Y Cyfarfod Llawn - Y Bumed Senedd

Plenary - Fifth Senedd

26/09/2018

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

1. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport

The first item on our agenda this afternoon is questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport, and the first question is from Llyr Gruffydd. 

Improving Transport

1. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on improving transport in North Wales? OAQ52635

Diolch. The national transport finance plan, which was updated in 2017, sets out our programme for the next three years and beyond right across Wales. 

Thank you for your answer. The A483, of course, which you're familiar with—the Wrexham bypass—is a key transport artery for north-east Wales, and for many years now improvements have been needed to the junctions connecting it to the town, and it is the responsibility, of course, of the Welsh Government. I think you yourself described Ruthin Road junction earlier this year as dangerous, following a tragic accident where a cyclist died. Now, you'll be aware that, of course, wasn't the only accident that's happened in recent times at that junction and, indeed, the economic development of the area is being hampered by these issues. Back in May, you did announce, of course, that the problems regarding  the junction would be solved within three years and that funding would be forthcoming. We're nearly six months into those three years. So, I was wondering whether you could give us an update as to whether that funding is forthcoming, because people locally, of course, just want to get a move on and see it done.

Can I thank the Member for his supplementary question and apologise for not responding to his first question in Welsh? I'll endeavour to do so whenever I'm asked questions in Cymraeg in the future.

The Member is absolutely right about congestion on the A483 and roads that lead onto that major trunk road, in particular Ruthin Road. There is a specific problem with the green filter light at the Ruthin Road junction, which needs to be resolved by the local authority. I'm in correspondence with Wrexham County Borough Council regarding that particular issue. But the Member is also right that junctions 3 to 6 on the A483 do require attention. I am pleased to say that we are progressing a study into solutions for easing congestion on those junctions. We're now at stage two of the Welsh Government's WelTAG process. That's been commissioned and the preferred solution is expected at the start of 2020, with work to commence thereafter. 

In addition to this, we've also identified, as part of the £24 million pinch-point programme, an A483 intervention specifically around the Halton roundabout further south of that particular junction that the Member raises. So, work is well under way in addressing all of those junctions and the Halton roundabout. 

The North Wales Economic Ambition Board published at the end of June a growth vision for north Wales draft proposition document, which identified poor transport links and physical infrastructure as hindering journey time, especially to major hubs, and identified five integrated travel zones they wished to focus on, including the A483 and Wrexham town centre as well as Deeside and through to north Anglesey. How do you respond to the statement in this plan or proposition document that they seek support of UK and Welsh Governments to be given more capacity and flexibility to make decisions at a regional level where our approach 'advocates regionalism and devolution'? I know you commented on this in response to my questions before, but time has now passed. Can you bring us up to date on your approach to this?

Absolutely. Can I thank the Member for his supplementary question and say that I very warmly welcome the proposal within the proposition document for those five key zones? I also very warmly welcome the ask within the proposition document for the creation of a regional transport body. I think this could be immensely beneficial in terms of accelerating the progress that's being made in terms of public transport and transport infrastructure in the region. I look forward to the coming months and to challenging in challenge sessions the north Wales growth deal propositions and to ensure that we get a fair deal not just from Welsh Government, but also from the UK Government, and that local authorities are also able to contribute to get maximum impact for the people of north Wales from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Cabinet Secretary, last month I welcomed your statement on the investment in rolling stock in north Wales to help improve transport across the region. However, it's disappointing that parts of north Wales will have to make do with 30-year-old former district line trains, in contrast with south Wales, which will be having brand new. Cabinet Secretary, would you say that this is a fair deal for north Wales? 

Okay. Can I first of all say that the first new trains that will go on the tracks in the Wales and borders franchise that will begin next month will be going on tracks in north Wales? They'll be serving north Wales first. But the Member identifies the Vivarail solution for one particular route—it's the Wrexham to Bidston route. Now, the reason that that option was preferable over other rolling stock, and whilst, yes, they're based on former underground rolling stock, they are actually completely stripped, refurbished, re-engineered. They look, feel and operate as brand-new trains. However, the reason that we went for that option, Llywydd, is because we don't wish to see services stop at Bidston; we wish to see them continue through to Liverpool. And the only way that we can do that is by operating bimodal trains, because you have to carry electric-driven locomotives through the tunnel under the Mersey. And so, for that reason, we opted for that solution. We need to get over some regulatory challenges, but, in order to do that, we have to have the bimodal option. And if we had put an order in for new trains at this stage, we wouldn't be able to accelerate the process of ensuring that we get the Wrexham-Bidston line extended from Wrexham right through to Liverpool.

13:35
The Cambrian and Heart of Wales Lines

2. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on whether any new rolling stock will be introduced on the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines? OAQ52623

Yes. I am delighted that the Cambrian line will have new rolling stock from 2022. These will be CAF diesel multiple units, which will be made here in Wales. The Heart of Wales line will also have new rolling stock from 2022, and these will be completely refurbished class 170 stock.

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. I've been contacted by a number of constituents and tourism organisations about the prospect of having observation carriages as part of the Cambrian and Heart of Wales lines rolling stock, so that our magnificent scenery—I'm sure the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport will agree with me—can be enjoyed in a similar way as enjoyed in Canada, in the Rocky mountains. Has any consideration been given to this, Cabinet Secretary?

Well, can I thank the Member for his question? He makes a very novel suggestion. I'm meeting with Transport for Wales today and I'll raise the very question that he's put to me in the Chamber. Observation carriages are an attractive feature of many trains, including the Llangollen heritage railway, which I know various Members in this Chamber are very familiar with. And it's something that I'd certainly be keen to look at for the Heart of Wales line.

Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople

Questions from the party spokespersons now. The UKIP spokesperson, David Rowlands.

Diolch, Llywydd. Cabinet Secretary, I have congratulated the Government on Cardiff Airport several times in the past, but I feel compelled to bring to your attention and, therefore, hopefully to a wider audience, a facility offered by the airport under its hidden disabilities facility, which prioritises people with such disabilities. My comments are prompted by information I received about a couple who had an appalling experience at another UK airport with their autistic child, but who had then used the above facility at Cardiff Airport. They were overwhelmed with the quality of the service they received. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree with me that it is innovations such as these that will help to expand Cardiff Airport's reputation just as much as its economic performance?

I would entirely agree with that very point, and it's very well made by the Member. Can I thank him for raising an essential point about access to public transport? And, in terms of Cardiff international airport in particular, the Member will be aware that a new masterplan for that particular asset is being unveiled, which will enable the airport to cope with significantly more passengers and aircraft in the future. And can I also take this opportunity to congratulate the Member on being reappointed to this particular position?

Thank you very much for that answer, Cabinet Secretary. I move quite a way away from Cardiff Airport with my next question. It has been brought to my attention, Cabinet Secretary, that the public transport users of the Trevethin area of Pontypool are virtually cut off from 7.30 at night. This appears to be the last bus taking people from the town centre to this estate. There is, of course, an impact on the businesses in the town, particularly the public houses, given that their patrons either have to leave in time to catch the last bus or pay a taxi fare. Many of them cannot afford the latter and so leave early. The landlords thus lose valuable custom and the town centre becomes deserted after this time. This may of course be the situation in many of our Valleys towns. Does the Cabinet Secretary think this is an acceptable state of affairs?

No, I don't, and it's a point, again, that's very well made. I'll be raising this point both with Transport for Wales and with the transport department in Welsh Government. But I think it's important to just identify two significant interventions and investments that will be made in the coming months and years. First of all, of course, is the south-east Wales metro, and, secondly, radical reform of local bus services in Wales, between them forming a vastly superior integrated public transport service that will serve communities such as those that you've identified today.

13:40

I thank the Cabinet Secretary for that very positive answer. Can I now turn, Cabinet Secretary, to project scrutiny? As Cabinet Secretary, you've initiated a number of projects and initiatives designed to deliver on the economic performance of Wales. What is of concern is that many of these do not appear to have specific timelines or targets against which progress can be evaluated. Surely, Cabinet Secretary, it is a fundamental requirement of any project that such measurement tools are included so that true scrutiny can take place. Open-ended policy frameworks are not the sign of good governance. Does this not give the appearance of little confidence that the said projects and initiatives will deliver as envisaged?

I think it's important to have agreed outcomes for any project that receives public funding. But, in Welsh Government, we also have well-being indicators, which are consistent indicators applied across Government, and, with regard to economic development programmes, I hope I was quite clear in committee just last week in assuring Members that we will also be seeking international challenges and scrutiny from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and other well-recognised and well-renowned international bodies.

Diolch, Llywydd. Has the Welsh Government entered into a guarantee fee arrangement with Aston Martin in relation to its St Athan facility?

I can't disclose any commercially sensitive information with the Member. However, what I can assure him is that I've asked officials to review all correspondence and all agreements and ensure that as much detail can be shared with Members as possible. That will be done speedily and as soon as possible. 

Can I also take this opportunity to wish the Member well in Friday's election announcement and, if he is not successful in winning that particular election that he's taking part in at the moment, then I hope he will be reappointed to this position?

I'm grateful to the Cabinet Secretary for his kind words, but maybe we can return to the matter in hand. That was a nice deflection device there, because, actually, the company does not have a problem in relation to the commercial confidentiality in this case, because they have confirmed the existence of a guarantee fee agreement with the Welsh Government in the prospectus that they have just published in relation to their proposed flotation on the London stock exchange. That document specifically refers to, and I quote, on page 188: 

'a guarantee fee arrangement that was entered into with the Welsh Government in respect of Aston Martin Lagonda's occupation of the St Athan plant'.

Now, you previously refused in written questions to confirm the existence of this arrangement. You've not taken the opportunity to confirm it now. Given that it's now been placed in the public domain by the company, can you confirm who is guaranteeing what, for whom in this arrangement, and to whom are the fees being paid? Are we right to assume that the Welsh Government has guaranteed a proportion of Aston Martin's debt in return for which the Welsh Government is receiving a fee—the kind of agreement that was involved in the Circuit of Wales proposal? And why is a private company being more open with the public about the use of public money than the Government that is meant to be the guardian of the public interest?

Now the Member has identified the very agreement that he refers to in that document, I'm more than happy to work with Aston Martin to ensure that as much information is provided as possible. But I don't think that we should lose sight of the fact that it's as a direct consequence of the skilful negotiations of Welsh Government officials that we were able to attract Aston Martin to Wales. It's as a result of our ability to attract Aston Martin to Wales that we now have Aston Martin agreeing that St Athan should be the home of electrification. It's important to celebrate great success when it arrives on our doorstep and when it's hard fought for. That's exactly what we've done. Aston Martin Lagonda could have gone to numerous locations with their investment. Instead, they chose here—Wales—in order to invest and create valuable jobs and to enhance the brand of Wales internationally.

13:45

Look, Cabinet Secretary, this really isn't good—. Instead of a few words of congratulations, how about a few words of contrition from the Cabinet Secretary about the failure to be transparent, having, basically, the information dragged out of you because the company has decided it is right and proper to put this information in the public domain, and yet you've stonewalled right throughout? In the economy committee last week, and in response to repeated questions from the BBC, your officials have refused to confirm whether Aston Martin has received additional money for its research and development programme beyond the £5.8 million that you were forced to admit by the Information Commissioner. The reason that was cited by your department was sensitivity surrounding the flotation of the company. Isn't this deeply problematic, Cabinet Secretary? Analysts have specifically said, and have cited Aston Martin's balance sheet treatment of its R&D budget, its decision to capitalise it as an asset rather than registering it as a cost, as a reason to doubt its £5 billion valuation. Doesn't the public, both as citizens and potential investors, have a right to know if public money is possibly being used to inflate the share price? Shouldn't we expect you as a Government to act in the public interest, not in the commercial interests of a privately owned company, in deciding whether to place information in the public domain? Democracy should never be traded, Cabinet Secretary, even in exchange for the promise of jobs.

I entirely agree, but as I've said before, as I've said last week, officials are seeking advice regarding the information that can be disclosed at this stage. I truly hope that we can get as much information out as possible about the latest announcement, because I think the Member will be very, very impressed by it, but I know that the Member is quick to condemn any element of any agreement on jobs creation that's led by this Welsh Government. I do wish he would be a little more speedy to congratulate us when we do land huge investments in Wales—investments that are futureproofing our economy and providing employment for hundreds of people. [Interruption.] There we see a refusal to acknowledge the success of Welsh Government in attracting Aston Martin Lagonda to our country to create hundreds of valuable jobs.

Diolch, Llywydd. I will feel left out if I don't get congratulations myself, Cabinet Secretary. In just a few weeks, the running of rail services, of course, will be handed over from Arriva to the new franchise operator KeolisAmey. Given the scale of public investment in the new franchise agreement and the importance, too, of rail services for passengers and businesses across Wales, I'm sure you will agree with me that it's vital that we see rapid and sufficient improvements to those services as a consequence of that £5 billion rail contract.

Can I initially ask you in relation to the postponement of the launch of services between Chester and Liverpool Lime Street? Last May, Network Rail completed a £19 million infrastructure improvement to allow the services to begin this December, as has been promised, of course, for several years. Arriva Trains Wales has recruited drivers for the trains, but Transport for Wales has stated, just very recently in the last few weeks, that there were now insufficient trains for those new services and, as a result, the services may be delayed. Can I ask you, Cabinet Secretary, to confirm whether this is the case and, if so, when can commuters expect those services to now commence? 

So, I think I outlined in committee last week the reason why we're seeing, not just in this case but right across the rail sector in the UK, a delay in providing new rolling stock, and it's largely because, in the last decade, the UK Government had one campaign, which was to electrify as much of the rail lines of the UK as possible. That was subsequently abandoned, and in that time in between, the diesel supply, or the supply of diesel trains, did not cascade down. As a consequence of that not happening, new orders for diesel units swelled, once the UK Government had cancelled electrification programmes, and that led to a delay, subsequently, in the delivery of them. It's not something that is unique to Transport for Wales. I can say, however, as a result of the delay from December through to spring, we've been able to negotiate successfully an extension for that brand-new service so the trains won't just operate between Liverpool and Chester using the Halton curve; indeed they will come into Wales. So, the first new service to be provided on the Wales and borders franchise, I can assure Members, will serve both Wales and the borders area.

13:50

Thank you for the answer, Cabinet Secretary. I think the concern will be that 'transformational change' is a word that has been bandied around, and expectations have been significantly raised. This summer, you stated that the new Sunday and early morning services would be launched this December. Timetables across the UK, as I understand it, change only two times a year, and December 18 is the first opportunity for the new operator to make improvements. Now, in June this year, Cabinet Secretary, you confirmed that Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare would receive additional early morning services to Cardiff Central on weekdays from December; in addition, a trial service timetable on the Aberdare line would be made permanent; and an extra Sunday morning service would be introduced between Llandudno and Chester, to bridge the gap in the current timetable. Now, we have just a few weeks to go, of course, before that December timetable change, and Transport for Wales are currently stating, 'We will confirm details of these services as soon as we can.' Again, Cabinet Secretary, can you confirm that these improvements in these services remain on schedule?

That's our intention, but I'll ensure today, when I meet with the chief executive of Transport for Wales, that he provides that assurance to Members as soon as possible. I should say as well that the Member is absolutely right: the lessons that we've learned from the timetabling debacle across much of the UK led us to—whilst examining the options for moving forward the introduction of the direct services from Liverpool to Wrexham from spring to December, when it was initially intended, we determined that in order to do that it had to be a robust and reliable pledge. Given the tight timetabling lessons that we've learned, we deemed that it would not be a reliable assurance to give people.  

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Can I perhaps ask that, if you are meeting Transport for Wales later today—can I ask you to put on the record that you are completely confident that Transport for Wales has the correct managerial, administrative and financial resources at its disposal to ensure the effective delivery and oversight of the new Wales and borders franchise from 15 October?

Yes, and through the remit letter, Transport for Wales operate to strict guidelines. They are currently in the process of recruiting significantly more people with additional skills to ensure that the new franchise will be a success. I've got a particular focus at the moment on ensuring that information about the new franchise is communicated absolutely and thoroughly through to community groups, through to passengers, and to elected members. So, I'm pleased that Transport for Wales, in particular during the current recruitment programme, are looking at increasing capacity within their communications team.

Traffic Congestion on the M4

3. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on traffic congestion on the M4 in the South Wales West region? OAQ52617

Yes. I can assure the Member that we are taking significant steps to tackle congestion and to improve journey time reliability, through our pinch points programme, and through improvements to public transport and supporting local authorities to address, themselves, key local issues.

Well, as anybody who listens to Radio Wales in the morning will be aware, there will be a traffic jam between anywhere around about junction 47 to junction 41. This is a sort of standard every morning. Satnavs, of course, are part of the problem, because they generally produce a 'via the M4' route if you are going almost anywhere east or west. Can I ask the Cabinet Secretary to undertake an analysis of where traffic is moving between and also to examine how a metro system could reduce this congestion? Because it's getting worse, and anybody who is coming in from the west on a daily basis is caught up in it.

I recognise that the Member has a very keen interest in junctions between junctions 40 and 48 on the M4. It's an interest that his colleague sitting right next to him also has. [Laughter.] I think it's fair to say that evidencing the need to invest in transport improvements is absolutely vital, and modelling current and future traffic patterns will help, in turn, inform how we can maximise the benefits of any spend by the Government. Now, I can assure the Member that my officials, and also Transport for Wales, are looking at meeting in early October to discuss how to build the transport model for south-west Wales, and that model will be used to inform the development of the metro, and also the corridor study that is proposed for the M4 to the west of Bridgend. I'm pleased to be able to say that the commission for an initial WelTAG study to examine congestion between junctions 35 and 49 has recently been awarded, and a report is expected late this year or, at the latest, early 2019.

13:55

Well, I feel Mike Hedges's pain on this one a little bit, I'm afraid, and I'm interested, on the corridor study, in whether it covers the point that I'm about to raise with you now. During the eight months of the junction 41 closure, which David Rees referred to yesterday, the usage at peak morning time of the Harbour Way distributor road, which the First Minister opened five years ago, rose from 14.5 cars a minute to a staggering 14.9 cars a minute. The Government report on the closure stated—well, reminded us, really—that the purpose of Harbour Way is to reduce local traffic on the M4 between junctions 38 and 41 and provide a high-standard dual carriageway, which it is, parallel to Port Talbot. Those figures, collected in a time of what was local misery, I think we agree, don't exactly reflect value for money: that road cost £107 million. Nor did it effectively control pollution. And I can tell you that there is no meaningful signage from the motorway itself edging people towards that distributor road. And during this period of the extended 50 mph slowdown from Earlswood, there's nothing there that says, 'Use Harbour Way instead'. So, what can Welsh Government, and the local authority, in all fairness, do to encourage people to use that distributor road?

Harbour Way will be included as part of the modelling for an integrated metro across the region. I can assure the Member of that. But, given the interest that's been raised in the Chamber today, and I know that interest has been raised more widely recently, may I offer to meet with Members across political parties to discuss the M4 to the west of Bridgend?

Cabinet Secretary, it's estimated that congestion at junction 43 costs the Welsh economy around £6.5 million a year, and congestion at junction 41 a further £5.1 million. Billions of pounds are spent to tackle congestion around Newport and the introduction of the metro to offer convenient, reliable alternatives to the car. Cabinet Secretary, can my region expect similar treatment to the south-east, and can you outline your Government's plans to alleviate congestion in Wales?

Yes, most definitely. With the economic action plan, we're placing a new and sharper focus on regional economic development to ensure that we get a greater degree of quality of spend across Wales, and I'm pleased to be able to tell the Member today that I'll be publishing indicative regional budgets alongside the spending lines within my department, so that, in the future, it'll be more transparent about how much is being spent in all parts of Wales. I think it's something that, as a backbencher, I was keen to see implemented, and I'm pleased to do that in Government.

I think it's absolutely essential that we first of all get the evidence base that can inform the development of the metro in the Swansea bay region, and then we need to ensure that the work that's being carried out by local authorities aligns with the work that we've commissioned Professor Mark Barry to undertake, which is designed to accelerate the programmes that are, if you like, quick wins, so that they can attract immediate funding from the UK Government.

Longer term, I have confidence in the city region partners in working together with Welsh Government to find the right solutions to the problems that Members have raised today.

Cabinet Secretary, the section of motorway we're talking about is 41 to 48, but mine will focus on 41 to 42 at this point in time, where the extension to the 50 mph limit has been put on by the Welsh Government in an attempt to reduce pollution and nitrogen dioxide. Well, the report that I've got in my hand is actually a report produced for Welsh Government on stage 3 of the assessment. And in this is a recommendation to consider, as an option, the closure of junction 41 westbound. We've experienced that before. We've got the problems in the town; we can give you the history; we can show you that pollution did not ease up in the town. In fact, it got worse, because, as young children were walking to school, they had queues of cars and vehicles alongside them emitting all this pollution, breathing in at ground level. Will you look at this and tell the authors of this they should not have put that in place? They haven't done their job; they have not consulted the people who were actually involved in the junction 41 issue. Clearly, they haven't got a picture or clue about the traffic problems it created in the town, and the fact that they want to reduce pollution means that they should be looking at alternative ways and, as I say, the metro might be an option, getting more people onto the public transport system. Can you also reaffirm your decision to keep that junction open?

Well, can I assure the Member that the consultation that we launched just last week in respect of the latest WelTAG stage 3 appraisals was in response to the action that's been taken against Welsh Ministers, and whilst I am very, very familiar with the argument in favour of keeping junction 41 open—indeed, I've engaged with campaign leaders on this in recent years—we do have a legal duty to present options at this stage for reducing emissions along that particular stretch. It's one of five routes in Wales that is currently registered as not meeting our legal obligations under the European ambient air quality directive. I'm keen to ensure that we do meet those obligations, but we do so with minimum impact on commuters and on residents.

But may I also say, Llywydd, that my primary concern is with the health and well-being of people that live near those roads, not just the people that use those roads? It's now an indisputable fact that high emissions levels don't just cause health problems; they do cause deaths, and that needs to be addressed.

14:00
The Wales Brand

4. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the value of brand Wales to the economy? OAQ52638

An award-winning Wales brand was launched just two years ago, and it's used for tourism, business, food and drink, and health campaigns, and it is delivering strong and tangible economic impact across each of these areas. Further developing this brand is a priority under the economic action plan.

It's interesting that you answer the question in that way. I was initially told that the question would be answered by the Minister whose brief included tourism, which is perhaps part of the problem—that brand Wales is seen too often as just being that tourism side, selling Wales to potential tourists. Now, as wonderful as it always is to receive responses from that Minister, this was specifically directed at you, because I believe a strong Wales brand is relevant right across the economy—yes, in tourism, where it's crucial, but also in telling our trading partners who we are, using the same brand for exports, the same brand for attracting inward investment, for showcasing our skills, our education institutions, our arts, and of course our food, as you mentioned. Now, we know what happened at the Royal Welsh Show this summer, with the audacious branding of Welsh food as British at the food hall, and we know how counterproductive that was to Welsh food producers, given the increased interest there is in food provenance. Now, here's the point: UK Government did that right under the noses of Welsh Government, albeit it was a private deal between DEFRA and the Royal Welsh Show. I'm told Ministers weren't too happy about what happened there, but Ministers said nothing publicly, so when will Welsh Government stand up to the UK Government and say that we need to lead on selling Wales to the world? Yes, working in partnership with others where that's useful, but we want to do it on our terms, according to Wales's priorities.

Can I thank the Member for his supplementary question and say how delighted I am to answer the question directed at me? But it would also be remiss of me not to wish him the very best for the election and the outcome later this week. I think it's fair to say that Ministers were not happy at all at the agreement that was reached. It was a commercial decision by the Royal Welsh. It was a decision that Ministers were not aware of and, in terms of standing up against the UK Government, well, I can say we were not happy at all at that decision, at that agreement, and that was expressed to the Royal Welsh agricultural show. In future years we want the brand of Wales to take front and centre stage, and the Member is absolutely right that branding work doesn't just benefit the visitor economy; it benefits the entirety of our economy, and our brand work, I think, in particular, that has been applied to the trade and invest campaigns, has seen a uplift of 60 per cent in visitor traffic to tradeandinvest.wales in the past year. We are applying all branding to the Wales food and drink marketing work, and we're also using the Wales brand for health campaigns now. The first health campaign that we applied the brand to was the GP training campaign, and that led to a 16 per cent increase in GP training places filled. So, I think it's fair to say that the new brand isn't just an award-winning brand—it's been a hugely successful commercial endeavour—but, with regard to the specific issue that the Member raises about the Royal Welsh Show, again, I would reiterate that we were not content with the agreement that was reached. 

14:05

The creative industries sector generates nearly £1 billion for the Welsh economy, and its fastest growing part is film, TV and radio. Will the Cabinet Secretary join me in recognising the contribution of production companies such as Bad Wolf in promoting brand Wales as a place to make films and television programmes, and will he welcome plans by Urban Myth Films to convert a warehouse in Newport into a film studio for the filming of a new TV series, creating up to 120 jobs? I think there is no shortage of talent in south-east Wales, Minister, so we can put similar sorts of activities in south-east Wales and roll out to improve our economy throughout Wales. Thank you.  

Thank you. I think a decision report is due to be published concerning Urban Myth Films. It's an investment that I very much welcome. It contributes to a very buoyant creative industries sector in Wales, a sector that's growing faster here in Wales than in any other part of the UK—bar London, which you would expect. But it is also due to the relentless focus we've placed on improving the skills base and also the availability of suitable screen space as well—studios across the M4 corridor. And other countries, other regions, in the UK right now look on enviably at the growth of the creative industries sector in Wales. But we intend to create Creative Wales to drive forward that success and to ensure that we have a constant pipeline not just of productions—and Bad Wolf have already promised £100 million of productions—but that we also have a pipeline of skilled people able to enter the marketplace. 

Sports Clubs

5. Will the Welsh Government outline how support is made available to grassroots sports clubs? OAQ52626

Thank you very much for that question, Vikki, and, since my colleague the Cabinet Secretary has said how pleased he is to answer his question, I'm very pleased to answer this one. Government recognises the importance of sports clubs at the community level and the role they play in developing sport across Wales, and the bridge they provide from participation in sport through to the development of elite athletes. Support and guidance for sports clubs, for the 60 or so governing bodies we have, and other partners, is delivered through Sport Wales, and they have a wide range of services to support all aspects of club development.

Thank you, Minister, and I'm sure you'll agree with me that grassroots sports clubs have a crucial role to play in enhancing the physical and mental well-being of people of all ages across the length and breadth of Wales. In order to continue to provide these benefits, local clubs rely on publicity, and local newspapers have an important role to play in this, helping clubs to build strong community links, attract new support, highlight success and recruit the new players who are their lifeblood. I recently spoke with a club secretary of one football club in my constituency, AFC Llwydcoed, who echoed the concerns shared with me by other clubs regarding the problems they have in getting content into the local newspaper, the Cynon Valley Leader. To be blunt, the newspaper is simply not publishing anything that they send in. With the slow and painful death of true local journalism, I'd welcome your comments on this and any suggestions as to how the Welsh Government could enable such clubs to survive and thrive.     

Thank you very much for that comprehensive supplementary question. I'm not going to take on any regional newspaper, but I would suggest to the club that the way to resolve this situation is to ask for a meeting with the sports journalists of that particular newspaper and, indeed, with the editor, if necessary. But perhaps this is something that could be dealt with very effectively as well through the activities that I've outlined earlier, and, if you were to go into the Sport Wales website, you will find there the links into another website, which is www.clubsolutions.wales, and that provides a full range of information about how clubs can be promoted, how they can use the media effectively, how they can create links between schools and the community. I'm certain that Sport Wales will be very keen, through that website and other facilities, to assist your local club. And then, of course, there is also the Football Association of Wales Trust, which is a very effective organisation, and, if you go on their website, which is www.fawtrust.cymru, you will find a section that is, in fact, described as 'Grassroots', where they have information about how the trust can assist and provide support through the network of officers and promotional channels that they have.

14:10

Earlier this year, Minister, I had some constituents come to me waving the Welsh Cycling facilities strategy at me, and they were quite pleased with the strategy because it identified on page 11 of that report there being big gaps in provision—particularly around the mid Wales and Newtown area specifically, it mentioned, and there being a big population there and very proactive clubs there, with no facilities within an hour's drive. Page 13 of the document also recommended that closed road circuits are located in certain areas of Wales, and Newtown specifically was mentioned. So, constituents were very happy with that. When I approached Welsh Cycling excitedly myself to ask them whether they were going to implement their strategy, they said that there isn't—. It's just an aspiration; there's not actually currently any funding available to them to implement their strategy. So, can I ask, Minister, what support can you offer to provide Welsh Cycling—to enable them to enact their strategy, which will, of course, lead on to a hub in Newtown, as identified in their strategy as well?

Thank you very much for that, and I'm pleased to say—you must know my diary in detail—that I met with Beicio Cymru, with Welsh Cycling, yesterday. And we have been looking specifically at mid Wales because I'm particularly keen that there is a development to enable cycling both at the eastern end and at the western end in the Aberystwyth area, and I can assure you that discussions are continuing with Welsh Cycling as to how we can make this happen. Capital funding within my department is not huge, mainly because my department didn't exist—I must be careful what I say, now, with the Cabinet Secretary sitting in front of me—earlier in the form that it does now. But it is clear to me that we need to persuade colleagues, like my colleague, of course, the distinguished Cabinet Secretary for Finance. He is also my local Assembly Member in Cardiff West, and of course I try to indicate my full support for him at all times when he's indulging in activity there. But to answer your question, the financial support that we need across Government is something that we need to tackle within this budget, and I would welcome support. And, by the way, I welcome you in particular to this portfolio, having had a fine time with your colleague previously. 

The M4 Relief Road

6. Will the Welsh Government's decision regarding the M4 relief road be made under the current First Minister or his successor? OAQ52621

I'm pleased to be able to tell the Chamber today that the public inquiry inspector's report has now been received by officials. Following due diligence, a decision will be made by Welsh Ministers and, ultimately, the current First Minister, on the statutory orders process—effectively, whether planning permission is granted. An open and robust debate will then take place before a final investment decision.

So, the current First Minister, who, to put it I hope not pejoratively, is on his way out, will be the decision maker, yet, whatever decision he takes, there'll then be a robust debate about his decision. Is it not the case, Cabinet Secretary—? You let the cat out of the bag earlier in response to Caroline Jones, when she asked would you assure her that south-west Wales would be getting as much investment in respect of the M4 as south-east Wales. And actually neither's going to be seeing very much investment at all under your party and the congestion will only get worse.

I don't think that's a fair comment, given some of the projects that we are currently funding in south-west Wales and given the developments that are currently in train, particularly with regard to the Swansea bay metro programme. The decision will be for the First Minister, but a debate will take place, and that debate will, I'm sure, see a number of alternative expressions of interest given and a number of alternative ideas for how we resolve the M4 congestion around Newport. This is a very divisive issue—I respect that—but the decision must be evidence based, and when we look at the evidence available to us, the benefit-cost ratio of the proposal is classed as high, particularly when you compare it to some of the other major infrastructure projects that are taking place or have taken place across the UK. It emerges favourably when you compare it, for example, to the A303 Stonehenge bypass, which was given a BCR of just 1.3, or the A470, 1.05.

However, in recognition of the different views around the Chamber and the need to ensure that we invest in alternative means of travelling, it's fair to say that we need to look at car sharing schemes as well as personalised travel plan schemes and active travel wherever and whenever we can, because it's an interesting fact that, with car sharing schemes, there's a BCR of between 1.95 and 6, and personalised travel plans, 4.5 to 31.8. Active travel provides a very high BCR as well and that's part of the reason why we decided in Government to significantly increase our spending on active travel, in order to accelerate the development and delivery of active travel routes that offer an alternative means of getting people from A to B.

14:15

Whoever makes the decision on the M4, there's no doubt that Newport is being choked by significant traffic congestion. On the M4 as it is now and when there is an accident on that route, the rest of Newport becomes absolutely gridlocked, and this will only get worse with the lifting of the Severn tolls imminently. Everybody agrees that something needs to be done. While regular, reliable public transport certainly is crucial, this is not the complete answer. The metro plans around Newport have a long way to go before they move from coloured lines on the map to actual routes and services. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree with me that this problem needs addressing quickly and that it's our duty not to allow this to be passed on to the next generation?

It's my very firm view that easing congestion around Newport needs to be accomplished as soon as possible. We also need to look at alternative ways of enabling people to pass through Newport, or to travel within the Newport area. Again, that work needs to be conducted at speed. It's something that we're examining as part of reforms of local bus services across Wales and I'm keen to ensure that, moving forward, there is a greater role being played by Transport for Wales in planning public transport solutions across the country. I'd be very happy to facilitate a discussion between the Member and Transport for Wales, exploring her many ideas on how we can ensure that congestion is eased, not just on the M4, but on the local roads in the Newport area as well.

The First Minister has confirmed, of course, to my fellow Plaid Cymru Member, Adam Price, in response to a written question, that the report of the public inquiry and the decision on the statutory orders will be subject to a debate and a vote in this Chamber before a decision is taken. Can you, therefore, confirm to us all whether that vote will be a binding vote?

We're currently examining options. We had determined that a 'to note' debate would be appropriate, however further discussions are taking place on whether the debate should, indeed, have a binding vote.

Green Corridors

7. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update on the green corridors on the trunk road and motorway network initiative? OAQ52630

Yes. Officials are currently carrying out investigations into the potential measures that would be applied, and I will write to Members later this year to update everybody on the progress with the initiative, including proposals for future years.

Diolch, Cabinet Secretary. I really do welcome this initiative. Given that we're having more extreme weather events, and those include exceptionally heavy rainfall, I believe that it is more important than ever that we do start to address some solutions on our byways and highways and help to reduce some of that surface water flooding. I know that you've mentioned that the A470 is one of the roads that will benefit from this scheme, but do you have any other further details on the vast road network that my area covers in mid and west Wales?

14:20

Yes, of course, and I would agree with the Member that we will need to look at specifically what tree species we plant in the future to adapt to climate change. It may well be that we see more Wellingtonia or Cedar of Lebanon planted across Wales, and I think that would enhance the natural environment and the beauty of many communities. In the short term, though, I'm keen to make sure that the green corridors initiative not only improves the appearance and impressions of destinations, but that they also contribute to improving the quality of place and, therefore, the degree of pride that people have in their communities. And with specific regard to the region that the Member has identified, I am very pleased to say that, with regard to gateways, we're looking at extending the initiative to the A483 at Llanymynech, we're looking at the A458 at Buttington, the A40 at Fishguard, the A4076 at Milford Haven and the A477 at Pembroke Dock. In terms of the Wales Way, a key visitor destination attraction, a route covering the Cambrian Way and Coastal Way, we're looking at the A470 and also the A487. I'd agree with the Member that this is a relatively inexpensive but high-impact intervention, and in terms of being able to present Wales as a place of beauty and a place of the great outdoors, I think this is an invaluable intervention.

Cabinet Secretary, I welcome this initiative, but it's taken us a long time to design, build and maintain roads to this sort of standard, and I just wonder why we still have a fairly selective approach. I just wonder whether the improvements planned between Dowlais Top and Hirwaun will be part of this solution as well, because roads are a huge intervention in the natural environment, particularly the more fragile ones, and many of them, obviously, exist in Wales. The fragmentation of sites and the destruction of irreplaceable habitats can often be involved in the operation of roads. So, whilst I welcome this, I do think it should be mainstreamed completely, really, in terms of building, maintaining and improving roads.

I'd agree that we do need to see an extension of this initiative beyond our trunk roads and I very much welcome any local authority that presents ideas on how local roads can benefit from the green corridors initiative. One of the proudest achievements of my time as a community councillor was when we had a campaign, a local campaign in Pantymwyn, to try to make it the village with the highest per capita ratio of daffodils, so we embarked on a very big daffodil planting campaign, and some of the main roads into that particular village became lined with daffodils. It certainly did enhance not just pride in the area but also the attractiveness of the area, especially as you entered the village. So, I do think we should see this programme rolled out, not just across more trunk roads, but also, if possible, to local roads as well. Also, as the Member rightly identifies, it also helps to not just mitigate but also to compensate for the loss of wildlife habitats elsewhere. I'm very keen that when we develop new trunk roads we don't just talk about mitigation, which is essentially replacing like with like, but that we actually look at a fairer compensation strategy that sees an enhancement to the natural environment as a consequence road building.

2. Questions to the Counsel General

The next questions, therefore, are questions to the Counsel General, and the first question is from Mick Antoniw.

Administrative Justice

1. What discussions has the Counsel General had in relation to administrative justice in Wales? OAQ52642

Last week, I sponsored the workshop here at the Senedd, 'Public law and administrative justice in Wales', organised by the Bangor University law school. The event was well attended and brought together leading academics, practitioners, legislators and policy makers to discuss current challenges and opportunities for administrative justice in Wales.

Counsel General, you'll be aware that the President of the Supreme Court, Lady Justice Hale, her predecessors, many reports from the Law Society and other research institutes have all identified the fact that changes under this Government to legal aid have effectively abolished legal aid for the majority of the population of our society and there is no longer access to justice. They also identify that the people most affected are women, children, the disabled and the poor—and anyone would think that this might even be a deliberate policy of this Tory Government.

In Wales, we can no longer tolerate a system where there is such limited access to justice, and I wonder if you could consider whether the Welsh Government should bring forward a statement examining not only this problem of access to justice, but what might be a Welsh solution to begin to ameliorate the consequences. I'm aware that Welsh Government puts a lot of money into advice networks and so on; maybe there is an opportunity now to bring those together into a common framework to perhaps be the embryo of a new Welsh legal aid system.

14:25

May I thank the Member for his comments? I associate myself completely with his remarks about the UK Government's position in relation to legal aid cuts and, indeed, court closures and other retrograde steps. I wholeheartedly agree with him that the effect of that, in terms of people's access to justice, in Wales and across the UK, has been incredibly detrimental and, indeed, an outrage. What some of the discussion at the workshop recently centred on was, I think, the point that his question gets to the heart of, which is the existence of an administrative justice system, if you like, that looks in Wales at how we can do things differently, so that we can ameliorate some of the harsher effects of the cuts to legal aid by making access to administrative justice, at least, easier for individuals. It's difficult, I think, at the moment, to regard that as a system that is entirely coherent. It's been built up over many years and in different ways, and I think part of the complexity of that system is a challenge for individuals seeking redress.

He will obviously know that part of the administrative justice system, the tribunals system, is currently the subject of work, which is in fact about to embark, by the Law Commission to look at how that can be rationalised and streamlined and made much more coherent. Again, much of the legislation that governs the devolved tribunals in Wales was put in place, was passed, before the days of devolution. So, there is a task there where we can look systematically and coherently at that part of our devolved justice system—if I can use that term—and make it, perhaps, easier for individuals seeking redress. One of the other aspects, I think, that bears some reflection from those discussions earlier in the week is the work that is about to embark on a joint basis between Bangor and Cardiff universities to map out, in some of the areas where people need to seek redress—in education and in housing—some of the routes to seek redress, so that we make it easier for the general public to understand how they can go about enforcing their rights.

I was delighted to see the Counsel General at the administrative justice workshop last week, not only for his own speech but staying on afterwards. It was very ably organised, I think, by Sarah Nason from Bangor University.

As there is increasing divergence between our law in Wales and in England, it becomes increasingly important for Members to engage with that. I sought to found, and founded with others, the cross-party legal group to try and improve those connections. In the speech the Counsel General made, he set out, I believe, six principles underlying administrative justice in Wales, and I just wondered whether he considers those to be a description of the system as at the moment, or more his aspiration for how he would like the system to develop in future.

Well, I think the point that I was seeking to make in my remarks to the workshop, really, was that the principle objective should be to get decisions right in the first place, and that decisions made with those principles in mind should lead us to that outcome. But I was also identifying the complexity of the current system, and the expectation, which individuals should have, that each person is able to seek redress in the way that is most convenient for them. And also, as well as that principle of equality of access and equality of access to justice, that we can expect that administrative decisions lead us to a more equal Wales, if I can put it like that, so that decisions taken by tribunals and by commissioners and by ombudsmen within the administrative justice system lead us to that outcome, which is an aspiration of this Government.

UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill

2. What discussions has the Counsel General had with his Scottish counterpart regarding the case before the Supreme Court on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill? OAQ52640

Officials are in regular contact with the Lord Advocate's officials in Scotland. I last met with him informally in Belfast in August, and had informal discussions with him then. We await the Supreme Court's judgment, and I will be making a further statement to the Assembly when it's handed down. 

14:30

Can I thank you for that answer, Counsel General, because part of what I wanted to ensure is that once we have the deliberation and a decision from the Supreme Court, we have an opportunity to question you on your views and your interpretation of that decision, particularly as when we, as an Assembly, decided to support the EU withdrawal Bill and, as a consequence, our Bill was taken away from the Supreme Court with the intention, perhaps, at some point in the future, to repeal that Bill, we were very much of the hope that a deal would be done? As we are getting closer to the October and November Council meetings of the EU, it's very much more likely that there will be no deal done, and the consequences therefore are becoming much more serious. So, the implications of the decision on this Bill and what it implies to the powers of the Parliament in Scotland and ourselves is going to be crucial as to where we may need to go on a legal situation after that withdrawal date. 

Well, I should say that I remain confident that the arguments that I put before the Supreme Court will succeed. As the Supreme Court itself said in Miller, withdrawal from the EU will enhance the competence of the devolved legislatures, and, as I say, I'm confident that that argument will prevail. He mentions the continuity Act that we obviously passed in this place, and steps are clearly being taken to repeal that in accordance with the inter-governmental agreement. That remains the position. 

With regard to other legislation that may need to come forward, he describes the 'no deal' scenario. I will repeat again the Government's position, which my friend the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the First Minister have repeated on several occasions in this Chamber: a 'no deal' scenario is catastrophic for Wales and for the UK. It's incumbent on the UK Government to bring forward proposals that reflect the principles that we've put forward to protect Wales's interest and the interest of the broader UK to avoid that cliff edge of a 'no deal' scenario. 

Brexit Negotiations

3. What analysis has the Counsel General made of the impact on Welsh law of a no-deal outcome of the Brexit negotiations? OAQ52641

I thank the Member for that question. As a responsible Government, we are planning for all Brexit scenarios, including a ‘no deal’. As part of these plans, work has been ongoing and has now intensified on the subordinate legislation programme to ensure that all of the corrections that are needed to Welsh legislation can be made in advance of exit day.

Thank you for those answers. I think it's very important that we are in a position to understand the implications upon Welsh law of an occasion where we have a 'no deal' and we are literally leaving the EU on 30 March 2019 without any protections, in one sense, and we've lost a lot of the protections the EU gave us. Therefore, can you confirm that you are in discussions with the UK Government as to how those protections can be put into place, particularly for workers' rights and our citizens' protections, to ensure that we can continue without the loss of that protection? And, at the same time, are you also looking at the situation where we in Wales also have the ability to look at UK law? I'm particularly concerned about the trade deal agreements and the trade deals that might happen, and how they may actually impose upon devolved competencies if a trade deal is done with our nation, and what rights we have as a consequence of an agreement made, which may impact upon devolved areas. 

Well, I can confirm that we have been planning on a 'no deal' scenario basis, as one of the exit scenarios, and ensuring that we have identified all Welsh law that needs to be preserved following exit day, and taking steps to ensure, if a 'no deal' situation comes to pass, that we have legislation in place to preserve the current situation to ensure legal continuity and certainty of the law following exit. 

We have a timetable for introducing those revised statutory instruments to the Assembly. We've identified around 400 statutory instruments that require correction to deal with that outcome. That will lead to probably around 50 statutory instruments being brought before the Assembly. The exact timing and sequencing and content of some of those depend on discussions with the UK Government, because in some of those areas it makes sense for the UK Government to make those changes with our agreement here. And that will affect the sequencing and the exact number of statutory instruments that need to be brought forward to the Assembly.  

I should just make it clear that this is an unprecedented programme, really, of activity, in the scale required to address that 'no deal' outcome. It does require a shared approach with the UK Government. There is sharing of information that is happening across the board. There are certainly some areas where that needs to be improved upon, but we are taking advantage of shared information and shared drafting, to facilitate that process across the piece.

In relation to the question that he raises about trade deals, it is a concern that negotiation of trade deals, given the breadth and depth and reach of them into some of the aspects of devolved law, is a concern. He will be aware of the observations that the First Minister made in his recent speech to the Institute for Government about how that should look going forward in the future, and that trade deals should involve devolved administrations in working out negotiation strategies, so that we are able to observe the devolution settlement here in Wales, as in other parts of the UK.

14:35
The Laws of Wales

4. What discussions has the Counsel General had in relation to making the laws of Wales more accessible? OAQ52634

Making Welsh law more accessible continues to be a priority. We are finalising a legislation Bill that is intended to formalise the Government’s long-term commitment to simplifying Welsh law and making it more accessible. I intend to introduce the Bill before the end of this year.

Thank you for that answer, Counsel General. I know you spoke at the Bevan Foundation event recently at the Eisteddfod on these issues, and you talked about how access to justice, and the accessibility of our laws, are fundamental requirements of the rule of law. It's how people have their voices heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination and hold decision makers to account. But would you agree that, very sadly, as alluded to by my colleague Mick Antoniw earlier, under this UK Tory Government we have gone backwards on those important principles? Could you therefore confirm that promoting and protecting access to justice is a constant theme for the laws created by this Welsh Parliament?

Absolutely. I believe very strongly that, whether it's in this place, or in the UK Parliament, where rights are created for individuals, and a responsibility is imposed on others, we have to ensure that people's rights are protected, and that people have a realistic ability to access redress through courts and through tribunals where their rights and entitlements are being infringed.

For us here in Wales, we have limited formal powers in relation to the justice system. I regard, therefore, the ambition of this Government to make the laws that we pass here more easily understood, more easily accessible to people in Wales, not just as a fundamental part of the democratic settlement, and democratic obligations of this institution, and the Welsh Government, but also fundamental to any notion of social justice, so that people know what their rights are and know how they can seek redress when those are infringed. I look forward to bringing forward that legislation in due course.

3. Topical Questions

The next item, therefore, is topical questions. The first question is to be asked to the Minister for Environment is a question from Vikki Howells.

Ban on Shooting on Public Land in Wales

3. Will the Welsh Government make a statement on the decision by Natural Resources Wales to ban shooting on public land in Wales? 213

I'm pleased the Welsh Government's views on pheasant shooting and associated activities on public land have been considered by Natural Resources Wales, and welcome their board's decision on 20 September to bring an end to these activities on the Welsh Government estate once current lease agreements expire.

Thank you, Minister. This announcement from Natural Resources Wales is excellent news, and it's only right that publicly owned land will not now be used to permit cruelty and slaughter, masquerading in the name of sport. I also want to thank you personally for your decisive intervention, giving a clear moral steer, and I know that this has been recognised by animal welfare organisations. But the majority of shooting takes place on private land. So, can you provide any update on plans for a consultation on the code of practice on rearing game birds? This is urgent and necessary, given the welfare concerns there are about birds in the shooting industry, which are often bred and raised in worse conditions than battery hens.

I thank the Member for her question and her interest in this area. It is right that the decision will bring an end the leasing of land for pheasant shooting on Welsh Government land once current lease agreements expire. In terms specifically of the code of practice for the welfare of game birds reared for sporting purposes, that's actually a matter for the Cabinet Secretary. But I am able to say that work is ongoing to revise the existing Welsh Government codes of practice for laying hens, broilers and pigs, and due to an increased demand for legal and policy support in light of Brexit negotiations, the publication of these codes has been delayed. However, priority for revising the codes agreed with stakeholders and work to update the current code of practice on further welfare of game birds raised for sporting purposes will commence following publication of the agreed priorities.

14:40

Minister, I think it's a deeply regrettable decision that you have taken. In many vulnerable communities, there will be redundancy notices served to many employees who rely on the shooting industry to provide employment where few alternatives are available to them. So, by your actions, you will be helping to serve those redundancy notices, Minister.

But I'd like to ask you a simple question, if I may: NRW commissioned a report into this very subject, which cost them £45,000. Based on that report, an unanimous decision was taken at the board of NRW in July not to support the withdrawal or the licensing of shooting on public-owned land. You intervened as the Minister, which is your right as the Minister, as the owner of that land, to give them guidance to change that decision. So, can you confirm that this is a political decision that you have taken and is not based on the science, or if you have additional information, can you make that information available, because, clearly, the report that NRW commissioned, at a cost of £45,000, informed their decision that was unanimously backed by their board?

While shooting on private land is a mater for the landowner to decide, the Welsh Government needs to take account of wider considerations of public views in considering what happens on our estate. The three shoots affected by the NRW decision to stop pheasant shooting cover a combined area of fewer than 300 hectares and represent less than 1 per cent of the total number of pheasant-shooting enterprises in Wales. You said that I have every right to make an intervention. I do not see this as an intervention. NRW made it clear from the outset that the wider policy and ethical considerations would be a matter for Welsh Government as landowner. Having received the draft recommendations, we felt it incumbent on us to set out the Welsh Government's position. It's also worth noting that—[Inaudible.]—the Welsh Government's position is a matter for NRW's ongoing consideration and did not bind them to accept and follow our position.

I welcome the decision that has been made and I wanted to congratulate the League Against Cruel Sports for the work that they've put into this particular campaign. I want to understand what your engagement will be, as a Minister, with Natural Resources Wales in relation to the groups that are involved from all sectors of society in light of this decision, because I have grave concerns about the fact that the Countryside Alliance has tweeted to call on two members of the NRW board, who spoke in favour of ending the shooting licences to resign, despite the fact that these two people did not have an interest, and then they didn't call on other members of the board, who actually do have an interest in the shooting agenda, to resign also. So, they can pick and choose where they think that there is an interest and where there isn't one. And there was an interest in the report in question, which Andrew R.T. Davies raised, because that was somebody on that particular commission report who was actually part of the shooting fraternity, and so, potentially, there was bias there, which I raised in this Chamber also today. How are we going to be able to have faith in the decisions that are made if organisations with quite significant influence on Welsh society are going to call for these outrageous claims after a well-thought-out decision was made, and one that I think the majority of the population of Wales will support?

I thank the Member for her question and for her previous questions in raising this matter within this place and beyond. I can hear from the heckling in the background that this is an issue that is emotive and it generates strong opinion from both sides. However, you're right: there was significant public opinion, particularly in terms of recommendation 3 that 60 per cent of Welsh residents were not in favour of us continuing to lease for pheasant shooting on Government land. 

In terms of working with stakeholders, I think it's absolutely important that NRW work across the board with all stakeholders, whether that be from stakeholders in terms of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, the Countryside Alliance and also the animal welfare and animal rights charities, and with Welsh Government. I and the Cabinet Secretary work closely with Natural Resources Wales on these issues.

I welcome the decision very strongly and congratulate the Minister on standing firm on this. Would the Minister not agree that it does actually chime very much with what the public think about it? A poll by Animal Aid and the League Against Cruel Sports in April found that at least 71 per cent of people across Wales—including in the rural areas of mid and west Wales, where, again, shooting is very common—oppose the shooting of game birds for sport, regardless of whether it is on public or private land. So, I think there's no doubt that the Minister is acting with the mood of the people, so I congratulate her on taking that stand. I'm also concerned about the game bird code of practice, and I did ask for an urgent review in June for that code of practice, but I understand that it is a lack of inspections by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to check compliance that may be an issue. I don't know if the Minister would be able to comment on that.

14:45

I thank the Member for her question and her comments. On the specific things in terms of the code of practice for the welfare of game birds, I refer you back to my previous answer to our colleague Vikki Howells. Any specific concerns about the specific concerns you raised—perhaps it's a matter for the Cabinet Secretary to respond to you in writing with further detail about that, and perhaps you'd like to correspond in that manner.

Thank you, Presiding Officer, for allowing me to ask a question on this, as this issue significantly impacts my own constituency, and I certainly do not welcome the decision or congratulate the Minister. There has been mention of a negative impact on the industry, but has it been considered—the knock-on effects on other sectors as well? I'm thinking of bed and breakfasts, small hotels, heavily dependent on this industry. During winter months, of course, they rely on this trade, and especially in these particular months, outside the standard tourism season. Can I ask what impact the assessment—? What assessment has been carried out of the effects of the decision on rural Wales, on jobs, the local economy and tourism? Hundreds of hours of conservation work are undertaken by gamekeepers. They are also now at risk. Who is going to undertake this conservation work? Has this been thought about? Finally, can I ask you, Minister: will you visit Montgomeryshire with me, and visit just one of the many businesses that are now laying off staff as a result of the decision that you've supported?

I thank the Member for his questions. In terms of looking at the economic impact, there were a numbers of figures that have been raised recently, in terms of the value of shooting to the Welsh economy being about £75 million. But that is throughout the whole of Wales, not specifically for the three leases on Welsh Government-owned land, which I said account for only 1 per cent of the shooting enterprise in Wales. In terms of looking at the impact, in the NRW recommendations, they did make clear that there would be scope for a transition period to try and mitigate any impact on the local community. In terms of the cost to NRW, the decision to not renew pheasant shooting leases will cost NRW approximately £4,500 in annual income. NRW have suggested that the loss of administration costs to manage leases will make it cost neutral for them. In terms of the specific issues you raised in respect of your constituency, perhaps it might be an idea for the Member to write in with those concerns and detail them so that we can make sure that these are addressed by NRW.   

I have to say that this episode really raises fundamental questions as to whether Natural Resources Wales is truly at arm's length from Welsh Government, or whether it's just beholden to the views of its political masters in Cathays Park. Back in July, NRW made a decision unanimously against a ban. You didn't like the decision. You intervened, and weeks later, the decision was changed. Now, it seems to me that NRW is an arm's-length body when it suits Welsh Government. For example, the Hinkley mud debacle—you keep telling us, 'Well, you know, they're the experts. We can't intervene. They know best.' But, on this issue, you didn't like the decision, so you made sure that you got it changed. You can't have it both ways. So, which is it to be, Minister? We know now that birds won't be shot down over public woodland in Wales. But, I have to say, and do you not agree, that after this debacle, the integrity and the credibility and the reputation of Natural Resources Wales has been shot down in tatters?

I disagree with the Member's assertions. What I would refer back to is that this was not considered an intervention. From the outset, NRW made it clear that the wider policy and ethical considerations would be a matter for Welsh Government as the landowner.

14:50

I thank the Minister. The next question is to be asked to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, and it is from Angela Burns.

The Pay of Doctors and Dentists in Wales

2. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on changes to the pay of doctors and dentists in Wales? 214

Thank you for the question. Earlier this week, I was pleased to announce that I'd accepted in full the recommendations of the independent doctors and dentists review body. This gives doctors and dentists in Wales a pay rise beyond what was given to their counterparts in England and Scotland. It further demonstrates how much this Government values our doctors and dentists.

Thank you very much for that answer. And thank you for accepting, Presiding Officer, the topical question. I would like to have been able to have had a statement on this where we could have actually asked you some questions, because, like you, I welcome the increase in the pay award to doctors and dentists in Wales, but there are a couple of areas that need some clarity.

We've seen a 4.6 per cent reduction in GP practices in Wales over the last year and 10 per cent more locum GPs in Wales in 2017. Do you believe that this award will be able to help us to address the chronic shortages that we have in this area? And do you believe that this pay award will also go towards addressing the chronic shortages we face particularly in rural areas? And do you believe this award will enable us to increase, perhaps, or renew some of those many practices that have indeed closed down in the last 24 to 48 months?

Could you also please confirm whether or not the proposed increase in funding will affect locum and agency professionals? And what would be your view, given how much we spend in the NHS on locums, both within hospital settings and within general practice, on how much this will affect our spend on locum and agency—or the amount of money we spend on locums and agency—professionals? Because I am really concerned about the fact that, if the locum offering becomes ever more attractive, we will find it harder and harder to recruit full-time, permanent posts within the Welsh NHS.

I'd also ask if you could just confirm what the increase for consultants will be. In 4.5 of the report by the pay review body, they talk about the fact that there shouldn't be an increase for consultants over the base rate, and I would just like to have an understanding of some of the changes that you've made to independent contractors and to some of the specialised associates and specialist doctors and consultants. If you could just clarify that for us, that would be very helpful.

And finally, I do accept that you feel very happy about the fact that you are paying more money than England and Scotland, but you were very clear to the health board, you were very clear to the review body, and I quote:

'We have noted in this respect the Welsh Government’s view that considerations of fairness dictate that pay should align across the UK for the individuals fulfilling equivalent roles across the UK NHS and to avoid unhelpful internal competition for staff within the NHS workforce.'

Do you feel that this might undermine any of that? Thank you.

Thank you for that. I think there were four broad questions there. On whether this award is the answer to the range of challenges that you've set out regarding recruitment and retention, on its own, no, of course it is not, but the award itself is an important part of the answer about encouraging doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals to train, work and live in Wales. It's part of a suite of measures, it's part of the approach that we take and the genuine social partnership we have, and not just with doctors and dentists, but it's consistent with the approach that we took with our 'Agenda for Change' staff, where we listened to what the independent body had to say, where there were negotiations between staff side and employers, and we managed to find a way to invest in their pay, because, as you will know, Angela Burns, the UK Treasury did not provide additional funding to cover the independent review body's recommendations. We had to invest additional Welsh Government resources in this pay deal, as in the 'Agenda for Change' one. So, we have made a deliberate choice, with Welsh Government resources. That is a Welsh Labour choice that I am proud to have made.

On locum pay, locum pay is different. It is generally negotiated outside normal contractual arrangements, but I'll have more to say on locum pay later in the year in reporting the impact of the cap that I introduced in Wales and its impact upon variable pay across the national health service—again, a measure that I took last year—and I'm more than happy to report back to Members on the impact of that after a full year of operation.

On consultant and specialist doctors' pay, I'm happy to confirm that this is a 2 per cent base increase in the salary of doctors and dentists, including doctors in training and consultants. There's an additional 2 per cent for general practice. There is also an additional 1.5 per cent for specialist doctors. So, we are dealing with the recommendations that we have been provided with.

On your point about avoiding unhelpful internal competition, the way in which you phrased the question suggests that we should have simply followed what England or Scotland did when they chose, having received the independent review body's advice, not to implement it. They chose to impose a cut compared to the review body's recommendation, and your colleagues in England chose not only to cut the recommendation, they chose to implement it from October rather than the April that it was recommended from. I have to say that, in your press release, it was rather mean spirited and not wholly accurate to suggest that we had held this up. We have had a genuine conversation in partnership with the British Medical Association and the BDA and I am pleased to confirm that this Welsh Government does respect the recommendations of independent pay review bodies, and we have invested in our staff, in the future of our health service, and there could not be a clearer contrast between this Welsh Labour Government and the Tories across our border.

14:55

Thank you, Llywydd. In announcing your decision on salaries, you said that the Treasury hadn’t given any additional funding and that, therefore, you’d had discussions with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance so that this pay deal could be delivered without impacting services. My question, very simply, is: what has changed? Don’t misunderstand me—I’m very happy that these salaries are going to be higher for dentists and doctors here, but the Government’s stance in the past was to say, ‘No pay rise unless there is additional funding made available from the Treasury.'

I’m very pleased that you now have accepted that it is possible for you to take action without always waiting for the Treasury. I’m thinking of other examples, such as zero-hours contracts or the cap on other public sector workers’ pay, and your party has also in the past rejected the idea of allowing or supporting regionalised pay in different parts of the UK on the basis that it would surely drive wages down in Wales. By tailoring things to our own needs in Wales, we are showing, as in this case, that it is possible for salaries to be higher in Wales. So, has that fundamental principle on which the Government operates changed?

No, I think we've been entirely consistent. What we have done, though, is from reserves had to fund the pay award for this year, and we will now have to absorb that additional cost in future years. These come on the back of very difficult choices this Welsh Labour Government continues to make, and in a climate of eight years of continuing austerity our choices get tighter and more difficult every year. We understand the value the public place on our national health service. We've all seen that in this seventieth year since the creation of our national health service. So, that's why we're continuing to make those difficult choices, but it comes at a cost; there is no consequence-free choice that this Government can make. That's why I say, not just to the Members behind me, but to all Members in this Chamber: if we really do want to continue to invest in our national health service, in the staff numbers, and in their rates of pay moving forward, there will continue to be even more difficult choices. Our values continue to guide us. I am pleased that we have made the right choice not just for the staff of our national health service, but the right choice for the people of Wales.

Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. The next question is to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and it's from Steffan Lewis.

The Impact of the Salzburg Summit on Wales

1. What assessment has the Welsh Government made of the impact of the Salzburg summit on Wales? 215

Thank you, Llywydd. The rejection of the Prime Minister's proposals in Salzburg leads to an assessment by the Welsh Government that this increases the risk of a 'no deal'. This would be catastrophic for Wales, as we say each time, and must be avoided. The negotiations are not a choice between Chequers and 'no deal', and need to be conducted in a spirit of compromise to protect our economy and jobs.

I thank the Cabinet Secretary for that answer. Of course, very quickly last week the UK's negotiating position evaporated in Salzburg, and the UK Prime Minister succeeded in uniting the EU-27 leaders in their exasperation. Of course, as the Cabinet Secretary has alluded to, the Prime Minister has made the prospect of a 'no deal' separation more, not less, likely, and we are all aware of the catastrophic consequences that will have on Welsh jobs and Welsh communities. Seeing as the Welsh Government agrees that a 'no deal' Brexit is now more likely than it was before the Salzburg summit, can the Cabinet Secretary in the first instance reassure this Assembly that preparations for a 'no deal' are to be enhanced? I take the point entirely that there is no way to mitigate 'no deal', but are steps being taken now to enhance our preparations for a 'no deal' outcome? I think there is a growing level of concern within Wales that we are not as prepared as we could be. I note, for example, concerns raised by the Royal College of Nursing who have said that they remain concerned that Welsh preparations for Brexit are relatively early on in development, and sufficient time to work through all of the detail may be running out. So, can he assure us that he's stepping up efforts to prepare for 'no deal' as best as possible?

And finally, Llywydd, the fallout from Salzburg has included the Prime Minister of the UK handing the Democratic Unionist Party a veto on a hard border in Ireland. The Cabinet Secretary and his Cabinet colleagues have told me on a number of occasions that this United Kingdom is a partnership of equals, but Northern Ireland doesn't even have a Government, and yet one of its political parties has a border veto, but we in Wales will be forced to accept the hard border in the Irish sea in the event of a backstop taking effect. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government is fighting the great Westminster power grab in the courts. So, I ask the Cabinet Secretary: what of Wales? How does he propose we avoid a hard border in the Irish sea, given the fact that a 'no deal' is more likely, and how will he, importantly—and this is a crucial point in the current context—how will he create the political leverage in this, the most centralised of states, to defend Wales's economic and political interests? 

15:00

I thank the Member for those follow-up questions. To provide him with the assurance that he asked for, right across the Welsh Government we continue to take whatever steps we can to prepare for a disaster that would not be of our making, and we do so in the way that he put it—that we do the best we possibly can in those highly adverse conditions. If there are any organisations in Wales that have specific ideas as to how we could do better to prepare for that eventuality, then, of course, we are very keen to discuss that with them, and we do so right across the full range of Cabinet responsibilities.  

In his second set of questions, Steffan Lewis points to one of the key flaws in the Chequers White Paper, and that is to say that it does not provide a solution to the most intractable issue in the negotiations, and that is the hard border on the island of Ireland. When I said that it is incumbent upon those involved in the negotiations to approach that not on the basis of red lines and immovable positions, I did so entirely in order to focus on that small number of issues that are fundamental to moving Chequers forward, and the Irish border is at the very top of that list. I deeply regret the fact that in all the forums that I attend on behalf of the Welsh Government, we do not have representatives of a devolved administration in Northern Ireland there to assist in those discussions; we miss them being there every time. In their absence, we do everything we can to make sure that we take every opportunity to exercise the leverage that Steffan Lewis referred to, relying on the force of our argument, on the evidence that we provide, and our ability to form alliances with others around that table.       

Will you agree with me, Cabinet Secretary, that the UK Prime Minister was treated utterly disrespectfully in Salzburg last week, and that she is absolutely trying to defend the best interests of this country, including the protection of the United Kingdom, which, of course, is absolutely essential?

You will be aware that there have only been two deals that have been presented, if you like, as being acceptable by the EU. The first would mean that we would have to accept uncontrolled immigration, that we would have to accept all of the EU’s rules, that we couldn’t do trade deals on our own with other countries around the world, and, of course, that would make an absolute mockery of the referendum that was held, where people voted to leave the EU for many of those precise reasons.

The other thing that is being proposed by the EU, of course, is a free trade agreement for Great Britain, but Great Britain only, excluding Northern Ireland, which would remain within the customs union that already exists as part of the single market, which, of course, would undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Now, of course, the UK Parliament—[Interruption.] I can hear people carping on the nationalist benches, as I would expect when I’m trying to talk up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but the reality is that the UK Parliament has already rejected the suggestion that there ought to be a border in the Irish sea utterly unanimously.

So, it’s for the EU now to move its position to something that is more acceptable to the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and the UK Government are there, they are available, they want to talk, they want to strike a deal. But I would support the Prime Minister, and I would hope that you would too, in trying to make sure that no deal is going to undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom. So, will you tell us: will you support the Prime Minister as she seeks to defend this United Kingdom? What action is the Welsh Government going to take to ensure that the vote that was taken here, whereby the people of Wales voted to come out of the EU, is completely honoured?

15:05

Well, Llywydd, as the Member knows, we would support a deal done by the Prime Minister provided it meets the six tests that the Labour Party has set out. If she returns with a deal that ensures a strong and collaborative future relationship with the European Union, if she comes back with a deal that delivers the same benefits we have currently as members of the single market and the customs union, if she is able to ensure fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities, and if she is able to defend rights and protections, then there is a chance that we will be able to support such a deal. She will not strike such a deal on the basis of the stance that she and others in her Government have taken up to this point.

The Member refers to a mockery. The mockery the Prime Minister faces is most powerfully felt, surely, from her own backbenches, where the ideas that she puts forward are derided in the strongest of language by people who, only a few weeks before, were sitting around her own Cabinet table. That’s the mockery of the position that the Prime Minister finds herself in.

And when the European Union simply asks, on Ireland for example, that the backstop agreed—agreed—by her Government is honoured in the next phase of negotiations, we simply should not be taken by surprise that they expect what the UK Government has signed up to to be honoured.

I hear the theme that the Brexiteers are developing, and he’s repeated it here this afternoon, that somehow it is now up to the European Union to solve the mess of his Government’s creation. The European Union is not leaving the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has taken a decision to leave the European Union, and it has to be for the Government of the United Kingdom, populated as it is by people who told us that this would be the easiest negotiation that anybody had ever entered into—it is up to that Government to come up with solutions and not to attempt to shift the responsibility onto others.

4. 90-second Statements

Diolch, Llywydd. This Friday, as local AM and a member of the Cynon Valley History Society, I will be joining society members to unveil a blue plaque to George Hall at Penrhiwceiber Institute.

Born in the village in 1881, Hall started work in the local colliery aged just 11. Elected checkweighman by his colleagues after 18 years at the coalface, Hall was a keen trade unionist.

This led him into Labour politics, with Hall becoming the first Labour councillor for his ward on Mountain Ash council, aged 27. In 1922, Hall became MP for Aberdare, holding junior office in the 1929 and wartime coalition Governments, and being credited as one of the first to warn of international fascism.

Involved in wartime negotiations on refugees and reconstruction, he was appointed to Clement Attlee's first Cabinet as colonial Secretary. This gave him the chance to put into practice many of the reforms he had long championed. He was later created Viscount Hall and appointed political head of the navy.

Hall came to give others the educational opportunities he had missed out on, was a school and university governor, and established a fund so that young people could travel. When he became a peer, constituents raised £2,000 in honour of his service, which he gave to this cause. 

As was noted on his appointment to the Lords, Hall was not just a first-class all-rounder, he was also a highly qualified expert. As his plaque is unveiled, we can reflect on his tremendous record.

15:10
Motions to elect Members to committees

The next item, therefore, is the motions to elect Members to committees, and in accordance with Standing Orders 12.24 and 12.40, I propose that the motions to elect Members to committees are grouped for debate and for voting. I call on a member of the Business Committee to move the motions formally. Julie James.

Motion NDM6802 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.3, elects Dawn Bowden (Labour) as a Member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.

Motion NDM6803 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.3, elects Lee Waters (Labour) as a Member of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee.

Motion NDM6804 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Jenny Rathbone (Labour) as a Member of the Public Accounts Committee in place of Vikki Howells (Labour).

Motion NDM6805 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Jack Sargeant (Labour) as a Member of the Public Accounts Committee in place of Lee Waters (Labour).

Motion NDM6806 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Vikki Howells (Labour) as a Member of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee in place of Jenny Rathbone (Labour).

Motion NDM6807 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Joyce Watson (Labour) as a Member of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee in place of Jack Sargeant (Labour).

Motion NDM6808 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Dawn Bowden (Labour) as a Member of the Children, Young People and Education Committee in place of John Griffiths (Labour).

Motion NDM6809 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects John Griffiths (Labour) as a Member of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee in place of Dawn Bowden (Labour).

Motion NDM6810 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Jane Hutt (Labour) as a Member of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee in place of Jack Sargeant (Labour).

Motion NDM6811 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Jayne Bryant (Labour) as a Member of the  Equality, Local Government & Communities Committee in place of Rhianon Passmore (Labour).

Motion NDM6812 Elin Jones

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales, in accordance with Standing Order 17.14, elects Rhianon Passmore (Labour) as a Member of the  Health, Social Care & Sport Committee in place of Jayne Bryant (Labour).

Motions moved.

The question, therefore, is that the motions be accepted. Does any Member object? So the motions are agreed under Standing Order 12.36.

Motions agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

5. Debate on the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee report: 'Work it out: parenting and employment in Wales'

The next item, therefore, is the debate on the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee report, 'Work it out: parenting and employment in Wales', and I call on the Chair of the committee to move the motion. John Griffiths.

Motion NDM6798 John Griffiths

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

Notes the report of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee, 'Work it out: parenting and employment in Wales', which was laid in the Table Office on 16 July 2018.

Motion moved.

Diolch, Llywydd. I'm pleased to open today’s debate on the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee report, 'Work it out: parenting and employment in Wales'. I would like to start by thanking all those who contributed to our inquiry, either by giving written or oral evidence, and in particular, those who shared their personal experiences of workplace discrimination.

We were able to hear these voices directly, through our online forum, focus groups, and from those who shared their stories with renowned social influencer and campaigner for flexible working, Anna Whitehouse, who gave evidence to the committee. It is important to hear the lived experiences of people, and this evidence really enriched our understanding.

In 2016, a survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission found widespread evidence of workplace discrimination towards pregnant women and parents. It found that up to 54,000 women in Britain lose their jobs every year—[Interruption.]. Apologies, Llywydd. And, of course, all of those job losses are an individual tragedy for the people affected and, indeed, their families. And looking at the totality it's a great loss to the economy. 

In March, Llywydd, the First Minister announced his intention to make Wales a world leader in gender equality. We believe our recommendations and conclusions cover critical issues that need to be addressed to achieve this aim. Preventing a large proportion of the population from contributing their skills and experience to the workforce is not fair and does not make economic sense. Research has shown that equality for women could grow the UK economy by up to 10 per cent. While employment law is not devolved, there are still plenty of tools available to the Welsh Government, as acknowledged in its response to our report. 

Flexible working is key to reducing the gender pay gap. We heard compelling evidence from a range of witnesses on the importance of offering it to workers. Yet, unfortunately, in Wales, we have the lowest proportion of employers making it available out of the home nations. It is encouraging to see the Welsh Government accepting all but one of our recommendations on these particular matters. And also that the Welsh Government, as an employer, already advertises all jobs as flexible by default. We believe that this practice should be adopted by Welsh public authorities and welcome the Government’s commitment to take this forward.

15:15

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

It is very important that when people are looking for employment they know flexible working is an option and that it is explicit in the job advert and description. In fact, it would be good to include a similar strapline to the Scottish Government's 'happy to talk flexible working' for all Welsh Government job adverts, and it would be useful to have more information on how the Welsh Government will encourage other public sector organisations to follow its example.

We heard about particular challenges facing teachers. Recommendations 5, 6 and 7 call for greater flexibility to be offered to them. We are heartened by the Government’s response, but would welcome further clarification on when the relevant recruitment guidance will be reviewed and updated.

While we are seeing encouraging signs in the public sector, the majority of people work in private enterprise, so we need to change attitudes to and opportunities for flexible working in this sector also and there are a number of levers available to Welsh Government to influence such change, primarily through the economic action plan and the economic contract, procurement, and the advice and support offered by Business Wales.

If the Welsh Government is to meet the ambition for Wales to be a world leader in gender equality, it has to work harder to ensure flexible working is available across the private sector. Our evidence showed that, with creative thinking and good leadership, it can work in all types of workplaces, including factories like Ford Bridgend Engine Plant. We therefore made a number of relevant recommendations, and I think it is here that the response is rather weak. Recommendation 9 calls for the Welsh Government to require businesses accessing their financial support to offer flexible working and to make this a key requirement of the economic contract. This is accepted in principle, but we would like a stronger commitment to ensure that companies receiving economic support are actually offering flexible working.

The Welsh Government places a lot of emphasis on the work of the Fair Work Commission, both in relation to this recommendation and others. We would like a commitment to provide a further response to the relevant recommendations after the commission has reported. We heard Business Wales has a vital role in providing support and advice to the private sector but that it is currently falling short, and positive change could easily be achieved.

Recommendations 4 and 23, which call for Business Wales to provide specialist advice to employers on how to deal with flexible working requests, and for support to include advice and assistance on gender neutral recruitment, are accepted, but we think there should be a clear commitment to review how Business Wales provides this advice and support. The evidence suggests that this review is needed now.

The other side of the same coin is the importance of parents and prospective parents having access to good quality and accurate advice about their rights and their employers' obligations. This is another area where we feel much more can be done. Maternity Action run a UK-wide advice line, which is heavily over-subscribed. They told us that they can only answer one in five calls. This was reflected in the evidence we heard from individuals trying to access specialist advice and support. Therefore, recommendation 28 calls for the Government to take action to increase the provision of specialist advice on parenting and employment issues. In accepting the recommendation, the Government states that Business Wales provide advice and that the Government will consider the provision of employment-related advice after the Fair Work Commission has reported, but we are not referring in this recommendation to advice to employers but to employees, and we do not believe that this needs to wait on the Fair Work Commission. We would ask for further consideration to be given to this important issue now. However, it is encouraging to see that the Welsh Government is taking steps to address the issues around the quality of careers advice for parents returning to work. We are pleased to see the commitment to ask Careers Wales to take account of returning parents in the development of the employment advice gateway. We hope that those who will be providing people with careers support will have expertise in issues relating to parenting and work.

Of course, underlying all of these matters are entrenched cultural ideas about women and parenting, creating a huge barrier to changing legislation and Government priorities because of that underlying reality that requires change in wider society and support for necessary change, whether it's through legislation or strategy and policy. We know we will only eradicate discrimination on the basis of maternity or pregnancy when unpaid care is no longer seen as solely women's responsibility. These matters were raised repeatedly. We heard about people being discriminated against at recruitment and promotion stages because they were women and might require maternity leave at some point in the future. And, of course, this can cut both ways, with entrenched attitudes about gender roles preventing men from being able to take on childcare responsibilities when they wish to do so. 

Everyone has a role to play in challenging these stereotypes that hold back both women and men, but the best approach is to stop these ideas becoming the norm in the first place, and the best tool for that is education. So, I am pleased that recommendation 22, calling for gender roles and parenting to be included in the new sex and relationships education, is accepted.                        

As part of our scrutiny, we considered the Welsh Government’s childcare offer, and made recommendations 13 to 15. The Government only accepted one of these in principle, and rejected the other two. These issues, of course, were aired in the Chamber last week when the legislation was debated, and I do not intend to repeat them, but, now the general principles have been agreed, we hope to see the Welsh Government continue to develop policies that will widen access to affordable childcare, as this is a vital tool in addressing gender inequality.

Finally, we concluded that better data is needed on the gender pay gap and maternity retention rates. We welcome the commitment in the response to publish employment and gender pay gap data to a single location, and we are pleased to see Government is going to give further detailed consideration to recommendation 24, where we called for maternity retention rates to be collected as part of the public sector equality duties.

More broadly, we welcome the review of these equality duties, which will also take account of reducing the administrative burden on the public sector. We would like clarity on timescales for this review and a commitment from the Welsh Government to update us on progress and decisions by the end of this year.

Dirprwy Lywydd, if Wales is to be a world leader on gender equality, making changes in relation to parenting and employment will go a significant way to help make this a reality. We cannot allow business as usual to continue. It’s time for the working world to adapt and change to take account of the changes in the way we live and work.

I now look forward to contributions from across the Chamber.

15:20

I'd like to thank the Chair—certainly, for my time whilst I was on that committee—the clerk and other committee members. This was a really interesting piece of work to do, and for me it was really good in that it brought together, whilst taking evidence, people from the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary sector. Our report did come up with 34 comprehensive recommendations, all intending to address some of the current issues surrounding job flexibility, maternity discrimination and gender bias within the scope of the Welsh Government's devolved responsibilities in the workplace.

In a devolved Wales, the Welsh Conservatives want to see our workplaces become world leaders in women's rights, gender equality—an ambition that I hope many in this Chamber would also wish to see. But, in order to achieve this, it does take ambition, innovation and aspiration. I'm very glad to see that the Welsh Government has accepted 30, in principle, out of 34 recommendations. Starting as early as recommendation 1, if put into practice, it will see the Welsh Government not only advertise all internal jobs as flexible by default, but will also provide guidance to public authorities—all public authorities across Wales—to do the same. Recommendation 4 sees the Government committing to encourage Business Wales to provide appropriate and specialist advice to employers about how to deal with flexible working requests effectively—an important step, given the void that was highlighted by many witnesses. As the report stipulates, flexible working does not just mean part-time. It includes any way of working that suits an employee's needs: job sharing, flexible start and finish times, term-time working and other initiatives. These improvements are going to give men and women the freedom of choice so that parents in Wales are able to work in a way that suits them and their family, while addressing current gender inequality. It will also have an improvement on gender equality in the workplace.

Importantly, I'm pleased to see that the Welsh Government will explore the potential for teaching posts to be advertised as flexible by default in the Governor's Guide to the Law, outlined in recommendation 6. This is increasingly important, as analysis by Policy Exchange suggested that schools should embrace flexible working to stop women dropping out of teaching permanently after maternity leave. This, again, will improve gender equality. Although teaching is seen as a women-dominated sector, only 33 per cent of secondary school headteachers are, in fact, women. With men still holding the most senior roles, allowing women to return to work on their terms will vastly improve gender equality in the sector without requiring women to sacrifice their families.

In the event that any parent is able to return to flexible work, care for children will undoubtedly be needed. Recommendation 14 calls on the Welsh Government to set out the further steps it will take to address the need for childcare for one- to three-year-olds. This recommendation, to support parents who want to return to the workplace sooner, was rejected. I was disappointed in that, given the amount of evidence we found where women want to actually return to work when the child is around one.

Now, the Minister made a statement today about how more and more local authorities will be implementing the current offer, and I'm pleased to see that my own authority, Conwy, will proceed to full authority from January 2019. But I still feel that you fail to address providing support from a younger age, despite the evidence received by our committee highlighting the need for this extended support. The response from the Welsh Government was that there is already plenty of support available to help parents with the cost of childcare, using universal credit as an example. Although Government-funded care is available between ages three to four for all, and available between ages two and three for some who are eligible, there currently is no Welsh Government-funded support before the age of two—a missed opportunity. Your Employment Settlement Service suggested that the childcare offer begin at nine months. The Women's Equality Network called for the offer to be available from six months. The Government has rejected these calls, and, for a party who committed to implementing healthcare and, more recently, education, from the cradle to the grave, it seems ironic that they are stopping children and families from receiving support when it is most needed, expecting parents to wait two or three years to receive this much-needed financial assistance. So, I would like to know what rationale still lies behind this decision to only support schemes between ages two to four.

Recommendation 15 called for the Welsh Government to reassess the offer, using various forms of evidence and information—again, rejected. The committee heard from Chwarae Teg, who emphasised that the Welsh Government should not be completely wedded to the current offer. Clearly, the First Minister and the Government are completely wedded to the terms of their current childcare offer and are not willing to change the scope of the offer when there is a clear outcry for it. In their response, the Welsh Government claim to understand the debate about the parameters of the offer, but clearly have no intention of addressing the issues brought up.

Overall, I am pleased with the response from the Welsh Government, but there is more for them to do. Please provide our returning parents with the childcare they need from the age of one.  

15:25

I am very pleased to be able to contribute to this debate on parenting and employment. My experience as a woman who brought up four children alone and the necessity to continue working during that period is a handy background, I believe. Taking part in the committee inquiry hasn’t been a pleasant experience, I must say, because we found that women are still facing prejudice, bias and discrimination at entirely unacceptable levels in the world of work today. It’s a cause of concern that some of the evidence that committee heard suggested that things are deteriorating rather than improving, with ACAS, for example, reporting an increase of 10 per cent in calls related to discrimination based on maternity and pregnancy.

One thing is very clear: being a mother leads to a financial penalty, creating inequality in relation to wages on the basis of gender, and that inequity refuses to budge. The wages of fathers, nevertheless, do not appear to be generally affected by raising children. There are practical steps that can be taken and the committee does note flexible working and childcare as two specific items to address. Those should go hand in hand with a culture change, and an enormous one, in order to create a far-reaching and complete change. And as the committee chair has noted, education has a prominent role to play in that, and I do look forward to seeing the new curriculum and how it works in relation to relationships and sex education.

The need for this cultural shift is very clearly seen when we discuss flexible working, which, of course, includes job sharing, and it is a subject that I have raised in this Chamber many times. In responding to the report, the Welsh Government states that they accept the principle of flexible working for their staff, but, in the committee, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport told us that only a quarter of Government staff do work on the basis of flexible working. Now, that is not unique to the Government; it is likely to be true of organisations throughout Wales. But it is possible, perhaps, to do something in theory—that is, working flexibly in theory—but that does not translate into being something that happens on the ground.

Now, I am a strong believer that a Government needs to lead by example. Therefore, I would suggest that the Welsh Government should undertake a piece of work to find out why so few of their staff choose to work flexibly. What are the barriers to progressing and doing something that people have the right to do? What holds people back? And, therefore, trying to find some these barriers, which, more than likely, affect men as well as women—what are the obstacles that hold people back? Having found that information, perhaps we will be able to move to a position where flexible working is something that is a much more natural part of the Welsh workforce. And what about that proposal as a focus for the First Minister’s ambition to have a feminist Government? I see that 12 recommendations have been made on job sharing and part-time working in the senior civil service and I would like to hear a little more about how that work is being undertaken. Have these recommendations that have been made been accepted and are they fully implemented by now?

In the field of education, I’m disappointed that the Government does not believe that it can reform payments or allowances in relation to teaching and learning, for those to be shared by two or more members of staff. Now, the committee has noted that women in the teaching profession face many obstacles and I don’t understand the rationale for rejecting these recommendations. There was a recommendation for a reform of the payments, but what we hear from the Government is an explanation that the current system doesn’t allow them to do that. Well, that was the precise point of putting this recommendation forward—namely to create a change within the system.

I just wanted to turn, finally, to childcare, and the committee’s recommendations, which are intended to improve the childcare policy that the Government is currently introducing. Well, those recommendations have been rejected, and this is the second committee to come to similar views, but it appears that the Government is determined to stick to this deficient policy. Part of the reasoning that is offered for doing so is that a childcare offer was a crucial part of the Labour manifesto, and a central part of the programme for government. Well, in my view, rejecting a recommendation because of a manifesto commitment is not a sign of a mature approach towards scrutiny work, and there is substantial evidence by now that the Government’s policy is wrong. The view of experts is clear, the view of the children’s commissioner is clear, and yet the Government continues along a route that will create a childcare system that will not be fit for purpose.

I will end with that. Many of the committee’s recommendations have been accepted, and I do look forward to returning to this very important subject, and seeing great progress next time.

15:35

I welcome the report from the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. I support all the recommendations, which do accord with my long-standing commitment to achieve fair play in the workforce in Wales. Indeed, it takes me back to my time as the first co-ordinator of Chwarae Teg, in the early 1990s, and many of the issues then are still with us today. But there is progress, and the opportunity now, through the Assembly, to bring this evidence together. I was also proud to play my role as a Minister in bringing in the specific equality duties, as laid out in the Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) (Wales) Regulations 2011. And I have welcomed the phase 1 gender equality review. So, we now have a Welsh Government that can respond to this evidence, and these recommendations—a progressive Welsh Government to respond to the committee recommendations.

I particularly welcome the Welsh Government's response to recommendations 1, 2 and 3, relating to flexible working by default, and the recommendations and the encouragement of Welsh Government to lead by example—to lead from the top. I very much concur with Siân Gwenllian's views on this point. We now need to see that in action, by encouraging leadership roles to be job shared; what are the barriers to this being taken forward? Indeed, Welsh Government's response to recommendation 3 is very welcome indeed—that Welsh Government accepts the need to consider the case for changing the legislation in relation to ministerial roles, with Welsh Government saying it already welcomes job-sharing applications for public appointments. But I would have to ask the Cabinet Secretary: have we actually got any examples of this? If we have, I'm very pleased; I see the nodding of the head by the Cabinet Secretary. But I'm not sure how many actually are aware that this is—. And of course, this is for men as well as women, in terms of the opportunities.

Now, I am aware of a job share of cabinet members at Swansea city council, Mike Hedges—and maybe he was going to comment on this as well. I welcome Welsh Government bringing forward proposals to facilitate job sharing of cabinet roles in local government. And, Dirprwy Lywydd, I do say that this is an issue that we have been discussing for decades. In fact, I've mentioned in a previous debate a book that I wrote in 1992, 'Making Opportunities: A Guide for Working Women and Employers', and it would say the same things today, though the language might slightly change:

'Job sharing is being seen as a major attraction in the recruitment and retention of women employees, particularly for those who are having, or have had, a job or a career break. It is also being used by male employees as a way of combining work and home responsibilities, and diversifying job experiences.'

Well, that was in 1992, and we're still saying the same things today. We really have got to move this forward.

Also, Deputy Llywydd, I have been raising questions about the gender pay gap over the past year. And, indeed, it is the World Economic Forum that said that women would have to wait 217 years before they earn as much as men, and that's according to the global gender pay gap review. Again, how can we ensure that we don't lose sight of the statutory duty, which of course received publicity earlier this year, requiring employers to declare on their gender pay gap profile? So, I'd be interested as well in whether Welsh Government will respond to the Women's Equality Network manifesto, calling for Welsh Government to halve the gender pay gap from 15 per cent to 7 per cent by 2028. It would be good too if the Government were supporting that.

Finally, I welcome recommendations 9 and 10, in recognising the opportunities and the response to the recommendations as well—for Welsh Government to drive change as key criteria in the economic contract. Funding contracts, procurement code—these are the drivers for change. I do welcome, as well, in terms of childcare, that particular recommendation 16 regarding wraparound childcare. I would say that, I think, the provision of free school breakfast in primary schools—I've always said that I wish I'd had that when mine were young, because it actually provides free childcare from 08:15 in the morning, as well as a nutritious, free breakfast.

Finally, I would like to welcome the evidence and recommendations on parental leave, to examine actual take-up of shared parental leave, because this is about engaging both parents; it's not just about women's rights, but about a change in society and about a work/family approach, which, of course, you see very clearly in Sweden. I welcome the recommendation on specialist advice services to be taken forward. We should be able to take the lead as a result of this committee's report, and I also hope that this could be reflected in the way that we look at the wider issues of diversity and equality, not just in the workforce, but here in this Senedd.

15:40

I welcome the report, Dirprwy Lywydd, and agree with almost all of it, but I would at this point strike a note of discord with Jane Hutt, not on the last thing she said—I absolutely agree with what she said about shared parental leave and the low take-up—but on recommendation 3. Before I go into that, I'd like to just note the introduction—paragraph 1, page 15:

'Having children has a life-long effect on women’s employment rates, career opportunities and income. A startling proportion of women either do not go back to work after having children, or return to lower paid, part-time jobs to fit around childcare.'

Absolutely. It's certainly the case and it's definitely, starkly, borne out by the evidence and the fact that the same is not felt by fathers. But I would add to that that fathers—and I think that John Griffiths has recognised that—because of the gendered assumptions about childcare, have a different kind of pressure in their lives and that is to leave their children to go to work and provide an income that is reduced as a result of having children, and I felt that myself. I still feel it myself—I'm the father of two small children. And with regard to recommendation 3, let me say that if I was in a position to be offered a place in Government, I would not take it. I would not be able to accept a position in Government, in this Assembly term, and there are no members of the Labour leadership campaign here to say, 'Well, we wouldn't offer it to him anyway'. But if I want to play a part in my children's lives, I have to make that sacrifice. So, I'm recognising that sacrifice, but if I look at recommendation 3, I cannot see how a job share for Ministers would work, in that it isn't a job in the conventional sense. And the same goes for Members of the National Assembly. With responsible Government and with stable Government, I think you are able to work flexibly within your roles and I don't see how it would be publicly acceptable then to job share at election time. But I know that Members in this Chamber have a different view. The reason I mention my own personal position is because I'm saying that from a point of experience, I think.

With regard to recommendation 6—all teaching posts to be advertised as flexible working—the Government has accepted it, but actually they say, 'Well, it's actually down to governing bodies'. I'd like some clarity where they say:

'It will be imperative that the review of teachers' pay and conditions takes full account of the flexibilities required to support the range of working patterns that schools require.'

I'd like to know what that means. I assume it means flexibility in the provision of pay, but I'd like more information there. It's good to see that recommendation 8 builds on the foundational economy and talks about the foundational economy and the gender imbalances there. It's nice to see the dialogue on the foundational economy being taken into committees beyond those of which Members who advocate the foundational economy are Members.

Recommendation 16 urges Government to review the current availability and cost of wraparound care. I've had many conversations with the Minister with regard to the childcare offer and know that the Government is focusing on getting this right. Again, from personal experience, I've seen it happen and I think that co-location of foundation phase childcare, both in school and by care providers, needs to be identified and needs to be part of the principles of what the Government is doing.

Recommendation 30 urges the Welsh Government to create source of advice for all matters relating to parenting and employment, with particular support tailored to SMEs. Well, Members will know that I've talked at length of my experience with SMEs, particularly through my research, and I talked to an owner-manager on one occasion, and he said, 'Yes, my staff, they'd certainly work flexibly. My accountant, not only does he do the accounts, he also cleans the toilets.' And from that point of view, this understanding of flexible working is not fully understood in all of the private sector communities that we've talked about. Flexible working must be for the benefit of the worker, not the employer. That is not understood. We talk about flexible working and, immediately, employers think 'skills flexibility'. That's not what it is; it's 'hours flexibility', and that needs to be clearly understood.

From my point of view, I recognise—and I've been interested in this for a long time as a university teacher—that the nine-to-five desk job is becoming increasingly obsolete, and flexible jobs are what we need, not least with the problems of public transport. In my office, I encourage flexible working. So, my staff are encouraged to work flexibly and to work as flexibly as possible. They don't have to be in on a day when they're not required to be in, they can work from home as much as possible, and they are encouraged to pursue professional development outside of work, but professional development that they desire to see.

I think we can all, as Assembly Members, take this report to heart and use it as an example in the way we employ our staff as well and enable them to work flexibly. So, with one very small caveat, I support this report.

15:45

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I'd like to start by giving my thanks to the committee for undertaking this inquiry and producing such a well-considered and comprehensive report. It is a very important area, given the far-reaching implications for so many people in Wales. And I'd also particularly like to pay thanks to the Chair, John Griffiths, who steered the inquiry sensitively and diligently to its conclusion. Deputy Presiding Officer, I'd also like to thank all the individuals and organisations who gave evidence to the committee, which is not always an easy task, but nevertheless extremely valuable in shaping the committee's recommendations, as has been made plain by all of the speakers who've contributed to the debate.

This Government is committed to improving conditions for all people in work in Wales, and we are particularly keen to reduce gender inequality in work and childcare within the scope of our devolved responsibilities. As we have stated in our formal response to the committee, the First Minister has led the way in reducing gender inequality and has set a bold and ambitious target for the Welsh Government to become a world leader in women's rights and gender equality. To that end, the reports from phase 1 on the gender equality review undertaken by both Chwarae Teg and the Wales Centre for Public Policy have posed some challenging findings for the Welsh Government, and we will be considering those further as we move into phase 2. Of course, the challenge lies in ensuring effective cross-Government working and seamless multi-agency working. Those are easy phrases to say, but much more difficult to achieve. And also, at the same time, to seek to influence those areas where competence is not devolved but which are nevertheless very important parts of our economy.

We've heard today about equality in general and the Welsh public sector equality duty regulations in particular, and I'm more than happy to pay tribute to my predecessor, Jane Hutt, in steering the equality duty through, but now responsibility falls to me, and I've made it very clear that I expect early action to improve reporting of gender pay gaps. As part of the phase 2 approach, and in specific answer to both Siân Gwenllian and to Jane Hutt on this question, I will be looking to set an ambitious target for halving, or eliminating even, dare I say, the gender pay gap in the Welsh Government. The only reason I haven't signed up to the 'when' one is because I want to see if we can be even more ambitious than that. So, I'm looking at that, and I will be, by the end of this term, Deputy Presiding Officer, bringing a report back to the Chamber about what we think we can achieve in a reasonable timescale, because I don't think it's at all acceptable that we have a gender pay gap in the Welsh Government. We need to be an exemplar in this regard. How can we be properly enjoining other organisations in Wales to do this if we aren't able to do it ourselves?

On the basis of that, it's fundamental that we have the right evidence base on which to act, and therefore I am also making clear that the principles of open data—data that's transparent, user-friendly and accessible—sit at the heart of our Welsh public body reporting arrangements so that there is no place to hide. With that in mind, I've also made it very clear that we'll be looking to see what regulations need to be put in place to ensure that all public bodies in Wales report these matters in one accessible place and with easy and accessible, transparent data. So, again, Deputy Presiding Officer, I'll be bringing that back as part of my report, which will be before the end of this Assembly autumn term. Is that the right phrase? Before Christmas, anyway, of this year.

At the core of what we're trying to achieve here in terms of reducing gender inequality must be the promotion of fair work. As the report says, this is essential if we're to deliver a Welsh economy that provides individual and national prosperity while spreading opportunity and tackling regional inequalities, including gender inequalities. Last year, the Fair Work Board set out the underpinning values of fair work, which include a right to be heard, fair and guaranteed hourly earnings, job security and career progression, and not least, job quality and working time quality. The Fair Work Commission is now taking this work into its next phase, building on these strong foundations, and it will be looking closely at the levers that are available to Welsh Government to implement that fair work, and will be identifying whether there are new or additional steps that might be taken, including looking at new legislation. We've made a commitment to amend the economic contract following the work of the Fair Work Commission, and, again, we need to get that evidential base right so that we can act and make sure that we have the best, world-leading legislation in that regard here in Wales.

The report also rightly focuses on the issue of childcare. It's often cited as one of the main barriers faced by parents who are accessing work. It's cited, as everybody, I think, has mentioned, as one of the reasons why some parents where they do, or work the hours they do, or don't work at all, so it's still an unpalatable truth that, in the twenty-first century in Wales, the majority of children in relative income poverty live in a household where, actually, at least one person is working. We know that well-paid work is both the best route out of poverty and the greatest protection against poverty, and, Deputy Presiding Officer, we also know that financial inequality in the home is one of the main drivers of some of the sexual violence and domestic violence that we see. So it's absolutely paramount that we drive gender equality into the Welsh culture, and in that regard I just want to highlight the 'This is Me' gender equality campaign that the Welsh Government has been running. It has been very successful in terms of its reach, and we hope that it will be very successful in terms of its impact, but in terms of the number of people who've seen it, that has had a very wide reach indeed.

I'd just like to underline to members of the committee that that is very much about being allowed to be the person that you want to be, whether you're male or female, so driving some of the cultural change that John Griffiths in particular talked about, where it's perfectly acceptable for a man to be the main carer of the children and for the woman not to be, and vice versa, or whatever other arrangement suits you. We should be facilitating all of those changes in society. There's no doubt at all that people make decisions on how to do childcare at home when they can't afford the paid childcare that they need based on inadequate information. So, I think it's fair to say that the evidence says that the vast majority of people making decisions about which partner should give up work and so on base it on narrow things around current earnings and not on lifetime earnings, for example, and without a full understanding of the economic impact prolonged periods out of work can have on anyone's career.

With that, I want to say that we're looking very carefully at the issues raised by a number of people, particularly Siân Gwenllian and Jane Hutt, but I think everybody who spoke mentioned it, around the take-up of shared parental leave in the Welsh Government, so that I can understand what's currently being taken up, or certainly on offer, but what's currently being taken up and why, and what effect that has, and what data we have about that, so that, again, I can bring it back to this Chamber to say what we can do about ensuring that more people take up those offers, and if they don't, what the barriers might be, given that it's on offer here in the Government, and because, again, if we can't be the exemplar, Deputy Presiding Officer, then I think we're going to be struggling.

I'm not going to focus that much on our childcare offer. It has been rehearsed in the Chamber very often and my colleague the Minister for Children, amongst other things, has already set it out. But it is worth saying just this: that the childcare offer is not the only way of securing childcare paid for by the Welsh Government. We do have a number of other programmes that I know my colleague Huw Irranca-Davies has mentioned in this Chamber on a number of occasions. Together as a package, they are far more than just the current childcare offer that's in the manifesto, and he has spoken often about corralling that together, and that will be part of what the Fair Work Commission also looks at, to see what barriers there are in driving some of the fair work practices that we want to see in Wales.

I also want to say this about the work of the committee: I very much appreciate the work that's been done on flexible working practices and so on, but there is a case also for pushing what are called modern working practices, and outcome-focused employment, where actually presence in the workplace is not what drives the remuneration. That also assists people with disabilities and other access issues. So, if your employment, if possible—and it's not always possible; it's more difficult, for example, for teachers to have this—but there are lots of jobs in the modern economy where an outcome-based remuneration package works very well, and therefore for people who need very flexible arrangements, as long as they can produce the outcomes necessary, what difference does it make where they do it from, how they're addressed or what access arrangements they've had in order to produce those outcomes? I very much want to reference the work of the previous GE Aviation chief executive, La-Chun Lindsay, in what she was able to show could be done even on a production line when you look at output-based working to get diversity and opportunity into a workforce. I think it's a shame that she's gone back to America now, but I'm still in contact with her, and she drove some very innovative practices.

So, I just want to end, Deputy Presiding Officer, by thanking the committee again for this comprehensive report. It's provided food for thought and gives a clear sense of the issues still facing people in Wales, particularly women in the workplace. I think that the committee is a good champion of equality, as I hope I am. This portfolio that I have is not just a responsibility for me, however—it's a responsibility across the Government. We've accepted the vast majority of the recommendations of the committee, and I look forward to working with my Cabinet colleagues and my committee colleagues in taking this important work forward. Diolch yn fawr.     

15:55

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. I'd like to thank all the Members who contributed, all of whom I think emphasised the importance of these matters to the economy as well as to individuals and families affected. Janet Finch-Saunders mentioned the range of evidence that came to inform the committee's work, and I think that is extremely important in terms of the provenance of the report and the recommendations that we have made. And it was good to see a number of Assembly Members drawing on their own personal experience. Siân Gwenllian, Jane Hutt and Hefin David all cited their own personal experience of these issues. Jane Hutt referring to 1992, when we were faced with the same challenges, in many respects, that we face today, and although considerable progress has been made, some of the basic essential challenges remain for us to overcome. It's also true, I think, Dirprwy Lywydd, that there was a wider recognition of the scale of the challenges, but also I think a very positive account of how we can move forward, and the consensus I think that there is around this particular report, and the recommendations that we've made.

Cultural change is extremely difficult to bring about—and behavioural change—but it is essential to the progress that we require. I think central to it is the matters of how it relates to men and women, to fathers as well as mothers, and I think that is extremely important because if we do get a greater recognition from men and fathers of the benefit that they would receive were they to play a greater role in the childcare of their families, that would help move matters forward, because we would have a wider consensus still as to the necessary change that should come about. So, I think we all have to work towards that, but, obviously, there is a responsibility of leadership for all of us here today, and perhaps more so still for Welsh Government.

So, I'm very pleased to hear what Julie James had to say in recognising the strength of the recommendations in the report and the work of the committee, but also the commitment to report back, because in our report, and in my remarks earlier, we have stressed the need for Welsh Government perhaps to go beyond the valuable response that it has already made by reporting back perhaps after the Fair Work Commission has reported, but in general. And I take that from today, and I think that would please all of the Members who've contributed, Dirprwy Lywydd, if we do see that continuing engagement from Welsh Government to inform us as to what they will do to make these recommendations a reality.         

Thank you. The proposal is to note the committee's report. Does any Member object? The motion is therefore agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36. 

Motion agreed in accordance with Standing Order 12.36.

6. Debate on the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee Annual report: 'The Welsh Government's progress on climate change mitigation'

The next item is a debate on the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee annual report: 'The Welsh Government's progress on climate change mitigation'. I call on the committee Chair to move the motion. Mike Hedges.

16:00

Motion NDM6795 Mike Hedges

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

Notes the report of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, 'The Welsh Government's progress on climate change mitigation: Annual Report of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee', laid in Table Office on 25 May 2018.

Motion moved.

Diolch, Deputy Presiding Officer.

At the start of this Assembly, the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee agreed that one of its priorities should be to scrutinise the Welsh Government’s progress on climate change mitigation because of its importance to the people of Wales. It was also agreed that the committee would produce an annual report on the Welsh Government’s progress and hold an annual debate on its content.

I am delighted to open this debate on the committee’s first annual report on the Welsh Government’s progress on climate change mitigation, and I would like to thank the current and previous members of the committee who have contributed to this work. Our scrutiny has been supported by a group of experts from academia, local government and business and conservation groups. The group’s views are reflected in our conclusions and recommendations. I want to place on record my thanks to the members of that group.

Today, I want to focus on two aspects of the committee’s report: our assessment of the Welsh Government’s progress on climate change so far; and our view on the Welsh Government’s future plans and actions.

First, the committee has assessed the Welsh Government’s progress on climate change. The Welsh Government published its climate change strategy back in 2010. This committed to a reduction in total greenhouse gas emissions to a level 40 per cent below 1990 or 1995 levels, depending on the gas, by 2020. Those were very ambitious targets. The stark fact is that the Welsh Government will not meet those targets. More recently, the Assembly passed the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which requires the Welsh Government to ensure that net emissions for 2050 are at least 80 per cent lower than the 1990 or 1995 baselines. I think everybody can now see the importance of an annual report.

The independent UK Committee on Climate Change has been asked by the Welsh Government to provide it with targets up to 2050. Its analysis shows that we are behind the rest of the UK in achieving our targets. The latest statistics show Welsh emissions have reduced to 19 per cent below 1990 levels, whilst across the UK over the same period emissions fell by 27 per cent.

Emissions from industry have been broadly flat since 2008. The reduction of 31 per cent on 1990 levels is way below the 48 per cent achieved by the UK as a whole. Emissions from the power station sector are heading in the wrong direction. They have increased by 17 per cent since 1990, which is why I am very disappointed with the lack of support from Westminster for the tidal lagoon.

I feel a bit bad about this, actually, because I’m blaming the Welsh Government for the increase in these levels, but we could be reducing them if the Government at Westminster had supported the tidal lagoon, which would have produced energy that would not be costing so much in terms of emissions. So, I’m holding you responsible for the Westminster Government not having done what they should have done, which does seem a tad unfair, but I think it is important that we do hold to account the only people we can hold to account. I wish we had Michael Gove in here and the representatives of the Westminster Government to hold to account, but unfortunately, Minister, it’s you.

As a result, the UK Committee on Climate Change has suggested targets that are less ambitious than those contained in the Welsh Government’s climate change strategy of 2010. This is a pragmatic and necessary approach given the lack of progress. It is, however, regrettable. Our concern is that this does not become a pattern, with the Welsh Government setting ambitious, aspirational long-term targets that have to be revised downwards when reality starts to bite, even if some of these are due to actions beyond their control.

We need a clear action plan, to ensure we have cross-Government measures that can deliver incremental but sustained improvement. This brings me to an innovation produced by the Environment (Wales) Act: the carbon budgeting process. Under that Act, for each five-year budgetary period, the Welsh Government must set a maximum total amount for net emissions, described as a 'carbon budget'. The first two of these carbon budgets, covering 2016-2020 and 2021-2025, must be set by the end of this year. The carbon budgets will include interim targets in regulations and Welsh Ministers must, by law, ensure that the carbon budgets are not exceeded. These carbon budgets will be the main driver for emissions reduction in Wales. The Act also requires the Welsh Government to produce a report detailing the policies and proposals that will deliver each carbon budget.

Scrutiny of these carbon budgets and the associated action plans will be a priority for this committee. There is still some further thought needed about how this new process will work in practice, but it is undoubtedly a useful mechanism to hold the Welsh Government to account. Carbon budgets will, by their very nature, deliver a cross-Government approach. Climate change poses a significant challenge and it is vital for there to be engagement across the Cabinet and across portfolios on this agenda. This is not just the role of the Cabinet Member who covers this area; it's the role of every Cabinet Member. And can I just say, on a personal level, that I'm disappointed that the only Cabinet Member who is actually present at this stage is the Cabinet Member who is going to be responding? Perhaps this has been lacking in the past, but I’m pleased to say that this appears to be improving, particularly with the introduction of carbon budgets. I’d like to commend the Cabinet Secretary on her progress and encourage her to keep up her good work.

Now I will turn to our views on the Welsh Government’s future plans and actions. Our report covers four key policy areas. The first is the European Union emissions trading scheme. In 2016, the industrial sector produced 57 per cent of all emissions in Wales, so there is much to be gained from tackling such emissions. We are part of the European Union trading scheme, a scheme that allows big emitters to trade emissions allowances as necessary to avoid incurring punitive fines. However, emissions from this sector have actually increased by 12 per cent between 2010 and 2016. After we leave the European Union, there will be opportunities to develop a successor scheme, and I hope that we will have a successor scheme. The Cabinet Secretary has expressed her frustration at the lack of progress on this and I share that frustration. I would be grateful if the Cabinet Secretary could set out the latest position on discussions with the UK Government about a possible successor scheme.

The second policy area we looked at was land management. In 2014, agriculture and land use accounted for 12 per cent of total emissions in Wales. We recommended a much more ambitious approach to increasing tree planting and we raised this under our report on trees. Unfortunately, over recent years, tree planting has fallen well short of targets. The recently revised woodland strategy for Wales has a commitment to increase woodland cover in Wales by at least 2,000 hectares a year from 2020 until 2030 and beyond. We are pleased that the Welsh Government has not abandoned its target, but we are concerned that this is just more of the same. There is no indication that this strategy will reach the targets that the old one failed to deliver. I'm fairly certain that the committee will want to give an annual report on tree targets as well, because I think that giving an annual report does hold the Government to account.

We also made recommendations on agriculture and planning. I’m afraid I don’t have enough time to go into these in detail, but I am pleased that the Government is taking forward one of the recommendations in this committee’s first report, which talked about ensuring that future funding for land management is based on contributions to targets for climate change mitigation.

Thirdly, we looked at housing and buildings. We know from our recent inquiry into low-carbon housing that Wales has some of the oldest and coldest housing stock in Europe, and it's not just in terms of energy, it's in terms of life chances for children and life expectancy for adults, which come from living in cold houses. As part of that inquiry, we recommended an extensive programme of retrofit for houses in fuel poverty in Wales. I hope we can debate that report in due course.

I was encouraged to see some of our recommendations reflected in the Government’s consultation, 'Achieving our low-carbon pathway to 2030', for instance, proposals for higher energy efficiency building standards and a long-term retrofit programme. I would also like to welcome the work of the new advisory group on the decarbonisation of homes in Wales.

Finally, we considered transport policy. In 2014, transport accounted for 12.77 per cent of total Welsh emissions. This is an area that has delivered very few improvements in terms of emissions reductions, that is, transport. There has been virtually no improvement since 2007, but as the amount of cars on the roads has increased since then, the emissions per car have almost certainly gone down.

Members will have heard last week’s debate on the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee’s report on the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. This committee also looked at the implementation of that Act. I endorse our colleagues’ conclusions that the Act has clearly not delivered on its aims. We expect improvements in this policy area and will keep it under review.

We also considered the M4 relief road and electric and hydrogen vehicles. In particular, our expert group questioned what impact the M4 relief road will have on emission reduction. The Cabinet Secretary told us that total annual user carbon emissions on the south Wales highway network will reduce as a result. This is something we will keep under review.

So, in conclusion, what is this committee’s assessment of where we are? My three key messages would be: progress since the publication of the 2010 climate change report has been disappointing, but there has been progress; future targets must be challenging and stretching, but they must also be realistic and deliverable, and when we come back and report on an annual basis, which we seem to be moving towards, we expect to see progress; and there are exciting opportunities as we see innovations from the environment Act, such as carbon budgeting, coming on stream.

This is our first annual report on the delivery of climate change mitigation. It has highlighted the scale of the challenge ahead. We will continue to keep this subject under review and report back to the Assembly on progress. 

16:05

I thank the Chair for his opening remarks on this committee report. Obviously, I'm new to the committee and played no part in formulating the report. I do commend the previous committee members—David Melding to my right and other committee members who have subsequently left the committee—on putting forward such a comprehensive report, and in particular the Chair's opening remarks about annual reporting. 

One thing that does strike me, and I'm sure other people who read this report, is the length of time that the targets are set over. You're talking 20, 30, 40 years to make those big impact changes that we're talking about here and, actually, keeping a constant monitoring exercise on progress—or not, as the case may be—surely is a critical role of any committee in this Assembly, and I think that's a welcome initiative although there is a danger that it could overtake the rest of the committee's work if it constantly annually reports on all sorts of things. 

The Chair's opening remarks identified, obviously, the one glaring anomaly that jumps out at you straight away of the first figure, which is a 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions to 1999 levels by the year 2040, and, obviously, we have gone backwards—by 2020, sorry, for that figure to come in—and we have gone backwards here in Wales in not keeping up with the rest of the UK in the way that they've progressed to the same target. So, I hope that in the comments that the Cabinet Secretary will engage with in this debate, she will highlight how she will get the lorry back on the road, the car back on the road, as it were, to hit those targets—in a sustainable way, I might add.

Because, obviously, a key part of this report does look at how we revolutionise our transport system and how the Government is working across all the departments so that they install electric charging points, and in particular its modelling around road schemes that very often are held up as examples of increasing our carbon footprint. But, the Government’s assertion is that, actually, if you do end up building some of these road improvements, they could introduce a significant reduction in some of the carbon outputs by getting traffic moving more efficiently and that stop-start that we see in many places on our road network at the moment, that contributes to air pollution in communities the length and breadth of Wales, could be alleviated. I do hope that—I’ve read the ministerial response to the committee—but I do hope that the Cabinet Secretary will engage more fully today with some of those observations around the M4 relief road, for example, because we heard from the Cabinet Secretary in ministerial questions that the public inquiry is now with him, it has been delivered to him, and an assertion of the Government is, actually, if you do build that road, you will help to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions here in Wales. I think the committee wanted to see more evidence of that and I think that's still to be proven in some people’s minds.

Also, it is a very valid point for the committee Chair to point out. I can remember in the third Assembly, when I sat on the predecessor committee, a particular Cabinet Minister at that time coming before us who didn’t realise that there was an environmental obligation on his department as part of the overall Government initiative—I won’t name and shame—and all of a sudden his official did tug his arm and say, 'Well, actually, there is this obligation on you as a Minister to report annually to the First Minister about what progress your department is doing.' And it is important that Government collectively work to meet this agenda.

We heard it today in scrutiny of the future generations commissioner's department how she does have confidence that there is greater collaborative working across Government, in fairness, but it does depend on the individuals and the buy-in of the individuals because they're accountable for their departments. So, again, in her response today, I do hope that the Cabinet Secretary will be able to give us confidence that those collaborative working arrangements that she, in fairness to her, has put in place are robust, are durable and will not just shift on with the personalities should Cabinet reshuffles happen, they will endure in the Cabinet and the Government structures that we have here in Wales.

From my farming background, obviously, land is a really important part of the things that I have an interest in, and it is troubling to see the lack of forestry and forestry development work that has gone on. The Government, to its credit, had a very ambitious target of 100,000 hectares to be planted, and it hasn’t even scratched the surface of hitting that target at the moment. I think there are still 96,000 hectares to be met if that target is to be delivered in the time frame that the Government initially set itself. And although it’s hanging on for dear life to that target, I do think maybe a more realistic goal should now be put in place because it’s not about admitting defeat on this; it’s about being realistic about what the Government can deliver, rather than just hanging on to a target that was pencilled in and, clearly, cannot be delivered, because in the time frame that has been had since this target was put in for the last three or four years, only 2,500 hectares have actually been planted here in Wales. With the best will in the world over the next 14-odd years, you are not going to plant 7,000 hectares of woodland every year to meet the 100,000 that you’ve set. So, let’s be realistic: let’s give the forestry industry, let’s give the land industry a realistic target to hit.

And, also, I’d like to touch on planning, but I appreciate I'm running out of time, as the Deputy Presiding Officer is indicating, but this is an agenda item that does focus much attention from the voters who elect us to come to this institution. I do look forward to my work on the committee and, in particular, holding the Government to account, but, more importantly, seeing progress in this very important policy area that, ultimately, we can look on and say, 'We did make a difference.' Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer.

16:15

I’m very pleased to be taking part in this important debate on the report of our climate change committee. Thank you to the Chair, Mike Hedges, for his introduction of the annual report of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee on Welsh Government’s progress with regard to mitigating the effects of climate change. There are several recommendations, and, of course, whilst the Government has accepted the majority of them, they also don’t accept a number of others. We’ll go through those now, briefly.

Clearly, the Welsh Government won’t succeed in reaching its target of reducing emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. That’s obvious. The latest emissions statistics in 2015 show that Wales’s emissions are only 19 per cent below the 1990 levels, whereas emissions in the rest of the UK fell 27 per cent below 1990 levels. Clearly, establishing less challenging targets now could be seen as rewarding failure in this context. As others have said, progress on tackling climate change and the public health crisis resulting from poor air quality won’t happen until all members of the Cabinet take responsibility for cuts in emissions in their portfolios.

Now, turning to some of the recommendations briefly:

'Recommendation 5. The Welsh Government should: provide the Committee with details of what it believes should be the requirements of a replacement for the EU ETS'.

One of the reasons that the Cabinet Secretary has stated for the failure of the Welsh Government to reach its target of a 40 per cent reduction in emissions by 2020 is because of the role of the EU ETS. As she says,

'these emissions account for greater than 50 per cent of our total emissions, it then impacts on our ability to deliver the 40 per cent target.'

The scheme that will follow the ETS will play a key role therefore in how the Welsh Government will reach its target for reducing emissions. It's a matter of disappointment, therefore, that the Welsh Government has accepted recommendation 5 only in principle—that old trick of accepting things in principle, rather than just accepting them and going for it.

Now, the EU ETS is one of the 24 devolved areas that fall under discussions on common frameworks under the inter-governmental agreement between the Welsh Government and the UK Government. The Cabinet Secretary feels frustrated—her words—about the lack of progress on this matter, but this is a natural result when we've had to accept the freezing of our powers as a result of the vote in this place on the EU withdrawal Bill. The United Kingdom Government know they can drive the agenda when things affect Wales without having to take any notice of what we say.

Now, turning to recommendation 8, and the Welsh Government committing

'to a national target of 20% urban tree canopy cover',

we've heard a great deal about these targets on trees. I won't rehearse the same figures, but trees can reduce carbon and air pollution. The Welsh Government is falling far behind in terms of planting more trees, and it's a cause of disappointment that the Welsh Government has rejected recommendation 8 to pursue this target of planting more trees. It should be a natural requirement of Government to take action and accept recommendation 8, particularly remembering the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

Turning to recommendation 13 in this paper—

'The Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport should review the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013'—

clearly, as others have said, transport is an area where a significant decrease could be made in carbon emissions and it could help to reduce air pollution as well. Now, in debates and questions before today in this Chamber, we’ve heard some talking about how insufficient the Welsh Government response has been to taking action on the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013. It’s of course a disappointment, therefore, that this recommendation, recommendation 13, that the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport—the Cabinet Secretary will have to tell her colleague about this—should 

'report back to the Committee within 6 months'

on how the review of implementation of the Active Travel (Wales) Act is coming along. This recommendation again has only been accepted in principle; it's not been accepted that we need a review—it's only been accepted in principle. After everything, that's a matter of disappointment. Almost five years have elapsed since this Act was passed. The rates of active travel are the same, and fewer children are cycling and walking to school.

To conclude, the Welsh Government provides £60 million over three years under this Act—about £10 per head per year—which is significantly less than the recommendation of the economy committee of £17 to £20 per head per year. Compare that with a cost of £1.4 billion for the M4 black route. These are the significant challenges. Thank you.

16:20

I'm very pleased to speak in this annual report of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee on the Welsh Government's progress on climate change mitigation. I'm not a member of the committee, but obviously climate change is something that affects every one of us in this Chamber and does affect every department. As the Chair said in his opening remarks, this isn't something that we can pinpoint to one particular committee. And, of course, we've all experienced first hand recently the results of climate change: the beast from the east and the hottest summer on record for over 40 years. So, I think climate change is obviously one of those huge issues that is very important to us all, and we simply cannot deny that our climate is changing. So, it's therefore absolutely imperative that we do what we can to ensure it doesn't get any worse, and I think this report highlights some of the ways in which we in Wales can do our bit, and certainly highlights the fact that we can do a lot more than we are able to do.

I was particularly interested in the section of the report regarding the energy standards of housing and buildings and how they can be improved across Wales, and I was pleased to see that the Warm Homes programme will address energy efficiency in 25,000 homes in this term and that the Welsh Government will build 1,000 new types of homes across Wales through the innovative housing programme. In my role as chair of the Wales programme monitoring committee, I've been lucky enough to visit several European-funded projects that are committed to tackling climate change and improving energy efficiency. As most of you know, SPECIFIC, based in Swansea University, is funded by the European regional development fund and aims to turn buildings into power stations. Buildings as power stations generate, store and release their own solar energy, both heat and electricity. This means that buildings are, in effect, active rather than passive structures, and it means that carbon emissions in buildings are eliminated and dramatically reduces reliance on fossil fuels and gas.

This is huge progress, and I know we have spoken in this Chamber about these developments before, but it is amazing, I think, that you're actually able to build houses that are active, that can actually generate energy, and it just seems to me that there has to be a huge push to make sure that we get new houses that are built to those standards. And that's where, I think, we are not actually doing as much as we could do. If all future houses were built in this way, then we'd see an absolutely dramatic decrease in the use of fossil fuels, and homes would be powered by renewable and clean energy. So, we've got that. That technology has been developed here in Wales, in Swansea, and it is being—. Small-scale developments are using it. But, in Cardiff, we have thousands of new homes being built, because of the population that is rising in Cardiff, many of them in my constituency in Cardiff North, and, talking to the private house developers, none of them will be putting any of these active houses into the developments. So, I think that is very, very regrettable, and I know that there is, I believe, a review of building regulations going on, so I hope that the building regulations will come up with something that will enable builders to go forward in this way. [Interruption.] Yes, certainly.

Thank you, Julie, for taking the intervention. I couldn't agree more with you that the planning system should be used to force developers to put more energy efficient mechanisms in place and eco-friendly homes, and in particular in rural areas. Do you not agree with me that maybe the Welsh Government should be far more proactive in giving guidance to planning authorities to allow permissions, in areas that maybe wouldn't get that permission, if the house meets those eco-friendly credentials? 

16:25

In what I was saying here, I wasn't really referring to the planning conditions. I was thinking more of the building regulations for the large-scale developments that are