Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

02/03/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant MS
Janet Finch-Saunders MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Leanne Wood MS
Michelle Brown MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sian Giddins Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

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

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

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:04.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:04. 

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

Good morning. Bore da. I welcome everyone to this virtual meeting of the Petitions Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending this committee meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is, however, broadcast live on Senedd.tv and all participants will be joining by video-conference. The meeting is bilingual and translation is available. A Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. We come to the first thing, which is apologies. We have apologies from Neil McEvoy—this is under apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. Committee members should note any declarations of interest now or at the relevant point during our proceedings.

09:05
2. Deisebau newydd COVID-19
2. New Covid 19 petitions

We move to item 2, and that's new COVID-19 petitions. Item 2.1, P-05-1118, 'Allow parents of under 1 year old to form a support bubble in new Tier 4 Covid restrictions'. I'm pleased to say that we have some good news on this, because that's exactly what's going to happen following some announcements from the Government. We did have a response from the First Minister on 9 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

As you say, Chair, good news, a good start to the Petitions Committee. I had a friend in your constituency who was pleased over the weekend. I suggest we thank the petitioner and close.

Thank you. We record our thanks to the petitioner and all those who signed the petition.

We move on to 2.2, P-05-1123, 'Raise the priority of non-NHS public facing key workers in the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine'. This was submitted by Timothy Richard Woods, having collected 117 signatures. We have some news on this, don't we, Clerk?

Thank you, Chair. The update, since we published the papers, is that the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has now provided its advice for the second phase of the vaccine roll-out programme. That's the advice that's followed by the Welsh Government. But its advice remains that it would prioritise vaccinations based upon age ranges and clinical risk, rather than prioritising any groups of workers or particular professions.

Okay. The text of the petition reads:

'I am a telecoms engineer and have worked as a key worker throughout the pandemic. As part of my job, I am expected to go into houses under strict guidelines to maintain essential services such as broadband. Some days I can enter three or four customers properties. With the recent recording of the new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 in Wales, other key workers outside the NHS require early vaccination against COVID-19 or run increased risk of infecting the public or contracting the virus.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 10 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take it forward? Leanne.

I've got tremendous sympathy for this argument that different groups of professions, especially those that come into contact with many, many members of the public, should be prioritised for the vaccine. It's delivery workers, shop workers—anyone who works on the front line and often not even considered as key workers. But, we are in the situation that we're in with regard to the JCVI. They've made a clear statement. I know that the police and people working in the education system have made really, really strong arguments for those professions to be included for prioritisation. But it looks as though it's just very, very difficult to use the lists that the GPs have to be able to pick out who does what occupation. Then, I suppose, it would be difficult to decide which occupations are included and which are not, and all of that risks slowing down the vaccination programme. And the Government, rightly, wants to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

So, while I really would like to see us be able to progress this petition and the others that we've received regarding prioritisation of particular sectors, I'm just not sure that we can take this any further in the light of the recent announcement. I mean, I just don't think it's fair to pretend that we can do something about this when the decision has been so clear, and has been made recently. Hopefully, the age prioritisation will go quickly, there won't be any more problems with supply, the way that things are organised will be good, and the whole population will be vaccinated quickly, and that will include all occupations, of course. But, with regard to this specific petition now, and the others that we've got coming later on, I just can't think where we can now take this. So, I can't see anything other than to regretfully close it now at this stage. 

09:10

Okay. Moving on to 2.3, P-05-1124, 'Allow two individuals from two different households to meet for exercise in alert level 4'. This petition was submitted by Laura Davies, having collected 847 signatures. The petition reads:

'New tier 4 restrictions mean that we have to exercise alone or with members of our own household. As a runner, I tend to do these activities with friends to have a change of scene from the everyday (my partner does not enjoy either of these activities which means I now have to do them alone). Allowing two people to meet from two different households will promote good mental health and well-being during this difficult time.'

A response came to the petition from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 1 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not done so. How would you like to take this one forward? Jack. 

Thanks, Chair. Again, it has been announced by the Government that this can happen. Therefore, I would suggest that we thank the petitioner and close the petition. 

It's quite good that we're getting these situations now where people are able to bring this to us and that people are listening. So, if we close this petition, and we'd wish to thank the petitioner. 

Item 2.4, P-05-1127, 'Reduce the fee limit for all Welsh universities due to COVID-19 requirement of distance learning'. This petition was submitted by Chris Morgan, having collected 1,157 signatures. The text reads:

'Currently full-time Welsh University students are paying £9000 per year to gain full access to all University services. Due to COVID-19 restrictions most of the learning is being done online. Students are unable to access many of the services and equipment that would have been available prior to COVID-19. A reduced service should be reflected with reduced fees.'

A response to this petition was received from the Minister for Education on 29 January. The petitioner has stated that he has no further comment to make at this time. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne. 

Thanks, Chair. This is such a difficult issue for students. They've been asked to go into debt, to pay fees for courses that are only partially available. I accept that university lecturers and staff are doing what they can to provide online courses, but the whole experience of students, especially first-year students, has been seriously diminished as a result of COVID. It's not anything to do with anything they've done, but they've not had the experience that they should have had, both from a learning point of view, or from a general life skills perspective. So, I really feel for students. I think young people and students are probably amongst the groups that are going to pay the price longest for this because they've missed out on so many key opportunities and milestones in their growing up. 

I would love us to be able to do something about this, again, but I'm mindful of the fact that we're running out of time as a committee, and as a Senedd. We're approaching the election, and we've only got one meeting left after this. So, I know that we're limited as a committee as to what we can do, but I wonder if it's worth asking Mr Morgan, who submitted, Chris Morgan—I assume it's Mr Morgan, but it might be a woman; I shouldn't have assumed that then—to write back to Chris Morgan and suggest that this is taken up as a matter with the student union movement. I think this is something that is much bigger than the petition that we've got in front of us. This is something that affects students in all universities, and it's best dealt with and best tackled as a movement—as many students as possible getting behind some kind of campaign to reduce the debt, at least, that students have been forced to pay as a result of COVID and not received the service they get back. I'm somebody who believes in free education. I don't think they should be paying tuition fees anyway. I think they should be supported to go to university, but I think the last year has been particularly difficult and they do deserve to have some kind of discount at least, if not a full refund of their tuition fees, in my view.

09:15

Okay. So, moving on to 2.5, P-05-1128, 'Cancel externally set 'assessments' in 2021 for AS and A levels and only use teacher assessed grades'. This petition was submitted by Levi Phillips, having collected 8,728 signatures, and the text of petition is to note the external assessment referred to in the petition have been cancelled following the introduction of alert level 4 restrictions. A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Education on 2 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this one forward? Michelle.

The petition's been overtaken by events. The Welsh Government's already decided to cancel the externally set assessments for 2021. So, I think, in view of that, we should thank the petitioner and close the petition. I note that there are a couple of other petitions on the list as well—one for GCSE external assessments, and the other relating to GCSE, AS and A-level internal assessments. These have all been cancelled now, so perhaps this will be an opportunity to write to the petitioners for those two petitions and thank them as well, and close the petitions because they've achieved their objective.

You're all right. Great. So, moving on, 2.6, P-05-1135, 'Targeted funding for residential outdoor education centres, now unable to operate for 12 months'. This petition was submitted by Sara Jane Jones, with 1,181 signatures, and it reads,

'Centres across Wales have had to close their doors to school visits for what will be at least 12 months due to government restrictions. They have received no additional funding to any other businesses yet have lost almost all their income. These centres not only provide vital educational services but large inward investment into rural parts of Wales along with many skilled jobs. Without financial support many will close leaving rural areas, local suppliers, services and trades devastated.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Education on 10 February, and the petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to go forward with this one? Leanne.

Chair, I think this is something that we may need to pass on to the next Senedd Petitions Committee. We could get more information from the petitioner about their views, and then put the whole information on for the next Senedd. This is clearly an issue that needs dealing with. We can't afford to lose these outdoor education centres, and if there is a risk that they will end up having to close as a result of what's happened through the pandemic, there does need to be further action taken.

Thank you. Item 2.7, P-05-1136, 'Allow Welsh residents to travel for fishing the same as our counterparts in England'. This petition was submitted by Matthew Davies, having collected 2,519 signatures. It reads,

'Welsh anglers are fed up with being treated differently to those in England.

'Currently we are not allowed to travel locally for exercise. 

'England during tier 4 are allowed to travel and even whilst in tier 5.

'We as anglers understand the dangers that are out there with the covid-19 pandemic, however anglers use this time to maintain their mental wellbeing, concentration and to reduce their stress levels. This socially distanced sport should be brought back for all.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 1 February, and the petitioner has provided extra comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

09:20

Thanks, Chair. I've had a few constituents contact me about this, and, obviously, the Welsh Government has indicated that the stay-at-home restrictions will be reviewed as part of the next review cycle on 12 March. Given we've raised this now with the Government and the understanding of the concerns, I don't think there's much more the Petitions Committee can do, given this is our second to last session. Therefore, I would suggest that we do note the petition and, hopefully, there'll be a successful petition at the end of that.

I must say I can understand anglers' frustration with this. I mean, it does seem really daft. I mean, it is a naturally socially distanced activity, and an angler fishing for the table is fishing for the table. So, it's not that much different from going down to the supermarket, except it's safer. However, I take Jack's point—I don't think there's very much we can do with this at the moment, particularly given the fact that the committee is coming to its end. I understand the frustration of anglers, particularly in north Wales, where the River Dee loops from Wales into England and then back again into Wales, and you've got anglers Welsh side not being able to fish, and anglers English side, on the same river, being able to fish. It does seem really daft. But, with regret, I don't think there's much we can do with the petition right now, and I would support Jack's suggestion.

Thank you. Moving on. Item 2.8, P-05-1139, 'Extend stamp duty relief following the announcement of a further lockdown.' This petition was submitted by Andrew Oliver, with 79 signatures, and it reads,

'With the boost to the economy and increase seen in property transactions since the stamp duty holiday was implemented in Wales, an extension to this relief by tapering the end date would avoid a property cliff edge likely to be seen should we see an abrupt end to the relief support. Maybe the welsh government could consider that the relief could apply to any transactions where exchange of contracts took place prior to March 31st 2021 to allow any intended transactions to complete and benefit.'

Now, a response to the petition was received from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd on 8 February, and the petitioner has provided further comment. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I think it's a bit of a similar position here, coming to the end of the committee but obviously sympathetic towards the petition. I've taken this issue up as an individual Members as well, and I note, in The Times, they have reported that the Chancellor is preparing to announce an extension in England, so perhaps whether we get any funding as a consequential of that, it may be a positive outcome. But I suggest there's little that the Petitions Committee can do, and individual Members can take it up on behalf of residents. But I propose to close, Chair.

So, now we move to non-COVID-19 new petitions, item 2.9, P-05-1111, 'Put the £7 million back into the Mental Health Transformation fund.' This petition was submitted by Dr Jen Daffin, with 255 signatures, and it reads,

'The Mind over Matter report was the result of a wide-ranging enquiry into emotional and health. It identifies an urgent need to invest in preventative, whole system and early intervention services.

'Mental health services are in desperate need for reform and modernisation. The removal of £7 million from this fund will stall this change.'

So, a response to the petition was received from the Minister for Mental Health, Well-being and Welsh Language on 29 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not yet done so. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

09:25

I would like to give the opportunity to the petitioner to provide more comments to us regarding the Welsh Government's response on this. If we're satisfied that that £7 million hasn't disappeared, then we can close this petition on 16 March. But Jen is right—the mental health implications from COVID are massive, and we don't even know what they are yet. But we can see, from the issues that people have faced—the job insecurity, the food poverty, the isolation, the abuse—all of those issues are listed in the petition that we've received. We know that those exist, so we know that there will be a likely fallout from that, and we know that children are often those most impacted. So, there is going to be a great need for investment in mental health services, not just those to put things right after things have gone wrong, but preventative services as well. 

I've got a tremendous amount of respect for the work that Dr Jen Daffin and her colleagues undertake. She's brought to life this question of ACEs—the adverse childhood experiences—and how they impact on all kinds of adult life if support is not given at the right stage, young enough. So, we do need to come back to this. It's something I feel very, very strongly about, and I know many other Members do as well. But, at times like this, this is when mental health support is more crucial than ever, and it's been something that's been a growing issue for many, many years now, and I expect it to be for many years to come, unfortunately.

I support going back to the petitioner to ask for further comments. I was a Member of the Children, Young People and Education Committee when we produced the 'Mind over matter' report. I'm not sure—. Were you, Janet, on that committee at the time? I was absolutely appalled at the state of mental health services. When we looked into perinatal mental health, I was even more appalled. Yes, we can welcome the Government promising to spend £7 million on improving the service—every little bit helps, as they say—but, really, in the grand scheme of things, I question how much even that kind of money can achieve when the service was in such a bad condition to start with. So, £7 million isn't a massive amount of money. It does sound like a big figure, but, in real terms—probably it will help—there needs to be more investment in mental health services and Welsh Government need to make those difficult decisions in favour of mental health services. So, yes, I would definitely support writing back to the petitioner for their comments. 

Okay. Everyone agreed? Are you clear with that one, Clerk? Yes.

Item 2.10, P-05-1125, 'Petitions with more than 5,000 signatures should be debated not just considered for debate'. This petition was submitted by Martin Obbard, having collected 69 signatures. This petition was submitted before the change in the threshold to 10,000 signatures.

'If you have a petition which is supported by 5000 or more, the Senedd does not have to debate it, it's only 'considered' for debate.

'The whole reason for petitions is to put across the public voice...

'As it's clear a petition with this amount of support is in the public interest, I believe it should always be debated to ensure the view of the people is taken into account.'

So, the background on this: information about the committee's processes was provided to the petitioner in a letter from me as the Chair of the Petitions Committee on 9 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further comments in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would you like to take this one forward? I've got Michelle, then Jack.

I'd actually like to pass this on to the next Petitions Committee and see what they can achieve in the next Senedd. I think the petitioner has a point. Given the fact that we've just raised the threshold to 10,000, I think there's more justification now for at least there being a presumption in favour of a petition being debated if it's reached the 10,000. I mean, 10,000 is a significant figure to reach. So, I think there's more justification now for saying, 'Well, there should be a presumption in favour of debating that petition in Plenary.' So, is it possible to pass this on to the next committee?

09:30

Yes, Chair, absolutely, the committee can decide to pass any petition on to its successor committee. That would give more time for the petitioner to offer any further comments or observations he wished to as well. I would observe, given the opportunity, just that it may never be possible for the Petitions Committee itself to guarantee a debate, because it always needs to request that via the Business Committee. I think my observation would be, in the short time since the change in the threshold to 10,000 signatures, that I think the committee is more able to request debates on a more significant number of those petitions now, and that's probably the action that it has been taking since that change was made in December. But, yes, the short answer to the question is it could be passed to the next committee.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Jack, you were going to speak.

Chair, all I was going to suggest was that we put it as part of our legacy work, in our report, and pass it over to the committee that way for their consideration, but I'm happy to support either way.

Are you happy, Michelle, with it going forward as part of the legacy report?

So, now we move on to 2.11, P-05-1129, 'Apply legislative measures now to enact the Law Commission's recommendations to abolish Leasehold'. This petition was submitted by Mark Habberfield, having collected 425 signatures.

'On 21st July 2020 all three residential leasehold and commonhold reports were published by the Law Commission'.

You've got additional details on this.

'We believe the recommendations from these reports should be immediately enacted in Welsh law without delay to protect and improve the lives of nearly 400,000 Welsh leaseholders. It has been over eight years since Scotland lead the way in removing leasehold from their housing and with this report the Senedd now has a clear mandate to apply legislative measures.'

So, we had a response to this petition from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 1 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further comments in advance of this meeting, but has not yet done so. How would you like to—? Leanne.

Thanks, Chair. I think the petitioner is right, it's long overdue that this was dealt with. However, we are at the end of the term, and it's something that the next Senedd is going to have to consider now. So, I think that we should note the petition and the Minister's response. The Minister has indicated that she is awaiting the publication of research into the experience of leaseholding in Wales before any further decisions are made, so given all of that, I think we should ask our successor committee to consider this petition in the next Senedd term.

Item 2.12, P-05-1130, 'The Welsh Government should re-purchase and refurbish Coleg Harlech'. This petition was submitted by Sian Ifan, having collected 6,666 signatures.

'Coleg Harlech is made up of a characteristic Admin and Theatre complex, a library, conference room, a number of lecture and computer rooms, a gym, a ten floor hall of residence, a dining hall and a clubhouse and sits in a majestic hill position adjacent to Harlech castle in Gwynedd. The college was established in 1927 as a college of further education for those from a working class background. It was sold to a private buyer in recent years, its furnishings stripped and is now up for sale again.'

And then it goes on to say:

'Coleg Harlech, if renovated to its former glory, has all the necessary requirements needed to train our unemployed in all the practical, technical and professional skills needed to re-build the structure and economy of our nation for the equal benefit and prosperity of all our people.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Education on 9 February and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

09:35

I do think we should do much more as a nation to look after our historic buildings, especially those that have links to working-class history, if I may say so. But we're in serious time shortages again with this one, so I'd be grateful if—given that we've run out of time as a committee—this petition could be considered by the next Petitions Committee, and the next committee can hopefully put pressure on the Welsh Government to give some clear answers as to their plans for this important building.

Okay. Item 2.13, P-05-1131, 'Immediate cessation of dredging operations off the Gower coast pending evaluation of adverse effects'. This petition was submitted by Kerry Lord, having collected 63 signatures, and says:

'Subsequent to the start of dredging operations in Rhossili Bay, there has been a substantial and severe depletion of sand on the adjacent Rhossili beach. This internationally-important area includes associated dune systems which will also be adversely affected by sand depletion. We call on the Welsh Government to effect an immediate cessation of dredging operations pending a scientific review of the sand depletion and its possible causes in order to avoid permanent damage and habitat loss.'

A response was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 11 February and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think the Minister's outlined pretty strongly in the letter back, saying this is strictly licensed by Natural Resources Wales and their marine licensing team, so on that basis, I suggest that we send the information and a letter from yourself as Chair of the committee to NRW and ask them to investigate this issue and get back to the petitioner directly. I don't think there's much more we can do as a Petitions Committee.

Okay, thank you. And Jack, could you just take over the Chair for a moment, please?

Penodwyd Jack Sargeant yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

Jack Sargeant was appointed temporary Chair.

So, the next petition, 2.4, P-05-1132, 'Instigate an Independent Judicial Inquiry into Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board'. This petition was submitted by Councillor Mike Powell, having collected 126 signatures. 

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 10 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not yet done so. How would Members like to take this forward? Leanne.

I think we should give the petitioner the opportunity to give further comments, Chair, so if we can come back to this in the next meeting, I'd be very grateful.

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

Moving on to item 3 on the agenda, updates to previous petitions. Item 3.1, petition P-05-934, 'Public Transport in Blaenau Gwent'. This petition was submitted by Ebbw Fawr business community and was first considered by the Petitions Committee in February 2020, having collected 1,332 signatures.

The committee has now considered the petition on two occasions. It was last discussed in July, when the committee agreed to write to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and the Welsh Government, and responses have been received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, and Blaenau Gwent council. The petitioner has also provided further comments. So, how would Members like to take this petition forward? Leanne.

09:40

I think we should note the further correspondence received as well as the petitioner's concerns regarding local public transport services, and we could provide the petitioner's response, the questions, to Blaenau Gwent council and ask that the council engages directly with Ebbw Fawr business community on the matters raised. I think we can then, in the light of taking that further action, close the petition and thank the petitioner for raising their concerns with us. 

Thank you, Leanne. In agreement? Yes, thank you.

Item 3.2, P-05-1067, 'Allow all non-essential retail shops to continue to trade whilst under the 17 day lockdown'. The petition was submitted by Martin Obbard and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 56 signatures.

The committee considered the petition for the first time in January and agreed to await a formal response to the petition from the Government. A response was received from the Minister for transport on 26 January. The petitioner has been offered the opportunity to provide further information on both occasions that the petition has been discussed, but has not done so. What actions would the Petitions Committee like to take forward on this? Leanne.

It looks as though this issue is going to be considered in the review on 15 March, and so, given that, we all hope, I think, that things will ease a bit in that new announcement. I think that we can close the petition and thank the petitioner. Things have moved on apace since this petition was submitted.

But I do think that it's worth submitting petitions like this, because at least the issues get debated publicly, even if they don't end up going in for a Senedd discussion. There are debates around it on social media, within the general media, we discuss it here in the Petitions Committee, so, even if petitions don't make it to Plenary, and even if they're time sensitive, they're definitely worth submitting to get the issues aired.

Thank you, Leanne. And, Chair, on that note, I'll hand the reins back to the Chair, Janet Finch-Saunders. 

Daeth Janet Finch-Saunders i’r Gadair.

Janet Finch-Saunders took the Chair.

Thank you. Thank you for taking over there. Are we on 3.2, P-05-1067 now?

We're on 3.3, Chair. We just finished that one. We just closed it.

Right, okay, thank you. Thank you again, Jack. 

So, 3.3, P-05-942, 'The Golden Hour when Suffering a Stroke—Ambulance Response Times to be recategorised from Amber back to Red Status'. The petition was submitted by Ralph Rees and was first considered in March 2020, having collected 117 signatures.             

So, we last considered this petition in March 2020 when we agreed to write to the Stroke Association to seek their views on the issues raised by the petition. A response was received on 5 February 2021, due to the original letter having been sent to a member of staff who subsequently left the organisation. The petitioner has been offered the opportunity to provide further information on both occasions that the petition has been discussed, but has not done so. So, how would you like to go forward? Michelle.

Sorry, I didn't realise my microphone was on. I think we should note the further information received, and in light of the information received from the Stroke Association we can close the petition at this stage and thank the petitioner. 

Yes, I think it's important to note that the response from the Stroke Association says really clearly that they do not support the proposal for returning stroke to the red category, because they consider that the type of response required for stroke patients is different to other red category conditions, and they feel that sending the right vehicle to take the patient to the right stroke unit is the right way to approach an emergency response. That makes sense. So, I just wanted to put it on the record that that's what it was that they were saying—that it wasn't the case that we were just dismissing the issue out of hand. There's a very good reason for taking that position. Thanks, Chair.

Okay, thank you. So, everyone agreed. 

Item 3.4, P-05-974, 'Ensure the technology of prosthetic limbs provided within the Welsh NHS is equal to the rest of the UK'. The petition was submitted by David Bradley and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 561 signatures.

So, the committee last considered this petition in November 2020, and we agreed to write to the Minister to ask why the position in relation to access to microprocessor-controlled prosthetics is different in Wales; and to the Welsh health specialised services committee to seek the reasoning as to why microprocessor knee prostheses are not available through the current service specification, and the timetable for a review. Responses have been received and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like it to go forward? Jack. 

09:45

Thanks, Chair. The Minister is expecting to receive advice and comment on that. I think we need to pass this over to the successor committee in the new Senedd, and for them to seek the response from the Minister for Health and Social Services at that time. 

Okay. Are Members agreed? So, the following two items are now going to be grouped together for consideration, 3.5 and 3.6. So, 3.5, P-05-1117, 'Give Police Officers the Covid Vaccination as a priority'. This petition was submitted by Graham Bishop and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 10,879 signatures. And the next one, 3.6, P-05-1119, 'Prioritise teachers, school and childcare staff for COVID-19 vaccination'. This petition was submitted by Jonathan Môn Hughes and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 16,288 signatures.

The background on this is that the committee answered the petitions for the first time on 22 January, and agreed to write to Business Committee to request a joint Plenary debate on these petitions. This has been scheduled for Wednesday 3 March. Initial responses to the petitions were received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 11 February, and the petitions have been included on this agenda so that the responses are published ahead of the debate. Both petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further responses in advance of this meeting, but have not done so. What actions would you like to take on this? Leanne.

It's good that this is being debated in Plenary, and I'd like to put on record our committee's thanks to the petitioners for raising this with us. I think it's sparked a really important debate about prioritisation for the vaccine, and I think the points have been very well put and very well argued. But the Government has made a decision to follow the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and it's very difficult to see how we can influence or change that as a committee, or as individual Members. I know I've raised this matter myself in Plenary on numerous occasions. 

So, I think we should all be prepared to listen carefully to the debate on 3 March, and perhaps consider how it can be taken forward in a different way, but in terms of this committee now and the petitions process, I think it's gone as far as it can. We've allowed the opportunity for this to be given a wider airing through the Plenary process, so I would propose thanking the petitioner and closing this petition. And hopefully, the debate will continue; even though the JCVI has made its decision, there have still been some categories of workers who've been included with health and social care workers. So, it may be that other groups of professionals will be added to that, but the priority is to get through the age groups now and the people with underlying conditions. They've made that clear, and I can't see how we can change their view. 

Okay. Moving on, the following two items will be grouped together for consideration: 3.7 and 3.8. Item 3.7, P-05-1052, 'Give Nurses a pay rise in line with other frontline staff during COVID-19 pandemic'. This petition was submitted by Ffion Rees and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 2,078 signatures.

Item 3.8, P-05-1089, 'Wales should lead on bringing NHS pay back in line with inflation costs over the last 10 years'. This petition was submitted by Dyfan Roberts and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 190 signatures.

The committee considered these petitions for the first time on 12 January and 26 January, respectively noting their calls as well as the indication that the NHS pay review body will report its recommendations in early May. The committee agreed to welcome the fact that the Minister for Health and Social Services has asked for the pay review to be brought forward and to write to ask him to take any measures open to him in the meantime, including, for example, considering whether he can commit to backdating any pay award to the beginning of the pandemic. A response from the Minister was received on 10 February. Both petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but have not done so. How would you like to take these forward? Jack.

09:50

Thanks, Chair. I think the committee, as previously stated, has been supportive of these petitions, and I think we'll reaffirm that commitment today. Given a review or announcement is expected in May 2021, and the timescales are set by the UK Government, there's not much more this Petitions Committee can do, sadly, except, I think, just once again reaffirm our support for the petition and thank everyone for what they've done. They fully deserve a pay rise, don't they, after this year? They've deserved it for years and years, but this year even more so, so hopefully the right thing will happen, come May.

Item 3.9, P-05-1032, 'Legislate to prevent people from changing Welsh house names'. The petition was submitted by Robin Aled Davies and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 18,103 signatures.

We considered this petition for the first time on 17 November and agreed to seek time for a Plenary debate and to enquire with the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee whether it intends to do any further work to follow up progress against the recommendations of its historic environment inquiry. A response was received from the Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee on 10 December, and a Plenary debate was held on 20 January. The petitioner has provided further comments following the debate. How would you like—. I've got Leanne.

Can I just say 'thank you' to the petitioner, Robin Aled Davies? There is a tremendous number of signatures collected, so very well done there. I'm glad that the petitioner was pleased that the matter has been discussed in the Senedd and is pleased as well that the matter attracted cross-party support. I support his wish that the new Senedd Government after May picks up this issue. So, given all of that and the fact that this is going to be monitored into the future, I think we can happily close this petition and say 'diolch yn fawr' to the petitioner.

So, moving on: 3.10, P-05-1081, 'Ensure owners of second homes & holiday lets in Wales register to vote only at their primary address, in devolved and local elections'. This petition was submitted by Gorau i Gymru—Best for Wales, and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 4,896 signatures.

We considered this petition for the first time on 12 January, and agreed to write to the Electoral Commission to seek their views on the petition and the issues raised by the petitioners, including a fuller explanation of the specific residency criteria that should be applied by electoral registration officers, and the extent to which this is monitored and enforced. A response was received on 5 February. The petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. Again, really, in light of the fact that it's too late for any changes to be made in relation to this Senedd election, the 2021 one, and the responses received, including that the Electoral Commission will produce a statutory report, following the election, including recommendations on this, I don't think there's much more that the committee could do today, so, therefore, I would thank the petitioner and close the petition.

09:55

So, the next one is 3.11, P-05-949: 'SAVE COWBRIDGE OLD GIRLS’ SCHOOL FROM DEMOLITION'. The petition was submitted by Sara Pedersen and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 5,522 signatures.

We last considered this on 7 July last year, agreeing to seek further information about the timescales relating to the planning application and, if appropriate, to revisit the possibility of requesting a debate following that. The clerking team has kept in contact with the petitioner since that time and she has provided an update on the current situation. How would you like to take this forward?

Is this one to be passed on to the next Petitions Committee in the next Senedd, Chair?

Well, there has been a decision not to list the building. What do other Members feel?

Chair, I note that it's also going through the local planning committee as well, and that won't be in this Senedd term, so perhaps, given that that is the case and the fact that the Deputy Minister has said that the decision has been made, then perhaps there's little more that we or any future Petitions Committee could do with this petition.

Okay. Item 3.12, P-05-1075: 'Don't impose a 15 person limit on organised indoor activities, such as swimming lessons and fitness classes, after firebreak lockdown'. The petition was submitted by Sean McCue and was first considered in January of this year, having collected 2,394 signatures.

We considered this petition for the first time on 12 January and agreed to write back to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism to ask that the Welsh Government develops a package of resources and information to support individuals to access safe and suitable exercise whilst adhering to the COVID-19 restrictions. A response was received on 11 February, and the petitioner was invited to provide comments in advance of both meetings where the petition was being discussed, however none have been received. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I believe that the Deputy Minister has acknowledged this petition in his response to us, as well, and we are still in restrictions—they may well be lifted in the coming weeks, with a bit of luck and the virus goes the way we want it to go. Therefore, I would suggest closing this petition on that basis and thanking the petitioner.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We now move to item 4 on the agenda, a motion under Standing Order 17.42. I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today’s meeting. Are Members content? Thank you.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:58.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 09:58.