National Assembly for Wales Plenary 05.12.18


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Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call Members to order. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Today, we mark an
auspicious event in the history of our Senedd. As we look forward to celebrating 20 years
since the election of the first Assembly, in 1999, Iím pleased to announce that this
place is about to become home to a second exciting seneddóour first ever Youth Parliament. This is the conclusion of many months of work
by organisations, schools and the dedicated Youth Parliament team at the Assembly. We are very much indebted to everyone who
ensured that this project has come to fruition. Over 450 young candidates, almost 250,000
registered to vote, with representation the length and breadth of Walesóthe statistics
speak volumes about their success. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: This is a golden
opportunity to enthuse the next generation, and I am confident that these young parliamentarians
will be fabulous champions for the issues of importance to the young people of Wales. I am pleased, therefore, to announce the first
ever members of the Welsh Youth Parliament, representing constituencies and partner organisations
nationwide. Here are the 60 names. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Here are the names
of the young parliamentarians. North Wales: Evan Burgess, Nia Griffiths,
Brengain Glyn Williams, Talulah Thomas, Harrison James Gardner, Thomas Comber, Ifan Price,
Abbey Carter, Jonathon Dawes, Jonathan Powell, Ifan Wyn Erfyl Jones, Grace Barton, Hasna
Ali, Katie June Whitlow. Mid and West Wales: Arianwen Fox-James, Marged
Lois Campbell, Cai Thomas Phillips, Caleb Rees, Megan Carys Davies, Rhys Lewis, Ellie
Murphy. South Wales East: Calen Jones, Aled Joseph,
Gwion Rhisiart, Betsan Roberts, Rhian Shillabeer, Manon Clarke, Ffion Griffiths, Tommy Church,
Lloyd Mann, Charley Oliver-Holland, Finlay Bertram, Maisy Evans, Abby OíSullivan, Luke
Parker, Carys Thomas, Angel Ezeadum, Greta Evans, Chloe Giles, Abbie Cooper, Levi Rees. Finally, South Wales West: welcome to Kian
Agar, Todd Murray, Eleri Griffiths, Ffion-Haf Davies, Eleanor Lewis, Laine Woolcock, Efan
Rhys Fairclough, Alys Hall, Ruth Sibayan, Ubayedhur Rahman, Lleucu Haf Wiliam, Caitlin
Stocks, Casey-Jane Bishop, Oliver Davies, Sandy Ibrahim, Nia-Rose Evans, Anwen Grace
Rodaway, Sophie Billinghurst, and William Hackett. Congratulations to all of them. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: We look forward to
welcoming them all to the Senedd for their inaugural meeting in February. [Applause.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Congratulations,
everyone. Excellent. Thank you to Members, and congratulations
to the members of the Youth Parliament. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: So, that takes us
on to the business of the day, and the first item is questions to the Cabinet Secretary
for Finance. The first question is from Jenny Rathbone. Jenny Rathbone AM: 1. In light of warnings from the Welsh Local
Government Association about the impact of cuts to local government funding, what discussions
has the Cabinet Secretary held with the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public
Services regarding the safeguarding of local services? OAQ53050
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Jenny Rathbone for the question. I hold regular discussions with all Cabinet
colleagues, including the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services. On Friday of last week, for example, we jointly
attended a meeting of the local government working group, attended also by members of
the WLGA, and others. Jenny Rathbone AM: Thank you, Cabinet Secretary. Obviously, the additional funding that was
made available last week for local government is very welcome, but, in terms of how it translates
into money going to Cardiff Council, it’s £1.5 million, in the context of Cardiff Council
having to look for potential cuts of £34 million. So, it remains a very challenging landscape
for local government. And I wondered what work the Government can
do to ensure that we are ensuring that public services are joining up together, to try and
protect these preventative services, which are so important to the well-being of the
community. Mark Drakeford AM: Can I agree, Llywydd, with
Jenny Rathbone that it remains a severely challenging period for all public services
in Wales? Nine years into austerity and local government
is certainly in the front line. I’m grateful to the Welsh Local Government
Association for what they said. When we announced the additional resources
for councils, the WLGA itself said that the announcement signalled significant progress
and demonstrated a concerted effort to offset the impact of austerity in Wales. We will go on working with local government
colleagues to strengthen the way in which they are able to act collectively and regionally,
and to find ways in which money can be moved upstream so that we spend money preventing
problems from happening, rather than having to respond after the damage has been done. Suzy Davies AM: As you know, Cabinet Secretary,
the local authorities in my area are all Labour run, and even they are starting to say that
schools and social care budgets can’t be protected, with one of them saying even that Welsh Government
cannot continue to use austerity as an excuse for not allowing local government to deliver
vital services to all constituents. With that comment in mind, I wonder if you
could tell me whether you’ve discussed with the councils in my region, directly yourself,
about whether changes to the funding formula would make a difference, and, in the meantime,
whether you’ve discussed any particular ways about how they can protect those budgets on
the money that you have given them this year and next year. And, if you haven’t had the chance to do that,
if you are First Minister in a few weeks’ time, how will you be instructing colleagues
to do that on your behalf? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Suzy Davies. I congratulate her, of course, on having all
Labour local authorities in her area, and I’ve no doubt they’ll look forward to having
a Labour Government at UK level as well as here in Wales, because that is what would
make the greatest possible difference to their financial circumstances. The funding formula was discussed at the meeting
that I attended with Alun Davies on Friday of last week, including representatives of
councils in Suzy Davies’s area. I think council leaders recognise that, in
the end, the funding formula is a distraction from the main issue. The funding formula shares out the amount
of money available, and changing it when money is reducing is exceptionally difficult. What they emphasise, and we emphasise too,
is the need for the UK Government to provide proper funding for all public services in
Wales so that it is the size of the cake that is growing rather than an argument over how
a reducing cake is shared out. Jane Hutt AM: Cabinet Secretary, what assessment
have you made of the research by the University of Cambridge, which shows that cuts to spending
on services by councils in England are, on average, double what they’ve been in Wales? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Jane Hutt for that
question. She raised this during our debate on the draft
budget yesterday, pointing to the research by the University of Cambridge, which, as
I said yesterday, was published, as it happened, on the same day that the provisional settlement
for local government in Wales was published. And it absolutely demonstrates, as the report
itself says, that Wales and Scotland have taken a different approach to the way in which
we safeguard local services here, and that we have, within the constraints, which are
real, that we faceóand our actions don’t mitigate all of the difficulties that local
authorities face, I knowóbut, within those constraints, we have protected local government
in Wales from the worst effects of nine years of austerity, while local government in England
has simply been thrown to the wolves. Lynne Neagle AM: 2. What steps is the Welsh Government taking
to improve the understanding of Welsh rates of income tax? OAQ53047
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Lynne Neagle for that question. In November, over 2 million people in Wales
received a letter from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs setting out how Welsh rates of
income tax will work. The Welsh Government has launched a social
media campaign, in addition to the work of HMRC, to help explain the changes, and we
work with HMRC and stakeholders to go on raising awareness of Welsh rates of income tax here
in Wales. Lynne Neagle AM: Thank you for that response,
Cabinet Secretary. I’m sure I’m not alone amongst Members in
this Chamber in having to reassure constituents on receipt of that letter from HMRC that there
are currently no plans to put up income tax in Wales, because the letter has, I think,
alarmed some constituents, certainly of mine. What assurances can you give my constituents
that there are no plans to raise income tax in Wales? And while I welcome what you just said about
the social media campaign, what more can we do to ensure that there is a good understanding
of our new income tax powers in Wales? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank the Member for
that supplementary question. I’m sure she’s not alone in having constituents
come to ask about Welsh rates of income tax, and it’s very good, I think, that local residents
turn to Assembly Members for explanation of these important changes. I’m glad that Lynne Neagle was able to offer
the key assurance that members of her community will have been looking foróthat we have no
plans to raise rates of income tax here in Wales next year. We are following up every enquiry that has
come to the Welsh Government as a result of letters that members of the public have received. I know that Lynne Neagle will be interested
to learn that we directly have received fewer than five calls and five e-mails to the Welsh
Government as a result of the letter that went out. HMRC has, so far, received 94 calls in relation
to that letter. That is a very small fraction of the 2 million
letters that were sent out. But we will follow them all up, we will learn
from the questions that people ask us and we will feed that into the social media campaign
that we will be mounting over the coming weeks. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Cabinet Secretary,
are you also going to agree with me that one way to assist Welsh taxpayers’ understanding
of their tax deductions would be to have the Welsh rate included on both pay slips, where
people get salaries either monthly or weekly, and the P60 form, where, if some people are
working in England and in Wales, the end of year deduction should be showing what was
taken out in England and what was taken out for Wales? So, that’s a difference in tax collection
in two different regions in the country. So, what discussion has he had in this regard,
please? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Mohammad Asghar
for those suggestions, and I’m very happy to pursue them with HMRC to see whether they
would be a practical way of continuing to explain to citizens in Wales the changes that
fiscal devolution have brought about. He’s right to point to the fact that there
are some detailed discussions that have gone on and, indeed, detailed analysis that HMRC
are undertaking of the 98 cross-border postcodes, where people could be living in England or
in Wales, in order to ensure that notification letters are issued only to those taxpayers
living in Wales. We think there are fewer than 900 people in
that situation, but the additional detailed work that HMRC has carried out will mean that
letters to those remaining citizens will be issued by 10 December. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Questions now from
party spokespeople. The Plaid Cymru spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: Thank you very much. Cabinet Secretary, what import or value should
be placed on the views and comments of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales
when the Government comes to major decisions on expenditure policies? Mark Drakeford AM: Of course, we listen to
what the commissioner says. I spoke with her more than once when the budget
was being prepared during the spring and summer. She has been very constructive, I think, during
the process, and we appreciate the work that she does and the support that she provides
to us as a Government. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: Iím sure you will have
guessed that Iím going to be referring my questions to the M4. The commissioner has made some very strong
comments over some time now about your proposals for the M4 black route. She mentioned last year that the M4 scheme
could put in place a dangerous precedent for the future. More recently, she has made her view expressly
clear that she doesnít believe this proposal would meet the needs of future generations. Should such strong comments, from a commissioner
that we have entrusted a great deal in, be enough to put a stop to this proposal? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, of course, the commissioner
has put forward her own comments as part of the inquiry and research thatís been undertakenóindependent
research for an independent report that has emanated from the work over the past year. Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I have to simply
repeat what my colleague the leader of the house said yesterday. There is a legal process under way in relation
to decision making on the M4. As finance Minister, I have a part to play
in that process, and I’m not going to be drawn on any aspect of the decision making that
would draw me outside the legal parameters within which I have to operate. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: There is quite rightly
a lot of weight of expectation on what the commissioner can do for Wales. Surely, in this first major test case of the
influence that the commissioner has, Government should be showing that they are taking her
role extremely seriously. She raises some serious and fundamental questions
about value for money and what that means for finances available for future generations. As the holder of the public purse in Wales
and somebody who is charged with ensuring that we get maximum value for money, and get
maximum bangs for the Welsh buck, can you give an undertaking that, whilst we still
await decisions by Government on the next steps for the black route, you will investigate
every possibility of spending that substantial amount of moneyóup to £2 billion or more
evenóin a more sensible way, either by spending less for the same results through strengthening
the road network and investing in public transport, or even spending the same amount of money
and getting vastly greater results, which would please not only future generations,
but future health Secretaries, future transport Secretaries and, indeed, future finance Ministers
too? Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I understand all
the points that Rhun ap Iorwerth has made. All of them are serious points and all of
them were rehearsed in front of the independent, local public inquiry. No doubt, they will all be reflected in the
inspector’s report, produced as a result of the inquiry. I am yet to see that inspector’s report and
I have to reserve any comments that I might make on this matter until I’m able to do that
and to see the advice that is provided alongside it. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Conservative spokesperson,
Darren Millar. Darren Millar AM: Cabinet Secretary, what
provision have you made in your budget for next year in respect of the north Wales growth
deal? Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I am on the point
of being able to make provision for the north Wales growth deal. I hope to be able to do that within a short
number of days. I have not been able to do so up until this
point because, unlike the Cardiff and Swansea city deals, where the amounts of money to
be provided by the Welsh Government and the UK Government were agreed in advance of a
UK Government announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer chose to announce the sum
of money from the UK Government unilaterally and without agreement with us. Darren Millar AM: You’re very slow off the
starting blocks in respect of this deal, aren’t you, Cabinet Secretary? Because, as you will know, this bid was put
together and submitted by the north Wales economic ambition board on 23 October. The UK Government managed to consider it and
put its hand in its pocket and place £120 million on the table within a matter of just
a few weeks. Why have you spent so long dithering about
this? Mark Drakeford AM: I’m sure the Member would
rather that we had a constructive and cross-party approach to the north Wales growth deal. I understand that it is supported by Members
across this Chamber. The Welsh Government certainly will play our
part and I will make a decision on the amount of money that we are able to contribute to
the deal. I would rather have been able to do that in
the way we did in relation to Swansea and Cardiffóby prior agreement with the UK Government. The UK Government, having decided to put its
hand in its pocket, but not all that far, I must say, given that it was £170 million
that was asked for by north Wales authorities, not the £120 million they ended up withó. But I will make certain that there is a contribution
from the Welsh Government and then I look forward to the cross-party consensus that
has existed in this Chamber, on the importance of that growth deal, continuing. Darren Millar AM: I noted your criticism of
the £120 million, but it’s £120 million more than you’ve managed to put your hands
in your pocket for so far. You’re quite right to say that there is cross-party
agreement on this matter. I noted that, in advance of the UK Government’s
budget, there were Members of Parliament on a cross-party basis, including Labour Members
of Parliament, who were writing to the UK Government, asking it to make an announcement
in the budget on the north Wales growth deal. I would anticipate that you’ve also received
similar letters. Perhaps you can tell us whether you have,
from either Labour Assembly Members or MPs in respect of the role that you might play. I think what people in north Wales are looking
for is some rapid decision making on this. We know that the Welsh Government, quite rightly,
was very eager to get things signed off for the Cardiff capital region city deal and the
Swansea bay city deal, but for some reason, you appear to have been a little bit more
lethargic than you have been in respect of both of those deals in terms of engaging on
the north Wales growth deal with the economic ambition board and in terms of putting some
money on the table. You say now that you are going to make an
announcement in the coming days; I welcome the fact that you’ve revealed that to us today. Can you tell us, in advance of that announcement,
whether you will be providing sufficient moneys for the bid to be completely fulfilled? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, Llywydd, I, of course,
received correspondence in relation to the north Wales growth deal. By and large, it urged me to put pressure
on the UK Government to make its mind up in relation to the deal. This was the third budget. I notice the Member talks about decision making
being made rapidly. This was the third annual occasion in which
the Chancellor of the Exchequer mentioned the north Wales growth deal. Two years ago, he told us he was thinking
about it; a year ago, he told us he’d thought about it bit more; and this year, I was very
glad to see that he had come to a funding conclusion. I will make an announcement, as I say, as
soon as I’m able to. It will be a significant investment from the
Welsh Government. I think we’re much better off focusing on
making sure that we work together, the UK Government, the Welsh Government, local authorities,
private sector partners and others, to make the best possible success of the deal, rather
than worrying too much about whether a decision was made one week or two weeks later than
somebody else did. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: UKIP spokesperson,
Neil Hamilton. Neil Hamilton AM: Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. Can I commend the chief economist to the Welsh
Government for the document that was published this week, summarising the economic analyses
that have been made by the UK Government of the effects of Brexit under different scenarios? But the document contains some of the more
ludicrous projections, including the ones that have been published by the Bank of England
this weekóin the continuation of project fearóthat claimed that by the end of 2023,
on the worst case scenario, GDP in the UK could be between 7.75 per cent and 10 per
cent lower than it was in May 2016, which would be quite remarkable, because not only
is that a much more severe contraction than we experienced in the recession of 2008, it
is actually greater than the fall in output that occurred during the great depression
in the 1930s, and is only seen in countries like Venezuela, which have been given a full
dose of Corbynite economic policies, and where a 16 per cent contraction in GDP in one year
is now the norm. So, would the Cabinet Secretary agree with
me that the kind of worst case scenarios produced by official organisations like the Bank of
England are actually grossly irresponsible in the current climate of uncertainty over
Brexit, because they just magnify fears unnecessarily and, therefore, make that uncertainty even
worse, and that has a real impact upon businesses and the lives and livelihoods of ordinary
people? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, Llywydd, can I thank
the Member, first of all, for drawing attention to the document that the chief economist published
yesterday? He is independent of Government in the judgments
that he makes, and I know he was anxious to publish his assessment alongside the debate
that we had yesterday, and I hope other Members will have a chance to read what he said. I think his analysis is sober. I think it is deliberately couched in language
intended to be non-alarmist, and where I can’t agree with the Member, as he will know, is
in dismissing projections that are made by absolutely mainstream and respectable forecasters,
not simply the Bank of England, but also the Treasury itself, and also analysts outside
Government, all of whom share a broad consensus on the potential impact on our economy of
a hardline slash-and-burn Brexit. And I can’t afford to dismiss those projections
in the way that he does, because in Government, I’m afraid that you have to prepare for the
worst, even when you are working as hard as you can to avoid it. Neil Hamilton AM: I’m afraid the Cabinet Secretary,
in disagreeing with me, is also disagreeing with the former governor of the Bank of England,
Mervyn King, and indeed with Nobel prize winner Paul Krugman, whose political views are very
far from mine and are actually not too far from the Cabinet Secretary’s, because Mervyn
King has said that he is saddened to see the Bank of England unnecessarily drawn into this
project fear type of exercise. And Paul Krugmanóno friend of Brexitódescribes
the bank’s estimates as ‘black box numbers’ that are ‘dubious’ and ‘questionable’. So, when such a broad range of economic analysts
of world renown are able to dismiss these kinds of hysterical prophecy, I can’t understand
why the Cabinet Secretary himself, in the interests of a sober analysis and debateówhich
I agree with him the chief economist has added to our deliberations yesterdayócan’t calm
things down by agreeing with me that it does us no good whatsoever to have forecasts for
the future that are wildly, alarmingly out of kilter with reality. Mark Drakeford AM: Well, Llywydd, I would
seek to calm things down in this way by saying that two things happened yesterday that make
the prospects of a ‘no deal’ Brexit recede, and I’m very glad of that. The very best way to calm down anxiety will
be for the UK Government to take the advice set out in ‘Securing Wales’ Future’ and negotiate
a form of Brexit that authentically supports the Welsh economy and jobs, and then we wouldn’t
have to be trading expert against expert, dealing with the hypothetical but catastrophic
possibility that we could leave the European Union on terms that do the maximum damage. Neil Hamilton AM: I would refer back to the
chief economist’s report, because he does say in it that there is a strong consensus
amongst economists about the key principles of forecasting, one of which is that distance
itself is a barrier and trade is generally more intensive with partners who are approximate,
both geographically and in terms of their stage of economic development. The Treasury model and most of the other models
that are referred to in this document use what is called a gravity model of forecasting,
and the fundamental principle of that is that the amount of trade done between two countries
diminishes with the square of the distance between them. But, all the data upon which this rather dubious
forecasting model is based were compiled in the 1980s and beforeóa world in which there
was no internet, no FaceTime, no e-mail, no Google Translate, no standardised containerisation,
no opening up of former Marxist states, like China, for example, no World Trade Organization,
evenóand therefore, given that trade in services is now vastly more important to our economy
and, indeed, the economy of our European neighbours than it was then, and global mobility is so
much greater and the digital revolution has taken place, the assumptions upon which these
forecasting models are made are wildly out of date, and that is why they produce these
alarmingly out-of-kilter predictions, which are always proved to be totally wrong after
the event. Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, the gravity analysis
is, as the Member said, summed up generally as ‘trade halves as distance doubles’, and
that does tell you a relatively commonsensical thing: that you are more likely to have intense
economic relationships with those who are closest to you, and the further away your
market is from your own, the less likely it is that you will have the same intensity of
trade. The real difficulty for the Member is that
all the things that he points to in trying to discredit gravity analysis apply whether
we are in the European Union or not. And, leaving the European Union is not a material
fact in the analysis that he just attempted to set out. Mark Reckless AM: 3. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement
on the Welsh Government’s long-term strategy for taxation levels in Wales? OAQ53044
Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, the Welsh Government’s long-term strategy was set out in the tax
policy framework published in 2017, and is reflected in the report on our tax work programme,
published alongside the draft budget on 2 October. Mark Reckless AM: If the Cabinet Secretary
is in charge, can we expect tax rates in Wales to be higher or lower in five years’ time? Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, taxation rates
must be judged in the prevailing economic circumstances of the time, and that is what
I would expect anybody charged with responsibilities for the Welsh finances to do. Mike Hedges AM: Does the Cabinet Secretary
agree with me about the importance of taxation to support public services in Wales? If I could remind the Cabinet Secretary, in
the last three weeks, the Conservatives have asked for more money for local government,
more money for further education, more money for health. How are they going to fund it if they don’t
want taxation? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, of course, Mike Hedges
is absolutely right. Taxation is the admission charge we pay to
a civilised society. It is through pooling the money that comes
through taxation that we are all able to afford the things that around this Chamber we regard
as important in the lives of people in Wales. Now, if you chose to lower taxes in Wales
by 1p, the gross cost would be around £200 million. Which of our public services would have to
be cut, Llywydd, to enable that to happen? You can’t do the sort of voodoo economic trick
that we are often offered by Members on the benches opposite, in which you cut taxes,
have less money, and still are somehow able to spend more on everything that they tell
us they would favour. Vikki Howells AM: 4. What are the Welsh Governmentís priorities
for capital investment in Cynon Valley? OAQ53029
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Vikki Howells for that. Our capital priorities for the Cynon Valley
include investment in town centres, in flood prevention, in the health serviceóincluding,
for example, the new primary and community care centre due to be completed in Mountain
Ash in 2021. Vikki Howells AM: Thank you very much, Cabinet
Secretary. In fact, there’s an exhibition on for that
primary care centre in Mountain Ash today. But, in particular, I am keen for work on
sections 5 and 6 of the dualling of the Heads of the Valleys road to be completed, which
will be so important for my constituency. I noted the local government Secretary’s comments
last week about maximising the benefits of the investment in the A465 corridor for local
communities. This was set against a 12-month time frame,
so with work on sections 5 and 6 due to start at the end of 2019, how will this investment
be exploited to bring the most advantage to communities in Cynon? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Vikki Howells for
that. She will know that we went out to tender on
sections 5 and 6 of the A465 back in July. We are now having an opportunity to consider
fully the inspector’s report, and I hope that a decision to proceed with the next stage
of procurement will be taken very shortly. Directly in that project, there will be contractual
requirements for the successful bidder to deliver a range of community benefits around
the employment of local people, training apprenticeships and work contracts for local companies, all
of which will benefit residents in her constituency. My colleague Alun Davies was referring to
a working group set up by the Valleys taskforce, which is to consider how best to maximise
the opportunities around the dualling, not simply while it’s being built but once it
is open as well. David Melding AM: Cabinet Secretary, you will
know, and I’m sure you welcomed, as I did, the decision of RCT council to launch the
largest ever capital investment programme in their history. It’s set at £300 million, of which £45 million
will be on housing. Some innovative schemes are planned, and some
important partnerships with the private sector and housing associationsóand the local authority
itself, of course. Given now that the Treasury is lifting the
borrowing cap on councils that want to build more houses, don’t you welcome this approach,
which, in tough financial times, is just the sort of way to really see our local economies
being stimulated? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, I do welcome the
lifting of the cap, and I know my colleague Rebecca Evans has been in correspondence with
local authorities about what that will do to their ability to raise further funding
to invest in housing. Of course David Melding is right about the
local economic impact of house building in communities, and I agree with him that RCT
council, under the leadership of Councillor Andrew Morgan, has been amongst the most innovative
councils in Wales in finding ways to expand their ability to invest in capital projects,
not simply in housing but in many other areas as well. Councillor Morgan is the author, with Jane
Hutt, of the local authority borrowing initiative that we have helped to fund, and I congratulate
them on the work that they do in this area. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: 5. What discussions has the Cabinet Secretary
had with the Cabinet Secretary for Education about the funding of the Welsh Government’s
apprenticeship programme? OAQ53025
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank the Member. I meet all Cabinet Secretaries as part of
our budget preparations to discuss delivery of our priorities set out in ‘Prosperity for
All’. That includes our commitment to deliver 100,000
high-quality, all-age apprenticeships during this Assembly term. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Thank you very
much for the reply, Minister. The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee
recently expressed its disappointment at the lack of transparency surrounding the funding
and operation of the apprenticeship programme. The committee also expressed concern that
this lack of transparency poses a challenge to the effective scrutiny of this flagship
Welsh Government initiative. Cabinet Secretary, what discussions have you
had with Ministerial colleagues about this matter, and what action will you take to ensure
that the concerns of the community are addressed and resolved? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank the Member for
that. Of course we take seriously the views of the
committee and I look forward to studying them in more detail to see how we can tell our
story more clearly on apprenticeships, because it is a very good story indeed, Llywydd. As a Government, we would certainly wish to
make sure that no-one is left in any doubt that, for example, next year we will invest
£150 million of Welsh Government money to help us in our journey to a minimum of 100,000
all-age apprenticeships during the course of this Assembly term. Bethan Sayed AM: Research from the National
Society of Apprentices shows that apprentices spend 20 per cent of their salary on transport,
which is significant, given that some apprentices are only on £3.70 an hour. I was wondering what plansóor if you had
any plans, potentially, to encourage free transportation for apprentices so that they
can reach their place of work in a timely fashion and in an affordable fashion, so that
they don’t have to budget for transport when they have to budget for so many other things
in their lives as apprentices? Mark Drakeford AM: I absolutely, Llywydd,
recognise the point that Bethan Sayed has made about the cost of travel on people who
are going to work and managing on low incomes. The policy matter is not one for me. It will be for my colleague Ken Skates, but
I’ll make sure that the points that she’s made this afternoon are drawn to his attention. Mike Hedges AM: Would the Cabinet Secretary
agree with me that the UK Government’s much-vaunted apprenticeship levy has now been exposed for
what it is: nothing more than a tax on employers, which has done little to improve access to
apprenticeships? Will he also agree that the further education
colleges in Wales are doing a phenomenally good job in training apprentices to the benefit
of our country? Mark Drakeford AM: Well, of course Mike Hedges
is right, Llywydd. The apprenticeship levy is simply a tax, in
any other name, and a very badly designed tax, and a tax that is friendless, as far
as I can see, amongst the nations of the United Kingdom and amongst employers as well. It was a botched job from the start. There was no prior discussion with Scotland
or Wales. We could have helped the then Chancellor of
the Exchequer to do a better job of it had he simply allowed us, as the statement of
funding policy required, to be part of the design of what he was intending to achieve. I certainly agree with Mike Hedges that further
education colleges in Wales do an excellent job in responding to local economic needs,
in matching young people with careers that they will be able to develop over the long
term. I’ve recently myself met with apprentices
at Airbus and in Tata in south Wales, and they all had really impressive stories to
tell of the support that they have received from major employers in Wales, and how that
has been matched by a genuinely responsive approach by their local education authorities
and the further education colleges on which they rely. Andrew RT Davies AM: 6. What changes to business rates in Wales does
the Cabinet Secretary intend to bring forward following the UK Government’s budget announcement
regarding business rates in England? OAQ53035
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank the Member for the question. As he will know, I announced yesterday that
I intend to enhance our high-street rate relief scheme for 2019-20. I said yesterday, Llywydd, that I would use
the full £26 million consequential for that purpose, and I can say today that I intend
to make £24 million directly available to the high-street scheme itself and that I will
also provide an additional £2.4 million to local authorities to fund the discretionary
rate relief that they are able to provide. Andrew RT Davies AM: With the UK Government’s
announcement in the budget back in October, the figures that came out of the UK Government
budget announcement said that businesses in England would receive about £8,000 rebate
on their business rates up to a rateable value of £51,000 over two years. Given the series of announcements you just
made there, Cabinet Secretary, which are welcomeóadditional money going into business ratesówhat tangible
benefits will be felt on our high streets here in Wales, given that Small Business Saturday
was only last Saturday, and time and time again business operators on high streets say
business rates are the biggest millstone around their necks to expansion and employing more
staff on those high streets? Mark Drakeford AM: Llywydd, I think it is
important for me to make sure that Members understand that, once the small print of what
the Chancellor said on 28 October was examined, it turned out that there is to be no national
scheme in England at all. There is simply to be funding to local authorities
to use their discretionary powers. There will be no national rules. You will simply be in the hands of your local
authority to use the money that the Chancellor provides as they see fit. So, the figures the chancellor used are illustrative
at the very best and simply not to be relied upon as representing a scheme that businesses
across England can rely on. By contrast, our high-street relief scheme
has a set of all-Wales rules. There is a way in which businesses will know
exactly how much they will be entitled to get. And, of course, I do agree with the Member. Every penny that we will get as a result of
that announcement will be spent to assist businesses here in Wales, but we will design
a scheme that meets the size, the distribution and the value of the Welsh tax base in this
area, which is different to the one in England, and we will design a scheme that puts the
money where it will have the best effect. Julie Morgan AM: I’m aware that many childcare
businesses in my constituency in Cardiff North are very concerned about business rates. Will the Cabinet Secretary confirm that all
childcare providers will be exempt from paying business rates in Wales from April 2019? Mark Drakeford AM: Yes, Llywydd. Thank you to Julie Morgan for that, because
I can confirm exactly thatóthat our small business rate relief scheme is to be extended
to provide 100 per cent rate relief to all registered childcare providers in Wales, and
this higher level of relief will start on 1 April 2019. It is a very good example of aligning our
taxation responsibilities with out policy ambitions, because, of course, we have an
ambition to provide the most enhanced level of childcare to people here in Wales, and
the decision on rate relief was designed to support the sector on which we rely to deliver
our childcare offer. Joyce Watson AM: 7. What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary
made of the most recent public spending figures for the nations of the UK? OAQ53056
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Joyce Watson for that. The figures show that investment in health
and in social services and in education grew faster in Wales in 2017-18 than in any other
UK nation. Joyce Watson AM: I was interested to listen
to the news bulletins yesterday morning, but dismayed to learn that spending in vital care
services for elderly people in England has been cut by 25 per cent per person since 2010. That, of course, hasn’t happened in Wales,
because the Labour Welsh Government has protected those budgets, and I’m extremely proud of
that, and I’m sure everybody would want to join with me in celebrating that fact. But, from next April, a portion of the income
tax paid by people in Wales will directly fund Welsh public services. How will that free up Welsh Government to
go further in terms of prioritising those vital front-line services? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Joyce Watson for
that important question. She’s absolutely rightóthat is what the figures
produced by the UK Government demonstrate, that despite the impact of austerity and the
very real challenges that that poses for public services, we have protected spending in local
authorities and spending on elderly services to an extent certainly not seen across our
border, and spending per head on health and social services in Wales combined last year
increased by 3.8 per cent, and that was the highest increase of any of the four UK countries. Joyce Watson is absolutely right to point
out that the new fiscal responsibilities we have bring with them some new opportunities. She will be aware of the report of Professor
Gerry Holtham, looking at the possibility of a social care levy here in Wales. The Cabinet has a sub-group set up, chaired
by my colleague Huw Irranca-Davies, bringing together Cabinet colleagues to see whether
it would be practical to take some of that analysis and to put it to work in Wales using
our new fiscal possibilities to support our ambitious policy agenda. Mark Reckless AM: Could the Cabinet Secretary
confirm the funding floor guarantee that the UK Government has provided in respect of spending
in Wales, and compare and contrast that to any funding floor that was in place under
previous Labour Governments in the UK? Mark Drakeford AM: I thank the Member for
that. The fiscal framework does include a multiplieróit’s
105 per cent. I think the leader of the opposition yesterday
suggested it was 120 per cent, but it’s actually 105 per cent. For every £1 that is spent in England, we
get 105 per cent of that through the Barnett consequentials. That’s amounted to £70 million so far for
Wales. With the additional money for healthó[Interruption.] Noó[Interruption.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Allow the Cabinet
Secretary to answer the question. Mark Drakeford AM: I think I’mó[Interruption.] Yes, yes. The point that the Member asked me was whether
there is a mechanism in the fiscal framework that guarantees that Wales gets a fixed percentage
of the funding that is announced in England. The answer is that it does. That has given us £70 million additional
so far, following the signing of the fiscal framework, and, if you take into account the
promised additional funding for the NHS over the next few years, that will give us £270
million beyond what we otherwise would have had without the conclusion of that agreement. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Now it’s your turn. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Question 8, Darren
Millar. Darren Millar AM: 8. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement
on the future of tax levels in Wales between now and the next Assembly election? OAQ53030
Mark Drakeford AM: I thank Darren Millar for the question. The draft budget, published on 2 October,
proposed that the Welsh rates of income tax remained the same as England and Northern
Ireland in 2019-20, consistent with my party’s manifesto commitment not to raise income tax
levels in this Assembly term. Darren Millar AM: I’m very grateful for that
response. I’ve listened carefully to you respond to
similar questions as well during the course of this question time, and what you hadn’t
indicated is what your plans or the plans of your party might be beyond the next financial
year. I’d be grateful if you could assure us of
your personal commitment not to increase income tax rates before the next Assembly election,
including in those years beyond 2019-20. Mark Drakeford AM: Well, Llywydd, I’ve already
repeated the manifesto commitment of my party not to raise income tax levels in this Assembly
term. I would be much better placed if the UK Government
was able to tell me how much money this Assembly will have beyond the next financial year. There is to be a comprehensive spending review,
which will not even begin until January, and I have no figures at all for the Assembly’s
budget beyond 2019-20. That will be a great help to us all in being
able to provide the sort of certainty for the future that the Member has asked me about. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: And, finally, question
9, Rhianon Passmore. Rhianon Passmore AM: Thank you very much. I think the question has been asked. Can the Cabinet Secretary confirm that Welsh
taxpayers have received their HMRC letter about Welsh rates of income tax? Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Youó
Rhianon Passmore AM: That is the question in front of me, Llywydd. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: That’s not the question
in front of me. I think we’ll leave it at that and thank the
Cabinet Secretary for his contribution. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: And that brings us
to questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Local Government and Public Services. Question 1 comes from Helen Mary Jones. Helen Mary Jones AM: 1. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement
on Welsh Government support for rural councils? OAQ53046
Alun Davies AM: The majority of Welsh Government support for rural councils is delivered through
the £4.2 billion local government settlement. The settlement funding formula includes a
number of indicators that account for varying degrees of population sparsity across all
of our authorities. Helen Mary Jones AM: I thank the Cabinet Secretary
for his answer, but here’s the reality: Powys is looking at a £14 million budget gap for
the next financial year, Carmarthenshire has had to make £50 million-worth of cuts at
the same time as raising its council tax by 22 per cent over the past five years, and
citizens in Pembrokeshire are facing a 12 per cent increase in their council tax in
the next financial year alone. Now, I realise that the Cabinet Secretary
is dealing with a difficult budget and I realise that it is not the fault of the Welsh Government
that the settlement is tight, but surely, given those figures, Cabinet Secretary, you
can see that there must be something wrong with the way in which the money is being allocated. Because, if you compare this with communities
in more urban parts of Wales, it just does not seem equitable or fair. Alun Davies AM: The Member is absolutely correct,
of course, that we are dealing with a very difficult financial settlement, and I and
the Cabinet Secretary for Finance have been absolutely clear in our response to this. This is a difficult settlement and we would
prefer to be able to allocate greater funding to all local authorities. But, let me say this: I do regret the increasing
tendency amongst many Members to pit different communities against each other. In the question from the Member for Llanelli
she pitted rural against urban. In the past, we have pitted north against
south, east against west. I do regret this tendency within our debate,
because it does not reflect either the debates that we have with local government, and I
do not believe it reflects the reality either. I will say to the Member that the finance
sub-group, which provides representation for all authorities across the country, endorsed
the settlement funding formula for the next financial year at its meeting on 27 September. In addition to this, I spoke to representatives
of all political groupings in local government last week and I repeated to them the point
I made in this Chamber during a Conservative Party debate on the funding formula and the
settlement that, if I receive a letter from all four political groupings within local
government asking for a review off the formula, then I will institute it. I have to say that the response on Friday
was not very positive to that. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I think you’re very
fortunate at this point that the Member for Llanelli is not in the Chamber; I think you
wanted to refer to the Member for Mid and West Wales. Alun Davies AM: For Mid and West Wales, yes. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Russell George. Russell George AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Cabinet Secretary, on 31 January, the leaders
of both Powys County Council and Ceredigion County Council will be coming here to the
Senedd as part of a Growing Mid Wales delegation jointly sponsored by the Llywydd, the Member
for Brecon and Radnorshire and me. There’ll be an opportunity to showcase produce
and services from local businesses from across these two rural local authorities. Now, I appreciate you’re not leading on the
mid Wales growth deal, that’s a matter for the Cabinet Secretary for the economy, but
can I ask you what are you doing to support these two rural local authorities to boost
the economies of mid Wales? Alun Davies AM: As the Member indicated in
his question, that does not sit with my responsibilities, but I will say to him that the first time
I met with the leadership of Powys County Council these matters were discussed. I met with the leadership of the authority
and I said to them there that this Government wanted to be an activist Government, seeking
to promote and support economic development across the whole face of the country, and
that we would be active in supporting that. Certainly, in the conversations that I’ve
had with all local government leaders across the country, we’ve always emphasised that
we will continue to provide that level of support. Leanne Wood AM: 2. What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary
made of the impact of local authority funding cuts? OAQ53053
Alun Davies AM: I and my Cabinet colleagues consider local government funding with local
authorities through the partnership council and its finance sub-group, as well as other
formal and informal engagements. Leanne Wood AM: I know you will be aware of
the findings from Professor Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur for extreme poverty,
and among many of his stark conclusions were that Westminster cuts have fallen hardest
on the poor, on women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, single parents and people with disabilities. He argued that a misogynist would find it
hard to do a better job. Has your Government taken a full impact assessment
of your local authority cuts to ensure that you are not repeating the callous decisions
of the Tories and exacerbating the situation for those people with the least in our society? Alun Davies AM: We certainly will be reviewing
the report from the UN rapporteur, and I must say I’ve read his report and I concur with
the Member for the Rhondda’s conclusions on it. But let me say this: the Cabinet Secretary
for Finance in answer to an earlier question pointed out that the University of Cambridge
has recently published a review of the approach from different UK administrations to local
government, and that review is very, very clear that Wales and Scotland have followed
a very similar approach, which is very different to that of England, and the consequences for
that are very clear for the English population. But let me also say this: one of the reports
that I read last year, which is very influential on my thinking, was that those local authorities
who represent poorer and more deprived communities have greater difficulties in raising funds,
and are more reliant on central Government funding, than rich and more prosperous areas. And that is one of the reasons why I have
always pursued, in my time in this office, a route that seeks to have the structures
in place that maximise the impact of front-line services and ensure that we have services
provided at a scale that is able to withstand future financial pressures as well. And I look forward to support from Plaid Cymru
and elsewhere in pursuing that agenda. Mark Isherwood AM: What dialogue have you
had with the chief executive of Flintshire County Council since he wrote to all councillors
there on 16 November, asking them to back the #BackTheAsk campaign to get a fair share
of Welsh national funds, which was, on 20 November, backed unanimously by members of
all parties to take, quote, ‘the fight down to the local government department in Cardiff’? Alun Davies AM: I haven’t spoken to the chief
executive, Colin Everett, on this subject in that time frame, but I will say this: as
the chief executive was making that statement in Flintshire, the leader of Flintshire County
Council was with me in Cardiff in Cathays Park, telling me that he had no wish to reopen
the funding formula or debate or discussions around that formula. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: We now have questions
from party spokespeople. The Conservative spokesperson, David Melding. David Melding AM: Diolch yn fawr, Llywydd. Minister, it’s nearly a year since the finance
Secretary announced his changes to land transaction tax, moving the standard threshold for payment
from £150,000 to £180,000. What assessment has your department made of
the likely effect this will have on first-time buyers in Wales? Rebecca Evans AM: Thank you very much for
the question, and, of course, the decision around the land transaction tax means that
around 80 per cent of first-time buyers in Wales won’t pay tax, with our threshold of
£180,000. This, of course, is the same proportion of
first-time buyers as in England with their stamp duty land tax. Currently, the average house price here in
Wales is £140,000, so I think it is incorrect and unfair to suggest in the Conservative
Party’s White Paper, released this week, that there is no relief for first-time buyers,
because that is misleadingóaround 80 per cent of first-time buyers are protected from
that. David Melding AM: Well, Minister, when this
policy was introduced, it diverged from the option that they took in England. There, first-time buyers have a relief of
up to £300,000, and, on properties that are priced at that level, there is no stamp duty
at all. You quote the average house priceóI thought
you said £140,000; I think that is not accurate. The average price, I think, at the moment
is £180,000 or thereabouts, and that is a significant amount. For properties then between £180,000 and
£250,000, which is where the average price in many local authorities now is, first-time
buyers will not get full relief; they’ll get a margin of that on the £180,000, but they
will not get the same deal that those buyers would get in England. Let me just spell out what that means. In Cardiff, it means our first-time buyers,
compared to the equivalent in England, pay £1,700 more in tax. In Monmouthshire, they pay £5,400 more in
tax, and, even in Anglesey, first-time buyers there are paying more than £1,000 in tax
in addition to what they would pay if they were in England. Do you think it’s fair that our first-time
buyers in Wales do not get as good a deal as they get in England? Rebecca Evans AM: Well, the Office for Budget
Responsibility’s assessment of the first-time buyers’ relief was that it would do little
to help first-time buyers, and it would increase house prices and result in very few additional
first-time buyer purchases. So, we don’t want to replicate a relief that’s
not deemed to be effective. And, in fact, our approach is much more fair
in Wales, because our approach is keen to assist all of those who struggle to buy a
house to do so. So, you don’t have to be a first-time buyer
to benefit from our land transaction tax relief here in Wales. And, actually, I think that’s a fair thing
to do. People struggle to buy their second house,
people struggle to move, and I think our approach has been to help people who are struggling,
rather than first-time buyers as an entire group. David Melding AM: Well, relief is either helpful,
or it isn’t, so I think you need to make your mind up on that. And I wouldn’t like to go out into the streets
of Cardiff, or go to Monmouth or Anglesey, and tell the first-time buyers there, paying
well over the odds of what they would pay if they were in England, that this extra tax
is neither here nor there. I think that is a really bad message. The other thing, where I do agree, is that
we do need a broader range of policies, and the building rate is the key thing, really,
in terms of providing a better market and a more competitive market for our first-time
buyers. So, how do you think the lowest building rate
on record almost is helping first-time buyers in Wales? Rebecca Evans AM: Well, clearly, Welsh Government
is committed to increasing the scale and pace of building, and one of our commitments in
‘Prosperity for All’ was to work very closely with local authorities to do that. And we’re able to do that now as a result
of the raise inóor the scrapping of the borrowing limit, which, of course, Welsh Government
has been campaigning for for some time. We’re well on course to meet our target of
20,000 new affordable homes being built through the course of this Assembly, and today you’ll
have noticed that we’ve published ‘Planning Policy Wales’, which clearly takes us forward,
in terms of breaking down some of those barriers in terms of planning. So, ensuring that the areas that are brought
forward for planning will genuinely be built on, rather than, as we see at the moment,
plots of land being included in local development plans, then they have the impact of raising
the value of that land, but actually doing very little to improve the rate of house building. So, I would point to ‘Planning Policy Wales’
as being an important move forward, in terms of being able to break down some of the barriers
that we are seeing to the pace of house building across Wales. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Plaid Cymru spokespersonóLeanne
Wood. Leanne Wood AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Minister, you spoke at the Crisis conference
on ending homelessness back in June, and I’m sure you’ve read the report that was produced
at that event, which outlines what can be done to end homelessness. It’s a very comprehensive report, with recommendations
for all Governments, including your Government. Can you tell us what you learnt from that
event and from the report, and how it’s influencing your decision making? Rebecca Evans AM: Thank you very much for
that. As you say, I did attend that report, and
have read the very extensive documentóI think it’s about 2 inches thick. So, it certainly is full of evidence, which
we are taking very seriously. What I learnt from that conference, really,
was about the importance of supporting people with a direct impact of an experience of homelessness
and listening to people who have had that experience of homelessness. Because, of course, I stayed for longer than
my own slot within that conference, and was able to hear directly from people who have
that experience of homelessness, which I think has to be the answer in terms of guiding us
to our response. This is one of the exciting things that Swansea
is doing, with the additional funding that we’ve been able to provide to them for tackling
rough sleeping. They’re undertaking some work with Shelter
to gather those individual stories of rough sleepers, so that we can understand at what
point an intervention could have been made to prevent that rough sleeping, how we could
have helped people out of rough sleeping much sooner, and how we can prevent people from
losing their tenures in future. Leanne Wood AM: Thank you, Minister. For some years now in Plaid Cymru, we’ve been
arguing the case for the phasing out of priority need. Now, two weeks ago, you responded to my colleague,
saying that that was the subject of a review. But, of course, in 2012, your Government commissioned
Cardiff University to review homelessness law, and they recommended abolishing priority
need, a recommendation endorsed this year by the Equality, Local Government and Communities
Committee, and, of course, there’s this recommendation in the Crisis report. So, why has your Government rejected the recommendations
of these reviews, and instead asked for another one? Rebecca Evans AM: Well, we’re looking very
seriously at the issue of priority need, and I completely understand where the call is
coming from on it, and I am sympathetic to it, but, at the same time, we need to understand
any possible unintended consequences. For example, when we look at the situation
in Scotland, where they abolished priority need, you find larger groups of people staying
for much longer in temporary accommodation, which isn’t something that we would want to
see here in Wales. So, we need to be doing this alongside the
increasing of the supply of housing, and also, the rolling out of housing first, for example. This is certainly an area that we are looking
at, but it can’t be done in isolation, because the unintended consequences are there. And if you look at Scotland, where they have
removed priority need, you can walk around Edinburgh or another city, and there will
be people sleeping on the streets and rough sleeping, so it isn’t a panacea by any stretch
of the imagination. It has to be part of a larger picture. Leanne Wood AM: You’ve had since 2012 to work
out the unintended consequences on this, and the numbers of street sleepers are on the
rise. People are becoming homeless and staying homeless
because of your delaying tactics, and we need action on this now. Now, your colleague Andy Burnham in Manchester
has pledged to eradicate rough sleeping by 2020, eight years sooner than your Government,
seven years sooner than the Tory target, and, as part of that, he spent the autumn working
with local authorities to provide a bed for every rough sleeper this winter, every night,
in a range of accommodation, including women-only places and places that also allow people to
take their dogs. Members of the public can now download an
app that they can use to direct rough sleepers to where they can have assistance. Why is this level of ambition and action possible
in Manchester, but it’s not possible from your Government? Rebecca Evans AM: Well, clearly, you’re not
aware of the work that we’re doing through our housing first programme, and also, through
the rough sleeper action plan, which was published last year, and the fact that we’ve asked every
single local authority in Wales to put forward a homelessness reduction plan and a plan to
tackle homelessness that has a specific focus on rough sleeping. When you look at the number of places that
are available, as compared to the number of people who are rough sleeping, actually, in
many cases, there are the beds there. But I understand that they’re not attractive
to the people who are rough sleeping because, in many cases, rough sleepers tell me that
they don’t want to go to certain places because they can’t be around people who are taking
drugs or using alcohol, or people want to stay with their dogs, or people want to go
as a couple. So, we’ve asked local authorities to address
this in their housing action plans, which will be submitted to Government by the end
of this month. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: UKIP spokespersonóGareth
Bennett. Gareth Bennett AM: Diolch, Llywydd. There were press reports recently that revealed
that Cardiff is now the second highest council area in the whole of the UK for collecting
bus lane fines. Some quarter of a million drivers were fined
in the course of a year. Only Glasgow council, in fact, fined more
drivers than Cardiff. Now, I appreciate the need to adhere to the
local driving restrictions, but, sometimes, mistakes can be made innocently because drivers
aren’t familiar with an area. The RAC are saying that, with this number
of people being fined, there are probably genuine problems for drivers with things like
signage and the road layouts. Do you think there is a danger that councils
like Cardiff could be too punitive in collecting fines from drivers for these kinds of minor
driving offences? Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, I have
no responsibility for these matters raised by the Member. What I will say is that it is a matter for
the local authority to deliver on their responsibilities in a way that they see fit, and then, a matter
for residents and electors in Cardiff to hold the council to account for those decisions. Gareth Bennett AM: I appreciate the need for
local democracy and for decisions to be made at the ballot box, as you indicate. But, of course, people make decisions at the
ballot box based on a variety of factors, not merely whether or not they were fined
for driving in a bus lane. So, as you have oversight for local government
in Wales, I wonder if you are perhaps alive to the possibility that there could be a danger
that councils, without naming any particular council, perhaps in this instanceó[Interruption.] Well, let’s forget I named that council, is
there a theoreticaló? To please the Minister and to perhaps engineer
a more enlightening answer, is there a theoretical possibility that councils could be perhaps
too punitive in collecting these kinds of fines? Alun Davies AM: That may theoretically be
true. Let me say this to the Member for South Wales
Central, who’s clearly having some difficulties with this matter: I do not believe it is right
and proper for Ministers standing here in this place to pass comment upon the decisions
taken by local government in fulfillment of its functions. We have accountability here for decisions
taken by the Welsh Government, not by individual local authorities. Gareth Bennett AM: Yes, indeed, you are correct
in stating that. Thinking about the issue of fines as a general
issue, we knowóI think we can agree on this pointóthat local government is in a difficult
place at the moment in terms of its finances. Is there a possibility that sometimes councils
could be over punitive on many kinds of fines and they could be simply using the local ratepayers
as cash cows? Alun Davies AM: I will, Presiding Officer,
provide the leader of UKIP with a list of ministerial responsibilities prior to our
next session in this place [Laughter.] I have been very, very clear with him, and
other Members, to be fair, who have tried equally as hard to tempt me into a terrible
indiscretionó[Interruption.] But I will not be tempted on this occasion
to make a comment upon the decisions of any local council in any part of the country. It is right that we have debated, and we will
debate again, the difficulties facing local government in terms of funding arrangements
and how it will exercise its responsibilities into the future, but I have made it my policy,
and I continue to make it my policy not to comment upon the individual decisions of individual
authorities. That is a matter for them, and they are accountable
to their electorate, not to this place here. John Griffiths AM: 3. How does the Welsh Government encourage innovation
in local government? OAQ53059
Alun Davies AM: I would encourage all authorities to innovate in their plans for improving service
delivery. Innovation and creativity is always central
to delivering effective and sustainable services to all of our citizens. John Griffiths AM: Yes, Cabinet Secretary,
I’d very much agree with those sentiments, and in this time of UK Government-imposed
austerity, it’s all the more important, I think, that we find these new ways of delivery
and indeed often delivering more with less, but obviously that is quite a challenge. In terms of local government working jointly
with other key partner organisations, I wonder if you might say something about the early
experience of the public services boards, and particularly how health and social care
are taking forward joint working, and more particularly how Welsh Government has a role
in identifying good practice within public services boards, because I think it is variable
from one to anotheróhow Welsh Government might identify best practice in public services
boards and ensure that those lessons are shared across Wales. Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, I will
say to the Member for Newport East, in his capacity as Chair of the relevant committee
in this place, that I’m looking forward to his committee’s report on these matters, and
I will give it some considerable attention when I’m able to do so. But he’s right to identify public services
boards as an opportunity to bring together authorities to innovate and to provide new
and different solutions to many of the difficulties we face. I have just agreed a package of support for
public services boards, and I will, Presiding Officer, be making a statement on that matter
in due course. As a part of that, I think we should be setting
some very clear ambitions for public services boards as to what we want them to achieve,
and the preventative agenda that the Member has described is, I believe, absolutely central
and critical to that role of public services boards. I hope that we will be able to see local government
working together with its colleagues in order to deliver a more profound approach to preventive
services than we’ve seen in the past. And I think that public services boards are
key to that, to their ability to deliver it across a particular geography, and I hope
that they will be able to as well maximise the opportunity that new means and methods
of working present to us. I will say, Presiding Officer, the Member
for Llanelli on this occasion, Lee Waters, has produced an excellent report on this matter
in terms of digital services, and I’m looking hard at that at the moment, and I hope that
we, alongside the leader of the house and the Cabinet Secretary for health, will be
able to respond fully to the remarks and comments that he makes. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Cabinet Secretary,
new ways of working are indispensable for sustaining the quality and scope of service
delivery by local authorities faced with budget constraints. This requires adoption of innovative solutions,
coupled with the development of new technology. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree that strong,
top-down leadership is required if this is to be achieved and would he support each council
having a recognised innovation champion, since new ideas are often developed by the passion
of individuals rather than a matter of process? Alun Davies AM: I do agree that leadership
is important, but I’m not sure I agree that it’s top-down leadership that is required. I believe that we have some extremely talented
people working throughout the public sector, both in local government and elsewhere across
Wales, and the working group that I described in an earlier answer is providing us with
a very challenging report that seeks to ensure that Welsh Government is able to respond fully
to the challenges of technological change as well. And I hope that, working together with all
parts of the public sector, we would be able to do so. Dai Lloyd AM: 4. Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement
on local government budgets? OAQ53038
Alun Davies AM: Local authorities in Wales set their budgets in the context of their
medium-term financial plans, based on a mix of locally raised revenue and Welsh Government-provided
specific grants and unhypothecated funding through the revenue support grant. This year, local authorities budgeted for
over £7 billion of expenditure. Dai Lloyd AM: Thank you for that answer. As you will be aware, local government funding
has been cut by £1 billion over the last eight years. Many councils are reporting acute pressures
on schools and social care. They report fatigue and low morale amongst
the workforce and project the loss of a further 7,000 jobs over the next few years just to
balance the books. The call for necessary financial support by
local authority leaders across Wales is seemingly falling on deaf years. Are you proud of your Government’s role in
driving local government and schools into the ground? Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, it’s the
easiest thing in the world for us to describe the problems facing local government, but,
on these benches, we seek to describe solutions as well. It is an inadequate and insufficient response
to the challenges we face today to simply issue a press release calling for additional
funding of all areas of Government expenditure. It is an inadequate and an immature response. I will say this to the Member: I have met
with all political leaders of Welsh local government within the last week and I’ve been
very, very clear with them about the challenges that we face. But I’ll say this as well: in the future,
we need to think harder about how we organise and structure our services to meet new challenges. And that is a challenge not simply for Government
and the governing party, but also, I would suggest, for all parties represented in this
place, because all too often, when proposals for reform come here, we see the same people
who’ve issued a press release saying how difficult things are, standing up and queuing up to
oppose all proposals for reform. So, I would hope that we will see a great
deal of maturity on benches in this place when facing challenges for local government,
rather than simply listing those challenges in speeches. Suzy Davies AM: Of course, it’s not easy necessarily
for councils that are trying to make the most of the money that they have as well in order
to regenerate their city centreóin the case of Swanseaóand improve the local economy
there. A cabinet report from the council there last
month stated that there is a risk that the local authority does not have sufficient resources
to complete phase 1 of its city centre regeneration projectóSwansea Central. In response to that report, the leader of
Swansea Council told councillors, and I quote, that the ‘public will shoot us’óslightly
unfortunate, I thinkóreferring to Swansea Council’s Labour cabinet, if the regeneration
scheme is dropped. We all want to see Swansea city centre thrive,
and I say that even though it’s a different coloured council there. How can you be confident, bearing in mind
the settlement that they’ve just had, that the cabinet there is able to manage its funds
and budgets appropriately so that they can respond appropriately to such financial warnings? Alun Davies AM: I’ve got complete confidence
in the leadership of Swansea Council to manage funds available to it in a proper way. The leadership of Swansea Council, I think,
has provided almost inspirational leadership in terms of their ambitions for that city
and is putting in place the means of achieving that. The leadership shown by Rob Stewart, as the
council’s leader, I think, sets an example for many other leaders to look at, but also
the leadership shown by all those authorities in that area in terms of putting together
the Swansea bay city deal. I hope that we will see those ambitions realised,
but what I will say to the Member for South Wales West is that the greatest challenge
facing Swansea is not the funding formula but the policy of austerity that has meant
that, for eight years, Swansea and other local authorities in Wales have not received the
level of funding that we would seek to give them. And I would suggest to Conservative Members,
rather than come here and list those problems, they should go to London and list those problems. Dai Lloyd AM: 5. What assessment has the Cabinet Secretary
made of the effectiveness of local authority regional working? OAQ53039
Alun Davies AM: We expect local authorities to work together and to assess the effectiveness
of those arrangements. Where regional arrangements are required by
law or Welsh Government policy, the relevant Minister has oversight of the effectiveness
of those arrangements. Dai Lloyd AM: You will be aware that local
authorities in Wales often send their recyclables to facilities in England or beyond for processing. Exporting this material adds to our carbon
footprint, of course, but also means that we are missing out on an opportunity for job
creation. Do you agree that the Welsh Government should
be doing more in terms of working with local authorities to develop regional recycling
centres in Wales to ensure that all recyclable materials are dealt with here in Wales? Alun Davies AM: We have for several years
been working with local government and different councils to create exactly the kind of regional
network that the Member suggests we put together, which does exist in the vast majority of the
nation. I’m very content with the kind of arrangements
that councils have made in order to ensure that their waste materials are recycled or
treated in the appropriate manner. Paul Davies AM: The Swansea bay city region
deal should enable the potential projects being proposed to bring significant economic
benefit to the four local authority areas covered. Does the Cabinet Secretary agree with me that
these projects have the potential to bring major employment opportunities across the
region? Does he also agree with me that this sort
of collaboration, if done in the right way, could be seen as a blueprint of local authorities
effectively working together in the future, and it would therefore not require forced
mergers as he originally wanted? Alun Davies AM: I do support the collaborative
approach that the Member for Preseli has outlined. It is important for local authorities of whatever
size or shape to be able to work together with their neighbours to deliver the sort
of ambition that he and I would probably agree on in terms of the Swansea bay city deal. However, the issues of mergers or structures
within local authorities are slightly different, of course, and those are about the sustainability
of those units of governance. It is my view, and the view of local government,
that the current structures are not sustainable into the future. So, therefore, as a Minister, it is my responsibility
to ensure that those facts are put in front of this place and local government and that
we are able to move towards a conclusion on that. But I will say to the Member that it is right
and proper that he then supports those proposals to ensure that his electorate and all our
electorates have the quality of services they require and that local authorities are sustainable
into the future. Mike Hedges AM: Can I first of all say that
I agree with everything that Paul Davies just said? Does the Cabinet Secretary agree that it’s
important that all public services work within the same regional footprint, which is true
of the Cardiff city region but not true of the Swansea bay city region, and on the importance
of ensuring that local authorities get used to working together? The four local authorities in south-west Wales
may have different political leadership but have shown great leadership in the area in
working together. Alun Davies AM: I do believe that, at times,
we make government too complex. I think I’ve made that very clear both here
and elsewhere. I believe that we need to look for clarity
in the way in which we structure the delivery of our services but also in the way in which
we structure the public accountability for the delivery of those services. So, I do believe that we need to ensure that
we have a regional footprint that is understandable not simply to those of us who have to work
with it, but also to the electorates we all serve. But I do not believe that that, in itself,
is a sufficient response to some of the challenges we will face in the future. We will all be aware of the financial difficulties
facing local government today, but we also know that Brexit and other issues mean that
they will face even more difficult decisions in the future, and, so, we do have a responsibility
to think hard about that future and to put in place structures that are sustainable in
the future. Julie Morgan AM: 6. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update
on youth justice services in Wales? OAQ53036
Alun Davies AM: Members may recall that I commissioned the development of blueprints
for youth justice and for female offenders. I have shared these blueprints with members
of the Cabinet, and I hope, Presiding Officer, to be able to provide Members with an update
in the next week or so. Julie Morgan AM: I thank the Cabinet Secretary
for that response and look forward to reading the updates. The latest safety figures, published in October,
reveal that the number of self-harm incidents in prisons in Wales is rising and that, of
course, includes Parc and the young offenders institution there, where I believe there have
been a staggering number of incidents already this year: 777 incidents between January and
June. Can the Cabinet Secretary provide an update
on Parc’s plan to employ behaviour analysts to improve safety levels? Alun Davies AM: I have visited HMP Parc and
the youth offenders institution within the prison, and I have discussed these matters
with the director there. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service
have confirmed that there are behavioural management analysts in Parc who are working
towards reducing self-harm and violence within the prison. However, I believe we need to go further than
this. I believe that we need a distinct penal policy
for Wales, which looks, in the first instance, at the issues around youth offending and female
offending, and that we need to look at investment within the secure estate but also, critically,
at a holistic approach to policy that seeks to reduce offending, to enhance rehabilitation
and to ensure that women particularly are not treated in the way they are today. David Melding AM: Cabinet Secretary, a little
while ago, the ministerial advisory group on outcomes for children received a presentation
from Lord Laming and his review into the youth criminal justice system and the alarming discovery
that looked-after children were much more likely to come into contact with the youth
justice system compared to their peers, often because those involvedóthe police, teachers
and the courtsóassumed a certain response was appropriate for looked-after children
that they wouldn’t have for children from other backgrounds, and this in-built bias
is obviously really very worrying. It’s an excellent review and a very compassionate
one, and I do hope that all relevant agencies have taken on board the recommendations that
are contained in that review. Alun Davies AM: I agree very much with the
conclusions from the Member for South Wales Central. I did meet with Charlie Taylor, chair of the
Youth Justice Board, in the last few weeks to discuss these matters with him and how
we approach youth offending. The analysis that the Member has described
is absolutely correct and one that I believe is an emergency that we need to address. I hope that, when he reads the blueprint,
when it is published, which, I hope, will be next week, then he will be assured that
we are doing so. I would certainly be very happy to attend
the cross-party group to discuss these matters in more detail if he wishes me to do so. But the burden of my analysis is that I believe
that we need to take a far more holistic approach to policy. The broken settlement we have in Wales at
the moment is an impediment to that, and I would like to see the devolution of the penal
system and criminal justice to Wales to enable us to develop and deliver exactly that holistic
approach to policy. Leanne Wood AM: I share the concerns that
have been outlined here by the findings of the recent Wales Governance Centre report
into violence and self-harm in youth institutions. You are responsible for youth justice services,
but, of course, the other services that operate within Parc prison are adult services, and
they fall within the remit of Westminster. So, what we really need is to see the criminal
justice system devolved. Now, that’s something that Plaid Cymru has
been calling for for as long as I can remember, and it’s nice to see that some of our political
opponents have come on board now with that argument. Will this Government remain committed to the
commission on justice in Wales under the next First Minister? And has your Government managed to persuade
your Labour Party colleagues in Westminster of the case for the devolution of the criminal
justice system to Wales? Because there was a block of MPs from the
Labour Party who I found to be every bit as devosceptic as some of the Tories during my
dealings with them over Part 2 of the Silk commission. Alun Davies AM: Despite the best efforts of
the Member from the Rhondda, I do believe we actually agree on far more than perhaps
she would believe. This Government is absolutely committed to
the devolution of policing and criminal justice to this placeó
Leanne Wood AM: You need to persuade your MPs, though, don’t you? Alun Davies AM: óand to the creation of a
holistic approach to policy. We created, at the request of the police,
a policing board for Wales, which met last month for the first time, and we are working
well together with the police. I’ve met with the Home Office on a number
of occasions to pursue these matters, and I’ve met with Ministers in the Ministry of
Justice to pursue these matters as well. It is my view that the matters that we’re
discussing this afternoon are best addressed by this place in a holistic way. That is the view of this Government, and that
will continue to be the view of this Government. Joyce Watson AM: 7. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update
on what the Welsh Government is doing to support veterans in Mid and West Wales? OAQ53057
Alun Davies AM: We have made tremendous progress in improving services and support for veterans,
which includes those living in Mid and West Wales. I hope the Member will agree that my recent
statement on these matters highlighted that. Joyce Watson AM: I do, indeed, welcome your
recent statement and I do also believe that ex-servicemen and women have done their duty
by our country that we, in turn, then, owe them something back, not least how they return
to civilian life. Part of that is, of course, trying to find
work. But meaningful employment, I think, is pivotal
to that journey, and also findings that it will support their mental health. So, I’d like to ask you, Cabinet Secretary,
if you could tell us some more about the employment pathway that you just said you announced yesterday. Alun Davies AM: Presiding Officer, Members
will be aware that we launched the employment pathway in partnership with the armed forces
expert group that consists of representatives of public and third sectors, as well as military
charities and including the Department for Work and Pensions. It provides options for veterans and service
leavers on where to find support and information to secure employment relevant to them. I should also say to Members that prior to
my duties here today, I launched a new toolkit for employers alongside Business in the Community
and others to complement the employment pathway. This seeks to ensure that employers themselves
understand the benefits of employing former service personnel and to ensure that they
are able to deliver the best opportunities for employment for all those leaving our services. Russell George AM: Last month, the Welsh Government
voted against the Welsh Conservative proposals to create an armed forces commissioner for
Wales to ensure that the armed forces covenant is upheld. Will the Cabinet Secretary reconsider the
Welsh Government’s opposition to the creation of the post to ensure that the new cross-Government
strategy for veterans in the UK can be delivered effectively? Alun Davies AM: No. Helen Mary Jones AM: The Cabinet Secretary
will be aware that veterans are often over-represented in the homeless population. In Mid and West Wales and rural communities,
these people are perhaps less likely to end up actually rough sleeping, but are very often
in very insecure, sofa surfing from one family member to another type of situations. What discussions have you and your colleagues
had with local authorities in Mid and West Wales to ensure that this kind of hidden homelessness
amongst the veteran population is addressed? Alun Davies AM: One of the reasons why I was
very anxious to ensure that we do fulfil our responsibilities under the covenant is to
deliver resources to the front line where they’re needed. So, we will be spending considerable resource
supporting the local authority liaison officers network across Wales, which delivers support
for all service personnel, both in terms of housing and in other terms as well. So, I hope we will be able to work with local
authorities to ensure that local authorities are able to deliver exactly the services that
the Member for Mid and West Wales describes. And, for me, and certainly for those people
that I’m talking to at the moment, they want to see that level of resource there, delivering
services for people. We’ve heard many times during this session
this afternoon about the challenges facing local government in terms of delivering services,
and it is therefore incumbent on all of us to look at how we can deliver those resources
to the front line to ensure that people do have the services that they need and require. And that, Presiding Officer, was the point
I made in reply to the Conservatives about the request to create a commissioner. What we want to do is to put money on the
front line and not create further bureaucracy here. It is a matter for Members here to hold Ministers
to account for the decisions we take and the services we deliver, and that level of democratic
accountability I think is important. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: And finally, question
8, Neil Hamilton. Neil Hamilton AM: 8. Will the Cabinet Secretary provide an update
on the local government settlement for Pembrokeshire County Council? OAQ53037
Alun Davies AM: I published the provisional local government settlement for 2019-20 on
9 October. The Government announced further funding for
local government on 20 November. The final settlement will be announced on
19 December. Neil Hamilton AM: I thank the Cabinet Secretary
for that reply. When I raised this question a year ago, Pembrokeshire
was being forced to raise its council tax by 12.5 per centóthe highest rise in Wales. This year, the draft budget was presented
on Monday, as a result of which, council tax is set to rise by another 10 per cent and
there are going to be £15.5 million-worth of cuts in services. Prior to the budget being set, senior officers
in Pembrokeshire had warned that council tax would need to rise by 28 per cent in order
to meet service needs. Pembrokeshire is being penalised by the current
local government settlement and there seems to be no incentive for economical councils
to continue to be economical, because the higher your council tax is, the more you get
from the Welsh Government. So, can I add to the plea from Helen Mary
Jones earlier on that this settlement formula should be reconsidered? Because it’s not just rural councils that
are penalised in this way, but any economical council is bound to be, because the higher
your council tax is, the higher the financial needs estimations are, and consequently the
higher the grants from Welsh Government, which does seem to be perverse. Alun Davies AM: I did notice the comments
made by the leader of Pembrokeshire County Council on these matters in a newspaper recently. I will say to him and to the Member for Mid
and West Wales that Pembrokeshire County Council has taken a number of decisions over its council
tax levels over a number of years in full knowledge of the consequences of those decisions. And it is a matter for the electorate of Pembrokeshire
to determine whether those decisions were correct or not, and not a matter for me. What I do not believe is that either the professional
or the political leadership of Pembrokeshire can take those decisions and then turn around
to the media and say that they have no idea of the consequences of those decisions. Whenever we take political decisions, there
are consequences, and Pembrokeshire has taken decisions to reduce its council tax, in relative
terms, over a number of yearsóit has the lowest council tax in Walesóand, as a consequence
of that, they’re now facing difficulties in their budget. That is a matter for that authority and for
the electorate of Pembrokeshire. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I thank the Cabinet
Secretary. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next item is
the topical questions. The first question is to be asked to the Cabinet
Secretary for Education, and the question comes from Suzy Davies. Kirsty Williams AM: Our national mission sets
out clearly our plan to raise standards for all young people in all of our schools. We are delivering record investment to support
teacher development, to support our most disadvantaged learners and to enhance leadership capacity
and good practice across the system. Suzy Davies AM: Thank you very much for that
answer, Cabinet Secretary. I think perhaps I should just begin by acknowledging
that Estyn does say that they’re happy that there’s been progress in the primary sector. But I think it would be a betrayal of those
young people if they then move on to schools in which the majority of pupilsóand I mean
the majorityóacross the age and ability range continue to fail to develop from skills and
knowledge well enough, or make enough progress, or struggle to think independently, or feel
responsible for their own learning. Obviously, I’ve taken those quotes from the
Estyn report. With half of schools underperforming and a
suggestion by Estyn that the gap between well-performing schools and those that are not performing
well is likely to widen, I’d be grateful if you could give us a little bit more detail
about what you’re planning to do, because Donaldson will not be biting in until 2022,
that’s almost a school generation away, and you cannot sacrifice this current cohort to
another period of inadequacy. And I think you’d be the first to say that,
if you were sitting on any of the benches other than the front bench in this place. So, firstly, the schools that are in special
measures or still in need of significant improvement: I asked you what action you’d taken on these
back in September, and you reeled off a list of actions, but admitted that you had not
exercised your powers under the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 to intervene
with schools. Bearing in mind the results of this report,
I’m wondering if you would now be prepared to do that. For some of the studentsó. In a third of the schools that Estyn investigated,
they saw that pupils were disengaged, had little interest in their work, they would
disrupt the learning of others, and that some year 12 students had a lack of critical and
independent learning skills, meaning that they were struggling with their A-Levels and
actually dropping out in year 12. I think there’s a significant number of students
here who are failing to meet their potential as their independent and critical learning
capabilities are not being developed earlier in their education. What worries me about this, Cabinet Secretary,
is that those students could be internalising this as their own failure, when actually it’s
a failure of their education. It’s clear that some of these schools need
the support that they’re not getting at the moment. Now, after consortia, Schools Challenge Cymru
and academy Wales, which talks all about leadership, I don’t think they’ve been giving you the
results you were hoping for. So, what can you do next to ensure that this
year’s year 7 pupils progress towards meeting their potential rather than, I don’t know,
getting static or even slumping? Can you tell us what the updated plans are
for your National Academy for Educational Leadership? That’s an idea that the Welsh Conservatives
were very interested in themselves. And will you share with us the answers to
the searching questions that you will undoubtedly be asking the consortia on the back of this
Estyn report: why they have not prompted the sea change that we might have expected in
those schools, especially as you’ve been content to give them an extra £5 million in-year
as a result of space in the budget. I’m very keen to hear about what happens to
our pupils now, not after 2022. Thank you. Kirsty Williams AM: I welcome very much the
chief inspector’s annual report for 2017-2018. I’m looking forward to studying the report
in more detail, and of course will formally respond in the Plenary debate, which I understand,
Presiding Officer, is provisionally scheduled for 19 February of next year. I’m glad that the Member has acknowledged
the progress that has been made in the primary sector, but I would be the first person to
say that progress in our secondary sector is not good enough. I say it not just because I’m on these benches;
I say it as a parent who has children in the system herself. I want all of our children to attend a good
or excellent secondary school here in Wales, and our approach is to support all schools
to be good and excellent, rather than the approach that we saw very much in operation
yesterday across the border, when £50 million was announced to support just 16 highly selective
secondary schools. That’s the difference between the approach
of this Government and the approach that the Tories would take, picking off certain schools
and certain children for support, whereas we want all of our schools to do well. Now, let me be absolutely clear what we are
doing. The inspection report yesterday says that
we need to do more to support our teaching profession. That’s why we will spend £24 million over
the next 18 months on supporting the professional learning of our staff. That is the single biggest investment in Welsh
teachers since devolution, and we are determined to make sure that all our practitioners, in
every classroom, are as good as they can be. The Estyn report also rightly pointed to disparities
in the quality of leadership in our system. That’s why we have established the National
Academy for Educational Leadership, and to be fair, Suzy, that is less than a year old,
and to say that it has not delivered is simply not fair on those people who are working very,
very, very hard to ensure that our leaders, our new and our aspiring head teachers, are
as good as they could be. For me, what is absolutely critical is that
by the time a school is put into a category by Estyn, either in special measures or significant
improvement, that is too late. Both local authorities and regional consortia
should know their schools well enough that when they suspect a school is struggling to
meet the needs of their pupils, they are able to intervene earlier, and we should not let
it get to the stage of needing an Estyn inspection report to say that that school needs extra
help. I am currently considering options of what
more we can do to intervene earlier in schools that, potentially, are not meeting the needs
of their children, are struggling to cope and are causing concern. At the moment, local authorities have the
statutory responsibility for monitoring those schools, and for schools where there are those
concerns, I expect local authorities to take prompt action. If they need more help to do so, either from
the Welsh Government or from the regional consortia, I will make that help available. Jenny Rathbone AM: However challenging the
situation is in Wales, it’s nowhere near as challenging as for pupils in England, where
schools that have been found to be in special measures are simply being hung out to dry
because they are obliged to be taken over by academies, and academies are simply walking
away. They don’t even get inspected by HM inspectors,
so it’s absolutely ridiculous for people on the Conservative benches not to recognise
that our situation is so much better. I think the Estyn report is a very good guide
to what good practice looks like, and is in a very readable form for all school leaders
to be able to access. It’s absolutely not true that half the schools
are failing. I have one concern, which is around the paucity
of excellent early years provision. This may seem a very long way from secondary
school education, but, actually, that is where we can really begin to tackle the disadvantage
of deprivation. It’s excellent that we now have four examples
of early years provision that are deemed excellent, which is four more than last year, but we
obviously need many more. In terms of supporting excellence in our secondary
school teaching, I wondered if, in your response to the Estyn report, you might reconsider
restoring Schools Challenge Cymru. I’m not the only person on these benches who
thinks that they were dismantled before they had had time to embed the sharing of good
practice that is very clearly evident in many of our secondary schools and needs to be shared,
particularly with those schools who are facing the most challenges. We saw how excellent and transformative it
was in London, therefore I wondered if you would consider that. Kirsty Williams AM: The evidence to note from
the Schools Challenge programme in Wales was mixed. Undoubtedly, there are some schools that benefited
from participation in that programme. There are some schools that, despite considerable
extra financial resource and support, failed to make the progress that we would have liked
to have seen. Again, one of the challenges around Schools
Challenge Cymru is that that support was limited to a single group of schools, rather than
a national approach to schools that are causing concern. You will be aware, I’m sure, Jenny, of the
interesting proposals that have been put forward by Graham Donaldson in his review of Estyn,
the inspectorate. There is some commentary about how we can
improve the situation for schools that find themselves in categorisation or in special
measures. For too many of those schools, the support
that is available to them to make rapid improvement is not consistent and it is not what I would
want it to be. I continue to discuss with Estyn what more
we can do to support those schools that find themselves in categorisation. We are aware of some crucial elements that
can make a real difference to improving schools’ performance rapidly if they find themselves
in that situation. But, as I said, a school that has to wait
for a formal categorisation by Estyn has waited too long for support. We need to work with our local authorities
and with our regional school improvement services to better understand how we can identify problems
earlier, and how we can provide assistance to those schools before Estyn comes in and
says that they need to improve. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I thank the Cabinet
Secretary. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next item is
the 90-second statements. Vikki Howells. Vikki Howells AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Wednesday, 7 December 1938óthousands of people
gathered at the pavilion at Mountain Ash, including my very own grandmother, who would
regale the family for many years afterwards about the amazing and talented superstar that
she saw there. They came to attend a Welsh national memorial
meeting and concert in honour of 33 members of the International Brigade from Walesómen
who had given their lives fighting against fascism in defence of democracy in the Spanish
civil war, and appearing at that concert was the famous American artist and actor Paul
Robeson. Robeson, the son of a former slave, was a
skilled sportsman and academic, but he chose to pursue a career in the arts, winning plaudits
for his roles on the stage and screen. The 1930s saw Robeson’s increasing association
with political causes. Central to this was his support for the republican
side in Spain. Robeson regarded this as a turning point in
his life. Speaking at a benefit concert for Spanish
refugees, he proclaimed: ‘The artist must take sides. He must elect to fight for freedom or for
slavery.’ The decade also saw Robeson forging lifelong
links with the mining communities of south Wales. He performed in miners’ clubs, sang for the
miners’ relief fund and starred in The Proud Valley. Just as the Spanish civil war shaped his activism,
so did his association with these communities, and on Friday, 80 years since the pavilion
concert, I’ll be opening an exhibition at Mountain Ash working mens’ club to celebrate
this historic event and a truly remarkable transatlantic association between Robeson
and the south Wales miners. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Helen Mary Jones. Helen Mary Jones AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Yesterday we said goodbye to Professor Mike
Sullivan, director of Swansea University’s Morgan Academy, socialist and Welshman. Mike grew up in a working-class family in
Risca, the first in his family to go to university. Graduating from Oxford, he worked as a social
worker before starting a distinguished academic career, first in Cardiff, then in Swansea. He served here, as a Labour special adviser
during the period of the One Wales Government, ensuring the passage of the best possible
version of the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011. After his return to Swansea, Mike was pivotal
in raising the university’s international profile, initiating the relationship with
Secretary Clinton, and he founded the Morgan Academy, named for Rhodri Morgan. Mike was warm and compassionate, but he could
be steely when he needed to be. His passion for social justice and for Wales
informed all that he did. He had a great gift for friendship, and I
know, Llywydd, that there are many in this Chamber who were proud to call him their friend. Mike died too soon. He is survived by his wife Jane, their son
Ciaran and his stepchildren, and their loss is incalculable. For those of us who knew him, Mike’s life
will inspire us as we work to build the Wales and the world that he believed was possible,
and with his beloved university, beset at present by troubles, we vow to protect his
legacy. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Bethan Sayed. Bethan Sayed AM: This week is Lifelong Learning
Platform’s Lifelong Learning Week. This is the pan-European civil society for
education, which is using this week to bring together partners from across Europe to encourage
and talk about ideas to foster lifelong learning. With our future in the European Union currently
uncertain, I hope that Wales can continue to play a role in European engagement platforms
such as this one. Exchanging ideas and visions in this area
can help us understand what works best in other nations, and how it can work here too. We can learn from smaller fellow countries
that have seen success in improving and developing a lifelong learning framework that is truly
cradle to grave. In previous generations, the pattern of life
was often school, career, retirement. This is not the case anymore, and in a world
where we face challenges from automation, competition from around the world and a flexible
and fast-evolving economy, we must put an emphasis on learning and training at any age,
and constantly promote a mindset that emphasises that nobody is ever too old to learn a new
skill or to take up a new interest. The Lifelong Learning Platform believes that
the objective of education and training should not only be described in terms of employability
or economic growth, but also as a framework for personal development and to promote active
citizenship and engagement. Going forward, regardless of our position
in Europe, I think it’s vital for us to support and fund lifelong learning here in Wales so
that we can support this vital asset for our nation. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next item is
the debate on the Standards of Conduct Committee’s report to the Assembly, under Standing Order
22.9. I call on the Chair of the committee to move
the motion, Jayne Bryant. Jayne Bryant AM: Diolch, Llywydd. As Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee,
I formally move the motion. The committee considered the report from the
commissioner for standards in relation to a complaint made against Gareth Bennett AM. The complaint regarded his failure to comply
with the rules and guidance on the use of Assembly resources and bringing the Assembly
into disrepute, which is a breach of the code of conduct. The Standards of Conduct Committee gave the
commissionerís report careful consideration, and our report sets out the committeeís judgment
as to the sanction that is appropriate in this case. The facts relating to the complaint, and the
committeeís reasons for its recommendation, are set out in full in the committeeís report. The motion tabled invites the Assembly to
endorse the committeeís recommendations. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: There are no speakers
in this debate. I take it that the Member doesnít wish to
reply to the debate. 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. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: That brings us to
the next item, which is the Welsh Conservatives debate on Welsh Government performance, and
I call on Paul Davies to move the motion. Paul Davies. Paul Davies AM: Diolch Llywydd. On the eve of learning the identity of the
new Welsh Labour Party leader, it is timely to reflect on the performance of the Welsh
Government under the leadership of the current First Ministeróthe success, the failures
and the lessons for the future. It will be for others to cast judgment on
the First Minister’s legacy, but today I want to focus specifically on policy and the burgeoning
gap between promises and delivery. For eight and a half of the First Minister’s
nine years, there has been a Conservative Prime Minister in Downing Street, and for
Ministers here, the temptation to play party politics has been too great. Too often, the First Minister has played the
role of the leader of the opposition to the UK Government, rather than acting as a leader
of a Government here in Wales. In Labour’s campaign for the 2011 Assembly
election, devolved areas barely got a mention, as they were keen to take advantage of low
levels of public awareness of what the Welsh Government’s responsibilities were. Now, of course, it would be churlish not to
acknowledge that there have been some successes in the past nine years and areas of agreement
between the parties: the 5p carrier bag charge, introduced with cross-party support, has helped
change shoppers’ behaviour and has reduced the number of single-use carrier bags in circulation;
the children’s rights Measure and the food hygiene rating system were also introduced
in the past nine years. All parties worked together on the successful
referendum on further law-making powers for the Assemblyóa decision that was followed
by the devolution of taxation, empowering this Chamber to make better decisions for
the people of Wales. Both those successes have been, I’m afraid,
few and far between. The Welsh Government record since 2009 is,
sadly, one of failure and missed opportunities, and no more disastrously than in the national
health service. Despite campaigning on a leadership manifesto,
promising to protect health spending, Carwyn Jones became the only leader of any modern
political party in the UK to inflict real-terms cuts to the NHS. Carwyn Jones’s first budget as First Minister
took £0.5 billion out of the Welsh NHS. By 2014, the health budget had lost almost
8 per cent in real terms, equating to £1 billion. The NHS has still not recovered from the legacy
of Labour’s budget cuts. Today, health boards are facing a record combined
deficit of £167.5 million. The impact on waiting times and standards
has been devastating. In December 2009, no patient in Wales was
waiting any longer than 36 weeks from diagnosis to the start of treatment. Yet today, that figure stands at 13,673. Of these, more than 4,000 patients are currently
waiting more than a year for surgery. When Carwyn Jones took office, 224,960 patients
were waiting in the queue to start treatment. That queue has doubled to 443,789 patients. In nine years, some key performance targets
have not been met once. The target for 95 per cent of accident and
emergency patients to be seen within four hours has not been met since 2009, and performance
is getting worse. In October this year, only 80 per cent were
seen within four hours, and at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, that figure was just 54 per centóthe
worst on record. Shockingly, the number of patients waiting
over 12 hours to be seen in A&E has risen by 4,000 per cent since 2009. Earlier this year, the Royal College of Emergency
Medicine described the situation in A&E in Wales as ‘dire’ and ‘horrific’ with an
experience for patients which is ‘unsafe, undignified and distressing’. Capacity in the NHS has shrunk with the number
of beds falling year on year to the lowest on record todayó2,000 fewer beds than in
2009, and in some health boards, the bed occupancy rate is breaching safe limits on a daily basis. This decline in NHS performance has coincided
with Welsh Government decisions to continue to downgrade and centralise NHS services,
forcing patients to travel further for vital care, and putting even more pressure on retained
services. NHS cuts, closures and downgradesóthat’s
what we’ve seen since December 2009. Now, a commitment was made by the First Minister
during his leadership campaign to spend 1 per cent above the block grant on education
every year until the per pupil funding gap between Wales and England had been eliminated. Nine years on and the funding gap still remains,
and the education budget is 7.9 per cent smaller in real terms than it was in 2011. In the 10 years to 2016, 157 schools closed,
mainly in rural Wales, and, across the country today, 40 per cent of schools are facing a
budget deficit. This is despite the fact that the Welsh Government
receives £1.20 for every £1 spent on schools in England. GCSE performance has deteriorated since 2009,
with the gold standard of five A* to C grades falling this year to its lowest level since
2005. Wales has declined in the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment tests,
with worse scores in reading, maths and science, with the most recent results placing Wales
in the bottom half of the OECD ranking, and ranked the worst in the UK. Targets and timescales to improve Wales’s
education system position have all been quietly dropped, ditched and changed to cover the
tracks of failure. Under the current First Minister’s watch,
another target, for Wales to reach 90 per cent of UK average gross value added by 2010,
was dropped. Wales still has seen has the lowest wage growth
of any UK nation. Opportunities to create the conditions for
indigenous small business growth and greater inward investment have been missed in favour
of trying to control and over-tax business. The Welsh Government’s business rates regime
has led to Wales having the UK’s highest high-street vacancy rate, with too many vacant and boarded-up
premises. Wales is now the most expensive part of the
UK in which to do business. However, it is good to see, from yesterday’s
comments in the budget debate, that the Welsh Government is finally listening to our calls
for action on this. Nevertheless, this Labour Government still
fails to recognise that low-tax economies are more vibrant, more competitive, and, actually,
generate more revenue because of the greater viability of setting up a business. Creating the conditions in which businesses
can prosper, and investors are attracted to set up in Wales, should have been a far greater
priority over the last nine years, to generate growth and increase prosperity levels. Labour has failed to deliver a fit-for-purpose
public transport network, so there remains no proper alternative to the car. The jury’s still out on the success or otherwise
of the new franchise, although it’s fair to say its start has been, at best, shaky. Numerous major road projects have been delayed
by ministerial dithering, while many of those that did get built fell victim to massive
overspends, including the Heads of the Valleys dualling. Inadequate mobile signals and broadband infrastructure
are still a problem, given the slow progress on addressing notspots. Creating the conditions for economic growth
would have gone some way to tackling cyclical poverty, which still blights too many of our
communities. The flagship pledge to eradicate child poverty
was dropped, while evidence shows that the hundreds of millions of pounds that poured
into Communities First had no impact on prosperity levels, and, after 20 years of Labour, these
communities remain as poor as ever. The current First Minister has made home ownership
further out of reach for many, including denying social housing tenants the right to buy their
property. House building has been constrained by red
tape, creating a housing supply crisis, which has driven up prices and made getting a step
on the property ladder more difficult. Sadly, this has been a Government that spent
billions treating the symptoms of poverty rather than properly investing in the preventative
agenda to give the next generation better prospects than the last. The last nine years have been blighted by
mismanagement, particularly in Betsi Cadwaladr University Local Health Board, not to mention
the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales and the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association
scandals, by indecision and inaction over business rate reform, the M4 relief road,
and a lack of house building, and by poor decision-making, cutting the NHS budget and
scrapping the right to buy. For the sake of the 3 million people we serve,
Wales needs original ideas, a fresh approach and new leadership. While I wish the First Minister well for the
future, I am more convinced than ever that, to fulfil its true potential, Wales needs
a new Government, and I urge Members to support our motion. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. I have selected the amendment to the motion,
and I call on the Leader of the House and Chief Whip to move formally the amendment
tabled in her own name. Julie James AM: Formally. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. Rhun ap Iorwerth. Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: Thank you, Deputy Presiding
Officer. I understand, of course, what would motivate
the Conservatives to table a motion such as this one. We are approaching the end of the tenure of
the current First Ministerówe could have presented a list of failings ourselves. But I think it says a great deal about the
Conservatives that, in this lengthy list, there is no reference to child poverty, homelessness,
carbon emissions, and so on and so forth. The Welsh Government, through its amendment,
responds in the way that we perhaps would have expected, listing a long list of statistics
without any context, or statistics that have been usedóletís talk plainly hereóin a
way thatís misleading, and thatís to justify their actions. I can refer to the 20,000 affordable homes
that they refer to. Of course, that includes homes sold through
Help to BuyóWales, where a third of the homes have been sold at over £200,000, which canít
be categorised as affordable, however you look at it. So, weíll leave the Conservatives and the
Government to play ping-pong today. We will abstain in this vote, but I will take
this opportunity to make a few of my own commentsónot in listing in the unimaginative way the Conservatives
have done, but I will look at some of the fundamental factors that are problematic in
the way that Labour, under this current First Minister, have sought to govern Wales. There are patterns and themes that emerge
regularly, which have been highlighted in a series of committee reports, by the auditor
general, and by the various commissions and task and finish groups that the Government
itself has established to mask its lack of action. Iíll start with all of those task and finish
groups and review panels, many of them unnecessary. They are put in place time and time again
as a delaying tactic, to avoid making decisions. Letís look at homelessness and the scrapping
of priority need, which is now the subject of another review. Well, why another review? The Government commissioned Cardiff University
to review homelessness law in 2012, and the recommendation was to scrap priority need,
and nothing has happened. What happens is that people in this cold winter
are still sleeping rough, and dying on our streets, because of delays by the Government
in making decisions. There are other themes. Targetsóthere is reference in the motion,
and in the Governmentís amendments, to targets. Well, we can see whatís happening in terms
of those targets. The Governmentís targets, time and time again,
are set lower than England and Scotlandóthey are still missed, by the wayóand that in
an attempt to make the Government look as though they were performing well. Thereís a lack of ambitionóthatís the core
problem here, I think. Take the Governmentís claim in its amendment
that almost nine in 10 patients are treated within 26 weeks. Well, the real figure is 77 per cent on average,
over the past two years, according to StatsWales. Itís not nine in every 10. In Scotland and England, 18 weeks is the target,
and, at least in Scotland, almost nine in 10 patients do truly start their treatment
within 18 weeks. Another problem is the Governmentís unwillingness
to learn from good practice. The Williams Commission stated that good practice
travels poorly within this Government. How many times have we heard about good practices
on a small scale that havenít been rolled out? Now, I could go onótime is short. However, one thing that struck me earlier
this afternoonóone of the fundamental problems of this Government is its unwillingness to
lead. This Government follows, far too often. And I heard a Cabinet Secretary speaking earlier
about his staunch support for the devolution of policing and justice. Well, Iím delighted that the Government supports
that now, but theyíre behind the curve. We in Plaid Cymru are pleased, anyway, at
seeing the Government following us and supporting our views on that issue or on taxation of
sugary drinks, but itís very frustrating to see the Government missing these opportunities
to make a real difference to the lives of people. The Conservatives: well, bring your own ideas
to the table too. A negative list such as this one, without
proposing any alternatives, never looks any good in the view of the public. Suzy Davies AM: It is the legacy of the First
Minister that’s in the spotlight today. It’s only this week we’ve produced our own
policy on how to improve housing and provision for that in Wales, so you can’t say that we’re
without ideas. It’s just today is not the day for them. You’ll be getting plenty from us in the next
couple of yearsódon’t you worry about that. Predictably, of course, had the First Minister
himself been here today, he would have tried to respond to the deficiencies in his Government
just by blaming the UK Government, but education has been thoroughly devolved for the last
20 years, and actuallyóand I think I’m probably more likely to get it from you, leader of
the houseóI’d rather hear an analysis of what you think has gone right or wrong on
his watch when it comes to education. I can quickly talk about money, because there
is a connection there with the UK Government, and, of course, the Welsh Government’s well-oiled
wheedle of not having enough moneyówe say year-on-year funding increase; you say real-term
cuts. But both positions prompt the question of
how Welsh Government has chosen to spend what it does get on giving children the first chance
of a better future. In his leadership campaign, the First Minister
recognised that education in Wales was getting a poor deal from his own Government at that
point, and it wasn’t the UK. His pitch included a commitment, and I quote,
‘to spend 1 per cent above the block grant every year until we reach a situation where
we have parity of funding per head of pupils in England.’ Well, we still don’t have that parity of funding
per pupil nine years later, and England’s own figures have dropped in the meantime. What we have had in that time, certainly in
the time I’ve been here, is a 7.9 per cent real-terms decreaseóand it’s you that like
the real-term figuresóin the gross budgeted expenditure for education, and a 7.5 per cent
real-terms cut in per pupil spend. You get 20 per cent more to spend per person
than in England, yet, for years, you have spent less per pupil than England. That is undeniable, and we are now in a place
where Labour councils are saying that they are no longer in a position to protect school
spending. Welsh Government’s had nine years to keep
that promise on which the First Minister was elected, first as leader of his party, and
then as leader of the nation, and that is a promise that has not been kept. On his own terms, that is a failure. But education’s not just about money, in case
anyone was thinking that; it is about a wider culture of competitive standards, the creation
of an ambitious and fulfilled workforce, including educators themselves, and, most of all, resilient,
healthy, creative children and adults who are interested in this world and want to contribute
to it to the best of their abilities. And while Welsh Government needs money, of
course, the success of education is every bit as much about the philosophy and the policy
direction. The effects of years of Labour policyówell,
we’ve rehearsed them many times; Paul Davies mentioned some of them. For the fourth time in a decade we’re behind
the other UK nations on PISA resultsóthe most recent being even worse than 2009óspecifically
in reading, maths and science, and, this year’s A to C grade at GCSE, which were down again
on last year, itself the lowest year of achievement since 2006, it was maths, English, biology,
chemistry and physics, as well as Welsh language, mirroring those PISA results, despite being
measured in a completely different way. Forty-five education institutions across Wales
are in special measures or in need of significant improvement; one there for four years. As Estyn says in yesterday’s report:
‘Despite various initiatives, including banding and categorisation…not enough is done to
support them’, meaning these schools, or to develop sustainable
strategies for schools. And with so much effort and money going into
these various initiatives, especially on standardsówe’re talking about regional consortia, Schools
Challenge Cymru; Jenny Rathbone was talking about that earlierówhy are more than half
our secondary schools still stuck with inspection reports that aren’t good or excellent? Now, this is a year-on-year failure in the
time that I’ve been in this place. Thousands of children and young people’s parents
and grandparents went through an education system envied and respected not just in the
UK but around the world, and those children are now denied the same privilege, because
it’s being run by a Labour administration with its eye off the ball, a belated mea culpa
from the First Minister and a bureaucratic approach to raising standards. It will not be enough to say that more young
people have GCSEs, or their equivalent, than in the 1990s. Not only is that true of the rest of the UK,
but the rest of the UK have done a stellar job in comparison. I have come to this portfolio to face a tsunami
of reviewsóa tsunami of reviewsóon which, by the way, if you want more moneyóI don’t
know where the education Cabinet Secretary is at the momentóget your act together on
the Reid review. There is plenty of money waiting for us there,
if you follow those recommendations. I think this ruck of reviews is a sign that
Welsh Government accepts that it’s got it very wrong, for a very long time, and that
it needs to start from scratch. That’s certainly what it feels like. So, for our young people and their future,
though, a change of party leader doesn’t meet a change in substance. All the reviews in the world won’t change
a thing with the same dead hand on the tiller of the sinking ship that is Labour Wales. Michelle Brown AM: I support this motion. Under Labour, the people of Wales have had
to endure a crumbling health service, a failing education system and economic and local government
policies that make no business sense whatsoever. Once again, Labour have tabled a series of
amendments that show they’re in complete denial about the problems they have caused and, regrettably,
I have to say that it’s their propensity to indulge in denial that causes many of these
problems to go unchecked. The Welsh Government are boasting in point
e) of their amendments that A-level students had the best results this year since 2010. That’s good news, of course, but the PISA
results of 2016, as mentioned already, paint a rather different picture from the rosy one
presented in Labour’s amendment. The results in reading and science were worse
in 2016 than they were in 2006, and although, in maths, there was a marginal improvement,
it was only of six points in 10 years, which is hardly stellar improvement, is it? In Wales, the percentage of pupils considered
top performers across reading, maths and science is less than half that across the border in
England. Literacy and numeracy are essential basics
of education, and if the Welsh Labour Government can’t ensure that pupils are both literate
and numerate enough to enable them to learn the skills and disciplines they need to succeed
in life and to be financially independent in adult life, there is scant hope that they
can get much else right either. The Welsh Government needs to get its priorities
right and focus on the basics instead of trying to criminalise parents, dictating the values
children are taught and interfering with the dynamics of the parent-child relationship
for no other reason than value signalling and an elitist attitude that they know better
than the parents. It is no measure of their ability to govern
if something that may be the best it has been for seven or eight years is still worse than
it was 12 years ago. In point f), they state that disposable income
in 2016 was higher than in 2015, and in point g), they say that wages have increased by
2.1 per cent. All of this might sound really positive until
you remember that they’ve been in power in Wales for 20 years. That boast about wage rises is simple in the
extreme when you consider that inflation is currently at 2.4 per cent. In real terms, Welsh workers have had a pay
cut, but Labour don’t just deny it, they try to spin it as an increase. No doubt, Labour will say that the people
endorse them as they keep returning them to power, yet, they didn’t exactly win the last
election. At the moment, they cling to a majority in
this place thanks to the outsourcing of two Cabinet positions to get their policies through,
and this isn’t the first time that Welsh Labour have had to be propped up by someone else. Their inability to run public bodies can be
proven in no better way than the ongoing scandal that is Betsi Cadwaladr. Labour have taken direct control of the health
board and still waiting times for some services are getting worse. If their direct involvement makes it worse,
or results in little or no improvement, how can they possibly claim to be the right people
to set the overall strategies and targets for the NHS or anything else? As population figures rise, hospital beds
reduce in comparison with that population, as do training places for doctors and nurses. Welsh Labour refuse to make the hard decisions
necessary to put the failing NHS boards back on track. That’s the Labour version of the NHS. As competition from talented youngsters across
the border, at home and abroad, increases, Welsh schools sit at the bottom of the UK
PISA rankings. That’s Labour’s version of an education system. As fewer and fewer people vote Labour, they
deny it’s because of anything they’re doing wrong, and insist they don’t need to change,
and when the people of Wales vote to leave the EU, they rewrite history, patronise the
electorate, accuse their opponents of lying and plan a way to thwart the will of the people. That’s Labour’s version of a democracy for
you. Finally, failing policies across the board,
a disrespect for the electorate and a never-ending stream of weasel words deflecting blame. That’s Labour’s version of Government, and
it’s well past time for change to give the people of Wales what they need and deserve. That’s why I’m supporting this motion. Thank you. Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Sir Christopher
Wren was the leading architect of London’s reconstruction after the great fire in 1666. He lays buried beneath the floor of his most
famous building, St Paul’s cathedral. An elaborate dome marks the site of his burial. Instead, there is an inscription on the floor
and it says, ‘If you are searching for his monument, look
around.’ Deputy Presiding Officer, if we were to look
around at Wales today for the First Minister’s monument, it would be a much less edifying
prospect. We would see the sad result of another nine
wasted years of Welsh Labour Government. Nine years ago, the First Minister set out
his vision for Wales in his leadership manifesto. It was called ‘Time to Lead’. Launching his manifesto, the First Minister
said ‘Our priority has to be that we protect public
services like the NHS and education’. The reality, however, is somewhatóvery different. During his period in office, the First Minister
has inflicted real-terms cuts to the health budget in Wales. Key performance targets have not been met. In December 2009, not one patient waited longer
than 36 weeks for treatment. Today, the figure is more than 13,500. More than 4,000 of these patients have been
waiting more than a year for surgery. In December 2009, 225,000 patients were waiting
to start treatment. Today, nearly 444,000 are waiting on waiting
lists. Performance against both the four- and 12-hour
targets in Welsh emergency departments has deteriorated. The urgent cancer treatment referral target
that says patients referred by the urgent route should start treatment in 62 days has
never been met under this First Minister. In ‘Time to Lead’, the First Minister pledged
to increase education spending by 1 per cent above the block grant. However, since 2011, his Welsh Government
has delivered real-terms cuts in education spending. GCSE performance has worsened. This summer saw the worst attainment of GCSE
top grades since 2005. The international PISA assessment reveals
Wales has the worst performing education system in the United Kingdom. PISA scores for reading, maths and science
are worse than in 2009, placing Wales in the bottom half of the OECD global ranking. In the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, Welsh
Government closed 157 schools, mostly in rural areas. Rhianon Passmore AM: Will you take an intervention? Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Go on. Rhianon Passmore AM: Would you agree with
the OECD viewpoint, strongly made, that Wales is moving in the right direction in regard
to its education reforms? Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: I am just giving
you the facts and figures that are actually in the world domain. Interviewed by the Western Mail at his manifesto
launch, Carwyn Jones said ‘We know that education is the route out of
poverty for many people in Wales.’ Thanks to his education policies, the First
Minister has put considerable obstacles in the way to block that route. I would like to mention another pledge made
in ‘Time to Lead’, namely to increase the building of new affordable and council hosing. On his watch, the number of homes being built
annually in Wales has fallen. Successive administrations under his leadership
have failed to build enough homes to meet Wales’s ongoing housing crisis. Over the past decade, the number of new homes
being built has fallen from over 10,000 a year in 2008 to just 6,000 this year. The First Minister has set a target of building
20,000 affordable homes, but, given his record of failing to meet targets on the NHS and
education in Wales, what confidence can we have in this Government’s ability to deliver
enough new homes? Jenny Rathbone AM: Will you take an intervention? Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: Go on then. Jenny Rathbone AM: You’ve got a long shopping
list of things you’d like more money put into. Could you tell us what you think should receive
less funding in order to pay for it? Mohammad Asghar (Oscar) AM: The thing is,
Wales hasn’t seen any other side of the coin. It’s only the Labour Party’s performance I’m
telling you about. Wales does not need a new Labour Government. Wales needs a new Government here. There are 200,000 poor children living in
poverty in Walesó200,000. On poverty, the economy, families, ethnicity
and disability, we are worse than the United Kingdom. There’s a long list of material deprivation,
persistent poverty, poverty in different areas and deprivation in the south Wales Valleys. You still haven’t woken up since Margaret
Thatcher. Basically, you can say many things about it,
but you are the ones running the Government since 1999, and nothing has been done, and
it’s shame on the Welsh Labour Government altogether. Rhianon Passmore AM: I will be voting for
the amendment to this motion tabled by Julie James AM. The Tory motion is both cynical and politically
opportunistic. The Tory motion is also fundamentally flawed. We know, do we not, that since 2009 there
have been two National Assembly for Wales elections. Both times the Welsh nation has gone to the
polls, and both times democratically following the elections a Welsh Labour Government has
been formed. The Welsh people are no fools. They do not support the Welsh Labour Party
out of blind obedience. We are talking about a Welsh populace with
a great collective memory of their history and our progressive future. The Welsh Labour Party works to renew the
immense bond that exists between it and the Welsh people, and we will continue to do so
with fresh policies, like disbarring nurseries from business rates and the best childcare
offer of the UK. The last decade has been dominated by the
UK Tory Government’s policies of imposed austerity. Purposeful cuts to the Welsh budget, purposeful
cuts to the welfare safety net, growing poverty and inequality, purposeful cuts to the public
sector, who often deal with the most vulnerable in our society. And austerityóthe name itself is actually
a stroke of purposeful genius, somehow not a chosen cuts policy, but an inevitable default
position of others. Austerity has been a vicious, determined ideological
attack on the state’s ability to intervene, to support the poorest in society with the
levers of the UK, as highlighted by not one but two UN reports on the severe state of
poverty inflicted by the UK Conservative Government on its people. Despite sustained Tory attack, devolution,
Welsh Labour and our Government have afforded some protection for the Welsh people from
a right-wing Tory Government’s policies. In the dark shadow of this inflicted austerity,
the Welsh Labour Government has secured 83,000 more people in work since 2010; £1.4 billion
of investment via the twenty-first century schools programme; 41 new schools, including
the impressive £22 million Islwyn High School in my constituency; the lowest diagnostic
waits since 2010; Wales leading the UK on household recycling, and rated in the top
three of the world. In the last Assembly, we delivered 10,000
new affordable homes in this Assembly, and we are on target to deliver 20,000 more. Welsh Labour has done all this in the shadow
of a greed-driven global recession, and the longest period of self-inflicted austerity
in living memory. And that has been the Conservatives who have
propagated that via their weakening of our financial regulations previously, and all
against the uncertainty of a Brexit that will also deliver on national insecurity. The Welsh Government’s overall budget in 2019
is down 5 per cent, or £850 million in real terms compared to 2010-11, something not deserved
by our people, and also, again, as a result of the Welsh Conservatives’ policy. The Welsh Government’s revenue budget in 2019
is down 4 per cent, or £650 million in real terms compared to 2010-11. The Welsh Government’s capital budget for
2019-20 is down 10 per cent or £200 million in real terms compared to 2010-11. When it comes to leadership, Welsh Labour
and our succession of leaders have offered and delivered principled leadership. Compare that to the strength and stability
of the chaotic mess that we are seeing in London from Theresa May and the rest of the
ragbag UK Tory Government. I can assure the Welsh people that the next
Welsh Labour First Minister will continue to stand up for Wales and deliver on our strong
socialist and ethically principled leadership and our sound socialist policy in action. Thank you. Andrew RT Davies AM: I think it was quite
telling at the start of this debate, when the Government bench had one Minister on it,
and the back bench had one member of the governing party to defend its actions in a debate that
was looking back over the last nine years, back to 2009. That in itself tells you its own story of
engagement by the governing party in debates here this afternoon. It is a pleasure to stand up here today, and
it is also worth reflecting on the activities and achievements of the current First Minister. This time next week, he will not be the First
Minister, and someone who has occupied a role for nine years and been at the centre of Government
for the principal part of devolutionóI think he came into Government in 2000-01óis worthy
of any recognition and praise as well, because that is an intensity in public office that
really does warrant sufficient observation from opposition parties and the governing
party as well, that someone’s dedicated themselves to public service. But it is right, also, to reflect on missed
opportunities, especially over a sustained period of time. Sometimes, instead of looking at the big issues,
you sometimes need to look at the very small issues and work up from the small issues to
the big issues. Today, for example, I was in the town of Barry,
where there has been a vigorous campaign around the incinerator that has been located there,
which has been granted planning permission through the normal process. The environment Minister, back in February,
agreed to consider imposing an environmental impact assessment on that incinerator. I raised the question with the leader of the
house yesterday, and, some 300 days later, that community is still waiting for that decision
from the Government. If you are in Government, you’ve got the ability
to do things. You have the abilityóas Mohammad Asghar referred
to on the front page of the First Minister’s manifesto, ‘Time to Lead’óto lead, and actually
make a positive impact in communities. In respect of that particular community, that
inertia in making this decision epitomises much of the bigger stuff that the First Minister,
and indeed his successive Governments, have failed to achieve for Wales. You cannot walk away from the successive PISA
tables that have shown, regrettably, that we have not enjoyed the success in education
that we all want to seeótake the politics out of it; we all want to see a better education
system. It’s not much good saying, ‘We can wait till
2022 when the new curriculum comes in.’ What about the generation that’s going through
schools at the moment? I’m a father of four kids. They get one go around the track, they do,
and you want to give them the best chance possible. So, what are we saying: ‘The last 20 yearsóoh,
well, sorry about that, but we’ll get it right for the next generation’? The international figures do not lie. And, you know, a bit of reflection from the
governing party and the governing benches wouldn’t go amiss on where things have gone
wrong and where we can put things right. I am the first one to acknowledge that twenty-first
century schools has made an improvement in schools the length and breadth of this country,
but it is a fat lot of good having shiny new buildings if the outcomes coming out of those
shiny new buildings aren’t replicated in the achievements of our young people. I am as ambitious as anyone for our young
people to achieve the best that they possibly can in their lives, but it has to be on the
scorecard that the Government could have done better. If you look at the economy over the last couple
of years, it is a fact that Welsh workers are taking less home today compared to their
Scottish counterparts when they started in 1999ó£55 a week less, in fact. Now, the governing party talk about austerity. I have not heard an alternative put forward
for how we could have cleaned up the mess that Gordon Brown left of a public sector
borrowing requirement of £160 billion that is coherent and would have kept the confidence
of the markets so that we wouldn’t have seen a massive recession. But what I have seen is the economic policies
of successive Labour Governments in Wales deliver poorer take-home pay as opposed to
improved take-home pay in other parts of the United Kingdom. It is a fact: we are the lowest take-home
pay economy of the United Kingdom. That is a fact. You cannot deny that. When it comes to the NHS, it is a fact that
a political decision was taken in 2011-12 to cut health spending here in Wales. That was a political decision that was taken. It is the only Government in the United Kingdom,
and, indeed, the First Minister is the only leader of a Government who has taken that
conscious decision to cut spending. And the argument at the time was that that
money needed to go into other columns to support other services, and that is fine if that’s
what the political choice is, but the fact of the matter is that decision was taken and
the Government has to reap the consequences because of it. In 2009, for example, the 36-week wait in
the Welsh NHS was zeroózero. Today, it is 13,500 people waiting 36 weeks
or more to have treatment. That is the measure that people use to measure
the success of the NHS, of how timely they can be seen when they are presented with an
illness or condition. And that, on the scorecard, has to be marked
down as a failure. So, I am more than willing to stand here and
praise the public service of the current First Ministeróa record that deserves to be praisedóbut
the successive Governments that he has led have failed to achieve the real improvements
that were promised at the start of devolution and through the time of the Governments that
he has led. Now, that’s not the fault of devolution: it’s
the political choices that have been taken, and let’s reflect on that, because the next
week is a time for reflection and a time to get onside and actually change the record
so that we change the outcomes. And that’s why I hope this Assembly will support
the motion before them this afternoon. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Can I now call the Leader of the House and Chief Whip, Julie James? Julie James AM: Thank you, Deputy Presiding
Officer. Well, I would very much like to begin by thanking
the Conservatives for bringing forward this debate today because it’s given us a timely
opportunity to reflect and celebrate the significant progress successive Welsh Labour Governmentsóso,
that’s successively elected by the Welsh people, Welsh Labour Governmentsóhave made during
Carwyn Jones’s time as First Minister. As our amendment says, this is an opportunity
to thank him for his work and leadership as First Minister, a First Minister that I, for
one, have been very proud to serve. For nine years, the First Minister has led
the Welsh Government through some of the most difficult times this country and, indeed,
the UK as a whole has experienced since the end of the second world war: hard times that
the Conservatives would very much like us never to mention again. Those nine years have been punctuated by a
global recession, followed by the longest period of austerity in living memory, which,
let us not forget, the UN’s special rapporteur on poverty last month described as a political
choice by the UK Conservative Government. And the final years of this FM’s tenure have
been dominated by Brexit, the proverbial catfight in the Conservative Party, not to mention
the chaos caused by the Prime Minister’s flip-flop negotiations and those members of the Tory
Party once described by a member of David Cameron’s inner circle as ‘swivel-eyed loons’. The Government was defeated three times yesterday
in the Houses of Parliament: not something to be proud of. Deputy Presiding Officer, through all of this,
successive Welsh Labour-led Governments have maintained their commitment to work towards
a more prosperous Wales and have delivered for the people of Wales. Yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance
set out again in the draft budget debate the impact austerity has had on our budget. It bears repeating today. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Will the Member give
way? Julie James AM: Yes, certainly, Janet. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: With all due respect,
you represent Swansea as a constituencyóSwansea West, yesóand I cannot be alone here in receiving
e-mails daily about our failing health system in Wales. When you have a constituent who comes to you
with such delayed treatment times, such a lack of co-ordination within our health services,
do you turn around and say, ‘It’s the UK Government’s fault, it’s austerity’, or are you truthful,
telling them that you run the health service here in Wales? Where is the reality in this debate, Julie? Julie James AM: Well, that is the reality. I was about to come on and say. But, actually, if you really want to know
what I say to my constituents in Swansea, Janet, I say that the Tory Government has
cancelled electrification; it’s cancelled the Swansea bay tidal lagoon; they cannot
deal with any of the infrastructure problems. It is an absolute shambles. So, you asked the question: that’s the answer
you’re getting. So, as I said, yesterday, the Cabinet Secretary
for Finance set out again in the draft budget debate the impact austerity has had on our
budget. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. I’d like to hear the leader of the house. Thank you. Julie James AM: It bears repeating today:
if we were not a penny better off in real terms than we were in 2010, we would have
£850 million more to invest in front-line services today. Now, if spendingó
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM: It is a serious point. You’ve just said exactly what you tell your
constituents. I agree with you entirely on the damage that
has been caused by a decade of Tory austerity, but surely you cannot duck the blame and duck
the responsibility of decisions taken by Welsh Government on health and other matters. Julie James AM: I’ll come on to that, Rhun. If spending on public services had kept pace
with the growth in the economy since 2010, we would have an extra £4 billion to spend
on public services in Wales. And if the UK Conservative Government had
matched the level of investment in public services achieved by every Government for
the last 50 years, Wales would have £8 billion more to spend. David Melding AM: And what would have happened
if the Labour Government had been returned in 2010 and Mr Darling’s spending plans had
been put into effect? How would that have affected your current
spending? Julie James AM: Well, as you know, David,
Gordon Brown had already turned the economy around and we had growth. The Conservative Party choked that in its
infancy immediately. So, I don’t have any worries at all of what
would have happened there. The Tory Party that followed was one of the
most fiscally irresponsible in the history of Great Britain. Llywydd, in the face of this global recession,
austerity and Brexit, ours is a Government that has, and continues to deliver for Wales
in every aspect of devolved life. More people are starting the treatment they
need within the target time. Almost 90 per cent of patients wait less than
26 weeks for treatment; cancer survival continues to improve, and the NHS in Wales is consistently
seeing and treating more cancer patients than ever before. We now have an £80 million new treatment
fund that has delivered faster access to 137 new medicines for a range of life-threatening
and life-limiting conditions. This year, we will complete the hundredth
twenty-first century schools project, a real milestone in an ambitious programme that will
see us invest more than £3.7 billion in rebuilding our children’s schools to give them a better
environment for their education. GCSE performance in the very top grades has
improved, and the overall pass rate for A-levels is at a historic high. Wales now outperforms England at the top grades. Our economy has improved. Despite the UK’s slow recovery from the recession
and the negative impact of UK Government policies, we have seen important improvement, and in
some areas, we are outperforming other parts of the UK. There were 1.5 million people in employment
in Wales in the three months to September 2018, up 4.2 per cent from the same period
a year earlieróthe largest increase of any UK country or region. [Interruption.] It’s been less than a decade sinceó. You wanted us not to take the credit for that,
but to take the blame for austerity. Cracking, Darren, but not very logical. It’s been less than a decade since we gained
primary law-making powers on the FM’s watch, and we are using them to lead the way in the
UK. We’ve banned smoking in public outdoor places,
legislated to prevent, protect and support victims of gender-based violence, domestic
abuse and sexual violence. We introduced the internationally recognised
legislation to put the interests of future generations at the forefront of decision making,
and legislated for a bilingual Wales. We introduced the first deemed consent system
for organ donation in the UK, and we introduced a 5p charge for plastic bags.At the start
of this Assembly term, we set out another ambitious programme for government; we have
made good progress in delivering it. We’ve increased to £40,000 the amount of
money people can keep before they have to fund the full cost of their residential care. We have extended the number of places where
working parents can access 30 hours of free childcare for their three and four-year-olds,
with more than half of local authorities now covered by our pilots. We are making significant progress towards
delivering the 100,000 all-age apprenticeships programme with 16,000 starts in the first
half of this year alone. We have delivered the most generous financial
package for students in the UK as we continue to provide financial support to our young
people and adult learners who wish to continue or return to further education. All Welsh students will now receive support
for living costs that is equivalent to the UK national living wage. Deputy Presiding Officer, we will not be supporting
the Conservative motion today. This is a party that continues to insist everything
we do is at fault in Wales while failing to acknowledge the terrible mess of its own making
the UK Conservative Government is presiding over at Westminster. A Government that you have to wonder, hour
by hour, whether it’s still in power. It’s certainly not in charge. From the welfare cuts to the forced introduction
of universal credit, it’s left people destitute and starving. From the shambolic introduction of new timetables
to the rolling failure that is its rail franchising, from the disappearance of social care from
great swathes of middle England to the deterioration in performance of the English NHS, the real
failure is the one happening over our border under the watch of the party opposite. Deputy Presiding Officer, I am proud to have
served Carwyn Jones as the First Minister of Wales. His legacy will stand the test of time, which
cannot be said for the current serving Prime Minister. We support the amendment. Diolch yn fawr. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. Can I now call on Mark Isherwood to reply
to the debate? Mark Isherwood AM: You’ve caught me slightly
unawares; I’m still strugglingólots of horrible notes. May I start by thanking all contributors? Paul Davies referred to some success and some
cross-party agreement that pointed out that under Carwyn Jones’s Government, Labour was
the first party anywhere in the UK to have imposed real-terms cuts to the NHS. He referred to the downgrading, centralisation
and closure of NHS services, to the per-pupil funding gap with England remaining, to Labour’s
target to close the prosperity gap with the rest of UK having been dropped and Wales being
the most expensive part of the UK to do business. He pointed out that higher tax revenues to
fund public services do not come from high tax economies. He talked about Labour having created a housing
supply crisis, and I know first-hand that they ignored warnings going back 15 years
that this would result if they didn’t take action, which they didn’t take. They spent billions, he said, on the symptoms
of poverty rather than targeting the causes and said that Wales needs new ideas and new
leadership. Mark Isherwood AM: Rhun ap Iorwerth referred
to Welsh Government’s delaying tactics, their repeated reviews rather than action, and he
referred to homelessness as one example. He referred to Welsh Government setting targets
lower than England and Scotland and then missing them, and about their unwillingness to learn
from good practice elsewhere. We heard from Suzy Daviesóhere we are; I
found the missing pageó[Interruption.] We all lose our pages sometimes, even Members
of the Welsh Government. We heard from Suzy Davies who focused on how
Welsh Government spends the money it has to spend, rather than simply the amount. She pointed out that, yes, they do get 20
per cent, currently, more per person to spend than in England, and yet spend less on school
pupils, that forty-five education institutions are in special measures, the bureaucratic
approach to raising standards, and referred to the sinking ship that is Labour Wales. Michelle Brown referred to Welsh Government
painting a rosy picture to conceal reality, to Welsh Government’s elitist ‘we know best’
attitude, to Labour only clinging to Government by giving roles to two non-Labour Assembly
Members, and to Labour’s disrespect for the electorate. Mohammad Asghar noted that key performance
targets were not being met and that performance had deteriorated in key areas. And he referred again to the failure by successive
Welsh Governments to build affordable and council homes, not over five or 10 years,
but over two decades. If I come to Rhianon Passmoreócan I thank
Rhianon for not giving a shouty speech, although the content was fairly similar? She described facts as flaws, she referred
to austerity, so let’s hope that the next time a Labour Government thinks it can break
the economic cycle, and impose pressure on the regulators in finance to go light-touch,
they remember the pain that that will cause successive generations. She referred to the increase in employment
in Wales since 2010 when the UK Government came into power after Wales lagging for years
and years prior to that, and she referred to the weakening of financial regulations. Well, if you read the successive reports following
the financial crash, as I have, you will know that those identify Messrs Blair, Brown and
Balls as being the great financial deregulators whose political interferenceó[Interruption.]óread
the reportóled to the banking crash, despite being warned years in advance that if they
didn’t take action, this would be the consequence. Andrew R.T. Davies talked about missed opportunities and
pupils only getting one chance, and that it’s no good having shiny new buildings if the
outcomes haven’t done better. And he referred to 36-week waiting times in
the NHS in 2009 being zero, now in their thousands. The leader of the house, speaking for the
Welsh Government, gave what sounded like a very good Welsh Labour conference speech,
but she dodged the key political choices taken by almost 20 years of Labour and Labour-led
Welsh Government, which have led to the failures outlined in this debate. She referred to the £850 million more that
we’d have for front-line services if the money hadn’t all gone and the UK’s credit line been
threatened with closure in 2010. She made reference to the UK Government’s
apparent non-contribution to Walesówell, they delivered the funding floor to the formula
that ensures that Wales gets more per head than in England, they delivered almost £0.75
billion for the city and growth deals in Walesówe’re still waiting to hear from the Welsh Government
over north Walesóand they provided £10 million for the compound semiconductor applications
project in Cardiff, £82 million for a defence contract in Denbighshire, and they’re pumping
millions into RAF Sealand, by centring the F-35 programme there. So, let’s look at some factual statistics
in the time left to us. From recent official reports, Wales is the
least productive nation in the UK. Poverty and deprivation are higher in Wales
than in any other nation in Britain. Median hourly earnings in Wales are lower
than England and Scotland. Average earnings in Wales are lower and have
grown slower than in other UK nations. Wales has the lowest long-term pay growth
among the nations of the UK. Wales has a higher relative income poverty rate than England,
Northern Ireland and Scotland, a higher proportion of working adults in poverty than any other
UK nation, and a pensioner poverty rate in Wales far higher than in any other UK nation. Wales is suffering from one of the worst Governments
endured by any part of the United Kingdom since the arrival of the universal franchise. Not only thatóone of the most reactionary
Governments, whose only action is to react against the UK Government and whose only policy
is to blame the UK Government for its own serious and successive failures over far too
long, fanning the flames of public confusion over their responsibility for the mess we’re
in and adding to the lack of public accountability that has kept them in place for so long, and
so much pain. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. The proposal is to agree the motion without
amendment. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Thank you. We defer voting under this item until voting
time. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
The next item on our agenda this afternoon is the short debate, and I now call on David
Melding to speak on the topic he has chosen. David Melding AM: Deputy Presiding Officer,
I’m unaccustomed to such a warm welcome. In the last 24 hours or so we’ve discussed
the budget, we’ve discussed Brexit and we’ve just been discussing the Welsh Government’s
record, but now we have a calm interlude, and I want to turn to the Neolithic in the
story of Walesó David Melding AM: Boom boom. [Laughter.] There were great achievements in the Neolithic,
as you’re about to discover. In north-west Europe, where we find ourselves,
the Neolithic ran from about 4,500 BC to 1,700 BC, although exactitude in these matters is
not particularly helpful. No-one woke up one day and said, ‘Ah, the
Neolithic is over and the Bronze Age has begun’, but we do like to use these categories. But what marks out the Neolithic period above
all is farming and settlements. But there were other great achievements too:
pottery, statuettes, figurative art, decorations such as spirals, chevrons and lozenges, pictograms,
ideograms, axes and even rudimentary food preservation. It was a time of remarkable technological
invention and discovery. Now, all of the sites that I will refer to
in my short debate appear on the rolling photo presentation that is now playing on the screen. I want to start with Tinkinswood in the Vale
of Glamorgan. It is one of my favourite places. I’ve walked there and spent time there, read
poetry there, discussed eruditely, I hope, with some Members in this Chamber, indeed,
whilst pondering and looking at that monument. It does remind me, anyway, of the amazing
achievements of our ancestors in prehistory. I believe it is really important that we respect
and celebrate these achievements. I’d like now to turn to John Davies, and what
he says about Tinkinswood in what I think remains a mesmerising history, A History of
Walesósurely the greatest one-volume history yet written, and we have some really magnificent
one-volume histories of Wales, going back to David Williams. But John Davies starts that work with a chapter
titled, ‘The Beginnings: Paviland, Tinkinswood and Llyn Cerrig Bach’, and I think it’s absolutely
the right context to set. Tinkinswood demonstrates the growing mastery
over environment that is really the mark of the Neolithic, and just think: the capstone
on that monument would have required 200 men to put it in placeójust remarkable organisation. And it was built after much of the woodland
in the Vale of Glamorgan had been cleared away by the new technologyóthe new axes. Because after the end of the ice age, we had
a period of thick temperate forests over most of Wales, and much of that was cleared, then,
to make way for farming. And activity in this part of Wales was heavily
influenced by the culture of Brittany, and I know quote from John Davies:
David Melding AM: ‘This is an aspect of the “personality” of Wales which can be overlooked
if the country is seen as no more than part of the Highland Zone of Britain. Eastwards, Wales faces the lowlands of England,
but it also faces the western waters, with their network of sea-routes. People and influences came from the one direction
and the other, and the interplay between what came by land and what came by sea is one of
the most fascinating of the themes of the early history of Wales.’ And I completely agree. In June 2017, when Welsh Water carried out
upgrades on a site at Llanfaethlu, archaeologists working on behalf of Welsh Water found evidence
of prehistoric activity dating back around 4,000 to 6,000 years. Amongst the findings were flint tools. Silica-rich flint can be fashioned into a
variety of tools, for example the knives and axes that I’ve been talking about. This site also contained burnt food, such
as hazelnuts and other seeds, which will enable experts to radiocarbon the site and reconstruct
the Neolithic diet. Additionally, on Anglesey, one can find the
mound in the dark grove, known as Bryn Celli Ddu, and Cadw says of this monument that it
seems to have begun in the later Neolithic period, around 5,000 years ago, as a ritual
enclosure. Cadw also notes that later in the Neolithic
period, the henge made way for a passage tombóa monument often found around the Irish seaboard
and as far afield as Brittany. The real magnificence of this tomb is that
it has been built with such accuracy that it is perfectly aligned to coincide with the
rising sun on the summer solstice. The sun penetrates down into the inner burial
chamber. Excavations there have led to 10 examples
of rock carvings being found, as well as pottery and flint tools. Amazingly, the history of the site goes back
even further as post holes found in the henge have been carbon-dated back to the Mesolithic
period. And it just shows you that we’re discovering
constantly new insights into these sites and discovering others. Another site of particular interest to me
is the hillfort at Caerau, Cardiff. This was a major power centre for the region
of Cardiff prior to the Roman invasion, and a major centre for many thousands of years. A six-year-old uncovered pottery and arrowheads
there, and it emerged that Caerau was the home of a powerful community from at least
3,600 BC. Other arrowheads have been found that were
broken, presumably from impact, and other weapons were found, indicating that a battle
took place there some 5,000 years ago of great significance. And this is activity that goes back much earlier
than we previously thought. And it just amazes meóa child out there suddenly
finding these remarkable discoveries and then having the wit to ask about them and then
them being identified by the various experts. This is, I think, what’s wonderful about that
particular project, which I’ll talk a little bit about in a moment, again demonstrating
that with constant discoveries, we are led to new interpretations of these sites, which
is why they are so precious. CAERóCaerau and Ely rediscovering; the heritage
project thereóconsists of archaeologists from Cardiff University along with Ely and
Caerau Communities First. They aim to explore the history and archaeology
of the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely, from prehistory through to the modern day,
helping to connect communities with their heritage and develop educational opportunities. Their website notes that before the advent
of the Roman invasion, Caerau hillfort was the major power centre for the entire Cardiff
region, and is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts in south-east Wales. During the medieval period, a ringwork and
churchóSt Mary’sówere built within the ancient Iron Age boundaries, and their impressive
remains can still be seen today, showing the remarkable continuity of that particular site. Again, I think that’s another precious aspect
of these monuments. Oliver Davis, who has worked on the project,
said that: ‘The location and number of Neolithic finds
indicate that we have discovered a causewayed enclosureóa special place where small communities
gathered together at certain important times of the year to celebrate, feast, exchange
things and possibly find marriage partners’. It was a key social development of the neolithic. Such sites, incidentally, are very rare in
Wales, with only five other known examples, mostly in the south as it happens. In June this year, Cardiff University’s Live
Local Learn Local programme, in conjunction with the CAER Heritage Project, launched a
six-week course, ‘Hidden histories of Caerau and Ely’, which delivers free accredited courses
in communities facing social and economic challenges. What a wonderful idea that is. Five members of the community, along with
several participants from further afield, took part in the course, and had a rare opportunity
to visit the vaults of the National Museum of Wales to get valuable training in designing
and executing museum exhibitions. Deputy Presiding Officer, can I just say in
conclusion that I welcome the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, which this Government brought
before us and enacted? I think it’s really important that we see
with the removal of the defence of ignorance of a monument or its location a way of establishing
the responsibilities that property owners have when these monuments are discovered or,
obviously, when they are looked after. There are so manyówe are so rich in neolithic
heritage that we must ensure that we preserve it as fully as possible, because we are reinterpreting,
there’ll be new discoveries in future generations, no doubt, and, with aerial photography becoming
ever more sophisticated, down to the use of drones, we’re discovering constantly new sites. There’s one on the display of the earthwork
that you can see from great height, but not from ground level. We also need to improve the awareness and
public understanding of neolithic monuments, and I think the Caerau project is really important
in this regard. Deputy Presiding Officer, can I just conclude
by saying that the neolithic should be properly honoured, because it has a most special place
in the story of Wales? Thank you. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. Can I now call on the Minister for Culture,
Tourism and Sport to reply to the debateóDafydd Elis-Thomas? Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM: Thank you very much
for the opportunity, Deputy Presiding Officer, to respond to this extraordinary and unexpected
debate. One of the advantages of this place, the Senedd
of Wales, is that we can discuss, as the legislation that established us states, any matters that
affect Wales. But I think that this is the first time for
me to hear a debate, the first time for me to take part in a short debate, talking about
the past that can be called prehistory. This is a word I have some problems with,
because I would argue, philosophically, that, if we can talk about prehistory, then it has
to exist and therefore it is, in some sense, historic, but weíll leave that to the philosophers. I had an opportunity last month to outline
the priorities that we have in the department for the historic environment of Wales, and
the emphasis in those priorities is on displaying and demonstrating that Wales arose as a modern
nation from a cultural heritage with common elements over thousands of years. And so the Member is safe in saying that we
started in the depths of prehistory. In fact, long before the Neolithic period,
as that is dated, and what David described as the dawn of agriculture and settlement,
we can pursue the story of the nation that is now called Wales back to the last Ice Age
at least, and the earliest human traces found, in quotation marks, of a ‘Welsh person’ in
Pontnewydd cave almost 0.25 million years ago. So, prehistory is a matter of great interest
to the Welsh Government, and I would like to emphasise what the different elements are
of the heritage that we have tried to safeguard over the period that I have been responsible
for this portfolioójust over a year. Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM: Our central priority
is to care for our historic environment through promoting its enjoyment and enjoyment of it. And it’s important that we can understand,
as far as we can, the past that we’re talking about so that we can appeal to people in the
present day and in future. Now, the findings that have been made in these
early periods in Wales are findings that are of international significance, in Paviland
cave in the Gower, for example. And the history of construction of burial
chambersó. These have been created, as David mentioned,
referring to Tinkinswoodóto Lech-y-filiast, or whatever we want to call itóin that area,
a very odd place. These are notable buildings in the landscape. The Bronze Age saw thousands of these burial
mounds spread across the landscape of Wales, with valuable items buried in them. The Mold cape is perhaps the most famous of
them. The Iron Age saw further changesóthe development
of hill-fort communities and the hundreds of traces that exist across Wales, such as
in Tre’r Ceiri. For me, the institutions that have interpreted
these sites, particularly the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales,
which have recorded numerous new sites very recently during the dry summer, where traces
were found in the rural landscape so that the prehistory came alive anew, as it were,
because of the weather that we experienced at that timeó. In those events, we have seen, through the
work of the commission and through the extraordinary work that has been done, the way that there
are interesting clusters of these prehistoric sites across our nation. One of the most notable, of course, is the
clusters on Anglesey, and I wouldn’t want to leave Anglesey out of any discussion of
prehistory. The prehistoric monuments on Anglesey can
rightly take their place with the Boyne Valley in Ireland, with Stonehenge in England. Indeed, these are amongst the most extraordinary
sites in the British Isles and in Ireland. And there are sites under the care of Cadw,
including the Neolithic burial chambers in Bryn Celli Ddu and Barclodiad y Gawres, which
is not far away. Cadw is also responsible for Neolithic burial
chambers in the north of Pembrokeshire, including Pentre Ifan, and, in Glamorganóas I’ve already
talked about, as has the MemberóTinkinswood near St Nicholas, where I had an opportunity
to spend a great deal of time with my family in that area, and I had the extraordinary
experience of trying to explain prehistory to young children. So, it is important to emphasise that, in
the contemporary provision of Cadw and the Government’s work, we do appreciate this inheritance
and legacy and we do strive to safeguard it. I want to pay tribute to the archaeological
trusts in Wales, which have visited and assessed every prehistoric site that we’re aware of,
and there are 23,000 such sites. And the whole host of information that has
emanated from this are records that have legal status in the Historic Environment (Wales)
Act of 2016. We are implementing the Act at the moment
through the specific provision that has been made in giving direction for how to implement
the Act, and we will be continuing to monitor that and will review it formally, indeed,
in years to come. Cadw also produces online maps, Cof Cymru,
which include the location and description of every prehistoric site that has been safeguarded
in Wales. This information is available, and itís possible
to access it, and the first-ever technical advice note for the historic environment was
published as recently as last year. Now, this work is ongoing, and the promotion
work continues to be important. For this reason, Iíve brought a gift for
the Member, which is a bilingual description for pupils of Llyn Cerrig Bach, Barclodiad
y Gawres and Bryn Celli Ddu. As all Members can see, there are wonderful
illustrations that reinforce and recreate the Neolithic and pre-Neolithic periods, but
don’t ask me to go through them, but they are historically accurate. We are trying to generate enthusiasm amongst
the next generation in the long tradition that we are part of, and Iíd like to not
just thank the trusts, but also the national museum for their part. The extraordinary developments at St Fagans
over the past two years have brought us to a situation where they have now re-opened
officially, and the new galleries give a clear, explicit status to the prehistoric objects
from all parts of Wales. You canít go into any of the museums buildings
without realising that the history of Wales is a long-running one and one that we should
all respect. And Iím very grateful, once again, to discuss
such an issue during a debate at the Assembly. Thank you. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Thank you. Item 8 on our agenda this afternoon is voting
time. Unless three Members wish for the bell to
be rung, I intend to proceed to that voting time. [Interruption.] Can three Members show that they want the
bell rung? Okay, we’ll ring the bell. Thank you. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Well, I intend now, Members, to proceed to voting time. And the first vote this afternoon is on the
Welsh Conservative debate on Welsh Government performance, and I call for a vote on the
motion, tabled in the name of Darren Millar. If the proposal is not agreed to, we vote
on the amendment tabled to the motion. Open the vote. Close the vote. For the motion 12, five abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, the motion is not agreed. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
And I call for a vote on amendment 1, tabled in the name of Julie James. Open the vote. Close the vote. For the amendment 25, five abstentions, 12
against. Therefore, amendment 1 is agreed. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
I call for a vote on the motion as amended. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Open the vote. Close the vote. For the amended motion 25, five abstentions,
12 against. Therefore, the amended motion is agreed. Y Dirprwy Lywydd / The Deputy Presiding Officer:
Before we move to the debate on Stage 3 of the the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill, I
intend to suspend proceedings for 10 minutes. The bell will be rung five minutes before
we reconvene, and I would encourage Members to return to the Chamber promptly. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call Members to
order. This brings us to our Stage 3 debate on the
Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill. The first group of amendments relates to the
duty to provide funded childcare. The lead amendment in this group is amendment
4, and I call on the Minister for Children, Older People and Social Care to move and speak
to the lead amendment and the other amendments in the groupóHuw Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. I’m delighted to help open proceedings here
on the Stage 3 committee for this important Bill. I’ve responded to calls from scrutiny committeesóthe
Children, Young People and Education Committee and the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs
Committeeófor a duty on the face of the Bill, and I’ve duly brought forward amendment 4. To give effect to this duty, the Welsh Ministers
will need to state the detail around the number of hours of childcare and the number of weeks
of provision in the regulations made under section 1. These regulations will be subject to the affirmative
procedure. In practice, Government amendment 4 achieves
exactly the same purposes as amendments 4A and 4B, but without the need for primary legislation
to be amended by regulations, should it be necessary in future to vary the amount of
childcare to be secured under section 1. Amendments 4A and 4B are seeking to nail things
down on the face of the Bill. I don’t think there’s any doubt out there
about how committed this Government is to delivering on this manifesto commitment. We are already discharging our duty in 14
local authorities across Wales. If we can avoid the need to amend primary
legislation by regulations and achieve the same purpose, I think that’s what we should
do. And, for this reason, we will not be supporting
amendments 4A and 4B, and I would urge Members to support instead Government amendment 4,
which achieves exactly the same purpose. Amendment 20 seeks to define what we mean
by ‘childcare’ on the face of the Bill, by reference to other legislation. Now, we had a very useful discussion, which
I’m thankful for, during Stage 2 proceedings, and I also met subsequently with colleagues
Suzy Davies and Janet Finch-Saunders in early November to discuss this and related issues. What we mean by ‘childcare’ for the purposes
of the offer is regulated childcare, which encompasses a wide range of different types
of provision, subject to a set of national minimum standards, and which are regulated
and inspected by Care Inspectorate Wales or the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s
Services and Skills. We already have definitions of ‘childcare’
in other pieces of legislation, so it is simply unnecessary to have this level of detail in
the Bill itself. But I agree that it is important that the
link is made so it is clear what we are talking about when we talk of ‘childcare’. Now, the framework administrative scheme,
which I have shared with the responsible committee, does make this connection explicit, and in
there, we do define what we mean by ‘childcare’. The benefit of having the definition in there
is that we can then more easily accommodate any changes should that be necessary in future
whilst also ensuring that we are being transparent about the meaning of things. Thank you, Presiding Officer. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Thank you, Presiding
Officer, for giving us a chance to speak on these amendments. As Welsh Conservatives, we welcome the introduction
of the Bill and the childcare offer, as we always promised Welsh voters that they would
have funding for childcare. It is very important, however, that we, as
elected Members, ensure that no barrier to employment is present within our society,
and helping parents with their childcare is indeed a key part of this pledge. As such, we do support the Minister’s principle
behind amendment 4, which binds the Welsh Government to a duty to provide funding for
childcare. However, it is still disappointing that the
Minster has failed to place the childcare offer on the face of this Bill. Whilst it is admirable that the Minster wants
to ensure future flexibility through regulations, both the explanatory memorandum and the draft
administrative scheme place the numbers of 30 hours per week for 48 weeks per year. It is therefore important that the Bill has
this amount on its face, which can, of course, then be changed at a later date. We also heard at Stage 2 that the Minister
believes placing the offer on the face of the Bill would create more difficulties to
change it in the future, but we contend that this allows for proper scrutiny of the offer’s
effects. As will become clear throughout the amendments
I’ve tabled at Stage 3, we have broader concerns that the Bill is not affording the National
Assembly for Wales sufficient process to examine the effects. Amendment 4B is a technical change, but it
also creates a point that the amount should be specified as hours and weeks. The Welsh Government will fund the offer. Finally, amendment 20, which my colleague
Suzy Davies AM will speak about in more detail, shows that perhaps the statutory definition
of ‘childcare’ extends further than was intended under this Bill, including the additional
charges. I’ll speak about those under amendments 13
and 21. Suzy Davies AM: This Bill is called the Childcare
(Funding) Wales Bill, and the Minister will be aware from amendments tabled in my name
at Stage 2 that we’ve been, well, unhappy about the fact that we have yet another Swiss
cheese Bill laid before us. While I’m grateful to you for tabling the
amendment in this group, it doesn’t absolutely specifically put your policy from your manifesto,
and indeed the policy from our manifesto, explicitly on the face of the Bill. So we are left with a Bill that still contains
uncertainties, which I’ll address in later groups as well. But a core uncertainty is the meaning of ‘childcare’. The Bill does not define it anywhere, and
while you say, Minister, it may mean regulated childcare, it doesn’t say that in so many
words in the Bill. I think it would be quite easy, really, for
all of us to turn around and say, ‘Well, we know what you mean by “childcare”. We don’t need a definition’, but it became
very clear at Stage 2 that this wasn’t the case, and it wasn’t clear at all whether it
included activity such as providing food, going on visits and so on. There is complete inconsistency at the moment
about how or indeed even whether those activities are provided free of charge by childcare providers
in Wales. Minister, you argued at Stage 2 that there’s
no need for a definition of ‘childcare’ as it’s contained in the administrative scheme
accompanying the Bill, and you just mentioned that. Furthermore, to put it on the face of the
Bill would hinder the ability of Governments to modify or update what we consider to be
childcare over time. I’ll start with that second point. This legislature is being asked to pass a
Bill on what we understand to be the meaning of ‘childcare’ today. If you plan to change the meaning of a concept
so fundamental to this Bill that it appears in its very title, then you should come back
to this Assembly and ask us to agree to those changes. At the very least you should seek to bring
any change to this Chamber through the affirmative procedure, because we are voting to allow
you to spend taxpayers’ money in a very specific way, and if you want to change that, you must
come back to this place and ask. On the first point, about the need for a definition
on the face of the Bill, as you say, the administrative scheme refers to childcare being defined as,
and I quote, ‘care [or other supervised activity] for a
child in respect of which the providers require to be registered under Part 2 of the Children
and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 or under Part 3 of the Childcare Act 2006’. Section 18 of the latter, as it happens, contains
a definition of childcare that includes non-school education and, crucially, and I quote again,
‘any other supervised activity for a child’. An administrative scheme is, of course, just
thatósome helpful guidance. It is not statutory, it is not scrutinised. The Assembly has no say on its contents, so
it’s not the place for a definition on which the whole purpose of a Bill, made by law in
this Assembly, hinges. And it’s purpose does hinge on it, and I’ll
explain why in a moment. The Minister is confident in the definition
of ‘childcare’, obviously. It’s included in the administrative scheme
because of that. And we as a legislature should not be content
with it changing without thorough scrutiny. It is not appropriate to refuse to put the
definition on the face of this Bill on the grounds of the need to be flexible about the
definition of ‘childcare’. That’s what this Bill is actually about, so
please put it on the face of the Bill if you’re confident in it, or at least define it on
the face of the Bill by reference to those two other pieces of legislation. It’s hardly novel, if not in the spirit of
the new, what can I call it, consolidation Bill, if the Counsel General will let me characterise
it as that. So, I’ve tabled this amendment because a definition
of ‘childcare’ would undoubtedly improve the quality of the Bill. But in so doing, I recognise that this presents
a huge headache for Welsh Government as regards the purpose of this Bill, namely to provide
free childcare. If we adopt the definition, as the Minister
is currently asking local authorities and providers to do via the administrative scheme,
he’s accepting that, quote, ‘supervised activity’óproviding lunch, going on visits, et ceteraóare within
the definition of ‘childcare’. And childcare, under this Bill, is intended
to be free. There can be no charge for anything that constitutes
childcare. But at Stage 2 you made it clear, Minister,
that you saw what you thought was childcare and these activities, these supervised activities,
as different things. The offer, you said, is not
’30 hours of childcare plus everything else together’,
explaining that that could make the scheme unaffordableóand I agreeóbut I’m looking
at the 2010 Measure and the 2006 Act, and they say that such activities are part of
childcare. And you say that childcare is free. So, this Bill needs to distinguish between
activities that can be charged for and those that must not be charged for and must be free. By referring to these two pieces of legislation
in your administrative scheme, you’ve already muddied the waters by permitting charging
for supervised activities. If this amendment were to be moved and passed,
this definition would not facilitate your policy aim, yet you’re relying on that very
definition for your policy to be delivered. So, I hope you see my point: firstly, the
definition in your administrative scheme needs to be changed so that it doesn’t contain contradictory
guidance; and secondly, as this shows, this Bill does nothing to tell us what is free
and what will not be freeófailing in one of its primary purposes. So, I’m not going to be moving the amendment,
because that would embed your mistake into law, but what I hope you will do before Stage
4 is come back to this Chamber and tell us how you will overcome that mistake and make
it clear, in law that we can scrutinise, what exactly families can rely upon being free
under the law and what not. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to reply
to the debateóHuw Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Thank you to Suzy and Janet for those comments
and remarks and they rehearse some of the points that we covered in the meetings, but
also at an earlier stage of this Bill as well. I laid out in my opening remarks why I think
what we have in front of us, particularly with amendment 4, gives the right balance
between the clarity that we need on the face of the Bill and the duties, and the flexibility
to flex the offer in future, which is something, I have to say, that committees have also wanted
to see within thisóthe ability not to go back to primary legislation, but, actually,
to revisit it in the way that the scheme operates, and that’s an important part in deciding where
we put some of the details of this. But let me just reiterate: in order to give
effect to the duty that we’re proposing, we as Welsh Ministers, me or anybody else, will
actually have to state the detail around the number of hours of childcare and the number
of weeks of provision in the regulations made under section 1. And there’s no disguising what this offer
is: it’s already out there being piloted in the early implementer authorities, in 14 local
authorities at the moment, and all of them by time we roll it out. So, it’s pretty clear and the regulations
will be subject to the affirmative procedure. And on the question of childcare itself, well,
as I said beforeóand we’ve covered this in committeeófor the purposes of the offer,
this is regulated childcare, regulated and inspected childcare that comes under the inspectoratesówith
Care Inspectorate Wales or with Ofstedóand I turn to those definitions that you mention
of childcare in other pieces of legislation. But in terms of issues such as where there
are additional costs, whether it’s transport or other costs, I know we’ll turn to that
in other amendments, and we’ve discussed them previously at Stage 2 and actually in committee
as well, and we’ll deal with those there. But we’re very clear in the guidance that
we’ve issued, related to transport and other costs, exactly what is allowed and what isn’t
allowed and what childcare is. To actually put a ‘childcare’ definition on
the face of this Bill would put us in the situation where, if ‘childcare’ definitions
elsewhere were to change, we would, by necessity, have to come back and revisit this in primary
legislation. Suzy Davies AM: Will you take an intervention? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: I will, indeed, yes. Suzy Davies AM: Sorry, just for clarification. So, are you saying then that the definition
of ‘childcare’ in the 2006 Act is incorrect? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: No, no, the definitions
of ‘childcare’ are actually correct, and what flows from this currently-being-piloted childcare
offer, that definition is the basis of the ‘childcare’ definition that we use. And it also then has guidance that is supplementary
to this, which has been shared with the committee as well, which shows where there are any additional
costs, for example, what the guidance says around those. But childcare is childcare, and it’s very
clearly understood and we don’t need to redefine it on the front of this Bill. So, look, in bringing forward amendment 4,
we’ve provided greater clarity and certainty about the Government’s commitment to meet
its manifesto commitment, and I welcome the fact that you won’t be pushing the other amendments
related to that because we’re trying to achieve the same thing here. And let’s not forget that the Welsh Ministers
will be required, as I say, to set out the detail of the offer in detail, in terms of
the number of hours, how many weeks, et cetera, in regulation. So, amendment 4, alongside the other Government
amendment, which builds into the Bill, Suzy and Janet, a requirement to review the effectiveness
of the legislation, means that this Government is fully committed not only to the manifesto
commitment, but also to transparency about the effectiveness of this offer as well. And one important point, Llywydd, just to
reflect on at the outset of these Stage 3 proceedings, is that it is important to reflect
again on the purpose of this legislation. Its purpose is to give the legislative mechanism
we need to engage HMRC in administering the application and eligibility-checking process
for the offer. It isn’t about the offer per se, although
I recognise that Members understandably have focused a great deal on the wider offer more
broadly throughout the scrutiny stages, and we’ve been happy to address those issues. And as the responsible Minister, I’ve tried
in every way possible to address those broader issues. But, in respect of this set of amendments,
I would urge Members in light of my comments to reject those other amendmentsóalthough
if the Member is choosing not to push them, I think that would be excellent because we’re
trying to achieve the same aim hereóand to support Government amendment 4 as the amendment
that strikes that right balance between providing greater clarity and certainty, and giving
this and future administrations discretion over how that duty is defined in the future. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The lead amendment
in group 1 is amendment 4, and as amendments to amendment 4, amendments 4A and 4B will
be disposed of first. Janet Finch-Saunders, amendment 4A. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 4A be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll therefore proceed to an electronic vote
on amendment 4A. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 4A is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders,
amendment 4B. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 4B be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 4B is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 4 be agreed to. Does any Member object? Therefore, amendment 4 is agreed in accordance
with Standing Order 12.36. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: That brings us to
the second group. The next group of amendments relates to parental
eligibility. Amendment 6 is the lead amendment in this
group, and I call on Si‚n Gwenllian to move and speak to the lead amendment and the other
amendments in the group. Si‚n Gwenllian. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Thank you, Llywydd. I would like to make it clear at the very
outset that Plaid Cymru will be voting against the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill on the
basis that we believe in the principle of free childcare. This is consistent with our approach at Stage
1, but we have introduced amendments in order to seek to strengthen the Bill in the hope
that they can be agreed, even so late in the day. Amendment 6 was tabled by Plaid Cymru in order
to extend the right to parents in education or training to be included in the childcare
offer, and amendments 5, 9 and 10 are supplementary to that. Our amendment 8 seeks to ensure that the right
to free childcare for parents not in work is also included in the childcare Bill. We believe that 30 hours a week of early years
education or free childcare should be offered to all children between three and four years
of age, and that would ensure that children from all backgrounds would have the best start
in life. We have tabled these amendments in order to
generate the far-reaching change that is required to the childcare offer, in line with our own
vision, and in order to provide us all with an opportunity to vote to extend the scope
of this Bill. Perhaps what is contained within the Bill
was in the Labour manifesto, but our manifesto as Plaid Cymru went further, because our focus
was on the interests of all children. It’s appropriate, therefore, that we bring
these amendments forward today in order to honour our manifesto commitments. But even if you don’t believe that universal
free childcare is the way forward, we move amendment 6 in order to give you the opportunity
to express the opinion that parents in education or training should be included in the Bill. We will be supporting amendment 11, although
it doesn’t go as far as we would like to see, because we believe that it still strengthens
the Bill. Our amendment 9 allows the restriction of
the Bill to those who need the free provision, and stops the better off, or the most well
off from, from taking advantage of the free offer when they have the means to pay. It isn’t fair and it isn’t just that this
childcare offer doesn’t provide for a child whose parents are not in work, whilst making
the provision for a child where both parents are working and are earning £100,000 a year. In my view, this is erroneous, it’s unjust,
and it is wrong. The Welsh Government’s childcare offer, as
it currently stands, would actually exacerbate the attainment gap. According to the Royal College of Speech and
Language Therapists, on average, children from the poorest 20 per cent of our society
are over 17 months behind a child from the highest income group in terms of language
development at three years of age. This Bill does not tackle that issue, and
indeed it is at risk of exacerbating the situation, because children where one or two parents
are not in work will lose out. The children’s commissioner endorses and echoes
that view and states quite clearly that children who are not in employment will fall behind
as compared to their peersóthat’s the children of parents who are not in employment, of course. She supports a universal childcare offer for
all three- to four-year-olds and says further that there is strong evidence that, if you
invest in early years education and quality childcare, then you will make a substantial
difference to the life chances of children from the poorest backgrounds. If you support our amendments today, you will
improve this legislation and create that far-reaching change that is truly needed in the lives of
children who need support. Yes, there are other schemes available, and
I’m sure that the Minister will refer to Working Wales, the FE financial contingency fund,
the higher education childcare grant, and so on and so forth, but there is confusion. People don’t know that they qualify for these
various schemes. There are no assurances that these schemes
will remain in place if the funding sources dry up. And, for me, it makes sense to bring everything
together in one simple proposal where everyone who fits into the criteria clearly knows what
their rights are rather than having the confusion that we have here. Thank you. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Amendments 11 and
19 have been re-tabled from Stage 2, as we are also disappointed with the Minister’s
responses about the exclusion of parents who are taking up training for employment from
accessing the offer. During Stage 1 of the Bill, there was strong
opposition to the limitation of the Bill to working parents only, including concerns about
the lack of an evidence base to limit the offer, as well as the exacerbation of achievement
gaps and of it lacking in its potential to help prevent children in poverty from falling
behind their peers early. Now, although Plaid Cymru have tabled a very
similar amendment, we believe that by limiting this offered to parents who are undertaking
training for at least 16 hours a week for at least 10 weeks in an academic year means
that Chwarae Teg’s concerns about extending it to a universal offer actually run the risk
of spreading the offer too thin, and we need to see that addressed. Limiting the hours and weeks would further
reduce administrative burdens. The processing of courses that last only several
days or weeks would increase the burden of applications. The 10-week rule also allows for courses that
run to an academic term to be used. However, we do support Si‚n Gwenllian’s
amendment 10, as we would also want to define ‘prescribed’. The Minister’s responses so far have just
been to repeat the huge array of projects to help parents back into work. However, we remain of the belief that the
Welsh Government’s insistence on limiting some of these existing projects to parents’
postcodes is concerning. While the Minister committed to bring a piece
of work to committee on these programmes of support, this does not address the significant
gap already present in the provision of free childcare. For example, Flying Start has been criticised
by the Children, Young People and Education Committee this year because it misses nearly
two-thirds of children who do live in poverty. And how many times do we speak up on behalf
of our children in poverty here in this institution? But they are outside very limited Flying Start
areas. The Parents, Childcare and Employment programme
is also set to end in 2020. Therefore, it will not cover parents seeking
help with childcare before the national programme for free childcare is in place. So, it seems that whilst both the Cabinet
Secretary for Education and the Minister have indicated their support for extending the
offer, they are not supporting the opportunity to do so through this amendment. Moreover, the early implementer evaluation
has noted that 60 per cent of the parents they interviewed said that the offer had provided
them with more opportunities for in-work training and learning opportunities. We, therefore, believe that this aspiration
should be extended to parents who are actively looking for work through education and training,
and I ask all Members to support this amendment. Temporary exemption periodsóamendment 17óagain,
we’ve had to retable amendment 17 to highlight our concerns about the reliance of the Minister
on the non-statutory administrative scheme to deliver this part of the offer. The amendment covers parents who temporarily
drop out of the current eligibility through providing a grace period. We are concerned that despite the calls of
the CYPE committee, NASUWT and Chwarae Teg to include this within the Bill, the Minister’s
responses during Stages 1 and 2 have not been strong enough. By again relegating this incredibly important
area to the non-statutory administrative scheme, the National Assembly for Wales does not have
the opportunity to debate and discuss how it can operate smoothly on a national basis. Furthermore, in order to ensure that the pilot
areas’ provisions are smoothly rolled out on a national basis, parents should be made
aware of the Welsh Government’s intentions on the face of the Bill. So, Members, please support this amendment. Finally, on amendment 22óthis requires a
definition of ‘care’ to be included within regulations made under section 1. As Suzy Davies will provide more detail about,
it is concerning that the Welsh Government has left so much detail outside of the Bill’s
application, to the extent that some of its sections are rendered actually meaningless. Therefore, we recommend that, at the very
least, ‘care’ is defined clearly within secondary legislation made under the Bill so we know
who will benefit from the offer. Thank you. Suzy Davies AM: The Bill, of course, is aimed
at getting parents of children of non-specified age into work or keeping them in work by introducing
a non-specified period of funded childcare, and, naturally, it needs to be clear what
constitutes a ‘parent’, which it does successfully in section 1(7)(a) by reference to parental
responsibility as defined in the Children Act 1989, and then less successfully at 1(7)(b)
by including, I quote, ‘any individual who has care of the child’. Now, what is ‘care of a child’? I mean, however, in my view, incoherent the
Government’s definition of ‘childcare’ might be, ‘care’ clearly means something else here,
as parents are the ones who benefit from others supplying childcare. Now, it doesn’t include corporate parenting,
as it refers to an individual having care of the child. Does it mean a foster parent, official or
unofficial? What does an individual have to do to prove
that they have care of the child? I think this subsection is pretty meaningless
as it is, and this amendment allows the Minister a way to give it meaning, although I still
think it should have been clear on the face of the Bill. If he intends not to recommend support for
this amendment, I just ask you, Minister, to explain how you intend to remedy this weakness,
bearing in mind there’s nothing in the Bill at the moment that obliges you to bring forward
regulation in order to clarify the position. I don’t think your simple assurance will be
satisfactory, unless it’s backed by a commitment and a timetable to fix this problem. When will you bring forward a regulation? Because I don’t think an explanation of ‘flexibility’
is going to work on this one either, because we will all want to know who can claim that
they exercise care. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: I call on the Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch eto, Llywydd. Thank you very much. First of all, let me just begin by saying
this childcare offer is very clear on what it’s doing. I think some of the discussion here is what
is set out on the face of the Bill in primary legislation and what is set out in regulations
or in schemes of operation and so on. This Bill is actually very narrow. Just to repeat it: it’s the mechanism that
sets up the operation of the HMRC to discuss eligibility of parents to apply for the childcare
offer. However, I would simply sayóand in response
to Si‚n’s ambitions for what a childcare offer may look like, what an early years offer
might beóthere are always discussions around where we go in the future, but I would simply
say: for want of the perfect, do not throw out what is the very good. Because the early implementer responsesóthe
year 1 response to thisóshowed how successful this has been and how well it’s been regarded,
and the fact that it’s putting £200 to £250 in households, some of whom are on the lowest
wages as wellóso this is working, it’s effective. But I understand the aspirations to do more
in future and so on, and many of us have articulated those aspirations for what we do in future,
but this childcare offer is very clear, the Bill is very narrow. However, some of this discussion is around
what’s on the face of the Bill and so on. Let me just turn to this: the majority of
the amendments in this group, particularly amendments 6, 11, 8 and 5 and consequential
amendments 19 and 10, relate to the eligibility criteria for the offer and are closely aligned
with some of the responsible committeeís recommendations about opening up the scope
of the offer to parents in training and education. Now, we debated this at quite some length
at Stage 2 proceedings, and very recently, in fact, I wrote to the Chair and members
of the Children, Young People and Education Committee outlining the various schemes available
to parents that are outside of the parameters of this offer. So, let me just briefly remind all Members
of that. There are a range of other programmes already
in place to provide support to other categories of parent. This includes the parents, childcare and employment
programmeóPaCEóFlying Start, work-based learning support for non-employed learners,
the financial contingency fund for individuals attending further education, and the childcare
grant to students in higher education. PaCE is £13.5 million of Welsh Government
and European social fund project funding. It targets its services to economically inactive
parents right across Wales who consider childcare to be the main barrier for them accessing
training or employment opportunities. And since July, it’s worked with over 3,400
parents and it’s helped 1,100 of those into work. Five hundred and ninety parents have received
financial support through PaCE for their children to access registered childcare. This has enabled those parents to undertake
training, work experience, volunteering, and to increase confidence and employability skills,
which have improved their chances of moving into employmentó[Interruption.]. I will in a moment, Si‚n. It has also paid over £400,000 in childcare
costs, not only supporting parents to prepare for work, but helping them make the transition
into employment for the first few weeks, and, as I outlined in the letter, discussions are
ongoing with the Welsh European Funding Office regarding extending the PaCE project beyond
2020. And the evaluation findings we have as part
of this childcare offer will form part of that consideration. Si‚n. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: I just want to know how
many of these schemes are statutory and how many are reliant on short-term funding sources? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Well, I just mentioned
in terms of PaCE, we’ve gone actually beyond where we might be reasonably expected to go,
because we’re actually looking at extending now beyond 2020, beyond the current tranche
of funding, and we’re actively engaged in that. But that, of course, is not the only one. We also have Flying Start, for example, that
provides quality childcare to parents of eligible two and three-year-olds for two and a half
hours a day, five days a week for 39 weeks. And there is work ongoing within Government
to look at, beyond the 10 per cent that we actually modified this year to extend on the
flexibility with Flying Start, what we can do beyond that as well. So, those discussions are ongoing. The financial contingency fund provides help
to students in further education who need help with childcare costs. In 2016-17, 901 awards were made to student
parents in FE to help with childcare costs, amounting to £2.7 million, and there are
others that I laid out in the letter as well. But we will need to keep this provision firmly
in our sights to make sure that it is in place alongside this offer, not as part of this
offer. So, whilst I’m very sympathetic to all the
challenges that all parents, whatever their circumstances, face in accessing affordable
childcare when they need it, I have said all along that this offeróthis offeróis specifically
targeted at the working parents of three and four-year-old children. Now, the purpose of amendment 9 is to ensure
the inclusion of the upper earnings cap within the regulations, detailing the conditions
parents must meet to be considered eligible for the offer. I shall not be supporting this amendment,
because this amendment makes no difference in terms of practical effect from what we
have in the Bill already, and I don’t, therefore, consider it necessary. The upper earnings threshold is a fundamental
part of the eligibility criteria and, as such, details of the cap will have to be specified
in regulations under section 1óthis is rehearsing the same debate we had beforeóin order for
the eligibility checks to be made. And in response to the actual cap, we can
in future, Si‚n, actually amend the cap if we wanted to, but there are genuine questions
here on the commitment to roll this offer out by 2020 in full across Wales, and the
demand that there is to do that, I have to say, as well. Aligning this with the current HMRC offer
that is currently there makes us able to deliver it with less risk on time, in cost, and to
get it up and running. In future, we can indeed, based on the evaluation
findings, come back and look at this again, and if we decide as Assembly Members that
we want to drop it to 80 or 60óand by the way, we’ve done some of this initial analysis
and scoping and there are issues of cost-benefit analysis, how much it would cost to do that,
and how much you save by doing itólet me just remind you, as I’ve said before in committee,
over 60 per cent of those who are receiving this childcare in its early implementer phases
are below the median wage. This is not leading to the sort of abuse that
we’ve heard talked about of the system, where people are living in their swimming pool mansions
and so on and are using this. It is people who are on low earnings who are
accessing this, and it’s helping them actually extend their hours in work and so on. Now, the purpose of amendment 17 is to ensure
the inclusion of details regarding temporary exemption periods within the regulations under
section 1(2). A temporary exemption period is that period
of time a person would continue to benefit from the offer despite falling out of eligibility. Now, I provided a note and I’ve spoken with
the committee on this before as well. I provided a note to the responsible committee
during Stage 1. I’ve had further discussions with Suzy and
Janet on this, and I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to assure them, despite the fact
that we have that period already in place with the offer that deals with that very issue. I still think that the administrative scheme
is the best place for administrative matters such as this. That isn’t to say I don’t want Assembly Members
to have any say on these issues, and I’ve actually offered to bring the scheme forward
to the CYPE committee in the spring so we can discuss it further. So, on this basis, we will not be supporting
amendment 17. Amendment 22 seeks to define what’s meant
by ‘care’ in regulations. We’ve just touched on this. We debated this at Stage 2, and, as I said
at the time, I don’t see what’s to be gained by defining under regulations under this Bill
what’s meant by ‘care’. Subordinate legislation under section 1 will
detail very clearly the conditions a parent or a partner of a parent will need to meet
in order to qualify for funding under this offeróand this covers parents and guardians
who are acting in loco parentis such as kinship carers or foster carers. I would urge Assembly Members not to support
amendments 6, 11, 8, 19 and 10, which are around widening the scope of this Bill to
include parents in training and education. It’s absolutely right that we have that in
place, but it’s outwith this offer. In addition to writing to the responsible
committee about the range of schemes I’ve described already in place to support different
categories of parents, I have also asked my officials to look at how best we can draw
all of this together and improve the communication around it so that it is clearer to people,
whatever their circumstances, what help they can access to support their childcare needs. So, I won’t be supporting amendment 9, as
it is, we deem, unnecessary. I think that concludes, Llywydd. Diolch yn fawr. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Si‚n Gwenllian
to reply to the debate. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Just to formally pursue
the point about all of these other programmesóthese create huge confusion for people, people arenít
aware of them, and, for me, it would make common sense to bring everything together
so that everyone who has children of the ages of three or four does have that right, then,
to free childcare. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 6 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Weíll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour eight, no abstentions, 35 against. Therefore, amendment 6 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 11. Janet Finch-Saundersóamendment 11? Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 11 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Weíll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 11 is therefore not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is the group relating to Welsh language childcare provision. Amendment 7 is the lead and only amendment
in this group, and I call on Sian Gwenllian to move and speak to the amendment. Si‚n Gwenllian. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Thank you very much. Amendment 7, in the name of Plaid Cymru, relates
to ensuring that the Minister has due regard to the Welsh language in childcare. Beginning with Welsh-medium education, or
Welsh-medium childcare, from an early age is crucial if we are to reach the target of
a million Welsh speakers, and, indeed, the Children, Young People and Education Committee,
in July of this year, have confirmed that, and recommendation 37 made by the committee
asked for the million Welsh speakers strategy and the childcare Bill to be integrated. I am pleased that the Government has considered
this piece of work by the Welsh Language Commissioner on the provision of childcare and early years
education through the medium of Welsh, which was published a year ago, and that there has
been some progress made. This report found that English is the main
language of 77 per cent of childcare providers, with 13 per cent through the medium of Welsh,
and 10 per cent bilingual. This report stated that there werenít specific
or robust plans in place as to how to integrate the 30-hour offer and the Cymraeg 2050 vision. And, yes, there has been some progress, and,
yes, thanks to pressure from Plaid Cymru, some funding has been allocated for 40 new
projects through Mudiad Meithrin, but thatís just 40 projects across Walesóthat isnít
much. And it certainly isnít going to take us on
that journey towards a million Welsh speakers. Itís very slight progress. So, I do know that the Minister has some sympathy
with what I am saying, and I will listen very carefully to his comments now, and weíll
see exactly what heís willing to put on the record. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Y Gweinidog i siaradóHuw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd, a
diolch, Si‚n, hefyd. Can I just thank you for the constructive
discussions that I’ve had with you, and also with Llyr as well, previously on this issue? And we do indeed have a great deal of sympathy
with the spirit of the amendments that have been moved and we welcome, actually, the opportunity
to put on record some of the things that we can do to achieve exactly that, and Membersóif
they’re content to bear with me, because I think it’s important to lay out the scope
of where we can go with this. The starting point is we absolutely agree
that increasing the availability of Welsh-medium childcare in the round is vital if we’re going
to achieve our ambition of Cymraeg 2050, and we need to find a way to make this happen. Now, the amendment that you have is slightly
different in the drafting from the earlier amendment that was tabled at Stage 2, and
the focus has moved slightly from placing the duty on the Welsh Ministers to meet the
Welsh language needs of children accessing the offer to ensuring that the importance
of the Welsh language is considered in the provision of childcare under subsection 1
of the Bill. Now, this is helpful in getting us to debate
this now, but, actually, the amendment is, in its drafting, slightly ambiguous in terms
of its purpose and its effect, and I’ll come to that in a moment. It’s not ideal as an amendment, but I think
you’ve put it there in order to get to this debate and I welcome it. I fully support the objective, and that’s
why I appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues with Si‚n and Llyr. Now, I would suggest, however, that the best
way of achieving these objectives is to actually bring some additional energy and focus to
the mechanisms that we have in place rather than by creating a new duty in this Bill. Now, we’ve already got duties on local authorities
in terms of the planning and the delivery of provision across the early years. Under the Childcare Act 2006, local authorities
mustóand I repeat mustóhave regard to the needs of parents for childcare involving the
Welsh language in ensuring the sufficiency of childcare provision in their areas. I’m going through some of the things that
are in place before I move on. Under the School Standards and Organisation
(Wales) Act 2013, local authorities are required to set out, in their Welsh in education strategic
plans, the WESPs, how they’ll improve both the planning of provision for and the standards
of Welsh-medium education in their area. But, again, we know the reality is that there
isn’t enough Welsh-medium capacity and this is why, as a Government, we are actually now
investing, as we speak, in the expansion of the Welsh-medium childcare sector, in Welsh
language training for the childcare sector, and, importantly, in greater data collection
and analysis around the demand for and the capacity to provide more Welsh-medium childcare. Now, through the early implementation of this
offer, we are testing further where the gaps exist and, from this, where we can look to
work with the sector and with partner and umbrella organisationsónot just one, but
all of themóto build the capacity of this market. We will continue to monitor parent intention
to access and, actually, take up Welsh-medium provision, and we’ll consider this, by the
way, in year 2 of the independent evaluation. Part of this is based on the feedback that
we’ve had from committee members and from the discussions that we’ve had. Now, in the meantime, back in September, the
Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning announced £46 million, allocated from the
Welsh-medium capital grant and childcare offer capital grantóthe two of themóto support
the growth in Welsh-medium education. Now, actually pulling those together and encouraging
local providers and local authorities to access them in that joined-up way shows that cross-Government
approach we need to deliver the objectives that we have for the Welsh language. Now, this grant on its own will support some
41 projects across 16 local authorities. It’ll create just short of 3,000 school and
childcare places for Welsh-medium learners, and that’s what we wantóthat smooth pathway
all the way through there. Now, back in the summer, I also announced,
in light of discussions we were having, a £60 million capital grant programme across
the years of 2018 to 2021. A key aim of this programme is to support
the expansion of Welsh-medium provision in line with the Cymraeg 2050 strategy. As a Governmentóyou mentioned, Si‚n, Mudiad
Meithrinówe’ve also awarded Mudiad Meithrin an extra £1 million a year over the next
two years to help establish new settings in areas where there is a lack of Welsh-medium
provision, to fill in some of those gaps. The first group of the new settings are due
to open during this academic year, and we’ve committed to increasing the number of Welsh-medium
nursery groups by 150 over the next decade. And as we discussed, by the way, at our recent
meeting, it is really encouraging to see increasing numbers of local authorities bringing together,
now, different strands of funding and doing some joined-up thinking of their own on how
they actually enhance and expand early years childcare and education in a joined-up way. We would encourage that as a Government in
the way that we put our funding together, and put our incentives together. But, in addition, there is an advisory board
currently looking at WESPs, and it’s been considering how to strengthen the links between
the planning of Welsh-medium childcare provision and statutory education, using the data derived
from the childcare sufficiency assessments. Iíll be keen to see to what effect this data
can be used to strengthen Welsh-medium provision. Specifically, we believe there is scope to
do more to establish a clear link between a local authorityís childcare sufficiency
assessment and how that information is used to plan for Welsh-medium early education. It is importantóI put on recordóthat local
authorities view the growth of the Welsh language through a long-term lens, starting with the
very youngest children. I will explore further with the Minister for
Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning how we can encourage local authorities to more actively
respond to what their assessments are telling them about gaps and supply issues in their
area in respect of the Welsh language. Now, amendment 7, if passedóand this is where
the ambiguity and the narrowness of it causes problemsówould only relate to childcare provision
under this offer: that is, childcare for the qualifying children of working parents, as
described by the offer. It wouldn’t be relevant to childcare provision
more broadly, and that’s a flaw in the amendment. I know it’s not an intentional flaw, but it
actually narrows what we should be aiming to do with Welsh-medium childcare. I would argue that looking at the connections
that can be made between existing assessments of sufficiency and plans for the future provides
a much more strategic way forward that is broader but also deeper as well. And, on that basis, with those remarks, I
would urge Si‚n and fellow Assembly Members to work with us in identifying and using the
most powerful levers I’ve described, not only to support the spirit behind this amendment,
which has an element of ambiguity around it, but actually deliver our shared ambition for
the Welsh language as we go forward. I hope those remarks are reassuring to you,
Si‚n, in our openness to continue to work on this, to look at what we are evaluating
from the roll-out, and to use all the levers at our disposal in the way that we look at
the join-up between Welsh-medium education and childcare, and the way that we use WESPs
and the way that we use funding streams to actually drive local partners and local authorities
to enhance and expand Welsh-medium childcare. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Si‚n Gwenllian
to reply to the debate. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: No, thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 7 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Interruption.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Object. I think, if I understood that speech correctly,
you were objecting. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Yes. [Laughter.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: We’ll therefore proceed
to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 7 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Group 4 is the next
group of amendments, which relates to transportation between providers. Amendment 12 is the lead and only amendment
in this group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the amendmentóJanet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Presiding
Officer. Amendment 12 has been re-tabled from Stage
2. It is imperative that Ministers are under
an obligation to deliver the childcare offer free from potential barriers. During Stage 1, the Children, Young People
and Education Committee was made aware of concerns by a number of organisations about
moving children between sites that provide the offer and sites that provide early years
education. Both Estyn and the Welsh Local Government
Association have realised that it is important to investigate the transportation of children,
with some partnership working being undertaken in parts of Wales. Yet Estyn have admitted that they were not
observing the movement of children from one site to another, and the Minister’s evidence
at Stage 1 clearly showed a patchy picture of transport for children across Wales. Either parents were organising their own handovers
or some childcare providers were simply finding ways to link up with different settings. The Minister himself also noted that there
should be a focus in future on increasing co-location and collaboration in maintained
and non-maintained settings. At Stage 2, he confirmed this position by
maintaining that he wanted to increase significantly the proportion of childcare delivered in co-located
premises, yet refused the amendment on the basis that placing a duty on Welsh Ministers
was not necessary to tackle the issue. It is welcome that the Minister has confirmed
additional research questions on the evaluation of year 2 of the pilot schemes to further
examine the matter, as well as promised to consider transportation with the evaluation
of national roll-out of the offer. However, we believe that this does not go
far enough, especially due to the recommendation outlined in the first year’s evaluationóspecifically,
the evaluation of year 1 recommends that further consideration needs to be given to the alignment
between the provision of childcare and the delivery of foundation phase nurseries. This could include transport to and from settings. It is further recommended that closer working
relationships may be required between foundation phase nurseries and childcare providers who
are delivering the offer. As such, it is important that Welsh Ministers
are under a duty to oversee these recommendations so as to prevent further barriers for parents
to access the childcare offer. Therefore, we ask the Assembly to support
this motion. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister, Huw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Just in opening, I think it is important to
remind ourselves that this isn’t something new; it’s not arising as a result of the offer. It’s not uncommon nowóand I, as a parentóto
receive education and childcare in different places and to make arrangements in terms of
transport. The need to transport children is not something
that arises in every setting, however, or in every part of Wales. But it is a feature of the services provided
in some locations, and, in part, it’s arisen as a result of the history of the sector and
market pressure. Childcare providers are sometimes responding
to what parents are asking for. It’s important to remember that sometimes
parents may want or need to use more than one provider for different parts of the offer
or different parts of childcare. Think of parents who work, for example, late
or early shifts, or even on weekends. So, it is important that we are committed
to ensuring that there is still sufficient flexibility within both the sector and in
the offer to accommodate their needs as well. But look, let me make it clear that I’ve said
all along that I will take steps wherever I can to ensure that this offer is as seamless
as possibleóI repeat that todayófor the benefit of parents and for children. Now, as I said during Stage 2, I don’t think
that placing a duty on the Welsh Ministers to minimise the impact of transporting children
between providers on the face of the Bill is the way to tackle this issue. It often arises as a result of those local
or specific family circumstances, which are outside the remit and the power of Government. But, at the request of Members, I’ve asked
my officials to add research questions that cover specifically the issue of transportation
to the independent evaluation of year 2, and I hopeó. Janet, I can see you nodding there. I hope you’ll welcome that. And I’ll consider this again as part of the
review of the national roll-out as well. The evaluation of year 2 of early implementation
will include in-depth interviews and an online census survey of parents and providers, and
we’ll ask parents whether they have issues accessing the offer that relate to either
transport or wraparound care, and we’ll ask parents whether they perceive any transport
or wraparound care their child receives to be having a positive or negative effect, and
I would sayóbecause I’ve visited a lot of these settings, some of them where they’re
co-located, some where they are moving betweenóand, for some of the parents, it is exactly what
they want. So, we shouldn’t be trying to stamp out diversity. But I think having more co-location provides
a much more seamless offer. Now, providers in the survey will also be
asked about demand for provision, including transport and wraparound care, any challenges
they might have in providing this, and their perception of whether this has a positive
or negative impact on the children in their care. Now, as I said, I fully appreciate this situation
has arisen not out of the blue. It’s been there for years. It’s, in part, because of the way we historically
approach education and childcare, and because, in some parts of Wales, early education can
only be accessed in specific settings. Now, this is something that I and the Cabinet
Secretary for Education have discussed and we’re keen to address. So, we issued revised guidance to local authorities
in September, making it clear that we want to see more flexibility in the delivery arrangements
for early education. If we allow more childcare providers to offer
this, this should increase the options for single-site provision, which is exactly, I
think, what you’re trying to achieve here, as I am. And, alongside this, in July, I announced
a £60 million capital grant programme spread over the three years until 2021, and one of
the primary purposes of this funding is to facilitate and support the co-location of
early education and childcare provision wherever possible. This is in line with our ‘Prosperity for All’
commitment to introduce a new model of community learning centres, providing extended services
with childcare, parenting support, family learning, community access to facilities built
around the school day. It’s where we’re heading. And I’ll be able to share more information
with the committee about the outcome of that grant programme early in the new year. Through guidance, the sharing of good practice,
and using the financial levers we have at our disposal with things like the capital
fund, we’re encouraging local authorities and providers to think innovatively about
how they might be able to deliver the offer. There are many good models out there. In fact, I’ve offered to members of the committee
to identify those for them and even to arrange for them to go out and see them. Now, in light of those comments that I’ve
made to monitor the impact of transporting children as part of the evaluation of year
2, of a more strategic approach to reducing the need for transportation between settings,
to greater co-location, more innovative solutions, we will not be supporting amendment 12, and
I would ask other Members to do the same. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. I seriously do welcome the fact that you are
warming to the idea that co-location and, sort of, better transportation are the way
forward, but if I could just ask, as part of the research you say you’re going to be
carrying out, for you to look at the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee
evidence that was taken from a number of mothers returning to work after maternity. They were very loud and clear that they were
finding it a struggle nowóthose who could actually take up the childcare schemeóthey
were finding it very difficult to move between providers. So, I think there is a problem that exists
there, and I would just, again, reiterate the concerns we’ve raised and ask that you
do, in fact, show some willingness on your part and support us now on this amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 12 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 17, no abstentions, 26 against. Therefore, amendment 12 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group is
group 5, and this group of amendments relates to additional charges and rates of payment. The lead amendment in this group is amendment
13, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the lead amendment and the
other amendments in the groupóJanet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. During Stage 2 of the Bill’s proceedings,
we highlighted the inconsistencies between the Welsh Government’s aim for the Bill to
reduce barriers to employment through the childcare offer and the technical nature of
the Bill. Nowhere is this more evident than the additional
charges for snacks and consumables, which we believe will still present an added barrier
for parents, particularly those on low incomes, to fully access the offer. Ultimately, this actually contradicts the
primary aims of the Bill, as outlined within the explanatory memorandum, so we have re-tabled
amendments 13 and 21. I again note that the Welsh Government guidelines
within the pilot areas allow childcare providers to charge fees to parents of up to £37.50
per week, amounting to £7.50 per day, based on the cost of three meals a day. So, for parents who take up the full offer,
this would mean finding an extra £1,800 a year. Not only do Welsh employees have the lowest
take-home pay in the UK, but those in receipt of benefits eligible for free school meals
do have extremely low incomes, meaning this is simply unaffordable. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Despite the Minister’s
assurance at Stage 3 that, in reality, parents who take up the offer would, weekly, receive
15 to 20 hours of childcare, meaning a maximum additional charge of £13.25 per week, this
still adds up to £636 per year. Therefore, we still support the position of
Care Inspectorate Wales, which noted that additional charges could make the offer unaffordable
for some families who are on low incomes. We’ve also heard emerging evidence that, in
one pilot area, some childcare providers had started to charge parents when they had not
done so previously. The Welsh Government’s own evaluation of the
offer has shown that 15 per cent of childcare providers interviewed had introduced additional
charges as a result of this offer. Worse still is that some childcare providers
whose fee was higher than the £4.50 per hour provided by the offer have even introduced
additional charges to make up for a shortfall in revenue. Now, obviously, we welcome the Minister’s
responses at Stages 2 and 3, which stated that guidance on additional charges would
be revised to strengthen the Welsh Government’s position ahead of national roll-out. It is also significant that the draft administrative
scheme includes references to new guidelines for local authorities on additional charges,
and we note the Welsh Government’s efforts in warning providers not to charge top-up
fees for three to four-year-olds, with the threat of removal from the offer if this is
breached. However, we still remain concerned that the
definition of ‘childcare’ so heavily relied upon by the Minister within the draft administrative
scheme, which has been ably described in more detail by my colleague Suzy Davies AM, actually
includes supervised activities. Charges for these, we argue, should therefore
be paid for under the offer. Furthermore, the first evaluation for early
implementers has clearly shown that providers who have introduced additional fees are actually
unaware that applying charges in this way is not part of the Welsh Government guidance. The evaluation also notes that, in some cases,
the additional charges actually replace some of the affordability barriers that the offer
aims to remove. Whilst the draft administrative scheme mentions
that additional charges may not be imposed for the provision of funded childcare, the
ancillary charges are still present, meaning that there is a way for childcare providers
to make up the difference. Nor are the guidelines provided, meaning that
the National Assembly for Wales is currently unable to assess whether this could be prevented
from happening. Therefore, I urge all Members here today to
vote in favour of this amendment. Not only would you be being fair to parents
on low incomes who are striving to cover childcare costs, but it would help to eliminate some
of the barriers to employment that have, sadly, been incidentally caused by the offer. Now, amendment 33 requests that the Welsh
Government publish and monitor information relating to additional fees, including snacks. As explained under amendment 13, charges for
extra provisions can prevent some parents from taking up the offer and having to find
up to £1,800 a year should they be charged full price for 30 hours a week, 48 weeks per
year. Howeveróand this will be a running theme
throughout the majority of these amendments I have tabledóall of the Minister’s assurances
here are unable to be scrutinised or debated upon at a later stage by the National Assembly
for Wales due to the fact that they are being left out of this Bill. We are re-tabling this amendment, as, by refusing
it at Stage 2 on the basis of creating additional burdens on providers and local authorities,
the Minister contradicted his own assertions at Stage 1. Moreover, the inclusion of guidelines on additional
charges within the draft administrative scheme, as well as the fact that the Minister has
said that he would take action if top-up fees are charged for three to four-year-olds by
removing childcare providers from delivering the offer, suggests that monitoring of potential
barriers will take place. Therefore, data collection has to be used
to underpin this. The early indications from the Welsh Government’s
own evaluation is that some childcare providers have admitted to charging additional fees
since the offer was introduced, and we believe firmly that, as such, a duty to publish information
is very necessary to ensure that a robust review is undertaken. Therefore, the Minister must provide this
institution with the opportunity to see the data the Welsh Government will inevitably
collect on additional charges, rather than simply relegating it to a possibility under
the administrative scheme’s operation. And I urge Members, again, to vote with your
conscience and vote accordingly. Amendment 32 requires the Welsh Government
to publish and monitor the hourly rates paid for childcare and the foundation phase elements
of the offer. As currently enacted, the Welsh Government’s
30-hour-a-week childcare offer is maintained on a dual streamóthe foundation phase nursery
early years education and the childcare offerówith at least 10 hours a week to be funded by early
years provision through local government revenue support grants. Now, we heard during Stage 1 that a dual setting
can create unintended consequences, such as transportation between the provider offering
childcare and early years education. However, of particular concern is that there
is a huge difference between the hourly rates paid for non-maintained early years education
and the rates the Welsh Government is intending to pay for the childcare offer, with the offer
providing substantially more than what is paid to early years education and foundation
phase nurseries. The offer grants providers with £4.50 per
hour for childcare, which is much higher than the £1.49 to £3.50 per hour estimated by
Cwlwm and the WLGA to be offered to early years providers. Therefore, it is clear that these variations
could have a negative impact on early years education by crowding out providers. This has been borne out in the pilot stages
by the evaluation. Such variations could have a negative impact
on early years educationósomething that was actually admitted to by the Minister at Stage
1. So, through such disparity in payment, the
WLGA also stated to the Children, Young People and Education Committee that concerns had
already been raised in pilot areas that early years education could become crowded out because
of the childcare element of this offer. I have re-tabled this amendment as the Minister’s
assertion that it would be too onerous on Welsh Ministers does not outweigh the importance
of scrutinising the impact of the offer on early years and foundation phase provision. We are also aware of the Cabinet Secretary
for Education’s promise at Stage 1, but we are looking closely at the possible impact
on foundation phase provision, including structural and financial issues that might impact on
effective delivery and the quality of provision. The publishing of hourly rates, we still contend,
is an important part of this evaluation. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to contributeóHuw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Let me say some important things at the outset. First of all, in terms of the £4.50 an hour
rate, the majority of providers considered when we got to this rate that that would be
an appropriate and adequate hourly rate. In fact, the first year has actually shown
that that is considered by providers an appropriate rate to provide childcare and as commercially
viable. Now, we have looked at the option of funding
providers at a higher rate to cover some of the additional charges, but let’s be frank
here, we immediately run into problems and questions about, within the funding envelope,
either limiting the offer the to fewer parents or to less timeóthere is a choice to be made. It’s been our intention, in designing the
offer, to create a childcare offer that offers as much childcare as possible to as many parents
as possible within the funding envelope available, and if I could shake that money tree and get
the £800 million that we were short over the last decade, then maybe we’d have more
to spend on this, and we could do even more again, and we could deal with the earlier
suggestions by Si‚n Gwenllian, and so on. We could do all those things, but we haven’t
got it. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: So, we note that a
number of these amendments, or similar ones, were tabled during Stage 2. Amendment 13 and consequential amendment 21
relate to excluding the parents of children who could potentially be eligible for free
school meals from paying additional charges. I think we already have sufficient measures
in place to safeguard parents against being unreasonably charged, and I would say this
is very different from what is happening within the England offer. So, we’ve issued very clear guidance to providers
about additional charges, which Janet referred to. We’ve published guidance to local authorities
as well on what the upper charging limit should be. This will help ensure that any charges being
made are within a reasonable range, and it’s very different to that position in England,
where there’s no upper limit. We will published revised guidance to strengthen
our position, learning from the early implementing period on additional charges ahead of national
roll-out of the offer. So, we will learn, we will discuss it with
the committee, with the Assembly, learning from the findings of the evaluation. Here, in our offers, providers must take accountómust
take accountóof our guidelines on additional charges. We’ve said, for example, that parents must
have the option of providing a packed meal rather than pay for a meal provided by the
provider, and bear in mind some providers do not provide food or do not cook food on
their premises, and so on. It varies from provider to provider. Parents should also be able to opt their child
out of paid-for off-site activities and participation in such activities. They cannot be compelled to take part and
charged for it. Providers have also been told very clearly
that they are not to charge parents any hourly top-up fees for three and four-year-olds who
are accessing the services under the terms of offer. This is very different and much clearer in
the guidance than in England. If a provider is found to be in breach of
this agreement and is charging hourly top-up rates, we will take action. They could ultimately be removed from delivering
the childcare offer. And we’ve also said to providers, Janet, that
they should not be treating parents who are receiving childcare under this offer any differently
from other parents accessing their services. Providers should not charge parents who access
this offer more for any additional elements than they charge parents who are not accessing
the offer. Now, I should say as well we should be careful
now not to jump to conclusions at this very early stage in the offer’s implementation. In reality, the number of hours of childcare
from which a child will be benefiting under the offer is likely to range between 15 and
20 hours per week. In the worst-case scenario, where a child
is benefiting from the full 20 hours of childcare per week, a parent should not be required
to pay more than £15 per week in additional charges if providers are operating in line
with the guidance from Welsh Government. It’s likely to be much less, actually, and
that’s what we’re hearing. That’s what the first-year evaluation suggestedóthe
majority of providers are not making charges at all there. Now, bear in mind this stands against parents
who are telling us first hand, face to face, that they are saving because of the government-funded
nature of this childcareó£200 to £250 a week they are better off because of the government-funded
childcare. Now, we will of course keep the issue of additional
charges under reviewóregular review. But, from an evaluation of the early implementation,
we know it’s only a small percentage of providers who are charging for extras. If we listen to the sector itselfófor example,
what Cwlwm said in the response to the Stage 1 recommendationówe should not be telling
providers what they can and cannot do in terms of additional charges. So, there is a fine balance to be struck here. Our guidance is very strong and explicit,
but saying to them ‘no charges’, well, that has implications, and they wouldn’t go with
that. Now, in response to amendment 32, I can give
assurances we will be publishing the hourly rate paid to providers in the administrative
scheme, so we have every intention of being open and transparent about that. Amendment 33 would require the Welsh Ministers
to publish an annual report on the additional fees charged to parents under the offer. Now, look, I’ve said I’m keen to monitor additional
charges as we move forward, and I think this is something we can test sufficiently through
our evaluation exercises. In this regard, I’d be very reluctant to support
an amendment that places onerous, bureaucratic requirements on the Welsh Ministers where
there is no benefit to the people that we serve within this offer. To produce annual reports on additional charges,
for example, would be heavily reliant on third sector and third parties to provide the information
to inform the reports, putting the bureaucracy on them as well as us, and we’d have no way
of guaranteeing the accuracy or the reliability of the data. So, I’m not prepared to support this group
of amendments, on the basis that we are already taking all necessary actionóvery different
from the England offeróto manage and monitor the issue of additional charges. We’re already planning to publish the hourly
rate in the administrative scheme. The evaluation of the first year of implementation
has recommended further guidance to providers to ensure a consistent approach to charging
for additional hours across all childcare settings, and this is something we’ll do. And we’ll also be reviewing our charging structure
for the offer before full roll-out in 2020. So, on that basis, we may have a point of
disagreement here, but I would urge Members therefore to resist this group of amendments. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Move to the vote, please. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 13 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 13 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Si‚n Gwenllian,
amendment 8, formally? Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Yes, formally. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 8 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll open the vote, therefore. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 8 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 6, which relates to qualifying children. Amendment 14 is the lead amendment in this
group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the lead amendment, and
the other amendments in the group. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Amendments 14 and 18, brought forward from
Stage 2, place the age of the qualifying child on the face of the Bill, and allows Ministers
to change that age at a later date through regulation. While the explanatory memorandum and the draft
administrative scheme clearly outline that three and four-year-old children would be
entitled to free childcare, the Bill declines to place the age of the child clearly within
its provisions, instead leaving it to secondary legislation. While we understand the Minister’s point of
view on flexibility, we believe it is still necessary for the Bill itself to be open and
transparent about its application. We recognise that the Minister tabled an amendment
at Stage 2 to say that funding will only be available to those under compulsory school
age, and has clearly included the age within the draft administrative scheme. However, this brings us no further forward
to a transparent piece of legislation, as it is again left to secondary legislation
or non-statutory guidance. Therefore, amendment 18 is somewhat of a compromise
to the Minister’s wishes for future flexibility, allowing Welsh Ministers to change the age
should evidence show that younger children need to access the offer. For example, evidence from the Equality, Local
Government and Communities Committee inquiry into parenting and employment highlights the
need for the childcare offer to be extended to nought to two-year-olds, to ensure higher
employment rates. They also found that the biggest barriers
to employment were to parents who are seeking work soon after their first child is born. Although there are concerns about Henry VIII
powers, this places the current aim clearly on the face of the Bill, while providing Welsh
Ministers some flexibility to change the age at a later date, should evidence show further
extension of the offer is needed. Turning to amendment 15, my colleague Suzy
Davies AM has ably outlined why we had to table these at Stage 2, and this sets out
the reasoning why we will do so again at Stage 3. Essentially, this is about what actions the
Welsh Government must take so that the Bill can even function, and, if they are not, would
simply the Bill as an empty vessel. There are duties here that Welsh Ministers
must undertake to make the Bill work. As a result, we call on the Welsh Government
to accept this amendment in the true spirit in which this was intended. As to amendment 16, this is intended to ensure
that whatever the eligibility requirements asked for by Welsh Government to apply for
the offer are underpinned by giving parents information. Essentially, it’s about helping eligible parents
for the offer to understand themselves what a qualifying child is. It is concerning that the Welsh Government
is intending to set out regulations informing groups of people about their eligibility for
a certain offer or grant without providing clear information as to what they need to
bring along to evidence their claim. Thank you. Suzy Davies AM: Members, amendment 15 simply
introduces a duty on Ministers to introduce those regulations to define the age of children
whose parents can then rely on this legislation. Despite the very welcome duty embodied in
amendment 4, which actually commits Ministers to funding the childcare offer, the likely
fall of our amendment 22 means that we are no nearer certainty on which parents will
be eligible because we don’t know what ‘care’ means, and now, because we don’t know what
qualifying children’ actually are. So, Welsh Government, of course, we know they
can introduce the regulations to make this clear, but there is no obligation on them
to do so. And for this Bill to be actually operable,
functional, we need to have that age range, and so, we must have those regulations. So, if we don’t have the regulations, the
Bill remains inchoate and unforcebale. Amendment 16 also improves the subsection
that helps us understand what a ‘qualifying child’ means. Section 1(7)(d) refers to a child who is the
subject of a declaration made by virtue of, as yet, non-existent regulations. And I think it could be possible on a generous
interpretation actually for that subsection to function without regulations, but I really
wouldn’t want to put money on it. So, if they are to be made, I think that they
must includeó. If they are to be made, the Bill already says
they ‘may’ include a range of requirements to be met by a person making such a declaration. The amendment here simply says that if regulations
are introduced, placing such conditions on a person making a declaration, then they must
also set out what that person needs to produce or prove, or say, to show that they have actually
met those conditions. I don’t suggest what you might want to introduce
by way of evidence, but, basically, I don’t think you should be placing legal requirements
on people unless you’re clear how they can comply with those requirements. That’s all this says. The amendment protects parents or others from
potential uncertainty about how this Bill affects them. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to contribute. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Can I welcome the welcome we’ve just had for
my Stage 2 amendment, even though it doesn’t appear to go quite far enough? Can I also welcome the fact that we got to
group 6, before Henry VIII powers were mentioned within this Chamber. [Laughter.] Now, Government amendments were passed at
Stage 2, placing more details about eligible children on the face of the Bill. These made it clear that eligible children
must be below statutory school age, but provided the Welsh Ministers with the flexibility to
set that specific age range within regulations. Now, the Children, Young People and Education
Committee made it very clear in our discussions that it doesn’t wish to close down the debate
about the age of qualifying children. The Bill, I would argue, as drafted, gives
us that flexibility to vary the age of qualifying children in future, should the evidence tell
us that that is what we need to do, making amendments 14, 15 and 18 unnecessary and,
in that way, unhelpful. But, furthermore, I’d argue that the Bill
as drafted provides Welsh Ministers with the power to specify in regulations the type of
information a person making a declaration may need to provide. There is, therefore, no need to pass amendment
16 to allow for this to happen. Now, the Stage 2 amendment was passed and
the Bill, asó Suzy Davies AM: Will you give way? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Indeed. I will give way. Suzy Davies AM: Sorry, before we move onóthank
you, Ministeróthe whole point is that if these regulations need to be introduced, the
power isn’t strong enough; you should have a duty. That’s all that my amendments 15 and 16 were
about. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: I fully understand,
but my argument, Suzy, is that they’re not actually necessary, because we’ve made clear
the commitment to actually bring this forward, and there’s no doubt about that. But if I can just briefly turn to the amendment
that we passed at Stage 2 deliberations, and the Bill as drafted, both now require that
an eligible child be below statutory school age. It allows the Welsh Ministers, provides the
ability for Welsh Ministers, to set by regulations that age range. It allows us also to specify by regulations
the type of information that parents should supply when making a declaration about a child’s
eligibility. Now, I accept this is not the same as specifying
exactly what information a person must supply, but being very specific about the nature of
information to be supplied in regulations could indeed fetter HMRC in terms of what
they can accept as proof of eligibility. And HMRCóit isn’t an accident that we’re
using them, because they’re delivering the very similar offer across the border. So, saying to HMRC, ‘Well, if things change,
we’re going to have to come back to our legislation and change it’, that seems the wrong balance. Now, I don’t see what is added by these amendments,
which seek to both specify a child must be three years of age to access the offer but
provide the Welsh Ministers with the power to change that age, and require Welsh Ministers
to include details of the information to be provided in support of a declaration in regulations. So, I just don’t see that they are necessary
beyond what we’re already doing and what we’ve committed to do. And on that basis, although I welcome the
welcome you had for the amendment that we brought forward in Stage 2, I would urge Members
to reject these amendmentsó14, 15, 16 and 18. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Let’s move to the
vote. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 14 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 13, no abstentions, 30 against. Therefore, amendment 14 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders,
amendment 15. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 15 be agreed to. Does any Member object? We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 13, no abstentions, 30 against. Therefore, amendment 15 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 9, Si‚n
Gwenllian. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Formally. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 9 be agreed to. Does any Member object? We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour eight, no abstentions, 35 against. Therefore, amendment 9 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 16, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 16 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 13, no abstentions, 30 against. Therefore, amendment 16 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 17, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 17 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 17 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 18, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 18 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to an electronic vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 13, no abstentions, 30 against. Therefore, amendment 18 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 19, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Not moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Not moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 19 is therefore
not moved. We reach amendment 20. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Not moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Also not moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 21, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: No? Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Moved? Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Yes, sorryómoved. [Laughter.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 21 is moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 21 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 21 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Si‚n Gwenllian,
amendment 10. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: Formally. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 10 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 17, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 10 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 7, which relates to regulations to be made by Welsh Ministers. Amendment 1 is the lead amendment in this
group, and I call on the Minister to move and speak to the lead amendment and the other
amendment in the group. Huw Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Famous last words, but I hope these amendments
will be uncontroversial. They are two technical amendments. Their purpose is simply to make it clear that
regulations under section 1 and section 10 of the Bill are regulations made by the Welsh
Ministers. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: There are no other
speakers on these amendments. I take it that the Minister doesn’t wish to
reply. So, the question is that amendment 1 be agreed
to. Does any Member object? No. Therefore, amendment 1 is agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 22. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 22, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Following on fromó. Thank you, Presiding Officer. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Is it moved? You’ve already spoken to the amendment. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: It is moved. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 22 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour, 17, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 22 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 8 and this group relates to statutory instruments and changes to procedures. Amendment 23 is the lead and the only amendment
in this group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the amendment. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Thank you, Presiding
Officer. Following on from Llyr Gruffydd’s amendment
in Stage 2 of the Bill, we believe that the superaffirmative procedure for the Bill should
still be followed, hence the reason why amendment 23 has been tabled. During the investigations of the Constitutional
and Legislative Affairs Committee at Stage 1, it was clear that there are serious concerns
about the nature of the Bill and the reliance of the Minister on future regulations to provide
flexibility. We find that these concerns have been carried
forward to both Stage 2 and Stage 3 of the Bill. Quite clearly, the Minister does not intend
to routinely consult on the draft regulations, which include important policy directions,
such as the offer itself and where it will be directed. Due to the dependence of the Bill on subordinate
legislation, through regulations, it is critical that the National Assembly for Wales, and
associated stakeholders, are provided with an opportunity to properly scrutinise legislation
in this place. Both the Children, Young People and Education
Committee and CLA committee were in favour of superaffirmative regulations, should less
detail be published on the face of the Bill. Therefore, we believe that this should be
an inherent part of regulation-making powers, at least from the very beginning of the Bill’s
application. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister, Huw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Thank you, Llywydd,
and thank you, Janet. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: From the very start,
we’ve been entirely open about the eligibility criteria for this offer. They’ve been shared with the committee as
part of the explanatory memorandum for the Bill. They are out there now and they provide the
basis for, indeed, the live, early implementation of the offer. They’re not hiddenóthey’re very transparent. The detailed eligibility criteria for the
offer will be set out in subordinate legislation, under the powers in section 1 of the Bill,
and will be subject to the affirmative procedure, which I think is proportionate, given the
engagement that we have already undertaken and which is ongoing. So, how have we been open and engaging? I’ll list some of the ways. The Welsh Government has made significant
efforts to engage with parents and providers and local authorities about the offer. We’re continually evaluating and ensuring
that lessons learnt from early implementation pilot areas continue to influence and shape
and inform aspects of the longer term policy. Indeed, the findings of the first year of
implementation was published on 22 November. We’ve also heard directly from thousands of
parents since we launched our #TalkChildcare campaign. And parents are telling us that finding affordable,
available and accessible childcare is one of the biggest challenges facing families
in Wales. They’re also telling us that juggling work
and the logistics of early education and childcare is far from easy, as we’ve heard. We’ve also undertaken an extensive engagement
process with childcare providers and the umbrella organisations that represent the sector. We are also in the early years of phase 2
of our #TalkChildcare campaign, which will focus on engaging with providers. We are also working with our early implementer
local authorities, as they begin to deliver the offer, and they’re fully engaged with
local authorities who are yet to come on board. So, I’m not convinced that we need to consult
on subordinate legislation under section 1, given that we’ve placed more detail on the
face of the Bill about what we mean by an ‘eligible child’, addressing one of the Constitutional
and Legislative Affairs Committee’s fundamental concerns. We are already into early implementation of
the live offer. This is, in effect, a national consultation
on, and a test of, the offer. We aren’t embarking on something completely
new and unknown here. We are taking reasonable steps to evaluate
the offer, there is ongoing and constructive engagement with key stakeholders through our
stakeholder reference groups, and we have also listened to what Members have been saying
about the need for a review clause in the Bill. Government amendment 2, which will be debated
as part of a later group, group 12, proposes we build into the Bill a requirement to pause
and review the effectiveness of the legislation. But can I remind Members again that this is
a narrow technical Bill to facilitate the application and eligibility checking process?The
regulations that will be made under section 1 of the Bill will detail the eligibility
criteria, which will then form the basis for the eligibility checking system. So, the procedure we are proposing for making
these regulations, we would argue, is entirely proportionate, and I would urge fellow Members
to join me in not supporting these amendments if they are pushedóthis amendment, sorry. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I will therefore
move to the vote. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 23 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 23 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 9, and this group relates to categories of providers of funded childcare. Amendment 24 is the lead amendment in this
group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the lead amendment and
the other amendment in the group. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. We have re-tabled amendments 24 and 25 from
Stage 2 because, while we recognise that the Minister has listened to the committee and
stakeholders and included relatives registered as childminders within both regulations and
the draft administrative scheme, this is again left to secondary legislation and a non-statutory
scheme to determine. As has been made clear within Stage 2, this
is not just about the types of provider listed but the registration process. We agree that childminders should be subject
to registration, and we have heard the Minister’s reassurance about both schools and grandparents,
yet this misses the fundamental point about the current registration process for being
a childcare provider. Grandparents are still unable to register
with Care Inspectorate Wales if they only look after their own relatives. I have to say, Minister, that when we’ve met
with you, you yourself have said that the ones not taking up the offer have sometimes
been those where grandparents look after their children. As PACEY Cymru, the Professional Association
for Childcare and Early Years, noted at Stage 1, this leaves out a vast swathe of people
who also care for their relatives, leading to concerns about the sustainability of the
childcare sector, especially within our rural areas. This ties in somewhat with our continued concerns
about workforce planning, which will be dealt with under amendment 34. The Minister pointed out at Stage 2 that there
is no stipulation for relatives to care for other children under the offer. However, this isn’t made clear either on the
face of the Bill or within the draft administrative scheme. Likewise, the exemption for schools under
the Child Minding and Day Care Exceptions (Wales) Order 2010 has the side-effect of
preventing the Minister’s aim of wraparound care, as schools would have to work in partnership
with a registered childminder to provide the childcare element or create a separate legal
entity for representatives to register. While we received assurances at Stage 2 and
Stage 3 that these will be reviewed, this needs to be made clear during the legislative
process. That’s why we’re here today. The Children, Young People and Education Committee
is also still waiting for the results of the call for evidence to review the Child Minding
and Day Care Exceptions (Wales) Order 2010, which could ease the registration of both
relatives and schools as childcare providers. It is deeply disappointing that the Minister
has issued a call for evidence during the latter stages of the Bill’s progress, meaning
that we as Assembly Members do not have the ability to scrutinise this evidence before
the Bill is passed. This is surely where the processes of the
Bill are lacking. We are debating a framework Bill, which the
Minister claims is merely technical, but essentially it’s delivering part of the childcare offer
through HMRC. The Bill was at Stage 1 six months into testing
the pilot areas; at Stage 2 before a call for evidence on childcare registration; and
at Stage 3 before the first evaluation of early implementers of the offer was published. It does very much feel as though we are going
back to this Bill in a year’s time when the next evaluation report is published, and the
year after, when the national roll-out has begun. That, surely, is not just putting the cart
before the horse, but a whole caravan. Pró. Right. Thank you. I nearly said ‘Presiding Officer’ then. [Laughter.] Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to contribute
to the debateóHuw Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch Llywydd. I understood what you meantóI got it. One of the benefits of doing a piloted roll-out,
where we’ve moved from seven to 14 and we’ll move upwards in terms of local authorities,
is that we learn as we go and we evolve and we modify the scheme. But the question here is what is put on the
face of primary legislation. I understand, because it’s a running challenge
with this, but this is a narrow technical Bill to allow HMRC to deliver the childcare
offer, and the rest will be described in regulations or in the operational scheme and so on and
the administrative scheme. The administrative scheme, as I’ve said, I’ve
made clear I will bring in front of the committee and I will be happy to have it reviewed and
to discuss and analyse it. But, look, we’ve been very, very clear from
the start about who can provide childcare under the terms of this offer. Only registered providers can deliver this
childcare offer. These providers are regulated and they’re
inspectedóthat, for us, is important as a measure of quality and standards. It provides us with the assurance that the
funding used for the childcare offer is being spent on childcare that meets a number of
requirements. Now, providers who sign up to things such
as voluntary approval schemes, which are very, very welcome, such as the one run for nannies
by Care Inspectorate Walesóthey’re very useful schemes, they really are, but they’re not
registered, they’re not inspected, and therefore they cannot deliver this offer. We have, howeveróto clarifyóalready flexed
the rules, learnt from the first year of early implementer, to ensure that childminders can
be funded through the offer to care for children who are also relatives. We heard from the committee, we had direct
face-to-face conversations with grandparents out there who were saying, ‘Well, I am actually
a registered childminder, I’d like to do this.’ We talked about this internally, we came in
front of the committee and discussed it, and we changed what we’re doing on the basis of
learning live on the ground. But we do realise that the existing legislation
has some prohibitions around this arrangement in the wider context, and it’s for this reason
that I’ve already committed to reviewing that aspect of existing legislation, so that we
can look at who can provide. But the benefit of pilots is that I will keep
coming back to the Assembly and saying, ‘We’ve now learnt thisódo you think it’s a good
idea that we flex it again before the full roll-out?’ Now, it’s important to keep that in mind. Childminding and day care are already defined
in other pieces of legislation. Replicating this within this context is unnecessaryóI’ve
said that already. It raises the risk that those definitions
could actually fall out of sync in the future, resulting in confusion or having to revisit
primary legislation. Just to be clear, as well, we really do appreciate
as a GovernmentóI do, crikey, as a parent as well who has had three childrenóthe contribution
that many grandparents make in caring for their grandchildren. But my nonno and nonna would not have been
able to access this childcare offer as providers, because they weren’t registered with CIW;
they were not inspected. I love them dearly, and they provided brilliant
childcare, but they wouldn’t have been able to access the scheme and it’s the right thing. So, that’s where the clarity lies. Now, I can’t see what would be gained from
these regulation-making powers in amendments 24 and 25, which would only, in effect, be
stating and defining categories of providers already stated and defined in other legislation. So, on that basis, whilst I understand where
you’re coming from on this, we can’t support these amendments. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Thank you. I am particularly disappointed in this one
and I’ll tell you why. Within my own constituency, and I’m sure it’s
replicated across Wales, we have many living in our rural, isolated communities who actually
have Welsh grandparents who teach their children and provide childcare now, today, through
the medium of Welsh. I know for a fact that they will not be able
to access that and I see the aims for the Welsh language of the Welsh Government, and
I really, really just cannot comprehend how you cannot support this amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 24 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 24 against. Amendment 24 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next amendment
is amendment 25. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 25 be agreed. Is there any objection? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 25 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 10. This group relates to administrative arrangements
for the provision of funded childcare. The lead amendment is amendment 26. I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move the
lead amendment and to speak to it and the other amendments. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. We have retabled amendment 26 as this is to
help clarify who will be responsible for delivering the childcare offer at the point of national
roll-out. The Bill is currently silent on whether it
will be the Welsh Government at a central level or our local authorities. While the Bill’s regulatory impact assessment
mentions that, without the need for legislation, the implementation model delivered by local
authorities at the pilot stage could be rolled out nationally. The explanatory memorandum states legislation
is needed to create one national application and an eligibility checking system avoiding
any differences. Furthermore, the Welsh Government has indicated
that its preferred option is to use HMRC as a vehicle to receive and check applications. At Stage 2, I felt that the Minister’s response
slightly missed the point of this amendment. The Minister noted that there was no gain
in restating a duty that local authorities already have, and stated that this existing
duty was broader, as it included duties for disabled children and the Welsh language. Whilst I do recognise that, the Bill is still
silent about who is responsible for delivering the offer at the national roll-out stage. As a result, the Minister must provide clarity
on this matter, as the Bill is meant to be the mechanism by which applications to the
childcare offer will be assessed. Currently, HMRC will be responsible for that
side of delivering the offer. Therefore, the Minister must confirm whether
the Welsh Government or local authorities are to be held ultimately responsible for
the administration of this offer. I also cannot stress enough how concerned
we are that the vast majority of the childcare offer will be left to the administrative scheme
and is not on the face of the Bill. To do so excludes key details, including ages,
hours of the offer, how parents can access the childcare offer, and conditions that providers
need to meet. Of grave concern is that the administrative
scheme outlined by the Minister will have no legal status and no scrutiny procedure
for the National Assembly for Wales. Both retabled amendments, 27 and 28, cover
conditions providers must meetóamendment 28óand how they are to be fundedóamendment
27ówhich are currently left to be determined under the administrative scheme. Some stakeholders who gave evidence to the
CYPE committee expressed concern about who would be able to provide the childcare, how
payments will be made, and at what hourly rate. The Welsh Local Government Association stated
it was necessary to ensure that the roles of local authorities and HMRC are clearly
defined in determining post-eligibility arrangements for childcare, so the practical applications
of the Bill and the childcare offer are not affected specifically. It was raised that, in England, inconsistencies
actually arose after HMRC had checked the eligibility criteria. Contradictory evidence has been given by the
Minister and his officials during Stage 1. While the Minister has asserted that the payment
system would be developed separately to the eligibility checking system in the Bill, his
own officials stated that Welsh Government would have to work out when local authorities
need to know information about eligibility to make their decisions on place allocation
for early years education. This suggests that eligibility and post-eligibility
arrangements are already being linked. During every stage of this Bill the Minister
has repeatedly said that he wants flexibility. However, this need for flexibility, by putting
much of the offer’s eligibility criteria under the administrative scheme, comes at the cost
of fundamental scrutiny powers of the National Assembly for Wales. Therefore, it is again welcome that some concessions
have been made, but placing the administrative scheme before the CYPE committee in the spring
does not mean the same scrutiny processes will be undertaken as it would if it was placed
on the face of the Bill. Therefore, more clarity is needed for post-eligibility
arrangements to ensure that the new childcare system will operate smoothly. It is clear from the evidence the CYPE committee
heard that arranging to pay childcare providers is just as important as ensuring that the
application system for the offer is correctly administered. So, I therefore ask Members to support this
amendment. Diolch. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to contributeóHuw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Thank you, Llywydd. I think that helps explain something for me. I think we genuinely have a misunderstanding. What this Bill is about is the checking of
eligibility and the application, through the mechanism of HMRC, of eligibility for parents
to access the childcare offer. What you were talking about, Janet, then was
the aspect of actually delivering the offer. I will be back in front of Assembly Membersówell,
if I’m still in this postósome time in the future when we come to the full roll out to
do what local authorities have asked us to do, which is then to put in place the structure
of how we actually co-ordinate delivery across the whole of Wales. It’s separate. So, let me just turn to the amendments here. You rightly restate what I’ve said previously
in terms of amendment 26óI don’t see what’s to be gained by restating a duty that local
authorities already have in respect of ensuring sufficient childcare is available within their
areas. The existing duty, as you said, is also broader
than what is proposed, as it requires local authorities to have regard to the need for
childcare suitable for disabled children, and for childcare using the Welsh language. Amendment 27 seems to be seeking to bring
within the scope of subordinate legislation much of the operational detail we’re planning
to include in the administrative scheme. We’re going to learn, we’re going to continue
to learn, from experience with this offer, and the administrative scheme is exactly the
mechanism that gives us the important flexibility to adjust and review those administrative,
operational, front-end arrangements as we go. The administrative scheme is not some excuse
to hide issues from Assembly Members. I’ve already brought it forward in framework
form to share with Members, and I would genuinely welcome further scrutiny of the scheme in
the spring. In terms of amendment 28, I’d like to reiterate
what I’ve said previously about the need for providers to be registered and inspected to
take part in the offer. We’ve always been clear about that and our
reasons for this. And simply to refer to the remarks you made
in closing a moment ago on the previous bunch of amendments: if there are relatives, grandparents
and others out there who want to actually make use of this schemeóincluding in provision
for their own children as well as others, because I’ve seen some very good provision
of people operating in houses with six children, two of which are maybe their own grandchildren
and so onóthey can do that. They just need to register as well. And there are grandparents who do that, I
have to say. Now, I think we should also keep in mind that
there are already a suite of standards that childcare providers are required to comply
with. They’re fully detailed in our national minimum
standards, and they were only revised, in fact, in April 2016. So, on this basis, with those explanations,
I hope that’s explained why we can’t support amendments 26, 27 or 28. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I’ll therefore move
to the vote, please. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 26 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 26 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 27óJanet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 27 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 27 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 28óJanet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 28 be agreed to. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll proceed to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 28 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 11, and this group relates to reviews of determinations and appeals to
the first-tier tribunal. Amendment 29 is the lead and only amendment
in this group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move and speak to the amendment. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. As with amendment 15, amendment 29 highlights
the actions that Welsh Government must take in order to prevent the Bill from causing
unintended consequencesóthis time providing a duty to provide reviews of determinations
and appeals to the first-tier tribunal. Again, my colleague Suzy Davies AM will highlight
what importance this has from a constitutional perspective and the differences between ‘must’
and ‘may’. We can all agree that Welsh Ministers should
and would be bound by their duties if this amendment is passed. Therefore, Ministers must allow the right
of appeal from the very beginning of the Bill, as this amendment would allow, rather than
potentially kick this decision into the long grass. Thank you. Suzy Davies AM: Yes, thank you, Janet. Subsection 1 of section 6 of the Bill gives
Ministers the power to make provision for reviews or for appeals to the first-tier tribunal
against determinations as to eligibility for funding under the Bill. And I would say that this Bill needs to include
a right of appeal, not merely permit Ministers to consider some time, when they have a moment,
to include one. As a legislature, I don’t think we’ve always
thought about what our constituents might do when faced with a wrong decisionóa miscarriage
of justice, if you like, however minor. Too often, we leave them with something like
judicial review as their only meaningful recourse for remedy, and that’s not satisfactory. And in the absence of a thought-out appeals
process on the face of this Bill, I really think we must oblige Welsh Government to bring
forward the regulations to fill in that hole. Minister, you may think that there’s not a
significant difference between powers and duties in some cases, but actually placing
a duty on you to bring forward an appeals process through regulation is a huge message
to our constituents that you really worry about what happens to them if something goes
wrong as a result of this Bill. And for that reasonóit’s one of the reasons
I put my own backbench Bill into the ballot; I know it didn’t get drawn, butó. What happens to our constituents when things
go wrong really matters, and I would really like you to consider this amendment seriously,
because I think it does add value to the Bill. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister to contribute. Huw Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. I can assure Members and constituents that
there will be a process for reviewing decisions made in respect of a person’s eligibility
for the offer, and that we will be seeking to be open and transparent on how a person
can challenge a decision made about their eligibility. In fact, there is a proceeding that already
exists in respect of the offer in England, and if HMRC, if we take this Bill through,
becomes the delivery agent for the application and eligibility checking system for the Welsh
offer, we will seek to ensure that people here in Wales can follow exactly the same
route, including the appeal to the first-tier tribunal. Suzy Davies AM: Thank you for taking the intervention
there, Minister. I’m grateful for that assurance. If you can give us some kind of steeró. Oh, can I ask you for another reassurance,
then, that this would be one of the first sets of regulations you bring forward, provided
HMRC are happy with what you intend to do? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Yes, and we’d be keen
to do that. And those discussions with HMRC have already
been ongoing, that we would mirror these mechanisms that they have with the appeal to the first-tier
tribunal. And I’m happy to go back to officials and
seek to ensure that this is amongst the first tranche that we bring forward, if that is
of some assurance. Now, the intention of the amendment that’s
been put forward by Janet would appear to me to restrict somewhat the flexibility by
which the Welsh Ministers would have to use their regulation-making powers in the Bill. Now, I’m not convinced that this wise. By inserting the word ‘must’ here in the Bill,
we’re binding Welsh Ministers to having to make provision in regulation for an appeals
process to the first-tier tribunal, despite what I just outlined, that, if we take this
Bill through, it will be there in the HMRC mechanism. So, I’m content with the current drafting,
which means the Welsh Ministers will have these regulation-making powers, but their
options in how these appeals are handled in future are kept more open. So, for the reasons I’ve stated, we can’t
support amendment 29, and I’d hope that other Members are also persuaded of the benefits
of proceeding the way we suggest with this Bill, and not inserting what is such a restrictive
amendment onto the face of the Bill. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I believe that my
colleague Suzy Davies has made the relevant points, and I therefore ask that we move to
the vote. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 29 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We move to a vote, therefore. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 29 is therefore not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 12, and this group relates to review and reports on the effect of the
Act and sunset provision. Amendment 30 is the lead amendment in the
group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move the lead amendment and to speak to
it and the other amendments in the group. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. I speak to amendments 30, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D,
2E and 35. Although these seem a bit like diving into
a pick-and-mix of review amendments, all of them are very important, and the main point
we wish to raise is that nowhere in the Minister’s amendment 2 does it say ‘independent’, or
‘to lay before the National Assembly for Wales’. At the very least, we would have expected
that any report should be both independent and available for the National Assembly, as
the legislature, to scrutinise. Turning to amendment 30, this is a complete
alternative to the Minister’s amendment. As I outlined in Stage 2, the split between
the Minister’s claims of the technicality of the Bill, as opposed to the very broad
policy position within the explanatory memorandum and the draft administration scheme, is stark. By agreeing to scant detail on the face of
this Bill, the National Assembly for Wales would be allowing the powers of the Executive
to increase, whilst at the same time, indeed, limiting its own. The Minister throughout Stages 1 and 2 emphasised
that the detail of the offer should be left to secondary legislation to allow for flexibility. However, subordinate legislation could change
both the offer and the policy intent completely without the National Assembly for Wales using
its function as a legislature to scrutinise it in depth. The first evaluation of the offer was also
published less than two weeks ago, more than seven months after this Bill was introduced
by the Welsh Government. It therefore seems to support the Constitutional
and Legislative Affairs Committee’s observations that the Welsh Government is legislating for
the childcare offer before the conclusion of the pilot programmes and the appraisal
of the policy’s effectiveness. As to amendments 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D and 2E, these
amendments seek to improve upon the Minister’s own ideas about reviewing the Bill. The concerns we have around the transparency
of the Bill and previous Welsh Government legislation are borne out through the seven
powers provided to Welsh Government to make secondary legislation, contained within just
13 sections of the Bill. The National Assembly for Wales cannot have
just 40 days to vote through unamendable subordinate legislation without meaningful consultation. Throughout Stages 1 and 2, the Minister has
sought to assure the Children, Young People and Education Committee that key concerns
surrounding transportation between childcare settings, workforce planning, and the charging
of additional fees, would be investigated, and the draft administrative scheme also makes
some concessions on the details of the offer. We therefore welcome some of the concessions
and assurances the Minister has made in these areas. For example, we are pleased that the Minister
has committed to add research questions to the evaluation of year 2 of early implementation
of the offer on transportation, as well as adding both the offer and additional charges
to the draft administrative scheme. Yet there is still no inclusion of the National
Assembly for Wales within the process of evaluating the offer and its effects. Listed before us within amendment 2C are just
a few of the areas the Minister has refused to consider placing on the face of this Bill,
and has instead either dropped, made promises about, or relegated to the non-statutory administrative
scheme. It is also of note that the Welsh Government’s
own evaluation of early implementation of the childcare offer, published just two weeks
ago, recommended that further research is needed, over a longer period of time, in order
to provide conclusive evidence on impact. We therefore contend that this amendment provides
a framework for the National Assembly for Wales to also scrutinise the impact of both
the Bill and the childcare offer. As a result, while the list within this amendment
is not exhaustive, it serves to show that the wishes of the Assembly are respected,
rather than downgraded, when the Welsh Government undertakes its review of the Bill. Moreover, the fact that the Minister has only
promised to bring a copy of the draft administrative scheme before the CYPE committee in spring,
but nothing else, should be a warning that this will not be laid before the Assembly. Moreover, we do not agree with the Minister’s
assertion that a five-year period will give the Assembly enough time to review the offer. The national roll-out will begin in 2020,
therefore the Assembly should have been able to assess its adequacy from the start. Therefore, we hope that amendments 2A, 2D
and 2E will be passed. Finally, as Suzy Davies will also attest,
under amendment 35, there is an option for the Bill to sunset, by allowing the Assembly
to determine whether it has carried out its main duty as a mechanism to provide the childcare
offer. As my colleague has noted in Stage 2 of the
Bill, review clauses don’t include the option of concluding whether a piece of legislation
has failed to deliver on policy intention. First, a sunset clause will allow for the
Act to be stopped if regulations on its functions are not introduced, and, secondly, it allows
for the Act to be sunset if it does not achieve its policy intentions. Given the necessity of both, it is clear that
such an amendment should be accepted in the case of a skeleton Bill, as that is what we
have here. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister, Huw
Irranca-Davies. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd, and
can I just beginó Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Oh, I’m sorry, Minister. I should have called Suzy Davies. Suzy Davies AM: Thank you very much, Llywydd. Amendment 35, we haven’t covered it, so diolch
i chi’ch dau. Can I just begin by saying that I was very
grateful to you, Minister, for engaging with us on the question of the review? I think this was really, really important. I think core to the confidence in any review
is this Parliament’s ability, though, to help design itóto get answers to the questions
that we think will satisfy our constituents’ interests as well as providing better legislation,
if you like. I think Janet Finch-Saunders’s amendments
contain, as she said, an inexhaustive list of sensible and very relevant criteria, which
is what I’d expect all Members here to think of as relevant and would expect to be included
in any review. Of course, that list can be expanded, but
simply reinforces that point that we, as Assembly Members, need to be satisfied that the review
is robust enough, rather than just the Welsh Government. So, I hope you’ll be open to extensions to,
or inclusions in, that list as we go forward. Now, amendment 35óJanet, very kindly, referred
to this Bill as a skeleton Bill. You know my view: that it’s got more holes
in it than Steptoe’s vests, and it’s going to need really, really patching up with a
list of regulations, which, of course, may or may not be effective for this to function
as a statute. I was pleased to see in the Draft Legislation
(Wales) Bill that the Counsel General acknowledges the merits of sunset clauses in subordinate
legislation, and you, in fact, Minister, as previous Chair of CLAC, acknowledged the merit
of sunset clauses in primary legislation, and I agree with you both. So, this duty to reviewóI think you said,
Minister, ‘pause and review’ónewly introduced to the Bill doesn’t include an option to conclude
that it’s failed on policy intention. And the inclusion of the sunset clause now
simply allows for this legislation to be scrapped, if regulations either prove insufficient to
perfect the functionality of the Bill or allows it to be scrapped if a review reveals that
it’s failing to achieve any of its policy intentions and would continue to fail to do
so. Now, I know you’ve been worried about HMRC,
but the easy way to solve that problem is to bring forward the regulations to fill in
the holes, because we don’t want ineffective law hanging around in our due-to-be-codified
system. So, this amendment simply gives this Parliament
the right to get rid of it without waiting for Government to make that decision. It is very muchóam I allowed to say the word
‘backstop’, Llywydd, in this Chamber? It’s been a great worry at the moment. But that’s what I’m looking at it as. [Interruption.] Yes. It’s kind of somebody standing behind the
wicket to make sure that you do bring forward these regulations, particularly as you’re
not very keen on the superaffirmative procedure, by which we are to do that. So, I recommend this to Assembly Members. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch. Suzy, thank you very much. I’m happy to be tested on this and put some
remarks on record as well, and thanks for your engagement in trying to take some of
this forward in my own amendment here as well. Can I just acknowledge the welcome that you
gave to the way we’ve already learnt and flexed some aspects of the administrative scheme
very openlyósaid what we’re doing, why we’re doing it? We have brought, as I said, the framework
forward already. I repeat it again, as the Chair is sitting
right next to meóreally happy to come in front of the committee in the spring and be
tested on that administrative scheme, what more we are learning, and to do that on a
regular basis, quite frankly. But, look, we set out clearly in the regulatory
impact assessment for the Bill our intention to review the extent to which the legislation
will have achieved its objectives a few years down the line, and we will, of course, be
doing that in line with good practice, and I’ll give you some detail now. But I do think it’s important that we leave
sufficient time for the offer and the new system to have become really fully embedded
before we conduct that thorough root and branch review. And it is important that parents and providers
in the sector also have that time to adjust so that we’re able to get a real picture of
the way things are working across Wales. Now, it’s this balance that my amendment,
amendment 2 is attempting to strike. So, it may help Membersóall Membersóif I
set out the timetable for review as I see it. So, subject to the passing of this legislation,
we anticipate these powers being commenced during 2019 to enable the necessary work to
build and test the national application and eligibility checking system, with a view to
rolling out the new system fully in 2020. We want to ensure that the new application
and eligibility checking system is up and running for the full three years to enable
that full, comprehensive review, which covers the period then between 2020 and 2023. After the end of that testing period, it is
only reasonable that we allow reasonable time for the findings to be properly considered,
properly analysed and for a review report to be written in the light of that. So, for a programme of this size, this complexity,
this could take some time. So, we’ve allowed up toóup toóa further
year, giving us the five-year period that is in our amendment. Now, if we can do it sooner, we will, but
this time frame allows for the best possible thorough review of the system. It’s for this reason that I don’t support
the other amendments here. Members also will be mindful of the fact that
we’ve committed to independent evaluation of our programme of early implementation. I’ll turn to the wider full review as well. The report on the first year of early implementation
was published last month. A report on the second year will be available
next October. So, it’s not a case of there being no evaluation
and waiting for that full evaluation. As for the detail that Janet would like to
see specified on the face of the Bill about what the review will cover, I’ve already conceded,
as has been mentioned, on some issues, including the transportation issue. I met with the Assembly Members, and we’ll
now be looking at that as part of the evaluation of the second year of early implementation. And on charges, I’ve also said that we’ll
keep this under review, and I set out our plans in relation as well to workforce planning. Now, I’d be very cautious about trying, however,
to arrive at a definitive list of aims for the review of the full offer right now, because
this is still evolvingóthere will be other things that people will want to see in thereóbefore
we’ve completed particularly the early implementation and seen the findings on the points that Members
have already queried. Now, I can also confirm that this review,
the major review, will not be undertaken in-house and that we will appoint an external independent
evaluation company. I’m keen to give them the broadest remit possible
and not to fetter them, and as a consequence I won’t be, I can’t be, supporting their amendments
2B or 2E. Now, amendment 35 is the sunset provision,
attempting to insert that provision into the Bill. As I said at Stage 2, I’m not convinced of
the need for such a provision in the Bill. I have concerns that a sunset provision would
send the wrong signal to providers, to local authorities and to parents out there about
our commitment as a Government to this offer, so I won’t be supporting this amendment. But, I commend the Government’s amendment
2 and urge Members to support this amendment, which puts in place that full and thorough
review after a suitable and appropriate period. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move my amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The proposal is to
agree amendment 30. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 30 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: As amendments to
amendment 2, amendments 2A to 2E will be disposed of first in accordance with the marshalled
list. Minister, do you wish to move amendment 2? Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Move formally. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to moveó Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2A. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 2A be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 2A is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2B, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 2B be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 2B is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2C, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 2C be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 2C is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2D, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 2D be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 2D is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2E, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 2E be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 2E is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 2, which
has not been amended. It has been moved. The question is that amendment 2 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 32, no abstentions, 11 against. Therefore, amendment 2 is agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 13, which relates to the duty to promote awareness. The lead amendment in this group is amendment
31 and it’s the only amendment, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move the amendment. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Thank you. Diolch, Llywydd. Amendment 31 places a duty on Welsh Government
to promote awareness of the childcare offer and eligibility in Wales. The dual-stream nature of the offer is evident,
split into the foundation phase, nursery, early years education, administered by local
authorities for at least 10 hours per week, and the childcare offeredó
Joyce Watson AM: You’ve got the wrong one. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I’m on the wrong
one. I do apologise. Next one. Number 13, yes, I was on the right one. Right. In evidence to the committee, the WLGA stated
that local authorities remained responsible for administering systems for early years
education, meaning parents would have to apply separately to their local authority and HMRC
to access the full 30 hours. However, it has been noted by childcare providers
as well as Estyn that this could cause widespread confusion among parents. At a national level, HMRC’s representative
confirmed that there was no reason at all why the correspondence couldn’t include what
a parent is eligible for, and alluded to the fact that the childcare choices could be updated
to include Welsh data. We recognise the Minister’s admission that
there would be potential for confusing arising as a consequence of the Bill, but had mentioned
that the Welsh Government had funded a family information service within each local authority
in the pilot areas in order to give clear signposting between the two systems. He further noted that a communications strategy
was being tested within the pilot areas to signpost parents on the offer as well as additional
support such as tax credits. As such, it is important that Welsh Government
continue with their efforts to inform parents of the offer and provide alternatives if they
are not fully eligible. This amendment covers the Minister’s commitment
and will simplify the offer for parents so that no further barriers are placed before
them during application. Furthermore, local authorities already have
systems in place to signpost parents to the foundation phase childcare offer, enabling
a smooth transition towards a national system. Furthermore, the evaluation of early implementers
has recommended that promotion and awareness raising should be considered. The evaluation also noted that more and clearer
information is needed Janet Finch-Saunders AM: clearer information
is needed to help parents of qualifying children to work out the cost of childcare. As a result, we believe that a duty on the
Welsh Government to provide information will help to continue funding for local authorities
in this respect as well as to co-ordinate information services at the point of national
roll-out. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: I am indeed aware that
there have been a range of communication challenges for local authorities, parents and providers
in relation to the offer to date, and I’ve considered carefully the findings of the evaluation
report on the first year of early implementation, covering many of these points. So, we will be launching a national communications
campaign regarding the offer ahead of it being available nationally in 2020. Alongside this, as Janet has referred to,
we’ll continue to work with the family information service to ensure that details about both
this offer, and also other, wider childcare support, are available to parents as needed. Each local authority has a family information
service, which acts as the first point of contact for advice and information on local
services for families and carers. It is, of course, also important to make sure
parents have access to information about childcare at the point when they make decisions about
jobs and careers. So, we’ve been working with the Department
for Work and Pensions to ensure that employment advisers have that information, as well as
with our own Welsh Government-funded employability programmes. So, given that all of this work is already
under way, and that we have a service dedicated to providing families with advice on their
childcare choices, I don’t see that we need to add additional duties in this regard by
way of this Bill, so we won’t be supporting this amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I would like to proceed
to the vote. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 31 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 31 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 32, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 32 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 32 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 33, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 33 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We will move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, the amendment is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group of
amendments is group 14 and these amendments relate to workforce planning. Amendment 34 is the lead and only amendment
in this group, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move the amendment. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. We are retaining amendment 34, as the Minister’s
responses on workforce planning, throughout Stages 1 and 2 have simply not been satisfactory
enough. This amendment ensures Ministers are under
a duty to examine the capacity of the childcare workforce so enough childcare is available
for parents to take up the offer. It is essential that capacity is scrutinised
as evidence has highlighted that, particularly during pinch-points, during academic years,
especially during school holidays, there have been problems. Furthermore, Cwlwmóthe umbrella body for
five childcare providers in Walesónoted that there was a lack of qualified staff, difficulties
in staff retention due to low wages and insufficient hours, a lack of registrable venues and availability
of school and community buildings to hold childcare services. Worryingly, there are deficits within certain
areas of the childcare sector, including providers who can provide childcare through the medium
of Welsh and staff who are trained to provide childcare for children with additional learning
needs. National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru has
called on the Welsh Government to consider skill sets of the childcare workforce in relation
to children with ALN. Furthermore, as the recent re-evaluation of
the offer’s pilot area showed, low usage rates of the Welsh Government’s special educational
need budget for early implementer local authoritiesó. Local authorities highlight uncertainty among
local authorities about how to allocate this budget and this could be used to train the
childcare providers. Social Care Wales also estimates that 21,000
additional full-time equivalent places would be needed to meet demand, if the anticipated
number of parents take up the offer, and 2,637 extra workers would be needed nationally by
the full roll-out in 2020. As there is not present capacity to provide
this, to meet a potential shortfall, a 700 per cent increase would be needed in the number
of childcare apprenticeship recruitments and completions over two years. Additionally, the recent evaluation on the
early implementers of the childcare offer has noted that, while few providers have concerns
about capacity, to accommodate the current demand, many note that they were already operating
at full or near full capacity. And others did not wish to expand as this
would adversely affect the character of their childcare setting. It is also concerning to see that one third
of childcare providers in the pilot areas now do not have the capacity to expand should
demand increase. So, there again, not only does this contradict
the Minister’s assertions at Stage 2 that early implementer authorities were not showing
strains within the system, it makes a review of workforce capacity even more necessary. While the Minister is promising more robust
reviews of workforce planning in years two and three of implementing the offer, this
still leaves out the Assembly’s functions to scrutinise whether the childcare workforce
does have capacity to deliver this offer. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Can I begin by just
refreshing Members’ knowledge and recollection of the significant contribution that we’re
actually already making as a Government through the ten-year workforce plan published last
year in terms of building exactly what the Member has requested, which is that additional
capacity and capability across the childcare and play sector? That 10-year plan aims to professionalise
the sector, create a highly skilled workforce capable of offering high-quality, flexible,
affordable childcare. And in terms of investment in the skills and
quality of the workforce, there is indeed a new suite of childcare qualifications being
developed, ready for introduction in the later part of 2019, alongside the roll-out of the
childcare offer. The apprenticeship programme, which provides
part of this, will support providers and their workforce to access these qualifications. But we’ve also been working already on new
ways to encourage real diversity in the workforce. So, in partnership, for example, with the
NDNAóthe National Day Nurseries Associationówe’ve run the Childcare Works project. I’ve seen it first-hand myself. It targets those who are currently economically
inactive but who have the right skills and personal attributes to work with our young
children. It has produced a number of successful outcomes,
including job creation, and we’re considering now going ahead with the second phase. But I do also recognise the financial challenges
the sector faces, and that’s why we’re prioritising investment into the sector. It’s targeted at business support measures
as well as skills, and it will help the sector to build its own capacity and capability,
and one of the key drivers for this will be indeed the exemption of business rates for
all registered day nurseries from next April. This exception will be for a period of three
years, alongside the roll-out, supporting existing providers to become more established
and to support new start-ups in local areas as we continue to roll out the childcare offer
and roll out the expansion of the workforce. But we do have to remember that the sector
is a mixed economy; it’s made up of private and third sector organisations, as well as
some in the public sector. And the job creation, therefore, within the
sector is dependent on a number of factors, and not all are within the gift of Welsh Ministers
to influence or control. But we will continue to monitor how these
plans can be improved, to best support the sector to be able to take full advantage of
this exciting childcare offer commitment. So, in light of the current and the planned
activity by this Government to support and develop the workforce across what must be
said is a very diverse sector, we will not be supporting the amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I’d like to proceed
to the vote, Llywydd. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 34 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour, 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 34 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 35, Janet
Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: I move. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 35 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We move to a vote. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour, 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 35 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Amendment 3, Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: I move formally. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 3 be agreed. Does any Member object? Amendment 3 is therefore agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The next group is
group 15, which is the final group, and these amendments relate to commencement. The lead and only amendment in this group
is amendment 36, and I call on Janet Finch-Saunders to move the amendment and to speak to it. Janet Finch-Saunders. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Amendment 36 has been retabled on a matter
of principle. At Stage 2, my colleague Suzy Davies AM was
very clear to the Minister that there should be a power for the Assembly to halt the actions
of the Welsh Government momentarily if we believe that it has acted outside of its powers. Section 12(3)(b) of the Bill allows the Welsh
Government to make a number of provisions in connection with the Bill’s coming into
force, and this amendment gives the Assembly that very same opportunityófor the Welsh
Government to explain their actions if questions are asked. Thank you. Suzy Davies AM: We’re at the end of the debate
here, so I’m not going to keep you long. But this is a perfect time to welcome back
old friends, isn’t it? Amendment 42 is one of those old friends. It’s about commencement Orders. We routinely bring this [Interruption.] Yes, we do, and for good reason, Cabinet Secretary,
because this is something the Government needs to pay attention to, because it can often
forget that this Assembly is the legislature, not them, and if we want the opportunity to
scrutinise any Welsh Government actions undertaken by virtue of statute, then we can. If we think that Welsh Ministers may have
overstepped the markóI’m not saying they will have, but if we think they may haveóperhaps
ultra vires, then we should be able to, as Janet said, halt their actions momentarily
just for us to check. That’s what this amendment would allow us
to do, because the section allows Welsh Government to make a range of provisions in connection
with the Bill’s coming into forceótransitory, transitional or saving provisions; I could
sing along if it’s easier. These are pretty standard wordings. [Interruption.] No, I’m not Peter Lilley. I accept that this is standard wording, but
they could actually mean anything, couldn’t they? So, in Stage 2, the Minister said that the
making of commencement Orders is not normally subject to any procedure and that the Welsh
Government’s position has always been clear that commencement Orders do not need to be
subject to any procedure. Well, they’re not normally attached to this
because Welsh Government keeps knocking us back with the help of the backbenches. But, actually, it’s not the Government’s view
that’s important here; it’s actually the legislature’s viewóa point that we do make repeatedly and
is pushed back by Government in a way that I now think is probably inappropriate. So, if the Government’s going to keep stopping
us introducing this one, I think it’s time for me to ask Labour backbenchers to do something
quite radical here. It’s been a week when parliaments have been
asserting themselves against governments, so why not take this opportunity to take a
tiny stand and join a tiny revolution by supporting this amendment and effecting this tiny defeat
on Welsh Government, which just, as a serious point, is reinforcing the role of this Welsh
Parliament vis-‡-vis Welsh Government. Thank you. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Minister. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Diolch, Llywydd. Can I urge colleagues on these benches and
across them, ‘Let’s keep those rebellions happening in Westminster and not here’? [Interruption.] Even though it’s late in the day. And can I just thank, with this final amendment,
those who have moved amendments and applied good scrutiny to this stage of the Bill? This issue, indeed, did come up during Stages
1 and 2. In fact, it was this exact amendment, so my
response may be entirely foreseeable. The making of commencement Orders is not normally
subject to any procedure as they bring into force matters that the National Assembly has
already approved. The Welsh Government’s position on this issue
has already been clarified. I see no reason, therefore, to deviate from
the current convention in relation to commencement Orders. Suzy Davies AM: Thank you very much, MinisteróI
appreciate your kindness on this one. Yes, it is about an Order that’s bringing
forward something the Assembly’s agreed, but we need to make sure you’re doing it properly,
and that’s the tiny little bit of extra scrutiny that we were asking for here. I’m almost sure that, in 100 per cent of occasions,
there will be no problems, but you never know, and that is what we as parliamentarians need
to keep an eye on. Huw Irranca-Davies AM: Thank you, Suzy. I think we have now jointly exhausted the
forbearance of all our colleagues. I shall not be supporting this amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: Janet Finch-Saunders
to respond. Janet Finch-Saunders AM: It’s time for my
final speech now. We’ll move to the vote, but, before I do so,
I’d like to thank you, Llywydd, and the Minister, and all colleagues for your patience and graciousness
during our amendments. We’ve tabled these with the best of intentions
because we firmly believe that we want our children across Wales to be able to access
this offer and, more importantly, we want to see our parents being able to get back
into work, to get back into education and to get back into training. So, we have done our best to scrutinise this,
and I’d like to obviously thank my colleague Suzy Davies for her work on this also. Diolch yn fawr. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 36 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote, therefore. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 18, no abstentions, 25 against. Amendment 36 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The final amendment
is amendment 5. Si‚n Gwenllian. Si‚n Gwenllian AM: It’s a pleasure to formally
move this amendment. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: The question is that
amendment 5 be agreed. Does any Member object? [Objection.] We’ll move to a vote on this amendment. Open the vote. Close the vote. In favour 17, no abstentions, 25 against. Therefore, amendment 5 is not agreed. Y Llywydd / The Llywydd: We have reached the
end of our Stage 3 consideration of the Childcare Funding (Wales) Bill. I declare that all sections of the Bill are
deemed agreed. That brings today’s proceedings to a close.

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