Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee29/03/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Delyth Jewell MS|
|Huw Irranca-Davies MS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS|
|Joyce Watson MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Helen Rowley||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Julie James MS||Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Minister for Climate Change|
|Olwen Spiller||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Roger Herbert||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Elizabeth Wilkinson||Ail Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:32.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:32.
Bore da i bawb, a chroeso i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Croeso i Aelodau i'r cyfarfod. Mae'r cyfarfod hwn wrth gwrs yn digwydd ar fformat hybrid, ac ar wahân i addasiadau'n ymwneud â chynnal ein trafodion ar ffurf hybrid, mae'r holl ofynion o ran y Rheolau Sefydlog yn parhau. Mi fydd eitemau cyhoeddus y cyfarfod yma, wrth gwrs, yn cael eu darlledu ar Senedd.tv, ac mi fydd Cofnod y Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn ôl yr arfer. Mae hwn yn gyfarfod dwyieithog, ac felly mae yna gyfieithu ar y pryd ar gael o'r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. A chyn cychwyn felly, gaf i ofyn a oes gan unrhyw un fuddiannau i'w datgan? Nac oes. Dyna ni. Iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at Senedd Cymru, the Welsh Parliament. Welcome to Members to this meeting. This meeting of course is being held in a hybrid format, and aside from the adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. The public items of this meeting, of course, will be broadcast on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. This is a bilingual meeting, so there is simultaneous translation available from Welsh to English. And before we begin, may I ask if Members have any declarations of interest? I see that there are none. There we are. Right. Thank you very much.
Mi awn ni ymlaen, felly, at brif ffocws y cyfarfod heddiw. Fel y bydd Aelodau'n ei wybod, rŷn ni'n dechrau ar waith craffu Cyfnod 1 ar Fil yr Amgylchedd (Ansawdd Aer a Seinweddau) (Cymru), a gafodd ei gyflwyno i'r Senedd gan y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd ar 20 Mawrth. Ac er mwyn helpu i lywio'r gwaith craffu rŷn ni am ei wneud fel pwyllgor, rŷn ni wedi cyhoeddi galwad am dystiolaeth ysgrifenedig, ac os oes yna bobl yn gwylio'r cyfarfod yma y bore yma, fe fyddan nhw, dwi'n siŵr, am wybod bod yna gyfle i gyfrannu i hwnnw. Mae'r manylion ar gael ar wefan y Senedd, a'r dyddiad cau ar gyfer cyflwyno tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig yw 28 Ebrill. Mi fydd hynny wedyn yn sylfaen i ni ar gyfer craffu ar y Bil, yn parhau i mewn i dymor yr haf, pan fyddwn ni'n cynnal cyfres o sesiynau tystiolaeth â gwahanol randdeiliaid.
Ond i gychwyn y broses honno, wrth gwrs, mae'r Gweinidog a'i swyddogion yn ymuno â ni. Felly, gaf i estyn croeso cynnes i Julie James, y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd, a'i swyddogion, sef Olwen Spiller, sy'n ddirprwy bennaeth diogelu'r amgylchedd; Roger Herbert, sy'n bennaeth monitro, tystiolaeth ac asesu ansawdd aer gyda Llywodraeth Cymru; a hefyd Helen Rowley, sy'n gyfreithiwr gyda'r Llywodraeth? Croeso i chi i gyd. Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau. Mae gennym ni rhyw ddwy awr wedi'u clustnodi, gydag egwyl fach rywle tua hanner ffordd, felly mi wnawn ni fwrw iddi'n syth. Mi wnaf i ofyn i'r Gweinidog, os caf fi, i gychwyn, cyn i ni fynd i mewn i berfeddion y Bil yma, efallai y gallwch chi jest ddweud gair bach yn fyr wrthym ni am ba bwerau sydd gan y Llywodraeth ar hyn o bryd pan mae'n dod i osod targedau ansawdd aer, yn y tymor byr ac yn y tymor hir.
We'll move on, therefore, to the main focus of today's meeting. As Members will know, we are starting our Stage 1 scrutiny of the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, which was introduced to the Senedd by the Minister for Climate Change on 20 March. And in order to help to inform our scrutiny that we will be undertaking as a committee, we have issued a call for written evidence, and if people are watching today's meeting, I'm sure they will want to know that there is an opportunity to contribute to that call for written evidence, the details of which can be found on Senedd Cymru's website, and the closing date for submitting evidence is 28 April. That will then be the basis for our scrutiny of the Bill, continuing into the summer term, when we'll be holding a series of evidence sessions with various stakeholders.
But to begin that process, of course, the Minister and her officials are joining us. So, may I extend a warm welcome to Julie James, the Minister for Climate Change, and her officials, namely Olwen Spiller, deputy head of environmental protection; Roger Herbert, head of air quality monitoring, evidence and assessment with the Welsh Government; and also Helen Rowley, who is a Welsh Government lawyer? A very warm welcome to all of you. We'll go straight in to questions. We have around two hours earmarked, with a short break at some point halfway through, so we'll go straight to it. I'll ask the Minister, if I may, to begin with, before we go in to the heart of these issues, if you could just tell us briefly about what powers the Welsh Government currently has when it comes to setting air quality targets, both in the short and long term.
Thank you, Chair. Bore da, everybody. The Bill builds on a very broad regulation power that we already have in section 87 of the Environment Act 1995, and that enables Welsh Ministers to make provision in relation to air quality, which could include setting long- or short-term targets in relation to air quality. So, this Bill builds on those provisions by providing specific rather than general powers to set long-term targets, and, very specifically, sets up a duty to set a target in relation to PM2.5, as it's called. And, Chair, if you want an explanation of some of those technical terms, I will be asking the officials to do that. It also introduces duties on us to monitor, review and report on these targets, so, if you like, it tightens and firms up the provisions in the overarching, more general Bill.
That's was what I was getting at, in effect—what more can you therefore do as a result of this Bill that you can't currently do within existing powers.
It complements, so it adds things to it, which I'm sure we'll come on to in a moment, it changes a few of the provisions to make them more useable, and then it puts much more specific duties on us to set particular targets, particularly for PM2.5, which is the one that most people are very concerned about indeed, and then to monitor and produce data, and so on, all of which put much more specific duties, effectively, on us than the more general powers in the environment Act.
Before we come to Huw, who will obviously want to delve a bit deeper into some of those points, can I just ask why the air quality targets will be set in regulations and not appear on the face of the Bill? Because that's obviously something that stakeholders have been keen to pursue.
It's very straightforward, Cadeirydd; it's because the targets are changing all the time. There's no real minimum level, and we want the Bill to be flexible into the future. We want the regulations to be as tight as possible—it's not a light option for us, this. It's to enable us to keep the regulations right up to date according to the latest guidelines on what is best for human and planetary health. And if they're on the face of the Bill, then obviously they're set in stone, pretty much, and you have to come back and do primary legislation to update them. So, it's with a view to futureproofing it, effectively.
Thank you for that initial explanation. I'm sure those points will be raised regularly throughout our scrutiny of this Bill. I'll transfer now to Huw.
Diolch, Llyr. Chair, you asked at the beginning whether or not we had any declarations. I'm not sure if I should, but I'm chair of the cross-party group on air quality. But then again, we've got so many members on this committee who are also members of that. Minister, it's great to see you and great to be at this stage. This is probably one of the rare occasions where I've got some sympathy; I'm open to the arguments about setting air quality targets in regulations, so that they can be updated, improved and strengthened as time goes by. But for targets other than PM2.5, why have you gone for an enabling power, rather than a requirement to set targets?
The very short answer to that, Huw, is because we just don't have the data for the other aspects of air quality. I'm very happily going to hand over to Olwen and Roger to talk you through some of this, I suspect. For PM2.5, we have both a standard target, if you like, and a way of producing the data to justify that target. For the rest of it, this Bill sets out a set of measures by which we will acquire the data to set the other targets, so that we know that they're both robust and helpful. If we don't know what's in the air at the moment, then setting a target that turns out, actually, to be higher than what we've already got, for example, would be pretty pointless. So, it's in that sort of area, but I'm sure Olwen and/or Roger can explain more of the data issues than I can.
That's brilliant. When they do answer, could I just add—? Because we're not asking you to set the target on the Bill; we've been through that already. What we're asking is the requirement to set the target once you've had the evidence, once you know what it is. So, over to your colleagues.
Who wants to come in on this, then? Roger.
We are working, as an evidence-based process, with independent expert advisers. So, there's the clean air advisory panel, and they have advised us that the first priority is to address PM2.5, as it's the pollutant of greatest harm to health, and the evidence links are strongest in terms of causal impacts on health. We are reviewing the evidence in developing the PM2.5 target, but looking at all the pollutants under the updated guidelines, and we will review the case for those during the course of that work.
I wonder whether I could ask you or the Minister what happens then when the evidence changes. Will you come back to the primary legislation then? Because if we are left with a statute book that sets on the face of primary legislation the requirement for some and not for others, would it be your intention as the evidence changes to come back to the primary legislation?
No, actually, Huw. What we’d be doing then is setting out in regulations the other targets. This is an enabling power for us to do that, and then the regulations can be kept up to date as we come up with the evidence. You can do it in the negative, if you like. This is how I think of it. Why aren’t we putting other targets than PM2.5? Well, what for? What would you like us to put the targets in for? What particular pollutants would you like to include? And as soon as you get to that level of detail, you start to see the difficulty of saying, ‘The Welsh Government must set a target for—' and fill in the blank. That’s part of the problem. We don’t know what the data will produce that tells us what we have to do.
What this does is enable us to set those targets, it puts a duty on us to tell the Senedd what we’re considering, and what the data looks like, and then come forward with the regulations. But I asked the same set of questions myself, and as soon as you do it the other way round, ‘Okay, let’s set those targets’—what are they for? What should they be? The next thing the committee would ask me is, ‘When will you set them?’ and there aren’t any answers to any of that, because we need to get the data to know what’s even in our air in some places at the moment, never mind what the healthy level of that might look like. It’s really important to get these targets right. It’s very important to make sure people still continue to feel safe, and that they have some input into this, and frankly that we get the right expert evidence. This isn’t a matter for generalist politicians; this is a matter for serious experts in what human health and planetary health need in order to thrive, and we’re not in that position yet. But we are for PM2.5, and that’s the one that most of us are really concerned about.
That's really good. Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Huw. Janet.
Why is there only a timescale for the introduction of the PM2.5 target and not for other air quality targets?
I think I just set that out, really, Janet. The reason for the timescale is that we don't know where the data will take us or what those targets should be.
And what timescale did you say you were working to?
We aren't working to a timescale on that. We're working to a timescale on the PM2.5. On the others, we will collect the data as fast as we can from the evidential base, and working with things like the World Health Organization guidelines, and then we will report back to the Senedd as we do that piece of work.
Do you have a rough idea on timescales for the other targets?
I haven't got one.
Okay. And then, is there a danger that the requirement on the Welsh Ministers in section 3(2) will lead to less ambitious targets?
I don't think so at all. What we’re saying here is that we should be satisfied when we set those targets that they can be met. We all know the danger of setting a target that then becomes just something that’s impossible to meet, and people just shrug their shoulders. I want these things to be meaningful. They need to be able to be things that we can actually get to with ambition, with stretch, but that we can actually get to. It’s important to get the level of target right. It’s also important to understand what is, frankly, practically possible. We all live in cities, we all drive cars, we all do all kinds of things; it has to be practical for people to live their daily lives and for these targets to be met. I am absolutely certain that, as the world changes rapidly in front of us, the targets will become achievable. But at the moment, they might not be. I’m afraid I would say to the whole committee that I’m very, very, very sceptical of setting targets that are ambitious but pretty much impossible. Everybody just goes, ‘Oh, well. That was very ambitious but, actually, it’s just not possible to do it.’ What we’ll do when we set them, Janet, is we’ll base them on realistic future pathways, robust science, a full economic analysis, and then a route-map for how to get there, so that we know that they’re both challenging and achievable.
What criteria will you use?
A credible scientific pathway, a full economic analysis of how to get there, an impact analysis on public health and environmental benefits, and then coming back through the committee with the regulations, obviously, and the scrutiny of the committee, to make sure we're both ambitious enough in that target and that we can actually achieve it.
Section 3(2) also provides that before making regulations in relation to air quality targets or amending those targets, the Welsh Ministers must be satisfied that the target or amended target can be met. How confident are you, Minister, that you can do this?
That's exactly what I'm setting out. What we want to do is make sure that the air quality modelling based on all of the emissions scenarios is used to assess future pollutant levels and ascertain what the target levels should be and what they could be at different points in time, supported by all of the socioeconomic assessments I've just set out for you. Bear in mind as well—I think the committee needs to hold this in their head; I've certainly had to do it as we've been getting the Bill to this stage—that this isn't a stand-alone Bill in the sense that everything we need to do about air quality is in this Bill. This is one of a set of things that we're doing in this space, so you do need to see it in the round, as well as just specifically for this Bill.
Thank you for that. Back to Huw.
Janet has explored this quite well already, but I just want to seek a little bit more reassurance from the Minister, because the people who've campaigned so long and hard for this legislation will probably have some, if not worries—. This balancing with the socioeconomic analysis and the opportunity-cost impacts of going for certain ways to improve air quality, so that the Minister is able to adjust targets, lower targets and revoke targets—that'll be a little bit of a cause of worry. So, what assurance can you give—you want to bring people with us, you've got to balance this against other issues—that we're not going to compromise here, and that this will be ambitious, rather than the opportunity, not for you, Minister, but for a future Minister to say, 'Well, frankly, I couldn't care less, because the economic objectives override any air quality outcomes'?
Absolutely, we understand the worry of that, but I can't emphasise enough how important it is for these targets to be realistic and achievable, in the sense of a ladder to where we need to get to. We're going to set these targets, but let's assume, I don't know, that something happens in the international community that completely means that Wales cannot get to—I'll make some numbers up—300, but we could get to 295. I'm just literally plucking numbers out of the air here. I wouldn't want us to just go, 'Oh gosh, we can't do it'. What we want is something to say, 'Well, actually, you guys should be saying to us, "Where could you get to and why aren't you trying to get to that? What is the realistic place to get to? What is the best that you could possibly do, given the current environmental and economic conditions" and not just throw up your hands in horror and say, "We can't solve world hunger so let's not bother"'. It's that kind of step that we want—what will keep this Government ambitious enough to do everything it can do in the prevailing circumstances, rather than just throw up your hands in horror and say that it just can't be done. We've all seen examples of that in other target setting over the years. So, this is genuinely about making it an achievable—stretched, absolutely, but achievable—goal so that we don't have that. At the risk of speaking against my own ministerial efforts, I'm sure the committee will want the regulations to be by the most stringent method of agreement. So, if we are lowering these targets, we'll have to come back through the Senedd, through a, dare I suggest, superaffirmative procedure, in order to make sure that any Government—this Government I serve in or any future Government—isn't doing what you just said, so that it is subject to full scrutiny and it's not just a ministerial whim on a Tuesday.
Minister, that's very helpful indeed, because it's not only this Government we're thinking about but future Governments, and holding some form of lock there that would challenge them to come back and justify if they were going to significantly reduce or even revoke some of the air quality aspirations. Thanks very much, Chair—diolch yn fawr.
Thank you. Delyth has indicated to come in on a supplementary specifically here, I think, and then we'll come to Jenny to take us on to the next question.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Good morning, Minister. It was actually, almost, to delve a little deeper into what Huw was asking about there—the balance of ensuring that the targets, as you say, are stretching but they are also achievable. What I want to ask about is that they are taking the public with them. You spoke in an earlier answer about—. I think that you said that it was important for people to feel safe, and that it's important for people to feel that these measures are there to protect them and that it's something that they want to be happening, rather than something that they see as something that is being imposed on them. Could you talk us through that a little bit more? I'm aware of time, Cadeirydd, but that would be really interesting, please.
That's a very good point, Delyth. When we come back with the targets for the other things that are not PM2.5, or in the unlikely event that we'd come back to try and change the target, then what we would do is we would have a full set of criteria in front of us. So, we'd have the expert panels, we'd have the clean air advisory panel, we'd have a whole series of consultations with stakeholders with the cross-party group, with a whole series of stakeholders across Wales, and very particularly with our local authorities, who are in charge of the local air quality management arrangements. So you would not be expecting, 'I just woke up on a Tuesday afternoon and decided to do this'. This would be as a result of a whole series of people probably coming the other way, actually, pushing the Government into saying 'Why aren't you doing this? We want you to do this' and that's how the Bill is set up, basically, in order to be able to do exactly that. So, that, as the data for Wales—because we don't have great data for Wales, that's the truth of it—becomes much more comprehensive, as we roll out the air quality monitoring arrangements, and as our way of life changes, frankly, in the face of climate change and everything else, then, the standards will vary, won't they? And I would very much hope, as we start towards the biodiversity goals and so on, that the standards will become effectively cleaner—that's not a scientific word, but you know what I mean by it.
Okay. Thank you, both. Jenny.
Good morning. I want to talk about the role of the air quality data in propelling both Government and the public into highlighting the importance of all this. Because it seems to me that the Environment Act 1995 was—local authorities undertook monitoring that was largely a private conversation between technical experts, and it really is only in the last decade or so that the public has some grasp of the dangers that we're all entering into, and particularly those who live on congested roads that they don't choose to live on. So, could you just tell us how the air quality data is currently monitored and reported, and the changes that may be needed to support the ambition for the Bill?
Yes, certainly, Jenny. And, again, Chair, I'll start this off, and some of the officials might want to add to it. At the moment, we have, alongside the rest of the UK, several statutory air quality monitoring networks in place for very specific purposes, and they help measure progress. We have to report back; we have obligations to report back from that—for example, the provision of public data to inform how air quality changes over time and the air quality forecast that you've become familiar with, we have reporting requirements for those. We also have a spatial coverage and an estimate of the contributing pollution sources that are all done from those networks at the moment. There's data quality and assessment criteria set out in the current legislation, so before this Bill goes through, and, then, local authorities mange air quality at the local level through the local air quality management process, which I've mentioned briefly already, and they specifically tackle local hotspots. So, pretty much all of us will have seen an air quality monitoring station at some point in our own patches, for example—certainly, I know where they are in my patch—and they identify risks, they tell us where there are hotspots, particularly on traffic networks, for example, and they're sort of hotspot monitoring. And some of those don't—. And, again, I'm going to defer to Olwen and Roger at this point, but my understanding is that some of the local authority monitoring stations don't meet the strict data quality for the national networks, and this Bill puts a new duty on us to make arrangements to obtain data about air quality that does meet the targets, and those targets are set out and will be published. But, at that point, Chair, I think it would be useful to get either Roger or Olwen to take you through a bit more of the technical detail, please.
There we are. Any takers? Roger? Olwen? Roger, first of all, then.
I can comment. There's a whole host of different monitoring and sampling technologies available, and they all collect data for different purposes. Local authorities follow our policy and technical guidance in pursuit of local air quality objectives, and they're used to gather information on the potential risks of exceeding some of those objectives. Data can be gathered through [Inaudible.] sources and source apportionment, so there are all sorts of different technologies and approaches. Then, alongside that, there are the limit values and target values that Welsh Ministers have responsibility for compliance with, and, obviously, there are set rules in terms of where you assess, how you assess, and the quality of the data that's collected. That's a combination of air quality monitoring and modelling, and the quality assurance. So, there are set rules for those—
Okay, but would you agree that this is a pretty technical exercise? There is no air quality monitoring—you know, green, amber, red monitors in the two local schools in my constituency that have very high levels, or have had very high levels of poor-quality air. How do you think the way we report this needs to change to ensure that the public really understand why we've got to do things differently?
So, Jenny, I think that's a slightly different question—
First off, what we'd really like to see is to get the quality to a point where you don't ever have an amber or a red warning, certainly by a school. So, part of it will be to make sure that we have targets in place that actually get the air quality to be good enough not to do that.
Then, secondly, actually, by 'bad air', what exactly do we mean? So, do we mean PM 2.5, do we actually mean other pollutants in the air, do we mean the whole range of things that that could mean? So, the broad thing you're talking about, like red, amber, green, that's really difficult to achieve, because it depends, as they say. Pollen counts, for example, can be very, very important for some people with particular conditions, and so on. So, we need to get this right and we need to get the reporting right so that we do give people the information to keep themselves safe, as I said earlier, but we also don't make people alarmed in circumstances where, actually, unless you have a very specific medical condition, it's perfectly fine.
It is a very difficult question to answer until we've got the data, and part of the thing that this Bill is doing is putting us in a position to get the data in order to be able to do that. And then, I think we would have to have a broader conversation alongside our local authorities about how best to manage that kind of messaging, because that's a very difficult and more of a policy question than a data question, I think.
All right, so, could you just talk about those monitoring stations that don't meet the standards? Are we talking about particular local authorities or particular places where it's difficult to capture the information?
No, it's because they're doing something slightly different than the current national standard asks them to do. So, they're particularly monitoring places that are hotspots, that we know are hotspots, so particular traffic areas, for example, or particular funnelling places or whatever. They're being asked to do a different task. So, what we'll be doing now is rolling out an air quality monitoring system right across Wales that actually is a higher quality and gives us a completely different set of data, basically, to enable us to come back to the Senedd with different targets to be set once we've got that data in place. I think you're going to come on in a minute to us wanting to change the review period, for example, and part of that is about lining it up with the reporting that we want to be able to do to the Senedd on that.
Okay, but should this information be comprehensible to policy makers like local councillors, who have to make decisions about where they clean up the air, or is it something that needs to be easily accessible to the general public?
It's aimed at policy makers, not the general public, and it's aimed towards making sure that local and national legislative regimes can support the proper action to be taken. So, these are things like speed limits, one-way systems, no-traffic zones and low-traffic areas and all that kind of stuff that goes on all the time that the local authority will be best placed to do, but in conjunction with the national Government here in Wales and with Transport for Wales, for example. Sorry, this is a suite of measures, as I keep saying, Chair. So, you'll see that there's a bus Bill coming. When we re-regulate the buses, then we would expect that to be part of what the local authority takes into account in setting what its air quality standards are for particular areas. So, this is a very complex jigsaw of things that we're putting together here.
But this isn't about the general public, this is about making sure that the policy makers have the right information, and the technical people who advise the policy makers have the right technical and scientific information to inform that policy.
Thank you, Jenny. Joyce, you've been very patient, fair play.
Just on having the right technical information, are we talking about a standardised monitoring system? Because, if we use different monitors, potentially, we could have different readings of different outputs, or pollution in the air. So, my question is: are we measuring the same thing with the same equipment? There's a lot of innovation in this area as well, which might make things more sensitive or less sensitive. How are we going to deal with that, in terms of understanding what those readings are, and will they be the same readings for everybody, so that we can get a comprehensive answer to this question?
Yes. That's a very good question, Joyce, and I'm afraid that it is slightly driven by economics. So, we can't afford to put an air-quality monitoring station on every junction of every road right across Wales—let's just be clear. So, to some extent, we will be listening to our experts about where the hotspots are, alongside our local authorities, and monitoring air in particular locations. Near schools, for example, but not necessarily all schools, it depends on where the school is, what kind of road it's by, and all that kind of thing. So, it will be assessed on a pollutant and target-specific basis. We will take a lot of expert advice on where to start and how to build up the data. And then, I expect that, as the data builds up, then that will change; the evidence base that we then build up will change what we start to monitor for.
So, we're starting from a very low base of the right kind of data—let's just be clear—so we'll be building it up. But, again, Chair, if you want some more technical information about particular pollutants and stuff, I am not the person you want; you want one of the officials.
I don't think we'll necessarily pursue too much of the technical aspects today, although I do get the feeling that it really calls into question, then, the monitoring that's been happening in the past, doesn't it? And I suppose you might acknowledge that it isn't what it should have been, hence the need for this Bill, I suppose.
Yes. And so, this is not a criticism of what's happened in local authorities, but we know that it's not consistent, and it's not helping us towards this; it is helping us towards making some decisions on local roads, for example, so, please don't take it as a criticism of local government partners. But what we clearly need to do, as you say, Chair, is up our game, if you like, and this is what this Bill is designed to do.
Okay, there we are. Thank you so much. We'll move on now, then. Joyce.
Okay. I'm on page—
My mistake, sorry. Janet, yes. Sorry, Janet, over to you. [Interruption.] Sorry, Joyce, I startled you there.
Okay, do you want me to just go? You've talked about how necessary it is for you as a Minister to have the power to change the review period for the national air quality strategy, why do you believe it is necessary for you?
Well, I just think it's out of sync, basically; that's what we're saying. So, what we want is for each Senedd term to have a set of reports coming to it that are meaningful, and at the moment, it's just out of sync, because of where the Act started, it just isn't synced up. So, all we're trying to do is sync it back up again.
And how did you decide on the list of public bodies to be consulted on the clean air/soundscapes plan/strategy? Because that I notice it's going to be every local authority in Wales, NRW, Public Health Wales, national health service trusts, every local health board and the public. Will they all be consulted in exactly the same way?
Yes, Janet, and also, we have a duty to consult the public as a whole, so effectively, anyone who wants to make a contribution at that point can. Otherwise, who would we be listing out? Would we be listing the National Library of Wales, or, I mean, which public bodies did you have in mind? So, what we've done is—[Interruption.]
No, no. I was more concerned about the public, because I have to be honest, those of us who work doing this are fully aware of what's happening down here. Sometimes, Bills then go into Acts and they go over the heads of people, so it would be nice, on something like this—well, on any law, really—if it doesn't go over their heads, and they're involved.
Yes, yes. So, we are required—the Bill is requiring us to consult the public as a whole, and I know that a large number of you are members of the cross-party group; you'll know that there are very active members of the public, some who are far more knowledgeable than I am on this subject, who are very actively involved, and frankly, people whose health is more affected by this sort of thing—
—than if you're lucky enough to be not affected by it. So, we have interest groups right across Wales who are very keenly involved in this, and whom we're very, very keen to keep involved and to use their expertise. And I know the cross-party group has a list of enthusiastic members of the public who are very keen on doing this as well.
Thank you. I think I had another—. No. Sorry, it's me and my pages. Sorry. No, no, I've done mine.
Well, yes, the only other question, really, is whether you'd consider just mirroring the list of public bodies in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 for consistency.
Well, I'm not against it, Chair, as such. I suppose what we've done is pick out the environmental ones that are more likely to have an upfront contribution to make, and then, as I said, there's a wide consultation duty anyway, so frankly anyone who did want to contribute, whether they're a body or not, is very welcome to. But, if the committee would prefer we had the same list, then it's not the end of the world, in my view.
Well, if it comes to that and that we're stuck on that point, I think you're doing pretty well, Minister. So, there's no need to panic about that. Okay, thank you. Huw—no, where are we going next? Delyth. Sorry, Delyth.
Diolch am hwnna. Gweinidog, rydych chi wedi cyffwrdd ar hyn yn barod wrth ymateb i nifer o'r cwestiynau. Roeddwn i'n mynd i ofyn os ydych chi'n gallu siarad ni trwy'r rhesymeg o ran pam rydych chi'n meddwl bod angen gosod dyletswydd ar awdurdodau lleol a'r awdurdodau eraill rydych chi wedi sôn amdanyn nhw i roi sylw i'r cynllun a'r strategaeth aer glân wrth arfer eu swyddogaethau. Rydych chi wedi dweud yn barod ba mor bwysig y mae hi i gael y cyhoedd on board, fel petai, gyda hyn, ond os oes yna unrhyw beth arall rydych chi eisiau ychwanegu ar hwnna, byddai hwnna'n ddefnyddiol. Ond hefyd, ydych chi'n gallu dweud sut y bydd cydymffurfiaeth yr awdurdodau hynny â'r ddyletswydd hon yn cael ei monitro?
Thank you for that. Minister, you have touched on this already in responding to a number of the questions, but I was going to ask whether you could talk us through the rationale as to why you think we need to impose a duty on local authorities and other Welsh public authorities you've mentioned to have regard to the clean air plan and strategy when exercising their functions. You've already said how important it is to have the public on board with this, but if there's anything else you want to add on that, that would be useful. But also, could you tell us how the compliance of those authorities with this duty will be monitored?
Yes, thank you, Delyth. So, what we're trying to do here is make sure that the local authority in its wider sense, its wider corporate sense, takes account of the guidance, and not just the environmental health team. So, we're making sure that all policy makers in the local authority have due regard to this guidance. And it's in line with the prevention way of working in the well-being of future generations Act—that, basically, we're pulling it into line with the Bill. And the idea is that the local authority has a clear understanding of their responsibilities at corporate level.
For some reason, Chair, my lights have gone out and this room has been suddenly plunged into darkness, but never mind. I don't know whether I'm not moving around enough.
We can see you, Minister. That's fine.
So, the idea is, Delyth, that it's taken into account at a corporate level, so that the policy-making function of the local authority in its entirety takes account of the clean air Act, as we hope it will be by then, and not just the environmental health department, and so that it's not seen as a narrow, geeky thing that the local authority has to do, but part of its broad duty to the public. I think that's really important.
And in terms of compliance, we'll obviously review the national strategy and the local authorities' part in that, and as part of that we'll be able to see whether they're compliant or not and take appropriate actions.
Thank you. That's clear, Minister. Could you also please tell us—and, again, I think that this is something that you've touched on a little already, but if there's anything you wanted to add on this—what arrangements are in place for Welsh Ministers to report on progress for the delivery of the plan and strategy? And could you tell us what consideration you gave to including a requirement for Welsh Ministers to report on progress, please?
Yes, so, again—thank you, Delyth—this is, as I said, part of a suite of measures that are going on, and almost like a road map, if you like, of what we have to do. We've recently undertaken a review of the national air quality strategy, and we'll be publishing that shortly, in line with our duty under section 80 of the Environment Act 1995, which is the underpinning Act that I mentioned right at the beginning of this evidence session. As part of that, we'll produce an update report on actions within the clean air plan, which is also already in existence and not reliant on this Bill, of course. And then, each five-year review of the strategy—we've just talked about lining up with the Senedd, and this is why it's important—for each five-year review, we'll do a progress report against that as well, as part of the suite of measures, if you like.
There will be a public consultation on progress; we're not marking our own homework. So, we're actually going to go out to the Welsh public and say, 'What do you think of the progress towards the clean air plans?', and what do all of these engaged people and what does the cross-party group think of our progress towards it. So, this is a genuine public consultation. I anticipate as well that, as we get more data, we will then start to get responses back saying, 'Why don't you start thinking about setting a target for whatever it is that is being revealed from the data?' And that's part of the reason for the review. But, as I say, it's important to think that the review is one of the things that we'll be doing, because we're already doing a number of things in the existing set of legislation.
There we are. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Okay. Janet.
Thank you. Just about the requirement for local authorities to undertake air quality reviews annually, I know, about three years ago, there was an application in my constituency for an incinerator-type thing, and as part of that application suddenly we were getting feedback that the local authority were actually undertaking reviews of air quality. But how frequently do local authorities currently undertake reviews of air quality, and I assume all 22 local authorities do?
Yes. So, at the moment the legislation requires local authorities to review their air quality plans 'from time to time', is what the legislation actually says, but actually we have statutory guidance in place that requires them to submit annual progress reports, so the 'time to time' is made clear in the statutory guidance, and we're just basically formalising that so it's very clear to the local authorities. I think it's really important that the local authority has a clear duty and that there's a strong framework to drive and underpin this. And also, actually, in all of the conversations so far in this evidence session, we've been talking about the involvement of our communities and our public, haven't we? It needs to be clear to them when they can expect to see progress reports on the local air quality management plans, and then it will build up as a pyramid, obviously, to the rest of it. So, I think this allows us an opportunity to state clearly what we expect of our local authorities in carrying out the action plan process, and what the action plan should contain, and what the framework is. So, it's just a very clear set of provisions as opposed to the slightly vague 'from time to time' type of thing that we've got at the moment. Although, I have to say, just before the committee asks me how the local authority is possibly going to resource that, we're actually doing it anyway because we've given them statutory guidance that they have to do it annually already, so it's just clarifying it.
Yes. I know my own local authority—. From what I understand—. Just now and again I get people believing that they live in a polluted area with regard to the quality of air, and it's just off the A55. So, I know those kinds of areas are monitored, shall we say, but I would guess that you'd expect the local authority to have a balance on the area, not just on the sides of busy dual carriageways.
The local air quality management plan, Janet—
I haven't seen one, I must confess.
—is the mechanism by which the local authority decides where to do its hotspot monitoring, just to be clear, so there's a whole process by which they come to that. They don't just randomly decide to put it on a particular junction. There's a process that they go through in pulling together their local air quality management plan, and then the deploying of the various devices in particular areas is as a result of that. You'll know, obviously—and again I'm going on about the 'suite' and the 'jigsaw' aren't I?—that one of the things that the local authority is being asked to do, and I know it's controversial, is to look at the 20 mph speed limits. Obviously, one of the things the local authorities will be able to do is revise that speed limit upwards. Well, one of the things we would expect them to do is to do air quality data monitoring before they make that decision. This isn't just about the speed of the journey; it's about what the emissions of a vehicle do when they get faster, basically. And it's about road safety, of course, as well. So, we would expect the monitoring to inform those kinds of decisions, going forward. I just can't emphasise that enough. And then, what we want is to be able to ensure that the local authorities are able to do this as this Bill becomes law, so we will be proposing to support fixed-term staff posts through the local air quality management support fund, and that will allow local authorities to apply for support based on need and the particular air quality challenges of their area. So, we're just working through it with the local authorities. We do this very much in partnership with them. We're working through with local authorities and the WLGA how that support will be deployed, and that will be available from the start of 2024 onwards, assuming that this Bill does become an Act and has gone through all of its various processes, because we very much want to make sure that the local authorities with the biggest problem in this regard have the best support. We know that environmental health teams have been stretched through COVID and all of the things that they've done through that period.
Okay. Huw wants to come in with a supplementary, and then we'll come to Delyth. Huw.
I'm just wondering, Minister, if this is the moment, through this Bill, where we get truly serious about decongesting school runs. You mentioned there 20 mph issues, but, actually, the best solution to tackling air quality is to genuinely get serious about walking, cycling, other ways of getting to school other than the normal school run. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on this, because you've talked about, 'This is not the only game in town, this Bill', but the sort of support you're talking about giving to local authorities could be designed to say to them, 'Well, the support we'll give you will be to re-engineer the way that, at peak congestion times, parents choose to drop off their children.'
Yes, for sure. I don't know if you want me to address it now, but there are some provisions about idling. We're changing the regime for enforcement of that. But that will be an educational piece as well. I can't emphasise enough that, all the way through this, what we're trying to do is educate people as to the consequences of the way that they currently behave. I mean, there are penalties associated with this, but we would very much be in the position of trying to make sure that only people who are repeat offenders who really are taking no notice of any of the advice coming out from schools, care homes, hospitals and all the rest of it about the effect of, for example, idling outside, are then fined, and there's a process in the Bill for that.
But also, Huw, this is part of—. We're going to be reviewing the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008, and I'm sure my colleague Jeremy Miles will be able to talk to you about some of that. We've got a bus Bill coming forward, which we hope will re-regulate the buses. We have to go through the Senedd process to do that. The aim of the Bill will be to re-regulate the buses and make more sense of public transport, and also, of course, we've got the Safe Routes to School work and the active travel measures. All of those are designed to try and stop people taking their children to school in a car unless there absolutely isn't any other option, and, even if they do that, to park far enough away from the school and not sit with the engine running outside it, for obvious reasons. So, this is part of a whole suite of things that the Government is doing towards clean air; it's just a very specific bit of it.
Okay, thank you. Before I come to Joyce, I'm not going to let you get away so easily with the resourcing of local authorities thing as I think you tried to pre-empt earlier. So, just to be clear, clearly the Bill does increase responsibilities and duties and formalises them, and there will be, if not in a formal sense, greater expectation at least, although there will be in a formal sense as well greater weight or burden on the shoulders of local authorities. Now, some of this will require capital investment in terms of monitoring and other things, as well as revenue. You mentioned a fund that could contribute towards the cost of officers et cetera. Are you saying that you're increasing the resource, or are you saying that you're using existing resources in a different way?
So, we're doing a bit of both of those, Chair. So, we are increasing the resource, but we're increasing the resource over a fixed-term period, and that's because—and you've heard me say this on other provisions that we've put in place—we think there is an educational piece here. So, when the Bill first comes in and the new plans come into place, there will be a piece to do in terms of educating the public, businesses, people idling in their cars, et cetera, et cetera. But, we do think—and we have a lot of evidence from other regulations going through now—that once the public becomes accustomed to that, and so on, there's much less need for that resource. So, effectively, we'll be providing a support fund for local authorities. They will be able to bid in for that, but I don't want that to make it sound like it's a competition. The bid in is for us to just make sure that what they're looking for support on matches the air quality plans, and that we're able to target it to those local authorities that have larger hotspots than others. All of them have some; some of them have many. So, it's that kind of process. We are very much working alongside the Welsh Local Government Association and the local authorities in doing this. This is very much a partnership arrangement. We can't do it without them; they're the delivery mechanism for this, largely.
And then, because the local authority will have a wider duty to look at both airborne pollution and sound pollution, we think that that might ease some of the pressure on a specific team in the local authority, which is the environmental health team. And then, actually, in a completely separate piece of work, I know my colleague Rebecca Evans has been working with the local authorities, and certainly I have, with my waste management hat on and so on, to look at hard-to-recruit professions and help them to do something along those lines as well. There is a whole series of opportunities there around apprenticeships and professions in local authorities that are hard to recruit, which, I'm afraid, I can talk for about two hours on, so I'll spare you that. But, just to be clear, we absolutely will be working with them to make sure that they have the resource available for this. But we do think that there will be a spike in that resource, as the Bill becomes law and goes into force, and then it will tail off, as people become used to the new way of behaving.
And I can absolutely understand the rationale there, but no doubt they will have a view that they will present to us as well as part of our deliberations. Joyce.
Minister, you're asking local authorities to set projected compliance dates for their air quality action plans. Is that reasonable, because they don't hold all the required levers to address air quality? And I conflate this, then, with, if that gives rise to disputes, how are you going to resolve them?
Thank you, Joyce. So, this is a bit of a complicated scenario as well. There are currently 44 air quality management areas in place across Wales. So, obviously, each local authority has a plan, but then they have management areas as well. So, some of them have more than one, as I was just alluding to, and then that's led to some criticisms from local authorities and us about that. It's a bit of a mishmash and it's not as effective as it could be. So, what we want is—. We want a system that, where air quality standards are exceeded, there's a swift action plan put in place to do something about it, rather than an interesting set of monitoring that people have a look at. We want this to be effective, and that the communities affected are aware that there's a plan in place and what the timescale for dealing with the breach, if you like, is.
At the moment, local authorities are required to develop actions and give timescales for implementation. So, we're building on that process to require local authorities to provide a projected compliance date, based on the actions and implementation timescales they've already developed. So, we've got two authorities currently developing action plans to test the compliance date proposals, and then we'll get some feedback from that, as the Bill goes through, to make sure that it's a practical solution. And then, as I said before, local authorities can bid in for revenue funding to support the work, and the sort of thing that the funding can be used for is to commission detailed modelling assessments, for example, of some of the plans coming forward.
And then we've asked them to put steering groups together to support the development and delivery of the action plans and then agree a compliance date with Welsh Ministers, effectively. So, again, it's part of a theme I'm sure the committee can see developing here, that this is very much in partnership with the local authorities. They want to do this, we can't do it without them, and so it's very much a single piece running through. So, what will happen is that they'll agree the compliance date with us, and then we can ensure that they've got the support they need to be able to comply by the date. And this goes back to the original thing I was talking about, about making sure the plans are both robust and achievable, so that the community in question can actually see that something is being done. And I think that's actually really important; it's really important to make sure that we're just not going, 'Oh, well, then. It's terrible, but what can we do?' I really do want to get away from that kind of feeling. So, this is very much a part of the piece and, again, forgive me, Chair, but both Roger and Olwen know far more about the inner workings of all of these partnership arrangements than I do, so, if the committee wants more detail, I'm sure they can provide it.
The dispute resolution hasn't been touched on, and I can think of an example in my area, where you've got a school right next door to an industrial estate. I certainly wouldn't have given planning myself, but there it is. So, you can see there how tricky it might be in terms of dispute resolution. What we don't want to see, of course, is one blaming the other, neither taking action. So, how would you—? What mechanisms have you got in place or are going to have in place for that particular type of scenario to ensure what you want to ensure, which is good air quality for those pupils?
Thank you, Joyce. So, the way this would work, as I have been trying to outline, is that this is a set of partnership working with the local authority. They will be under a duty to produce this compliance date. The only way we're going to dispute that is if, for some reason, they've chosen an arbitrary date for which there's no evidence. I suppose we've got to go through all possible scenarios, but we think that's extremely unlikely, because they'll have been working with us to produce the data for that. Why would they come up with a compliance date that didn't match the data? I suppose they could. We don't think that they will. We're very unlikely to dispute the compliance date if it's been worked on with us. I suppose we could dispute it if they did do that. As a backstop, we do have a power of direction under the Environment Act 1995, so we could direct them to do something, but I'd be really reluctant to do that. We work much better in partnership than we do with that kind of stick approach. But I suppose, Joyce, to be reassured, we could direct a local authority if it was being arbitrary in that way, but I honestly don't think that we would ever get into that position. I would regard us as having failed if we hadn't managed to do it in partnership at that point.
I see that you've set a date for local authorities to come up with their plans, and that's laudable. But you haven't come up with a timescale for the Welsh Government to approve those plans.
I suppose that's because we just want to do it as soon as possible, and I would struggle to say what the timescale would be for that. Again, just to give an example, what would you say? Within a year? Within two years? We are very keen to do this as soon as possible, so we struggled to come up with a timescale that wasn't, I thought, actually likely to be longer than the one we'd actually want to go for, but, on the other hand, I think, if the committee wanted to tell me that I had to do it within three months, we'd be duty bound to say that it's very unlikely we could agree to that, because unforeseen circumstances might mean that we couldn't. So, I wanted to—. And I have to say this without—. I don't want to put a timescale in that makes us all relax and think we've got a year if we could do it in three months. But, at the same time, I couldn't agree to the committee saying three months, in case some unforeseen circumstances meant that we wouldn't be able to do it. So, you see, it's a bit of a dilemma. So, I think we've gone for 'as soon as possible'.
I understand what you're saying, but that's a slightly unsatisfactory situation, Minister, simply because you might no longer be in post, and somebody else who took a much more relaxed view on this really important matter might be in post. So, how can we resolve this? I understand what you're saying, but we need to see action as soon as possible.
Well, if the committee wants to take evidence about what kind of timescale they think is appropriate, I'm certainly prepared to look at it, but I do genuinely worry that if the committee comes up with something that—. It's just in the nature of the way that our resources are, isn't it, that, if I haven't got to do it for two years, then it will slow down. I genuinely mean that.
Yes, on the other hand—
So, I would say as soon as possible in the circumstances, but if the committee has evidence—. Part of the point of the scrutiny process, isn't it, is if the committee has evidence that means that a timescale could be put in place that we can all agree then I'd be very happy to have a look at that. As I say, there's no benefit to us delaying our agreement. We'd want to get it under way as soon as possible.
Okay. All right. Well, I think we'll come back to that.
Huw wants to come in. Last word to Huw, and then we'll take a break, I think.
Just as an option, Minister, I wonder whether it would be an appropriate way to proceed to put a reasonable date within the legislation, but one that also gave you the power to slip that date and to bring it back with justification to the Senedd, because then that gives a stronger imperative to introducing this, but it gives you the power to come back and say, 'Well, actually, we're not quite ready for very good reasons.' Are you open to that sort of idea?
I'm not not open to it, Huw, I guess. It's just the more things you get us to do before we do the actual thing, the less likely we are to achieve the thing, if you see what I mean. So, if we were going to slip it by three weeks, and I had to go through a process to do that, then it would probably slip by three months. It is a genuine dilemma. I do understand why the committee wants us to have a date in there, but you can see it is a genuine dilemma.
And there are other time-bound targets on the face of the Bill as well—
Yes, there are. Indeed, there are.
—so that's something that, maybe, as a committee we'll need to reflect on. So, we'll pause there. We'll take a 10-minute break, and, if everybody's happy, we'll reconvene a minute or so before 10:40, and then we'll go back into public session. So, we'll take a break there. Diolch yn fawr.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:30 a 10:41.
The meeting adjourned between 10:30 and 10:41.
Croeso nôl i Bwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Seilwaith Senedd Cymru. Rŷn ni'n parhau â’r gwaith o graffu ar y Gweinidog a’i swyddogion ar y Bil Amgylchedd (Ansawdd Aer a Seinweddau) (Cymru), ac mi wnaf i ofyn, felly, i Joyce gychwyn ail ran y sesiwn yma gyda ambell i gwestiwn.
Welcome back to this meeting of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee at Senedd Cymru, the Welsh Parliament. We'll continue with our work of scrutinising the Minister and her officials on the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, and I'll ask Joyce to start with the second part of this session.
Minister, I want to move on to smoke control, and how will the move from criminal to civil sanctions in relation to smoke being emitted from a chimney within a smoke control area make it easier for local authorities to improve that air quality?
Diolch, Joyce. So, currently, it's a criminal regime for smoke control, and the prosecution process is burdensome, lengthy and expensive, and, frankly, very rarely used. The resources required by the local authority to bring a prosecution are really often not in the best interests of the local authority, because it just takes such an amount of time. The challenge of gathering evidence is also a deterrent. So, removal of the statutory defences that hinder enforcement will facilitate quicker intervention by local authorities to tackle smoke emitted within their control areas.
And then, as I've said, Joyce, so often in discussing the regime issues here, the advice-led approach that we are advocating as part of the new civil sanctions regime will allow local authorities to immediately address the issue, provide guidance to households and businesses about why they would be in breach if they carried on with the practice and how to adopt better burning practices—for example, what kind of appliance, or what kind of fuel you might be able to burn instead of the thing that's causing the difficulty. And they can also advise them of the harm that this is doing to the health and well-being of both themselves and their neighbours. So, again, it's an education piece as well as an enforcement. But it does mean that the enforcement regime, if it's necessary—so, for somebody who isn't taking the advice and isn't changing their practice—is something that is much quicker and much less burdensome for the local authority to do, and so people who are flouting the law, as opposed to not understanding the law, can be dealt with in that much more swift fashion.
I accept that, Minister, and, of course, in a rural area like mine, there will be a need for education for people who are not—. They're off gas; they burn coal, they burn wood, as a means—affordable means, in some cases—to keep their homes warm. How will local authorities and those individuals be advised, and what, if any, relaxation will be permitted in terms of a timescale for people who may need to adapt their situation?
Yes. So, Joyce, this will only be in a smoke control area. At the moment, there are only four of those in Wales. One of my officials will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe they are Swansea, Newport, Flintshire and Wrexham at the moment. They tend to be in urban areas, because of the concentration of people, and so most urban areas are not off-gas grid, but I understand what you're asking there, Joyce. But, again, advice will be available for people about how to dry wood, for example, if they're using wood from their own garden—wet wood is a particular problem, dry wood not so much—and what practices, what kind of appliance you could burn it in; the benefits of a stove rather than an open fire, for example, or what retrofit on your chimney might be necessary if you are concerned about emitting the kind of smoke that causes a nuisance for people. But I just can't emphasise enough that this is where a local authority decides to put a smoke control area in place.
Thank you. I wanted to ask that question because that will be asked of me, but—
Before you move on, sorry, Joyce, Huw has indicated that he'd like to come in, I think.
Thank you, Chair. It's in respect of the move to civil sanctions, but any other measures as well, in these smoke control areas. Could you or your officials tell us whether you've drawn on any UK or international experience where the move to civil sanctions has been more effective, or other measures? Because we certainly know that in places like London, for example, where they do have smoke control areas, it's been effective to some extent, but there is still a lot of evidence of burning of, certainly, wood and coal either within homes or on things like canal barges and so on. So, I was just wondering what you've drawn on about what really works. And that education piece you mentioned is key within smoke control areas, but also the enforcement as well. What have we drawn on that really works?
Thank you, Huw. It's a combination of things, isn't it? It is to do with the evidence coming from the local authorities about the difficulty of using the current regime, which is clear and obvious, I think—it's almost common sense that it's not effective, because it just is such a burdensome thing for a single prosecution for the local authority. And also, to be honest, I think it feels draconic to the local authority to do such a thing, whereas I think a civil sanctions regime does not feel draconic, particularly when associated with advice that's already been given on a number of occasions and so on, which we'd expect.
But as I keep saying, this is part of a suite of measures, isn't it? We have a big public health education piece to do here on clean air; we have a whole programme of things rolling out in, for example, schools and so on about climate change, the environment, our healthy selves and our healthy planet—this is part of a whole suite of things. And dare I say, I think that Wales is a very different place to London—we have much more community-focused people here. It's not the kind of enormous, metropolitan area where people live isolated lives, counterintuitively. Here in Wales, we have a much broader community, and I think it's like all of these things, isn't it—what we need is for it to get to be socially unacceptable. That's what we're really looking at. And so, what we're doing is rolling out a piece where people understand what they can burn that's socially acceptable.
I will freely say that I have a stove at home that burns stuff, but I've taken to burning something called coffee logs. I won't name the brand—I'm not advocating a particular brand—but there's no carbon, no smoke. What's not to like? They use old, used coffee grounds, so, it's a reuse thing as well. Those sorts of things can happen, or, if you are lucky enough to have a garden that produces wood, how to dry that wood out sufficiently well to make sure that it's not emitting dangerous particulates and so on. There's a big piece here, isn't there, and it's about making these things socially unacceptable.
I can't emphasise enough, and this may be my own personal view as much as anything, Huw, that if you've got to enforcement, you've failed. You've got to persuade people to come on this journey. Nothing in a democracy really works if you've got to enforce it. Our society works because people want to buy into it, and that's what we've got to aim for.
I do agree with that, but if you look at seatbelts or using mobile phones in cars, there is enforcement as a backstop to everything else. But I do get what you're saying—it's a long educational and cultural change as well. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Indeed. And just to re-emphasise the point, we are putting the enforcement regime in place—it absolutely is a backstop and some people require it, but most people won't and I think that's what we're aiming for.
Excellent. Thank you. There must be a wonderful smell of coffee in your house, Minister, but there we are, we won't go there.
Sadly not, I should say. It doesn't smell of coffee.
Okay. That's interesting. Back to you, Joyce.
Back to enforcement, Minister—carrot and stick. The Welsh Government has chosen not to include the following in the White Paper proposals: banning outdoor combustion, including bonfires, in smoke control areas; mandating the application of smoke control orders in all urban areas that meet specific criteria; and a requirement for local authorities to review smoke control areas on a regular basis. Could you explain why those are not included?
Yes, certainly, Joyce. As you know, we went out to a White Paper consultation, and the responses from the consultation were very mixed indeed and suggested that a lot more work is required before we legislate on outdoor burning, even within smoke control areas. We're currently gathering evidence from a very large range of stakeholders to build a picture of what evidence is available to limit pollution caused by outdoor burning. An example of this is whether local authorities in an area provide free kerbside garden waste collection, as burning garden waste might look reasonable if there's no other way to get rid of it, for example. Working with the councils to make sure that they offer collection of the right kind of garden waste, for example, is one of the things we want to look into.
We also want to look at the extent to which we would want to use existing legislative functions to address outdoor burning. As I said, this Bill is just one of a suite of provisions that already exist. We're working collaboratively with somebody I think you're probably all familiar with, Professor Paul Lewis, who is Wales's air quality champion, on awareness and understanding of outdoor burning and how that can be improved. We're getting evidence around sources and the impacts of fine particulate matter to inform the policy direction. So, I suppose the short answer is we're not ready yet; we wouldn't have the proper evidence base to be able to say what the right thing to do is. We are certainly keeping it under active consideration and working with a range of stakeholders on what the next steps might be.
We all know now that we're getting longer, hotter summers, which means that more people are going outside with barbecues, and there are different fuels that fuel barbecues, and they tend to be quite close to other people's houses, where those people might have opened their windows, for example. Are you in a position with these smoke control orders to consider—and I want to make it clear here I'm not trying to stop people having barbecues—all incidents that might cause irritation to other people?
What we'll be doing is working with each local authority to make sure that what we're looking at is proportionate and the education piece is present. The Bill introduces the requirement for local authorities to have regard to any guidance published by Welsh Ministers in relation to smoke control areas and reinforces the advice-led approach that we're adopting all the way through the Bill and that I've spoken about a number of times already. The guidance encourages local authorities to consider smoke control areas in their overall approach to air quality management, including whether to create new smoke control areas if they're needed. They can work that on the basis of complaints received and acted on, or advice offered to residents. They're all recorded as part of the annual reporting mechanism in the local air quality management. So, again, Joyce, if you have one complaint in the whole year from one person in an area, that's one thing; if you have 50 complaints in a street, then that's a different thing, isn't it? What we want is a proportionate response.
The local authority will be under a duty to consider that and, where it thinks that something is becoming a nuisance, to take some action. The local authority can be challenged by way of judicial review if they don't take account of our guidance, and so we are consulting with them to develop the guidance in a way that contributes to improving air quality in Wales. We don't want the local authorities to be in an invidious position on that, but we do want them to take into account the right evidence in considering this. And then, as I say, we are also working on an evidence base for an all-Wales approach as well. We'll certainly come back to the committee when we're in a position to do so on that. And also, Olwen is reminding me that the outdoors is currently exempt from a smoke control area, which is an important consideration to bear in mind.
Thank you for that. We're going to move on to another section of the Bill now, around vehicle emissions. Huw, you're going to kick us off on this one.
Thank you, Chair. Moving on to trunk road charging schemes, as you know, Minister, many people who've been following this area with interest see road charging schemes in order to deliver improved air quality as part of the menu of options that are out there. I guess the opening question is why Welsh Ministers see the need to take expanded powers to create charging schemes for trunk roads, given that the explanatory memorandum states that there are currently no plans to introduce such schemes on Welsh roads. If that is the case, under what circumstances would you consider actually making a charging scheme?
Thank you, Huw. I know it does seem counterintuitive that we're taking powers to do something we're not planning to do. But it's because we want to futureproof this Bill; we don't want to have to come back with more primary legislation in circumstances where, actually, we haven't been successful in reducing airborne pollutants as a result of vehicle emissions by the other measures that we're taking forward. We're taking forward a number of measures. I've already mentioned several of them. We want to be able to get mean concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in ambient air on parts of the trunk road network down in particular. That's the big issue for the trunk road network.
Again, I'm going to go to an official if you want any real detail on some of the technical stuff here. But, for example, we've got a plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations in our precautionary retained measures for the A470 from Pontypridd to Upper Boat, and on the M4 at Newport, junctions 25 to 26, at the moment. They're considered for introduction if our preferred measure of reduced 50 mph speed limit isn't effective. If we have to introduce charging mechanisms in order to make them effective, then we would certainly consider doing so, but I'd much prefer to do it with compliance measures like reduced traffic speed and so on. We do know that reducing the speed of cars, particularly diesel and petrol cars, obviously, reduces emissions very substantially. And it's a learning experience, again, for people to understand that speed isn't just something that gets you faster somewhere; it's actually something that actively harms the people that you're going past. So, we do need to get that out.
We're continuing to scope work at the A470 in Pontypridd, and the M4 around Newport, but we don't have evidence yet that a clean air zone would be appropriate or required. The scoping work will complete later this year, and then we'll consider the evidence and the case for introduction of the schemes at those locations. But at the moment we think that our reduction of the speed limits, and variable speed limits, will actually help along the sections of the M4 where that's been introduced. And you'll notice, I'm sure, if you drive the M4 very regularly—as I do, as I'm from Swansea—that the number of 50 mph speed limits is increasing, and that's because the M4 goes through very highly occupied areas. It's a very highly populated part of the country, and we need to make sure that people are safe there.
I think, actually, if I just get Olwen to tell you—. Olwen's trying to tell me some very detailed, technical things, so I think it would be better if she told you herself, Chair, if you don't mind.
Let's hear from Olwen, then.
I think the Minister covered most of the points, to be fair. The situation in north Wales on the motorway and trunk road network is looking positive, and primarily it's looking quite positive in south Wales as well, around the Newport and the A470 area; we're monitoring that closely. You'll recognise we just went through quite a prolonged period of lower air pollution because of COVID, so we have to be careful how we look at the data over the coming months around those areas. But we're not doing things lightly. It's an evidence-based approach, and if those speed limits aren't delivering, you have to look at what next. This is about having those powers if we need them.
Thank you for that. We'll come to Janet, and then we'll come back to Huw.
Why does the Bill, Minister, not require you to consult prior to establishing a trunk road charging scheme?
Thank you, Janet. Consultation and engagement are absolutely essential if we want the policy to be effective, and I'm totally committed to undertaking full public consultation on any future proposals to utilise the new powers under the scheme. The road user charging scheme must be confirmed by Order, and Welsh Ministers are already under a duty to make a regulatory impact assessment code for subordinate legislation under the Government of Wales Act 2006. The current code says the Welsh Government will carry out proper and appropriate consultation with those who are likely to be affected by the legislation, and those who have an interest in its overall impact. So, I suppose the short answer is that we don't need to put it in the Bill, because we're already under a duty to do it.
Okay. And then, again—sorry to harp on about this, but there's consultation and consultation—other than the interest groups, say, and apart from me probably doing my two-week column in Aberconwy on this issue, when I have a newspaper column, how will you be engaging, say, with my residents in Aberconwy, so they know what's coming?
If we were going to propose a road charging scheme in any area of Wales, we would be consulting with the interest groups—so, obviously, the local authorities and the councils in that area. We'd also be doing a public consultation and a stakeholder consultation. So, it would be as wide a consultation as we can manage.
But how? Will it be meetings? Will it be an online thing that they'll find on social media? Or will it be local meetings held?
Well, I don't know yet, Janet, but I'm absolutely certain that we would be consulting with people such as yourself about the best way to get the best consultation response. That's the point of consultation—it's to get the best response possible, isn't it?
It's nice to hear. Thank you.
Okay, thank you. Back to you, Huw.
Thank you very much, Chair. Can I turn to the aspect of what any proceeds from any future charging schemes, if they happen, can be used for? Is our reading correct that, as currently described within the Bill, they could be used for any purpose? And if so, I'd ask you why you think that's appropriate, because there would be a school of thought that would say, 'Well, if you are having proceeds from any sort of road charging scheme, it should be towards those wider objectives of modal shift, air quality, et cetera.' So, what's your rationale on the way it's described in the Bill at the moment?
So, it's not hypothecated; you're quite right, Huw. It's not narrowly hypothecated. We always wanted to get away from the restriction that requires net proceeds to be used only for transport policies and proposals, because clean air is wider than transport policies and proposals. So, we wanted to be able to support all forms of local air quality management activity or extend air quality monitoring or address emissions from industry or domestic burning as part of the proceeds, not just traffic issues. So, it won't be hypothecated in that sense, but we will be required to assess proposed expenditure against expected impact on air quality. So, we couldn't take it away and use it for growing—. I don't know, I can't think of something that doesn't impact air quality, for a moment. My heads all into air. But we can't use it for anything. We have to look at it, the impact of the expenditure on air quality, and then therefore air quality is at the heart of the decision-making process. But we are coming away from the narrow focus on transport policy, for obvious reasons, because we might want to use it to roll out data capture, for example. There are a number of things that you might want to do that directly contribute to air quality that aren't just transport emissions.
Okay, that's quite interesting, as it still keeps the relentless focus on air quality. Transport could be one of the examples, but it could be other ones. That's quite helpful to understand.
Can I turn to the issue of local authorities creating charging schemes on local roads? Singularly, we are unique now within England and Wales of having no local authority charging schemes within local roads. I've lost count now, but there are five, six, seven within England that are either in place or are being put in place over the next year or so. How do the proposals in this Bill engage at all with the existing powers for local authorities to create their own charging schemes? Do you see there's any synchronicity at all, or is it separate?
There's definitely synchronicity. We are discussing with various local authorities in Wales whether or not they have any plans. But before a local charging scheme can proceed, we've got to have detailed regulations made under the Transport Act 2000. I'm sure committee knows that already. We haven't got a time frame confirmed for that purpose.
We have included, in the regulatory impact assessment for this Bill, some illustrative costs, which relate to the introduction of Birmingham's clean air zone, trying to get some examples of what we might be looking at in terms of impact. And the Welsh transport appraisal guidance assessments undertaken in 2018 suggest a combined cost of around £20 million, but there are only estimates at the moment, so we need to have a really good look at all of this, Huw. But there definitely is synchronicity there.
The local authorities already have some powers in this regard that we don't have, and the Bill is designed to put us back into the same position as them, really. But we absolutely are working with our local authorities together. I've had some discussions with some of the larger urban local authorities, it won't surprise you to know, and we want to make sure that we use the powers together rather than in opposition to each other, so we don't have double schemes for people and that kind of thing. But I've also been very clear indeed that local authorities can't do something that only benefits their own residents and disadvantages other residents, and people will be very alive to the possibility of that as well. So, it's an ongoing discussion, but we're not yet in a position to take anything forward.
Okay. There are definitely costs of doing any road charging scheme for the wider public goods that you've described, but there are also costs of not doing it as well. So, can I just push you a little bit further? I think you've just said there that there are no timescales for really taking forward this work, including on the necessary analysis. Is that right? Can you give us any idea of timescales, when we might see some outcomes from the discussions with local authorities?
Sure, Huw. Our current plan is to publish a framework against which the local authorities need to test their own plans for any potential road charging scheme, and as I say, the framework will include such things as not only advantaging their own residents and so on. You can see—. I won't give any examples in the committee, but the committee is perfectly capable of seeing that an urban authority with a hinterland needs to be very careful in terms of how a road charging scheme might work, for example. So, we will publish a framework that sets out what the local authorities need to consider, including evidence for what a charging scheme is intended to do, what the outcomes of that might be, and what the proceeds might go towards, and then ultimately we get to approve the scheme order anyway, so it's a combination thing. I mean, I can't emphasise enough that we work completely in harmony with our local authorities here, and we've also been working with the regions, so with the corporate joint committee regions, so Cardiff capital region, Swansea region, Ceredigion and Powys region, and the north Wales region, because these schemes would have regional impacts, so it's not just each local authority. So, we are in those discussions, but I'm not in a position to say that it will be in a year's time or something at the moment.
Okay. Thank you. Jenny wants to come in.
As somebody who represents a Cardiff constituency, I'm obviously very concerned to understand the timescales on this framework because doing nothing has a huge cost for residents who live on these congested trunk roads. So, Cardiff Council has got the political will, but other local authorities in the Cardiff capital region might have less commitment to protecting citizens from poisonous air. Could you give us—? When are we going to see this framework, and how quickly can we get the necessary work done that needs to be done in the capital region and the corporate joint committees to ensure that we have got a regional approach as soon as we've got the alternatives for people to desist from doing the wrong thing in terms of commuting into work?
So, Jenny, I can't give you an absolute timescale, but the CJCs are under a duty to produce both strategic planning and strategic transport plans for their area. We're just working with them in order to get them to do that; they've just been established last year. So, they're just working through the strategic transport plan and the strategic planning that they need to do for infrastructure there. We'll also be publishing the framework around these schemes. As you've rightly pointed out there, there's a social justice issue here as well. We don't want people who can't afford to upgrade their car and so on, but who might not have decent public transport at the moment to be disadvantaged. I've spoken already in the committee about the bus Bill coming forward; these things need to be lined up so that people have the ability to make the right choices here. So, it's not just about introducing a framework; it is about actually embedding our just transition principles as well, and I'm very determined that we will do that, and that's why we've been having the discussions with the various authorities about making sure that this is considered on a regional basis, and that we take into account the effect on all communities of these kinds of schemes, including cleaning up the air, of course, but also on people's ability to get to work and so on.
We have 20 minutes left. So, thank you for that, Minister. We have two other areas we wish to cover, which is the idling of stationary cars and soundscapes as well. So, Jenny, do you want to take us onto that section? Thanks.
Yes, okay. The existing regulations don't work at the moment because I'm constantly coming across people who just give two fingers to a request to turn off their engine. So, could you just explain why you think powers are needed to prescribe a monetary range? They clearly need to be a lot higher than they are at the moment, because they're simply not having the deterrent effect.
Well, for exactly that reason, Jenny: it's not having the deterrent effect. So, the Bill will do two things. It will put a duty on people to be given advice very firmly about it. We will work with the schools and other places where vulnerable people are—so, hospitals and care homes are the obvious other ones—to make sure that advice is given to visitors and residents. We will work with the schoolchildren who are an enormous resource in this regard in terms of doing the right thing with them as well. But, in the end, if somebody is just not prepared to comply because it's the right thing to do, then having the power to set a monetary range that would actually make a difference to that person, and might make them think twice about it, is very important. The current penalty of £20 is clearly not having that effect; it clearly isn't enough to deter people. So, putting a monetary range in regulations will facilitate that enforcement and, again, the point about putting it in the regulations is to make sure that, as we're currently living through an age of rampant inflation, for goodness' sake, if I put it on the face of the Bill and it's £50, £50 might not be worth very much at all in two years' time. So, making sure that the regulations are fit for purpose and that the range can be reconsidered regularly will be an important part of this.
But it also requires local authorities to send their parking regulator, the 'meter maids', as we used to call them, to actually support headteachers who are terrified of trying to get parents to do the right thing.
Yes. So, the regulations will allow the local authorities to authorise whoever they see fit to take this action. And that might well be the parking enforcement officers, it might be environmental health, it could be anybody that they think is appropriate for that local authority; we're not restricting it. The local authority will have the power to authorise an officer of the local authority to take action, whoever is the appropriate person.
It also requires local authorities to do what they're not doing at the moment. So, these are conversations you're having.
Yes, very much so, and as I say, that's a little bit chicken and egg, if you don't mind my saying so, because we're saying the regulations aren't effective and then criticising the local authority for trying to use ineffective regulations.
Yes, fair comment.
Hopefully, if we make the regulations effective, they'll see fit to use them.
Okay. Thank you.
There we are. Thank you, Minister. Janet.
How did you arrive at the suggested monetary range of £40 to £80, set out in the explanatory memorandum?
So, it's just an indicative range, Janet. We've said that there will be consultation on the monetary range to be included, and we'll do that. If stakeholders have views on the illustrative amounts, as we go through the process, we're very happy to change them. And, as I said, we're currently living through high inflation. Who knows what we need to do? So, the point being that regulations need to be able to be reviewed regularly to make sure that the charge is still fit for purpose and working. If the committee wants to suggest a different range, I'm more than happy to look at that.
They we are. Okay. Thank you. Joyce.
Just a very quick one. You've set a range, but you've also said it's a matter for local authorities to determine what that charge will be. Did you not think that maybe a national approach would be advantageous rather than a local?
Well, we've been discussing with the Welsh Local Government Association, Joyce, and actually, it's very interesting, because they want a very large range of penalties. They want a lower penalty as well. So, if they're handing out £5 penalties all the time to people, they think that might be a deterrent as well, for people who are multiple offenders, as well as handing out, I don't know, a £100 penalty to somebody who's being particularly egregious. So, that local range might be very important indeed, and also it allows the authorities to tailor it. But if the committee has a different view, I'm more than happy to look at it. It is about trying to make the regime as effective as possible.
Okay. Thank you very much. Right, we'll move on to Delyth, then.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Could you talk us through—? So, turning to the soundscapes element of this, Minister, could you please talk us through why you decided to include soundscapes in the Bill, given that it wasn't in the White Paper?
Thank you, Delyth. We hadn't developed the proposal at the time that we went out for the White Paper, but as the work proceeded on the Bill, provisions relating to the national air quality strategy and the recent consultation we've done on the new technical advice note 11 on air quality, noise and soundscapes, and a new noise and soundscape plan that we're about to consult on, it became more and more obvious that the Bill was the most appropriate piece of legislation to put our airborne noise and soundscape plan—that's a tongue twister—on a more solid legal foundation, and aligned with the air quality. So, this is airborne pollution, isn't it, and sound is certainly one of those?
So, the word 'soundscape' is prominent in the Bill to make sure that everyone reading the Act realises that it relates to more than just unwanted noise; it's about the consideration of sounds that people do want to hear as well. So, you know, and I've heard you talk very eloquently on the subject, Delyth, about the real benefits of being able to hear nature, for example. So, we want people to be able to hear the things they want to hear, and not have to put up with noise that can be very deleterious to health, actually, if you're constantly subjected to noise that is very, very difficult.
So, this is—. We're quite pleased with this. We're first over the parapet with this, and I'm very pleased to be first over the parapet for it. We've had a lot of discussion with stakeholders before, during and following the recent TAN 11 consultation, and we've discussed it with people like the Institute of Acoustics and the Noise Abatement Society ahead of the Bill's introduction, and they all seem very keen on it, I must say, and so I'm very pleased to put it there. But it is, I can't emphasise enough, about both the positive and the negative parts of a soundscape.
That's really welcome, actually, Minister. Thank you for talking us through that. In terms of stakeholder engagement, what you've just said about maybe stakeholders who would have been in the know more about this policy area, then that would definitely make sense. In terms of the stakeholders who you've been engaging more with who had been expecting a clean air Bill—I know we did talk about this in the Chamber and you said that this will probably be known as the clean air Bill—it does seem to make sense that you've included soundscapes in this as well, but what I want to determine is what engagement you've had with stakeholders about how to manage public perceptions of the legislation so that people understand exactly what it's doing. Because, for example, 'soundscapes' isn't defined on the face of the Bill. It would be useful if you could talk us through that.
When you were just talking about that then, it makes complete sense, but if a member of the public were to hear about this, they wouldn't know what 'soundscapes' means. So, how have you been working with stakeholders to try and overcome—again, to try and get the public to be on board with this, because it's something that most people would probably be in support of?
Yes. So, it's a very good point, Delyth, and, again, if the committee has any ideas about public engagement, I'm more than happy to look at them. We know that the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Institute of Acoustics are all people who are very engaged already—I absolutely accept that. They very much welcome this. They've just been giving evidence to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, and praising us to the hilt for having done it, which is always nice to see. We already have a noise and soundscape plan, and we're basically putting the legal basis for this in this Bill. I think it's been widely welcomed by people. So, I think we just—. We need to do some public engagement around all of this. I've talked repeatedly all the way through this committee about education, engagement, advice, haven't I, and it will just be part of the education, engagement, advice piece that we need to do as we roll the Bill out, as people become more and more aware of it.
And then, just to give you—. I mean, there are some really tricky issues here; I'm sure the committee accepts that. But one of the things that we're wrestling with at the moment is the whole—. So, you'll have heard the calls for permitted development rights to be relaxed for air-source heat pumps. At the moment in Wales, it has to be 3m away from another domestic dwelling, and in England, that's only 1m. Well, what we need to do there is make sure that the technology keeps up with people's desire, because if you've heard some of the older air-source heat pumps, I'm not sure I'd want to live 1m away from them, quite frankly, whereas some of the newer technologies are much, much quieter. So, again, you have to have some sort of fit for purpose-type thing. So, if we were going to relax permitted development rights, we might have to be very specific in that relaxation, so that you're not actually making a large number of people pretty miserable in the place that they live in an effort to effect the climate change that we want. So, it is a very difficult balancing act, and what this soundscape plan will do is help us to inform really practical decisions like that—what should be a permitted development? Are you allowed to put a windmill on your roof? What level of noise would be allowed in order to do that? It might green up your energy grid, but would it make your next-door neighbour very, very unhappy? So, it’s that kind of balance that we’re looking for, and this gives us a legislative basis to have a look at that.
I think Huw wanted to come in with a supplementary, and then I'll come back to you, Delyth.
Thank you, Chair. Thanks, Delyth, for letting me in on this. Soundscapes can be something of a subjective and geographically very specific issue as well. Having lived in the middle of busy cities for 15 years in London, the soundscape there is very different from rural mid Wales. But what I want to ask you is something more of a practical thing. I've got lots of developments over the last 20 years that have sprung up right along the motorway corridor, right along the M4. I've got houses that are literally backing onto the motorway, where I would find it hell on earth, frankly, to sit outside in those. Now, this isn't retrospective, if you can clarify that. This is not retrospective; it can't be. But does it mean that it will have a practical impact not just on individual things, as you've just described, but on major planning decisions to improve the quality of life of people?
Yes, so that’s part of what the TAN 11 consultation has been about, Huw—how do we implement this in a very practical way? And, how do we get developments that are—? Well, we’ve talked about it all the time, haven’t we? We talk about all the time place planning; how do we get neighbourhoods that people want to live and work in? And then, to some extent, this is subjective, isn’t it? Some people like the noise of a bustling big city and other people don’t. It’s one of the things that I always say when we’re talking about the homelessness strategy—you have to find the right home for the right person to help them to thrive. So, for some people, if you put them in a tower block in the middle of a large city, they’d be very, very happy, and other people would be miserable, and the converse is true—for some people, if you put them in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere, they’d be very, very happy, and for some people, that would be terrible. Well, this is the same thing, isn’t it? It’s about getting the Design Commission to work with our local authorities to get good design in place that satisfies people’s requirements, and then it’s horses for courses a little bit as well. But there are some really difficult judgments to make here about the permitted development rights, as I just said, and about local development plans coming forward in terms of what housing land is available and what you need to consider for that.
I’m sorry for the anecdote—we’re all politicians, so we’re used to them—but when I first met my husband, I went to visit his family, who lived in a place called Hampton on the edge of west London, and went out into the garden to meet his mother, and had a conversation in which I didn’t hear a single word she said, because a very large plane went overhead, and not a single member of the family looked up or acknowledged in any way that this plane had gone overhead, and I had literally flinched and gone—. Because I came from Wales and had never been under the flight path for Heathrow before. So, that flight path is varied once every three weeks, I don’t know if you know that, in order to—. But, they were completely used to it, and didn’t even notice the plane going by.
So, it is a bit horses for courses, depending on where you live. But we also need to make sure that we’re taking people’s opinions into account when we’re doing these things, and I think the TAN 11 consultation, which I’m sure the committee can get hold of if it hasn’t already, is a really interesting example of some of that.
So, why do you—? Sorry, Delyth. Why do you legislate for something that could be subjective and fairly arbitrary in nature? We've just come off the equalities discussions where we're talking about actual fixed targets and limits and criteria. How do you legislate for soundscapes, when it can be rather arbitrary?
Because there are some designs that limit that. So, I'm saying that people get used to stuff. I'm not saying they should have to get used to it, right? So, you can design a housing estate next to a motorway, for example, that is configured in the right way, that has the right kind of insulation, the right kind of hedging, the right kind of whatever, that makes it a perfectly pleasant and healthy environment, or you can make it, as you said, hell on earth. But what we're trying to do is make sure that, in designing our future communities, we have all of the right considerations in place to make sure that, for the vast majority of people, it will be a place that they want to live and work.
To some extent, as part of the retrofit challenge we have, that's part of what we're doing, isn't it? So, some retrofitting is for insulation for heat, cold and so on, but some of it is for sound. In some places, you need triple-glazed windows, because, actually, what you're doing is blocking sound out, so that kind of retrofit challenge we also need to consider. What this is doing is giving us a base off which to develop the policies in, for example, technical advice note 11 that will help us take that forward, and I think it's a very important point.
Can I ask, then, before coming back to Delyth—and thank you, Delyth, for your patience—in relation to the TAN, when are we likely to see that, and is it in any way incumbent upon the Bill or is there anything that is—?
No, the TAN consultation is live—. I think it might have finished—forgive me, I'll have to write back to the committee on that as I haven't got it in front of me, unless one of the officials knows, but we've certainly been in the consultation until very recently. It may have finished now, Chair—I'm afraid I can't quite remember when it finishes.
I think it may have, but yes, anyway—
It has been an ongoing process for some small while, and then, the TAN will come into force as the Bill goes through. It's not, I don't think, predicated on the Bill, but the Bill will help us put a legislative underpinning to it.
Indeed it will, yes. Okay, thank you. Delyth.
Diolch. I remember some research coming out some years ago that had shown that birds in the centre of London, or it was in the centre of a city that was as large as London, had altered their song, or the pitch that their song was pitched at, because they'd had to adapt. Humanity adapts and nature adapts, but, again, it's a question of whether they should have to. I remember that research being—it wasn't welcomed as something amazing; it was welcomed with horror, almost, because people thought, 'Oh my God, this is how noisy things are'. So, your conversation with Huw just then—I think that's going to be really interesting for us to reflect on.
A final question from me, Minister: would the Welsh Government consider establishing a soundscapes advisory panel to mirror what's there, or to make it an equivalent of the clean air advisory panel, so that everything in the scope of this is all in keeping, then?
Thank you, Delyth. Just to clarify, because my officials are helpfully telling me information that I don't have in front of me, Chair, the TAN was consulted on up until January of this year, so the consultation is now closed. We're going to work on the Bill, and the noise and soundscapes plan, and do the TAN in parallel, if we can manage the resourcing for it, so just to put that into context.
I'm afraid, Delyth, I don't know the answer to the last question you asked me, so I'll just see whether any of the officials know, and if not, we'll write back to the committee, Chair.
Okay, any officials keen to commit?
No, I don't think we know the answer, Delyth. Good question—we'll write back to you. [Laughter.]
There we are—lovely. Okay, we have actually come to the end of our allotted time, so can I thank the Minister and your officials for joining us this morning, and for firing the starting gun on our scrutiny of this legislation at Stage 1? You will, of course, as always, be sent a copy of the draft transcript to check for accuracy. But, I'll thank you very much for your presence this morning; it's certainly given us a lot to pursue with other stakeholders, as we dive deeply into this Bill. So, diolch yn fawr iawn for being with us.
Iawn, mi awn ni ymlaen at yr eitem nesaf, felly: papurau i'w nodi. Mae yna ambell bapur i'w nodi yn y pecyn heddiw. Mae yna un neu ddau ohonyn nhw, efallai, y down ni yn ôl atyn nhw yn y sesiwn breifat, os ydy Aelodau yn hapus i ni wneud hynny, ond a ydych chi'n hapus i ni nodi'r papurau? Ydych, diolch yn fawr iawn—dyna ni.
Fine, we'll move on to the next item, the papers to note. There are some papers to note in the pack today, a couple of which we might come back to in the private session, if Members are content for us to do that. But, are you content to note the papers? Yes, thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Eitem 5 yw ein bod ni'n symud i sesiwn breifat, felly rwy'n cynnig, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix), fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cynnal gweddill y cyfarfod yn breifat. A yw'r Aelodau yn fodlon? Mae pawb yn fodlon, dyna ni, felly mi wnawn ni oedi am eiliad wrth i'r cyfarfod fynd i sesiwn breifat. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Item 5 is that we do move into private session. So, I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content? Everyone is content, therefore, we'll wait for a moment as the committee goes into private session. Thank you very much.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:29.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:29.