Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd
Plenary - Fifth Senedd24/10/2017
The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.
I call Members 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. The first question [OAQ51256] is withdrawn. Therefore, question 2, Janet Finch-Saunders.
2. How does the Welsh Government ensure patient safety in Wales? (OAQ51245)
We hold all NHS organisations to account on a wide range of patient safety indicators and we encourage an open reporting culture of serious incidents to enable full investigation of every case.
Thank you, First Minister. In north Wales, however, we were shocked last week to learn that, of the 77 unintended or unexpected incidents resulting in patient deaths registered across Wales in the past 12 months, more than half of these fell within the Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board. Every single one of these cases will have been simply devastating to the family and loved ones of these patients. First Minister, questions will be asked as to how the special measures and, indeed, your Government’s intervention in realising any improvement is, in fact, actually now to the contrary. I am asking you now: will you please commit to an inquiry as to why the safety of patients under this board and your Government’s responsibility appears to be increasingly compromised?
The Member doesn’t fully understand these way the statistics are compiled. First of all, we encourage honesty and openness, and that means we encourage people to report serious incidents. Now, that means, just like the crime statistics, for example, that when more people report serious incidents, then more are recorded. It doesn’t mean that there are actually more serious incidents. That said, of course, we want to make sure those incidents are reported. Nothing should be said or done that will discourage reporting in the future, because we want to make sure that incidents are reported and are out in the open. I can say to the Member that, in 2016-17, the crude hospital mortality rate for BCU hospitals was 1.79 per cent, which is less than the Welsh average of 1.81 per cent. So, yes, it is important that every case is investigated, but it is important that people come forward, that there is an open culture dealing with complaints. And that I believe is what we’re seeing here—more complaints coming forward rather than more cases coming forward.
3. What work is the Welsh Government undertaking to tackle fuel poverty in the Cynon Valley? (OAQ51248)
Our key programme for tackling fuel poverty is Welsh Government Warm Homes. Since 2011, we have invested over £240 million to improve the energy efficiency of over 45,000 homes. Since 2012, Nest has spent over £9 million in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area installing energy efficiency measures to low-income households.
First Minister, despite the progress being made in reducing fuel poverty in the Cynon Valley and across Wales through the Welsh Government’s suite of practical actions, it seems unlikely that fuel poverty will be eliminated by the previous stated target of 2018. Does the Welsh Government plan to review the fuel poverty strategy in light of that, and, if so, what lessons will be drawn from the successful and not so successful elements of the current plan?
The Welsh housing condition survey is now under way. That will provide important data to help to inform delivery of ‘Prosperity for All’. It will provide us with a range of information, including updated national fuel poverty estimates and data to help with the targeting of delivery measures. It will also help us to inform discussions with stakeholders, and that will mean, of course, that we can draw on the data that the survey provides in order to help to strengthen the strategy in the future.
First Minister, I agree with what you said about energy efficiency, but it’s also quite a startling fact that, according to Citizens Advice Cymru, only 12 per cent of those on lowest incomes are on the lowest available tariffs, and I do think there’s a job to be done here to inform people of the tariffs that are available and the lowest ones. Welsh Government, local authorities and housing associations, perhaps when they’re doing the various schemes that you’ve been referring to, can remind people how important it is to seek out the lowest tariff.
I’m sympathetic to that. People tend to stick with the same provider on the same tariff through convenience, and then, of course, they fail to get the best deal. What will help is to see—as the UK Government has adopted a Labour Party policy—caps on variable energy tariffs. That will help many people who have not taken the opportunity to change their tariffs, or find they are not able to do so, to benefit from lower prices.
Questions now from the party leaders, and, first of all, the Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood.
Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, later today, your Government is making a statement on minimum alcohol pricing. Now, I’m aware of the public health arguments and the need to reduce deaths from cancer in particular. But public health policy should be looking at all problematic substance use. What assessment has your Government made of the impact of minimum alcohol pricing on the use of other substances, like illegal drugs?
Well, we know that there will be some people, of course, who have an addiction. It may be that there are some who then look at illegal drugs. But, for the vast majority of people, this will have two outcomes. Firstly, it will help to reduce the health issues that surround over-drinking. And, secondly, actually, it will help pubs, because it’s the pubs that suffer the most as a result of supermarket selling that undercuts pubs, which we know are important for our communities. So, there is actually a commercial aspect to this as well. But we make no apologies for wanting to ensure that we get rid of scenarios where very cheap alcohol is available to people, in a way that causes them to drink too much and therefore affects their health.
I have some sympathy with the arguments that you’ve just outlined. But from your answer it doesn’t appear as though any assessment has been made between that link, which I hope very much is an oversight, First Minister. We need to reduce drug-related deaths as well as alcohol-related deaths. Now, drug-related deaths have reached a record high in Wales and England. According to latest figures, drug-related deaths are up 44 per cent compared to 2012. For Wales-only figures, in the latest year on record, there was also an increase on the previous year—168 people lost their lives in 2015. Hospital admissions are also up, which means an increased cost to public services and to the NHS. And, anecdotally, we all know that some people are openly using drugs in public places, on our streets, in town centres, where it’s less safe both for them and for others. First Minister, can you explain how your substance misuse strategy is using devolved powers to reduce drug-related hospital admissions and drug-related deaths?
One of the problems that is faced at the moment is that the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 has always found it difficult to keep up with new drugs as they appear onto the market Drugs like Spice—fairly new, causes people to become extremely violent. And the leader of Plaid Cymru is absolutely right—there is too much open use of drugs, and dealers who seem not to be too concerned about being caught. The first thing to do is to target the dealers. They need to be convicted and jailed—that’s where they belong, off the streets. Yes, it’s true to say that others may come forward, but it’s important to send that message.
Now, that’s not enough in itself; I understand that. How do we deal with people who misuse drugs? Well the substance misuse strategy is there to help to do that. It is a combination, to my mind, of medical intervention, but also being strong in terms of clamping down on people who supply the drugs.
Well, locking up the dealers hasn’t worked so far, and those powers are outwith your control. What you do have control over is health. Now, a harm-reduction approach has proven to be the most effective at reducing drug-related deaths. And, in your substance misuse strategy, you claim to be committed to a harm-reduction approach. We won’t know whether the actions that you’ve taken are sufficient until the new Welsh statistics come out this winter. But, of course, the Wales-and-England statistics that we’ve already seen don’t bode well.
If you were serious about reducing drug-related deaths, as well as reducing the wider social problems, you would be open to the solutions proposed by Plaid Cymru police and crime commissioner, Arfon Jones. Will you agree to meet Arfon Jones and provide the police and others with the support that they need to enable a suitably located pilot safe injecting facility, which would reduce harm to the public, as well as help to reduce unnecessary deaths from harmful drugs?
Well, there are already regular meetings that take place between the police and crime commissioners and Ministers in any event. It is absolutely right to say that there is very little point, nor would it be right, to see substance misuse as something that is a crime. There are people who have medical issues; the suppliers are different. But those people, of course, who are in a position where they misuse substances, the intervention for them has to be medical. And that means working with the police—that’s true; it’s what the substance misuse strategy is designed to do. She herself said we’re waiting for the Welsh figures, and we want to make sure those Welsh figures show that we are seeing a positive effect on substance misuse. But the challenge is always there: how do you deal with new drugs that appear, all the time, synthesised originally from drugs that didn’t exist in 1971? She’s right to mention heroin—right to mention heroin. But it’s hugely important that we work with the police and crime commissioners, as we do, and that we develop and give our substance misuse strategy the time to develop, and in that way I believe we will help more and more people to get off the substances they become addicted to.
The leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, there are pressures across the United Kingdom when it comes to the health service. In June 2015, your Government took in to special measures the north Wales health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, and, in March this year, you said that actually where deficits run out of control and problems exist in other health boards across Wales, you might well have to consider intervening in those health boards. What we’ve learnt in recent months is that the deficit has doubled in the north Wales health board, waiting times have gone up by 79 per cent—from 4,858 to 8,700—and the deficit is projected at the end of this year to be £100 million cumulatively over the three years: £50 million for this one financial year, and the previous two were £25 million. How can people have confidence that your Government is putting Betsi on the road to recovery and, importantly, that the concerns that are raised by the Member from Aberconwy are being addressed, when the statistics show that, on waiting times, on recruitment and deficit control and reduction you are missing all your own targets?
Well, this is simply wrong. First of all, to clarify his suggestion that there will be £100 million deficit, we do not expect any of the health boards to come in with a deficit by the end of this financial year, and that is a message that we make very plain to them.
Well, First Minister, with the greatest respect, in their own board papers, which I presume you have sight of and, obviously, help put together because it’s under your control, this health board, they are projecting a deficit in this financial year of £50 million. It’s not my calculation; it’s their calculation, and they say that unless there are mitigating measures and actions implemented to bring that deficit down, that deficit will exist. Here in Cardiff, you are saying that isn’t the case. Your own managers and directors in north Wales who are responsible for the day-to-day delivery of service are saying that there is this deficit. You can’t have the two working there. Perhaps it’s a cause for concern that you’re so disconnected from what is actually happening on the ground. I ask you again, First Minister, with waiting times going through the roof, with the deficit not in control and, above all, the inability to recruit and retain staff, either at GP level or within the hospitals, how, after nearly three years under your direct supervision and control, can the residents of north Wales have confidence that their health board is on the road to recovery?
They can have every confidence. As I’ve said, we do not expect the health board to be in deficit by the end of the financial year. If they identify an issue now, they must deal with it. That is their responsibility. He talks about waiting lists going through the roof and offers no evidence for that. He also says that there are problems with recruitment and retention. I can say to him that ‘Train. Work. Live.’ has been hugely successful in filling training places, particularly in terms of nursing applications as well. And, do you know, what GPs say to us—and I’ve had this from one consultant who said this to me a month ago—‘The reason why I wanted to come to Wales was I liked the recruitment campaign’, and two other words: Jeremy Hunt.
Why are waiting times that much better in the UK as opposed to what’s happening here in Wales?
I used figures to—. Well, you say they’re not, First Minister. A&E—the 12-hour wait in England—there are 78 people waiting out of a population of 55 million people 12 hours or more in A&E. In Wales, the figure was 2,438 out of a population of 3 million. They’re not my figures; they’re your figures. What I’m just trying to seek from you, First Minister, is some ability to have confidence. I used the waiting times that your Government published last week that said that waiting times had doubled from 4,858 to 8,708. I used the deficit figures that the health board themselves have published in their board report. I’ve used the example that the health board say themselves that this deficit will exist at the end of the financial year unless mitigating actions are taken. So, everything I have quoted to you has come either from the health board or are statistics that have come from your own Government. I merely seek assurances from you, First Minister, after nearly two-and-a-half years of your Government being in direct control of the north Wales health board, that the health board is progressing to a situation where waiting times will come down, doctor vacancies will be filled and, above all, the deficit will come under control. On two occasions you have failed to give any assurances to date. I think that tells you more about your grip on reality than it does about anything else.
Well, all I can say to him is there’s been a complete abdication of responsibility towards the NHS in England. Every time a health board underperforms it’s never the fault of Jeremy Hunt, is it? Never the fault of the Conservative Government or Jeremy Hunt. Let me give him a figure that is correct so that he can mull over it: in England, the total waiting list is now the highest on record—the highest on record. That’s Tory stewardship of the NHS. There were 409,342 patients over the English target—that’s more than doubled over the last three years. More than doubled over the last three years. We know, in Wales, we’ve gone in the other direction. And he sits there and acquiesces a bung to Northern Ireland of £1.67 billion—some of it on health—and he did nothing to represent his country. [Interruption.] He did nothing to represent his country. What representations did he make to the UK Government and his colleagues to demand that Wales should get a Barnett equivalent of that money? Nothing; he’s too scared of them.
Leader of the UKIP group, Neil Hamilton.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. Returning to the theme mentioned by the leader of Plaid Cymru earlier on today—the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill—how can the First Minister possibly support a measure that is so regressive in the way it works? This is a measure that is explicitly designed, disproportionately, to target those drinks that are consumed in disproportionate measures by people on low incomes. It’s well known that low-income households buy fewer units of alcohol overall, but more of what they buy is priced at less than 40p per unit. Where’s the equity in a measure that leaves the champagne socialists of the posher suburbs of Cardiff unaffected, but target-bombs the beer drinkers of Blaenau Gwent?
Is he seriously saying that people on low incomes are proportionately bigger drinkers? That’s snobbery of an extent that I’ve never quite seen before, I have to say. And the consequence of his argument is that, in that case, we should reduce the tax on tobacco, because that’s disproportionately regressive as well, so let’s reduce the tax on tobacco as well. It’s exactly the same argument. What we want to do is make sure that alcohol does not get cheaper and cheaper, as it has done, so that people drink more and more, because they see it as cheap.
As I said earlier on, there’s also an issue here for the pubs. Pubs are being hammered year after year after year after year by cheap supermarket alcohol, and pubs are responsible places where people drink—they look after and don’t serve people who are drunk—and pubs are being lost at a rate of knots in our communities. You speak to any publican and they will say to you that part of the reason is that people are buying cheap supermarket alcohol, sold at below-cost price, quite often. Now, those people deserve fairness as well. So, yes, of course there’s a health aspect to this, but also, of course, as a side issue, we know that one of the consequences is that it will provide a far better level playing field for pubs as well.
I didn’t say that people on low incomes buy more alcohol; I said the opposite actually—that people on low incomes buy less alcohol overall than people on higher incomes, but more of the alcohol that they do drink is cheaper brands, not more expensive brands, so it’s going to have a disproportionately tough effect upon people on low incomes.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research said in 2009 that there’s substantial evidence, overall, that heavier drinkers are least responsive to price changes. So, the problem alcohol drinkers are the ones who’re least likely to respond to the measures that are now being proposed. What’s going to happen here is that the real problem drinkers will carry on drinking, and perhaps they’ll have less money to spend on things like food. So, in other dietary respects, their health is going to suffer. This will have no positive impact whatsoever. The only people who are really going to benefit from this are the supermarkets, because this is not a tax that is being imposed—it will just raise the price of a cheap product, and that will produce extra profits for the supermarkets. It certainly won’t produce extra profits for pubs.
Well, again, the same argument could be used for cigarettes. If he’s saying that the tax on cigarettes should be reduced because it’s regressive, let’s hear him say that. As far as alcohol is concerned, we know that alcohol has got proportionately cheaper, we know that it has encouraged people to drink more—there’s no question about that; if it’s cheaper it will do that. This is a way of ensuring that the balance is right between the price of alcohol and people’s health. I see nothing wrong with that, and it’s hugely important that we have a responsible attitude to alcohol, rather than one that says, ‘Buy one, get one free’, ‘Buy two, get one free’—and they’re not always on the cheapest brands; they’re quite often on brands that are proportionately quite expensive. That’s the way that people are encouraged to buy more and drink more. Surely, that’s not something that we want to encourage.
There is a problem with a relatively small number of people who overindulge. And, of course, we do want to target those. The problem with a measure of this kind is that it’s so scattergun in its approach that it actually penalises the many who are moderate drinkers whilst not actually having any measurable effect upon those whom we do want to help.
I don’t follow that logic. The same logic applies to cigarettes. He could stand up and he could say, ‘Well, it penalises the occasional smoker, and so the duty on tobacco should be reduced.’ The two things have the same kind of effect. Look, for me, it’s hugely important that, as a society, we don’t have alcohol being sold below cost price—and it happens in some of the offers we see in supermarkets—and we don’t have people being encouraged to buy more alcohol than they otherwise would want to buy. That encourages people who would otherwise be quite moderate drinkers to drink more than is good for them, and that is something that we’re keen to avoid.
As it happens, as a side effect, it also enables pubs to be able to compete on a level playing field with the supermarkets that have driven so many pubs out of business. Don’t talk to me, talk to publicans and they will tell you this. The difference in price, proportionally, between supermarket alcohol now and alcohol in pubs is far, far greater than ever it was before. We need to make sure that people have a place to go in villages where they live, through pubs, for example. This is not what the intention of the legislation is—the intention is that it’s legislation that deals with health. But there are, of course, wider effects that are identified.
4. How is the Welsh Government using public procurement to drive up horticulture production in Wales? (OAQ51250)
The National Procurement Service develops collaborative approaches that aim to grow the amount of Welsh produce supplied to the public sector.
Thank you. I’ve just come from the vegetable summit being held in the Pierhead at the same time as in London and Edinburgh, and we heard really important pledges from a wide variety of producers and promoters of, for example, children’s rights. The children’s commissioner highlighted the fact that nearly 80 per cent of children aged five to 10 are not eating enough vegetables, and 95 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds are not eating enough vegetables to be able to learn and play effectively, and that this is a children’s rights issue. We heard important pledges from the largest supermarket in the UK, Tesco, who have agreed to buy seasonable veg from UK growers, as well as putting more vegetables in their meal deals. Castell Howell, Brains, Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board, Cardiff council all pledging to serve and promote more vegetables in their pubs, canteens and dining rooms. What can we do to ensure that that increased purchase of vegetables comes from Welsh producers, rather than from other UK outlets or, indeed, from abroad?
Can I welcome the fact that the vegetable summit is taking place at the Pierhead building as we speak? It brings together farmers, retailers, processors and Government, looking at the supply chain and how we can raise vegetable production. We are committed, through the food and drink action plan, which we share with our publicly appointed industry board, to not only grow the Welsh food and drinks sector, but to do so sustainably and to tackle the deep-rooted challenges of diet. The National Procurement Service has set up buying arrangements that allow Welsh public bodies to access a wide range of vegetable products to support healthier meal planning.
Following on from Jenny Rathbone’s question, can you tell us what discussions the Welsh Government has had with local authorities on food procurement in the public sector to ensure that more local producers are used by local authorities? Also, can you tell us one thing that your Government has done over the past 12 months to make a difference and to ensure that more and more local producers are being used in the public sector?
Well, a co-operative group has been established, and that includes some from the public sector in Wales, and the aim of that group is to ensure that we get a good deal on procurement. That is in collaboration with local bodies and the producers in order to progress this project. So, things are being done in working with the industry to ensure that more Welsh-produced food and drink is used in Wales. One of the problems, of course, which has changed over the years is that, at one time, one of the problems with the big contracts, such as those with the health service, was that there wasn’t a business or an organisation large enough to ensure that they could get into that market and that there was that sustainability of supply, day after day, month after month. But things have improved now, and that is, of course, as a result of the work that we’ve done as a Government in supporting the work to look at this in a different way.
I see, First Minister, that Denbigh plums are to be served as a dessert tomorrow, so everyone is welcome to contribute by eating those wonderful plums. But as we leave the common agricultural policy, which has never given any support to horticulture in Wales, what steps will you take as a Government to ensure that there is support to develop the infrastructure to ensure that farmers can now invest in horticulture for these new markets?
Well, this is something that is under consideration with the industry at the moment. The first thing I’d like to emphasise is that the same amount of money should be available in future as is currently available. What we’ve told the UK Government is that the funding should be ring-fenced and that nothing should affect that without an agreement between all the Governments. Having said that, there is now an opportunity to consider in which way we can use that funding for the benefit of Welsh farmers—to look at alternate ways of working, perhaps—and that is one thing that we can consider.
I remember, 17 years ago, when I was a member of the Assembly’s agriculture committee, a review was undertaken at that time on diversification, and what came right at the top of the list, as regards the greatest strength in the sector ultimately was the cultivation of organic vegetables. So, this is something that has been around for some time, but, of course, the subsidy payment scheme wasn’t flexible enough in order to ensure that we could use that funding in the way in which we would wish to use it. There is an opportunity, in the future, to ensure that that happens.
5. Will the First Minister make a statement on patterns of self-employment in Wales? (OAQ51252)[R]
Self-employment remains a cornerstone of the Welsh economy and is central to the national strategy. We continue to support businesses to start and grow, to invest and, of course, to improve their contribution to the economy of Wales.
This afternoon, I chaired the cross-party group on small and medium-sized enterprises, and it was our pleasure to welcome the Federation of Small Businesses to launch their report, ‘Going Solo: Understanding Self-employment in Wales’, written by Professor Andrew Henley and Dr Mark Lang. There are a number of recommendations for Government there, but one of the stark issues in the report is that the largest levels of self-employment are in Powys, at 23 per cent, and the lowest levels are in the northern Valleys that I represent, and others, at 8.7 per cent. What specifically can the Welsh Government do to incentivise and increase self-employment in those Valleys communities, and particularly among under-represented groups and women?
What’s interesting about the report is that there’s been an assumption that the reason why more people are self-employed is because economic circumstances have dictated that—they lost their jobs. But, in fact, it seems to indicate that it’s an entrepreneurial pull. It’s actually a desire to be more entrepreneurial, which is something we have sought to encourage for many, many years in Wales. As somebody who was self-employed, mainly, before I came to this place, I understand some of the challenges that that can cause.
How do we take it forward in the Valleys? The Valleys taskforce. That’s done a lot of work to see how we can encourage more self-employment. I don’t believe that people lack entrepreneurial flair in the Valleys; I think it’s encouragement. It’s being able to say to people, ‘You can do this. There’s no reason why you can’t be successful.’ And people need that encouragement. And that’s exactly one of the things that the Valleys taskforce is looking to move forward with in the future.
First Minister, I also attended the event, which Hefin chaired earlier on, and we heard how rural Wales is heavily reliant on the contribution of self-employment to the economy. Hefin’s pointed out that 23 per cent of those in Powys are self-employed, and that compares to the Welsh average of 13 per cent. Now, the FSB Wales report has found that those who are self-employed tend to be older, and young people are not following in their footsteps. Can I ask what consideration has the Welsh Government given to understanding the barriers to young people becoming self-employed, in rural Wales in particular? What potential could a mid Wales growth deal play to ensure that there are local solutions that meet the demands of self-employment in Wales, as opposed to a pan-Wales solution, which might not always be appropriate?
I think regional solutions are important. The Member is right to say that it can’t be one-size-fits-all across Wales. When it comes to younger people, much of it starts in schools, to my mind. I know that work has been done in schools with encouraging entrepreneurial projects, and, of course, the young entrepreneurs scheme, which we have, and also, of course, providing that kind of financial support to youngsters that they need. Older people often have access to capital in a way that younger people don’t, and they can use that capital to set up in business. How do we support people that come into business? Business Wales is one area where that’s done, of course. The development bank will be able to assist people to come into business as well. Improving small and medium-sized enterprises’ ability to access finance—that’s the biggie. We know that the banks in the UK have historically been resistant to providing capital for start-up enterprises, which is why we fell behind for many, many years, which is one of the reasons why the development bank will be there. You can encourage people, but they need to access capital to start up their business. Unless they’ve got family capital behind them, there’s got to be another way of doing it, and that is where Business Wales and where the Development Bank of Wales comes in.
One of the most striking things in the report is this fact: namely, that 38 per cent of the total jobs growth in Wales over the past 10 years can be attributed to the self-employed. Over the same period, there’s been no net increase in the inward investment sector. And again, and I quote from the report:
‘the language of economic policy-making is massively skewed toward the importance of securing foreign-owned inward investment.’
Does the First Minister accept the figures provided by the FSB, and if so, does he accept the need to change emphasis now to indigenous businesses and the self-employed?
I don’t think that we need to choose. I agree. At one time, in the days of the WDA, the emphasis was completely was on inward investment. They didn’t care, really, about small businesses. I remember talking to employees of the WDA. At that time, the focus was on securing inward investment, and after LG, nothing else big came in anyway. So, it is extremely important that we build a foundation of self-employment in the economy. I understand that. But, I don’t think that we can do that by avoiding giving any support to businesses that employ thousands of people in Wales, such as Tata, GE, Airbus, EADS, and so on, who employ thousands of people in Wales. So, we must maintain an emphasis on attracting foreign investment. But, it shouldn’t be solely our strategy, and I would argue that we have now struck the right balance, and we want to ensure that more and more businesses aren’t only established in Wales, but grow in Wales. One of the problems we’ve always faced is that businesses grow up to a particular level and then the owners sell them. So, we must ensure that more is done to ensure that people feel that they can grow those businesses so that they become larger. That, to me, is the greatest challenge in the economy: telling people, ‘Don’t sell out; stay and we’ll assist you to grow.’
6. How is the Welsh Government supporting the palliative care sector in Wales? (OAQ51226)
The updated end-of-life care delivery plan, published in March, sets out the extensive range of actions we are taking to deliver a collaborative approach to improving end-of-life care throughout Wales. That includes £6.4 million to provide specialist palliative care services.
Thanks for your answer. As you are probably aware, the majority of end-of-life care in Wales is provided by Wales’s 13 adult and two children’s hospices. You indicate a figure of roughly £6.4 million—that’s what I think you said—but they spend £32.5 million a year to deliver those services in people’s homes, and also day care and respite. So, they are having to raise over £2 million a month, and they’re keen to help you, the Welsh Government, and their local health boards do very much more. How can you, or will you, engage with them and ask them how they can help you achieve more? Perhaps a little bit more funding from the health boards and the Government would save massively more for health boards and liberate services to help tackle some of the other problems we’ve heard referred to today in different contexts.
Well, if we look at the recent report by Hospice UK into hospice care in Wales, that is something that we welcome—what the report said. It recognises the positive steps outlined in the palliative and end-of-life care delivery plan. It does highlight the need for assurances about long-term funding. As part of the budget agreement with Plaid Cymru, we did make £1 million extra available in 2017 to further enhance end-of-life care provision. That is recurrent funding as well. But, of course, in terms of engagement with the sector, it is the care boards that provide that level of engagement, and that’s why, of course, we work with them in order to identify the resources that are needed.
The cross-party group on hospices and palliative care here in the Assembly is looking at the possibility of holding an inquiry into how to deal with inequalities in terms of access to hospice care in Wales. You referred to the funding secured in agreement between us and the Government. But, isn’t the truth of the matter that a series of Labour Governments has failed to tackle that fundamental element, that there is inequality in terms of access to this crucial care across Wales?
No, I don’t accept that. We have ensured that there is investment available to the health boards. It’s a matter for them, of course, to ensure that the service is available. It’s something that we worked with them on to ensure that that is implemented. We know that the hospices themselves have taken a greater role over the past five years than previously, not just on the care side, but in giving people advice as well. And now, of course, we wish to work with the boards to ensure that we know what next needs to be done, in order to ensure that there is a uniform service available throughout Wales.
7. What assessment has the First Minister made of the impact that any changes to immigration controls following Brexit will have on the NHS in Wales? (OAQ51229)
Yes, it’s bad.
Well, I thank the First Minister for his observation, but the latest figures show that immigrant workers from the EU amount to just 1.55 per cent of employees in NHS Wales, and, given that the Welsh population of immigrants from the EU amounts to 3.3 per cent, it would seem that controls on immigration may well have a positive effect on our health service.
But, I have previously brought to the attention of this Chamber the fact that each year, 80,000 applicants to work in the UK NHS are turned down due to a lack of training places. Surely, First Minister, it is time that we in Wales expanded training facilities, reconsidered the practice of sending every nurse to university, and explored the possibility of reintroducing the distinction between SEN and SRN nurses and on-the-ward training, particularly for SEN staff. Incidentally, Mark Drakeford said in 2015 that,
‘Discussions about the long-term future of the Welsh NHS should sit outside the knockabout of day-to-day party politics.’
Perhaps, First Minister, we should once again examine that excellent suggestion.
Could I say to the Member that I could not care less where doctors come from when they work in the Welsh NHS, as long as they deliver an excellent service to our patients? There are many doctors who come from the EU, and beyond—India, of course; we know that many doctors have come from India. Frankly, they are great additions to our NHS. The market for doctors and for nurses is worldwide. It’s worldwide. People will go—it’s a portable qualification—to where they think they will get the best deal for them as an individual and for their families.
We know, for example, it’s true to say that EU nurses make up a fairly small percentage of the NHS workforce in Wales, but can we really afford to lose 360 nurses? Is that what he’s saying? Because what he seems to be saying is that that’s fine, as long as we train people to a lower standard in the future, and that will be fine as far as the future is concerned. Is he really saying, for example, that we don’t want doctors from the EU? Well, I have to say that I want to make sure that doctors and nurses come to work in Wales, regardless of their nationality, because they will add a lot more to the NHS than they take out. The myth that is peddled by his party is that, somehow, immigration puts a strain on the NHS. Most of the people who come to Wales are young. They pay taxes, and they pay far more in than they take out via the NHS. And we know that we pay tribute to those doctors from the EU and beyond who come to work in the Welsh NHS, who contribute to treating our people, who save lives. For me, that’s far more important than checking their passports.
The external affairs committee recently reported on the implication of Brexit for Welsh ports, of course, and there is criticism there that the economy Secretary hadn’t at that stage had direct conversations with his counterpart in Ireland, but I think that that may have happened now. Do you know whether there were any discussions about whether existing technology could be rolled out to help maintain the invisible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but also to reduce the delays in the transit of people between Wales and the Republic of Ireland itself?
Well, firstly, the reason why the committee mentioned it is that I mentioned it to the committee. I was the one who first raised it, this issue of the ports. I discussed it months ago with Leo Varadkar, when he became Taoiseach, and made it clear that we could not support a scenario where there was a more seamless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic than between Wales and the Republic while 70 per cent of trade between GB and Ireland goes through Welsh ports. If there is any incentive to go through the Scottish ports instead, through Northern Ireland, obviously it’s bad and the committee identified that—it’s bad for Wales. So, there have been discussions with the Irish Government on this.
Frankly—I know the Member’s views on Brexit, and I appreciate them—I have now seen many documents from the UK Government that say that the issue of border control will be taken forward by way of innovative technology. It doesn’t exist. This technology doesn’t exist. If it existed we’d have sight of it by now. It talks about having innovative solutions, exploring solutions. That is code for, ‘We have no idea how to deal with this.’
It’s one thing, of course, to have passport-free travel between Wales and Ireland. Customs-free travel is a different thing. There were always random checks in those ports in years gone by, but not every vehicle was checked. There’s a greater problem in Dover, because the UK doesn’t have the capacity at the moment to put in place border controls in Dover without enormous delays, and the same, I suspect, applies on the French side as well, if I’m honest, in Calais.
I do not believe that there is a technological solution to this. If there was one, then by now we’d know from the UK Government what that solution is. One of the solutions that was put to me was that there would be cameras on the border between north and south in Ireland. You put cameras in Northern Ireland and we could open a book as to how long they’d stay there, because they would not. They just wouldn’t stay there. It’s a physical manifestation of the border. People would see them as a breach of the peace agreement.
So it’s an intractable problem. It can be resolved. The resolution is that the UK stays in the customs union. Then there’s no problem. There’s no problem. The UK leaves the customs union and you have to have the same kind of border as exists, for example, between Gibraltar and Spain, because Gibraltar is outside the customs union. That is an extremely hard border. You cannot have a scenario where goods go to two different markets in two different customs unions without any kind of physical checks on crossing a land border. This has always been the problem, to my mind. In the Brexit referendum, nobody thought about Ireland and nobody thought about that border, and it’s still an intractable problem. The solution? Stay in the customs union.
Of course, one of the greatest threats to staffing long term in the Welsh NHS would be for us to have a one-size-fits-all UK immigration policy after separation with the European Union. The University of Edinburgh have published a paper by Professor Christina Boswell, ‘Scottish Immigration Policy After Brexit: Evaluating Options for a Differentiated Approach’. It looks at a number of regional and national approaches to migration post Brexit, knowing the intentions of the UK Government in terms of their aspirations. The options include looking at human capital, a points-based system, post-study work schemes, employer-led schemes, occupational shortage lists, which I would suggest are of particular importance here in Wales, and in this paper they are proposing imaginative ways in order to have minimal administration costs and burdens. Would the First Minister agree that this is now worth exploring and taking forward seriously, and that we need Wales to have its say on a regional or national post-Brexit migration policy for the UK? Because at the moment, this is the only constituent part of the UK that has said very little about that prospect. Otherwise, we face having the UK net migration target being the big policy objective of the UK, which, as we know, will be detrimental to Welsh public services and the Welsh economy.
Let me just remind him what I have said publicly to set his fears at rest. First of all, I don’t agree with an artificial cap. I don’t see what sense that has. Surely an economy needs to recruit according to its needs, not have an artificial cap. If there were to be an artificial cap, then there are serious issues that arise as to whether there’d be sectoral caps. I have no doubt that the thinking in the UK Government will be to do as much as possible for the City of London—and the financial services sector’s important to us, but it’s hugely important to the City of London—and we will end up with a higher sectoral cap proportionally for the City than we do for the NHS. Clearly, that would not be in Wales’s interests.
He didn’t say it specifically, but I know he is intimating the idea of regional quotas, and that’s an interesting idea. It is done in Canada, it is done in Australia. All right, they’re far bigger, but it’s not impossible to do this. Personally, I prefer there not to be a cap, but if there is to be a cap, I think then there is a case for looking carefully at whether regional quotas would work, and particularly at whether they’d work for Wales.
8. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government's location strategy? (OAQ51234)[W]
The location strategy will deliver an economically and environmentally sustainable estate that is aligned with this Government’s future needs. The strategy maintains our commitment to being located across Wales and ensures that we are optimising the efficiency of our estate and reducing our operating costs.
Well, it’s entirely apparent that the jobs location strategy isn’t working if the intention was to spread Government jobs to all parts of Wales, retaining those that already existed. People in my constituency feel that we’re being left behind, a feeling that is backed up by facts.
Fact 1: your Government intends to close and sell a building in Caernarfon without any intention to erect a new building in its place, creating great uncertainty. Fact 2: the number of Government jobs that are located in Caernarfon has reduced by 35 per cent over the past seven years.
The intention of the strategy is clear, but, once again, you have failed when it comes to the matter of delivering those objectives. So, will you reconsider and look at the strategy again in order to set new criteria and specific targets in order to deliver growth and quality jobs in all parts of Wales?
May I say to the Member that the Caernarfon office won’t be quitting the town, it’s just moving buildings? It’s true to say that they are actually moving from the building where they are at present, on the top, and are looking at more modern office space in order to stay in the town. So, there’s no problem about jobs remaining in Caernarfon.
Is it true that some jobs have been lost? It’s true for the whole of Wales. We have lost over 1,000 civil service jobs over the years—some seven years. So, it’s true to say that jobs have been lost in every part of Wales.
Having said that, of course, if we look at north Wales, we have the Llandudno Junction office and the development bank headquarters will be in Wrexham, and so we have committed to moving jobs out of Cardiff. At the inception of the Assembly, there was an office in Caernarfon, but nothing in Merthyr, nothing in Llandudno Junction, and not very much in Aberystwyth—the Forestry Commission was there, but nothing else.
We have demonstrated our commitment to moving jobs out of Cardiff, and there’s no problem whatsoever with regard to the Caernarfon office. We know how important Caernarfon is in supporting and assisting farmers, and also securing employment in the town.
9. What guarantees has the First Minister obtained from the UK Government during Brexit discussions in relation to securing human rights? (OAQ51249)
The UK Government has said it won’t repeal or replace the Human Rights Act 1998 while the process of leaving the EU is under way. We also support efforts to amend the EU (Withdrawal) Bill—whenever it’s introduced—to ensure the UK continues to respect the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights after we leave the EU.
When Britain does leave the EU, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will no longer have any effect in UK law. That means that those rights not covered by the human rights Act—for example, the rights of the child, workers’ rights and discrimination—could be scrapped. The great repeal Bill White Paper does promise, however, to protect existing rights.
I don’t know about you, First Minister, but I am hugely sceptical about the Conservative Party that opposed many of those rights in the first place—in terms of trusting them to defend rights post Brexit. We only have to look very quickly across at the way that they have been willing so far to gamble with EU citizens’ residency rights.
But, on another tangent, First Minister, will you reassure Welsh universities over their rights to academic freedom from Government meddling? I’m sure that you would have read today, as I have, the reports on the frankly sinister letter sent by the Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris to all vice-chancellors asking for the names of anyone teaching European affairs or Brexit.
First of all, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights contains rights and freedoms under six titles: dignity, freedoms, equality, solidarity, citizens’ rights, and justice. Surely, there is nobody who would argue that none of those things should apply when we leave, which is why it makes sense for that charter to remain.
There are some—not all, in fairness, but there are some—within the Conservative Party who would love to get rid of so many of the protections that have been built up over many, many years. They are the hard right of the Conservative Party and I’m sure that they would delight in removing as many rights and protections as possible. I hope the sensible people within that party actually win out.
Of not sensible, I understand that a letter was sent by an MP I’ve not heard of, Chris Heaton-Harris, who sent a letter to all academics, all academics—it’s not something I’ve heard of before—demanding to know who teaches courses on Brexit and the content of those syllabuses. The content of those syllabuses. That is as authoritarian a request as could possibly be made. Now, I don’t say that the entire Conservative party would agree with his actions, but, if that is the case, it’s incumbent on Government Ministers to slap him down, metaphorically, because it’s absolutely outrageous that somebody should look to create, in effect, a list of people who are there to be criticized because they do not follow the party line. I suspect this gentleman would have a lot to teach Stalin.
Thank you, First Minister.
The next item is the business statement and announcement, and I call on Jane Hutt, the leader of the house. Jane Hutt.
Llywydd, I have three changes to report to this week’s business. I’ve extended this afternoon’s statement on teacher recruitment, and later this afternoon the First Minister will make an oral statement on an update on Brexit negotiations. Additionally, the Business Committee has agreed to reduce tomorrow’s questions to the Assembly Commission to 15 minutes. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement found among meeting papers available to Members electronically.
Could I seek two statements, if possible, please, leader of the house? The first is in relation to the review that the Cabinet Secretary for the economy announced of the Heads of the Valleys—it’s the stage on the eastern part of that road. There do seem to be significant ramifications both on cost and time, and businesses in my region have already commented at the dire transport situation they’re faced with, with lorries, cars, vans, stuck in horrendous traffic delays on this part of the road network. It is disappointing, given that this is the largest capital expenditure by the Welsh Government on roads, that there is no statement forthcoming from the Government as to the type, the scale, of the review and, indeed, some of the initial problems that they’ve identified. I do not believe that we’ve had the time and opportunity to question the Minister—or the Cabinet Secretary, should I say—on this review. And, as I said, this isn’t some improvement to a lay-by, this is a £220 million investment made by the Welsh Government into the final part of the eastern link of the Heads of the Valleys road, and I do believe it would have merited presence on the order paper this afternoon, but, in the absence of it being on the order paper this afternoon, could we have the opportunity to have a complete and comprehensive statement from the Cabinet Secretary on this matter?
Secondly, could we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for health, if possible, please? The First Minister seemed very adamant in his address to me this afternoon that there would be no deficit at the north Wales health board, when a projected deficit of £50 million by the board itself is highlighted in its own board papers, when waiting times are doubling in that particular health board. One can see how residents in north Wales in particular, but in particular politicians from opposition parties in this Chamber who are here to scrutinise the Government, can only shrug their shoulders in disbelief when you think that, five months ago, the health board there is supposed to be making savings of £10 million a month. And to have no impact on waiting times or no impact on staff retention is, I think, fanciful to say the least. If it is the case that the Welsh Government will be injecting new funds into the health board, and, indeed, other health boards that had projected deficits, then I think that needs to be made quite clear and I would, therefore, call on the health Secretary to make a statement to clarify the position that has been taken by the First Minister so that we can have confidence on the measures that are being taken forward to (a) reduce waiting times and (b) make sure that the deficits within the health boards are brought back under control.
Thank you, Andrew R.T. Davies. In answer to your first question, just to clarify and update, the construction of section 2 on the dualling of A465 Heads of the Valleys road started in early 2015. As has been said before, the challenging nature of the scheme has meant that the programme for completion has been impacted, and in light of this—and I’m sure you will welcome this—the Cabinet Secretary has ordered a comprehensive programme and cost review of the project to be undertaken. This process is expected to be completed shortly, but he is happy to write to Members to give more information about that comprehensive programme and review. I think we have to remember that, of course, this dualling is such a large ongoing project it’s delivered in sections; it supports the objectives of the Valleys taskforce; the road connects the M4 at Neath to Abergavenny and Hereford and provides links between west Wales and the midlands—vital. But he will write to you with more detail of his comprehensive programme and cost review.
On your second point, I did answer questions last week on this. In fact, I think it was a question from Angela Burns, and I think it’s important to repeat the points I made last week in terms of Betsi Cadwaladr to really clarify that it’s not set to overspend by £50 million this year. The board have identified a significant risk that they may not achieve their planned £26 million deficit, but they are properly using their governance arrangements to address this. The health board has recognised the risk, they’re finalising a financial recovery plan to ensure they receive the £26 million deficit, which presents a controlled total, and these actions will materially improve their forecast. But I think also, just in terms of issues around special measures arrangements, since August, officials raised concerns on the financial performance to date and the potential impact on the forecast deficit. They’ve added additional escalation meetings with health board executives on performance and finance. An independent financial governance review has been commissioned, and that will cover the development, adoption and performance of this year’s financial plan. And the Cabinet Secretary, along with the NHS Wales chief executive, has met with the chair and chief executive of Betsi Cadwaladr. So, I think that’s a pretty robust response to your questions.
Can we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for the economy and transport on the apparent inability of Caerphilly County Borough Council to upgrade a roundabout without unleashing absolute chaos? People are hours late for work, children late for school, and there’s evidence of businesses now being affected by the upgrades at Pwll-y-Pant roundabout. The works are set to continue for up to a year, and I fear that, if they continue for up to a year in their current form, that will have a long-term detrimental economic impact from which Caerphilly town might not recover for some time. This is one of the busiest roads in the country. Can the Government please intervene in order to turn this shambles around?
Well, the Cabinet Secretary, I’m sure, via his officials, will be aware of the difficulties relating to the construction of this roundabout. But, of course, there are probably examples across Wales where there is disruption as a result of investment in infrastructure, which will, ultimately, make a huge improvement, I’m sure, in terms of connectivity and access, not just for business but also commuters. But you’ve made your point today, Steffan Lewis, so we acknowledge that.
Leader of the house, can I take the opportunity to ask for two statements today? The first is an update to this place in terms of the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales and where we are in terms of implementing the first Order. I was able, in a previous life, to play a part in ensuring that we set up this panel here in Wales to replace the abolished Agricultural Wages Board for England and Wales. I’m aware that an Order was due to be made in April 2017 and we’re still awaiting that, so I think we need an update in this place as to the next steps in the process and whether, before the formal negotiations, that would actually include us doing normal pay negotiations and backdated payment as well.
The second statement I’d like to request today is an update on where we are in terms of securing a north Wales growth deal. I understand there have been discussions between both the Welsh Government and the UK Government. So I’d appreciate and welcome an update on that. Also, the Welsh Government has been in talks with leaders in the region, and I’d just encourage, going forward, that any negotiation include those stakeholders and business leaders in the area to make sure that we get a deal that actually works in the best interests of the area.
I thank Hannah Blythyn for both those questions. In response to your first question on the agricultural advisory panel and the implementation of an Order, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs has referred the draft Agriculture Wages (Wales) Order 2017 back to the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales. That’s in accordance with section 4(1)(b) of the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Act 2014. She’s awaiting their response. Consultation on the proposed Order is currently open. It’s due to close on 3 November, and I understand the panel will discuss the outcomes of the consultation at their next meeting.
On your second question in terms of a growth deal for north Wales, we are working very closely with the north Wales growth bid team and providing assistance and guidance, but, again, it’s important that partners identify a realistic and proportionate package of measures to justify the unlocking of Welsh and UK Government financial support. In terms of the Cabinet Secretary’s engagement in this, informal support has been given to the concept of a growth strategy for north Wales, integrated with macro planning for north-west England and connectivity to the wider UK economy. This is clearly important in the context of the growth of the advanced manufacturing and energy sectors, which are prioritised by the Welsh Government as the two lead sectors for the region. But the Minister for Northern Powerhouse and local growth, the Wales Office, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and the north Wales growth bid team, with our Cabinet Secretary—those meetings have taken place.
Cabinet Secretary, may I ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Education on the problems facing supply teachers in Wales? Last week, I spoke to a constituent in Newport who raised concerns that employing supply teachers through agencies had resulted in lower pay and poorer terms and conditions in the sector. Instead of receiving £140 a day, they’re receiving £95, because the rest of the money goes to the agency that supplies the teacher. And that is, I’m sure, not the right way of putting public money—into a different direction, rather than into the education system. My constituent also advised me that many of her colleagues are thinking of leaving the profession, and wants to know why Wales does not adopt a central register system as they do in other devolved nations in the United Kingdom. Could we have a statement on this important issue please?
Well, Mohammad Asghar, you will be, I’m sure, staying for the duration of the afternoon to hear the statement from the Cabinet Secretary on teacher recruitment.
Leader of the house, I’d like to ask for a statement on the use of pelvic mesh within the Welsh NHS. I’ve been contacted by one of my constituents regarding her heartbreaking experience following her surgical pelvic mesh implants. My constituent has told me how the surgery impacted on her whole family and feels it’s destroyed her life at the age of 46 years old. She’s been unable to leave the house, unable to go to work, and is, consequently, on half pay, with severe concerns about what her future has to hold. This is one example of thousands of other women across the UK who face the same distressing issue. I understand that the Welsh Government has a task and finish group on this issue, but I would welcome a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for health as soon as possible, please.
This is an important issue affecting constituents, including some of my own constituents, and the Cabinet Secretary for health will make a statement on this matter.
Leader of the house, I would like to call for a statement on public procurement. The recent report of the Auditor General for Wales found that despite broad support for the principle of the National Procurement Service, less than a third of local authorities were satisfied with it, including the Welsh Government, despite being the host organisation. Just £149 million of an estimated maximum potential spend of £1.1 billion was spent through the NPS in 2015-16. That’s just 13.5 per cent. I think you’ll agree with me that the report doesn’t actually shine too well on the Welsh Government. With regard to the total savings to be generated by the NPS, as put forward in the initial business case—some £98 million over five years—it was noted that it is clear that these, and some other subsequent estimates, have proved overly ambitious. So, will the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government now bring forward a more detailed statement on how he intends for his refocusing of the National Procurement Service and Value Wales to address these issues?
The Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government is addressing this issue and will be updating Members accordingly.
This week, we learnt that London has almost doubled the charges on the most polluting vehicles going into central London, and Oxford has just announced it’s going to be the first UK city to ban petrol and diesel cars from its city centre from 2030. Meanwhile, Paris has regular car-free days in the capital city of France to tackle the toxic air that they’re experiencing. Could the environment Secretary or the transport Secretary make a statement on what carrots and sticks the Welsh Government is considering to clean up the toxic air in our cities, which is driving far too many people to an early death?
I thank Jenny Rathbone for that question. We are developing a new clean air plan for Wales, including a clean air zone framework, which we will be consulting on. All options will be considered, and the Cabinet Secretary will be making a full statement to Plenary about the ongoing air quality work programme before the end of the year. And also Welsh Government is working very closely with local authorities to discuss the air quality challenges specific to their areas and how compliance with EU limits for nitrogen dioxide will be accelerated.
Could I request two statements? First, I understand that the national autistic spectrum disorder—although I prefer the term ‘condition’; I hope the Welsh Government will start using that—co-ordinator is leaving her post. Could I therefore call for a statement? Because there’s uncertainty in the community over what the intention is in terms of a replacement, or how this might impact on roll-out of the new national integrated autism service.
Secondly, and finally, could I call for a statement on slavery and human trafficking through Wales? Last week, I questioned the communities Secretary over human trafficking through Holyhead port, referring to the findings of the North Wales Police serious and organised crime local profile modern-day slavery report. In his response, he said we’re the only part of the country—I think he meant the UK—that has an anti-human trafficking co-ordinator, although the UK has in fact had an independent anti-slavery commissioner since 2015, and north Wales lost its north Wales anti-slavery co-ordinator after its three-year funding expired, which had been funded by Welsh Government through local statutory agencies.
I’m told that the trafficking route from Romania to France and to Dublin, through Holyhead port, is a huge issue. The manifests on the ferries are inaccurate, with names being made up. The situation is getting worse, but not enough victims, desperate to be found, are being found. There’s no safe house, reception centre, or facilities in north Wales, and, as I said, we lost the regional co-ordinator. Given that, next Saturday, a non-profit organisation called Haven of Light, working with North Wales Police, the voluntary sector council, community and faith groups, are holding a big event in St Asaph cathedral to raise awareness among the north Wales community about the real issues of trafficking and exploitation, I hope we can have a more thorough response from the Welsh Government that details what actions you are taking singly, and also jointly with UK Government and other agencies. Thank you.
Well, of course, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children responded to this last week, and indeed I did in questions on the business statement, in terms of the action that the Welsh Government is taking. It does have the anti-human trafficking co-ordinator—the first in the UK—but is working very closely with the UK Government, because many of the issues you raise are, of course, the responsibility of the Home Office. It is about joint working and a joint leadership group, which of course we are fully engaged with, as we are also with the police and crime commissioners.
Can I raise a concern with the Minister and ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs on the impact of income for zoos in Wales as a result of a potential tourism tax? One of the things that was discussed at the recent British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly was the great value that zoos across the United Kingdom, and in the Republic of Ireland, have to the local economy. And, of course, they do a great deal of work in terms of education and conservation as well.
Concerns were raised by Dr Pullen, who is the chief executive of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums, regarding the potential impact of the Welsh Government’s plans to look at introducing a tourism tax here in Wales. It was met with some alarm by her, because, of course, it would mean significant reductions in gate fees at zoos if it affects visitor numbers, and that could hamper their opportunities to educate and undertake conservation activity. So, I wonder whether we can have a response from the Welsh Government on the concerns that the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums has raised, and whether there has been any discussion with zoos. As I understand it, there has not been a single discussion with zoos in Wales about this, including the Welsh Mountain Zoo, which, of course, is the national zoo of Wales in my own constituency. They’re very concerned about the potential impact of a tourism tax and I would like to see the Government responding to their concerns.
You’re obviously, clearly, revving up for tomorrow’s opposition debate, it seems to me. I don’t think there is much more—apart from possible fake or false information coming forward. But we look forward to hearing you again, I’m sure, Darren Millar, tomorrow afternoon.
Leader of the house, I’d be grateful if I could repeat my request of four weeks or so ago for a statement regarding the publication of regulations for the Welsh language standards for the health sector. You did say in your reply to me, at the time, that there would be something in the following day’s debate, but there wasn’t, I’m afraid. So, I’d be very grateful if perhaps you could press for that to be brought forward, to give some indication of when the timetable’s going to be published.
Thank you, Suzy Davies. I will certainly enquire as to the progress and timelines.
Can I concur with the earlier comments of Janet Finch-Saunders in referring to the Auditor General for Wales’s report on procurement? I look forward, with the rest of the members of the Public Accounts Committee, to looking further into that. It’s clearly a very important issue for the Assembly to look at.
Secondly, within the last couple of weeks, an application for a new hotel and spa in Monmouth, at the gateway to Wales, has been turned down after being called in by the Welsh Government. The decision to put that application in was roundly welcomed by people in the town of Monmouth and there were potentially great economic benefits of having that development. It was turned down on the grounds of technical advice note 15. I wonder if we could have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary on the workings of TAN 15 across Wales, because I know that this particular development is just one of a number over the last few months and years that have been turned down in this way. I’m all for measures to guard against flooding across Wales, and flooding of new developments, but in the case of a major economic boost such as this, I do think there are serious questions that need to be answered, and I think that the Welsh Government need to look at revising TAN 15 so that legislation like this does not negatively impact the economy of Wales.
In answer to your first question, Nick Ramsay, of course, we welcome the findings of the WAO report. Janet Finch-Saunders raised this earlier, as you said. We are pleased it identifies the leadership we’ve shown in providing direction on public procurement and support for public bodies in Wales on procurement, but we do see this as a further opportunity to build on the progress that’s been achieved, and that’s why the finance Secretary announced his intention to refocus the National Procurement Service and Value Wales within the Welsh Government, considering, of course, all the recommendations in the report as we take forward the work in collaboration with the public sector.
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, I’m sure, will note the points the Member made this afternoon, and there’s always an opportunity to ask that question and make those points to her: question time and appropriately as a Member in committee.
Thank you, leader of the house.
The next item, therefore, is a statement by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health on the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill. I call on the Minister to make her statement, Rebecca Evans.
I was pleased to introduce the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly for Wales yesterday. The Bill affirms the Welsh Government’s continuing commitment to take a lead in public health and to do everything we can to improve and protect the health of people in Wales. The aim of the Bill is to tackle alcohol-related harm in Wales. This includes reducing the number of people who are treated in hospital every year as a result of drinking alcohol, and cutting the death toll linked to alcohol. This Bill aims to reduce the alcohol consumption among people who drink hazardous and harmful levels.
The impact of alcohol-related harm in Wales makes for difficult reading. In 2015-16 alone, there were 54,000 hospital admissions in Wales attributable to alcohol. Alcohol-attributable hospital admissions cost the NHS an estimated £120 million a year. In 2015, 463 people died because of alcohol and every one of these of these deaths was preventable. This Bill is about reducing these harms. We already have a range of actions to tackle alcohol-related harm in Wales, from public health campaigns to promote sensible drinking to treatment services for people who need help and support, and this work will continue as part of our substance misuse delivery plan. We have made some important progress to reduce levels of excessive drinking and alcohol-related harm in recent years, but we need to do more. Our ability to deal with the availability and the price of alcohol has been a key constraint, particularly in terms of reducing consumption amongst hazardous and harmful drinkers. We recognise that action to combat the availability of cheap alcohol is a key gap in our strategy. I am therefore bringing forward this Bill to introduce a minimum price for alcohol to address this gap and as part of our wider and continuing approach to promote a healthier relationship with alcohol.
This Bill provides for a minimum price for the sale and supply of alcohol in Wales and makes it an offence for alcohol to be sold or supplied below that price. The minimum price for the supply of alcohol in Wales will be calculated through a formula, taking account of the minimum unit price, the percentage strength of the alcohol and its volume. The actual minimum unit price will be set in regulations. Introducing a minimum price will not increase the price of every alcoholic drink, only those sold below that price. The Bill will also introduce a series of offences and penalties relating to the new minimum pricing system and proposes giving local authorities new powers and duties to enforce it.
We know that the price of alcohol matters. The demand for goods and services is strongly influenced by price, and this is a relationship that extends to alcohol. Evidence from around the world suggests that introducing a minimum price could have an important impact on levels of hazardous and harmful drinking. We believe this will have a critical impact on reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harm, including alcohol-related deaths, and the number of people treated in hospital. And it could reduce the costs associated with those harms.
The 2014 University of Sheffield research estimated that a minimum unit price of 50p, for example, would be worth £882 million to the Welsh economy over 20 years in terms of reductions in alcohol-related illness, crime and workplace absence. We have commissioned the University of Sheffield to update its 2014 analysis of the potential effects of minimum unit pricing policies. We have asked them to model the impacts of different minimum unit prices, ranging from 35p to 70p, and this analysis will be published early in the new year. This analysis and other factors will help to determine the minimum unit price for alcohol for Wales. Evidence suggests that the introduction of a minimum unit price would only have a small impact on moderate drinkers. The largest impacts would be experienced by those people who drink hazardous and harmful amounts of alcohol. These are the people who are most likely to drink alcohol that would be affected by a minimum unit price. They are also the very people that this legislation is aimed at helping.
We have consulted widely about the need for a minimum unit price for alcohol in Wales. The proposal was part of the Welsh Government’s public health White Paper in 2014, and we introduced a draft Bill for consultation in 2015. Two thirds of people who responded to the draft Bill consultation supported the idea of legislating for a minimum price for alcohol in Wales. In particular, there has been widespread recognition amongst stakeholders that introducing a minimum unit price could make an important contribution to reducing the costs associated with excessive drinking on individuals, public services, businesses and communities.
The way in which minimum unit pricing is specifically targeted at increasing the price of strong, cheap alcohol means that it can have an important impact on reducing hazardous and harmful consumption amongst young people. It will also contribute to addressing related issues, for example the rise in pre-loading or pre-drinking, where alcohol is drunk at home before going out to a bar, pub or nightclub.
Minimum unit pricing and its effectiveness at reducing consumption among hazardous and harmful drinkers has been at the centre of the alcohol debate in several countries around the world. Relatively few countries have proposed this exact type of legislation, specifically designed to target strong, cheap alcohol. As in Scotland, here in Wales we are proposing to use the minimum unit price, the strength of the alcohol and the volume of the alcohol to calculate the applicable minimum price. But what we do know is that where countries have introduced similar legislation, there has been a reduction in levels of consumption and associated reductions in alcohol-related harm. In Canada, for example, a 10 per cent increase in average minimum alcohol prices was associated with a 9 per cent reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions.
Ultimately, increasing the price of alcohol through the introduction of a minimum unit price will reduce hazardous and harmful levels of alcohol consumption. It will improve health and, ultimately, it will save lives. We are still waiting for the outcome of the appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland. But, by introducing this legislation now in Wales, we have an opportunity to realise the potential of minimum unit pricing and deliver health and wider socioeconomic benefits across Wales.
There have long been calls—across most political parties in this Chamber and from civic society—for Wales to redefine its relationship with alcohol. This legislation provides us with an important opportunity to do just that. I look forward to the scrutiny process that will follow and to the constructive engagement of the many organisations who have an interest in making this Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill a success. Thank you.
Thank you, Minister, for bringing forward your statement today and bringing forward the aims and objectives of this Bill. There’s no doubt about it, alcohol addiction is a pernicious social evil, and it is an excuse to abuse others as well as oneself. It is something where I agree with you totally, towards the end of your statement, when you said that Wales needs to redefine its relationship with alcohol. So, we do support the aims and principles behind this Bill.
However, I have got a number of concerns as to whether or not it’s going to achieve its objective. The Welsh Conservatives believe that this should be looked at in the round and that, as the Minister in charge of taking this Bill through, we would hope and seek for you to look at other measures that should be put in place to support people who are addicted to alcohol. We all know that addiction is an evil thing once you’re in the grip of whatever it is you may be addicted to. It is extremely difficult to wriggle out of it. We don’t want people to start stealing because they cannot afford alcohol. We don’t want people to go down an addictive route and start taking drugs because they happen to be cheaper than the bottle of whisky or whatever it might have been that they were previously used to. So, I would like to see, Minister, you put forward, when you go forward with this, a range of measures that would support not just alcohol addiction but all the other addictive behaviours that surround alcoholism, including co-dependency, because that is actually a very important thing that people very seldom look at as to why people drink, and a lot of it is to do with co-dependency.
You say in your statement that you’re very keen to tackle the whole area of getting our young people to be better educated, not to become addicted to alcohol. It isn’t just our young people. I was speaking to a mother only a few days ago who said that her young 15-year-old daughter went to a party where the mother had brought bottles of vodka for those kids to have. So, it’s about educating the young people in the schools, it’s about educating parents and it’s about educating society. I would like to understand, Minister, what you’re going to do and how you’re going to include those kinds of elements in this objective you have for public health.
I know that on a statement we only have time for a few questions, and there are a lot to ask on this, so, as far as the Welsh Conservatives are concerned, we are very keen for you to be able to progress this, and we will be lobbying you with questions and amendments as we go through the process. But I would like to make just a couple more comments, if I may, Presiding Officer.
You say that officials believe that more affluent, high-risk drinkers will also respond to price changes, and they insisted it was not a tax but a tool to change behaviour. Again, I think this is an area where I’d like to see how you’re going to work that one through. Those who are affluent can easily afford another 50p, or another £1, or the high-end drinks that won’t be affected by your tax. They’re going to be drinking Glenlivet, not supermarket, bog-standard whisky, or whatever it might be. This shouldn’t be a tax; this is about public health. I want to make sure that, as this goes through, we are very, very clear that this is a public health issue and not a tax-varying issue. I’d also like to seek reassurance from you, Minister, that any moneys raised from minimum alcohol pricing would actually be ploughed straight back into prevention and support for people.
Finally, Minister, I would like to ask again why you are pressing ahead with this now, and get clarity on that situation, because we are aware that the Scotch Whisky Association have put forward an appeal, and I would have thought it would have saved public time and public purse if we could have seen how successful that was going to be before you brought forward that, so that you would be able to do any lessons learned exercise. I do think we have to be very careful on this issue. It’s got great intent. We absolutely support that intent, but we also need to recognise that the countries that have had success with this are countries that have had a history and culture of prohibition and cultural change. Wales is not that kind of country yet, so we need to make sure that what we put in place will actually reflect and can be implemented successfully in our country to help to defray the pernicious evil that is alcohol addiction.
I thank you very, very much for those questions and for outlining the support for the aims and the principles of the Bill. I think that we all reflect on the previous public health Bill and the important role that scrutiny played in that, and certainly in strengthening the Bill and in testing the Bill, and I think that we can look forward to similarly robust scrutiny as this Bill makes its way through the Assembly as well.
In terms of the ‘why now?’ question, that’s an excellent question, and actually, in an ideal world it wouldn’t be now, but unfortunately the powers that we have in this area are powers that will be removed from Welsh Government when the Wales Act 2017 comes into force in April of next year, so we need to have cleared Stage 1 within the Assembly in April of next year. So, that’s why we’re taking this particular moment to introduce the Bill. I would have much preferred to have waited until the outcome of the Scottish court case had come to a resolution, and I had hoped it would have been before now. I do understand it will be fairly imminent, and, obviously, when that judgment is made, we’ll have to consider what implications that does have for our Bill. But it is very much a situation of having a very small window in which to act at the moment, so we’re taking this window while we can.
I completely agree with you as well that the minimum unit pricing can only be one part in a much wider jigsaw in terms of tackling substance misuse in the round and particularly supporting people with an alcohol dependency and preventing people from having that dependency in the first place. So, there are a range of ways in which we’re already trying to tackle alcohol consumption and harmful and hazardous drinking, particularly across Wales, and those were set out in our ‘Working Together to Reduce Harm’ substance misuse delivery plan 2016-18, which was published in the Assembly in September of 2016. Examples of some of the actions in that include working to tackle the excessive consumption of alcohol through better education, through prevention, and of course through those treatment services to support the most harmful drinkers, as well as support, of course, for the families of people who misuse alcohol. That has been recognised as one of the significant adverse childhood experiences, which is something that all Ministers have a real concern about as well.
You also referred, quite rightly, to the issue of unintended consequences, and I really do recognise the concerns that you and others have raised that there are some vulnerable groups who might continue to purchase the same amounts of alcohol despite the increase in price. For example, in terms of household spend on areas such as food or heating—making those choices as well. So, I’m very aware of that potential issue and we’re already looking with our area planning boards on how we can ensure that local services are as responsive as possible to vulnerable groups’ needs in this respect.
It’s also important to recognise that, overall, we do expect to see reduced levels of consumption amongst harmful and hazardous drinkers, and associated reductions in alcohol-related harms. However, it is important to make sure that those services are there, which is one of the reasons that we do invest £50 million in our substance-misuse agenda to try and ensure that the support is there for people who need it. I also noted some of the other concerns raised by stakeholders about unintended consequences. For example, families might, as I say, be forced to make those difficult choices as well, but as you suggested and others have suggested here today, individuals might switch to other substances. We think the risk that consumers could switch to illegal drugs or new psychoactive substances, for example, is considered low, as an illegal or untested substance is clearly qualitatively a big step and very different to the consumption of alcohol, and most people wouldn’t consider that to be a valid substitute. However, it is something that we intend to explore further with the Welsh Government’s advisory panel on substance misuse. They’ve previously commented that they don’t believe that this is likely to be an issue. However, it’s something that we’re very much alive to as well.
In terms of referring to this as a tax, we are very clear that this isn’t a tax. It’s very much a minimum unit price. The evidence suggests that higher taxation alone wouldn’t be as effective as a minimum unit price. In fact, you’d have to reduce taxation by a large amount to achieve the same kind of benefits to health and the NHS that we would expect to see from a minimum unit price alone. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to look at this very much as a minimum unit price. It does allow us to target those high-strength very cheap alcohol products rather than taking a blanket approach and raising the price of all alcohol as well.
An interesting note to this is that the 2014 modelling suggests that high drinkers purchase more of their alcohol below an example minimum unit price of 50p at the moment. These are people at all income levels. High-risk drinkers in poverty buy 42 per cent of their alcohol below the 50p per unit, as compared to 21 per cent for moderate drinkers in poverty. High-risk drinkers not in poverty buy 28 per cent of units below 50p, compared to 14 per cent of moderate drinkers not in poverty. So, the minimum unit price would change the price of approximately a fifth of the alcohol purchased by moderate drinkers in poverty, whereas an increase in taxation would affect the price of all drinks purchased by people living in lower income households.
Can I thank the Minister for Social Services and Public Health and welcome her statement, and welcome the general direction of travel? In Plaid, we are in support of minimum alcohol unit pricing. It has been in our manifestos for the 2011 and 2016 elections to this Assembly, once we had gained the powers after the 2011 referendum—obviously when we had some powers to do this sort of thing. More in a minute about losing those powers, come next Aril fools’ day. Anyway, back to—. We’re talking here about the minimum price for alcohol, which, as you say in your statement, is a formula combining volume of alcohol with the strength of that alcohol and the minimum unit price. I would just like to explore a bit more about that formula and how those three areas are weighted up against one another, just in case you get some unintended consequences there as well, in that, unintentionally, people would be able to afford to buy a stronger alcohol if the weighting of that formula was, in some ways, not as it should be. Sometimes, there can be unintended consequences just because the formula weighting isn’t quite correct. I echo some of the other unintended consequences as Angela Burns and Leanne Wood mentioned earlier, in terms of other drugs, both illicit and legal, being used as a substitute. But that’s down to this being a public health measure, and we would expect additional public health services, in terms of drugs and substance misuse services, to be available once this piece of legislation comes in.
But, at the end of the day, this piece of legislation is about saving lives. Not every piece of legislation we pass in this place saves lives, but we have had a smoking ban that saves lives, and we’ve got an opt-out organ donation law that also saves lives. So, we can add this one to that list—just thinking from a medical point of view of the high numbers of accident and emergency attendances brought about by alcohol. On some nights in A&E, over 90 per cent of attendees are there under the influence of alcohol. It has a huge impact on health, as we all know, not just causing cirrhosis of the liver and liver failure, but various cancers as well, due to the corrosive effect of drinking strong spirits—from mouth and tongue, oesophageal cancer downwards—as well as huge rates of domestic violence, general assaults, huge policing issues and individual lives wrecked by alcoholism. So, there’s a definite need to address our relationship with alcohol, as you say, and this is but one plank in that. The modelling already referred to from Sheffield in 2014 attests that there would be 53 fewer deaths in Wales annually, and 1,400 fewer hospital admissions annually, caused by alcohol, if we brought in this sort of legislation.
We are very supportive of this. I’d like some idea of the details, as I mentioned, and also, what of the response to any Supreme Court decision in Scotland? What legal advice have we got as standby, whether the Supreme Court approves what the Scottish Government are trying to do, despite the vehement opposition of the whisky industry, or whether it is rejected? We need to know where we are going, because we’ve known about the issues of how to tackle the problems of alcohol, i.e. making it more expensive, making it more difficult to get hold of, and measures against drink driving and underage drinking—that was revealed in a World Health Organisation study. As far back as 2004, there’s been a need to act on this. In this country, in the UK generally, we’ve known about these issues and the need to do something about them urgently, so, ‘Why the delay?’ is another question, particularly now, with the Wales Act 2017, we face losing the powers to enforce this.
Obviously, if this measure, this Bill, comes before the health committee, we would be looking to enable the Minister to get it passed as soon as, in view of the fact that the clock is ticking, before April fool’s day 2018. Well, if we haven’t reached Stage 1 by then, this falls. That’s why this party voted against the enactment of the Wales Act 2017, uniquely in this Chamber, because we have lost powers and we are losing powers, and this is a very vivid illustration of that loss of powers. So, I wish the Minister well.
There’s a lot of detailed work to be done on the different levels of unit alcohol pricing—30p per unit, 35p, 50p, 70p, or even more—but you say you’ll have the results of those in the new year. Really, as I said, the clock is ticking—we need that evidence now, Minister, because we need to get this legislation passed. Otherwise, the whole thing falls down, and a lot of brave words said in here about the health implications and how we’re going to save lives will mean nothing if the legislation is lost. Diolch yn fawr.
I thank you very much for those questions, and also for indicating Plaid Cymru’s long-standing support for this particular approach.
In terms of how the minimum unit price itself will be calculated, that is expressed on the face of the Bill, and that’s by multiplying the minimum unit price at what it is set by the percentage of alcohol and by the volume of the alcohol being sold. The actual minimum unit price isn’t on the face of the Bill, actually; that will be set through regulations as well. We think that that’s a more appropriate response, because it does allow us to look at experiences elsewhere where the minimum unit price has been set but hasn’t allowed that kind of flexibility that would be needed, perhaps, to change to respond to the changing circumstances within the economy as well. I am absolutely as keen as anybody to have the results of the new minimum unit pricing remodelling work done by Sheffield University.
I would have liked to have brought this in sooner, but, actually, this was something that had been passed—this approach had been passed—by the Scottish Parliament back in 2012. So, it’s spent the last five years going through various courts. Obviously, in an ideal world, we would have the outcome of the Scottish judgment, which is now sitting with the Supreme Court, in order to make up our minds as to what the appropriate response would be. However, the circumstances are such that we need to take this action now.
In terms of what will happen if the case is rejected in the Supreme Court, I think that Welsh Government will have to consider, alongside our lawyers, the basis on which it would be rejected and consider what our approach would be moving forward from that.
But you certainly outlined the stark reasons why it is important that we take this particular approach to tackling some of the harmful and hazardous levels of drinking that we have in Wales. Although we have made real progress, I would say, over recent years, through education, through preventative approaches and so on, the levels do remain too high. According to national survey data, one in five adults is currently drinking above the new weekly guidelines, and almost a third report drinking above the previous daily guidelines on at least one day in the previous week. So, although we’re making progress, as I said in my statement, in 2015, the year we have the most recent figures for, there were 483 alcohol-related deaths in Wales. Obviously, all these deaths are tragic. They’re all avoidable, and they all leave family, friends and other loved ones behind. So, this demonstrates the urgency for further progress as well.
As you’ve quite rightly outlined as well, it’s not just alcohol-related deaths. Alcohol-related illnesses are a real concern and remain stubbornly high in Wales. Just as one example, in 2015—again, the most recent figures—807 people died from liver disease in Wales, and that’s an increase of 131 over the past five years. Also, alcohol-related liver disease accounts for over a third of these liver disease deaths in Wales.
You referred to the importance of the modelling, and that modelling work estimates the impact of minimum unit pricing on moderate drinkers will be minimal. The Sheffield alcohol research group research showed that hazardous and harmful drinkers combined constitute 26 per cent of the drinker population, but they actually consume 72 per cent of all alcohol. Furthermore, consumption changes will differ across the population, but based on a 50p minimum unit price the analysis estimated that high-risk drinkers will consume 293 fewer units per year, spending an extra £32 a year, whilst moderate drinkers will only reduce their consumption by six units per year, increasing their spending by £2 a year.
Well, unlike previous speakers to this statement, as the Minister will have anticipated from my question to the First Minister earlier on, my party will not be supporting this measure. That’s not to say that we don’t support the aim, which is to cut the problems that flow from excessive drinking. But we do not think that this measure is likely to achieve that, and even to the extent that it does, it will do so with the effect of imposing unacceptable costs upon the overwhelming majority of people who drink, like myself, who are not regarded as problem drinkers. Well, others may regard me as a problem, but that would be for different reasons than drink.
Will she confirm the figures that are quoted on the BBC website about the impact of this measure—that it is, under a 50p formula, likely to increase the price of a typical can of cider to £1, a bottle of wine to at least £4.69, and a typical litre of vodka to more than £20? Because I think it is vitally important that the public at large realise now, before we even begin debating this measure properly, what the likely impact of it is likely to be. The Minister says that it’s aimed at problem drinkers, not at the general population at large, but these are the people who are least likely to be affected by a minimum price for alcohol, not the people who are most likely to be affected. We know from research that has been done that what we might call problem drinkers are price sensitive between brands, so that if you increase the price of one, they’ll switch to another, but there’s no real evidence whatsoever for showing that they will reduce their consumption of alcohol overall, still less become teetotallers. The price elasticity demand for a real problem drinker is almost by definition zero. It will have no impact upon his or her drinking.
One of the issues that is important, of course, is the public order implications of excessive drinking, especially in city centres. We all know the problems of the war zones in city centres on Friday and Saturday nights. So, what matters is not so much the overall consumption of alcohol—you can be a non-drinker for five days of the week and a binge drinker at the weekend. You can have a drink after work and a pleasant conversation and then go home for five days a week and then decide to get hammered at the weekend. This measure is not likely to have the slightest impact I think upon binge drinkers, who are there for that specific purpose. They want to get hammered, and the difference of a few pounds is very unlikely to make any difference to their social behaviour.
The Minister has mentioned international evidence for the claims that she’s made. I am actually not aware of any evidence internationally and academically on this specific problem of the impact of minimum prices upon problem drinkers. It is very important not to make the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc and look at the health statistics on the one hand and then ascribe them to legislative measures that might have taken place as though there are no other factors that might have influenced them. We know that in recent years there has been significant reduction in the problems created by alcohol. This is certainly the case in Scotland. Nobody can prove—and indeed I think it isn’t even logical—that the minimum price legislation that the Scottish Government would like to see has been responsible for that.
As regards the Canadian example, which is specifically mentioned in this statement, Canada is a very, very different market from Britain because virtually all liquor that is sold in Canada is state controlled or state regulated in a way it certainly isn’t in this country. They don’t have a minimum price system such as the one that is being proposed anyway. They have a reference price system that is different for different drinks, and different in different provinces of Canada. So, it’s very, very difficult, from the Canadian evidence, insofar as it’s undisputed, to draw any conclusions for the type of legislation that is now being proposed for here in Wales.
There is another aspect that nobody else has mentioned so far this afternoon: Wales has a long border and a lot of people live quite close to it. Particularly in north-east Wales, Chester and Liverpool are right on the doorstep, what is the impact that this is going to have upon sellers of alcohol in areas like that? It would be very easy, especially now we can order online, to order from, say, Sainsbury’s across the border in England and have it delivered in Wales. The minimum price legislation that is proposed here isn’t going to apply to that.
So, for a variety of reasons, which we’ll follow up in more detail when this Bill comes to be debated in due course, there are flaws in the logic behind it that undermine its very purpose. What we should be looking at is how to take measures to combat the ill-effects upon society, and indeed upon individuals, of excessive alcohol consumption, but not to penalise the many in order to try and fail to help the few.
I thank you very much for those questions and I do look forward to continued robust discussion and debate as the Bill moves forward to the scrutiny stages, and I’m sure that we’ll certainly be having a strong discussion in terms of the evidence base that underpins the proposals that we are making.
I think it’s fair to say that it is a novel approach, and I think that we both would recognise that. We have evidence that, where alcohol price has increased and that increase has been passed on to individuals, then consumption does decrease and alcohol-related harms further decrease. That’s the evidence that we have and I think that’s quite compelling evidence.
However, as I say, we recognise this is a quite radical and novel approach, so we have committed to publishing, after a period of five years, a report on the operation and the effect of the Act during that period. And, we’ll be commissioning a full evaluation and review of the impacts of minimum unit pricing in Wales, monitoring a wide variety of indicators where we would hope to see changes, such as the number of hospital admissions as a result of alcohol misuse, deaths from alcohol, longer term reductions in cirrhosis, and others of the measurable health issues that are attributable to alcohol.
But, we’ve also included in the legislation a sunset clause as well, because we want to make sure that the legislation is delivering what we want it to achieve. As we know, the Scottish Government passed their Act in 2012, but they haven’t been able to bring it into force. So, you’re quite right in saying that no other country in the UK has implemented a minimum unit price for alcohol. Based on what other countries tell us, we are confident that it will deliver significant health gains, but, as I say, we do need to be confident that the legislation is working, so the sunset clause is inserted within the Bill.
You asked me to confirm the prices of alcohol quoted on the BBC website if the minimum unit price was set at 50p, and of course it will be set through regulations that will be coming before the Assembly in due course, should the Bill pass through the Assembly. A bottle of wine at £4.49 would contain the best part of nine units, so, yes, that would be correct. A pint of lager, for example, would contain two units, so, again, 50p times two, so we would have £1 for that. And the bottle of spirits that is quoted on the website is actually a litre bottle, so that would be selling for £20, whereas I think most people tend to buy spirits in smaller bottles than litre bottles.
The cross-border issues that you describe are ones that we’re very alive to as well. We do know that different regimes in England and Wales could have an impact on consumer behaviour, but that really would depend on people’s willingness and their ability to travel, along with, really, the price differential compared to the cost of the transport that they would have to incur as well. Cross-border shopping already exists, as we know, but we believe the impact of introducing a minimum unit price will be minimal, and this is because, for the majority of the Welsh population, purchasing in England would incur a cost in time and travel and the cost is likely to outweigh any savings on the price of alcohol. Actually people who do consume alcohol at harmful and hazardous levels are tending to be purchasing alcohol for immediate consumption, so that would obviously reduce the incentive to be travelling as well.
The First Minister’s clear that this is primarily a piece of public health legislation. However, there are potential impacts elsewhere, and we do anticipate that it will have an impact on crime. For example, a 50p minimum unit price was estimated to result in a 4.7 per cent reduction in violent crime, a 4.6 per cent reduction in criminal damage, and a 4.6 per cent reduction in robbery, burglary and theft as well. So, benefits beyond just the physical benefits.
And to return to the first point you made, which was the one about people who live in poverty and people on low incomes being affected by this legislation: people who live in poverty are much more likely to be abstaining from any alcohol at all and much more likely to be consuming alcohol at low levels. The research does suggest that for people who are harmful and hazardous drinkers, people who are on a low income or living in deprived areas are more likely to suffer from a long-term illness as a result of drinking too much alcohol, and so a minimum unit price can potentially reduce the levels of harmful and hazardous drinking in these communities, meaning the risk of alcohol-related harm would be reduced as well. A very stark statistic that I came across in preparing for this Bill was that in recent years, alcohol-attributable mortality rates in the most deprived communities for males are three times higher than in the least deprived areas, and that, to me, says that this legislation provides us with an opportunity to address what is a very strong issue of health inequality. I don’t think it’s okay that we should accept poorer health outcomes for people who live in our poorer communities.
I very much support the Bill because of the, I think, considerable range of harms that alcohol abuse and problem drinking are responsible for in Wales: health; working days lost, so the economic impact; and, indeed, the sort of society we are and the cultural aspects of that. I very much take on board what the Minister has just said that it is a health inequality issue as well. We know that there’s a big gap in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy between our most affluent communities and our poorest communities, and health impacts from alcohol abuse and, indeed, smoking are a considerable part of that. We’ve taken action on smoking, we continue to do so. We need to take further action, I believe, on problem drinking as well.
I think we’re all familiar with some of the problems around binge drinking, for example. I’ve heard many visitors to Wales remark on what they see as a horror scene in our cities and town centres on Friday and Saturday nights, for example, with the binge drinking that takes place. I do believe that this legislation could have a positive impact on that problem, because I think, again, we should all be familiar with the so-called pre-loading that takes place, where there’s a lot of purchasing of strong and cheap alcohol from supermarkets, from corner shops, which is then consumed before going out to pubs and clubs. So, I do think we could have a very positive impact on some of those anti-social behaviour issues from this measure.
And, of course, it’s strongly supported by those with experience and expertise in delivering services around alcohol abuse. Alcohol Concern Cymru, for example, in response to this statement today, provided a briefing strongly supporting the legislation and pointing out, for example, that they did some shopping recently and found, in corner shops and supermarkets, for example, 3 litres of strong cider for sale for £3.99, a unit price of 18p; 70 cl of fortified wine for £2.99, a unit price of 27p; and 70 cl of vodka and gin on sale for £10, a unit price of 38p. Those are the sorts of products that are purchased and pre-loading then follows.
Kaleidoscope, for example, in my constituency, an organisation that provides very valuable services to those who have problems with alcohol abuse, again strongly support this legislation. They say that, in their experience, there are a great deal of problems around domestic violence, driving accidents and anti-social behaviour from strong and cheap alcohol. I think that support from Alcohol Concern Cymru and Kaleidoscope is very indicative of wider support from those agencies that are tasked with dealing with the problems that arise from the sale of strong and cheap alcohol.
Also, I think it’s quite interesting that Public Health England supports minimum unit pricing, and I think it’s a great shame that the UK Government isn’t paying more attention to what Public Health England want to see and the evidence that they provide.
So, in short, Llywydd, I strongly support this legislation. I’m very pleased that Welsh Government and the Minister are bringing it forward, and I look forward to its successful passage through the Assembly and the benefits—health, economic, social and cultural—that it will bring.
Thank you very much for those comments and for reminding us at the start of your contribution about the importance of this legislation in terms of tackling health inequalities in Wales, and also some of the health benefits that we would expect to see from the legislation, not least saving 50 or more lives a year as a result of the legislation and 1,400 fewer hospital admissions in Wales as a result of alcohol as well.
You referred to binge drinking, and I think that it’s important to see this piece of legislation within the wider context of our work on the night-time economy. I recently attended a unit in Swansea to launch our night-time economy framework, and that’s about all of the partners involved in the night-time economy working hand in hand to support people and to ensure people’s safety and ensure safe drinking levels and so on. I think that this piece of legislation can help us do that, partly because it also includes specific action in there to address drinks promotions as well. We know that this can be a particular issue in the night-time economy.
It also addresses special offers in relation to multi-buys of alcohol and in relation to the supply of alcohol with goods and services, including buy-one-get-one-free offers and so on. It also sets out how the applicable minimum price under which alcohol can’t be sold should be calculated where the supply of alcohol forms part of a special offer, for example, dining for however much and so on. So, there are opportunities, I think, within the legislation to ensure that we capture all of these different ways in which there’s a potential for selling alcohol underneath the minimum unit price.
Just a few points from me. I will refer to what we heard from Dai Lloyd on the timing of the introduction of this. The fact is that this couldn’t be done following the changes that will come into force under the new Wales Act, which raises the question of why other parties in this place voted in favour of that particular piece of legislation. Plaid Cymru, in several manifestos, has included references to introducing a system of this kind, and therefore our support is there for you.
I am also aware of the concerns that exist, and we should all be sensitive to those concerns that this, in not getting it right, could have a disproportionate impact on moderate drinkers who have less money to spend. I do look forward to hearing evidence as this goes through the Senedd in order to alleviate the concerns of people outside the Senedd mainly, but also people within the Senedd.
Cwestiwn neu ddau—. Rydym wedi siarad llawer am sut, gobeithio, y gall hyn ysgogi newid ymddygiad ymhlith defnyddwyr. Gwyddom o dystiolaeth sy’n ymwneud ag ardollau siwgr—trethi pop, os mynnwch chi—yn fyd-eang, bod gweithgynhyrchwyr yn aml wedi ymateb trwy leihau cynnwys siwgr eu diodydd, er enghraifft. A gaf i ofyn pa asesiad a wnaethpwyd gan y Llywodraeth o’r posibilrwydd, y tebygrwydd, y bydd rhai gweithgynhyrchwyr mewn gwirionedd yn ceisio sicrhau cynnwys alcohol is o fewn eu diodydd? Oherwydd rydym yn farchnad o 3 miliwn—os yw Alban yn gwneud hyn, dyna farchnad arall o 5 miliwn. Nid marchnad fach mohoni, ac, yn sicr, yn Singapore, rwy’n credu, bod yr holl weithgynhyrchwyr diodydd mawr wedi dod at ei gilydd i leihau cynnwys siwgr mewn ymateb i newidiadau mewn deddfwriaeth ar ddiodydd siwgr. Felly, tybed a yw’r Llywodraeth wedi gwneud asesiad o hynny, oherwydd byddai lleihau cynnwys alcohol mewn diodydd hefyd yn cael effaith fuddiol.
Yn ail, pa asesiad a wnaed o’r hyn sy’n digwydd os nad yw ymddygiad defnyddwyr yn newid cymaint ag y mae’r Llywodraeth yn ei ragweld? Oherwydd byddwch yn gwybod, yn yr Alban, gwrthododd y Blaid Lafur gefnogi’r ddeddfwriaeth ar isafbris alcohol. Felly, mae gwleidyddiaeth yn chwarae rhan yn hyn o beth, a’r rheswm a roddir gan Lafur yr Alban, fel y deallaf, yw eu pryder ynghylch yr hyn a fyddai’n digwydd i elw annisgwyl posibl i fanwerthwyr neu weithgynhyrchwyr diodydd alcoholig oherwydd eu bod yn codi mwy, oherwydd deddfwriaeth, am eu cynnyrch. Felly, pa asesiad, unwaith eto, y mae’r Llywodraeth wedi’i wneud o hynny a beth fyddai’r broses fonitro? A beth fyddai’r camau y byddai’r Llywodraeth yn dymuno eu gweld, os yw manwerthwyr neu weithgynhyrchwyr, yn sydyn, yn cael elw annisgwyl?
Thank you for those questions, and also for outlining your support for this particular approach through legislation. I referred earlier to the modelling work that has been undertaken, which demonstrates that moderate drinkers, for example, would only increase their spending by £2 a year, but would decrease their consumption by six units a year. And, as I say, we’re having that modelling work updated to take account of current market situations and also looking at the different differentials at different points between 35p and 70p. I think there is a great opportunity here for manufacturers in terms of producing lower strength alcohol drinks, and I would certainly want to see our fantastic Welsh drinks industry taking the opportunity for that as well. I’ve already had some discussions with some of the officials in the food division here as well to discuss what potential there is for the drinks industry here in Wales, which I know we’re all extremely proud of, and I’m sure that there are opportunities for them to be innovative and imaginative in terms of the opportunities available to them.
The impact on the industry, the retail industry—the minimum unit price is expected to lead to an overall increase in revenue for both off-trade and on-trade retailers, and it’s predicted that, for all minimum unit price scenarios modelled by the University of Sheffield, there would be increased revenue for the alcohol industry as a whole. I’m not sure to what extent it would be a windfall, given that we would expect, on the one hand, some levels of alcohol consumption to be dropping amongst those harmful and hazardous drinkers, and also overall amongst moderate drinkers by a smaller amount. However, I think that it would be an opportunity for us to look, with the refreshed modelling, to see what the differentials between that 35p and 70p would mean for the retailers. But, ultimately, it is very much a public health piece of legislation, although the First Minister did refer in his contribution in FMQs today that it does also provide opportunities and benefits for publicans.
The Institute of Alcohol Studies has published a recent report, entitled ‘Pubs Quizzed: What Publicans Think about Policy, Public Health and the Changing Trade’. And that was based on the results of a national survey of pub managers, which found that 83 per cent believe that supermarket alcohol is too cheap, and 41 per cent of them were in favour of minimum unit pricing, as opposed to just 22 per cent against.
I find the glass-half-empty attitude of some Members a bit irritating. Because it’s really important that we seize the moment. The Government has moved its position from considering legislation to actually seizing the moment and doing it, and I’m very, very pleased to hear that.
I welcome the approach—the measured approach—from Angela Burns, and, indeed, Dai Lloyd, that we have to get on with this, because this is a really serious public health matter. This is the biggest killer of people between the ages of 15 and 49—not drugs, drink. And we absolutely have to address this. It is not acceptable that it’s more expensive to buy water than it is to buy alcohol. This is absolutely absurd. And it’s unacceptable that the supermarkets are using cheap alcohol to drive up their footfall. We should be acting against this, and we have to prevent it.
We’ve seen from Canada—. Unlike Neil Hamilton—clearly, his alcohol consumption isn’t going to change one iota as a result of this, but that doesn’t matter. The point is we have to try and ensure that people will be influenced by the price to buy less of it, and not to go to supermarkets that are being irresponsible in the way they peddle it. So, we’ve seen from Canada that the systematic implementation and rigorous enforcement of this minimum alcohol pricing actually has worked, because it’s seen a very considerable reduction in the hospital admissions and alcohol-related deaths. So, I hope that the Health and Social Care Committee will learn from the Canadian experience to avoid the unforeseen consequences that Dai Lloyd explained.
And we have to recognise that the last four budgets have actually cut taxes on alcohol, which is in my view not the right direction at all. I’d like to see the reinstatement of the duty escalator. But just because we can’t influence what the UK Parliament gets up to is not a reason for us doing nothing. And I hope that, collectively, we will get on and produce this legislation to beat the deadline of the Wales Act.
I thank you very much for those comments. And, of course, Jenny Rathbone has long been a proponent of this particular approach, and has lobbied the Government very strongly on this particular issue as well. So, I thank you for the work that you’ve been doing in preparation for this, for the introduction of the Bill.
And you make an important point, which I think has been lost in a lot of the debate that we’ve had over the last 48 hours on the issue of minimum unit pricing, that it is very much about prevention and early intervention. Of course, you mentioned young people, and young people, especially those who drink heavily or frequently, have been shown to be particularly sensitive to price rises, and in particular there is evidence that demonstrates a relationship between drink prices and the heavy prevalence of drinking, and particularly pre-loading, amongst young people. So, I think that this legislation provides us with a good opportunity to take that preventative approach and allow young people to start their lives with a more healthy relationship with alcohol. Because we know that the recent health behaviour in school-age children survey data showed that drinking amongst young people should remain a concern for us, with 7 per cent of boys and 5 per cent of girls aged 11 to 16 in Wales drinking alcohol at least once a week. And the proportions get higher as the age of those children and young people gets higher as well.
We need to ensure that, for those young people who do begin to misuse substances at an early point in their lives, there is early intervention and early identification available to them in order to limit harm and minimise the chances of misusing alcohol and drugs in future. And that’s one of the reasons why we see this piece of legislation very much within a wider context of the support that we should offer to people in that preventative agenda, and that supporting agenda, if and when young people become involved in drugs and alcohol, and we do ensure that we have a range of services available. For example, we have counselling, emotional well-being—hidden harm services are very important, and those are services for children and young people impacted upon by problem alcohol and drug use by their parents, or their carers, within the family home as well.
And, of course, education and prevention for young people under 18 is an important part of the work we do, as are brief interventions, for example, cognitive behavioural therapy, harm reduction advice, and relapse prevention as well. So, it does have to be seen within the much wider context of the work that we are undertaking.
Jenny Rathbone also mentioned the importance of enforcement as well. I’m very grateful to the WLGA for their fulsome support of this particular piece of legislation, because the Bill specifically provides that the local authorities will be the ones to bring prosecutions, investigate complaints and take other steps with a view to reducing minimum pricing offences in their area. The legislation also gives them powers of entry, powers in relation to inspections and also powers to issue fixed-penalty notices to people who they have reason to believe have committed a minimum pricing offence as well. So, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the WLGA for their support of this legislation, and also all of those organisations who John Griffiths mentioned in his contribution and many others who see the benefit of this approach.
Finally, Simon Thomas.
Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. Clearly, the Minister and the Government have made a compelling case for taking action in this area and the problems that we have with alcohol abuse within our nation, though it is worth putting on record, I think, that this is not simply a question of cost. There are countries with cheaper alcohol than we have in Wales today that do not have the problems we have. There’s a wider cultural issue that we need to address. This Bill may well be part of addressing that, but there are two issues that I’d like to touch on that I think do need ironing out as we take the Bill forward.
The first I would like to call the ‘Hay on Wye Co-op question’, which is where you can go from the oldest pub in Hay on Wye, the Three Tuns—200 yards down the road and you are in a Co-op that’s in England—where we need to be absolutely clear about how this would work in terms of cross-border relationships and also internet orders and other issues. Having taken two Bills through in the Finance Committee that relate directly to taxation, I have to say that cross-border issues are a real issue that we had to deal with in that committee and I think that any committee looking at this Bill needs to thoroughly address those cross-border issues. It’s not an excuse not to take the Bill through, but it’s an issue that does need proper examination and ironing out.
The second issue is, of course, that this is not a tax Bill but it is a fiscal measure, and we have a constant debate in the Assembly, quite rightly, about when and where is the most appropriate time to state your fiscal costs or taxes. Other Members have tried in the past to put the cost of, for example, stamp duty, which has now come in in the budget, on the face of the Bill. I’m content that that is taken forward as part of a budget process on the whole; I think that’s an appropriate way to do it. However, this is not a tax, and the public health arguments in particular do turn around what will be the minimum unit price, and all the figures that you’ve quoted today, Minister, have come from a 50p minimum unit price and you’ve referenced several reports that have dealt with a 50p minimum unit price. So, why isn’t that on the face of the Bill? What is the uncertainty about what this minimum price would be? I don’t think it’s good enough, because we’re trying to hurry this Bill through before we lose the powers, not to have a proper addressing of this question. If it’s too low, then it won’t have the effect that you’re hoping it will. If it’s too high, then it could have a disproportionate effect on moderate drinkers who come from low-income backgrounds. So, we have to get it right, and I suggest getting it right is a task for the whole Assembly and not a task just for the Government. Though I understand you’re taking regulation powers that will come to the Assembly under the affirmative method, I suggest it is better and more appropriate that, when we do pass this Bill, the minimum unit price is on the face of the Bill and you have powers to change that in the future with the approval of the Assembly.
I thank you for those questions and your broad support for the Bill. I would completely agree with you that this is a much wider cultural issue that we are dealing with here and minimum unit pricing is only part of the answer. The answer lies in a much wider suite of measures that goes all the way from education through to supporting families in the home where there might be alcohol problems, to our workplaces, to our own social lives and so on. So, I think there are opportunities across the board in order to try and have a much more healthy relationship with alcohol in Wales. But, as I say, this is only one part of it.
The ‘Hay on Wye Co-op question’ I think is something that we will be discussing in more detail as the legislation passes through the scrutiny process of the committee. However, the Bill does deal with internet orders on the face of it and so on. We’ve tried to be as comprehensive as we can in thinking of the different ways in which people do buy alcohol and to try and futureproof it in that way.
With regard to the 50p, as to whether or not it should be on the face of the Bill or set through regulations, again, I am sure that this is something that we’ll be discussing at great length in the committee stages. When the Bill was consulted on in draft form, it was the intention that Welsh Ministers would set the minimum unit price through regulations, and we’d have an opportunity to discuss that.
The updated modelling, which will look at the price differentials from 35p to 70p, should be with us at the very end of this year, or very early at the start of next year, and I think that will give us all a much updated picture in terms of how many lives we would expect to save at the different levels, how many hospital admissions we would expect to avoid, how many lost days of work we would expect to avoid and what kind of cost saving we could expect for the NHS as well. And that will give us the opportunity to have a more informed discussion at that point. But I do think it is useful using that 50p as an illustrative guide at the moment, because it does put the issue into some kind of context for us, so that we can have an idea in our minds as to what kind of figures we are talking about.
I thank all Members for their contributions to the debate today and I look forward to further detailed scrutiny as we move through the next stages.
Thank you, Minister.
The next item on our agenda is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education on teacher recruitment, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary, Kirsty Williams.
Thank you, Llywydd. A key objective of our recently published education action plan is the development of a high-quality education profession. It is impossible to overstate the importance of our teachers’ role in helping to succeed in our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Today, I am setting out the Government’s plans to ensure that we actively promote teaching in Wales as a high-status, valued and flexible profession. Alongside that, in our continued efforts to raise standards in the classroom, I will also provide details of how we are developing an alternative offer to support absence management arrangements in schools.
The Deputy Presiding Officer (Ann Jones) took the Chair.
Quite simply, an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers. Our ambitious reforms need well-supported, high-quality, aspirational teachers. We must therefore attract and support the best graduates with the highest level of qualifications to teach. I am concerned that significant recruitment issues across the border can give a skewed view of what is actually happening here in Wales. I nonetheless fully accept that we do, however, experience challenges in recruiting to certain subjects and in certain geographical locations. This is a challenge we must, and will, rise to.
Therefore, I have decided to announce our incentives for the academic year 2018-19 early. We are providing clarity and assurance in our commitment to our newest teachers. These incentives support key national priorities, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, Welsh and modern foreign languages. We are also now including computer science as a priority subject eligible for the highest level of incentive. If, as a Government, we’re to achieve our ambitions in ‘Cymraeg 2050’, then we need to increase the number of teachers who can teach bilingually, through the medium of Welsh and teach Welsh as a subject.
Whilst our recruitment for primary Welsh-medium teachers is broadly on track, if we are to achieve our targets for secondary, we need to increase recruitment to Welsh-medium initial teacher education places each year to meet the target for increasing the number of secondary Welsh-medium teachers by 2021. Therefore, I’m also announcing today a new Welsh-medium incentive that will target secondary postgraduate certificate in education student teachers who are training to teach all subject specialisms through the medium of Welsh or bilingually.
Of course, our teaching workforce includes numerous different roles, all of whom play a vital role in raising standards. Supply teachers form a significant and important part of our teaching workforce. We must ensure that our supply teachers are an informed section within the wider school workforce ready and able to support our national mission of education reform. I am in no doubt that there is room for improvement in the way that our system currently employs, manages and supports Wales’s supply teachers. I am committed to ensuring that teachers who work flexibly in this way are well equipped, appropriately rewarded, and supported and integrated into the teaching profession. Therefore, I recognise that our system needs to be more flexible, innovative and inclusive in our approach to covering teacher absence and ensuring that those who work in this way are supported in the same way that permanent teachers are.
I am today announcing support of £2.7 million across the current and next academic years to fund 15 local authorities in supporting school-based supply cluster arrangements across 86 schools. This cluster arrangement will support the appointment of around 50 recently qualified teachers on a supernumerary basis to work across school clusters, covering for teacher absence, building capacity and supporting wider school improvements and learner outcomes. This approach invests in, develops and nurtures recently qualified teachers, whilst also ensuring sufficiency of cover within schools to meet demands for additional learning needs delivery and other specialist teachers, including Welsh-medium teachers.
Through this innovative approach, we envisage that savings identified from school supply budgets can be used to re-invest in the future to effect change and school improvement in a tangible way. I take the view that this approach will build capacity in the system to support our schools to manage their supply needs in a more co-ordinated, collaborative and sustainable manner. I am pleased that we were able to take forward the supply model taskforce report in this innovative way and work in partnership with local authorities to support consistency, career pathways and meet complex needs in different regions.
Deputy Presiding Officer, the world’s highest performing education systems have vibrant and engaged educators who feel valued and respected. We are well on our way in Wales in developing and delivering a high-quality profession ready to raise standards across the board. I am confident that the proposals announced today demonstrate a coherent and clear commitment to our current and future workforce, as they deliver on our national mission to raise standards and reduce the attainment gap. Diolch yn fawr.
Can I welcome the statement? We absolutely do share the aim of the Welsh Government to ensure that teaching can be promoted as a rewarding, valued and high-status profession, and it is a career that we want to encourage more people to take up. It’s especially important, this statement, given the statements that we’ve heard from the National Union of Teachers and others this year that have suggested that teaching recruitment is bordering on crisis. That’s what they said back in June. We know that we’ve had a number of years now where we have missed, as a nation, the teacher recruitment targets that have been set by the Welsh Government. Indeed, we were a third below target for the second year in a row in terms of secondary teachers, and I think that that is a concern for all of us.
I have to say I was a little surprised that there was no reference to teacher workload in your statement. We do know from the national education workforce survey, which was conducted earlier this year, that 78 per cent of the respondents to that survey said that the workload was the least rewarding aspect of their work. We also know from that survey that there are a third of teachers in Wales who are thinking of leaving the profession within the next three years. They’re extremely alarming statistics.
Now, I know, to be fair to you, Cabinet Secretary, you announced earlier this year that you were looking to pilot some business manager proposals across Wales in order to reduce unnecessary workload, and that you’ve put some good practice guides out, as it were, to make it clear to people what they do and don’t need to do. I think that that’s a positive step forward, but I do think that it has to be recognised that the workload is something that is putting some people off entering this profession altogether, and, clearly, we need to do more, notwithstanding either that the workload is contributing to the need for more supply teachers, because of unplanned absences in the teaching workforce. So, it’d be good if you could give us an update on some of the work that you’re doing on that.
I note that you mentioned that the incentives for the academic year 2018-19 are going to be announced early. That’s something I welcome. I’m very pleased to see that the Welsh Government is now looking at adding computer science to the list of priority subjects. I think that that is absolutely essential also, particularly if we want a workforce that is fit for the future, and you know that’s something that we have spoken about both inside and outside this Chamber in the past—the need for young people to be equipped to do coding and things like that, so that we can make sure that businesses have people with the skills that they need. I’m very pleased also to see that there will be new incentives in order to attract Welsh speakers into the workforce. You’re absolutely right that if we’re going to hit that ambitious target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, we have to have a workforce that’s going to deliver these things in our schools and going to encourage the language to be used in schools and outside of them.
I note that England has already published its incentives for the academic year 2018-19. I can’t see that you’ve actually published a document today in respect of the incentives, and I can’t see anything on the Welsh Government website. So, it would be useful, Cabinet Secretary, if you could tell us precisely what those incentives are, because I’ll reserve judgement as to whether they are sufficiently attractive to bring people into the profession, because clearly the proof of the pudding is going to be how they compare with incentives elsewhere in the UK. So, I would be interested to see those incentives.
In addition, will you also tell us whether you’re going to revise the targets for recruitment into the profession? We know that we’ve missed targets in recent years, so clearly we need targets that are going to stretch but that are also realistic and that will ensure that we have a workforce that meets the demands of the Welsh education system.
Can you also tell us whether you’re going to take the advice of the Education Workforce Council and others about their calls for some sort of big overarching national teacher recruitment campaign? Now, I know that some work is going on between the consortia at the moment. There is some co-operation, there is some activity, but there’s no overarching national ambitious teacher recruitment campaign. When I go into the cinema, even, these days, very often you’ll see adverts displayed before the movies come on encouraging people to enter the teaching profession, and they’re adverts trying to attract people into the English teaching system, not the Welsh one—even in Welsh cinemas, which I find a bit odd. So, I just wonder whether you can tell us whether you’re going to do anything on that front.
One of the things that I’ve also mentioned to you in the past and has been a matter of discussion amongst the parties historically has been the potential of overseas-trained teachers and bringing those into the profession here in Wales. You’ll know that at the moment they don’t have automatic qualified teacher status, even if they’re from comparable education systems in terms of the standards of those education systems. That’s something that only applies in Wales—no other part of the UK—and is a stumbling block to potentially hundreds of people who might want to work in the profession here in Wales who don’t currently have the opportunity to do that without going through extra hurdles in order to get there.
Turning to the £2.7 million that you’ve announced today—a welcome announcement—to support the cluster arrangements, I’m very surprised at how small the number of schools is that are going to be participating in those cluster arrangements. We’ve got over 1,500 schools here in Wales, and that money is targeted at just 86, in encouraging them to work together. You said that it’s going to be spread across 15 local authorities. What about the other seven local authorities? Which local authorities aren’t being included? Why is it such a small number of schools? We know that these cluster arrangements have huge potential. I would have hoped that there would have been a bigger programme in terms of trying to get the opportunity that they present, so perhaps you can tell us a little bit about that.
And just finally, on supply teachers—
Finally finally, now.
One of the big barriers, as you will know, is to the opportunities for supply teachers to engage in professional development. You’ve said that you want to see that addressed. You haven’t said how you expect that to be addressed, but clearly we need to ensure that regional education consortia and local education authorities are inviting supply teachers and allowing them to engage in professional development opportunities free of charge, at no cost to them. Will you also tell us whether you are planning to take forward the recommendation that was made to you by the taskforce in relation to bringing forward some legislation to address some of the abuses that teacher agencies are undertaking in terms of the standards of those agencies and also the pay and rewards that they pay to our teaching workforce that works through supply? Thank you.
Thank you to Darren Millar for what I think was a broad welcome of the statement today and a long list of questions, which I will try and get through as quickly as I possibly can.
I don’t believe that we have a crisis. Ninety per cent of primary school places are met to target. But you’re right, with secondary we do have particular challenges, and then we have particular challenges within subjects within secondary—some courses. We recruit fully to others. And that’s the purpose of the incentives.
Darren is also right, though; teaching is not just about pay, and actually all the surveys show that when most teachers go into the profession they’re not solely motivated by making a lot of money. They’re motived by wanting to work with children, wanting to impart the enthusiasm that they have for their subjects, and do the best they can for the education system. So, issues around workload are important. Darren did reference our business managers and our good practice guide. I’m about to write out to all headteachers again to make sure that the good practice guide is being utilised within their schools, and we’re hoping to announce further projects around workload as we go forward. But it’s also about supporting the profession and making sure that professionals have access to continuing professional development that allows them to be the best that they can be. You know that we are developing a national approach to CPD, so that teachers get that wherever they are in Wales. We also know that, sometimes, our leadership perhaps isn’t as good as it could be. Leadership is absolutely crucial in managing workload and ensuring that schools and colleges are attractive places to work. That’s why we are developing our leadership academy to make sure that our school leaders have the skills that they need to be effective managers of their institutions.
The major changes to the incentives, as opposed to last year—. The figures are the same, in terms of £20,000 for a first-class degree in maths, physics, chemistry, Welsh, but the additional subject in there is computer science. Also, we’re changing—. There was a bit of a perverse, illogical restriction on those people who had PhDs and Master’s degrees. So, if you had a 2:1 but you had a PhD, or if you had a 2:1and had a Master’s, you only got the 2:1 rate, which is lower than the first degree rate, which actually, logically, didn’t make a lot of sense. So, we are addressing that this time. So, if you have a first-class degree or a PhD or a Master’s, you will have the maximum amount for those subjects. Medium priority subjects will come in as an incentive to £15,000. What’s really important to remember, Darren, is that these are four incentive for the next academic year, 2018-19, where these students will also be able to apply for our full Diamond package. PGCE students are an exception to postgraduate study, so potentially, these students will be able to apply for a full Diamond package of support alongside the incentives that we’re making available today.
We are working at the moment on—. You asked whether targets will remain the same. We are trying to create stability for our institutions that currently offer these courses, but we are working on a new workplace planning tool to get better data and to be able to better analyse our workforce needs in the future, and I would expect us to change our targets in relation to when that work is complete, which I’m hoping will be done by 2019—that new tool being available and coinciding with the devolution of teachers’ pay and conditions. There’s a whole set of things that need to line up there.
There is a national campaign. It’s being joint funded by all the regional consortia. It’s called Discover Teaching. We are constantly discussing whether there is room and resources for a bigger campaign. I’m also continually looking at the issue of whether we are putting up artificial barriers to teachers from other countries coming to teach in this country. The last time the Welsh Government went out to consultation on this, the very strong view of the consultation responses was that those restrictions should apply. But, obviously, we don’t want to put off people who can make a contribution to our classrooms, and we will review it. That is, of course, if they can get through the UK Government’s immigration system and come and live here and work here in the future.
You are absolutely right around the need for the consortia to offer continuing professional development to our supply teachers. The supply teaching taskforce report was published in February. We have established an independent group to oversee the implementation of those recommendations. The group has met three times, and we are making progress. The supply model that we are talking about today is a recommendation that is being implemented. We have opened up access to Hwb for supply teachers, which was previously prevented, and we are working with the consortia to make sure that the supply teachers have continuous professional development.
With regard to the pilot, let me say: this is a signal of my intent. The pilot was a direct recommendation of the task and finish group, but it gives us the opportunity to explore this as an alternative model to the recruitment and employment of supply teaching, going forward. The 15 local authorities that have been selected are 15 out of the 16 that expressed an interest. We can’t do this on our own. We have to do it in partnership with local government and schools, because of local management of schools. We can’t impose this upon them. So, 15 out of the 16 expressions of interest have been taken forward, and they are, if people want to know, and if the Deputy Presiding Officer is allowing me to list them: Pembrokeshire, Torfaen, the Vale of Glamorgan, Wrexham, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Neath Port Talbot, Monmouthshire, Merthyr, Conwy, Carmarthenshire, Cardiff, Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, and Newport. So, we have a big cross-section of both urban and rural authorities, north and south, east and west, and a mixture of schools. So, we’ve got primary clusters, we’ve got secondary, but we’ve also got through-schools as well. We can’t impose this upon people; we have to do it with the coalition of the willing, if you don’t mind the expression, ‘a coalition of the willing’. We have to do it in partnership, and those local authorities, I’m very glad, have stepped up to the plate and shown real vision and have explored the potential that this can bring the advantages. And it’s advantages not just to the supply teacher. What’s really crucial about this is that there are advantages to the children, because they will have familiar faces. So, when their classroom teacher is absent or away on a training course, they will see a familiar face in their school, and that will have an impact on teaching and learning for those children.
May I thank the Cabinet Secretary for her statement? I, too, felt that it was slightly strange that there were no details about the incentives that were being announced today, but thank you for giving us an outline of that in your response. I’d be interested to know how these incentives will compare with the rest of the UK. You did give us a brief outline, but that would be interesting to know, because we are in a very competitive situation when it comes to many of these issues. I also want to welcome the additional incentive that you’re offering in terms of teachers who can teach through the medium of Welsh, because the recruitment level for Welsh-medium teachers in the year 2015-16, the last year that we have figures for, is at its lowest rate since 2008-9. So, put that alongside the Government’s ambition in terms of the direction of travel on the number of Welsh speakers, then, clearly, we need to be proactive on that front, and I welcome that very warmly.
Your statement mentions that we also need to look at rural areas specifically, but I don’t see any reference to incentives in that context, and perhaps you could make a few comments on how you could incentivise people to look in that specific direction. You’ve also said in the past that there is a lack of variety and diversity across the teaching workforce, and you said to the committee a while ago that there’s a job of work to be done by the Government there. There is nothing in your statement on that issue, and perhaps you could give us an update on what you have been doing to try to introduce more diversity into the teaching workforce in Wales.
The ITE expert forum has also been looking at reviewing evidence from best practice for alternative routes into teaching. You’ve touched on this once or twice in the past, but it would be good to have an update and to know perhaps when we can expect a more comprehensive statement in that area.
There are a number of barriers to the recruitment of new teachers, and no-one’s claiming that there is a single solution. There is a series of solutions required, but one that comes up regularly is the requirement to have a B in GCSE maths. Now, I know that we are eager to raise standards in terms of the educators we have in Wales, but when someone like John Furlong himself raises questions on the value of that in the Children, Young People and Education Committee, I think it is important that we just take a step back and look at that, and I would ask you just to tell us whether you think that changing that is in the mix in any way whatsoever, or are you content that that is going to remain for the long term?
We’ve touched on bureaucracy, so I won’t pursue that particular issue.
In terms of supply teachers, certainly I welcome the announcement made on cluster arrangements for supply teachers as a step in the right direction. As you said yourself, much of this work will be a pilot, but I share many of the questions on the low numbers of teachers and schools that were included in this. But, of course, we are talking here about 50 newly qualified teachers, whilst we have 4,000 supply teachers in Wales, and many of those certainly feel that they perhaps haven’t been given the support and status that they would aspire towards. And I’ve raised with you on a number of occasions recently the problems surrounding pay and conditions, and I won’t rehearse those issues, but the role of these private agencies, which have increased significantly from a dozen some years ago to more than 50 now, has caused a great deal of concern for many who work within the sector.
So, what I would like to ask is: clearly, this is a pilot—it does give us some flavour of the direction of travel of the Government—but where do you see that provision and what kind of model do you see in the longer term? Is this the core of the model that you would like to see developed across Wales ultimately, or are you still looking at alternative models in addition to what’s being outlined here?
We’ve already heard that we need to devolve teachers’ pay and conditions before we can tackle some of these issues to the extent that we would like to tackle them, but I would be pleased if you would confirm that your intention would be to tackle this issue of teachers’ pay and conditions, once and for all, particularly for supply teachers, and the role of the private sector when you feel that you have the powers to do that.
Just in conclusion, you say in your statement that the teaching workforce includes people in a number of different roles, all playing a key role in raising standards, but there is no mention here of classroom assistants, or certainly they haven’t been mentioned as much as I would have liked in this general discussion about teacher recruitment, and the recruitment of classroom assistants, because they are an important element of the glue that holds the education system together, where there is huge pressure on the system. Many feel that this group haven’t been given the recognition that they deserve, and certainly the pay and conditions that they deserve. I would be pleased to hear what your message is to them too, because it’s important that we bear in mind that for every teacher, there is one classroom assistant in Wales. I would like to know what work you and your Government are doing in terms of the recruitment and retention of the workforce in that particular sector.
Thank you very much, Llyr, for that set of questions. With regard to entry into initial teacher training, and whether I’m intending to remove the requirement of a B grade at English and maths, I have no intention to do that at this point. You will be aware that the literacy and numeracy framework runs throughout our entire curriculum for the length of children’s school career, and therefore we’d need all our practitioners to have a strong foundation in both English and in mathematics. For those people who perhaps are looking—. And that’s why it’s so important that we don’t have teachers banking grades when they do their early entry, because the consequences for those young people going forward—. Only this weekend, I met a mum who had no idea that in accepting a C grade, that would preclude her son from going on to pursue a career in teaching. So, we need to be clear that we have these standards.
For those people perhaps going back to teaching, maybe career changes or people looking to go into the profession where perhaps they do have a C grade, then there are options available to do an equivalency test via the universities at the time of application. So, that’s not to say that people don’t have an opportunity to secure or to demonstrate their skills and knowledge via a different way, because graduate recruitment, career changes and alternative routes into the profession are something that we’re actively looking at at the moment.
Last year we had 20 people who schools took on and took through a training process. I’d like to see that extended, and, as I said, we’re actively looking at ways in which we can have alternative routes into the teaching profession, especially for those who perhaps have had a career in science and industry, and who now want to move into teaching to share their enthusiasm and their knowledge for that subject with young people. That’s part of a whole variety of ways in which we’re looking to expose people to the possibilities of teaching. Why would you know or think about becoming a teacher? That’s why such schemes as the modern foreign languages mentoring scheme are so important in our universities, exposing our modern foreign language students to periods of working with young people in school and exposing them to the prospect, perhaps, of going on to be a teacher. One of the strongest physics undergraduate degrees in the University of London make all their physics undergraduates do a unit in teaching physics. We’ve been talking to our university sector about including that in our science undergraduate courses, so that all undergraduates have that opportunity to be exposed to the possibility of teaching as a career, so that we can get a wide range of people interested in the profession.
You asked about the ongoing issue around supply teaching and you quoted the figure of just over 4,000 teachers being registered with the EWC as supply—that is, 4,200 teachers who are currently registered as supply teachers. It’s important to state, Llyr, that half of those are employed via schools and local authorities and are on the school teachers’ pay and conditions document. So, they are paid in that way. So, it’s important to recognise that, when we talk about the supply system, 50 per cent of those are working and are being paid on school teachers’ pay and conditions document terms. That leaves us with about 2,100 teachers who are registered with commercial agencies—that’s about 6 per cent of our total teaching population who are registered that are employed on that basis. I want to make it very clear, I do not condone the practice of schools and agencies negotiating low pay rates for supply teachers. I’ve said today in my statement, I expect temporary teachers to be rewarded and supported appropriately for the work that they undertake.
So, the approach that I’ve outlined today with regard to NQTs could offer us a viable alternative model to using supply agencies as we go forward. And, I am currently scoping the feasibility of introducing a centralised matching system to coincide with the devolution of teachers’ pay and conditions, which will be transferred in the autumn of 2018 for the first year. So, our first pay year will be 2019 that it’ll be operating. That has to be a system that is fit for purpose for Wales. It can’t just be a system that we have transported from somewhere else.
Let me make it absolutely clear again: this issue is devolved to headteachers. It is up to headteachers in their schools to make arrangements for the employment of supply teachers. There is nothing forcing them to use an agency; it is in their hands. We can have a debate about whether we want local management of schools or whether we want to strip headteachers of that power and impose a national system on them. We can have a debate about that, but it just shows that this is quite a complex issue and because of those complexities, let’s remember, that’s why the task and finish group could not recommend a single system for Wales that could be implemented quickly. But, we continue to look at this, and this pilot, as I said, gives us the potential of an alternative model.
That’s a very thorough answer. The centralised system to coincide with the devolution of teachers’ pay and condition, I have to say, is very welcome. I was surprised it wasn’t mentioned in the Welsh Government press release, because I think that’s a fundamental issue that will be of benefit to supply teachers in these circumstances. So, you are recognising, therefore, which was going to be the gist of my question, that the devolution of pay and conditions will enable you to take further action. Therefore, is the information that will lead to the setting up of the matching system be derived from the establishment of the cluster system that you are piloting? Is that where that is coming from?
The other issue I’m raising, which has come to me from constituents, is they’re very concerned about the preferred New Directions body that is supplying supply teachers. Will that current framework be renewed when it comes to the end of its contract? And what future plans has the Government got for involving agencies in the supply of supply teachers?
Thank you, Hefin. As I said, we’re currently scoping the feasibility of a national matching system to coincide with the devolution of terms and conditions. What’s really important is that we’re doing this in discussion with the unions themselves, so they are an integral part of this process going forward. We have a social partnership model here in Welsh Government, where we work in that spirit of co-operation between us as a Government, local government as the employers and schools as the employers, as well as the unions.
Again, I have to state: I don’t employ teachers and, therefore, the New Directions contract is not my contract, it’s not a Welsh Government contract, and there is nothing that forces headteachers to use that agency, or, indeed, any of the other agencies that are available out there. Whether that model will continue to exist after we have finished our feasibility and looked at policy options, well, that would be a matter for them; that’s a commercial decision for them. But what’s important to us is that we have an alternative available to teachers, to headteachers, to schools and to local authorities going forward, and that work is actively going on at the moment, because I recognise the concerns that have been expressed, and the statement today on NQTs is a statement of my intent.
Thank you for your statement, Cabinet Secretary, which certainly represents a step in the right direction. The statement’s entitled ‘recruitment of teachers’, but I can’t really see where you’re talking about the recruitment of teachers generally in addressing the fundamental problems that have been identified with recruiting teachers into Wales. I see three concrete announcements in the statement, the first being the Welsh-medium incentive, which I think is a great idea. It’s only right and proper that Welsh Government should encourage education through the medium of Welsh, and we’re well-acquainted in this Chamber with the shortage of those teachers. Obviously, I fully support your objective on this, as I do your measure to introduce computer science to qualify for a higher incentive.
Coming to the funding for schools-based cluster arrangements, this does sound like a really good idea, but there’s no detail—. I know you’ve given some detail today, Cabinet Secretary, but there’s very little—no detail in your statement itself. So, you know, if pupils and schools are able to build working relationships with a regular set of supply teachers, instead of the supply teacher often being a total stranger, that’s much better for the supply teacher, the school and the pupils. So, how do you envisage the clusters working in practice? Do you see the local authority—? Is it to be a cluster per local authority or are the local authorities going to cluster together? How’s it actually going to work on the ground as you see it?
I note that you want to employ a bank of supply teachers, which I think, again, like I said, is a good idea. But we don’t want newly qualified teachers to end up as long-term supply teachers, so I would like to see some sort of proposal or to hear about what work you’re doing to make sure that doesn’t happen. I mean, obviously, working as a supply teacher’s going to be a very useful way for a newly qualified teacher to pick up experience, so I’m not going to knock the supply teacher route at all.
You’ve said, and it’s been covered a little bit already, that only 15 local authorities involving 86 schools are being funded to run this cluster arrangement. I kind of gathered from the conversations today that it’s a pilot, but, you know, what are the criteria going to be for you awarding the funding? You’ve specified a pot of £2.7 million. How’s that going to be apportioned between the clusters? Who’s going to make the decision about how much each cluster gets? And how’s it actually going to work? Are these local authorities going to have to apply for the funding or are you going to make a decision based on certain criteria, and, in that case, what are the criteria likely to be? Do you think as well that you’re likely to roll this system out to the local authorities that currently aren’t being covered?
Okay. It concerns me that, according to EWC figures, over 80 per cent of newly registered teachers in Wales are working on a fixed-term or supply basis. I don’t see any measures to address this in your statement, so perhaps you could say a little bit in response to that. I don’t see any proposals to address the negative publicity about the quality of training in Wales or the perception of students that the profession’s getting harder and that the profession is unattractive. Those aren’t my words; those are the words of the EWC, by the way. The number of new registrations for school teachers is lower in this year than it’s ever been since 2004. And, although the statement does claim to be announcing innovative solutions to the problem, aside from the three measures already discussed, there isn’t much else. So, I would like to hear what other work you’re doing to address the fundamental problems and disincentives to training teachers in Wales that have been identified by the EWC and others. Thank you.
Thank you for that set of questions. It is important that we prioritise those who will go on to be our teachers in our bilingual and Welsh-medium schools. That’s why Welsh is a priority subject for incentives, attracting the highest level of incentives to go on to a PGCE. We’re also announcing today, as you have referenced, a new scheme, which will be a payment on the successful completion of qualified teacher status, with a second payment made to those graduates on the successful completion of their induction year within a Welsh school. So, this is not money upfront. This is about incentivising people to actually finish their course and go on to actually teach in a school. So, this is not just about payment through the course; this is about incentivising people then to actually get into our classrooms.
You made a very important point about how we can move people from the QTS scheme onto permanent positions. What we do know is that QTS, newly qualified teachers, do make up a significant part of our supply teaching load, and therefore it’s really important to get them onto a successful trajectory for the start of their teaching career and, hopefully, that experience going into schools gives them the best possible chance of securing permanent employment in the school, should that be what they want to do. This idea of progression, actually, is really important. That’s one of the downsides of the Northern Ireland model. Many people in this Chamber have talked about the Northern Ireland model. One of the downsides of that model is that there is no clear way for people to get off the supply register into permanent teaching positions. We don’t want teachers who want a permanent position to be stuck within one system.
Local authorities have applied for the funding. The funding has been allocated on the strength of their bids with regard to impact, sustainability and the quality of what they were proposing. Sixteen bids were received from local authorities, and 15 have been deemed to be successful, and those local authorities have all been informed of the intention of the Welsh Government to make grant available to them.
Michelle asks about the perception of initial teacher education in Wales, and you’re not wrong. Our provision in the past perhaps has not been as good as we would want it to be, and that was outlined in Professor John Furlong’s report, and that is why we are reforming ITE provision in Wales as we speak. I want people to come to Wales, not just because we offer financial incentives, but they will come to our universities to train to be a teacher because they know what they will have is a first-class education system themselves and they will have the best possible academic underpinning to launch them on a successful career. And that’s why we are reforming the way in which we do initial teacher education as we move forward. We’ve had strong expressions of interest from a wide variety of institutions—not just the usual suspects that have done this in the past—and those expressions of interest and bids are being looked at with a very critical eye the moment. The process of allocating and accrediting those courses will not be for me, and my message is very, very clear: unless they are high quality, they will not be commissioned, because we want our future teachers to be educated themselves to the very highest standards.
We’ve got our Discover Teaching campaign; we’re working with our universities, as I said, to expose their undergraduate body to the possibility of teaching; we have our incentives; we are taking action on workload; and we are taking action on leadership. I want Wales to be the place to be a teacher. There is no one magic bullet to that. It is the totality of our reforms that will make it happen for us.
Thank you very much, Cabinet Secretary.
Item 5 on the agenda is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children on the innovative housing programme, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant, to make the statement.
Thank you, Deputy Llywydd. ‘Prosperity for All’ makes clear this Government’s intention to improve the prosperity and well-being of individuals, families and communities. Housing is one of the five cross-cutting priority areas identified in the strategy and underpins the delivery of many other strategic goals. People need good-quality homes throughout their lives. They give a child a place to grow and thrive. Decent housing reduces individual and family stress, and the building and refurbishment of homes creates enormous job and training opportunities. Older people need a place to live an active and comfortable retirement. And people need these good-quality homes now.
Increasing the number available, the rate at which they’re delivered and their affordability while reducing their impact on the environment are the obvious challenges. Our 20,000 affordable homes target is central to increasing supply across all tenures, and I want to do more to help people regardless of where they are in life and whatever their circumstances are. Essentially, I intend to find new ways of not only increasing the number of homes available, but also the speed at which more can be supplied. The findings of the Farmer report, ‘Modernise or Die’, clearly set out the very serious problems in the UK construction industry. It was clear to me that traditional approaches to house building would be very unlikely to deliver the changes needed. A new, innovative approach was needed and the report I commissioned from the Welsh School of Architecture demonstrated that, although there is no silver bullet, there are many potential models and methods available.
That’s why, in February of this year, I launched the innovative housing fund. With £10 million available this year and next, housing associations and local authorities were invited to bid for resources to use new housing models, new delivery pathways and new construction techniques. I challenged organisations to develop fresh thinking for delivery sooner rather than later. I have been surprised and pleased by the strength of interest in the programme and the enthusiastic response to it. This has gone beyond social housing landlords to include many other organisations, including small and medium-sized enterprises, lenders, academics, and professional bodies. We’ve spoken to many people, from a wide range of backgrounds, this year and their views and ideas have helped to shape the programme. Many have contributed their time too, helping us with everything from developing the technical documents to road testing the application packs to assessing bids. I offer everyone involved my sincere thanks.
In September, I received 35 bids for funding. I asked an independent panel to assess the schemes to identify how they offered the innovation and value required for the scale of change I want to see. On that basis, I’m delighted to say I’ve decided to fund 22 schemes this financial year. Subject to the necessary due diligence checks, I will be making available almost £19 million to build 276 new homes—nearly double what was intended. A full list of the successful schemes will be on the website later this week when all of the successful and unsuccessful applicants have been told.
However, Llywydd, I wanted to tell you about a few of them to give you a sense of the breadth of what we will be funding. Firstly, a scheme that will roll out elements of the homes as power stations project by SPECIFIC, so that people can benefit from homes that not only save them money, but have the potential to create income by producing power—many of you will know that the development of this model has received significant support from the Welsh Government. Seeing it put into practice is really exciting. A new 40-bed extra-care project for older people in the Valleys, built using modular techniques from a Welsh SME in mid Wales—I believe modular homes built in factories offer major opportunities to increase both the speed of construction and the quality of homes. I am funding other modular schemes, so that we can compare and contrast models. This will allows us to test what works best here and identify both opportunities but also potential issues. Building 24 homes in mid Wales using the home-grown homes model, where locally grown timber is used to provide both quality and low-energy homes—this will support new, local jobs and training as part of our work to support timber growers across Wales.
Llywydd, I’m also funding schemes involving homes made from recycled containers to test out their suitability as short-term or ‘meanwhile’ living solutions for people in the most urgent housing need. I believe we must try all solutions in this field.
Innovation is never without risk, and I’m not expecting every scheme to provide the long-term solutions we’re looking for. But what I do know is we must do something different and these projects have been carefully chosen. All the schemes will be subject to monitoring and evaluation so that we can learn from what works best and why. That includes asking people what they’re like to live in.
Llywydd, next year, I want to open up the programme to the private sector, as well as social landlords, to allow them to help us in our search for solutions. Last month, I announced an increase in the property development fund to assist SME house builders and developers back into the market. That fund, together with this programme, will help us to deliver new types of homes that will help meet the needs of people in Wales now and, I hope, long into the future. Diolch.