Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd

Plenary - Fifth Senedd

28/01/2020

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

I call the Members to order. Before starting this afternoon, I would like to welcome the parliamentary delegation from the Maldives, who are visiting the Senedd today. So, welcome to you from the Maldives.

1. Questions to the First Minister

Questions to the First Minister is the first item, and the first question is from Angela Burns.

Smoking

1. Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government's plans to reduce the number of people smoking in Wales? OAQ55018

I thank Angela Burns for that question, Llywydd.

We remain committed to reducing the percentage of the Welsh population who smoke to 16 per cent by the end of this calendar year. A post-2020 tobacco control plan is in preparation, deploying all evidence-based techniques to help achieve a tobacco-free Wales.

Thank you for that answer, First Minister. And, undoubtedly, Wales has led the UK in banning smoking in public places, which is very welcome. However, 13 years on, latest figures still show that we're failing to address smoking in young people and expectant mothers. Across Wales, 9 per cent of 15 to 16-year-olds smoke, and 30 per cent of teenage mums smoke. Thirty per cent of mums aged between 16 and 19 are smokers at their baby's birth. Now, this obviously has a long-term impact on them, and, of course, their child. And one of the things I've discovered is that not all maternity services have dedicated stop smoking services. Those that do have them have shown a very high success rate. And we have to recognise that teenage mums in particular are very vulnerable to pressures such as body image, they want a tiny baby, there are a lack of role models, and, of course, the demographics sometimes fight against them. And we also know that if children see people smoking around them, they're much more likely to take up smoking.

So, I wondered if you could just outline for me what the Welsh Government could do to ensure that the best practice that does exist where there's a midwife-led stop smoking cessation service in a midwifery unit is spread across Wales, and we can have more midwives that can lead this kind of practice in order to try to cut down on the rates of teenage smoking.

Llywydd, I thank Angela Burns for those supplementary questions. She is right that there is a continuing challenge to reduce the proportion of young women who become pregnant and who carry on smoking. The figures have to be treated with just a small degree of caution, because the percentage is a factor of the fact that the number of teenage pregnancies has fallen so rapidly during the devolution era. So, in the year 2000, there were 495 young women under the age of 16 who became pregnant in Wales, and in 2017, the last year for which we have figures, it was down to 144. And that's a dramatic decline. And amongst the 144, there is a concentration of young people who have particular difficulties and challenges, then, in persuading people to give up smoking.

But the range of services that are there in the NHS are designed to try and make sure that there isn't just one approach. In-hospital services work very well for some young people, but other young people definitely, we know, prefer to use pharmacy-based services, partly because it can be more anonymous; you'd rather go where you weren't so visible to other people. Specially trained midwives have a very important part to play in working with young people in particular, and then working directly with young people is important as well. So, in Pembrokeshire, in the Member's own area, Hywel Dda is doing a particular piece of work with young people who are smokers, trying to learn from them about the things that they would find most effective as forms of intervention to enable them to give up smoking, and that work is going on alongside primary care clusters and specialist midwives.

Thankfully, we've made progress in reducing the numbers smoking in Wales, First Minister, but it still takes a terrible toll on health in Wales, and particularly regarding people living in poverty. I do believe it's important that we make it more and more socially unacceptable to smoke in Wales, and the ban on smoking in enclosed public places has been a big part of that. A recent Action on Smoking and Health survey showed 59 per cent of respondents in favour of a ban on smoking in city and town centres. Is that something Welsh Government would consider in terms of making further progress?

I thank John Griffiths for that, and I completely agree with him—it was a point made by Angela Burns as well—that social acceptability of smoking leads to young people, in particular, becoming smokers. We have seen a huge cultural shift in the last 20 or 30 years in social acceptability. My colleague Vaughan Gething will bring forward regulations this year to enforce a statutory ban on smoking in hospital grounds, school playgrounds, play areas outside schools, and in unenclosed premises in childcare facilities. And then we will move on to the next phase of our determination to make smoking something that we bear down on, that we reduce, and that we prevent young people from thinking that it's a normal way of growing up. And unenclosed premises, in town and city centres, is one of the things that we will definitely be moving to act on next.

13:35
Devolution of Taxes

2. Will the First Minister make a statement on further devolution of taxes as recommended by the Silk Commission? OAQ54983

I thank Mike Hedges for that. Llywydd, while land transfer tax, landfill disposals tax and Welsh rates of income tax have been successfully absorbed as responsibilities devolved to Wales, the UK Government continues to reject the Silk recommendation in relation to air passenger duty, despite all the evidence that supports its devolution.

I just wanted to talk about air passenger duty and aggregates levy. The reason why we couldn't have aggregates levy being devolved ends at one second past 11 p.m. on Friday. So, can we expect, at two seconds past 11 p.m., aggregates levy to be devolved? And have you had any further discussion regarding the devolution of air passenger duty?

I thank Mike for both of those examples, both of which were considered by the Silk Commission. As Mike Hedges knows, and has alluded to, Llywydd, aggregates levy was subject to extensive litigation at European and domestic levels. That was all resolved in February of last year, and the UK Government announced a review of aggregates levy, and that was due to be published in the autumn. It wasn't published because of the general election; we now expect that that review will be published alongside the budget on 11 March. There is a strong synergy between the environmental responsibilities that are discharged here in Wales and aggregates levy, which is, after all, an environmental tax, and putting the two sets of responsibilities together would make very good sense. There are some complexities, which we expect the review to address. It's a declining tax, and the Welsh share of UK aggregates may also be declining. There are significant data issues with it, and, of course, it will bring no more money to Wales, because any money that we got through aggregates levy would just be subject to a reduction in the block grant. Nevertheless, the case for it is a strong one, and we look forward to the publication of the review.

As far as air passenger duty is concerned, the UK Government has announced a review there as well, as part of its Flybe activities, and that too is due to be published alongside the March budget. None of that requires further justification for devolution of APD to Wales. The case was thoroughly made in Silk, and it was thoroughly made in the Welsh Affairs Select Committee report, under the chairing of David T.C. Davies, now the Deputy Minister in the Wales Office. We look forward to the UK Government giving to Wales what has already been devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland; there simply is no excuse for that tax not coming to Wales, as the Silk commission recommended.

First Minister, your wing of the Labour Party is hardly known for cutting taxes. In fact, you're more considered to be an individual that might want to raise them. What assurances can you give to the hard-working people of Wales, and, indeed, those businesses across Wales, that, if further taxes are devolved to Wales, your Government's not going to put them up rather than cutting the burden for people to get on with their lives?

I give this guarantee, Llywydd, that any taxes that come to Wales will be carefully considered, and that any decisions are made here, on the floor of the National Assembly—that they're not made by Government, they're made by the National Assembly. And when it came to land transfer tax, of course, we cut that tax for the vast majority of house purchases here in Wales. We cut the business element of land transfer tax, so that the vast majority of small businesses pay a lower rate of tax here in Wales than they did when his Government was in charge of it. People will look at what we did, rather than what the Member alleges, and find that our actions speak a lot louder than his words.

13:40

I'm sure the First Minister will agree with me that it's slightly curious that the Conservative Party always talk about tax as if it was something dreadful. If we didn't pay taxes we wouldn't have public services. We all know that we need investment in our public services going forward.

In response to Mike Hedges, the First Minister mentioned the air passenger duty and the aggregates levy. I know that the First Minister will, like I do, regret what is going to happen on Friday night this week, but it is going to happen. Can I suggest to the First Minister that this may be an opportunity to look at some other taxes that we might want to seek devolution of, over and above Silk? I'm thinking particularly of perhaps the capacity to vary corporation tax, which wouldn't have been possible inside the European Union; seeking possibly the capacity to vary VAT, which might be able to help grow some of our own local and indigenous businesses.

I realise, of course, Llywydd, that the First Minister in this sense is at the mercy of the Conservative Government in London. But I wonder if he would agree with me that with what is bound to be a challenging time economically for Wales we ought to be being ambitious about seeking the levers that we will need to potentially protect our economy from some of the potential negative effects.

I thank Helen Mary Jones for that, and of course I agree with her first contribution. The taxes we pay are the admission charge to a civilised society. If we didn't have taxes and didn't pay them then we wouldn't have the services that we talk about all the time on the floor of this Assembly, and which Members opposite are forever urging further investments and more expenditures for, while at the same time devising plans to deprive us of what we need in order to be able to do so.

I know that Helen Mary Jones will be interested to know that earlier this month Welsh Treasury officials hosted a meeting here in Cardiff involving the Treasury, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, which was a workshop to look at new common ways in which new taxes could be devolved inside the United Kingdom. And that discussion was a productive one, and it will help in some other practical ways in which new opportunities that might come our way in the future can be navigated through the machinery of the United Kingdom.

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

Questions now from the party leaders. Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price. 

Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, one cannot begin to imagine the grief of parents who suffer the loss of a child. As reported by BBC Wales Investigates last night, an inquest found that the healthcare provided to Sarah Handy contributed to her baby's death in 2017. Her case is one of 140 being reviewed to establish whether mothers and babies were harmed while receiving care at Cwm Taf Morgannwg maternity units. Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Labour leadership candidate, called for a public inquiry into maternity failures at the health board, only to retract her comments later. The Labour leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council says it's 'an absolute scandal' that nobody on the health board has been held to account. He's backing Mrs Handy's call for a criminal investigation. Are you? 

Well, Llywydd, I agree with what Adam Price said at the start, that a loss of a child in any circumstances, and even more so in circumstances that might have been preventable, cannot be imagined in the impact that that has in the lives of families.

I've heard calls for a criminal investigation. That will be entirely a matter for the police and not a matter for me, and I'm going to say nothing on that subject this afternoon that could be interpreted in any way as prejudicing the police's ability to discharge their responsibilities.

In last night's programme, Andrew Morgan also said that when there were calls for the resignation of Cwm Taf's chief executive, he was asked not to speak out. Do you agree that any attempt to gag an elected representative is totally unacceptable? And will he launch his own investigation to see whether the allegations that Mr Morgan made vis-à-vis the health board are true?

Cwm Taf is not the only health board where there are serious questions. Of course, Betsi Cadwaladr is now in its fifth year of special measures, and it has an alarming rate of patient safety incidents. Between November 2017 and December 2019, there were 520 incidents within Betsi that resulted in death or serious harm. That total is higher than all the other health boards in Wales combined. Now, there is either a serious underlying problem within Betsi or there is severe underreporting elsewhere in Wales. Which is it?

13:45

Llywydd, I think the leader of RCT is able to speak for himself. I know him very well and hold him in very high regard. He's made no request of me, and I'm sure that he's more than capable of doing so for himself, should he wish to do so.

The figures in Betsi Cadwaladr are, I believe, a sign of a health board in which reporting incidents and learning from them has become part of its culture, and that is something that we want to see everywhere in Wales. We regularly have this exchange on the floor of the Assembly, where we say that we want a learning culture, we say we want a culture in health boards where people are not afraid to speak up and have things recorded, and then when that happens, we have questions that say, 'Oh, everything must be awful, look at the incidents that are reported.' I just don't think we can have it both ways. I think the fact that there are figures in Betsi Cadwaladr that demonstrate that staff are willing to report things shows that there is a culture there now that wants to learn from the way that things are conducted, and that maybe wasn't the case there not that many years ago.

Between December 2018 and December 2019—the figures released just today—there were 41 incidents resulting in death registered within Betsi. That's 53 per cent of all such deaths reported by Welsh health boards in total. That's obviously disproportionately high when you consider that health board covers just about 20 per cent of the population of Wales.

If I've understood the First Minister correctly, what he is saying—but he can respond to confirm whether my understanding is correct—is, in response to my question, he seems to be of the view that there is underreporting of serious incidents in the rest of Wales and that there, presumably, are deaths as a result of incidents that are unreported in the rest of Wales, which, of course, was one of the most serious charges in the report into the maternity services in Cwm Taf.

So, is the First Minister saying now that the key failing, the lack of reporting of serious incidents that was at the heart of the problem at Cwm Taf, is actually a general problem in other health boards, apart from Betsi, throughout Wales?

I must say, Llywydd, I think that is a complete farrago. It's simply building one sort of unsubstantiated assertion on top of another. I said no such thing, nor would I. What I am saying here is that we want a culture in the NHS in Wales where, when things go wrong, people feel empowered to speak up, that things are reported, and things are learned as a result of those reports being made. I want to see that in every part of Wales. And the Member's attempt to try and drag the NHS through the mud once again this afternoon—because that's what he does, and he does it ever so regularly here, he does it very regularly here, he did it again this afternoon—doesn't do him any good, and it certainly doesn't do any good to patients in the Welsh health service.

Diolch, Llywydd. First Minister, last week, it was reported that the A465 Heads of the Valleys road is facing possible further delays and, as you know, it's already significantly over budget. That road was due to be finished at the end of last year. Could you tell us when the Heads of the Valleys road will be completed, and can you also confirm whether the Welsh Government will be spending any additional resources in excess of the current budget to ensure the road is finally completed?

Llywydd, the timescales for the completion of the road remain as set out in the statement made by my colleague Ken Skates when he last reported this matter to the floor of the National Assembly. Those timescales have not altered. The Minister will make a further statement on progress in completion of that section of the Heads of the Valleys road.

The budget for the completion is beyond what had originally been anticipated. That is partly explained by the challenging topography that the constructors have faced in making their way through one of the biggest gorges that we've ever built a road of this sort through in Wales. There have been disputes between the Welsh Government and the contractor over some of the other costs that have been raised with us, and they remain subject to ongoing arbitration between the parties. 

13:50

First Minister, this particular stretch of road is just one example of many of the frustrations that communities across Wales have had with the Welsh Government's handling of road infrastructure projects. At the end of last year, the Welsh Infrastructure Alliance made it clear in their report that significant investment is required in Wales's trunk road network and more certainty is required on the delivery timescales of schemes set out in the national transport plan—and that's entirely true, First Minister. In west Wales, the continual calls to dual the A40 have simply fallen on deaf ears. And, of course, the decision not to press ahead with a solution to the M4 has once again left communities along that corridor frustrated and annoyed.

In 2011, the Wales Audit Office found that major transport projects had cost substantially more and taken longer to complete than expected, with overspends totalling £226 million. This took place under a Labour Government. First Minister, do you accept that lessons simply haven't been learned from that damning report, and do you recognise the very distressing impact that your Government's mismanagement of road projects is having on people's lives across Wales?

Llywydd, if I thought for a moment there was a lesson to be learned from the party responsible for the HS2 line and the billions—. He talks to me about £226 million; that's barely a week's overspend in his Government's handling of HS2, where there are billions—billions and billions of pounds. That's a project dreamed up by his party, entirely the responsibility of his party. He thinks that he can come here and criticise us for the way that we conduct things when his party is a scandal across the whole of Europe for the way that it has conducted itself in relation to that transport programme.

He quotes me a report of 2011. In 2011, we were at the very start of the year-by-year slash and burn through the capital programme of this Labour Government by his Government at Westminster. If we had the budget today that we'd had back then, we would be able to do more in a whole range of capital investments here in Wales.

I'm not apologising for the record of the Welsh Government: the Newtown bypass, completed on budget and on time; the work that we are doing in Valleys communities that his party would quite certainly never contemplate spending. In every part of Wales, this Government invests to the very fullest extent that we are able, despite the depredations of austerity that his party has imposed on us. And those things are appreciated—far from his carping away at the way things happen—those things are appreciated in every part of Wales as well.

Well, you should apologise, First Minister, for the mismanagement of this particular project, and you should be apologising to the people of Wales for other projects that your Government has mismanaged. It's a fact that communities are frustrated with the Welsh Government's approach to road infrastructure here in Wales, and there seems, to me, little accountability from Ministers for your Government's mismanagement. 

Now, First Minister, you will be aware of plans by Cardiff Council to introduce a congestion charge—or a Valleys tax, as your own Members have called it—to charge non-residents to travel in and out of Cardiff. Now, those plans have been criticised by your colleague the Member for Caerphilly, who has made it clear that the charge should not be brought in unless there are clear alternatives to car use, and that the charge should also apply to Cardiff residents as well. The Member for Blaenau Gwent has rightly called it a Valleys tax.

Now, it's a fact that this scheme needs Welsh Government approval before it can be implemented. So, First Minister, is it your Government's intention to support Cardiff Council and sign off this Valleys tax? Do you genuinely believe that Cardiff's public transport system could handle the significant increase in demand that could come as a result of this proposal? And if you do sign off this proposal, how will you avoid creating an us-and-them environment between the Valleys and the capital?

13:55

Llywydd, lectures from the Member on public transport, from the party that cancelled the electrification of the main line here in Wales—do you remember that? I wonder if the Member remembers. No, I think he doesn't. He's forgotten that his party promised to electrify the main railway line all the way to Swansea, only then to turn to turn its back on the promise that it had made to people in Wales. He wants to ask me about public transport. Let's look at his record, at his party's record, for a moment.

As far as Cardiff Council's proposals are concerned, I am glad that Cardiff city council is responding in an imaginative and determined way to the impact of climate change and the impact of air quality here in our capital city—the most commuted capital anywhere in the United Kingdom. So, I don't think that it is right simply to dismiss proposals that the council has come up with, because they are a serious response to a serious set of issues.

But the Member is right to say that of course there is a responsibility on the Welsh Government to interrogate those proposals in a regional context. That is exactly what the Minister for transport said when those plans were announced. That's why we as a Welsh Government have set up an investigation into demand management, not just in Cardiff, but in the wider region, and the study will look at the benefits and challenges of different demand-management approaches, and we will use that to inform national and regional policy. We deserve, people in Cardiff and people around Cardiff deserve, to look at serious proposals seriously, to look at other alternatives that there may be there, and to do so in the context of the climate change emergency that faces us all. Cardiff's proposals are intended to be a serious response to that situation.

Can I wish all Members a happy Brexit day this Friday? Not least the leader of Plaid Cymru, who I commend on the positive approach that he has taken this week.

First Minister, do you support the even more positive approach being taken by the Royal Mint in Llantrisant? For two weeks, they are offering bespoke Brexit tours. I'm looking forward to taking my children to strike their very own Brexit 50p coins, wishing 'Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations'. On Brexit day, the Royal Mint is even opening through the night, with public tours every 15 minutes. With Nathan Gill coming to Llantrisant on Friday to operate the coin press as his final MEP engagement, can I ask the First Minister what you will be doing to mark Brexit day?

Llywydd, I will be chairing a meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) here in Cardiff later this afternoon. It will involve the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. I was very pleased to welcome them to Wales this morning, their first engagement of this sort since the re-established Executive. Michael Gove will represent the United Kingdom Government at this afternoon's meeting. There, we will be having not a tour of a tourist attraction but we will be grappling seriously with the issues that face us as a United Kingdom as we leave the European Union. We will be talking about the strategic priorities for negotiations with the European Union. We will be talking about the way in which devolved administrations can be involved in the setting of mandates and the discharging of them in negotiations. That's what I and the Welsh Government will be focusing on this week and over the weeks and months to come.

14:00

Good. I think the First Minister had announced that he was going to be making a speech on Friday, but I would like to congratulate him about the meeting he has had today, because I think while the UK Government has understandably been focussed on other things, when there hasn't been a Northern Ireland Government, and when the Scottish Government is antagonistic, I think the Welsh Government has taken a lead in thinking through some of these post-Brexit issues and what the appropriate architecture should be for our intra-government liaisons in the UK.

I was pleased to meet Simon Hart in Tŷ Hywel earlier, and I hope that he will also recognise the strong lead that Welsh Government has been giving in this area. Will the First Minister, however, now also pledge to work with the leader of the opposition and with Members opposite to use their influence on UK Government Ministers to help push forward some of the ideas his Government has developed, and on which we all agree?

And could I also ask, in an effort to find common ground, whether he might reconsider the delete-and-replace-all approach to the Conservative Brexit motion tomorrow? It refers only to the potential benefits to Wales of Brexit, and, in trying to find common ground, it speaks relatively non-controversially about new free trade agreements, an immigration system that does not discriminate against non-EU, and a new approach to regional investment. It also calls upon Welsh Government to engage positively with the UK Government. So, I wonder if the First Minister could find his way to supporting it?

I thank the Member. The Secretaries of State for Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will all be present at the JMC(EN) this afternoon. I thank the Member for what he said about the proposals that Wales has made to strengthen the way in which the United Kingdom can operate the other side of Brexit. I was glad to be able to discuss those directly with Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill this morning, and they will be part of an ongoing discussion about inter-governmental machinery that is discharged at the JMC.

I've been grateful to the leader of the opposition here for a number of opportunities to meet to talk about matters in relation to Brexit, the future of the United Kingdom and other important public policy issues. It has always been the position of these benches—it certainly was under my predecessor—that wherever there are constructive ideas that people want to contribute to these important public debates, of course, we are open to hearing them and to discussing them, and I certainly want to go on doing that into the future. Tomorrow's debate, Llywydd, will, I'm sure, have ample time on the floor of the Assembly for people to express their views.

Supporting People with Autism

3. Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government's plans to support people with autism in South Wales West? OAQ55009

Thank you, Llywydd. Can I begin just by wishing the Member well in her continued recovery from her recent ill health? The integrated autism service is now available in all regions in Wales, supported by the Welsh Government's continued annual investment of £3 million. We will consult on the draft statutory autism code of practice in April of this year.

Thank you for your kind words, Minister, and thank you for your answer to my question. At a meeting last Friday, despite the measures you outlined, my constituents are still struggling to get the support they need. It's bad enough for families seeking help for the children with autism, but they've highlighted that it can be equally traumatic for adults previously undiagnosed. So, First Minister, what additional measures can you take to improve support for adults on the autism spectrum and also to speed up the diagnosis for adults who are without a firm diagnosis? Thank you.

I thank the Member for that, and I recognise the points that she raises about people who, when they were in childhood, maybe autism wasn't recognised in the way that it is today. And for some people, it's quite late in adult life before the things that matter to them are now being recognised as part of a wider condition. So, our integrated autism service is now available throughout Wales, and as I said in my original answer, Llywydd, the health Minister recently confirmed that the £3 million investment that we had originally made to assist in the establishment of that service is now to be a permanent part of its funding. So that, I think, will help. Some of the work that we have done in helping with the training of front-line primary care clinicians to recognise the autism spectrum and people who may be needing help on it, I think that will go on helping people in that position. And the autism statutory code of practice, which we will publish in April and which we will complete before the end of this Assembly term, focuses on assessment, awareness, access, planning and monitoring, and all of those things are designed to reinforce the service so that adults and young people can be confident that their needs are recognised and responded to in Wales.  

14:05

First Minister, not every child in my region with an autistic spectrum condition will need full special educational needs or additional learning needs support, but many do and, in some cases, quite significant support. It's also true that some of those children will experience poor mental health, whether that's unrelated to their autism or as a consequence of the daily challenges they face because of their autism. The education Minister has pledged £7 million towards meeting demand for education support in the current system, and there's an additional £5 million going in from both health and education for the whole-school approach, all of which is extremely welcome. But can you tell me how the £3 million to which you referred in your answer to Caroline Jones will be used to meet the needs of autistic children with poor mental health at all levels in the NHS, not just in primary care? And can you give me a guarantee that no child with an autistic spectrum condition will be turned away from primary mental healthcare due to lack of expertise or training from mental health professionals? 

Thank you for those additional questions and for the recognition of the investment that is going into different parts of the service. That's over and above the £20 million that's being invested in the implementation of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018. I entirely agree with what Suzy Davies says that not all children on the disorder spectrum will need the same sort of response.

We have developed, over the last three or four years, the particular service for young people with neurodevelopmental difficulties. We're carrying out a capacity-and-demand review of that service because, in a way that I think you could anticipate, when you create a new service then a set of latent demands rises to the surface. So, the service was funded from the beginning to deal with the young people we knew were coming into the system already; we provide a new service, and then a whole number of other young people who hadn't previously been identified come to the surface and need help, and that's why the demand-and-capacity review is being carried out.

Between that, between the things that we are doing in relation to mental health services for young people in schools, allied with what we are doing in relation to the additional learning needs Act, we are creating a web of services that I think are there to create a strong safety net for young people along that spectrum, so that nobody falls between the cracks and everybody's able to find a service that meets their particular needs. 

Growing the Visitor Economy in Islwyn

4. Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government's plans for growing the visitor economy in Islwyn? OAQ55020

I thank the Member for that.

The tourism action plan for 2020-25 was launched last week. Its ambition to extend the tourism sector and the geographical reach of the industry will give new impetus to the many attractions that Islwyn has to offer.

First Minister, thank you. Last week, you and the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, unveiled an exciting future for the visitor economy in Wales. The new five-year plan, 'Welcome to Wales: Priorities for the Visitor Economy 2020-25', is backed by a new £10 million fund, brilliant basics, to support the all-important tourism infrastructure that will complement the £50 million Wales tourism investment fund, focusing on high-quality, reputation-changing products.

First Minister, the visitor economy, as you know, is vital to the well-being and future of communities in my constituency of Islwyn and, as such, last week I met with the Deputy Ministers, Lee Waters and Hannah Blythyn, where we discussed, amongst other things, the place of culture and the Welsh Government's commitment to Cwmcarn forest scenic drive in Islwyn, which has been designated a discovery gateway as part of the Welsh Government's Valleys Regional Park discovery gateway.

First Minister, the Welsh Labour Government backs its words with action, and in November, £450,000 was pledged to ensuring the Cwmcarn forest scenic drive will fully reopen in 2020, allowing access to every generation to experience one of Wales's natural wonders. So, First Minister, will you and Deputy Minister, Lee Waters, accept my invite to join the people of Islwyn at Cwmcarn forest scenic drive, and further, will you and the Welsh Government do all you can do to ensure that Wales and the world know that the beautiful Cwmcarn forest drive is once again fully open for business?

14:10

Well, Llywydd, I thank the Member for that probing question on behalf of her constituents in Islwyn. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to be with Dafydd Elis-Thomas at the launch of the tourism action plan in Porthcawl last week. It sets out our ambitions for the tourist industry here in Wales. The Member is absolutely right to point to the Cwmcarn forest scenic drive as an example of the investment that this Welsh Labour Government is making in tourism destinations in all parts of Wales.

When my children were growing up, Llywydd, we were very regular visitors to Cwmcarn because of the way in which it provides such a variety of opportunities for young people to enjoy the wonderful scenery that is there but also all those other opportunities that the scenic drive provides. All the mountain bike routes at Cwmcarn have now been reopened. NRW have submitted planning applications for each of eight recreational areas along the drive. When those are in place as well, alongside the new visitor centre, there will be even more reasons for people to come to Islwyn and to enjoy what Cwmcarn has to offer.

Financial Inclusion

5. Will the First Minister provide an update on Welsh Government action to promote financial inclusion in Wales? OAQ55014

Llywydd, our commitment to promoting financial inclusion is reflected through the £19 million funding we provide to offer people access to affordable financial services and quality-assured information and advice. This means people are able to make more informed financial decisions and better manage their finances.

Thank you, First Minister, and can I welcome the range of actions that you set out there, which I know assist many of my constituents in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney? Many of us on this side of the Chamber also remember the actions of the last UK Labour Government in establishing child trust funds, and, of course, the additional support for this provided by the Welsh Labour Government. Trust funds exist, First Minister, as you know, to help young people with savings to support them into adult life—support that was abolished by the UK Tory Government. Since then, Tory Ministers have failed to link people with their accounts, meaning that millions could go unclaimed when all children in Wales born in 2002 will be eligible to access their savings this September. What representations has the Welsh Government made to the UK Government to ensure that young people are reunited with their savings?

Well, I thank Dawn Bowden for pointing to one of the great social policy experiments of this century. I deeply regret the fact that the child trust fund, launched by Labour in 2002 was abolished by the incoming coalition Government in 2010, because that scheme offered young people and particularly people from disadvantaged communities a chance to begin their adult life with an asset behind them, and in asset-based welfare, the theory is that assets change lives; that, if you have a sum of money that you can rely on, you make different sorts of decisions about your future. Now, we have this great natural experiment because we have these cohorts of young people born from 1 September 2002 until 2011 and the first generation of those children turn 18 in September of this year. There were 273,000 young people in Wales who had child trust fund accounts opened for them and some Members here will remember my colleague, Brian Gibbons, introducing a Welsh addition to those child trust funds, so that children in Wales, when they became primary school age, every child had £50 added to their account; every child from a disadvantaged family had £100 added to their account.

When the child trust fund was set up, Llywydd, the idea was not simply to put money into a child's account, but that that child would be able to track that account throughout their maturity—that, every year, they would have a statement telling them how much was being held for them. By the time they were 16, they were meant to be able to make decisions for themselves about where that fund would be invested. And, when the fund was abolished, unfortunately all of that was abolished as well.

That's why we are fearful, as Dawn Bowden has said, that there could be thousands of young people in Wales in September of this year who have had money invested on their behalf that could provide a platform for them as they go into adult life, who will know nothing about it. That's why my colleague Rebecca Evans wrote to Treasury Ministers on 22 January, urging them to take new action, so that those young people in Wales who have an opportunity to take advantage of their child trust fund will be identified and that we can be confident that, for those young people at least, this opportunity will be genuinely available. 

14:15
The Ford Bridgend Taskforce

6. Will the First Minister provide an update on the latest meeting of the Ford Bridgend Taskforce? OAQ54985

Llywydd, the taskforce last met on 20 January. It was attended by the Minister for the economy, Ken Skates, and by the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart. The meeting reviewed progress to date and agreed next steps in delivering a regional approach to the Ford plant closure.

I notice that, in the press release that accompanied that update last week, it mentioned that, in the next phase, it'll move on to focusing on the regional approach. Much of the focus at the moment has been very much on the site itself, the legacy, the community fund that will be left, which, I have to say—I'm sure my colleague Carwyn and I will both agree—should be as large as any community fund that's been left anywhere else when Ford have left a community. But, on that regional approach, would he emphasise to the chair and the taskforce members the necessity of working with Bridgend County Borough Council on some of their regional plans as well, and those would include ones such as economic hubs in the Garw and the Ogmore valleys and development of empty or unused sites, such as the Ewenny Road site as well? I think there's a real opportunity here, First Minister, for the taskforce to work across the region with some quite exciting plans that are already in the pipeline, and that's the way we'll make the regeneration with this taskforce really bite deep.

Can I thank Huw Irranca-Davies for that, Llywydd, and agree with him entirely that the closure of a plant like Bridgend has a regional as well as a local impact? There will be many Assembly Members here, to the east and to the west of Bridgend, who have constituents who are working, have been working, in Ford, and the impact of the closure will not simply be felt in the immediate locality, but right across the region. That is why the taskforce agreed at its last meeting on a regional focus for the next phase of its work.

Certainly, it will want to work with Bridgend County Borough Council to make sure that some of their wider ambitions can be supported by the work of the taskforce. It's why, when Ineos, for example, was brought to Bridgend itself, the Welsh Government has had a real emphasis on supply chain opportunities, because the companies that Ineos will contract with will have a regional impact beyond Bridgend as well, and the taskforce, I know, is going, in its next phase of work, to have a particular focus on that wider impact—the things that we can do beyond Bridgend as a town—to make sure that the impact of the closure is attended to in all its different dimensions.

Questions to the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip

The next item is questions to the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, and the first question is from Mohammad Asghar.

Hate Crime

1. Will the Deputy Minister provide an update on measures to tackle hate crime in Wales? OAQ54993

We've significantly increased our investment in tackling hate crime in recent months to address the rise in hateful narratives. And I'll lead a debate in March providing an update on action to tackle hate crime with our partners in Wales.

Thank you for the reply, Minister. Welsh police forces recorded nearly 4,000 hate crimes in 2018-19. Eleven per cent of these incidents were disability hate crimes—shocking. The learning disability charity United Response has called for measures to be taken across the country and by the authorities to make the process of reporting and convicting disability hate crimes more accessible and less daunting for victims. They went on to say they feel the process is currently a significant barrier to criminals being given the punishment they deserve, especially in the context of the dramatic rise in repeat offenders. Minister, will you take action to address the specific needs of disabled people with regard to reporting hate crime in Wales, please?

14:20

I thank you very much for that question, Oscar, because it is true that the rise in disability hate crime was a shocking statistic last year. We have put more funding into our national hate crime report and support centre over the next two years, and that's also on top of annual funding that we give. And we're also developing an anti-hate crime campaign in terms of communications, and we're going to focus particularly on hate crime affecting disabled people, and learning from, for example, the organisation People First—you will be aware of the People First organisations across Wales—so that learning disabled people can contribute to that communications campaign in terms of tackling disabled people's hate crime, which, unfortunately, has been on the rise.

Minister, would you agree with me that hate crime against the Gypsy/Traveller community must be treated with equal seriousness as hate crime against any other community or minority in Wales? I recently met with local members of my Gypsy/Traveller community, and they feel very strongly that too often that isn't the case. They gave examples of social media postings, for example, that were discriminatory, prejudicial and clearly hate crime, but when they tried to get effective action, they found it very, very difficult. Their plea, really, was that hate crime against their community must be treated with equal seriousness as any other hate crime.

Again, I thank John Griffiths for that important question and, indeed, we must treat hate crime against Gypsy/Traveller/Roma communities with equal vigour, as we are against disability hate crime, race hate crime, LGBT hate crime, all the hate crimes that unfortunately are in our midst. And, of course, I'm pleased that we are investing not only in our Travelling Ahead fund in terms of ensuring that we do have Gypsy sites across Wales, but also working with local authorities and those third sector organisations that we are supporting the Gypsy/Traveller/Roma community. And can I also say that it's very important that we have an all-party group to tackle these issues? I meet regularly with Isaac Blake from the Gypsy/Traveller Romani Cultural and Arts Company, and we are funding them in terms of addressing these issues.

Public Services Boards

2. What strategies does the Welsh Government have to maximise the benefits of public service boards as established by the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015? OAQ55016

Public services boards have a collective purpose and obligation to improve well-being in their areas through their local well-being plans. The Welsh Government provides a range of support to enable them to make their work as effective as possible.

Thank you. The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee is currently scrutinising the Government's work on eliminating fuel poverty in Wales—important both from the social justice perspective as well as our need to eliminate carbon emissions as quickly as possible. It's one of those challenging issues that requires a joined-up approach by all stakeholders, from energy companies to all public services as well as citizens. An ideal subject, you would have thought, for public services boards, but we've yet to receive any evidence the public services boards are being tasked to join up the gaps between these different services. So, what is the Welsh Government doing to ensure that public services boards are grasping complex issues like fuel poverty to deliver on the ways of working and objectives, as in the well-being of future generations Act?

Well, I thank you, Jenny Rathbone, for that question, and it's very good to hear that the climate change committee is undertaking this inquiry into tackling fuel poverty. What is crucial is that public services boards must be held to account for the work that they're doing and, in fact, they have that scrutiny through a local authority scrutiny committee, which reviews both the governance of the public services board and its decisions. And, indeed, the Welsh Government has a representative on each of the public services boards to make sure that there is a connection between local and national context. In looking at policy issues, it's vital that PSBs do understand complex issues and address them.

But, I think that there are some encouraging accounts of what PSBs are doing in terms of making fuel poverty a priority for their area. I'd just mention Cwm Taf, which I understand is tackling fuel poverty by promoting the Warm Homes programme, community energy schemes and home insulation. The Vale of Glamorgan, my own constituency, I have to say, has a long-term goal of developing a co-ordinated approach to tackling fuel poverty, and they are engaging the expertise and contribution of registered social landlords.

In Cardiff, your public services board have specific action to help people out of poverty, with fuel poverty as an outcome indicator, which they are going to use to measure the impact of public services boards. So, that's a real opportunity to see if Cardiff can prove the important contribution impact of the public services boards in terms of tackling fuel poverty.

14:25

Last autumn, the auditor general found that the way that public services boards are currently operating is hampering their ability to improve the well-being of their communities. His report identified weaknesses such as the inadequacy of accountability and oversight arrangements, lack of public reporting and the duplication of PSB activity with other partnerships. Now, there is a significant difference between here and England. Here, Welsh Government policy for PSBs promotes a public sector-led response to addressing many challenges, and the private sector is not identified as a core PSB member. What consideration will you give to encouraging PSBs to consider the benefits of involving representatives of the private sector that already show significant influences in other areas?   

Well, it is important that we assess the impact of public services boards—crucial, as part of the tools of the well-being of future generations legislation, and obviously of great interest to the commissioner. Of course, we are seeking to support PSBs, to make them have a greater impact in terms of delivery. That includes engagement partners, and not just community, which is crucial, but also, clearly, private sector partners where appropriate. For example, some public services boards are looking at those priorities such as the early years policy area, which I know you'd welcome, and also the foundational economy. But, I think that it is important that public services boards have to publish annual reports making their work transparent, improving well-being in their areas, so it is a point for scrutiny, and to take into account their work.

Antisemitism

3. What is the Welsh Government doing to tackle anti-semitism? OAQ55000

The Welsh Government has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in full and without qualification. We are determined to root out intolerance in our communities, and I will provide a full statement this afternoon on work that we are doing to combat antisemitism and to commemorate the Holocaust.

Thank you for that, and I'm looking forward to your statement, on the back of which I hope to ask you a different question. But, for now, I would like to ask you about education and, in the light of the new curriculum, whether you would consider the work of the March of the Living movement. This is an annual educational programme that brings students from around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust and march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau.

I have to say that visiting the camps really does change people. Seeing is believing, and certainly feeling. If education is at the heart of stamping out hatred, would you please work with the education Minister to ensure absolutely that the Holocaust does not fall out of the curriculum, and that as many young people as possible have the opportunity to see these camps for themselves? 

Well, I thank Suzy Davies very much for that question, and I realise that this follows your visit, and that you were part of a delegation, I understand, to Auschwitz. I'm sure that we will hear more about that later on this afternoon, when I make my statement. I know that the education Minister will be willing to look at the March of the Living movement, in particular, as you've raised it today, but you will know that we do also provide an annual grant of £119,000 to the Holocaust Educational Trust to deliver the Lessons from Auschwitz Project. And also, and we'll speak more of this this afternoon, I'm sure, we've provided £40,500 of funding, EU transition funding, in fact, to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to undertake much work involving schools in Wales as part of this year's commemorations.

Actually, yesterday, young people took part in the national service in City Hall, which was very powerful, I know, and also last night at an event at the Friends Meeting House, where two young people read out a Holocaust memorial prayer in Welsh and in English. And I think the fact that we're supporting the Holocaust Educational Trust does mean that, in fact, last year, a visit took place. Now that I've got the opportunity to say: 186 participants took part in that visit to Auschwitz, including 154 pupils from 66 schools, sixth forms and colleges, 19 teachers, 13 others, including facilitators and press representatives. And that programme will run again in Wales from January—crucial to enable young people to engage. But, clearly, we will also look at the movements, the March of the Living movement as well.

14:30

Yesterday marked the seventy-fifth anniversary since the liberation of Auschwitz death camp. It's estimated that over a million people who were predominantly Jewish died a horrific death there. And that included men, women and children of all ages. And it is certainly, we will all agree, one of the darkest periods in our human history. Minister, do you agree with me that we must always remember the atrocities that happened in Auschwitz, so that they do serve as a stark reminder of what did and what can happen when people incite hatred towards others?

I do thank Joyce Watson for that question. Together, we must ensure the Holocaust remains in our collective memory as a warning of how hateful and divisive narratives can cause that unthinkable damage. And that's why we have funded the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Holocaust Educational Trust to undertake activities in Wales. But I think that many Members here from across the Chamber will have heard survivors—in fact, we heard a survivor earlier on this year at an event organised with Darren Millar and Jenny Rathbone and others. But yesterday some of us also heard the survivor Dr Martin Stern. We know that the survivors' stories—it is hard to believe that they've survived, but they're so committed, often in retirement, and we have to listen to those survivors about what they've gone through. But, I think, the Holocaust Memorial Day, is, as they say, learning lessons from the past to create a safer, better future, and we will be speaking more on this later this afternoon.

Protecting Human Rights

4. How will the Welsh Government ensure that current human rights are protected when the UK leaves the European Union? OAQ55008

I have commissioned research on options to strengthen and advance equality and human rights in Wales. It will look at United Nations conventions, existing Welsh legislation and whether there may be a need for a human rights Bill for Wales.

Excellent. I'm very pleased to hear that, and that you commissioned that work and that that will include some legislative work, because what we do know is that there is a very real potential for us to lose many of the rights—workers' rights, women's rights, the rights of disabled people and so on—as we leave the European Union. And I believe that, in the summer, the Counsel General, Jeremy Miles, raised this issue of the need for legislation, and I think the late Steffan Lewis and myself mentioned this a while ago too, and the name that we proposed was a people's rights Act. So, I'm very pleased to hear that there is some movement towards this. Can you give us some sort of timetable on it, please?

14:35

Diolch yn fawr, Siân. I think the Jeremy Miles lecture at the Eisteddfod, and Steffan Lewis, of course—and I was glad to be sharing a committee space with him. When we had the chance, I would always raise human rights, and I know Members do on David's committee. But it's very important that we've actually awarded a contract for the research, in terms of timetable. It's a consortia led by Swansea University, who are going to research these wider options, in terms of the—. The commission is about strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales. We also have a steering group, which is meeting tomorrow for the first time, and we expect to report by the end of this year. But it will be looking at the impact of the withdrawal of the—the loss of the charter of fundamental rights of the European Union. And we know that human rights are hard-wired into our DNA, not just legally, through the provisions in the Government of Wales Act 2006, but also culturally and through our proud history in Wales of driving for fairness and inclusivity.

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

I know of your personal commitment to human rights, Minister, and I'm very pleased that the Welsh Government is at least talking about trying to take something forward, in order to emphasise and underscore the commitment through legislation here in Wales. As you will know, I introduced an older people's Bill, which, effectively, was voted down by the Government, because of your intention to bring forward legislation. I am very concerned, though, that the timetable simply will not allow for a piece of legislation to get through this Parliament by the time that we rise and go into our dissolution period, in advance of the next National Assembly elections. And I'd be very grateful if you could give an indication as to the position of the Government, and whether you feel that legislation will be achieved within the tight timetable that we have. And if it isn't going to be achieved, what other action are you going to take, in order to protect these rights?

Thank you for that question, Darren Millar. And it is important that I report back, and I indeed will do, on progress with this important work. The steering group meets tomorrow—it's called the strengthening and advancing equality and human rights in Wales steering group—and we're also actually making progress with commencing the socioeconomic duty in Part 1 of the Equality Act 2010. You're aware that we've just completed a consultation. We're also reviewing the Welsh-specific duties, under the public sector equality duty. So, these are important tools to strengthen and to meet those needs, in terms of human rights. But we're looking at those wider options, in terms of the possible incorporation of UN conventions into Welsh law. And, of course, that's something that Helen Mary Jones also brought up, in terms of the prospects for a possible legislative opportunity. We will, of course—. We are undertaking—we've commissioned this research in order to ensure that we get this right, and I know that people, across the Chamber, will accept that that's the right way forward. But it, of course, will enable us to consider—and I'm sure all parties will want to then consider—whether there is a need for fresh legislation, such as a human rights Bill for Wales.

2. Business Statement and Announcement

Item 2 on the agenda is the business statement and announcement. And I call on the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans.

There are no changes to this week's business. Draft business for the next three weeks is set out on the business statement and announcement, which can be found amongst the meeting papers available to Members electronically.

Trefnydd, can I request a statement from the Minister for Health and Social Services on mental health services in north Wales, please? It's been over four and a half years since the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was placed into special measures, for, amongst other things, significant challenges in its governance, and mental health services. We are repeatedly told in this Chamber that things are improving, that steady progress is being made, and yet, just last week, a report came to light that suggests a quite different picture of services in north Wales, particularly in terms of psychological therapies. There was a report that identified, frankly, serious failings, including unacceptably long waiting lists, a lack of strategic and integrated workforce development, an under-resourced service, which isn't fit for purpose, a sense of despondency amongst staff. Now, frankly, I was very surprised that this report seems to have been published earlier last year—around August/September time—and yet there appears to be no discussion about this report, no report back to Assembly Members about this report, and the board itself doesn't appear to have discussed it in any of its board papers. So, I do think that, given the serious findings in that report, we need an urgent update from the Minister for Health and Social Services on the current situation.

Can I also call for a statement on the regulation of independent schools? The education Minister will be aware of the significant interest that there has been publicly as a result of the media reports into some safeguarding issues at Ruthin School in my constituency. And I do think that we need to look at the regulations around independent schools in order to strengthen the safeguarding arrangements, but, more than that, also to actually have a look at the Education Workforce Council's role, and whether it may be appropriate to have a discrete registration category, particularly for senior leaders in our independent schools, in order to ensure that they are appropriate? Obviously, there's a lot of outrage at some of the reports, which have been read, in terms of what's been going on in that school in north Wales, and certainly in my constituency, and I think it would be useful to have a written or oral statement on that as soon as possible.

And just finally, in terms of tourism zones, you'll be aware that the UK Government announced in June of last year that there will be a number of tourism zones across the country, which will be designated—[Interruption.]—and, no, it's not just England, actually, this is a UK-wide project. I was very disappointed that there's been no updates to this Chamber on any prospects, in terms of Wales actually being designated a zone, or even north Wales designated as a zone. It's quite clear from the UK Government that this is on offer for the whole of the United Kingdom, not just England, as has been asserted by the Minister responsible for tourism on your benches. I would therefore be very grateful if we could have an urgent statement on this matter in order that we can take advantage of this opportunity to get investment into Wales to maximise our tourism industry.

14:40

So, on the first issue, which was a request for an update regarding Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board, I can confirm that such an update will be forthcoming on 25 February. That's on the business statement, which has been published today.

On the second issue, regarding Ruthin School, Welsh Government is aware of those serious findings of the Care Inspectorate Wales report, and officials, along with Estyn inspectors, are considering an action plan from the school, which has been submitted following a request by the Welsh Government for the action plan. But the Minister has indicated she'd be happy to provide a further update, and I know that you've also tabled a series of written questions, which will also receive an answer.

And on the third issue, the Minister with responsibility for tourism is here to hear your request for further information on that. And it is important that, where possible, Welsh Government makes the most of the opportunities to work with the UK Government. But it is incumbent on the UK Government to recognise that tourism is devolved to the National Assembly for Wales and it's incumbent on them to have discussions with our Minister to explore how we could work jointly for the benefit of Wales.

Adref is a charity that has been supporting vulnerable people and combating homelessness in my area for three decades. The charity is threatened now with closure, because Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council have awarded the contract to provide local hostel services to another organisation, an organisation with little or no experience of the situation in Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr. This will mean some redundancies. It will mean a loss of expert local knowledge about the homeless situation in our area and it will mean the loss of a small army of volunteers. Adref's great community work, like the Christmas hamper appeal that my office has supported for many years, is unlikely to be duplicated, and you can't put a price on community work like that.

So, Trefnydd, can we have a statement from the Government about local procurement principles for third sector contracts? Will you join me in urging RCT council and Merthyr council to think again on this matter and to recognise the great work that this charity has carried out since it was set up by probation officers who identified a local need back in 1987?

Health chiefs from Cwm Taf are recommending the withdrawal of consultant-led accident and emergency services in one form or another from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. This has grave implications for the place that I represent, the Rhondda, and people are justifiably angry at the prospect of having to travel further in a potentially life-threatening emergency.

No-one has yet been able to answer the concerns about the ambulance response times, or the fact that a significant number of people living in the Rhondda are without a car. And that, in my view, is outrageous. People have little faith that their legitimate concerns will be taken into account following the sham consultation that was run back in 2014, where 60,000 people said that they didn't want the changes to go ahead, and those voices were ignored.

In many ways, the problems we face now are largely due to a lack of workforce planning from a succession of Labour health Ministers. Plaid Cymru put forward a plan six years ago to address the shockingly low ratio of doctors to people that we have in this country, and our plans were scoffed at by the very people who had the power or the responsibility to do something about it.

I will be gauging the mood of Rhondda people at a Plaid Cymru organised open meeting next Monday at Porth Harlequins rugby club. Everyone is welcome to attend. Perhaps Ministers would like to come and hear the strength of feeling from Rhondda people on this matter. You would be more than welcome to attend if you wanted to take up that offer.

But I'd like to ask: do you regret the lack of action to address the consultant shortage in Wales by your Cabinet colleagues? Will the Government make a statement on its plans to address the withering of district general hospitals, and emergency services in particular, which is a problem not just in the Rhondda, but across the whole of our country?

14:45

On the first issue, I don't think it's appropriate for the Welsh Government to be putting pressure on local authorities in terms of the decisions they make in terms of the awarding of contracts. However, I would encourage the Member to make her concerns known to both Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr councils with regard to the local procurement. I will be happy, of course, to provide an update on Welsh Government's approach to supporting local procurement and the work that we're doing, particularly through the foundational economy approach, which my colleague the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport is leading on.

On the second issue, of course Welsh Government is aware that Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has been reviewing the implementation of the remaining elements of the south Wales programme involving the future of emergency medicine, and proposed options will be discussed at its public board meeting on 30 January. Clearly, it would be improper and inappropriate for me to comment on or pre-empt those discussions, but we would expect the board to be working with stakeholders to consider options and then to agree a sustainable model of care for the future. I know that the Member will be making her representations as part of that due process.

Minister, last week, Swansea Bay University Health Board announced that it was actually going to freeze recruitment to posts that are vacant as a consequence of the financial position it finds itself in, as a way in which to reduce the financial position and deficit. Now, this will impact upon my constituents, as it will impact upon your constituents, and many others who represent constituencies in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot areas.

Can I have a statement from the Welsh Government highlighting whether it believes this is a way forward in reducing financial pressures on health boards? Because this actually could put at risk patient care, because every one of those posts, whether it be a member of the administrative team, the clerking team, a member of the physiotherapy, radiotherapy, radiographic—any member of a team. They didn't mention nurses and doctors, by the way; they said those were safe. But other members are crucial to the care of patients.

Could we therefore have a statement from the Minister on that position, and perhaps the way Welsh Government wants to work with health boards to ensure they do not find themselves in a situation where they're freezing posts, stopping people from being recruited, and therefore having an impact upon care?

The matters you describe in terms of staffing are, in the first instance, operational matters for the health board, but they have been very clear on ensuring that those actions do not affect patient care or the quality of service, and that is Welsh Government's clear interest in this.

Health organisations in Wales, like those across the UK, have to make annual savings every year to improve efficiency and to manage within those allocated resources. They're reported monthly as part of annual accounts, and indeed have been scrutinised over recent years by Assembly committees, including those committees that have made criticisms, actually, when those budgets have overspent or those savings haven't been made.

It is worth recognising, of course, that Welsh Government has invested over £0.5 billion extra in the NHS this year, and we've seen the underlying NHS deficit reduced by 35 per cent between 2016-17 and 2018-19, and we do expect there to be further improvements this year, demonstrating better financial management. But none of that can come at the expense of patient care or the quality of service.

14:50

Minister, may I ask for a statement from the Minister for Economy and Transport on the continuing delay to completing works to dual the A465 Heads of the Valleys road? This work was originally due to finish by the end of last year. We now hear that the date for completion for this project is being reviewed again. Furthermore, there is a dispute between the contractor and the Welsh Government over the costs of the scheme, which is already £54 million over budget.

Minister, could we have a statement on how this situation has come about, who is responsible for the design information of the road, what the cost to the taxpayer will be, and when can the long-suffering users of this road expect to see it completed? Really, it's a very, very tough job for the people living in Brynmawr and Abergavenny to travel on that road, because it's not only taking time, it's a real frustration for many urgent users. Thank you.

I would say, with respect, that the First Minister did answer a great deal of that concern during First Minister's questions in response to the Conservative Party leader's questions, but I do know that it is the intention of the Minister for Economy and Transport to provide a further update to Assembly Members as soon he's able to do so and as soon as there is more news in terms of that dispute, which we hope will be resolved.

I would like an oral statement from the Minister for health as regards what's happening now with the eating disorders framework given that review has taken place. We did have a meeting of the cross-party group last week, and there is concern as to how much money will be provided to fund the changes, what specific health boards are going to be able to do, and will they have capacity within the system to allow them to provide more staff into eating disorders work. I know that there are people who are very interested in this area and want to work with health boards to make this happen.

So, I would like an oral statement as I have asked so many times and I've only received a statement in an e-mail. I think this is an issue of such great importance to so many people in Wales that we would appreciate having an oral statement from the health Minister.

The second issue I'd like to raise is probably more so in my capacity as Chair of the culture committee. Yesterday, you may have seen the Music Venues Trust has said that there's going to be a 50 per cent business relief for small to medium-sized businesses that are music venues across England and Wales. In their statement, they've said that 230 grass-roots venues across England and Wales will get that relief. I've been informed via my committee team, with Welsh Government, that that isn't necessarily going to come to Wales. It will mean that there may be a consequential via Barnett, but we are not sure if that's going to happen.

People are very confused, people want to welcome it, people want it to happen here in Wales, they want to see that business rate relief, but we don't know if that is the case. So, I would ask for a statement, in whichever form in this regard, to come from the Welsh Government to see what the Treasury is intending to do. Are we going to get that business rate relief, and when? And can you make a statement to the public, because there's a lot of confusion out there about the current situation?

So, on the first issue of the eating disorders framework, I will of course speak to the health Minister and make him aware of your request for that statement, which I know he will obviously give his consideration to.FootnoteLink

On the second issue, I can say that we don't yet know what, if any, Barnett consequentials might be coming to Wales as a result of the UK Government's decision regarding business rates. But we already have in Wales the high street rate relief scheme, which has been in operation since 2017, and that's unique to Wales. It does provide support, which is available to pubs and restaurants, and so on, so it's wider than what we might think of as particularly high-street retailers themselves. I did provide a written statement just recently indicating that we were extending that support into 2020-21, but I'd be more than happy to share that again with Members. 

14:55

Leader of the house, could we have a statement, please, from the Deputy Minister for social services in relation to a Government report compiled by the housing learning and improvement network around care homes and the provision of care homes? This report highlights that by 2035 there will be a nearly 30,000 shortfall in spaces across Wales for accommodation of this type of care.

Many local authorities at the moment are looking to reconfigure their care home provision; Rhondda Cynon Taf, for example, are out at the moment, and the cabinet will meet next month. I think it's important to understand, when Welsh Government commission this type of work, how that is fed into its partner organisations, local government in this instance, and how that information is shared when they're building in capacity. This is quite a live issue, to say the least, in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area, with many people wanting the retention of the existing care homes in that particular area. But it would seem to me that this particular report has been compiled on behalf of Welsh Government, but not shared with its partner agencies.

So, could we have a statement from the Deputy Minister to understand (a) the commissioning process (b) what she thinks of the report itself and its recommendations and (c) how she will be working with organisations that support the Welsh Government in delivery of social care across Wales to make sure that its recommendations are delivered on the ground? 

I'd be more than happy to pursue your request with the Deputy Minister for social services. On a slightly different angle, we do have an update on the inter-ministerial group on paying for social care on the agenda for next week, which I know is part of the wider conundrum that we face in terms of ensuring that we have a sustainable care home service here in Wales for the future. But on that specific issue of the report, I will seek to pursue that with the Deputy Minister on your behalf.FootnoteLink  

Given the budgetary processes going on in local authorities across Wales at the moment and the further threat to transport for post-16 learners in those budgets, can we have an update on the review of learner travel in the post-16 sector, the review announced on 13 November? And can you also ask the Minister or the Deputy Minister with responsibility for this area to outline the rationale for deferring the process of reviewing the guidelines on learner travel until the findings of the review of learner travel in the post-16 sector will be clear? Because these issues do need to be addressed urgently. For example, there are issues arising from all of this related to transport to Welsh-medium education, and the situation causes uncertainty and confusion. I would like to understand some of the rationale behind this delay and what the current situation is.

I don't have a date yet in terms of an update on the review of the learner travel Measure. Since it was only announced in November, I suspect that it might be a little while before that review comes to a conclusion. But I would encourage you to write to the Minister for Economy and Transport with your specific questions regarding why the decision on reviewing the guidelines was deferred, because I think that would probably be the most appropriate and quickest way to get an answer on that specific question. 

I was going to call for a statement updating the situation in Betsi Cadwaladr; I note that Darren Millar my colleague has already done so. You said the health Minister will be making a statement on 25 February. Could I ask you to invite him to ensure that that does address the report that Darren Millar referred to on the psychological therapies review in north Wales by the TogetherBetter collaborative consultancy, an independent report? Because, in addition to the findings that Darren highlighted, it talks about a lack of shared vision about what you're seeking to achieve, a lack of strategic clarity and oversight at health board and divisional levels, and an enormous data deficit. And, worryingly, as the North Wales Community Health Council states, after nearly five years in special measures, much of it related to mental health issues, these findings are deeply disappointing. The key recommendations should have been tackled in 2015-16 when the health board was first taken into special measures. It is unsatisfactory to hear that these fundamental issues still remain unresolved almost five years on.

Could you also ask the health Minister to incorporate specific reference to vascular services in north Wales relating to diseases of the blood vessels, the arteries and veins and the body's circulatory system, where our health council in north Wales has held four out of what will be 11 safe-space events across the region, and they're hearing clearly that public confidence in the north Wales vascular service has been severely compromised? They say that many people have said that they've written to the health board requesting information under freedom of information, but have not received anything. The view is that if figures were positive, the health board would be keen to release them, and that the community health council themselves have written requesting performance data and this has also been denied to the community health council on the grounds that it will eventually be provided as part of the vascular services review, which, they point out, is in clear breach of the legislation and regulation relating to community health councils' rights to information. The North Wales Community Health Council executive has considered this matter and strongly recommends that a degree of externality should be introduced now to the vascular review reflecting this.

These are two of the key issues that are coming up across the region, one of which was the final tipping point in relation to the special measures. It is desperately unacceptable that, five years later, we should be hearing reports like this, and I hope you will therefore agree to ask your colleague to address these specifically alongside the wider matters that he may choose to present to us on 25 February.

15:00

I can reassure colleagues that I always draw Ministers' attention to any contributions that Members make in relation to their portfolios during the business statement, and I'll certainly do that with regard to your particular concerns about mental ill health services and vascular services in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area. And obviously, the Minister will be making an oral statement, so there'll be opportunity for deeper questioning on those issues during that statement.

I'd like to ask the Trefnydd for two statements today. First, with regard to the outstanding issues with regard to the census. I know that Welsh Government shares the concerns on these benches that Welsh citizens should be able to identify as black and ethnic minority Welsh without having to go through the inconvenience of having to write handwriting in a separate part of the form.

I'd like to ask for an updated statement from the Government as to their current position with regard to this and any conversations they've had with the Office for National Statistics. Colleagues from Gwynedd Council met the ONS yesterday and actually received quite a favourable response, and the ONS was asking for evidence. Now, I'm sure that Welsh Ministers will be aware that Gwynedd and the other north Wales authorities have found in their own monitoring systems ways in which black and ethnic minority citizens can register themselves as Welsh in the way that we would seek the census to do. So, I'd be very grateful if we can have a further statement from the Government about—a written statement, perhaps—the latest position in this regard, because time is running out and the ONS will shortly be doing further piloting with the forms they propose to use, and I fear that once those forms have been used in the pilots, it will be more difficult to change them.

Welsh Ministers will also be aware that Carmarthenshire County Council has reached a position where they have had to withdraw their application for planning for the current proposed site for the new Ysgol Dewi Sant. This is a matter of great regret to me and more importantly to my constituents and to the children who are being taught in conditions that, were they factory workers, the factory would be closed down because it simply isn't safe. Now, obviously, this was a decision that the local authority took; this is certainly not a matter for the Minister for Education, and I know that she has expressed a willingness in future to look at a further application for funding if it comes forward. But I would like to ask for a statement from the Minister with responsibility for planning, because the reason why this withdrawal has been necessary is that the county has spent over £0.5 million trying to respond to the requirements of the call-in process, and they have reached the point where they simply feel they have to back away from that site, even though, out of the nine sites looked at in the previous public consultation, this was the favoured site. So, I would like to ask the Minister with responsibility for planning to review the call-in process, particularly with regard to public buildings, to ensure that it is better insulated in future from party political interference, which has been at the root of this issue for Ysgol Dewi Sant.

15:05

On the first issue, which was seeking an update on the discussions that Welsh Government has had with the ONS regarding the census and people's ability to identify as being of an ethnic minority whilst also being Welsh at the same time, I was able to update your colleague Bethan Sayed last week in the business statement. I don't have a further update beyond that at this point. But I did have a very good meeting with the deputy chief statistician and, like with the meeting that you described in Gwynedd, we found the ONS to be particularly open to having these discussions, and keen, as we are, to find a suitable way forward. And as soon as I have something further I will, obviously, update colleagues on that.

With regard to your concern about the call-in process, could I ask you to write to the Minister for planning, Julie James, outlining the particular case study that you've described this afternoon? And then she'll obviously have the opportunity to respond.

I would like to ask for a statement from the health Minister about general practitioner recruitment in Aneurin Bevan health board. I've been told that the health board has failed to plan in advance for the retirement of a GP that serves the Lansbury Park and Penyrheol surgeries in my region. Now, both of those practices are crucial bedrocks of their local communities, as you can imagine, and they provide a range of essential services for thousands of nearby homes and provide business for local chemists as well, and neither has nearby alternatives, because all the other surgeries are full up. I'm concerned that the plan to hire a locum, rather than a long-term appointment to cover both surgeries, would endanger their long-term sustainability, and I'm also concerned for the general picture within the health board, given that a recent British Medical Association GP heat map indicated that up to 32 practices may be at risk within the health board area.

Trefnydd, I'd like to ask for this statement from the Minister to explain how the Welsh Government intends to turn around this failure to plan the workforce in advance, how it intends to meet growing demand, and what reassurance the Minister can offer patients in my region that these surgeries that they depend on will be put on a sustainable footing as soon as possible.

On the wider issue of workforce planning, again I will speak to my colleague the health Minister to make him aware of your request for the statement, but, with regard to your particular concern about the GP surgery that services Lansbury Park and the surrounding area, if you could, again, put that in a letter to the health Minister, I know that he will be able to take that up directly with the health board on your behalf.

I'd like a Government statement—or maybe some advice, really. I've stated several times that a child with learning difficulties alleged abuse in care—[Interruption.] I've no idea why there's a sarcastic noise from my right, from a Labour Assembly Member. I'll say it again: a child with learning difficulties alleged abuse in care. My information is as follows: he was not taken to a place of safety; he was not given an advocate; he was not spoken to by a child protection officer, a child protection specialist; he was told off. The written record I've seen says that he was told off. The written record that I've also seen states that the child did not change his mind on what had happened.

On Friday, I wrote to the children's commissioner, I wrote to the chief constable of South Wales Police, I wrote to Cardiff county council and I wrote to the public services ombudsman, because, when I named the company on social media, a now adult who used to be a child in care with the same company made allegations of assault against him—he said that he had witnessed two other assaults, one allegedly perpetrated by the convicted paedophile Liam Brown. Now, the point is that these children were supposedly all in the care of Priority Child Care Ltd. Now, I've written to the South Wales Police, I've written to the children's commissioner, I've written to the council, I've written to the ombudsman, I've raised it here several times to the point of a gasp, almost, from my right there, of disapproval.

So, I want a Government statement because I'd really like to know what am I supposed to do? What is this child's family supposed to do? Who is listening? All I've had off South Wales Police—actually, nothing; I've written to them twice. The children's commissioner, I had an acknowledgement. The ombudsman, I've just had an acknowledgement that seems to have popped up on my screen now. This is a really, really serious matter. This is supposedly our national Parliament. I'm raising it here. What on earth is going on?

15:10

Well, the issue that Neil McEvoy describes is obviously, clearly, a very serious one, and the individual who disclosed on social media that they had been the victim of abuse certainly should make those concerns known to the police in the first instance, and I see that Neil McEvoy has made those concerns known to the police, which is obviously the appropriate first step.

Neil McEvoy raised some similar questions about child safeguarding in a recent business statement, and I did indicate that the Minister with responsibility for social services would be writing, setting out the approach to safeguarding, and I'll be sure that your comments this afternoon are taken into consideration as that response is prepared.

Thank you, very much Deputy Presiding Officer. I would like a Government statement as to what conditions the Welsh Government places on funding provided by it for businesses in order to safeguard staff and employment in Wales.

I'm pleased that Welsh Government has been able to support Stena Line with a number of investments in Holyhead, but I want to appeal to Government to ensure that in providing support, it's able also to influence important local employers like Stena too. For example, I wonder if Government was aware of Stena's decision to re-flag its brand new Holyhead-to-Dublin ferry, Estrid. It's great to see investment in that beautiful new ship, but I am worried by the fact that in Algeciras, during a delivery from China recently, she was changed from Welsh to Cypriot registration. Estrid Cardiff was re-flagged and literally re-badged as Estrid Limassol. Now, there's a suggestion that it's driven by a desire to remain EU registered.

Now, I have met members of the ship's crew, who, as a result, now no longer pay UK national insurance contributions directly, and they're worried about the implications of that. But they also have longer term worries that re-flagging under a flag of convenience could be a slippery slope towards undermining workers' rights and even undermining Stena's previous policy, and current policy, which, of course, is vital in my constituency, of crewing locally rather than internationally.

So, as well as providing a statement, hopefully, can I ask Government, as I am doing, to write to Stena to seek assurances that workers' rights and jobs will be protected, and in doing so, that Welsh Government uses its influence as a part-funder of various Stena projects?

Well, I had a recent meeting with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers to discuss exactly this issue, although it wasn't particularly in the context of Stena Line; it was more in the context of what we can do to support Welsh seafarers who work in all kinds of parts of the seafaring industry. And the concerns that were raised there were that when companies do take advantage of various opportunities that are there for them legally, then it does mean that some Welsh workers can be out-priced and that workers from elsewhere in the world can actually find themselves not paid as well as they should be and find themselves with poor employment rights as well. So, some of the concerns that you have described I very much recognise, and I'd be happy to ask the Minister for transport to provide an update on Welsh Government's approach to that, and some reflections on the opportunities that might be to change the law, although it would, I think, have to be done at a UK basis.

Motions to Elect Members to Committees

The next item on the agenda are motions to elect Members to the committees, and in accordance with Standing Orders 12.24 and 12.40, I propose that the motions to elect Members to committees are grouped for debate and for voting. So, if there are no objections, can I call on a member of the Business Committee to move the motions formally—Trefnydd?

15:15

Motion NDM7248 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Dai Lloyd (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee in place of Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7249 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Dai Lloyd (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Committee on Assembly Electoral Reform in place of Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7250 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Public Accounts Committee in place of Adam Price (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7251 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Standards of Conduct Committee in place of Helen Mary Jones (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7252 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Sian Gwenllian (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Finance Committee in place of Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7253 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Helen Mary Jones (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee in place of Bethan Sayed (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7254 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Delyth Jewell as a member of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee in place of Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7255 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee in place of Helen Mary Jones (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7256 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Helen Mary Jones (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee in place of Delyth Jewell (Plaid Cymru).

Motion NDM7257 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Sian Gwenllian (Plaid Cymru) as a member of the Business Committee in place of Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru).

Motions moved.

Formally. Thank you. I have no speakers, so the proposal is to agree the motions. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, the motions are agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36. 

Motions agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

3. Statement by the Minister for Education: Curriculum for Wales Framework

Item 3 on the agenda is a statement by the Minister for Education on the curriculum for Wales framework. I call on the Minister for Education, Kirsty Williams.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. Today, I am publishing the refined curriculum for Wales guidance. This sets out: guidelines for every school to develop their curriculum; expectations around assessment arrangements to support learner progression; and the proposed legislative requirements to secure a consistency of approach for learners across the country.

Improving education is our national mission. Nothing is so essential as universal access to the experiences, knowledge and skills that our young people need for employment, for lifelong learning and active citizenship. Our new guidance is a clear statement of what is important in delivering a broad and balanced curriculum and education. The four purposes are the shared vision and aspiration for every child and young person. And, in fulfilling these, we set high expectations for all, promote individual and national well-being, tackle ignorance and misinformation, and encourage critical and civic engagement.

Our guidance is the product of a prolonged process of co-construction, involving practitioners from schools across Wales. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those practitioners for their commitment over the last three years in jointly drafting this guidance. I would also like to thank the individuals and organisations who engaged during the feedback phase last year, after the draft guidance was released. The quality and detail of these contributions has helped to make significant improvements. In the autumn, I published the analysis of this feedback; today, I am also publishing a response to that feedback, alongside the guidance.

Over the autumn, practitioners and officials have worked to refine the guidance in response to that feedback, and in particular to: simplify and reduce the volume of guidance; clarify which parts of the new curriculum framework will be mandatory to ensure equity across schools; and provide greater clarity and detail where practitioners require more support, giving them guidance on designing their own curriculum. This feedback, together with the process of co-construction, has been critical: guidance made by practitioners, for practitioners, through an ongoing dialogue with the whole of our education system.

Seeing all practitioners as curriculum designers represents a fundamental shift for education in Wales. The new guidance does not give a prescriptive programme that can simply be delivered. Instead, it is about empowering practitioners to decide what will help their learners to become ambitious and capable, ethical and informed, enterprising and creative, and healthy and confident. 

The new guidance focuses on a more integrated approach to learning. The six areas of learning and experience bring together familiar disciplines and encourage strong and meaningful links across them. While disciplines remain important, this new approach supports learners to build connections across their learning, helping them understand not only what they learn, but why they learn it.

Our new guidance also places learner progression at its heart, with assessment playing a fundamental part in supporting this. The guidance has been fully informed by international evidence of progression. This will enable every learner to make progress throughout their education, in every area and discipline, rather than simply doing more and more of the acquiring of facts. Today's publication also includes specific guidance on developing assessment arrangements to support learner progression and enable every learner to make progress by ensuring that they are both supported and challenged.

Beyond the emphasis on co-construction, these changes are distinct from many of the similar types of reforms that we see elsewhere in three key respects. The learning outcomes in our guidance are based on robust evidence and methodology to sustaining learning over three-year periods. Outcomes elsewhere are often very narrow or vague, providing insufficient direction to practitioners. Our guidance is focused on schools designing their own curriculum. Reforms elsewhere often leave this entirely implicit. The 'Designing your Curriculum' section will help practitioners to develop a high-quality curriculum.

And we are working with our partners to ensure that schools are fully supported to realise the curriculum in their school within the framework that we have set out. International evidence makes clear that this next stage—implementation of our reforms—is the biggest challenge. After Easter, I will publish our curriculum implementation plan based on where schools should focus their efforts at different points up to 2022, and how we and the middle tier will support them in that process.

The feedback phase made clear that additional, specific guidance will be required to support practitioners in specific areas. To this end, Deputy Presiding Officer, in the next 18 months I will also publish a framework for religion, values and ethics to inform the development of the agreed syllabuses in each local authority; guidance for relationships and sexuality education; guidance on careers and work-related experiences; enabling steps to support learners at the very beginning of the learning continuum; a curriculum for funded non-maintained nursery settings to adopt; and guidance on developing a curriculum for pupil referral units and for those responsible for the provision of education other than at school.

It is now essential that Government, regional consortia, Estyn and local authorities work together to support every school, setting and practitioner to understand the new curriculum and to deliver it. In addition to my commitments to professional learning, officials are working with regional consortia and Estyn to establish national networks of practitioners and experts to share expertise and learning, and identify priorities for supporting the profession in readiness. Officials are working with practitioners to identify priorities for the development of resources, to ensure a range of supporting material is available by 2022 to help practitioners develop their own curriculum. Officials are also working closely with Qualifications Wales as it considers how qualifications may need to change to align with and support the new curriculum. This presents a fresh opportunity to consider the nature and role of qualifications for 14 to 16-year-olds.

Let me be clear: the publishing of this curriculum guidance is only the next step of co-construction. Government will continue to work closely with the profession to make this a success. But it is now for every practitioner to engage fully what has been published. Schools should take space and time to understand the model of the curriculum and start to discuss how their vision and values will eventually inform their own curriculum. They should not rush into trying to plan or implement it right now.

This new curriculum represents the very best of the education profession’s efforts. The next step in our reform journey is to prepare the profession to make it real in every classroom and for every learner in our nation.

15:20

Thank you very much, Minister, for a very comprehensive statement on the journey so far. Can I offer my thanks to everybody else involved in what looks like, certainly, an enormous amount of hard work? I've explained before that the Welsh Conservatives have long argued that we should let teachers teach, and some of the changes already have our in-principle support. That goes hand in hand with our heads-up, if you like, on looking for greater information on what scrutiny will look like in future accountability and measurability—aspects that I'm sure we'll come back to in some more detail on another day.

Personally, I hope that we move away from this atmosphere of having to sit 13 or 14 GCSEs, or at least year 11 exams, in order to prove your excellence. There comes a point where you can be asked to do too much, when we look at it in these terms. If we are to avoid teaching to the exam, and I hope we are all on that page, we still will need to find a way for pupils to demonstrate their attainment across this broader curriculum, and again, I suspect that's something we'll come back to.

My first question is about the point that you made, Minister, about implementation—the deliverability and what that looks like at this stage of development. We're having to wait 18 months or so for some pretty key frameworks on guidance, not least on the more sensitive areas of the curriculum, which doesn't give practitioners or the range of co-constructors—'co-producers' I still prefer to call them—time to get to grips with this by the time it gets to 2022. So I'm wondering if you can give us some steer on why you think, bearing in mind the enormous amount of work that's already gone into this, that we're having to wait quite so long for detailed frameworks and guidance on those more sensitive areas.

Populating the curriculum with material still remains, of course, a core challenge at this point of development. The guidelines, such as they are, are helpful, and I'm not saying that they're not, but inevitably existing teachers I suspect will still be relying on their body of knowledge, and even some of their resources that they already have, to decide what they're going to do when they go into school on a Monday morning and have to stand up in front of a class of year 7. I think, by the sound of it, that it's the secondary schools that are going to find this change more of a challenge, if I can put it like that.

So, just looking at the £39 million that, over some years, you've already allocated to getting teachers ready for this new curriculum, can you give us some indication of how much of that is going to go to creating time for curriculum designers—both within and among schools? What have the teachers told you so far about how they're going to be able to manage these absences or need for absences, how to create that non-contact time within the school day? I heard your exhortation not to run too quickly with this, but actually, time is running out—2022 is not that far away. And of course, we'll be looking shortly at legislation, which leaves me a little bit concerned that some of the work on this key element of deliverability implementation, if you like, remains to be completed, and so I have to ask: what will be completed by the time we're at a stage where we're being invited to table amendments to your legislation?

You talk about co-construction and practitioners extensively in your statement, and for pedagogy I completely see the purpose in that, but you didn't say anything about communities and families in this co-construction picture. I think that this is going to be essential, particularly for those more sensitive and compulsory areas of the curriculum if they're to work, and to avoid agitated families choosing home schooling for their children in protest at what looks like the loss of their right to withdraw.

Can you give us some indication at this stage of, for example, your faith, BAME, I think it's called 'community involvement group', if I'm right, whether that is going to be a central forum or whether there are going to be localised versions of that? Because I'm very keen to understand the role of the community at local level in devising that local curriculum. If there is going to be local input from the community, particularly families, who will be responsible for drawing all that local work together if, as I hope, it's not just about practitioners? What will be the role of the consortia in that particular piece of work? And perhaps just again, as a heads up—I don't expect you to be able to answer that today—but if you can give us some indication of how many withdrawals there have been and perhaps on what grounds over, say, the last five years, so that we can get some elements of early understanding about the problem that could arise as a result of removing parents' rights to withdraw.

Could you also give us an indication of how children who are already home schooled through parental choice, but also children who are educated other than at school for other reasons, how they're going to access this new curriculum, particularly as many of them rely on independent external support for the education that they're offering children? I think I've already raised concerns with you about who can access the Hwb platform, and at the moment, independent schools won't be allowed to do that. But I'd like some indication of whether you think independent education providers, other than independent schools, might be able to do that to make sure that are our education-other-than-at-school children aren't disadvantaged.

And then, on the issue of prescription, I know exactly where you stand on it. I know you don't want it. I applaud you—I have to say this—for at least referring to emergency lifesaving skills in the guidance. But I wonder if it's asking just a little bit too much. If you could nudge it a little bit further by asking schools to give reasons why they don't include it rather than merely permitting them to include it, because that's not actually moving things on from where we are now. There are so many providers and organisations prepared to do this work, it's not as if demand couldn't be easily met by schools, and I don't want them finding reasons not to do this.

I'll leave others—because I'm sure this will happen—to raise with you the issue of status and presence of what you call 'the Welsh dimension' in the curriculum. I'll leave that to somebody else.

But there is one more specific I would like to ask of you, actually, Minister. This week, of course, we're reminding ourselves of the horrors of the Holocaust. This is not just history or a point of illustration about genocide or equalities; this is something I think really has to be embedded into our collective DNA. Not just because of the Poles and the Jews and the Roma and the disabled and the LGBT victims, but precisely because it is unimaginable. There is nothing to prevent teaching about the Holocaust, and I accept everything we heard from the Deputy Minister earlier, but would you consider raising the prominence of the Holocaust within the guidance when it goes out to further consultation? Thank you.

15:30

Can I begin by thanking Suzy Davies for the points she raised and the question she asked? She firstly talked about implementation. And as I said in my statement, we will publish an implementation plan later on this term. I want practitioners and interested parties to be able to spend the next couple of weeks reading what is a quite extensive document, and beginning their thought process before, suddenly, they also have from Government an implementation plan. I want them to engage in this document, to think about what's written here, and to begin that thought process. But it is clear that then we will need to set out a series of points and pieces of work that individual schools will need to do between now and September 2022, to ensure that everybody is in the right place, and is moving along at pace in their preparedness.

What I talked about in terms of additional guidance, there has been a clear ask from people for some additional support in this area. Although you will have seen from what we've published today, we have been very detailed in each area of learning and experience, with each of the 'what matters' statements below that, and the progression steps. What we will providing in guidance is some extra, additional information, on top of what is an already very comprehensive steer as to what should be included in those areas. But, clearly, when thinking about subjects that, understandably, people feel very strongly about, with regard to religion, values and ethics, and relationship education, because of their concerns about what that might include, we want to be very explicit about what it is, and perhaps even more importantly, what it is not. And I have to say, I've been slightly concerned by some of the correspondence I have received over the last week, where there is a great misunderstanding about what is currently taught in schools, and what our expectation is that schools will teach in the future. So, to give reassurance to parents and communities about what we will expect their children's teachers to teach them, we want to be more explicit to be able to provide that confidence over what are, understandably, sensitive issues, and people want some reassurance.

To that end, the involved group will sit alongside our group of constructors that will look at that guidance, especially with regard to relationship education. But you will have seen in the document that I have produced today that we have been very clear about what we envisage will be the principles that will underpin the guidance around relationship education. They're based on the principles from the UN of what qualifies as best practice in teaching these subjects to children and young people.

I know the Member shares my concern that, when it comes to these areas, we have a responsibility to ensure that our children are safe. Our children are growing up in a world that is so very, very different, Deputy Presiding Officer, in terms of access to information around relationships and sexuality. Gone are the days when we passed a copy of Judy Blume around the class so that we could learn more about periods. And when we got a little bit older, gone are the days when we had a Jackie Collins novel, which we passed around the classroom again, and that's how we found out that information. It seems incredibly tame now, doesn't it? But our children are literally a few clicks away on one of these from some terrifying images. We saw recently from experts in the field the proportion of obscene pictures of young people—the proportion of things that are actually posted by young people themselves, unaware of the damage and the danger that they can place themselves in. I believe we have a responsibility to educate our children to keep them safe, and the principles that will underpin our education in this area are the principles of best practice from the United Nations.

With regard to professional learning, you will be aware that the vast majority of that money is passed directly to headteachers and school leaders, because it is they who understand the professional learning needs of their staff. And we can't possibly know all of that from the centre. We trust in those school leaders to be able to design a professional learning programme that meets the needs of their particular staff, and that professional learning can take place in lots of different ways. The call to me from the unions was a continuation of that funding. Because you'll be aware there was funding in the previous two years; professionals were concerned that that funding would come to an end, and I'm delighted that we've been able to make a funding commitment for the new financial year. Each school will be required to publish its professional learning plan, so that we can see—or anybody who's interested can see—how that money is being used in the professional learning of staff in that particular way.

With regard to further—I think the Member referred to further consultation. This is the final version of this document—there's no further consultation on what is being published today. This is it, so we won't be going back out on this. With regard to the legislation—that legislation, which will be published after the Easter recess, will be subject to the usual scrutiny process here. This document does outline what we will use legislation—the curriculum and assessment Bill—to do, in terms of legislating for the four purposes, the areas of learning and experience, and our intention to have a code with regard to the 'what matters' statements. You will also be aware that we will need to then ensure that the legislation also takes into consideration the curriculum needs and expectations for pupil referral units, and indeed education that is received by children other than at school. And the curriculum and assessment Bill will clearly state our expectations in that regard, recognising some core elements that all providers will have to produce, but recognising that in some cases, in the best interests of the children, some aspects of the curriculum will be disallowed, because that's in the best interests of that particular learner.

The Member began her contribution by talking about children sitting 12 or 13 GCSEs. As I said in my statement, Qualifications Wales is in the first part of their consultation on what the future of qualifications will be like. And I'm sure that not only the content but also the desirability, or the necessity, of sitting 12 or 13 GCSEs will form part of that examination, because it certainly is a challenge. But that is further work to be done.

15:35

This afternoon I would like to pursue two specific issues—these issues won't be new to you; I have raised them in the past—first of all, implementing the new curriculum. Your statement today does acknowledge, of course, that implementing the change is the major challenge, and that there is international evidence that demonstrates that that has been clear in other scenarios. And the other point that I just want to discuss a little more is how do you reconcile making some issues statutory, whilst exempting others from the legislation?

Now, there's no doubt that introducing the new curriculum is going to be a major change in education in Wales, and you've told us today that schools should take time to understand the curriculum model. And so I'd like to ask you first: do you agree that understanding the new curriculum model will be more of a challenge for the secondary sector than the primary sector? Is the primary sector, particularly given the development of the foundation phase, more ready or prepared for this new vision and understanding of the curriculum model?

You mention the need for schools to co-plan and plan jointly. Now, in order to do that, schools must have the space to come together. And you say again in your statement today that schools need to make time and space to understand the curriculum model, and not to rush the process of implementing the new curriculum. Now, I would agree entirely with that, but creating that space is going to cost. You will need to employ supply teachers and so on and so forth. So, how do you see that working on a practical level, and, again, do you think it would be easier to create the space for the co-construction in the primary sector, where there are fewer children, first of all, in primary schools as compared to with the secondary sector? And to return to the international evidence that I mentioned at the outset, what lessons can be learned from this evidence in considering implementing the curriculum in the secondary sector specifically?

Of course, in your response you will talk about in-service training days and how that is going to help to give schools the space and time that they need, but that can only help to a certain extent. And I'm sure you will mention the additional £39 million that is being designated for INSET training, but is that enough? This is my concern. I believe that if this is going to succeed, and we all want to see it succeed, then we need a substantial injection of funding to support the implementation of the curriculum. The schools are already on their knees, and there is a great risk that in introducing such a huge change at a time of financial austerity, there is a risk that it will fail.

And therefore I ask you and ask the Government more generally—I know that you are arguing for more funding for education, but this is a question for the whole Government, if truth be told. Doesn't the Government need to have some sort of reality check here and realise that we need hundreds of millions of pounds in addition in order to make this new curriculum a success, not the relatively small sums that are being considered at the moment? We need a substantial injection of funding to generate the success that we all want to see.

And just to discuss this second point—I know we've discussed it in the past, but I'm still trying to understand how you reconcile making certain issues a statutory part of the curriculum, whilst not doing so with other aspects in the legislation. I think you're entirely right in including sex and healthy relationship education and religious education, or whatever the new terminology is in that particular area now. I think it's very important that those are a statutory part of the experience of every young person. But how do you reconcile including those, but not including two hours of physical education, issues related to mental well-being, the history of Wales? Now, those aren't going to be a statutory part of the curriculum, so where is the consistency in making one section a requirement, whilst others aren't?

Now, we've had this conversation on a number of occasions in the past, and I know that we will get the same response again today, perhaps, but we are agreed that these issues are important, and I know that you strongly believe that Welsh identity and the history of Wales, or the histories of Wales are important, but is there another way, therefore, rather than including them in the curriculum—is there another way of ensuring that they are taught in every school without the force of legislation underpinning them? That's the crucial question, I suppose, as we are agreed that these issues do need to be taught. How are we going to achieve that unless they're included in the legislation?

15:40

Thank you very much to Siân for her contribution. Firstly, we talked about the space and the time to prepare. Those are important considerations. That's why I took a decision to, first of all, delay the introduction of the curriculum to give us more time, and I took the decision to alter the way in which the curriculum would be implemented by having a phased roll-out approach in the secondary sector, rather than a big-bang approach that had been originally advised to me. Because Siân Gwenllian is correct: a move to the new curriculum does present, in many ways, a bigger challenge to our colleagues in the secondary sector than it does in the primary sector, where what we're seeing is a natural extension to many of the pedagogical principles that have underpinned our foundation phase. That's why, therefore, it has been especially important to be able to have a phased roll-out in the secondary sector, to allow for greater time for adjustment and for professional learning and for preparedness.

Siân Gwenllian is right to say that I'm going to mention the additional INSET day; if she had seen some of the responses to the consultation on that INSET day, she will have seen that, in some sectors, that is not a popular thing to have done. But it is a necessary thing to increase, once again, the time available to schools. We've been very clear in the document that we've published today about the need to collaborate not only within a school, but with networks of schools, whether that be in a locality, whether that be across phase with regards to primary talking to secondary talking to FE colleges, or whether that needs to be in a subject specialism or an AoLE specialism.

Of course, that additional day that we have made available over a number of years isn't the only day that schools have; they have the existing INSET provisions that they can use to utilise this. And of course, some of our best professional learning happens when children are in school, so we need a mixed approach. That's why we're devolving the resources that we have for professional learning.

The money that has been made available for the last two years, and will be made available again, represents the largest single investment in the teaching profession since devolution started, and rightly so, Deputy Presiding Officer—and rightly so. Those resources are also being complemented by investment by this Government in new national networks to support pedagogy and practice, and that is coming at a time when there is still not an insignificant squeeze on this Welsh Government's budget, but we have been able to deliver increases to our local authorities. I hope that those local authorities will be as good as their word in the commitments that they gave to myself, the finance Minister and the Minister for local government, where they all want to prioritise education spending.

I was delighted this morning to be in Pen y Fai Church in Wales Primary School in the county borough of Bridgend, and to hear from the leader of Bridgend his plans to use the extra money that's been made available to prioritise education spend. I welcome that commitment from him very much indeed. That comes on top of the increase in the education budget, which as I said is funding a range of initiatives to support implementation. But I'm not shying away from the need to examine forensically the level of education spend in Wales, and to do that on an independent basis. Luke Sibieta will report before the end of the summer term, and that is really important.

But I would say to Siân Gwenllian: I too would like hundreds of millions of pounds extra to spend on education, but when calling for that you have to tell me where we don't spend money, because that is the consequence of the situation we find ourselves in—either where we don't spend money or where you want that extra revenue raised from. 

With regard to what is statutory and what is not statutory, the rationale behind what we have published today is, first of all, it remains true to the principles and the recommendations in the original 'Successful Futures' report. It is also complemented by a recommendation by the expert group that I convened on relationship education that made a very clear recommendation to me that this also should be a statutory part of the curriculum. And I would have to say to the Member: where in this document can she point to a lack of commitment on behalf of me or this Welsh Government to the issue of mental health and well-being?

One of the most important aspects of this curriculum reform is the inclusion of an area of learning and experience that is dedicated to the health and well-being of our children. That is new to what we have had in the past. And if you read the 'what matters' statements and if you read the progression steps, you will see very clearly a strong emphasis on ensuring that children learn about emotions, learn about how those emotions can affect their well-being, how they can seek help for when they feel overwhelmed, and how they can build their resilience.

With regard to Welsh histories, and I'm glad she used the word Welsh 'histories'—it seems it's okay for some of us to use that term and maybe not for others. But I do agree with her that histories need to be taught in a pluralistic way. If she turns to page 23 of the document we've published today on the guidance that we're giving schools on how they develop their own curriculum design, it says, and I quote:

'Schools and practitioners should have a vision to develop a curriculum which: contributes to learners' realisation of the four purposes and acquisition of the integral skills which underpin them; supports the development of their learners' sense of identity in Wales'.

It then goes on, on page 30, to give explicit guidance on 'Designing a curriculum in Wales and for Wales'. And I quote again:

'The Framework reflects Wales, its cultural heritage and diversity, its languages and the values, histories and traditions of its communities and all of its people. Instilling learners with passion and pride in themselves, their communities and their country is central to the four purposes.'

We are absolutely explicit. And I have to say, confining that just to Welsh history lessons actually deprives us of the opportunity that is clearly stated in this document and the expectation that designing a curriculum in Wales and for Wales needs to cover every single area of learning and experience. If she can point to me in this document a lack of commitment to that, then I'd like to see it.

15:50

Thank you. I know it's a very important subject, but we have less than 10 minutes left and we have three speakers. So, if I could just ask Members to reflect on that. Jenny Rathbone. 

Thank you. I completely endorse your approach to relationship and sexuality education, making it compulsory, because in the context of the most advantaged, least deprived secondary school in my constituency, these phones are a major problem. Because they have the police in every single week trying to explain to young people, if they're sharing compromising photographs on their phones, it is going to come back and bite them, either financially or they're going to be sexually exploited. Unless we can get everybody to understand that, we have a major problem.

We also know that it's absolutely vital that young people are given non-judgmental guidance on what positive relationships look like, so that the child who's being asked to do inappropriate things is empowered to say 'no' and knows where to go. I find it hypocritical that organisations that have failed to safeguard children and young people adequately from predatory adults are then at the forefront of saying that this should be left to parents. Equally, it's unacceptable that a child of nine has no idea why they're bleeding between the legs because nobody's bothered to tell them about monthly periods.

Equally, I feel that the humanists association has got the wrong end of the stick in saying that religious education as a core part of the curriculum is ramming religion down children's throats, because we have to deconstruct religious values and ethics into different areas of teaching and learning so that every child knows the history of religion, which after all has been the cause of more wars than practically anything else, and we continue to have wars fought over religion. So, we need to understand all that. And in a multicultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious world, we're not going to get very far in teaching respect for difference if we can't ensure all young people understand that people have different beliefs, and ensure that we have core values and ethics, honesty, truthfulness, kindness and empathy.

Suzy Davies mentioned the lessons learned from the Holocaust. Well, Dr Martin Stern, who spoke at city hall yesterday, was really clear that what we have to learn from all these 50 genocides that have occurred since the second world war is an understanding that ordinary people can become monsters. He talked about his Bosnian friend who was interrogated by his former science teacher, who had made the transition from being a pedagogue to a murderer. So, all these things; it is vital that we are building up the core curriculum to ensure that we have a civilised society that everybody understands.

Can I thank Jenny Rathbone for her support with regard to these two very important parts of the curriculum? I would point all Members to page 38 of the document, where we explain in some detail that:

'Children begin to learn about relationships long before they start school. As soon as they enter the social world they will be encountering and interacting with complex and often contradictory messages'.

Just think about the messages that both young men and young women are bombarded with about how they should look, how they should act in a relationship. I think it was last week or the week before last we had a very powerful debate in this very Chamber about rape and instances of rape. It's absolutely vital that we teach all of our children about principles of consent and how to be a loving, respectful partner in a relationship.

We have long debated the scourge of domestic violence in our society. Again, we need to teach our children about what a healthy relationship looks like. This Government is doing a lot of work with its 'This is Not Love' campaign, but it is a damning condemnation of us as a society that we need to do that. If we're to radically change some of these issues that are facing women and men in our community, then our best hope of doing that is via education, and ensuring that our children, from the youngest age, understand their role, their rights and their responsibilities as part of a relationship.

Now, clearly, that has to be done in an age-appropriate way. How you will talk about these issues with a primary school child is very different to how you will talk about these issues to a 16-year-old. But if we don't, and if we don't provide this space and this opportunity for young people, they will find other ways of finding this information out—or should I say other ways of finding out disinformation; information that can frighten and confuse them, information that can make them feel unsafe and unworthy. Like the young man who spoke to me about his addiction to porn and how that made him feel as a young man and what he thought was expected of him as a young man. If we're concerned about our children's mental health, if we're concerned about our children's well-being, then we have to do these lessons. And all children have a fundamental right to access the full curriculum, and I believe that very, very strongly.

Now, you're right: we're changing religious studies to religion, values and ethics, to better reflect the nature of that part of the curriculum. But if we're to have ethical, informed citizens of the world, how can we not teach children about religion? How can we not teach them about the right to hold religious views and to be respectful of that, even if your views are different? The Member makes a very good point, the horror of the Holocaust and the horror of Srebrenica are perfect examples of how we can work across the curriculum. Not learning about that simply in a history lesson, but learning it in a lesson about religion, values and ethics; learning about it in literature as well as in humanities; expressing the horror of that through our expressive arts: drama, dance, art itself. Those topics are perfect enablers and symbols and important points in the history of the world where we can reinforce that importance of rights, human rights and respect, which again runs through the entirety of the curriculum.

15:55

Can I thank the Minister for the way in which she has sought to reassure parents, and indeed educators, about the approach that she wants to take in this new curriculum, particularly to sex and relationships education, and indeed to religious education? I speak as a person of faith with an interest in faith and who partners with faith groups of all different types on all sorts of different matters, and I know that a lot of what you've said will chime very much with them.

But there is, of course, one challenge, if you like, which has been laid at the Welsh Government's door by those people who fundamentally believe that it is a parent's responsibility to educate their child. And, as you will know and be aware, it's a parent's right, if they want to, to withdraw their child from state education altogether and to home educate their children, because of that fundamental position of a parent having the primary responsibility for education. So, I do think that the concerns that have been expressed about the withdrawal of parental rights to be able to take a child out of a classroom for certain elements of education that people feel uncomfortable about, that parents might feel uncomfortable about, is an important right that has been something that I think has been appreciated by parents for many, many years, and your previous commitments to maintaining that right were very much appreciated.

I've heard your assurances, I understand your assurances, and I know that they will be accepted by a great many parents across the country. I believe very much that the sensitive way that you're trying to map out the future of these very important subjects is to be applauded, in my view. But I do think that the opportunity to withdraw a child from any part of the curriculum should still be there for parents, and I would urge you to just reconsider your position on that and how you might be able to enable parents to withdraw their children from elements of the lesson where there's a clear intention to teach about certain subjects. I'm sure that there are ways that these things can be done and work-arounds that can be put into place, and I just ask that—. You've been very much in listening mode during the creation of this curriculum, and I ask that you would continue to be in listening mode, particularly around parental concerns, about the erosion of that right to withdraw children in the future.

16:00

Can I thank Darren Millar for the points that he made? I absolutely accept the point about the rights of parents to educate their children, and nothing that we are proposing here takes away from that. I'm sure all of us would agree that the vast majority of parents are in a position to do that successfully, but not all of our children are so lucky, Darren; not all of our children are so lucky to have parents who can do this for them for a whole variety of reasons.

Darren, you've spent a great deal of time talking about the rights of parents, which I don't want to undermine, but my perspective comes from the right of a child; the right of a child to receive a broad and balanced education and to be able to access every single part of the curriculum. I understand the sensitivities associated with this and they're often coming—. I understand.

We are committed to working hard over the next two and a half years before there are changes to the right to withdraw to reassure parents and communities about the nature of the curriculum. And as I said earlier, I think it's really important that all children, when thinking about relationship and sexuality education, have lessons with regard to rights and equity, learning about relationships, learning about sex and gender, learning about bodies and body image, as well as sexual health and well-being, and violence, safety and support. And those will be the principles that underpin our approach to RSE, and I'm not aware of any child who doesn't need to learn about those things if they're to grow up to fulfil one of the purposes of our curriculum, which is to be happy, confident individuals. Relationships are fundamental to us as human beings, and we need to ensure that our children are educated so they can form successful and happy ones.

Thank you, Deputy Llywydd. Can I thank you, Minister, for your statement and add my thanks to you, your officials and the many, many people who, on the ground, have worked really, really hard to deliver this?

I was at a conference yesterday looking at the whole-school approach, where some teachers were presenting on the health and well-being AoLE, and the enthusiasm that teachers have for this on the ground is palpable, and that is very much to be welcomed.

I also wanted to give a very warm welcome to your decision to remove the parental right to withdraw. I've just come now from a cross-party group on suicide prevention where we've had a presentation on the review of deaths of young people by suicide, and a significant proportion of those deaths were linked to sexual abuse. So, I wonder whether you would agree with me that it is absolutely crucial that all young people have access to relationship education that teaches them about consent. Also, around the issues of equality, I wonder whether you would agree with me that the young people who most need equality-based relationship education are precisely those young people who do not get this education at home. This is, as you say, a fundamental mental health issue but also, absolutely, a children's right issue.

16:05

I thank Lynne Neagle for her comments, and I'm delighted to hear that there were practitioners yesterday talking in such warm terms about the health and well-being AoLE. You and I were both in the ministerial task and finish group yesterday, and we heard from the primary school headteacher representative about the opportunity that the new curriculum gives them, and she was very excited about it.

The health and well-being AoLE looks to, specifically in terms of what matters, develop children's understanding that physical health and well-being have lifelong benefits; that how we process and respond to experiences affects our mental health and our emotional well-being; and also that our emotional decision-making impacts on the quality of our lives and on the lives of others; and that how we engage with social influences shapes who we are and affects our health and well-being; and, lastly, that healthy relationships are fundamental to our well-being as human beings.

Those are the 'what matters' statements that underpin our health and well-being AoLE, and they chime precisely with the need for all children to access that to address good mental health and well-being in the way that you have just described, Lynne. To have this on an equal path with traditional subjects of education gives us a real opportunity to address some of the social problems that this parliament spends a lot of time talking about, and responds to what children and young people themselves are crying out for.   

4. Statement by the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language: Cymraeg 2050 Annual Report 2018-19

Item 4 on the agenda this afternoon is a statement by the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language: Cymraeg 2050 Annual Report 2018-19. I call on the Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language—Eluned Morgan.

The Llywydd took the Chair.

Member
Eluned Morgan AM 16:07:20
Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language

Thank you very much.

It's a pleasure to present our report on the journey to a million Welsh speakers. We've been busy. As I say in the foreword to the annual report, it can feel like a lot of time has passed since we launched Cymraeg 2050, because it really has caught the imagination of people across Wales and beyond.

But, remember that only two years have passed since it was published, and that we're still in the early days. This is a period of laying the foundations but, despite that, you'll see signs of progress in relation to the early years, more Welsh-medium provision, and more people learning Welsh as adults, whether through the National Centre for Learning Welsh, or other means.

But, big changes call for taking big steps, and our work across a number of areas is making a difference. What we have in this report is a snapshot of a period in time—between April 2018 and March 2019. But, we have continued with the work and we've achieved a lot beyond the period in question. For instance, we've introduced regulations that, for the first time, set targets for every county in relation to their contribution to increasing Welsh-medium education, and the Welsh in Education Strategic Plans (Wales) Regulations 2019 came into force on 1 January this year.

Increasing the number of teachers who are able to teach our children through the medium of Welsh is something we take seriously. In November, we conducted the first annual census of the school workforce to learn more about teachers' Welsh language skills across Wales. This supports programmes that already exist, such as initial teacher training and education programmes; the financial incentive, Iaith Athrawon Yfory; the Welsh language sabbatical scheme; work with the regional consortia; and the e-sgol project, which will support the availability of subjects and fair choice.

Making sure that pupils move with the Welsh language from one period of education to the next is also important. We've also agreed to allocate £145,000 in 2019-20 to encourage more learners to follow Welsh at A-level and at university.

In relation to increasing use of the language, last year, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Welsh Government and the Welsh Language Commissioner. All of the work being done by our grant partners in our communities continues to give opportunities to people of all abilities to use Welsh. And the Welsh Government is developing an internal strategy to become a bilingual organisation by 2050. And in terms of infrastructure, we all know how important a solid technological foundation is in any language, and we've been taking steps under the Welsh language technology action plan, launched in October 2018.

From reading the report you'll see that its scope is very broad, and touches on portfolios across the Government. Donning my cap as Minister for international relations, I'm always looking for exciting opportunities for joint working between the Welsh language and international portfolios. You'll have heard about our work celebrating the UNESCO Year of Indigenous Languages last year, and the superb conference Gŵyl Ein Llais yn y Byd, the Our Voice in the World Festival, was held in November in Aberystwyth.

I want Wales to be seen leading on language planning, thus building on the reputation we already have internationally, and why we're setting up Prosiect 2050. And there’s a lot of collaboration between Wales and other countries that promote languages. We are members of the European network to promote linguistic diversity, and lead the British-Irish Council languages group.

By travelling abroad and seeing what we're doing in Wales through other people's eyes, it becomes evident that we have a tendency in general to think negatively about what we're doing here in relation to the Welsh language. There is a tendency amongst some people to speak of 'protecting' and 'loss' and the 'death' of the language, rather than 'celebrating' and 'growing' and 'planning'. I do think that it's important that we raise our sight and our aspirations.

But what I've seen from speaking to others is that Wales and the Welsh language are an inspiration to the speakers of other languages, and that they continue to learn about our plans for acquiring Welsh and promoting its use. Of course, we also have lessons to learn from Ireland and Scotland and the Basque Country as we consider how we convey ourselves to our fellow Welsh people and the world at large.

The story of the Welsh language can so easily be one of fun, positivity, unity and support, where we work together to reach a million speakers. Look at how members of our international women's football team are learning Welsh together and sharing their journey on social media as an example of that. And I'm looking forward to seeing the language taking a prominent place once again at the Euros next summer, just as it was in 2016.

There’s no doubt that we can do more to create favourable conditions to encourage people to use Welsh. Research conducted a few years ago suggested that some people said they weren't very confident in their Welsh and were afraid of being criticised—even though they hadn't, perhaps, had that experience themselves. So there's something holding them back, and that's disappointing to me. Welsh is a language for everyone in Wales, and sometimes, we have to take a look at ourselves, and make every effort to break down any barriers that prevent people from taking part. We need to turn 'them' into 'us'

We are developing our understanding of people’s behaviour in relation to language, of the types of messages that motivate people and make it easier for them to use Welsh—socially, in the family, the school community or the workplace. Reaching a million speakers will mean creating new speakers. And we have a good track record in Wales of welcoming people to Welsh. Our immersion centres for latecomers to Welsh-medium education have broken new ground and are a national treasure. And if we go back to the last time we had about a million Welsh speakers, at the start of the twentieth century, our communities played an important role in integrating people who moved to Wales. A number of them became keen advocates for the language. And that’s an important message for us to remember as we think of how we speak about Welsh. 

I want to put Wales and the Welsh language on the map as being modern, welcoming and vibrant. Our bilingualism can be a genuine advantage economically. We have a bilingual workforce, a unique culture and a story to tell. That’s why I'm presenting this annual report to you and why I'm proud of what we've achieved. And I want to pay tribute as well to the Minister who was my predecessor who was partly responsible for this period. We're not just proud about this reporting period, but since then, as well as our plans for the future. Young people—all of us, truth be told—identify with success, with hope for a bright future, and we have to show them that the Welsh language is one of those success stories.

16:15

As the aim of 1 million Welsh speakers is supported across the board, or almost across the board, I'm more than happy to recognise the work that’s been done by the Government and the work that you've mentioned in your statement today. I would like to say a few words, because I was particularly pleased to see what’s written in the report itself on Wales beyond our borders. I don't know if you have time to tell us a little more about that, and also TAN 20, because I'm not sure where that planning authorities are all open to this idea of seeing this as an opportunity for the language, particularly in terms of education, rather than seeing it in negative terms. As with all strategies, of course, you need carrots and sticks, but it’s difficult, and perhaps impossible, in my view, to force people to accept help or to use the Welsh language in their daily lives. I would like to know a little more about the carrots that you're considering implementing before the next report.

I welcome the work that’s been done in early years education, particularly through apprenticeships. Could I ask you how difficult it is to find employers who can offer Welsh language apprenticeships in other areas, specifically in the private sector? I'm thinking about hospitality and retail particularly, those are front-facing jobs and have a prominent role in terms of the prominence of the Welsh language on our streets and in our daily lives. I don’t think standards are the solution to this challenge, but it is withe considering what kind of carrot would be most appropriate.

Perhaps I could also ask about the elements of the Welsh language included in apprenticeships or school or college courses that are provided through the medium of English, because I know that there are certain elements provided in Welsh, but I don't know too much about them. And what's the standard? Are they robust as part of those courses?

In terms of the numbers of teachers, despite the steps that you've mentioned in your statement, it is clear that there is still a problem in persuading young people to seek training, not just in Welsh, but to actually study Welsh as a subject. So, why do you think that that persists as a problem and what have you been discussing with the Education Workforce Council and Qualifications Wales as to how the teaching of Welsh will look in the secondary sector, particularly in the future and particularly in light of the introduction of the new curriculum, because those changes are going to be crucial? I’d also like to know how this is to be provided to young people who are educated other than at school—the EOTAS—and how they can engage with what’s available in terms of increasing the use of the Welsh language.

Now, in terms of Welsh in the workplace, I’ve raised this in the past, and you have responded with some details about the helpline and individuals working with both large and small companies, and, course, with Welsh for adults where the main focus is still on the public sector. I understand why, of course, because standards do require this, but are you yet in a position to share some of the qualitative outcomes of some of these programmes, not just the number of people who become immersed in them, but how many people have seen their Welsh language improve, or how many people use the language with more confidence or use it more often as a result of this?

I agree with you 100 per cent, I must say, Minister, on the points that you made about people who aren't confident in using the Welsh language. It’s a very personal issue in terms of language of choice, and you as Minister—. It sends a very strong message for you to say that not everyone has to be word perfect in their use of the Welsh language, but, of course, I'm not arguing that we should seek to undermine quality. But we do need to take into account that there is a large percentage of learners in formal education or those who come from Welsh-speaking backgrounds but who don't use the language very often, and we can't afford to lose them, because they are core to this strategy. I would like to hear a little more on that particular point.

And, finally, I welcome the targets in the WESPs now; I'm pleased to see them. But what would you do if councils were to fail in terms of their new targets? What’s it going to take for you to reconsider the need for new legislation in this area? And is there any chance that we will have legislation to assist us if the councils do fail in delivering those targets? I know there’s more to legislation than that, but thank you.

16:20

Thank you very much; there were many questions there.

First of all, may I say how encouraging it is that we are operating on a cross-party basis towards this target of 1 million Welsh speakers? I think that does give a very clear message within and outwith Wales, and this is a message that we're trying to share in Northern Ireland, for example, to show that there is a journey that you can follow as a nation on an issue that perhaps used to be sensitive, but that has become now something that is accepted by society in general.

I do think that there is an opportunity for us to talk about the Welsh language outside our borders, and I'm willing to talk more about that sometime, but just to give you an idea: recently I went to UNESCO to speak to them about how they can perhaps use us as a model of what we can do, what we have done, and in particular in areas such as technology. There was a great deal of interest from them in hearing more about that.

We have had a positive response, I think, with regard to the WESPs, and we've been collaborating very closely with local councils. I think what’s important is that we bring councils and their populations with us on this journey. This is something where I think it’s very difficult to try to force someone to take the Welsh language seriously as a subject and to take it as the way that they want Welsh to be taught full time in their schools. So, we need to convince people. We've done that, I think, but the WESPs and the fact that we have 10 years now to plan is a great help. So, I agree that it's about convincing people and not compelling them; that’s the best way of moving this forward.

There are many things that we can do in terms of use of the language. Certainly, there are different ways of using the carrot. One example of this was with capital funding that we used to try to encourage some authorities to go further with their plans. So, there was £30 million in addition that was directly allocated to those local authorities that were willing to open new Welsh-medium schools. So, there is a carrot there.

In terms of apprenticeships, around 12 per cent of apprenticeships and those involved in work in our communities and our colleges—around 12 per cent of those do include an element of the Welsh language. It’s true to say that having apprenticeships in the areas of care and childcare is perhaps much easier than in the private sector. So, I do think that there is further work to be done in some of those areas that you talked about with regard to hospitality and retail. And that’s why what we're trying to do is to raise awareness of language use through schemes such as Cymraeg Gwaith, so that people can see the advantages of using the Welsh language and then perhaps they'll take on an apprentice as part of their development.

In terms of teaching Welsh as a subject, well, this is something that we are trying to encourage people to do at A-level. You’ll see that we’ve allocated an additional £150,000 to try to encourage people in this area to go from GCSE to A-level and then onwards to university. English, also, is facing difficulties in this regard, so it’s not just an issue for the Welsh language.

In terms of use of the Welsh language, I have been urging groups such the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to ensure that they do more in the social sphere. And things such as Dydd Miwsig Cymru, Welsh Language Music Day, is coming up and that’s an opportunity for people to ensure that there’s an opportunity to socialise through the medium of Welsh.

There is work to do on language transmission and we do have a scheme that we're preparing at the moment, and that will be coming out very soon. But we are aware that we need to see what those factors are that do encourage people to use the Welsh language—to switch from using the English language to using the Welsh language in those social spheres.

In terms of standards of Welsh, I do think it’s important that we do raise the confidence of people who speak Welsh and who make the effort to do so. We shouldn’t criticise or judge and it’s important that we should silence the language police. So, I do hope that that message has gone out clearly. Of course, we do need to have standards, but we do need to strike the balance.

16:25

Thank you for the statement. Now, throughout all of this, there is one particular question that constantly arises in my mind, and that is a question on funding: how can you reconcile the Government's current budget for the Welsh language for the next financial year with the ambition in the 'Cymraeg 2050' strategy? Although various Ministers have contradicted each other, as we understand it, this Government will spend less on the Welsh language in 2020-21 than it will do in the current financial year. I do understand that my colleague Llyr Gruffydd, the Chair of the Finance Committee, has written to you asking for clarity on this issue, but he's received no response to date. Our understanding, therefore, is that the settlement for the Welsh language budget is flat, is below inflation, and is less than the average increase in the budget more generally. 

This lack of funding is starting to emerge already, and I'm going to mention two examples that have been drawn to my attention. First of all, there will be cuts in the Welsh for adults budget. According to the information that I've received locally, I do understand that the centre for learning Welsh in Bangor will lose up to £100,000 next year. That's less money for Welsh for adults, and, therefore, fewer opportunities for adults to learn Welsh. Now, how on earth can you reconcile that with the 'Cymraeg 2050' strategy? Isn't increasing the number of adults learning Welsh core to the target of creating 1 million Welsh speakers?

Secondly, I'd like to take the opportunity to question you on the budget of the National Eisteddfod. From my understanding, there was an intention to allocate funding for the Ceredigion and the Llŷn eisteddfods so that the organisers could offer reduced-price tickets, which is a wonderful idea, and you will all recall that this happened very successfully in the Cardiff Eisteddfod, which was available free of charge. There was no charge for entry, and I think that in Llanrwst, you could enter the field free of charge on the Sunday. I think the original intention was to allow the Llŷn and Ceredigion Eisteddfods to put arrangements in place in order to reduce the price of tickets in order to reach out, to attract new people to the Eisteddfod and to increase people's confidence in the use of the Welsh language, as we've discussed here. So, will you confirm that that is no longer your intention and that the budget that had been originally put in place for the Eisteddfod is also subject to cuts? And how do you reconcile that u-turn with your desire to see more people using the Welsh language and making the Welsh language more accessible to more people? How does it accord with the 2050 strategy and the 1 million Welsh speakers vision?

And, finally, I would like to know whether the savings in these two areas that I've mentioned this afternoon—and perhaps there may be savings in other areas in relation to the Welsh language today—are these savings to be used for other priorities, and what are those other priorities that you're considering? Are those other priorities within the Welsh language portfolio or are they priorities that relate to your responsibilities in other parts of your portfolio—for example, the international strategy? We need clarity on all of this, please.

Two brief questions to conclude: there's an additional £14 million in 2020-1 for FE colleges. How much of that additional budget will be provided to Welsh-medium education? And then, as a result of additional funding for HE and apprenticeships next year, how much additional funding will the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol have in order to expand Welsh-medium education and apprenticeships? These are questions that we would like some clarity on this afternoon.

At the end of the day, it'll all come down to money. With the budget for the Welsh language shrinking, how are we to believe that your Government is truly serious about creating 1 million Welsh speakers, and how can we give proper attention to the report on the 2050 strategy, when we know that there are efforts in place to undermine the Welsh language budget?

16:30

Well, may I start by making it clear that there have been no cuts in the Welsh language budget? There will be no cut in the Welsh language budget. I don't know how many times I can state that. In addition to that, the £6.5 million that Plaid Cymru agreed to in the previous budget—we have maintained that funding, so that funding has gone towards the budget as well. In addition to that, I think it's important that we recognise that the budget I'm responsible for is only part of the Welsh language budget. There are portfolios across Government the touch on the Welsh language. If you just think about the fact that last year we spent £30 million in capital funding for building Welsh-medium schools, £15 million on building locations where young children could learn the Welsh language, additional millions went to Llangrannog and Glan-llyn—nobody ever mentions that additional funding that has gone towards the Welsh language. So, I do think that it is important to restate that.

I wanted to look at Welsh for adults in detail. They receive £13 million, and they teach around 12,000 people. I just want to have a look at that in greater detail, because it does take a great deal of the budget. I want to ensure that they spend the money in the right way, and I'm sure that you'd want me to do that. And it's worth, perhaps, just looking at the fact that it's not just them who provide for teaching adults in Welsh. Say Something in Welsh say that they teach 50,000 people. Duolingo says that they have a million people on their books, and they don't receive a penny from the Government. So, I do think it's important that we see this in the wider context. But, of course, the work that Welsh for adults does in the centre is very, very important.

But I haven't made any decision yet with regard to what we're going to do about that, because I do want to have a closer look at what we can do and ensure that it dovetails with our priorities for Cymraeg 2050. But I can be entirely clear with you that funding won't be lost from the portfolio. If funding is moved around, it will be allocated somewhere else within the Welsh language portfolio.

There's no u-turn being made on the Eisteddfod. The situation remains the same as it was in the past, so I don't know where that has come from.

In terms of the coleg Cymraeg, there are apprenticeships, as I said—around 12 per cent of people do an element of their work in the apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh, and it's important that we increase the opportunities for people to do that so that they study more of their course through the medium of Welsh in future.

16:35

Minister, I think, to state the obvious, really, there are particular challenges in different parts of Wales in terms of promoting and growing the Welsh language. In Newport, there was, for a long time, a historical nonsense around in terms of Monmouthshire not being part of Wales or England but being in some strange hybrid position. Thankfully, things have moved on since those days, and I think there's a much stronger sense of Welsh identity in Newport now. And, indeed, many people very much lament what they see as the opportunities they should have had but didn't have to learn Welsh and be able to use the Welsh language. Thankfully for younger people now, things are so much better through the growth of Welsh-medium education. And there are other positive aspects as well, even quite basic, simple things such as bilingual signage, bilingual announcements, and, indeed, some adult groups now meeting in cafes and other places where you hear Welsh spoken in the community. But it is still fairly limited, I think, it's fair to say.

So, I'd be interested just to hear how Welsh Government might continue that progress, further strengthening the language in not just Newport but similar areas across Wales. As I say, they do obviously present particular challenges, given the low base level of the language. It would be great to hear Welsh spoken more commonly, more often in the community in Newport, and I think those limited adult groups show that there's probably a need for greater support to promote social use of the language. Lots of those young people coming out of Welsh-medium education are not using the language in the streets, in the community in Newport, and I'd be interested in your ideas as to how that community use might be developed, promoted and strengthened.

Thank you very much. I am going to reply in Welsh, because I'm aware that your Welsh is excellent, John—I'm sure that you don't need the headset, but we'll see—just to say that I'm very happy with the enthusiasm that there is in the Newport area and beyond in terms of the Welsh language, and it's wonderful to see that there'll be a new school in that area. The schools that are already there are full to the brim already, so there are opportunities for people to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of people speaking the language. And the next step is to ensure that they do speak Welsh outside of the school. There are two aims here. There's one to increase the number of people who can speak Welsh and then the second is to ensure that they do use the Welsh language. We need to double the number of people who use the Welsh language and we need to ensure that there are social opportunities available. That's why we hold events such as Dydd Miwsig Cymru—Welsh Language Music Day. I'm sure that there are events on that day in the Newport area, and it would be wonderful if you could let people know about those opportunities.

There are also opportunities for learners to come together through things such as the Siarad project, which is an additional project that we have launched with the national centre. So, I do think that it's important that we look at what these opportunities are to use the Welsh language once we've taught people, especially adults, so that they can use the language, so that it's not an artificial language, as some people have perceived it.

One of the things that's important for me is that we raise awareness again in that area. A few weeks ago, I went for a walk to the Llanthony area, which is just on the border with England. There are so many Welsh signs there. You forget that, at one time, the whole area was a Welsh stronghold. We need to raise this awareness again that this is where these people come from.

16:40

I also thank the Minister for her statement, and welcome its content, and continue to congratulate the Minister on her ambition in this area, while also recognising the innovative work of Alun Davies while he was a Minister. His work was far-reaching and innovative in this particular area, in ensuring that we do aim towards a million Welsh speakers.

As you've already mentioned, we will be regaining ground. When we talk about a million Welsh speakers, there were a million Welsh speakers in Wales some 120 years ago. Also, as you mentioned in your statement, the fact that the Welsh language still survives and prospers is incredible in and of itself and deserves to be celebrated, given our history of oppression. That's only one part of Welsh history but it did happen.

In the face of the reality that minority languages across the world are in retreat and are disappearing from the face of the earth when they live alongside a very strong global language—. But, of course, the Welsh language has managed to turn that corner, and that is reason for celebration because only three languages out of 7,000 languages on this earth have managed to turn that corner to stop the decline. Only three languages have turned that corner, to halt the decline and to make a u-turn and to start growing again. And Welsh is one of those three languages.

So, there is goodwill towards the language, but, of course, goodwill isn't always enough. There's always room for improvement. Now, Neath Port Talbot Council, for example, haven't opened a single Welsh-medium primary school in its history, since the county was established in 1996. This is in a county where there are still naturally Welsh-speaking communities. I applaud what John Griffiths has just said about Newport, and similar situations, but there are naturally Welsh-speaking areas that don't have Welsh-medium schools available, and have never had the opportunity to send their children to local schools. They've had to send them many miles away. That's the reality of the situation in Neath Port Talbot today, and that is a huge disappointment.

The City and County of Swansea have just closed the Felindre Welsh-medium primary school in the Parsel Mawr—the only naturally Welsh-speaking area in Swansea, in the uplands of the Swansea valley. Now, with 600 children in the Welsh-medium primary school in Pontybrenin and another 600 in Lôn Las primary school, and another 400 in Tirdeunaw, which isn't too far away, there was scope for collaboration, even changing catchment areas, rather than just closing the school down and seeing it lost as a resource for a Welsh-speaking community. And the Welsh Language Commissioner didn't have the powers to prevent the sale of the school site in an auction in London, and that will happen in around a fortnight's time.

Just one other issue before I conclude: linguistic pressures on the Welsh language will naturally emerge in building large, new housing estates. That is a significant and increasing challenge. I'm not going to take you through all of the stories or all of the challenges, but can I just ask what persuasion you as Minister are bringing to bear on the planning departments of local authorities to take seriously the requirement of the Welsh language, and pressures on the Welsh language, and to at least understand that there needs to be consideration of the Welsh language?

And to close, would you agree—

16:45

I thought you had finished, Dai, there. Could you ask your final question, please?

Thank you, Llywydd. This is the final question, you'll be pleased to hear: would you agree, Minister, that safeguarding and developing our naturally Welsh-speaking areas is at the heart of the intention of delivering 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050? Thank you.