First Minister. I'm sorry to say that Swansea suffers from the largest number of drug-related deaths in Wales, with nearly 200 people dying of drug misuse over the last five years. The situation has now been worsened by the flooding of fake benzodiazepines onto Swansea's streets. Last week it was also reported that one in 10 of those on a drug rehabilitation programme in the Swansea Bay health board area were waiting over 40 weeks for treatment. I know you'll be likely to blame COVID—and, yes, it's had an impact on services—however, the problems in Swansea date back to before the pandemic. Overall in Wales, drug-related deaths have jumped by 44 per cent over the last year. So, what urgent measures are you taking to ensure that people in Swansea are getting the treatment that they need, and do you recognise that the substance misuse delivery plan is failing to deliver for those who need it the most?

I fundamentally disagree with the last point the Member made. He's right to say that drug-related deaths in the last year for which figures are available rose in Wales, as they did in every part of the United Kingdom, but they fell in Swansea. So, that's an important thing to recognise as well. I do accept that there are particular challenges in the Swansea Bay area, and we need a full commitment from all members of the area planning board in that area to bringing about improvement. The Swansea Bay truth commission, chaired by a former very senior public health consultant and a former police assistant chief constable, is itself bringing together local players and people with direct experience of these matters, to try to make sure that there is a pathway to improvement, and we look forward to their final report in September of this year.

Waiting times are too long in the Swansea Bay area, and they can be better. In Bridgend, which was until quite recently part of the Swansea Bay health board, waiting times are now 10 days for treatment. If you can do it in Bridgend, it can be done in Swansea as well, and it's important that lessons are learnt from good practice in places that have struggled to be in the same position.

We continue to work closely across the jagged edge of devolved and non-devolved services in this area, and we've been pleased to work closely, through the Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael, with the Home Office project ADDER—Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery—a project that seeks to bring together the forces of both policing and treatment to make a difference in the Swansea area. I know that my colleague Lynne Neagle visited that project in October of last year, and it is by bringing together the different services that can make a difference in this area that we will be able to make the progress that we want to see in Swansea Bay.


Speaking of Bridgend, before being elected, I was a trustee to Brynawel drug and rehab centre, which is in my colleague Huw Irranca-Davies's constituency of Ogmore. They offer a wide range of holistic approaches to support people with their rehabilitation from addictions. I have seen what fantastic support is out there, and the barriers that people can overcome when they have the access to the right support.

Research from the Centre for Social Justice argues that today, actually, more of us are vulnerable to addiction than ever before, with over-prescription practices, drugs culture infiltrating social media, the growth of the dark web, aggressive gambling marketing, and conditions like anxiety being exploited by dealers in illicit medication. In their report, 'Road to Recovery: addiction in our society – the case for reform', they call for a whole-person approach to help individuals with recovery. As they put it, recovery starts with the individual, but it takes a compassionate and determined community to make that a reality.

So, First Minister, would you agree with me that, despite the continued challenge to tackle substance misuse, the partnership work that we have here in Wales through the area planning board structure and the £67 million of funding that is being protected and increased within our budget, along with our long-standing commitment to a harm-reduction approach, has underpinned Wales's strong response to tackling a very complex and multifaceted issue? Diolch.

Well, Llywydd, I begin by paying tribute to the work that goes on at Brynawel—a project that unites people across this Chamber in the work that's been invested in making it a success. The approach we've taken in Wales is a harm-reduction approach, one that recognises the pressures that exist and that propel people into these difficulties, and thinks of substance misuse as a public health issue, not one that is solely related to criminal justice. The partnership approach is absolutely fundamental to that, and so is using new opportunities as they come our way.

When I chaired the policing board for Wales last, we were joined by the then policing Minister at the UK Government, Kit Malthouse, and we discussed the way in which, in Wales, we have led the way in making available a new form of treatment, buvidal. Over 1,200 service users across Wales are now benefiting from that form of treatment, with 172 in the Swansea bay area. Kit Malthouse said at that meeting that the investment that Wales is making in that new and innovative treatment is leading the way across the whole of the United Kingdom. So, it's a combination, isn't it, of using our strengths, the partnerships we have on the ground, while at the same time being willing to invest in new opportunities that can do good in the lives of people who otherwise have experienced such significant harm.

Vascular Services

5. Will the First Minister provide an update on vascular services for patients in Arfon? OQ58981

I thank Siân Gwenllian for the question, Llywydd. Over the coming weeks, a number of reports will assist the board in the necessary work of improving vascular service for patients in Arfon. That will include a recent re-inspection of the service by Health Inspectorate Wales and the report commissioned through the board’s own vascular quality panel.

Once again, I'm supporting a constituent from Arfon who has suffered terribly because of fundamental and very serious errors by the vascular unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital. I've consistently argued that the health board has destroyed a high-quality unit in Bangor for all the wrong reasons. This is just one of the poor decisions made with the approval of your Ministers over recent years, which has led to a decline in services for people in north-west Wales.

Underinvestment of capital in Ysbyty Gwynedd is another of those poor decisions that has emerged recently. A series of senseless decisions and mismanagement has contributed greatly to the health crisis in this part of Wales. The current vascular arrangements do not work for my constituents. You've listed a number of reports—more and more reports—but what are you actually going to do to stop these heartbreaking situations that continue to arise in Glan Clwyd Hospital?


Well, Llywydd, we've looked at the history of vascular services in north Wales more than once in the Senedd. I don't agree, the health board doesn't agree and the royal colleges don't agree with what the Member has been suggesting over the years. Llywydd, the health Minister has accepted that there continue to be concerns with vascular services in north Wales and the progress in vascular improvement. Now, the Welsh Government is closely monitoring the improvement of that programme, and the national clinical lead for vascular services, who's just been appointed, has already visited north Wales, and vascular consultants working in north Wales will participate in the first all-Wales vascular conference in February. So, by collaborating in that way, with the leadership of the Minister—that is the best way of ensuring that services in north Wales are best placed for the future.

The UK Government’s Legislative Programme

6. What assessment has the First Minister made of the impact of the UK Government’s legislative programme on Wales? OQ59005

Well, Llywydd, the UK Government continues to deploy its legislative programme in ways that disregard the Sewel convention and undermine the devolution settlement by stealth. Of current Bills, the arbitrary and ideologically driven Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill poses really significant risks to the Welsh Government and to this Senedd.

First Minister, thanks for that answer. If the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill proceeds as it is now, and on the arbitrary timescale set by the UK Government, then by December next year, we will see thousands upon thousands of regulations covering essential environmental and employment protections and much more, many of which fall directly within devolved competence, being stripped away unilaterally and without any meaningful engagement with the Welsh Government, and which, from this summer onwards, could seriously risk overwhelming the capacity of Welsh Government and of this Senedd. And, indeed, because of the unseemly haste and the lack of detailed analysis by the UK, it could effectively bypass scrutiny and lead to a legislative logjam here in Wales.

So, what hope does the First Minister have that the UK Government may see sense in the face of opposition in the House of Lords, from a growing number of Conservative backbenchers in the Commons, as well as right across the opposition benches, and from the public and concerned organisations right across the UK? And if the Government do not see sense, would he work with this Senedd to find legislative ways within our competence to give our Government and our committees time to do the job properly for the people of Wales, even if the UK Government want to take England headlong over a cliff of their own making?

Well, Llywydd, those are very important points indeed that Huw Irranca-Davies has made this afternoon. The best hope that we have of the UK Government stepping back from the precipice of its own making is that it will listen, not simply to voices here in Wales or in Scotland, by those many voices in academic life, environmental groups, and particularly in the field of business. And Huw Irranca-Davies is right to say that there are clearly growing concerns on Conservative Party back benches in the House of Commons. I see that the former Secretary of State for Wales, Sir Robert Buckland, was leading attempts by Conservative Members to put this whole business in a better position than it is at the moment. Can we be optimistic about that? I think it's difficult to be optimistic when we have a Prime Minister who is captured by a small number of Brexit extremists in his own ranks. Nevertheless, there was a meeting earlier today between the Counsel General and Minister Felicity Buchan, from the department of levelling-up, and she did offer to convey our concerns in a constructive way to the UK Government, and we will continue to pursue those arguments with them.

One of the really big differences between the powers that are being offered to Wales in this Bill and powers that UK Ministers are retaining for themselves is the power to extend the sunset deadline. So, at the moment, UK Ministers, seeing the cliff edge coming, are able, themselves, to extend the deadline. Those powers are not available to this Senedd or to Welsh Ministers. They ought to be, because the same difficulties will face us as well. And when I said in my original answer, Llywydd, that there are significant risks not just to the Welsh Government but also to the Senedd, it is in the way in which the time that we have available to pass the necessary legislation could simply be overtaken by the sheer volume of amendments that will be needed if we're not to have a statute book that will simply be inoperable after the end of this calendar year. And, of course, I'm absolutely happy to give an assurance to the Chair of the legislative committee that we will work with the Senedd to mitigate those risks to the maximum extent that we can.

The Cost-of-living Crisis

7. How is the Welsh Government tackling the cost-of-living crisis in Newport West? OQ59015

Llywydd, people across Wales, including in Newport West, are experiencing the largest and sharpest fall in living standards since records began. This financial year, we will spend £1.6 billion on targeted cost-of-living support and universal programmes to tackle poverty and to leave money in people's pockets.

Diolch, Prif Weinidog. The Federation of Small Businesses has suggested that almost one in four of the UK's small companies could be forced to close, downsize, or restructure, thanks to the UK Government slashing subsidies for companies' energy bills. They have estimated that many small companies will get as little as £50 per year in future Government support, whilst the Resolution Foundation's living standards outlook 2023 suggests that although wholesale energy prices are falling, energy bills will go up again in April, and help with those costs will fall. A typical household will pay £850 more in energy bills in 2023-24 than in the current financial year. In addition to all this, the UK Government refused to reinstate the £20 universal credit uplift, and are shelving important childcare reforms at a time when parents need them the most. Prif Weinidog, would you agree with the conclusion reached by the Resolution Foundation that this UK Parliament is set to be the worst Parliament on record for living standards for almost all parts of the income distribution?

Well, Llywydd, I don't think there is any doubt; I think it's just a statement of fact that living standards will fall in this financial year and next financial year, to an extent that we've never seen before.

Llywydd, I think Jayne Bryant makes two very important points. It sometimes seems to me to a be a bit hidden in the public reporting and discussion of assistance with energy bills the extent to which the UK Government has stood away from the help that is currently available to businesses with those bills. The Federation of Small Businesses estimate that, in the next financial year, a small business will get on average £47 in assistance with their energy bills. The UK Government's own figures say this: that a pub that, at the moment, is receiving £3,100 per month to the end of March, will receive £190 a month from 1 April onwards. But a typical small retail store, which the Government has believed needed £500 a month in support at the moment and up to the end of March, will get £33 a month from then onwards. It's little wonder, then, that the British Chambers of Commerce is predicting that literally thousands of small businesses will go under as a result of that factor alone, and that will undoubtedly affect businesses in Newport West and other parts of Wales. 

As to the broader points that the Member made, the Resolution Foundation's living standards outlook report of last week makes very, very grim reading. A typical household will pay £850 more in energy bills in the next financial year than in the current financial year, with much less help available to them. The average household with a mortgage that needs to renew their mortgage in 2023, will face an annual increase of £3,000 in mortgage costs. No wonder the Resolution Foundation says that living standards will be under pressure this year and next as never before. 

The Working Relationship between the Welsh Government and the UK Government

8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the working relationship between the Welsh Government and the UK Government? OQ59022

Llywydd, the instability of the UK Government and frequent UK ministerial changes have made it difficult to form dependable and productive links in the past year. We continue to press for implementation of the reformed inter-governmental relations machinery and the predictable, respectful system it implies.

Diolch, First Minister. Downing Street last week sought to deny reports that Tory MPs in marginal seats have been told to stop using the phrase 'levelling up' ahead of the next election, because voters did not know what it meant, and instead use 'stepping up' or 'enhancing communities'. First Minister, no wonder no-one can understand Boris Johnson's now unloved levelling-up concept, as Rishi Sunak has been mired in defending how the richer south-east of England got or gets more money than its poorer north-east counterparts.

First Minister, what discussions did you and your Welsh Government have with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his UK Tory Government before these arbitrary announcements of some extra bits and pieces of funding for Wales? First Minister, isn't it obvious to all that this tired, clapped-out Tory UK Government does not work for Wales, does not work in the UK national interest, but instead works tirelessly for one thing and one thing only, the Conservative Party, irrespective of the damage, unfairness and inequities it exposes the people of Islwyn and Wales to? 

Well, Llywydd, just to make sure that this is properly on the record, the amount of money available for the whole of Wales from the levelling-up fund is less than the money available to the south-east of England. Now, should we surprised at that? Well, I don't suppose we would be, because the current Prime Minister was on record during his campaign to become Prime Minister as having said that he himself—he himself—had seen to it that money was diverted away from deprived urban areas so that it could be spent in places like Tunbridge Wells. He was in Tunbridge Wells when he said it. I hope that his party is proud of that. I look forward to hearing them defend the fact that there's more money going to the south-east of England than to the whole of Wales. 

Let's just put that in context a little for a moment as well—[Interruption.]

I can't hear the First Minister. I can't hear the First Minister, so if people can be silent to listen to the remaining few sentences of the First Minister's response. 

Diolch, Llywydd. To put it in context for a moment, Wales received 22 per cent of the European Union's UK allocation from the last round of structural funds—22 per cent. We received 10 per cent of the levelling-up fund. Remember, Llywydd—remember—we were not to be a single penny worse off as a result of leaving the European Union. What nonsense that turned out to be. 

To answer the Member's point directly, Llywydd, the Welsh Government had no involvement in the development of the levelling-up fund, has had no role in its strategy or delivery, we were given no advance notice of the bids being announced last week. Every single thing about this fund is money taken away from Wales, decisions taken away from Wales. Everything about it is designed in Whitehall, and that distance really matters. The money isn't being used to do the things that Wales needs, and anybody who looks at it objectively could come to no other conclusion.

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 14:35:51
Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

Diolch, Llywydd. There is one change to this week's Plenary business. The time allocated to Senedd Commission questions tomorrow has been reduced to 10 minutes. 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.

This week is obviously Holocaust Remembrance Week, and the Minister may be aware—the Trefnydd may be aware—that there's work that is ongoing in north Wales to try to chart the history of Jewish communities in the region. That work is being led by Nathan Abrams, who's a professor at Bangor University, and he's already undertaken a great deal of work in Anglesey, Gwynedd and other parts of north Wales. In order to progress and complete that work, around £50,000 is needed, which I know is a significant sum in terms of research, but it's not a significant sum in terms of the importance of this work. Can I ask for a statement from the appropriate Welsh Government Minister on our Jewish heritage here in Wales and what action is being taken in order to promote it, particularly in the north Wales region?

In addition to that, it shouldn't have escaped anybody looking at my social media feeds over the weekend that we marked Red Squirrel Appreciation Day this weekend. And as the red squirrel champion in this Senedd, I don't want to miss the opportunity to seek an update on the support that the Welsh Government is giving to the conservation work that is taking place for red squirrels. I took part in a webinar yesterday with the UK Squirrel Accord to talk about the good work that's being done, collectively, in Wales, to promote and boost the numbers of red squirrels in the country. But one issue of concern that was raised was the fact that the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act 1949 apparently only covers rodents, and gives responsibilities to councils and local authorities to take action to minimise rodents as pests in people's homes and businesses. But there's no provision for the pest damage that, of course, grey squirrels can also cause—stripping electrical wiring, and burrowing into people's properties and causing damage to the timber. I know I'm going on, but if I may just finish—

Sorry. It's handy that you're going on, because I was losing myself in laughter there at the idea of you in the squirrel webinar yesterday. [Laughter.]

Me in the squirrel webinar, yes. It wasn't just attended by squirrels, I have to say. [Laughter.]

But, clearly, there is significant damage that is done to timber, that is done to trees, because they strip trees of bark as well, and we've got an ambitious tree-planting programme here in Wales. And therefore I would ask if we could have an update on red squirrel conservation work in Wales from you as Minister, and whether you could incorporate some reflections on whether it would be a good idea to broaden the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act in order to encompass the damage caused by grey squirrels in particular. Thank you.

Thank you. In relation to your first question, I am aware of the work that you referred to that's going on in north Wales, and I will certainly speak to my colleague Jane Hutt, who would be the Minister with responsibility, to see if she and her officials are aware of that work. It just sounds excellent work, and I will make sure the Minister is aware of that.

In relation to your second question, which is obviously asking for a statement from myself, I have to say, since I've been in post, it's very apparent—and you just referred to an Act from 1949—that a lot of the legislation around this, and I'm sure the Minister for Climate Change would agree, is very, very dated. So, I'll certainly be very happy to look at that as a whole, and then if I think it's, obviously, worthy of a statement, I'd be happy to bring one forward.

I'd like a statement, please, about community right to buy. A beautiful local asset, bluebell wood, near Llanbradach was destroyed a few months ago, and the council issued a restoration order. The site is up for auction, and the new owner will be obliged to restore the land. A group of local residents is trying to raise funds to buy the land for the community, but I'm sure that residents across Wales would welcome other chances and other ways of protecting beloved local sites. I know the Government is looking at establishing a new commission around community empowerment. Could a statement take this further, please, including explaining how local groups, like that one I mentioned in Llanbradach, could feed into a process, because so many buildings and even green fields in our valleys hold a collective memory, a sense of connecting us to our past. It would be wonderful to help ensure that spaces like this, which are so important, could be protected for the future. Thank you. 


Thank you. I think you raise a very important point, and, as you alluded to, the Minister for Climate Change is certainly leading on a significant piece of work in relation to that. I think, in the first case, it might be better if you write to the Minister for Climate Change on that specific point, and I'm sure, as the work progresses, the Minister will be happy to bring forward a statement. 

In this very cold weather, I just wanted to highlight the situation of a constituent of mine whose boiler has broken down: a family of four with two disabled children, they absolutely don't have the money to replace this boiler, with a combined income of £19,000 and two disabled children. So, they've no savings to fall back on and Nest has told them that they can't help them, because he uses his home as his business address. So, if he'd been a mobile hairdresser, apparently he could have got help, but because he's a mobile IT engineer, who does a small part of his work remotely, helping his clients get their IT systems back up and running again, and only part of his work is done in people's offices and homes, they've told him he's not eligible. So, I wondered if we could have  statement from the Minister for Climate Change regarding the decision-making processes that Nest is supposed to adhere to, because there seem to be some huge anomalies here, which don't keep up with the fact that people often work remotely, as we do occasionally. And also, when can we see light of day on the new Warm Homes programme, which might be the best and most elegant way of rectifying this anomalous situation for really desperate people? 

Unless you have already done so, I would advise you to write to the Minister for Climate Change, because it could be that there's some flexibility within the criteria that would allow your constituent—. I think you raise a very important point, particularly post COVID pandemic, when many people have seen a change in their work style, and many more people are working from home. So, I would suggest you do that, in the first place, if you haven't done that already. 

Can I ask for a statement from the Minister for Economy this afternoon on the upcoming closure of HSBC in Denbigh, which is due to close in August? Now, I understand it's part of a nationwide closure of 114 banks, I think, but I really believe that HSBC has been shortsighted in its strategy of closures, particularly in rural areas. Denbigh is a rural town in the heart of the Vale of Clwyd, and HSBC is one of the last banks in the town, as Barclays and Nat West vacated some years ago, and many people in the town and surrounding villages simply can't travel as far as Ruthin or Rhyl to do their banking, particularly if they have no access to a private vehicle or public transport. I set up an online petition in December, and I've circulated paper copies around local pubs and businesses, and I've so far received over 200 signatures, and I hope this increases over the next couple of weeks. So, could I have a statement from the Government this afternoon in response to the planned closure of banks in Denbigh and what support can be available to help my constituents who struggle to travel around rural areas to carry out their business? Thank you. 

Well, banking is a reserved matter, so I don't think it would be appropriate for a statement.

May I ask for an urgent statement from the Deputy Minister for transport on an announcement made last week by the Llew Jones bus company, which is going to bring to an end the T19 service from Blaenau Ffestiniog to Llandudno in a fortnight on 11 February? The T19 service was launched 18 months ago, to replace the X19. Many people in the Ffestiniog area use it for medical appointments, education, shopping and leisure, and it's crucial to them for their day-to-day lives. People's lives will be affected as a result of this announcement. Of course, there is a train service, but a train ticket to Llandudno is more than £9, whilst a bus ticket is £5, and the train has been inconsistent in terms of service. This announcement will be a blow to the Ffestiniog area, and it's not consistent with the ambition of Government in increasing the use of public transport. Can we therefore have an urgent statement from the Deputy Minister on what steps the Government will take in order to ensure the reintroduction of this bus service, be it a Fflecsi bus, or on a revised timetable, or a financial investment? Thank you.


Diolch. It was very unfortunate that Llew Jones Coaches did serve notice that they intended to withdraw from operating the TrawsCymru T19 bus service, with effect from Saturday 11 February. As you referred to, there are other public transport options available to passengers in the Conwy valley, and Welsh Government is working very closely with our partners to ensure that those vital public transport links are maintained for our rural communities along that route. I am aware that the Deputy Minister for Climate Change is expecting a further update within the next, I think, week to 10 days, and continues to work with Transport for Wales, Bus Users Cymru and Conwy County Borough Council. 

Trefnydd, this week is Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. Around 160 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually. It's the most common type of cancer for women under 35. I've been working with Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust to increase take-up of the HPV vaccine and cervical screening, as we know that regular screening reduces risk by up to 70 per cent. Could we have an update from the health Minister on Welsh Government interventions to eliminate cervical cancer?

And, in addition, the leader and deputy leader of the Welsh Local Government Association have written to UK Government, calling on them to clarify which council services will qualify for the energy bill discount scheme. This is important so that our councils can get assurances that important community assets, such as leisure centres, will get support towards their energy costs. So, could I ask also for an oral statement from Welsh Government on its discussions with its UK counterpart to ensure this vital support for our councils is put in place?

I think it's very good that you've raised Cervical Cancer Prevention Week here in the Chamber. It's very important that we do always continue to raise awareness and, as you know, Welsh Government has committed to improving cervical cancer outcomes through a combination of screening and HPV vaccination, and also access to treatment. I think it's fair to say the cervical screening programme has fully recovered from the impact of the pandemic now, and there's a significant number of eligible people participating in the programme. Take-up of the HPV adolescent programme was affected by the pandemic because of the school closures, and the vaccination teams have really made some significant efforts to recover and increase the uptake, and I think we as Members should do all we can to make sure people are aware of that vaccination programme. 

With regard to your second point, I am aware of the letter from the WLGA to the UK Government on the energy bill discount scheme. We've expressed concerns at ministerial level, and our officials have, regarding future support for non-domestic energy consumers, in particular the need for that continued support when we have that cliff edge that's coming down the track at the end of March. It's our expectation that all council services will be covered by the energy bill discount scheme when it's introduced in April. And, as I mentioned at the outset, our officials continue to engage with the UK Government to stress the importance of comprehensive support for all, alongside the higher level of support for those most impacted by energy price changes. 

Over the longer term, we believe the UK Government need to implement market reform to decouple the consumer cost of renewable energy from global gas prices, and we really do all want to work together to build a more localised, renewables-based energy system to replace our reliance on imported fossil fuels. 

Business Minister, a whole term has now passed since the beginning of the Curriculum for Wales's implementation in schools, and Estyn inspection teams have, of course, been very busy. For the first time in many years now, the inspection process is the only method by which primary schools are held to account. Secondary and all-age schools have the additional pressure of the external examinations, of course, with results at age 16, but these soon, too, will be changing. Given the importance of these changes, can I ask the business Minister for an oral statement from the education Minister on how the inspection process has changed since the new curriculum entered our schools? Thank you.


I will certainly raise it directly with the Minister for education. I would have thought he might think it's a bit early in the timescale of the changes to have an oral statement at the moment, but I will certainly raise it with him.

It's good to see that already today colleagues have been raising the issue of the effect on businesses of the cliff edge at the end of March of the drop in support for energy prices. Both Vikki and Jayne Bryant have raised this. I think they're right in raising the fact of the impact of this upon things such as retail outlets, local pubs and clubs, and so on—that's absolutely right. But I would welcome a statement, Trefnydd, on this issue that also focuses on some of those small-to-medium-scale local foundational economy businesses that are employed in food manufacturing. Within the Bridgend area, we still have a number of these businesses, and I've spoken to them. They have, when I say, significant fears, they genuinely worry that they will close in April or May, and the reason is they've managed to get this far with support, on good order books, by the way, and, in fact, many of them could take on more. These are good, family-owned businesses, some of which go back three, four or five generations. But the energy costs now are tipping them over the edge, and they're looking to pay 70p or 80p per unit price for electricity, whereas, a year ago, they were paying 30p. They could pay a little bit more, but they cannot pay 70p or 80p. It means their cash flow will take them under. Their banks can't help them any more, and no development bank of Wales or anybody else can help them. The energy cliff edge will push them over.

Now, these are jobs where people walk to work. They may not be highly paid jobs, but they employ hundreds upon hundreds of people in every community in my valleys, and also in Bridgend and the RCT area as well. Perhaps I could, in asking for a statement, reflect the views of one of these businesses—a family-run business who's been there for many generations—who said, 'I would welcome the Minister not just calling on the UK Government to extend the support, but to bring the energy companies into a room and lock the door until they renegotiate, some of which has been done through brokers, the unit price energy costs.' There's a role for UK Government, but there's a role for the energy companies as we see wholesale costs falling, to sit in that room and give back to some of these companies, because it's no good to those energy companies if these companies go bust, and I'm seriously worried we could be looking at a tsunami of job losses and businesses closing.

Thank you. You will have heard me say in my earlier answer to Vikki Howells that the UK Government is responsible for the energy bill relief scheme that does provide support to businesses to help them cope with the increase in the energy costs they're experiencing. I know the Welsh Government prepared a response to the UK Government's consultation that they had on the future of the EBRS, and that did include representations on behalf of not just the companies that you refer to, but also the energy-intensive sectors as well, and I know that the Minister is very aware of the concerns of stakeholders and continues to make representations to the UK Government. I'm sure having a summit is something that he will consider, now he's heard you asking him to do so.

Good afternoon, Minister. I'm going to continue the theme of ambulances and waiting times. It was reported in our local paper, the County Times, that Welsh patients arriving at English hospitals, given that most of the patients on the border with England in Mid and West Wales actually use those hospitals, are potentially waiting longer because they are from Powys. Given that the area I represent in Mid and West Wales has that long border with England and many constituents of mine access emergency medical care, this, of course, is a concern, on top of the issues around ambulance waiting times anyway. For that reason, may I ask for a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services regarding these claims and investigating them to see whether patients in border communities from Powys are experiencing worse outcomes with regard to emergency care? Thank you. Diolch.

Thank you. My understanding is English trusts do not treat Welsh residents differently, in the way that you've suggested, and I think the best way forward, the best course of action, probably would be to ask the Minister for Health and Social Services to get her officials to monitor that. Certainly, her officials would monitor any commissioning arrangements that they had with English hospitals. I'm not sure if ambulance waiting times is something that would be considered as part of those commissioning arrangements, but, certainly, I think it would be good for the Minister to ask her officials to look into this and write to you.


Trefnydd, the First Minister said in First Minister's questions, in answer to Andrew R.T. Davies, that he thought that 'urgent and transparent action' was needed by the WRU to ensure it responded properly to rectify the horrific allegations that were made of it in last night's BBC Wales special. But, as a major contributor to the finances of the WRU, we need to understand the action that the Welsh Government is taking here as well, which is why I'm calling for a statement from the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport to explain that. For example, we heard that she met with the WRU yesterday, but we need to understand the implications of that meeting and whether she raised linked issues as well—for example, the Welsh Rugby Union has resisted calls to publish its 2021 review of the women's game. Where is that and why has that been delayed? Surely she's aware of this review and, if that has not been forthcoming, why has it not been? And finally, we need to better understand to what extent the important work the WRU does with Welsh Government money is contingent on cultural change within the organisation. So, a statement would be very welcome, to clarify those matters. Thank you. 

Thank you. Well, of course, the Deputy Minister is aware of the report you refer to and has called on the WRU to publish it, I don't think on one occasion, but on many occasions, and continues to do that. As you heard the First Minister say, the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport did meet with the WRU ahead of the airing of that programme last night. She continues to engage with them on immediate actions that must be taken to address the allegations set out in the investigation. I think the details that were provided in the testimonies were devastating, and we absolutely recognise the courage it takes for people to come forward after experiencing any form of harassment, bullying or abuse. The Deputy Minister will continue to meet with the WRU, and her officials too are engaged in this. It is a direct matter for the WRU, as it relates to their employment practices as an independent organisation, but, of course, there is a very clear public interest, and I think the leader of the opposition did refer to this, as the WRU being right at the heart, really, of our sporting and civic life. So, they will need to further explain how they're taking these matters very seriously. The Deputy Minister wants to know what action they will be taking to improve the current practices and the culture, and how they are going to provide a safe and welcoming environment for its staff and wider stakeholders. 

In light of the recent reported cases of allegation of sexual harassment and/or domestic abuse by serving officers in the Metropolitan Police, Gwent Police and the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, the public need to be assured that all public services are safe places to work. Trefnydd, I'd like to ask for a statement from the Minister for Social Justice on what action she has taken or is going to take to ensure that people who work in the public sector and large organisations are free from sexual harassment in their workplace, and that those individuals who do come forward to report incidents can be assured that they will be heard and taken seriously at all levels of that organisation. Furthermore, what is being done to ensure that detailed vetting is carried out to root out perpetrators of domestic abuse and sexual harassment who will be then in charge of ensuring the safety of those individuals who fall victim?

Thank you. The Minister for Social Justice has always been very clear about her commitment to end violence against women and girls. It's a societal problem and it obviously requires a societal response. The Minister is absolutely adamant we've got to change attitudes shaped by long-standing structural misogyny and making lasting changes in order to tackle violent, abusive and controlling behaviours. You'll be very well aware, Joyce Watson, of our programme of government commitments to strengthening the violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy, and that includes a special focus on violence against women in the workplace, as well as in the home and as well as in public places, in order to make Wales the safest place to be a woman. 

The Minister delivers the strategy through a collaborative blueprint approach, which brings together all relevant authorities, as outlined in the Act, with non-devolved organisations. I know the Minister co-chairs the national partnership board with Dafydd Llywelyn, the lead police and crime commissioner for Wales. I'm sure the Minister will be very happy to bring forward a written statement to update us.


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

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. Minister, I'd be very grateful for a statement on the status of the Wrexham Gateway project in light of the failure by the UK Government to support the scheme through the levelling-up bid process. This is a hugely important scheme for north Wales. It was conceived by Welsh Government; it's backed by Welsh Government, by the local authority, by the university and by the football club, but sadly not by UK Government as yet. The people of the region would very much appreciate an update on where the project stands and confirmation that the Welsh Government continues to support the Wrexham Gateway project, both in terms of administrative support and, of course, with financial support too.

Thank you. It was certainly very disappointing that, for the second time, the levelling-up bid by, as you mentioned, a group of partners in the Wrexham Gateway partnership was rejected by the UK Government. I, obviously, declare an interest as the constituency Member, and it certainly went down very badly with Wrexham's residents, because the gateway partnership, and the project, is such an important aspect of the ambitions for the new city.

I know that Welsh Government officials met with the Wrexham Gateway partnership last week, following the news that the bid had been rejected. They agreed unanimously that the commitment to deliver the Wrexham Gateway project remains resolute, and that, obviously, includes Welsh Government, and alternative funding options would be looked at in relation to the Kop part of the development. Those discussions are ongoing with Wrexham Association Football Club. I know a further meeting is to take place between the club and the partnership this week. Obviously, there are other very important elements of Wrexham Gateway, and they will continue to be considered as the project progresses.

3. Statement by the Minister for Social Justice: Holocaust Memorial Day 2023

Item 3 this afternoon is a statement by the Minister for Social Justice on Holocaust Memorial Day 2023. I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt.

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. This Friday, we remember the millions of people who were persecuted and killed during the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023 is 'Ordinary People'. During the Holocaust and the genocides that have followed, it was ordinary people who found themselves persecuted and murdered because they belonged to a community of people. It was ordinary people who took action and helped those being targeted. It was ordinary people who did nothing and accepted hateful propaganda. The theme highlights a stark reality of genocide: in many cases, these atrocities were facilitated by ordinary people.

In their introduction to this year's theme, the trust underlines how ordinary people have enabled horrific actions:

'Ordinary people were policemen involved in rounding up victims, secretaries typing the records of genocide, dentists and doctors carrying out selections, ordinary people were neighbours wielding machetes in Rwanda, schoolteachers turned concentration-camp guards in Bosnia.'

The theme has a powerful message that is relevant to us all. We are all 'ordinary people' who have the power to make a difference with our actions, for good or ill. We, as individuals, have a choice to stand up to hate and prejudice. We can all challenge divisive narratives that aim to fragment our communities and demonise certain groups of people.

For 2023, the Welsh Government has funded the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to employ a support worker in Wales to inspire involvement across the nation. The support worker has been engaging with communities, encouraging their participation, and helping to support local commemoration events through guidance and the provision of resources.

There are a number of events taking place across Wales, including a memorial service at Tŷ Pawb in Wrexham on 27 January, which I will be attending. The headline speaker is poet Adam Kammerling, who has written poetry based on his Jewish heritage and about his grandfather being a Holocaust survivor. The exhibition, 'Sophie Scholl and the White Rose', will be on show at both the Art Central gallery, Barry, and at Penarth pier pavilion. The exhibition tells the story of Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, who became activists, risking their lives by distributing anti-Nazi leaflets throughout Germany. This week, both the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff and the Josef Herman Art Foundation in Swansea are hosting public screenings of films about the Holocaust. The Wales Hate Support Centre is holding an online webinar about the Holocaust on 26 January.

We are pleased to work alongside the trust once again, both to support this work at a grass-roots level as well as with the organisation of the national commemoration. The Wales national ceremony will be available online from 11 a.m. on Holocaust Memorial Day. It will be an opportunity to hear the harrowing testimonies of Holocaust survivor Joan Salter MBE, and Antoinette Mutabazi, a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda. We are grateful to both Joan and Antionette, and many other survivors of genocide, who devote hours of their time to share their stories and ensure the victims of these barbaric events are not forgotten.

At 4 p.m. on 27 January, people across the UK will take part in a national moment to remember those who were killed during the Holocaust and other genocides. I hope you are all able to join in with the 'light the darkness' moment by lighting a candle and placing it in a window. The trust asks that we also join in with the national conversation and share a photo of our candles on social media.

Buildings and landmarks across the UK will also light up in purple during this national moment of commemoration and solidarity. Many places across Wales are taking part, including Welsh Government offices, the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and Cyfarthfa Castle in Merthyr.

The trust has also worked with the Royal Drawing School to organise the (Extra)Ordinary Portraits competition, which was open to anyone in the UK under 25 years of age. Participants were asked to create a portrait of an individual affected by the Holocaust, genocide, or identity-based persecution. An expert judging panel chose 30 portraits to be displayed for Holocaust Memorial Day, with five of the winning entrants coming from Wales, which are now available to view on the Holocaust Memorial Day’s website.

The Welsh Government also continues to fund the Holocaust Educational Trust to deliver the Lessons from Auschwitz programme in Wales. Since 2008, the programme has provided students across Wales with the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau and to hear from Holocaust survivors. After two years of virtual delivery, I am pleased that the students will once again take part in person this year. All participants become young ambassadors and are asked to continue to share their knowledge and encourage others to remember the Holocaust. One young ambassador is speaking at the Wales national ceremony on Friday.

We welcome Lord Mann’s recent report on tackling antisemitism in the UK. The Welsh Government contributed to the development of the review, and we look forward to continuing to work with him on this important issue. As Lord Mann highlighted in his report, tackling antisemitism goes beyond education about the Holocaust.

It is important that our education system equips our young people to understand and respect their own and each other’s histories, cultures and traditions. Our new curriculum reflects the true diversity of our population and that learners understand how diversity has shaped modern Wales, through mandatory teaching of black, Asian and minority ethnic histories, contributions and experiences. This is a key part of our 'Anti-racist Wales Action Plan', which is driving us towards meaningful change.

The Holocaust is an extremely painful and distressing part of history, but it is a part of history that we and future generations cannot forget. It happened because of divisive narratives and abuse of power. We must never lower our guard to these same toxic narratives that remain present today.

This year is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A historic and important milestone for humankind, which was developed in response to the atrocities and inhumanity of the second world war. The universal declaration states that:

'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.'

And that these rights are

'the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world'.

It is well worth remembering the origins of these sentiments at a time when there has been a growth in anti-human rights rhetoric across the world.

So, I will close this statement by thanking the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust for their important work. I remain grateful to them for holding the lessons of history before us and continuing to speak out against hate and prejudice. Diolch yn fawr.


I have eight Members who wish to speak today on this statement, and I hope to call them all. So, your help would be appreciated in making sure your contributions are within your time allocations. 

Thank you for your statement, Minister. Friday marks the seventy-eighth anniversary of the day that Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp, was liberated by Soviet forces; 1.1 million people were murdered at that camp, nine out of every 10 of whom were Jewish. This is why 27 January is chosen to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Why do we each year remember this Holocaust? It reminds us to learn the lessons of the past, to remember the stories of 6 million murdered Jews and those millions of Gypsy, Roma and Travellers, LGBT people, disabled people and black people who were also murdered in Nazi death camps. The world said, 'Never again', yet genocide has continued to take place since those terrible atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust also teaches us to remember those executed in the genocides of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, but even after all these terrible events, we fail to learn. Tragically, in the twenty-first century genocide is still being perpetrated around the globe. We have Rohingya Muslims being slaughtered in Myanmar, Uighur Muslims in the Chinese province of Xinjiang being placed in concentration camps at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party, and perhaps saddest of all, we see the sons and grandsons of the heroic troops that liberated Auschwitz in 1945 carrying out war crimes and, quite possibly, genocide in Ukraine. The world cannot sit idly by and allow these atrocities to happen.

I would like to thank the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust as well as the Holocaust Educational Trust for their invaluable work in educating future generations about the Holocaust and, more recently, crimes against humanity. Sadly, not everyone heeds these lessons, and we have seen a tragic rise in antisemitism in recent years. It was deeply disturbing to read the independent report into the NUS, which found that the National Union of Students has failed to sufficiently challenge antisemitism and hostility towards the Jews in our own structures. Minister, what discussions have you and Cabinet member colleagues held with the NUS here in Wales about the steps they are taking to stamp out antisemitism in our university campuses?

As you point out in your statement, the theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day is 'Ordinary People'. Genocide is facilitated by ordinary people. Watching the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt coined the phrase 'the banality of evil', meaning that evil acts are not necessarily perpetrated by evil people. Rather, they are the result of ordinary people obeying orders. Minister, how do we get this message across to people that everyone has a responsibility to stand up to hatred, that all of us have a duty to call out inequality?

Finally, Minister, your referenced the report of Lord Mann and the fact that tackling antisemitism goes beyond education about the Holocaust. You rightly point out that this year marks 75 years since the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. Will you be marking the anniversary by introducing your Welsh human rights Bill? Diolch yn fawr. 

Diolch yn fawr, Altaf Hussain, and thank you so much for your support for this statement, again reminding us of those horrific statistics of those slaughtered in the camps and the horror afflicted on 6 million Jews, but also on the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. We stood shoulder to shoulder at the candlelit vigil—very moving today, cross party—hosted by Julie Morgan, as she's done year after year, hearing also from our Traveller community here in Wales, but also recognising the fact that disabled people were also slaughtered—Aktion T4, we won't forget that—and LGBTQ+ people, but also reminding us of the genocides across the world as well.

The theme is ordinary people, and I do want to just respond to your point about the NUS and universities. The Minister for Education and Welsh Language met the previous NUS Wales president last year. He had an introductory meeting with the new NUS Wales president in October. But he also met Lord Mann—you've mentioned, of course, the report on antisemitism—the UK Government's adviser on antisemitism. He met him last year to discuss the work and to raise awareness of antisemitism. He also met with representatives of the Union of Jewish Students in February, and he discussed the experience of Jewish students in higher education. And also recognising that we expect, from the NUS—. We continue regular engagement with this, but we expect, in terms of the investigation and subsequent report into antisemitism, an open and transparent engagement with them.

I want to finish by thanking you very much indeed for recognising that this is about human rights, and it is about learning the lessons. Commemorating the Holocaust is so important to ensure we don't forget, and never forget, how dangerous hate from divisive narratives can be and what can happen when people and communities are targeted and dehumanised because of who they are. I very much welcome—and I hope this is welcomed by your colleagues—a Welsh human rights Bill.


I certainly echo that call, Minister. Holocaust Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering those who were persecuted and killed because they were marginalised and othered by those in power. The theme of Holocaust Memorial Day, ordinary people, is one that has much to teach us today, as you have referenced, worldwide, and here in Wales. Because while Holocaust Memorial Day ensures we remember people, ordinary people, who are victims of atrocity, who were witnesses to such inhumanity, it also demands, while doing so, that we remember the fact that ordinary people inflicted those atrocities, were bystanders to bigotry, lies, hatred and obscene acts of violence. It forces us to confront what leads to such hatred, what facilitates such atrocities then and now. The author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levy said in his book The Reawakening:

'Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.'

How are we ensuring that those questions are always asked in Wales? In her report on the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, the philosopher Hannah Arendt famously called Eichmann, one of the functionaries of the Nazi machine, 'terrifyingly normal'. She concluded in her subsequent celebrated study, 'Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil', that his evil stemmed from

'an inability to think from the standpoint of somebody else'.

Thus, she suggested, an individual, and therefore those who serve a Government or operate on behalf of a state, can do evil without being inherently monstrously evil. That lack of empathy, that ability to see others as less, to detach from shared humanity, is what we must constantly guard against in society, in Government and in the media. Minister, do you therefore agree with me that compassion and empathy for those who are our brothers and sisters is crucial and that compassion and empathy must be expressed by Government through the language it uses and its actions? Given your comments on anti-human rights rhetoric, Minister, do you therefore also agree that we need to devolve further powers from Westminster to ensure our aim to be a nation of sanctuary is realised?

Freedom from Torture, an advocacy charity for torture survivors, recently posted footage online where Holocaust survivor Joan Salter confronted the UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman's dehumanising rhetoric regarding refugees and asylum seekers. Quoting words such as 'swarms' and 'invasions', Ms Salter asked the Home Secretary a very important question:

'I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others. Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?'

Yet the Home Secretary refused to apologise for the language she has used. As we mark Holocaust Memorial Day this week, will you, Minister, take this opportunity to join with me and my party in publicly denouncing the Home Secretary’s rhetoric used to describe people, ordinary people, fleeing from extraordinary circumstances and looking for sanctuary, and also the dog whistles such as the comments regarding small boats made by those in the Tory party both in Westminster and, sadly, by those who sit in this Chamber?


Diolch yn fawr, Sioned Williams. Can I just thank you again for your powerful statement as well as questions and your support for this statement today? As you say, the Holocaust didn't happen overnight; it began with a gradual erosion of human rights and divisive rhetoric against people who were different, who were perceived to be different to others. This is about the commitment again that we give as the Welsh Government—and it should be driven and expressed across this Chamber—that we want to drive out stigma and hatred and ensure people feel safe. I think what is happening over these coming weeks and months in terms of the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust is crucial in terms of ensuring that that underpins not only us as the Welsh Government but throughout all our public services, indeed every sector and facet of life. So, I'm really glad that we've got all those local authorities and organisations delivering a range of events and communication for Holocaust Memorial Day, and joining in the 'light the darkness' national moment.

Just very briefly, I want to say how important it is that we've funded the Holocaust Educational Trust since 2008 to run the Lessons from Auschwitz programme in Wales, as many of you will know, as you've met students who've actually engaged with this. Now this year they're able to actually personally engage in it. In 2023, the Lessons from Auschwitz project is running in February and March with 110 students from 55 Welsh schools signed up already. That will include six schools that are taking part in the programme for the first time—the first in-person Welsh project since the pandemic. And also, the online project is involving 131 students from 43 schools.

In terms of the expression of concern that you raise about statements by the Home Secretary back in December, I raised this this morning at an asylum and refugee taskforce that I chaired, which was attended by a Home Office official. I raised the concerns on our behalf from the Welsh Government, and it's good to have your support of that about the rhetoric and about the impact that that will have on people's lives. What does this mean for us as a nation of sanctuary? It actually goes right to the core against everything that we believe. I actually wrote to the Minister, Robert Jenrick, about this as well. So, I thank you for those points. I do think it is important that we look to the work that we're doing with the human rights advisory committee, looking towards us being able to—. We've established this new human rights advisory group. You also chair a very important cross-party human rights group so that we can move towards securing our legislation in terms of a human rights Bill. This is where we have huge concerns about the UK Government Bill of rights Bill, which seeks to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. This is directly against what we wish to take forward in terms of our commitment in Wales, I believe, in the Welsh Government, and I thank you for your support on this issue.


I agree with the words of Lord Mann that tackling antisemitism goes beyond education about the Holocaust. However, it would be a mistake for us to think that there is not still an enormous job of work to be done to describe exactly what happened during the Holocaust and the things that were then subsequently suppressed. There was a deliberate policy after the second world war of drawing a veil over the Nazi terror in western Germany. My uncle was a colonel in the army of occupation, who told me, in some detail, about all the Nazis who were not put on trial but who were invited instead to resume their roles as administrators, as judges, and as police in the new post-war administration. Friends of mine who were of German-Jewish heritage, who've investigated the past, have huge amounts of stories to tell about those of them who managed to flee Germany. But we have to remember all the ones who failed to get here—all the Kindertransport that were denied entry into this country—rather than just the ones that we are proud to say we have accepted. We really have so much work to do to look at our own role. What did we know about the concentration camps and what could we have done to bomb the railroads that were taking people to their murderous end? So, Minister, I wondered what conversations you might have had with the education Minister on how we can ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten and that we reflect on a new approach, a new eye on the things that we really do need to remember, because if we forget, we will simply repeat history.

Thank you very much, indeed, Jenny Rathbone, recognising that so much was suppressed, so much in our generation—in fact, in many family histories across this Chamber. We need to revisit that history.

Some Members may have had the opportunity—if you haven't, I do recommend it—to watch How the Holocaust Began, which was a film broadcast last night presented by James Bulgin. It was about the atrocities leading to the Holocaust. Again, it's unravelling the history that led to the Holocaust—the poisonous ideology that was being developed of ordinary people betraying their neighbours. All of this led up to the establishment of the camps as a result of mass shootings becoming unsustainable—Jewish people just being murdered. I've mentioned T4 in terms of disabled people. I think one of the horrific things that was said is that they referred to disabled people as 'life unworthy of life'.

I can assure you that we're taking Lord Mann’s report very seriously, but it is about what can we do in terms of that history. I would just say that this is really important, I think, with the new opportunities with the curriculum. Diversity is a cross-cutting theme in the Curriculum for Wales. We've also led the way becoming the first part of the UK to make it mandatory to teach black, Asian and minority ethnic histories, contributions and experiences as part of the story of Wales in the curriculum, with statutory guidance that makes it very clear the opportunities for our learners, but also helping our teaching profession as well with the diversity and anti-racism professional learning. And this, of course, will help in terms of widening our understanding of what history actually means—living history—for our learners in Wales.

It's so hard, isn't it, to talk about this, and, yet, it is so essential. It is so important that we remember these events, these horrific events, which should pervade our life, and we must never forget them. One thing I will never forget is standing in Kigali in Rwanda, on the site where 125,000 people were buried. It's hard to imagine that ordinary people in Rwanda, in a period of only 100 days, we found that Hutus were murdered by Tutsis—800,000 were murdered, and the world stood by and did absolutely nothing.

I've worked with refugees, and I've volunteered at Calais. I know how important language is in our discussions, and I associate myself with all of the remarks made earlier, particularly the remarks made by Sioned with regard to the language of our Conservative Ministers. It is absolutely unacceptable. We must look at our language. We mustn't call people 'migrants'; they are people—they are people desperately looking for a different way of life. And, in everything we do, we must remember what happened in the Holocaust. We must remember what's happened over the years in countries around the world, and we must always challenge what is going on today in this country, because it's about language, it's about challenging injustice, and challenging hatred. Thank you for your remarks, and thank you for the work that you're doing, Minister. Diolch yn fawr iawn. 


Diolch yn fawr, Jane. And it is so hard, but it is so essential, as you say. And I did want to also respond to the point that follows up what Sioned has said about the strength and the bravery of people who have spoken out. And I think the fact that Joan Salter was filmed confronting the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, in January, about the language used to describe refugees—. And Joan Salter said to the Home Secretary,

'When I hear you using words against refugees like "swarms" and "invasion", I'm reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others'.

And I think it is important that we put that on the record today. 

I'm very grateful to have a chance to contribute to and respond to today's statement. As has already been stated, Holocaust Memorial Day is a day on which we remember all of those lives sadly lost in the Holocaust. With this year's theme being 'ordinary people', it is worth remembering those ordinary people and who they were. Approximately six million Jews, half a million Romany people, 270,000 disabled people and up to 15,000 LGBT people, and many others from many other groups, were victims—all ordinary people who perished at the hands of pure evil. 

As a school pupil, I was able to join a trip with my peers to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camps—an experience that will live with me for the rest of my life. To see for ourselves the site where so many ordinary people had suffered and died due to their race, sexual orientation or religious backgrounds can never be replicated by watching a film or reading a book. That trip made such an impression on me that I think it's imperative that others visit and learn exactly what happened, because, as each year passes, those who survived the Holocaust are sadly lost to us as they die.

Therefore, I would like to ask you, Minister, if you are willing to work with me, and organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust, to set up a cross-party visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau before the end of the sixth Senedd, to give our fellow Welsh parliamentarians the same opportunity that I had 15 years ago. Diolch. 

Diolch. Can I thank the Member so much for his—? Well, he is a testimony today to the impact that the experience had on you as a young person growing up in Wales. And that has been very powerful as a contribution to the statement this afternoon.

I've already highlighted the fact that this is really moving forward in 2023, in terms of our visits, back in-person, in terms of the Lessons from Auschwitz Wales project. And it is important that this is—. Looking at the Lessons from Auschwitz project, where you would have benefited from this unique four-part course, with two seminars, one-day visit to Poland and next-steps project. It's a journey of learning and exploration about the history of the Holocaust and the world that we live in. But, also, the fact that you, I'm sure now, will always be a lifelong ambassador, a Holocaust Educational Trust ambassador. And I think it's important, as I said, that there will be a young person, a student from Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Rhydywaun, Penywaun, who's going to be taking part in the ceremony on the memorial day, on Friday. So, I certainly would be very happy to look at that proposal. I think this is really important, that we do join across the Senedd in terms of the support. And tomorrow, I look forward to the event, which, of course, is being hosted, cross-party, by Jane Dodds, Darren Millar, Jenny Rathbone, and Llyr Gruffydd as well. And we will make sure that, again, we express that support, I'm sure, at that event, and hear, indeed, from a survivor herself.


On Holocaust Memorial Day, as so often, I'll be thinking about Zigi Shipper, an Auschwitz survivor, who died last week, on his ninety-third birthday. I had the honour of meeting Zigi in Westminster, and I heard him speak, not only about the horrors he faced during that period, when man's hatred of other human beings was allowed to conquer all sense of humanity, but also about the wonderful life he'd lived in the years since, because chance allowed him to survive. His story overwhelmed me, and when I was leaving the room, he grabbed my hand, and he said, 'I saw that you were crying. Why do you cry? I'm so happy'. Minister, I worry that, as more survivors pass away, the immediacy of their testimony could be lost, that that direct link that reminds us of the consequences of unchecked hatred could be loosened. What is the Welsh Government doing, please, to capture that testimony, working with the Holocaust Educational Trust and others, to teach not only schoolchildren but grown adults too about how easy it was for human beings to slip into that ugliness, and how easily it could happen again?

Thank you very much for reminding us of that Holocaust survivor, who you met in the House of Commons, who died last year. And as I said, we're honoured to meet and to hear from a survivor tomorrow, and, indeed, in the national commemoration as well. This is why this event, this day and this statement are so important—it is not a one-off; this is about the way we live. I think it goes back to the point that was made by Sioned Williams—that this is a test of us as a compassionate society.

I do want to just very briefly mention the fact that we fund the Wales hate support centre, run by Victim Support Cymru. And it's very important that that centre is actually reaching out, to ensure that we tackle hate crime, and particularly, focus on an anti-hate-crime communications campaign, which, of course, is going to run right over this year, called Hate Hurts Wales. We've got to ensure that we get that message over. And I think it is important that we recognise the work of Lord Mann, in terms of tackling antisemitism in the UK. I think, now, what we have to do is make the connections between, yes, that important report, but then standing up for what we believe in Wales in terms of the people who we welcome to Wales—going back to Jane's point: it's the people we welcome to Wales. And that has to be reflected, not just in education, it's got to be reflected in the work that we're doing, not just in terms of tackling hate crime, not just in terms of education and supporting the trust, but also in our work to take forward, strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales.

I'm grateful to the Minister for her statement this afternoon, and I also welcome the cross-party unity that we see on this subject. I'm glad that she referenced the BBC programme last night, How the Holocaust Began, because I think it is an important aspect for us to understand—the way that ordinary people were both the victims and the perpetrators of the Holocaust. And I think that that programme did chart the development of the genocide in the second world war and before the second world war, and told again a story that we need to know and understand. I have borne witness to genocide twice in my life: in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia, and I think that creates a very real awareness that evil can always be there, that what happened in the 1940s wasn't a unique episode of evil, but it is something that can be just around the corner, even in today's world. 

Minister, we are losing the generation that bore witness to the Holocaust and the second world war; we're losing the human contact, the human link with the death camps in the second world war; and we're losing the testimony of those people, their voices speaking to us directly. And what I would like to ask you this afternoon is: how can we, in Wales today, ensure that young people growing up, particularly, understand the profound nature of what happened over 70 years ago? I would like to see us exploring ways in which young people can visit Auschwitz to understand the enormity of what happened there, but also that the Holocaust is a part of a curriculum, where people understand not simply the technicality and the numbers, but the human impact of a genocide against the Jewish and other peoples of Europe, so that we can hope that the people who are being educated today in Wales, although they will have lost the human connection, will have that human understanding of genocide and of what the Holocaust did to all of us today. 


Diolch yn fawr, Alun Davies. Thank you, again, for highlighting that theme of the ordinary people: the victims and the perpetrators, so clearly expressed in that broadcast last night. But, also, we've seen it in all the genocides; we saw it, as was mentioned, in terms of Rwanda, and the experience that Jane Dodds had. Thank you for sharing your experience of the impact of genocide yourself, personally. I think this is where—I won't repeat again the work that we're doing with the Holocaust Educational Trust. Actually, this is about priorities, isn't it? It is about, since 2008, funding that Holocaust Educational Trust, and I remember, as education Minister at the time, recognising how important it was that, even in a very pressurised budget, this must be a priority. Because, actually, as you say, Alun, this is about what we teach our children, what they learn and what are the opportunities we've got with the new curriculum. And I will share with the Minister for Education and Welsh Language the fact that I think this is really important learning, and the points you make for the diversity and anti-racism professional learning project. It is being driven forward by Cardiff Metropolitan University and the BAMEed Wales network. It needs to ensure that we can embrace this wider understanding of the history, and young people will be benefiting this week, I know, from hearing from those last survivors. 

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, and thank you, Minister, for your statement. The sheer extent of the evil of the Holocaust remains unfathomable to comprehension. I have also had the honour and privilege of speaking to a number of Holocaust survivors now: children, people, human beings, and it was and is evil in its purest. A number of Members have spoken to the horrors of the Rwanda genocide, but I also wish to disassociate myself with the comments of the Home Secretary regarding 'swarms'.

It is powerful that the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is ordinary people. It is too convenient and too comfortable for us to fool ourselves that the Holocaust horror was perpetrated by an extreme and abnormal group of political fanatics, and, as BBC2's compelling documentary by James Bulgin demonstrated, the true horror for humanity was the willingness of ordinary men and women to be complicit in this evil: a process of the dehumanisation of people, the acceptance of hate, the use of language by politicians and the acceptance of propaganda. One of the most shocking scenes presented in the documentary was a German soldier's home movie, which showed men being thrown into a trench in Lithuania before being shot, but all as a large crowd of onlookers gathered, desperate to watch. Observing this, Bulgin stated, 'It's almost as if shooting Jews has become a spectator sport'—so truly horrifying to watch, eight decades later. And these horrific scenes were also replicated in The U.S. and the Holocaust, which presented us with pits of shot, naked women and infants, and the helpers filmed and laughed as the children were just executed. So, Minister, what can the Welsh Government and civil society do to ensure that future generations never forget such horror and evil? What lessons does it teach us about the power of individuals to effect good or ill on our fellow brothers and sisters?


I thank Rhianon Passmore for her contribution. It is a contribution—. Everyone who's spoken has been so moved by the fact that we're making this statement, and just recalling all the horror of the Holocaust. We must never forget that. It is about those ordinary people, and we must watch those programmes—we must learn from them. And also we must be very clear what we want to do in Wales. I won't repeat again what I've said about the opportunities through education, through our community cohesion, our anti-hate programmes as well. But also I have to say that we have raised our concerns with the UK Government, particularly not just about language, but the Nationality and Borders Act 2022—the fact is that it's diametrically opposed to our nation of sanctuary and the overall Welsh Government aim to have a more equal Wales—and the differentiation of refugees by their method of arrival. We must also continue, and we will do as a Government, and many of us around this Chamber raise these concerns with the UK Government, to be very clear what we believe and what we mean by a nation of sanctuary, and, hopefully, bring us together on understanding the history. So, I am really pleased to say thank you, Altaf Hussain, for starting this afternoon with that powerful contribution, because I think that really demonstrated that there is a lot that unites us on these issues.

4. Statement by the Minister for Climate Change: Renewable Energy Targets

Item 4 is next, the statement by the Minister for Climate Change on renewable energy targets. I call on the Minister, Julie James.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. Today, I am publishing our consultation on revising Welsh Government's energy targets. Alongside this, I am also delighted to announce some important investment we are making to stimulate the renewables supply chain, driving economic growth alongside emissions reduction and energy security.

Our current targets signalled Wales's high ambitions for renewable energy and this Government's priority to move away from fossil fuels. We are making progress towards those targets, and we need a strong final push on the projects in development if we are going to meet our 2030 target for renewables to supply 70 per cent of our annual consumption.

But the climate crisis and recent energy price surge has brought into sharp focus the need for a further step change in our ambitions. A local supply of secure, affordable renewable energy, within the context of a strong Great Britain network, is the foundation to a prosperous, zero-carbon society.

I can, therefore, announce that we propose a headline target for Wales to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our annual electricity consumption from renewable electricity by 2035. Furthermore, we propose that we continue to keep pace with consumption, which is likely to at least double by 2050.

The evidence that is published alongside our proposals indicates the pipeline of projects in development and an illustrative pathway to meeting this target. It is clear that we will need a range of technologies and scales of development to achieve our ambitions. And we will need to be flexible on the right solutions for our communities, and ensure renewable energy can sit alongside Wales's outstanding environmental assets.

What is clear, though, is the role offshore wind is expected to play to reach our goal. Last week, the Crown Estate announced they had issued seabed leases to 8 GW of offshore wind projects. This includes the 1.5 GW Mona project off the north Wales coast. This is a major milestone towards the goal of delivering these projects by the end of this decade.

Fixed offshore wind is already supporting the local economy in north Wales, sustaining 240 good-quality jobs at the port of Mostyn. We are determined to build on this with the upcoming projects, working with the developers to identify local suppliers and build a skilled workforce. We must also learn the lessons of some missed opportunities to capture a greater share of the supply chain for fixed offshore wind, particularly in high-value manufacturing, integration and deployment. I'm therefore delighted to announce that we are granting up to £1 million of support for Port Talbot. This grant will match fund the preparatory work from Associated British Ports to enable future floating offshore wind projects to deploy from Wales. This investment signals to both the industry and the UK Government Welsh Government’s commitment to the floating wind sector. It also provides important funding for the infrastructure that we will need to deliver floating wind to meet our ambitions. Of course, this is not the end of our support, and we will continue to work closely with Port Talbot, Milford Haven Port Authority and colleagues in the Celtic sea alliance to maximise the benefits from floating wind to Wales.

Alongside the production of clean electricity, and the supply chain and employment opportunities it can create, it is also important that communities benefit directly and feel connected to the energy they use in our renewable energy future. The Welsh Government has long been an advocate of local and community ownership across a broad range of renewable technologies and scales of development. To achieve this, we have significantly scaled up the support we offer to communities. We have boosted our Welsh Government energy service offer and provided Community Energy Wales with significantly increased support to enable them to scale up their activities. A local energy grant scheme for community-led projects helps fill the gap left by the UK Government’s decision to end the feed-in tariff scheme. And our guidance on local and shared ownership helps communities to negotiate shared ownership of larger scale projects. And of course, establishing our new public sector renewable energy developer is an important aspect, which will directly retain greater value locally.

Renewing our target demonstrates our continued ambition for that local ownership. We are proposing a target for at least 1.5 GW of renewable energy capacity to be locally owned by 2035, scaling up our current target for 1 GW by 2030. Additionally, recognising the importance of heat decarbonisation, we propose an additional 5.5 GW of renewable energy capacity to be produced by heat pumps by 2035, contingent on scaled-up support from the UK Government and reductions in the cost of deploying this technology. In proposing this target, we welcome any supporting evidence that consultees can provide to inform it. Underpinning all of our proposals and targets are the infrastructure, supply chain and flexibility that will ensure successful delivery of our pipeline of renewable development projects and our energy security.

I've already talked about our support for the development of port infrastructure. Through our manufacturing plan, we are undertaking a supply chain mapping exercise of the marine energy sector. We are particularly looking at the capacity, capability and resilience of existing supply chains and identifying where we can take advantage of opportunities like fixed and floating offshore wind. We are working with network operators and Ofgem to understand and champion the needs of Wales for energy networks capable of supporting a net zero society. And we are encouraging the deployment of storage solutions to support a more resilient energy system. We already have some exemplar skills partnerships, notably the training provided at Coleg Llandrillo Menai to develop specialists in offshore wind. But we want to build on that, and our net zero action plan will set out the steps we will take to develop a world-class workforce for our local projects and great opportunities for school leavers, graduates and those seeking a new career path.

I have often said that Wales must feel the benefit of our renewables revolution and that we cannot make the same mistakes of the past and allow the benefit and profit from our resources to flow out of the country. This statement of intent was made clear in our deep-dive into renewable energy, which provided a vision for Wales to generate renewable energy to at least fully meet our energy needs and to maximise local ownership, retaining economic and social benefits in Wales. Our net zero ambitions will have a large impact on the Welsh economy and our communities as the shift in demand for goods, services and skills evolves. We want to ensure a just transition that provides economic opportunities across Wales, delivering benefit for businesses, communities and citizens.

The opportunities for floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea alone offer opportunities for many thousands of good-quality jobs and tens of billions of pounds of local economic benefit. Working in partnership with private, public and community sector developers, infrastructure operators, skills providers and businesses, we can build a world-class renewables industry here in Wales. Setting these targets is a demonstration of our ambition, and I invite you all to work with us to make this vision a reality. Diolch.


I'd like to thank the Minister for her statement. We all agree that a local supply of secure, affordable renewable energy within the context of a strong GB network is the foundation to a prosperous zero-carbon society. We need to be ambitious to achieve that community that we want to see Wales being, so I welcome your decision, Minister, to set a target for Wales to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our annual electricity consumption from renewable electricity by 2035. By 2050, electricity consumption is anticipated to increase by between 200 per cent and 300 per cent. This is likely to be mainly due to increased consumption in the heat and transport sectors. So, a question, Minister: alongside pursuing the roll-out of new renewable technologies, what steps will you be taking to try and encourage our community, where they can, to use less electricity?

Now, you have proposed a target for at least 1.5 GW of renewable energy capacity to be locally owned by 2035—[Interruption.] Sorry about my voice. Of the almost 73,000 locally owned renewable electricity and heat projects in Wales, nearly 90 per cent are domestic. The majority of these domestic projects are solar PV and heat pumps, which can be an expensive upfront cost for home owners, and, in our inquiry for retrofitting homes, this turned out to be quite a barrier. Now although 2020 saw 20 out of 22 local authorities increase their generation, just five saw an increase of more than 5 per cent. So, while, clearly, there is some progress being made, it is simply not rapid enough to meet your Government's near-term targets. So, what incentives, Minister, are your Government providing to empower domestic home owners and local authorities to speed up the rate of renewable energy generation?

For example, we know that business rates are a barrier to private hydro schemes. The cost of providing business rates relief to privately owned hydro projects during the 2021 financial year, when we saw so many come on line with this scheme, the last year they were eligible within the scheme, was £380,000. So, to help the drive towards producing more renewable energy and make hydro schemes on farms available, will you consider reintroducing the business rates support for landowners going forward to 2023-24?

In order for these ambitions to be worth something, there has to be a tangible framework for delivery. This includes the development of green jobs, investing in skills and training to deliver well-paid opportunities to the workforce who will be needed to make these renewable projects a success. Therefore, it was disappointing that the publication of the Net Zero Wales skills plan in the autumn of 2022 has been delayed. This means that Wales is the only Government across the whole of UK not to have published anything on net zero skills. So, will you commit, Minister, to the publication of a coherent plan for education and skills training so that these highly paid green jobs can actually become a reality?

Finally, I recently held a meeting with the Crown Estate. They are fully focused on delivery. They do have a wonderful track record of successfully leasing seabed, to the point that the UK is the second most successful market in the world. As they have made clear to me, there is an opportunity for Wales themselves to be global leaders if we move at pace and we encourage businesses to invest. So, Minister, will you please confirm that you are fully focused on delivery and moving at pace, and, as such, will you rule out pursuing Plaid Cymru's what can only be determined obsession with devolving the Crown Estate? If you don't agree with me, could you tell me what you believe the benefits would be by the devolution of the Crown Estate? But we as a group remain firmly opposed to that. Thank you. Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd.


Thank you, Janet. I hope your throat gets better soon; I have every sympathy. As you know, I've had a very similar problem myself, so many sympathies there.

Just in terms of the Crown Estate, obviously, we are in favour of the devolution of the Crown Estate, and the benefits of that are just really obvious. First off, the revenue itself is worth having, just straight up. So, even if we didn't want to do anything else, it's clear that the revenue would be worth having. But, actually, what's much, much better in terms of the devolution that we would like to see is what we would then be able to do with ensuring that local supply chain and local employment were embedded into the auction round. Now, I'm very sorry to say that the last auction round, although we are delighted to see it be granted and go ahead, didn't have the kinds of safeguards we would have liked to have seen for local supply and ownership. It was a pass/fail only, and it's not part of the contract conditions.

I'm really sorry about that, because what we've got there is a race to the highest bidder, and then when the contracts for difference round comes out from the Government, that will be a race to the lowest price. And the people who get squeezed in the middle of those two conflicting competitions, run by the same Government, are the suppliers, while the main energy companies who have got the benefit of the auction for leases squeeze their supply chain in order to get the cost for the contracts for difference down as far as possible. And as I said only very recently in the Senedd in another statement, the real problem there is to make sure that the big multinational companies that have won, because of the way that the auction was run, don't simply just revert to their own supply chains at home as the quickest and fastest way of getting that price down, and that's a real problem for us.

If the Crown Estate was devolved, we would have been able to directly influence that, and I'm very sorry that we weren't able to. That supply is actually worth more than the price or the revenue implication, and if you look what's happened in Scotland, that's exactly what they've been able to do. So, I regret that the Crown Estate didn't see fit to do that, and we will continue to work with them for future rounds to make sure that smaller companies, consortiums of smaller companies, and community and locally owned renewables, can be directly associated with the auction, and not part way down the supply chain. So, I think that's a really direct example to you of why it would matter to us. I know your party doesn't agree with it, but I really fail to understand why, to be honest, because the benefits are really, really obvious. 

In terms of energy efficiency, we do have energy efficiency in our planning. It's part of our carbon budget, and it's part of the climate committee recommendations to us. We expect everyone in Wales to play their part. It's not part of this particular statement, but I recommend to you the carbon budget documents themselves, which set out what we expect in terms of energy efficiency. Of course we want to only use the energy that is necessary; of course we want the most efficient grid, and that's part of the same conversation that I've rehearsed, Dirprwy Lywydd, on the floor of this Chamber many times. We need the grid to be as efficient and effective as possible, we need people to be as efficient and effective as possible in their use of energy, both at business and industrial level, and at local level, but, we know, and you set it out yourself, that because of the direction of travel for heat, for electric vehicles, for a whole range of other things, we know that the energy consumption will grow and, as I said in my statement, we're confident that our plan to have 100 per cent renewables will match that ambition, because of the real opportunity that we have here in Wales. It's so exciting to see it.

Everything you said about local ownership I agree with, other than the business rates. There is a real issue there, Dirprwy Lywydd, which I won't go into now, because it'll take far too long. But there is a real issue there about the right level of local taxation for the right level of profit, which, no doubt, we'll have a chance to debate another time.


Thank you, Minister, for the statement. I was pleased to hear what you said about the Crown Estate. If we're going to have an obsession, I would say that having an obsession about having a better and more prosperous future for Wales is a good place to start, to be honest. So, I would associate myself with a number of things that you said about that, because we do have in Wales so much potential in terms of renewable resources, but there are also so many long-standing barriers that need to be recognised before Wales can realise that potential, and we've heard already about one of them.

Over a decade ago, the Welsh Government pledged that you'd take action, but we're still waiting to see the fruits of some of the promises made. There is much to praise, but there is also some frustration about the delays as well. The Welsh Government has a target to see Wales meeting 70 per cent of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2030. But according to the Welsh Government's annual 'Energy Generation in Wales' report last year, the amount of electricity that we use has increased more rapidly than the amount of renewable electricity that's produced in Wales. The percentage of electricity that's used in Wales and that is created through renewable sources has fallen from 56 per cent in 2020 to 55 per cent in 2021. And when we look at the following year, 2022, considering that we faced the after-effects of the pandemic, as well as the cost-of-living crisis and the effects of the international crisis in Ukraine, what impact do you think that these major changes will have on our use of electricity? What impact will that have on our ability to achieve our targets?

We, as a party, have criticised the Government in the past for the slow progress that has been made in this area. When do you think this trend will change or be reversed? I would like it, Minister, if you could set out the milestones that you anticipate that we would be able to pass on the journey towards meeting those targets, please.

Perhaps the biggest barrier of all is our energy grid. You've already mentioned this: the network of pylons, power lines and connections that serve the British energy system. Last week, the First Minister suggested that he would like to see the national grid come under public control. He talked about the huge sums of money that go to shareholders and the backlog of almost 700 renewable energy projects that are still waiting for the grid to find capacity for them. Does the Welsh Government intend to make the case for public control of the national grid? Have you or your officials held discussions with the Westminster Government about nationalising the grid? What impact, finally, do you think that that would have on our ability to achieve our renewable energy targets? Thank you.


Diolch, Delyth. I think there's much to agree on there, and then I can do a bit of an explanation of where we are. So, just in terms of the grid itself, the national grid is one of the worst-named bits of it, really, because it's nothing of the sort; it's a series of different organisations that deploy different bits of the grid. It has been very reactive in the past. It has only responded to customer demands for a grid connection in a particular place before it's deployed. The absence of planning has been—well, we've ended up where we are because of the absence of planning and the absence of future-proofing, because I think it has been evident for a long time that the grid was necessary, even for things like broadband and electric-vehicle charging, never mind for any industrial strategy, and it simply hasn't been looked at.

We've been calling for it, as a party, since well before devolution and ever since devolution—that it should be either a national service, which we still believe, or, at the very least, that it should be planned and that the national grid should take account of an upfront investment strategy, even if it was going to cost-recover afterwards. We have finally prevailed in having a holistic network design now being put in place for Wales, and that's a huge step forward in terms of what we can plan for, and that's a process that is very much ongoing; my officials are extremely involved in much of the granular detail. But, you know, it would be far better if it wasn't being done for profit for shareholders, and I think that's just a political philosophy that it's unlikely that the opposite benches will share, but we certainly do share it. At the very least, I'd like to see it as a not-for-profit company.

But, really, the big thing here is the planning. So, we are pleased that, finally, they have seen some sense and are looking at holistic network design. That's been partly driven by the big renewables developers, who are clearly screaming the place down about the fact that—the First Minister said it himself—they'll get the energy to the beach and then be looking for a plug. Where is the plug? That's a really big issue for us; we have to get ahead of that and those plans are proceeding at pace. There's a lot of detail on that, Dirprwy Lywydd, that I've been into a number of times in the Chamber, and I won't repeat it.

In terms of the targets that we have set, there are some issues around the percentage of generation. We have a ridiculous amount of the UK gas energy generation here in Wales through previous historic accident, which I would very much like to see got rid of, and that, obviously, affects the percentage, but we're making good progress towards it. The latest data we have shows that in 2021, renewables generated the equivalent of 55 per cent of our electricity use, against a target of 70 per cent by 2030. So, the reason I'm doing this today is because we think that target will be met and we're trying to increase our ambition. I think that's the right thing to do, so it's absolutely the case that we think that the 70 per cent will be met and now we can go further. We've also already achieved around 90 per cent of our target of 1 GW of renewable energy capacity to be locally owned by 2030. That's an estimated 0.9 GW of generation by 2021, so that also is very good. But what's holding us back is the grid. That's the point: we would have a lot more of these projects coming forward. A lot more just very domestic, farm businesses or whatever would want to connect renewables in if the grid was fit for purpose, and that is a real limiter for us, and so we need to work on that.

We will be developing as part of our co-operation agreement a company that I’m sure you’re all aware of, Ynni Cymru. I hope very soon that we’ll be able to make some announcements about that company’s ability to intervene in assisting people to get community generation to scale up. There’s a lot of ambition across the country for that, and I’m sure we can work with people. We will, though, have to look at closed grids, because we can’t get the grid connections. But we’ve got to make sure that those closed grids are capable, so that when we do get the grid we need, we can connect in. So, we will be looking outside the box for that, to make sure that people can.

And the last piece that you asked me about was the decarbonisation piece. Obviously, I’ve said a number of times what we’re doing about the right technology for the right house. We will, once we’ve got that ready to go, be starting to look at the deployment of grant assistance and so on, for the poorest and worst-fabric households first, to make sure we can run it out. We are now working with local authorities, and it might be part of Ynni Cymru—it’s under discussion. We will be working to see if we can do community decarbonisation projects—so, all the houses in a particular community, because they’re very energy inefficient, come together to do pieces of work, which makes it more affordable for all of them. That means that you get whole communities coming up at the same time. So, there are a number of plans in the pipeline there.


I very much welcome the statement we’ve heard from the Minister this afternoon, and I very much welcome the vision that you set out, Minister. I’m also very grateful to you for what you’ve just said in answer to the previous question, because I think a number of us were curious, if you like, about what Ynni Cymru would actually do.

I think there are other barriers beyond those that you’ve described in terms of community distributed energy generation. I think the other barriers are finance being available to local groups to enable them to invest in creating the sort of generation capacity that we need for a small community. There’s also the barrier of the technology that is best deployed in different places, and the barriers, of course, of creating the corporate entity that would then manage that project. So, there are a number of different barriers there, and you’ve already described planning, of course. When I was sitting in your seat as a Minister responsible for this, I found that most of my budget was being used fighting other parts of the public sector, and it was one of the most frustrating jobs that I’ve done. So, I think we need to unpick that, and to ensure that community generation is something that we can focus on.

The final point I’ll make, without testing the patience of the Deputy Presiding Officer too far, is the alternative to that, because in Blaenau Gwent, one of the smallest constituencies in the country, we have an application for Manmoel wind, Mynydd Carn-y-Cefn in Abertillery, Mynydd Llanhilleth, Abertillery, and two in the Rassau. That is too much for a small community, and the danger is that if you surround people with 185m turbines, what you do is not generate more energy, but lose the goodwill of the population, and that goodwill of the population is what’s going to help us achieve the targets that you’ve set out for us this afternoon.

Thank you, Alun. I absolutely agree with the last point. The big issue there is to make sure that the community has the renewable energy it wants and needs, but also there’s a huge piece there about not just community benefits, but proper community ownership. So, we are very keen indeed to facilitate any company that’s building an onshore windfarm—I hope we can do this with floating wind as well, but certainly onshore—to actually build turbines directly for community ownership. So, we can facilitate, via the Development Bank for Wales, local people having an actual share in that. That will mean they get a direct benefit in their energy bills, which is not permissible under the community benefits scheme, and also means that we can further a decarbonisation agenda, so we can actually get people’s bills right down. I think that has a fundamental effect on the amount of renewables that people want to see around them, if I’m honest.

The other big piece for me is we often have—I don’t know that your community’s in this particular place—communities that can see one or two or more windfarms out their windows who are on off-grid oil. We absolutely need to find a way to get those communities to be able to connect directly into the renewable electricity: (a) to decarbonise, (b) to get that community buy-in you talked about, and (c) how frustrating is that—that you’ve got that wealth of opportunity on your doorstep and you can’t get to it? Many of the communities that I serve and that Rebecca Evans serves are in exactly that position, and I’d imagine a number of colleagues around the Chamber are in that position, so we’re really keen to make sure that we spread out the largesse, if you like, and this community ownership piece is a really big part of that. So, we're very keen indeed to make sure that, as the state-owned developer rolls out, these exemplar sites—where we build turbines specifically for the community to own and we put up the price first, and we allow the community to buy into it over a very, very long period of time so that it's accessible to all income levels—really make a difference as those profits start to come into communities. 

And then on the other two pieces, I completely agree with you around the access to funding, access to technology advice and access to corporate advice. I don't want to pre-announce the Ynni Cymru co-operation agreement talks that we're having, but they're progressing very nicely and I hope to be able to make an announcement soon that will cover off a number of those heads. 


I'd like to raise two points and ask two questions, if I may. In order to achieve our goals and reach our targets, clearly, we need large-scale projects, but we can all play a part as well, and smaller-scale projects cumulatively will play a significant part. In England, small roof-mounted wind turbines are allowed under permitted development. However, permitted development rights do not apply to wind turbines here in Wales. Will you look at this and consider applying permitted development rights to small wind turbines here in Wales please, Minister? 

I know you mentioned that you didn't want to repeat yourself, but I will, and it's important for the record. I was disappointed last week to receive an e-mail from Nova Innovation, who notified me that their plans for the Enlli tidal project were being mothballed. They cited three main reasons for this, but most importantly, as we heard earlier, the lack of grid connection. This issue faces others, with farmers, for instance, on the Llŷn peninsula not able to develop wind or solar projects because of this lack of grid capacity. According to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee's recent report on grid capacity in Wales, securing planning consent for grid reinforcements can take longer than constructing the energy project itself. So, without significantly increasing this capacity, there's no point discussing creating new generating abilities. So, will the Minister support the call to entirely devolve energy production and break up the monopoly of the national grid, so that Wales can develop her own ability to move electricity around the nation and invest in those communities that need it? Thank you.   

Thank you, Mabon. Yes, we would like to have much more control over the national grid, absolutely, because of all of the issues we've discussed endlessly—the need to plan it out, the need for better investment, and so on. So, I think that's taken as read, really. The real issue with a number of projects around Wales—on land, onshore, on sea—has been grid connection, and the real problems with that. So, we are hoping to be able to move that on significantly with the new holistic network design process and, indeed, with the co-operation agreement with Ynni Cymru and a number of other interventions we hope will make a difference. So, I do hope to be able to report a step change in that once we've got those interventions in place and we understand where the holistic network design process is going to take us.  

In terms of the small roof-mounted turbines, yes, I'm very interested in exploring permitted development rights for a number of renewables that are possible. We have a small complication in some parts of Wales that are designated landscapes. We need to make sure that the community comes with us on this, and we need to make sure that they're done sympathetically to some of our environments. But yes, in principle we are looking very closely to see what can be allowed. There are also some other issues people have raised in the Chamber around how close an air-source heat pump can be to another dwelling and all that kind of stuff, which we are having a good look at to make sure we have the most effective, most recent advice about a number of these things. So, I'm very interested in looking at that, but we do want to get it right so that we get community buy-in, and not community upheaval with that. 

The last thing is just in terms of that planning point and the grid connections. We are going to be introducing an infrastructure consenting Bill to the Senedd shortly, which will take some of the big projects out of the current system. But again, this community buy-in point is a really important one. I don't want people to have to have high-voltage pylons coming across their land because we've got a windfarm right next door to them without them having a really good say about where and how that energy should be removed. It's often the case that it's not the windfarm itself that people are having a problem with—it's the way that the energy is taken away from it.

You'll be very aware that we need to combine this with all of the work we're doing on biodiversity and landscape preservation. For some landscapes, you do not want to underground it. I don't want to dig up peatland in order to do that. But, for other landscapes, undergrounding may be an option. It's really very much an individual route thing. So, we need to make sure that the planning is calibrated, exactly as for the marine consenting, to hit the sweet spot between the right protection for our landscapes and the right speed for the connectivity, to make sure that the communities who live in all of the areas where this might happen get all of the benefits associated with it and as few of the downsides as we can manage.


Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd, and thank you for your statement, Minister. The big news in my region is the huge investment by QatarEnergy in South Hook LNG. It will mean the terminal will be able to handle about 25 per cent more liquefied natural gas imported from around the world. There's no question that it will be a massive boost for Pembrokeshire, and I've no doubt the First Minister and the economy Minister did a fantastic job of promoting Wales as an energy hub at the football world cup. I know it sounds off topic, but we are discussing renewable energy and the transition. So, we need to do that, and it's been mentioned already, by retaining and investing in the assets, the workforce, the skills and the technology that can deliver that transition. Milford Haven, of course, will be critical in that journey. Only last week, Samuel Kurtz, Cefin Campbell, Jane Dodds and I sponsored a reception for the Haven Waterway Future Energy Cluster. The big ambition is to achieve the 20 per cent of UK Government low-carbon hydrogen production target by 2030, and at least 10 per cent floating offshore wind by 2035. Grid capacity, of course, has been mentioned, the consenting regime, and all the other ways that the Welsh Government can and does support the sector, the details of which I know you're very much across, Minister. But can I ask you how you think that South Hook investment might be used to embed and attract further investment to the west Wales energy sector, principally our renewables sector, going forward?

Thank you very much, Joyce. It's a very good point. We've been working for quite some time now with a range of stakeholders—and I know you know this—to make sure that we do a whole range of things. First of all, we attract the right kind of investment, and there are enormous issues with that. We don't want greenwashing, for example, but we do want proper investment in renewables and in biodiversity as well. We need to make sure that we have the right financial instruments in place to do that. It was one of the best things coming out of COP15—the amount of learning that was being done globally on how to get those right. It was a real relief to me to see that we were not alone in trying to make the distinction between those two things.

The second is that we've been doing an enormous amount of work, both with our port authorities and the infrastructure surrounding them, and with our supply chains, to make sure that the supply chains are as ready as they can be to meet the challenge that's to come from the new floating wind, but also the ongoing onshore wind and other renewables, and that we can take advantage of the new hydrogen research projects all over Wales, to make sure that we can get as much green hydrogen out of the new renewables that are going. Milford Haven is well placed to take advantage of some of that and have been working very hard on it.

The last piece is that we'll be doing the supply chain analysis, so that where there are gaps, we can actually proactively work, with our port authorities in particular, to make sure that they are also reaching out to people who could come in and fill those supply chain gaps, capturing inward investment and skills investment to make sure that we take the best advantage of this.

My colleague Vaughan Gething and I will be bringing forward a net-zero skills plan. That's being trialled with industry at the moment to make sure that it's fit for purpose and that it's futureproofed. We need to capture all of the green skills that we need for the future to make sure that we have one of the most sustainable economic countries in the world; I'm very keen on that ambition. And your area will be very much pivotal in that, both for its industrial clusters, but, actually, of course, for its abundant natural resources both around the coast and on land. So, as we go forward, I'm sure we will continue to work in absolute lockstep with the manufacturing industries and the Haven authority itself, as we do that. I'm very sorry I couldn't make that evening meeting, but I have met with them on a number of occasions. And if you want to invite me down there, I'd be very happy to come again. Diolch.

5. Statement by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language: School Improvement and the Information Landscape

We'll move on now to item 5, a statement by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language on school improvement and the information landscape. I call on the Minister to make the statement—Jeremy Miles.

Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. The Curriculum for Wales offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to radically reform what and how we teach, in order to support the educational progress of our learners, their well-being, and their life chances as well.

But, to make this a reality, this reform can’t happen in isolation. Each and every part of our reform programme must be aligned so that we can deliver high standards and aspirations for all. The way that we approach school evaluation, improvement and accountability must change too, and, above all, we must put our schools in the best possible position to make that vision of education a reality for learners. This means moving to a system of accountability that helps schools improve their offer to learners, instead of proving themselves to others.

Last summer, we published new school improvement guidance, which puts the learner at the centre of all our thinking and our support for schools. We will be consulting on this guidance in the coming year, with a view to making this statutory in 2024. Teachers and leaders across Wales continue in their commitment to our learners and supporting our pupils to be the best they can be, despite these difficult times. Our approach to school improvement must put the learner and the teacher at the centre, and it must recognise that the interaction of both in the classroom is what makes the difference to school improvement and attainment of our learners.

Today, I want to talk through our next steps in supporting schools in an ongoing cycle of self-evaluation and improvement. My priority is an approach to school improvement that puts learners first. To realise this, we have to understand what information about schools and learners is needed to ensure that the system works. Last week, we published a report on the development of this new 'information ecosystem', and this terminology gives recognition to the balance needed in the system, and the fact that activity in one area has an impact in another. This research involved detailed discussions with schools, local authorities, delivery partners, parents, and learners, because we recognise that different partners have different requirements, and that information is used in a range of different ways, and also that data has a clear role in fostering public confidence.

It's absolutely clear to me, Dirprwy Lywydd, that using a wide range of information is crucial to supporting evaluation and improvement. Isolated pieces of data, or out of context, should not be used to judge performance or compare schools. I welcome Estyn’s response to my written statement last week, confirming that they too will not be looking to use isolated pieces of information to assess school improvement or for accountability.

Equally, any requirements on schools to provide information should have a clear purpose. That purpose is, at its centre, to help teachers support learning. Information about how learners are progressing, and the progression of different cohorts in different contexts, should help schools and local authorities evaluate themselves and improve their own offer, with the support of school improvement services. We must, though, not forget the crucial importance of parents and the need for transparency of information to enable them to take decisions on their child’s education and engage with their child’s school.

The report will help us in developing our reformed approach to information to support school improvement. To ensure that we clearly put learners and teachers at the centre, my officials will be convening a practitioners group to begin to develop the new information landscape in the context of the report’s recommendations. While different parts of Wales might have different needs, there are fundamental issues that should be all of our focus. The eight factors that support curriculum realisation, set out in the school improvement guidance, embed these core national priorities.

It will not come as a surprise to the Chamber that I am absolutely clear that there must be a particular focus on improving the progress of our most disadvantaged learners. As well as learners and teachers, I will be listening to the voices of parents, to ensure that the information they receive best helps them to understand their children's educational experience. We'll be looking to streamline and promote consistency in information approaches across schools and across Wales. A more coherent and simpler approach will require us all to work together in partnership. It will require compromise and, sometimes, hard decisions to stop asking for some information where it does not support learners and teachers. But we must grasp this opportunity. 

On understanding how learners are achieving nationally, whether we are achieving our objective of raising standards across Wales is a key part of this information landscape, crucial to informing our support to schools and for transparency and confidence in the system. To support this, I've taken the decision that we will introduce an ambitious programme of national monitoring to assess knowledge and skills across the breadth of the Curriculum for Wales. This is not about testing every learner. Instead, we will take a sampling approach to understand and monitor learners' attainment and progress over time at a system level. This approach will minimise burdens on schools and the education system as a whole, help provide the information we need to understand our progress as a nation and help us better understand the impact of poverty on learners' achievement and support our approaches to tackling this. We plan to begin rolling out these sample assessments on a pilot basis in the 2025-26 academic year.

Dirprwy Lywydd, finally, achieving qualifications remains vitally important for learners and will remain a priority for this Government. In 2019, we introduced new transitional interim measures for secondary schools that ensured more focus on raising our aspirations for all learners with indicators that better captured the achievement of all our learners at key stage 4. These measures, as Members will be aware, were paused during the pandemic. For an interim period, we will restart the reporting of key stage 4 outcomes at school level, including the policy of counting only first award of qualifications. This is temporary, as we move towards a more holistic system that promotes learning and puts learners, teachers and parents at the centre. It will not apply to learners now learning under the Curriculum for Wales.

I'm committed to working in partnership with schools to develop a new information landscape, including on qualifications information, ready for the new GCSEs from 2025, and I plan to provide further updates to the Siambr as this work progresses. 


Thank you for your statement, Minister. Although you've aimed to provide some clarity on the issue, which is appreciated, I do still have some concerns that are echoed by parents and practitioners alike. Your statement outlines that data should not be used in isolation to judge performance or compare schools. Traditionally, of course, information on school performance in both Wales and the rest of the UK is used to judge performance and compare schools. Furthermore, comparative data only serves to raise standards of practice and allow schools to work collaboratively on respective areas of strengths and weaknesses. How are you going to ensure that losing that transparent data won't lead to a dropping in standards within the profession? And how is this new national monitoring system going to really help the hugely diverse needs of schools across Wales?

And, Minister, in your statement last week, you said that,

'We will develop further thinking to align with the introduction of new qualifications from 2025 as we develop our new information landscape'.

There is already uncertainty over exams and qualifications, shown through the recurring theme throughout the Estyn report 2021-22. Most settings face serious concerns over the uncertainty surrounding the new qualifications, which will assess the Curriculum for Wales. As such, many year 11s did not progress as expected. To compound this, in all-age schools, those between years 6 and 7 were finding educational transition damaged by this lack of certainty. Hence, the framework is incomplete, alongside the incomplete set of qualifications subsumed within a non-fully-implemented curriculum. So, Minister, just how are schools meant to prepare and adjust, with such question marks still outstanding, and when will they get some certainty?

And finally, Minister, our final concern is the self-evaluation focus of this new framework. When reviewing the Estyn reports of this year, there seems to be a complete disjuncture between the new terminology placed in the approaches of the past. When looking closely at the reports, there are distinct hallmarks of individual differences between inspectors, based on interests, ideologies and ways of expressing their recommendations, which will undoubtedly be reflected in any school or LA self-evaluation. Inspectors required schools to share with them some assessment data as part of the inspection process. However, if each school is assessing its own curriculum, as per the Welsh Government guidance, and each school has its own unique local curriculum, that also means that their assessment data will also be unique. Given that there is no scale or method of comparison, no loose framework to measure improvement, how are schools and LAs able to show inspectors that pupils are making progress in their literacy, numeracy, digital and Welsh skills, for example, without the benefit of that national standard for oracy, writing, digital or Welsh skills? Diolch.


I thank the Member for those questions. I'll try and answer as many of them as I can. I think the key point is that there is a distinction to be drawn between data for accountability on the one hand and data for assessment and self-improvement on the other. It's really important that we ensure that those two things are kept separate, because they serve very, very different purposes. The reason for moving away from school categorisation was because that actually blurred the boundary between the two in a way that created perverse incentives, effectively, at a school level, in relation to the management of data and the choices made as well in relation to examinations, potentially, in some cases as well. I can assure the Member that it's fundamentally important for our system that there is a clear line of accountability in relation to schools.

Principally, the responsibility for accountability at a school level is obviously the governing body, but obviously, externally, to Estyn as the school inspectorate. And as the Member will be aware, from 2024, there will be more frequent inspections as a consequence of Estyn's new programme, which will provide, obviously, more regular information to the system about the performance of schools. As she's also aware from the last point in her question, there is a new approach to inspection, with the removal of summative judgments and the providing of parent-friendly reports, all of which, I think, give better qualitative information in a much more nuanced way for parents. And also, obviously, communicating that in a way that parents might more readily understand is very important, which is why I welcome the work that's been going on in relation to the parent-friendly reports.

The experience to date, as I understand it from Estyn, of the removal of the summative judgments is that the discussions at a school level have focused much more on the kinds of things the Member was asking about in her question, which are: how can those schools know where they are on the journey to self-improvement, the implementation of the curriculum, and really focusing on the practical steps in terms of strengths and weaknesses, rather than focusing on the question of the boundary between different summative judgments? So, that is the experience to date. I obviously will be keeping a close eye on that with Estyn. It's obviously very important for the success of our system that that is embedded properly in the approach to accountability. In relation to the national monitoring programme, we will now be in a process of specifying that, testing some of the approaches to that—how frequently? What size cohort? There are all sorts of design questions, if you like, that need to go into that.

The Member makes a very important point, I think, and it's one that I've been testing myself with officials, about the range of schools that we have in Wales, and the communities they serve. How do we make sure that the information we get provides a useful set of messages to us? That's a good question. It's an important point of judgment. So, the choice to be made in this context is as follows: either you choose a very granular mechanism that tells you, with much greater specificity, what's happening at a school or local authority level—that comes with choices about the burden on the system, and on individual learners across the system—or you decide that what you're looking for is a way of monitoring the performance of the system overall. And at the moment, we will need that data to know, so that you can hold me to account about the performance of the curriculum in due course. So, that will be the source of information, or a source of information, on which you can draw, and you can test whether the approaches that we are following are delivering on the literacy and numeracy requirements, are delivering on the areas of learning and experience. So, that would provide a base of data on which to found those challenges, which, obviously, we need to do. 

I don't recognise the point that the Member is making about how uncertainty about qualifications is affecting the transition between years 6 and 7. I don't know how that can be at this stage, if I'm completely honest. As she will know, Qualifications Wales is undertaking a consultation at the moment about the reform of qualifications. Those qualifications will first be taught in 2005, and so the programme that I'm describing today will be ready in time for that cohort. So, it's obviously important that these things happen in a way that is systematic, and that's the intention of what I'm describing today. I hope that captures at least most of the questions that the Member asked.