Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

10/01/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dai Lloyd AC
David Melding AC
Gareth Bennett AC
Jayne Bryant AC
Jenny Rathbone AC Yn dirprwyo ar ran Dawn Bowden
Substitute for Dawn Bowden
Joyce Watson AC
Mike Hedges AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Simon Thomas AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Dean Medcraft Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Ken Skates AC Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth
The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
Prys Davies Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Simon Jones Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru a oedd yn bresennol

National Assembly for Wales Officials in Attendance

Andrew Minnis Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk
Martha Da Gama Howells Ail Glerc
Second Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle y mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod am 09:45.

The public part of the meeting began at 09:45.

2. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
2. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

First of all, can I welcome all Members to the meeting? Dawn Bowden is unwell and Jenny Rathbone is substituting for her. Gareth Bennett has not sent apologies, so he may or may not attend.

Do any Members have any interests to declare? 

Can I make the normal comment about mobile phones? They must be set to silent, and other equipment that may interfere with broadcasting must be turned off. 

3. Sesiwn graffu gyffredinol a sesiwn graffu ar y gyllideb gydag Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros yr Economi a Thrafnidiaeth
3. General and budget scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport

That takes us on to the main item of the day, which is the general and budget scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport. Can I welcome the Cabinet Secretary and his officials and ask whether they can give their names for the Record, especially the person whose name tag is not in front of him?

Shall I start? Prys Davies, decarbonisation and energy in Welsh Government.

Hi. Simon Jones, director for economic infrastructure in Welsh Government.

Ken Skates, economy and transport Cabinet Secretary.

Dean Medcraft, director of finance for the economy, skills and natural resources group.

Okay, thank you very much. If we can carry on in the normal manner and move on to questions, I will ask the first one. What steps have been taken to support delivery of the Welsh Government decarbonisation programme and climate change obligations, both in policy development and through the budget allocations? And how are you working with the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs to date on developing policies and setting budgets in what we think is a very important area?

Absolutely, and it's a great pleasure to be able to join you to discuss this vitally important area of policy, which is the responsibility primarily of Lesley Griffiths but which all Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers in Government have responsibility for. Indeed, I think my responsibility is particularly significant, given that the two big areas of emissions come from business and transport and it's therefore essential that we in the E&T department make a concerted effort to decarbonise the environment.

Lesley Griffiths and I, since our respective appointments, have worked very closely together. I'll be happy to attend any future committee alongside her. I think it might demonstrate how we have been working closely together over the past 18 months or so, and I think, in terms of the way that we can demonstrate our commitment to decarbonisation, the economic action plan, perhaps, is the clearest signpost as to how we are shifting in a new direction, one that places decarbonisation at the heart of all considerations concerning economic development and transport development. In addition, we are refreshing the Welsh transport strategy, again in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

And there's a whole host of areas of investment that I could point to that demonstrate how budgets are being utilised to promote decarbonisation and also to promote efficient resource uptake by businesses. If we can look at some of the big transport schemes as well, I think we can demonstrate a thorough commitment to decarbonisation and environmental responsibility. Transport schemes are designed to have a positive impact on the environment, from the Bontnewydd to Caernarfon bypass, which will see a huge amount of hedgerow planted and a considerable amount of woodland, to the Newtown bypass, again ensuring that we don't just mitigate like for like but actually compensate in a way that enhances the environment.

There are also major schemes, such as the M4, such as the A465, such as the A55, where we are looking at ways of reducing pollution in the air and enhancing that environment. I think some of the projects we've undertaken so far demonstrate our commitment to environmental responsibility and decarbonisation. In particular, with the A465—the second section of that particular scheme—we have won a global gold award in the Green Apple awards. I know it doesn't sound particularly prestigious, but it is incredibly prestigious globally. We won it, I believe, for engineering and design. If you go into the detail of that project in particular, we've used some very novel and innovative ways of developing the scheme and building the road that have environmental responsibility at the very heart. For example, we piloted self-healing concrete, we've utilised recycled glass, we've made sure that steel reinforcements have been procured in a responsible way, and we've also made sure that 12,000 trees have been planted. In fact, there's one tree that was replanted. It was a very rare whitebeam. I think there's only about 100 in existence. We made sure that that was safely transplanted away from the road. So, that demonstrates our commitment in practice to decarbonisation. Moving forward, the economic action plan, the revised Welsh transport strategy, I think, will be crucial in furthering this agenda and making sure that this department contributes fully to what is an exceptionally ambitious but important goal of reducing emissions by 80 per cent.

09:50

On page 5 of your paper, you talk about an environmental protection scheme fund aimed at our largest industrial employers—

—and I wonder if you could tell us how much money is in this fund and what targets and outcomes you expect to achieve from it.

Okay. It's not a fund in its own right; it's a state aid mechanism that enables us to attribute funding from across budgets. So, we're able to utilise up to £100 million for this purpose, and what it does is it reflects the need to decarbonise the three big areas of pollution: (1) power, another one heat, and then the third one being transport. And, in Wales, we have a particular issue with some of those areas contributing massively to our carbon footprint. So, we've used the EPS—the environment protection scheme—in many instances in areas such as industry and power to drive down emissions. We can identify and, if you like, I can run through some of the examples—for example Celsa steel we've utilised and, indeed, actually co-invested. And it's worth pointing out, I think, Chair, that it's not just Government that's using funds through EPS; it's actually businesses themselves that we're co-investing with us in order to drive down emissions and become more resource efficient. We've invested in the steel sector, we've invested in alloys—in refining alloys, we've invested in the food sector, brewing, we've invested in speciality steels, the automotive sector—right across industries—to ensure that as many businesses as possible are able to reduce their carbon footprint.

Okay. So, this is something that you can access European Investment Bank money on, or is it repayable? You say it's not an actual fund, but somebody has written 'EPS'. So it sounds like it's an entity, but it's not; it's a—

Yes, it's a legal mechanism available to the Welsh Government under the general block exemption. So, as the Cabinet Secretary said, there is no specific allocation for it but it allows us to utilise our own existing budgets up to £100 million to support companies that can demonstrate environmental protection, basically, across Wales.

Okay. So, the sort of thing that our bus companies could apply to electrify their buses?

So, we could create a scheme under EPS which might—. I'm not sure of the specific details of the scheme, but it's a state aid umbrella that allows us to provide support to businesses, in the same way as we have a state aid umbrella that allows us to deliver a broadband scheme or support to the port industry. There are specific state aid mechanisms there available to us and we can define funding schemes that sit underneath that legal entity then.

Okay. So, it's something that bus companies could apply for funding for to decarbonise their fuel—you know, to electrify their buses.

There is a mechanism there that could be used—

—to allow that kind of thing to take place, yes.

Okay, thank you, that's helpful. But there are no targets set. Obviously, it's an European-wide method of working. Okay, thank you for that.

Could you set out, Cabinet Secretary, how you think that highways investment leads to a reduction in emissions? Because this is something that, I think, many people contest. 

I was telling colleagues yesterday, actually, that some cars that are manufactured today that are often viewed as being heavy polluters actually pump out air that's cleaner than the air that goes into them, but that's only in certain circumstances. It's when they're driving at a consistent speed, and the key in improving air quality on trunk roads and motorways for us, as Welsh Government, is in making sure that traffic flows freely and you don't get stop-starts. Now, an interesting study was carried out recently—we commissioned it—into the A55, looking at how we can improve resilience on that particular trunk road, and we found that there are some very difficult decisions, but if we took them, we could improve free flow of traffic. That, in turn, would reduce congestion, but it would also contribute to improvements in air quality. So, our investment in trunk roads and motorways is focused on—we have now a specific area of investment—the pinch-point programme, aimed at reducing congestion and improving air quality. If you can avoid cars having to stop and start or drive at a slow speed where they're emitting more fumes than at 56 mph, for example, then you can improve air quality.

The other thing about making sure that you have traffic flowing freely is that you are able, then, to disperse more freely the pollutants. If you've got traffic that's stationary or driving very slowly, stopping and starting, the emissions tend to gather in the area where the road is, or in the immediate area. You can have emissions that can go over barriers on each side of the road, but what you don't get is a free flow of the emissions into the wider atmosphere, which you do get when traffic is flowing more freely at higher speed. So, our investments and our interventions are designed to improve congestion, yes, but in improving congestion, it's also improving air quality. If it helps at all, I can get a note on this—a more detailed note. 

09:55

It would be helpful. But I think the conundrum is that the more you improve road investment, the more likely that new users are going to be attracted—

—to use the road, and particularly if you haven't had a parallel improvement or increase in the availability of other modes of transport.

Yes, and I would agree that what we need to do and what I'm trying to do is to take a view of all of transport in Wales and integrate the approach so that, for example, in south-east Wales, we don't just look at the M4 proposals in isolation from metro, park and ride, active travel, reform of bus services, but we look at all forms of transport in the whole. I think you raise a very serious question about investment in transport infrastructure that is designed to meet predicted increases rather than that which encourages modal shift. My view is that our investments to date, but increasingly our investments in the future, will look at encouraging modal shift whilst also making sure that the economy is competitive, that we have healthy, cohesive communities, and that any works that are carried out on motorways and trunk works lead to enhanced air quality and also an enhanced natural environment surrounding them.

Okay. I mean, you've mentioned the M4, and so this is where the conundrum really is in plain sight, because from what I've read in the newspapers about the development of the metro, all the ones—with the exception of Llanwern, which we can discuss—relate to areas west or north of Cardiff, and none east of Cardiff, which is where the extra traffic, if the M4 relief road goes ahead, is going to be coming from. So, all the projects east of Cardiff are designated for future funding, which means goodness knows when. 

So, I don't know how this is going to, in any way, be anything other than a complete disaster for my constituents.

Yes, largely, metro is designed, in the first instance, to ensure that we have smoother flow of people travelling in a north-to-south and south-to-north direction. M4 is designed to relieve congestion along one single artery, which is a crucial artery for the economy of south-east Wales. But there will be, as part of the metro proposals, linked to the M4 development—and this is why I say we have to take an all-encompassing approach to transport—that major investment on the M4 at Llanwern, which will see integrated travel investment, which will see park-and-ride investment, which will see thousands of homes linked to thousands of new jobs at a brownfield site. I do take the point, though, in terms of the primary focus of the metro being in another area to that, which the M4 relief road does not necessarily apply to. I think Simon can just outline the development stages of metro and the principles that underpin them.

Sure. So, I suppose it's important to think about what we mean by 'metro'. There are multiple components to it. So, there are the core Valleys lines, which is the bit that gets a lot of the attention because that's where the next phase of major investment is going be, but the metro isn't just about those Valleys that are served by Queen Street station; the metro is all of south-east Wales. The Wales and borders franchise documents and responses are being considered at the moment. We had three tenders in just before Christmas on that. They sought responses from the bidders that looked at improvement of services across south-east Wales. So, whilst core Valleys is the focus for major infrastructure improvement, because of the way that we're going to take ownership of those lines, hopefully, that doesn't mean that we're abandoning the rest of the network. That doesn't mean that we haven't got ambitions to improve services elsewhere in south-east Wales. The Cabinet Secretary has written quite a few times and spoken a few times with the Department for Transport, the Secretary of State for Transport in particular, about, for instance, the ability to provide four trains an hour between Cardiff Central and Bristol Temple Meads. We think that's a really important feature for the new metro. 

10:00

Unfortunately, providing services into Bristol is not in the gift of the Welsh Government. That's something on which we we need support from UK Government. So far, there's been some resistance at official level, I think, in particular, because of concerns about constraints on capacity on the Bristol side of the railway network.

To be fair, the Secretary of State has spoken in the Chamber about us being responsible for it at some point. So, I think it would be fair to say it's probably more at an official level.

But that's absolutely fundamental. That four-trains-an-hour service between Cardiff and Bristol is a fundamental, I think, of making this metro successful. I think that goes to the heart of providing complementary provision to the M4 so that sites like Llanwern, and St Mellons, actually, because we're talking about two locations here that are in the vicinity of the M4—combined, that's an investment of over £100 million just in those two stations, I think. It's a huge, huge investment to add those new park-and-ride facilities to complement what's happening on the M4.

Okay, so sticking with your argument about the road investment actually reducing environmental emissions, your Llanwern proposal is to stick an extra exit from the M4 at Llanwern. What makes you think that that's going to lead to more people parking and riding on the train as opposed to accessing the motorway with their car and going to their destination?

So, I guess, if we think about why that mode in particular is important, that's in order to be able to allow people who would want to travel on to Bristol and deal with the traffic congestion in Bristol to be able to instead have a choice about where they travel from. So, they can travel conveniently, say, from somewhere in south-east Wales to somewhere like Llanwern and then over to Bristol more easily, or vice versa, they can come in from Chepstow and park at somewhere like Llanwern to travel into the centre of Newport or Cardiff.

Again, it's about looking at transport in the whole. As part of the park-and-ride programmes that we're investing in, we recognise the need to ensure that quality of service is improved as well. That's what can be a major influence on passengers, or would-be passengers, who are likely to undergo modal shift. It's why we've been quite clear that we wish to see improvements in standards of local bus services, particularly the vehicles. There are providers and bus operators who have the most cutting-edge buses. We're aiming to test some low-emissions buses in Cardiff as well. If we can offer people comfortable, modern vehicles to travel in, they are far more likely then to switch from the car.

Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd. Ymhellach i rai o'r atebion rydych chi wedi cyflwyno eisoes, a chan gofio ein bod ni yn craffu ar fanylion eich cyllideb chi, a allwch chi jest ddweud sut mae eich polisi trafnidiaeth yn gyffredinol, a dyraniadau eich cyllideb ddrafft yn arbennig, yn cefnogi trafnidiaeth gynaliadwy? Rwyf wedi clywed beth rydych wedi'i ddweud eisoes, ond rydym yn sôn am fanylion y gyllideb ei hunan rŵan. A ydych chi, er enghraifft, wedi cyfrifo cyfanswm dyraniadau'r gyllideb ar gyfer dulliau cynaliadwy ac ar gyfer dulliau anghynaladwy?

Thank you very much, Chair. Further to some of the answers that you have given already, and given that we are scrutinising your budget, could you just tell us how your transport policy in general, and your draft budget allocations particularly, support sustainable transport? I hear what you've already said, but we're talking about the details of the budget itself now. For example, have you calculated the total of the budget allocations for sustainable and unsustainable modes of travel?

Diolch, Dai. No, we haven't, because we don't see—. If I just take a step back, actually—first of all, I think it's important to define what we mean by sustainable travel. I think there can be some difference of opinions over what we mean by sustainable travel. I see sustainable travel as being part of the outcome of our investment, rather than a means of channelling funding into a certain provision or a certain service. So, for me, sustainable travel is about making sure that it is responsible in the form that it takes, that the impact on the environment is minimal, that it has a long-term benefit, and that it is sustainable financially over the long term. And so, all of our transport investments, particularly in terms of the capital, undergo environmental impact assessments, which I believe demonstrate how we're committed to sustainable transport development.

But what we don’t do is split our budget between sustainable and non-sustainable forms of investments. I’d be more than grateful for committee’s view on whether we should do this, but my fear is that, if we did do that, we’d have to have a very clear definition of what sustainable transport is, and I’m not sure that we'd be able to reach an agreed position on what sustainable transport is. Instead, I prefer to view responsible investment in transport as being investment in integrated, modern, environmentally responsible transport.

10:05

Diolch am hynny. Ond yn nhermau’r sawl ohonom ni sy’n gorfod craffu ar fanylion eich cyllideb, ac wrth gwrs y pwyslais pwysig yma ar drafnidiaeth gynaliadwy, sut fedrwch chi brofi i ni eich bod chi yn dyrannu cyfraniadau i drafnidiaeth gynaliadwy?

Thank you for that. But in terms of those of us who have to scrutinise the details of your budget, and of course this important emphasis on sustainable transport, how can you therefore prove to us that you are allocating funding to sustainable transport?

Through the outcomes, through the results. I think it’s best demonstrated through monitoring of air quality, through a shift in the modes that people use to get from A to B, and through other ways of looking at the outcomes to ensure that, as I’ve said, the transport services that we offer are environmentally responsible, are sustainable financially for the long term, and are meeting the needs of all passengers.

What I fear, again, in allocating money towards sustainable and non-sustainable and being able to attribute money towards that is that we're then caught in a position where we would perhaps have to attribute money to accessible forms and less accessible forms, or to environmentally responsible forms and non-environmentally responsible forms. Now, why do I say that we would perhaps be caught in a position where we’d have to do that? Well, currently, because of deregulation, because of the limits on our powers and influence, you could argue that a diesel double-decker emitting considerable pollutants into the atmosphere on a non-commercially operated route is a sustainable model because there is a need for intervention by Government in order to make sure that communities are connected. But, actually, in the round, that is a model that we would wish to address. And so, I’m just not convinced, Chair—but, again, I would take committee’s view—that splitting budgets between sustainable and non-sustainable investments is a wise course of action to take, but I do recognise equally that it can mean that it’s a bit more difficult to be able to assess whether we are investing more or less year on year in sustainable or more unsustainable modes of transport.

Os caf i jest ddechrau gyda’r pwynt yna, rydych chi wedi rhoi nifer o enghreifftiau, a dweud y gwir, yn ystod y chwarter awr ddiwethaf o esiamplau lle mae trafnidiaeth yn gynaliadwy heddiw, efallai, ond ddim yn gynaliadwy os ŷch chi’n edrych yn y tymor hir. Rŷch chi newydd roi'r enghraifft o’r double-decker diesel. Nawr mae gyda ni, wrth gwrs, Ddeddf llesiant cenedlaethau’r dyfodol; mae gyda ni declyn wedi’i basio ac wedi’i hyrwyddo gan y Llywodraeth er mwyn ateb y cwestiynau yma. Ym mha ffordd yr ydych chi’n defnyddio’r Ddeddf honno i fynd i’r afael â hyn, heb fanylu ar y gyllideb? Mae’n anodd gweld lle mae yna amgyffred yn y gyllideb ddrafft bresennol o beth sydd yn gynaliadwy ar gyfer y tymor hir a beth sy’n fuddsoddiad ar gyfer mynd â ni dros y sefyllfa rŷm ni ynddi. Jest i gloi a rhoi un enghraifft, pan oeddech chi’n sôn wrth ateb Jenny Rathbone ynglŷn â buddsoddi mewn ffyrdd fel ffordd o wella ansawdd aer, mae’r atebion technegol yna yn awgrymu eich bod yn siasio eich cwt eich hunan am amser hir iawn, achos bob tro ŷch chi’n cael problem ar un ffordd, rŷch chi naill ai yn rhoi ffordd osgoi i mewn neu'n gwella'r ffordd neu'r ffordd M4 newydd. Rydych yn gohirio'r broblem tymor hir am ryw ddegawd neu ddau, ond nid ydych yn ateb y broblem. Beth rydym ni eisiau ei ganfod yn fan hyn yw'r ateb tymor hir yna. So, a fedrwch chi roi rhyw syniad i ni o sut rŷch chi'n newid y gyllideb i adlewyrchu'r atebion tymor hir, sydd yn ofynnol o dan y Ddeddf?

If I may start with that point, you've given several examples over the past quarter of an hour of where transport is sustainable today, perhaps, but unsustainable if you look at the longer term. You've just given an example of that with the diesel double-decker. Now, of course, we have the well-being of future generations Act; we have a tool that's been passed and promoted by the Government to respond to these particular questions. So, in what way are you using that Act to get to grips with these issues, without going into the detail of the budget? It's difficult to see where the current draft budget gets to grips with what is sustainable for the longer term and what is an investment for getting us past the current situation. Just to give an example, when you were speaking in response to Jenny Rathbone about building roads as a way to improve air quality, those technical responses suggested that you're chasing your own tail for a very long time, because every time you have a problem on one road, you either put in a bypass or improve the road or have a new M4 relief road. You're postponing the long-term problem for a decade or so, but you're not responding to the problem and providing a solution in the long term.  So, can you give us some idea of how you're changing the budget to give those long-term solutions, which are required under the Act?

10:10

I think in the way that we've been spending money that we can demonstrate that we have been changing the budget. One of the big areas of expenditure in the coming years will be the metro, which is designed to be an integrated transport system—a low-carbon transport system. Active travel and the requirements placed on us through the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 as well, demonstrate how we are shifting financial resource to a more sustainable and environmentally responsible area of delivery.

WelTAG 17 as well, which is being designed in conjunction with the future generations commissioner, sets out new ways, or a new process, for examining and testing schemes. Revisions to the Wales transport strategy, again, will see the inclusion of decarbonisation at the very heart of all considerations. So, I do recognise that we are, I think, at a tipping point in terms of being able to apply decarbonisation to all of our considerations. Is there anything that you'd like to add, Simon?

Yes, just to emphasise really what the Cabinet Secretary has said, I think there are new areas that have appeared in the budget over recent years, so particularly around active travel. So, we've just received the plans from the 22 local authorities, which we're looking at now. So, there will be an investment in future years in active travel in response to those plans.

The Cabinet Secretary talked about metro, and, so far, we've talked about metro in south-east Wales, but there are plans, which we're developing, for metro in north-east Wales as well.

The pinch-point scheme has come about recently, and that's about dealing with very localised congestion issues. Interestingly, the Economy and Infrastructure Committee did a report earlier this year, looking at challenges that the bus industry faces, particularly around congestion, and that's a real problem, and solving congestion for buses on roads is a way of helping that industry. It goes back to the debate about sustainable and non-sustainable, because that's an investment in the road network that is going to help the bus industry. I think that illustrates why it's quite difficult to unpick sustainable and non-sustainable, because you're investing in different modes in different ways.

Can I just pick up on that and ask about WelTAG 17? I haven't seen WelTAG 17 and assume it's not yet published and it's being developed.

Yes, it's been published.

It has been published. Okay, we'll take a look at that. I was familiar with the previous WelTAG, which certainly didn't take account of alternative modes of transport—it was very much a road-based analysis of the economic impact of time-saving on roads as much as anything. It was also used for trains as well, to a certain extent. It was all an adaptation of a very old model. Are you going to use that in a retrospective way to double-check that some of your schemes—the M4 relief road does come to mind—are now robust enough for future generations? Because the future generations commissioner does not agree with your approach on the M4 relief road, for example?

First of all, in putting together and in designing WelTAG 17, we involved the commissioner throughout. Indeed, I think there were supportive comments at the point of publication of WelTAG 17 from the commissioner. It's not possible to apply it retrospectively, because it's a process that encompasses stages of design and tests the design and the assumptions—

I might have misled you there. What I meant was you, yourself, applying it intellectually retrospectively to be sure that you have made the right decision.

And principles, yes. In terms of the M4, the principles that underpin WelTAG 17 are considered against the proposals that we've taken to the public open inquiry, but it's also my intention to have the M4 relief road subject to WelTAG 17 at stages 4 and 5, if we determine that we're going to go ahead with the scheme. I think that's important. It's important to test WelTAG 17; it's equally important to test the M4 proposals against WelTAG 17.

Okay, thank you for that clarification. I'll move on to another aspect of transport, if I may. Some good news this morning is that the registrations of electric vehicles are up by 35 per cent in Wales—higher than in the rest of the UK. When you get your electric vehicle, you might have trouble plugging it in, however. I'm sure you've seen maps of particularly fast chargers in Wales, and you will have seen that there's a massive gap in what Harri Webb once called 'the green desert', which I call Mid and West Wales, which is the region I represent. We've got in this draft budget a budget agreement with Plaid Cymru, as you know, and something I was very keen on was resources for electric chargers. Have you got anything that you can share with the committee with regard to your approach to this, what gaps you're looking to fill, and how you might work with others who are also interested? I think some commercial, and some other companies, might be tempted to step into the breach, and Welsh Government resources or support might encourage a great expansion of this in Wales now. 

10:15

Yes. This is a particularly interesting area, I think, of development, both in terms of policy and in terms of what's happening within the automotive sector as well. And although responsibility for vehicle standards, and for the fiscal arrangements, remains something in the hands of Westminster, we do have a role to play in Welsh Government in terms of leadership, in terms of influencing people, providing communications, funding where we can, and the £2 million will certainly help in that regard, in providing that infrastructure, and in making sure that there is partnership working taking place, sometimes across the public and private sector, and certainly with those who are wishing to invest in charging points themselves. So, there are cases now of some wishing to pay home owners in order to charge their vehicles, because they act as, I guess, capacitors or power points. 

I think what's going to really change here—and it was very welcome news today—I think what's really going to change for Wales in terms of the uptake, is greater availability of electric vehicles on the second-hand car market, because I think, realistically, the majority of people in Wales can't afford to buy a new electric vehicle, and the incentive really is for business users to buy them. That's where you get the greatest incentive at the point of new purchase. With more second-hand electric vehicles becoming available, I think we'll see that gap between Wales and the UK average continue to narrow. Equally, though, we need to make sure that the infrastructure is in place.

The infrastructure is changing quite rapidly, and we don't have a consistent approach being taken by the manufacturers to the way that vehicles are charged. That will change, though, in the coming years. In the meantime, what we're doing is mapping where those vacant areas are in terms of charging points. We're looking at where people drive to and from as well. Often people who have electric vehicles just go on short journeys. The problem at the moment is perhaps they don't even consider long journeys because there's that great space between the A55 in the north and the M4 in the south, which are well served by charging points, where you can barely find any. But what we need to do is make sure that we invest taxpayers' money in a responsible way and that we are addressing market failure. So, we're carrying out a mapping exercise, and also judging what form of chargers are best, and, therefore, where they should be positioned. So, it could be a mix of superfast charging, which can take place in 10 minutes, and rapid charging, which perhaps takes two to four hours, but they'd be positioned at different points. So, we're looking at the Cadw estate, for example, as a visitor experience. If you're going to park up and you've got an electric vehicle, why not charge it up whilst you visit a site? We're also looking at the more conventional places where you'd find charging points: stations, so, service stations, supermarkets and so forth. But what we need to do is make sure that that mapping exercise takes fully into account emerging investment by the private sector. But it is—. I think this is going to be game-changing in the coming years in terms of the availability of used electric vehicles. There will be issues, I think, around charging points moving forward, but I think the £2 million will certainly help to address that, and I think the market will respond as well. What we're needing to do is to make sure that we balance market interventions with a desire to intervene right now to get that continued increase in uptake. 

I know Simon's particularly keen on this area, and so is Prys, so—

Just to your technical point there really, battery technology is evolving quite rapidly. The range of these vehicles is changing continuously. So, what might be an appropriate map for charging points today, because of limitations on ranges of vehicles, might not be an appropriate map in a few years' time, and we've got to be mindful of spending public money on things that are—. There might be a market failure today, but it might not be a market failure tomorrow. 

As the Cabinet Secretary says, there are private industries that have got a stake in this. They need to get the go. If you have a concession for a petrol station at the moment, your business model is going to potentially change rapidly over the next few years. So, the private sector will come into play here. This example of private companies paying people to be able to use their car's battery to store energy overnight, that's a really interesting new model, and, actually, that will change the dynamics of this industry as well.

So, from a policy position, it's quite difficult, actually, to say, 'Yes, this is what our policy is going to be for the next 20 years as far as the charging infrastructure is concerned', because the technology is changing, as is the commercial model for all of this lot—

10:20

But we have to make sure that there are, however—just to step in, if I may. On the public money side, that just underlines how important it is that that's directed to where communities or particular economic activities even could be left out. Just to give you an example: Aberystwyth is quite a big important town; it doesn't have a rapid charger. So there are quite obvious gaps in the Welsh market at the moment.

There's going to be—we could spend ages talking about this—. But one of the challenges as well—sorry, before I bring in Prys—is that, at the moment, electric vehicles are largely middle-class motors, because you've got to have the resource to buy one and, also, if you live in a terraced house at the moment, you can't charge it unless you've got a cable going through your window to the car. So, it must change. The system of provision of charging points must change in order to make electric vehicles and new forms of technology accessible to all. But we also have a role in terms of leadership in driving the development of new technologies, and I think the automotive and technology park in Ebbw Vale is particularly important in that regard and in driving investment in research and development in partnership with universities and other stakeholders, but—

Just before we bring Prys in, can I just remind everybody that we've got less than 40 minutes and we've got another nine areas we were hoping to cover? So, if we can be short with both questions and answers, that will give us a better chance to get close to the full 14 question areas by 11 o'clock. 

I was simply going to add to what the Cabinet Secretary and Simon have mentioned in terms of the role that Government, as the Cabinet Secretary has mentioned, can have to provide leadership, particularly on the demand side. So, one of the things that we're working on and looking at across Government are things like public procurement. So, the lease or hire vehicles or fleets that the public sector buy, that can stimulate demand, so it's whether we can drive that through the public sector across Wales, and also through using town and country planning policies in a slightly different way, which again might stimulate demand, but being mindful of the issues around whether that's giving a particular focus on middle-class customers currently of EVs. So, these are things that we're going to have to think about as we develop that demand. Thank you.

It could be a role as well, moving forward in this, in the EAP, the economic action plan, in particular in the calls to action and in the economic contract. To get through the door, it'll be important that you demonstrate how you're decarbonising your business. One easy way of doing that is to provide electric charging points for employees. So, I think we're going to see a major shift in the coming years as a consequence of investment by Government—new changes or changes to the way that we invest in businesses, investment in the infrastructure, and by an increase in the roll-out of new technologies.

A crucial point that you haven't mentioned is how we decarbonise the electricity that these vehicles are going to use. So, what are your plans for generating new community energy projects to provide these charging points? This is an ideal thing.

This is where the EPS has been really crucially important, I think, in terms of addressing some of the big power generators, but also at community level, ensuring that investment is channelled through to more responsible and community-based forms of generation. Prys, is this something—?

Yes, I mean this is the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs. As you are probably aware, we already have a support mechanism in place for community energy, which provides department support through schemes, as well as loan and capital finance to enable schemes to come forward—

True, but do you see this as a strategic objective in our climate change obligations to decarbonise the electricity that we use for electric vehicles?

Oh absolutely. Absolutely. The biggest element currently in terms of emissions is the power sector, and we have to decarbonise that sector to have ultimately effective electric vehicles. Otherwise, we're just passing the issue on. So, we have to run these things in parallel.

That does sound promising, but I think that the real point is that, if you're using diesel to create electricity, you might as well be using diesel to run cars.

10:25

In fact, it's more effective. Just on this, I accept that this is mainly the responsibility of Lesley Griffiths, in effect, but as you said at the outset, this is shared across Government. There has been publication of a story this morning that says that the Welsh Government is now interested and has made an offer to Westminster to invest in the tidal lagoon in Swansea bay, which I welcome widely. I've called for co-investment in that for some time now. I don't know whether you can, without being sidetracked too much from our scrutiny, share anything with this committee to put a bit of flesh on those bones, because I think that could certainly be the sprat to catch a mackerel, as we say in fishing terms. 

Yes, absolutely. This is something that the First Minister himself has led on to date. He's discussed it with the company. I think it enables the Prime Minister to have confidence that the project should go ahead, and I think the whole of Wales should view this project as something that has great opportunity for all communities. If this goes ahead, the pathfinder, then we could potentially see lagoons emerge right across—well, not across—around the coast of Wales. And that, in turn, could provide a huge proportion not just of our own energy, but of the energy for the whole of the United Kingdom, making us not just potentially energy independent in Wales, but a net exporter of reliable, predictable energy. So, I think it's hugely, hugely important that we now see the project given the go-ahead.  

Are there any details about the size of the investment that you might be interested in making? Presumably this is linked perhaps to income streams going down the line.

I'm afraid I'm not able to divulge those details at this stage. 

I just want to add some thoughts on electrical vehicles in terms of new development and some joined-up thinking. If a local authority is developing a new car park or out-of-town centre, or if we're promoting a new build, are we considering, as part of allowing that, that they also put in some facility to charge vehicles? And also, because of the BREEAM expectations of new build, there should be—and it's back to Jenny's question—some carbon-neutral advantage in the whole scheme.   

Prys, you're probably better placed to answer about planning. What should be said, though, is that the demand is now there for new homes to come with—just as it was there a few years ago, it emerged, on broadband; a demand for superfast broadband by buyers—I think the demand is now there amongst many prospective purchasers for EV charging points to be incorporated into new homes. But, Prys, can you give an outline of the planning issues here?  

As I referred to earlier, one of the levers that we in Wales have is around the planning legislation and the building regulations, so that is something that we are looking at across Government now in terms of the actions we can take to stimulate uptake and create that demand around electric vehicles. The issue, I think, is—. You cited a few examples there of commercial development car parking or what have you—for supermarkets, say, or homes. It's the additional cost that it might add, so it might be particularly relevant maybe for commercial developments. We don't know yet, for instance, how the market for electric vehicles and the model for charging these vehicles will develop—so, whether there'll be an expectation that they will charge at home so that new homes should all have EV-ready charging points, or whether they will be serviced more from our traditional service station models where you will have superchargers in these models. I think the industry and the market is evolving around that, but that is absolutely something that we're looking at in terms of the stimulus that Government can provide.  

If you'll just indulge me for one more minute, there's a huge opportunity for manufacturers here—a huge opportunity. We've already seen Sapa take advantage of the changes to black cabs, and that was in part with an investment by Welsh Government. But we're also seeing right now the potential for lighter, smaller batteries to be manufactured, which would demand less energy at the outset from those high-polluting power stations. And alongside that, there's a potential in the future—there are already test beds for this—to charge, via induction, vehicles whilst they're driving. So, the technology is changing at an incredible pace, and it's a hugely exciting field of manufacturing, research and development that we want to be part of.

10:30

Indeed they would. You could induce the traffic jams in that case—to induce the energy.

I'm going to move on now to what considerations have been given to the UK Committee on Climate Change advice to the Welsh Government on the design of carbon targets, and whether that advice has had any impact on your portfolio.

Yes, it has. I think Prys is probably best placed to give an outline of how that has happened, and of the recommendations, and I think also, if I'm right, a series of recommendations has been—. There was a public call for evidence recently, and a publication was recently distributed, and we're currently responding to that. But Prys, if you could outline how we've taken on board the recommendations.

We received two pieces of advice from the UK climate change committee. The first we received earlier in 2017, and that was around the design of how we would account for the budgets. We accepted all those recommendations. That was a Cabinet decision, and the Cabinet Secretary for energy and planning made a statement on that early in 2017. In December we received the second tranche of advice following a call for evidence earlier in the year on how we set interim targets and budgets. So, that has just been published. We are now going to go through a process within
Government of reviewing that advice, and making a public position statement on it, probably by next summer, having gone through that process of assessing the advice and coming to a view across Government.

Okay. So, we'll wait for that. We'll watch that space.

I want to move on to the prevalence of big emitters in Wales, and what you might expect or like to see from a successor to the EU emissions trading system, and how Wales might be able in any way to influence those decisions.

We're feeding into the work of the Cabinet Secretary in this regard. A successor programme I would wish to see offering assurance and long-term stability for business and for industry, but also one that continues that trajectory in terms of driving down emissions. I think right now, with Brexit, it's absolutely essential that we do what we can to offer surety and security to businesses, but equally we cannot take our foot off the gas, if you'll pardon the pun, in terms of driving down carbon emissions.

Because at the moment, nearly all legislation on emission reduction within industry has come out of Europe, and systems are in place to make sure that that at least happens. Are you in any way concerned that, once we leave, in the long term, there might be deregulation in this area by the UK Government? If so, are we able to set our own targets independently for those businesses?

That would concern me, because I think, in many respects, we've been at the forefront of this agenda—when I say 'we', I mean Wales. It would alarm me greatly if we were to see any steer away from our commitments in terms of reducing emissions and turning back climate change. But in terms of responsibility for setting our own regulations, Prys is probably best placed to outline that.

One of the other concerns that I have, though, is displacement of employment as well, particularly as we leave the EU and we face other challenges that accompany our exit from the EU. That's a very real threat, and that's why I think it's essential that we also, whilst maintaining that downward trajectory, offer business, offer investors surety that's long term. But Prys, in terms of regulations, are you able to give an indication of what responsibility we have?

We do have powers under the Climate Change Act 2008 in relation to carbon trading schemes, although our powers are limited in terms of the fiscal elements around those. We are in discussion with the UK Government and Scotland and Northern Ireland around what options might exist around potential future trading schemes. As the Cabinet Secretary mentioned, this is intimately linked to Brexit and what kind of deal and arrangement we get out of Brexit. Given the prevalence of these emitters in Wales—. The European average for EU ETS installations as part of member state emissions is about 44 per cent. In Wales it's about 56 per cent, so it's a very big part of our emissions footprint. This is a hugely important area for us, but we need, as the Cabinet Secretary mentioned, certainty and direction around driving down those emissions. But we're also mindful that we need to think about the employment issues and the issues around carbon leakage attached to that, which is why it's quite beneficial that, when you talk about lots of these companies, they are companies that have sites and assets across Europe, currently, and that is why there's benefit in having quite a broad European scale model of a trading scheme. That is something we are looking at now with the other administrations in terms of thinking what options are best placed for the future.

10:35

Os caf i jest droi at lygredd awyr yn benodol, byddwch chi'n gwybod bod Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru yn dweud bod allyriadau trafnidiaeth yn un o'r prif achosion o ansawdd awyr gwael yng Nghymru. Mae rhai o'r atebion rydym ni eisoes wedi bod yn eu trafod, fel gwelliannau ffordd a hefyd cerbydau trydan, yn adlewyrchu rhai o'r problemau, a dweud y gwir, sef mai efallai'r grŵp olaf y byddwn ni'n ei gyrraedd o ran gwella awyr yw'r bobl fwyaf difreintiedig, sy'n byw yn y wardiau mwyaf difreintiedig yng Nghymru. Rhai o’r hewlydd sydd yn adlewyrchu’r problemau ansawdd awyr gwaethaf yw’r rhai sydd ddim wedi cael eu trafod o ran gwella hyd yma, ac efallai’r broblem olaf fydd yn cael ei datrys, sydd yn adlewyrchu bod yna agwedd cyfiawnder cymdeithasol i’r mater yma yn ogystal ag agwedd iechyd ac amgylchedd. Felly beth yn eich portffolio chi ydych chi yn benodol yn ei wneud, yn wahanol i beth rydym ni eisoes wedi trafod—rwy’n gwybod ein bod wedi trafod lot ohonyn nhw—i fynd i’r afael â’r broblem yma, yn enwedig yn yr ardaloedd hynny lle mae hwn yn broblem tymor hir?

If I may just turn to air pollution specifically, you will know that Public Health Wales state that most local air pollution problems in Wales are caused by emissions from road vehicles. Now, some of the things that we've already been discussing, such as road improvements and electric vehicles, do reflect some of the issues, because it may be that the last group of people that we will reach in terms of improving air quality will be the poorest and most disadvantaged people living in the most disadvantaged areas of Wales. Some of the roads where those problems exist have not been mentioned in terms of improvements thus far, and they may well be the final places where the problem is to be resolved, which may reflect that there is a social justice aspect to these issues, in addition to health and environmental issues. So, what, in your portfolio, are doing specifically, in addition to what we've already discussed—I know we've discussed a great deal—to get to grips with these problems, particularly in those areas where this is a long-term problem?

I'd agree with Simon on this. I think the existence of, if you like, carbon corridors in many of the more urbanised areas of Wales contributes to the social injustice that the most disadvantaged people in our country experience. I want to see a reduction in the number of air quality management areas, and in order to do that, we have to work with our partners in local government. We also need to work with bus operators, because it's often in those carbon canyons that we find the biggest contributors being diesel-emitting buses and trains coming and going from stations. So, we have to work in partnership.

In terms of what we are specifically doing to address this issue, the metros in the north and the south will be particularly significant. Simon mentioned the metro in the north-east; well, as a first stage of the metro, our principal investment will be going into significant enhancements of active travel, to new and upgraded station facilities and to a bus lane through Deeside that will alleviate congestion and make bus services more reliable, thereby encouraging people to shift from their private cars onto buses.

So, the metros in the north and the south will be important, and the programme of investment in pinch points is going to be important. I think also the intelligent transport systems are significant. I know that some people loathe variable speed limits, but actually, variable speed limits can contribute significantly to reducing air pollution, and I'd be willing to consider them on other trunk roads in Wales. It was one of the suggestions that was made during the course of the A55 resilience study and I think it should be considered for other trunk roads, because it does reduce air pollution.

I think the planning system is crucially important as well in order to provide more opportunities to enable people to walk and to cycle, not just from home to work and back, but also for the purpose of accessing services. In terms of accessing services, it's absolutely crucial that, again, we work across Government and with partners in local government, so that our investment in transport isn't taking place without due consideration to where, for example, health centres are going to be constructed, or where housing estates are going to be constructed. We've moved a great deal in recent years in this regard. The metro, though, offers an opportunity to enhance that integration of service provision, housing provision and transport systems.

Some European urban areas have taken very definite steps in terms of either banning diesel on certain days or at certain times; variable speeds is part of that. They've also—the mayor of London, for example, but other European cities—looked to charge particular types of vehicle. You mention buses, but, in some of the urban areas, it's actually very heavy duty goods vehicles and transport that also add in to that. Is that something under active consideration by the Welsh Government?

10:40

Shall I say a few words first about that?

You go first on that, and then I'm going to bring in the resilience study again because that presents some areas the committee might wish to look at.

So, we are doing some work on modal shift of freight from roads to rail, the intelligent transport system stuff—we've talked about the variable speed limit. There's more than that in the armoury. So, there are things like making sure the traffic lights work in a more efficient way to keep vehicles moving. There are things like what they call ramp metering systems so that it improves the way that traffic merges onto the motorway network. So, there's a range of different tools in that intelligent transport system's armoury.

Last year, we launched the trial of free travel on the TrawsCymru bus network at weekends, again to encourage people to shift modes. We've maintained the bus services support grant at the same level for the last three or four years to cement that support for the bus industry. There isn't just one way of dealing with this; there are lots of different ways.

I think, Chair, it might be useful, if Members haven't had sight of it yet, to see the A55 resilience study, because that, in many respects, presents new suggestions, recommendations, that we need to consider that could be unpopular in some respects, but which would contribute to improving the flow of traffic and therefore to reducing carbon emissions and improving the quality of air. But some of those recommendations are quite contentious. They would include limiting HGVs or agricultural vehicles to certain times of the day in order to avoid slow-moving traffic. I would welcome the committee's view on many of the recommendations contained within that study, because they could be applied to many of the other trunk roads.

Shouldn't you be thinking of some of these strategic approaches? There are cities all around Europe now that have designated some major thoroughfares as non-motorised. They are then saying you need hubs outside the cities, not just for cars to park and people then to go on to public transport, but for the big heavy vehicles to park so that you then use much more fuel-efficient and electric vehicles, potentially, to ferry products into cities. It's very technical what you and your officials are telling us piecemeal, and that adds up to some change, but it's of the current model, I would say, not a new model.

But I'd contend that, actually, with investment in some significant park-and-ride infrastructure, with the development and the roll-out of the metro, we will then be in a position where we've offered alternative provision that would enable us to give a compelling argument for barring those high-polluting vehicles from centres, or applying those congestion charges that you've outlined. At the moment, though, I'm not convinced that we have sufficient provision to justify that sort of action. However, it is something that I would wish to consider and certainly we're considering for the trunk road network.

Just specifically, then, to follow up on David's point, you've just suggested that you'd want the alternatives in place before you used the stick, in effect. You want the carrot there first, and then you'd use the stick.

At least in sight, I think.

Well, yes, but some areas in Wales have air pollution quality problems that are serious health problems and would suggest that there's an early use of the stick that could be applied.

That's a different—. Yes, I think, if I can call them carbon corridors, that's where action needs to be taken immediately because, largely, those areas are not being affected by the use of private vehicles, they're largely being affected by—

It's commercial and public transport, but it can be addressed. Our application of enhanced payments through the bus services support grant, for example, is intended to shift bus operators away from high-polluting vehicles to low-carbon vehicles in order to improve air quality in those densely populated areas where people suffer the worst quality of air. Action's being taken now. It might not be as dramatic, or it might not generate the headlines that a complete ban on certain vehicles would generate, but it is being taken nonetheless. I accept that that most radical step of potentially banning commercial or private vehicles from areas that are most severely affected should be considered. It should be considered in conjunction, I think, with local authority partners who, ultimately, are responsible for many of the services that would be affected by such a move.

10:45

Okay, thank you. I think it would be a failure of this committee if we didn't get on to the M4 at some stage during this discussion. So, if we could move on to that next and then move back to some of the other areas we were going to discuss. Jayne.

Thank you, Chair. As a resident of Newport myself, I do understand the pinch points in particular on the M4. Indeed, my local paper this morning—I woke up to the headline from the South Wales Argus that commuters in Newport spend the highest amount of time stuck in traffic at peak times. I believe we're sixteenth in the UK.

But I want to move on to the points about environmental impacts. Understandably, there has been much concern from a number of individuals and groups around the natural environment and the impact on that that the proposed M4 and the black route would have. Can you explain how you would mitigate those environmental impacts?

Well, I need to be confident that we're doing all we can. We've proposed an as ambitious programme of mitigation and indeed compensation as possible. I might ask Simon to run through all of the detail. I could perhaps, as an alternative, provide a note, but there are major, major initiatives that'll be taking place, indeed taking place before the road is open for use, that will improve the natural environment—for example, the reed beds, the lagoons that are going to be created, the planting of new hedgerows, new woodland. We'll see the planting of woodland at a rate of 2.1:1 for the existing woodland across the stretch. Fifty per cent of the road is being constructed on brownfield sites—2 per cent, yes, on the Gwent Levels. There has to be that balance between social, environmental and economic interests. We're trying to achieve that balance as much as possible. It has required—. And, as I say, again, I need to be confident in my mind that we are doing as much as possible to protect the environment, to enhance the environment where possible, and to make sure that we get traffic flowing freely across the south-east of Wales.

The bridge, for example—at not inconsiderable expense—is being designed in such a way as to not affect the River Usk. We recognise the environmental sensitivities of the river, so that's being designed in a certain way. And around 110 hectares of new woodland will be planted, ensuring that there is a proportion of more than 2:1 for the existing woodland that will be lost. 

There's been an extensive environmental impact assessment carried out. The arguments have been tested, I think, exhaustively, at the public local inquiry. We've presented our case. We've outlined the benefits that we believe can be delivered, not just in terms of the economic and social benefits but also the environmental benefits. And, for reasons that I outlined earlier, I'm convinced that the improvement to air quality will not just be realised on the road itself, where drivers won't be breathing in so many pollutants, but also along the corridor that you represent, where, at the moment, many people have to suffer terrible qualities of air, and that shouldn't be happening with the new route.

I just wanted to come on to that, actually. Following on from the environmental part of this, I just wanted you to perhaps go into a bit more about the improvement in air quality along the current M4. Because, as you rightly say, the M4 that we're talking about around the Brynglas tunnels, many people—you know, there are hundreds of people, thousands of people, who live along that stretch of the M4, and I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about the impact of an M4 relief road on those people who live so close to the current M4, which is causing a huge amount of air pollution already.

I'll ask Simon to do this, but what strikes me is that along the road we'll see reduced congestion because there'll be the relief road, and also you'll have free-flowing traffic. So, you'll have the double benefit that will lead to an improvement in the quality of air for people living in that area. Simon.

The M4 through Newport is one of our air quality management areas, and it's a place where, actually, we've got a problem with exceedances. So, it's a serious problem for the Government, actually, the quality of air on St Julian's Hill. So, the new scheme will allow us to be able to reduce the capacity of that road, so it'll be declassified from a motorway to an A road, it will have two lanes running through it, so there'll be fewer vehicles travelling through there, at more consistent speeds, which will deal with this air quality issue. There'll be lower noise, lower pollution. The whole thing, I think, will be significantly improved—the quality of the environment will be significantly improved—when those traffic volumes dramatically reduce. That new route is 3 km shorter than the existing route and it doesn't have the pinch point of the tunnels, so the natural inclination of motorists will be to use the new route and not to travel through what is currently a heavily congested part of the network, which has got five junctions on it, so there's lots of stop/starts, there's the constriction of the tunnels—you know, we know the problems of that road.

10:50

Okay. I was just going to ask a question. We've got over half the M4 junctions in Wales. Do you think it's serendipity that most of, or all of, the major problems of traffic jams occurring on the M4 are where motorway junctions are close together and, where you might expect it around Cardiff, it tends not to be a pinch point because they haven't got motorway junctions close together?

So, perhaps it's worth reflecting on the history of that bit of road through Newport. It was never designed to be a motorway in the first place; it was only ever designed to be a local bypass, which is why it's got five junctions on it. It's enormously substandard. Even for the time that it was designed, it wasn't designed to the prevailing standards for a motorway, and we know that we have mergers and diversions of traffic that—. As you rightly say, Chair, that's where you get traffic flow breakdown, and there isn't—in the existing section through Newport—sufficient space for the flow to recover before it starts to break down again at an adjacent junction.

Yes, I just want to test some of the way you're now developing policy and I think Mr Jones has just said something very significant, that, when that section of the M4 around Newport was designed, it was probably then a poor option, and, obviously, we don't want poor options to now emerge on major infrastructure projects, and I do commend the Cabinet Secretary's paper, where you say, in paragraph 6.3:

'The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is the central organising principle of our plan'

and you're talking about your general work in the plan there.

Now, I think that's a bold and important statement, but I think we need to test how you're actually doing this. For instance, has the option of the black route against whatever improvements could be made to the existing route been tested against that, by the end of the 2020s, we expect most vehicles to be changing towards electric power? There are constant articles now in the press about the taxation base for motorists and heavy vehicles changing completely to road pricing because, obviously, you won't have a fuel duty. How are these sort of changes, which are very likely, I think, going to affect this option? Because, presumably, air quality would improve through electric vehicles even if, you know, there's this old question of where you generate that electricity, and road pricing would absolutely, if it happens as a taxation base for motorists, transform motorway use, wouldn't it? Because it was suddenly become a rational good, not a public good. So, what thinking has your department done on that?

Yes. Certain modelling—. We've discussed it quite extensively. Certain modelling has taken place and I think you're right about the design of the M4. It was probably a poor option when it was designed. It wasn't the only major road that was a poor option. There were other trunk roads that were designed and built that, even at the time, were reaching capacity when they were opened.

But, in terms of the emerging and potential changes to the way that people use vehicles and, indeed, the vehicles themselves, big change could come with automated vehicles as well. It's often been speculated that use of automated vehicles will mean that there are fewer vehicles on the road, but, actually, in all likelihood, it's going to drive up the number of vehicles on the road. There may be fewer vehicles as a sum total, but in all likelihood there will be more vehicles on the road at any one time because vehicle ownership will probably drop off, but vehicle usage would increase. So, cars would be used more regularly. That would lead to more vehicles being on motorways and, therefore, congestion couldn't be addressed solely through the roll-out of automated vehicles. In terms of electric vehicles, yes, absolutely. If we were to see a scenario by 2030, 2040, 2050 where all vehicles were electric, then it would significantly improve the air quality of communities that roads pass through. But, equally, what we can't do, I think, is base our plans today on the hope that motorway taxation will be introduced, or on the hope that—

10:55

Where we have control over interventions and investments, we are able to do that, but, equally, if we were to say, 'Well, you know what, cars are going to be electric—all cars are going to be electric by a certain point, and therefore they won't pollute, congestion will be dealt with', we wouldn't need to spend a penny on the metro in that case, because everyone can use an electric car. But, actually, what we're trying to do is look at transport in the whole, as I've said—sorry to tire you with it; I've said it repeatedly—and to make sure that people are given as many opportunities to travel in a responsible, environmentally responsible, reliable and efficient way. And, yes, design should reflect emerging trends and emerging technology, and WelTAG 17 is designed to test the integrity of plans and proposals at various stages. And as I've said earlier, I'm intending to put the M4 relief road through stages 4 and 5 of WelTAG 17, should we decide to progress with it. Is there anything you'd like to add?

Well, the M4 scheme has been subject to extensive modelling and challenge through the public inquiry. The specific question in terms of traffic growth in future has been dealt with in infinite detail at the public inquiry. We've presented our evidence and a whole group of others have presented their evidence. Those points have been exercised in great detail, and we can provide you with some pointers to where that evidence has been scrutinised, if that would be helpful.

Okay. Perhaps it is too speculative a point to push you on, but road pricing could come in about the day the new M4 opens, couldn't it? We're not talking about a fantastically unlikely option, but I accept that perhaps that is for the future. 

In terms of the well-being of future generations Act now being the organising principle in your department, what training and development has your senior team undergone in the past year or 18 months to absorb all the credible changes that have taken place since the first transport plan and WelTAG?

I've got to say, the interaction with the commissioner has been really, really helpful, I think, in this regard. The challenge as well from the commissioner has been helpful, both in terms of internally, in discussions with us, but also at the public local inquiry. In terms of training and toolkits that have been adopted, I think Simon and Prys can outline how officials have undergone the necessary training to ensure that there is that step change that you've identified.

Could you describe some of the training and development that's gone on?

Internally, there have been tranches of training that have been provided, not just to senior staff but to all levels of staff across the organisation. It's a regular theme of—

Can you give some specifics? I mean, you've had forums where you've really gone into the detail of these sustainable approaches and the way the current legislation, which is remarkable, over the last five years—the amount of change there's been—interacts.

A way of illustrating that is in terms of the products that we're now producing. So, 'Prosperity for All', the Government's overarching strategy, is firmly embedded in the future generations Act. The economic action plan, which was produced just last month, is similarly founded in that. We've talked about how WelTAG is doing that. The forthcoming Wales transport strategy is going to be based on that. So, actually, it's changed the way that we're delivering the outputs that Ministers are charging us to deliver. It's a change to the way that we work, and that's being delivered on the back of extensive training initiatives.

It doesn't sound like a cultural change to me, I have to say. It's a kind of shoehorning in, what is good professional best practice, as it adapts and proceeds, but apart from calling in the future generations commissioner to have a good look at your schemes occasionally, I just wonder how this has all been embedded. It's now your central organising principle.

We've now run out of time. Gareth Bennett hasn't had an opportunity to ask a question as yet, so I'm going to throw that opportunity open to him.

11:00

I agree, but I'm quite happy to move on if the Cabinet Secretary is.

I'd like Prys just to outline the training that's been undertaken—. Sorry—

Fine. I'm quite happy to overrun by as much time as you're prepared to overrun.

I'll be very brief. To give you a specific example, building on the well-being of future generations Act, which sets out a number of goals, we have been working very closely with the well-being commissioner's office in terms of developing the methodology around how we implement the carbon budget. We're working closely and are having regular meetings with that office in terms of thinking about how we develop a methodology to look at the impacts of our new policies and proposals that will support our decarbonisation plan.

What are the other things that we've been doing? We've established working groups across Government to look at emissions sectors—we have one looking at the electricity sector, we have one looking at transport. They bring officials from across Government—from planning, from transport policy, from procurement—together to think about the long-term objective that we need to deliver. The long-term objective is that 80 per cent emission reduction by 2050 and that is making us think fundamentally about policies in different ways and balancing that environmental challenge with the economic challenges and other things that we're trying to deliver. So, the Act or Acts—plural—are driving different ways of working across Government in this area.

And it can't just come as a consequence of a series of training opportunities. It has to come as a consequence of a concerted effort to change mindsets, to embed a cultural change, and that change comes from internal challenge, I think. We're constantly pressing officials across departments to think differently, to think in alignment with the Act.

Perhaps you could give us a note on some of these, like how many senior academics have been involved in these working groups and have come in and worked with you, the other jurisdictions that have achieved good change in this area—you know, beyond your department, basically, and your traditional knowledge base.

Yes. Coming back to the M4 relief road and the public inquiry that's going on, the future generations commissioner, when she gave evidence to that inquiry, said that she fundamentally disagreed with the Welsh Government's interpretation of the well-being of future generations Act and the duties that are set out. 

I believe our lawyers have responded to that and we maintain that there has to be a balance struck. The balance is between the various interests that are encapsulated within the Act. We believe that the proposals will lead to improvements in terms of cohesive communities, in terms of healthier communities, and I think the evidence that has subsequently been given by our lawyers fully addresses the concerns of the commissioner.

Except in Cardiff where the air pollution is going to get worse. I just want to put that on record.

I want to test your firmness of purpose in saying that progress in reducing carbon footprints is going to be one of the baseline assessments for your economic action plan. At what point are you going to say to companies, 'We're not going to be able to help you if you don't put in electric charging points, if you don't commit to producing BREEAM standards in the development of your building'? What's the Government doing on this front?

Okay. I'll take the last question first, then, in that case. We're already looking at introducing the electric charging points. We aim to go carbon neutral as a public sector. We've set pretty ambitious targets in terms of the date that we wish to achieve that, so we are trying to lead as much as possible. I think, in fairness, we're doing a pretty good job in that regard. I can get a note again regarding the actions and interventions being taken by Welsh Government, but with regard to the economic action plan, the first step in drawing down support from Government will require businesses to comply with what we call the economic contract—a new contract between Government and business. The criteria outline how we expect businesses to endeavour to improve the health and particularly the mental health of workers, to ensure that fair work practices are being fully incorporated across the business, and to ensure that they are able to demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Now that—

11:05

So, you’d expect large employers to all be providing electric charging points.

Well, we’re not going to lay down a series of demands saying, ‘We want you to have a green roof; we want you to have charging points’. What we will say is that you need to demonstrate that your carbon footprint is reducing as a consequence of your proactive changes and investments. And also, if you can’t do that, then there is still support through Business Wales and through the development bank, and there will be other forms of support that can get you to the point where you get through the door. So, what we want to do is offer the carrot of investment to induce companies to reduce their carbon footprint, but if they can’t do that without support, there will still be that form of support that can get them to that point where they can get through the door.

But once through the door, there will be a new prism for investment: the calls to action. In order to draw down support, that support will have to lead to improvements in the quality of work, or to improvements in terms of the carbon footprint again, or to future-proofing the business through adopting new working practices and technology. So, that’s the aim. Essentially, what we’re trying to do is offer funding as the incentive to undergo considerable change, and we will reward those businesses that are undergoing that change that is required.

Okay. We've gone six minutes over—are you prepared to accept one last question from Joyce Watson?

I want to examine how the environment principles of sustainable management of natural resources and the biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems are being considered by your department when you’re actually putting together at the same time a national infrastructure commission for Wales and a national infrastructure plan.

Okay. The national infrastructure commission for Wales will have a remit letter, and within that remit letter there will be a demand that environmental considerations are made at every step of any consideration of investment in infrastructure. I would like the National Assembly to be able to scrutinise the proposals, plans and publications of the commission on a regular basis to ensure that the remit letter is being adhered to.

We’ve talked a lot about whether vehicles should be electric or not and whether roads should be built or not, but the one thing that we haven’t talked about in any way at all this morning is climate change and the effects it has on highways. I’m talking here particularly, you won't be surprised, about surface water flooding. We all know that there are masses of pollutants that aren’t in the air that come from roads and the way that they're managed. Now, I don’t know about other people, but I do know about the fact that I spend a fair bit of time on the road, and the management doesn’t seem to be in place by local authorities, for whatever reason, to prevent torrents of water flooding off wherever they might land.

If we’re talking about biodiversity and ecosystems running side by side, I’m going to pick up the point you said about putting trees along the new M4. If you’re not going to control that run-off, those trees aren’t going to really survive very well in polluted water. So, that’s the sort of thinking I’m talking about, and I have to say that I can’t see an awful lot of evidence that points me in that direction.

So, we're in the same space, actually, because we have those concerns as well. So, for example, with the M4, what we're proposing is to introduce reed beds and lagoons that will see run-off water cleaned and then distributed away in a manner that does not lead to the sort of loss of trees that you talk about.

WelTAG 17 as well is designed in such a way as to test the resilience of proposals, and I do think that if we go to the A465, there’s another example of how we've piloted self-healing concrete. All of these methods, all of these tests, all of these initiatives are designed to address climate change, the decarbonisation agenda, the need to get traffic moving more freely. We’re not looking at road projects—if we take road projects in isolation for now—we’re not looking at them as a means of improving the free flow of traffic and reducing congestion; we're also looking at them in terms of being sustainable and resilient for the longer term. 

11:10

Thank you for that. Can I just thank the Cabinet Secretary? We have gone 10 minutes over, but thank you for staying. I think you helped us go 10 minutes over, with your officials, but we also helped it go over 10 minutes as well, so blame can be attributed to both sides. Can I just thank you for coming this morning and let you know, as you do know, that a transcript will be available, and, as you also know, sometimes words get missed? Thank you very much for coming, and can I thank my colleagues for getting us through it? We did manage to do all the questions eventually. Thank you, all, very much.

4. Papurau i’w nodi
4. Papers to note

We've got one item we've got to cover before we go into private session, which is to receive the letter from Nick Ramsay. 

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o’r cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can we move to go into private session? I have to move—I know Simon knows this off by heart—a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from item 6 of this meeting. Thank you. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:11.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 11:11.

Archwilio Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru