Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd

Plenary - Fifth Senedd


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 is from Leanne Wood. 

The Real Living Wage

1. What is the Welsh Government doing to ensure that workers get paid the real living wage? OAQ52252

We were accredited as a living wage employer in 2015. The Welsh NHS has paid the living wage since January 2015, and strong progress is being made across other employers both in the public and private sectors.

That sounds great, First Minister, but workers at Cardiff Airport would appreciate deeds rather than warm words. You bought this airport in 2013, yet we still have workers, some of whom live in the Rhondda, who are being paid less than this living wage. An agreement with the General Municipal Boilermakers will see the airport, and I quote,

'working towards being in a position to implement the Foundation Living Wage by the end of 2020.'

If that does happen, then it will have been a full seven years on what has been called 'publicly funded poverty pay.' Many of these employees are security staff, performing vital functions that keep airport security in place and keep passengers safe. What pressure can you now exert to ensure that this asset becomes a living wage foundation accredited employer by the next Living Wage Week in November?

The airport has made a firm commitment to working towards achievement of the real living wage. A proposal has now been submitted to both recognised unions—the GMB and Unite—that the real living wage will be paid as a minimum to all directly employed airport staff by April 2020. Now, the unions will be taking this proposal to ballot and we understand the unions will be making a positive recommendation to members. That uplift is proposed to take place in two increments—the first in April 2019 and the second in April 2020—and that builds on the progress already made at the airport, which includes the eradication of zero-hours contracts and the introduction of enhanced rates of pay for both overtime and bank holiday working. 

As a member of the real living wage leadership group, I was pleased to hear from the accreditation body Cynnal Cymru that 143 employers have been accredited in Wales, including private as well as public and third sector employers. Would you agree, First Minister, that we need to embed commitment and progress towards the real living wage in the economic action plan and, indeed, the gender review, as it's clear this will help address low pay and inequality in the workplace in Wales?

Well, we are firmly committed to addressing low pay and inequality in the workplace in Wales. You're right, of course, to say that low pay impacts disproportionately on women, and our gender review will pick this up. In terms of the economic action plan, it will introduce a new economic contract that will require firms seeking Welsh Government business support to commit to investing in their workforce through high-quality employment, skills development and fair work. 

First Minister, 20 years ago, Welsh and Scottish workers had identical pay packets of about £301 per week. Twenty years later, the Welsh pay packet contains £498 a week, whereas the Scottish pay packet contains £49 more at £547. Despite the important contribution of the living wage and the benefits system, I'm sure you'd agree that we do need to ensure fairness, particularly for those on lower incomes. What's your Government doing to close this gap and ensure that there are higher paid, better quality jobs for people living in Wales, and what discussions have you had with the UK Government with regard to the Taylor review on modern working practices?

[Inaudible.]—the UK Government is the mess they're making of the benefit system, particularly with regard to universal credit, which will affect disproportionately and very negatively so many people in Wales. We've seen the removal of in-work tax credits as well. That hasn't helped people in terms of their incomes. We've seen, for example, the refusal of the UK Government to fund Wales properly, and, indeed, the UK Government have given Northern Ireland £1 billion, whereas Wales has had absolutely nothing. There's a great deal of work I think the Member can do with his own party in terms of making sure that Wales gets fairness, because we don't get it from the Tories. 

First Minister, one of the fundamentals of economics is the law of supply and demand. If supply exceeds demand, the price of a commodity falls. This applies as much to the supply of labour as any other commodity. Would the First Minister not agree with me that it is the over-supply of cheap labour, especially in the semi-skilled and unskilled marketplace, caused by uncontrolled mass immigration, which has allowed big business to exploit workers with low wages?

There are many, many sectors of the Welsh economy that depend very much on labour from outside the UK. If we look at the food and drink sector, there are many firms who'd simply not be able to survive, because there are other options available for local workers that are seen as more attractive. Our abattoirs, for example, would struggle hugely if they weren't able to recruit from other countries. So, no, I don't agree that it's a question of over-supply. If you look at unemployment in Wales, it's historically very, very low—4.5 per cent. That's, effectively, full employment in terms of economics, which is why, of course, there's a need to be able to recruit skilled workers, and workers who are semi-skilled, from other countries. Where would our NHS be, for example, without the doctors who we recruit from outside Wales? I prefer to have a situation where people have the treatment they need, rather than obsessing with where they're from.

Digitisation and Public Services

2. Will the First Minister commit to a review of how digitisation can support the better delivery of public services? OAQ52217

Can I commend the Member, first of all, for his interest in this? I know he has a very deep interest in digitisation and the opportunities that it affords, not just the threats that are sometimes perceived as being there. We are reviewing progress on the use of digital and data in public service delivery, to ensure we are maximising the potential for digital to contribute to our approach to public service delivery in Wales.

Thank you very much. It takes 55 days to start the recruitment of a nurse, after they've handed their notice in, and we're spending some £59 million on agency nurses. NHS Shared Services estimate that, using existing technologies, they can take 30 days off that time, saving some £13 million. There are opportunities like this right across public services to free up resource to deliver front-line services. The Welsh Government has announced a review of automation and digital, and I recently met with Professor Phil Brown, who is leading that, and I must say we are very fortunate to be having him leading that work and the expert panel that's been put together. I think it's a very exciting piece of work, but it's a piece of work that looks primarily at skills, and at labour force issues, not at the whole raft of issues right across the public sector. Both use artificial intelligence but, crucially, existing technologies we have available now that are not being harnessed. So, would the First Minister look into the whole piece and not just the labour market dimensions?

I agree, and it's an issue I know the Member has raised with me privately: how do we look at digitisation as a way of improving public service performance? He's given an example there, which he's given to me before, and it's hugely important the recruitment process is speeded up. The question is, then, how do we do it. Well, there are a number of recent or current reviews that cover aspects of digitisation—the parliamentary review on health looked at it, for example, in the field of health; the Reid review, in terms of innovation; and the Bowen review in terms of the workforce. Now, within health, 'Informed Health and Care' sets out the vision for the delivery of digital services to support health and social care services and policies. The parliamentary review made a specific recommendation on digital services, which will be taken up within the transformation plan, which is part of a paper that will be considered by Cabinet. And of course, we have in Julie James a Cabinet Secretary who is taking forward the digitisation agenda. What I want to avoid is for digitisation to be taken forward in different compartments rather than taken forward as an opportunity across Government.

Of course, First Minister, access to the internet and, indeed, good broadband speeds are now considered as one of the main utilities that a family or a household should have. However, the latest communications market report for Wales found that just over eight households out of 10 actually can access the internet—83 per cent. So, that leaves 17 per cent of people who cannot access the internet. Now, when they cannot access the internet for services that are only available online, then they are at a great disadvantage. Now, at present, for example, also, to register as a landlord under Rent Smart Wales costs £33.50 if you complete the application form online, but £80.50 for a paper-based application. And in Aberconwy, a number of my constituents have actually had to pay this extra money and found it quite an unfair system. Will you commit to reviewing processes across all Welsh Government public service providers to ensure that such discrepancies and, indeed, these natural barriers are removed?

I think I have to say to the Member that I think the information she's using is out of date—possibly a year out of date. That is my understanding. We look at Superfast Cymru, for example, and what we have done with that. It has meant that a substantial number—nearly, not 100 per cent, but more than 90 per cent—of premises in Wales have access to superfast broadband. That would not have been done without Welsh Government intervention. If this had been left to the market, many of her constituents would have been left without broadband forever and a day. So, the intervention that we have put in place as a Government has ensured that many, many people will have access to broadband that otherwise they would not have. There will be a small percentage of the population who will need to look at other solutions in terms of accessing a broadband speed that people will find acceptable. We are proud of our record in rolling out broadband across rural communities in Wales that would otherwise have no access at all. 

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

Questions now from party leaders, and the leader of the opposition, Andrew R.T. Davies. 

Thank you, Presiding Officer. First Minister, today the Public Accounts Committee have brought forward their report looking at the expenditure around the Circuit of Wales, and just before I ask you the question, I'm sure you'll join me in congratulating the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, who announced that he and his wife are expecting their first child in a few months' time.

When you look at this report, it really does make for depressing reading, to say the least. It doesn't look at the policy position in fairness, because that's not the Public Accounts Committee's role; it looks at the expenditure of money. It indicates a lack of ministerial oversight on many of the decisions that were taken, and press releases that were put out were contrary to the evidence that the committee then uncovered that showed that the department was aware of what was going on with this money. You are head of the Government. How on earth can a Government department operate in such circumstances as the report identifies today, which basically indicates that the department was being run by the officials rather than the Minister? 

Well, first of all, could I join him in his congratulations to Nick Ramsay? I found out about his good news on Facebook. So, that is something that certainly all of us on these benches would offer him congratulations on, of course—him and his wife. 

In terms of the issue that's raised by the leader of the opposition, there are questions that we will need to address in the response to the committee's report, but, of course, as the committee has reported, it's absolutely right that there should be a full response at the right time. 

And I fully accept that, First Minister, but I note the Government response to date, which didn't seek to refute the allegations that the officials were running this department at the time. And that's a very serious accusation based on the evidence that the committee has put together. It's a cross-party committee, it was a unanimous report and it was indicating as well that some of these oversights were happening into this current administration as well, as recently as 27 April last year, when the current Cabinet Secretary was in place. It refers to the press releases that were put out and the Government's written statement.

It is deeply troubling for many people who look in on this, and you'll be aware of this through your constituency work—and all the other Members—when you go to organisations that say the Welsh Government demand paper A and paper B and due diligence reports, so that they can get a very small grant of maybe a couple of thousand pounds—. Here, we are talking millions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of pounds on specific projects. I put it to you again that what I'm trying to elicit from you, as head of the Government, is how on earth can the officials run the department without the Minister having oversight of these decisions? That's a very serious accusation that needs and answer and surely, today, you, as head of the Government, can give us that answer and that reassurance that the changes in place will not allow this situation to happen again. 

Well, the leader of the opposition will be aware of the Carltona principle and the way that operates, but it wouldn't be right for me to prejudge a full response. This is a serious report that deserves a serious response, and that has to be done at the right time. At that time, of course, it's absolutely right that Members should have the opportunity to scrutinise what the Government has done and the response that Government puts in place. 

It doesn't look as if I'm going to get an answer. I appreciate that, but I'll look forward to the answer when it comes. But will you give us an assurance, then, this afternoon, First Minister, that if the Government acknowledges these accusations, these assertions, based on the evidence that the committee took—the cross-party committee that looked into this—. To date, no-one has, from what I can understand, been disciplined or been sanctioned because of the very serious allegations that have been substantiated in this report. Will you, therefore, commit to a Government response that indicates that sanctions have been taken where they need to be taken, because, as I said, it cannot be right that people can have such leadership in a department and who aren't elected Members—the Ministers or the Cabinet Secretaries—and that the officials are running those departments? This department clearly seems to be out of control, First Minister.  

Well, first of all, there are a number of issues that the committee raises that we have to consider, but we are entitled to put forward a response as a Government and, at that time, Members will want to weigh up, of course, what the committee has said and the important points that the committee has raised, together with the Government response, and that, to my mind, is the proper way of doing things. It's at that time, of course, that there will be scrutiny of Government decisions, but I don't think it's right to prejudge any response that we might put in place. But it is obviously a report that we must look at very, very seriously, because there are issues there that we will need to address as Government, but they will be addressed when the full response is produced.


Diolch, Llywydd. A third of Welsh children live in poverty. Does the First Minister believe his Government or the Conservatives in Westminster are best placed to tackle this national crisis?

In terms of being 'best placed' to tackle it, there's no doubt the UK Government has a very strong role, through the welfare system, through the way it can look at tax credits, but it has unfortunately walked away from the role that Government should have, which is, firstly, to reduce inequality in society and, secondly, to ensure that money goes where money is needed most around the UK. That is something that they have not taken forward over the last eight years.

First Minister, you are the Government of Wales and you can take responsibility. You can lift people out of poverty, yet you are choosing not to. Your Ministers claim that the devolution of welfare administration would undermine the social union of the UK. Now, putting aside the fact that every other Government in the UK has power to administer welfare, does he think this reckless undermining of the social union is what has driven calls for the devolution of welfare from the Institute for Public Policy Research, Shelter Cymru, the Assembly's cross-party equalities committee, the Bevan Foundation, the Trussell Trust, the Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party, the UK Labour Party, the Labour mayor of Manchester—and there are many more? Do you think all of these are divisive nationalists, seeking to undermine the social union?

Well, I have to say, I find it extraordinary to be accused, as a progressive politician—and all of us are on these benches—that we are choosing not to address child poverty. That is a profoundly— [Interruption.]—a profoundly unfair allegation to make, but that is the allegation that she has made. I have to say, the suggestion that this is entirely within the hands of Welsh Government is simply fallacious. We know the UK Government has substantial levers in terms of welfare, in terms of the benefits system, in terms of employment law, in terms of the setting of the real living wage. Yes, we can do it, in terms of the reach that we have to the public sector and to the third sector, to an extent, but not to the private sector. What she is doing is absolving the UK Government of its responsibility, and that's where responsibility must lie. Now, it's one thing to say, 'Let's administer benefits', but there are two problems with that. First of all, the Scots are spending money on bureaucracy—on bureaucracy. They are actually spending money on administration that could be going to recipients. That is clearly an issue that we have had to consider. Secondly, administering the benefits system is no good if you can't control the flow of money; you just get the blame, in those circumstances. People will then say, 'Well, you're the ones administering the benefits system; why don't you put more money into it, why don't you do this, why don't you do that?' when, actually, you can't. So, I've always been very, very reluctant to take on board the administration of something when I think it's a trap set by the UK Government.

So, these levers exist, yet you don't want to have control over them. You talk of strategies, and you bemoan the Tories' welfare policies, while your only real action is to cut the benefits under the responsibility of your own Government: school uniform grant, cut; independent living grant, cut; the education improvement grant, cut; Communities First, cut. A third of Welsh children are living in poverty, thousands rely on food banks for a decent meal, and this is the best that you can do. First Minister, I've got a simple question: are you willing to take responsibility or are you happy to just carry on blaming the Tories in Westminster?

Let's look at this very carefully. The leader of Plaid Cymru represents a party that wants to see an independent Wales—

Well, I know. Yes, I know it's the case. And the reality is—[Interruption.] The reality is that we are recipients of transfers of money through the benefits system because of our membership of the UK. If she wants to make the case to the people of Wales that we should be independent, and therefore have less money than we do now, less money to pay benefits, less money to support jobs, less money for the health service, less money for education, let her make the case. That's what her party exists for. For me, I am a devolutionist. I believe the people of Wales deserve a strong voice, but we also have to make sure we are part of the social union of the UK that provides so many benefits to so many of our people. And what would make it even better is the election of a Labour Government in Westminster.

Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, last week, the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Wales was appointed to the national criminal justice board and has vowed to fight to have policing devolved to Wales, saying that the time was right and that the policy was supported by all police and crime commissioners in Wales. Do you support this stance taken by your two police and crime commissioners? And what sort of timescale would you envisage to have policing devolved to Wales? Do the actions of Labour's PCCs undermine your Commission on Justice in Wales?


Well, first of all, could I welcome her to her new role as leader of UKIP?

It is true to say that all four police and crime commissioners, both Labour and Plaid Cymru, are in favour of the devolution of policing, and that is something that I have supported for many, many years. Of course, this will form an important part of what the Thomas commission has to look at. I believe it's always been the case that it makes little sense for policing not to be devolved when every other emergency service is. [Interruption.] This comes as news to Plaid Cymru. They should read the news over the past few years, shouldn't they? They will then find out. But it is the case—[Interruption.]

It's unbelievable, isn't it? We get accused of shouting and then we've got—[Inaudible.]—in the Chamber. There we are. I don't mind a bit of life in the Chamber; that's something that adds to its character. But the answer is 'yes'. I do support the devolution of policing, and I know all four police and crime commissioners do.

Thank you for your answer, First Minister. Since their creation, the police and crime commissioners' budget has skyrocketed. The Labour PCC for south Wales indeed has a budget of £1.3 million and 28 staff, plus a deputy commissioner. So, this has meant an increase of 40 per cent in the budget and double the amount of staff, yet, in the last three years, there has been a 33 per cent increase in violent crime in South Wales Police force. So, should you get your wish and policing is devolved, will the Welsh Government abolish the role of police and crime commissioners, which divert resources away from front-line policing?

Well, it's right to say that, if policing was devolved, it would be a matter then for this place to decide whether or not to keep police and crime commissioners. That is a judgment that would have to be taken when—rather than if, I trust—policing is devolved.

Thank you. The role of the police and crime commissioner was meant to bring local accountability to the police service, however the majority of the Welsh public appear to be disengaged at the polling booths, and the figures are barely in double figures when people vote for police and crime commissioners. There are elections in less than two years, so what can be done to increase participation and engagement with PCCs in Wales? And do you think that the role should be overhauled to remove party politics and give more of a voice to community leaders rather than politicians?

Well, these are matters for the UK Government, given the fact that PCCs are not devolved—

—so, it's a matter for them to examine how best to increase turnout for police and crime commissioners and the elections that are held for those positions. But my position is very clear: I think it should be for this Assembly—Parliament as it soon will be, I trust—to take the decision as to what sort of structure should exist in terms of the oversight of the police.

Rail Services in South Wales

3. Will the First Minister set out the Welsh Government's key objectives for improving rail services in south Wales? OAQ52223

Yes. Our future objectives and priorities for rail across Wales and the borders are outlined in the 'Rail Services for the Future' document that was published last year.

Thank you, First Minister. You may be aware that, in response to my campaign, Arriva Trains Wales have announced an extra four Sunday train services from Aberdare, with a first service that now reaches Cardiff before 10.00 a.m. This is great news for commuters from the Cynon Valley. What assurances can the Welsh Government give that these services will be carried forward and included in any future timetabling under the new franchise?

Well, first of all, can I congratulate the Member for what she has done? I know, in the press release that was sent out on 24 April, Arriva Trains acknowledged the work that she had done to get the services running on a Sunday. There will be an announcement tomorrow, of course, on the rail franchise, but, as part of the work that's been put into that, we would want to see enhanced Sunday services.

First Minister, I'm sure that one of the key objectives of the Welsh Government is to upgrade the current infrastructure in order to improve the passenger experience. It's crucial that all parts of Wales feel the benefits of any investment by the Welsh Government, and, since you’ve been First Minister, I’ve raised the case of Milford Haven station, which needs substantial improvement. Now, unfortunately, this station isn’t on the Government’s list of stations for improvement, and I understand that there are specific criteria used to decide which stations should receive investment, but there are concerns that these criteria aren’t appropriate, considering stations such as Milford Haven are left behind. Given the circumstances, are you as a Government willing to look at these criteria to ensure that all parts of Wales receive the investment that they deserve?


Well, there are examples where stations have received capital investment in both rural and urban areas. I’m not aware of anything that falls outwith that and would mean that the station in Milford Haven wouldn’t get the investment. Perhaps, if the Member would write to me, I could consider the matter to see whether there’s anything that can be done to move Milford Haven up the list.

First Minister, there’s been a great deal of concern in the Neath area on the possible proposal to exclude Neath station from the main line as a new line is built. Now the Petitions Committee has confirmed to me in an e-mail that the reason a petition on this proposal has been judged to be valid is because it’s the Welsh Government that has commissioned the initial scoping work on this particular proposal. Is the Petitions Committee right in that regard?

Well, from what I can see, this came from something that was said by an individual who had no connection to the Government, is not a member of Government and not a civil servant of the Government. As I said in this Chamber last week, Neath is an exceptionally important station and there is no kind of threat to the services in Neath.  

First Minister, you will be aware of the great deal of frustration at the lack of progress in establishing a Newport to Ebbw Vale passenger rail link train service. That's been the case for quite some time and there's a great deal of concern in the area. Given the long-standing economic, social and cultural links between Newport and Ebbw Vale, do you understand those concerns and is there anything you can say today that would give comfort to those with these concerns?

Our aspiration remains to have two trains an hour operating along the Ebbw line from 2021. We want to see trains going into Newport, but it's a matter for Network Rail, an organisation that we can't even direct. That's part of the problem we have with the current settlement. The Scots can do it; we can't. That said, we want to work to make sure that the service is introduced in the near future and to work with Network Rail to identify the technical solutions needed in order for that to happen.  

Orthopaedic Surgery

4. Will the First Minister make a statement on the provision of orthopaedic surgery? OAQ52221

Yes. Orthopaedic surgery is provided at each health board across Wales and we expect all patients to be seen as quickly as possible and in accordance with Welsh waiting times standards.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a constituent who had seen a news report on tv the night before of waiting times of as much as 18 months for hip operations. But she noted that this didn't mention knee operations, having been informed that see wouldn't get an appointment for two years minimum, but if she wanted, or could afford, to go private she could have it done within six weeks at a cost of £11,000. How do you respond, therefore, to her statement to me, and what will you tell her regarding this statement, 'It seems so unfair that I have to suffer constant pain, loss of sleep and a great deal of trouble just because I can't afford to pay over £11,000 for my first operation'? She's a 75-year-old lady.

Well, obviously, she's in a great deal of pain and, of course, that is something that nobody would welcome. It's very difficult to give an opinion on an individual's case without knowing more about it. If the Member wants to write to me, then, of course, I will look at it. Generally, if we look at Betsi Cadwaladr, well, BC have received £11 million out of the performance money specified for referral-to-treatment times last year. What we have seen is that the March 2018 position was 39 per cent lower than the original profile. We've seen, for example, a reduction since October 2017 of people waiting for more than 38 weeks and I can say that BC are developing an orthopaedic plan for the region, looking at models of care and service redesign. That's been to their board on several occasions I understand, and officials are discussing that proposal with BC.

Problem Gambling

5. Will the First Minister make a statement on the public health implications of problem gambling? OAQ52247

Problem gambling has the potential to harm not just individual gamblers but also family, friends and society as a whole. As we all know, hardships can include financial hardship, psychological distress and the breakdown of personal relationships. We do support a range of measures to address this, including support, advocacy, information and appropriate regulation.

Thank you for that, First Minister. Like everyone here across the parties, we welcomed the announcement by the UK Government the other week of the intention to reduce the maximum bet for fixed-odds betting terminals to £2—something that we've discussed in this Chamber on a cross-party basis for almost five years. Of course, we'll need to see legislation, we need a timetable to make sure that this thing actually happens, and I wonder if you've given some thought to the issue as to whether this has implications in respect of the Wales Act 2017 with regard to our devolved responsibility, whether an LCM will be required, and whether there is an opportunity through an Order in Council for the devolution of gambling properly. Because, in terms of dealing with the health implications, we know of the significant issue with regard to young gamblers, 11 to 15-year-olds, we have powers already in respect of education and planning, and what we really need is to develop a strategy to deal with the growing problem, recognised by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, of problem gambling, online gambling, using the powers that we've got at the moment, but also the opportunity to get proper devolution of full gambling responsibilities so that we can actually have all the tools to tackle this emerging epidemic.

I agree. It would appear that the announcement that was made last week means that the powers that Welsh Ministers have under the Wales Act become moot. What the powers actually say is that they give us the ability to limit the number of machines with a stake of more than £10 in respect of new betting premises licences. Well, if the maximum stake is only £2, then those powers are academic. So, I think it is appropriate for us to look again at what would be appropriate for Wales in terms of further powers over gambling.

First Minister, recognising the symptoms of gambling isn't always that easy and neither is providing the appropriate support, as people respond differently to interventions, but for the more intractable problems, if you like, I wonder if you could tell me whether Welsh Government is able to identify how many people in Wales have been allocated a social worker to help them with their problem, or indeed have accessed rehabilitation residential centres, either in Wales or elsewhere. I appreciate you may not have the answer today, but if you could write to me with that answer I would be grateful, because I'd like to know who's actually picking up the tab for the support that we're offering.

I'm happy to write to the Member with that information, and will do so.

Further to the questions and answers so far, a 2016 report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that problem gambling costs the Welsh Government between £40 million and £70 million every year. Since gambling and advertising are reserved powers, you can't be proactive on gambling, you can only react to the problems. So, for clarity, and following what you said to Mick Antoniw, why don't you demand that Westminster gives us the powers we need to minimise the financial cost, but more importantly the human cost, of problem gambling?

What would need to be addressed is online and tv advertising, because that's where a lot of gambling comes from now. For a long time, it hasn't been possible to advertise tobacco on tv. For a long time, it hasn't been possible to advertise alcohol on tv. And yet, gambling advertising has increased. If we're saying that, for many people, gambling is an addition, as alcohol and tobacco can be for some people, why is it the case that gambling advertising has gone up? For example, there were 152,000 adverts in 2006 but 1.3 million adverts shown in 2012—and those figures are already six years old.

Anybody who watches any kind of sporting event will notice the invitations for people to put a bet on there and then about who's going to score the next goal in the second half, who's going to score the next try, what the final score will be. It has the potential to cause huge addiction. So, if we look at gambling, we have to look at what happens in terms of internet regulation, what happens in terms of broadcasting. So, it does impact on other areas. By far, to my mind, the easiest way of dealing with regulating gambling is to do it on a UK-wide basis, but certainly one of the things that I would want to look at in the future is what would we look to do in Wales that takes us beyond the powers we were given in the 2017 Act, which now appear not to be worth anything.

The Wales for Africa Programme

6. Will the First Minister make a statement on the future of the Wales for Africa programme? OAQ52215

The Wales for Africa programme supports individuals, community groups and organisations in Wales to combat poverty in Africa in ways that deliver benefits both to Wales and Africa. We recently awarded a three-year grant to Hub Cymru Africa and opened a small grant scheme to support activity across Wales.

Thank you for that answer, First Minister. I'm a huge advocate of the programme, and I think it's been doing some excellent work. Just last week, I returned from western Kenya, where I saw the work that's being done by Just Earth, which is a Welsh-based charity helping subsistence farmers in that part of the country; it's also doing some work in Uganda too. As a result, they're increasing their crop yields and it's helping to eradicate poverty in that neck of the woods. Will you join me in congratulating Just Earth on their work? What action is the Welsh Government going to take in order to identify other organisations like them who may not be engaged in the Wales for Africa programme, so that we can maximise the opportunities that working together collaboratively can bring in sub-Saharan Africa?

I support any organisation, of course, that is providing support to those most in need. He asked the question, 'What are we doing as a Government?' Well, Hub Cymru Africa, as I've said, has been awarded a three-year grant of £349,000 per annum for 2018-21. The hub provides advice, training and support for the hundreds of groups in Wales that are active in Africa—that support is available to any organisation. I can say that in terms of grant funding, we received 105 grant applications during 2017-18, so it shows that there's a great awareness of what we have to offer in terms of grant support. I'd encourage any organisation to engage with that process.

First Minister, I very much agree with Darren Millar, and I know with many across the Chamber, on the value of the Wales for Africa programme. I too have been lucky enough to see at first hand in Mbale in Uganda the value of the educational and health links. In addition to what you've already mentioned, in terms of Hub Cymru Africa and the grant scheme, will the Welsh Government look at how further work could take place to build on the community-to-community links? I know there's a great deal of interest right across Wales in our communities, in terms of how people can play their part in building on the progress already made.

Yes, I can. What I'd direct communities and community groups to look at is the Wales for Africa small grant scheme. It was launched recently and it's designed to focus on enhancing Wales's contribution to combating poverty in Africa, but also designed, of course, to help community groups and community links to contribute to that agenda. That grant scheme is open to established organisations—there are many across Wales—but also new organisations with new ideas. So, it would be that scheme that I'd suggest that people look at in order to see how they can be helped to help others.

First Minister, I'm sure you are well aware of the fantastic work that is being done by the Pontypridd-based charity PONT, which has developed links with Mbale in Uganda, and the considerable way in which that has developed to the benefit of the people in Uganda and Mbale. My particular, I think, praise is for the actual educational work that that charity is engaged in within schools in Taff Ely, so that in every school you go around there, you now see young students who are actually engaged in monitoring what's happening—in understanding and engaging with it, and really developing a sort of traditional Welsh spirit of internationalism, in terms of our responsibilities to the rest of the world and vice versa. At a time when barriers are going up around the UK and so on, isn't this a fantastic example for our schoolchildren of how we can contribute to all of the global issues that affect us all?

I've been fortunate enough to see PONT's work at first hand in Mbale—I was there in 2014. For example, I saw the PONT motorcycle ambulance service. It provides emergency treatment for women in labour, getting them to the main hospital from quite inaccessible areas with poor roads—I saw that being demonstrated. There is a PONT co-ordinator, who spends time in Mbale working with partners to drive up standards. And I've seen, of course, what PONT has done in terms of providing infrastructure in Mbale as well. It's a tremendous story over many, many years, and one that I was privileged to see. 

Nuclear Power

7. Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government's policy on nuclear power? OAQ52226

The development of nuclear policy lies with the UK Government. We support new nuclear on existing sites to maximise the legacy benefits of any planned investment. So, it means not just supporting a power station in the right place but the growth of a supply chain and the development of skills and research, whilst protecting our cultural heritage and environment. 


Thank you for that answer. First Minister, I understand that the UK Government is currently talking to Hitachi about the funding package for Wylfa Newydd, and that the outcomes are currently hanging in the balance. You will know that the people of north Wales are waiting patiently for the jobs in construction at the power station and in the supply chain that will be generated by this scheme. What words of comfort can you offer them? 

It's a matter for the UK Government rather than for us, but there are two points I think it's important to make. First of all, the UK Government seems insistent that we need to leave Euratom. I've absolutely no idea why we would leave Euratom—I can't remember anybody saying that to me on the doorstep in 2016—and put in place what seem to be identical regulations for no purpose at all. I don't think that helps, I have to say, in terms of the level of uncertainty that might create. 

But secondly, I think it's hugely important that there's an understanding in Whitehall that we do have to pay to contribute towards the building of power stations; we can't expect other people to build them for us all the time. There were issues around Hinkley, and we still have nothing on the tidal lagoon, one of the most innovative schemes probably in the world at the moment. Let's see if the UK Government can be innovative and enterprising in the future, but it is hugely important that the financial issues are resolved so that there is a power station and, importantly, there are jobs on Anglesey. 

First Minister, radioactive waste management is a devolved issue, and we currently have no high-level waste disposal site in Wales. Now, a consultation was launched in January to see if anywhere in Wales would volunteer to be the home of a nuclear waste disposal site. Have you had any responses and can you report any progress to the Chamber? 

Not that I'm aware of. I remember doing this when I was environment Minister. It is something that we investigate from time to time. Of course, the reprocessing facilities in Sellafield are available to Wylfa. They're hugely important for the nuclear industry in the UK. But no, no community, as far as I'm aware, has volunteered. 

Tackling Poverty

8. What action has the Welsh Government taken recently to help tackle poverty in valleys communities? OAQ52232

If we look at 'Prosperity for All' and the Valleys taskforce, for example, they are about improving people's lives through delivering good-quality jobs and the skills to do them, and, of course, supporting better public services and strengthening Valleys communities.

Thank you for that, First Minister. Securing the well-being and prosperity of our Valleys towns and communities remains a significant challenge, as shown by a number of health, social and wider welfare indicators, and I was alarmed by the recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that suggested more people would be driven into poverty by UK welfare reforms. That follows closely on the heels of reports by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Bevan Foundation, which state that the next wave of welfare reform will push even more people in our Valleys communities into poverty. Now, as my constituency of Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney prepares for the roll-out of universal credit next month, will you join me once again in urging the benches opposite to raise their voices alongside ours to persuade their Government in Westminster to stop this reckless policy of austerity now, before any more damage is wreaked upon the most vulnerable in our society? 

They will have heard that call. We've written to the UK Government asking them to reconsider the damaging changes that their tax and welfare reform policies are having on households in Wales. All I'm concerned about is, if we look at the Equality and Human Rights Commission's report published in March, that suggests that we will see the reforms that they are proposing in Whitehall push an extra 50,000 children into poverty by 2021-22. Now, the whole point, surely, of Government is to look to find ways to even out inequality and look to reduce it as much as possible, not to increase it, but that is where the UK Government are. And I'm deeply concerned about the fundamental flaws of universal credit—they've been well rehearsed in this Chamber—but despite those flaws, the UK Government is rolling the programme out. We need to have a benefits system in this country that helps people rather than penalises them, which is what the current UK Government seemingly want to do.  

Does the First Minister agree with me that work is one of the best ways out of poverty? And will he join me in welcoming the fact that unemployment in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has fallen by 52 per cent since 2010? 

I have to say to the Member that work is important, but well-paid work is crucial. We have always said—. We used to say to people, 'If you get a job, you'll be better off', yet why is it that there are people in work using food banks? Why is it that there are still stories of people who find themselves in a job but yet unable to afford the basic necessities of life? Why? Because of the benefit cuts, particularly in-work benefit cuts, that we've seen from the Conservative Government, because we have a Conservative Government that doesn't value work, because we have a Conservative Government that doesn't believe in fair work. We believe in all those things. We want to see fair work for our people in all parts of Wales in the future.

Public Service Reorganisation

9. How will the First Minister ensure that workers have a strong voice in any discussions relating to public service reorganisation? OAQ52253

The Welsh Government works with devolved public sector employers and trade unions through the workforce partnership council to ensure that strategic workforce issues such as public service changes are discussed. Locally, public sector employers are committed to similar social partnership arrangements. 

I've raised concerns on the privatisation of dialysis services with you previously, and that, of course, includes the possibility of staff moving from the national health service to the private sector to work, something that they have been entirely clear in their opposition to. Now, major questions have been raised by these staff on the process that has been undertaken in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board, to the point that they've written a letter to the board, and I will quote from that letter:

'It's a disgraceful way for a responsible employer to conduct itself in such a process.'

—say the workers.

'The staff feel that, throughout this process, the communication has been poor and not undertaken in a timely manner, effectively preventing union representation and causing serious distress and worry to all staff concerned. The staff therefore request that you investigate and remedy deficiencies in the processes that have been highlighted to you.'

Now, Betsi Cadwaladr, of course, is under your Government's direct control, so will you also undertake to investigate why the staff are so aggrieved at this process, because in your previous answer you talk the talk; shouldn't you now walk the walk?

Well, can I say that no member of staff will be forced to move to the independent sector. It's hugely important to make that point. Secondly, my understanding is that patient representatives, trade unions and human resources representatives have been invited to participate throughout the process of developing renal services in the north of Wales. No decision has been made as to the final service model. However, he has read directly from a letter, and I feel that I need to look at that letter to give the assurance to those people who've written that letter that this matter is being looked at, and I give him that assurance.

The Natural Environment of Wales

10. What action is the Welsh Government taking to enhance the natural environment of Wales? OAQ52254

We continue to implement the seven key parts of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016. That puts in place a plan to manage Wales’s natural resources and environment in a proactive, sustainable and joined-up way.

I thank the First Minister for that response. Last week, it was very pleasing to see that Wales had been awarded 47 blue flag beaches, which means that we have more per mile of coastline than any other country in the UK. So, that was very pleasing news. But what, First Minister, do you think the effect of leaving the EU will be on environmental standards, as it has meant until now that we have had to have a high standard for things like bathing water and coastal management?

Well, it has to be said that it is our membership of the EU that drove up environmental standards in the UK. Our standards were appalling; the rivers were awful. There was one river in greater Manchester that was flammable in the 1980s if you've threw a match into it. My own river, the River Ogmore in Bridgend, would run different colours according to what had been thrown into it up river. I was looking at it on Sunday—crystal clear. We often used to see diseased fish in the river in the 1980s. There was a major pollution incident there that killed all the wildlife around the river. We are a long way from there, and the last thing we should be doing is going back to those days.

In terms of blue flag beaches, I very much welcome the fact—and I have nearly 10 per cent of them in my own constituency—that we can say that our beaches meet a European standard that is a high standard. The last thing we should do is have a lower standard for our beaches. To my mind, it makes perfect sense to stay as part of the blue flag scheme or, if that's not acceptable or palatable to the hardline Brexiteers, to have at least an equivalent scheme that's recognised as equivalent by everybody else in the world, but not to go backwards and go back to the days that I remember in the 1970s and 1980s when basically our beaches were filthy and our rivers were polluted.

2. Business Statement and Announcement

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

Diolch, Llywydd. There are no changes to this week's business. Business for the next three weeks is as shown on the business statement and announcement found among the meeting papers available to Members electronically.

Leader of the house, could we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs in relation to the horrendous story that's running today about badger baiting here in Wales? I appreciate it's cross-agency and cross-sector, and some of the responsibilities are in Westminster, some of those responsibilities around animal health and welfare are here in the Assembly. But wherever that responsibility lies, it is an horrendous story of animal abuse that should not be tolerated in any civilised country, and we need to act on this evidence that has been brought forward by the BBC today. In particular, it does indicate—and I appreciate the individual who's indicated and said that he does not participate in any of this—that an individual has an order against him about owning dogs for breeding purposes, and yet the evidence points to the fact that he is breeding dogs.

We as a country need to show a lead on this, and I would hope that the Cabinet Secretary would bring forward a statement on how she, with her officials, could bring the agencies together that can look at this, and, wherever it is happening across Wales, make sure that it is stamped out and stopped here and now.


I think we all share your concerns; we've all heard the trailers and so on for the programme, which I believe is going out tonight in its entirety. We will be very carefully looking at that and looking at the evidence, and the Cabinet Secretary's indicating to me that, of course, she shares your concerns and we will be responding appropriately to that, because I think we were all appalled by some of the stories of cruelty, both to the badgers and to the dogs involved, actually.

I've got three requests for statements, if that's okay; I'll try and be brief. I've been told by residents and councillors in Bridgend that they've been unable to access the council's planning portal for a number of months now, and it's been on and offline in a very ad hoc fashion. I'm raising it here because the constituents are coming to me saying that they want to look at current planning applications—to have views on them or to appeal against them—and they can't seem to do that. So, I was wondering whether we could have a statement from the Welsh Government to councils generally about guidance as to how those planning portals should operate, because these constituents of mine may miss opportunities to put views forward on planning applications if the current situation is maintained.

The second request for a statement is with regard to the touring circus of wild animals that is currently taking place. There's a tour in south Wales and in north Wales—it was in Porthcawl last week. I had a meeting with RSPCA Cymru this week, and they said to me that the reason why it's in Porthcawl is the fact that there's a lease with Bridgend council of events that then ties them into a long-term contract with this particular exhibitor. I'm wondering if you can give us a statement on what research you've done of other councils, and this particular council, who are in similar situations, because if they're in these long-term leases, and if there is a move to ban wild animals in circuses—a move I hope we will get a statement on soon—then we need to be aware that these long-term leases may impinge on that particular process.

My third request is with regard to a statement—the UK Government's report last week—on cladding as a result of Grenfell. I know that the UK Government has said that they're going to consult on banning inflammable cladding, and on a UK level, the Labour UK group has said, 'Don't consult on it, ban it', and here the Minister has said that she's going to take some time to consider the options. I would like to have a statement sooner rather than later to understand what is going to be the Welsh line, because, of course, people are coming to me as housing spokesperson to ask us what is happening in Wales. So, I'd appreciate a statement to that end.

Thank you for those three very important issues. On the first, the planning portal, it would be really helpful, if you haven't already, to write in and say what the specifics are. There is guidance already in existence for the running of the planning portals, so it will be interesting to see whether there's some particular issue of not complying with that guidance. So, I'm not sure if you're written already—if you haven't, then I would suggest you do so. And then if there is a general issue with the guidance, we can have a look at that.

In terms of the circuses and animals, as you said, we're in the process of considering what to do. There's a consensus view in here that wild animals in circuses is not a good thing to see. I'm certain that part of the legislation that comes forward will deal with existing leasehold arrangements and the protection for people who might be caught in such a situation. But it's worth while to have brought it forward, and I know the Minister was listening carefully to you as you mentioned it. There will be other peripheral issues as well—that we need to make sure that any ban has complete effect, and that we make the legislation appropriate to that, which is what the Minister is considering.

And then, in terms of Grenfell, and the Minister is nodding vigorously behind me, we will be looking carefully at what's happening and bringing a statement forward as soon as we're in a position to do so, because that's—. Obviously, we've all been reminded of the appalling tragedy of Grenfell over the last few days, and I don't know about you, but some of the reports in the media yesterday had me in floods of tears all over again. So, clearly, we need to do something to make sure that no such tragedy can ever happen again.


I would like to ask for two statements—the first statement on Welsh Government action to improve electrical safety, following electrical fires in Mid and West Wales in the last two years. There have been 121 due to faulty equipment or appliances, 119 due to faulty electric supply, 15 from faulty leads and 52 from overheating. Those are serious problems. I'd like to have a Welsh Government statement on that.

I don't make any apologies for going back to the job losses in Virgin, yet again, for the second statement I'm going to ask for, because, as you know, it's a matter of grave concern in our part of the world. We met with representatives of the workforce last week, who came along, and they were concerned about when they would, firstly, start having people going in to talk to them and to see them, and, secondly, a number of firms, including Admiral—who have gone public on it—have offered to speak to them and to see if their skills meet Admiral's skills shortage. But if they're leaving because they're about to be made redundant, they believe they ought to get their redundancy pay, because they're declared redundant, rather than having to wait until the last day. The third one is that some of them would want to use their redundancy pay in order to support additional training, of which only a certain proportion would be paid for by ReAct, in order to upskill themselves. If they have their redundancy pay, the courses might start before the end of the closure. So, really, any updates would be really appreciated by the—sorry, why am I telling you? You know this. [Laughter.] Any updates would be really appreciated by the people working there.

Absolutely. Thank you for both of those important issues. On electrical fire safety, as I'm sure we all remember, Carl Sargeant said to the Assembly last year that we had real concerns about the growth in domestic fires originating in the electrical supply, and he commissioned in-depth research into the problem, which is now complete. It examines the extent and possible cause of the trend in detail and recommends further action by the fire service and others. The Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services is about to publish that research, and then we'll be able to react appropriately to the research and put the appropriate measures in place. I know the Member has had a long-standing concern about such matters.

In terms of the Virgin Media situation, indeed, obviously, we share a number of concerns on this, as do all of the AMs in the region. We've all attended a number of meetings. We have now given assistance to the staff association there to come up with a possible alternative bid, as discussed at the meeting we were at. We've also put the taskforce in place, so that funding will be available as soon as the taskforce is allowed entry, and my understanding is that that will be as soon as the consultation process is finished, which is any minute now—at the end of this week, I think, but I'll check on the exact date on that. My understanding is that, in line with all the other events that we've, unfortunately, had to deal with, the taskforce will then go in, once that consultation is complete. If something changes on that, or there's some difficulty with the company in allowing access to those funds, I will certainly report back to the Senedd, because it's a matter of huge concern to us that the workers are treated fairly and appropriately during this really very unsettling process, and that the Welsh Government can give them as much assistance as we possibly can.

May I ask for a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Education on schools admission policy in Wales? Assembly Members will be aware that compulsory school age is the beginning of the term following a child's fifth birthday. However, this puts children born between 1 April and 31 August, known as summer-born children, at a disadvantage. Parents of four-year-old children who have not reached emotional, social or academic maturity and readiness for school are being forced to enrol their child a whole year earlier or to have the child's education entitlement reduced by one year with obligatory entrance to year 1. I have been contacted by a parent in Newport who, in spite of evidence from professionals confirming her child will suffer if forced to start school this year, or year 1 next year, is still being denied a reception start in 2019. In England, the UK Government has indicated its intention to give summer-born children the right to start in reception at the age of five. Can I ask for a statement on what action the Cabinet Secretary for Education will take to end this injustice forced upon summer-born children in Wales please?


Well, of course, a large number of children are covered by the foundation phase in Welsh schools, which takes away some of those difficulties. But if the Member has a specific problem with a particular child, I suggest he writes directly to the Cabinet Secretary with that specific problem because I don't see any reason why that child wouldn't be normally covered by the foundation phase arrangements, which smooth out the specific problem that he mentioned for most children in Wales. 

Could I ask for two statements or actions from the Government? Fist of all, can we start with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill? Since we passed the legislative consent motion as an Assembly, the Lords has amended the Bill. As it happened, it placed the environmental principles on the face of the Bill, something I support, but we weren't consulted about, so we see what this process leads us to. Professor Tim Lang yesterday told an Assembly committee that Wales was now steamrollerable on agricultural policy due to our acquiescence on the Bill. Michael Gove told a policy exchange think tank yesterday that, in fact, the work had not ended on deciding which areas were going where when they returned from the European Union, potentially adding to the 26 that are already set out in the inter-governmental agreement. And, ironically, after we passed our LCM, the House of Commons has decided that it's not going to deal with the EU Bill for some weeks now, rather underlining the point I was making that you had plenty of time to do a better deal.

So, what now? Can we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, who's responsible for this, setting out exactly how the Assembly will now be kept informed as regards the changes to the Bill? We have no further control over this; we've passed the LCM. But amendments will be made. Timing will happen. Things will have happened at a different stage in the House of Commons, and there's a potential for ping-pong back and forth between the Lords and the Commons on this. I think it's important for us to understand how we will now be kept informed of that. The spirit of informing the Assembly is in the inter-governmental agreement and you've signed up to that. So, can we have a statement setting out how this will be taken step by step and whether perhaps, if necessary, we will have some further debates in Government time on some principles that might emerge over the forthcoming weeks, because we don't think the work is finished on what the Government thinks it's going to do on these areas yet? So, that's one area. 

The second I'd like a statement on from the Government, if possible—or perhaps a letter to Members would be appropriate in this regard as well—is, of course, regarding the referendum in the Republic of Ireland on Friday—a referendum called 'Repeal the 8th'. This is nothing to do with the Welsh Assembly, of course, nothing to do with us, except that, in a way, it is, because many Irish citizens live in Wales and are able to vote in this referendum. Many colleges, I read elsewhere, have been helping students to return home to vote in the referendum, and I'd be interested to understand whether that process has been followed here in Wales. If Repeal the 8th is not successful, then we can assume that Irish women will continue to travel to Wales and the rest of the UK in order to have abortions. This is the kind of strange situation that the Republic's in at the moment, that it tolerates abortion as long as it doesn't happen within the Republic of Ireland, of course. So, there is an interest here, and I'd be interested to know whether the Welsh Government has had any interventions with Irish citizens, with the Irish Embassy, supporting the ability for Irish citizens to return to vote in the Irish referendum. And perhaps all of us can say '' to Repeal the 8th. 

On that one, I'm afraid I just don't know the answer to that, so I'll make sure that all Members are written to to say what the situation is. Obviously, many of us have been following the situation there with keen attention, (a) because it impacts on our services, as the Member has pointed out, but, actually, (b) because we have a long-standing commitment to proper services for women and the situation in the Republic of Ireland is outwith a large number of liberal democracies and all of the values that we stand for. So, we've all been following it with some interest, but I'm afraid I don't know the specifics about citizens returning home, so I'll make sure that a letter is given to all Assembly Members saying whether we've done anything. I'm not aware if we have or not. 

In terms of the EU withdrawal Bill, yes, there's a certain amount of disarray, I think it's fair to say, in what's happened with the Lords and so on. We're obviously keeping a keen eye on that. I disagree with the statements made by both of the Ministers that you quote for reasons that I won't spend 25 minutes expanding on or the Llywydd will be cross. But of course the Cabinet Secretary will be updating the Senedd very frequently as the situation changes, and indeed it's very possible that some of the amendments will be lifted out and put into the next Bill, for example, and a number of other things are now on the cards. So, it's extremely important that this Senedd is kept completely up to date with where we are. And, obviously, as the Cabinet Secretary said during the LCM process actually, if the situation changes in any material way, then of course we would have to reconsider it. So, absolutely, the Member raises a very important point, and the situation is—I think the standard phrase is—'fluid' and 'interesting', and, Llywydd, I think we all now live inside the Chinese proverb of 'living in interesting times'.


Formerly known as Dementia Awareness Week, 21-27 May is Dementia Action Week 2018, and I call for a Welsh Government statement accordingly. As most Members are fully aware, there are 45,000 people in Wales estimated to have dementia. This is expected to rise 35 per cent over the next couple of decades, yet only around half of individuals in Wales with dementia have a diagnosis. Four years ago, I became a dementia friend. Three months ago, my father, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and vascular dementia, died after a fall. My eldest son is having his hair shaved on 1 June to raise money for Alzheimer's Society. He says, 'I can't change what has happened, but I can help to find a solution.' If any Members feel able to go on to Just Giving, even with £1, that would be much appreciated.

On Wednesday, BBC One are showing a programme, The Toddlers who Took on Dementia, following a recent experiment conducted by Bangor University in Old Colwyn's dementia care home, Llys Elian, with a group of young toddlers sharing three days with older residents, to see whether spending time with them may help fight the effects of dementia. Again, I've been asked to commend that programme to this Assembly, and to others, hopefully, outside who are hearing this.

In May 2016, Alzheimer's Society hosted many AMs at their event in the Wales Millennium Centre, about their work on creating dementia-friendly communities in Wales. In February, Alzheimer's Society and Ageing Well in Wales held a 'What next for dementia-friendly communities in north Wales?' event.

We know that the Older People's Commissioner for Wales's 'Dementia: more than just memory loss' report in 2016 identified a continuing lack of knowledge and understanding of dementia. We also know, at that stage, Alzheimer's Society were calling for the then proposed Welsh Government dementia strategy to set out clear targets for increased dementia diagnosis rates, currently then the lowest in any UK nation. In February 2018, the Welsh Government launched its dementia action plan, but delivery, I think as the Minister said in his foreword, will be the measure of its success. So, the dementia challenge we all share is the one that we must all rise up to. And I therefore call for a Welsh Government statement in Dementia Action Week 2018 accordingly.

The Member makes a series of very important points about dementia. It's a horrendous illness, syndrome, to have to live with, and we've all been, I hope, supporting dementia-friendly week; I'm sporting the badge myself. Also, I'm a dementia friend, and my whole office did the training; anybody who hasn't done it, I would highly recommend they do. Of course, we have just put out the action plan. I'm delighted to say that a large number of people living with dementia, and groups supporting or representing people living with dementia, were very much part of that process. And one of my own constituents took a very prominent role in it, and I've had the opportunity to discuss that with the Cabinet Secretary on a number of occasions. So, it's a very important matter that the Member raises, and I'm delighted to see both that we have an event here in the Senedd today highlighting it, and that the Member has been able to do so.

Leader of the house, as members of the cross-party group on vision, we hear some pretty distressing stories of eye care patients suffering horrendous delays to their treatment, and delays to follow-up care is a major issue across Wales. Last week, I asked Welsh Government to release data around the extent of the follow-up care problem in Wales, by health board, as these figures are not reported publicly. The data is shocking, and shows that, of the 114,000 patients waiting for a follow-up appointment in Wales at the end of March this year, 54,000 of them have waited in excess of their clinically agreed review date. Why is that important? Well, clinical audits have shown that around 90 per cent of patients on ophthalmology follow-up lists suffer from conditions such as wet age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy—conditions which if not treated within the clinically agreed follow-up interval mean that patients are at risk of irreversible harm or blindness. The situation is scandalous and there is a clear mismatch in terms of capacity and demand within the system, a situation that has been going on for years. In light of these shocking figures, will the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services agree to bring forward a statement to this Chamber that will outline how he is going to tackle these scandalous waits for eye care patients? 


Yes, it's a very important matter. Actually, Llywydd, can I just declare a personal interest? My husband is actually waiting for a vision appointment just at the moment, and I know various Members are aware of that. So, I just want to put that on record. 

I know that there's a national pilot out at the moment. The Cabinet Secretary is indicating to me that once the national pilot has reported, and in light of the matters raised by Dai Lloyd, that he's more than happy to update the Assembly at that point. 

You mentioned the dementia friendly event upstairs at lunchtime, leader of the house. Next door was the event—. You probably can't see, unless you have got super-duper vision, my badge there for the occupational therapists who were in the room next door. It was great meeting occupational therapists from across Wales, including from Neath Port Talbot Hospital, who enlightened me as to how much work they do dealing with mental health issues as well. So, it occurs to me that occupational therapy isn't just about managing the traditional areas, it's also very important in taking strain off other areas of the health service in terms of dealing with those people, so I wonder if we could have a statement from the health Secretary on support being given to occupational therapists in Wales. 

Secondly, and finally, we've got the summer recess in the not-too-far-distant future now. I wonder if we could have an update from the Cabinet Secretary for infrastructure on the Heads of the Valleys road. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services was visiting that scheme recently. I have visited as well; it's a fantastic scheme. I'm very impressed with the design and the people working on the scheme, but we do know it's had problems with being over budget and over time, and not just the normal type of slippage times but by a considerable amount of time, and local people have expressed concerns about that. So, could we have an update from the Cabinet Secretary as to when we envisage that phase of the project being complete, and also how we intend to capitalise on that scheme in the long run, so that the Member for Blaenau Gwent and I, as the Member for Monmouthshire, can say to our local populations that the Welsh Government really is going to hit the ground running once that development is complete and we can build the economic growth in that area? 

Yes, I think there must have been a procession of visits, because I've also been. It's very impressive indeed. Both Cabinet Secretaries are nodding happily at me and saying that there'll be an update before the summer recess on that matter. 

In terms of the occupational health, absolutely, it's a very important element in some of the mental health arrangements that we have and the Cabinet Secretary is reminding me that, of course, we've increased the amount of training and recognition that we give to occupational health practitioners and that they are, of course, a very important part of the structure of clinicians across Wales. 

Many of us will have been shocked by the statistics published last week that over 77,000 work days had been lost in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board because of stress and anxiety amongst staff. Now, not only has that cost almost £5.5 million to the board, but it represents an increase of 17 per cent in absences in just six years. This board, as I mentioned earlier, is under the direct management of this Government. I note in the business statement that the Cabinet Secretary will give an update on the situation at the Betsi Cadwaladr health board next week. Can I, therefore, ask you to ensure that there will be a direct response to the situation that I’ve just referred to, because, to me, that is one of the fundamental problems? It reflects the failure of your Government to tackle ensuring that there is sufficient workforce in place and that is having the impact that I’ve just described.

Yes, the Cabinet Secretary is indicating that he is going to do exactly that when he updates the Senedd next week. 

I rise, once again, with regret, to raise concerns about governance at Caerphilly County Borough Council, increasingly the wild west of Welsh local government. A freedom of information request by Plaid Cymru has revealed that nine former members of staff have been re-employed after receiving early retirement, severance or redundancy. This is, of course, contrary to the council's own policy and raises real concerns that pay-offs could have been received by individuals who were consequently re-employed by the council. Can we have a statement from the Cabinet Secretary for local government on whether or not he deems that the local authority has acted appropriately on these occasions? Indeed, can we have a broader statement from the Cabinet Secretary on governance in Caerphilly council more generally?


Yes, there is, of course, as I'm sure Steffan Lewis knows, a very serious set of rules and regulations around what can be received by way of payments once you're in receipt of a local government pension. The scheme is very rigid in that regard and there are a very serious set of rules around that. So, if you have details of those, I'm sure, if you write in to the Cabinet Secretary, he'll take very seriously looking at whether those schemes have been adhered to.

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

The next item is the statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport on the economic action plan. Ken Skates. 

Diolch, Llywydd. When I launched the economic action plan, I made it clear that I was introducing a new approach to deliver public investment with a social purpose in support of our national strategy 'Prosperity for All' and its five priority areas of early years, mental health, employability and skills, housing, and social care. Through the plan, we are building on the excellent progress we have made. With over 37,000 jobs supported across the whole of Wales in the last year and over 190,000 in the last five years of the Government, our record is strong. However, our economy is changing and we must change with it to be inclusive and competitive in the future. Today, I am pleased to announce a major step forward in delivering the plan and its compelling vision to strengthen our economic foundations, futureproof businesses and empower productive regions and people.

Since launching the economic action plan five months ago, I have been encouraged by the positive way in which it has been received. We have travelled the length and breadth of Wales to talk to businesses, representative organisations and others about the plan and to seek their input on how we implement and deliver its commitments. These conversations have been stimulating, challenging and, above all, hugely interesting and informative. What we have heard has been invaluable in shaping the way forward, and I'm very grateful to all those who took time to talk with us. The nature of those conversations has been as diverse as the participants, but a number of common messages have come to the fore time and time again. Firstly, economic development is underpinned by strong relationships not just between business and Government, but also with a range of other partners, too—our learning institutions, trade unions, local authorities, third sector, and, of course, people. Secondly is the importance of proportionality and flexibility in addressing varying needs of businesses of different sizes, types, and locations across Wales. Thirdly, making a difference is about more than simply changes in policy; it’s about cultures, behaviours and ways of working.

We have used this learning to develop the new operating model that I am launching today. Through the economic contract, we will develop a new and strengthened relationship with business to drive inclusive growth and responsible business behaviours. Businesses seeking our support will enter into an ongoing dialogue with us—one that shifts from co-existence and moves to collaboration. We expect businesses to commit to growth, fair work, reducing carbon footprints, health, skills, and learning in the workplace. These are the behaviours already exhibited in many successful and responsible businesses. We'll recognise those businesses already taking steps to adopt responsible business and employment practices, and we'll encourage and support others to take a similar path. This is about engagement, incentive and spreading good practice—a reciprocal something-for-something approach. 

If the economic contract focuses on what businesses are doing today, then it is our calls to action that will prepare businesses for tomorrow. We want to work with business to co-invest in the types of investment that will futureproof them and strengthen our economy today and for future generations. From today, five calls to action will be the new lens through which we will channel our direct business finance. 

The calls to action challenge Government and businesses to look at future investment through the contribution it will make to innovation and entrepreneurship, research and development and automation, exports and trade, high-quality employment and skills, and decarbonisation. These are some of the key strategic challenges we have to address if we are to secure growth not just today, but growth that is futureproofed to maximise opportunities that lie ahead. Taken together, the economic contract and calls to action form the basis of our new operating model targeted at ensuring public investment with a social purpose—driving wealth and well-being, inclusive growth today, futureproofing business and the economy for tomorrow.

From today, we will switch seamlessly to this new approach. All new business investment proposals that come forward for direct financial support under my direct control will be subject to this new prism, with the former way of working only applying to legacy projects to guarantee business continuity and a smooth transition. As we implement this new approach, I am determined that we capture learning and use this to refine and drive continuous improvement. This is part of our new way of working, and so I will be carrying on the conversation with business to get their feedback on how the new operating model is working in practice so that we can continue to evolve and shape our approach accordingly. My vision, and that of Cabinet, is that, over time, we will broaden the scope of this new approach and embrace direct financial support to business across all of Government. However, this is a significant change and I want to ensure that we implement it well and use our learning for further implementation.

I recognise the calls from businesses and others to simplify and streamline our approach wherever possible. One of the areas where we hear this plea loudest is in relation to our financial support. There is no doubt that businesses value the financial support that we provide and it plays a big role in helping some businesses to fulfil their aspirations to sustain and grow. However, sometimes, the sheer range of schemes, programmes and funds that we offer can be confusing and complex. I am responding to these concerns and, as part of the new operating model, I have taken the step of consolidating a number of current schemes within a new economy futures fund. I want the direct financial support that we offer to business to be clear, easily understood and responsive. The economy futures fund will make an important contribution in that regard. 

In line with this simplification agenda, I am pleased to announce the establishment of a new overarching ministerial advisory board alongside a parallel process to streamline existing advisory bodies where possible and practicable. The new ministerial advisory board will complement existing social partnership arrangements and provide a strong external mechanism for challenge and advice to support effective implementation of the economic action plan. I am establishing the ministerial advisory board on a transition basis to allow time for a public appointments process to be undertaken. It will be chaired by Sir Adrian Webb, and a full list of its members will be published on the Welsh Government’s website.

Implementation of the economic action plan does not end with my statement today. We have important work to do in implementing other key aspects of the plan—our new approach to regional economic development and wider cross-Government activity. These will be the areas that we will focus on in the second phase of implementing the plan, and, to help take this forward, I am establishing and will chair a cross-Government delivery board of senior civil servants. 

As we deliver this plan, we will learn from international best practice, and this includes taking the bold step of opening ourselves up to constructive challenge from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and from other international experts in the economic development field. I'll be in a position to provide further detail on this work in the next phase of implementation. 

I look forward to keeping Members updated on these developments in the weeks and months ahead. 


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

Diolch, Deputy Presiding Officer. I think my genuine fear is that businesses up and down the country, if they're listening to this, will be scratching their heads thinking, 'What's all this about?', and that's part of the issue for me. I was waiting for something tangible in your statement this afternoon, Cabinet Secretary. When you got halfway through and started talking about the economic contract and your aims, I thought, 'That's great; now you're going to come on to talk about the how and the detail', but that didn't come forward—certainly not in my view. Of course, this is the fourth economic strategy relaunch since devolution, so I am wondering whether this signals an abandonment of the Welsh Government's long-standing approach to economic policy in Wales.

What you have said in your statement today actually contains nothing that I can fundamentally disagree with in principle, but, for me, there's no new information today here, and, more importantly for me, there are no targets on which we can actually hold the Government to account, and that's our job in this Chamber and as Assembly Members—to hold the Government to account. We can't do that unless we've got some tangible targets to measure you on.

Now, you say, Cabinet Secretary, that the economic action plan sets out an ambitious agenda for change, but I can't see anything that spells out any concrete proposals whatsoever about raising productivity levels across the Welsh economy—plenty of aims, but no concrete proposals. Now, at a meeting of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee in January, you stated that work was under way in delivering this new economic action plan, and there was some frustration from Members that there was no further detail at that time. When committee members asked you about that, and asked about the detail, you talked about how discussions were under way between Welsh Government and relevant stakeholders and said that more details would follow. But three months later, I put in a written question to you and asked you about the progress, and you answered that,

'We have been discussing our approach with businesses and other organisations across Wales.'

Well, that's the same as you told us three months before. So, it just seems to me that little progress is being made. So, can I ask: when will we finally see some meaningful action take place in relation to the delivery of the plan? Can you outline what measures there will be for success, because, as far as I can see, there's a strategy that contains 17,000 warm words but not a single target?

Now, as far as I could also gather, the economic contract provides no meaningful detail as to how the Welsh Government plans to support businesses going forward. What I can see is lots of red tape and admin. So, in that regard, can I ask you to outline what simple, practical and meaningful policy solutions are included in your economic action plan to help tackle Wales's productivity crisis, which will make a practical difference to the day-to-day operations of businesses up and down Wales and, ultimately, enable them to increase wages for their workforce, which is, of course, what we all want to see? So, I'm looking for areas of solutions in your answer, Cabinet Secretary. Also, how do enterprise zones and the attraction of foreign direct investment fit into your action plan? There's no mention at all of those in your action plan or in your statement this afternoon.

Now, I suspect this is an area that you will agree with me on. I'm sure that you would agree that the Welsh economy does need to transition to an investment culture that supports Welsh firms and delivers value for the Welsh taxpayer. So, how does your strategy make progress towards that investment culture? What focus is there on supporting our current SMEs? If there's an SME watching today, listening to this, help them to understand how this is going to support them. What intention does the Government have of using public procurement to support the Welsh economy, because, as far as I can gather, the action plan contains no practical measures to boost the level of support that Welsh firms receive from public spending in Wales? Also, how will the UK Government's industrial strategy be integrated into your economic plan? And how will you address the regional inequality that exists in different parts of Wales?

On increasing wages, export activity is absolutely crucial, of course, for increasing growth and jobs and wages across Wales. When I asked you about this in a written statement just a few weeks ago, you talked about publishing details on your website and some engagement via ClickShare and video links on social media. But are you completely satisfied, Cabinet Secretary, that the economic action is doing the job for boosting Welsh exports over the long term?

Finally, Cabinet Secretary, aside from threatening, of course, to introduce a crippling new tax on the tourism industry in Wales, what specific measures are contained within the action plan that are going to be implemented by the Welsh Government to support the tourism sector in Wales going forward? What is it that the tourism sector can be pleased about in your action plan this afternoon? So, I am sorry to say that, for me, the document doesn't have the practical solutions to address the economic challenges that are before us.


Can I thank the Member for his questions? I'll start by saying that I think, perhaps, there is misunderstanding of what an action plan is about. We're not going to be prescriptive in addressing the productivity gap. As I said in my statement, this is about ensuring that we move from a position of Government being prescriptive and co-existing with business and co-existing with learning institutions to being collaborative, to seeking out solutions to problems that may be distinct for discrete areas of the economy, but also solutions that may apply to the whole of the economy.

Now, the Member asks, 'What is it all about?' It's about making sure that we drive investment with a social purpose, that we drive inclusive growth, and that we futureproof the economy. In order to drive inclusive growth, we've developed the economic contract. In order to drive up productivity, we have the calls to action, and each of those calls to action mirror the factors that are contributing to our lagging productivity. Therefore, by making sure that funding from Welsh Government is only channelled through those calls to action, we will also be channelling our money into those areas of activity that need to be addressed if we are to improve the productivity of the economy—for example, the diffusion of innovation, relatively poor leadership. Relatively poor leadership also will be addressed through the implementation and adoption of the economic contract, because too many people go into the workplace unable to contribute as fully as they could do because they feel too stressed or too anxious or too depressed, for example. That will be addressed through the economic contract by making sure that employers commit to improving the health—and particularly the mental health—of the workforce. Raising wage levels will be dealt with through placing an emphasis in the economic contract on fair work and through placing within the calls to action an emphasis on high-quality employment and skills—skills contributing probably more than any other factor to improving wage rates and progression in the workplace.

Now, in terms of—. And I was very pleased to hear the Member say that he had little to disagree with in the economic action plan. In terms of how it can fit with the UK industrial strategy, I think—or I would hope—that the Member would recognise that the five calls to action actually mirror very, very neatly the UK industrial strategy's call for a challenge fund, applications for innovation, for, essentially, a way of doing business that irons out regional inequality. There is a common theme across both plans that concerns inequality across the UK and inequality across Wales. So, our plan is designed to dovetail with some of the challenge fund opportunities—the big money that can come from UK Government—by ensuring that we use our plan as the vehicle to drive collaboration across businesses and between businesses and learning institutions.

In terms of what success will look like, given that the focus is now on inclusive growth, success will be measured by how we drive up wealth in the aggregate, for sure, but also how we drive up levels of well-being, whilst also reducing inequality between the two. Now, we're taking a step ahead of where many other countries are going in terms of inclusive growth. The Member may have noticed that an appointee to the ministerial advisory board is the director of Purposeful Capital, a global organisation that looks at best practice and at disseminating best practice in driving inclusive growth. It's one example of how I wish to have external challenge inform the development, the implementation and the future implementation of other phases of the economic action plan to ensure that we do deliver against what I see success to look like.

For small and medium-sized enterprises, and for micro-sized enterprises, Business Wales will continue to offer expert advice. Business Wales will go on working more closely than ever before with Careers Wales. We now have a record number of business births, a record number of active enterprises, and all activity that Business Wales will be conducting will be aligned to the calls to action and the economic contract. So, any small and medium-sized or micro-sized business that fails to meet the criteria of the economic contract will get support from Business Wales in order to come back to the door to re-apply for direct financial support.

In terms of red tape and administration, I can guarantee to the Member that we are simplifying our approach through the economy futures fund, and that bureaucracy will be kept to an absolute minimum in terms of the application process for the economic contract forming one sheet of a contract. It will not be burdensome. The contract is about making sure that we maintain a constructive ongoing dialogue with businesses so that we don't just hand out money, wait for it to be spent, and then monitor it in years afterwards, that we actually go on conversing with business about the best way to modernise, the best way to be more productive, the best way to adopt fair working practices. I recognise that this is a very different way of doing economic development and, in the future phases, there will be another major shift, and Russell George mentioned regional inequality. Well, the next phase of our work will involve the establishment of new spatial, place-based economic development ways of working—I've already appointed the chief regional officers for the three regions—and that will be looking at how we can ensure that the regional plans are agreed to by local authorities and other stakeholders across the regions, so that, in the three regions of Wales, all partners, in the spirit of the Be The Spark initiative, are working to the same ends.


We always welcome any new thinking in economic strategy and the Cabinet Secretary will be aware that I'm myself trying to engage positively with him. It's in all of our interests that, actually, the high-level goals at the heart of any economic strategy are achieved. But, I have to say, if what we get is an ever lengthening series of vague statements, that initial enthusiasm, that there is a genuine paradigm shift in thinking here, will soon be dissipated, and what we were left with is a growing sense that what this is is an economic inaction plan.

Can I ask him—? There was precious little detail really in the statement that he just read out or in the press release. Is there anything more than that? Is there more detail in documents around the calls to action, on the economic contract, and on the economy futures fund? And, if those documents exist, why haven't we got them, so that we can ask more intelligent questions of you? I think our own Standing Orders, actually, dictate that if a statement refers to Government documents then they must be provided for all Members. Now, I've seen Labour Members, actually, with some glossy document on the economic action plan, which the Cabinet Secretary may be about to hold up. Well, maybe he can confirm that an advance copy wasn't given to Labour Members in the Labour group meeting, because that would be, absolutely, an abuse of Government resources. We need all Members to be involved in the development of Government policy.

In terms of the detail of what he said, the cross-Government delivery board that he mentioned—can he just explain to me how is that different to, or is that taking the place of, the strategic delivery and performance board that, certainly up until recently, I think the Permanent Secretary chaired? And how is it different to the delivery unit, the First Minister's delivery unit, which was launched with a great fanfare in 2011 and then sort of disappeared with a whimper in 2016? Isn't there a danger that we've been here before? And where's the sense of urgency, Cabinet Secretary, in what you've said today and what you've said previously? There are great opportunities: the lowest interest rates in history, a massive increase—you've got to applaud the UK Government—in terms of research and development, the biggest R&D investment that we've ever seen across the UK, and all the potential in terms of technology, industry 4.0. Are we grasping that, and where's the urgency in what he has said? And, indeed, on measurement as well, how can we get the critical challenge that he referred to in terms of the ministerial advisory board if we're not clear what we are measuring?

Finally, the First Minister earlier said that the Public Accounts Committee report was a serious report, and there will be an opportunity for the Government to respond in full, but it does say that the project 

'created a strong impression to the committee of a department'—

his department—

'which was not properly in control of its business'.

Are the changes that the Cabinet Secretary has announced today a candid admission that this was a dysfunctional department, and isn't the first step in changing that an admission of previous failure?

Thank you. Can I assure the Member that the changes within the department had already taken place before the publication of the report that he refers to? And changes include the new way of working on regional economic development. Changes at a senior level, as the Member is aware, were made as well. We have new officers taking charge of business and regions who have been working relentlessly in order to produce the implementation plan and we have new officials working on strategy as well. So, those changes had already taken place.

I think it's worth just taking a step back and looking at where we stand right now, with record employment levels, record low unemployment levels—the inactivity rate is at or near a record low, and the Welsh economy is growing faster than any other nation in the UK. But what this plan seeks to do is ensure that, from a relatively strong position today compared to the 1980s and early 1990s, we leapfrog some of our competitors, rather than allow them to embrace technological change, to embrace new ways of working, faster than us. Because, frankly, if we don't shift, if we don't move towards inclusive growth, if we don't move towards embracing what we've described as calls to action, we will be left behind by more dynamic and more nimble economies and countries.

We do not wish to have that happen, which is why we've developed a way of working with the calls to action, with the economic contract, that—. Sure, it doesn't enable Government to state what all of the solutions are to all business difficulties and challenges, instead what it enables us to do is to invite businesses to work with us collaboratively, and with one another, and bring forward collective challenge opportunities to Government in order to solve their own particular issues that are holding them back, that are preventing them from going from good to great. So, I don't think Members should necessarily look to Government for all of the answers to every single business problem that exists across every single part of Wales. This is a plan that is designed to enable and empower businesses and regions to work together in order to present the challenges that they face, and for us to then fund them, to work with them, in order to make sure that we do have sustainable economic growth.

The details that the Member refers to are indeed in the glossy brochure that I have a box of today and I'm happy to distribute to as many Members as possible. I thought the Member had taken one this morning, but, if not, then I have one here for him right now. What it does contain for businesses—it does contain information on the various initiatives that form the heart of the economic action plan. But, as I said, we're now moving forward with the second phase of implementation, which involves regional economic growth, in order to get maximum buy-in from across Government, from across departments.

I think I've already said to the Chamber that many Ministers are already enthusiastically embracing the principles of the economic contract, but, in order to ensure that we get maximum buy-in, I've decided to chair a cross-Government board of officials. This will operate in parallel with the Permanent Secretary's performance board, which is designed for the Permanent Secretary to ensure that, right across 'Prosperity for All', there is cross-Government activity. Insofar as the economic action plan is concerned, I take the implementation very seriously myself, and that's why I wish to chair a cross-Government board, to ensure that all departments are working towards successful application of all components within the plan.


Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary for bringing this very important statement forward today and praise him for the work he's done so far on this issue? I also want to thank the Cabinet Secretary for coming to my constituency last week to attend a jobs and prosperity summit, which I held at Deeside Sixth. It was a great opportunity to discuss with the local business community and others some of the issues that are outlined in this plan. And it's also great to see the Airbus Beluga on front of the brochure there as well. 

I want to focus part of my time on the section of the plan relating to the calls to action, particularly in automation and digitalisation. The Cabinet Secretary will know that I recently referred to the fact that Alyn and Deeside was highlighted as the area with the highest percentage of jobs at risk of automation, with 36 per cent. The impact of automation on work is most prominent in manufacturing, but is increasingly affecting traditional white collar services jobs. I wonder if the Cabinet Secretary could say a little bit more about some of the plans to deal with automation and some of the investments that the Government could be making to deal with the challenges and opportunities of automation—things like investing in professional development and skills, but also some more radical, long-term thinking and developments, perhaps, like the universal basic income, using our future tax powers and looking at a type of Government jobs guarantee.

On digitalisation, I wondered whether the Cabinet Secretary could outline how he is working with the leader of the house, the business community and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at a UK Government level to explore the concept of gigabit hubs; for example, Flintshire and Wrexham could link together to be a gigabit hub, working closely with border cities such as Chester. Through the design and deployment of this type of futureproof full-fibre infrastructure, we could help bring the benefits of unlimited bandwidth and gigabit-speed connectivity to entire communities.

Finally, if I have enough time, I'd like to touch briefly on regional economic development. He will know, as a fellow Member from north Wales, that people do sometimes feel isolated, and there is a feeling at some times of a north-south divide—I'm sure the same could be said for many other parts across Wales. We've got fantastic developments already taking place in north Wales, just like the advanced manufacturing research institute in my own area, but will he agree with me that the economic action plan gives us a real opportunity to realise even further the potential of north Wales by embracing effective regional collaboration, but also using the levers, as outlined in this action plan, to work with our neighbours in the north-west of England? Thank you.


Can I thank Jack Sargeant for his contribution? It was a pleasure to be able to join him at his recent jobs and prosperity summit and at the launch of the advanced manufacturing research institute, where we cut the sod, which will be a world-class research institute contributing something in the region of £4 billion in gross value added to the regional economy.

I know that this is a particular scheme that other Members have been keen to learn more about—Steffan Lewis, I know, raised it some time ago in the Chamber. It's a prime example of how the Welsh Government has been able to respond to the calls of the local enterprise zone. This, perhaps, is an example of the good work that can come from enterprise-zone activity, which was referred to by Russell George. Without the Deeside enterprise zone board, this project would not be where it is today—we probably would not have considered it. This was a specific bespoke project that was brought forward by a board that was acting in a very dynamic and informed way.

I was also pleased to, on the same day, launch the Wrexham enterprise hub—a hub that is being supported by us, the Welsh Government, which will create 100 new business and is expected to create 260 new jobs. It's fair to say that many of those businesses will not go on to be significant in size, and there may be some failures—we would expect that. However, we would only need one or two of the businesses that are being created in that hub to be the new Moneypenny or Chetwood Financial in order to justify not only our financial contribution but also to add very significantly to the employment rate in the Wrexham area. These are two really good examples of how the Welsh Government is using money strategically and smartly in order to drive the industries of tomorrow. Those particular issues comply perfectly with the economic contract and with the calls to action, with a sharp focus on research and development, skills, entrepreneurship and embracing new digital technology.

This week, we've seen the Digital Festival take place at the Wales Millennium Centre. That is a particular event that is growing year on year. It's now recognised not just as a Wales digital festival but an international festival that takes place in Wales, such is the calibre of the people who attend from around the world. I think that the presence of such a festival in Wales on an annual basis highlights how the emerging tech sector in Wales continues to go from strength to strength, often with direct help through Business Wales or through our business development managers.

I also think another prime example of how we are investing in the industries of tomorrow—embracing automation and embracing artificial intelligence—comes with the investment that we're making in the Tech Valleys initiative, with £25 million over the next three years and £100 million over the next decade, designed to attract businesses and to grow businesses in Wales from scratch based on tech and on emerging digital technology. Included within that particular region, in this area of activity, will be an enterprise hub along the lines of that which I opened in Wrexham.

I was particularly interested to learn about the proposal for gigabit hubs in north Wales. I think this could be a project that should be considered by the growth deal board in north Wales, not least because it would dovetail with some of the programmes that are being explored just across the border, and there's been a very clear direction that any growth deal in north Wales should dovetail with the growth deal in the Cheshire and Warrington local enterprise partnership in order to capitalise on collaboration and co-operation, and to avoid any unnecessary competition.

In terms of regional economic development, I know that the Member is very keen to ensure that north Wales gets its fair share. The second phase of the implementation plan will concern regional economic development and the development of regional economic plans, which are designed to empower the regions of Wales and to ensure that local authorities, Welsh Government, businesses and other stakeholders are all investing in the areas of expertise that currently exist, and in areas of economic activity that will be futureproofed.   


It is gratifying to see that the Welsh Government now has a clear idea of its role in supporting the business community in Wales, especially with regard to investment. It appears we now have a framework within which the Government can achieve its objectives. This is an essential part of delivering that much-needed boost to prosperity so desperately needed by the people of Wales, especially those in the lower-end skills sector. The new economic contract is also to be welcomed. We particularly like the Cabinet Secretary's objective to ensure that with all contracts, each party gets something for something and that it is to include an ongoing dialogue with business. We all acknowledge the considerable challenge Wales faces with the relatively small amount of money companies are investing in research and development. So, it was good to see that this point is dealt with in the financial contract that would ensure that companies improve productivity, upskill workforces and invest in R&D. 

Turning to Government investment in the business sector, I have long called on the Government to simplify pathways to investment for businesses, and it is to be noted that this was one of the key issues raised in your consultations with the business sector. I have some concern that you feel the best way to deal with these issues is, in consort with the consolidation of some funds under the economy futures fund, to advocate yet another advisory board. Is this introducing yet another tier of bureaucracy? There is no doubt that calls to action should very much concentrate financial assistance to those businesses involved in developing the goals that the Government has outlined in other statements on economic policy, but there are many business types out there that may not, because of the very nature of the business, be able to comply with the criteria set out under the calls to action. Are those to be excluded from investment entirely as a result of the implementation of this action plan? 

We do note the considerable engagement the Welsh Government have had with industry in developing this new economic strategy and welcome this constructive process, especially as the business sector seems to be fully engaged. It is to be hoped that this consultation process will continue in order to help facilitate the goals set out by the Welsh Government. Whilst, as has been indicated, we welcome many of these proposals, I must agree with both of my fellow AMs Russell George and Adam Price. We note that, however, there are no well-defined targets other than the stated goal of seeing productivity and gross value added per head narrowed to 90 per cent of the UK average by 2030. We urge the Government to give more clarification regarding timelines and targets, so that the Chamber can scrutinise the delivery of those targets. After all, measurability is a crucial part in triggering corrective actions in order to bring plans back on track.   

Can I thank the Member for his contribution and for generously welcoming the statement today? I'm very pleased, in particular, by his recognition of the public investment with a social purpose ethos that is right at the heart of the economic action plan. Investment clarity and simplicity was something that many, many business stakeholder groups called for. I'm pleased that we've responded with the establishment of the economy futures fund, and that Business Wales will be working more closely with Careers Wales, so that we will have a far clearer and far simpler method of drawing down not just financial support but also advice from businesses.

I should assure Members that the ministerial advisory board will not have a role in determining funding applications. There will be no additional bureaucracy associated with the establishment of the ministerial advisory board with regard to any applications that come forward from businesses for the economy futures fund, or any other fund for that matter. The ministerial advisory board is there to provide challenge and advice to us as we implement further other parts of the plan and as we test its impact.

One of the early pieces of work that the ministerial advisory board will be undertaking will be a review of the impact of the economic contract. It's absolutely vital that we're able to demonstrate that the contract is indeed leading to improvements in terms of quality of work and working practices, that it is leading to an accelerated pace of decarbonisation within the workplace, and that it's contributing to growth—either directly to a business concerned or within the supply chain. And we have fully engaged with the business community—the Member is right—during the process of designing the plan and designing the implementation of it. I can assure Members that any business failing to comply with the economic contract—while they may not be able to apply for direct financial support in that instance, what they will be given is support and advice in order to improve their working ways so that they can come back round to the door and reapply.


I know that a large number of people want to speak, so I'll be brief. About 20 per cent of the people working in my constituency are on less than the real living wage, and a considerable proportion of them are also on zero-hours contracts, and that is a massive problem in terms of the well-being of their children, because if people don't know when they're supposed to be working they can't make suitable childcare arrangements if they haven't got the money to pay for it. So, I wondered whether the Cabinet Secretary could say a bit more about how you're going to tackle the issue of fair work and particularly the role of the fair work board—how are they going to actually influence this agenda and drive down this casualisation of all our workforces?

Can I thank Jenny Rathbone and recognise the difficulty of low salaries and also zero-hours contracts for the working population of her constituency and Wales as a whole? The fair work board will become the fair work commission, tasked with bringing forward recommendations and a clear definition of fair work by the spring of 2019. On an interim basis, we have adopted a definition of fair work that's been agreed by social partners. It will apply to the economic contract until the fair work commission bring forward a clear definition, but clearly the real living wage, zero-hours contracts, the right to be heard, the right to participation—these will all be factors very carefully considered by the commission and we look forward to adopting that new definition when it is presented in the spring of 2019.

Can I ask the Cabinet Secretary why the concept of the multiplier effect through the supply chain is not so fundamental that it wasn't considered to be a fifth pillar of social purpose?

Well, multiplier effects are included in the action plan—

It's one part of the economic contract, ensuring that we don't just see growth within a business in its own right but that we actually look downstream at the supply chain, at the impact that a business can have on the wider business community within any given area or within the sector as a whole.

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary, and it was a pleasure to join you yesterday at Abercynon-based Pinkspiration for the launch of the economic contract. I'm sure that, like me, you were struck by the way that Pinkspiration supports women in the business world by mentoring and also into non-traditional areas of work like construction. I was struck, for example, by the fact that their construction sites have a 50:50 gender split. How can this sort of advancement be captured in the contract, and in what way will it be used to encourage the participation of women in particular in the economy?

Secondly, I'm keen for further information about the position of smaller firms that may not be directly accessing Welsh Government contracts or support, but may be part of a wider supply chain. How will the experiences of these businesses be embedded into the contract, and also how will Welsh Government ensure that they are supported to maximise the benefits in turn to their workforces?


Can I thank Vikki Howells for her questions and say what a delight it was to be able to join her in her constituency at Pinkspiration, who provided a very clear idea of what it is to be a fair employer, an employer that values a diverse workforce, and values fair work and the principles of fair work? What the plan is designed to do is to drive behavioural and cultural change within business, and with some companies, we've already seen that accomplished. Pinkspiration is a great example of a company that does comply already very clearly with the criteria of the economic contract. Others need encouragement. This plan gives that encouragement. It gives it in the form of significant financial resource if they should apply for Welsh Government support. 

The behavioural and cultural change that is required, though, won't happen overnight. We will need further work to be undertaken in terms of collaboration across the business community in order to influence and inspire the sort of change that we require, because inclusive employment is something that really has been a challenge in many parts of Wales, for many communities, for many people. I met yesterday with Daniel Biddle who was a survivor of the 7/7 bombings. Daniel will be providing me with advice on inclusive employment, and what he was able to highlight were the multiple challenges facing disabled people in accessing work and then remaining on the employment escalator. In order to bring about cultural and behavioural change, it will require leaders in business to inspire other leaders in business to change their ways, and this is something that I'm particularly keen to see happen through the calls for action and the economic contract. 

4. Statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education: National Academy for Educational Leadership

The next item is a statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education: National Academy for Educational Leadership. And I call on the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams. 

Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. I believe that the key to building success in any organisation is good leadership, and nowhere is that truer than in an education system. Time and time again, evidence shows that a good school leader is essential in transforming a school environment so that its students and teachers can flourish. A common trait amongst great leaders is that they communicate a clear vision—a vision that establishes a clear sense of direction and destination. In Wales, our national mission is unambiguous: together we are working to raise standards, close the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence. To deliver on this mission, Wales must nurture our leaders. So, last week, I was delighted to launch the National Academy for Educational Leadership, a vital component in supporting and reforming the way that we support our leaders.

Deputy Presiding Officer, I’d like to begin by thanking everyone who has worked so hard to establish the academy. In particular, the task and finish group, led so very ably by Ann Keane, has made an invaluable contribution. They have identified the academy’s vision and principles and have engaged with the profession to identify what is needed and why it's needed. They have provided the academy with sound foundations for the future. But I am keen that everyone involved in Welsh education sees the academy, whose headquarters will be in Swansea, as a fundamental part of the education landscape. It will be there to support all leaders at whatever stage of their careers—whether they are just thinking of taking the next steps into formal leadership or are experienced leaders. It will give them the confidence, support and the development so that they can achieve and be the very best. It will support all leaders across Wales, whether they are working in local authorities, schools, colleges, within English or Welsh-medium settings, or, indeed, other educational organisations, making leadership in Wales world-leading.

One way in which it will do this is through an endorsement function. Last week’s launch included a call for providers to submit their provision, in the first instance for the newly appointed and acting headteachers, and I expect that up to 300 individuals will be within the first group to be targeted. This endorsement process will be one of the key functions of the academy, ensuring that the provision available to our education professionals is high quality, accessible, and meets the ambitions in our national mission action plan. Above all, the academy will be looking to ensure that the provision is underpinned by international evidence of what makes effective leadership. And as a result, all leaders can be confident that the leadership development that they invest their time in will have a positive impact on the outcomes of children and young people.

The academy may be a small organisation, but its influence and impact needs to be—and, I believe, will be—extensive. The academy already embodies our coherent and collaborative approach to leadership development—even the way the organisation has been created has been collaborative. Academy quality criteria also include a requirement to engage serving leaders in the design, development and facilitation of provision. Whilst collaboration is a feature of much of the provision currently available in Wales, it will also provide more consistent opportunities for leaders to be engaged in all aspects of leadership development.

The academy will draw on and reflect the practice of inspirational, experienced and effective leaders already working in the Welsh system, as well as internationally. And the academy associates programme embodies just this. It is a development programme that is being co-developed by the first cohort of inspiring leaders, and represents a real opportunity to ensure that the programme stretches and challenges some of our highest performing educational professionals. I met the first cohort of associates recently, and their enthusiasm for the mission of the academy, and their role within it, was very inspiring.

As befits a flexible, innovative and small organisation, the academy will need a great online presence. It will enable a virtual community to develop, as well as making research and international evidence accessible to all. And this will continue to grow as the academy matures.

I have said before that the evidence is clear that the quality of an educational system depends not only on the levels of its professional capital but also on the levels of its leadership capital. And we have acted on this, and throughout the development of the academy, there has been a real consensus on the critical role of leadership, and it has been a valuable opportunity to collectively refocus our attention on leadership.

The development of the academy is an integral step forward, alongside our new professional teaching standards, reforming initial teacher education, and curriculum reform, in our collaborative approach to leadership development. Deputy Presiding Officer, I am truly excited that the academy is now in place, to support our leaders to make a difference to the lives of children and young people across Wales.


Thank you, Minister, for your statement, and for an advance copy of it. It is all about leadership, in terms of making sure that all of our children have the very best opportunities to thrive during their time in school and the education system here in Wales. I know that this is something that you are passionate about addressing, in terms of the deficiencies in the system. And I too want to thank Ann Keane in her role as chair of the task and finish group, indeed along with the other members of that group, for her work.

I'm interested to note that the new academy is going to be based in Swansea. It's good that it's not going to be based within the Cardiff bubble, if you like, and that it's actually going to be elsewhere in the country. But I wonder why that decision was taken, and whether there were any bids from other parts of Wales, in terms of being the host of such a prestigious organisation. I'm sure that many others will be interested to know why Swansea was the successful bidder.

I assume now that there is a budget in place for this organisation; I haven't seen any details of that budget. I don't know how many employees—you kept referring to it as a relatively small organisation, I noticed, during your statement. But I would be interested to know what sort of budget this organisation has at its disposal, in order that those resources can be effectively spent on the things that we want them to be spent on, i.e. making sure that there's adequate professional development and support for school leaders and others in the education system here in Wales.

I noticed that there's also a focus very much on headteachers and senior members of staff in our schools. But, of course, the educational leadership that we have in our country goes beyond just headteachers. There are many organisations, like further education colleges et cetera, that may be able to benefit and, indeed, there may be an exchange of support from FE colleges and the universities sector, which may be of benefit for this new organisation. So, I wonder whether you can tell us how you expect them to be able to engage with the new national academy and what benefits you expect to be able to derive from their expertise. One of the features of recent Estyn reports has been the good leadership in our FE sector in particular, and I'm passionate about making sure that they have the opportunity to support the development of good leadership also in other parts of the education system. 

I wonder also—. I notice that there's an emphasis on the co-development, if you like, and collaboration with leaders in terms of developing the role of the new academy. But I wonder to what extent people will actually have the time, frankly, to be able to have an input into the development of this new organisation, given that most of them will have a day job to do, and they already feel very squeezed in terms of their time. All of the headteachers that I speak to, frankly, seem to have very little time other than to firefight in their schools at the moment, because of the work pressures that there are. So, I wonder if you could tell us how you're making sure that they have the capacity to engage in a meaningful way with the new academy in terms of developing its programmes, because I think it's very important that they're given some space to be able to do that in a meaningful way. 

I'm pleased to see that there's going to be an emphasis on an accreditation scheme, if you like—a quality mark scheme—for some of the tools that are already out there, and that they will be assessed against an evidence base to show that they are effective tools for leaders to be able to use in their professional development. Can you assure us, then, that those things that don't meet the mark, if you like, will be scrapped, and that we won't see Welsh taxpayers' money wasted on certain things, which we've spent money on in the past? Because I know that many people are frustrated sometimes that a lot of money is being spent on professional development, which has not delivered on the promises that have been set out at the start.

And just one final question: I know that this is an independent organisation, but it's obviously very important that there's an accountability structure in place with the organisation, which is ultimately accountable to this National Assembly. So, can you tell us what the arrangements for accountability of the new academy will be? Will it be subject to inspection by Estyn? How do you expect this National Assembly to be able to interface with the organisation? And do you see a role for local education authorities and the regional consortia in being able to do that, or are there other mechanisms that you feel should be at our disposal? Thank you. 


Can I thank Darren Millar for his positive welcome of the development of the academy? He's quite right to say that this has been a priority for me since coming into office. If we look back at a series of educational reforms in Wales, there has been a glaring gap, I believe, in the focus on leadership support within the system. It was identified in the 2014 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report, and on coming into office I was determined to do something about that. And I was very glad to see, when we invited the OECD back, that they were urging us to get on with the job of creating the academy. It is crucial if we are to transform Welsh education that we have a greater focus on the quality of leadership. So, I'm grateful for his welcome. 

My understanding of the decision to place it in Swansea was a recommendation that was made to me by the task and finish group. I've made it clear that my desire was that the organisation should be set outside the bubble, so to speak, and the task and finish group spoke to a number of locations, I understand, looking for good-quality accommodation at a decent price, and the recommendation came back for an office in Swansea. I believe that they will be up and running fully in that office a little bit later on.

We expect the academy to have a small staff of around seven to eight individuals. So, this is not a top-heavy organisation. Again, that's on the basis of the work that has been done by the task and finish group to look to create a form after they had decided on what the function should be. So, form follows function, and the recommendation was a small staff group was required.

With regard to financing—of course, subject to any votes in this National Assembly—but in the draft budget papers that have already come before Members, we've identified £1 million for the next three years to support the work of the academy.

Darren, you're absolutely right that this academy needs to be for all people involved in education in Wales. There are already some very, very strong programmes that support FE leadership, and you're quite right, strong FE leadership has been a characteristic of many, many of the Estyn reports that have come through. And there is an opportunity to learn from what has worked well in FE, as well as what has worked well in HE, but eventually, I want the academy to encompass leadership roles in education right the way across the board, and I would include in that educational leadership roles at all levels in school. So, not just headteachers or the senior management team, but actually, middle leadership—so, the heads of department, heads of subject, not just the top echelons in our school community. We're also looking at FE as well. I would also include in that local education authorities. I would like it to stretch to regional consortia, and I'd like it to stretch to Welsh Government as well, including my officials who are engaged in education roles within my department. So, actually, I want the academy eventually to be able to provide opportunities across the piece. But of course, as a new organisation, we need to crawl before we walk, before we run, and the priority has to be supporting those who are new to leadership at the moment and our existing leaders. Once we've got that right, the academy will look to expand the provision it is able to go into next. It's early days and we need to get the basics right before we move forward, but I want it to be for everyone.

Darren, can I give you an absolute reassurance? One of the most important jobs the academy will do will be to quality assure provision. There are vast varieties of programmes out there, and we need to know, and leaders need to know, that what they're investing their time in, and what we're investing scarce public resources in, are programmes of professional development that are evidence based and work. And that will be a crucial role. I have no problem in assuring you that if those programmes aren't up to the mark, I don't want my professionals taking part in those programmes; they will not be quality assured. What's really important is that assurance process will include our academy associates. So, these are people who are already at the highest point in their career, but even then, have identified that there is more that they can learn about running great organisations. And they will be an integral part of advising the academy on what those provisions will look like, so that they really meet the needs of professionals. But crucially, in meeting the needs of the professionals, it will impact on our children.

This leadership academy is there for a purpose, and it's not just for the individuals who participate, but it will be to allow those individuals who participate to have an impact back in their institutions on the standard of teaching and learning, and ultimately, the outcomes for our children.


Can I thank the Cabinet Secretary as well for her statement this afternoon, and reiterate the thanks to Ann Keane and others who brought us to this point and, of course, extend our best wishes to those who are now charged with moving this work forward over the coming period?

As you say, leadership has been recognised as one of the weaker aspects of the Welsh education system for several years, so it's crucial that we do get this right. We know—Estyn tells us, and you've told us what the OECD have been saying—that successful leadership is a key factor in achieving the best possible outcomes for learners. So, the leadership academy is very welcome in that respect, and Plaid Cymru have been clear all along that we want to ensure that all leaders, and potential leaders, have access to good-quality professional development, so that we can start addressing some of the issues such as a lack of succession planning.

Many of us will be governors, I'm sure, who've been in a situation where we've tried to recruit school leaders, and we've found the pool to be inadequate, quite frankly, from my experience, certainly, in the past, and growing that pool is essential. You didn't really address—well, you didn't at all, I don't think—the point around the fact that leadership has to be a more attractive proposition. We're in a climate with contracting budgets, reducing capacities, increasing workloads and, really, I'm not sure whether it is the attractive proposition that we would like it to be, these days. So, I would ask again about ensuring that there is the capacity in terms of resources available to release people to undertake some of this training, to give them that space to allow schools to bring in cover or to pay for some of these opportunities, if there is a cost, but also in terms of time—that teachers are afforded more time to be able to take advantage of professional development, so that we can start truly realising the potential that a number of these individuals have.

I'd like to ask about the NPQH—the national professional qualification for headships. There's been some debate about it in the past. Clearly, you've expressed your intention that it is here to stay, or at least that's my understanding, and I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just wondering whether the academy now has a role in that discussion as well, and where they see it sitting, because, clearly, some people see it as a barrier, others see it as a useful reflective learning opportunity. So, it would be good to see how you see that fitting in to the medium-term work of the academy.

Now, on September the seventeenth—no, September last year, that's what I'm trying to say, you announced funding of over £1.28 million to establish school business manager pilots in 11 local authorities, a very welcome step, hopefully to address many of the administrative burdens that some of these leaders find themselves having to grapple with. I was wondering if you could give us an update on those pilots and how you see those, or when you would see those, potentially, being rolled out to other areas, or when you would think that you'd be in a position to make that call, as to whether they are, actually, a valuable addition to the support that leaders in our schools have.

You mentioned that the academy would have a broad remit in terms of the cohort of people that it would target—not just schools, but local authorities, consortia, et cetera. Would that extend to the youth service? I'm just asking the question whether it would extend that far, reflecting, of course, for example, the remit of the Education Workforce Council in that respect.

It's going to have, as you say in your statement, a very strong online presence, and a virtual community is going to be one of the cornerstones of this provision. I'm just wondering how that'll link into or dovetail with other online platforms and resources available to many of these teachers and leaders, such as Hwb, such as the Education Workforce Council's professional learning passport, as well, which draws much of this together. Is the vision that the academy becomes some sort of focal point for all of these and draws these together, or is it a means of feeding material into many of these? Does it bring that coherence to the myriad of provision that is out there, or does it add to some of those platforms?

Finally, how are you going to measure the impact and the potential success of the academy? What, in your mind, are the milestones, the targets or the aspirations that you have and how will you be able to demonstrate that it is actually having the impact that we all want to see?


I thank you very much, Llyr. I think, to begin with, I would acknowledge that being a school leader is a challenging, time-consuming, sometimes difficult, job to do, but it is also an extremely rewarding job to do. The impact a school leader can have on the lives of the children and young people who travel through their institution can be absolutely immense. Most recently, I was talking to an ex-headteacher who had gone out for a celebratory birthday meal with some of her own children and was served by an ex-pupil. She stopped to have a conversation and that pupil said, 'I can't believe that you remembered me. I didn't know whether you would remember my name,' and went on to tell them about what they were up to in their lives and how that person had made a difference to their lives. There are few professions, very few professions, that will have a lifelong impact on an individual, but being a headteacher, and being an excellent headteacher, is just that.

It's also crucial, as the OECD and Estyn have identified, in terms of the teaching profession: being managed by a leader that is not good adds to your workload as a teacher, adds to your stress as a teacher, and doesn't help you be the best that you can be. But good leadership in our schools raises everybody up.

One of the focuses of having the academy is to say to people who are thinking about leadership, but at the moment don't want to take that commitment and that step, because it's such a challenging role, the academy is there to say, 'We will support you. You won't be on your own. This is a career step that you can take safe in the knowledge and the confidence that there is a structure and an organisation that will provide you with the support to be the very best that you can be, and to make a success of your journey into leadership. We'll support you to do that.'

So, you're absolutely right: there's a range of things that we need to do to make leadership more attractive. You'll be aware of our written statement last week, about a more sophisticated way in which people manage performance in schools, the establishment of the leadership academy, new leadership standards—together as a package, it's all about making leadership an attractive proposition.

You talk about the NPQH. As somebody who foolishly agreed that I would hand sign all the certificates for the successful NPQH participants this year, I had a nasty shock yesterday when they handed me a box with approximately 140 of them in. If I'd have known that, maybe I would have had my signature printed on them. But I was very pleased last night to sign every single one of those certificates for those who have successfully completed their NPQH in the most recent cohort. So, there's no lack of appetite for participation in that programme—no lack of appetite at all.

My officials and the regional consortia have worked really hard together to offer an enhanced NPQH programme for this academic year. But moving forward, you are correct, Llyr, that it is my intention to keep NPQH, but moving forward my officials are currently undertaking procurement for further delivery of the programme, and I will have further information once this process has been completed, which I will be very happy to share with you.

We're very keen, my officials and I and the academy, to ensure that the NPQH reflects the new leadership standards that have come in from the Government, and is a well-thought-through development programme that will support those aspiring to headship even better. So, it is staying. Already, ahead of the academy, regional consortia have been working together to ensure there's a more consistent approach, depending on where you are in Wales, and the leadership academy will have a crucial role in ensuring the NPQH, and what lies behind that qualification, is fit and robust.

I must admit, Llyr, I haven't given any consideration to the inclusion of youth work at this stage. But as I said in answer to Darren, I am looking to make this a leadership academy for all those who have a role in educational leadership, and I'm sure that there will be discussions about whether the youth service at some stage would want to participate in such a programme. What I am clear on is that good youth work alongside really great education can have a fantastic impact on children and young people's lives.

With regard to space and time, you'll be aware that we are in the process of rethinking our professional learning opportunities across the board, with a new national professional learning offer hopefully—no, not hopefully; it will be ready in September, and that will give further details on the availability of staff of all levels to participate in national leadership programmes. But what we saw from the associates, the people who applied to be associates, there is again no lack of appetite for people wanting to take up these opportunities. There were more applicants to be an associate than we had spaces for, and I think that puts us on a really good trajectory of establishing the academy as something that is really worthwhile, and people wanting to be a part of it.

The website is up and running, although I think Members might find it difficult to Google from this computer, because I've just tried to do that on mine and the Assembly's system has blocked it. So, it's one of those websites, one of those weird websites, that, for some reason, the filters here don't want you to have a look at, but, when you get home tonight and you're on your own computers, please do have a look at it. And, again, that digital online presence gives us an opportunity to reach all parts of Wales. I don't want anybody to be logistically disadvantaged because they are leading a school in a more remote part of Wales. That online presence and making sure that there are online resources, online communities, allows everybody to participate on a more equal basis. But I would urge Members to have a look, and maybe the Deputy Presiding Officer could have a word with the technicians here and maybe we could unblock that site, Deputy Presiding Officer.


Okay. I will, if Members promise to answer questions—or Cabinet Secretaries promise to answer questions quite quickly and Members ask questions quite succinctly. Michelle Brown.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and thank you for your statement, Cabinet Secretary.

Recent Estyn reports have noted that, in terms of quality leadership in schools, there has been a lack of succession planning, a limited number of well-tailored professional development opportunities for senior and middle-level leaders and teachers and that school leadership is not being considered an attractive profession. Estyn inspections identified only a small number of schools as having excellent practice in leadership and planning for improvement. I'm sure that these statements are not news to you; you've acted on them to create the academy, and I welcome the creation of that academy, because its focus on developing and supporting leadership is a good step. However, this broad welcome must come with some caveats. Any initiatives must be cost-effective and also effective in terms of the results that they deliver. In terms of ensuring effectiveness, I very much welcome the appointment of former chief inspector of schools, Ann Keane, to, amongst other things, oversee the instigation of the academy. Ann has a great breadth of experience acquired from working as a teacher herself, including in schools in England. She's also delivered extremely detailed and helpful material during her time with Estyn.

In terms of funding and costs, Estyn's roadshow report in October 2017 stated that there was uncertainty around whether the academy can have sufficient leverage without managing all leadership development funding. So, that's one thing that I would like to ask you: how is that funding going to be managed and how is it going to be controlled? The attendees were concerned about sufficient funding for leadership development and suitable management of it. However, on the other hand, there's also a concern about taxpayers receiving value for money and the costs of the academy being proportionate. We don't want funding of this programme to take significant funding away from front-line teaching services, and I'm sure the Cabinet Secretary would agree with me on that.

The Cabinet Secretary discusses the need for the academy to have a big online presence. What are the forecast costs associated with achieving the online presence the Cabinet Secretary has in mind? I'd also like to ask the Cabinet Secretary what mechanisms of scrutiny and review does she have in place to ensure that the costs associated with the National Academy for Educational Leadership remain proportionate and deliver value for money. A concern that's also been raised is the relatively small number of women in senior leadership roles in the education system, which is surprising, given the number of women who actually go into teaching. Will the academy address this and how do you see the academy addressing it?

It's also intended that the academy endorses provision from providers. I'm assuming that you mean there that it's going to be training, professional development, et cetera. I think that is a good idea; it makes sense. But how is she going to ensure that leaders and teachers wishing to take advantage of that provision have the time to make the most of them? And how are you going to ensure that leaders and teachers have the time out of their working day to develop their leadership skills? Or is this something that they're going to be expected to do in their personal hours, as is so often the case with CPD? Thank you.

Can I thank Michelle Brown for her observations? It's important for Members to understand the way in which the leadership academy has been set up, as a company limited by guarantee that is arm's-length from the Welsh Government, because I wanted to be able to create some kind of independence, on a day-to-day operational basis, from Welsh Government. We announced last week that the organisation will be led by a new chief executive, Huw Foster-Evans. Huw is somebody who will be known to many people here as a—. He started his career as a classroom maths teacher and moved up through the ranks. He's been a headteacher, understands very well the workings of regional consortia, local education authorities, and is extremely enthusiastic with regard to the potential for leadership. Having spoken to him following his appointment, he sees leadership being the core on which we will deliver our educational reforms. The board has an independently appointed chair as well as a number of board members, all of whom have recent experience in business and in education, that will oversee the day-to-day running of the academy. I expect to receive regular reports from both the chair and the chief executive about the work and, of course, I'm sure Members here and, as you are a member of the children and young people's committee, that the committee itself will want to have an in-depth look at the work of the academy and will want to meet those personnel. An invitation was issued, I believe, for people to come along to the event last week, so people could have met at the official launch. I know people's diaries are incredibly busy over lunchtime and that's almost impossible. Llyr was there and I hope, Llyr, that you would say to colleagues who weren't able to attend that there was a real sense of excitement and anticipation and enthusiasm for what we are doing. 

Equality issues in education are really, really important ones, Michelle. It's really interesting; you say about lack of female leadership roles. Well, many, many, many, many of the headteachers I meet in leadership roles—headteachers of schools—especially in the primary sector, are female, and that reflects the nature of the primary school workforce, but we need to see greater diversity in our teaching profession across the piece. I want those at the front of our classroom to reflect the nature of the classroom itself. We are a diverse community with a diverse population and I would like to see a greater diversity in the teaching profession and, of course, the leadership academy, I'm sure, will want to give advice to me about what needs to happen if we're to encourage that diversity and we're able to take action with that. Again, one of the things I expect the leadership academy to do is to feed into public policy advice, to give advice to me, as the Minister, about what more we need to do to support the very premise that you painted: a diverse, successful set of school leaders and a school leadership system that people aspire to be a part of; they want to be a part of that system—rather than seeing leadership as a career-ending opportunity, rather a career-enhancing opportunity. So, that's very important to me, that we get that diversity.

The usual accountability and assurance measures will be put in place, and the chief executive and the board will be held publicly accountable for the way in which the budget of the organisation is spent. As I said in answer to Llyr Huws Gruffydd, as we approach September we will be in a position to give greater detail to Members about the new national professional learning programme that is available. We're already working very, very hard with the OECD to develop our system of schools as learning organisations, and we have to recognise that the old ways of doing professional learning, which often involve coming out of your classroom for an entire day, coming to sit in a hall, being lectured at by the stage, on the stage, and then going back to your classroom and it having no impact on your practice—those days are over. Often, the very best professional learning opportunities come when the children are actually in the room. They come by liaising, not with another school, but actually with your colleagues within the school, or having the opportunity to work across a cluster, and our new national professional learning opportunity programme will reflect that when we launch it in the autumn.


Cabinet Secretary, we all know that the challenges of taking forward education in schools serving our most deprived areas are a major issue for us here in Wales—and further beyond our borders, no doubt. We've discussed in the past the importance of leadership in those particular circumstances, Cabinet Secretary, and we all know it's very important generally, but, in considering these matters, part of our discussions previously was about the particular attributes and characteristics that are necessary to be part of that leadership team and to perform effectively in those schools serving our most deprived communities, and you set out how there would be a bespoke approach and a particular concentration and focus within the generality of what you've described today. So, I just wonder, at this stage in the development of the academy and our new regime for leadership in education in Wales, whether you could update the Chamber on how everything that you've described today will also include this bespoke provision for those particular leadership skills and characteristics.


Thank you, John. Well, great leadership and great leadership development impacts upon all of our children, but I would argue that it impacts disproportionately on those children from a poorer background. Undoubtedly, leadership in different settings requires sometimes a tailor-made specific programme for support. So, it's not for me to dictate all the time to the academy, but I do envisage a situation where we will be looking at supporting leaders, leadership, in a range of educational settings. And, if our national mission is to raise standards and close the attainment gap, which it is, then paying attention to what it means to be a leader in a school in a really economically challenged area with significant social issues that impact upon the life of that school and the well-being of the children and the ability of those children to access the curriculum, that is going to need a certain skill set to make the most of it. So, I would like to see that reflected.

Alternatively, we're seeing new forms of education all the time. What does it take to be the leader of a through school, for instance, where we've had, traditionally, a separation between primary and secondary? We're seeing a growth in the number of through schools. What does it take to be a leader in those circumstances? What does it take to be the leader of a cluster of primary schools? If you find yourself the head teacher of two, three, four primary schools in your local area, which is now happening in an attempt to keep rural schools open, what does it take to be a leader in those circumstances? What does it take to be a leader in a school where you've got very small class sizes and you're trying to teach a number of children across a wide age group, plus you've got a teaching responsibility on top of your leadership responsibility? So, there are many, many different characteristics of leadership. So, if it's generic, there are specific things that we can do to support leaders who find themselves working in very specific circumstances.

I was remiss not to talk about business managers. This is one of the ways in which we can take the burden off headteachers whose passion is for teaching and learning and not necessarily working out how you can fix the boiler or fix the leaking roof or where you can get the cheapest paper and toilet roll from. That's not what we want headteachers to be spending their time on. They tell me far too often they're spending far too much of their time doing that kind of thing and not focusing on teaching and learning and pedagogy. We're already investing in business manager pilots. We'll wait to see the results of those pilots, but, again, it's about supporting leadership in a variety of policy programmes so that people want to be a leader in a Welsh school, and I really hope that people will want to be a great leader in our schools in some of our more challenging communities. Because it's not just financial resource that can make a difference for those children, it's about deploying our very best human resource too.

Thank you. Many of the points that I wanted to make have already been stated, but I want to welcome the statement today. As a former teacher and lecturer, and a former cabinet member for education, I very much welcome this ongoing reform in terms of the potential that this new academy has. I'll go straight to my questions. How can the Welsh Government then ensure that the educational leadership academy and its online work will be accessible throughout Wales to education professionals on a consistent basis, and how does the Cabinet Secretary envisage that best practice will cascade from the academy in Swansea through the doors and windows of the classrooms across Wales? And, yes, the educational leadership academy has the potential, along with a suite of other Welsh Government pedagogical measures, to place excellence in leadership across Welsh education as one of the greatest assets of the Welsh people and, I believe, ultimately, the Welsh nation.

Thank you very much, Rhianon, for your welcome to the academy. Obviously, our online resource is absolutely crucial to making sure that the academy is accessible, as is one of the crucial roles of our first tranche of associates of the academy. So, these are people that have applied to be part of the academy, they are from the length and breadth of Wales, and part of their role is to be out in the educational communities from where they come to be able to disseminate information about the academy, and to work with their colleagues who are not associates, but to be able to inform them of the work of the academy and encourage them to be a part of it. So, we don’t just have a digital presence; we will have a human presence on the ground—some of our most outstanding teachers from the secondary sector, the primary sector, Welsh medium and English medium—and they are out there at the moment developing their own skills even further, but actually out there spreading the message of the academy and feeding back to the chief executive and the board about what it is leaders need from the academy to support them, as well as developing future programmes, so that we can be much more proactive in career development for people who aspire to leadership.

5. Statement by the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care: Transforming Social Care in Wales: Implementation of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act