|Gareth Bennett AC|
|Jayne Bryant AC|
|John Griffiths AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC|
|Mike Hedges AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Dean Medcraft||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid a Gweithrediadau, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director of Finance and Operations, Welsh Government|
|Dr Christianne Glossop||Y Prif Swyddog Milfeddygol, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Chief Veterinary Officer, Welsh Government|
|Hannah Blythyn AC||Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd|
|Minister for Environment|
|Lesley Griffiths AC||Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Ynni, Cynllunio a Materion Gwledig|
|Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau tri a phedwar||2. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for items three and four|
|5. Craffu ar Ysgrifennydd y Cabinet dros Ynni, Cynllunio a Materion Gwledig a Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd ar gyllideb ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru 2019-20||5. Scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Environment on the Welsh Government's draft budget 2019 - 20|
|6. Papurau i’w nodi||6. Papers to note|
|7. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 8||7. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for item 8|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle 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 y cyfarfod am 10:32.
The meeting began at 10:32.
Can I welcome Members to the meeting?
Croeso mawr i Llyr Gruffydd.
A big welcome to Llyr Gruffydd.
He has replaced Dai Lloyd as a permanent member of the committee. And can we thank Dai Lloyd for his contribution to the committee's work?
Can I remind people to set their mobile phones to silent and to turn off any other electronic equipment that may interfere with broadcasting equipment? Are there any declarations of interest?
We have no apologies or substitutions.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 3 a 4 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the meeting for items 3 and 4 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
So, can I move the motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for items 3 and 4? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:33.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:33.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 11:14.
The committee reconvened in public at 11:14.
Can I ask the Cabinet Secretary to introduce herself and her colleagues for the record? Then, if she's ready, we'll go straight on to questions.
Thank you, Chair. I'm Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs. To my right is Hannah Blythyn, the Minister for Environment. I'll let the officials introduce themselves.
Dean Medcraft, director of finance and operations, ESNR group.
Tim Render, director, environment and rural affairs.
Christianne Glossop, chief veterinary officer.
Thank you very much. I'll move on to the first question. The Welsh Government has published a definition of prevention in this year's draft budget. How have you used this definition and what has been the result?
Thank you. Well, there are a number of definitions of prevention that are currently being worked up. These are new criteria that have only been around for about a month. But, I think if you look at my portfolio anyway, so many areas of it are around prevention, if you think about flood prevention, air quality and carbon reduction. So, I think we've been doing that for a much longer time in our department than probably other portfolios across Government. So, whilst I think it's probably helped us identify areas of prevention, it's probably been more of an influence on us, because we've been doing it for such a long time. But I know officials have been working to look at the—. As I say, what it means is that they've been working with officials right across Government. One of the big changes I suppose around prevention, apart from the ones that I mentioned, was around the previous separate environment grants. So, we've brought several of these grants together under one new one—that's the enabling natural resources and well-being grant. So, I think probably that's an example of where we've been doing it more than previously.
I just wonder, Cabinet Secretary, whether you'd be able to point the committee towards anything in particular in the budget that is there because of the new focus on preventative spend that wouldn't otherwise have featured.
I think that probably the best example I can give you is bringing all those grants together under the one. I can't remember if you were on this committee this time last year, but certainly one of the recommendations that came from this committee, when I did budget scrutiny last year, was that we needed to tidy up quite a bit of our portfolio. So, we have done that. It is in light of those recent changes and the emerging evidence that we've done that with our environment grants. So, we had several ones for the third sector and for local authorities that we've now brought, as I say, in together, and I think that is because of the prevention agenda.
Yes, thank you. Good morning. I'd like to ask a couple of questions around agricultural policy and funding for some of those programmes. My initial question is around the independent review of the allocation of funding across the UK, which was announced by the UK Government recently. I'm just wondering how you're working with the UK Government to ensure that there is fair funding for Wales in future years.
Okay, thank you. Obviously, this is an area of great importance to me, because you'll be aware that we've just been out to consultation, and it's very hard to come forward with a policy when you don't know what funding you're getting. So, I think the announcement by the UK Government that they're having this agricultural allocation review is very welcome. We've been meeting as four, well, three Ministers and, obviously, Northern Ireland take part in the conversations as well. We've been having quadrilateral meetings since probably two months after the EU vote, and funding has been a constant on the agenda, because we just haven't had the clarity that we need that we will get the same amount of funding for agriculture that we've been having. So, that's over £300 million a year. We managed to get Liz Truss to phone in to one of the meetings and she announced that she would be having this review. Unfortunately, we weren't party to when the announcement was going to be made, so we've had no input into the scope of the review or the terms of reference, for instance. However, we have been asked to put forward a representative on that group and I'm considering that at the current time. Probably next week I will have to make an announcement in relation to that.
I think the announcement that it won't be Barnettised is very welcome. It's something that we've said all along it cannot be. We get 10 per cent of that funding at the moment. We didn't want to have a Barnett formula method of doing it, because that would only have been 5 per cent. So, I think that's very welcome. Again, Llyr will be very aware, as will other Members, that we were told that we would not lose a penny if we did come out of the European Union. I think it's very important that they stick to that, and that clearly forms part of our conversations.
And the scope of this inquiry is looking at a potential funding mechanism up until 2022, I think, isn't it? So, where are we in terms of thinking beyond that? I know it sounds a bit far away, but it'll be upon us in no time really and are you expecting that this will actually set some sort of precedent for post-2022 funding?
It's not far away at all. I mean, the years just whizz by, don't they? So, I think we certainly need to be looking up to 2027. I'm sure it will set a precedent, but we've had no assurance beyond 2022 at the current time. We've got the next quadrilateral meeting a week on Monday; it's actually in Cardiff, the next one. So, as I said, funding is always on the agenda, so it's something we can certainly raise with them.
Okay, thank you for that. Just on 'Brexit and our land' and that whole sort of agricultural policy landscape post Brexit, on what basis have you established that the portfolio will have sufficient resources to take on all of this work that's currently starting or in the pipeline? For example, you mention in 'Brexit and our land' that there will be a need for pilots and for funding to be allocated. Is there an allocation in next year's budget, for example, for that particularly?
I think that question's really hard to answer with some certainty, because there is just no clarity, as I say, on funding. So, you ask a specific question about a pilot scheme. I think the most important thing about pilot schemes is that we've got the powers to do it. So, I think it's been really important that we've taken transition and temporary powers from the UK Government's agricultural Bill. So, there are three things when you ask about resources: there's funding, there's staffing, and it's making sure we've got that statute book in place, because we are going to need to react very, very quickly. So, I think, on the three things, resources we will have to find—
But you will need to pilot in the next financial year, and you're saying you haven't got any specified allocation for that.
We haven't got any specified, but that money will be there because there is money for Brexit across Government, so we will need to find that money.
If that's needed. There is obviously some scope within our current budget—
There is some, but I don't know how much we are going to need, obviously, because, as I say, it's so uncertain—
Not specifically because I don't know what schemes we're going to have.
We will have to design the schemes, any pilots that we do, if we do any next year, and I think it's probably that—. We've always said that there is a transition and next year is essentially the same. We're still in the CAP for the first part of next year. It's essentially the same as now, so we will be able to build up pilots over the subsequent years. I think next year is probably more about designing what they look like based on some of the things that are already experimental, where we've got, say in the Brecon Beacons, groups of farmers working with the national park, working with Welsh Water around how they approach the whole of the landscape management in that area. In a sense, that is a pilot already that we are funding within the existing rural development programme. We're learning a lot of lessons from that. It's a model that may well work in a number of other areas. As we move forward into 2020, 2021, we'll be looking at other sorts of pilots that come through in those years, and we will have more flexibility in future budget years.
And I think then we would have to set aside specific funding for pilot schemes—
Although the aspiration is to start from 2020, isn't it, introducing some of these changes?
To start the change of bringing in some pilots in 2020—yes. But we've always said a slow gradual transition, certainly in the early years.
Okay. With that in mind and the emphasis that you're putting on the developmental work in the next financial year, you've put a great deal of emphasis on the need for modelling now, once you decide on which way you're going to go. Only yesterday you answered to me that there would be language impact assessments, and clearly the sector is very keen, as we all are, I think, to model all sort of potential impacts that changes of this magnitude would have on the sector, the rural economy and other aspects as well. But I see that your research and evaluation budget actually remains unchanged compared to this year—the £520,000. So, how will that additional modelling be accommodated within a budget that's flat?
That budget has remained unchanged because it's for two specific projects. So, you've got the farm business survey and FAPRI-UK, so there's enough funding to do that and the costs haven't changed, so that funding is specifically just for those two projects.
Ah, okay. So, where does the funding for the additional work that's required then for the modelling and the impact assessments around 'Brexit and our land'—where is that coming from?
From, in part, the work that is done under the farm business survey, which gives us a huge amount of the baseline data for those impact assessments. So, that is contributing some of that. FAPRI is a contract that we can specify what it does for us. So, we can use that to do some of the impact assessment work. A lot of it we can do in-house with our own resources. The existing evaluation and monitoring programme can do a lot of that impact assessment work. And part of our additional Brexit resources that we have been allocated will include more economists, statisticians and so on to be able to do much of that in-house. We may need to contract some of that out to academic bodies. We have funds within our general admin budget to be able to commission that work.
Okay, so, the farm business survey stuff you've already got. So, in fact, you could have used some of that prior to where we are now, really.
And FAPRI-UK has got some economic modelling within it as well. So, we can use that as well.
Okay. The reallocation of £1.6 million from the technical advice services into strategy and government relations—. Now, the technical advice services, of course, pays for the farm liaison service, Farming Connect and those kind of services. My understanding, and I think it's clear from what you have said previously as well, is that we will need more of those kinds of support services going into the new model that's being looked at. So, where is that coming from then? Is moving that money suggesting that there's going to be a fundamental change in who provides what at the moment in the next financial year?
No. No, this is just—. I referred to the advice I was given from this committee last year about tidying up. It's really just presentational. So, there's no direct investment implications. It's simply moving current spend commitments to another budget line for presentational purposes,
Okay. But, in relation to the additional work that will need to be provided and support provided to the sector and others around 'Brexit and our land', where would the budget for that come then?
Again, that goes back to what Tim was saying about the funding that we've—.
The specific £1.6 million here is, actually, money that's—. In a sense, within that technical advice services budget, it has always been used to fund the monitoring and modelling programme. So, it's not taking away from classic advice services. It's sort of—. Putting it in the right place in the budget, really, is how I would describe it.
It's changing the heading into a place where it properly should be. And that is one of the key bits of the evidence base for exactly what you've been calling for—that impact assessment work.
Yes, but am I right in believing that some of the technical advice services funding pays for Farming Connect and other advisory services? So, are you suggesting that part of that money is used for other things?
—£1.6 million was for funding the monitoring programme under a budget line called 'technical advice serivces'.
It's one of these tidying-up points that—. It probably wasn't described in the right way.
Okay, so where within your budget, then, in the next financial year, will you be funding for all these additional support services that the sector will require to adapt to 'Brexit and our land'?
Some of that comes from the money that's already there for Farming Connect, and a lot of what Farming Connect is doing is refocusing the type of advice that it gives. Some of that is, for instance, the support that has come from the EU transition fund—the cross-Welsh Government funding pot—for instance, for the red meat benchmarking survey. And some of the longer term issues of advice for new—. The new systems that we will put in place to deliver the vision in 'Brexit and our land'—we aren't at that stage yet. That's probably next financial year, not this financial year that that really starts to sink in.
But we're scrutinising next financial year's budget here, aren't we?
Yes, so we could realign RDP money, for instance. But, as Tim said, FLO and Farming Connect are, obviously, within the budget and there's funding for that.
But the additional work that you just mentioned, which will come online in the next financial year—we are scrutinising the next financial year's draft budget here. So, where in this budget—? Or are you just saying, 'There's a little bit from here, a little bit from there'?
It's largely coming by a sense of Farming Connect refocusing some of what it does into those to respond to those slightly different questions that people will be asking them.
And is a slight refocus of Farming Connect sufficient to actually support the sector in the huge transition that it's facing over the next couple of years?
Well, I think it is about—. You know, we haven't got extra funding to be able to put as much funding into areas that we would want to, but I think it's about doing things differently, isn't it? So, I think there is enough funding there, but, obviously, as we go into the next year, as we go into that long transition period, we can realign funding if needed.
I want to move us on to bovine TB, and you did mention, Cabinet Secretary, at the last committee, that you expect a vaccination programme to restart once the vaccine becomes available again, and you did say that might be later this year. So, in light of that statement, do you have any immediate plans to introduce a badger vaccination programme, assuming that that vaccine is now available?
We have had access to some vaccine—certainly not in the way it was previously when we had the five-year plan that you'll be aware of, when we used vaccination. So, there are no plans to introduce a fully-funded, wholesale vaccination programme. What we have done—because we've had some access to vaccine this year, we have made funding available to fund some parts of Wales to have vaccination. So, one of the pilot schemes I am funding is the Gower badger vaccination project, which is a collaboration of farmers, the National Trust and wildlife groups to do some vaccination there. So, I know there is work being undertaken at the moment—so they've been doing sett surveys, for instance—but we have made funding available for there. But we haven't got the plans to—. I don't think there's that much vaccine available to do a whole, fully-funded vaccination project like we did have when we started that five-year one. I don't know if anyone wants to say anything else.
Yes. So, this project on Gower is a great example of collaborative working, actually, with farmers, vets, wildlife groups and the National Trust working together, and they've worked together over a number of years—you may know that already—on biosecurity and best practice. They then conducted a sett survey of pretty much—I think it's something like 80 per cent of Gower, which is fantastic. They did that because they couldn't access vaccine. So, they carried on with that work, but, as the Cabinet Secretary says, we now have been able to purchase vaccine, so it's there, ready, and now they're revving up ready to start vaccinating. I doubt that'll happen this year now, because, obviously, we're getting into the shorter days and badgers are less active, but they're working really closely together to make plans for next year, and we'll be providing the vaccine to them—we'll be paying for that—and also putting some additional funding in to help support that project, but they will need other funding, so they're seeking other sources in a very imaginative way at the moment. And the work won't just be about vaccinating badgers. It'll be about working together on the cattle side as well. So, it's a really good example of collaboration.
Before I call Joyce Watson back in, can you clarify what you mean by 'Gower'? Because there's the Gower constituency, the Gower council ward and the Gower peninsula.
I mean the Gower peninsula, and, if you think about it, it's the perfect place to pilot a piece of work because it's pretty much an island when it comes to farming.
No, it's just for clarification, because the word 'Gower' is used in lots of other things. Sorry. Joyce Watson.
I agree with that, that it's the perfect place to pilot, but we were already doing—. We had a programme in place in north Pembrokeshire, which was a hotspot for TB. So, I'm a little bit—. Whilst I welcome that—and I really do welcome it—I'm a bit surprised that we're not looking at going back where we'd already identified some programmes that were there in a particular hotspot. So, I'd like some comments on that, and I'd also—because you mentioned cattle—like some comments about whether the cap on compensation that was paid to farmers for slaughter due to bovine TB has had any beneficial impact since its introduction and whether that cap will be continuing into the following year's budget.
So, we introduced the cap when we brought forward the refreshed TB eradication programme. In October last year we reduced the cap to £5,000, and, whilst it wasn't done to particularly save money, clearly we do need to save money, particularly in this area, because you'll be aware that—is it 10 per cent of the funding for the TB eradication programme comes from the EU? So, because we haven't got any clarity, I am looking at other ways of saving money. You may be aware that I made an announcement a couple of weeks ago around having more checks around cattle that were in calf. We had some proof that perhaps the cows weren't in calf when the claims were made. So, again, we are—I'm looking at areas in relation to TB eradication where we can save funding. So, as I say, although the primary aim of bringing that cap in wasn't to save money, we have saved about £200,000. But I think we did need to protect ourselves against the cost of compensating for the very highest value animals. So, that was why we did that, so I can say that we have saved—we're hoping to have saved about £200,000. But we haven't got the data for this year because we're looking at it on a whole-year basis, so I'm going to make a statement in the spring of next year and I'll be able to give you the final figure there.
Compensation will continue to be done at that level, but, again, when we have the data for the whole year and I make the statement next spring it could be that we could look to changing it. I think we should pay a reasonable compensation sum for cattle that have to be slaughtered; I'm absolutely committed to doing that, but I think it's got to be fair on both sides. It's got to be fair to the farmer and it's got to be fair to the taxpayer as well.
In relation to what you were asking about Pembrokeshire, Christianne and I have just spoken about the Gower project, but there is funding available should anybody else want to apply for that funding. There is some funding available within that programme if individuals want to vaccinate badgers.
And indeed some people are. So, this year, I can tell you that 16.88 sq km of Wales—it's only a small amount—the badgers on that land were vaccinated across six different small projects, where we put in some of the funding but then—. And indeed some of these areas are farmers, and they've paid the rest of the money. So, although it's small scale, that's been working pretty well, and it's helping to make our money go further if we co-fund.
Can I pick up the point on the intensive action area, because you sort of commented on the fact that we did vaccinate there for four years? I can tell you that from quarter 1 of 2014 to quarter 2 of 2018—and that's the latest we have figures available—the prevalence of TB in that area reduced by 50 per cent. Now, that wasn't just, I believe, because of vaccination, because we were applying other measures, but that's an example of where we've derived a real benefit. We're seeking to maintain that benefit and we don't believe, through modelling or our previous experience, that we do need to carry on vaccinating in that area while we continue to deliver the cattle measures. So, there really was a benefit; it was a very worthwhile exercise and we did learn a lot of things along the way.
Just very briefly, given the cost of the vaccine and that there was a shortage, is it more expensive to buy now?
Yes, it is.
So, that'll have an impact, really, on how much vaccine you can purchase within the budget that you've allocated for next year.
Yes. The vaccine cost—I can't remember the exact price, but it is higher this year, but, actually, the big cost of vaccinating badgers isn't the cost of the dose, it's the cost of catching them and all the field activity.
Yes. I think it's obviously very disappointing that farmers would have claimed for cows as being in calf when in fact they weren't, and obviously an amount of public money has been wrongly paid and will not be recovered as far as that's concerned.
I just wondered: could you say anything about the general scheme in Wales compared to England now? Because I think that, traditionally, we've been rather more generous to farmers in compensating for cattle loss to bovine TB than was the case in England and probably than is the case in England, and the cap's been brought down now for individual cattle but, nonetheless, is our system still rather more generous to farmers in Wales than their counterparts in England?
I should probably say that not all the cases would have been fraudulent. For instance, cattle can obviously miscarry in between the claim coming in. So, I'm not saying that they were all fraudulent, but I wanted to protect the taxpayer from such claims. But just to be clear, I wasn't saying that that was the case.
Certainly, when we looked at refreshing the TB eradication programme last year, it was very clear that we were more generous and I think the steps that we took—and the compensation cap was certainly one of them—brought us more in line. I don't know if Christianne can say anything specific about England.
Well, of course, England has a table valuation system based on market prices and then calculating an average for each category of animal. So, basically, no animal at all is valued correctly, because no animal is average—some are overvalued, some are undervalued—and I think, over the years, here in Wales, what we've tried to do is make sure that we have an accurate valuation system providing the farmer with the market value of that animal. That's what we've done over many years. Yes, we do pay more compensation per animal than England does. We have a really interesting situation with farmers on the border that might have a test in England, but then they wish they'd pushed their animals over the border to get them valued. So, we do have a bit of that to keep an eye on, but we do believe that what we're doing is paying a fair market price for those animals.
And I would add that I think our view is that it's better to use the compensation system to help drive or incentivise good behaviours. So, things we have done over the years, as you'll probably realise, is that if there's an illegal movement of cattle onto a farm that has TB, then the compensation for any of those animals that go down with TB is reduced. And we continue to develop our thinking in that area so that the compensation is not incentivising bad behaviour, but it is paying a fair price for farmers that are totally fitting in with all our difficult requirements.
Can I just ask you how you deal with cross-border issues? As I discovered from being a member of the Finance Committee when we were looking at land transaction tax, there's an awful lot of land ownership that goes across the border. If it's financially advantageous for somebody who is farming cross-border to have their cattle valued in Wales rather than in England, isn't there a danger that we will actually be paying for cattle that are living somewhere else?
Yes, so, the legal advice that we've received is that the compensation payable relates to the country in which the test was carried out. So, we obviously need to make a note of where the test was carried out, and if if was carried out in England, we probably didn't commission that test even, but then it's not possible, legally, for the farmer to move the animal into Wales to have it valued. Now, of course, a farmer who has land on both sides of the border might choose to have all his tests carried out in Wales and there's absolutely nothing we can do about that. That border has all kinds of challenges, doesn't it, when it comes, from my perspective, to disease control, but many other factors as well. But it has taken a bit of ironing out, I must admit.
Thanks, Chair. Your department has got an ambitious programme of work at the moment, including a Welsh fisheries Bill and the first Welsh national marine plan. Are you satisfied that you've got sufficient funding to deliver all of this?
And Brexit as well. Yes, certainly since I've been in post over the last two and a half years, we've increased funding to the fisheries department and we are always looking to add extra resources. Just this morning I had a conversation about extra resources in the fisheries department with Tim.
You're quite right that we have got a very ambitious programme there, and I have made additional funding available form next year's budget to support the marine plan implementation. The draft marine plan was a very important piece of work that I think had been put on the backburner for too long, so it was something I made a priority when I came into portfolio. Unfortunately, Brexit did happen, and it hasn't moved as quickly as I would've wanted it to, but we have been out to consultation now. We are trying to finalise that soon.
I think the focus for marine planning will need to shift from developing capability in the discipline of marine planning and plan development, to make sure that we do have that implementation. So, we are having a transition to a new marine planning authority, and I think that will really help with the decisions that we are going to have to take in relation to our seas. Again, we're going to have to have public authorities taking decisions. They will need training, so part of that additional funding will be to help with awareness raising and training. I'm going to consult on Brexit and our seas next year. You'll see a bit of a similarity to 'Brexit and our land', but we will obviously be consulting early next year on Brexit and our seas, and that will then influence the Welsh fisheries policy that we'll need post Brexit. Again, once we go out to consultatio—it's like 'Brexit and our land'—we'll have to consider a lot of financial implications that come from that.
We've also had, last year, or maybe even the year before—I'm looking at Dean—about £6.5 million for our new fishing enforcement vessels. I've launched the first one, the 'Rhodri Morgan'. It's going to be launched, hopefully, later this month. Again, we've put in increased funding there to make sure those vessels are out at sea far more than the old ones have been able to do, because they're very modern and so they're going to be able to stay out at sea much longer than the older ones, but also, again, post Brexit, we're probably going to have to have more enforcement initially.
Thanks. How will you prioritise work within the fisheries operation branch?
So, I just mentioned that we'll be increasing the number of days that we're out at sea. So, I've made £600,000 available for that. I mentioned that I think sea-based enforcement risk probably will rise. Maybe I'm being a bit pessimistic, but I think it will. So, I'm really pleased that the new vessels have come online at this time, ahead of leaving the European Union, because it's quite prescient, really, that we got them when we did.
Can I ask you a question about dealing with the scraping of the sea bed? That's a matter that concerns me and, I know, several other Members here greatly. People go scraping the sea bed for mussels or whatever, and they then do a huge amount of ecological damage. Are you in a position to actually deal with that?
We are. Obviously we've had the enforcement vessels and the people who staff them, but I personally, when I came into portfolio, didn't think they were fit for purpose. I remember going on one of them and thinking, 'Well, I wouldn't want to spend four days and nights on here'. I think it's really important that we've got a fit-for-purpose fleet, and with the five new vessels, I think—yes—that are coming into operation now, I think we are certainly in a much better position than we were.
I'd written down 'scallop dredging in Cardigan bay'. We did have a moratorium on that, which has been lifted. There is emerging evidence that even though that is the case, it's not holding up, quite frankly—that people are moving in and out. My question to you is that, with all the evidence that's coming out in terms of dredging and the harm that is happening to the sea bed, it might be a really good opportunity to stop it altogether in all its forms, because the environmental damage greatly outweighs any advantage whatsoever. So, my question to you is whether you will consider doing that, so that we do have some future for the seas in Wales.
So, when I lifted that moratorium I did it on science and evidence that I was given from the piece of research that had been undertaken at Bangor University. That piece of research, I think, if I remember rightly—and I'm dragging this from the back of my mind—was two years in the making. At that time, it was deemed to be very advanced scientific evidence. Obviously, we are looking at environmental impacts and the science continually. If something should be brought to me that says that that would be the case, then we would have to revisit it. I'd be very happy to speak to my officials and, perhaps, write either to the committee or to you, Joyce, on the back of that. But I know, when I took the decision, the scientific evidence I was given was very robust.
Because Joyce isn't the only one who has serious concerns.
Okay. Moving on to environmental governance, John, do you want to start?
Yes. Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd. Cabinet Secretary, in terms of the environmental governance, obviously Brexit is looming very near on the horizon at the moment and UK Government is taking forward legislation, but, as I understand it, it's unclear as to whether any new governance body to ensure proper protection of the environment would be on a UK-wide basis or an England-and-Wales basis, or an England-only basis. I just wonder whether there's any greater clarity on that, because, obviously, if there will be a need to set up a Wales-only governance body, then that's going to involve some cost. I just wonder where we are with these matters and whether you've identified—. I know you said that it's difficult to detail any costs at the moment, but have you set aside a sum of money for contingencies, as it were?
I think the most important message to put out around environmental standards and principles is that there won't be any regression. I think, certainly, a lot of people thought that if we came out of Europe, then, because some members of the UK Parliament had said that that would be a benefit, standards could slip. I absolutely don't agree with that and, if anything, I think it gives us an opportunity to strengthen the environmental standards. I think we're in a very different position to England. We've got the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 and we've got the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and, talking about being prescient, I think to have brought those pieces of legislation in has put us on a very good footing.
So, as I say, we are in a different place. It also means that the gap will be different and those are discussions that I've certainly had at a quadrilateral level, and I think all the other countries in the UK have said there is a lot they can learn from us. So, how we address those gaps is not something that can be easily achieved quickly. There is considerable work being undertaken. Again, I haven't put a specific amount of funding available at the current time. We will be publishing a consultation at the end of this month. So, we need to have a look at what comes back and then, again, it's about looking for a slot to legislate, because, again, we'll need legislation. But, of course, we have got the principles of the environment Act there already to protect us in a way that the other countries haven't.
Is there a danger, though, that there might be a gap in time in terms of Brexit happening and us not having a distinct new body in place to provide that necessary governance?
I don't think so, because of the legislation that we already have in place, but what I am doing is looking at—. So, if we were to set up a new body, we could look at the model of the future generations commissioner's office. I think that would be a good basis, a good comparison to have a look at. But, again, as you say, it will cost. But I think because we've got that legislation there, there won't be the gaps that there will be in other countries. So, I'm not as worried as they are.
In terms of the cost, though, if it was to happen, if we were to set up or decide to set up a separate body, would the funding be there to establish that? We don't know how much, but—
No, it is really difficult. I haven't got unallocated funds sloshing around. There's no point even pretending that any part of Government has got that; we haven't. So, you have to look at the funding that is not legally committed and see if you can move that or realign it, but I haven't got specific funding at the moment, because it is just so uncertain. As I say, unfortunately I'm not in a position where I've got unallocated funding.
Or there are opportunities for us to go to the European transition fund held by the Cabinet Secretary for Finance.
Yes. I think the first thing I want to say on flooding is that over the years, Welsh Government has invested significantly in flood defence and, as a consequence, we haven't seen the same levels of damage that we might have seen had that not been the case. So, that's the first thing that I want to say. Nonetheless, with weather patterns changing and more likely to change in the direction of very, very heavy downpours causing risk to property, I want to ask the Minister whether you are confident that the communities and businesses and the infrastructure that might be affected by that change will be protected from the flood and coastal erosion risk, given the pressure on Natural Resources Wales and local government operating budgets.
Thanks. I think you're right to recognise the investment, and whilst I think it's impossible to fully protect every community against flooding and coastal erosion, we have seen in recent years how our investment in flooding infrastructure has stood up well in the face of some challenging events. We will have invested nearly £151 million capital investment by the end of the lifetime of this Government.
The way our national flood programme works is to prioritise investment in those areas that we know are most at risk, and we work collaboratively not just with NRW and local authorities, but the communities themselves. It's really important, as we've seen from examples of programmes that we've had recently, actually having the community involved and community buy-in, because it is very difficult to communicate flood risk to people. I think it's actually having that awareness, particularly if you're looking at a community, perhaps, that—. We're looking ahead. We're taking in the various factors, so it could be, 'Has this community flooded before?', and also the impact of climate change and changing weather patterns as well. So, it's absolutely essential that we work with communities.
There's always scope to do more. The risk isn't static, which is why we're always keen to review and to assess what we're doing, and to work with NRW as one of our partners, but also in terms of making sure that we prioritise our investment in those areas that we know from our criteria are most at risk.
We'd be interested to know how the preventative spend is calculated against the cost-benefit analysis. So, if you spend x amount on prevention and you make x amount of savings, how that is actually calculated might be useful for us to know.
We're all well aware that flooding and coastal erosion leads to not just an economic impact, but it has social costs including harm to people, damaged property, infrastructure and, of course, our environment. The benefits of our flood and coastal risk management are calculated by evaluating how much of these social costs are avoided by implementing the scheme, as you said. I'm happy to write to the committee with more of the technical detail in terms of how this is calculated, but just as a slight overview, the risk of flooding and erosion is modelled in order to understand when and where incidents occur, and we'll also look at the social costs associated with the incidents, and they're evaluated over the lifetime of the scheme, so, say, 100 years. For example, a successful scheme may cost in the region of £1 million to implement, but avoid £8 million of social cost during its design life.
But, of course, there are other aspects and broader benefits that are very difficult to calculate in that way, and they're the well-being benefits. I've seen it for myself when I've visited communities at risk or that have had a recent flood incident. The well-being benefits are in terms of being able to provide reassurance for people who have been at risk of flooding for the future, to put those defence measures into place for their peace of mind. That well-being aspect, of course, is something that we always need to take into account, and why this is priority work for us. But it's one of those things that, in terms of a scientific way, is very difficult for us to calculate in terms of hard figures.
I think there are also, if I can just say around flooding, opportunities to look at flood prevention, not just about concrete. Obviously, I don't want to pre-empt the consultation that's just finished on 'Brexit and our land', but certainly in the public goods scheme that we're proposing—. You know, I've a probably read a couple of hundred of the responses now, and that’s an area where I think we can be looking more at doing things differently and making sure that we get the public goods that we need for Wales.
We are also aware, from examples that we’ve seen in recent years, that, first and foremost, the principle of the flood prevention scheme is to prevent flooding and to bring in those mitigation measures, but done in the right way, and with the community and stakeholders, we can also see actually it can bring in broader benefits. So, you’re seeing in Colwyn Bay where it’s helped rejuvenate the local economy in terms of tourism. I recently had the privilege to open earlier this year the St Asaph new flood defences following those tragic events there in 2012, and you could see how the local community were there, and they were really, you know—they commented on how it placed new walkways for them, new green space, so it actually contributed to the community in regeneration and other areas as well.
Yes. I just wondered, in terms of getting greater investment into flood defences, to what extent we look to other big players, as it were, in Wales to perhaps contribute money when it’s protecting their assets—whether it’s Network Rail, or Welsh Water, the local authorities and, I guess to some extent, possibly some private companies. Are we drawing on all those possible sources to the maximum extent to get better flood defences in Wales?
We are. Clearly, there are always ways we can build on that and look at more innovative ways of how we approach things. But if you look at—. We're looking at coastal defence funding, and the current model is that the Welsh Government provides 75 per cent and then, through agreement with the Welsh Local Government Association, there's another 25 per cent that has to be found, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be done by the local authority alone; that can be working with stakeholders such as Dŵr Cymru, Network Rail, as you mentioned. So, there are those structures in place, but, absolutely, as we go forward and there are more pressures on resources, then we're always keen to look at more innovative ways of doing that, and that links in in terms of the whole stakeholder and community involvement as well.
Can I say, many years ago, I used to serve on the flood defence committee for west Wales? And we spent an awful lot of money on putting concrete in, and all that did was to move the flooding. If I could talk about two rivers, the Towy and the Tawe, the Tawe, which is in Swansea, you’ve got a floodplain, it floods, the water comes down, creates lakes, and then it drains off afterwards. The Towy regularly floods people, and I don’t see why more of the money is not being spent on finding places that you could flood, where you’re not going to create damage, but just letting the water keep on coming down, because if it keeps on coming down, at some stage, it’s going to spill over, and it might be in the middle of Carmarthen. But to get there, it’s gone past loads of land that could be flooded without damaging houses or people.
I mentioned that I do think there are opportunities in relation to the public goods scheme that we're proposing in ‘Brexit and our land’ to look at more flood prevention that’s not just concrete. So, as I say, I can’t pre-empt the consultation, but, certainly, there are ideas and views coming forward in relation to that. So, it’s certainly something that we can continue to look at.
Okay. Thank you. If we move on, to continue with our environment, air quality, Jayne.
In terms of air quality, there are impacts on a number of Welsh Government departments, I guess most obviously health, but the economy, infrastructure and, of course, the environment. So, I just wonder, really, to what extent you’ve worked collaboratively with other Welsh Government Cabinet Secretaries and departments to properly improve circumstances in Wales.
Yes. Thank you. Air quality is a cross-Government priority, as agreed by Cabinet, and you’re absolutely right to say how it impacts across Government departments. And the other way of approaching that, actually, is that I lead on that, and it’s led on as an environmental issue, but many of the levers to tackle poor air quality fall within different departments and different areas. You’ve mentioned a few key ones, and, as I say, the key work at the moment we’re doing is within transport and infrastructure and also with health.
Our clean air zone framework for Wales is being developed with policy advice from a number of Welsh Government departments, and that includes planning, transport and health, and there's work going on at both an official level and a ministerial level. The focus has been in terms of actually looking—we’ve had a number of strands of work occurring at the moment. There’s the nitrogen dioxide supplemental plan, following the court undertaking to publish this by 30 November, which is involving a lot of work between both the air quality team and network management to make sure that we're able to get to where we need to be. We've also established a clean air programme for Wales to consider evidence and develop actions across all Government to reduce emissions and deliver on our ambitions to tackle poor air quality. Next year, and in line with that, we hope to publish a clean air plan for Wales that will further identify those cross-Government and sectorial actions that we need in the different areas of Government to collaborate on and to work to actually tackle poor air quality.
At the moment, a couple of examples of what's happening, I'm happy to share this, there's a document myself and the Cabinet Secretary for health and the chief executive of Public Health Wales all worked on and provided a foreword for, and that's how we work together to reduce air pollution risks and inequalities. This is guidance to support policy and practice across NHS Wales. As I say, there's a lot of close working going on between myself and the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, not just in terms of our nitrogen dioxide plan, but also actually updating our short-term action plan in relation to Port Talbot.
Just in terms of transport, I think it is key to this area, really, isn't it, in terms of human health, for example. Electric cars, I'm told by people who know a lot more about it than I do, are not going to deal with the health issues. In fact, they may present new challenges because they're heavier vehicles and a lot of the particulate matter that can work its way deep into our lungs comes from brakes and tyres, so it's not about emissions. So, there are going to be ongoing challenges. So, in terms of the budget and the transport department and perhaps making that modal shift that we've been talking about for a long time from car and other vehicle use to public transport, is there enough resource there to make that shift, which obviously is a big challenge in so many ways?
Within our own portfolio, we have the £20 million clean air fund towards helping with this. However, I think you're quite right, actually, it requires a modal shift in terms of the transport we use and public transport as well in terms of investment. That's why, in terms of actually how we allocate funding and how that works, hopefully the clean air plan and our programme will identify those actions, then we will need to look at how funding from various departments is allocated against those actions as well.
Thank you, I'm on Natural Resources Wales. The revenue and capital have been cut from NRW, and it's received a number of additional obligations over recent years. After last year's budget scrutiny, the committee was concerned about the difference of opinion between NRW and Welsh Government about the impact of reduction of funding. Are you confident that NRW can continue to carry out its statutory obligations and maintain current service levels given the continued reduction in its budgets?
Thank you. I do understand there were some concerns, because, unfortunately, NRW's budget has had to be cut in line with many cuts that I've had to do across the portfolio. Just before we came to committee, Hannah and I met with the new interim chair of NRW and the newish chief executive. This was obviously something we discussed, and I know officials have had to work very hard with NRW to make sure that they do obviously fulfil their statutory obligations and that they can continue to be met. Certainly, at the moment, I am confident that that's the case.
There have clearly been several issues around NRW. This was three organisations coming into one, it was always going to have teething problems, but obviously we've had some issues around governance. I'm very confident now with the new interim chair, and we've just brought in five new board members, I was very pleased to hear the skills that they have, they're being put to very good use. There's been some restructuring going on. Obviously, the organisation itself is being remodelled and restructured.
So, whilst I appreciate of course it's difficult when you've had your budget cut, I am confident they can fulfil their statutory obligations. We're also working with them to make sure that they can access opportunities to bring extra funding in. Just yesterday, in questions, you may have heard me say that they get £1 million a year on rod licences, for instance. So, it's not just—I know we give them obviously significant core funding, but they are also accessing funding from other places as well.
At what point do you think any budget reductions become unsustainable, if further reductions are made in future years?
Well, I think it's about making sure that doesn't happen and about working with them to make sure that the design of the organisation reflects what they need to do. And, as I say, that's work that's currently being undertaken, and I just mentioned about them increasing their income.
Certainly, I think NRW are very well prepared for this now in a way perhaps they weren't before. For instance, the chief exec mentioned this morning that they're recruiting a head of commercial services to help them look at ways of bringing in additional funding. So, they are having to do things differently, of course they are, but they are doing that in a way that I think will help them ensure that their budget is sufficient. But it's something that I'm constantly monitoring.
They've taken—I think it's 5 per cent in the last two years now, so I know that is a big hit. But, unfortunately, we're all having to redesign and restructure and do things differently.
One of the points that they made, and their main concern, was that the capital allocation is only £0.8 million against a need for over £5 million. Is there anything you could say in response to that?
Yes. This was, I think, around the new responsibilities they've had in relation to reservoirs. So, as often happens, they've had to take responsibilities on from the UK Government, but the funding hasn't followed. So, we've certainly made representations to the Treasury, because I think—you know, you need additional funding. When we have additional responsibilities or powers, we need the additional funding. So, again, I am looking specifically at their capital, because I am aware of this problem that they've got. But also I think we do need to make sure we get some extra funding from the UK Government.
You also mentioned about doing things a bit differently or perhaps—which we haven't mentioned— not at all. Which activities do you think NRW are considering to not deliver in the future?
So, I know officials are having discussions with NRW about this, because it could be that they have to decide there are some things they're going to have to stop. Again, we're all having to do this. These are very difficult and complex discussions that we're all having to undertake. So, I know at an official level that's been done. However, they have statutory responsibilities. I expect that the funding we give them is enough for them to fulfil the statutory responsibilities and, certainly, after the discussion that we just had this morning, I'm confident that that's the case.
Chair, could I—because it's directly on this—come in briefly at this stage?
In terms of doing things differently, I think one thing that has helped with NRW's budget over the years has been some of the renewable energy projects in forestry, for example, and there have been some good collaborative schemes. But I know there were ideas that it might be possible to take forward schemes that all the income from went to NRW, with their new model of organisation that allowed for that. I just wondered—you know, given that NRW has quite a lot of land and forestry, and we want to forge ahead with renewable energy in Wales in any event, it could be a win-win-win situation, as it were. And I wondered if we're getting to that stage where the benefit of the energy generation would come directly into the public coffers.
I wasn't quite sure. Yes, those discussions are, obviously, ongoing and, as I said, officials are working very closely with NRW in relation to that and making sure that they can keep much more of the funding for things that they're doing. So, for instance, I know when—. I'm trying to think now, was it last year? I think it was last year, around Wales Rally GB, we made sure that they could access more funding that, previously, they'd had to give back. So, I think it is just about working very closely with them to make sure they are looking at every opportunity. I'm very pleased that they've got a head of commercial services being recruited, because, again, I think that's just looking at different ways. And talking to Clare Pillman this morning, she's very, very keen on schemes like forestry. She's bringing forward plans for a centenary forest to celebrate the— woodlands Act? I can't think now.
It was the Act post first world war—in 1919, there was the Forestry Act 1919.
Yes, the Forestry Act. So, they are looking for ways of bringing funding in in imaginative ways.
Well, perhaps they could not only use imaginative ways, but perhaps try and maximise their income from forestry, which hasn't seemed to be a priority, leaving aside the fact they've had their accounts not accepted by the auditor general for three consecutive years. I was at the Public Accounts Committee when it was said, 'We have to sell this to this company, because, if we don't, the price of wood would go up.' I would have thought that, if you are a forestry organisation, the price of wood going up would be a good thing, not something you want to keep artificially low.
Well, again, we obviously had a discussion around timber this morning, and I'm very pleased at the way the chief executive and the interim chair are now dealing with this issue.
This is groundhog day, really, isn't it? I was a member of this committee in the last Assembly, and the then chair Peter Matthews and the then chief executive were telling us and leaving us in no doubt that any further cuts would mean that there would be serious implications for their services; any additional duties or requirements on their behalf would have to come with the associated additional resources. Since then, of course, we've had the environment Act, which has ramped up a lot of pressure on the organisation, we've had the Planning (Wales) Act 2015, we've had the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and, in the last five years, they've seen a drop of £14 million per annum in their budget. At what point does Natural Resources Wales grind to a dysfunctional halt? Because that isn't sustainable, is it?
Well, we're making sure that doesn't happen, and, as I answered in previous questions, I absolutely acknowledge they've had some significant financial pressures from recurrent budget reductions. We work very closely. I meet with the chair and the chief exec quarterly. I think you meet with them monthly. Officials work very closely to make sure that doesn't happen, because I'm very aware that we've put more and more pressures on. They've been subject to an increase in legislative requirements, as you've just described. At the moment, I'm confident that they are managing their budget in a way that ensures that they fulfil all their statutory responsibilities and that they are looking for new and imaginative ways to increase the funding.
So, would you be able to say—and I fear that maybe you wouldn't—that, if they are given any additional duties from now on, you recognise that they would need resources? Otherwise, what is there left to cut?
Yes. I think, if we put further requirements on them, we would have to look very carefully at how they would fund them.
I understand that NRW are also hoping to submit a business case to the Government early next year to 'properly fund'—their words—the implementation of the well-being of future generations Act and the environment Act in 2020-21. If they're saying that they need that in order to 'properly fund', does that suggest that it currently isn't properly funded?
Well, I haven't had that discussion with them—I don't know if Hannah has—so I couldn't answer that question.
So, you wouldn't be in a position, either, to recognise that if they felt that they needed additional funds that you would meet that requirement.
Okay, and, in terms of the report that you provided to the committee in June about the organisation redesign, which was still under way, there was reference earlier to the possibility of identifying activities that might need to be delivered differently, and other activities delivered more slowly or not all. You've been asked which aspects may be delivered not at all, but, in terms of delivering more slowly, we're now therefore seeing, are we, an effect of these cuts in relation to the performance of NRW and meeting, maybe, the fair expectations of stakeholders in terms of the way that it processes things such as environmental permitting. Because I have constituents getting in touch with me concerned about maybe the extended time that some of these decisions are taking, and there's an explicit recognition here that, actually, you may have to accept that some of those slow decisions take even longer.
I think there is certainly—. What we spoke about this morning was about a perception, and I think— even if that isn't happening, I think there's a perception that that is happening. So, one of the conversations we had with the chair and chief exec this morning was around resources—people resources, now—and I was very pleased to hear from the chief exec that they are looking to bring in I think it was 30 or 40 extra—
And 30 were permanent, weren't they? So, extra jobs to help with areas that they were obviously having some difficulty with.
—which means that money has to be taken from somewhere else, clearly.
—doing things differently, and it's their decision, yes. So, I was very pleased to hear that was the case this morning.
Thank you. If I can carry on the theme of the need for more money—Brexit legislation: have you got sufficient funds to meet the requirements to introduce Brexit legislation throughout the financial year and to deal with what could be a substantial volume of statutory instruments?
I've already had a significant number. Just last night, after Plenary, I spent an extra hour in my office dealing with another tranche of SIs and, I guess, an official had spent extra time yesterday in their office making sure they were there for me to sign. So, it's just huge—the extra legislation and the requirements for my portfolio are really significant. I have to say, I've got no—I mentioned before—unallocated funds, so I can't even pretend I have. So, if we have unforeseen circumstances—. However, I think the portfolio has done very well from the EU transition fund. I think I've had about just under, probably, £6.5 million for a variety of projects, which will really help. In relation to staff resources—and I'm going to say it again—the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have had an extra 1,300 officials. I had an extra 44, which, initially, I found out of my own budget. I now—you'll be aware, right across Government, we're having an extra, I think it's just under 200 million—oh, 200 million; 200 people, sorry. If only. [Laughter.] Two hundred people across Government. Again, because my portfolio is the one that's mostly affected by Brexit, I'm having probably 144 of those people. We should start seeing them coming into the department in the next couple of months because we will need, obviously, more bodies to help us with the amount of legislation we're going to have to deal with. So, obviously, there's specific funding as well that the Cabinet Secretary for Finance allocates, but, as I say, I'm very pleased with the additional funding we've had from the EU transition fund because I think that will really help in certain areas of the portfolio.
Can I continue on that? The legislative consent motion for fisheries—when are you expecting that?
Yes. It was laid last week, wasn't it, or was it the week before? It might have been the week before, actually. Yes. I can't give you the specific date, but—.
Thanks. You've mentioned, Cabinet Secretary, about the Brexit issue a couple of times, and obviously it's a big issue for your department as far as resources are concerned, and you were just talking about that, but are there any particular examples of work that has been put on hold as a result of the Brexit stuff?
So, there's certainly work that's been delayed. So, for instance, I can think of one particular fisheries Order that we haven't been able to move along as quickly as I would have wanted to. I know, on Hannah's side, there are some regulations that we need to implement as Part 4 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 that we haven't been able to do as quickly as possible. And that is because—you know, I mentioned—. SIs are a classic example. So, we're having to fit in with a DEFRA timetable, and we met that. Over the summer—you know, normally, recess, you do get a bit of time to work on other things, but they were just coming through so thick and fast; I think we had about 100 over August and September. We had to fit in with the DEFRA timetable. We delivered: every time we were asked to do something, officials delivered it. So, there are bound to be things that are delayed. I wouldn't say that we've had to postpone anything or stop anything, but, clearly, it is having an impact on our ability to move things as quickly; the fisheries Order is something that springs to mind straight away.
The next question: you've probably covered a lot of it, but are there any particular areas—with your new staff, the Brexit posts, are there any particular areas that the staff have been recruited from? And, again, how will their training and their induction impact on other responsibilities of the department, if you've got anything to add on that point?
Yes. What sort of specialities have they got? What kind of areas are they being recruited from?
Oh, right. So, the 44 that came in that I found the funding for, they're mainly young, I would say, postgraduate students.
We recruited from a mix of places. We've had some who have been transfers within Welsh Government, some where we have seconded people in from other Government departments and other agencies within Wales or close by; we have done some external recruitment—we've just brought in, as the Cabinet Secretary was just referring to, 28 interns who are mostly very young, recent graduates. For the 144 additional staff that we are looking to bring in immediately now, some of those are coming from within Welsh Government with a significant reprioritisation of people within the organisation overall and some are coming from other Government departments. We're also about to launch a substantial external recruitment. Many of those, in terms of the skills that you were asking about, are classic generalist civil servants, but we are bringing in some specific experts. I know that the chief veterinary's office has brought in a couple of new vets, we've got some economists and I've got three adverts out at the moment for fisheries scientists—a very, very specific skill set. So, we're tapping a whole range of different sources, basically.
Training and induction—yes, we're spending quite a lot of time on that. There is a management overhead of that; it takes managers to train new people how to do things. We've got a programme across Welsh Government to manage that induction, to manage that training and support people. But what we're finding is, obviously, if you're bringing people in from within the Welsh Government or other Government departments, they broadly know what they're doing, they've just got to learn about the subject. When you're bringing people in from outside, they have to learn what a Cabinet Secretary is, what a committee is, what an Assembly question is. So, we've got that basic process training running in parallel as well.
And I have to say, the induction scheme we have in the department I think is very good. Particularly the interns: any intern who wants to sit in on any meeting with me—and I think Hannah is the same—I'm very happy for them to do so. I'm always very interested to know what they thought of that and get some feedback from them: does the induction scheme need changing? So, for instance, we've got the winter fair coming up. I think there are four interns coming along to the winter fair and I think at least one of them is shadowing me all day, so, you know, getting to meet—. Back in the Royal Welsh Show, there were a couple of people sitting in on meetings. I think one sat in on the Michael Gove meeting. I think it's really important that they're exposed to as much of that—because, as Tim said, they probably wouldn't know how a committee was structured. It's really important that they sit up there and it's really important that they sit in the public gallery. But I think as the Cabinet Secretary, and certainly Hannah, as the Minister, it's important that they get exposure to us. A written question, for instance—if they do one of those and I've got comments about it, it's really good to get that feedback and get that two-way, because we're having such an influx of new people. You've heard me say in this committee before, the only people who are getting wealthy, I think, off Brexit are civil servants and lawyers, and I don't change my view of that. If you think of 1,300 new officials in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—well, you know, where's that funding coming from? It could be spent on our public services.
I think, also, the other thing that we've done is identify senior officials within the department, so you very quickly, as a Cabinet Secretary, and Tim, as a director coming in—. I mean, Tim is a classic example—we snatched Tim from DEFRA. It's really important that you identify people, and I think a lot of senior officials and officials themselves have come forward. You know, Brexit is quite exciting, I would imagine, if you're an official, so to be able to work on that, it is a once-in-a-generation opportunity—let's look for the opportunities—to work on something different. I think we've been very lucky in the department that we have so many skilled officials who are able to transfer their skills in that way.
So, it sounds like, overall, you're managing the impact on your department.
Well, I think we're asking them to do a lot more. I mentioned that I was here until 8 o'clock last night doing SIs. I'm sure that somebody else, an official, would've had to have stayed behind. So, we are asking a great deal of them on top of the day job that they're all having to do. We couldn't have managed much longer without the additional resources. We'll have had nearly 200 then, and I think we couldn't have carried on the way we were. There's also the legal capacity as well. It's really important, with all this legislation coming through, that Welsh Government has the legal capacity, and I know, again, we're out—that's not a matter for me, but I know Welsh Government is obviously recruiting a significant number of lawyers to assist us as well. Drafting lawyers don't grow on trees. You have to go out and look for them, and again, it's an opportunity for lawyers to come into Government.
It may well be an exciting time for people involved in process change. It's not a very exciting time for people who might find they've got no money.
The point that I want to make is: the story of Brexit was, 'We'll get rid of red tape, we'll get rid of bureaucracy, we'll get rid of this, that and the other', but, actually, what we've done is end up spending £20.7 million so far, and we haven't even started implementing any of these changes, just bringing people in to ready ourselves to implement the change. That doesn't sound like the reality that was portrayed. It actually sounds like the reality that people have been betrayed by those messages. So, have you assessed the impact of having to try and deal in reality with £20.7 million spending on what is going to be cut at the other end, before we go in the Chamber and we have people asking us to spend it elsewhere?
I think Joyce brings forward a very, very good point, and, as I said, I can see that for some people it could be viewed as exciting, and I was perhaps being very tongue in cheek, because I mentioned the 1,300 new officials in DEFRA and how much better it would be if that funding was going on our public services, so I absolutely accept what you say. And we weren't told about the cost, and I go back to what I'm saying: for me, the only people I can see getting rich—and I'm being very general—because we're having to recruit so many officials into the UK Government, into our Government, into the Scottish Government, and obviously into Northern Ireland as well—. The cost is horrific, and the more I look at it, I can't believe we're doing this to ourselves. I come from a very passionate Remainer point of view—how much better it would be if we didn't have to work on Brexit, if we could just concentrate on the policies that are important to us. None of us went into politics—no-one, I imagine, would go into politics to cut things, and, unfortunately, we're having to look at that.
Have we done an actual assessment? No, we haven't, and you mentioned about cuts to red tape and bureaucracy, and one of the reasons—. I remember when I first came into portfolio and I asked a farmer why he voted 'leave', because I was genuinely very interested in why people voted 'leave'—it was because Boris Johnson had said he could bury his dead cattle on his farm rather than taking them in the proper manner to be disposed of. Again, maybe that was said tongue in cheek, but people believed this. People weren't given the facts, so I think the funding is a very important issue—this £350 million that's going to be available every week.
So, I think the best thing I can do is hold the UK Government to account to make sure I get that £300 million-plus that we get annually to support our farmers in the way that we will want to post Brexit.
Yes, thank you. Your paper tells us that this investment in additional human resource is because we need this burst of activity over the next two-and-a-half years, up to the end of 2020, and this is being funded from reserves, so when we get to 2020 most of those posts are still going to be in place. I presume they're permanent appointments. How are those going to be funded?
So, at the moment that funding is for two years, so when we get to the end of 2020 we will have to look at that, because I would imagine that in this transition period we're having, we will need the additional staff, but that will have to be looked at in 2020.
Most of the additional staff are coming in on short-term two-year contracts, so they're not permanent staff.
No, they're not permanent staff. They're on a contract basis—as is the case in Whitehall.
Of course, you pay a premium for taking people in on short-term contracts. Jayne Bryant.
Thank you, Chair. The Welsh Government describes decarbonisation as being at the heart of its economic plan. How do you respond to concerns that proposed actions within the decarbonisation consultation have not been assessed in terms of economic cost?
Okay. So, the longer I've been in post the more I see decarbonisation not as a challenge, but as an opportunity. I was out in San Francisco at the Global Climate Action Summit, where it was mainly states and regions—there were several federal Governments, but it was mainly states and regions—to learn more from these states and regions. It was great to be able to share our best practice with them also. So, I think there are lots of opportunities, and I don’t think it should just be an economic cost; I think decarbonisation is something that is right, as you say, at the heart of Government. I’ve now got it as one of the strands of ‘Prosperity for All’. I’ve been very heartened by my Cabinet colleagues who have really taken this into their departments. I chair the decarbonisation ministerial task and finish group around this, and you’ll be aware of the inter-governmental panel on climate change report that came out a couple of weeks ago, which tells us we need to be reacting much more urgently than we are to reduce our emissions. So, whilst I hear this all the time about, ‘You need to look at it in terms of economic cost’, it’s not just an economic cost. I think it’s really important.
So, we went out to consultation about achieving our low carbon pathway by 2030. We had, I think, about 240 responses. They’re currently being analysed. I think it’s really important that we shared our ideas with people, because there’s lots of expertise out there, so I’ll be very interested to see what’s coming back.
As with all costs, there’s always uncertainty when you look long-term. So, I mentioned the pathway to 2030; that’s a long time away, but I think we look to the UK Committee on Climate Change for our advice and, again, I think they share with us that they think we are on the right track to do that. But, obviously, any new actions that we do take forward would have to be impact assessments and, obviously, cost analysis.
So, how do the draft budget allocations within your portfolio support decarbonisation? Can you perhaps say a few things about the specific changes within the budget?
Okay. So, I’ve got two key roles in the decarbonisation agenda. So, the actions that are necessary to decarbonise stretch across the ministerial portfolios. I need to look at co-ordinating the managing activity across Government, and I also need to progress decarbonisation actions within my own portfolio. So, there are several areas that I’ve been looking at within the budget. So, ‘Brexit and our land’, for instance—the consultation’s just closed. Obviously, there are a few proposals that I think will really help decarbonisation of the agricultural sector—the agricultural sector is about 14 per cent of my emissions. We’ve also got the collaborative change programme, which Hannah leads on, around waste. So, we’ve put additional funding into that. Obviously, air quality—you will have heard Hannah talk about air quality before. Also, within energy and planning, I’ve invested in developing an evidence base with stakeholders around transition of the power sector. I can’t think of anything else. That’s probably a few examples for you.
That’s very helpful. Perhaps you can provide an update on work under way to align the carbon and fiscal budgets. What does that really mean in practice?
Yes. So, this is obviously—. Because there's so much uncertainty around this area, it is difficult to do, but we are looking at doing it. So, we're currently in the first carbon budget period. I think that takes us up to 2020. So, we’ve been working on that. We're also looking at—. On the ministerial task and finish group, we’ve identified how they can be aligned much more appropriately—no, 'better', I suppose, is probably the best word to use. So, I did set it out in probably the—. In the detailed draft budget, there is an annex where you can see how we’ve managed to set it out, and we’ve mapped out how we can do it on a strategic scale, but because the UK Government spending review will have an impact, it’s unlikely that we’ll know anything further as to how we can take that to the next stage before we have the 2019 UK Government spending review. And that, of course, will be after we’ve publicised our first low carbon delivery plan, which I’m planning to do in March, and I know I’ve said I will share it with committee early on.
Thank you. In your paper to the committee, you identified fuel poverty as an example of preventative spending within your portfolio. The revenue funding for fuel poverty programme, which includes funding for the Arbed and Nest schemes, has decreased. What assessment have you made of the potential cost of eradicating fuel poverty in Wales and do you have a timescale in mind?
There are so many factors in relation to fuel poverty that it is very complex and difficult to do. I certainly believe that the two schemes that we have under the warm homes scheme are what will enable us to help people who are in fuel poverty. So, as you say, we've increased the funding. We've got some projections that we've got 291,000 households in fuel poverty, and that's 23 per cent of households. So, you can see the scale of the challenge.
So, we've looked at some evidence that told us that we could commit to achieve an 80 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, and that's in relation to looking at how we can help people not just in fuel poverty, but looking at people—. I suppose that is based towards fuel poverty, but 2050 is, obviously, a long time away, so I'm not saying that's the target that we would want to set. But I think we need to use all the levers we've got, but it is—. High energy costs will have an impact. We haven't got any levers over that. So, I think energy efficiency is probably the best way that we can address that. I've also got a group that we've set up to look at retrofitting. So, Chris Jofeh chairs that for me, who, I think, you're probably aware of. But, I think it's very hard to put a timescale on it because of the complexities of the issue.
Can I come back on the issue of the reduction in revenue? I think that reduction is a result of the team actually re-tendering for the process, and, through that, they actually got a better procurement outcome that actually allowed us to save money to put elsewhere. But the overall capital pot stayed the same.
If I can move on to third sector funding, how have you considered the five ways of working set out in the well-being of future generations Act in your decision to create the enabling natural resources and well-being grant? And what evidence has informed the decision to move to project-based funding away from core funding?
I met with Wales Environment Link last week—not last week, the week before—the environment link umbrella group and had a discussion. I know they were concerned about that. I think there's some misinterpretations of it and I think it's really important that we have transparency when we're spending public money. So, I think, moving from core funding to project funding will enable that and I think it will be much clearer what everyone's getting for their money.
I think the five ways of working—. I've mentioned prevention which, obviously, is one of the five ways of working and we've been doing that in the portfolio, if you look at projects that we've had, for a lot longer than, perhaps, some other parts of the Government. So, I think the application of the five ways of working is really reflected very clearly in relevant components of the grant scheme guidance.
So, I hope, now, that officials have had conversations with some of these groups. I've had conversations, and I'm sure Hannah has as well, to hopefully iron out some of that initial confusion that was there.
Thank you. I move finally on to land use planning. Do you believe you have sufficient resources to deliver the national development framework within the current budgets and timescales?
Obviously, the planning department, again, is quite a small department and resources are tight, but NDF is a priority that was identified in 'Prosperity for All'. I'm just doing the next round of meetings now with all my Cabinet colleagues to make sure it's on track, and it is. So, I think a lot of resources have been deployed in relation to NDF.
What I've promised my planning officials is I won't give them any short-term exercises to do so that we can absolutely concentrate on the NDF. So, for instance, I asked them to revise 'Planning Policy Wales'. So, I'll be launching the next edition—I think it's edition 10 of the revised 'Planning Policy Wales'—early next month, early December, and then NDF will be absolutely the priority for the department.
And, finally, will there be work needed in 2019-20 for the bespoke infrastructure consenting process, and, if there is, how will it be funded?
Obviously, we've had new energy consenting powers, but I will just have to use existing resources.
So something else won't be done.
Anyway, can I congratulate you again after yesterday? You've got to the end of the questions; you're setting a very good example to your colleagues, and perhaps you might be able to give lessons to them. Can I thank you and the Minister, and your officials, for coming along today and answering our questions? The ability to get us through the morning in an hour and a half was very, very good, so thank you very much.
If I now move on to the rest of the agenda, we've had apologies from Andrew R.T. Davies, who's been taken unwell today. So, can you note those?
We've had a series of items of correspondence. Are we happy to note those?
Paper 6.2, and in reference to the letter from the Cabinet Secretary, dated 30 October, there was a list of questions that the committee asked. I just wanted to pick up on our ninth question: can you expand on the assertion in the LCM that including the Welsh provisions in the UK Agriculture Bill will not constrain the design and implementation of new schemes in Wales? The Cabinet Secretary doesn't really answer; she reasserts that it won't, but she doesn't expand. So, I'm just wondering whether we could write again and ask for greater detail and clarity as to how she believes that won't restrain us.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
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.
Can I now move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the remaining item?
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:46.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:46.