Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee04/07/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain MS|
|Jane Dodds MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Joel James MS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Altaf Hussain yn ystod eitemau 6, 7, 8 a 9|
|Substitute for Altan Hussain during items 6, 7, 8 and 9|
|Ken Skates MS|
|Peredur Owen Griffiths MS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Sioned Williams yn ystod eitemau 6, 7, 8 a 9|
|Substitute for Sioned Williams during items 6, 7, 8 and 9|
|Sarah Murphy MS|
|Sioned Williams MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Ben Cottam||Ffederasiwn Busnesau Bach|
|Federation of Small Businesses|
|Darren Williams||Undeb y Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus a Masnachol|
|Public and Commercial Services Union|
|Dr Victoria Winckler||Sefydliad Bevan|
|Johanna Robinson||Yr ymgeisydd a ffefrir ar gyfer rôl y Cynghorydd Cenedlaethol ar gyfer Trais yn erbyn Menywod, Trais ar sail Rhywedd, Cam-drin Domestig a Thrais Rhywiol,|
|Preferred candidate for the role of National Adviser for Violence against Women, Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence|
|Leighton Jenkins||CBI Cymru|
|Nisreen Mansour||Cyngres Undebau Llafur Cymru|
|Wales Trades Union Congress|
|Paul Slevin||Siambrau Cymru|
|Professor Phil Banfield||Cymdeithas Feddygol Prydain Cymru|
|British Medical Association Cymru Wales|
|Richard Selby||Sefydliad y Cyfarwyddwyr|
|Institute of Directors|
|Yasmin Khan||Yr ymgeisydd a ffefrir ar gyfer rôl y Cynghorydd Cenedlaethol ar gyfer Trais yn erbyn Menywod, Trais ar sail Rhywedd, Cam-drin Domestig a Thrais Rhywiol,|
|Preferred candidate for the role of National Adviser for Violence against Women, Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 11:00.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 11:00.
Good morning. Welcome to the Equality and Social Justice Committee, where we've got a full agenda throughout the day. First of all, I'd just like to welcome everybody to the meeting, which is a bilingual meeting, being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and there is simultaneous translation from Welsh to English. I've had apologies from Sarah Murphy for this morning's meeting. She will be joined this afternoon by Peredur Owen Griffiths and Joel James, who will be substituting for Sioned Williams and Altaf Hussain.
Before we proceed any further, I wondered if—. I'd like to declare my interest in relation to this afternoon's scrutiny sessions, that I'm a member of Unite the Union, and I just wondered if any other Members wished to make a declaration. Ken Skates.
Thanks, Chair. I'd like to declare that I am also a member of Unite the Union.
If—[Inaudible.]—meeting for any reason, I propose—[Inaudible.]—.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:01 a 11:03.
The meeting adjourned between 11:01 and 11:03.
Apologies. Just continuing the meeting of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, and I just wanted to ask Members to note the letter from the Minister for Social Justice regarding an update on recommendation 7 of our report, 'Debt and the pandemic'.
Now, I'd very much like to welcome both Johanna Robinson and Yasmin Khan to our pre-appointment hearing for the national adviser for violence against women, gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. First of all, if I could ask both of you just to give a very brief summary of your understanding of the existing gender-based violence landscape across Wales and how you think it differs to other parts of the UK. And if I could start with you, Johanna.
Good morning, everyone. I'm really, really happy to be here today. Obviously, in Wales we have the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015, which is the most significant point at which things are different, and which reinforces the obligations of our public services and all associated organisations and stakeholders, and then the strategy that comes from that. We also have the blueprint, which has just been written, which outlines how we will deliver against the Act in Wales, but also that blueprint is cognisant of the wider, then, England and Wales obligations and legislation and strategies, of which there are many.
Also, the difference between those strategies would be that, in Wales, we do have obviously the violence against women and gender-based violence obligations, domestic abuse and sexual violence, whereas the English or UK legislation is very much centred around single strands of things, a lot of it being heavily based around domestic abuse, and obviously we have those obligations that are different to that. Also, the difference then would be that, further to that, there's a significant amount of work focusing on rape and sexual violence for police strategies and action plans, and that is then also incorporated in our Act as a whole.
So, there are things that are different in how they are outlined, but I think the obligations are similar and can be integrated together. So, we have in our strategy around the prioritisation of challenging attitudes, public awareness raising, early intervention, prevention and things around offenders. We can also see that in UK legislation. I think it just becomes hard, because it's in so many different places, but I think in Wales, I'm really proud that we have the Act, because it is still world leading, but also that we have the coherence that is brought together by the strategy and the blueprint. I'll stop there to allow Yasmin to come in, but if there's anything further, obviously, I can come back.
Fine. Yasmin, would you like to just add your perspective on where we are at at the moment?
Yes. I think it's very fair to say that Wales is six years ahead of the work that is being considered at the England-Scotland level. Wales have been very clear in their direction in terms of purpose of our legislation being one of the frameworks—not the only framework—and as Johanna has highlighted, a national strategy really provides clear priorities on what we need to focus on in Wales.
Having said that, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which has been implemented this year, bears heavily on the criminal justice system, policing, new Orders, et cetera. I think it's really time that England and Wales became more joined up around some of those interventions that have an impact in Wales, and we are really tuned in with the domestic abuse commissioner, we're tuned in with the policing boards in Wales to ensure that that implementation can be achieved in the most effective way and making sure that survivors in Wales are articulated in any guidance, any change, et cetera. One such has been the introduction of the Health and Care Act 2022, which has been an implementation of the new legislation around virginity testing. It's been really clear about how Wales needs to be engaged and we need the guidance for relevant health bodies to see how it can be implemented.
So, it's a very interesting time in terms of Wales being quite ahead in terms of the interventions and the guidance being very clear on the purpose, but as Johanna's quite rightly highlighted, the approach that's been taken in England, where a violence against women and girls strategy has been developed, a domestic abuse strategy has been developed and there's going to be a victims Bill next year, it's very important for the Welsh landscape to be truly represented in that guidance and in that awareness, and there's so much work that needs to be done to connect the two dots together. We have some brilliant specialist providers in Wales who keep us informed, who keep us relevant to the concerns of the survivors, whether it be through refuge accommodation, whether it be support for migrant women, so it's very important to understand the landscapes, but I really feel the emphasis on what survivors and victims are telling in Wales.
Thank you for that. Just picking up on one aspect of the strategy that is slightly more challenging for us in Wales, which is that policing is not a devolved responsibility to the Welsh Parliament and Welsh Ministers. The report published last Thursday by the College of Policing, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, and the Independent Office for Police Conduct highlights that not all forces are treating the domestic violence cases involving their own staff in the way that victims deserve. What would be your advice to Jane Hutt on how to respond to this report? Johanna, would you like to go first?
Yes. That was something I was going to add about where things are at, and criminal justice being one where we know there may need to be significant improvements. There have been lots of bits of information and reports around poor outcomes in criminal justice, and then things such as this, which show that there needs to be a significant cultural shift in treating all victims in the same way, regardless of who the perpetrator is. So, I think I would be asking Jane Hutt for the police forces to inform her of how they are going to do that. They need to be the ones who come up with the solutions, and then it's for Jane, and for the likes of Yasmin and myself and the whole team, then, to work around that.
But it should be that there is a higher level of scrutiny of those cases. There will be, in every single police force, a dip-sampling approach to investigations, and I would suggest that there wouldn't be a large number of cases coming forward where the perpetrator would be somebody working within the police force, and each and every single one of those should face the higher scrutiny within that police force. And, obviously, the police and crime commissioners and their offices can also come in on this, because that's also their role.
It's to provide that scrutiny and understanding, to make sure that everything is being done in that case for the victim, recognising the sensitivity around that case, particularly depending on where that person works, or the relationships and the knowledge around that relationship; that they're completely protected and that everything is put in place to safeguard them, and that the person who's been accused, whilst it has be an objective process, that that follows every single step of the way that it needs to; that protection orders are put in place, as they might be for any other victim; and that the people who are also investigating that case can have a level of objectivity. There are certain cases that would be referred immediately to the IOPC. Is that what needs to happen, and other police forces investigating those cases? So, I think decisions need to be made on those kinds of things, but I would want to work with police forces to ensure that there is consistent approach that covers all of those things, so that both victims and the public can be reassured that what is being done is the best and of the highest quality, and safeguarding everybody concerned.
Thank you for that. Yasmin, in your written evidence, you highlighted the 'Invisible survivors: the long wait for justice' report that was published by the Halo Project, which you're the director of. Could you tell us how you've advised Jane Hutt how to improve the police response to BAME victims of sexual abuse in Wales, in light of your national expertise on this subject?
It's something that I'm really pleased to say the Minister has had a lot of involvement in the intersectionality approach that needs to be implemented across Wales, making sure that survivors, irrespective of their ethnicity, their race, their culture, are provided the same safety measures as those who are not, and that applies to people who are from rural areas as well. We need to move away from this postcode lottery and a different approach to that seems to be the case, as part of the findings of the super-complaint I've provided.
In terms of the advice given to the Minister, it's very, very clear. It's about, 'We need to understand what the picture is in Wales,' and it's really important that the Wales taskforce, which have got the four police forces together, really come together to look at these very key issues. So, we already have a mechanism in place. It's also been alive to community networks, third sector specialist organisations, who are constantly supporting victims, feeding information—very important information—about the disparity in levels of service, and making sure that we have evidence around that, and that has been provided through a number of forums.
There has been some considerable work done in Wales, no more so with the 'Uncharted Territory' report that's sat with the abuse of migrant women. So, there's so much work that's been done, it's just about bringing that picture together, so we've got a very sound evidence base, we can provide information to the Minister, and she can be aware. Because police forces, at this particular stage, following the Sarah Everard murder, need to really increase that public confidence within communities, so that victims who are experiencing abuse, irrespective of where they're receiving it, know that their case will be dealt with with respect and dignity, as part of the Nolan principles, and that's something that is very, very important to victims and survivors across Wales.
Thank you. I'm going to hand over to one of the other Members who wants to ask you questions about your joint proposed role. Sioned Williams.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Bore da i chi. Cwestiynau sydd gen i am eich rôl a hefyd am sut rŷch chi'n mynd i sicrhau eich annibyniaeth—annibyniaeth eich rôl—mewn perthynas â'ch gwaith gyda'r Llywodraeth. Yasmin, wrth gwrs, rŷch chi wedi bod yn y rôl yma'n barod, felly, os gallaf i ofyn i chi yn gyntaf: a allwch chi roi enghraifft i ni o sut rŷch chi wedi herio'r Llywodraeth a'u gwthio nhw o ran y blaenoriaethau sydd angen bod yn strategaeth VAWDASV?
Thank you very much, Chair. Good morning to both of you. I have questions about your role and also how you are going to ensure your independence and the independence of your role with regard to your work with the Government. Yasmin, of course, you've been in this role already so, can I ask you first of all whether you can give us an example of how you have challenged the Government and urged them forward in terms of the priorities that need to be included in the VAWDASV strategy, please?
Yes. One of the examples that comes to mind is the work that was being completed around sustainable funding guidance, because we wanted to have a framework in place for Wales so that commissioning of VAWDASV services was fit for purpose and so that services that were commissioned to deliver services could do so in the way that the guidance has outlined.
One of the things that was very important was that the current mechanisms were just not working effectively. So, one of the proposals that I put forward to the Minister and advised the Welsh Government on was that there needs to be a separate, very transparent way of commissioning VAWDASV services. So, I brought together all the commissioners, the police and crime commissioners, who support a considerable amount of victim support services, local councils and other regional commissioning boards to explore where those gaps existed, because I didn't feel that the mechanisms worked as effectively as they possibly could. I pulled together the group, set out very clear guidance about what the benefits were around joint commissioning, co-commissioning, and becoming better at understanding what the needs of survivors are in local areas. As such, I wrote the paper, I provided the evidence base, I worked with commissioners to explore whether this approach would be the most effective way and if we could pool resources together to provide a longer term solution. And I felt that that was really one of the areas that took a little bit of time to come around to agreeing, but once the evidence was provided—. And actually, when we took it back to the specialist organisation that was receiving the funding, they explained that one set of reporting mechanisms and data sets would be better for them because they simply didn't have the resources to fire off six different reports to six different commissioners—it was wasting their time. So, I think that that is one particular area that I'm really keen to progress, going forward, about how we can become more effective, and then also start to understand where those gaps do exist in local areas.
Diolch yn fawr. A, Johanna, oes modd ichi ddisgrifio sut fyddech chi'n gwneud hyn—sut fyddech chi'n cefnogi ac yn herio'r Llywodraeth, yn enwedig, efallai, lle gallai fod yna wrthdaro buddiannau posib?
Thank you very much. And, Johanna, could you describe how you would do this—how would you support and challenge the Government, particularly, perhaps, where there could be a conflict of interest potentially?
Yes. I have worked in roles that have required a level of independence and scrutiny before, and I suppose the most relevant would be working for the police and crime commissioner as head of strategy. So, I'm very comfortable in that space of both support and challenge. I think that it's really important to get the best from public services and others. So, I would be very much guided by my motivation for the role, which is for the public and for survivors and thinking of their best interests, first and foremost. I don't know—I'm struggling to think of where there might be a conflict of interest, but I think putting them at the heart of things makes a significant difference to that independence. But also, I think—. Sorry, could you ask the question again?
Ie, roeddwn i jest eisiau gofyn sut fyddech chi'n mynd ati i herio a chefnogi'r Llywodraeth er mwyn sicrhau eich bod chi yn cadw'ch annibyniaeth chi, fel rhywun sy'n cynghori'r Llywodraeth. Efallai gallech chi feddwl hefyd ynglŷn â sut fyddech chi'n gweithio gyda phwyllgorau'r Senedd ac Aelodau eraill o'r Senedd, yn ogystal â'r Llywodraeth.
Yes, I just wanted to know how you would go about supporting and challenging the Government to ensure that you maintain your own independence, as someone who advises the Government. Perhaps you could also think about how you would work with Senedd committees and other Members of the Senedd, as well as the Government.
I suppose, going back to the things that hold everything together around the strategy and the blueprint, and understanding what the evidence base is for all of those, and where things are at, I would say all of that independence and support and insight and challenge has to be based on that. That evidence base needs to come from many different sources. So, that will be survivors themselves, and it would also be data, it'll be, potentially, deep-dives into certain things, it will be reports from both the national board and then the regional boards, and I know that there's work being done to create better structures there, which will also improve that accountability. It's looking at those national indicators. So, that would be the guidance, wouldn't it, for how things are going, and then I would be expecting to respond to that. And that might be, then, through further conversations with committee members, with specialist organisations, with public services as key stakeholders, to understand that further and, potentially, depending on how developed something needed to be, as Yasmin has outlined, around a report and those kinds of things—the production of that—working with the team as well.
And then I would expect to be doing a lot of things that would make sure that it was a real expert opinion, and also to provide that real guidance as to how things are going and to understand that further, and, where required, be asking for more of that evidence base. I would think, to go back to Jenny's first question, when we want to understand the picture, we don't have enough of that evidence base at the moment. So, there's talk of a repository of knowledge, and some of that repository of knowledge has to be about what the activity is at the moment. You know, when we look at criminal justice outcomes, there'll be lots of things that sit under that. What does that look like when we're looking at, as far as I can see, data around people who share equality characteristics? We don't have enough information about that, so I could say, at this point, the comment is that we need to understand it, and that would be the call to action for all of us, to be able to make sure that we all understand things. So, that would be my support to the committee: how do we understand what's going on better, because I don't think we do understand enough at the moment? And then, when those things highlight some issues, what are we going to do about it? I would very much hope to work collegiately with everybody, so sharing the vision that abuse is not tolerated in Wales—that we do that collectively first before it has to be that significant level of challenge. But if it needs to be, then so be it, and that's what has to happen. But there are ways to do that, and, as I say, I would want to have a building picture first, so we really highlight and, I would hope, that we will understand, through national indicators and all of these other things, what the significant areas are that are behind when we look at the ambition of delivering the Act and the strategy, and that has to be the driver. And there are things that have been put as priorities, so those are the things that we start with. But there are lots of things that we need to work towards to be able to deliver the strategy. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you. That's very interesting and useful. Ken Skates has a question, following up on that.
Yes. Thanks, Chair. Just with regard to expertise, are you confident that you have sufficient expertise in order to scrutinise implementation of the new strategy, and specifically scrutinise how the Welsh Government makes its funding decisions, ensuring that all money is used to deliver priorities and provide also value for money? Are you confident you have that expertise?
Yes, I do. I feel I have the expertise. Would you like me to expand on how I have it?
Yes. Thank you.
I have spent over 20 years working around related areas, in Wales, in England and overseas. Much of that has been around people who are minoritised and who face very specific experiences. I started in service delivery, working with disabled adults, but I moved to working with people who are refugees, as I say, both in England and overseas. Many of those were women who had experienced sexual violence in war and then further domestic abuse within refugee camps, and I supported those people. I've worked with women exploited through sex work—all different kinds of service delivery. And then, early on, I decided to develop expertise specifically more around sexual assault, and I worked in a sexual assault referral centre. And then I moved to be national development manager for the Survivors Trust, and there I had true exposure, I suppose, to policy, strategy, legislation, Government and so on, and I was involved in the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, and so liaising with Theresa May, who was then Home Secretary, and delivered as the Wales representative for that for a significant period of time. Around that time also was the implementation of the VAWDASV Act itself, so I then was recognised as an expert in sexual violence and was asked to support implementation around those things.
Further, around the particular scrutiny, as I've outlined, I have significant experience of working within policing, both for police and a police and crime commissioner, and developed things around survivor engagement. I also led on the development of performance frameworks, so not specifically for the areas of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence, but for whole police force performance, so I understand scrutiny completely. I'm able to lead it, to advise on it, to develop reports about it. I understand looking at data and all of those kinds of things that sit behind it, so I'm very comfortable with that.
And then, most recently, I've gone back to service delivery, and I understand the commissioning processes and also—sorry to go back—within a police and crime commissioner's office, I've led on commissioning activity as well. So, I think I have a significant coverage of all of the different layers that are required for the role and am able to do all of them.
That is, obviously, further assisted by my own commitment, and I have been quite open in my personal statement in my application that I'm a survivor of rape. That doesn't mean that I'm an expert on everybody's experience; it means that I have my own experience and I understand what that is, and I think it's really important that that is also understood as a level of expertise and that people who have their own lived experience are able to bring something to the role that enhances that understanding, but also that commitment that other survivors need to be heard within this. Thank you.
Thank you. Yasmin.
I've provided evidence for the Home Office's forced marriage unit. I've been involved in the criminalisation legislation and I've been a member of the expert panel for hymenoplasty and virginity testing, which has just been passed in the last few months. I'm also working with the national police lead for domestic abuse around their programme of engaging with diverse groups, and I am also a board member for a university and a local enterprise partnership. So, I'm hoping that the expertise, alongside my previous experience of a national adviser role, can put me in good stead going forward and learning from some of those lessons over the last four years. The pandemic has really put us in a different light. We've had a much better engagement vehicle through the online meetings with our third sector specialists, who are really the real experts about where those gaps are, what the priorities need to be and where the focus needs to be, also.
Also, I've been involved in the first violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence ministerial board just pre pandemic. Unfortunately, it didn't proceed after that, but I'm really keen that the new national oversight board has been established with the Minister, and that all the key players are on that as well, so I'm confident that that will provide that expertise. The experience as well is something that I'm hoping will be able to shine through.
Thank you, both. Thanks, Chair.
Okay. Back to Sioned Williams.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Jest cwestiwn gen i yn fwy penodol ar eich rôl chi. Mae'r ddwy ohonoch chi wedi sôn am rai o'r blaenoriaethau a'r amcanion sydd gyda chi o ran y rôl. Hoffwn i wybod sut ŷch chi'n mynd i gydbwyso'r blaenoriaethau yma gyda'r blaenoriaethau sydd wedi cael eu nodi yn y strategaeth VAWDASV newydd. O ran y strategaeth newydd, beth yn eich barn chi yw cryfderau a gwendidau yr hyn glywon ni gan y Gweinidog yr wythnos diwethaf?
Thank you, Chair. Just one more specific question from me with regard to your role. Both of you have talked about some of the priorities and the objectives that you have in terms of the role. I'd like to know how you are going to strike a balance between these priorities and the priorities that have been outlined in the new VAWDASV strategy. In terms of the new strategy, what, in your view, are the strengths and weaknesses of what we heard from the Minister last week?
Shall I go first? Yes. I think the strategy, having been involved in the consultation with the wider sector—so, the public sector, the specialist sectors and health boards, et cetera—and involved in a number of the workshops, I know it's been informed with purpose and with validity, so I'm really pleased in terms of the way that it looks and it shapes for the future. One of the weaknesses, to me, has to be the clarity on how we're going to achieve specific priorities. But I believe, truly, that the blueprint approach that has been referenced throughout the strategy, the now work of the policing partnership, the national oversight ministerial board and all those key stakeholders involved in that will really help us give some focus to children and young people, where it needs to be, but engage the correct partners, provide that clarity and approach that needs to be considered for women who have no recourse to public funding and making sure that women who are experiencing forced marriages or on the basis of abuse and female genital mutilation, as well as all those cultural harms we're starting hear about, can be placed within the strategy through those various work streams.
I think the strategy can only be as effective as its implementation, and that's why engaging those strategic partners through the oversight group, working with the policing board and the criminal justice agencies across England, looking at that new victims Bill that's coming up—. There's going to be a real timeline of strategies and legislation that are going to have an impact on Wales, and we need to make sure that we can be evolving with the strategy and it's flexible enough to ensure that public health boards are engaged where they need to be and that the national safeguarding board is engaged where it needs to be. We've been working on the single unified safeguarding review, which has been formidable in streamlining homicide reviews in Wales, and that came from eight separate reviews for a family that were grieving for an individual, but also the impact of the after-effects of her death by homicide.
So, there's considerable work that's going on. I think that co-ordination will be provided by the blueprint approach and all those sectors and stakeholders that are engaged not only, in Wales, through the regional commissioning boards and the regional VAWDASV boards, but also at a local level. I think that's absolutely key. We've got to keep the whole sector engaged and make sure that we can, through the survivors' voices, now have a separate piece of work through the scrutiny panel and make sure that we are constantly being informed and advised by their needs and what seems to be where the gaps are.
Diolch. Yasmin—sorry, Johanna.
So, I think the first part of your question is about striking a balance around the priorities and objectives. So, I think that is always going to be a challenge, isn't it? There's an ambition and a commitment, and it stretches across, obviously, those six different areas, some of which, obviously, integrate, but there's an amount of separation.
So, I think something that's been talked about so far a lot is a whole-system approach. So, I think, first of all, it needs to be understood what does that mean in relation to those six objectives and how do they interlink and intertwine and what needs to be delivered. We also need to think about the public health approach of understanding the problem and then building from there. And I think that would then create a sense of order around the delivery of those objectives and through to the delivery of the blueprint. When we look at what is the problem, for example, then we need to know that in order to be able to challenge attitudes and to develop appropriate training to do that early intervention and prevention. All of those things will stem from that. So, for me, that's the priority, and then, as Yasmin has said, around bringing those stakeholders in together.
There's been a significant challenge to date, and I don't know that it's been quite pinned down, about—. It's that whole-system approach, but the resource challenge, how are we going to deliver this with the resources that we have, and that has to be at the crux of the conversation for some of this, because some of it does cost money. Some of it, obviously, there's a scale of economy to it, but some of it is significant, so how are we going to do that? And some of that we have to be realistic about. So, that will also guide what are your objectives and priorities, because there will be things that will be more affordable or doable with the resources we have, and we also need some things to grow in order to be able to meet the challenge, and one of those things we have to have is public confidence to come forward to our services and for people to speak out, because without that we're not going to be able to do some of the other things, particularly holding abusers to account. So, some of that, I think, as I say, is to build on. What does that take in order for people to come forward? What does that mean in terms of holding abusers to account? You’re not going to get everybody to court, et cetera. So, how are we going to do that? So, that then has to be that scaled approach that builds that picture, so that you can get those final desired outcomes, which would be having people in court and held to account there. But, in some areas, such as forced marriage, FGM, we don’t have that at the moment, so we have to do that significant work first, which will be around those challenging attitudes.
And then I think around—. I’ve mentioned a bit around some of the strengths and weaknesses. I think some of the challenges are around, as I've said before, that resource, and there will be some tensions around how do we create equal access to services for victims whilst at the same time investing in holding perpetrators to account, and then also investing in an early intervention and prevention approach. I don’t see that as a weakness, but that is the significant challenge, and the push and pull factors around that will be significant, and some of the stakeholders and how they shape themselves around that, they’ll have different views.
So, some of those things have to be worked through, and we have to be realistic about how are we going to deliver them, and, as I’ve said, I think, in working out, when we talk about whole system or public health, what do we actually mean for the whole, and then for its parts, and work that through, and have that scaled approach. I think whilst we have the blueprint, that needs to be further developed into individual plans so we can see what that actually means and test that further. Because it’s very simple on the page—well, I say ‘simple’, but it’s quite straightforward on the page at the moment. We need to really, really be able to understand what that means and then have a level of scrutiny of that and test those to see what happens. I think up to now we haven’t had the accountability, maybe, as much as we would want to be able to demonstrate the full impact, but that’s something that I think we’ll need going forward. Thank you.
Thank you. Can I bring in Altaf Hussain at this point?
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, both of you, really. I have a few questions. The first question is to both of you. Now, we did talk about the priorities for your role, so what are your immediate priorities for the role, what outcomes would you plan to achieve, and how will you take this forward on a job-sharing basis?
Okay. Shall I start? I think it’s really important to have an idea of what you would do if you were appointed and what are the immediate priorities, because there are some very short-term ones that must be completed that need to be rolled over into this role, and that is, really, focusing on sustainable funding. It’s the core of victim services—longer term funding, looking at how we can work collaboratively. So, that remains a key focus of ours. I think it’s really important for me. Really, it has to be a priority. So, that’s the immediate priority.
The blueprint approach, which is the methodology, is a very clear ideology of what system change needs to happen, but, practically, those regional boards and those local councils need to understand better where they fit in. So, I really want to look at a mechanism in place for that locality- and that place-based policy, which is absolutely paramount if we’re going to effect the change that Wales has been so ambitious in striving towards. So, that’s key. For me, what I find missing has been the third sector—sorry, the non-governmental organisation sector—which is crucial to feeding in the information and data and survivors’ voices. So, I’m really keen to re-establish what we used to have in COVID, which was the regular meetings with the specialist sector. I want to establish very quickly a reference group. We have a strategic oversight group; we need another mechanism in place through a reference group consisting of survivors with lived experience, Welsh Women’s Aid, the members' organisations, sexual violence specialists, a refuge specialist, so we have an understanding and we can understand quickly where some gaps are, or, in north Wales, if there’s a particular problem, we need to involve north Wales partners.
What outcome I hope that will achieve will be very clear for me: we will see some kind of—. That system change can only be effective and enabled if we have those place-based policies that are effective to ensure victims get the service that they receive the first time they come, because victims should not be telling and navigating their way though services—local areas should have a very clear referral pathway of who to contact, who should be involved, and we've got to negate that responsibility from the survivor, which I feel is going to be the real outcome change that we are striving for in Wales. And I think that's going to take a lot of time, but we cannot achieve that by having a long-term goal for a blueprint approach and the national strategy that becomes changed every five years. We need to review that on an annual basis. What data sets do we have? How do we know that the training being provided has actually had an impact for the victim? Have we detected the risk at an earlier stage? Have children been prevented from violence in their home by working with the curriculum and looking at the new emphasis on keeping safe at home? How do we know that we are being effective in our interventions? And I think those milestones are really important, but the impact is just as important. So, having an annual review. We're already looking at local strategies and how they can be reviewed. Have local councils implemented childcare and adult care, social care referrals? How do we know from survivors that that has been effective?
So, short term, setting up a reference group and making sure that we've got—[Inaudible.]—and long term is having that data set—[Inaudible.]—that and making sure that we are working with survivors and the specialist sector, who, unfortunately, are overworked. They have been picking up the burden of much of the public services in some respects, when it comes to the aftercare of victims, and we need to make sure that they are resourced and that they are supported so that they can continue to provide those vital services.
And the third part was: how are you going to take it forward on a job-sharing basis?
I think I would love to sit down with Johanna. I have not met her before, but I have met—[Inaudible.]—through various guises. On how it has worked with me in the past with Nazir, although I had a very strong working relationship with him, we understood—we almost divided up the workload—'I'll be working on this particular aspect, and you can be working on that.' There needs to be overlap, absolutely, not only with reporting but also with some of the stronger voices we need to provide to survivors; I think it's really important that we both attend. And also with the specialist sector. So, looking at what we'd need to sort out in terms of priorities, looking at the partners we need to engage with and working across each other's workloads to see where that synergy needs to lie. That's how it's worked effectively in the past.
Thank you very much. Johanna.
Yes. So, I'll answer the last part of your question first, to follow on from Yasmin. So, I view it in very much the same way, so I look forward to sitting down and having that conversation to work out how do we work on this together and make best use of our skills and expertise and be supportive of each other and basically get the job done. And I think that it will be by identifying the things that we need to share but also the things that we do separately.
In terms of immediate priorities, I suppose for me, to be true to my word that I've come with that survivor perspective, it's to do the work around the survivor voice, which I know is a clear part of the plans, to make sure that that is central to everything that we do and that they have a significant part as the most important stakeholders in our work. But, further to that, I think, around making sure that we're doing—. We've started on the journey of early intervention and prevention: what does that mean and what's the most effective way to do that? So, I know that a priority in the delivery plan has been around public awareness raising, but are we targeting that in the right way, who is that going to? I'm sure an amount of work has happened already, so I'd need to understand that first, but what is the evidence base for how we're shaping that public awareness? Public awareness raising is a big thing. What exactly are we raising awareness about? Is it one element of the Act or of the experiences of people, and is there a particular group or are we talking a generalised public awareness raising?
To my mind, it should be identifying what are the key parts of our problem and do we understand that. So, also a significant priority has to be around understanding the national indicators, getting those in place and making sure also, as Yasmin has said, that the structures for the reporting of that around our regional structures and local structures but also the national partnership board—that the reporting of those things is appropriate for those places. We might not have all of those indicators together at once, but what are some key ones that we have available to us now that we can use then to create some of that understanding, which also then should feed through to our commissioning and what are we doing to shape around commissioning? There will be significant gaps in services across Wales, so what can be done about that? But that has to come from that evidence base and also that challenge to local areas and local commissioning groups around what they are doing about it. I think there needs to be some significant work around understanding how commissioning has been happening to date, how services are coming together, and has there been any advice on a local or regional level about those gaps, and, if the ambition is to have equal access to services, how are those local boards meeting that need, and what are they asking then of the national picture, of Welsh Government, in order for them to be able to provide those services on a local level.
I also think a priority has to be around understanding the intersectional experience, and, again, that goes back through to those national indicators and other ways that we can understand that, and survivor voice, to make sure that we are inclusive in everything that we do.
Thank you very much. Whilst many people will welcome the establishment of such a role, many will naturally ask how we will know if the role is successful. So, what will you see as success in this role, and how will it be measured? That is to you, Johanna, and I'll ask a separate question to Yasmin.
Okay. So, me first. Success in the role, on a really simple level, would be making a difference. It would be for both Yasmin and myself to be able to demonstrate what the difference is we have made as a result—so, when we're looking at all elements of delivery plans and the blueprint, what is our part in it and what are we expecting our impact and our outcomes to be in relation to that. So, if it's chairing a board or something along those lines, what's going to happen as an outcome of that board.
If we're saying that we are doing some level of challenge, I should be able to stand in front of you in a few months, six months or a year's time and be able to talk to you about what happens as a result of that challenge, why I did it, and what happened as a consequence of that. We've spoken of ambition and things, so I would be expecting to be able to say that we came up with something of an idea of what needed to change, this is how we helped shape that change and this is what happened as a result of that change, and that being positive for victims, survivors, services and the public in Wales. I would also be hoping that we will be able to say, through the reports of the different areas of work that we're doing, about those milestones—so, what we are heading towards and how far we have progressed against it.
And it will be our part, won't it, in the delivery of everything? The blueprint team that I know is being recruited at the moment, when they're talking about the delivery of that blueprint, they should be able to identify what we've done to contribute to that delivery of the blueprint. It should be visible that we are active, involved and engaged, and some of that will come from being a voice for the specialist sector, for survivors, to be able to bring that into the public space and make sure that they're truly represented.
Thank you, Johanna. And, Yasmin, how will we measure your success in this role? And to you, particularly, what has been the measurable success of the role so far in light of the fact that you have occupied this position for the last six years?
It's not six years, it's four years, but yes. And it was a very, very difficult four years, I have to say, because of the pandemic, and we can't lay a lot of responsibility on there, but the brilliant work that was started not by myself but the Welsh Government, and vision and ambition to make Wales the safest place in Europe and, in fact, the world, had started. We had the First Minister who was very clear, showed and provided very strong leadership in this, and the Minister for Social Justice also very committed to this area of work. And as a national adviser, reporting mechanisms through the national plan that we had was one way of identifying what difference had been made. But, for me, what's really important is to continue this journey to ensure that there is strong leadership and there's visibility on this area of work, and doing that through the Welsh Government with the Minister's support, and the role of national adviser, I think puts a very clear purpose about why this role was created. It was to ensure that public bodies were improving their response to victims of abuse.
How have we done that? We've done that by working with the Welsh Government to ensure that the risk journeys, the support pathways and the accommodation can be improved, can be fit for purpose, that the voices of victims who are from black and minoritised communities, who are different to those who are migrant women experiencing abuse, have been particularly highlighted, because of our experience on these matters. And, in continuing to do so, I think, it's really important that we change attitudes, that we challenge, where we need to, and only then can we really have a litmus test and say, 'The true indicator of success is whether Wales is actually a safer place for a woman to be'. Is a victim who comes forward and reports abuse treated with respect? Have we restored, with policing partners, the public confidence, which is at an all-time low? So, these are the basic indicators that we will be measured on in terms of how effective our role has been.
I truly believe that the journey has definitely started, but it needs to continue, so that we can ensure the outcome has been achieved for Wales being a safer place because services are well resourced and that we have provided that strategic leadership, and that join-up, because the role requires good dialogue with the Home Office in England. It requires really good partnership working with the domestic abuse commissioner and the victims' commissioner, and no more so than with the victims Bill being introduced in the next eight to 12 months. So, it's that leadership. I am constantly on Home Office groups in England, and I seem to be the only voice for Wales, and then I connect to the voices in Wales for those groups to be represented. Otherwise, how else are we going to be represented? It's through the role of the national adviser that that mechanism can be implemented and that voice can be articulated, because, in some places, it has been very lonely being the only Welsh representative. So, I think that needs to continue, and it needs to continue in a very strong manner.
Thank you, Yasmin. I'd now like to bring in Jane Dodds.
Thank you very much. This is a really quick question. I know we're coming close to the end, but I'm really interested in following on this issue of what does 'good' look like for you. What's your elevator pitch, literally? Can you tell us where you want to be? I know you've touched on this through responding a bit to Altaf's question, but what's your elevator pitch about what you want to see, what 'good' looks like for you over the time that you, if you are appointed, are in this position? Thank you very much. Diolch.
I'll go first. What would 'good' look like? 'Good' would look like, as Yasmin has said, that the ambition is that Wales is one of the safest places to be a woman, but that we have the tangible way of understanding what that is. So, we would have very active early intervention and prevention programmes, and we would be able to say that children and young people in Wales would have a concept of what that safety means, they would be able to articulate that and they would be able to practise it in everything they do; that we have understood that violence against women—male violence—is a significant issue and we have a national dialogue about that, and we also have things in place that we're doing something about it through schools, through workplaces, in the public domain, and, then, through to our services; that we're actually responding to people who've had those experiences; that we have a fully engaged third sector that feel that they are well resourced and are properly plugged in with our public services, and they're working together for that whole-system approach; that we understand that we work in a collective to provide services for survivors and victims and their families, that people know where those services are, that they have confidence in those services so they will go to them.
At one point, it would potentially look more negative. We'll have higher levels of reporting, and we'll have higher levels of people engaging with our public services and our specialist sector. They will be coming forward, and they will be reporting that they are getting the services they need at the time they need them. But also that we have then a strong survivor voice through things—that they are actively engaged at all levels, both in our services right through to the national partnership board, that their voice is heard and that they are central to it, and that, through the national indicators, we are able to demonstrate that difference that we are making across the whole of Wales, in all areas, for people with all kinds of experiences. And ultimately, at some point, we would be leading to fewer experiences for people, but it's a long way off that yet. But that people in Wales would understand, and we wouldn't be turning to people and asking them if they understood about experiences of domestic abuse and sexual violence—that people understand that, but they also understand their responsibilities to do something about it, that we don't have people who are silent witnesses to things, that people are calling out behaviours, but also that people are able to be managing their own experiences and do something about that. Thank you.
Thank you. And Yasmin.
I think, for me, what's really, really important is we know that it costs approximately £66 billion. That's what domestic abuse costs the economy across England and Wales. For me, what's really important is that if we're going to look at some kind of high-level ambition, I really believe that domestic abuse and sexual violence can be prevented, and I think if we take that preventative approach, like we did with the pandemic, and looked at it from a public health approach and looked at what the root cause was, we'd understand it better and therefore could prevent it. Those victims who come forward can be supported with well-resourced services, support services and accommodation, and then aftercare. We can build in that aftercare, counselling, therapy—it's all there in place. We still have such a high waiting list in Wales, and England, for counselling for victims of sexual abuse. That's a basic, fundamental requirement for a victim who is suffering, and if she's suffering and she's a mother, then her children are suffering, so that needs to change. And for me, it's really simple. It couldn't be more simple.
All the things that Johanna articulated are so important in terms of practical measures, but for me, if our work is truly done, then we will have in Wales zero tolerance to domestic abuse and sexual violence, and what I mean by that is people who see that in the street will call it out. People who see that at school will know what it looks like, and therefore seek help at the earliest stage, and when it does become apparent, we have a very strong message for perpetrators by holding them to account. I worked in many areas where there was zero tolerance to a particular crime on the street. We have heard, time and time again, why domestic abuse should be treated as a serious offence. I've been involved in domestic homicide reviews, which have been some of the loneliest places I've ever been, speaking on behalf of the victim, who was a victim of honour killing. We have to have that attitude change. We have to have zero tolerance to domestic abuse in Wales, and prevent it wherever it is—school, home, on the street and online. We're living in a very different time now. We only know what comes forward. We've got to look at preventing that. Once we understand prevalence, we have that zero-tolerance attitude, colleagues have a zero-tolerance attitude, people in the public have a zero-tolerance attitude, then, you know what, that job has been almost done.
Thank you. Back to you, Chair. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much indeed. Thank you both very much for your time and the energy with which you have answered our questions.
In terms of the public watching today, we are now about to move into private session, but we will be resuming our scrutiny of the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill at 1.30 p.m. So, if you wish to hear more about that, please join us at 1.30 p.m.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o eitemau 5 a 10 y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) ac (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 5 and 10 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
In the meantime, I wonder if I could ask Members to agree, under Standing Order 17.42, to exclude the public from the next item, item 5, and also for item 10 of the agenda, much later on this afternoon. I can see no disagreement.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:58.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:58.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 13:32.
The committee reconvened in public at 13:32.
Welcome back to the deliberations of the Equality and Social Justice Committee, where we're continuing our scrutiny of the social partnership and public procurement Bill. I'm very pleased to welcome our representatives of private sector employers, and perhaps you'd like to introduce yourselves when you first speak. Ken Skates is going to start off asking the questions.
Thanks, Chair. It's an absolute pleasure to see so many friends again after quite some time, and I'm going to begin by asking the question whether you think there is a need for this Bill and the reasons that you hold such a view, and also where this Bill stands in terms of priorities amongst your members. Is it registering; are they aware of it?
Who's going to go first? Is that Richard?
Looks like it. Richard Selby, national chair, Institute of Directors. Thank you for that. In terms of the Bill itself, it's an interesting one, really. Coming out of the pandemic, many of us understand the need to accelerate growth. We need to work together and collaborate. Whether we need a Bill to tell us to do that is a question that I would raise. Certainly, it's something that we would like the opportunity to formally work with Government, workers, and other employer organisations, but I suppose, talking to our members, the view of, 'Is the legislation necessary and is the cost return for it necessary?' is something that's been raised with us in the last week. That said, it does give us that formal opportunity. I think the other confusion that we've had between members is the bringing together of procurement and social partnership, and there is a bit of confusion, I suppose, as to why the two were together and not individually separate. Members were very keen on the procurement aspect and the clarity that that may provide for maximising the local pound in Wales—that's some of the feedback that we've had—and probably were more drawn to that element of the Bill than the SPC itself.
Very good. It's good to hear such a positive response from the Institute of Directors. Ben Cottam, would you like to go next?
Thanks very much. It's good to speak to you, all. My name's Ben Cottam. I'm head of Wales at the Federation of Small Businesses. As an organisation, we've been long involved in the social partnership and, as in common with many other organisations, I think we saw the value of the social partnership approach during the pandemic, where you had a particular threat that cut across business and society, and it was interesting, iterative and useful to come together with stakeholders that we wouldn't normally engage with.
In response to the consultation on the draft Bill, we did raise the question as to whether legislation was needed, certainly from FSB's perspective, from the perspective of bringing businesses and business organisations to the table, whether legislation was needed, given that we had been working effectively with a voluntary approach for many years now. I think there is a separate question as to whether there is legislation needed to provide consistency of organising the public sector, though, to achieve the duty and the aims of the Bill, and that's probably a little bit more peripheral to most of the conversations that my members would have.
On the point of whether this is registering, I think the blunt answer is 'no'. I have very, very few conversations, if any, that mention social partnership, other than the ones that we would initiate with our members. I think the concept of social partnership, particularly amongst smaller businesses, isn't particularly well understood. Where it becomes more practical and more understandable is the constituent elements of what social partnership seeks to achieve—so, for instance, fair work. We have been, I guess, to some extent, in a bit of a holding pattern for a consistent conversation for the deployment of fair work in Wales, and I think this Bill helps us organise ourselves to do that. Because among my membership, there is a real keenness to have that conversation about fair work, so legislation at least provides for that consistency, but the understanding of social partnership is very low from what we can see within small and medium-sized enterprises.
Thank you. Paul Slevin, what's the perspective of Chambers Wales?
Paul Slevin, chair of Chambers Wales. I'll try and avoid reiterating what my colleagues have already said, but I think you'll find that there's a pattern here. I'm going to try and separate the two Bills, if I can, a bit like Richard did, which is to say that there's a social partnership part of this and there's a procurement part. The social partnership is very low-mileage indeed. We cannot engage any of our members in that discussion. They don't see the value of it and they cannot see how it's going to contribute to their growth, their recovery and their resilience as we build businesses back going forward.
I think the philosophy of social partnership is something that is accepted, and I think we demonstrated that very powerfully right through the pandemic at various platforms within Welsh Government, both with yourself, Mr Skates, and with other Ministers, including the First Minister. The power of that combination on a very regular, very focused agenda, with set outcomes, actually achieved an awful lot. Some would advocate now that the problems that we have today are potentially as bad as, if not worse than, because we have less regulatory guidance and less fiscal support coming through to businesses, and that when you do raise the question about social partnership, people will always say, 'Well, how many discussions have you had about the cost of doing business crisis and the such like?' So, there's a bit of a mismatch going on at the moment in the sense that we came through the pandemic very successfully together, focused on one aspect, and it goes to prove that, actually, the social partnership concept works when you have a strong focal point, a strong agenda and the right people around the table to deliver the right results. Clearly, as the pandemic has ebbed away, that hasn't manifested itself, and, indeed, I think the last few social partnership council meetings have been postponed or cancelled.
In respect of procurement, yes, there is interest in the procurement Bill. Some of the questions that we've had are around: is this another procurement Bill? So, we know we've had a couple of iterations of this in the past, and I suppose what people are looking for is the difference here, which is: why does a social partnership approach to procurement make this one substantially different? Some of the nitty-gritty stuff in there is that businesses are concerned that this is a level of administration that they may not have the capacity to be able to deal with, particularly in respect of interpreting what the terms are. Because while it applies to the public sector, one has to consider, potentially, that large tranches of the private sector will be part of that supply chain. So, if we end up with a very complex set of terms and conditions as a result of that, then I think we've potentially put a layer of bureaucracy and work on top of businesses that will be hard to absorb.
And finally from me, we need to focus this, I think, in Wales, and I think we need to make sure that any procurement Bill that we have is creative enough to be able to give Welsh businesses a fair chance at that, because we're aware that there's quite a lot of stuff that's procured outside Wales that potentially could be procured inside Wales. And I think it's important that any Bill such as that actually accentuates the need for procurement in Wales. And if it's not immediately available, what are the processes in place to be able to encourage that supply chain to happen? So, can we have a little national onshoring process within Wales in order to be able to develop that?
Ken, have you got any further questions, or we'll move on to Jane Dodds?
I think Leighton has—
I need to say something, if that's okay.
I beg your pardon, Leighton. Sorry.
That's okay, don't worry, I'm sitting here very quietly. Just to say that I think that the Confederation of British Industry has clearly seen and our members have clearly seen that the health of the workforce and society in general and the economy are intrinsically linked; they're two sides of the same coin and you can't have one without the other. So, I would suggest that when we approach this legislation, for us, it's a realisation that a lot of the implementation will still be voluntary, there's not a lot that the Welsh Government can compel. So, I would try and develop a narrative around the business case for a lot of the principles and outcomes that we want to see, so that all organisations can see that this isn't a cost, this is an opportunity and it could actually save money if we adopt fair work principles and things like that. So, I think that's the first thing: be more positive about what's on offer here and what's changing.
I think the legislation, for us, solidifies what's here already. It's inevitably heavy with process and structures, because this is a first-of-its kind legislation in the UK; I don't think we'll be here again. But it's useful to do now, now that the Government has chosen to do it. I think, for us, it's about outcomes as well, and we've seen those things with the health and safety forum, as Ben has mentioned, and the social partnership council. We saw some really great examples in 2007—and I was in the room, sadly—at the social partnership council, where Peter Hain and Rhodri Morgan and businesses and unions got together and quite rapidly developed ProAct and ReAct. And that was phenomenal, I think everyone welcomed that and everyone liked the schemes that were implemented. So, there is something special about having businesses and employers and trade unions in a room that I think we need to pursue, and I think this legislation is right to pursue it.
Do any of you fear that we won't see tangible outcomes as a consequence of the Bill? And by 'tangible outcomes', I mean outcomes that are clearly going to benefit the well-being of Welsh citizens. Paul, Richard and Ben, I think.
I think that's always a risk, and it goes back to a point that I made earlier, which is if you set the outcomes very early on in line with the various stakeholders around the table, both the fair work agenda, the trade union agenda, the private sector agenda, et cetera, then you can hold the council to account on that, and I think the council should be held to account on that. And I know there are discussions taking place around the social partnership strengthening board and the optimisation board and the role that that has to play in respect of that, and I came off the meeting around that this morning. But if those two work in tandem together and work effectively, then I think you put Ministers in a position where, firstly, to Leighton's point, the economy and the welfare of Wales are intrinsically linked, as they are linked to businesses. And I think there has to be an acceptance within Welsh Government that business has a very key role to play in this structure, going forward.
Okay. And, Ben, yes.
Yes, if I could. I think there is a danger—and it goes back to Leighton's point about narrative—that we don't articulate to business what this seeks to do that is relevant to them. And even those bits of the—. I mean, obviously, this is, in legislation, a public sector duty that embeds behaviours that, as Leighton says, are relevant to the private sector, and yet there's a danger that that narrative is lost. And I would liken it to, if you look at the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, for instance, principally a public sector duty, but what we sought to do is to take that and interpret, for business, what those principles mean for businesses.
I think, unfortunately, though, at the front of this, what we haven't done is really understood the partners around the table and the value that they bring distinctively as different constituent parts of the community. So, for the purposes of the Bill, we as organisations are seen as employers, whereas, actually, that's one function—we are employer organisations, we represent private sector employers—but we also represent businesses, and, in formalising the duty and in formalising the structures of social partnership, my concern is that we create mechanisms that speak to social partnership and aren't nimble enough to respond to some of the other issues that are facing our members and facing the economy. So, I think that's where some of the threat lies, and it's making sure that, for the engagement with Welsh Government and other partners around the table, there is enough space to do the other areas of work that we need to, to make sure that we have a productive, growing, well-being economy.
Thank you. Richard.
So, I suppose, as a directors' institute, we look at fair work with the view that there's a crisis in terms of skills shortages—we're trying to recruit people. So, providing fair work is something that is commercially the right thing to do as well as morally the right thing to do at the moment. So, I think, building from what Leighton said, this is an opportunity in terms of getting that message out there. What I think we need to do with business is make it easy for people and to show that this isn't a bureaucratic opportunity to slow things down; we're actually going to make things better. Now, I think you can do that quite easily through the procurement, and I think that is really one of the greatest levers we have to make a huge change in people's lives. I think some of the statistics about 52 per cent of the £7 billion spent is in Wales—. Well, there's £3.5 billion that we've got to go at. Those sorts of statistics, and looking in a sophisticated way into our supply chains, identifying gaps in our supply chains, and where we can help companies within Wales, and entrepreneurs, to fill those voids and participate in the Welsh economy, to me, is where the value is and where we can get this right. You know, they talk about, within the documentation, how you would manage the community benefits. Well, there are platforms in construction that you can add to already. We don't need to add something new to the procurement landscape to make this happen; it's already there, and we just maybe need to tweak it a little bit so that people actually buy into it.
Where business is going forward, it isn't just about returning profits to shareholders. Yes, we've all got to make money, otherwise we're not going to be there to employ people, going forward, but there is a social requirement for us to give back to the community and to the environment. Directors are tuning in to this now, and if you're going to be competitive, it's not just about getting the price right—yes, it's important—but it's about all these value-added societal benefits we've got to get to.
Okay. Thank you very much for those initial comments, but I also want to reiterate what Paul said, which is, if you agree, just add anything where you think there's something additional to add, or where you disagree, importantly, as well, because we need to move on with a little bit more pace at this point. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair, and, just for the record, I'd like to declare an interest here if people look at my register of interests.
Thanks, everyone, for coming today. I just wanted to ask two questions, really, with regard to resource implications, and I was wondering what sort of resource implications you think the Bill will have for businesses and to what extent these will differ for smaller and larger businesses. I know one of the witnesses mentioned how larger companies are probably better able to weather this Bill, so I just wanted to get some idea about smaller businesses as well. Thank you. Ben.
Thanks very much. I think a lot of that is a little unclear at the moment. A lot will be down to the guidance and how that is interpreted and deployed, particularly on the procurement side of procuring authorities. We would like to make sure that what comes from this not only, yes, speaks to the duty and speaks to the ambition of social partnership, but is not disproportionate to the resources of, particularly, the smallest businesses.
For the procurement, we need to make sure that procurement remains attractive as a vehicle to help grow confidence and to grow a business. Ultimately, that's what we—. At FSB, we encourage businesses into the public sector supply chain as a vehicle for growing businesses, so we want to make sure that it is easy to navigate, but we have to realise that there is, even in the good times, limited resource for the smallest businesses to really get their heads around some of the duties and obligations that are already there. So, a lot will be down to the guidance that's given, the support that's given to SMEs on the ground via Business Wales and other services. I think one area of concern that we do have, particularly in procurement, is that the procurement profession within the public sector is already really significantly stretched, and, obviously, within the new landscape of regional investment and development, for instance, that's going to be even more so. So, we need to make sure that where this does touch on business and does touch on smaller businesses, proper support is out there.
I think the other angle of resource is actually on us as organisations engaging in the social partnership—it's a slightly different question—with actually quite a substantial resource requirement of us to populate the structures of social partnership, even on the voluntary basis. Now, we do so at FSB with the realisation that it is meaningful and in the hope that our voice is heard and that we're making good and helpful representation for our members, but, within the formalised structures of social partnership, there is quite a resource ask on those organisations that are there to represent those constituencies of workers and employers.
Thank you, Ben. I was just wondering if anyone else has anything to add on that, or I can move on to the next question, really, because Ben touched upon how smaller businesses would need help, support and advice. I was just wondering if you wanted to elaborate more on what type. Are you talking, basically, more financial support or more bespoke training and advice for local businesses, then?
I think it would more likely be training and advice than financial support. It really is helping businesses understand what they need to evidence and what sort of data. Now, beyond this, the behaviours that social partnership seems to promote are behaviours, really, that we're already having conversations around at the moment—so, well-being and fair work, and that's already in play. We can use the approach of social partnership as an opportunity to redouble our efforts on training in things like that. But making sure that there is a common approach across procuring authorities is really important, because, obviously, what we want to do, as I say, is make sure that procurement is still seen as an attractive option in helping to grow smaller businesses in Wales.
Thank you for that.
Chair, I've got one question, if I could ask—
You're running out of time, Joel, and you've got—
No worries, then. I will ask it another time, I suppose.
All right. Sarah Murphy, would you like to come in?
Thank you very much, Chair, and just to declare, as well, that I am a member of Unite the Union, Unison and the Bevan Foundation.
So I'm going to ask some questions now about the social partnership council. To begin with, do you support the proposal in the Bill to establish a social partnership council via legislation, and how clear are you on what the Welsh Government's overall objective for the council is? Also, I would add to that, in terms of having that overall objective, that it would be very interesting if you had any thoughts on how to measure that, how to measure the success of that objective. So, if I could come to you first, Ben, would that be okay?
Yes, thanks very much. On establishing the social partnership council in legislation, I suppose what that does do is it provides consistency over the years. We've had different interpretations of engagement over the years, so it has been, to some extent, inconsistent. Our plea, though, would be that this new mechanism and this new structure of engagement allows alongside a vehicle for engagement on the economy particularly, and it was good to see in the explanatory memorandum that, with the Council for Economic Development now going, there is nevertheless a commitment to summits and quarterly meetings, which we are already engaged in. I think we need to make sure that social partnership and the social partnership council isn't the only mechanism of engagement.
I think the other thing we need to bear in mind, which the Bill may not need to bear relation to, is just the breadth of different interests there are within the economy and within businesses. There are multiple organisations that have always advocated the need for a point of entry to engagement with Welsh Government, and I think we need to make sure that, quite beyond the membership of the council, there are effective engagement vehicles.
On your point about measurement, I guess, ultimately, measurement depends on Welsh Government's strategic approach to some of these issues. So, we have long advocated the need, for instance, for a clear economic strategy with measurements and outcomes, and it would be, perhaps, for the social partnership council and the spin-outs of that to provide the evidence that helps monitor that and also to go out, where it's relevant, to task the business community on that. It's very difficult, though, beyond that, to see, because it's a public sector duty and a lot of that would probably more pertinently be aimed at public sector employers rather than private sector employers. But, certainly, with some of the subsets—things like fair work—we can use some of the mechanisms for monitoring that are in the Fair Work Commission report, for instance. So, there are ways of doing it, but it's, obviously, quite complicated, and it needs that strategy in the first instance.
Yes, thank you very much, Ben. Leighton, did you want to come in next?
I just wanted to say that Ben is right in what he says. I think, for us, it's critical where it is in the policy-making process. I think we all know of tick-box committees versus forums that have influence, for example. So, as long as the SPC is at a formative stage in the policy-make process, at the start where there are drafts to look at, and that the culture within the SPC is one of openness and trust, then I think that would be very important, but very difficult to measure. And the other thing is around the social partnership, kind of, civil servants—the people that make things happen. I think resources for that team need to be proportionate to the ambitions of the SPC, and I think it's very important that we give enough resource to those people around the SPC—the officials—so that we can do the job well and do it in a fair way.
Thank you, Leighton. That's excellent—a good point. Richard, do you want to come in next?
I think, if the legislation comes forward, then, certainly, measuring it is critical in order to make the costs worth while. We haven't been involved with the social partnership council as the Institute of Directors, so we haven't got the experience, necessarily, of the other members here. But we do see the value of that engagement, and I think, if it does come forward, then I'd echo and build upon the points of the other members that have spoken so far—let's use this as an opportunity to move forward.
Thank you, Richard. Paul, finally.
Just very quickly, if I can, there was a debate last Friday around who marks the homework, and there is a risk that the homework starts getting marked internally, and that defeats the purpose. We’re not advocating that it should necessarily go outside to be marked, because that’s down to interpretation and suchlike, but I think it still can effectively hold itself to account, because you have such a diversity of organisations in there that it can actually measure its own performance, and I suspect the private sector people will be particularly keen to make sure that it’s delivering value because, obviously, we’re investing our time willingly in supporting the process going forward. So, I think it can be measured, but it comes back to what Richard said earlier, which is: let’s have some very, very clear outcomes on what the council’s going to deliver, and let’s measure our performance against those. That’s where people will see value, including Welsh Government.
Absolutely. And, Paul, just to come back then as well—so how confident are you that the private sector will be sufficiently represented on the social partnership council and that you will be able to have meaningful input into the advice it provides to Welsh Ministers?
Well, there are two questions there. The issue as regards representation—we have, as a private sector, reacted to the potential legislation on the social partnership council with the creation of a Wales business council, and that is intended solely to act as the guidance for that, because the three parties who were involved in the shadow social partnership council came together to say we needed to draw on a wider audience, and respecting the fact that you can’t have a cast of a thousand people around the social partnership council table, it was decided that we would cast out to a wider organisation. Richard is part of that Wales business council, as are 30 other organisations who provide us with that guidance. So, I think with the structure that we have now, there’s a fair opportunity for the private sector to be adequately represented on that thing. One caveat that I would put in place is we need to ensure that balance of hearing in respect of the private sector as well, and that actually people do understand the points that the private sector are making, and are prepared to take those points on board. There is always a risk that parts of cohorts may be—I won’t say ignored, but not necessarily given full consideration.
Thank you. Ben.
I know we’re short on time, but just as a suggestion, the Scottish Government has entered into a joint principles agreement with the business community in Scotland, which seeks to have a shared understanding of what each partner there is there to do, and what they commit to do together. I think, going back to that point about narrative and bringing businesses more meaningfully into this conversation, beyond the legislation itself it would be worth Welsh Government investigating that and having a better, clearer understanding of what it wants from businesses, how it wants to engage, and likewise what businesses expect of Government.
That’s really helpful, thank you, Ben. If there’s nobody else, I’m going to hand back to the Chair now, because my colleague Jane Dodds wants to come in on some more questions on this.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Prynhawn da i chi i gyd. Jest un cwestiwn: gaf i ofyn—ac rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd â hyn o’r blaen hefyd—sut, yn eich barn chi, fydd y Llywodraeth yn cadarnhau bod aelodaeth y cyngor partneriaeth cymdeithasol yn cynrychioli Cymru gyfan? Fydd isgrwpiau yn helpu? Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i ofyn i Leighton yn gyntaf, os gwelwch yn dda? Diolch.
Thank you very much. Good afternoon to you all. Just one question: may I ask—and you’ve touched on this already—how, in your view, the Government will confirm that membership of the partnership council will represent all of Wales? Will sub-groups help in that regard too? Thank you. May I ask Leighton first of all, please? Thank you.
I didn’t hear all of the question, so I apologise if I miss something off. I think this is quite important, really, because it goes back to resources. The consultation document defines social partnership very widely indeed, and it also mentions, as you referred to, that multilevel governance issue that local authorities are free to set up this process. I just think we need to be mindful and do this in a structured way and a co-ordinated way, so that the sum total of it adds value, because there could be too many organisations wanting to set up a social partnership structure, and I think that might cause confusion. I think some groups at a Wales level would be appropriate, but I would just pause and look at the levelling-up fund, and the various regional forums that are happening there: regional skills partnerships—there are all sorts of groups. So, I would say, if it’s going to fit in to something, we need to do a map first and then see where it adds value.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i jest 'check-io' eich bod chi i gyd wedi clywed y cwestiwn? Dwi ddim yn siwr—. Do, da iawn. Oes gennych chi unrhyw beth i'w hychwanegu at hynny? Richard.
Thank you very much. May I just check that you all heard the question, please? Yes, excellent. If you have anything to add, please do indicate. Richard.
Sorry, I did actually miss the first half of the question. Apologies.
Reit. Mae'n iawn.
Right. That's fine.
I was just making sure the translation is working, but it seems to be.
Sut, yn eich barn chi, fydd y Llywodraeth yn cadarnhau bod yr aelodaeth o'r cyngor partneriaeth cymdeithasol yn cynrychioli Cymru gyfan? Felly, tu allan i'r bobl dŷch chi'n eu cynrychioli—yn meddwl am yr holl lun.
How, in your view, will the Welsh Government ensure that the membership of the social partnership council represents all of Wales? So, outwith the groups and people that you represent. Think about the whole of Wales.
Okay. Thank you for repeating that. It's much appreciated. We've been through something quite similar in the Institute of Directors in Wales, where we were a little bit too Cardiff-centric, being quite honest, until about two years ago. So, we've gone through a huge change trying to regionalise what we're doing and, in so doing, reach out to the areas where we've been under-represented to make sure that we get representation. I think it's all about the planning, and it's all about identifying sector geographical reach across Wales and to reflect the communities we have. There are very different economies across Wales, and we need to make sure that the social partnership council has membership that can reach and draw across the whole of Wales easily. That would be my recommendation.
Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Thank you very much.
I think we need to move on at this point. So, Joel James.
Thank you, Chair, and thanks, everyone, for your responses so far. I suppose I just want to talk now about the social partnership duty and fair work, and apologies if you've already touched upon it in your other submissions or here now. But what are your views on the need to include the social partnership duty in the legislation, and what level of impact do you think it will have?
Can I just say there's no need to repeat what you've already said, it's really what you want to add?
Yes. Does anyone want to add anything to that specifically? Ben.
Just that the social partnership duty, chiefly, obviously, affects public sector organisations. So, therein probably lies the need and the intent. I hope I'm not repeating myself too much, but there needs to be an interpretation from those organisations as to what they are for—public sector organisations—and what data, what information they seek from the private sector to account for that duty. And so I think that is a little bit unclear at the moment and will need some clarity.
Perfect. Well, I suppose my next question, then, is with regard to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Obviously, it says bodies have to consider it while pursuing the 'a prosperous Wales' well-being goal; so, fair work and pursuing that. I just wanted to know what sort of impact does that proposal have on delivering fair work—the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. And then also what levers are available to the Welsh Government, do you think, or are there any other levers needed to ensure that private companies adhere to that message? Does anyone want to respond to that? Go on, Ben. Sorry.
I think the well-being of future generations legislation is only now really starting to filter into the private sector. Bear in mind that environmental, social and corporate governance as a concept, and that picks up some of those elements of the well-being of future generations Act, is well understood and businesses are busily engaging. I am concerned that what we're doing by introducing an obligation within the public sector that, yes, sits alongside that existing legislation but to some extent cuts across it as well, is confusing the landscape, particularly where we are engaging businesses in procurement supply chains, for instance. So, businesses understanding what each legislative vehicle is there to do is going to be really important, and I'm not even sure yet if FSB as at a point of disentangling that. But we need to make sure that that tracks alongside businesses' obligations and actually the way in which businesses are responding to some of these things earlier. It goes back to Richard's point about fair work, for instance. I think many businesses are further ahead than many suppose on things like fair work, not only because they see it as the right thing to do, but competitively in the environment at the moment, it is exactly what they have to do in order to make sure they remain competitive. And I think disentangling the social partnership duty, the well-being of future generations duties from what is already out there in the 'marketplace'—that's probably not the right terminology, but in the landscape—is really quite difficult, but it's important to help businesses understand what they do have to do and what they may not have to do. That, again, always falls disproportionately and more problematically on the smallest businesses.
Thank you. I think that's it, Chair.
Thank you very much. Peredur.
Croeso cynnes i chi a diolch yn fawr i chi am roi eich amser.
A warm welcome to all of you and thank you very much for giving of your time.
I want to concentrate a little bit on the socially responsible public procurement aspect, and a question in two parts. What will the likely tangible benefits of this Bill be and what will its cumulative effect on businesses be, including this Bill and, obviously, the UK Government Bill that's going through? So, what are the tangible benefits? And then, how would you measure its impact? Paul.
Good afternoon, Peredur. I think the measurement of impact is around shifting that—. I think it was Richard who mentioned that 52 per cent, that procurement number. If we can move that 52 per cent up so that more public sector procurement is done in Wales, then I think we're starting to see a benefit, assuming that—and in response to your first question—it is done in fair terms with an applied level of terms that are appropriate for either the scale of the business that's involved or the scale of the contract that's involved.
To give an example, and this is something that I picked up at a discussion on Friday—Peredur, you were in the room in a different conversation at the time—we have a consultancy here in Wales that bid for a particular piece of professional advice. And they were outsmarted by one of the big four who bid a lower rate per hour, but nobody checked to see how many hours were involved. So, actually, at the end of the day, the bill for the big four came in substantially higher than the original Wales-based business—a small SME based here in Wales, doing Welsh stuff.
There has to be a level of common sense applied in this procurement process that talks about value to the businesses, that talks about value to the economy, that talks about value to Wales, and it's only by exception that we should procure outside that space. That's predominantly because it's not available here in Wales, or we have no method of growing it here in Wales. And I go back to my point at the top, which says, 'Can we add a process in now that starts to onshore stuff in Wales where we know that we have a spend outside, because it's not immediately available?'
So, I think we just need to be a bit careful that the terminology and the terms and conditions are appropriate for the scale of the contract, the interpretation of the legislation into terms and conditions is appropriate, and that there is an emphasis on moving that procurement into Wales. If that produces a growth of over 52 per cent into the £3.5 billion that's spent outside Wales, then I think we're making progress, and that's how I would measure it.
I can bring anybody's else in who's got anything to add. Maybe, Richard—you talked about the 52 per cent. Would you be in favour of a target much higher?
Why not, yes. I think it would be difficult to give a number. I think we need to look at what's reasonably practical, but there needs to be a bit of work done to do that. From personal experience having set up a business in Wales, it's difficult to win work here. It's difficult to win public sector work here, and it was probably much easier setting a business up working in London than it was in Wales. I would say that the landscape is much more relationship focused here in Wales, and how established you are, and we need to get better, certainly through public procurement, at working with start-ups to give them the opportunities on public sector contracts. That's something that we still seem to wrangle with.
I think the procurement sub-group of the legislation has really got a task in hand, but it could be the real opportunity to make a difference, if we can get this right. And, certainly, I'm sure everyone here would be quite happy to have a specific conversation about what we can do to maximise public sector procurement, and I think we could have a whole day on that, to be honest with you.
Just one final point. I think that we also have to try and dispel the myth that large public limited companies are a safer bet than small local Welsh companies.
Thank you very much. That's it from me. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you very much. I think the example Paul gave earlier is an example of poor procurement, and, clearly, there's a role for us in ensuring that those who are doing the procuring have really framed the contract that people need to bid for accurately and precisely, otherwise we get all sorts of horrendous consequences. It's really useful to know from all of you that you're very interested in how we have a fairer landscape for Welsh companies, and, I think, in the difficult economic times ahead, that's really, really useful.
The Welsh Government is trying to focus us on construction contracts, and, obviously, I understand that they often do involve very large companies. But I have a particular focus on food, which, when I last looked, all health bodies and all education institutions, mainly schools, have to procure for food, and they don't grow it themselves. So, just using that as an example, how do you think the Bill needs to—? Does the Bill need to say anything a bit clearer on this? Or is this something that's going to be sorted out in the explanatory memorandum or in additional contract management duties? Do any of you have any views on that? Ben, I see you're unmuting.
Yes, I think there needs to be a bit of clarity. My feeling is that it probably will come in the guidance and the way in which authorities under the duty, or entities under the duty, seek to interpret that. I think you point to a sector that is SME focused, principally, but also a sector where you can point to real opportunities within the supply chain for businesses to grow their competence. We need to make sure that we put relatively hard edges about what is and what isn't required, and which strains of procurement do have the social partnership duty and everything that comes attached to it and which don't. Because, going back to one of the points earlier, we have an increasingly complex landscape around the city and growth deals, for instance, and the extent to which the duty will be reflected in some of the contracts that fall from that is a bit of an unknown at the moment, so far as I can see. So, whereas you won't get absolute consistency, I think, what we need to make sure is that we've got hard enough edges around it so that businesses, particularly small businesses, know what is required of them, should they engage in that bid, for instance. And, I think, at the moment, on the face of the Bill and the explanatory memorandum, I'd find it very difficult to explain to my membership in any detail what that means. So, the guidance on this needs to be absolutely crystal clear, and there needs to be consistency with the deployment of this across Wales, bearing in mind that many businesses will be entering supply chains for multiple authorities, particularly in local government. If you look at something like catering, for instance, a business might be bidding for contracts across a region. So, I think, the consistency of application is really important here, but I suspect and hope that will be with guidance and the support that flows from that.
Okay. So, just turning to the role of bigger companies, Leighton and Richard. Clearly, we've all had our fingers burnt by Grenfell Tower and the construction contracts that weren't properly tied down. Is there enough clarity in the Bill about what the obligations of the main contractor will be to ensure that their sub-contractors, which is absolutely how the construction sector works—where the responsibility lies for the failure or delivery of the contract arrangements?
If you don't mind, I will write to you. Given the seriousness of the issue, we will get advice and we'll send a note to the committee.
All right. Thank you. That would be very useful, Leighton, because I think—. Obviously, I'm not suggesting for a minute that anybody's setting out to do that sort of thing, but I think it's a good illustration of how we all need to be clear on where the duties lie. Richard, is there anything you want to add at this point?
I think, yes, you need to be clear where the duties lie, but also, if we're going to use procurement as a lever to grow the economy and improve well-being, then we also need to look at where risk is best placed. For a long time, risk in construction supply chains has been jammed as far down the supply chain as it can possibly go, and that causes a lot of pressure on SMEs. I think we're beyond that now, and if we're talking about social partnerships, we need to be talking about who is responsible for what and how do we work forward. This goes beyond working on one project. It's about an ongoing relationship. So, therefore, we shouldn't just be focused on what we're doing today and what project we're on; it's about a longer journey together, and I think if we can crack that, then we'll have success.
Thank you. Thank you all for the conciseness and candour of your contributions. We will send you a transcript of what you've said, and obviously you should use that opportunity to correct anything that's been misheard, and otherwise we thank you very much indeed for your contribution as employers' representatives to this Bill. Thank you very much.
Right, Members, we will now take a short break, and if you can come back shortly before our next session, which begins at 14:35, so if you could come back at 14:34, then we can start on the dot. Thank you very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:22 a 14:35.
The meeting adjourned between 14:22 and 14:35.
I'd like to welcome back Members and contributors to the evidence session with the trade unions, our first evidence session with the trade unions, and I very much welcome Nisreen Mansour from the Wales Trades Union Congress, Bethan Thomas from Unison, and Darren Williams from the Public and Commercial Services Union. Joel James is going to start off our questioning today. And just to point out that, as there are three of you, if you agree with the previous speaker on a particular point, you don't need to say, 'And I agree.' If you disagree, or you want to add something, please do make sure you come forward. Thank you. Joel.
Thank you, Chair, and hi, everyone. Thanks ever so much for coming to this afternoon's evidence session. I just want to start with the general principles of the Bill and I was just wondering if you could set out whether or not you think there's a need for this Bill. Is there any point to this legislation? We've spoken to others in evidence sessions and they've said, 'Well, to be fair, we're already doing most of this Bill anyway.' So, I'm just keen to know your thoughts on whether it's needed and whether or not this is the best way to approach it, because there's been talk about social partnerships working best when they're a bit informal and if they come together naturally, rather than being forced to come together, if that makes sense. So, I suppose I'd best start with Bethan, first, if that's the case. Sorry about that.
No problem. Prynhawn da. I think Unison has always championed social partnership as the way forward in order to seek to protect workers' rights, but also to come up with a co-creation of solutions in the response to challenges and opportunities. Social partnership has really become a Welsh way of working. It came off the back of a decade of Westminster-led austerity, as a response to challenge that within Wales, and it's been further enhanced and applauded as a way forward as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID pandemic, social partnership was really recognised as an important way forward for Wales and, sadly, we're seeing now that social partnership isn't being maintained as the way forward. So, what this Bill does is it ensures that social partnership has got a statutory and legislative footing to ensure that it will always be futureproofed, and that employers and workers know there's a solid foundation moving forward, creating better clarity and consistency for everybody involved.
I think that we also have to be mindful about the kind of post-Brexit settlement as well. The trade and co-operation agreement negotiated by the EU and the UK did state that each party shall protect and promote social dialogue on labour matters amongst workers and employers, and their respective organisations and relevant Government authorities, and I think the Bill really demonstrates a commitment to doing that within Wales. I don't know if Nisreen or Darren would like to come in to add more in regard to that.
Yes, just to follow on from what Bethan said, I think it really strengthens social partnership in a way that is moving us on from the ad hoc approach. Like you mentioned, Joel, there are cases where social partnership is working very well already, and we absolutely want to build on that; we want to have a more consistent approach, not just across Welsh Government, but in the devolved public sector more broadly. And so I think, particularly that social partnership duty, we're really excited about that, because that takes that principle of social partnership out into the public bodies in a way that we've not seen before, and it's bringing the workers' voice particularly into the delivery of the future generations Act, which again is like a big step forward, both in terms of how that Act is delivered and the role of worker voice in devolved policy making. And, I think, that social partnership council as well; we're just not sure how you would ever get to that point of having this whole kind of social partnership system, kind of led by a council, but also being supported by what's happening in our public bodies at a local level, without that legislation to bring about that very coherent and consistent approach. We really couldn't see this happening without legislation. Thank you.
I do agree with the two previous speakers, but just to add that I do think that the experience we've had of social partnership in Wales does contrast quite sharply with the rather adversarial approach towards trade unions that we've seen from successive Westminster Governments, particularly over the last 10 years or so. I think it's a case of the principle of workers being able to have a say in the decisions that affect them, in the workplace and more broadly, but also it's beneficial, to the whole economy and to society in Wales and elsewhere, to be able to draw on the experience and expertise of the people who are involved in delivering public services and in the world of work more generally. As has been said already, I think we have had a lot of good experience. I think it goes back to things like the response to the economic crash in 2008-09, when we had economic summits convened by the Welsh Government on a tripartite basis, and then, as other people have said, more recently the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, we have had that good experience, and within individual employers as well, I think there is a variety of experience in terms of how robustly and how consistently it's being carried out. So, this is an opportunity to put that on a much more firm and consistent footing.
Brilliant. Thank you. We've spoken in other evidence sessions and there's been confusion about what are the overall objectives of the social partnership Bill—how are we going to determine that it's been a success or a failure. I just wanted to get your idea on how clear you are in terms of the Welsh Government's overall objectives with this Bill, and how do you see the Government achieving it, if that makes sense. Bethan, again, I suppose. Sorry about that, Bethan.
No worries. I think that the Bill will, overall, have a very positive impact in terms of the economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being of Wales, because I think that, when you have co-creation and co-adoption of solutions, and look at opportunities in that kind of sphere and that kind of light, then that, ultimately, has a benefit in terms of not only the workers involved, but also the organisations and the employers. The objective of the Bill is to do that, to improve public services in Wales by having this co-ownership of ideas and solutions to challenges. But I do want to be very clear that we don't think that social partnership is the be-all and end-all. There will still be times where we will be in dispute. What social partnership will do is seek to avoid that at the earliest opportunity by engaging workers at the earliest opportunity, but we have to be mindful that it doesn't mean that there is going to be this utopia in Wales where trade unions don't engage in other strategies to achieve what they want. But we do see social partnership as being a key factor in avoiding those kinds of disputes and that kind of industrial relationship.
I think that what we see the social partnership Bill and Act doing, and the objectives of that, is ensuring that we have a system of engagement with workers that is futureproofed and that provides the very foundation blocks of the relationship that public sector employers should have with workers. I think that we are clear that this is a way of achieving a fair work nation and achieving one of the well-being goals in the future generations Act around a prosperous Wales. We also think the socially responsible procurement element of the Bill will also seek to do that through procurement, so that we're having a two-pronged approach to ensuring that Wales is a place where people want to live, where they want to work, where they want to bring up their children and where they want to invest. I'm sure that Nisreen's got some more points, and Darren as well.
Hopefully briefly. And I think precision as well. What does 'good' look like?
Do you mind if I come in on that?
In terms of what 'good' looks like, which is a great question on this, because there have been points where we're just talking about theoretical duties at the moment, it's definitely thinking about those well-being objectives and the steps that our public bodies are taking, really taking into account workers' interests. We're still at a fairly early stage of implementation of the well-being of future generations Act. We look through some of the documents our public bodies produce in relation to that, and we just see obvious examples. So, say when it comes to an issue like infrastructure, the workforce should have a central voice in terms of infrastructure planning, in our cities, in our regions, throughout the country, and yet, we're just not there yet. So, I think that social partnership duty, we want to see it delivering very different outcomes for workers in our communities that much better reflect the challenges that they're facing and how public services will seek to address those.
Similarly, on procurement spend, perhaps initially, we're thinking about maybe trying to address some of the negatives that we know exist in procurement supply chains. That construction duty in particular we see as being really important, because we know that labour exploitation is a huge problem in the construction sector, and so, being able to look at that entire supply chain for those larger projects and being able to know that there will be repercussions if people are being paid below statutory minimum wage, not just through the enforcement that exists around that, which we know is far too weak, but as a result of what the devolved public sector is spending and how they wield their influence, will really change procurement in Wales for the better. On the reporting that's built into this, there was a lot of talk about putting teeth into this Bill at the start and what that would look like and we very much stayed away from suggesting things like financial penalties, but that reporting and that increased transparency again will mean that we get to know our public sector better and we get to know how we can influence change. And we'll have a more evolved idea of what 'good' looks like, I think, as this Bill goes on.
I don't have much to add to that. Just to say that, yes, to understand why this is important, you need to look at the current economic and social context, and particularly the prevalence of issues like inequality, economic insecurity, in-work poverty. If we see those sorts of things being addressed as a consequence of this legislation over time, then we'll know that it's done its job, but also, I think if we have more robust decisions made in terms of public policy, to which these mechanisms will have contributed, then, again, I think that that will demonstrate that the legislation was worth it.
Thanks for that. I'm conscious of the time, so, Chair, if it's okay, I've just got one question left.
A brief question.
Yes, one brief question. It's basically about the general role of the trade unions in the process. I'm conscious that Unison and Wales TUC mentioned that if this was to come into play, you would need more than just facility time to play your part in this and I just wanted to get some idea about how you see that would be funded, how any training or education for members to undertake that would be funded and whether or not you think, given the role that the trade unions will have in the procurement process, that there's a danger, almost, of getting too involved. I think someone used the expression—
Okay. A brief question—not two.
Yes. So, it's all in one and it's a general thing; it's about marking your own homework. Is there a danger of that, then, and that you're not necessarily holding to account the process, because you're so involved in this?
Bethan, do you want to start, as your organisation has been named?
Yes. In terms of facility time, I think that we do need to be realistic that we will need to see an increase in facility time for us to fully engage and co-operate in terms of implementing the legislation. What I would say about that is that I think that you can't underestimate the value of that facility time in terms of it will be a short, initial burst of facility time and resource that will be needed, but the longer term benefits and impact of co-creation of ideas and solutions to challenges can't be underestimated. I know that there's been some brilliant work that's happened in British Gas recently around seeking to address the cost-of-living crisis with its workforce through social partnership structures. You couldn't necessarily put a price on that in terms of resource implications and facility time, but for those workers and members involved, that has been absolutely fundamental in seeking to address the crisis that they face. So, there will be additional time needed, but the overall impact and benefit of that totally outweighs anything that you would see as we seek to implement the Bill. The engagement of trade unions in these matters has been well recognised as being beneficial to workforces, to workplaces, to employers and culturally, and there's evidence in TUC papers that can seek to put a value on the positive engagement of trade unions with their employers.
Okay. Nisreen and Darren, can we move on to the social partnership council, unless there's anything urgent that you need to—? So, Jane Dodds, would you like to start us off? Oh, Ken—sorry, I thought you'd been detained. Ken, would you like to start us off?
Thanks, Chair. How clear are you all on what the overall objective of the social partnership council is, and how do you think that the council could and should build on the work of the shadow body?
Do you want me to take that first?
That would be great. Thanks, Nisreen.
Okay. I think we're very clear on the objectives set out in law in terms of how it will be there to provide this advisory function in relation to key pieces of statutory guidance and advice on related policy matters. I think that's partly due to the way in which the shadow social partnership council has worked, despite not being like a true shadow body; it provides this cross-sector, multi-union, multi-employer body forum in which key strategic issues can be discussed. So, I think it will serve a much bigger purpose than what is set out in the Bill in terms of key issues being brought to it, both by Government and by other partners. I think that'll definitely make a difference in terms of workers being able to steer public bodies in how they deliver the outcomes set out in the social partnership duty and the public procurement duties, and I think that role really can't be underestimated. Because I think we have quite a few social partnership groups at the moment existing in various ways, and, often, their purpose isn't quite so clearly set out. So, having that role in relation to the statutory guidance in particular, I think, is very important and very much needed to guide this system of social partnership that the Bill sets out.
Thank you. Anyone else? No. Okay. I'm going to move on, then. This is a question again to you, Nisreen. Section 5 of the Bill provides that the First Minister will appoint worker representatives to the council, who've been nominated by yourselves, the Wales TUC. Are you able to just outline the approach that you'll be taking to nominating worker representatives and how you're going to be ensuring that non-affiliated unions are not put at a disadvantage?
Yes. That part of the Bill is extremely important to us, because we need to retain our independence in being able to nominate worker representatives. So, we were very pleased to see that in there. I think it's really natural that just seeing the Wales TUC written out in the Bill will probably make non-affiliates a little bit nervous, thinking about, well, what does this actually mean. For us, it's very similar to what we do with the workforce partnership council, where we've created a union side for that, and that actually brings in both affiliates and non-affiliates. It's a cross-public sector social partnership arrangement, and so all unions recognised for collective bargaining in the public sector are involved, and that's very much the ambition we've got with this. That's for a few reasons: first of all, I think the Bill is very clear that this is about worker representation, not Wales TUC representation, so we want to fulfil that mandate. I think it's also very important in relation to the existing social partnership structures, particularly in health and education, where non-TUC affiliates play a very important role, and we wouldn't want to destabilise that at all. So, we really want to work with them to make sure that union side fulfils their need, that they've got trust in it, and to make that nomination process work, because it's just so important that we do have that independence from Government in picking the union side delegates to the SPC and putting those nominations forward to the First Minister.
Excellent. Thank you. Thanks, Chair.
Okay. Jane Dodds.
Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Prynhawn da. I just wanted to follow up on that, really, in relation to—and it'd be interesting to get some other views—the TUC being able to nominate, as I understand, workers to the social partnership council. How can it be more inclusive, and do you think that part of the Bill should be amended, so that, in fact, non-affiliated TUC members do have a direct line into nominating members to the social partnership council? Nisreen, I think we've heard your views, so thank you, and you may want to add to that. I don't know if, Bethan and Darren, you would like to add, and, Nisreen, if you want to come in briefly, please do. Bethan.
Unison are satisfied with the process that we have in place at the moment for nominating to the workforce partnership council and believe that this can be replicated for the SPC. I think it's important to note that we have had non-affiliated unions to the TUC sit in workforce partnership council seats. So, it isn't the fact that they're not having a direct voice on some of these negotiating and consultation bodies. That does happen with the system that is currently in operation.
I think there's also a role for the individual unions to play in terms of ensuring diversity. Unison has got enshrined in its rulebook measures to ensure that we have positive action to make sure that we have predominantly female representation on these bodies and, indeed, low-paid workers, because the majority of the members that we represent are female workers in the public sector and some of them are low paid, so we do need to make sure that each of the individual trade unions plays their part in making sure that any nominations they make to these bodies, either through Wales TUC or through any other structure, is as diverse as it can be and reflects the membership. But I think that it is important to note that the model that has been adopted previously has been successful, that those voices and different voices and diversity have been seen and heard, and we wouldn't want to see any amendment to the Bill as it stands on that point. Thank you.
Thank you, and, Darren, do you have anything to add?
PCS would very much support that approach as well. As colleagues have already said, this approach has worked in the workforce partnership council and elsewhere. There's obviously a commitment on the part of the Wales TUC, which is the obvious body to make these nominations as the umbrella organisation of the organised trade union movement—there is a commitment there to talk to the non-affiliated unions and ensure their inclusion in the same way that they are at the moment.
On diversity, again, just to echo what Bethan said, there is a long-standing commitment to ensure that all sectors of society and the trade union movement are included in these meetings. Obviously, the particular knowledge and expertise of different sectors needs to be recognised as well. So, all of those considerations need to be taken into account.
Thank you. And, Nisreen, you wanted to add something, but I'm going to really pin you down on this. Do you understand the feelings and views, some of which have been put to us as Members, of non-TUC-affiliated organisations around the process? And please do add in what you would like to say as well, before I came in with that additional question. Thanks.
Yes. I think one of the things that make it very understandable is that we don't have any arrangements yet for what the nominations will look like. We need to get working on that; we need to be speaking to the non-affiliates and our own affiliates.
What I wanted to come in to say was there are actually 48 TUC affiliates, so we've got a very large union side just as the TUC, plus three significantly sized non-TUC affiliates from the devolved public sector who we would need to bring in at least. I can think of more now as well.
So, it's about how do you make sure that union side isn't just representing the idea of affiliates and non-affiliates, but bringing in that idea of sectoral representation as well, because the Bill actually specifies there'll need to be certain sectoral links? Particularly when we think about health, for instance, we know that the BMA and the RCN, whoever that health person is sitting on the SPC, they'll need to have confidence in them. So, it's about much more than the nominations and who is sitting where, but actually having very good information sharing and very good methods of making sure that that voice at the table is representing the full union side, whether that's for the whole union side or that sector, in those discussions. So, there's a big challenge there, but we really want to make this work.
Thank you for your views. Thanks, Chair; thank you very much.
Very good. Thank you very much. We now move to Sarah Murphy.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you all for being here today. I'm going to ask some questions about the social partnership duty. So, if I can start, I know you've been asked a number of times today, but what are your views on the need to include a social partnership duty in legislation and what tangible improvements would you expect to see delivered to achieve the Welsh Government's ambition for the duty to improve public services and the well-being of those providing them? So, who would like to go first? I don't want to pick on anybody.
Shall I go first?
Darren. Yes, okay. Thank you.
I think it's really important that this duty exists in order to put the existing arrangements that we've seen in a more ad-hoc manner on a sounder footing. So, the fact that the legislation would impose that requirement on public bodies and those listed in the legislation to conduct that consultation with unions and seek to achieve consensus with them and that there is that reporting mechanism built in to ensure that there is, if you like, an audit trail and an opportunity for concerns to be raised consistently through the process, I think that really takes the social partnership culture that we've built up in Wales over the last decade or so to another level and ensures that there is recourse for any concerns that unions or anyone else might feel exist about the arrangements with employers at the moment. It's an opportunity as well to contribute towards wider goals, so it's not just about specifically employment issues and industrial relations, it's about how, collectively, employers and unions can work together to strengthen the decisions they're making in carrying out the well-being objectives of the Welsh Government itself and themselves as organisations.
Excellent. I can see Bethan and Nisreen nodding along with you, so I'm just going to ask you as well, Darren: can you give us any practical examples of when you think that the social partnership duty would have assisted trade unions and public bodies to have a better outcome?
Well, my union covers mainly Whitehall Government departments and employers, and I have to say that the contrast between the way that things operate in the devolved public sector and in the non-devolved public sector is very stark. If you look at the example of the COVID pandemic, unfortunately, we've seen employers such as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency basically not consistently following the regulations that the Welsh Government was able to draw up and impose in relation to public health and safety, and that's resulted in conflict I think that could have been avoided if we'd had these kinds of arrangements existing across the whole economy. Now, obviously, this legislation would only apply to the devolved public sector, so that wouldn't be addressed by it, necessarily, but even within, I think, the Welsh devolved sector, there have been gaps and issues. We've had cases. As Bethan said earlier, having this kind of legislation doesn't guarantee complete industrial harmony for ever more. In PCS, we've had some significant disputes in the past, such as in National Museum Wales. I have to say, ultimately, the intervention of Ministers and senior officials was able to bring that dispute to a satisfactory conclusion. But I think if we had the kind of structures that the legislation would seek to create then the kinds of problems that result in those disputes would be addressed at a much earlier stage, and we could, hopefully, have a more collegiate form of decision making that would avoid those kinds of problems from taking place in the first place.
Thank you, that's so helpful. Nisreen, you wanted to come in as well.
Yes. We've been doing some thinking about what this might look like in practice, and we don't want to prejudge what unions will actually be asking for on the ground, but, thinking about some current campaigns that are going and how that could work in relation to this duty, a couple of unions are working a lot on the night-time economy and workers and the risks they face there, in terms of how to travel home from work safely, what their bosses require from them in relation to working later than planned maybe, and how this might fit with things like the public transport network and taxis and things. So, we think that rather than the union, at the moment, trying to go from council to council, we could guide on that in relation to both the SPC's work and the negotiations happening within councils to make sure that each licensing committee for the night-time economy is aware of this and is putting in measures to make sure it's addressed.
And the other thing that we're not struggling with, but it's a source of frustration, is the role that unions are having in terms of the decarbonisation action plans that councils and other public bodies are doing and how to get worker voice in that, because I think the concept of a just transition has been adopted by Welsh Government, we've really championed it—the idea that no worker is left behind as a result of the transition to a net-zero economy—and it's how do you get the worker's foot in the door. And being able to put that in both the objectives and the strategic planning, that could be a real game changer for unions to move this agenda on very swiftly. Thank you.
Thank you; some fantastic examples there. Bethan, did you want to come in as well?
I think one thing I would note is that there was quite a lot of social partnership that was happening during the COVID-19 pandemic around education and schools and, I think, from Unison's perspective, it is disappointing that the social partnership duty in the Bill doesn't extend to governing bodies of schools, higher education and further education. And I think that, if there was ever a sector that could benefit from developing social partnership moving forwards, it is indeed that sector.
Yes, that's very true. Thank you for pointing that out. And just, again, to come to you, Bethan: do you think that there should be any compliance measures required to make sure that public bodies comply? And if so, would you suggest any measures?
So, Unison agrees with the TUC response, in their response to the consultation around this, that there should be some enforcement measures. I think it is very difficult, when we're talking about public money, to say that there should be fines associated with anything like that, because, essentially, we're talking about public money just being recycled. But I think it is something that should be considered as part of the discussions around the Bill about what compliance could look like, how we strengthen that reporting duty. So, for example, we have reporting duties as part of our strategic equality plans. I think we need to learn lessons from some of those reporting duties and see how that can be strengthened in terms of social partnership moving forwards. And obviously the SPC has a role to play in terms of that oversight of the public sector and ensuring compliance moving forwards.
Thank you very much. And, Darren and Nisreen, do you have suggestions for any measures that you would put forward? Darren.
No, I think I agree with what's been said already. Certainly, I think we should avoid any idea of any financial penalty; that would be entirely counterproductive.
Okay, thank you. Nisreen.
Yes. So, we're interested in exploring something similar to an ACAS-style body, but ACAS is focused on industrial relations; this is on social partnership working. We think that compliance here will be about effective implementation most of all. I think 'compliance' can have fairly negative connotations sometimes, and this very much has to be about building relationships. You can't force people to get in a room and like each other and have good discussions; this very much has to be about fostering those good relationships and making it very accessible to people. I think those are going to be the two big challenges first of all.
Okay. Thank you all very, very much. Back to you, Chair.
Thank you. I just want to ask you about fair work, because it's two lines in the Bill, and then just over a page of explanation as to what that means. What do you think it will mean if we pass this Bill as read? How is it going to improve the work conditions of the lowest-paid worker who's not a union member? In the public sector, I'm talking about. Darren.
I think this needs to be understood in the context of the 'Fair Work Wales' report produced by the Fair Work Commission a few years ago. I think that is the commonly understood definition of fair work, which refers to things like fair reward, employee voice and collective responsibility, security and flexibility and so on. I think so long as that is built into the application of the fair work duty under the legislation, then I think that there should be definite benefits from it. But clearly we have to take account of the devolution settlement and the limits of competency. But I think reference to that definition of fair work has to be at the heart of the way that the legislation is applied, and obviously through the amendment of the well-being of future generations Act.
Recognising the restraints on Welsh Government as it divides up the budget for the public sector, what do you think could be achieved by legislation, as opposed to other measures, to improve the way in which workers are consulted in their workplaces in the public sector and how they're remunerated for their contribution?