Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd

Plenary - Fifth Senedd


This is a draft version of the Record that includes the floor language and the simultaneous interpretation. 

The Assembly met at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.

1. Questions to the First Minister

The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and the first question, Lee Waters.

The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013

1. What measures are in place to scrutinise the plans that local authorities have submitted under the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013? OAQ51489

Officials are currently in the process of procuring an update of the active travel design guidance, which will build on the first three years of using the guidance and take account of new best practice and regulations. I can say to the Member that all but one local authority have submitted their first integrated network maps by the set date and they're now being appraised, and the remaining authority has been directed to submit their INM by the end of February. So, we are currently considering options for independent validation of the appraisal outcomes, and the Cabinet Secretary will update the Member and the Assembly when the decision has been taken. 

Thank you, First Minister. On Friday night, I held the latest of my monthly public meetings, and top of the list of the concerns of people in Tycroes, just as it was in Pontyberem and Llangennech and Kidwelly, was volumes of traffic. Now, the deadline has recently passed for councils to submit their long-term plans for a network of active travel routes they'd like to create over 15 years, and, properly done and funded, these have the potential to cut traffic as well as improve health and local neighbourhoods. But the feedback that the new cross-party group on active travel has heard from right across Wales is that councils aren't being ambitious enough. A bit of route here and there won't encourage people out of their cars. So, would you congratulate Cardiff council for acknowledging that they can improve on their draft and for being willing to submit a more ambitious plan within a year, and what will you do to make sure the plans approved by the Welsh Government set us on a different path?

Well, the one thing I can say very clearly is that this is not some kind of optional extra. We expect the Act to be observed not just in terms of the theory behind it, but in practice as well. I offer my congratulations to Cardiff council. I hope that others will learn from their good example, because we want to make sure that we have a proper network across Wales and not just isolated routes—at the moment, that is the case—but to joint them up and to be able to say in the future that people are able to get to work and that they're able to cycle for leisure as well on a network of cycles routes that can compare with some of the best in Europe. There's some way to go, because I've seen what's available, for example, in countries like Austria. But, yes, I can say to the Member that we are absolutely determined to make sure that the integrated network maps are robust, sound and promote healthy travel and active travel in the future. 

The Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 was a very widely welcomed piece of legislation, and the Member there is quite right to raise concerns about how it is being fully implemented and taken forward. And I've heard those very same concerns that local authorities have been quite slow to prioritise that, clearly with the budget pressures and everything. I know that the previous Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers for local government have often said, 'Oh, local authorities have their own autonomy.' This is Welsh Government legislation, and it is Government legislation that is going to make lives better for our young and for all of our people across Wales. So, how can you provide some very strong leadership, First Minister, in making sure that the active travel Act isn't just a wish, but that it actually becomes full legislation, and fully applicable, and that we get more people actually active travelling on a daily basis from now on in?

Well, it's the law and it has to be observed, but, in terms of money, I can say that the local transport fund and its predecessor, the regional transport consortia grant, have both been a main source of funding for local walking and cycling routes, in particular new routes, including those to employment sites. The proportion spent on schemes varies from year to year, depending on bids, but has amounted to around £6 million annually in recent years, helping to develop more ambitious schemes and packages. That's on top of, of course, the grant that's been in place for Safe Routes in Communities and the road safety grant. 

It is true to say, isn’t it, First Minister, that the Welsh Government also has to show more ambition? Given the figures that he’s just quoted, if we compare those with the corresponding figure for Scotland, they have just doubled their investment in active travel—that is, walking and cycling—from £40 million—which was far higher than our figure in the first place—up to £80 million. That’s a Government that is giving its due place to this area of policy, which we’re not doing currently.


Is there a law in Scotland that insists on a network to promote cycling and walking? No, from what I understand. We are the only country that has done this. The next step will be to ensure that the integrated network maps—they are already, more or less—are submitted to us as a Government, and those maps will then have to be considered, of course. We want to ensure that those maps are robust as a foundation to build active travel in future.

Rail Services in Mid and West Wales

2. Will the First Minister make a statement on rail services in Mid and West Wales? OAQ51454

Since 2011, Welsh Government has invested around £200 million into a programme of rail improvements, including enhanced infrastructure and additional rail services in mid and west Wales.

First Minister, I've received a large number of complaints from regular travellers on the Cambrian line operated by Arriva Trains Wales. There have been a large number of cancellations or part cancellations with no alternative bus service being provided, leaving passengers totally in the lurch. The cancellations often occur minutes before the train is due to depart, which, of course, makes it near impossible for passengers to make alternative arrangements. One of my constituents, Christopher Banks, is a student living in Newtown, studying in Shrewsbury, and he says in an e-mail to me that, 

'Cancellations of just the 7.38 service in November impacted me on the thirteenth, seventeenth, twentieth, twenty-first, twenty-seventh and the twenty-ninth.'

Can I ask, First Minister, do you think this is acceptable, and, if not, will you take this up, as I have done, with Arriva Trains Wales? 

No, it's not acceptable. Of course, this is a service that is not devolved. There have been some cancelled services on the Cambrian line for various reasons: some are rolling stock shortages, which, when the new franchise starts, is something we want to see end, and there have been repair issues that I understand. But, no, I can understand the deep frustration felt by customers on the rail services, and Arriva Trains Wales have to ensure that they do what they can to avoid cancellations and, if there are cancellations, to put on alternative transport. That's what people would expect and that's the kind of service that we would urge them to provide. 

Of course, the service will be devolved before too long and you will be responsible for the new franchise. As Arriva themselves have withdrawn from that process, what assurance can you give people in mid and west Wales, through me, that the current staffing investment will remain, in terms of the maintenance depot in Machynlleth, and the staff in stations across the rail network? I do know that customers appreciate the fact that staff are available on our rail lines, and, in turn, that has led to greater use of the railways.

We expect Arriva, of course, to ensure that they adhere to the terms of the franchise whilst they are responsible for it, and that there won’t be any kind of diminution in the service, whether that be the railway service or the levels of staff, whilst they are responsible. 

First Minister, the Welsh Government is committed to ensuring that the service from Ebbw Vale to Cardiff is doubled from one train an hour to two. Can the First Minister update— 

I know it's Christmas, but, even in the Christmas spirit, I'm not sure I can allow a question about mid and west Wales to include the Ebbw Vale-to-Cardiff line.   

Try and twist it and I'm sure you'll get an answer. [Laughter.

Thank you. Can the First Minister update the people of Islwyn on how the work being carried out by Network Rail is progressing and when the scheduled work is due for completion? [Laughter.] 

Yes, we know how important it is to be able to travel across the whole of Wales—[Laughter.]—including Islwyn and including, of course, mid and west Wales. It's hugely important that people are able to use the rail network to travel north-south and up and down and across our country. We want to make sure, of course, as part of the franchise that is agreed from the spring of next year onwards, that services are provided at a much higher level both for her constituency and indeed the mid and west of Wales. 

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

I now call on the party leaders to question the First Minister. Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. 

First Minister, I've raised the question of homelessness with you several times this year, in the hope that you would take further action. Recent plunging temperatures have given this topic a new level of importance. In October, I asked you to abolish the Pereira test, which would end priority need so that everybody who's found to be homeless is then entitled to accommodation. At that time, you chose to answer a different question. You answered by saying that you didn't believe that welfare should be devolved. Can I therefore have an answer to my actual question today? Will you abolish the Pereira test, which would end priority need and intentional homelessness?


Well, I think we should tread carefully in terms of looking at tests. What I can say is that we as a Government, of course, have delivered legislation to deal with homelessness. We know that many, many thousands of people have avoided homelessness because there is a duty now to be proactive in avoiding homelessness. Nevertheless, it still exists. I was at the purple bus last night with the Salvation Army. I saw and heard stories of people who are homeless and the multiple difficulties that many, many of them face. It was made clear to me that there needs to be an individual, tailored package for individuals in order to address the issue of homelessness for them.

Of course, we saw the sad news about the young woman who died in Cardiff, and that is something that I'm sure all Members would express great regret about. But in terms of looking to deal with homelessness, that is something that we've addressed via legislation.

Well, that's a change in tone to when my colleague, Bethan Jenkins, asked a similar question to the Government, when it was said to her that priority need could be reviewed. Abolishing priority need and intentionality is one of the steps we need to take towards moving towards a housing-first approach. That's the only way that we can tackle homelessness in the long run, and in the meantime we've got a crisis of rough sleeping. People are dying on the streets, First Minister. Still people are falling through the gaps. Street sleepers face great risks, and it's not helped by some of the stories I've heard, for example, where sleeping bags have been confiscated from street sleepers. Now, I can't corroborate that, but, if it is happening, will you join me in condemning those responsible?

Turning to your responsibilities as a Government, do you honestly believe that your Government is doing enough to tackle homelessness this winter?

Well, listening to what people said to me last night, it was clear that there are some people who have lived on the streets for years, and for some people it seems to be a choice that they make. For most it's not, of course; it's something that they find themselves having to deal with. What I did hear last night is that many people find that they are able to get accommodation within weeks, sometimes within one week. Could I pay tribute here to the work of the Salvation Army and the outreach work they do with the people who come to the purple bus?

She asked me particularly: what is humane about taking sleeping bags away from people, especially when the weather is so cold? People need as much insulation, if I can call it that, as they can in order to avoid dying in the cold weather. Nobody, surely, could agree with that course of action.

She asked what we are doing. We are already providing £460,000 to support a range of third sector services helping rough sleepers in Cardiff, including night shelters, outreach services and a day centre. In August, we announced an additional £218,000 for services in Cardiff to support rough sleepers, including improved emergency accommodation and funding for a new housing-first programme in the city. We have announced an additional £20 million to support homelessness services over the next two years in our draft budget, and we will shortly be announcing an action plan to tackle rough sleeping, which has been developed with front-line services.

I'm just staggered to hear you say that some people are on the streets out of choice. If they are there out of choice, we're talking about a tiny, tiny number of people, and that is because there are no other options for them.

Recently, the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, announced that he was strengthening the severe weather emergency protocol. Now, this means that emergency cold weather shelter for homeless people will kick in as soon as the temperature dips below zero for one night instead of the UK Government's three-day minimum period. Now, I've had information that confirms that even that three-day period doesn't apply to Wales, let alone the stronger protocol that's going to be coming in in Manchester, and I've been informed that the Welsh Government has guidance asking local authorities to come up with a written plan but that none of this is binding. Now, that's clearly inadequate. It's not right that homeless people in Wales face a weaker protocol than they do in Manchester under a Labour Government. Will you confirm that that information is correct—that the guidance is non-binding—and if it is, will you now strengthen it to reduce the risks that people face from being forced to live on the streets, especially over Christmas?


I was very surprised last night to be told that, for some people, that's what they were choosing to do. I think it's more to do with the fact that they find it difficult to cope with any other circumstance they find themselves in. They are a minority, that's right, and I was quite surprised to be told that last night. The vast majority of people—no, of course they don't choose to be living on the streets. For them, the impression I got last night is that it's easier to help them, because for them—. Well, that's what I was told. We can speculate as to why that is, but that's what I was told. Nevertheless, we know that there are people sleeping rough on the streets, and dealing with them is hugely important in order to be able to help them for the future.

With regard to the guidance, that is something I can write to her on. What I can say is that if guidance is not observed then of course we will look to take steps to strengthen the support that's in place for homeless people. That, of course, will form part of the action plan that we're developing in the future.

Thank you, Presiding Officer. As this is the last Plenary before the Xmas recess, may I wish the First Minister and other Members the compliments of the season? And in particular, hopefully, a happy and peaceful new year as well, First Minister.

First Minister, over the last couple of weeks, I've asked several questions in this Chamber and I've been reviewing those questions over the last couple of days. As we are now going into recess, I'd be grateful if you could provide some clarity to some of the answers that you have given over the last couple of weeks, namely: did you meet a former Member of your Cabinet in October 2014 to discuss their concerns about the behaviour of one of your special advisers?

I think the time has come to leave this now for the independent adviser to look at, and the other inquiries. To have individual questions about individual dates three years ago—I mean, clearly, that's a piecemeal approach. I think the reasonable approach to this now is to let the independent adviser get on with his work, to let the investigation get on with its work, and of course, ultimately, the inquest.

I am grateful that those inquiries are under way, but I do think it is appropriate in this Chamber where we are elected to ask these questions, because if we don't ask those questions then what is our role? That's what First Minister's questions is about. I have to say, as I have spoken to people who don't normally show much of an interest in Welsh democracy, this is an issue that they have taken great interest in, like myself, and some of the answers do require some clarity over. That was a really straightforward question, asked succinctly, and I just wanted a simple answer for that. So, maybe if I try you on another question: were you, at any time in October 2014, made aware either by Ministers or special advisers of concerns about the behaviour of one of your special advisers, and did you ask another special adviser to make inquiries on these assertions?

Again, oral statements three years ago are things that I—. It wouldn't be right to comment on this without looking at the whole picture. As I say, I think it's perfectly reasonable, given the fact that we have now a number of inquiries running, that it's for those inquiries—and they are independent inquiries—to look at these issues now in the round. I think that's a perfectly reasonable approach.

I do regret again that you haven't been able to give me an answer to the second question. [Interruption.] With the greatest of respect, that is an elected Member's ability, to come to this Chamber—that's the privilege that we have as elected Members—to ask those questions. That's what First Minister's questions and ministerial questions and statements are about. We choose the questions, we try and elicit the answers. I do regret, on two rather straightforward questions, which are topical, that you have not been able to give me a more concise answer, in particular to clear up some of the answers that you've given over the last five weeks.

On two other occasions, I have asked you, and you haven't provided me with an answer: would you lift collective responsibility to Cabinet Ministers when they give evidence to the independent person you've appointed to make inquiries? On both occasions, and on a third occasion when Darren Millar has asked you the question, you still have not given a 'yes' or 'no' to that answer. Will you confirm that you will lift collective responsibility for Ministers to make those representations to the independent person if they so wish?

Collective responsibility applies to policy, it has never applied to anything else, and I made that particularly clear. But I think it is important that, with all these issues—and serious questions have been asked, I understand that, and they need answers, and they will get answers. But I do think it's important that those answers are provided as part of a whole picture. It's not right that people should pick out little bits, mention them, and then not give the full context in terms of which answers are given, for example, or the context of what happened some years ago. Now, he's asked questions, and I understand he wants answers. All these matters will be dealt with as part of the independent inquiry. I can't see that anybody reasonable out there would see that there's anything wrong with that. It's hugely important that those inquiries now are able to get on with their work. If people are serious about engaging with those inquiries then, of course, they should make their representations to the people running them.  


Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. There's clearly no point in pursuing the line of questioning that the leader of the Conservatives has embarked upon, as you're determined to kick this issue as far into the long grass as possible, so I'd like to turn to something else.

I wonder if the First Minister saw in The Times last Thursday a news story under the headline 'End of wind turbine "blight" after Lake District campaign', which refers to the demolition of a major windfarm development. This is the first time this has ever happened after 25 years, because planning permission for extension was refused on grounds that the windfarm desecrated an area of outstanding natural beauty. This follows numerous examples in England and, indeed, in Northern Ireland where the protection of majestic landscapes has been given higher priority than reducing carbon dioxide emissions. I wonder if the First Minister, therefore, will follow this lead for Wales and give greater protection to our own majestic landscapes, rather than reducing carbon dioxide emissions.  

Technical advice note 8 does that, of course, because when TAN 8 was first developed it recognised, for example, that there were special conditions in national parks and there were particular areas where wind applications were due to come. He mentions wind turbines but nothing else. Is he saying, for example, that opencast is fine? Is he saying that other forms of energy like nuclear energy—? We support nuclear energy; we want to see a new nuclear power plant on Anglesey. But I don't think it's right to pick out windfarms and say they are particularly more of a blight on the landscape than anything else. Some people love them, some people hate them. That's what I've discovered over the years. What we do know is that we do need more sources of energy. We need our nuclear plants, that's true, but we also need to make sure that we have renewable sources of energy that create energy security—or are we saying that we need to import energy from other countries, which is something I'd be surprised if he was advocating? One way of doing that is to harness a renewable natural resource like wind, and also the tidal lagoon. We're still none the wiser as to whether the UK Government will back the tidal lagoon. We have out here in the Bristol channel one of the highest tidal reaches in the world. It is energy that will always be there as long as the moon is above us, and yet no decision yet from the UK Government. We need to make sure that we harness the renewable resources that we have, and it's about time the UK Government took a decision, supporting the tidal lagoon.   

I rise to the challenge that the First Minister gave to me. No, I would take exactly the same view of proposed opencast developments that intrude upon areas of outstanding natural beauty, and similarly with nuclear power stations. Indeed, there would be no Hinkley Point power station in prospect if it weren't for the UK Government's decision to pay ridiculous amounts of money for energy to be produced in many years' time, more than twice the going rate that we have at the moment. So, I agree with the First Minister in that respect. 

He'll know that there have been many controversial projects involving windfarms in mid Wales. There is one currently, in respect of which there's an appeal, at Hendy windfarm near Llandegley Rocks in Radnorshire. The chairman of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales in Brecon and Radnor says that

'The Hendy wind farm will have serious impacts, particularly on local landscape, historic culture, ecology and tourism. Let’s not forget one in six Welsh jobs depends on tourism.'

So, there is always a balance to be drawn in these cases, but I think the question of proportionality comes into play here. Wales is irrelevant, actually, in the context of reducing carbon dioxide emissions over the entire planet. We produce maybe 0.1 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The whole UK produces only 1 per cent, so it makes no difference in terms of carbon dioxide emissions globally if Wales participates in this grand green project or not, but it does make a vast difference to the people of mid Wales if their landscapes are desecrated by having forests of windmills all over the place, and that impacts also on the tourism economy. So, what I'm asking, First Minister, is for more proportionality in the Welsh Government's policy on green energy.   

The proportionality is already there. It's not all focused on one form of energy. I can't comment, obviously, on any appeal that is ongoing. What I can say to him is this: Wales is never irrelevant. Wales is never irrelevant, and we have a role to play in terms of reducing greenhouse gases for the good of all humanity. 


The impact upon the planet from carbon dioxide emissions in Wales is, to all intents and purposes, irrelevant—that's the point I was making—given that our output is so small, whereas the effect on landscapes is immediate and apparent.

But on that note, I would like to wish the First Minister a happy Christmas and a successful new year, to congratulate him on the dexterity with which he's dodged or deflected most of the questions that I've asked him over the course of the year, and to look forward to many repetitions of today in the course of the next 12 months. 

Well, 'damned by faint praise' I'd call that. I return the compliment to him. I look forward to more relevant questions from him in the future. Nevertheless, he and I will not agree when it comes to climate change. In terms of carbon emissions, I take the view that the vast bulk of science shows us that climate change is happening and that human beings have an effect on climate change, and we in Wales must play our part, just like any other country. 

Mental Health Support in the Workplace

3. Will the First Minister make a statement on mental health support in the workplace in Wales? OAQ51476

Working with businesses to promote health in the workplace, including mental health, is a key principle of the economic action plan launched today. In addition, Healthy Working Wales and in-work support programmes provide support for employers and employees across Wales.

First Minister, Cardiff has recently been named the most stressful city in Britain, which I do find a remarkable finding. The report says that pressure at work, financial worries and concerns about health are leaving Britain in the grip of a stress epidemic, and I think many of us see this through our casework as well. A survey of 4,000 adults by the insurance company AXA found that four out of five felt stressed during a typical week and almost one in 10 were stressed all the time. This is very serious. Unison Cymru have also recently called for improved mental health services within the workplace. Can I welcome the fact that the economic action plan is going to address this? Do you agree with me that it's often middle management who are in a position to pick up on these issues and do need effective training so they can identify when those who they're responsible for supervising are under stress? 

Yes, that's absolutely right. Those who are closest to those who might experience stress are best placed to deal with it, but it's hugely important that people are able to recognise it. Particularly with some people, it's very difficult to recognise signs of stress. They will never exhibit signs of stress or complain about stress, but often, of course, those are the people who are experiencing internally the most stress, so I'd entirely agree. To have a more health workforce, it's important that those who are in positions of management are able to recognise stress in a way that might not be obvious to members of the general public and to deal with it, for the good of the person who's experiencing stress, of course, and to make them happier and more productive workers.

David Melding has actually just touched very briefly on the Unison event that took place recently. I wonder, First Minister, if you would join me in welcoming successful initiatives like the Unison mental health in the workplace conference that was organised in the Pierhead building, which I think once again showed the central role that trade unions can play in helping to tackle difficult issues in the workplace and demonstrates the valuable role of social partnership in delivering better outcomes for issues like tackling mental health in the workplace. 

Yes, I applaud what Unison have done. In terms of what we have done, Healthy Working Wales is our work and health programme. It aims to improve health at work by focusing on prevention and retention or rehabilitation for those made ill at work. Funding has been committed until 2020 as part of our 'Prosperity for All' commitment to focus on support for employees' health and well-being. I can say that Healthy Working Wales is delivered by Public Health Wales. Further work is taking place in partnership with Business Wales to target the programme for SMEs and to increase outreach, and that will include focusing on the need to improve the mental health and well-being of staff by putting in place policies and practices that protect mental health in the workplace. 

First Minister, we lose an average of 2.5 days per employee to mental health-related absence each year. It is also estimated that presenteeism, where mental health issues lessen work performance, costs the UK around £15 billion a year. It has been estimated that optimal treatment for mental health disorders will only reduce the impact of mental health illness by 28 per cent. So, we have to focus on prevention. 

The mental health first aid programme can provide help to prevent mental health problems developing into a more serious state. First Minister, what can the Welsh Government do to encourage more businesses to train their staff in mental health first aid in the same way that they employ first aiders to treat physical ailments? 


Well, two things: first of all, it's already happening through Healthy Working Wales—3,549 organisations in Wales employing 503,914 people have engaged in the Healthy Working Wales range of programmes since July 2011, and that represents 36 per cent of the working population of Wales. It is something, of course, that will form part of the economic contract, as the Cabinet Secretary will explain later, as part of the economic action plan.

The Health Sector and the Leisure and Sport Sector

4. What action is the Welsh Government taking to promote joint working between the health sector and the leisure and sport sector in Wales? OAQ51484

‘Prosperity for All’ makes our expectations for collaboration very clear. We have asked Sport Wales and Public Health Wales to set out how they will build on existing examples of good practice and work together on joint policies. 

First Minister, if we are to meet the challenges of achieving a more preventative and proactive approach to better health in Wales, we do need a more physically active population. That is an important part of making that necessary change. In Newport, the Aneurin Bevan health board public health department, together with Newport Live, Newport City Council, Natural Resources Wales, local sports groups and many others, have been working together for some time to try and achieve a more physically active local population so that we do get that better health. In addition to what you've outlined in your initial answer, First Minister, I know locally—and I'm sure it applies to many other such initiatives across Wales—that there is great interest in what further action, what further support, Welsh Government might be able to provide to support those initiatives, to make that fundamental change to a more preventative and proactive approach to health in Wales.

Well, I can tell my friend the Member for Newport East that the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 places a requirement on Welsh Ministers to publish a national strategy on preventing and reducing obesity, while engaging in physical activity and tackling sedentary lifestyles will play an important role. That work is being led by the chief medical officer, and both the sports sector and health sector are fully engaged in the developing work. We also have, of course, the national exercise referral scheme, a Welsh Government-funded scheme that's delivered by Public Health Wales that's been developed to standardise exercise referral opportunities across all local authorities and local health boards in Wales. It targets patients who have a chronic condition or who are at risk of developing chronic disease, and there were over 28,000 referrals across Wales in 2016.

In terms of Newport, I can say that the total investment into Newport from Sport Wales, for example, is over £610,000—over £0.5 million of core funding, which covers work with schools, community participation, free swimming and other regional work with and through Positive Futures, and £100,000 roughly, which is community chest funding, which a local Newport community chest panel oversees.

First Minister, I listened to your initial answer to John Griffiths. I absolutely accept, and it was very clear during the public health Bill process, that Ministers are acutely aware of the need to improve our health and well-being by using sport and leisure. However, there is still a woeful level of interaction between those who are responsible for the commissioning of sport and leisure in order to provide these services and those who are responsible for driving the health and well-being agenda. I know what you say about Public Health Wales and Sports Wales. However, I would like to ask for (1) more imagination in what we provide because leisure does not just mean sport, and if you are elderly and infirm, to be frank, a sports hall down the road with a football in it is not going to do you any good, and secondly, what can your Government do to try to get at a local level these commissioning agents, those who have the duty to provide and those who want to have well-being and good healthy living for our citizens, to actually work together on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?

It's quite right to say it's not all about sport and more to do with activity and exercise, of course. I can say that work is taking place between Sport Wales and Public Health Wales, which will include the establishment of a new outcomes framework for physical activity, some shared performance measures, actions and methods for evaluating impact and value for money. The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services and the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport have agreed to extend funding for 16 months for Let's Walk Cymru, delivered through Ramblers Cymru, and that works with local authority co-ordinators to develop a range of walks and routes across Wales for people with varying levels of abilities. And you're quite right to say that it is vital for older people and people with disabilities to be provided with opportunities to engage in leisure and cultural programmes. Of course, the recent OlympAge games are an excellent example of what can be achieved when organisations work collaboratively towards the shared goal of population health improvement. I'm pleased that that event was a success and I hope it continues next year.


I am convinced that it’s through the education system that we can get young people on the right track towards physical activity in order to improve their health. There’s an opportunity here to draw attention to the beginning of the health committee inquiry into physical activity among children and young people. Now, Ireland has just introduced physical activity as an examination—for a leaving certificate—there. To what extent do you and your Government believe that we need an element of testing, or even examination, in order to ensure that every young person throughout their school career does ensure that physical activity is high on their agenda?

Well, of course, that does happen in schools already, as physical education is compulsory, and some are actually examined on that—that’s true—at GCSE and A-level, but it’s part of the curriculum for all. It is true to say, I believe, that it is vital to ensure that young children develop behaviours in order to ensure that they can continue to participate in sport. But, of course, we do lose people, because they come to an age when they don’t want to participate. For me, that’s the time when we should consider what alternative activities would be of interest to them. Perhaps they don’t want to compete, but they could walk or do other activities.

So, I think there are a number of different approaches that we could take. Some will want to participate in PE or in sport, but we can work with the schools to see what we can do to assist and support those who want to do physical things but not sport—I think that is the answer to ensuring that more young girls, in particular, carry on with physical exercise.

'Our Valleys, Our Future'

5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the delivery plan for 'Our Valleys, Our Future'? OAQ51491

Yes. The taskforce delivery plan sets out actions and milestones to deliver three priorities: good-quality jobs and the skills to do them, better public services, and strengthening communities. It is an excellent example of joined-up, collaborative working—all the buzz words there—involving partners from across public, private and third sectors and, most importantly, Valleys communities.

With that in mind, I particularly welcome the aspect that supports local small and medium-sized enterprises to bid for public sector procurement contracts. Caerphilly County Borough Council piloted a project for local SMEs to bid for contracts as part of the Welsh housing quality standard programme, and it brought together four SMEs who worked together to deliver an external refurbishment package worth £1.2 million.

The work was successfully completed, but the council was disappointed that the consortium of SMEs broke down soon afterwards, and then were unable to further bid for contracts that were in infancy. So, the concern that the council has is that there's limited support to help those small firms continue to work together. So, can the First Minister tell us what further support can be made available to insist and encourage such relationships in the future and how that then will be embedded in the economic plan?

We know that they're hugely important to what we want to deliver as part of the economic action plan. Without a co-ordinated approach across Government, we won't succeed. I can say that the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services has met with all other Ministers and Cabinet Secretaries to discuss the work of the taskforce and the delivery plan, and it will be very much part of the delivery of the taskforce's work to work with those SMEs that are the bedrock of so many examples of enterprise in our communities.

First Minister, 'Our Valleys, Our Future' pledges to exploit the job creation potential of major infrastructure investment, such as the M4 relief road and the south Wales metro project. The M4 relief road is currently bogged down in a public inquiry, and one of your own backbenchers has claimed that the south Wales metro project is being set up to fail. First Minister, what contingency plans do you have if your Government fails to deliver these projects, which are essential to the success of the 'Our Valleys, Our Future' strategy, and that are desperately needed there? Thank you.


He will know that the M4 relief road is something that, as a Government, we've taken a view is very much needed. There has to be a public inquiry, because it's hugely important that these issues are tested. I don't think anybody would disagree with the need to do that, to make sure that any decision we take in the future is based on what the inquiry has found.

Secondly, given that I was the first person to talk about a south Wales metro, at Bedwas rugby club, if I remember, back in 2009, I can guarantee that it's not been set up to fail. I want the metro to work. It's hugely important, as far as south Wales is concerned. It provides huge opportunities, not just to get people to work faster, but to get investment into communities that, up to now, have struggled to get the right levels of investment because of where they sit geographically. So, the south Wales metro is definitely something that I want to see succeed for the people of Wales.

First Minister, the economic action plan that's just been published says that Government will be able to

'utilise the regional approach as a glue to bring together and integrate the interventions of the Valleys Taskforce and City Deals.'

Now, what that says to me is that the singular focus on the unique problems and opportunities of the Valleys will be lost. The Valleys taskforce has been disbanded, there's been no new money put on the table that I'm currently aware of, and so, without a structure to deliver it, without a specific budget, won't this strategy be just, once again, a long list of very good intentions that, unfortunately, won't be delivered upon?

No. If we take the western Valleys, for example, which he will have an interest in, naturally, in terms of the area he represents, we know that the western Valleys are linked to the wider economy of south-west Wales, particularly the city of Swansea. So, how is that delivered? Well, the taskforce is working closely with the Swansea bay city deal to maximise its benefits to the Valleys communities and to ensure that the priorities of the city deal and the taskforce are aligned. So, it's a question of tapping into existing sources of funding, when it comes to the city deal. We know, of course, as we look at developing strategic hubs, for example, in the future, that we will need to consider what the financial obligations are in order to deliver on the recommendations of the taskforce.

The Devolution of Energy Powers

6. Will the First Minister outline the schedule for the devolution of energy powers under the Wales Act 2017? OAQ51486

Executive competence for the powers relating to the consenting of energy-generating stations and overhead electric lines will be commenced on 1 April 2019. Provisions relating to oil and gas licensing will be commenced on 1 October 2018. 

Thank you for that response, First Minister. When Plaid Cymru voted against legislative consent for this Act, we said that we were doing so because we were losing powers as well as gaining powers. I remember you saying, and the Government saying, that it’s important that we did this because we would get these powers that you have just outlined on energy powers in Wales. Why, then, aren’t you taking this first opportunity, in April of next year, to take on these powers, for example to ban fracking in Wales, something that would receive a broad welcome among the Welsh population? This Assembly is ready for these powers, the people of Wales are ready for these powers, why aren’t you?

Well, it’s all-important that the structure is in place so that we can use the powers. We have requested this—that the powers should be deferred for a few months—so that the structure is in place so that we can take action. We don’t want to be in a position where we take the powers and we’re not ready for them. They’re very complex—they’re powers that we haven’t had previously—but we’re very confident, of course, in terms of the timetable that we’ve agreed with the UK Government, that this is something that gives us an opportunity to put structures in place for when the powers are devolved.

A Million Welsh Speakers

7. Will the First Minister make a statement on what constitutes a Welsh speaker in the plans to achieve a million Welsh speakers by 2050? OAQ51445

Well, that’s a great question, and may I thank Mike for asking the question in Welsh?

The basis of the target of 1 million Welsh speakers is data from the census. The 2011 census noted that 562,000 of the citizens of Wales identified themselves as Welsh speakers, but it is very difficult to know how you define yourself as a Welsh speaker. I've met people with good Welsh, but they don’t count themselves as Welsh speakers because they think that proper Welsh is what’s heard in the broadcast media and they think, 'Well, if that's Welsh, then my Welsh isn't good enough.' So, for me, there’s a task over the years to nurture people's confidence—people who haven’t got any kind of literary background and don’t even read in Welsh, but they are day-to-day Welsh speakers. We must ensure that they count themselves as Welsh speakers and define themselves as such in the census.


Thank you for that response, First Minister. I’ll turn to English now.

There are three levels for developing three levels of Welsh speakers: following the huge improvement in the teaching of Welsh in English-medium primary schools, no child should leave a primary school as a monoglot English speaker, which wasn't true when I was in school; those educated in schools through the medium of Welsh; and those who study Welsh in university. What strategy is being followed to achieve 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050? And, more importantly, as you said earlier, how do you get people who speak Welsh on a daily basis, but not to a technical level, to identify themselves as Welsh speakers?

Well, first of all, we have to make sure that people who have learned Welsh at school to a high standard or—. First of all, in English-medium schools, it's hugely important that Welsh is taken seriously. Of course, the Welsh short course has been a difficulty, and that is something that we are addressing, and to get rid of what I think is an artificial barrier between first and second language. How do you define that with any language? And to look at whether that actually works in terms of the Welsh language.

Secondly, it's hugely important that those who receive their education through Welsh and who don't live in a community where Welsh is spoken widely, who don't come from a Welsh-speaking family background, don't lose their Welsh as a result of leaving school, because of a lack of practice and a lack of opportunity to use it. That's why, of course, we've invested in hubs across Wales in order that people can go there and use their Welsh in a natural way in parts of Wales where it's not spoken on the street. So, that is part of it.

How do you get people to become more confident? That's a more complicated question. Individuals see themselves in different ways. We know, for example, looking at other surveys, that in other surveys the numbers of Welsh speakers can go up to 750,000, because people see the surveys as less formal than the census, whereas in the census, people tend to focus very strongly on what they think their level of proficiency is in a language. They might answer about their proficiency in English, but their proficiency in Welsh—. I do think a lot of people, and this is based on anecdotal evidence, tend to identify themselves as 'Welsh understanders' rather than Welsh speakers, particularly in some parts of Wales—Holyhead, parts of southern Carmarthernshire—even though their Welsh is good enough to be regarded as a native speaker. Encouraging those people to make that jump to see themselves as Welsh speakers is an important part of what we're trying to do.

Thank you very much, Llywydd. I agree 100 per cent: the Welsh language has been part of the curriculum since devolution, and there are a number of people who do have Welsh language skills and who don’t use them, or who don’t consider themselves to have those skills.

Teachers—there’s a sabbatical programme available for teachers. Do you have any idea, as of yet, how meaningful support could be given to key individuals in other workforces?

Well, that’s one of the things, of course, that we’re considering as part of the strategy that we've put in place. It is vital that people have the opportunity to use the Welsh language in the workplace, but it’s also extremely important that people are able to refresh their skills. I must say, when I came here in 1999, I would never have stood up and spoken in Welsh—never—because I didn’t have any confidence at all in my Welsh, in the vocabulary I had. I didn’t have any kind of literary background in Welsh. So, it is extremely important to give people the opportunity to use the Welsh language in the workplace.

At one time, I must say, I wasn’t in favour of people wearing a badge, but by now I've changed my mind, because I think that it’s very important that people are able to see that someone speaks Welsh, and are able to use Welsh with that person in order to give that person the opportunity to speak Welsh as well. So, I would like to see more people encouraging their staff to wear badges if they would like to do so, in order to show others that they’re able to speak Welsh, so that they can use their Welsh in the workplace.

2. Business Statement and Announcement

The next item is the business statement and announcement, and I call on Julie James, the leader of the house, to make the statement. Julie James.

Diolch, Llywydd. After this business statement, the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport will make a statement on the economic action plan. Otherwise, business for the first three weeks of the new term is shown on the business statement and announcement found amongst the meeting papers, which are available to Members electronically.

Health is more than hospitals and emergencies; it involves lifestyle choices. In trials, half the people who had type 2 diabetes for fewer than six years were cured by diet alone. We know how harmful smoking is and how important diet and exercise are. Working with GPs, we can improve health. I would like to ask for a statement on Government action to improve public health, including the role of primary care.

Thanks for those very important remarks. Actually, it's very important, of course, that people understand how they can best help themselves in these matters. The health Secretary was here listening to you, and I know he takes these issues very seriously. I'm sure he'll update the Senedd in due course. 


Cabinet Secretary, may I ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for health on the provision of dementia services in south-east Wales, please? Proposals by the Aneurin Bevan university health board to close the dementia ward at Chepstow Community Hospital are causing considerable concern among the community in the area. If this ward closes, patients would have to travel to Ebbw Vale or Newport for treatment, which would cause huge difficulties in a rural county where public transport is infrequent, expensive and slow. It is reported that this proposal is the result of staffing problems in older adults' mental health care. That is the department where the real problem is, and they're going to close it down. So, can I ask for a statement on this damaging reorganisation, please? Thank you.

I know that the health Secretary has been working very hard with the dementia community to put together the new dementia strategy for Wales, and indeed this came up in a business statement only a couple of weeks ago, when he confirmed that the strategy would be published in the new year. I'm sure he'll take into account the matters that you've raised in regard to this important service when he does so.

The health Secretary announced last week a £68 million plan for health and care hubs, including 11 new hubs and GP centres, as well as the refurbishment of existing clinics and health centres, which is all very welcome. But there are towns in various parts of Wales that feel they haven't had a fair share of health service resources. As far as Montgomeryshire's concerned, last week's announcement will lead to a redevelopment of facilities in Machynlleth and a new primary healthcare centre in Llanfair Caereinion, but Newtown feels very much neglected and always seems to be forgotten about. There's been a massive hospital redevelopment project in Llandrindod Wells to the south of Newtown, so there are what we might call cinderella towns in Wales. Blaenau Ffestiniog is another that I've raised many times in this Chamber. I wonder if we can have a debate upon the subject of these cinderella towns that feel they've not got their fair share of resources from the NHS.

I don't share the Member's definition of any town in Wales as a cinderella town. I'm sure all the towns in Wales are equally important, both to Wales as a whole, all of its communities and to the people who live therein. I don't see any reason why we should allow the Member to continue with such a description.

I've got two questions for you, leader of the house. Part of the commitment to the 'Code of Practice: Ethical Employment in Supply Chains' is for employers to progress towards becoming real living wage employers. Do you welcome Barry Town Council's commitment to become the first real living wage town in Wales? What support is being given to the real living wage campaign in Wales led by Citizens Cymru Wales and Cynnal Cymru?

My second question is: will you also welcome Patrick Oketcho from Tororo in Eastern Uganda, a student at Atlantic College who is here with us today, supported by Ugandan NGO Tocida and the Vale for Africa charity, of which I am a trustee? Patrick was able to join me at a meeting of the cross-party group today, which focused on international development, chaired by Rhun ap Iorwerth. Will the Welsh Government give a statement to update the Assembly on the Wales for Africa programme, supporting initiatives of mutual benefit to Wales and Africa?

Yes, in terms of the Wales for Africa thing, I very much welcome Patrick. Patrick is the fourth Ugandan student to benefit from a two-year scholarship at Atlantic College under this great scheme, funded by the volunteers at Vale for Africa. Indeed, we were both at a reception for Atlantic College quite recently in the Senedd, and it was great to meet some of the parents and students and some of the teachers there as well.

Vale for Africa is one of more than 350 community groups across Wales with a link to sub-Saharan Africa and we're very proud of the programme and all of the benefits it brings, not only to the people of Africa, but actually to the people of Wales as well, in terms of the cultural exchange between them. We encourage more people in Wales to get involved in international development projects and help those projects make a real difference, as I say, both here and in Africa. 

In the last three years, a total of £640,000 has been distributed by way of 131 grants to 89 Welsh organisations to support the partnership working in sub-Saharan Africa by Hub Cymru Africa, funded through the Wales for Africa programme. Actually, last year I opened the Wales international development summit in Swansea, attended by over 200 people, for Wales for Africa as well. So, it's a hugely important programme, both to us here in Wales and to the people of Africa. I very much congratulate Patrick for being here with us today. Maybe I'll get the chance to meet him—that would be great.

In terms of the real living wage, I very much do congratulate Barry Town Council for that. Actually, the Cabinet Secretary will shortly be launching his economic action plan, saying something in that about the need to recognise fair work across Wales. Our public sector is clearly going to lead the way in that, and it's very nice to see that Barry Town Council has signed up to that commitment in that way. Of course, the First Minister launched the new real living wage recently here at the Senedd, and indeed universities in Wales have recently announced that they too will all be paying the real living wage, and I very much welcome that development as well. So, it's an excellent development and they are very much to be congratulated.


It's been 15 months since the issue of woodchip fires and illegal dumping of woodchip was raised in the Chamber, so I'd be very grateful if we could have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary, or possibly from the environment Minister now, updating us on progress: on the areas of regulation that need reform, the evidence that's underpinned the decisions that they've come to, and what progress has been made on drafts of improved regulations that will help these serious incidents from occurring again. I did ask for the statement back in June and, as far as I can see, there's been no indication that that's forthcoming. So, if you could move that along, I'd be very grateful.

The environment Minister, who I think is responsible, is new in post and I'm sure she'll be bringing that statement forward as soon as she's able to in her portfolio. I'll certainly remind her of that.

Next year, we celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the national health service—one of the great civilising institutions that's ever been established by a Government. It is obviously very sad to see the way the NHS is being undermined and privatised across the border in England, but in Wales we've maintained the ethos and the principles of the national health service. I wonder if you could outline what the Welsh Government's intentions are to celebrate this major achievement and to celebrate this institution and its future.

Absolutely, I'm very much looking forward to celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the NHS at events in Tredegar, of course—the home of the NHS for the whole of the United Kingdom—and indeed celebrations right across Wales. The year 2018 provides us with an excellent opportunity to celebrate the people's decision to make a national health service for all of the people, and indeed to celebrate our decision to hold to the founding principles and ethos of the NHS here in Wales. We're very much working with organisations and groups across Wales to plan and co-ordinate the celebrations, and also to take the opportunity to look at the future of the NHS and how we can make it a more integrated and sustainable NHS to deliver our 'Healthy and Active' commitment outlined in 'Taking Wales Forward'.

I'm looking for a Government statement on Roath brook. I welcome the proposed work being put on hold on by Natural Resources Wales, but if it goes ahead then people in this part of Penylan will lose half their park and a large number of mature trees will go. The reason given is flood prevention, but there's been no flood in this particular park for certainly more than 70 years, if ever, and the modelling undertaken by Natural Resources Wales looked at the whole area and the data circulated with the consultation was wrong—it was very badly wrong. So, I'm wondering if there's a Government policy on redoing consultations that are flawed and whether or not the people of Penylan in this Roath brook area will be listened to.

Well, the consultation is a matter for NRW. I'm sure that flood prevention is very important in every area of Wales. It causes real catastrophic damage, and as we approach winter we need to be really prepared for winter preparedness. It's actually really important to take it very seriously indeed. If the Member has specific problems with the consultation, I suggest he writes to the consultation sponsors and points out the specific issues.

Can I call for two statements? Firstly, on the impact of winter weather on transport after the weekend of disruption that we've had. Yesterday, along with thousands of others, it took me seven and a half hours, with multiple train changes, to travel from Wrexham to Cardiff. The staff, I have to say, on the train were fantastic, offering free coffee and goodness knows what else. They can't be responsible for snow and they can't be responsible for trees falling. There were signal failures as well with trains going backwards as well as forwards. The context of understanding how this could have happened in the way it did; the extent to which it was beyond anybody's control; and the extent to which we can plan better should there be any further recurrence of this sort of temperature, snowfall and ice as the winter progresses.

Secondly and finally, mesh implants. I know, last week, Neil McEvoy called on you for a Welsh Government statement on mesh implants and you replied that the health Secretary had already made a commitment to bring forward a statement on mesh implants, and you were sure he would be doing so very soon. Thus far, his statement, including written responses to me on behalf of constituents, have stated that he still believed that the benefits outweigh the risks. I'd therefore be grateful if you could ensure that the statement takes account of recent developments in this context. In Australia, their regulatory body in the department of health, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has concluded that the benefits of using transvaginal mesh products in the treatment of pelvic organ prolapse do not outweigh the risks these products pose to patients. They also consider that there's a lack of adequate scientific evidence before them to be satisfied that the risk to patients associated with the use of mesh products, such as single-incision mini slings for the treatment of stress urinary incontinence, are outweighed by their benefits, and Australia is removing these products from their register of therapeutic goods. And, in the UK, it's reported that the health watchdog, NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, has stated that vaginal mesh operations should be banned, and that, in the documents to be published after consultation this month, they say there are serious but well-recognised safety concerns. And, of course, use of the implants to treat both organ prolapse and urinary incontinence has already been suspended in Scotland. I'd therefore be grateful, when the promised statement is brought forward, that these developments could be brought into consideration. Thank you.


In terms of your first request for a statement, I know the Cabinet Secretary himself experienced some considerable difficulty getting down from north Wales, as did a large number of other Members in the Chamber, and he's indicated his willingness to bring forward a statement about what can be done in the terms the Member outlined—what couldn't have been avoided, what might be avoided in the future and so on. He's indicated his willingness to do so. 

In terms of vaginal mesh implants, the Cabinet Secretary heard what you had to say. There are obviously very serious issues to take into account here on both sides of that argument, and I'm sure he'll take those into account when he brings forward his statement in due course. 

Diolch, Llywydd. Leader of the house, you may be aware—you should be aware—of the concerns over the British Steel pension scheme and the actual advice being received by steelworkers, and the fact that some steelworkers may have lost money because of poor advice. Now, one of the firms that's been identified is Celtic Wealth Management, which was given Welsh Government money. Can we get a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for economy and infrastructure to discuss how they're ensuring that the money they invest in companies such as this is being used wisely, and therefore steelworkers, who have spent many years building up their pension pots, are not losing out because of bad advice coming from either companies supported by the Welsh Government or companies they're passing on as a consequence? 

I share the Member's concern about the steelworkers' pensions, and I was actually very alarmed at some of the stories. I've no idea of the—. I haven't had any chance to corroborate some of the stories, but I also have constituents affected. I'd be very happy to broker a meeting between you, the Cabinet Secretary, and any other Members with a constituency interest in this, to take the matter forward. 

Personal Statement: Darren Millar

I have agreed that Darren Millar may make a personal statement. I therefore call on Darren Millar. 

Diolch, Llywydd. I'm very grateful for you giving me the opportunity to make this personal statement today. It's a statement that I'm making after much soul searching, but which I feel a moral obligation and duty to make to the National Assembly so that it appears on our Record of Proceedings. Last Tuesday, during First Minister's questions, I indicated that I would be seeking to present evidence to the independent investigator, James Hamilton, in relation to allegations of bullying in the Welsh Government back in 2014 and whether the First Minister misled the National Assembly. The Assembly record attests to the fact that, on 4 November 2014, I tabled the following three questions:

'Has the First Minister ever received any reports or been made aware of any allegations of bullying by special and/or specialist advisers at any time in the past three years and, if so, when and what action, if any, was taken?'

'Will the First Minister confirm whether any exit interviews were conducted with special and/or specialist advisers in each of the past three years and, if so, what was the outcome of these?'


'Will the First Minister advise as to how many individuals have ceased being employed as special and/or specialist advisers in each of the past three years, including the date their employment ceased and the reason for their departure?'

The reason I wish to present evidence to the independent investigator is because I was requested to table those questions by somebody else. That person was our former Assembly colleague, Carl Sargeant. I had a private conversation with Carl in early October 2014, away from the National Assembly building. During that conversation Carl told me that he was unhappy, because there was bullying going on within the Welsh Government, which was coming from an individual in the First Minister's office, and that this was taking a toll on him personally, along with others. I will not be naming the individual who Carl identified to me today, but I wish to make it absolutely clear, at this point, that at no time did Carl in his discussions with me ever accuse the First Minister himself of bullying. I offered to help, although I felt powerless to do so. Carl responded by thanking me and said that he would think about my offer and come back to me.

Around two weeks later, on 22 October 2014, Carl approached me in the Members' tea room during Plenary with a handwritten note containing draft questions for me to consider tabling to the First Minister. He explained that he hoped that the tabling of the questions would be sufficient to prompt internal Welsh Government action by the First Minister to address the bullying problem. I chose to redraft the questions slightly and I shared these privately with Carl. He was happy with the redrafts but he asked me not to table the questions immediately. Instead, he requested that I hold off until he spoke to me again about the matter. During the first week of November 2014, Carl indicated to me that the time was now right for me to table the questions as a complaint had, indeed, been made to the First Minister about the conduct of a special adviser. I subsequently tabled the questions on 4 November 2014, and the answers that were provided by the First Minister are now a matter of public record. Once I had received the written answers I passed them on to Carl before they were published on the Assembly website. He was surprised and disappointed by the First Minister's answers and resigned himself to the situation continuing.

Let me be clear: Carl Sargeant was a loyal member of the Welsh Government and a loyal member of the Labour Party. He took his Cabinet duties and collective responsibility seriously. His only motivation in disclosing the problems within the Welsh Government to me and requesting my support in this way was to attempt to resolve the frustration and stress of the ongoing situation at that time for him and his colleagues in the Welsh Government. It was out of his loyalty to the Government and the party that he loved that he wanted the issues to be addressed, and at no other time in the 10 years we served together as Members of the National Assembly did Carl ever approach me in this way or ask me to do anything of this nature. 

Back in 2014, Paul Davies was made aware of the reasons that I tabled the questions and he's prepared to corroborate the facts in this statement. I understand that others were also made aware by Carl Sargeant himself that he had asked me to table the questions and of the circumstances surrounding them. Out of respect to Carl's family, I did not wish to make this statement prior to laying Carl to rest or without their knowledge. I can confirm that they are aware that I'm making this statement today and a copy has been shared with them in advance. 

In closing, I would like to thank the Presiding Officer for allowing me to make this short personal statement today. In it I've simply stated the facts to you as my fellow Assembly Members—facts that my conscience compelled me to share with you and to put on the public record, and I want this personal statement to be considered as evidence by James Hamilton to assist him with his inquiry. I will not be discussing this matter further outside of that inquiry and nor will I be speaking to the press. Diolch yn fawr. 

3. Statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport: The Economic Action Plan

The next item on our agenda is the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport on the economic action plan, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary to make the statement, Ken Skates. 

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Since devolution, we have strengthened the foundations of the Welsh economy. Our labour market performance is strong, with more people in work than ever before. We have a record number of active businesses and new business births are at their highest level for over a decade. Our exports and levels of foreign direct investment continue to impress, demonstrating global confidence in the quality of Welsh business, products and services. 

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Ann Jones) took the Chair.


However, this is not a time to stand still. We live in an age of unprecedented change alongside huge opportunity. Fired by the fourth industrial revolution, the way we work, live and spend our leisure time is transforming before our eyes. 

This has implications for all of us—for every business and every community. We must get ahead of that change to equip our people, places and businesses to face the future with confidence, and that is why I am publishing 'Prosperity for All: the Economic Action Plan'. The plan sets a clear vision—a vision of inclusive growth, an economy built on strong foundations, supercharged industries of the future and regions empowered to become more productive. Responding to what businesses, trade unions and communities have told us over the last year, this is a whole-Government plan for growth. I am grateful for the work of Cabinet and ministerial colleagues whose input into this framework has been essential and will be critical to delivering it on the ground over the coming years.

This is a plan for everyone in Wales, a plan that meets the needs of today and the opportunities of tomorrow, a plan that drives change in policy, delivery and the way we work in Government and with others. Amongst its key changes are a new economic contract to frame a fresh and dynamic relationship with business, based upon the principle of public investment with a social purpose. As part of a reciprocal relationship, we expect businesses to commit to growth, fair work, reducing carbon footprints, health, skills, and learning in the workplace. In return, we will simplify our finance offer and deliver a competitive wider offer to business. 

We will help businesses overcome the key challenges of the future, summarised by our five calls to action: decarbonisation, because we want to enable more of our business base to become carbon-light or free. Innovation, entrepreneurship and headquarters—we want to support businesses to innovate, to introduce new products and services. Exports and trade—we want to proactively support trade with the UK and with the rest of the world. High-quality employment, skills development and fair work—we want to improve our skills base and ensure that work is fairly rewarded. Research and development, automation and digitalisation—we want to help to develop new products, automate and digitise to remain competitive in the fourth industrial age. 

We will change our primary support mechanisms to focus on these calls to action. Any business asking for direct financial support will be required to develop proposals that respond to and align with at least one of these. This will ensure the financial support we provide delivers against businesses preparing for the future. And whilst our economic contract requires a business to do the right things today, the calls to action require businesses to respond to the challenges of tomorrow. Together, they ensure the investment we provide to business delivers for the present and for the future. 

As part of our offer, we are responding to the call from business and others for greater simplicity.  We will streamline and simplify our approach into a single, consolidated economy futures fund.  The fund will align the financial support we provide business to our five calls to action and the economic contract. For the first time, we will actively encourage and work with groups of businesses to develop challenge proposals delivering against our calls to action.  We'll consider proposals that have a transformative effect on those businesses themselves, as well as wider regional impacts. This approach empowers the business community to drive change with bold and ambitious proposals. In addition, I will establish a cross-party group of Assembly Members to help to identify challenge proposals that focus on the key themes in the economic action plan, and its calls to action in particular.

To maximise our impact, we need to focus our financial resources and target our support—we cannot proactively work with every sector in the economy. So, in response to the rapidly-changing economic environment, including a convergence of sector boundaries, we are simplifying our approach around three thematic sectors and four foundation sectors. Our national thematic sectors are: tradable services, including fintech services, online insurance and creative; high-value manufacturing, including compound semiconductors and new composites manufacturing; and enablers, including digital, energy-efficiency and renewables. Our foundation sectors are tourism, food, retail and care. We'll work across Government on a range of issues in these foundation sectors, including skills development, new business models and infrastructure. We'll also work with the sectors to develop enabling plans to capitalise on opportunities for growth and innovation and to address key issues.

Despite being a small country, we are no less diverse. Each of us represents different parts of Wales that have their own distinctive opportunities and challenges. It's time for us to recognise and respond to these. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, we will strengthen regional collaboration and use local intelligence to tailor our national delivery. Chief regional officers will promote regional interests in Government. This will complement good activity already happening on a regional basis, including city and growth deals. In order to make a success of regional and local economic development, it will require more effective partnership working on the ground, and I am keen that this plan works with, and complements, associated announcements such as the new model for regional economic development being launched later this week.

The regional footprint of the plan is consistent with our local government reform agenda and those used by the regional skills partnerships. We do not discount the importance of mid Wales, and commit in the plan to working with partners there on a growth deal proposal. We will improve our infrastructure and, through the plan, we commit to a five-year programme of transport capital funding aimed at delivering projects in the most efficient and effective way. This will have a headline target of driving 15 per cent to 20 per cent efficiencies across the five-year investment portfolio for new projects. Taking the 2018-19 draft published budget figures for transport capital over the next three years as an average annual spend, potential efficiencies of up to £630 million over a 10-year period may be achievable. Pumping savings of this magnitude back into business, skills and infrastructure development will further enhance our growth and competitiveness.

This is an exciting agenda for change in what we do and how we respond to challenges and opportunity. We understand the need to measure the progress we are making through this new approach, recognising economic outcomes are influenced by a range of issues beyond our control. UK Government policy, EU exit negotiations and the state of the global economy are all hugely influential. The well-being indicators provide us with a clear and consistent measuring framework across Government. We will use these to track progress over the longer term, in line with the 'Prosperity for All' national strategy measures.

I am keen that, in taking forward this plan, we work within an international framework, learning from the very best practice across the world. In the context of Brexit, this challenge is more important than ever. This means opening ourselves up to constructive challenge from international bodies with expertise in economic development. For this reason, I am keen to open a dialogue with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other international partners in this area and will seek further engagement in the future.

Change is rarely easy, but it can be necessary. Unless we change our future today, we will never grasp the opportunities of tomorrow. We cannot do this alone, though. I call upon all of us—the business community, our learning institutions, trade unions and wider society—to join with us. Let us unite for a growing Wales, a fairer Wales, and a Wales that seizes opportunities for prosperity for all.


Diolch, Deputy Presiding Officer. Cabinet Secretary, I'm pleased that you have finally launched your economic action plan. I would say it has come 19 months since the 2016 Assembly elections, in which, of course, you stated that the economy would be your Government's No. 1 priority. The document was only received this morning by Assembly Members, but I've done my best to read as much as I can in the time I've had this morning.

I am somewhat underwhelmed by your passive approach. The plan has no reflective merit upon the economic challenges that face Wales. Back in 1999, the then Welsh Government announced its intention to raise gross value added in Wales to 90 per cent of the UK average in order to deliver a strong Welsh economy and higher wages to the ordinary Welsh worker. Now, the economic action plan today is the fourth economic strategy launched by the Welsh Government since 1999—almost 20 years of these economic strategies. Welsh GVA has shrunk from 72 per cent of the UK average in 1999 to 71 per cent in 2015. The practical results of these successive failures, I would say, in strategies is that productivity in Wales is now the lowest out of all home nations and regions, and Wales, therefore, now faces an acute productivity crisis and Wales has the lowest weekly earnings in the UK. It's no surprise that the 90 per cent GVA target has been quietly dropped by successive Welsh Governments as a stated aim for the performance level of the Welsh economy.

Looking at the action plan, there are very laudable ambitions, I think, in the action plan, but the strategy is devoid of any strategic insight and methods of delivery, and though I welcome the intent, of course, in the action plan, it seems that the commitments are simply ambitions and words with little insight and direction as to how they will be driven forward, and little support for businesses.

As you would expect and as is also correct, I want to closely scrutinise the development of the ambitions as they move from words to reality, but this is going to be almost impossible as the action plan includes no measures and no measurable outcomes. So, can I ask: what is the timetable for delivery on these ambitions and how will you measure success? You say that the scale of your ambition is huge. That's what you say in the document. But what is the final goal? What does success look like, in your view?

Turning to the specifics of the action plan, the document makes no mention of the resources that will accompany the plan or the Welsh Government's flagship economic policies, including enterprise zones and the attraction of foreign direct investment into Wales. The omission of these policies, perhaps, from the action plan, I'd suggest, speaks volumes about the complete lack of success on these measures.

Through the economic contract and calls to action, you also appear to be changing your approach from targeting a number of priority sectors to broad headline sectors, but it provides no meaningful detail as to how the Welsh Government plans to support businesses going forward. So, it does nothing to increase or speed up business lending, I'd say, and only adds to the administrative burden facing firms seeking support to grow and flourish.

From a business perspective, I do have concerns about whether businesses will be able to identify which sector they belong to. As you're no longer going after sectors, I would welcome more detail on why the Welsh Government has adopted this change of approach.

Turning to the economy futures fund, I understand that the fund will operate as a mix of grants and loans, with the balance between the two changing, depending on the economic cycle. So, this doesn't appear to be very different from the system of repayable finance. So, I would welcome more detail on the following areas. What do you envisage the mix of grants and loans will be in the first year of the fund? What will be the reporting milestones in assessing the balance between the mix of grants and loans? And what existing funds are going to be simplified and consolidated into this fund?

Finally, I welcome the shift to a more regional approach and addressing regional inequalities. I was very pleased to see this direction in the action plan. I have to say that I am sceptical about the way in which you have drawn up the map, grouping together mid and south-west Wales. Parts of Powys have very little in common, I would say, with Swansea and Port Talbot. The economies are very, very different. So, I would like to understand more about your logic in terms of how you've developed the map.

Reading on page 23 of the plan—


I'm sorry, I think you had a 'finally' then, so I'm going to say that you've had a 'finally', thank you. Cabinet Secretary.


Can I thank the Member for his questions? I'm sure that there will be many more opportunities to question the plan further. I'm happy to offer any Member in this Chamber a briefing session on the economic action plan. Implementation of the plan will be crucially important and this will be conducted in consultation with social partners, including businesses and trade unions, the third sector and other stakeholders. But I am delighted that this action plan has been published, following the publication, of course, of the national strategy 'Prosperity for All'. 

The Member asks us to reflect on the challenges of the Welsh economy. I think they've been well rehearsed, but what's clear, especially from the Member's own contribution, is that the productivity gap with the UK, and indeed much of the western world, is our key concern, but so too is the degree of inequality.

Over the last five years or so, the economy has performed exceptionally well in terms of jobs growth and in terms of driving down unemployment and economic inactivity, but what's quite clear is that the benefits of economic growth have not fallen equally across Wales. That's why we're keen to pursue a place-based approach to economic development and that's why, in turn, we're keen to make sure that there is a regional development ethos to what we offer.

But there are some obvious areas of intervention that can be made to improve the productivity of the Welsh economy. We've examined them and we've found that, principally, improving the skills base of Welsh workers, improving the infrastructure of Wales, improving leadership within business, improving the diffusion of innovation across the Welsh economy and improving working practices will contribute to improved productivity. These align with the calls to action and the employability plan, and, of course, the Welsh infrastructure investment plan. All of our interventions are now designed to improve the productivity of the Welsh economy.

Now, as I say, implementation will be crucial, and this is a plan for the long term. It would be easy to chase targets, but the problem with many targets is that they're easy to meet if you pick off the low-lying fruits. We now need to deal with those deep structural problems within the Welsh economy, and that is why I have every confidence in the likes of the OECD to provide external and expert challenge, to be able to monitor our success or any failure to perform against international best practice. I'm also confident that we should be judging our success and progress against the well-being indicators. My view is that success takes a very simple form: that we improve and increase the level of well-being and wealth across Wales whilst at the same time reducing levels of inequality across Wales.

This isn't about spending, necessarily, more money on our interventions; it's about making sure that the money that we spend across Government is better aligned with our priorities, and that's why I think it was essential that we introduced 'Prosperity for All: the National Strategy' ahead of this particular action plan. Although the plan does not go into detail in terms of the specific allocation of resources to the economy futures fund, because there are literally dozens of funds that are going to be consolidating and we're looking at the launch of that new economy futures fund at the start of the next financial year, the plan does identify approximately £630 million over the course of a decade that could be invested back into delivery, and that could make a major difference to our competitiveness and our productivity levels.

I do think that the balance of grants and repayable finance that we offer currently is appropriate for the economic cycle, and I think we need to be able to flex appropriately to remain competitive, in any given time of the economic cycle. Right now, our export rates and our foreign direct investments are all healthy. What we need to do is make sure that our investment in those areas that drive up productivity remain healthy and appropriate for any given space in time.

In terms of the sectors, well, sectors in their traditional sense are already converging, and I think this has been recognised as well by the UK Government with its recent UK industrial strategy. It's very difficult to determine, for example, whether fintech sits neatly with digital or whether it sits neatly with financial and professional services. The fact is that many new industries of tomorrow overlap the current sectors that we operate and support, so it's absolutely vital that we look to the future, that we leap to the future, that we're not dragged there or that we don't follow others into a new way of supporting business development. So, our thematic sectors, with experts and support from Welsh Government, available to support the growth of those new thematic areas in business, I think, is the right path to be taken.

In terms of our foundational economy, we determined that those four particular areas of the foundational economy are most significant because of the numbers employed within those particular sectors, because of the numbers of people that are employed across all regions of Wales—these are, in many respects, the foundations of the economy across every community in Wales, and particularly in the rural economy—and also we identified them because they present some of the most pressing social and health changes, as well, in the coming years, particularly if you take, for example, care and food and retail. Retail is one area where we will be giving a new focus, a renewed focus, in terms of place building, as well. The approach that we're taking to the foundational economy therefore aligns very well with the announcement recently made by my colleague Rebecca Evans concerning the £100 million regeneration scheme that will significantly add to the potential to improve quality of place and, with it, the retail potential in towns and cities across Wales.

As I say, there will be an opportunity to consult further during the implementation stage. I think it's going to be vital that we continue to work in partnership with business and trade unions and other social partners, as we have done during the design of the economic action plan. But this is a plan for the long term. This is a plan for the next two decades or more.


There are some aspects of this economic action plan that are to be welcomed—the new focus on the foundational economy and decarbonisation, for example. But, in stepping back and looking at the economic strategy as a whole, I think it's important to benchmark it against the three key ingredients that we know, from across the world, make up successful economic strategies. A strategy needs to diagnose what is holding us back, it needs to identify new activities that we're particularly well placed to develop, and it needs to build institutions that have the co-ordinating capacity to leverage collaboration within and across sectors. Against all three of those benchmarks, it's difficult to see how this strategy takes us forward. Indeed, arguably, I think it takes us a step back.

Let's take one of them, that issue of: do we understand our unique competitive advantage, those areas in which we can grow and develop? The strategy here is, at best, unclear. I think it's unconvincing that the Government is binning the sectoral prioritisation approach first adopted in 2009 for a much broader one. Cabinet Secretary, you referred in your Western Mail article to evidence that shows that tradable services, high-value manufacturing and the catch-all category of 'enablers' offer particular opportunities to grow the industries of the future. I would be very interested to hear: are you talking there about global evidence or evidence that is particular to Wales? Because the sectors, or the broad themes that you're referring to there, are very generic. They could apply in almost any advanced economy in the world, and we know that that sort of cookie-cutter approach to economic development simply doesn't work. You need to actually understand where your competitive advantages lie.

Now, we did have that attempt, I think, with the sectoral list that we did have before. Indeed, it was partially successful. You actually say in the economic action plan:

'Since 2009, our approach has been to support individual sectors, many of which like creative industries...have become huge success stories.'

So much of a success story that it isn't mentioned again in the economic action plan. Life sciences, again, was a cornerstone growth sector, it was mentioned in the innovation strategy from only three years ago, but it has disappeared, apart from a desultory reference to 'refocusing the Life Sciences Hub' behind us here, which has been half empty since you created it.

You referred to innovation—very welcome as a theme, yet your Government is cutting innovation expenditure by 78 per cent next year. You demoted the post of director of innovation within Welsh Government. You're abolishing the innovation advisory council and you're going to replace it with a sub-committee of the new tertiary education body, even though research quoted by the Be The Spark initiative, which you support, points out that 97 per cent of innovation in Wales doesn't happen on the lab benches of our universities, it happens on the workbenches of our businesses. 

I think that's the area, Cabinet Secretary, where I think the strategy is weakest: it's an action plan with five calls to action but no clarity about who the actors are. Who's going to do the acting? You're abolishing the 48 advisory panels; it's a kind of mini bonfire of the quangos, mark 2. You're replacing them with a single ministerial advisory board. I don't understand the difference between that and the council for economic renewal. Maybe you can explain it to us. Just three regional officers across Wales, and underneath that tier, with the exception of the development bank, an institutional desert.

The problem, Cabinet Secretary, that small businesses face in a small nation is not so much being small, but being lonely, and it's the job of Government to build up that social capital to create the kind of economic institutions that other nations have at their disposal: a trade and investment promotion agency, a chamber of commerce movement on the continental model, regional development corporations, a national innovation body. We are facing the economic equivalent of climate change, and epochal challenges of global proportions from Brexit to automation, but I fear, Cabinet Secretary, you are leaving us naked in the eye of that storm.


Can I thank the Member for those compliments that he's given to the plan—the elements of the plan that he has welcomed, the change that he has welcomed? And insofar as the criticisms that he also raises, I'll try to address them.

First of all, I think in his final words he presented what he believes is a way forward for Wales, which is to create more bodies, whether that be in terms of international trade or new mini WDAs across the regions of Wales. What we have been clear of is that there is a need to simplify and enhance what we're doing well. We have achieved record levels of employment, we have driven down unemployment to the lowest level in a generation, but we recognise that to deal with the stubborn structural problems, we now need to change direction, and that direction must be to the future. 

I know that it's very difficult for some Members to appreciate that the move from nine priority sectors to three thematic national sectors is a radical departure, but one that will mean that wherever a business sat in the traditional silos, provided they are operating in a way that will futureproof them, provided that they are operating in a way that aligns with the calls to action, they will be able to get the appropriate support from Government and support with Government in order to become more productive and more competitive in the future. The industries of the future align with those thematic areas and align with—and, indeed, have to embrace; if they're going to survive, they're going to have to embrace—the principles of the calls to action.

Now, I agree; I agree with the point the Member made at the outset that any economy, to be successful, has to contain three key factors. Actually, those three key factors also relate to businesses themselves, and I think, actually, they were contained in the analysis by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great. He framed it in a slightly different way. He said that you need to face the brutal facts, you need a hedgehog—what you do best, what your unique offer is—and also you have to have the right people on the bus. 

In terms of the brutal facts, we know that our productivity is lagging because we need to improve our skills base. We're going to deliver that through the new employability plan. We also know that we need to improve our infrastructure. We're going to do that by building as never before. We also know that we need to improve leadership skills within business, and, again, the calls to action are designed to do that: to offer that financial support, to offer that incentive to improve leadership skills. And, of course, with the focus being in particular—and I know Members in the Chamber have already raised it today—on mental health and well-being in the workplace, if we have a focus on that, by virtue of focusing on that, if we're successful, if businesses are successful, then they will have also achieved improvement, discernible improvement, in terms of leadership practices. 

In terms of the other areas that you could constitute as brutal facts—those factors that are holding us back, the barriers—as I said to Russell George, you have to have the right regional economic development vehicle in order to support businesses, and I think it's absolutely right that we do have the regions acting as key influencers with one chief regional officer. But not one office; a whole range of offices across the regions, working, as well, with those officers in local government and with the regional skills partnerships who are able to, in turn, influence Government policy and, in turn, also work with, where necessary, cross-border partners. This will be a new feature of our objective in empowering and growing the regional economies of Wales.

In terms of getting the right people on the bus, Wales is a very, very small country, and when I came into this job, I was somewhat surprised, given the small size of our country, by the number of advisory boards, groups and panels that currently exist—more than 40. I think, by any measure, anybody reasonably minded would suggest that that is too many. Consolidating much of the expertise into a ministerial advisory board, I believe, is the right thing to do in order to not waste people's time, but also in order to bring together experts from across the sectors and from across the regions to work together to be able to share ideas and innovation.

Speaking of innovation, the Member also raised this as a crucial factor in the development of sustainable and resilient economies—highly productive economies. Well, our call to action has innovation running through its veins. The challenge proposals are designed to extract the best innovation and the best calls for innovation from across the business community. In terms of the actors, well, the actors are our partners with us: in business, in trade unions, in social enterprise. We must work together—we are all actors. And in terms of what our unique offer is, it has to be our people, our human capital.

That's why I am determined, through the economic contract, to ensure that people in Wales don't wake up each working day dreading the working day ahead of them, but get up looking forward to work, being productive in the workplace. Caroline Jones was right; £15 billion is lost in productivity as a consequence of people turning up at work and not being able to operate to the best of their ability. I want Wales to be known as a place where people want to work, where they don't just deliver enough during the working day, but where they excel, where they have unique skills—all of them—and they are able to utilise their skills, where they have transferable skills, where they have secure employment, but also know, and have the security of mind knowing, that they have the skills that can easily be transferred to other occupations should they lose their place of employment. And I want another additional unique prospect for Wales being a fair-work country. We have to set our ambitions high insofar as the country and the values and the principles of Wales are concerned, and this action plan sets out to do just that.


Thank you. I am going to have to ask for shorter answers, though, Minister. We've had two very lengthy answers to only two questions, and we're way past into the third sector of this statement. I have four speakers, so it's going to be—. We're going to have to have tighter answers. Hefin David.

I welcome the economic plan, and Adam Price has already made reference in the Chamber to my Cardiff University briefing back in September. I had no sight of the action plan before the embargo, but I would say that it does reflect some of the things that we've been talking about as backbenchers on this side of the Chamber, certainly the introduction, and particularly the foundational economy. You mentioned human capital, Adam Price mentioned social capital, and I think that is the key. I don't think you answer that question, though, through institution building, it's got to be said; I think you answer it through skill building, which was the gist of my question to the First Minister earlier. I think that's what the focus should be, particularly in the foundational sector.

So, in order to recognise the time constraints and cut things short, I'd like to reflect on that question I asked the First Minister earlier. Where you've got microfirms and self-employed people bidding for contracts collectively, how do you ensure—and how will this plan ensure—those foundational sectors are able to continue and sustain their collaborative working through skill development, sustain that collaborative working beyond the contracts to which they apply, to ensure that you aren't just creating a short-term collaborative approach, but you're sustaining that for the longer term?

I do think that Be The Spark, albeit a new initiative, is one that is already making great progress in bringing together stakeholders from across academia, finance and Government, and ensuring that the collaboration stretches over the long term, and stretches beyond traditional boundaries and silos. But I also think that if the Member looks at—I think it's page 16 in particular—there is a particular focus on disaggregating components of major procurement exercises so that we can better benefit smaller and medium-sized enterprises. It's absolutely essential, though, that microbusinesses and people who are self-employed get opportunities to get on the procurement ladder and grow as a consequence, and we're working to ensure—with the work that is taking place by my colleague Mark Drakeford—that people who are self-employed and people who operate microbusinesses are able to take advantage of all procurement opportunities in their local area. There is a lot of work that can be done in the coming months in implementing this plan, but also in taking full advantage of the reforms that have been taken forward by Mark Drakeford, which could and should benefit micro-sized firms across Wales. I think in particular the pilots that are taking place in the Valleys taskforce area concerning Better Jobs Closer to Home offer a template for this sort of improved opportunity across Wales, and certainly I'm looking forward to seeing the outcomes of those pilots. I have every confidence in them being successful and enabling us to extend the same principles across the Welsh economy.


We in UKIP welcome this plan and recognise such things as the central Cardiff enterprise zone, which has been a major success story for Wales's financial and professional services sector. We would hope that it's a model for further expansion across all sectors of the economy. We also note the Cabinet Secretary's past admission that, with all the challenges that we face in Wales, we can only succeed in partnership with the business sector. Those challenges include digitalisation, automation and an ageing population, all difficult obstacles to overcome. But if we are successful in dealing with this change of pace in our economy, it will establish Wales's future for generations to come.

Whilst having some political differences with the Cabinet Secretary, I sincerely do not want him to fail in his comprehensive ambitions for the Welsh economy. But can I ask him to note that the key enablers to economic success must include business support for the private sector, which should involve access to finance and minimum regulation, taxation or public sector intervention; a robust support regime for innovation and entrepreneurship in partnership with our universities; and, perhaps most of all, investment in our youth in the form of the very best education, both academically and vocationally? Above all, we must instil aspiration in our youth, who are partners in this enterprise. The road to long-term improvement can only come through raising the education and training levels of our people, especially in ensuring that adequate literacy and numeracy levels are universal. But it must be pointed out that even the right educational policies will not alone be sufficient to change Wales's economic position. However, it is a necessary element that few, if any, would dispute.

In order to achieve its economic objectives, the Welsh Government needs to have a system of targeting companies who provide higher value and a greater degree of sustainable tenure in Wales than has hitherto been the case. We must move away from a satellite companies approach to one that encourages those who will locate their headquarters in Wales.

Economic development does not just happen. There is no invisible force that creates jobs, provides new investment or expands the tax base authority of local government. It is people and organisations who make economic development happen, either through private or collective decisions. We need a heavy emphasis on investing in science and technology research and development in this country's self-established goals, and we need to understand the failures of the past—the 'clear red water' ideology that led us to what are termed the wasted years, where billions of pounds of so-called European money has been spent with little or no improvement in the economic prosperity of the nation or its people.

Wales can no longer afford an economy that is based on a bloated public sector that adds little or no financial benefits to the economy. Economic policy in Wales needs to be considered and assimilated with appropriate adaptations to local conditions. We acknowledge the current situation of the Welsh economy can be described as challenging: gross value added lower than the UK average, our country's peripheral position, the lack of large conurbations and relatively low skill levels in the general population all exacerbate the difficulties Wales faces. We in UKIP welcome the economic ambitions, including the plans, and look forward to a stronger economy it promises that will hopefully benefit all of Welsh society.


I don't think I actually heard a question from the UKIP spokesperson, but I'm sure there were some comments that you could perhaps briefly respond to.

I'd like to thank the Member for welcoming the economic action plan, and for giving it his party's best wishes. The Member raises some important points about education, and the role that education and skills training has in developing a modern and secure economy.

I think, also, the Member touched on—. I think it's worth, actually, my reflecting on the point that was made about appropriate regulation. There is a Welsh Ministers' business service that currently exists, but we will be looking at strengthening that service, working with the council for economic development and the new ministerial advisory board in shaping regulation that is appropriate—regulations that are fit for purpose, of course minimal regulation, but also regulation that protects people as well as ensuring that businesses are as competitive as they can possibly be. And I would say that whilst employment numbers within the public sector have indeed reduced in recent times, the public sector still offers £6 billion of procurement opportunities for the private sector, and it's essential that Welsh-based companies are able to take full advantage of those opportunities.

In terms of growth potential, well, that's going to be part of the economic contract: if you you're going to get to base camp, you're going to have to prove that you have growth potential. And then, as part of the climb to the summit, we will offer, through the calls to action, an opportunity to draw down Welsh Government funding and support if you are willing to headquarter in Wales, because I think every person in this Chamber would recognise the need to have more HQs in our country.

I'd like to start by congratulating you, Cabinet Secretary, on the publication of your long-awaited economic action plan, and looking at the way it's cross-cutting across all aspects of Government, I think it very much was worth the wait.

I welcome, in particular, the commitment to develop new structures to support the key foundational aspects of the Welsh economy. This is something that I, along with other backbench Labour AMs, have been calling for for some time. With around four in 10 Welsh jobs being based in the foundational economy, this area, I would argue, has never yet been properly integrated into Welsh economic policy. So, I'm very glad that you have redressed this.

I have two questions for you today. Firstly, we know that there can be challenges around the quality of jobs in these foundational sectors. How do you plan to work with foundational employers to improve the social ask of their firms and enhance their employment offer? And secondly, I welcome your reference to simplifying business support structures too. I know that evidence already heard as part of the cross-party group inquiry on small shops into entrepreneurship has strongly supported this, but what can the Welsh Government do around supporting those entrepreneurs who may have a great idea but who lack the time, capacity or skills to apply for funding?

Can I thank Vikki Howells for her questions and put on record my thanks to her, and to colleagues, for the encouragement that is being given for developing an approach that will support the foundation economy across Wales—an economy that, in many parts of Wales, is the only economy? I think many of the most marginalised communities in Wales are those that have great potential to develop the foundation economy over other parts of the economy, other sectors of the economy. It's going to be incredibly important, as we move forward, to recognise that some big societal challenges that we face—an aging population and the childcare demands that are faced across communities—are also huge opportunities to grow the foundation economy.

But each of the four foundation sectors that we have identified have their own unique challenges, own unique opportunities, and will therefore have different interventions applied to them. For the care sector, for example, there is particular need to address the skills challenge and the need for more sustainable business models. So, we'll be working with the sector to develop—again through short, sharp, task and finish work, aligned to the ministerial advisory board—we'll be looking at solutions that deal with those challenges.

In retail, we know that a major problem facing the retail sector is competition posed by online retail, but also the lack of quality places where people can feel safe, where people can feel good shopping. Therefore, it's absolutely essential that, as part of the intervention to support the retail sector, we look at enhancing the quality of place across communities in Wales.

For tourism—well, tourism has already been invested heavily in by the Welsh Government, but it continues to possess huge potential. In all likelihood, given changes to the way that we work, people will have more leisure time in the years to come, and therefore there is great potential to fill that leisure time with business opportunities within the tourism sector. 

And then with food—well, there is a good story to tell for the Welsh food sector. I think exports in the past few years have risen by approximately 95 per cent. We have carved out a very distinct, high-quality identity as a food-producing nation. We wish to support an improvement and an increase in the quality and availability of food produce, again working with the sector in this regard. 

Each of the approaches will therefore be different, but in order to drive up—and Vikki was absolutely right, some of these areas of economic activity offer, I'm afraid, job opportunities that are currently poorly paid and are not secure. But interventions in the foundation sectors will also be relevant to the economic contract, and dependent on those criteria being met. Where those criteria cannot be met, there will be support offered through other means, and in particular for smaller and medium-sized enterprises—and there are a huge number of those in the foundation economy—there will be the support Business Wales, the development bank, of course, and other services outside of Government.

Our intention is to offer the incentive to become a responsible employer, a fair working place of employment, and that should apply not just to advanced manufacturing and fintech and life sciences, it should also apply, Deputy Presiding Officer, to those sectors in the foundational economy.


Thank you. And finally, with a question—just one question—Rhianon Passmore.

Thank you. I would like to obviously, though, welcome this particularly important and innovative document, and also the innovation around the new economic contracts. My question really is around the potential for the communities of Islwyn around tourism. I wonder how the Cabinet Secretary foresees the future of the Cwmcarn forest scenic drive—it is an area of stunning Welsh landscape, historically and for the future of that community. Also, how would you characterise the Welsh Government's 'Prosperity for All' plan on key sectors, such as within the steel industry, in comparison to the paucity of vision shown in the UK Tory Government's expression of an industrial strategy? Thank you.

Can I thank Rhianon Passmore for the questions that she has offered, and also for the determination that she's shown in terms of delivering a reopened Cwmcarn forest drive? I think that would contribute to the place-building objectives of the local authority, and indeed the Member herself—. I'm keen that I and my colleague in Government Dafydd Elis-Thomas take forward, if possible, the proposals to reopen the forest drive, potentially through an investment aligned with the Year of Discovery in 2019. 

In terms of steel, no matter how much money we throw at the steel sector, unless it can be globally competitive, ultimately, at some point, it will fail. Therefore, our investment in the future has to be aligned to those calls to action to decarbonise and therefore to become more energy efficient. Investment in research and development brings new products to market sooner and products are facing shorter lifespans: the cycle of a product is shortening by the day. Therefore, our investment in the sector, as with many other sectors, has to be based on making it more competitive and futureproofing it from competition around the world.

4. Statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services: Working Together for Safer Communities

Item 4 on the agenda is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services on working together for safer communities, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary, Alun Davies, to make the statement.

Alun Davies AM 15:29:51
Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services

Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. Next year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 that puts statutory partnership working at the heart of efforts to address community safety issues.

Although the partnership principle of the original Act still holds, today’s social, political, economic and environmental conditions in Wales are clearly very different to those in which community safety partnerships were established in the 1990s. Today’s challenges include a range of new types of crime, including modern slavery and hate crime, the escalating threat from international terrorism, the influence of new psychoactive substances and the effects of cyber-enabled offending.

Public service structures in Wales have evolved since 1998 as a result of devolution, and there have been numerous changes to the primary legislation itself. The Auditor General for Wales's critical report 'Community safety in Wales', published in October 2016, suggested that Welsh community safety partnerships were not as effective as they should be. It highlighted important issues including the complex and confusing policy landscape in which partners now operate, and concerns about leadership and accountability in the delivery of community safety priorities. However, the report doesn’t fully reflect our work to create more sustainable partnership approaches to public services delivery. The recommendations are also unlikely to address the challenges and issues that the auditor general himself identifies.

Building on previous work, we have now undertaken a comprehensive and wide-ranging review of community safety partnership working in Wales. I am confident this will help us further develop the many successes of the Welsh Government’s approach. In partnership with the Youth Justice Board Cymru, we have achieved significant and sustained reductions in the number of first-time entrants to the youth justice system. We have halved the number of fire casualties and fires, including grass fires set deliberately. Welsh police forces have recruited an additional 500 community support officers, paid for by the Welsh Government, while many areas in England are losing these valuable community assets. We have introduced groundbreaking legislation to address violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and are leading the way with our pioneering work to address modern slavery.

Announcing the nature and scope of the review in March, the former Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, Carl Sargeant, said he wanted the review to be ambitious in its thinking and that the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 gave us an unprecedented opportunity to establish a sustainable approach to safer communities. I am pleased to say that the review has lived up to his hopes, placing the sustainable development principle at the heart of its approach. It has involved the widest possible range of stakeholders, aided by an oversight group with representation from local government, fire and rescue services, police and crime commissioners, the Youth Justice Board Cymru, police chiefs, probation and prison services, the third sector and UK Government departments.

As the review report is being published today, I do not propose to rehearse its conclusions here this afternoon. I will, however, say that I’m very encouraged by the overriding conclusion that, despite the issues and challenges identified by the auditor general, we have much to be proud of and to build upon in establishing a new and shared vision for working together for safer communities. This vision will be achieved through collaborative and integrated multi-agency activity that is evidence based and intelligence led, is supported by appropriate skills and knowledge, is sustainably resourced and matches local needs, engages and involves citizens, takes a preventative approach and intervenes as early as possible, and focuses on long-term improvements and benefits. This is a vision that is underpinned by our Welsh Government ambition to create prosperity for all.

The Welsh Government is therefore committed to a long-term safer communities programme of work in partnership with our devolved and non-devolved partners and stakeholders. The safer communities programme of work will: work with the justice commission for Wales to consider how we can do things differently in Wales and identify options for the development of a distinct Welsh justice system; develop a different relationship and strategic approach with non-devolved community safety partners, which establishes a more effective community safety leadership role for Welsh Government; establish a community safety partnership policy and practice leadership function within the Welsh Government; and, finally, develop new Wales-specific guidance that builds upon the sustainable development principle and the hallmarks of effective partnership. We will consider how to establish a new and inclusive national community safety network for Wales to support future Welsh community safety policy and practice development, and to help to build the appropriate skills and knowledge required. We will explore opportunities for piloting joint thematic inspection arrangements for partnership working around the reducing reoffending theme, and we will consider how to improve community safety funding programmes to secure longer term and more flexible outcomes-focused funding.

Deputy Presiding Officer, I look forward to working with our many partners and stakeholders, both devolved and non-devolved, in leading this programme to help us achieve our ambitions and sustainable vision for safer communities and prosperity for all across Wales. 


Thanks for that statement and you indicate or refer to the auditor general's critical report, 'Community safety in Wales', published last October. When the communities and children Secretary, Carl Sargeant, announced his review of community safety, actually on 7 February, he said he was establishing an oversight group to review the current arrangements, and said it would help to develop a shared vision for safer communities in Wales and also take account of the auditor general's recommendations, and he wanted the review to develop a clear vision for community safety that is for the long term. You do use the words 'long term' in your statement. But how do you respond to the auditor general's recommendation that we needed to improve strategic planning by replacing the existing planning framework with a national strategy supported by regional and local plans; his statement said that we needed to formally create effective community safety boards to replace existing community safety structures; and his statement that we needed to ensure the effective management of the performance of community safety by setting appropriate measures at each level, ensuring performance information covers the work of all relevant agencies and establishing measures to judge inputs, outputs and impact to be able to understand the effects of investment decisions and support oversight and scrutiny?

Previously, I've repeatedly raised concerns—not with you directly, but with other members of the Welsh Government—expressed by the four chief constables and police and crime commissioners in Wales over their inability to access the £2 million they've paid for the apprenticeship levy and their statement that it will result in fewer police officers and in recruits choosing to sign up across the border in English forces instead. When I raised this with the First Minister, he said,

'We have received a share of that and we will use that money to pay for apprenticeships, but we cannot...pay towards...schemes that sit in non-devolved areas.' 

Yet, the Welsh Government received £128 million, which was actually a £8 million extra sum above the reductions in other areas. The office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales told me two weeks ago the situation had been delayed as it was Carl Sargeant who was going to bring together the Westminster and Cardiff Governments' stakeholders. He said that due to the very sad and sensitive events in recent weeks this had not been taken forward and he said it's now for the new Cabinet Secretary to decide whether to continue with the commitment of the previous Cabinet Secretary on this issue. Can you indicate, alongside the welcome work with PCSOs, that the Welsh Government, that you will take up, or are taking up, the work that Carl was taking forward on this area? Whatever the reasons, whatever the whys and wherefores, this must be resolved if we're not going to have a negative impact. 

You refer many times to partnership in different contexts and you refer to the third sector being one of those that has worked in the review group. But how or will you recognise the key role that third sector partners will play in the delivery of community safety as we go forward? A key, direct front-line role is played by drug and alcohol charities in Wales: organisations like the British Red Cross welfare service—I went out with them in Wrexham a few weeks ago; street pastors; organisations like the Wallich dealing with homelessness issues, and so on, without whom the statutory bodies could not deliver alone. 

Finally, in the north Wales context, you'll be aware of many references to the situation in Wrexham town centre, largely driven by synthetic drugs like black mamba and spice. A year ago, here in a debate on substance misuse, I quoted the chair of the north Wales safer communities board who said that too much is being spent on firefighting and not enough on intervention and prevention. He is now the deputy leader and lead member for people, communities, partnership, public protection and community safety in Wrexham, and he says that having learned from their experiences, that council is bringing together a body of professionals working in a way that is now seen as an exemplar. So, what engagement will you have or are you, perhaps, already having with that exemplar to see how you can learn together about ways that might benefit all in the future?


I'm grateful to the Conservative spokesperson for his remarks. I will say at the outset that this is the first opportunity that I've had as Cabinet Secretary to outline my approach and the Government's approach to this area since the statements were made and those commitments undertaken. So, I will, with your patience, Deputy Presiding Officer, seek to outline the approach that I would like to take in delivering on the commitments made by our friend Carl Sargeant. 

I felt at the time, and I do now, that Carl's foresight in establishing a group to look at those long-term issues is now beginning to bear fruit. I think the work of the oversight group over the last year has been demonstrated in the production of a report today, but also in the way that it is taken forward. The criticisms made in the auditor general's report, but also the wider analysis that underpinned those criticisms, I recognise and I welcome the report of the auditor general in shining a light, if you like, on these issues and the way in which he argued for a significant change in the way that we deliver community safety in Wales. I hope that the work of the oversight group and the work that's been undertaken will continue to be undertaken over the coming months in delivering on the vision outlined in the report, which is one that will deliver on both the strategic planning but also on the delivery of those longer term visions. 

And I will answer directly the question he asked me on third sector bodies. We do certainly see and appreciate the value of the third sector, both in delivering the strategy, but also managing and reviewing that strategy as well. We want the third sector to be fully a part of both the development, management and delivery of the overall programme.

In terms of some of the wider issues that the Conservative spokesperson raises, I will say to him that whilst we would probably disagree on some aspects of these different policy imperatives, I hope that we would agree that this is one area where the devolution settlement is most broken. I don't for a moment disagree with the challenges that he's placed upon the record this afternoon, and his challenge to me as a Minister, but I will say to him that many of the issues that we face in terms of community safety and the wider aspects of justice policy are made more difficult, and are more difficult in Wales than in any other part of the United Kingdom, because we do not have the tools available to bring together devolved and non-devolved areas and functions to deliver a holistic and comprehensive response to those challenges. And it is a matter for the United Kingdom Government to demonstrate that their vision for a devolution settlement, which is not supported by the majority in this Chamber or, I believe, a majority in this country, is one that is sustainable, robust and coherent. It is my concern that the current settlement is neither coherent, sustainable nor robust, and it is at this point of policy that it is at its most broken. It would therefore be, I think, an imperative for all of us to demonstrate that we will work within the settlement to deliver at present, but he must recognise as well that it is the failure of the United Kingdom Government to resource the police and also to provide for a constitutional settlement for this country that enables a holistic a broad-ranging and wide-ranging response to the challenges he rightly outlines in his contribution that lies at the heart of many of the issues we're seeking to resolve.

Thank you for this statement and initially, I think, what it shows is the complexity of the arrangements in Wales and that the lines of accountability are clearly divergent. As has been mentioned previously, I think the devolution settlement in this regard is highly convoluted. We see a situation where the police, the police commissioners, the Welsh Government, the health boards, all, in some way, have responsibility or play their part. It's holding them to account when there are those different devolutionary processes that makes it more complex to deliver and for us to scrutinise those services. So, it's always going to be more difficult when we look at the picture as it stands. That's why you would not be surprised to hear us say, as a party, that we need to have a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction and devolution of justice to Wales so that we can come to grips with some of these issues. I hope that's what the Cabinet Secretary means by a 'distinct Welsh justice system', because without all the tools in the box it's very difficult for us to come to sound conclusions. 

What I would say with regard to this particular statement is it should be called an understatement, as it clearly understates the issues that have been raised in both the auditor general's review and the Welsh Government review. I'm struggling to see the solutions to those conclusions that you didn't want to rehearse. Your statement is very fond of using words such as 'develop', 'consider', 'explore' when listing the programmes of work resulting from this review. So, if I may, can I ask for some more meat on the bones about what you are considering?

My first question relates to the review's conclusion that, and I quote:

'There is evidence of structural and resourcing conflicts and confusion posed by an array of both regional and local operational and strategic partnership "footprints" at play within the community safety agenda'.

Can I ask how the programme of work will be clarifying and streamlining these partnerships to tackle these conflicts?

Secondly, the review states, and I quote:

'We also found a confusion of community safety funding streams from multiple governmental sources, with many of grants tied to quite prescriptive and inflexible terms and conditions and requiring significant levels of administrative effort, monitoring and reporting for what are usually comparatively small and short-term sums of money.'

How are you going to tackle this directly, Cabinet Secretary?

Moving on to the third issue that I've got here today, and I quote:

'There is limited evidence of any significant shift in partnership investment toward "invest-to-save" principles, supporting more prevention and early intervention services, with the majority of community safety resources appearing to be directed toward crisis management and "treatment".'

Clearly, in line with other Government priorities, we want to be seeing proactive investment as opposed to this crisis management only. So, do you think that this is an inherent limitation of austerity or do you think it's to do with the fact that we don't have power over all services? I'd like to hear your view.

My final view, I think, on this is I remember speaking to Carl Sargeant about the fact that he was quite passionate about how we integrated services in Swansea. He gave an example of how ambulance services were providing places for people who were intoxicated on a night out to go to get treatment. This was then funded by the police commissioner. He was very keen to see how those services could be better integrated so that the cost could be divvied out and not one service within the Welsh Government would take all the hit from that. That was something that I heard quite clearly from him and I was wondering if that's something you are going to progress too.


I'll start by thanking the Plaid Cymru spokesman for her very warm words at the beginning of her statement. I must say, I think there's probably a fair degree of agreement across the Chamber on these matters.

I will start by answering your final question first, if you don't mind. I certainly do endorse and give a reply that reinforces my commitment to the points that were made by Carl Sargeant. It certainly is my intention to take forward the work and the objectives that he set at that time in the way that he outlined to you. I think the conversation that you repeated between yourself and Carl reflects very well his commitment to many of these issues and that's certainly a commitment that I would seek to undertake and to repeat this afternoon.

In terms of the wider remarks and the questions that you asked on this statement, you began your response, of course, by describing some of the complexities in the current structures that we have available to us. That is a complexity that I sought to outline myself in my answer to Mark Isherwood. And much of that complexity is imposed upon us rather than of our own creation. What I seek to do in this statement this afternoon is to seek to find a way through that complexity by bringing people together, agreeing on what our objectives are and then setting out a very clear work programme that will achieve those objectives.

In answering the Petitions Committee debate on the prison in Baglan last week, I sought there to outline my approach to this area of policy. And, in many ways, you have—. I'm being tempted again, Deputy Presiding Officer, into going perhaps further than my thinking has allowed me to do in the few short weeks I've had this responsibility. But let me say this: I think the work that's been done by the oversight group over the last year, over the last nine months, has been excellent. It's used the auditor general's report as a foundation, but it hasn't been restricted by the auditor general's reports, his findings or his recommendations. It's gone further and sometimes in a different direction to that outlined by the auditor general, and I'm grateful for that tension, if you like, which has delivered what I hope is a reasonable and a well-thought-out policy approach. 

I want to meet the oversight group in the new year in order to understand their thinking along different lines and to understand how we can take forward this work. It is my view that the work that has been undertaken has been groundbreaking in the way it sought to bring together these different areas and different policy fields but also that we need to be able to set some very clear targets for what we want to achieve over the coming years, and it is my intention to do that.

It is also my intention to take forward the work that has begun with the police commissioners. You referred to the work of different police commissioners, and so did Mark Isherwood. They were represented, of course, on the oversight group, and I've been able to meet some police commissioners since my appointment last month. It's my intention to take forward conversations with the police commissioners to ensure that we do have the wider holistic view of policy.

In terms of the overall approach, let me conclude by saying this: I hope that I was clear in answer to a question from Jenny Rathbone last week that I regard youth and female offending as a priority, one where a holistic approach would take the place of previous approaches and one where I would seek to bring together all the devolved services, together with non-devolved services and the Ministry of Justice, in trying to pioneer a different way of working. I believe that is a fundamental tenet of how we approach this area of policy. It is overly complex—I agree with your analysis and your criticism—but for us it isn't sufficient simply to criticise structures. For us, we have to create new structures, new objectives, a clear vision and a means of achieving those ambitions.


Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and thanks to the Minister for today's statement. Community safety is an interesting subject. A generation ago, when I was growing up, there were a lot more children playing in the streets and, in the summertime, in public parks, completely unsupervised by adults. I was probably doing this myself from an early age. I observed a few years later that parents were becoming more and more averse to allowing children to play on the streets due to fears of too much traffic and the impracticalities of too many parked cars, and also in public parks, which was largely due to fear of strangers. The odd thing is that children have increasingly become confined to their homes, and we now discover a few years later that they can also be unsafe in their home environment due to people interacting with them on the internet through social media.

The only solution to this might be to encourage parents to spend more time organising park outings in groups so that there is a safe environment for children to interact with each other in outdoor play. So, I wondered, Minister, when you consider the replacement schemes for Communities First, whether there is room for this kind of scheme enabling safer community play.

Another problem touching on this is that of substance misuse, because drug addicts don't always shoot up in back bedrooms; they sometimes do it in semi-public places, and there have been concerns over needles being left in public places. We've had newspaper reports about this fairly recently in Cardiff's Butetown area and residents in Valleys towns have also complained about this issue. There is a danger of children picking up the needles and inadvertently harming themselves. There have also been calls in some quarters for special areas where drug addicts can safely shoot up, called safe injecting zones. So, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this subject, Minister. Would the safe injecting zones lead to a safer community, in your view, or is this kind of liberal provision only likely to encourage further drug abuse?

This is a pertinent issue, since several of the western states of the USA are now moving towards more liberal drug laws in general. But these moves have divided opinion among policymakers. There is a certain amount of statistical evidence already indicating that, where you do liberalise the drug laws, what you end up with, within a few short years, is simply more drug abusers, meaning more people having to be treated by health professionals, so they do become more of a drain on society.

Now, we're having a debate here in the new year about the medicinal use of cannabis. People taking cannabis for medicinal use is not the same as heroin addicts shooting up with needles, I fully understand that, but the liberalisation of drug policy has to start somewhere, so I suppose people who want to legalise hard drugs may have a good starting point in advocating the medicinal use of cannabis. So, I wondered what are your views on this subject and what are the views of the Welsh Government.

We've had a couple of debates here recently concerning the so-called superprison that you mentioned in your last remarks. I was intrigued to listen to some of the contributions in last week's debate, and to note that most of the people opposing the prison were doing so partly on the grounds that they didn't agree with the concept of superprisons. I thought this was interesting since I wasn't aware that we had legal competence over this aspect of the criminal justice system here in the Assembly. But, of course, some of the people who oppose superprisons may also want us to have legal competence over aspects of the criminal justice system. Bethan, I take it that that is yours and Plaid's position and I also take it, from your remarks, Minister, that that may well be your position. You spoke about the current devolution settlement not being coherent. What is your vision of how things would work if you had all the legal competence over the justice system that you wanted to have?


I'm not sure where I'm going to start, Deputy Presiding Officer, but let me start with his final question, again—I seem to have fallen into a habit of doing so. My vision is very, very clear: I think that policing should be devolved to the National Assembly, alongside justice policy, within a distinct Welsh legal jurisdiction, which will provide us with the clarity and the ability to both deliver holistic policy approaches and to do so within the structures of a clear devolution settlement where we have clarity of accountability—for this place to be responsible for all of those different policy imperatives and approaches. And let me tell you why: in terms of where we are today, this isn't simply a dry constitutional debate to take place amongst lawyers late at night; this is about how we deliver policy for some of the most vulnerable people in the country.

The UKIP representative spent some time talking about substance misuse and other potentially criminal activity. You do not address those issues with a policing response alone. The one lesson we have learnt, time and time again—and forgotten all too often—is that if we are to address offending at its most basic level then we need to take a far more comprehensive and holistic approach involving social and other services, as well as policing and other enforcement agencies. It is not possible—and I think most people recognise this; whether UKIP do or not, I don't know—to address these issues around community safety and around offending simply using a policing and a prison or a penal policy approach. That certainly is not the view of this Government in the way that we address these issues. So, we do want to see a more holistic approach to a more comprehensive way of delivering safer communities within a justice policy that has rehabilitation at its heart.

I will say this in terms of the original points of the introduction that was made by the UKIP spokesperson this afternoon. One of the passions, if you like, of Carl Sargeant in office was that of creating an environment where children didn't simply grow up, but were nurtured—were nurtured in warm, loving families in communities where they were able to go out and play and grow up feeling safe and secure.

He brought the whole question of ACEs—adverse childhood experiences—into the heart of Government, and I sat round many tables talking with him, as he drove home the importance of childhood and ensuring a safe and happy childhood for children across the whole of this country. At its heart, what we're seeking to do in developing policy on safer communities is to enable all of us to live safe lives where we feel safe in our homes, safe on our streets and where we're able to grow up and to grow old in a community that cares for everyone.


Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for his statement? I want to take this opportunity to reflect on a couple of my recent experiences in my area, which I think reinforce a number of the points that you've raised in your statement. Can I start by saying—? I'd just like to take a moment, really, to stress that Merthyr Tydfil is not the town that was portrayed in the tv series Valley Cops. I just think anybody that's been in the area for the last few days and seen the community's response to the poor weather conditions—it has shown yet again that this is a town with a big heart that's always ready to go the extra mile for its neighbours when adversity strikes. I think our response to the need for ever safer communities needs to reflect that spirit.

At the core of that work has got to be policing with consent from the community, and a co-operative and responsive partnership approach. As you've already identified, Cabinet Secretary, the co-operation has to be between the community, the police and other partners. And in that spirit of co-operation, each has responsibility and each has a part to play. The community has to take responsibility for reporting crime and disorder, as that is the only way that the police gather evidence for their work, but, in return, communities require effective responses from the police to the intelligence that's shared with them, and that does include a visible presence of police and PCSOs that builds community confidence. But, as you alluded to in your response to Mark Isherwood, even though the Welsh Government has increased the number of PCSOs—unlike England, where they've been cut—a visible presence of police officers is not easy when their numbers have been and continue to be cut, and PCSOs can really only offer limited support.

However, I will give one example of community safety partnership work in my area. I was recently very pleased to see the Gwent police and crime commissioner, Jeff Cuthbert, respond positively to concerns around anti-social behaviour raised by residents in the upper Rumney valley. He called partners together to discuss these issues, and we are now following up with actions based around those concerns. Some of those actions and responses are coming from partners other than police, because working together for safety in communities is clearly a team game, and we're all part of that team. And we need that response from other partners. Some of these issues, for example substance abuse, require intervention and support that are not police focused. Similarly, with mental health, a crime-based response will not be the best solution, but other partners can help. So, I'm interested to know, Cabinet Secretary, how you think we can focus our efforts more effectively to ensure that the local partnership models that we need can deliver safer communities against the backdrop of the many obstacles that your statement acknowledges.

Myself and the Member for Merthyr Tydfil represent very similar communities in the Heads of the Valleys, and I saw her response to the Valley Cops tv programme. I shared many of your frustrations. Sometimes, programme makers' desire to create drama on our screens means that they don't always represent the reality of life in our communities, wherever they happen to be. I think that's certainly a case in point.

Can I say this? I've met with both the police commissioners from South Wales Police and from Gwent Police. I met them last week to discuss this report, but also how we take these matters forward over the coming months and years. I found it very refreshing to hear both police commissioners talking about how they wanted to work alongside their colleagues in Dyfed-Powys and in north Wales, and also seeing themselves as a part of our communities, wanting to work with, across and through some of the barriers that have been created by statute, which affect us all. I felt that it was a very positive example of how police commissioners can actually help act as catalysts themselves to bring together different community groups to deliver community safety within and across all of our communities whereby some of the issues that have been raised by the Member for Merthyr are clearly affecting the lives of too many people at present.

So, I hope that we will be able to continue with the Welsh Government providing a catalyst and leadership, bringing together devolved and non-devolved agencies and organisations to ensure that we have very clear shared vision of how we intend to deliver for our communities, and then to establish—and this is absolutely key, Deputy Presiding Officer, to what I'd like to say this afternoon—is that we need to establish a very clear plan of action so that we will be able to create a tempo whereby we can move forward with pace and with some speed in order to deliver some very real community benefits. I think we've already seen some of that: the groundbreaking work of this Government and the previous Assembly in the violence against women Act has brought together services that couldn't have been done before and without the leadership of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales. I hope that that has established a template for how we can move forward in the future to deliver a holistic approach to some of the deepest rooted problems we have in our communities, and I'm absolutely convinced that that holistic approach is one that will deliver real benefits for people in Merthyr and elsewhere in the country.

5. Statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport: Connecting Wales, a strategic approach to Transport

We now move on to a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on connecting Wales, a strategic approach to transport, and I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to make the statement. Ken Skates.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Transport has a pivotal role to play in improving Wales’s prosperity, connecting people, communities and businesses to jobs, facilities, services and markets. It has a key role in delivering cohesive communities and against our 'healthier' and 'more responsible' well-being goals through the choices people make and a modal shift to more sustainable travel modes, including public transport, cycling and walking.

The Transport (Wales) Act 2006 imposes a duty on us to develop policies for the promotion and encouragement of safe, integrated, sustainable, efficient and economic transport facilities and services to, from and within Wales.  These policies are set out in the Wales transport strategy, together with how the Welsh Government proposes to fulfil these policies. The current strategy was published in 2008 and was reviewed in 2013, when the decision was taken that policies and interventions within the strategy remained relevant and appropriate to meeting the transport needs of the people of Wales. More recently, however, there have been a number of key policy and legislative developments in Wales that require that we revisit the strategy to ensure that our policies and actions taken to improve transport in Wales continue to make a positive contribution to delivering prosperity for all.

The Welsh Government’s programme for government sets out how the Government will deliver more and better jobs through a stronger, fairer economy, improve and reform our public services, and build a united, connected and sustainable Wales. To support our programme for government, which sets out the headline commitments we will deliver between now and 2021, our national strategy brings together the efforts of the whole public sector towards this Government’s central mission of delivering prosperity for all. Both the programme for government and the national strategy will help us maximise our contribution to the national well-being goals required under the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. We also need to consider the coming into force of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which will lead to statutory emission and carbon reduction targets for Wales, of which transport represents the third largest emissions sector, accounting for approximately 13 per cent of total carbon emissions in Wales.

The demand for private vehicle ownership and use continues to increase. Private vehicles remain the dominant force for journeys and for freight transport. Indeed, 85 per cent of journeys made in Wales are by car, with bus and rail journeys each accounting for approximately 8 per cent. Walking is the highest mode chosen for the primary school journey, which is replaced by bus travel at the secondary level. Demand for public and private transport is forecast to increase significantly over the next 10 years. Forecasts show increased demand of at least 150 per cent for public transport and private vehicle modes by 2030. The potential impact on our environment, together with people's health and well-being, requires that we need to refine our policy approach that enables us to better tackle the challenges we need to address in the coming decade.

New responsibilities in relation to the registration of local bus services, licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles, and the setting up of the traffic commissioner's office here in Wales, are new realities, together with additional responsibilities for the management of the Welsh rail service, which is expected to take place early in 2018. So, our transport strategy not only needs to reflect these realities, but needs to be framed in the context of the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union, exploiting the opportunities to be gained through trade in the emerging global economy, and harnessing technological developments in the transport sector in developing ultra-low-emission vehicles, autonomous vehicles and other new technologies. We need to design tools that enable us to maximise these opportunities. 

And so, I am pleased to announce that our new Welsh transport appraisal guidance will be published tomorrow and will better enable transport planners to develop and implement interventions that better meet the transport needs of people living in Wales. This guidance will be critical to the success of the three metro programmes, and delivery of key transport projects such as on the M4 and along the A55 corridor, and the A40 in west Wales. Taking all of these factors into account in developing a new Wales transport strategy, I am proposing a two-tier approach, comprising an overarching policy statement supported by a number of thematic policy statements. The overarching statement will set out our wider aims and objectives for the transport network in Wales. It will cover how we propose to take account of changes and, crucially, the wider Government policy agenda in relation to land use planning, public service delivery, the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and sustainable development.

I recognise that an ambitious transport strategy will require a radical change in land use policies, planning and service delivery, which is set out within the economic action plan. The target to decarbonise 80 per cent by 2050 may require a high level of ambition and will be dependent on the pathway the Welsh Government adopts to reach this target. This two-tier approach will allow us to adopt a more dynamic, responsive and progressive approach by bringing forward new policy statements or refining existing policies in the future to respond to emerging technologies and priorities.

I propose that the Wales transport strategy will be a more flexible approach to policy development and objective setting, focused on outcomes and able to be refined to reflect new environments and address emerging priorities, such as our desire to improve accessibility and inclusion on the public transport network. A year ago I promised to work with equality groups to develop outcome-focused objectives designed to improve accessibility and inclusion, and I am pleased to say that, today, I published a policy position statement, setting out six outcome-focused objectives to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of the public transport network here in Wales. These objectives have been developed with the help of organisations representing the interests of disabled people in Wales, and I am sure that they will make a positive contribution to advancing equality of opportunity for all people living in Wales. This policy position will provide one of the cornerstones of our new transport strategy. I am confident that the revised strategy, taken together with our new way of working to deliver sustainable transport that delivers for all people in Wales, will make a significant contribution to the fulfilment of our objectives for delivering prosperity for all.

Later this month I will be launching our update of the national transport finance plan, which was published in July 2015. The plan, whilst not a policy document, sets out how we propose to deliver the outcomes described in our Wales transport strategy. Following requests from the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee, and their view on how frequently the plan should be updated, I have agreed with their recommendation of an annual review. This updated version of the national transport finance plan provides information on progress made since 2015, the new schemes that will appear in the programme for the next three years, and it also sets out the programme to be delivered, its costs and sources of funding. As is the case with the 2015 plan, the programme is an ambitious one and includes important interventions such as the roll-out of metro concepts in north-east Wales, in south-west Wales in Swansea bay, and the western Valleys. There is a clear shift also to undertaking smaller, more affordable interventions that can still achieve a big impact and target more communities, such as the pinch-point programme to tackle road congestion and improve bus service reliability.

Sustainable forms of transport are also prominent in our programme—targeting new railway stations, improvements to bus and rail services and promoting walking and cycling and integrated transport solutions. A new strategy, a refreshed transport appraisal toolkit and an annual delivery plan is a good platform to deliver a modern and sustainable transport system for Wales.


Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Cabinet Secretary, can I broadly welcome the updating of the Welsh Government's Wales transport strategy? I think it's right that the strategy is updated to take account of both new powers and recent legislation. I also agree that seamless transport infrastructure is key to economic growth. Of course, for years we've had talk of the M4 relief road, and I'm a bit concerned about some scaling back on some commitments about improving connectivity in other parts of Wales, such as the A40 and the A55, so I hope the Cabinet Secretary can give some assurance that these vital improvements are to be considered as a priority as part of the new transport strategy.

I do have real concerns, though, that our traffic infrastructure is failing members of the public. The Cabinet Secretary heard my question to the First Minister this morning with regard to Arriva train services, and with regard to the Cambrian line. I'm also aware that the number of registered bus services operating in Wales has decreased dramatically in recent years. And the practical economic impact of our inadequate transport network is, of course, acute congestion, which costs Wales's drivers and communities billions every year. The current Wales and borders franchise is characterised by overcrowding and underinvestment—I'm aware of that from my own journeys on the network—a total of £2.1 million was cut, of course, from supported bus funding in 2015-16. That's a 11.3 per cent reduction. And any future Wales transport strategy must address these acute transport issues.

I welcome the publication of the policy position statement to improve the accessibility and inclusivity of the public transport network in Wales. However, I do have concerns as to whether we will achieve the legislative obligations: by 2020, all stations and trains must be fully accessible, and at present just 53 per cent of stations in Wales cater for full accessibility. As the Arriva Trains franchise of course comes to an end next year, there's no legal obligation on them to deliver these improvements, so my question is: is Wales on track to deliver these improvements, and to deliver these important legislative demands to ensure that disabled people across Wales have full accessibility access to the rail network?

You also made reference to the traffic commissioner's office in Wales in your statement. The commissioner did tell the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee just a few weeks ago that he doesn't even have an office or staff. So, as you have mentioned his office in your statement, I wonder if you could offer any support in that area.

You also note the increase in demand for private vehicles and the challenges that will pose as a result of new carbon reduction legislation. Therefore, can I ask what plans the Welsh Government has to develop a network of electric vehicle charging points across Wales, as part of this new transport strategy, to ensure that our country is obviously fit for the future? I would remind you that you have previously informed me that you don't have any immediate plans to use public funds for electric vehicle infrastructure. As far as I can gather, the Welsh Government doesn't currently have a policy in place on this issue. So, given, of course, the UK Government's announcement stating its wishes to phase out diesel cars by 2040, I would ask if you could perhaps change your position in this regard. I'd welcome any change in attitude from the Welsh Government through this transport strategy, so we can meet obligations under the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. I would be grateful if you could comment on that.

I am pleased that you will be updating the national transport finance plan on an annual basis. I very much welcome that. And I have avoided, Deputy Presiding Officer, saying the words 'And finally' this time. [Laughter.]


You're very good. You get a star for learning very quickly. [Laughter.] Cabinet Secretary.