Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

07/07/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant AS
Janet Finch-Saunders AS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood AS
Michelle Brown AS
Neil McEvoy AS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Ross Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy 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 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.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:06.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:06. 

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Good morning. I welcome everyone to this virtual meeting of the Petitions Committee. In accordance with standing order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending this meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is, however, broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants will be joining by video-conference. The meeting is bilingual and translation is available, and a Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements do remain in place. No apologies at the moment. Michelle Brown will hopefully be joining us shortly.

2. Deisebau COVID-19
2. COVID-19 petitions

So, we move to item 2 on the agenda, new COVID-19 petitions, and we go to 2.1, P-05-968, 'Pay Coronavirus grants to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief same as rest of UK'. This petition was submitted by Simon Hill, having collected 360 signatures. The text of the petition reads,

'On 17th March 2020 the Chancellor announced that all small businesses with fewer than 9 employees and eligible for small business rate relief would receive a grant of £10,000 (the Small Business Grants Fund).

'On 8th April, the Welsh Government published revised guidance in relation to self-catering accommodation. This change of policy has excluded thousands of genuine businesses from receiving grant funding that they desperately need as they have no income during the Coronavirus crisis.'

So, the background to this is that an initial response was received from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd on 23 June, and research has been provided for you. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting but has not provided further comments at this time. So, Neil.

I think we should wait for the petitioner, Chair, and then move on once we have a response.

—that we await further comment from the petitioner before deciding how to proceed. Thank you.

Item 2.2, P-05-970, 'Ask the Senedd to reconsider their decision not to support Zoos & Aquariums with emergency funding'. This petition was submitted by David Wilkins, having collected a total of 6,299 signatures. The petition reads,

'As a result of lost income due to emergency closures due to Covid-19 zoos and aquariums including the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay are facing a funding crisis. The Senedd has decided not to provide emergency funding to support them. This threatens the conservation work, educational opportunities and tourism income into the area. We ask the Senedd to reconsider their decision and provide this vital support.'

A response was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 29 June, and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Anyone? Leanne?

09:10

I agree; I think we should write. Typically, we do tend to try and host debates on petitions with over 5,000, but I think it's going to be difficult to get this one in a right manner of time, given that we've got recess coming up, and obviously the fast-changing scenarios that we have. But, I mean, albeit they haven't had a sector-specific fund, they have had funding. But no doubt it should be under review, and any more we can do to try and help these businesses then obviously we should, because the petitioner makes a great comment—these are not just tourist attractions, they are used for educational purposes and so on—and we certainly want to see them thriving. So, I agree with Leanne, if we could write back to the Minister, to the Welsh Government, with the petitioners' comments, and see how this will be reviewed as an ongoing review process throughout COVID, and in the future.

Okay. Everyone in agreement, yes? Okay. 

The following two items will be considered together, and that's 2.3 and 2.4, and so 2.3, P-05-971, 'Relax travel restrictions imposed by Covid 19 legislation—[Interruption.]—to allow travel within Wales'. [Interruption.] This petition was—[Interruption.] Okay. Can you hear me?

Oh, good. So, this petition was submitted by Sean Murphy, having collected 15,192 signatures. 

'On 29th May the Welsh Government announced changes to the restrictions imposed by the Covid 19 regulations. Rules were relaxed but there is still a requirement for people to remain local. These rules prevent families who may live much further apart from meeting and prevent most residents enjoying exercise in the coast and countryside. There is no reason why social distancing cannot be more easily managed in the great outdoors. Restrictions have already been relaxed in England and N. Ireland.'

And then we have petition 2.4, P-05-989, 'Keep restrictions imposed by Covid 19 legislation, allow only a 5mile radius travel within Wales'. This petition was submitted as a reaction to the previous petition by a petitioner who subsequently requested to remain anonymous. It collected 114 signatures. So, the text of the petition: 

'On 29th May the Welsh Government announced changes to the restrictions imposed by the Covid 19 regulations. Rules were relaxed but there is still a requirement for people to remain local and within a 5mile radius. These rules are to keep communities and families safe. The reason why social distancing rules are here to stay, is we all have one job. Stop the spread. Restrictions have already been relaxed in England and N. Ireland but I believe they will be the start of a second and third spike.'

A response was received from the First Minister on 16 June. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner for P-05-971 has provided further comments. So, clearly, things have moved on since we received this petition, but how would you like to go forward?

—the research brief was prepared before 6 July, as it says right at the very top of it, and obviously things have changed as of this week now, so the 5-mile rule that wasn't a rule has now gone. I can understand the concerns in the second petitioner's submission, but we have moved on now and we may need to be introducing 5-mile rules and further lockdowns in the future should the spread start again, but obviously we hope not, and we hope that the test and trace system that's in place will reduce the chances of that happening. So, I think both of these petitions, in short, are out of date now. We've moved on; they've been superseded by time and further announcements, and so I would support the closure of both of them.

Michelle. Okay, that's to thank the petitioners for submitting both petitions, and we will close both petitions in light of the fact that the travel restrictions referred to were lifted on 6 July. Thank you.

Item 2.5, P-05-972, 'To provide a minimum of 4 hours a day of live teaching during COVID closures for all school children'. This petition was submitted by Siobhan King, having collected 100 signatures. 

'Welsh children have not been in school since March 20th and very few in the state education sector have received any face to face teaching. We the undersigned want a minimum of 4 hours a day face to face live teaching online.'

A response was received from the Minister for Education on 9 June, a research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. Over to you. How would you like to take this forward?

09:15

Chair, the Children, Young People and Education Committee are looking at the general issue of education provision through lockdown, and hopefully—we've all fingers crossed—things will be a bit more normal by the time September comes around, although we still may need social distancing in the classroom and there still may need to be an element of distance learning in order to accommodate everybody. So, children may have to go back to school part time for a bit. We really don't know. But the point of the committee looking at this forensically and taking evidence—and they've got a call for evidence now and they're publishing submissions on a weekly basis—I think that they are best placed to look at this and make recommendations to the Government. We should submit this petition to that committee as part of their evidence gathering, and hopefully the petitioners will feel able to supply more evidence as part of that committee's inquiry.

I declare that. Everybody in favour of that proposal to refer to CYPE committee for further work? Okay.

Item 2.6, P-05-973, 'Reopen barbers and hairdressers as long as they have strict social distancing measures in place'. This petition was submitted by Luke Fussell, having collected 118 signatures. The text of the petition reads:

'We have been in lockdown for over 2 months now. Some of us even longer if they chose to self-isolate early. With the recent opening of garden centres we should now be discussing the reopening of barber shops and hairdressers providing social distancing measures are taken seriously.'

A response was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 18 June, and a research brief has been provided.
The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting today, but has not provided further comments. Neil.

I think the regulations are going to be looked at again on the ninth, so I think we can wait for the outcome of what changes—hopefully, things will change—and maybe give the petitioner a nudge as well. But I think, with a bit of luck, we may be superseded by events on the ninth.

Can we postpone this petition to the next meeting in two weeks' time? So that should there not be that announcement on the ninth—. And I, like probably everybody else here, want to see that announcement on the ninth, but should there not be—because they are guided by science, and I support that fully—should that not be the case, then perhaps this petition can be looked at again after the ninth. But the science is the key driver on this, and I'm sure that, if those businesses can reopen on the ninth, they will be able to, because I know that, certainly in my own constituency, there are a lot of people who are really struggling as a result of not being able to open these kinds of businesses. 

3. Deisebau newydd
3. New petitions

Another new petition, 3.1, P-05-965, 'Push the government into introducing a separate ward other than maternity ward, for families going through a miscarriage'. This petition was submitted by Peter Leigh-Robinson having collected 52 signatures, and the text of the petition reads as follows:

'After seeing what the NHS put me and my wife through when she was having her miscarriage: being sent to have a scan with mums to be and just telling us 'You're having a miscarriage, go home', that was it. Then told to come back a few days later to be made to sit in a room with people coming out with their scan pictures, is not fair.  There needs to be a separate ward.

'When we asked if there was somewhere else we could wait they said it was there or nowhere. This had a massive detrimental effect on our mental health. How did they know we were strong enough to leave the hospital? They didn't, this needs to change.'

So, the background to this petition: an initial response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 24 June and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting but has not provided further comments to date. So, how would you like to take this forward? Jack, and then Leanne.

09:20

Thank you, Chair. Firstly, there aren't many words that you can put to this petition, really. Your heart goes out to those who've sadly suffered this. Bereavement support in general is not good enough. God knows what this feels like to have to go through. So, I'd like to suggest that the committee writes back to the Minister for health. He's mentioned the working group—can we find out what is actually happening with this specific issue, and just to see whether the recommendations of the Fair Treatment for the Women of Wales's report will and can be considered as part of that work? Because, as I said, bereavement support is not good enough in general, and you can only imagine the pain, can't you? Certainly, I do want to say how brave the petitioner is for coming forward here. They've certainly got all my respect for that, and whatever we can do to support I suggest that the committee should do.  

I support Jack's words, really. It's good, in many ways, that, as a society, we are recognising pregnancy loss, baby loss, as a real issue. In the past, it's been glossed over, ignored, not talked about and certainly not provided for by services. So, we have moved a long way, but we're nowhere near in the right place on this. And I think that the petition is very specific and the Minister's answer isn't.

Jack is right in what he says about generic bereavement support not being good enough for this particular type of bereavement. But the petition is specific about separate provision, separate settings, so that women who've lost a child don't have to sit and be amongst women who are celebrating scan pictures and in the later stages of pregnancy. Because that is something that keeps reminding them and triggering them of their own loss. So, the need to separate people in those services is the key point of the petition. So—

Sorry. A million pounds being allocated to this is a good start, but unless we have that separate provision in a different part of the hospital or the healthcare setting, this is going to continue to be a traumatic experience for people, and we need to take that trauma away. And we can—that's the point.

I agree with everything that has been said. The trauma must be appalling. Can't we just have some sensitivity to how people are grieving and feeling? But I would say that it's not just a question of fairness for women; it's fairness for parents, because there are two parents involved in these matters usually—well, certainly at the beginning—and we shouldn't really forget that. Because most couples go through these things together, and I think that that should be noted.

I agree with everything that the other members of the committee have said. I completely empathise with this petition; it must be heartbreaking to lose a baby and it must make it so much more difficult to have to sit there and see all the other parents celebrating their happiness. It's a horrible situation to be in, and I would like to see women and parents who do suffer from a miscarriage treated more sensitively, as Neil said. Yes, I'd support everything that's been said today.

09:25

Okay. So, we're going to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services.

So, moving on: 3.2, P-05-966, 'REVERSE Minimum price Alcohol'. This petition was submitted by Raymond Mainwaring, having collected 64 signatures. The petition reads:

'Stop Minimum price for alcohol. The people of Wales have NOT voted for this STUPID Law. There is NO evidence anywhere in world that this works. All it will do is penalise the less well off and pensioners, people on good money like Government members won't feel the effect of a law imposed on us.'

The background to this petition: an initial response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 11 June; a research brief has been provided; the petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, and late comments were received yesterday by the petitioner, reiterating their original position on this. What action would you like to take on this issue? Michelle.

How much time has the petitioner been given to respond to the comments received from the Minister for health?

So, our standard practice is that the petitioner receives around a week. I believe, in the case of this meeting, it was slightly longer than that. I should note that we have received comments from the petitioner last night, so since these papers have been published.

The petitioner's response largely reiterates the points made in the petition text about questioning the evidence behind the law and stating that it will affect people that are less well off.

Well, I think we should give the right—. So, we have the comments from the petitioner, so maybe put it down for the next meeting and look at the petitioner's comments there.

Jack.

I'm happy to postpone if Members feel it's necessary, but just on the outline of what we know, I don't think the Government are going to change on this. It's only just been introduced. I believe this is what the petitioner believes in, and he has a right to petition, but as a committee, are our resources going to be better off placed somewhere else? I think we have to make that choice. And I just feel that this, no matter what work we do currently on this—I can't see the Government budging, given the fact it's literally just been put into legislation. You know, I just don't see, as a committee, where we could move forward on this at the present time.

I agree with Jack—it's clear from the Government response that they're not going to move on this—but I do have some sympathy with the concerns of the petitioner as well. And I would imagine, or assume, that there'll be some mechanism for reviewing and looking at the effects of the legislation as it is implemented, and I'm sure that the health committee would want to know if there were adverse effects in terms of the points that are raised in this petition.

So, can we write to the health committee, with this petition, and almost ask them to put it on hold until such time is given for the legislation to bed in and see how it's having an effect? And, in such a time—and it'll probably be the next Assembly—that the health committee or its equivalent looks at that legislation to see how well or not it's doing, then this petition can inform part of that work. So, we can write back to the petitioner and say, 'Okay, there's nothing we can do on this now, because the Government has only just introduced this legislation and they're not going to change their mind, but in the future, if anybody does look at it, then your work won't be wasted.' Could we do something like that?

09:30

I've got a lot of sympathy with the petitioner, actually. It is another tax. The money just goes to the shops, not any kind of health treatment, rehabilitation or education. So, I'm sympathetic to what Leanne has said. Do we just leave it for two or three years, then, or do we we maybe write to the committee, close the petition, maybe go back to the petitioner, see what he wants us to do, really? Because I think there's not much we can do at the moment. I agree with everyone on that, but whether or not—would he be happy to be on hold for two years or would he prefer to submit another petition and maybe get more signatures next time?

Right. I mean, from my perspective, as has been mentioned by Members, the Government have made it clear what their position is, so, really, I need a clearer steer on how to take this forward from Members. The points that Leanne makes are quite right, in that, with all legislation that comes in, it's often reviewed, and at that point, maybe a new petition could come forward.

Could we ask the petitioner to give a view? We've got options here now, haven't we? We can either put it on hold for three years and wait for the health committee to review, or we could start a new petition, but that's a matter, I think, for the petitioner to decide, really, isn't it?

Yes. Chair, if I could say, I think the Government has indicated that it will be reviewing the implementation of this Act and the effectiveness it has. As Members have referred to, that is a process that takes some years before you can see the knock-on impacts. So, the Minister's indicated that interim findings from the Act will be expected in just under two years' time, in March 2022.

Typically, when we're approaching the end of one Senedd, moving into the next one, the Petitions Committee tries to limit the amount of petitions that it passes across to its successor committee, because that committee will have had new petitions coming in in the meantime as well, so it may—. Keeping it on hold for a period of that length of time may not be of huge value. I think, certainly, the committee could write to the health committee, which may well conduct some post-legislative scrutiny on this matter, but, again, that's likely to be in the next Senedd, I would have thought. If the committee was supportive of that action, we could write to the health committee, making sure they're aware of the petition, but taking it no further at this point. 

Okay. And I am as well. Thank you, Clerk.

Item 3.3: P-05-969, 'Investigate the Draft Education Database Regulations 2020 - unnecessary and a breach of human rights'. This petition was submitted by the Mountain Movers registered charity, having collected 236 signatures. In summary, the petition text calls for the committee to investigate the evidence considered by the Welsh Government in bringing forward proposals to require local authorities to establish and maintain a database to assist them in identifying children not receiving education at school.

A response was received from the Minister for Education on 9 June. Subsequently, the Minister issued a written statement on 23 June. These state that reforms to the statutory framework for home education will no longer be taken forward during this Senedd term. A research brief has been provided. The petitioners have provided comments in relation to this and another petition on this agenda, P-05-923, which is item 4.2 on the agenda. How do you want to take this one forward? Leanne.

Given that the Minister has said that it's not going to be a prioritised issue for this term, there's not much more we can do on this now, is there? I can understand the petitioners want it got rid of completely, but it is something that is not going to be looked at this term, so I'm not sure if there's any worth in trying to raise this again with the education Minister. I can't see where else we can take this one now. 

09:35

Okay. How do other Members feel? I'd like some steer, please. Jack. 

I agree with Leanne. It's quite clear again that this is not going to be looked at, so I'm conscious of keeping the petition open for the sake of keeping the petition open, really. It's not going to be looked at. There's not much more we can do as a committee. So I'd suggest closing this for now, and explaining to the petitioners the reasons why, and perhaps when this work is to be looked at, they can bring it forward again if their views remain the same. 

Okay. So we have a proposal to close this petition. Everybody agreed? 

4. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
4. Updates to previous petitions

So, we move to item 4 on the agenda, updates to previous petitions. The following two items will be considered together: 4.1 and 4.2. Item 4.1 is P-05-922, 'Withdraw the proposed home education guidance'. This petition was submitted by Wendy Charles-Warner and was first considered in December 2019 having collected 5,447 signatures.

Then 4.2 is P-05-923, and the petition is entitled, 'Are you listening to us? Home Education Rights and Respect!'. This petition was submitted by Mountain Movers education charity and was first considered in December 2019 having collected 512 signatures.

Right, here goes. The committee last considered both petitions on 4 February this year, and we agreed to write to the Children’s Commissioner for Wales to seek her view on the issues raised and how, in her view, the appropriate balance can be struck between the competing interests on this matter. We also agreed to seek further written evidence from bodies that represent home schooling in Wales, and, following this, to consider inviting the Minister for Education to provide evidence to a future meeting. A response was received from the children’s commissioner on 4 March. Responses have been received from Home Education Flintshire, the Wrexham and Surrounds Home Education group and Home Education Barry. Subsequently, the Minister issued a written statement on 23 June. This stated that reforms to the statutory framework for home education will no longer be taken forth during this Senedd term. Both sets of petitioners have provided you with further comments.

So, how would you like to go forward on this one? Leanne.

I think the issues are the same as the previous one that we discussed, aren't they? So shouldn't the outcome be the same, really?

Yes, I'd support that. I was going to say the exact same thing. We're in the same position here. I'd support the same action being taken. 

Okay. So you're clear on that, Clerk? Okay. 

So, we next move to 4.3, P-05-751, 'Recognition of Parental Alienation'. This petition was submitted by Families Need Fathers/Both Parents Matter Cymru and was first considered in May 2017 having collected 2,058 signatures. We last considered this on 21 January and agreed to write back to CAFCASS Cymru to seek their response to the proposals for monitoring the implementation of the 'Children’s Resistance or Refusal to Spend Time with a Parent' guidance made by the petitioners. A response was received from CAFCASS Cymru on 5 May. The petitioners have provided further comments.

How would you like to go forward? Anyone? Neil.

I'd like to propose a debate on this. It's one of the major scandals of modern times that parental alienation is a form of child abuse, it's a form of domestic abuse, it's a form of abuse, period, really, and it's accepted, sometimes it's facilitated. I saw figures earlier where it said that up to 100 men in Wales commit suicide every single year due to parental alienation. It's not actually logged as such. My own casework has sort of gone through a real transition on this matter in the last 11 years, and I had a meeting recently with about a dozen parents, all alienated for various reasons. And 11 of those parents were mothers, actually, and that's the last few years—that's the new departure, where with these kinds of cases, I've got more mums on my books than dads now. I think it's a scourge that affects all parents. There are lots of things that should be aired in public, really, about this, and I agree with the submission from Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru that they call on us not to accept CAFCASS's letter. There are no outcomes. This thing, really, should be debated so I'd move that we put it forward for debate.

09:40

Okay. All I would say is that you know it's usually petitions over 5,000. This petition collected 2,058. A proposal has been made to send this to debate. How do other Members feel? I've got Leanne and then Michelle.

Given we're in the COVID situation and that there are few debates going from petitions to Senedd anyway, and that this doesn't meet the requirement, I would oppose that recommendation. But I would also support what has been said by CAFCASS. Now, I'm not a defender of CAFCASS. I've got quite a few people coming to me complaining that CAFCASS don't take sufficient account of domestic abuse in their deliberations in the family court. So, given that both sides of the argument, if you like, are unhappy with CAFCASS, it probably means that they're doing something right. They do recognise this as an issue; if children are being stopped from seeing a parent and that there's malicious intent in that, and it's causing the child anxiety, then that's something that is recognised by CAFCASS and the courts. And they say in their letter that professionals are trained adequately as well. 

Therefore, there isn't a need for what the petitioner demands, in my view. CAFCASS are accountable to Welsh Ministers, and so the right place to raise concerns about anything to do with CAFCASS is with the Ministers responsible and accountable for that service. So, I wouldn't support taking this to a further debate.

I do think that some of the claims that are made around child abuse when we know that, sometimes, parents have to be kept away from their children; if one partner is violent in a relationship and that violence is causing harm to the children, then for good reason parents are advised for those children either to be supervised in contact or not to contact at all while proceedings are ongoing. And there are very, very good reasons—

There are very good reasons in terms of child protection and safeguarding of both the parents and the children in that situation. And I've worked as a probation officer where I've had perpetrators on my caseload who should not have contact with their children for very good reasons. So, there's a balance always to be struck in these cases. CAFCASS officers are professionals. They look at all sides of the situation and they have to be trusted to do their job without political interference, in my view. 

I think this is an issue that causes a lot of pain. I also think that it's a very complicated issue that would benefit from a debate, so that various Members can actually do as Leanne has just done, and give us their thoughts on the causes of parental alienation, parents who should be kept away from their children, parents who shouldn't be kept away from their children. So, I think it's such a complicated issue and it's an issue that—. I know only 2,000 people have signed the petition, but that's not necessarily because the petitioner might not have been able to find 5,000. It's something that could have easily hit the 5,000 threshold if it had been publicised in the right way, for instance. So, I think penalising the petition because of the low, the relatively—. And 2,000 signatures is quite a high number for petitions. So I think it definitely justifies at least giving careful consideration as to whether a debate—. And I think a debate would be the appropriate way to go forward on this, so that all those different views, and all the nuances of the debate, can be brought out actually in the debate.

09:45

Okay. Any other views? Neil, I just want to give anybody else—. Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I would welcome a debate, but a wider debate, on CAFCASS in general. And I'm not sure whether or not this comes from this petition and that's the right way to do it. There are many issues with CAFCASS, I have issues with CAFCASS, but just not specifically on this point. I think it warrants a wider debate, and whether it should be outside the remit of the committee, I'm not sure—Members are going to have to make their minds up on that. I know 2,000 signatures is a lot of signatures, but there have been plenty of petitions with 2,000 signatures as well, so it's going to be up to the committee. But I'm just concerned, perhaps, of the unfairness of, if we do warrant this for a debate, then do we have to change the remit of the committee to make every petition with 2,000—because that's only fair? And I think we have to exercise fairness in some of our judgment on this committee. But in terms of a wider debate on CAFCASS in general, then I'd very much welcome that, because I too have points to make on that.

Okay. We do seem to have a little bit of a stalemate on this one, because we have a couple of Members who wish for it to go to debate, and a couple of Members who don't. I have made the point that it doesn't meet our current remit, and Leanne is quite right: because of COVID, we've got petitions with well above 5,000, and when it goes to Business Committee, we're struggling at the moment for debate time. Our debate next week, instead of an hour, is only half an hour, because of the pressures of the situation we're working under at the moment, with these remote facilities. So for what it's worth, I wouldn't be in favour of this going forward for a debate. I think the points that Jack makes, whereby maybe one of our groups could put it forward as a debate, in terms of child protection and various other issues, whether this petition really—. To me, if we're going for a wider debate, I'm not sure how this petition fits in to that criteria. So, Clerk, whether you could advise—. Do you have any background information as to how this—? And then I'll bring you in, Neil.

Yes—sorry, Chair. As you've noted, really, the committee's agreement with the Business Committee is that we will give consideration and make requests, where this committee feels it's suitable, on petitions with more than 5,000 signatures. So, the committee has never written to Business Committee to request a straight debate on a petition with fewer than that. The exception to that is where the committee has carried out a detailed inquiry on an issue and can reach its own recommendations in the form of a report; committee reports, as Members will be aware, are also debated in Plenary, where that's appropriate. The question I think at this point would be whether this committee could reach conclusions and whether those recommendations it would wish to make, that it could do so as a collective, and to process it that way.

I would also note that the petitioners themselves recognise that the situation has changed to some degree during the lifetime of this petition, and while it has been under consideration by the Petitions Committee in particular, with the guidance published by CAFCASS Cymru, which was not the case when this petition was submitted. So whilst they are raising ongoing concerns about monitoring and assessment of outcomes in these cases, they themselves acknowledge that the situation has moved on, and credit the Petitions Committee's work for bringing that about.

So, I think this isn't a straightforward situation, as indicated by Members' contributions here, but in terms of the points around the debate, then it's questionable, I think, when that could happen and in what format, given, as you've outlined, the agreement that this committee has with the Business Committee.

09:50

Okay. The reason I think this should be debated is because people literally are getting away with murder on this. As I said, 100 men in Wales, every year, kill themselves as a result of this. I've not seen any research about the number of mothers. I did take a call off a mother a few weeks ago at a quarter to eleven at night. I spoke to her until about midnight. She was alienated, she wasn’t seeing her children and she was considering suicide. I called her back in the morning and she was better.

Also, what has not been debated or even talked about yet is the way that local authorities alienate children from parents to fuel the adoption and care industry in Wales. And clearly, this really is an issue which the Welsh establishment does not want to talk about, and that's why I'm really keen that it should be debated.

Maybe the petitioners can come back with a petition of more than 5,000. I think it would be quite straightforward, really, to do that for the next term. But I think what we have here is ingrained economic interest: people make a lot of money from parental alienation. There's ingrained prejudice for some reason. Even though this affects both genders, there seems to be innate sexism in this debate. If we don't debate it—as it doesn’t seem that we will, because it looks like it's three:two—I'm extremely disappointed. I don’t see the point in debating many other things in Plenary that we do debate when something as important as this, that hits as many families as this, is just going to be left by the wayside.

Okay. To progress this now, I think we do need to, perhaps, have a vote on which way we go forward. So, can I ask for those in favour—? Do I take the counter proposal first or second?

I'm not sure that there's a specific—

Okay. Normally, with the other one when I do it, it's the counter proposal. But anyway, we've had a proposal first off for this to go to a debate. 

Cynnig bod y pwyllgor:

yn ysgrifennu at y Pwyllgor Busnes i ofyn am ddadl yn y Cyfarfod Llawn ar ddeiseb P-05-751, Cydnabod achosion o Ddieithrio Plentyn oddi wrth Riant.

To propose that the committee:

writes to Business Committee to request a debate in Plenary on petition P-05-751, Recognition of Parental Alienation.

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I have a clear show of hands who supports that? Right. The counter proposal is for it not to go forward to debate. Can I have a clear show of hands? And I will be voting that way. 

Cynnig i ofyn am ddadl yn y Cyfarfod Llawn: O blaid: 2, Yn erbyn: 3, Ymatal: 0

Gwrthodwyd y cynnig

Motion to request a debate in Plenary: For: 2, Against: 3, Abstain: 0

Motion has been rejected

Cynnig bod y pwyllgor:

yn cau deiseb P-05-751, Cydnabod achosion o Ddieithrio Plentyn oddi wrth Riant.

To propose that the committee:

closes petition P-05-751, Recognition of Parental Alienation.

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Yes, I second it. Obviously, the committee's decided not to take it to debate, so I'm not too sure what else we can do.

Right. Okay. So, will Members support the closing of this now as a result of it not going to debate? Can I have show of hands or otherwise, just so that we can be very clear? Okay.

Cynnig i gau'r ddeiseb: O blaid: 4, Yn erbyn: 1, Ymatal: 0

Derbyniwyd y cynnig

Motion to close the petition: For: 4, Against: 1, Abstain: 0

Motion has been agreed

Yes, thank you. I think that's a clear decision.

Moving on to 4.4, P-05-771, 'Reconsider the closure of the Welsh Independent Living Grant and support disabled people to live independently'. This petition was submitted by Nathan Lee Davies, and was first considered in October 2017, having collected 631 signatures.

The background to this: the committee last considered the petition on 10 March, and agreed to request a further update from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services once the process of independent assessments had been completed to include an analysis of the changes that have resulted from them. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 20 April. The petitioner has provided further comments. We've had this petition going forward, haven't we, from October 2017? How would you like to take this forward?

Can we write back to the Minister with the petitioner's further comments? 

I know this petition's been outstanding for a long time, but the issues at base still haven't been resolved. I know that the Minister has taken strides towards meeting the petitioner's demands, but there are still some outstanding issues. And I think that this has been a tenacious campaign by Nathan Davies, and while the temptation might be for the committee to think we've taken this as far as we can, I personally would like to continue to show our support for Nathan and his campaign, and if we can just give it one last shot back to the Minister, I think that would be probably very much appreciated by him.

09:55

Thanks, Chair. In the letter back to the Minister—I understand full well why the process has been paused or delayed, if you like, because of the coronavirus, but can we try and get a timeline that, as we're trying to come out of coronavirus, we're working collectively towards that? I'd just like to see what the timeline is and then the committee can make a judgment on where to go then, because I support Leanne in wanting to keep a watching brief over this as the petition is requested, but I think we just need to understand the information of what that actually means and then make a further judgment at that point.

Okay. So, then we move on to 4.5: P-05-946, 'Save Royal Glamorgan A&E'. This petition was submitted by Geraint Williams and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 14,564 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 12 May and agreed to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask what assurances he's able to give that the current circumstances at the accident and emergency department, as impacted by the current pandemic, will be taken into account in future plans and decisions about the A&E department at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, and also to write to the Business Committee to seek an indication as to when it envisages there being an opportunity for business such as this petition to be discussed in Plenary. A response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 16 June. It was announced on 29 June that a full emergency department would remain at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, but has not provided further comments. How would you like to take—? Leanne. 

Can I just say that this has been a tremendous campaign from all of the people not just in Rhondda Cynon Taf but in Merthyr and Bridgend as well, supporting the retention of a 24-hour A&E service at the Royal Glamorgan? Geraint Williams's petition has been a particular success, given that it's got 14,500 signatures, and although Geraint was the instigator of the petition, I'm aware of an army of people who were going out door to door in town centres, when we were allowed to do that, and collecting signatures in public meetings. The campaign was absolutely tremendous, and the result I think is a real demonstration of the point of people power. We are so often told that there's no point in campaigning against a particular decision, it's already been made, they're only going through the motions in terms of the process and the consultation. Well, this campaign shows that it is worth campaigning, and, okay, COVID has made a difference because it's completely unthinkable that you would close health facilities in the middle of a pandemic or even continue with the process, but nonetheless, this is a stunning victory for local campaigners.

There is no need now to take this to Business Committee or for a debate because we've won. So, the challenge for us now as local politicians is to make sure that that decision is seen through, that the consultants that they need to recruit are recruited, that the alternative services that have been promised are provided so that we don't have to revisit this decision again in the future. But if we can write back to Geraint to say 'thank you very much' from the committee, and also to all the other campaigners as well, and congratulate him on a successful petition, and perhaps you can record how thrilled this particular member of the committee is with this outcome. 

I'm not sure how you can follow that, Chair. [Laughter.] Well done, and I think we'll close the petition.

Yes. I think, Leanne, you did well there to encompass, really, the feelings of us all. It's really, you know, heartlifting and warming when people power, as you say, triumphs. So, again, we thank the petitioners for bringing this forward.

10:00

Chair, I need to leave the meeting now. I've got another meeting in the constituency, so thank you very much, everyone.

Okay. Thanks for joining us. Thank you.

So, we then move forward to 4.6, which is page 28 in your pack: P-05-864, 'Ban the use of "Hostile Architecture"'. This petition was submitted by People Over Profit and was first considered in March 2019, having collected 120 signatures. The committee last considered this petition on 10 March, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Housing and Local Government to share the evidence received from charities and to ask whether she's been able to give further consideration to whether appropriate reference to the use of hostile architecture could be made within advice and guidance on implementing the Government's placemaking agenda, and whether she would consider making a clear statement to local authorities that hostile architecture features should not be used in Wales. A response was received from the Minister on 16 April. The petitioners were informed that the petition would be discussed at this meeting, but have not provided further comment at this time. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. Can we seek some assurances from the Minister? In our briefing, it says that the placemaking Wales partnership was due to be officially launched in March, and obviously postponed because of coronavirus. Can we first go back and ask when that will be now officially launched and to seek some assurances about the work it's going to do, and that all the appropriate organisations that deal with the homeless and homelessness right across Wales will be involved in that? And I think if we get those assurances from the Minister that that work is going to take place, whatever that response is, I think we could take judgment. And I would suggest that if we do get the responses back, then perhaps the committee could review them outside of the meeting, and if we're happy with them, then we can close the petition. If not, then obviously we can discuss this, hopefully, maybe in two weeks' time, or whenever the meeting after that is.

Okay. All right. So, Clerk, you're very clear there what we're doing. 

Item 4.7: P-05-886, 'Stop the Red Route (A55/A494 corridor)'. This petition was submitted by Linda Scott and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 1,409 signatures. The committee last considered this on 4 February, agreeing to write to the Minister for Economy and Transport to raise a number of further issues in relation to the scheme. A response was received from the Minister on 15 April. The petitioner has provided further comment. The committee previously held evidence sessions with the petitioners, the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and Flintshire County Council, as well as considering detailed correspondence on the proposed scheme. Okay. How would you like to take this forward? Jack and then Michelle.

Thank you, Chair. As I've said before on this petition, I've supported this call for the work to be taking place. So, I mean, that aside, it's going to public consultation, and there's likely to be an inquiry in the future. I'm not sure what more the committee can do on this, but, obviously, I welcome other comments from Members. I would just reiterate again: I have supported this road outside the committee. But obviously, I'd take the views of where other Members think that we can take this as a committee and go from there.

If I recall correctly, this petition hit committee not long after Welsh Government had just wasted a humongous amount of money on the M4 relief road, which they then canned. I mean, judging by the Minister's letter, which, personally, I don't think really is that informative, we're already looking at the costs starting to escalate. He's having to consider putting in a crawler lane, which the local people said would be necessary right from the start. Thankfully, he's now cottoned on to that. So, you know, we've got the cost already increasing and I just think that we would benefit from an evidence session with the Minister in the autumn, perhaps. 

10:05

There are so many unanswered questions about this, and, you know, it's a lot of money that the Welsh Government are going to be spending on this red route—it needs to be scrutinised properly. And I don't think just a general letter from the Minister pontificating about his local transport plan—well, he's not explained how the red route's supposed to fit into that local transport plan: the metro and the active travel routes and this, that and the other. You know, he's not really explained why an additional road is necessary when he's supposedly trying to get people off the road. We need to hear from the Minister directly. This is a big issue—it's a big issue. It's a key issue for north Wales. It's not just people down in Alyn and Deeside this is going to affect, it's going to be the whole of north Wales that's going to be affected by this, and into mid Wales as well. It's a big issue and it's a lot of money.

Okay. So, is there a possibility of taking evidence from the Minister, Clerk, going forward?

The committee has nothing in terms of evidence sessions scheduled for the autumn. Once we have confirmation of when the committee's meeting dates are going to be in the autumn, then an invitation could be issued to the Minister, certainly, if that was the committee's view.

If Members feel an evidence sessions needs to take place, then obviously that's the committee's choice, and I'm happy to do that. I mean, I would say clearly it affects more than just Alyn and Deeside, and it'll also benefit a lot of people, more than Alyn and Deeside. This isn't just a road for Alyn and Deeside. If Members feel it's right to have an evidence session, then, of course, yes, I'm happy to support that, and look forward to it.

Okay. I think there seems to be a consensus there that we take this forward for an evidence session. Another quick point—

Can I just ask one quick question? Flintshire County Council, in the evidence session, promised that they would send us a copy of the report that was done into the bridge. Have we actually received that?

I would need to look into that, and I can look back through the records. I don't recall seeing it.

And we'll chase it if we haven't got it. Okay. So, we know what we're doing there. 

Moving on—4.8: P-05-935, 'Ban Pavement Parking—Pavement Promise'. This petition was submitted by Rhian Morris and was first considered in February 2020, having collected 801 signatures. We first considered this and we wrote—and it was agreed, I should say, to write back to the Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport to seek clarification on the membership of the taskforce group, to ask how people with lived experience and organisations who support them will be involved in this work, and also to write to other organisations with an interest in this issue. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 12 May. Responses have also been received from Sustrans Cymru, Living Streets Cymru and RNIB Cymru, and the petitioner has provided further comments. What actions would you like to take forward? Anyone? Jack.

Would it be possible for the committee to write to the Deputy Minister with the petitioner's comments, and ask that they're shared with the taskforce who are looking at this? I get their initial response, and if we have to wait for a more detailed response—ask for the timeline on that work.

10:10

Yes. Okay, thank you. 

Item 4.9, P-05-908, 'CF3 against the Incinerator'. This petition was submitted by Andrew Evans and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 2,224 signatures online. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 12 May and we agreed to write to Môr Hafren Bio Power to seek information about the development of the draft plans for the proposed development, including timescales and their intentions for further public engagement or consultation, and also to write to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Housing and Local Government to ask whether continued incineration of waste aligns with the declaration of a climate emergency and the Welsh Government's waste strategy.
Responses have been received from the Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government and from Môr Hafren Bio Power. The petitioner has provided further comments now and these have been circulated via e-mail to you for your consideration. So, it's just for me to ask Members what action you would like to take on this issue. Was that you, Neil?

Yes, I'd like to speak on this. I think we need to keep a watching brief on it because of the planning application. I note they've got less than 5,000 signatures, so I think if they want to get it to a debate they need to do another petition. I just think it's a scandal that, in an urban area, you can lump an incinerator that is going to pump out poison all over the housing and residents can virtually do nothing about it, almost. Clearly, it's being debated here, but the same has happened in Barry. In Wales now, the growth industry seems to be attracting other people's rubbish. So, there's a lot to do. But, in terms of this petition, watching brief, I'd say.

I would actually like to write back to the incinerator company. I note, from their letter, that they're actually disputing some of the figures that the campaign group have presented, such as the claim that there's an overcapacity in the number of lorries that are going to be visiting the site each day.

I think the capacity of the plant and particularly the number of wagon trips that are going to be back and to to that plant are going to impact severely on the local residents. Obviously, the more wagons you've got coming around a local area and travelling along roads, the more damage you've got to the roads, the more dangerous the roads can become. So, I think—. There does seem to be a discrepancy with what the campaign group are saying and what the company is saying. 

Now, the company must know how many wagons are going to be visiting that plant each day. They must know, because they have to plan to accommodate the wagons on the site. So, I would be interested to hear from the company what their figures are for the number of wagon trips that are going to be to and from that plant. It's not just the wagons that are full that you need to worry about; it's the return trips as well.

The other thing I'd like to know is what the capacity is of the actual furnace or incinerator, because obviously that's going to determine the maximum of how much can be burnt and discharged into the local atmosphere. So, I would like to have some questions answered by the company just for the sake of the local residents, to be honest.

Brilliant, thank you.

And our final one for today is 4.10, P-05-949, 'SAVE COWBRIDGE OLD GIRLS’ SCHOOL FROM DEMOLITION'. This petition was submitted by Sara Pedersen and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 5,522 signatures.

The background to this is the committee considered the petition for the first time on 12 May. We agreed to write to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism to seek a response to the request that Cadw's listing decision be referred for an independent peer review by Historic England or Historic Scotland, and to write to the Business Committee to seek an indication as to when it envisages there being an opportunity for business such as this petition to be discussed in Plenary. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 9 June. As noted during the previous committee meeting, the Business Committee has responded to state that it will only schedule debates relating to COVID-19 at the current time. The petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Anyone? Jack.

10:15

It's difficult, really, Chair, isn't it, because, going back to the remit of our debates, we've asked for the debate on this and the Business Committee have said 'no', due to the fact that we're in a coronavirus pandemic. Without a debate, and with the clear message from the Deputy Minister, I'm not sure what the committee can do. So, do we go back to Business Committee and ask them again? Are we likely to get the same answer? Probably. But, without that debate, I don't think the committee can take it further forward, so, if the debate's not available to us, then I would suggest that we would have to close this petition. Well—. Obviously, I welcome other Members' comments.

The Business Committee is, unfortunately, playing a very undemocratic role in Welsh democracy at the moment; it's a key blocker in scrutiny of the Welsh Government. They're protecting the First Minister, and for them to tell this committee that we can't have a debate, I find wrong. It's wrong. So, I'd like to write back to them—I'd write back every month, to be frank, or every week, until they agree to a debate. At least we're having it noted, then, that they've decided to act undemocratically again. Because it's all wrong that, behind closed doors, you just get a few people—four or five Members of the Senedd—deciding what can and cannot be debated. I can't even ask for a Government statement now, because they've said I can't. I can't even do 90-second statements, because they've said I can't. I put forward a motion to the Senedd for us to get back to normal working; the Business Committee didn't even put it on the agenda. You've just got a few AMs who have been in this institution for too many years and they think it's a private club. So, I'd like to write to them and let them know that this is a Welsh Parliament and we expect to be treated as such.

Well, there may not be time on the agenda at the moment for this to be debated, but we're not going to be in this level of lockdown for forever. So, I don't see why this can't be pencilled in for some time after September when, hopefully, we'll be back to normal operations, or at least put it on the list for when we're back in normal operations. Just because it can't be debated right now because of time doesn't mean to say that it shouldn't be debated at all. We've just had a debate turned down because there weren't enough signatures; this one does exceed the threshold and they still can't have a debate. I mean, it doesn't make sense. If it's 5,000 signatures and they're entitled to get a debate, it should be put on the agenda at some point. 

Yes, I'm happy to. My concerns were what's happening at the moment and where we've been, but I'm happy to postpone it to a debate in the future—no problem at all with that.

Yes. I'd certainly say that things are changing with Plenary meetings. The Business Committee is looking for ways to increase the time available in Plenary meetings in the autumn. So, clearly, we are facing the summer recess now and that's the situation we'll be in if we do request a further debate.

The other thing to note in relation to this petition specifically is that it relates to planning applications. So, outside of this process, and with the summer recess coming up now, we could enquire as to what the situation is with that. That planning process will be decided locally, and local planning matters are outside of the scope of the Senedd's petitions process. It may be that, if a decision is made locally on that planning application before this can be debated, then whether or not the Deputy Minister would support listing the building maybe by the by, by that point. But, yes, we can take that forward and write.

The other thing I'd just clarify around the debates issue is that the 5,000 signatures relates to this committee considering whether there is merit in having a debate on an issue. The committee has always been clear previously, and the guidance on the petitions process is clear, that that is not a guarantee. And when we look historically at the records of the decisions taken by the Petitions Committee, it is only around half of petitions with more than 5,000 signatures that the committee has put forward for debate. And there are various reasons for that; sometimes the committee decides to take its own investigations forward in a more detailed way itself rather than having the set-piece debate in the Chamber. So, yes, I think it's clear to people petitioning that it's not a guarantee and that the committee takes case-by-case decisions. What has complicated that more recently is the limited scope for issues to be raised in Plenary because of the pandemic.

10:20

Okay. So, we're clear on that—we are going to attempt to take this forward for a debate. Okay.

So, that brings us to the end of this meeting. Just a note: a debate on petition P-05-967, 'Welsh Government to amend its NDR relief policy to help keep Debenhams stores open in Wales' will be held in Plenary tomorrow, Wednesday 8 July. An additional meeting of the committee has been scheduled for Friday 17 July, and it will be the committee's final meeting of this term.

So, if I can thank the clerk and the ICT team and Members for joining us for today's committee. Thank you. Diolch.

Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 10:22.

The meeting ended at 10:22.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru