Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd
Plenary - Fifth Senedd28/06/2016
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Presiding Officer (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
I call the National Assembly to order.
[R] signifies the Member has declared an interest. [W] signifies that the question was tabled in Welsh.
The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Janet Finch-Saunders.
The Basic Payment Scheme
1. Will the First Minister make a statement on Basic Payment Scheme payments to farmers? OAQ(5)0083(FM)
Over 99 per cent of eligible farm businesses have been paid.
Thank you. I’m obliged to raise this question, actually, as a result of my own intense concerns at the handling of basic payments that are still outstanding to our farmers, and your own Government department’s process. Seventeen thousand and sixty-three farmers submitted their applications in June 2015, yet 12 months later, there are approximately 171 yet to receive any payment. Indeed, in Aberconwy, I have represented farmers who have waited several months for payment without any acknowledgment of their application, and many promised that they’ve been paid, when, in fact, they have not—one was for £60,000. First Minister, a delay of such magnitude is now putting farmers’ livelihoods at risk. Outstanding payments are causing immense stress and frustration. First Minister, will you look into your own Government department’s workings in this regard, to ensure that our hardworking farmers and the custodians of our countryside are not facing potential financial ruin because of your own Government department delays?
I repeat again the answer I gave to the original question: over 99 per cent of eligible farm businesses have been paid—have had a basic payment scheme payment. If there are individual farms where there are difficulties, the correct thing to do is to raise those difficulties with the Minister, so that they can be looked at for those individuals. But we consistently outperform England and Scotland year upon year upon year when it comes to paying our farmers.
I’m sure, First Minister, that you, like me, regret the fact that so many farmers voted to leave the European Union and that there’s no doubt that that did happen. One of the reasons that they gave me for considering that, when I discussed the issue with them, was not that the payments were late but that penalties and fines would follow minor disagreements or minor errors, as were identified by civil servants in the claims for these payments. Now, you’ve lost a great deal of confidence among the farming community because of those penalties, when Phil Hogan and the European Commission had said that it would be possible to be flexible. Although that’s water under the bridge now, can you now actually revive the reputation of the Welsh Government among farmers by looking at the situation where penalties follow what should be a discussion between you as a Government and farmers about their payments?
May I ask the Member to write to me with more details? Of course, we have been following the regulations that exist at present and, of course, we have been paying farmers much more quickly than is the case in Scotland or England. But as regards the details of the individual farmers, I’d be pleased to receive a letter in order to consider exactly what’s happened.
2. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Syrian refugees being resettled in Wales? OAQ(5)0085(FM)
Seventy-eight Syrian refugees were resettled in Wales at the end of May and we would expect more to arrive in Wales over the coming months.
I thank the First Minister for that response. It’s been very disturbing to hear of the racist comments that have increased since the result of the EU referendum and we hope that that won’t affect the really good welcome that’s been given in Wales to the Syrian refugees. But what more does the First Minister think can be done to help refugee children in particular, and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, so that they get the maximum support from local authorities and the communities where they’re placed?
I can inform the Member that the ministerial Syrian refugee taskforce, as she will know, was established in November 2015. That is supported by an operations board. There is a children’s sub-group of that operations board, and that will ensure co-ordination of new schemes to take refugee children from the middle east and north Africa, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from camps in Europe, and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who have arrived in Kent. A conference is being hosted on 12 July by the Home Office with the local authorities to launch the national transfer scheme in Wales.
First Minister, I echo the concerns raised by Julie Morgan in relation to the racist comments that have happened since the European vote last week, and I would condemn that approach to the reaction to the European referendum. But I wonder whether you have considered how, moving forward—with the communities Minister, potentially—we can try and bring communities together. Because, a lot of people voted in this referendum, be it for reasons of voting against the establishment or voting against poverty in their local areas. How can we now, regardless of the vote, try and bring people together, to move forward as a nation so that we do not see future situations where people are divided and are turning against each other in their own communities?
There is no doubt that our nation is divided, and it’s important that that cohesion is re-established. I don’t believe that division has suddenly appeared. I don’t believe that, suddenly, people have changed their minds in terms of the way they perceive others. There will always be a small minority who feel that way—that’s true of almost every country in the world, unfortunately. But, no, I think the emphasis now has to be—and I’ll mention it later on, in the debate—that now is the time to rebuild and unite our nation of Wales in order to make sure that what we’ve seen as a breakdown in some communities, in terms of cohesion, is not something that we should see in the long term.
First Minister, can I join with those who’ve already expressed their condemnation of the racist attacks and criticisms that have taken place on social media and elsewhere in recent days? But can you also join with me in praising the work of faith communities across Wales, who’ve done their utmost to protect those Syrian refugees and others who have come to Wales to flee persecution in their countries, and, in particular, the Syrian Orthodox Church, which, of course, does have strong representation here in Wales and has engaged very positively both with the faith communities forum, which you, of course, chair, and the work of the Assembly, with the cross-party group on faith?
Yes, the faith communities forum has been hugely useful in terms of identifying problems as they arise, and also planning for the future. And it’s a true example of those from many different faiths working together in the common interest of promoting the welfare of humanity, if I can put it that way. It’s a forum that works very well, and I look forward to it continuing in the future.
I note that Newport, Cardiff and Swansea are all in the top 10 of UK cities for receiving refugees. Do we have any idea what the total cost is to local authorities in Wales of housing the recent wave of refugees?
There are 78 of them—it’s not a substantial cost, and we expect those costs to be met in whole or part by the Home Office.
Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders
We now move to questions from the party leaders, and the first question to the First Minister this week is from the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew R.T. Davies.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, I’d like to identify first of all with the sentiments that have been expressed by other Members—there is no room for any intolerance, and, in particular, racism, in any part of our country, whether it be here in Wales or any part of the United Kingdom. And I stand shoulder to shoulder with any Member and any institution who is standing to defend those liberties, to make sure that people can speak freely and openly in any part of this country. And we cannot allow any festering sentiment to actually contaminate the democracy we hold so dear, to ourselves and to this great country of ours.
First Minister, I’d like to ask you—. Last week, we had the referendum, the result is understood, the consequences are unfolding before us, and negotiations will start shortly. On the weekend, you said that this wasn’t your election, on the ‘Sunday Supplement’ programme. It is a vital referendum that has just taken place, and, in fact, in credit to you, you did say, back at the start of the referendum campaign, this was the most important vote for a generation and a vote forever. Can you assure me that that was merely a media slip on ‘Sunday Supplement’, and you did engage fully, and you didn’t look at this referendum as someone else’s referendum to fight?
Well, it’s not the ground that I would have chosen, or the timing—I told the Prime Minister that. But it’s important that we’ve had the referendum, and the result is now known.
It’s hardly a ringing endorsement then, is it, First Minister? I do think it’s important to understand how the Welsh Government has been preparing for the outcome of the referendum. Obviously, the Chancellor has confirmed that the UK Government, irrespective of its position in that referendum, was preparing for both scenarios. And, obviously, there are people in receipt of European moneys and grants, and that will continue, so long as we are part of, and paying into, the European pot. But what work was undertaken and commissioned by you as First Minister, within Welsh Government, to make sure that both outcomes were modelled and the Welsh Government was in the best place possible to assist with information and support, whatever the outcome of that referendum was?
Well, that’ll be part of the debate later on. But, I can say that the outcome is impossible to model. We have no idea what the final deal will look like. Until we have an understanding of that, do we know whether there’ll be access to the single market? We know that the people of Wales voted to leave the EU. Beyond that, we don’t know what kind of model we’re going to get in two years’ time and until we see that model it’ll be very difficult to pass judgment upon it. I know he is in favour of free movement of people; he said that today. He’s also in favour of Welsh money being kept in London, in the Treasury, which is another thing he said today. I have to say to him that many people said to me on the doorstep, when they were asked about European money funding projects in their communities, they said, ‘It was our money anyway’. I have written to the Prime Minister saying I expect every single penny—every single penny—that we will lose when we cease to be eligible for European funding to be made up by the UK Government and that money to come to Wales. He has said today that he does not mind if that money is locked up in the Treasury in Westminster. This money is the money that is there for the people of Wales. It is not for the UK Treasury or for him to interfere with their rights.
First Minister, I did not say ‘locked up in the Treasury’. I said there will be a new model for the way Government undertakes itself in any part of the United Kingdom. I have asked you two questions today. The first question was: did you commit yourself fully to the referendum? You didn’t respond to that question. I asked you what modelling the Welsh Government had undertaken to deal with the outcome of the referendum—not the negotiations; the outcome of the referendum—because there is interaction on a daily basis with organisations across Wales who have been supported by the Welsh Government and are in receipt of European money? And that is a perfectly reasonable question to ask: what preparatory work was put in place by the Welsh Government to actually deal with both eventualities out of the referendum? You have not given me an answer on that.
On the third question then, if I’m not going to get any answers from you today, will you reach out to all sections of political opinion to make sure that their views are represented in the negotiations going forward from Wales, because clearly, from the parties in front of me, those views were not represented in the outcome of the referendum? And it is important that all opinions are taken into account so that Wales’s voice can be heard clearly, loudly and, above all, making sure that the commitments we require are returned to Wales, and that does mean that every penny that Wales is due is received here in Wales and spent here in Wales.
Well, I can quote his exact words directly at him. He said, ‘Why should the Welsh Government handle the money?’ It is exactly what he said in the press conference, and he said, ‘Why shouldn’t the money come straight from Westminster, bypassing the elected legislature and Government of the people of Wales?’ He has gone on about the need for Britain, as he put it in his argument, to enjoy its freedom and its sovereignty, as he put it. He thinks it is pathetic that the people of Wales should not have access to money they have access to now. He needs, as the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, to start thinking as if he was Welsh and to start looking at things from a Welsh perspective because, I tell you what, he’s in a different position to UKIP in fairness to them, because UKIP have been saying, ‘Yes, every single penny of that money should come to Wales and be spent in Wales’. He isn’t. He isn’t, and it’s about time we had some clearer thinking from the Conservatives. Yes, I know people voted to leave. Nothing will change that. Nothing can get in the way of that. He has absolutely no idea what happens next—absolutely no idea. We will be explaining the way forward as far as we are concerned, bearing in mind what people have said—there is no getting away from what people have said—but, as I say, from our perspective, this is money that has been coming to Wales, this is money that should still come to Wales. That is the right of the Welsh people. It’s a right that he does not respect.
The leader of the opposition, Leanne Wood.
Diolch, Lywydd. It’s with a heavy heart that I scrutinise you today, First Minister. I’ll respond in full to the EU debate later on. But, it’s important to focus on what you are responsible for now and, in particular, the delivery of public services, despite the wider political turmoil. Can I first of all say and put on record that we should all condemn the reported increase in racist incidents since the referendum occurred? Racism has no place in Welsh society and I know that you agree with me on that.
Moving on now to the NHS, our NHS benefits from a mixture of home-grown and international staff. Around 500 doctors from the European Union work within the Welsh NHS. Over coming weeks, they will be carrying out operations, saving lives, healing the sick, as though the referendum never, ever happened. Can you first of all tell us how much extra money you’re expecting for the Welsh NHS as a result of the vow made by the ‘leave’ campaign? Secondly, would you be prepared to communicate with all of our public service staff from other EU countries, and tell them loudly and clearly that they are still welcome here in Wales?
On the first question, she knows the answer before she asked me, and that is that we don’t expect any money as a result of that pledge; it’s already unravelled. Those who professed it have said that it’s not actually what they meant. So, there we are—we’ll wait and see what they do when they get into government. But I entirely agree with what she says: our NHS would not function without medical and nursing staff from other countries, and it’s absolutely vital that they feel that they are still welcome in Wales. I know that she has said that strongly. I join her in that, because we know that so many citizens of other countries have delivered so much care and so much healing and treatments to so many of our people, and they are welcome in our country.
Thank you for that answer, First Minister. The prospect of leaving the European Union has already plunged the UK economy into deep uncertainty. But, for Wales, there’s an additional risk to capital investment to some of your manifesto commitments, and to industry as well. The south-east metro, for example, is intended to be partly financed by European structural funds, which may only be guaranteed up to 2020, if they are guaranteed at all. Can you tell us, therefore, what will happen now to the south Wales metro, and to the transport projects that you’ve promised for the north of Wales as well? Turning to industry as well, can you tell what is now likely to happen to Tata Steel and the future of Port Talbot, as well as other Welsh steelmaking plants?
On the first question, I wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday. I asked him to guarantee every penny that we would lose, to make sure that came to Wales. If that pledge is honoured, then we can proceed with the metro and other projects. If that promise is not honoured, then there are substantial financial gaps in many projects that would benefit the people of Wales. So, I expect that promise that was made so publicly to be honoured. On the issue of Tata, it has created uncertainty—much more uncertainty over the last few days. The difficulty is that the car industry is holding back until it sees what a trade deal looks like. They have said that publicly. Because Tata supplies in the UK so many of the car manufacturers, then clearly the steel industry is also in a situation where it doesn’t know what’s happening. Uncertainty is bad. My view is that article 50 should be triggered sooner rather than later. I think waiting months and months and months for it just adds to that uncertainty. Better that people know where they stand rather than not knowing what’s going to happen for many months and many years. But uncertainty is never going to be helpful in terms of investment: that’s why the process has to begin sooner rather than later, and to conclude as quickly as possible.
Turning now then to the wider picture within the UK and further afield, I want to see arrangements put in place to protect Wales’s constitutional status, our legislation, our funding, and our trading relationship with the rest of Europe while withdrawal takes place over the coming years. The UK Government is establishing a dedicated civil service unit to preside over Brexit, and the Prime Minister has said that all devolved Governments will be fully involved in the decision-making process over EU negotiations. We need to be clear: last week’s vote was not a vote to concentrate any additional powers at Westminster, and pledges were made during that campaign to guarantee our funding. How will you move quickly now to secure the best possible deal for Wales in all of this turmoil, and how will you work with others to salvage the situation for this country as best we can, especially given the chaos within the UK Government and your own party in Westminster?
Well, the first thing we have to project is stability in Wales and reassurance for business. I’ve asked the Secretary to draw up a number of points that we can put to business to make sure they understand that we very much see Wales as open for business. That’s hugely important. In terms of what the future holds, I welcome what the Prime Minister said in terms of Wales being involved, but I know he can’t speak for the next Prime Minister, who might take a different view. Bearing that in mind, we will be establishing a specialist team in our Brussels office whose job it will be to talk and negotiate directly with the European Commission. It doesn’t have to be instead of working with the UK Government, but we need to make sure that Wales has a voice, and a strong voice. We can’t get away from the fact that Wales voted to leave, so there’s no question of trying to go behind the verdict of the electors, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to work hard to make sure that Wales gets the best deal possible. We’ve got to make sure that we do that. I would not trust some of the people who I’ve seen, if they’re in Government in London in September, to get the best deal for Wales, and that is crucial, and that’s what we intend to do.
The leader of the UKIP group, Neil Hamilton.
First Minister, I don’t expect you greeted the result of the referendum last Thursday with as much enthusiasm as I did, but Wales did vote decisively to leave the EU, and indeed a majority both in Bridgend and in the Rhondda voted to leave the EU, but the Welsh political establishment—Labour, Plaid and the Liberal Democrats—were uniformly in favour of remaining, and all the AMs in those parties in this place were in favour of remaining. What I’m now concerned to do is to look forward to the future, and I reiterate what you said a minute ago, that UKIP believes that every single pound that the EU currently spends of British taxpayers’ money in Wales at the minute should come to the Welsh Government to be spent here. So, we will give you every support that we possibly can in this endeavour. Would it not be better, therefore, in the spirit of co-operation with which you started your administration in this Assembly, to involve the leader of the Conservatives and me in making the case for Wales with the UK Government, because it will be strengthened with the added voices of those who actually were in favour of the result that the Welsh people voted for?
Well, my response—. I mean, he’s right; there we are, we saw the result. My response is the same as his party’s response in 2011 to our referendum in Wales, when that was lost by your party. But we have to accept it. There it is. We move on now with a new political landscape. I have already written to the Prime Minister. I expect to get a response. The people of Wales have voted for a Welsh Government to take forward that response. I think it is important that parties understand their positions as the negotiations proceed, because what we cannot do is be in a position where a trade deal is on the table without any input from Wales. That would be wholly undemocratic and dangerous, in my view, in terms of the way people perceive the UK. So, I am perfectly happy to work on the way forward, and the team that we establish in Brussels will help us to do that.
The First Minister, I’m sure, will agree with me that this now offers great opportunities for Wales. I appreciate that he concentrated upon the risks and the uncertainties before the referendum campaign, but now that we have the great opportunities that freedom of action gives us, we must capitalise on them and sell Wales in the wider world on that basis. It also offers us—and here I associate myself with what we’ve just heard from the leader of Plaid Cymru—further opportunities for the devolution of power. In particular, we will now have the opportunity to take control of our policy on agriculture, which means that we can then tailor to our own needs a policy to suit farmers in Wales, rather than have to compromise their interests on account of the interests of farmers in 27 other countries in the EU. So, again, I reiterate my request to the First Minister to involve the other parties—other than those that are in the various compacts that have been agreed—in these very important discussions, which will take place over the course of the next two years, to make sure that we get the best possible deal for Wales and the Welsh people out of this process.
Well, no doubt there will be involvement, of course, with all parties as those discussions continue, but it’s a sign of the strange realignment of politics that I’m listening to the leader of UKIP being more devolutionary than the leader of the Conservatives in Wales. That is the irony of the situation. He’s absolutely right: British agriculture doesn’t exist—it won’t exist. There is Welsh agriculture, and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is no British agricultural policy. It’s the same with fisheries. For example, after the negotiations are concluded, Welsh boats will only have access to Welsh waters, and so there will need to be discussions between the different administrations on access, which I’m sure shouldn’t be problematic, in any event. It is important, and this is why I want to meet soon with the representatives of the fishing industry in Wales and representatives of the farming industry in Wales so that we can start work on what Welsh agricultural policy looks like. That means it’ll be a policy designed to look after those hill farmers who struggle on the hills, with difficult soil and difficult weather, rather than those who do very well thank you very much in areas of Wales that are very easy to farm. So, it’s hugely important that we design an agricultural policy that is specific to the needs of Wales, and is tailored to the needs of Welsh farmers. That is something I’ll be working on with the farming unions in Wales.
Will the First Minister join me today also in condemning our Chancellor, George Osborne, who seems not to have realised that the referendum is over and is still carrying on with project fear, and who has announced today there’ll be spending cuts and tax increases in the autumn because we’ve got to live within our means, and that this comes ill from the mouth of Britain’s worst Chancellor in living memory, who’s doubled the national debt in five years and is still running a budget deficit of £60 billion or £70 billion a year? There is no reason whatever arising out of the referendum to force the increases in taxes or spending cuts purely on account of the short-term volatility in the financial markets, which will shortly be resolved.
The leader of UKIP is an optimist. He says there are advantages here: it is not immediately obvious, I have to say, what the advantages are. We are in a period of uncertainty, and uncertainty is bad. Fifty per cent of what we export from Wales goes into the European Union, and so the nature of the deal that we have with that market will be absolutely crucial to our future well-being. And until we know what that deal looks like, it’s very difficult to understand what challenges, possibly opportunities, will be there for Welsh businesses. But I know, because businesses are saying to me, that they are holding back on investment now until they get that certainty. One way or another—and it’s been decided one way or another—there must be certainty, and I do not think that waiting many months to begin the formal negotiation process—for years before there’s a final decision—is in the interests of business. The decision’s been taken; it must be taken forward now as quickly as is reasonably practicable, and there has to be a deal on the table that should, to my mind, be ratified with all four national Parliaments at least. That will be a complex and difficult process, but, bluntly, the need for certainty for our businesses is absolutely paramount; they will not invest until they have an idea of what the end game looks like, and we’re a long way from that.
3. What action will the Welsh Government take to improve treatment of cancer in Wales in the next twelve months? OAQ(5)0076(FM)
For example, we will continue to progress the £200 million programme business case for transforming cancer services in the south-east of Wales, we’ll develop our plans for a new treatment fund and publish an updated all-Wales cancer delivery plan.
Thank you very much for the reply, First Minister. Cancer Research UK has said there has been a dramatic rise in the number of people diagnosed with the most serious form of skin cancer in Wales in the last 40 years. The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence has approved a pair of cancer drugs, ipilimumab and nivolumab—these are the two medicines—for use in England, which, when used in combination, shrank the most aggressive or deadly type of skin cancer by 69 per cent. Could the First Minister advise the Assembly if this therapy and drug will be made available in Wales as soon as possible?
The Member talks of malignant melanoma, a disease that I unfortunately know well, and it took my mother’s life. It is indeed a hugely invasive cancer; if it spreads, there is no way—or, hitherto, there’s been no way—of stopping it. With the new treatments fund, as soon as a drug is approved then the money will be available to roll out that drug across the whole of Wales.
First Minister, we know the importance of healthy lifestyle choices in reducing the risks of cancer, so it’s good to see from the results of the Welsh health survey 2015 that the number of smokers in Wales has decreased from 26 per cent to 19 per cent of the population, also meaning that the Welsh Government has exceeded its target for reducing smoking rates. The revisited public health Bill offers another opportunity to promote healthy lifestyles and to raise awareness of screening in tackling cancer. Will the Welsh Government consider this when it brings forward its fresh legislation?
Indeed. I mean, the public health Bill is designed to tackle the underlying causes of ill health. We know that smoking still persists as one of the major causes of death and ill health in Wales, and that’s why we want to proceed as quickly as possible with a public health Bill, and I’ll give more details about that in the legislative statement later this afternoon.
First Minister, the most exciting development in the treatment of cancer in recent times has been the development of stratified medicines, where treatment is personalised to the patient based upon the genetic makeup of their particular cancer. I was deeply concerned to learn that, in Wales, we test for just two genetic markers. Will your Government develop a stratified medicine strategy and ensure that the all-Wales genetic service is equipped to test for all genetic markers in cancer patients?
It is true that the big change in cancer treatment over the next decade will be specific treatment for those with particular DNA. We are hugely fortunate in the sense that we have the Wales cancer genetic centre—Nobel prize-winning knowledge. I’ve certainly been there and they are developing more tests as they come along. At the moment, of course, there are particular tests that are used. There are others that will develop over the course of time and make it far easier for treatment to be tailored to the individual. For example, there are some drugs that are known to be damaging to some people on a chance of 300, 400 or 500 to 1, but, until now, there have been no tests to make sure that a particular person is not one of those people who could be particularly badly affected by that drug. As these tests develop, more and more people will have the chance of a better outcome.
Cardiff Capital Region
Could I add my agreement to those comments made by Members in the Chamber today about condemning—
You need to ask your question.
Indeed. In terms of condemning racism. Sorry, Llywydd. But could I say that we need to send a message strongly, regardless of the vote last week—
You need to ask your question—
Oh, my apologies.
[Continues.]—on the Order paper. [Laughter.]
4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the potential impact of the Cardiff capital region on the Bridgend and Ogmore travel to work area? OAQ(5)0074(FM)
I can say that, in the Cardiff capital region, collaboration is driving forward our priorities in transport, and that means driving forward improvements for Bridgend and Ogmore as well. I know that the Member will have a particular interest in ensuring that the three valleys that he represents are regularly connected to the rail and bus network further south.
Thank you, First Minister. My apologies, Llywydd. I have obviously got a lot to learn in this Chamber. Could I briefly add my comments to those who’ve condemned racism? And we need to mean it. The utterances of politicians, like ourselves—whatever party, whatever Chamber we sit in—are important, and so are the actions of the tabloid media at the UK level as well. We should be welcoming of those who are currently working in our public services and our private sector as well who, today, are somewhat a little bit more fearful.
Could I ask him, in terms of the Cardiff capital region, together with the south Wales metro, potential future improvements to rail and major highways improvements in my constituency and throughout Wales, together with apprenticeships and training in my local Bridgend College and others—? All of them were predicated to some extent, large or small, on EU funding. So, would he agree with me that it is now incumbent upon those political and party leaders, including the leader of the Conservative Party here today, who made clear pledges that this money would be returning to the people of Wales, to make good that shortfall that we will now face? Not a penny-piece should be taken from my constituents or from the people of Wales. We expect it to be here. And does he agree with me that it is slightly odd and disconcerting that we do not have unanimity in this Chamber and amongst the party leaders that all that money should be coming back to the people of Wales to decide what happens with it?
I heard people on the doorstep, I heard Members in this Chamber say, whenever we talked about European projects—they inevitably said, ‘It’s our money.’ People said it on the doorstep to me. It is our money. It’s the money of the people of Wales. It’s not money to be decided to be given to Wales on a whim by the Treasury, as the leader of the Welsh Conservatives has said today. He has said, ‘Why should’—[Interruption.] I’ll quote it exactly:
‘Why should the Welsh Government handle the money?’
If anyone wants to see the BBC website—it’s the lead story in fairness—you can see his comments on the BBC Wales website. It is absolutely crucial that that money comes to the people of Wales and to their elected Government and legislature to decide how to spend it. It is not for the UK Treasury to take that decision on behalf of the elected Parliament of Wales.
South Wales West Members, including of course the Member for Ogmore, will be aware of the need for an eastern bypass for the communities of Llanharan, and I hope that that will be part of the plans for the Cardiff capital region and its infrastructure projects, shall we say. But it’s the heads of the eastern Valleys in my region where it’s more difficult for the population to get the opportunities from potential city region plans. The measurements of distance on a map are fairly meaningless if you don’t have the transport infrastructure to reach those communities. What are you doing to ensure that the city region board speaks to businesses and the local authority about ensuring that the travel-to-work area includes the heads of those valleys in the east of my region?
Absolutely, it’s crucial. The point about the metro is that, yes, it’ll make it easier for people to travel to cities like Cardiff to work, but also easier for investment to travel up valleys, as well. One of the issues, clearly, that we sometimes face is that investors say to us, ’Well, it’s a bit far away—this community’. I don’t want that to be the case in the future; that’s why the metro is proposed.
I know a lot of Members have concentrated on the rail map, but the bus map is hugely important as well. If we look at the three valleys at the eastern end of South Wales West, one has a railway line, one might have a railway line, still, in the future—a preserved line, the Garw Valley—and one lost its railway line in 1984 when the Wyndham Western Colliery closed. So, for those communities, obviously, a bus option will be what we’re looking at, but it’ll be a bus option that connects properly not just with the long-distance coaches at McArthurGlen, but also, of course, with Bridged railway station to make sure that people are connected as much as possible to where the jobs are and for investment to follow those routes up to those communities.
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on GP recruitment in Wales? OAQ(5)0080(FM)
GP Recruitment is a priority for us. We are talking to GP representatives across Wales and are developing new models of care that will be attractive for GPs to work in.
Thank you, First Minister. The Royal College of General Practitioners tells us that we need 400 full-time equivalent GPs by 2020 if we are to provide good access for all primary care. It is concerning, therefore, that we are training just over 100 GPs a year in Wales, and just 13 per cent of trainee doctors spend any time in general practice. What will your Government do during the fifth Assembly to train more GPs in Wales?
Well, we have 2,887 GPs, which is 8 per cent up since 2005, and that shows that we’ve been investing in GPs. It’s not just about GPs; it’s the whole primary care workforce that’s important. Yes, we’re training GPs, but we’ll never train enough GPs purely to work in Wales; it’s been many, many, many decades since we recruited GPs entirely from within Wales. We have recruited from other countries; that will continue to be the case because medicine is an international portable qualification. So, it’s a question of training GPs—yes, that’s true; I understand the importance of that—but also continuing to ensure that qualified medical staff see Wales as an attractive place to live and work in.
Would the First Minister agree with me that, at present, there is a lack of status in being a GP, and that that includes the external image of the nature of the job, and also within the profession? Would the First Minister agree with me that, as part of the contribution to tackling the recruitment issue, we could look at issues such as ensuring that students at 16 and 17 years old are appealed directly to go into general practice specifically, rather than just into medicine more generally, and also that there is pressure to ensure that there is a higher status and more prestige to training to be a GP within wider medical training?
Well, surgeons would have a very different view on that. They would say that it should be more equal. But I understand the point. It’s extremely important that we also realise that the nature of the workforce is changing. There are fewer and fewer people who want to buy into a practice. They want more freedom to move across Wales. They don’t want to commit funding into a practice. Some still do; others don’t. So, what’s important is that we have a sufficient number of models available in Wales that will appeal to the greatest number of general practitioners, in order to ensure that there are ways of working that suit them, rather than thinking there’s just one way of working, which has been the same one for many years. We must ensure that there’s a structure that is broader, in order to recruit more people.
European Union Referendum Result
6. What assessment has the First Minister made of the European Union referendum result? OAQ(5)0081(FM)[W]
A number. Of course, the decision has been made, and the decision has to be respected. Our priority now as a Government is to ensure the future of the people of Wales, and to ensure that that future is a bright one.
Thank you, First Minister. Would you agree with me that the only way forward that would respect the decision made by the people of Wales in last week’s referendum, and also gives the Welsh economy and Welsh businesses and communities a decent chance, is that we remain members of the single market, that we remain members of the European economic area, and that we then proceed along those lines? Because last week’s vote didn’t outline, or didn’t make any decision as to what sort of exit was being considered. If you do agree with me, what steps are you taking? You have just outlined the work out in Brussels and you have told us what you can do jointly with the Westminster Government. Will you be pressing for that in Wales? You will certainly, in so doing, have my support, and Plaid Cymru’s support, I think.
As I said earlier, a specialist team is going to be located in the Brussels office in order to ensure that they’re able to negotiate with the European institutions, in order to ensure that the voice of Wales is listened to. We will be part of the British system, but it’s extremely important that we have our own route into the European institutions, in order to ensure that Wales doesn’t lose out, and that is what we intend to do. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have access to the single market, because so many business in Wales are dependent on that. The worst case scenario would be for us to return to the WTO system: 10 per cent on cars, a 15 per cent tariff on foodstuffs—that would be the absolute worst case scenario for Wales. We hope, of course, that there will be something better on the table, but there is a great deal of work to be done before that.
I’m sure the First Minister would appreciate that Members will want to ensure the best outcomes for their constituencies. It’s what we’re elected to do, and I’m no different to that, so I’m going to be taking this opportunity to join the call for assurances for my own constituency, which is, of course, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney valley—a constituency that has been a major beneficiary of EU funding. It’s helped a number of projects of significant benefit to the local economy and communities. However, it’s not just the funding for the existing projects that are important to my constituency, First Minister; it’s the proposed developments, such as the next stage of the dualling of the Heads of the Valley between Hirwaun and Dowlais, or Dowlais and Hirwaun, which will be crucial to the economy of the constituency. So, whilst I’ve noted that you have confirmed, and I welcome that, that in any discussions with Brexit negotiators you’ll be seeking absolute assurances that Wales will be receiving no less funding from Brexit than we received prior to—can I seek further assurances from you that you will be seeking the financial support necessary for the dualling of the A465 between Dowlais and Hirwaun and you will hold them to account if this is not delivered?
Absolutely. If the money is not made up by the UK Government, then it follows logically that we won’t be able to fund many of the projects that are currently planned to be funded by European money, because we don’t have that money. So, without that money, there are many projects that, beyond the period when the UK has left the European Union, will not be able to be funded unless that guarantee is forthcoming. That is absolutely crucial for our future; it’s why I wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday in order to get the guarantee that was put on the table. That means making sure that Wales loses out not a penny—not a penny—as a result of the referendum last Thursday. Regardless of how people voted, I do not believe that anybody voted in order for Wales to have less money.
First Minister, the stark fact is the Welsh economy is the most exposed in the UK to any possible downturn in trade with the EU or a decline in inward investment seeking access to the single market, and this has to be made known to those now responsible for the Brexit negotiations.
It’s true, because we know that there are many, many companies in Wales that are here solely because of the access they get to the single market. If they lose access to the—free access; they’ll still be able to sell in the market. I mean, no-one is suggesting there’ll be no trade at all, but it’s the terms of trade that are important. For example, if you are a company that has bases in the UK and other European countries, if you find that one manufacturing plant in the UK is subject to a 5 per cent or 10 per cent tariff and the others are not, then it doesn’t take a genius to work out where investment will go in the future. So, it’s absolutely crucial that the single market is retained and there are no tariff barriers between ourselves and our biggest export market, which is the EU.
7. What plans does the Welsh Government have to tackle gambling addiction in Wales? OAQ(5)0084(FM)
We continue to seek powers to regulate fixed-odds betting machines and we support moves to increase the powers of local authorities in relation to the licensing of new betting shops. People suffering with gambling addiction can access advice and support through their GPs or organisations such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Thank you, First Minister. Gambling addiction can lead to tough emotional, financial and psychological problems that are not often visible until they have reached crisis point. Early intervention and support is crucial. The pioneering gambling risk and harm pilot, carried out by Newport Citizens Advice Bureau, has highlighted that the education of young people is key to reducing the impact of gambling-related harm. What plans does the Welsh Government have to ensure that gambling has the same educational attention as other addictions?
Well, it’s hugely important that people see gambling as an addiction, which it is—in the same way as people see alcohol as an addiction, the abuse of certain drugs as an addiction, it’s hugely important with gambling as well. We are looking at ways in which we can ensure, via our education system, that people understand the dangers of gambling. It would certainly be helpful, of course, from our perspective, if we saw the devolution of powers over certain forms of gambling as well, in order that they might be better regulated.
And finally, Darren Millar.
Diolch, Lywydd. First Minister, I’m very pleased to hear that you want to use the regulatory powers that are available to curb problem gambling in society. You will know that around one in 50 men now is deemed to be a gambling addict, and that is a very concerning figure, and it can have very damaging effects on society. But do you share with me the concern that has been expressed by those who were present at the Living Room Cardiff conference, Beat the Odds, which was held last week in the Pierhead building, that there’s insufficient work being done to develop gambling addiction services here in Wales? We’ve got an excellent one here in Cardiff, supported by the Living Room and CAIS—a charity, of course, that is Wales-wide—but those are not available in all parts of Wales as yet, and there is an opportunity, I believe, to develop them. What work will your Government do to ensure that there is equal access to such services in the future?
The financial inclusion strategy that we have will be looking at how we can develop further ways of helping people to deal with gambling, and helping people to make informed choices about gambling. Not long ago, betting shops were behind closed doors and opaque windows. Now, it’s absolutely everywhere. For those of us with a continuing interest in the European championship, we see, every single advert, where people are even encouraged to cash in before the game has even finished. The digital age has offered fantastic opportunities to the gambling industry, but fantastic opportunities for people to become more addicted than they previously could be. That’s why it’s hugely important to redouble our efforts.
Thank you, First Minister.
We move now to the next item, which is the debate on the outcome of the EU referendum. I call on the First Minister to move the motion—Carwyn Jones.
Motion NDM6045 Jane Hutt
To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:
Notes the outcome of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
Diolch, Lywydd. Well, the democratic voice of the people has been heard, and we have to respect that, but we have to say that the debate that preceded the vote last Thursday proved to be very divisive for our communities. It’s now time to abandon the unhelpful, disruptive rhetoric and work towards restoring community cohesion and doing what we were elected to do, and that is delivering for the people of Wales. What will follow now are lengthy negotiations, potentially lasting years, under the article 50 process, which, as Members will have heard me say earlier on, should start, to my mind, sooner rather than later, with the EU, of course, in order to strike an agreement on the arrangements for withdrawal and to redefine our relationship with the EU. Now, no-one has a clear idea of what ‘out’ looks like. That’s the issue that has to be wrestled with at this stage and that will be a complex process. We will work tirelessly during this period to ensure we are not overlooked and to fight for the best possible deal for Wales.
We need to know, first of all, what the UK Government’s vision is of a world outside the EU. We need to know that as quickly as possible in order to return stability to the markets and to give potential investors a clear picture of what our country has to offer. I’ve been clear that companies I speak to are always keen to come to Wales in order to access the single market, and that is something that we must ensure is not lost as a competitive advantage.
As I said yesterday, it’s crucial that the final terms of the treaty to exit the EU come to all four national parliaments. That’s consistent with the Prime Minister’s statement this is a country comprising four nations and his commitment to ensuring we will be fully part of the negotiation process with Brussels. That has not undermined the result last week; it simply adds to the need to make sure that any deal is approved by this, the elected parliament of the people of Wales.
Yesterday we resolved to form an expert team of civil servants based in our existing office in Brussels, independent of the UK Government, to explore where our priorities may be taken forward directly with the EU. This will run in parallel with, but is not intended to replace, our promised participation in the UK Government’s negotiating approach. We do need to reassure inward investors, those who’ve shown faith in Wales, that we’re still open for business and we still have a lot to offer. We are determined as a Government to stay internationally engaged, outward-looking and pro-business in our approach, and that’s what will maintain business confidence. It will also help, of course, inward investors to take the right decisions in what is now an uncertain environment.
We have worked hard on resolving the steel crisis. That is unfortunately ongoing, and we will continue to work with Tata and support steelworkers as we look to meet the immense challenges thrown up by the referendum result.
Llywydd, I’ve already outlined my immediate priorities to protect the interests of Wales in these changed circumstances. Firstly, we must protect our jobs. Doing everything we can to maintain economic confidence and stability is the No. 1 task. We’ve built excellent proactive relationships with Welsh businesses and inward investors, and these will need to intensify following yesterday’s vote.
Secondly, we must play a full part in discussions about the timing and terms of UK withdrawal from the EU. Our participation is essential, not just for directly devolved issues, but for the whole range of issues affecting vital Welsh national interests. The Prime Minister has already said that Wales should be fully involved in negotiations on the terms of UK withdrawal and our future relationship with Europe, and I’ll be holding the UK Government to that.
Thirdly, as I’ve said many times already this afternoon, it is vital that the UK negotiates to retain access to the 500 million customers in the single market.
Fourthly, we should negotiate continued participation on current terms in major EU programmes like the common agricultural policy and structural funds up to the end of 2020, if we’re still there in 2020. That would facilitate continuity for citizens, communities, businesses and investors while arrangements are made for the longer term.
Fifthly, Wales, as we know, is a net beneficiary from the EU, to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. There is now an overwhelming case for a major and immediate revision of the Barnett formula, taking into account needs arising from EU withdrawal, and I call today for the promise made that Wales will not lose a penny to be guaranteed, and also that it will be the people of Wales who decide how that money is spent.
Finally, withdrawal from the EU is a massive constitutional shift for the UK. It has equally far-reaching implications for the devolution settlement. That means the relationship between devolved administrations and the UK Government must now be placed onto an entirely different footing. Otherwise there is a risk that the price to pay for leaving the EU is the end of the UK, and that is something that will worry many, many people.
As I said last week, the Welsh Government will fight for the people of Wales in all of those vital areas, but also strive to unify the divisions exposed by this vote, taking Wales forward together, which I believe is what the nation now wants and needs. Passions have been raised by this debate, I know, but it’s time now for calm, not knee-jerk reactions. Many will be concerned about the vitriol that seeped into the campaign. This will not help us with these significant challenges that now face us all. We also need to find a way of talking to one another again. We may have voted different ways, but we remain neighbours, friends and family. The challenges we faced yesterday on the NHS, on the economy and education we still face today, and we must rise to those challenges and deliver for the Welsh people. There is much work to be done, but above all else, my aim will be the best deal for the people of Wales.
I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate today. Obviously, because of the referendum last Thursday, a clear mandate was given to the Governments of all parts of the United Kingdom now to enact those wishes. It was a clear commitment from Wales and other parts of the United Kingdom that they wished to rebalance their relationship with the European Union. The negotiations will start, and start over the next couple of months and years, and it is vital that Wales’s voice is heard. As the Prime Minister stated on the steps of No. 10 Downing Street on Friday morning—he specifically mentioned the important role that Wales, that Scotland, that Northern Ireland and, obviously, Westminster will play in these negotiations.
It would be right to pay tribute to the role the Prime Minister has played over the last six and a half years as the Prime Minister, but also, as leader of my own party for 10 years, as leader of the opposition as well. You can look at the—[Interruption.] You can look at the changes that have been made. It really is regrettable, when we’ve had comments today about language—I think the First Minister used the words ‘talking to one another again’—that comments are coming in about ‘stabbing in the back’. There’s no stabbing in the back if you have a principle and a belief, and you stand on one side of that principle and you stand before the electorate; that is political debate. If that type of rhetoric is coming from the Labour Party, there is no wonder that 17 out of the 22 electoral divisions clearly turned their back on the message that you were trying to give out in this referendum.
That is the important thing, going forward. We have reached out after this referendum to work constructively to make sure that Wales does not lose out in these negotiations, that Wales’s voice is heard, going forward, and, above all, the importance of making sure that support is there, going forward, and is continued. But, when we woke up on Friday morning with the referendum, the schemes that were in place had not come to an end. The payments into the European Union and out to the European Union continue until the negotiations are concluded. It is important that those discussions continue and that reassurance is given.
I appreciate that people on the ‘remain’ side of the argument would wish the will of the people not to be heard and actually point the finger and continue to say, ‘We told you so’. But it is a fact—[Interruption.] It is a fact—[Interruption.] It is a fact that what we need to do on all sides of the referendum is come together and make this work. [Interruption.] So, we innovate, we invest and we build. That’s what we do—we innovate in the way we do business, we innovate with the way we deliver for people’s aspirations. We cannot say that business is to continue as normal. This referendum was a clear mandate. We invest in the opportunities and create a global Britain, a global Wales—looking out.
Ultimately, people in this Chamber—and I understand why, because you were clearly on the other side of the argument—. It is vital—it is vital—that the opportunities that lie before us are actually grasped and delivered, and I believe those opportunities are there and they can be secured. [Interruption.] I appreciate you might not wish to listen to what I’ve said, but I have clearly highlighted—[Interruption.] I have clearly highlighted the opportunities that are available to us. Sadly, the First Minister, in his response to me in First Minister’s questions, clearly indicated he was not interested in taking those discussions forward.
The First Minister rose—
I am grateful. I want to give him the opportunity to outline the opportunities. Perhaps he could name three.
I believe there are huge opportunities—[Interruption.]—investment, innovation and to build a better, brighter future for global Britain, global Wales, and that is built on prosperity for all the regions of the United Kingdom and countries of the United Kingdom. That is what people want, and that is what we will secure if we make sure that we grab the opportunities before us. We will succeed, because the people have given us the mandate to do that, and we will succeed in living up to their aspirations. But, ultimately, if you choose to continue the campaign that was fought in the referendum, we will let people down.
From what I’ve just heard, it’s clear that the ‘leave’ campaigners have no plan and no clue about what we do next. That contribution that you just made gave us nothing tangible whatsoever. Last Thursday, Wales narrowly voted to leave the European Union, and the referendum campaign itself saw a tone of bitterness and uneasiness descend across the country and across the United Kingdom as a whole. The UK Government will hand the poisoned chalice of Brexit to a new prime minister in October. The terms of Brexit remain unknown, as we have just seen. The main UK opposition, the Labour Party, has also descended into deep chaos and is in no position now to provide any leadership. And, for Plaid Cymru, being on the losing side of this debate is also a reality check for us. People who don’t necessarily disagree with Plaid Cymru on all of our policies have turned against Brussels as a source of anger and frustration, and for a whole host of different reasons. Yet, we must remember that 48 per cent of the Welsh public did vote to remain. That represents over 772,000 people. Those ‘remain’ voters should be treated with the respect they deserve by any incoming UK Government and they should be offered a positive future here in Wales too.
Llywydd, the ‘leave’ campaign secured their victory on the basis of a vow to people here in Wales. The leader of the Conservative group here said that up to £490 million a year would be available to Wales, which we could choose to spend on our NHS. This represents a sum of money over and above what has usually been predicted through the reform of the Barnett formula. The ‘leave’ campaign also vowed that all of Wales’s structural funds and agricultural funds would be protected, and, in their vow, they also included the funds that benefit our universities, and our science and our technology sectors. They also said that the UK could take control of its own borders and could also continue to trade with the European Union. The leader of UKIP in Wales said that the only people who would lose their jobs would be the UK’s Members of the European Parliament. Time will tell whether this vow will be upheld, but, in reality, the promise of £490 million per year seems to have disappeared already. We must accept that the result was to leave, but we must also accept that that vote was secured on a false prospectus.
We in Wales also now face a changing United Kingdom. There’s a strong possibility that, in a few years’ time, the United Kingdom of last Wednesday will no longer exist. This referendum, rather than uniting the United Kingdom, has divided it, with respect to Scotland and Northern Ireland. When that new situation emerges, it’s my view that people in Wales deserve to have a say on Wales’s place in the new context. That must include the option of becoming a full partner in these islands, as an independent state, on the condition that we retain a union structure between Wales, England and other relevant nations.
Plaid Cymru will also turn its hand to the immediate situation facing the country, as people worry about their jobs, their livelihoods and their pensions. We will hold the ‘leave’ campaign to account on its vow to Wales, including any incoming UK Government. We will take steps to strengthen Wales’s position constitutionally, in no way representing the ‘leave’ vote as a vote to concentrate further powers in Westminster. We are ready to co-operate with others in ensuring the continued existence of Wales as a nation in its own right, but we are clear that the national debate must include all options and that Wales must not be a silent partner in the UK debate.
Last Thursday’s vote gives us something that I would have thought Plaid Cymru would welcome—it’s called national independence; they seem to be somewhat afraid of this. But, now we have the opportunity to make decisions for ourselves. The EU funding that has been referred to so many times in this Chamber today can now be returned to us, whether it be to the Parliament of Westminster or this Assembly in Cardiff. And, it’s our priorities, not the priorities of the European Commission, which will matter. And we are accountable, as are Members of Parliament, to the electorates of the various parts of the United Kingdom, and we will answer for our decisions at the ballot box, and that is how it should be.
I’ve always said that this debate about the European Union was not about nationalism, but about democracy. I approve and applaud the spirit in which the First Minister made his statement a moment ago, which concentrated on being outward looking and forward looking in Wales, and not using the language such as we’ve just heard from the leader of Plaid Cymru about how Brexit is a poisoned chalice. It’s a great opportunity for Wales to advertise itself in the world, and its own natural abilities and entrepreneurship can be given full vent.
Yes, it is true there are uncertainties as a result of the vote last Thursday, in the same way as there were uncertainties when we joined the European Union, or the Common Market, as it then was, on 1 January 1973. There will be consequential changes, there’s absolutely no doubt about that. But what an opportunity there is. Why would the European Union want to raise trade barriers against the United Kingdom when we have £100 billion a year trade deficit with them, when, with the car trade in Germany alone, we have an £11 billion a year trade deficit? The car manufacturers of Germany are not going to want to see 10 per cent tariffs on trade between us because they will come off very much the worse for wear as a result of that. We have a £10 billion deficit on food, for example, in this country, compared with the rest of the European Union. So Britain’s farmers, again, should have no cause to fear for the consequences of last Thursday’s vote.
But, it does give us the opportunity, as I said in my questions to the First Minister earlier on, to devise policies that suit our own farmers now in Wales, and other industries as well. As regards steel, for example, we now have the opportunity to resume our place on the World Trade Organization board, and we then have the freedom to introduce tariffs, in the same way as the United States, on cold-rolled steel.
I’m not sure whether it’s possible to give way—
You are allowed to give way, but it’s your choice.
Can I make an intervention? You’ve just highlighted the possibility of putting tariffs upon imported steel into the UK. That clearly will put tariffs on exporting steel from the UK as a consequence. Since over 50 per cent of the steel in Port Talbot actually goes to the EU, are you therefore closing down Port Talbot by the introduction of such tariffs?
No, no. The whole point of the anti-dumping legislation, which you can use under the World Trade Organization rules, is it’s only where steel is exported to your country below cost on the world market, which is not the case with steel produced in the European Union, but it is the case with steel produced in China, which is the cause of all the problems—[Interruption]. I didn’t vote against it, at all. [Interruption]. My party did not vote against it, so you are misinformed, but that’s not a surprise, is it?
So, the single market is not the be-all and the end-all of this, because the average tariff that the EU applies against other countries in the world, exporting into the single market, is only 4 per cent. There are higher tariffs on specific industries, of course, and cars is one of them.
We should negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union. That’s what I personally would like to see and my party would like to see. The trouble is, the European Union is not terribly good at negotiating free trade agreements, because there are only two of them—Mexico and South Korea. There are other customs union agreements, but, generally speaking, the trade agreements with countries like India, or the United States, get mired for years on end in endless discussion, because we have to get agreement from 27 member states. That’s one of the problems with the EU—its sclerotic nature, because of the inflexibility imposed upon it by its constitutional structure.
The German Chancellor has said today that Britain can’t expect to be cherry pickers in the negotiations that are now going to start, and I fully understand that. I don’t want to pick any cherries; I just want generalised free trade with the European Union, on a fair and free basis. That’s all Britain should want to ask for, and that’s all that the EU is being asked to concede, which would be mutually beneficial. Trade takes place because it benefits both the seller and the buyer—otherwise, it wouldn’t occur.
So, there’s no reason to be pessimistic, apart from the irrationality of politicians who are involved in the negotiations on either side. There is no reason to be pessimistic about Wales’s prospects. To say that the result last Thursday was obtained by means of putting forward a false prospectus on the part of the ‘leave’ campaign is, of course, nonsense. The ‘leave’ campaign was not a single, cohesive unit; it was a loose coalition of different forces, different parties, different interest groups, and we all have different ideas about how the future should look.
So, all I will say is, to reiterate what I said earlier on in this Chamber to the First Minister, that UKIP will play its full part in assisting him to get the best possible deal as part of his negotiations both with the UK Government and with the European Union. I hope that he will want to involve other minor parties in this house in this process because I think that we can help to give his negotiations greater credibility and greater force, because, with a unanimous voice, in this respect if in no other, we are certainly better, stronger and safer when we act together.
Yesterday, I joined young people on the steps of the Senedd—people mainly from Cardiff and the Vale and some from further afield—who came to the Senedd calling for a second referendum and for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, and I think it’s important in this debate that we do acknowledge and state how people have felt as a result of this vote. Jane Hutt, as the Assembly Member for the Vale of Glamorgan, was also there, and I think we were made aware of the passionate feelings by these young people, about the frustration that they felt about having had no say in this vote and the fact that the younger people who did vote voted overwhelmingly to remain—73 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted to remain. I just think it’s important for us to remember—. We’ve commented, I think, about the divide in communities, but we must also note this divide in the different age groups. I think that the young people did feel so frustrated because they felt that the opportunities were being closed down to them and that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do many of the things that they’d been able to until now—[Interruption.] Certainly.
Thank you very much for taking the intervention there, Julie. Were you as disappointed as I was that more young people didn’t register to vote and, therefore, when they’re making the claim that, perhaps, older people have voted in a way that disadvantages them, they missed their own opportunity to make their voice heard?
Certainly, I would have welcomed a much higher registration of young people and a much higher percentage vote. I certainly accept that, but I want to draw attention to the feeling of the young people who weren’t able to vote, and who did vote and who wanted to express their frustration about the result of the referendum. And, as I say, they were calling for votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, and I know that’s something that this Assembly may be able to address in the future when the Wales Bill goes through. But, their other call was for a second referendum. I believe that we do have to respect the views that have been shown by the people of Wales but that the Welsh Government should do all it possibly can to find ways to enable Wales to continue to have as many of the benefits of being in the EU as we possibly can because Wales has had huge benefits from the EU.
We also have to accept that, as has already been said this afternoon, it was actually a close vote in Wales. Cardiff, of course, the capital, voted 60-40 to remain, and this vote was reflected all over the UK. Basically, many of the larger cities did vote to remain, including London, Bristol and Edinburgh. The figures in Wales were 52.5 per cent to leave and 47.5 per cent to remain, and I do consider that a close vote. But, it’s interesting and, compared with other parts of the UK where there’s a similar sort of demography and also a small middle class, such as the north-east of England, 58 per cent voted to leave, and in the west midlands, it was 59.3 per cent to leave. In Wales, it was a close result, and, of course, Nigel Farage himself said in the expectation of a narrow majority for ‘in’ that there would be a case for a second referendum. So, I think the result is not a very definite result. I think it is a narrow margin of victory for ‘leave’ and I think the it would be the right thing to do to use any opportunity to check that this is really what the people of Wales wanted, when you consider the benefits that Wales has had from EU funding, especially when many of the things that were said to persuade people to vote have consequently turned out to be made of dust. Also, the point has already been made about the breakup of the UK, which is likely, with Scotland preparing for legislation for a second independence vote. Surely, if that does happen, if that proposal is there, Wales does need to have a chance to have its say on that.
I’m very pleased that the First Minister has said that, after the terms of exit are agreed, he will be seeking the opportunity for Wales and the other countries of the UK to give their view. Again, I think, at that point, there would be the opportunity to seek the views of the people as well as the views of the Members of this house.
So, lastly, I think we must try to continue—to think that Wales can continue its links with the rest of Europe, and we’ll have to make very definite, very positive efforts to do that. Things like Cardiff being a member of the EUROCITIES network, for example; that is a way that we can continue to reach out and benefit from funding for that particular network. Thank you.
It is with deep regret that this debate today on Wales and the EU occurs in the shadow of the decision of a majority of our fellow citizens to withdraw from the European Union, but that was their democratic right, and they have exercised it. But a vow was made to the people of this country, as the leader of the opposition has said. It was a specific vow, and it was repeated. It included a commitment to increase spending on the national health service, it included a commitment that the British state would cover every penny of lost EU funding to farmers and in aid to deprived communities. Plaid Cymru waits with anticipation for the emergence, for the first time in history, of a British Prime Minister in Downing Street, in September, announcing a record, unprecendented increase in investment in Wales. That new Prime Minister will have to do so without any savings from European membership because, as we learned over the weekend, the Brexit plan may include membership of the European Economic Area, which comes with a substantial membership fee. A vow was made to the people of this country, many of whom live in the poorest communities of this continent. Plaid Cymru will not allow those people to be lied to. They stand to lose too much.
Llywydd, in the weeks leading up to the appointment of a new Prime Minister, it is crucial that the Welsh Government works to further, as best it can, the Welsh national interest. And I would like to make a specific suggestion to the First Minister, which I hope he’ll consider over the coming days as part of his Government’s response. Will he compile and publish for debate in this Assembly a national mitigation plan for Wales, based on three broad strands? Firstly, the steps that can be taken internally, within Wales, to support those communities that are facing the greatest uncertainty, like west Wales and the Valleys, which will be seeking alternative sources of aid, and rural communities, which will require greater levels of financial support. Will he also consider bringing forward, as part of this strand, an economic fairness Bill, so that we have a regional development policy to support all corners of our nation, using the limited capital powers we have to best effect?
Secondly as part of this national mitigation plan, we suggest a second strand to look at changes needed at the British Isles level that further the Welsh national interest. For example, will the First Minister look at advocating the creation of an investment bank of the isles, along the European Investment Bank model, to provide finance for schemes that would otherwise be funded by the EIB, and also perhaps as a mechanism for the delivery of a new structural funds programme to replace those that will be lost as a result of our withdrawal from the European Union? Would he also consider publishing proposals for the immediate constitutional changes needed to strengthen Wales’s position so that we are not now incorporated into a monstrous England-and-Wales entity that works against our national interests?
And, finally, as part of the third strand of this national mitigation plan, will the First Minister consider addressing Wales’s place in the international community, including, of course, the new relationship we’ll have to build with other European countries? Specifically, will he seek full and unfettered access for Welsh Government to the British state’s diplomatic network, so that a distinct Welsh voice for securing trade and building relations can be established across Europe and the wider world? The First Minister should also consider renewing efforts to attract other countries to open diplomatic missions here in Cardiff as part of this process.
Llywydd, whatever way people voted last week, many on all sides will be looking to the future anxiously. A sad irony of the referendum campaign was a fundamental, and, in my opinion, intentional misunderstanding of the principle of ever closer union. That part of EU treaties, of course, refers to the ever closer union of the peoples, not the Governments, of Europe. My hope, perhaps against all odds, is that the people of this nation can continue to stand with the peoples of this continent, and that the dream of Wales in Europe will never die.
With turnout almost 60 per cent higher than in May’s Assembly election, Welsh voters have spoken and we must all respect the results. This was about the democratic right of the people of this nation to settle their own destiny. Labour’s leader in Westminster is facing a vote of no confidence from his own MPs, despite a large majority voting for remain in his own constituency. Here in Wales, the First Minister and leader of the opposition both campaigned to stay in the EU, but the people in their own constituencies voted to leave.
People have told me that they now have the right to expect a different kind of politics emanating from Cardiff bay and the Senedd. The First Minister now needs to demonstrate his ability to provide leadership on this issue that reflects the views of all parties and all the people of Wales.
As the Prime Minister said in his resignation speech, negotiation with the European Union will need to involve the full engagement of the devolved Governments to ensure that the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom are protected and advanced. We must first ensure that the money that was going into structural funds and the common agricultural policy continues. We must then ensure that Wales receives its share of the repatriated money left over. And a new committee of Assembly Members must be established to drive forward Wales’s response to the EU referendum, reflective in its make-up of Welsh public opinion.
The Prime Minister has given us time to decide what Britain’s new relationship with Europe should be by delaying article 50 notification under the Lisbon treaty, which will trigger a two-year time period to negotiate the arrangements for exit unless the European Council, in agreement with the member state concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. In the meantime, there will be no change to people’s rights to travel and work and to the way our goods and services are traded, or to the way our economy and financial system is regulated.
As Boris Johnson has said, we cannot turn our backs on Europe—we are part of Europe. We condemn unreservedly the racist abusers seeking to exploit the referendum result. We must be a model of a multi-racial, multi-faith, equal opportunity democracy.
The knee-jerk reaction from financial markets was predictable, speculative and excessive, and an objective view is needed as markets begin to calm down. The Treasury, Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority put in place robust contingency plans for the immediate financial aftermath of a ‘leave’ vote. The UK will still be in the G7, International Monetary Fund and the United Nations Security Council. Our security has always depended on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and Britain will also continue to discuss defence—[Interruption.]—and intelligence-sharing with European partners. One intervention only.
Thank you very much for giving way. Just in response to some of your comments on tolerance, do you align yourself with the ‘breaking point’ poster?
No, I don’t.
Our security, as I say, has always depended on NATO. Outside the EU, we regain the freedom to forge trade deals while continuing to trade with our partners in Europe. The UK is responsible for approximately 5.5 million jobs across Europe. The EU will not want a trade war; they’ll want free trade. Markus Kerber, head of the BDI—Germany’s Confederation of British Industry—has urged Germany and the EU to draw up a post-Brexit free trade regime that enables them to uphold and maintain the levels of trade they have with the UK. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said that the European Union has
‘no need to be particularly nasty in any way’
in the negotiations with Britain about its exit from the EU. President Obama has said the special relationship between the United States and Britain will endure in the aftermath of the UK’s exit from the European Union. Britain is, after all, America’s largest inward investor. The French President, François Hollande, has vowed to maintain relations with Britain, notably concerning migrants crossing between the two countries and military and economic co-operation. Canada’s Finance Minister said:
‘We respect the choice of the British people and will remain a strong partner of the UK and the EU. Our shared histories make us natural trading partners, and I look forward to maintaining those close economic ties.’
And I could go on, but time is too short. Britain is one of the world’s largest economies—a global country that already conducts more trade outside the EU than any other member state except Malta. Our only real threat comes from the voice of destruction that seeks to dismember the United Kingdom, divide its peoples, diminish all its parts and damn a so-called independent Scotland to eurozone membership and a budget black hole. That is disgraceful. After all, it is the duty of us all to safeguard both the sovereignty and integrity of our United Kingdom.
There is no doubt that we all, collectively as a nation and as a people, are standing at the cusp of a new social and economic future and that our people are bitterly divided and we must now come together to tackle our future. Though we must accept the democratic mandate and will of the people, we must also all acknowledge the narrow margin, as has been referenced earlier, and the significant effect already on Wales. It is imperative today that we hold the UK Government and the Prime Minister, as has already been said, to account and that they give and deliver on their false promises to Wales and give our money back that they promised to the Welsh people during the ‘leave’ campaign, which we currently send to the EU. Or is that a con? Every single penny must be made up that Wales loses from leaving Europe, or otherwise there is a democratic deficit and the people have been conned and the people have been misled and the people have been lied to.
There is no doubt that this referendum has turned family member against family member and friend against friend. There is no doubt that, today, more than ever, it is time for our country to find unity and strength of purpose in moving forward. There is equally no doubt, as has been said already, that racism is on the increase and that all of us should be condemning these acts of racial hate crime. Today, Welsh Government is committed and united in working to get the best possible outcomes for Wales post-Brexit and to get the best possible outcomes for the Welsh people; every sinew and breath of this administration will be utilised by Welsh Government to engender positive effects out of this unprecedented peacetime context, and, vitally, every effort will be undertaken to negotiate the best deal for Wales and Welsh business and Welsh jobs. Welsh Government will seek to nurture and engage the best possible marketplace and tariffs for Welsh goods sold in the EU, and it is in the best interests of Welsh agriculture and fisheries that this is done. However, much of this will not be reliant on us and Welsh Government, and it will not be in our gift. Today, it is absolute fact and not fiction that there are significant and considerable impacts already hitting the UK’s shores as a direct result of this referendum.
We now have a seismic, volatile and difficult context for Wales in which to create certainty, clarity and needed positive outcomes, and it is critical that everyone understands that context. It is relevant and it is a direct result of the nation’s ‘leave’ vote that this Friday, for instance, the UK has already seen over the weekend that it has lost its AAA status, that the pound has already hit its lowest level since 1985, that key Welsh businesses and inward investors have expressed publicly grave concern over a tariff-based future with the EU single market. And there is a plummeting confidence in manufacturing and beyond due to uncertainty over implementation of the article 50 timescale. This is uncertainty that could affect Welsh jobs. It is a reality for our Welsh people that there is a negative effect on resolving the Tata solution and on Welsh jobs. This is backed up, not by politicians, but by Airbus, Ford and others.
Despite such a difficult and troubling context, the UK people have voted as a majority through a democratic process and have given a democratic mandate to leave, which the UK Government must now honour and respect as the will of the people, but alongside the money pledged by the UK in the ‘leave’ campaign. This is fundamental, and we must admit that the arguments for remain did not get through, but it is equally right and proper that facts are understood, that the public discern the issues of importance from the froth and that considerable challenges, which I've outlined and that, no doubt, lie ahead, are understood by the people. It is a hard fact that the media have played a lacklustre role in presenting the facts and arguments, and that it’s argued politicians have also failed to set that agenda. The significant challenges for the UK now we will meet head-on and, in Wales, work to strategically overcome, I have no doubt, but it is vital that such significant economic, social and societal challenges are fully and properly understood. It is imperative that the interests of Wales and its people are at the forefront and front centre of our strategy, and that this vacuum created by political turmoil and uncertainties across the UK that we’re all facing is re-stitched as swiftly as possible. Diolch.
I would also like thank the First Minister for his statement on Friday and for bringing forward this important debate today. On Thursday, the people of the United Kingdom spoke and spoke loudly. They said: ‘Britain is better off outside the European Union’. It’s highly regrettable that the Prime Minister who gave us this referendum did not have the courage to see it through to its conclusion. However, it’s important that we all now work together to deliver the best deal for Wales and the UK. Our exit negotiations should not be overshadowed by internal strife and leadership campaigns in both the Conservative and Labour parties. There are those who seek to dismiss the views of the nearly 17.5 million British voters who voted to leave the EU. They may not like the results, but we live in a democracy, and that’s how democracy works: the majority rule. If we look at the referendum that led to the creation of our Assembly, that result was much, much closer, yet there wasn’t a clamour from the ‘no’ camp, seeking to circumvent the wishes of the electorate or looking to creatively negate the result. The people of the UK have made it clear: they are fed up with unelected bureaucrats telling them what to do. They want out of the EU, and it’s up to us, their elected representatives, to see that their wishes are fulfilled—[Interruption.] Sorry, is it an intervention you want? [Interruption.] Stand for election? Yes, I did.
You don’t need to listen to Ministers who are making comments from their seats. You carry on with your contribution.
I was elected. We have to ignore dodgy petitions, political self-interest—yes, there have been petitions which have proved to have inaccuracies on them, online—and political self-interest and those who claim that the United Kingdom cannot stand alone. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a great deal for Wales and Great Britain, and I urge all sides to work together to get the terms of our exit right. We deplore any acts of discrimination and spitefulness towards any person.
Will you take an intervention?
Yes, I will.
Do you not agree with me that some of the rhetoric that we’ve heard from UKIP representatives has actually fed that resentment and racism that we’ve seen?
I can assure you, you haven’t heard it from me, and these people here you haven’t heard it from either. To whom are you referring?
Will you take a further intervention?
We had a question earlier today suggesting that some people who are legitimately in this country, seeking refuge are here—and the question was about the cost of those people. Surely, humanitarian considerations should come first?
It was a different question, I admit, but it was a question that was asked by the constituents—no, not by UKIP, by the gentleman’s constituents.
Are you associating yourself with the question?
I wouldn’t take a further intervention, if I were you. I’d carry on.
To those who wish to derail our exit and hinder our progress on securing a great deal, I urge you to listen to the British people who delivered a clear mandate for Brexit. To our Scottish cousins, I say: you cannot derail our exit. Scottish voters may have voted in favour of remaining in the EU, but they also voted overwhelmingly to remain in the UK not so very long ago. Members, we have to carry out the democratic wishes of our UK voters. We have to ensure that our constituents who are in receipt of EU funding for their businesses and companies are not let down by the terms of our exit. We have to ensure that our exit deal delivers for Wales and the United Kingdom. We have to face down those seeking to divide our nation—[Interruption.] Exactly, divisiveness doesn’t pay—but above all, we also have to ensure we capitalise on the opportunities presented to us by our decision to leave the EU.
Finally, Llywydd, we must remember that we are all elected by the public—all. We represent them whether they voted for us or not, and my pen writes the same for every constituent, regardless of how they voted and who they voted for. Thank you.
Dawn Bowden—[Interruption.] Dawn Bowden.
Diolch, Lywydd. I was hugely disappointed at the outcome of the EU referendum. Throughout the campaign, I sought to truthfully set out some of the dangers as I saw them, on leaving the EU. I campaigned from both my heart and my head on what I genuinely believed was the best for some of the most deprived communities; not just in Wales, but across the UK.
What is clear is that many people voted on things that they believed would result from us leaving the EU, in particular, an end to immigration. This was fuelled by the leave campaign and the reactionary and disgraceful right-wing media that shamed this country. For many, it was also a desperate vote for change from people who’ve now suffered years of Tory-imposed austerity. Many people thought that anything must be better than what they have now. We now know clearly that the leave campaigners both misled and lied to the British public with promises of £350 million a week for the NHS and how immigration would be controlled. That has not only reinforced mistrust in politicians, but it has also made many start to regret having voted to leave.
One of my other fears of a ‘leave’ vote has always been the impact that it would have on workers’ rights. We’ve already seen leading Brexiteers advocating the removal of workers’ rights as part of any exit negotiations.
Incidentally, Llywydd, it is worth noting that the restrictions placed on trade union strike ballots in the Tory Trade Union Act 2016, supported by most Brexiteers, would’ve invalidated this referendum result, because, apparently, strike ballots are far too important to allow a simple majority of those voting to determine an outcome, but a simple majority on the whole future of our nation for generations to come is not.
Perhaps the most distressing manifestation of the leave vote, as has been said by many Members here today, is the widespread incidence of overt and public racism that we have witnessed since this result was announced. I hope everyone in this Chamber is appalled by this, will reject it totally and will stand up to defend and protect anyone subject to such hatred—hatred fuelled by the anti-immigration rhetoric of the ‘leave’ campaign.
Now, while it is true that people voted to leave for a number of reasons, some of those were not to do with the EU at all—that does not mean that we should not listen to their concerns. We have to accept the outcome was what it was and I would now argue strongly that we need to put an end to the uncertainty pervading the country and invoke article 50 without delay. Those leading the ‘leave’ campaign should’ve had in place a strategy to enable them to be ready to negotiate a swift and structured exit, to settle the money markets, to protect people’s jobs, pensions, homes and investments and perhaps more importantly, the future of our young people. But as we know, they do not.
Llywydd, I mention our young people, as one thing that impressed me during the campaign was their knowledge and understanding of the issues at stake—far greater, perhaps, than many two or three times their age. As Julie Morgan mentioned, many of them didn’t get a vote.
Will you take an intervention?
No, I won’t. At the weekend, I met Alex, a 14-year-old girl from the Gurnos, who said to me, ‘Why have old people thrown away our future?’ Unfortunately, I didn’t have an answer for her. So, for Alex and her friends and for the deprived communities in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney and elsewhere, I urge the First Minister to be relentless in holding the exit proponents to account over promises that they made. I know he will work to ensure that Wales does not lose a penny in regeneration, inward investment and development funds and will seek to secure significant increases in funding to Wales under a revised Barnett formula to make up any shortfall.
Finally, Llywydd, as the Brexiteers need to be held to account on any proposed Brexit settlement, they will require a further endorsement and mandate by the British public, and I look forward to hearing how we will be consulted on that settlement, as no settlement can have any validity without the express agreement of the British people.
Well, what happened on Thursday matters. It matters bone, blood and breath, and the ramifications will extend down the generations. It matters here, it matters in Europe, and it also says an awful lot about the state of Western democracies. It also spoke of something very specific, and that was our membership of the EU, but the wider lessons, I think, are for all of us who are in this Assembly to bear in mind as we serve out our mandate in this, the fifth Assembly, and it’s a lesson, I think, politicians across the world will have to take as well.
But what’s immediately important is to work out what sort of relationship we should now have with the EU, and that does come down to what sort of access or membership of the single market we should now enjoy. This cannot be ducked, it has to be faced and it is the biggest thing that will determine our relationship in the future and will be at the heart of securing our economic prospects. I thought the Prime Minister was quite right yesterday in emphasising, in response to a question from an SNP Member, that Britain was built on an economic union and we now need that union to flourish, but also the single market that’s been established, as a British policy, largely, from the mid-1980s, in Europe.
The Welsh economy is the most vulnerable in the UK, it seems to me, so it’s most dependent on us getting an effective, constructive and productive relationship with the EU. I do hope that all Brexiteers will focus on that and now live up to their assurances that they remain, at heart, true Europeans—a different version of Europe; I’m prepared to believe that—as we now work through the detail. But it’s not going to be easy to achieve, because what sort of access we have to the single market, are we a member of EFTA or not, or the EEA—there are all sorts of implications to that sort of relationship. We have to expect rigour from those who will now be negotiating, and they may face considerable instability economically, as well, at the very time the negotiations we need to succeed most are being undertaken.
Many matters will also have to be examined about our future as a British state—what sort of Brexit UK will now emerge. It will have to adapt quite remarkably, in constitutional, fiscal and economic terms to survive. The chances of a Scottish secession have increased markedly. I don’t know if they’re probable yet, but we are at that tipping point, and whether we keep the union together will pretty much depend on what sort of vision we now have for the relationship we wish with the European Union.
It is very clear to me that strong Welsh interests now emerge well beyond partisanship. The UK is a union of nations, and that needs to be emphasised and remembered by policy makers in Westminster as they negotiate Brexit, and it’s something we need to remember. We are here—we are the forum of Welsh politics and that responsibility is something that we must embrace fully. To further agreed Welsh interests, I believe, therefore, that strong cross-party working should now be encouraged in the Assembly—both the Assembly and, possibly, also with the Government, as it co-operates with all the parties in this forum. Presiding Officer, the fifth Assembly will have to show itself to be a trusted forum for the advance and defence of Welsh interests in the remarkably challenging times that we now face. If we fail, that sad lament will ring out, ‘Cry, the beloved country’.
Thank you, Presiding Officer, for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate.
Roedd canlyniad y refferendwm yr wythnos diwethaf yn siom enbyd. Mae'r ffaith y byddai Cymru yn dewis gwrthod y berthynas sydd wedi bod mor amlwg o fuddiol iddi yn her i bob un ohonom yn y lle hwn, ac mae'n rhaid i ni ymateb yn bendant, ac nid â rhethreg hawdd. Byddai’r golled i Gymru o gannoedd o filiynau o bunnoedd o incwm bob blwyddyn yn hynod niweidiol. Rydym eisoes wedi gweld, mewn llawer o'n cymunedau, effaith cyni ariannol Llywodraeth y DU, yn tynnu arian allan o aelwydydd ac allan o economïau lleol, ac mae hon yn her ar raddfa lawer, lawer mwy. Ynghyd ag ansicrwydd economaidd, yng Nghymru a ledled y DU, wrth i gwmnïau edrych yn anochel ar p'un a ydynt yn buddsoddi yma neu yn y DU sy’n parhau, rydym yn wynebu cyfnod trawmatig iawn, er gwaethaf optimistiaeth heulog y ddau Bollyanna anhebygol, arweinydd y Ceidwadwyr Cymreig ac arweinydd UKIP.
Dydw i ddim eisiau bod mewn sefyllfa lle mae Cymru yn gymwys i gael cymorth rhanbarthol—nid oes yr un ohonom eisiau hynny. Rwyf am i'n heconomi fod yn ddigon cadarn i beidio â bod angen hyn ac i ffynnu, a’n prif flaenoriaeth, wrth raid, yw polisi economaidd sy'n gwneud hynny’n bosibl.
Thank you very much for taking the intervention, and I agree with your words that we shouldn’t be proud of the fact that we’ve needed convergence funding for this period of time. We’re on the same side on this, but I’m sure you will join with me with disliking, shall we say, some of the tone of the London left-leaning papers that have characterised our constituents who voted ‘leave’ as being thoughtless and, more importantly, thankless for the money that’s come from Europe to help support those communities. Do you accept, though, that the Welsh Government may have to take some responsibility for not convincing those particular communities that money has come from Europe and helped them, rather than coming directly from the Welsh Assembly, and what have we learnt, all of us, from that about how we convey how money is used in our communities and who’s responsible for the decisions?
Thank you for that intervention. I do take the point that there’s been very unhelpful comment in some of the press about the response of our communities. I don’t take the other point that you raised, but I take that point, certainly.
In fact, promises have been made in this campaign, and they’ve been mentioned again today on many occasions, and in my view, what the people of Wales voted for last week was, yes, to come out of the EU, but also for the funding that Wales currently receives from the EU to be made good by the British Government. The Brexit decision for us in Wales means both these things together, and how we respond to that decision in this place is critical. I don’t, myself, detect in the result any public yearning at the moment for a devolution settlement much broader than that which we are already discussing, though it remains to be seen whether that continues to be the case as the future of the United Kingdom unfolds. But I do believe that people voting to leave the EU did so in the firm belief that the projects, the infrastructure, the skills programmes, and so on that form an essential part of their communities would in some form continue. And so, we must respond to that in a tangible way. I believe now is the time to settle the question of how Wales is funded from Westminster and to put it on a firm footing. A new funding commitment must reflect the different needs of the people of Wales, and it must reflect, in full, the loss of European funding. HM Treasury, we are led to believe, will now make a significant saving every year, while the Welsh treasury must receive its fair share of that. Promises have been made, and now is the time for them to be kept.
So, I believe we need to include within the statutory architecture of an emerging Welsh constitution a guarantee in law of funding. It must describe the high-level principles underpinning a fair funding formula. The former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, has referred to equality and redistribution as the guiding principles in this respect, and he must also describe how disputes over that funding would be resolved.
I don’t believe the Welsh public will thank us if we respond to their verdict—which is, I believe, in part about the relevance of political life to their lives—by extensive debate about the form and powers of Westminster and Cardiff Bay. If we’ve been told anything by people across Wales, it’s that we need to do more to deal with the bread-and-butter issues, the daily struggles that our communities face. But, equally, we will not be forgiven if we fail to deliver, as a result of this vote, a settlement for Wales that addresses, not just the question of our formal relationship with the European Union, but also a fair and secure foundation for the future funding of Wales.
First of all, I cannot believe that the Labour Party are still in denial about the true desires and aspirations of the working-class people of Wales. I have to say that they’re talking about just 2 or 4 per cent difference in the ‘in’ and the ‘out’ vote; well, in places such as Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and many other parts of those Welsh Labour strongholds, it was something like 60 per cent to 40 per cent—and they’re still in denial about what the people want. Well, the truth of the matter is, of course, you’ve been in denial all along, because the European election results in Wales in 2014, where the UK Independence Party almost became the first party in over 100 years to beat the Labour Party in a national election, followed, of course, by the election of seven AMs to the Senedd in May from a party whose raison d’être was to leave the EU, should have been a wake-up call, not just to Labour, but to every party in Wales with a pro-European agenda. Incredibly, this was not to be the case. All of these parties elected to ignore the will of the Welsh people. The result on Thursday was a direct consequence of the disconnection of the established parties with the Welsh electorate, and not, as has been promulgated over the last few days, the result of any so-called misinformation on behalf of the ‘leave’ side, or even the relentless fear tactics employed by the ‘remain’ campaign.
However, this is not the time for anybody involved in the ‘out’ campaign to gloat at the outcome, particularly those of us in the Welsh Assembly. The implications of this referendum are far too important for any such indulgence.
Would you give way?
Thank you. I accept your point that the result has exposed a deep disillusion for many people in working-class communities. I don’t accept it’s just about the EU. It represents a far deeper disconnect with the way that our economy works. But there’s now a challenge to those who made promises on the ‘leave’ campaign, because you made promises, and there’s a danger that if those aren’t kept, that disillusionment with politics as a process could be deeply toxic. So, what are you going to do to make sure that those who made claims and promises on your side honour those commitments?
Well, I welcome your intervention on that part, but you still seem to be in denial about the reasons why they voted to come out of the European Union. But I think what I’ll go on to say will probably answer the question that you’ve just asked, and that is that I said that the implications of this referendum are far too important for any such indulgence. I put it to you that this is a time for cross-party action and consensus as never before. We who were involved in the ‘out’ campaign must and will support wholeheartedly any moves by the Welsh Government to secure not only the funds already promised to Wales by the Westminster Government, together, of course, with its commitment to honour the funding of all those projects now capitalised by the EU, but also to ensure that we get a fair share of those funds that Brexit will yield. I refer, of course, to the difference in what the UK pays into the European Union and that which it gives back. [Interruption.] No, I’m sorry.
Again, this is not a time for party-political bickering as to the outcome of the referendum. The people have spoken and it is up to us as a united Assembly to move forward to secure Wales’s future in this new political arena. Those same political pundits who had it so wrong on Europe are now predicting the break-up of the union. They will be proved wrong on that again. The union will remain fully intact and it is overwhelmingly the will of the Welsh people that we shall be part of that union.
Let us now help and trust the 40 MPs we sent to Westminster, most of whom are Labour MPs, as well as the Welsh Government, to secure the best possible outcome from this referendum on behalf of the Welsh people. The Welsh people have spoken. Let us respect their views. Just one small addendum: in 2010 Government figures showed that only 2.1 per cent of Welsh companies actually export to the EU. Let’s keep Wales’s exit from the EU in perspective. Thank you.
As with many others here today, Llywydd, I am hugely concerned at the vote to leave the European Union and its consequences. I do believe we are very much in uncharted waters now, and I feel very concerned for collective security and peace in Europe and beyond; our access, of course, to the single market, which is so important; inward investment and, indeed, general investment here in Wales and across the UK in our economy; and also, of course, in terms of loss of European funding.
One project that very much springs to mind is the metro, which I’m hugely supportive of, as I know many others here are also. I think it’s a big idea, in terms of our economy in south-east Wales, and in terms of connectivity on economic and social fronts. Now, it’s uncertain as to whether we will have the funds to take that project forward as intended and as quickly as intended, and I hope any uncertainty will be resolved as quickly as possible.
Also, as others have mentioned, Llywydd, I’m very, very concerned about community cohesion. It’s not just a matter of the direct attacks and, indeed, intimidation that people have experienced in the wake of the EU referendum result, but also the concern that has been generated in our communities. I think all of us can play a role here, at all levels of Government and civic society, in making it clear that we will stand up for people in our communities no matter what their background and no matter what their nationality or ethnicity. We all have a responsibility in these difficult times on that front.
The next matter I’d like to mention, which others have also covered, Llywydd, is poverty, alienation and exclusion. I think it’s absolutely clear, when we look at the voting and the pattern of voting, that many people in our communities had that sense of hopelessness and not faring well in economic terms and in terms of their quality of life at the moment. In most circumstances, it’s understandable that they, when given an opportunity, as they see it, to deliver a strong message to kick, as it were, what they see as the establishment, the political elite—however they term it—they will take that opportunity, sometimes almost regardless of the actual issues at stake. I think there was a strong element of that in this particular vote and we need to recognise that sentiment, not just for that particular vote but in general. We need to greatly increase our efforts to tackle poverty, to create more inclusiveness in our communities and to build our economy for the benefit of all.
Finally, Llywydd, I’d like to turn to internationalism and Wales, because I remember, being one of the original Members of the Assembly—there aren’t that many of us left now—that in the run-up to the establishment of the Assembly, and in its early months and years, a lot of people were very concerned about parochialism—that the Assembly would be inward looking and that Wales would become more inward looking and less outward facing. I’m pleased to say that I don’t think that was the experience at all. I think the Assembly and Wales have been very much outward facing, and Ministers, Assembly Members, civic society and organisations in Wales have been part of that.
There have been various channels and processes that have facilitated that. We’ve become members of lots of international groupings, but an awful lot of it revolves around our membership of the European Union, whether it’s Welsh Ministers attending Council of Ministers meetings and, indeed, speaking for Wales there, or whether it’s the Committee of the Regions or visits by Assembly Members and others to Brussels and elsewhere in Europe. There are many facets to that engagement, but an awful lot of it, of necessity, revolves around our membership of the European Union. We are part of Europe, we will continue to be part of Europe and we do need to look, I believe, at how we channel that engagement with Europe and European Union countries in the wake of this vote.
There are many other aspects, of course, that I’m hugely enthusiastic about in terms of our internationalism, like the programme for Africa, which I think has been a great success on so many fronts for Wales and the Welsh Government. But, certainly, European Union membership is at the heart of much of that international engagement.
So, in conclusion, Llywydd, I very much think that all of us here really—almost all of us anyway—would want to see a Wales open to the world and the world open to Wales. And, in the wake of this referendum result, it’s more important than ever that we work towards that internationalism, and that here in Wales we make sure that we are tolerant, we are inclusive, we are welcoming of difference. That’s the sort of Wales I want to see.
I call on the First Minister to reply to the debate.
Diolch, Lywydd. I knew, when this debate was tabled, and when it began, that we would spend much time I suppose re-running the events and arguments of last week. But the result is there. It’s right to say that it was close, but then the establishment of this institution was a close referendum result as well—subsequently, of course, much strengthened in 2011. I have to say to Caroline Jones that there were people trying to overturn the result. In 2001, the Conservative manifesto had a commitment to holding a referendum in order to allow people to overturn the result. That, fortunately, now is history. But it’s there: the result is there; there is no going back on it. To my mind, there is no call for a second referendum. I think there are great dangers in that. If there are calls for a second referendum, those who voted to leave will just get angrier and that anger will be translated into something more unpleasant. They will see that their majority view, as they see it, is trying to be undone, and there are great dangers there. So, I know that others have mentioned this, but I don’t think a second referendum is something that would be wise at this moment in time.
Could I turn to what the leader of the opposition said? He has positioned himself as somebody who can add to the debate—
Sorry, the leader of the opposition is female and is Plaid Cymru.
I beg your pardon; the leader of the Welsh Conservatives—old habits, I’m afraid. The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, what he said—he has put himself forward as somebody who can add to the vision of the future for Wales. What we had today was flowery waffle. He was asked—. [Interruption.] I’m trying to enter into the spirit of the debate and be kind. I asked him to give us some idea of the opportunities that exist and he failed to name any. Now, I don’t delight in that, because the danger is that those who have made promises on the ‘leave’ side see those promises fall apart. Those people who voted ‘leave’ will then take their anger out in different ways, and that will mean that we will see support for extreme, racist parties of the far right. That’s my great, great worry, and so there is a duty and a responsibility on all of us, including the ‘leave’ campaigners, to explain what happens next and do that quickly, rather than say, ‘Well, it’ll all be fine; there’ll be innovation here’ and whatever he said. We need more than waffle; we do need detail.
I do say to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives—I got it right this time—that this vote must not be used as a reason to leach powers away from the people of Wales. I have his exact words in front of me, what he said this afternoon. He said, and I quote:
‘It is vital that Wales’s interests are protected and secured—’
‘—and communities which have had this money spent are given the confidence that the money will continue irrespective of whether it comes from the Treasury in London or Welsh Government.’
The Welsh Government can’t make that money up; I can tell you that now. And then he added:
‘That money could…come directly from Westminster…. Why should the Welsh Government handle the money?’
That’s what he said. I say this to him now: economic development is devolved.
Andrew R.T. Davies rose—
Surely, that is a legitimate question to pose, and it is for us in this institution, as politicians—[Interruption.] And it is for us in this institution, and politicians of all colours, to make sure that the language that we settle on actually represents what will deliver the best deal for Wales. We have to pose the difficult questions to get the answers we require.
He has spent months and months complaining about money being controlled from Brussels, saying it should come to Wales, and is now saying that it should be controlled by the Treasury in London. That is not in keeping with devolution. That is not what was promised by the ‘leave’ campaign. It’s not what we will ever sign up to, or agree to, in this Assembly, on this side and others of the house. He has to stop thinking like somebody sitting in Westminster and thinking about somebody sitting in Wales, and start thinking about what it means for Wales. There is no cause, no cause whatsoever, for suggesting that the money that we received from Europe should not come to Wales, but apparently should sit in London, at the discretion of the Treasury as to how it’s spent. That’s what he said. And now he is caught by his own words, which he denied earlier in the Chamber. He needs to explain to his own party—if you could see their faces—. He needs to explain to his own party why it is, suddenly, that what was said, the promise that was made that this money would come to Wales, is now not going to come to Wales for this elected Assembly to decide how that money is spent. And that is a fundamental attack on devolution. Not repeated by UKIP—not repeated by UKIP. It shows the direction the Conservatives are going in.
I listened carefully to the other points that were made by other Members, particularly to the leader of the opposition, which I listened to carefully. She and I are not in the same position when it comes to what she has suggested today, which is independence in the EU, because the Welsh people have voted to leave the EU. I think there are difficulties in suggesting that way forward, when people have already said they want to leave. But it is right to say that constitutional change is needed. The UK cannot go on as it is, or it will not go on. I don’t share the Member David Rowlands’s optimism that the UK will continue forever and a day. This is the greatest threat to the UK that’s ever been posed. We see the opinion polls again in Scotland—not that anyone can trust polls, necessarily, but I do fear that what is happening in Scotland is very different to what was happening there in 2014, and there will be an effect on Wales. We know there’ll be an effect on Northern Ireland.
I am in this strange situation now, where, of the four in my household, I am the only one who will not in the future have a right to live and work anywhere in the EU. Everyone else will, because they’ve got dual nationality. And it shows that even families are in different positions because of the vote that happened last week.
We know that, in Northern Ireland, there are issues with the border, because it’s an open border, and the immigration policy on both sides of it will be different. And so there are great issues as to how that border will be monitored, and how that border will be patrolled. They are not issues that affect us directly in Wales, but they do affect the UK and its relationship with the European Union via that land border.
Can I deal with the issue of free trade? Access to the single market is absolutely fundamentally critical to the prosperity of Wales. If we do not have free and unfettered access to that single market, many of our businesses will be put at a disadvantage that their competitors elsewhere in the EU will not have. If you look at the automotive industry, there is a tariff on automotive parts of 5 per cent, a tariff on importing cars of 10 per cent; those are WTO rules. That affects so many of Wales’s automotive plants, not least my own in Bridgend. Unless there is a trade deal on the table that removes the fear and danger of tariffs, those plants will not be able to compete, because what they produce will automatically be more expensive than plants elsewhere. Now, the suggestion has been made, well, Europe exports more to the UK than the UK exports back. Well, the European Union is eight times bigger than the UK, so, in monetary terms, of course more is exported from the EU to Britain than the other way round. But, if you look at the percentages, nearly 50 per cent of what the UK exports goes to the EU. The movement back is between 7 per cent and 10 per cent. Actually, we are far more dependent on being able to export freely into the EU than the EU is to us.
If we look at the car market, people have said, ‘Well, German car manufacturers will want to export’. The difficulty is that makes like BMW can export with a 10 per cent tariff and people will still buy them, because people see it as a prestigious car to buy. It doesn’t apply to all car makes, and that’s the danger that we face. So, it is absolutely critical that the free movement of goods and services continues between the UK and the EU.
Now, we have to remember that, in the negotiations that will take place, the UK Government will, inevitably, take the lead. We will have our own method of discussion with the EU. But the UK Government will negotiate mainly as the UK Government, but sometimes as the Government of England, when it comes to agriculture and fisheries. It won’t negotiate as the UK at all times. That’s why, to me, it is absolutely critical that, when there is a deal on the table, it is ratified separately by each of the national parliaments. Then we will get proper buy-in to any trade deal. It is not good enough simply for the Parliament in Westminster to ratify it, when there are some areas like agriculture and fisheries, which are wholly devolved, which will be affected. And so, this elected legislature must have a strong say—indeed, a ratification process for that.
The Member Steffan Lewis raised some important points. He discussed first of all—talked first of all—about the need for an economic fairness Bill. I’m not entirely sure what that would mean. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, I’m not quite clear about it, because what we find is, when investors come to Wales, they want to go to a specific site in Wales. You can’t say to them, ‘You can’t go there; you’ve got to go there’. So, Aston Martin was only ever going to go to St Athan. It wasn’t going to go anywhere else. So, it’s not as easy as it sounds simply to say, ‘Well, we’ll ensure that investment travels all over Wales’, because private companies don’t work like that. Public investment is easier, clearly; private investment, much more difficult.
He talked about an investment bank of the isles—interesting and something, of course, that I’m sure will be explored in the months to come, and he also talked about Wales making its own way in the world. I have to say that UKTI have been hugely supportive of us as we’ve travelled around the world. We’ve received support from them. The embassies around the world have been nothing but supportive of us in attracting investment into Wales. We have opened offices in different parts of the world where we know we can be effective in adding something extra in terms of Wales’s voice. But I don’t think that the result last week will alter our ability to sell ourselves to the world in terms of being able to project Wales to the world. It will affect, of course, what we’re able to offer in terms of market access if there’s no deal on the table. One of the issues we always grapple with is, if we’re looking to expand our presence in a particular country, do we expand a presence in one country or do we open an office in another? These are issues that we constantly wrestle with. But we know that the offices in the US and India, particularly, are hugely, hugely important in terms of projecting Wales as a place to invest, and that will continue.
Mark Isherwood I listened to carefully. Many years ago, Members will recall Steve Wright when he was on Radio 1. He had a character called Mr Angry from Purley, who was somebody who began calmly and then worked himself up into a rage, almost choking on his own rage. Well, he did that again today. He is, after all, somebody in this Chamber who once described us on these benches as ‘left-wing fascists’. So, I remember that phrase. But I have to say to him, he talks about inclusivity—for years his party had Secretaries of State for Wales who didn’t even represent Welsh constituencies. We will not take lessons from the Conservative party about inclusivity when they had people representing us who had no connection at all with the people of Wales. Thankfully, those days have changed.
I listened to what Caroline Jones had to say and I think I’ve dealt with that in terms of what she said about the narrowness of the referendum result. But we have to understand that it is said that there are opportunities. They’re not apparent yet—not apparent yet. I’ve not heard any in this Chamber that present themselves as opportunities. We know there are challenges. Right, that’s what the people of Wales have delivered and that’s what the people of Britain have delivered; we have to get on with it. But it’s hugely important, as I’ve said, for ‘leave’ campaigners to come up with an idea of what they think the UK is going to look like. What sort of relationship do we have with the EU? What sort of relationship do we have on the world stage? If that is not articulate and clear—[Interruption.]—in a second. If that is not articulate and clear then that gap will be filled by those who are more extreme.
Thank you, First Minister. I agree with some of the comments made by David Rowlands earlier. Do you share my concern that we have enough trouble getting the money we’re due out of the Treasury anyway, and we have done since 1999 because of the way the Barnett formula has worked over that time, so, when it comes to getting additional money out of the Treasury to replace the money we’re currently getting from Brussels, that really will be quite a challenging task and there’s no guarantee we’re going to get that, which is why we need the fiscal framework to operate?
There is always a welcome for the Member on these benches with his views. But he’s right—he’s right. Because Members will know that getting money out of the Treasury, fairness, the Barnett formula, air passenger duty—the answer was always ‘no’, because apparently the people of Wales and their views are not important. Well, that has to change. Others have said it in this Chamber and I’ll repeat it once again: it is our money and it needs to come to Wales for this legislature to decide how that money is distributed. Nothing else will do.
So, we face a different world, a different kind of politics, and a very uncertain world. We don’t know what the relationship will be with the EU. We don’t know what the UK, if it exists, will look like over the next few years. What is hugely important, I believe, for all of us in this Chamber, is to provide answers. They may not be answers we all agree on but, if we fail to provide a vision of a way forward, whatever differences there are between the different visions, then the gap will be filled by those whose views are far more extreme. We sometimes think that the 1930s and those conditions could never return, but I’m not convinced. So, it’s important for democratic politicians to make sure that they regain the confidence of the public, regain the trust of the public, and make sure that we have prosperity, justice and fairness for our nation.
The proposal is to agree the motion. Does any Member object? If not, the motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
We move on to item 3 on the agenda, which is the business statement and announcement. I call on Jane Hutt.
Diolch, Lywydd. I’ve made several changes to this week’s business in response to last week’s events. Members will be aware that the statement on phase 1 implementation of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 was issued as a written statement yesterday. Similarly, the oral statements on school governing bodies, flood and coastal erosion risk management, and the road and street works strategy will be issued as written statements, and the debate on renaming the Assembly has been postponed until next week. The First Minister will, however, set out the Government’s legislative programme in an oral statement this afternoon. Finally, the Business Committee has scheduled a number of procedural motions relating to Assembly committees. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement found among the meeting papers available to Members electronically.
We’ve just had the beginning of a very important discourse on the momentous and terrifying decision taken last Thursday. I wondered if it’s possible to fit in, before the summer recess, three further debates on specific areas that are posed by the Brexit decision. One is on the future of our fisheries, and how we might protect them in light of the fact that we only have one boat at the moment to protect the whole of our coastline.
Secondly, the implications for all our universities through the potential loss of Horizon 2020 funding—we think about the important research going on at Cardiff University to investigate the causes of dementia, bipolar disease and other important diseases linked to the workings of the brain, and the fact that these are obviously universal diseases, and the results need to be shared across all nations. So, the importance of, hopefully, being able to maintain that leadership across Europe—that leadership and collaboration—and how we might be able to do that as we take forward these negotiations.
The third is on the future of our farming, in the light of the fact that we still import 40 per cent of our food, which of course is going to go up as a result of the massive reduction in the value of the pound against other currencies, and what opportunities may be available to farmers from this threat to increase both food and agriculture growing so that we do not have to have such expensive imported food.
Thank you, Jenny Rathbone. Of course, we have just had a debate—a very full debate—in response to the referendum, and the First Minister made two statements on Friday and, indeed, again yesterday, following our Welsh Government Cabinet meeting, laying out the steps that the Welsh Government is taking. As you are clearly aware, and as has been discussed this afternoon, it will take time to work through the implications of last week’s referendum result. Of course, we have to recognise—this is particularly important to your questions—no immediate changes are likely to take place in terms of regulatory requirements or EU investments and funding. For example, there are issues like the basic payments scheme, investment, Glastir scheme contracts—they’ll be honoured—and RDP grant rounds, which are already open and will continue. So, of course, information will be made available and opportunities, I know, for further clarification via statement and debate, I’m sure, will be possible.
May I thank the business manager for her statement and thank you for changing Government business to allow us to discuss the referendum results of last week? I’m sure that all Members will respect that and be grateful for it. As a result of that, you have deferred the debate on the renaming of this Siambr—not the Siambr, but the renaming of the institution the ‘Welsh Parliament’. Can you confirm that, when you bring that motion back, you will have discussed and taken into account some of the amendments that were already being discussed as the motion was being tabled for this week and that that, perhaps, will have progressed a little before we discuss that motion tabled by Government?
Secondly, I would just like to raise two or three things that do emerge from the debate that we’ve had this afternoon on the vote to leave the European Union. Could we please, therefore, have a statement relatively swiftly—certainly before summer—on the way the Government sees their relationship with the single market and the free market, the two possible relationships for Wales? I have already asked the First Minister in terms of how I see things in terms of membership of the European economic area, but it would be good to have a formal statement from Government as to its stance as we enter this process of negotiating our exit from the European Union, because none of these questions have been answered during the last hour and a half, certainly not by those people who wanted to leave the European Union.
The second part of that is whether we could have a statement, perhaps from you as the business manager, on the way in which the whole Assembly could participate in that debate. Now, again, the First Minister, in answering questions, said that he wants to see all parties participating in that process. But although we do have a mechanism to establish committees later today, perhaps we should ask whether we need a more party political forum to bring people together in order to be part of this process. Have you come to any view on that? Could we have a statement setting out how you could see that emerging and working?
The final point that I would like to raise with you is one that emerges directly from the experience I’m sure each and every one of us is having. I attended a meeting yesterday of the canals forum in Newtown where there is a plan to restore the old canal through Newtown and, time and time again, during these discussions, people were saying that they were applying for European funding for this. You just have to take a step back and say, ‘There’ll be no European funding available in two years’ time or in two and a half years’ time’—whatever the timescale is. But that hasn’t been permeated people’s thinking yet. I’m sure that every one of us will have had such conversations with groups that have relied—perhaps been over-reliant—on European funding in the past, and now they want to proceed with plans that are still important to their communities and that are still important to tourism and developing the economy. So, can we have a statement again before summer from the Cabinet Secretary for the economy—a comprehensive statement setting out all of the plans that are currently funded in Wales under European funding, their term, when they are likely to come to an end and when, if a scheme were to continue, the second stream planning is expected to start?
We need to look at this, I think. It can then be referred to a committee, of course, and be discussed in detail. But we truly need to look at this and scope the impact of the fact that the structural funds and the ESF funding will come to an end. We need to scope that very carefully, and a comprehensive statement just setting out, for our information, would be a way for people to actually understand what’s going on, and secondly, as we start to look at how we negotiate that, and how we then put pressure on those people who led us in to this situation to ensure that every penny is resorted to Wales.
Diolch yn fawr, Simon Thomas. I think the six priorities that the First Minister set out in his statement on Friday—those six priorities, again, of protecting jobs, playing a full part in discussions regarding UK withdrawal from the EU—very importantly, as you made the point—ensuring that the UK retains access to the single market, negotiating continued participation in EU programmes until the end of 2020, and, of course, now having to undertake that work, in response to your last question, to assess what that means in terms of projects that are considering a way forward, not just—. I mentioned in response to Jenny Rathbone the rural development programme, and the fact that the bidding round, of course, has been opened, and I’m sure your constituents are asking the same question. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, who is clearly responsible in terms of European structural funds, is closely assessing these impacts. So, clearly, the responsibilities that are now shared by Cabinet Secretaries and led by the First Minister are being clearly laid out in terms of the way forward, but we have to, as you say, make sure that we enable the Assembly—the full Assembly, and recognising those important points about cross-party engagement now—. We shortly, hopefully, will be setting up our policy and legislation committees and a committee, which I will now call the seventh policy and legislation committee—which we had always anticipated, whatever the result of the referendum, would need to take on post-EU-referendum consideration and consultation on impacts—now is going to be able to not only elect a Chair and provide cross-party members, but it will obviously need to start and meet before the end of this session with a programme into the autumn.
So, we have to ensure that we also look at other ways in which we can engage, and the committee may wish to engage not just in terms of the Assembly and cross-party concerns engagement but outside the Assembly as well and of course with stakeholders in the communities that we engage with, but also looking at the important role of Wales House. Of course, we have already, as the First Minister has said—. He is ensuring that there is that negotiating team in Brussels and there will need to be, of course, strong engagement to ensure that the Assembly as a whole understands and is fully briefed on each step, but also contributing as well.
Can I ask for a statement, please, on business rates? Certainly, I’ve visited a number of small businesses in the past week and there is a great deal of uncertainty. In the last financial year, businesses received a £1,500 rate relief, and then the previous year it was £1,000. Clearly, businesses do need to know whether they're going to receive that rate this financial year. I'm also aware that the UK Government has presented its plans for business rates, so I'd be very keen if we could have a statement outlining what the Welsh Government’s position is for the fifth Assembly, but particularly for how it will affect businesses in this coming financial year.
Well, of course, Russell George, there are huge uncertainties as a result of the referendum and the ‘leave’ vote last week. There are huge uncertainties that, of course, the chancellor expressed today, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the Welsh Government and the Welsh Government budget. So, of course, these are issues where we have made clear commitments and delivered on those clear commitments as Welsh Government, and the Cabinet Secretary, of course, will be looking very carefully at that. But it is the uncertainties that have been created since last Thursday and the result on Friday morning that are now steering our consideration. But businesses need to be very clear that this Welsh Government is supporting them and particularly making sure that we can protect them. Perhaps some of those points that were made earlier on about mitigation in terms of the negative impacts of the referendum results we need to address.
I thank the business Minister for her statement. I’m just kind of repeating some of the stuff that we've already talked about in the debate, but I do think this is particularly important because, whilst many of us, I think, probably could have predicted a number of the consequences of the ‘leave’ vote in the EU referendum, which included the alarming and disgusting wave of racist attacks that we've seen across the UK since that vote—. I think reports of incidents have increased by about 57 per cent since Thursday across the UK and even here in Wales. It is welcomed that the police and crime commissioners have issued statements condemning these attacks and urging everyone to immediately report any incidents of racial abuse to which they are subject or have witnessed. Whilst, clearly, policing is not yet a devolved issue, tackling racism in our communities is a priority for all of our public services and society. So, can I ask for a statement from the business Minister on any measures being considered to raise awareness of this issue and counter any culture of hatred and intolerance?
Well, I’m glad also that we’ve had another opportunity, in response to your question on the business statement this afternoon, to again make it very clear that tackling hate crime is a significant priority for Welsh Government. Racism will not be tolerated here in Wales. A very strong statement was made by the First Minister yesterday and repeated again this afternoon. Ministers have made it clear that racism is completely unacceptable and recognise, as we all do, the ugly atmosphere that’s been created following the EU referendum. So, we have to, again, ensure that we get the message out that all victims of hate crimes or incidents must report. The First Minister has written to our police and crime commissioners to highlight the issues raised in the community. But also, of course, the Minister for communities and children is taking a clear lead on this and issued a very important statement as well yesterday on Refugee Week. And I think also, in recognising that we’re funding the National Hate Crime Report and Support Centre through Victim Support Cymru and recognising that that national community cohesion programme, which we’re still supporting, has co-ordinators across Wales, monitoring tensions and working locally with partners to tackle hate crime—there are meetings this week.
But I also notice something that was very good to recognise, which is that, in Llanelli, the Welsh Polish Mutual Association have actually had a great deal of support and I think a recognition there that there was very strong support—‘Thanks for being here then…still glad you’re here now #PolesinUk’.
I was wondering whether we could have a statement on safety levels at Tata Steel. I say this because I have had a trickle of concerns, initially from constituents, with regard to safety aspects with the job cuts there, but it’s actually turned into quite a torrent from constituents who work at Tata Steel. I wonder if we could have a statement to understand if the Government has been talking to trade unions about the situation. I have a list of complaints, if the Minister or one of her colleagues wishes to see, which exemplifies the reason why I’m raising this here today in the manner in which I am.
The second issue I have is with regard to the question I asked last week. I don’t think I had a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ from you with regard to whether we could have a statement on autism and the post-educational needs of those who’ve left school. It’s an urgent situation. Leighton Andrews, in his capacity as education Minister, did have a taskforce looking into provision for those who’ve left school, and I think there are many, many families in my area, as I’m sure there are across Wales, who are facing uncertain futures when their children leave school—a lack of services, a lack of direction and lack of a clear pathway. So, I would urge, once again, if we could have a statement or a debate on that particular issue before our term ends and before the school term ends.
Thank you, Bethan Jenkins. I think it’s very important to recognise that Tata Steel has stated that its top priority is the safety and health of all those who work in and with the group. It’s a COMAH—control of major accident hazards regulations—1 site; it’s heavily regulated, of course, as you will acknowledge, in terms of health and safety. But my understanding is that the unions have been discussing this issue with Tata Steel—it’s got a statutory obligation to conform to those regulations and standards set by the Health and Safety Executive and they are engaging the unions in discussing these issues.
On your second point, of course I heard your question last week. I followed it up to see the most appropriate way that we can respond and also recognise that, of course, a particular issue is one aspect of the all-important responses across Government, not just in terms of education, but health and well-being as well, where we look at our response to autism.
I think Bethan raised a key point about autism transition and it’s a long-standing problem—something I’ve had a lot of casework on, but also it’s been raised successively with cross-party autism groups over a number of Assemblies. On that theme, I call for a statement on the Welsh Government’s refreshed autism spectrum disorder strategic action plan and the proposals for a national autism service for Wales. These were launched on a Friday only a couple of weeks before the last Assembly went into dissolution, and this Assembly hasn’t yet had an opportunity to discuss or scrutinise the draft or the consultation that it launched.
Whilst integration of health, employment, education and social services is welcome, there remains concern in the autism community that the lack of statutory backing means that it may not ensure the change that we all want to see for children, adults and their families on the autism spectrum; concern over the £6 million over three years—that’s £2 million annually; is that new money or is it simply redirected existing money: we don’t know; concern that without adequate funding the timing will slip, and it won’t deliver, without statutory backing, the promises it makes; and also concern that people, for instance in north Wales, would not be able to benefit from the services it proposes until the end of 2018. It’s also noted that the report that the Welsh Local Government Association is taking forward with Public Health Wales on the new national service is full of ‘should’s rather than ‘must’s and that this could still be interpreted differently between different health boards and lack of detail on how health boards would work with local authorities. This Assembly does need to have an opportunity to scrutinise and discuss this key proposal.
Secondly, and finally, could I call for a statement on British Sign Language? The Minister might be aware that Scotland has brought forward legislation on this and that Northern Ireland is actually looking very closely also at that Scottish legislation. The Welsh Government’s own legislation, the well-being of future generations and the social services and well-being Acts will enforce equality in service provision across public services. Therefore, British Sign Language will be in greater demand for providers to correspond and communicate with British Sign Language users across all services: health, education, social services and otherwise, and also for all venues providing those public services to have communication tools suitable for deaf people. So, in that context—in the context of your own Government’s legislation and in the context of developments in Scotland and Northern Ireland on the BSL issue—I would call for a statement.
Thank you for your questions. I think, just in terms of the first point, of course, as you say, there was consultation on the refreshed all-Wales autistic spectrum disorder action plan that led up to the Assembly elections. The results of that consultation, of course, will be published, and the refreshed plan will be published also later this year. This is £6 million that was announced by the Minister to fund this refreshed all-Wales autistic spectrum disorder action plan, and it’s critical that we move forward on that to respond to the consultation that took place.
On your second point, of course Wales has led the way in terms of access to British Sign Language and much of that, also, has been through the contribution as a result of cross-party group working as well as Welsh Government response. Of course, we do have opportunities now to take this forward as a result of our legislation for the well-being of future generations, and I’m sure that the Minister will want to make a statement to update on that.
Leader of the house, might we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure on the future of Nant Helen opencast mine near Ystradgynlais? Following the announcement that Aberthaw power station is to downgrade its operation from next April, Celtic Energy last week announced that Nant Helen could be mothballed, resulting in 90 redundancies. In October, the company took the decision to mothball the nearby Selar site, which resulted in 70 people losing their jobs. As you can appreciate, this is both an uncertain and unsettling time for workers and that community, who will want clarity and reassurance at this time.
I’m glad that this has been brought to our attention this afternoon, because this is something where, you know, that uncertainty needs to be addressed. The company has begun consultations with trade unions and other stakeholders, which Joyce Watson will be aware of. That consultation could see a reduction in the workforce, but my understanding is that restoration finance has been accruing on the Nant Helen site, and the local planning authority and the company will be able to confirm the latest position, but I understand the restoration of the site should be capable of being managed.
Leader of the house, I wonder if we could have an update or statement on progress being made with the implementation of the city deal. We know there has been a great deal of concern following the outcome of the recent referendum result regarding the funding, particularly the European strands of funding, that will be going to the city deal. This does involve a large number of local authorities, both in my area and the south-east of Wales. There is concern out there and I know that it’s going to be a while before we have clarity on where we are in terms of our relationship with the European Union, but I think it’s important that those local authorities and the city deal structure does have some guidance from the Welsh Government as to aspects of the city deal that can be implemented in the medium term.
Well, I think, Nick Ramsay, we share concerns about the prospects and future of this all-important city deal, which I know your local authority is strongly supportive of and was engaged in ensuring that we secured and we got that bid of the 10 local authorities. This, of course, is something as well where we look to the response from the Chancellor as well as the impact post-Brexit, but I think the clear commitment in your contribution today is very important in terms of recognising how the city deal for this region, the region that you’re part of, is crucially important to our economy and to the well-being of that region.
Thank you, Minister.
We move on now to the next item, which is the motions to establish committees for the fifth Assembly and I call on a member of the Business Committee to move the motion—Simon Thomas.
Motion NDM6034 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Children, Young People and Education Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising its expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): the education, health and well-being of the children and young people of Wales, including their social care.
Motion NDM6035 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): climate change; energy; natural resources management; planning; animal welfare and agriculture.
Motion NDM6036 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): culture; the arts; historic environment; Welsh language; communications; broadcasting and the media.
Motion NDM6037 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes an Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): economic development; transport; infrastructure; employment; skills; and research and development, including technology and science.
Motion NDM6038 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes an Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): local government; housing, community regeneration, cohesion and safety; tackling poverty; equality of opportunity and human rights.
Motion NDM6039 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Health, Social Care and Sport Committee to examine legislation and hold the Welsh Government to account by scrutinising expenditure, administration and policy matters, encompassing (but not restricted to): the physical, mental and public health and well-being of the people of Wales, including the social care system.
Motion NDM6040 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Reserve Policy and Legislation Committee to consider any matter referred to it by the Business Committee.
Motion NDM6041 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Petitions Committee to carry out the functions of the responsible committee set out in Standing Order 23.
Motion NDM6042 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister to scrutinise the First Minister on any matter relevant to the exercise of the functions of the Welsh Government.
Motion NDM6043 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.1 establishes a Standards of Conduct Committee to carry out the functions of the responsible committee set out in Standing Order 22.
The proposal is to agree the motions. Does any Member object? No. So, the motions are therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
Motions agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.
The next item, therefore, is the motion to change the name of the Interim Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. I call again on Simon Thomas to move the motion.
Motion NDM6044 Elin Jones
The National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 16.3, agrees that the Interim Committee on Constitutional and Legislative Affairs, established on 15 June 2016, is retitled the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee. Its remit is to carry out the functions of the responsible committee set out in Standing Order 21 and to consider any other constitutional, legislative or governmental matter within or relating to the competence of the Assembly or the Welsh Ministers, including the quality of legislation.