Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

16/03/2021

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
Neil McEvoy 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 08:32.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 08:32.

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. I haven't received any apologies. 

2. Deisebau newydd gyda ymateb o’r Llywodraeth
2. New petitions with a response from the Government

So, we then move to new petitions. So, new petitions that have received a response from the Welsh Government. Item 2.1, P-05-1104, 'Make any measures being brought in for Covid be subject to a vote in the Welsh Parliament'. This petition was submitted by Dave Smith, having collected 155 signatures, and it reads:

'The Welsh first minister has been taking upon himself to pass rules on the lives of the public without first gaining approval from the elected representatives of the Welsh Parliament. This means the rules are not democratic.'

Now, a response was received from the First Minister on 11 March. The committee has received a response from the First Minister on a petition raising a similar concern. The petitioner has provided further comments prior to this. So, I'd like Members to look at this petition and any actions you wish this committee to take. Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think, given the fact that it's the committee's last session today, this morning, of the Senedd term, I think we should note this petition. As we say, we have had other similar petitions to this. We're in a public health emergency still. That's how it is. We do have the opportunity to debate as well, the regulations, but, given the fact it's our last session as a committee, I don't think there's realistically anything further we can do to move on this petition. Therefore, I would suggest that we close and thank the petitioner.

Thank you.

Item 2.2, P-05-1106, 'Introduce Personal Health Budgets and Personalised Care in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Rhys Bowler, with 779 signatures, and the text reads:

'Rhys has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and lives in daily fear for his life, left alone for hours hoping the ventilator he needs to breathe doesn't break. He must choose between poorly funded social care and an NHS Continuing Healthcare package that takes away his choice over who cares for him.

'If Rhys lived in England he would have a personal health budget, allowing him to use NHS Continuing Healthcare while still being able to choose who cares for him. This is not available in Wales.'

Now, a response was received to this from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 26 February and the petitioner has provided further information. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

08:35

Well, the Government, in response, has said it's prepared to look at the various options in relation to this, but, given we're so close to an election now, the current Government may not be the Government after that election, and a completely different Government, with a completely different set of policies, might be in place. So, given we are so close to that election and this is our final meeting, it's difficult to progress this in any other way than to ask the successor committee to this one to consider this petition after the election has passed.

Thank you. Item 2.3, P-05-1107, 'Allow outside live singers / entertainment to start again'. This petition was submitted by Nicola Woodfine with 605 signatures and the text of the petition reads:

'Outside entertainment to be allowed.'

So, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 22 December. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not done so. Again, how would you like to take this one forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think we're in a similar position, given the fact we are, as Leanne said, coming to an election. We may have a different Welsh Government—I certainly hope that's not the case, but we may well have one—I think, therefore, we should close the petition. We can't take this further, Chair, as a committee, and it could be picked up by a future Government, if that is the case. I think this Government is pretty clear that test events, programmes, will hold when Wales can return to the appropriate level. And I put on the record that I, as much as anyone, want to see outdoor live events as well. So, I say that with a heavy heart, but I think that's the appropriate way forward.

Thank you. We welcome Neil McEvoy to the meeting. Good morning, Neil.

No, it's okay. So, we're now on item 2.4, P-05-1110, 'Reinstate free swimming for pensioners'. This petition was submitted by Peter Roberts with 78 signatures and the text of the petition reads:

'Restricting free swims to certain times means there are more people in pools at the same time, therefore restricting serious swimming. As a pensioner I no longer have regular swims.'

So, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 8 January. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not done so. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

Well, the response indicates that there's been a review of the provision and that the decision has been taken by Sport Wales to target it more at deprived areas, and so it's unlikely that the situation is going to change, if they've just conducted a review. So, given the petitioner hasn't provided any further explanation, I think we can close this petition and thank the petitioner.

Thank you. Item 2.5, P-05-1120, 'The Welsh Government should immediately stop all lockdowns'. This petition was submitted by Adrian Mark Phillips with 56 signatures, and it reads:

'The death rate from Covid19 is relatively low and it makes no sense to exert unnecessary control over the welsh population and to damage businesses and livelihoods.'

A response was received from the First Minister on 2 March. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not done so. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

08:40

Thank you, Chair. I think we should note the petition and the response received from the First Minister. The Welsh Government's current intention is to lift restrictions in a phased way. I don't think there's much more we can do as a committee, so I suggest we close the petition, Chair. 

I'd just make the point, though, Chair—. I agree to close the petition, but I think really the election's about our approach to lockdowns. So, I think the election is the appropriate forum to take that forward.

Thank you.

Item 2.6, P-05-1122, 'Allow new adoptive parents to form a support bubble in alert level 4'. This petition was submitted by Ruby Hampton with 387 signatures. It reads:

'Allow new adoptive parents to form support bubbles in any move to do so for new parents with children under one years old.'

Now, a response was received from the First Minister on 24 February. The petitioner has provided further comments. Again, how would you like to take this forward? Leanne. Sorry, I can't—.

It strikes me that the situation will have moved on considerably by the time this committee's successor committee meets sometime during the summer, so I would suggest closing this petition, given that it's likely to be a resolved issue by the time the new committee is formed.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Okay.

Now, the following petitions are going to be considered together: 2.7 and 2.8. Item 2.7 reads—P-05-1126—'Allow organised outdoor sport for under 18s to put Wales in line with England's tier 4'. This petition was submitted by Katharine Bradley with 2,461 signatures and it reads:

'Children in Wales have had a really disrupted year, regularly self isolating and unable to participate in sport. Sport is incredibly important for mental and physical well being. In England, organised training is being permitted. We feel that Wales should allow this too. Physical health also being hugely important at the moment. Our best defence against this and any future pandemic is to be fit and healthy.'

And then 2.8 reads—P-05-1149—'Resume team sports for children in line with England on March 29th 2021'. This petition was submitted by Dan McKenna with 68 signatures and it reads:

'It has been announced in England that team sports for children are planned to resume from March 29th 2021. (Reliant on four conditions that must be met at each phase of lockdown easing). Currently though there has been no mention from Welsh Government of a return date for team sports in Wales.

'This petition is requesting Welsh Government address this issue at the next 3 weekly review on March 12th 2021.

Please announce a roadmap similar to England offering clear and obvious date/s for the return of children’s team sports in Wales.'

So, responses have been received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism to both petitions, and the petitioner for 1149 has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think the Welsh Government have provided an announcement on 12 March and outdoor sports activities can resume from 29 March. So, with that in mind—and I don't think there's likely much that will change in between that—there's not much more the committee can do, so I'd therefore thank the petitioner and close the petition.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Okay. And we welcome Michelle Brown to the committee—good morning, Michelle.

Item 2.9—. We're now on item 2,9, P-05-1133, and that reads, 'Adapt the teacher training syllabus to include Transformational Coaching and Emotional Intelligence'. This petition was submitted by Tracey Jones with 193 signatures and it reads:

'A survey has found that up to 33.6% of teachers have said they planned to leave the profession. Adding the proposed subjects to the syllabus will give teachers a new skill-set to support with current pressures & also enable our next generation of children to develop resilience & to better understand their emotions. Neuroscience is evolving & evidence points to a much needed change. This will firmly impact the mental health of our next generation of children & Educators.'

So, the background: a response was received from the Minister for Education on 2 February and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

08:45

I suggest we write to the Education Workforce Council with this petition to highlight the issues raised and I think if we can ask for their response to what is outlined in the petition, then that can be passed on to the successor committee to this one.

Thank you. Item 2.10, P-05-1134, 'Cap all Welsh county council tax at 3%. A referendum of the public must take place to exceed 3%'. This petition was submitted by Gerald Newton Jones, with 524 signatures, and it reads:

'Living in Conwy county most of my life, born in Rhyl of Welsh parents and now retired we like everyone else had to suffer a 14.5% council tax increase the last 2 years. It's getting to the point where people living in Wales will either have to downsize their homes or move to England where the capping of such tax is still in force.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 2 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? I can confirm that they've just voted through their new thing, and I think it's fewer than 3 per cent this year. Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think the Minister's clearly set out her position on this and the fact that it's for local councils to set, albeit funding does come from Welsh Government and comes from UK Government, as well, so I think there's a point to be made there. But with regard to the actual petition, I don't think there's much more this committee can do, so I'd suggest that we thank the petitioner and for the action to be to close.

Yes. Thank you. Item 2.11, P-05-1138, 'COVID-19 Weekly testing for staff caring for people with complex medical health needs'. This petition was submitted by Leanne Collis with 50 signatures, and it reads:

'Our daughter Olivia is 17yrs old, has complex medical health needs and requires 24hr care. She is being put at risk on a daily basis of catching this deadly virus with no testing in place!!

'The community staff mentioned are frontline workers looking after the vulnerable, they do all personal care and most tasks in the home that is required in the hospital environment.'

Now, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on 10 March and the petitioner has provided further brief comments. What actions would you as a committee wish to take? Leanne, and then Jack.

I think we should write back to Welsh Government on behalf of this petitioner. Clearly, healthcare staff and social care staff are getting regular testing, but there are groups that are falling outwith that, and it would be very useful, not just for the petitioner, but for everybody else caught up in this situation if further clarification could be provided. If further clarification is provided, then the petition can be closed, I would say.

Item 2.12, P-05-1140, 'Revise the guidance for Free School Meals, removing the option for delivery of food parcels'. This petition was submitted by Sarah Rees, with 205 signatures, and it reads:

'Awful images of English food parcels have been circulated, resulting in Westminster committing to provide vouchers for all. In Wales there are still councils handing out food parcels. Families have shared images of parcels where there is little choice, not meeting dietary requirements and reports of mouldy fresh produce. Some parents are missing deliveries due to work, leaving children hungry.

'I know the stigma of free school meals, it's time to empower families to choose what their children eat.'

Now, a response was received from the Minister for Education on 11 February and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Neil.

08:50

I'd like to write back to the Minister to ask her to give consideration to whether the guidance for local authorities can be updated to clearly specify that they should operate a number of systems for the provision of free school meals in parallel, including cash or vouchers.

Item 2.13, P-05-1142, 'Workout To Help Out Scheme'. This petition was submitted by Jamie Price having collected 261 signatures, and it reads:

'A workout to help out scheme would be for anyone looking to attend a gym, swimming pool and leisure facilities for a day pass, class or an outdoor fitness-related activity. It could provide 50% off someone's bill, capped at ten pounds per person.

'This would be an opportunity to prioritise & improve the health of the nation post pandemic whilst relieving some of the future pressures from the NHS!'

A response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 17 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

I'd like this to be referred on to the successor committee. I think this issue with activity, gyms, leisure facilities, has been an ongoing question all the way through the pandemic. Clearly, we all understand how important physical activity is in terms of mental health, but also, we're becoming more increasingly aware about the importance of and the links of COVID with obesity, so clearly, physical activity opportunities are really, really important if we're to prevent health problems in the future. So, I would like us to refer this on to the successor committee. I very much hope that subsequent reviews to the one we've just had will quite soon see different leisure facilities open, obviously, in a way that's as COVID-safe as possible. But I really do think that Government needs to work with the providers of such facilities to try and ensure that now the weather is changing, can there be more outdoor gym facilities, for example? Are there things that Government can do to help with that in terms of providing advice or financial support, to enable that kind of provision? But I really do think we need to be doing much, much more to enable people to get out and be physical; something that will help their health over the longer term, regardless of COVID.

Item 2.14, P-05-1143, 'Fully re-open all schools immediately after February half-term'. This petition was submitted by Charlotte Young with 625 signatures. It reads:

'Our children's education has already been hugely disrupted. Children's mental health is suffering. Children have a right to an education—they are never going to get this time back.

'Remote learning does not work for primary school children and their families. Parents are under huge and unsustainable pressures to home school in addition to their work.'

So, a response was received from the Minister for Education on 18 February. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Michelle.

As the Minister has said, things have moved on quite a lot since this petition was submitted. There's been a phased return of primary school learners from 22 February, and that's due to be completed this week. There are catch-up sessions and the Government's clearly phasing back the return of schools. So, I think we should thank the petitioner and note the petition—thank the petitioner for their hard work in submitting the petition and getting the signatories. I don't really think there's very much we can do now with this petition. Things have moved on so much, there's a phased return of school pupils to school, so I don't think we can do much more with this petition.

Yes, thanks, Chair. Again, I think there's an election coming up on 6 May and these issues are going to be before the electorate, so really, that is the ultimate petition. I think schools should be fully open. 

08:55

Okay. So, are we agreed with the actions put forward by Michelle? All agreed, thank you. 

Item 2.15, P-05-1144, 'Re-open garden centres in Wales as soon as it is possible'. This petition was submitted by Nicola Pugh with 11,217 signatures. It reads:

'Re-open garden centres in Wales as soon as it is possible:

'- Gardening keeps people at home

'- Gardening brings significant mental and physical benefits

'- Garden centres are large, airy spaces with excellent safety measures in place

'- The plant supply chain cannot be switched off and on. In many cases plants go to waste if they cannot reach garden centres

'- Online, click and collect and home deliveries are not the answer. They are particularly difficult for independent garden centres.'

A response to the petition was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 26 February. The petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. There has been an announcement from the Welsh Government that garden centres can reopen from next Monday, 22 March. So, I think good news for the petitioner, so we can thank the petitioner and close the petition. 

So, 2.16, P-05-1145, 'Allow parents of young children to drive to use local parks and playgrounds during tier 4 lockdown'. This petition was submitted by Alexander Edwards with 58 signatures. It reads:                     

'Not all parents with young children can safely walk from the house to use parks and playgrounds e.g. when having to walk along dangerous roads or in rural areas. The benefits of exercise and play for young children are well established. Consider allowing parents of young children to drive to parks and playgrounds so that they can play and exercise within their bubble and with respect to COVID-19 guidelines.'

So, a response to this petition was received from the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services on 1 March. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not yet done so. Your directions on this one, please. Leanne.

The 'stay local' guidance is now in effect as of 13 March, and that means although there's a 5 mile guidance as to what 'stay local' means, it should mean that people can travel by car to local parks, as long as they're within that 5 mile area. So, I think that the petitioner has achieved what they set out to achieve, and so we can say 'thank you' to them and close the petition. 

All Members agreed? Yes. Neil? Thank you.

Item 2.17, P-05-1146, 'Provide a road map for how weddings can progress in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Sara Robinson with 1,273 signatures, and it reads:                     

'The Prime Minister stated that weddings should begin getting back to normal after Easter, however no guidance has been given in Wales.

'It is important for the economy that weddings are allowed to begin again and to include receptions. However, as weddings take months to plan couples and business involved in the wedding sector require clear guidance on how to expect weddings to take place over the coming months.'

A response to this petition was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 5 March. 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 go forward? Leanne.

I get asked about this question on a fairly regular basis, from people who have had to postpone weddings, and they've postponed them to this coming summer now, and they're asking whether or not they'll be able to go ahead with the kind of wedding that they'd always planned. It's really difficult to answer those questions, isn't it, when we're in the situation that we're in.

Given that there is a wedding stakeholder group that is in regular discussion with the Government, then there should be an ability to provide some sort of road map, even if it's not a case of, 'By 30 June, you'll be able to have 50 guests.' But at least something along the lines of, 'If we move towards this level of infection, then we'll be able to move to a different tier, and therefore these arrangements will be allowed within this tier.'

So, I don't think there's anything more we can do at this stage on this petition; I don't see much point in handing it over to the successor committee, because things will have moved on, hopefully, a great deal by the time the successor committee meets. But I do think it's important for people to have an understanding of the Government's thinking on this. If the wedding stakeholder group minutes could be published, or regular information could come from that group, at least then people would have some sort of understanding as to what they could expect. So, whilst I'm not arguing for this petition to remain open, it's certainly something I'll be keeping an eye on on behalf of the constituents that have contacted me.

09:00

Thank you. Item 2.18, P-05-1147, 'Require all schools to provide daily live/recorded teaching to all pupils not returning to school'. This petition was submitted by Catherine Evans with 308 signatures, and it reads:

'There are still schools claiming there are insurmountable barriers to providing lessons, five weeks into the term and for seven weeks of this academic year. This is no longer acceptable. Our children must all be given equal access to education. Solutions to those barriers must be found and all pupils must be taught.'

A response was received from the Minister for Education on 5 March, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Anyone wish to comment? Jack and then Michelle. 

Thank you, Chair. I think the committee could pass on the petitioner's further correspondence to the Minister for Education and, with the agreement of the petitioner, further details of schools not providing any live or recorded lessons and ask the Minister to consider what options there are for raising this issue at a local authority level. 

I agree with Jack. I also think it's very, very, very concerning to hear that there are still children who haven't had any online lessons. I find it very, very puzzling as to why any school wouldn't be able to offer online lessons. So, yes, I would endorse what Jack suggested. 

Deisebau newydd heb ymateb o’r Llywodraeth
New petitions without a response from the Government

Now, these are new petitions without a response from the Welsh Government. P-05-1103, 'Stop applying the same Covid 19 restrictions across the whole of Wales'. This petition was submitted by Mark James Simpson with 7,995 signatures, and it reads:

'Covid 19 infection rates vary widely across Wales...The areas with the highest and lowest rates are often many miles apart. Covid 19 restrictions are causing immense economic harm, rising unemployment and widespread business closures. When rates are very high, tough restrictions may be the only way to control spread of infection, but when rates are low the economic and health damage is disproportionately high.'

A response from the Government has not yet been received; a letter was sent on 15 December. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of today's meeting, but has not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

Thanks, Chair. Given we're so close to the election now and this is our last meeting, and that things are likely to change quite significantly by the time the successor committee meets and, as others have said here, the election is likely to provide a focus for some of these issues and debates, then I don't think there's anywhere further we can take this petition. And so, I propose we close it and thank the petitioner. 

Yes. Item 2.20, P-05-1141, 'Make the Senedd election fair—allow political leafleting during lockdown'. This petition was submitted by Cadan ap Tomos with 93 signatures, and it reads:

'We call on the Welsh Government to make sure the next Senedd election is free and fair, by letting political campaigners hand-deliver leaflets safely during lockdown.

'Every voter must have a fair chance to hear from their candidates and come to an informed decision about how to vote. Delivering leaflets is the most accessible way for candidates to let people know where they stand. Banning political leafleting would hand an unfair advantage to the biggest parties with more money and influence.'

Now, a response from the Government has not yet been received in time to be considered at this meeting. The petitioner has been offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not yet done so. But we also know now, don't we, that there has been an announcement that leafleting will be able to resume on a local basis, following the change in advice to 'stay local'. This was announced on 12 March. So, in light of this, how would you like to take this forward? I've got Leanne then Neil.

09:05

Thanks, Chair. Leafleting is important, and it is a vital part of our democracy, and I'm glad that, as of yesterday, we are now able to leaflet. The petitioner has achieved what was set out by the petition, so I propose we close it and thank them. Yes, close the petition now there's no further action to take.

Yes, I'd like to write—. I'll declare an interest here, because the police tried to issue me with a fine on Friday. They've previously tried to issue me with a caution for leafleting. What I find really odd—

I am, yes. That's what I said, yes. I need to declare an interest. I'd like to write to the police commissioners and I'd like to write to the chief constables in Wales, because I'd like to know, in terms of regulations, why were the police able to rely upon regulations, why were charities allowed to rely upon regulations to allow them to continue leafleting, and yet a politician—

I understand your concerns, Neil, but I have to, as Chair, take the appropriate action for this petition on behalf of this petitioner.

—write to the chief constables. And can I just say, Chair, as well, that this election is developing into a sham? We're not even allowed to canvass. I was canvassed by double-glazing people last night; they were lovely. They even got me to book an appointment on Saturday. And yet, as politicians, we're not allowed to knock on doors. It's a farce.

Right. Thank you. So, we've had a proposal. Do all Members agree?

Oh, right. That I proposed? Oh, right, sorry; I thought you were talking about writing to the police commissioners.

I mean, that's something that you can do yourself, Neil, if you've got particular circumstances.

I'm moving on. So, are all Members in agreement with Leanne's proposal?

P-05-1148, 'Fully open schools for all ages in Wales as the next step from 15th March'. This petition was submitted by Edina Potts-Klement, having collected 2,094 signatures. The text of the petition reads:

'Children have had a disrupted education for nearly a year. They haven't been to school since before Christmas. Strain on their mental health is culminating.

'They were promised to be a priority yet now when covid cases are falling we see the opening of nonessential shops being considered before all children returning to school.

'Some are now at breaking point and cannot face another 6 weeks home learning without hope/date for returning.

'Don't let the Welsh children down! Open all school years.'

Now, a response from the Government has not been received in time to be considered at this meeting. However, the petition has been referred to this meeting due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think this is similar to a petition we had earlier on in this committee. We have moved on from there now. Pupils will be going back from 12 April—there's been an announcement made on that. I know everyone is sensitive to getting children back. The First Minister himself—. And this has had a lot of coverage, certainly over the last week but before that as well. I'm not sure there's much more we can do as a Petitions Committee to take this forward, so given the news that we've had, I suggest that we close this petition, Chair.

Okay. So, we'll thank the petitioners and close the petition. Do all Members agree? Okay.

So, now, due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues being raised, the following seven petitions have been referred for consideration by the committee at this meeting. However, responses have not been requested from the Welsh Government in advance of this meeting. So, we have 2.22, P-05-1150, 'Provide business rates holiday to holiday home sites in wales, the same as England'. This petition was submitted by Denise Evans with 640 signatures, and it reads,

'In March 2020 the UK Government announced a rates holiday for hospitality and leisure industry. alongside Scotland, the welsh government then set up rates relief for businesses under the rateable value of 500k. Quite a few holiday sites were excluded from the rates holiday, due to their rateable value over 500k. The majority of these sites split the rates bill between its caravan owners, which we would not be able to benefit from the relief at this troubling time and are desperately in need of it. we all respect the Welsh government choice to close borders and restrict the amount of transmission. But in return we would like to request the help of the welsh government by applying the no cap rate limit to the rates, to assist holiday home owners, due to not being able to access it. so we get the same rules that England have applied.'

The petition has been referred to the committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises. A response has not yet been requested from the Government. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not yet done so. So, how would you like to take that one forward? Jack.

09:10

Thanks, Chair. Let's request the response from the Government, Chair. 

Item 2.23, P-05-1151, 'Provide a date for the return of Organised Children's Activities for Babies & Toddlers'. This petition was submitted by Kate Worgan, Tots Play Cardiff North, having collected 1,756 signatures, and it reads,

'Between September and December 2020, we were able to bring face to face classes back to indoor settings, fully following Welsh Government Legislation. We had no outbreaks at classes and were extremely diligent and proactive about providing a safe environment for classes, whilst also providing all the benefits that classes can bring to Parents & Carers and their young children. We are still running online classes but we need a date to be able to bring face to face classes back.'

So, we've referred this to the committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues, and a response has not yet been requested from the Government. The petitioner has provided further information in support of this petition. How would you like to take this? Leanne.

Write to the Welsh Government to seek a response—. Sorry. I think we should write to the Government to seek a response to this petition, and then, in the light of the response, pass on to the successor committee, if that's relevant.

Yes, thank you. 

Item 2.24, P-05-1152, 'Close the schools! Keep our children safe. Due to the rise in covid. Save our future'. This petition was submitted by Amy Hughes with 1,585 signatures, and it reads—. No, sorry, the petition was created in September 2020, so the petition text refers to the situation at that time. So, whilst the petition was collecting signatures, schools in Wales were closed to most pupils. The clerking team attempted to contact the petitioner to ask whether she wished to close or withdraw the petition at that time, but no response has been received. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

Well, we've moved on considerably since this petition, haven't we? And given that this is our last meeting and that there hasn't been a response from the petitioner, I would propose we close the petition.

P-05-1153, 'To open outside gyms and sport in Wales the same as England March 29th'. This petition was submitted by Keri Mckibbin with 272 signatures, and it reads, 

'We run a gym In Burry Port, we have 8000 square feet outside, and have had enormously positive feedback from these socially distanced outside sessions, lockdown has taken it's toll on many members, raising anxiety, stress, fear and depression. They all say that our outside sessions kept these conditions at bay and actually helped them enormously through a very difficult time. Their impact on mental and physical health cannot be overstated, and would be a massive boost for Welsh community life.'

The petition has been referred to the committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises. A response has not yet been requested from the Government. The petitioner has provided further information in support of the petition, and correspondence has also been received from Anthony Stingl, who was unable to submit a further petition about reopening gyms due to the rules on accepting substantially similar petitions. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

09:15

I think we should write to the Government with the points raised by this petition. I'm concerned that, as I've said earlier on in this meeting, we need to do all we can to enable people to be physically active. If it is safe for gyms to open as an outdoor experience, with all the safety requirements, then I think the Government should at least provide some sort of road map to telling people when that's likely to happen, and provide support to indoor facilities to operate outside if that's relevant as well. I don't think we can take the petition any further; I don't see much point in passing it on to the successor committee, because it's highly likely that the rules will have changed by the middle of the summer. But I do think that we can pass on these concerns to the Government, because it's not a minority view, this, is it? We've all got people in our constituencies who are really, really feeling strongly about this issue and they are in large numbers as well. So, it's not something I think the Government can ignore. And it is a health issue. It's not something that is either/or; it is something that will contribute to good health.

Thank you. Do all Members agree? Yes. Okay.

Item 2.26, P-05-1154, 'Re-open the Welsh hospitality sector by 12 April 2021'. This petition was submitted by Lyndsey Groundwell, with 157 signatures. It reads: 

'With proposed easing for Welsh holidays and the UK government’s exit strategy, we believe it is now time for the permanent re-opening of this economically and socially invaluable sector.

'- NHS alert level has been dropped due to lesser threat

'- Wales has administered highest percentage of vaccine first doses

'- Lowest cases per 100,000 among UK nations at 75.4 per 100,000—comparable to rates seen in September—plus other currently satisfied criteria means Wales now falls into alert level 2.'

The petition has been referred to this committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises. A response has not yet been requested from the Government. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think it's a similar petition to the last one, where we could pass the comments on, but I don't think there's much more that this committee can do. I would just like to say that it's great to see the vaccination programme being mentioned and how well it's doing. So, I'd welcome that, as the committee. But I don't think there's much more that we can do as a committee other than to pass the comments on, and hopefully, there will be more of a view to understanding what's happening when the committee next meets in the next Senedd.

I'd like to write to the Government to ask them what conditions need to be in place before the hospitality sector can reopen and what kind of assistance the hospitality sector, particularly or including the local pubs—. They've been under constant pressure for the last 20 or 30 years, and in some ways, this lockdown does feel rather like a nail in the coffin of those little local pubs that people rely on so much. So, I would like to write to the Government to see what the conditions need to be before we can reopen those venues.

Okay. Do all Members agree with those proposals? Yes. Okay. Thank you.

P-05-1155, 'Allow safe, socially-distanced watersports during coronavirus lockdowns'. This petition was submitted by Tavi Murray, with 1,447 signatures. It reads:

'Outdoor activities and exercise are hugely beneficial to people’s mental and physical health. Blue space: canals, rivers, lakes, and coast are precious and safe sources of well-being, currently denied to us in Wales. As a result many of us are suffering from real mental health challenges.

'We call on the Welsh Government to remove the phrase that suggests all water sports are banned during lockdown and allow access to local blue space provided travel restrictions are followed.'

This petition has been referred to the committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises. A response has not yet been requested from the Government, and the petitioner has provided further comments and testimonials in support of the petition. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

09:20

It's a similar issue to what we've already discussed here this morning, isn't it, really? I think we should write to the Government to ask for a response to the issues raised in the petition. I agree, again, that these outdoor activities are really important for mental health. And so, if the Government can do something to support what the petitioner wants, then we should encourage that. But I don't think there's much point in keeping the petition open.

Okay. Do all Members agree? Yes.

P-05-1156, 'Match the funding for small businesses during lockdown with England—including the restart grant'. This petition was submitted by Sally Gillard, with 2,458 signatures. It reads:

'In Wales, small businesses have received the smallest level of funding of all UK nations during the third national lockdown—despite being locked down for longer.

'As of today, Rishi Sunak also announced a restart grant for small businesses to help with re-opening of businesses.

'I urge the welsh government to support our smallest businesses properly, and match the grants provided to small business owners in other uk nations.'

The background: the petition has been referred to the committee due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue it raises. A response has not yet been requested from the Government, and the petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting but has not yet done so. Jack.

Thank you, Chair. On this one, I would like to write to the Government. [Interruption.] Graeme might know a little bit more, before I come in.

Sorry, Chair. Just to correct the briefing material that you've been provided with as a committee—the petitioner did in fact make comments to the committee in advance of the meeting. So, apologies for misleading you on that point.

Thank you, Chair. I would like to write to the Government on this one. I think it's important that we set the record straight, and ask the Government to list what support they have made available to businesses across Wales. I think it's important that we get that on the record.

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

We now move to item 3 on the agenda, updates to previous petitions. Environment and rural affairs. The following three items will be considered together: items 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3.

Item 3.1, P-05-856, 'Ban the sale of puppies by pet shops and all commercial third party dealers in Wales'. This petition was submitted by C.A.R.I.A.D. and was first considered in January 2019, having collected 11,195 signatures.

Item 3.2, P-05-915, 'Call for better enforcement of puppy farms in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Laura Clays, and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 112 signatures.

Item 3.3, P-05-939, 'Immediate embargo on new dog breeding licences, licence renewals and planning applications until regulations are fit for purpose and enforceable'. This petition was submitted by C.A.R.I.A.D. and was first considered in February 2020, having collected 1,738 signatures.

The committee last considered the petitions on 26 January, when Members considered statements issued at the time by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, agreeing to seek clarification as to when such legislation to ban third-party sales of puppies and kittens would be introduced. The Minister then published the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (Wales) Regulations 2021 on 27 January this year. Subsequently, the Minister indicated that she intended to correct and relay the regulations. These were relaid on 2 March, and are scheduled for debate by the Senedd on 23 March. The petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting. C.A.R.I.A.D. have been in contact with the clerking team, but have not submitted comments. What actions would you like to take on this? I've got Leanne, and then Jack, and then Michelle.  

09:25

The issues contained in these three petitions have been felt strongly by a lot of people over a long time within this Petitions Committee. I do accept what the Minister has said, that the COVID crisis has taken over everything and has had to be prioritised, but that doesn't mean that the people submitting all of these petitions should lose out on the issues that they've brought to our attention. So, I would like to provide the future successor committee to this with this petition, and ask that they keep a very close eye on the issues and that they press the Minister for that all-important timescale. Because, without that, it's very difficult to see how we can hold the Government to account on their promises that have been made in this area. There have been numerous promises, and they do need to be held to account for those promises. So, the petitioners have been very patient, fair play to them, all of them, in this. These petitions have been around a long time, and I think it would be bad form for this committee to lose them at this stage now, given that they haven't actually been resolved properly. 

Thanks, Chair. I can support keeping the petition open and passing it to the successor committee. I just wanted to point out, again, that the regulations will be debated next week, so obviously those points can be raised there. And just a mention to my constituent, Laura, from Alyn and Deeside, as well, who's pushed hard on this issue. So, just to say 'well done' and obviously we'll keep this issue alive. 

I do obviously welcome the new regulations and the ban on the third-party sales, but it only relates to third-party sales. We've got a couple of other petitions in this group that don't specifically relate to third-party sales; they relate to the woeful enforcement of the puppy farming regulations. I completely agree with Leanne. I'd like to see at least two of these petitions relating to the enforcement of puppy farms passed on to the successor committee so that the pressure is maintained. 

I'm in a different room today, and my son's toys keep on going off, so I'm trying to reach them to turn them off. 

Oh, right. Thanks. Okay. So, does everyone agree with those actions? Yes.

Item 3.4, P-05-895, 'Rosa's Legacy: Introduce a scheme to help people access veterinary care for their companion animals'. This petition was submitted by Linda Joyce Jones and was first considered in October 2019, having collected 95 signatures. The background is that the committee last considered the petition on 26 January, agreeing to request a further update from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on any discussions on these issues held with the Animal Welfare Network for Wales and the British Veterinary Association. A response was received on 4 March. The response was shared with the petitioner. She has indicated that she was unable to provide comments in advance of the meeting, and has asked for more time to be able to do so. What action would you like to take on this issue? Jack.  

I think it's the same as the last petition we've just cleared. I think we do pass this on to the successor committee, given the fact as well that the petitioner has been very active in this and requested that as well. 

Do all Members agree? Okay.

Item 3.5, P-05-1003, 'Demand an EIA now on the dumping of radioactively contaminated mud in Welsh waters'. The petition was submitted by—. How do you pronounce that, sorry? Is it Cian Ciaran? Yes, Cian Ciaran. It was first considered in September 2020, having collected 10,692 signatures. The committee last considered this petition on 15 December and agreed to write to Natural Resources Wales to seek an update on the marine licencing process for this application and a response to the further comments made by the petitioners. This followed a debate held in October 2020. A response from NRW has been received. Correspondence has been received from Professor Keith Barnham of Imperial College London, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.

09:30

Well, given that there's a public consultation coming up, I think that it would be wise for us to pass this petition on to the successor committee so that the whole petition can be completed. I know Cian Ciaran submitted this petition a long time ago, and it has been in the system for quite a long time, but it is important that the issues that have been brought to light by this petition are given a full public airing, and I think that if the future committee could look at the situation as it is at that point in time in the future then at least this petition is being seen through to its conclusion and not being lost at this stage.

And I think we've lost Neil from the committee meeting. 

Item 3.6, P-05-1010, 'An independent inquiry into the 2020 flooding in Rhondda Cynon Taf so that lessons are learned'. This petition was submitted by Heledd Fychan, and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 6,017 signatures. The committee last discussed this petition on 12 January, when it considered the issues raised in the recent Plenary debate and the further correspondence received from the petitioner and agreed to write to the Minister for Education to seek a response to the questions asked by the petitioner about what the current reports being produced will provide, and also to Natural Resources Wales to seek its response to the petition, the further information received to date and it's view on the possible role that an independent inquiry could play. Responses have been received and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would Members like to go forward? And it's nice to see Neil back.

My computer has crashed. It took me a few minutes to get back in.

It happens. The joys of working in this way. Right, Leanne.

Well, I support this petition being passed on to the successor committee. I do need to declare an interest. I know the petitioner, I've been involved in this campaign, it affects my constituency; I'm extremely frustrated with the way the process has been so slow. The section 19 reports are crucial. The Government tell us that there's no further inquiry that can happen until those reports are published. We were expecting those reports to be published in under a year of the flooding event, which was February 2020. We're now told that it's likely that those reports won't be published until after the election, which is, in my view, questionable.

So, we want to see those section 19 reports. I think that we need to ensure that the pressure is maintained on the Government for an independent inquiry, because, remember, those section 19 reports are led by the local authority that had a role and has a future role in all of this. So, an independent eye on all of this is crucial. We don't believe that the section 19 process will deliver what the people want and need in terms of security and guarantees for the future, and that's why this petition has been submitted—so that we can put the pressure for an independent inquiry. So, I would be very grateful to Members of the committee if you would agree to pass this petition on to the successor committee. This isn't an issue that's going away. People are still frightened every time it rains, and that is something that is unacceptable to me as their local representative, and it's something I will want to come back to in the future.

Chair, can I raise a point of order, because my computer just switched off moments before, I would imagine, we talked about the Hinkley Point petition? 

09:35

I had matters to raise on it, though, and it wasn't my fault that the computer decided to switch itself off.

Clerk, do you want to read through our deliberations on it? I think then you can hear the decisions that the committee—

I did want to propose that the committee write to NRW. I don't know if you—

Okay, Chair. Yes, so the committee noted that there is a consultation that would be coming up on—well, once the marine licence is submitted, the application for the marine licence is submitted, by EDF Energy. So, the committee's decision was to pass the petition on to its successor committee so that it was in a position to consider what the latest situation would be at that time.

Okay. Can I add to that, Chair, because I'd just like to request the committee write to NRW? There are some really pressing points that I wanted to raise.

Thanks; I really appreciate that. The issue is that, if you read the papers, 0.36 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium was produced by civil reactors; it's said that most of that took place in Hinkley Point A. In 1969, in the papers, we see that there was a very serious accident in the cooling pond. In the papers, as well, report NRPB-M173 proved—

Yes, can I just—? Can I just ask what additions you would like to the actions that the committee took?

I'd like to refer everyone to page 200 and the questions that—

Neil, can I just say we can't set a precedent for any petition in particular? We're going through these in exactly the same manner. Decisions have—

My computer switched off. I lost the meeting, Chair. I was taken out of the meeting by technology, and—

Yes, and so I've allowed—. I'm saying: do you want to add to the proposals that have been made?

I'm explaining why I think it's really essential that we write to NRW and ask the questions that are on page 200, because the science relied upon previously is demonstrably false. They've erred, they've made mistakes, and the questions that the petitioners want put I think that we should actually ask of NRW.

Right. Members—committee members—are you happy for another letter to go to NRW? But can I just make the point again that we deal with all the petitions, figuratively speaking, in a particular—with protocols, and a decision has been taken? I'm asking committee members: do you wish for another letter to go to NRW?

Can I tell you on what, though? Because this is public health. It was proven that the plutonium leaked and noted—

Here, you've got eminent professors now saying that testing to be carried out is not adequate and they're asking NRW to commission a CR-39 TASTRAK process—

Okay. I'm going to ask the committee members one more time: would you like a letter to go to NRW or are you content with the actions that you said earlier?

Chair, I have no objection to a letter going to NRW, if there are further questions that can be asked that enable a future committee to have more information. And, equally, a future committee could write in the aftermath of the consultation. I don't feel strongly either way, to be honest with you. If other Members feel that writing for more information would help the future committee, then I see no reason why we shouldn't.

I think if there are some—. I've just glanced at the questions, just to remind myself. I think it's a fair suggestion that Neil's made to write to NRW and to ask the questions. Yes, I would support it.

Thanks. Thanks, Neil.

Item 3.7, P-05-1079, 'Safeguard Kenfig Nature Reserve using compulsory purchase powers'.

This petition was submitted by Steven Preddy and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 8,435 signatures. So, the committee considered the petition for the first time on 26 January, agreeing to write to Natural Resources Wales and the Kenfig Corporation Trust to seek their views and ask for further information before considering whether there is any further action that it could take on the petition. Responses have been received. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information, but indicated that he was not able to ahead of this meeting. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

09:40

Well, given that there have been steps to establish a management agreement and the recent appointment of a reserve manager there, then it's unlikely that the compulsory purchase option is going to be an appropriate solution. So, I think we can—. And given the petitioner's not been able to get back to us in time and this is our last meeting, then I think we can close this petition and thank the petitioner.

Yes. Item 3.8, P-05-1097, 'Ban game bird cages'. This petition was submitted by the League Against Cruel Sports and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 5,287 signatures. So, we considered this petition for the first time on 26 January and agreed to write back to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to share the further comments provided by the petitioners, seek an update on the review of the code of practice and any further research being considered, and also to seek clarification as to why the Minister is not minded to prohibit the practice of caging birds for this purpose. A response was received from the Minister on 23 February, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I suggest we refer this to the future Senedd Petitions Committee.

Item 3.9, P-05-960, 'Fund the funeral costs of all NHS staff who die from or with Covid-19'. This petition was submitted by Jane Henderson and Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 414 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 26 January and expressed its disappointment that a scheme of this type is not being taken forward by the Welsh Government. The committee agreed to write back to Minister for Health and Social Services to seek a more detailed explanation and information about the options that the Welsh Government has considered in relation to the practicalities and costs of establishing a scheme to pay the funeral costs for NHS workers who die from or with COVID-19. A response was received from the Minister on 5 March, and the petitioners have provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.

I'm deeply disappointed at the Government's response to this. I don't think that they've really, really given the best consideration about how they could do it. The petitioner has responded by saying that the scheme could be administered in the same way as life assurance payments are administered, so there are ways around this if the Government really wanted to go down this road. But I think we've taken this petition as far as we can now, and given this is the last meeting and given that we've got an election ahead of us and some of these issues may well play out within the election—you know, it's a perfect time for people to put pressure on politicians and political parties on questions like this and all the other issues that COVID has raised up to us. It's a real shame, because I think that we need to be able to demonstrate our gratitude to this group of workers who've kept us going for the last year, and this would have been one very good way of being able to do that as taxpayers. But the Government has chosen not to go down this road, and, as I say, I'm deeply disappointed, but I don't think there's anywhere further we can now take this. 

Thank you.

Item 3.10, P-05-964, 'Extend covid-19 financial support and paid leave to vulnerable and pregnant NHS wales bank workers'. The petition was submitted by David Adam Clarke and was first considered in June 2020, having collected 174 signatures. The committee last considered this petition on 12 January, agreeing to write back to the Minister to ask that he considers issuing clear communication to health boards and trusts that NHS bank workers who are unable to work during the pandemic due to pregnancy or clinical vulnerability should be financially supported during the current circumstances. A response from the Minister was received on 22 February. 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.

09:45

Again, I think the health Minister could have been a bit more forceful on this issue. We need people to work in the health service, we need people to work in social care, we need to be providing support around them so that they stay within the role and the role attracts new people to it as well. So, while the health boards and trusts have been asked to consider the individual circumstances, I don't think there's much further we can do as a committee. They've been asked to do that. I would have liked to have seen firmer Government action, but that isn't where we are, and at least this petition has put the issue on the agenda in a way that it wasn't before. So, congratulations to the petitioner on that, at the very least.

I fully agree with Leanne there, and just to add to that that it's my expectation, as well, that the likes of supermarkets and other areas where key workers have worked would also discuss those individual concerns of pregnant women.

Thank you. Item 3.11, P-05-1029, 'The Welsh Government should introduce mandatory testing of all passengers arriving at Cardiff Airport'. This petition was submitted by Lawrence Evans, and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 184 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 1 December, expressed disappointment at the lack of a response to the petition from the Welsh Government, and we agreed again to write to seek one. A response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 4 March. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not done so, and has not commented on either occasion that the petition has been considered by this committee. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think we're in a different position now. Obviously, there is a period of self-isolation and testing upon arrival that has to take place, so I think we should close the petition.

Fine. Item 3.12, P-05-1116, 'Prioritise people with a learning disability to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Wales'. This petition was submitted by John Gillibrand and was first considered in February 2021, having collected 1,913 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 9 February, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask for consideration to be given to offering priority vaccination to people with learning disabilities of all ages who are living in residential or care home settings. A response has not yet been received. However, the Government announced on 24 February that people with a learning disability or severe mental illness are now being prioritised in the vaccine roll-out, following updated advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. 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 go forward? Leanne.

Can I first of all say congratulations—llongyfarchiadau—to John Gillibrand, who's run this campaign on behalf of his son Adam? It's a real successful campaign. The debate has changed as a result of this, and John and his family deserve congratulations on that. There is a wider question that's arisen as a result of this petition, and that's the issue of vaccinating people who live in shared accommodation. Now, the JCVI have been very strict about following the age groups rather than any sort of professions, but our local health board has agreed to look at this question in women's aid refuges and other shared accommodation, because the spread of COVID is much more likely in those settings, where people are living and sharing kitchen facilities, living room facilities and that kind of thing, and often it can be a transient population. So, as a result of John's petition, this wider issue of shared accommodation and vaccine prioritisation is being considered by my local health board, anyway, and they've agreed to feed that in. So, this could be something that is considered on an all-Wales basis. So, although John has been successful in this area of this petition specifically, there have been wider repercussions as well. So, congratulations all round. 

09:50

Thank you. Item 3.13, P-05-1013, 'Provide financial support for self-employed individuals within the Welsh live music industry'. This petition was submitted by Peter Phillips and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 189 signatures. We considered this on 12 January, and agreed to write back to the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism to express concerns about the current lack of support available to self-employed individuals within the live music sector and to ask for urgent consideration to be given to how the support provided through the freelancer fund could be increased, and also to await the Welsh Government's response to recommendation 5 of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee's recent report into the impact of COVID-19 on the arts. A response was received from the Deputy Minister on 12 February and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Leanne. 

I think the point to this is that previous funds have not been able to be claimed by certain groups of entertainers, and that's been the problem here, really. Now, I'm glad that the culture committee is looking at this. The Government have yet to respond to that report, so it's not something that's a done deal at this stage, but the Government's response to the petition hasn't really got to the crux of the question. I don't think this is something that is going to go away. The entertainment industry is going to be out of work for a considerable time yet. I would like to follow this up with the culture committee in terms of the Government's response, really. 

Now, it's difficult, given we're at the stage we are—it's the last meeting, it's unlikely that the successor committee will meet until the summer, and it's very likely that the situation will hopefully have changed by then—but if there's anything further we can do as a committee to write back to the Government to make these specific points that the petitioner has made with regard to this first come, first served nature and the subjective criteria in terms of the freelancer fund—. These are crucial questions to people who work in the entertainment industry, and often at the lower end of the scale of the entertainment industry as well. So, they're a group of people who really deserve our support, I think. 

Okay. All agreed? Thank you. 

The following two items will be considered together: 3.14 and 3.15. Item 3.14, P-05-1080, 'Introduce anti-racist teaching materials to children in schools in Wales to reduce hate crimes'. This petition was submitted by Fatima Altaiy and was first considered in January 2021, having collected 4,053 signatures. Item 3.15, P-05-1000, 'Make it compulsory for Black and POC UK histories to be taught in the Welsh education curriculum'. The petition was submitted by Angharad Owen and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 34,736 signatures. Petition P-05-1000 was debated in Plenary on 4 November 2020. The committee considered petition P-05-1080 on 12 January, and agreed to await further comments from the petitioner, following the response from the Minister for Education, and to write to Show Racism the Red Card to ask them for further information about their work in relation to racism and the Welsh education system referenced in the 'Racism in Wales?' report. A response was received from Show Racism the Red Card Wales on 26 February. The petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but have not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Leanne. 

These two petitions are issues I'm keen for us not to lose. Although the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill has been passed now by the Senedd and Professor Charlotte Williams is working with the Government to develop new teaching resources, I think the question of empire and actually teaching anti-racism, like the programme that Show Racism the Red Card do, is really, really important and shouldn't be lost. This petition has got a huge number of signatures, so it's clear that there are lots of people who want to have a change in the way that these issues are taught in school. And there will be a change, there's no doubt about that. The new curriculum will bring about a change, but a lot of this is in relation to the confidence that teachers have to challenge, to teach these issues and to discuss questions like empire when, let's face it, these are politically contentious issues; there are debates going on all the time around what the meaning of 'empire' is and so on. So, I'd like to keep this on the backburner if we can, because we've not seen the resources from Professor Charlotte Williams and we don't know exactly what anti-racism teaching is going to look like. I'll be certainly keeping a close eye on this, but I'm not sure whether or not at this stage we can take the actual petitions any further. I'd welcome the views of other Members on that.

09:55

Okay. Do all Members agree with that, or are there any contradictory arguments? Neil.

Okay. Item 3.16, P-05-1083, 'Protect leaseholders in Wales from paying for cladding remedial works'. This petition was submitted by Carl Tubbs, having collected 133 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 26 January, agreeing to write to the Welsh Government to clarify the value of any funding consequentials it has received as a result of spending on this issue by the UK Government and what this funding has been used for. We also agreed to write to the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee to share details of the petition with them, and to await the views of the petitioner. A response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 1 March. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Neil.

I'd like to pass this petition on to the next committee. I declare an interest, obviously, because I've campaigned on this extensively and still am campaigning. I think the people in such flats have been treated disgracefully, and I'd like the petition to be considered by the next committee.

Yes. On the economy and transport, 3.17, P-05-943, 'We call on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to secure improvements to the A487 between Gellilydan and Maentwrog'. This petition was submitted by Carron Jones and Sioned Wyn Williams and was first considered in March 2020, having collected 5,450 signatures. The committee considered the petition on 26 January, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Economy and Transport to ask for an update on the safety improvement works that were planned for this stretch of the A487, and for any information on further measures being considered. A response was received on 3 March. The petitioners were offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but have not yet done so. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thank you, Chair. I think we need to note the safety work that has been carried out since the petition was submitted, and that does include a new 40 mph speed limit. The Minister has also given assurance that compliance with the new speed limit and the need for further safety improvements are currently being monitored, so I don't think there's much more the committee can do except congratulate the petitioner and close the petition.

Thank you. Item 3.18, P-05-1061, 'Give financial support to Pet Boarding businesses'. The petition was submitted by Ryan Lee and was first considered in December 2020, having collected 2,144 signatures. The committee last considered this petition on 9 February, agreeing to write back to the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales to call for the eligibility criteria for restrictions business fund grants to be amended so that they can be available for pet boarding businesses. A response was received on 3 March and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.

Thanks, Chair. I think it's the same—a successful petition, so 'well done' to the petitioner. They've expressed their satisfaction as well with the committee, so good work all round, and the only suggestion I would have is to close this petition, and if there are any similar businesses, to contact their local Members if they're having difficulties and they can raise it directly with the local authority.

10:00
4. Adolygiad o ddeisebau sydd o dan ystyriaeth
4. Review of petitions under consideration

So, we now move to item 4 on the agenda, review of petitions under consideration at the end of the fifth Senedd. At its meeting on 26 January, the committee agreed to consider a paper containing an overview of the petitions currently under consideration and to advise on the further action it could take at its final meeting. The committee also agreed that it would aim to resolve the majority of petitions in this Senedd and to pass on only a limited number for continued consideration in the next Senedd, for example, where it is awaiting a specific update or where it has not yet been able to scrutinise the issue in detail due to time constraints. A paper containing a summary and advice on the course of action the committee may wish to take has been produced and circulated in advance to Members for consideration and agreement.

So, I invite Members to consider and agree the advice contained in the 'Review of petitions under consideration at the end of the Fifth Senedd' paper, and which actions you wish to propose. I'll just get my—. So, we need clear instructions now as to how you wish to go forward. 

So, we have P-05-859, 'Provide Child Houses in Wales for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse'. Clerk.

Sorry, Chair, to interrupt. I think in the interests of time in this meeting, there's a substantial number of petitions contained in that paper. I wonder whether the committee simply wants to either agree with the proposals that have been made en masse, or whether there are any particular petitions contained in that paper, either in annex A, where the petitions are advised to be carried forward to the next Senedd, or in annex B of that paper, where petitions are advised that they may be closed at this point—whether there are any specific petitions that Members would want to draw attention to.

Thank you, Chair. I agree with the suggestions put forward by the clerking team.

Yes. Okay, so there's no wish to go through these individually. Okay. Do all Members agree—

—with those recommendations contained with the paper? Yes?

5. Papurau i’w nodi
5. Papers to note

We now move to papers to note, item 5. The committee's received several items of correspondence in relation to petitions that have previously been closed. These were provided to the petitioners when they were received and have been included here so that they can be formally noted and published by the committee. Could I ask Members to note the correspondence you've received?

Thank you. So, that brings me to the Chair's closing statement. This is really tinged with some sadness, because the time's gone so quickly. I think it's fair to say that we've advocated over many, many petitions, and this now concludes the Petitions Committee’s public business in this particular Senedd.

So, it goes without saying, but I'm going to say it: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who has submitted and signed petitions over the term of this Senedd, as well as to everyone who has provided written and oral evidence to us. The engagement, particularly during these difficult times of COVID-19, I just think has been absolutely phenomenal. 

We have now considered a total of 473 new petitions during the last five years, and those petitions have collectively received more than 1 million signatures. That's 1 million people engaging with our process. During this time, of course, we have seen a significant growth in the use of the Senedd’s petitions process, as well as some very notable successes arising from petitions. These will, of course, be covered in a legacy report that we will publish before the end of this term. I would also like to thank the Members who have served on this particular committee during this Senedd, including my two predecessors as Chair of the committee, Mike Hedges and David Rowlands.

Finally, can I also thank all the staff who have supported the committee during that time? This includes those in broadcasting, IT, translation and the Record of Proceedings, the research and legal services, communications and our clerking team, to include Graeme, of course, who is sat there—thank you, Graeme, to you and your team. I just think you've been amazing. And obviously my committee, all of you here now today. I honestly do believe that it's been quite heartwarming to see how people have trusted us with their petitions to come forward and to take action on them, and I just think the engagement has been superb. So, thank you fellow committee members. 

10:05
6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod
6. 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(vi).

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

So, I now move to item 6 on the agenda, a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for the following business.

My final words are that I wish the succeeding committee all the very best going forward, and I hope that they get the fulfilment out of chairing and being a member of this committee that I have during this term. Thank you. Neil, you wanted to speak.

I just want to move a formal vote of thanks to you, Chair, for the way you've chaired the committee—mostly. [Laughter.]

We got through it. We got through the business as we intended. Thank you, Neil, and thank you again. So, I propose in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of today's meeting. Are Members content?

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:07.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:07.