Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

18/03/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Altaf Hussain Yn dirprwyo ar ran Joel James
Substitute for Joel James
Buffy Williams
Jack Sargeant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Peredur Owen Griffiths

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Carole Stewart Transport Scotland
Transport Scotland
Gillian Kelly Transport Scotland
Transport Scotland
Paul White Cydffederasiwn Cludiant Teithio yr Alban
Confederation of Passenger Transport Scotland

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Samiwel Davies Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sara Moran Ymchwilydd
Researcher

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Mae hon yn fersiwn ddrafft o’r cofnod. 

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. This is a draft version of the record. 

Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:01.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 14:01.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.

A very warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.

Can I welcome everybody to today's hybrid meeting of the Senedd Petitions Committee? This meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and the Record of Proceedings will be published as per usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations for conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place.

Item 1 on today's agenda is apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. I have received apologies from Joel James MS, and I'm pleased to welcome Altaf Hussain MS, who is attending as Joel's replacement. Altaf, it's always good to have you on our committee. I remind committee members that they should note any declarations of interest either now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings.

2. Sesiwn dystiolaeth—Trafnidiaeth gyhoeddus am ddim i bobl ifanc
2. Evidence session—Free public transport for young people

Okay. That brings us to item 2 on today's agenda, and it's the evidence session for the scrutiny around free public transport for young people. Before I move to questions from Members, I'll ask our witnesses to introduce themselves. Gillian Kelly.

Good afternoon. I'm Gillian Kelly. I'm the corporate programmes team leader at Transport Scotland. Thank you.

Good afternoon. I'm Paul White. I'm the director in Scotland for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which is the trade association for the bus and coach sectors.

Thank you, and good afternoon, everybody. I'm Carole Stewart. I'm head of bus strategy and funding policy for Transport Scotland.

Well, can I thank you all for being here and introducing yourselves there? I'll start by introducing today's session as to why we have invited you here to give evidence about what's happening in Scotland. We're here to seek the lessons of the free transport for young people initiatives in Scotland and perhaps learn some of the barriers to that approach there. We've had a number of petitions on a similar item over a couple of years now, and the Welsh Youth Parliament has also produced their own report on public transport for young people. So, that's the history of our petitions process here. We heard from representatives of the Welsh Youth Parliament before Christmas, I think it was, and, a few weeks ago, we met with a range of stakeholders, and the strong feeling from stakeholders was that we must speak to Transport Scotland and colleagues in Scotland about what's going on there. So, that gives you the history of where we are. We hope to try and draw some of that out today. To start with that process, I'll bring Peredur Owen Griffiths in to lead some questions. Peredur.

Diolch. Diolch yn fawr i chi am ddod atom ni heddiw.

Thank you, and thank you for joining us today.

It's great to have you with us, and I'm sure you'll be able to enlighten us on what you've been doing in Scotland and have some hopefully relevant information for us to be able to understand what we can do in Wales and learn from some of the key learning that you've got. So, I'd like to start by looking at what preparatory work was undertaken ahead of introducing a free public transport scheme for young people in Scotland, including some of the information on the options you considered around things like age, the extent of the scheme, routes and times and that sort of thing, and then, also, that cross-border experience as well. So, quite a broad question. I wonder who would want to go first. Gillian—Gillian's gone there first. There we are. Fantastic. Thank you very much.

14:05

If that's all right—thanks. So, as a wee bit of background to the scheme itself, there were some very, very early discussions, around 2018, but primarily this scheme was effectively born from a commitment made in the 2020-21 budget agreement between the Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party. That provided for free bus travel for under-19s, and that was legislated for in March 2021. That was then extended to include under-22s in the 2021-22 agreement, and the final legislation for that was approved by the Scottish Parliament in November 2021. The scheme itself launched in January 2022. So, the intended outcomes for this scheme were aligned with the Scottish Government's national transport strategy, and that was particularly that it encourages younger generations to build sustainable travel habits from an early age, and that obviously contributes to our efforts to tackling the climate emergency, and also it promotes social inclusion, mobility, and it helps to reduce child poverty by improving access to education, to healthcare, to training, and access to employment as well. So, those were all really critical outcomes in the decision making around the age limit of this scheme, and certainly that was a factor in extending it from 19 to 22, because the national minimum wage and the national living wage are both significantly lower for that age group.

In terms of the implementation of the scheme itself, that included a significant amount of preparatory work, I'm sure you're not surprised to hear. It included policy, regulatory work, legislation, and all the associated documentation around that, including a raft of impact assessments and public consultation work as well. On the technical implementation, we found that it made more sense to replicate what we already had, what already existed, in our national concessionary schemes for older and disabled people, in that young people would access the scheme using the national entitlement card, the NEC, which is a smartcard that's owned by an independent organisation called the Improvement Service. It's managed by the National Entitlement Card Programme Office, NECPO, alongside our 32 local authorities. So, we worked really closely with those partners to support them in implementing a new application process for young people to access that card. That was crucial in our preparation for the scheme, because, as the policy outlined, those young people aged 16 and over could apply themselves, whilst five to 15-year-olds would require a parent, guardian or carer to apply on their behalf.

As Paul will attest, we also worked very closely with the bus industry, and that was to technically enable around 3,500 buses across Scotland to facilitate those smartcard journeys on the scheme and to agree initial reimbursement rates. Very similarly with our older and disabled person's scheme, in terms of the scope of the scheme, young people can access bus services right across Scotland, so that includes national and local routes. There are no time limits or restrictions on the number of journeys that they can undertake. There are some limited services that cross the border, but we only reimburse journeys for those who are living in Scotland for the majority of the year, and as far as Carlisle or Berwick-upon-Tweed. In terms of services that are not included in this scheme, there are very few. They are typically premium fare services, so that might be premium fare dedicated night buses, tour buses and national cross-border services as well. I hope that helps.

That does help a lot. You've got limited experience of that cross border, because, obviously, the border with England is less populated than, obviously, our border with England. So, any ideas on how that works, or what sort of things did you have to put in place before that worked properly?

It already existed for our older and disabled persons scheme. I think it was born around the fact that there are some young people who live on the border and access services either from England into Scotland or Scotland into England. So, I think it was around that, accommodating those outlier cases. But because the legislation is based in Scotland, that's the reason for not offering cross-border services across the board.

14:10

Carole, did you indicate to come in? You didn't. Sorry, I thought I saw a hand go up. No problem. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Another aspect that we were talking to the industry about, and in some of the evidence sessions that we've had, is that element of the younger people, the people under 16, and then, obviously, 16-year-olds, who are effectively treated as adults in this scheme. But under that, where you have a parent or a guardian having to apply, what sort of modelling is there, or how did you make that work, and then, were there any considerations around the use of that data? So, if the young person was going from here to school and back, were the parents able to monitor any of that data as it was going on, or were there any technical issues like that that you were able to tease out during your fleshing out in the first place?

I'll come in on that, but I'm conscious Carole might want to add. In terms of the age limit being 16 for applications, that was very carefully thought through. You'll be aware that the age limit for data consent is actually 12, so we did already have some 13-year-old disabled concessionary holders who were able to apply on their own, but for this scheme, particularly on this scale, it needed extra thought. Our policy colleagues undertook—. There was obviously consultation work, as I said, but a child's rights and well-being impact assessment was undertaken, and that was really where it was determined that 16 was an appropriate barrier for the application process.

You asked also about the technical issues. I forgot the second part of your question—apologies.

We don't have live data access for the scheme, so parents can't go on an app and track their child's bus journey. However, obviously, the scheme has to adhere to subject access requests, if required. So, if there is a cardholder requiring access to their journey data, then they can request that. We also have a data-sharing agreement in place with Police Scotland, so if there are any particular cases—missing person cases, for example—where the journey data might be helpful, we can provide that to Police Scotland.

Thank you, Peredur. If colleagues do want to come in, if they could just raise their hand, and I can call them from here. Just before I bring Altaf Hussain in, can I ask about the preparatory work that you undertook in Scotland? How long did it take before some of this came to fruition?

The early discussions happened just before the pandemic hit. There was a pause while we obviously managed the impact of that, and the policy, regulatory and consultation work started in late summer, early autumn 2020.

From the industry's perspective, our first meeting with Transport Scotland on the prospect of such a scheme was around about 2018, 2019, so we were engaged right from the idea's conception and involved in a lot of the preparatory work. Just a point on the preparatory work: for an under-22s scheme, it is quite challenging to have a sound position of what is happening currently, because nobody really measures how many people are travelling aged up to that particular age bracket. If you were to do an under-16s scheme, for example, it would be quite easy to have a good understanding of people who are travelling, but nobody really offered products for under-22s up until the inception of the scheme. So, the work that was undertaken in terms of understanding the baseline was challenging as part of that preparatory work. You do really want to know not just how many journeys were undertaken, but what was your starting point, how many journeys have been generated by the presence of the scheme. 

14:15

Thank you. The reason I asked that question is that the Welsh Government is on its way to reforming the bus industry in Wales through the bus services Bill. That was initially discussed before COVID, and, obviously, COVID, for many reasons, as you've described already, has delayed some of that, but we're still waiting to go. I'm aware similar things are happening—. I think Paul Sweeney MSP has been quite vocal on the bus services in Glasgow and how regulation of the industry could work there. So, it's good to get a sense of whether that preparatory work should be done alongside the bus Bill, or whether there are things that can be done in-between now and the bus Bill coming forward. Do you have a view on that? You might not. I can see Paul might want to come in, and then I'll bring Carole in.  

I think, essentially, it's two different work streams, isn't it? You'll be doing work through your national franchise, I understand, for the preparatory work for this, particularly around getting a good picture of the current patronage by age bracket. That's work that can be undertaken with operators distinct from any wider audit of the sector for patronage. I think if I was to give any advice, I'd say that you could start that work quite early on and engage with operators around that. It may involve some surveying. I think we used some Scottish household surveys, amongst other things, to have a good idea as to travel by age bracket. Carole may have a different view. 

Thanks, Paul. Yes, I think they're probably best considered as two separate work streams. The national concessionary travel scheme provides support with the cost of fares to passengers, and that's irrespective of how the bus industry is legislated for and how it operates in practice. In Scotland, we have put forward regulatory options for the delivery of bus services through the Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, and that provides local authorities with options to consider national franchising, formal bus partnerships and options to run and operate their own local authority bus services. The concessionary travel scheme, which provides support to passengers, can continue to operate within any of those options. So, it should be possible to consider concessionary travel for young people separately to reform of the bus sector. That would be my view. Thanks. 

Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Going to the first question regarding the cross-border consideration, is there any scheme on the England side of cross-border considerations? No. Right. Okay. In Wales, we have many areas where we have no walking routes, no cycle routes, and we are thinking that active travel might be included. Did you include any such areas when you considered this scheme in Scotland? 

I'll attempt an answer at that question. All services were included within the scheme, regardless of whether they are in urban, suburban or rural areas, and access to pathways or otherwise. I think we've seen from the evaluation of the scheme so far that it's a fantastic scheme, it has really delivered for young people, but it has its limits. If there are issues with frequency or availability of bus services, there's no use in a free travel card, so I think free travel is part of a package of measures to increase the availability of services and the frequency of services. Removing buses from congestion, for example, is probably something you want to consider—how to improve bus services holistically rather than putting all your eggs in a fares offer. 

One of the impacts of the scheme, you could say, has been a move from home-to-school transport to commercial bus routes—it's a saving for local authorities or for education boards to not run home-to-school transport, but to rely on people using the Young Scot card on a commercial bus route, which could then maybe push out to the statutory limits the availability of home-to-school transport in areas. So it's something to be considered when you're looking at people walking and cycling and accessing education—whether or not it actually leads to more of that to schools as home-to-school transport is reduced.

14:20

Before you continue with your question, Peredur, do you have a—

Following on with this, have you seen the creation of any new routes whilst this has been rolled out? Has it helped with the identification of new routes for young people? If there was a need there, has this allowed bus service providers to be able to say, 'Well, actually we need a route that goes from here to that school', or to that area of the town, or, in the rural countryside, 'Oh, we need one to go from one town to another because the young people need to use that route to get to school'?

I can't name specific examples to that point, but I would say that the point holds. It's difficult to look at it when you look at the wider context of this scheme being launched as we came out of the pandemic, and all of the challenges that the pandemic presented. When you're looking at, for example, patronage on routes, you have to think what was driven by the free travel for under-22s scheme and what was driven by the fact that a good number of people hadn't returned to bus, or that we've suffered a real driver shortage issue. But the point stands that the growth in youth travel will lead operators to consider what routes are required to serve that new demand, and I imagine that there will be examples across Scotland of operators looking to service that through new routes.

I think I asked this question mainly because in the area where I live, we have a primary school there, and the secondary schools are all around, and children, schoolboys and girls, have to walk. And there are no walking routes, no cycle routes—there's no active travel, so the only available way for going to these schools is either their parents have to have a car or they have to have the bus, and it has not been so far taken care of. So, probably it will be one of the areas that could be included in this.

My question is this: how much has the scheme cost overall and how do bus companies get paid for giving free rides to some passengers?

I'll come in on that one, if that's all right. The total cost of the scheme up to the latest date that we have, which is 13 March 2024—and bear with me, this is a long number—is £249,513,825. Just for absolute clarity, that is £249,513,825. That is made up of operator reimbursement costs of £243,072,136 and implementation and ongoing operational costs of £6,441,689.

In terms of how the reimbursement model works, reimbursement rates for all of our schemes are negotiated with the bus industry on an annual basis. For the young persons' scheme, based on industry request, we split the reimbursement rate into those passengers aged between five and 15, and those aged 16 to 21. Paul mentioned earlier—and he's spot on—that there was very limited data on young people's travel habits before the scheme. The reimbursement rates that were put in place were established on an understanding that operators were no better or worse off as a result of taking part. Those rates that were agreed for the launch of the scheme are still in place, and they are 43.6 per cent of an adult single fare for five to 15-year-olds, and 81.2 per cent of an adult single fare for 16 to 21-year-olds.

I had said that the scheme is delivered on the NEC smartcard, so those journeys are recorded digitally on the ticket machine onboard the bus. It uses the same technology that we use on our existing old and disabled persons' schemes and, as I believe, is used in Wales for your concessionary schemes as well. So, that digital journey data is sent on to our systems where it's recorded and validated, and then we pay operators based on the reimbursement rates that are in place. We have 13 payment periods over the course of each year, and operators have 12 months from the date of a journey to claim reimbursement.

14:25

Thank you, Gillian. Paul, do you want to give us your view, from the operators' side, or are you happy to support?

Gillian's given a really comprehensive breakdown of the process there—we were engaged in that. It's a Government intervention into the commercial market that, when you look at it, in addition to the older and disabled persons' scheme, you're limiting the actual commercial fare of paying passengers now from 22 to 60 in Scotland, but the benefit has been a growth in young persons' travel. I think the real prize that we hope to see at the end of it is that, when people age out of that scheme, they continue to use public transport—that's the benefit. I have no comment. Gillian spelt out the process well. 

So, you're content with the process and the reimbursement scheme. I'm looking, if there was something similar in Wales here, then the view of the industry in Scotland, to the industry in Wales, would be that there is a model in Scotland that we could follow.

There is a process and a model that can be followed. I think it would be no surprise to Gillian or Carole for me to say that we feel that, in any concessionary scheme, operators have to be no worse off for participating—no better or worse off is the objective. And so, if reimbursement rates reduce markedly over a period of time, then there may be a point where operators say, 'Well, this is no longer something that we feel is based on a position of no better or worse off.' But, as things stand, because we're at the start of this process, we're really evaluating how the scheme grows and matures, the budget for reimbursement is not capped. So, for the older and disabled persons' scheme, there's a cap on the budget; for the younger person's scheme, Transport Scotland is committed to paying for every journey that takes place. So, there's no fear that growth will overtake the budget, and I think that's a good way forward for the first couple of years of a scheme, as you see how it matures. 

Also, another point is that, once the scheme was introduced, Transport Scotland agreed to a period of monitoring on a monthly basis with CPT, to see how the rates were impacting on operators. The understanding was that, if we could clearly demonstrate that operators were losing out commercially to a great degree, because of the introduction of the scheme, that's something that we could then examine. As it turns out, that wasn't the case in the months following the scheme's launch.

Thank you, Paul. I think colleagues will come on to questions about the evaluation, but I'll see if Altaf has any further questions to ask, and then I'll ask Peredur Owen Griffiths to come in for a supplementary.

Just quickly, the £249 million you quoted, Gillian, what was the timescale on that? Is that over two years, or is that a year? Or how many months?

14:30

So, that total figure, the £249 million figure, is to 13 March, the total cost of implementation of the scheme, so that's costs in the preparatory stage all the way up to 13 March 2024.

Fine. All right. All the way from 2020, all the way through, then.

Well, prior to 2020, because there were some preparatory costs—

Yes. Okay. So, have you done any work on how much it's costing now on an annual basis, going forward?

Obviously, as Paul said, there's a reimbursement budget that's agreed on a yearly basis, that's part of the reimbursement rate negotiations. There are some lower level ongoing operational costs, which have been agreed for the first, I believe, five years, in some cases of the scheme. But, other than that, it's predominantly reimbursement.

And is the modelling pretty accurate, then? You're finding that it's—. How good is your modelling?

I'll blithely hand over to Carole on that one.

Thank you. Those costs are covering from the preparatory work, as Gillian said, for the launch of the operation of the scheme in January 2022, up until mid March this year. So, just over two years, about 26 months' worth of journeys. The modelling on it is quite accurate and the forecasts are quite accurate, but because it's a new scheme and, as Paul mentioned earlier, we've been coming out of COVID, it has grown over the months, so we're probably not in a position where the use of the scheme has stabilised yet. So, we're probably not in a position to be able to provide a monthly or annual cost as yet, as the patronage and use of the cards is still growing as more young people have signed up over months, and they're still continuing to explore use of the cards, as well. Thanks.

Just to check, I think, what would be useful for any scheme here would be—. And anything you could share at a later date, maybe, of what that modelling profile looks like, so, whether you get a big surge and then a slowing down and what sort of timescale that goes over. That would be useful for us, if that's something that's available or something that you can share later, just to get a feel for it, so that we can see, 'Well, does it match?' It would give us an idea, then, when it comes to actually doing the financial assessments on a new Bill or anything coming through, it will help to flesh out some of that information. So, thank you for that.

You can tell that we have the Chair of the Finance Committee on this committee, as well. [Laughter.] Paul, you wanted to—. Sorry, Carole.

Just to add, we can certainly share the uptake of cards over time and also journeys over time, as well.

Thank you, that would be useful. Paul, and then I'll go to Gillian. Paul.

Thank you. Just to add the proviso, I think we can provide lots of good information on this, but it has to be borne in mind that the scheme essentially launched just as we were still at the end of the pandemic. So, marketing of the scheme was delayed, as you can't really have a scheme that calls for you to get out and use a free travel pass when you're also advising people to limit public transport use. So, how the scheme would operate from launch in Wales would likely differ from how it launched for operation in Scotland. Maybe we actually got a blessing in disguise in the fact that it was very much a slow growth through the initial periods, because of the lack of marketing and the fact that people were trying to limit public transport use, and it has grown and grown over a period of time. So, there was no day 1 shock of a great number of people trying to use the bus in the way you might think may happen elsewhere. That has to be borne in mind. Thank you.

That was exactly my point. It was just a caveat that there was a slower initial bump, so if you do have a look at the modelling, I would take that with a pinch of salt and expect something slightly higher, because you—well, we're not expecting another pandemic in the next few years, hopefully.

14:35

Thank you. Certainly not, or certainly hopefully not. We'll travel to Buffy Williams in the Rhondda.

Thank you, Chair. Thank you for joining us this morning, or it's this afternoon now, isn't it? It's been incredibly interesting. I have some questions on the evaluation that has been carried out and the impact of the scheme so far on young people, but, especially, I'd like to know about students and learner travel.

Is it okay for me to come in?

We're committed to ongoing evaluation of the scheme during its first five years. So, so far, we've carried out our year one evaluation, and that took place between April and August last year, in 2023. Paul mentioned earlier that we undertook a baseline study prior to the launch of the scheme to allow for comparisons and for measuring progress. The one-year evaluation had three different parts to it. The first part was a survey of young people, their parents and carers. The second part was focus groups with young people, their carers and also other bus users, to find out their experiences of the scheme and the benefits and challenges that they'd had. The third part was a consultation survey, with some more professional stakeholders such as local authority representatives, and also bus operators.

The findings of the evaluation were generally very positive, and it found that the scheme was delivering progress towards some of the long-term policy objectives that Gillian set out in her introductory remarks, particularly in embedding sustainable travel behaviours in young people and providing support to access opportunities. The evaluation found there was an increased awareness of bus as a viable travel option, and it suggested that around half of the journeys made by young people are those that would not have taken place if the scheme hadn't been in operation, which is providing significant cost savings for families.

In terms of the impact on learners, some of the anecdotal evidence that we've had from young people that we have engaged with suggests that it's really beneficial for them and it has allowed young people to access colleges, university and apprenticeship opportunities outwith the area that they lived in, because it's supporting the travel costs and enabling them to go a little bit further afield for jobs, education and opportunities. So, the evidence so far—there's more detail on that within the evaluation report—does suggest that, yes, it's opening up opportunities for young people in terms of access to education and learning. Thank you.

Do you have any information on how it's affecting the wider population, and then, thinking about the bus industry itself, how it's impacting that?

I guess there was limited evidence available on the impact on the wider population, although I think it has been broadly welcomed by communities up and down Scotland and by parents and schools. There is some anecdotal evidence of that within the evaluation reports as well. I think it's best if I let Paul come in from the bus operators' perspective if that'd be okay. Thanks, Paul.

That's absolutely fine. Hello. From the bus operators' perspective, I would say that, as we came out of the pandemic, we noticed a huge drop in the travel from the older and disabled persons' scheme that exists in Scotland. That drop's still with us, I think we are—Carole and Gillian can correct me if I'm miles off—still at about 80 per cent of the journeys undertaken through that scheme that there were pre pandemic. So, the free travel scheme has essentially plugged that hole in journeys undertaken by bus. It was welcomed. We were not welcoming it beforehand, but it was especially welcome in terms of the number of concessionary journeys carried on bus in Scotland. It plugged the hole from the older and disabled persons' scheme, and we continue to provide trips and are in negotiations with Transport Scotland around future reimbursement rates and budgets.

There are aspects of the scheme that we still talk around, one being the general rise across the UK in anti-social behaviour and whether or not the presence of a scheme that generates more young people being on bus is a catalyst for more instances of anti-social behaviour on bus, and what we can do jointly to prevent that, moving forward. But, all in all, yes, a positive from the sector.

14:40

Thank you. That's a really good point, that is, the anti-social behaviour. What age bracket would you say the main user is on the scheme? What age bracket? Or is it varying across?

I'll quickly come in on that point. So, the digital product—the actual product that's in the national entitlement card—it's split into either a five to 15 product, or a 16 to 21 product, and that's how we measure the journeys. In terms of the split between those age groups, I think over 58 per cent of all the journeys that have been undertaken—and there are 123 million journeys thus far—58 per cent are undertaken by 16 to 21-year-olds. It's a smaller bracket, but they make up a significant proportion of the journeys.

That's interesting. Thank you. Thank you, all. Thank you, Chair.

Just thinking now, it's from the age of five, five to 15, and those younger ones, from a safeguarding point of view—and maybe it's for Paul, maybe, rather than Gillian, or both—how do you make sure that safeguarding is carried out and making—? I remember taking the bus to school, and it wasn't always a pleasant experience when I was younger, but, from that point of view, do you have monitoring? Do you have inspectors going on, or are they travelling with parents, or—? How does it work in practice?

It's a good question. We discussed the safety of young people in protected and vulnerable groups at length in the preparation for the scheme. There are no additional inspectors or conductors on the buses due to the scheme, and it is on commercial buses. So, it is not a school bus, where you might have somebody, a driver, who has been protecting vulnerable groups-trained or checked and a helper on the bus; so, you're on a commercial bus. I have not heard of instances of seeing an increase in children of a very young age, of a five or a six, travelling without their parents, and there are procedures in place and driver training to help drivers understand their responsibilities, and if a young person is looking to get on the last bus and their card is faulty, or they've misplaced their card, they're not going to be turned away from getting on the bus. So, we look to tackle that through continuous driver training, and working with Transport Scotland to make sure that the correct procedures are in place.

I'm all right. Yes, just on that point, as Paul said, there was a lot of discussion in the preparatory stage. We actually worked very closely with Barnardo's Scotland in designing specific training for drivers around child safeguarding and understanding the risks that a scheme like this would potentially present. That included online sessions with driver trainers across the industry, which had a bit more in-depth detail, and then some e-learning as well, which is perpetually available; it's available on our website—not necessarily publicly, it's a link that we share with operators, but it is available so that they can include that in their new driver training or their continuous training programmes. So, there was some careful work undertaken in that space.

With regard to anti-social behaviour, there are a few incidents, which you have quoted, like vandalism and others. How about substance misuse on the buses? Have you noticed any of it?

14:45

I speak to CPT's operator members regularly, and there has been an increase in all sorts of instances on bus. And, again, I stress that we've seen a rise in anti-social behaviour across the UK in all venues, but you can say that maybe it's because of the increase in young people using the bus that you're seeing more instances on bus. They do include such things as substance misuse, abuse of the driver, abuse of passengers, damage to the vehicle, to name a few. We do look to report the more severe of these instances and drivers will keep a record of all of the severe instances, and it's a case of working with Police Scotland and others to help ensure that those are minimised or prevented. That's something that's an ongoing piece of work. I can't say we have the solution to it yet. 

One aspect is working with operators to strengthen their conditions of carriage, which maybe wouldn't have mentioned the scheme previously but now maybe look to state that, if passengers on the bus do the following or are guilty of the following, then they may be taken off the bus or they may face a ban, or looking at what can be done with the card. So, yes, there are instances on bus, unfortunately. 

Thank you, Altaf. Thank you, Paul. If I could turn to any unintended consequences of the scheme, you did a lot of preparatory work and you have an ongoing evaluation, which includes with the users but also the industry as well. Have you seen any or come across any unintended consequences or potential barriers that, if a similar scheme was to come in in Wales, we could learn from? Gillian.

I think I'll start this one off. You might already be aware that there were some teething issues in early 2022, after the scheme launched, and that was primarily around the complexity of the online application process, which is owned and managed by the Improvement Service. We took on feedback and criticism—public criticism—and we listened to families. We worked with the Improvement Service to help them make changes to that getyournec.scot website, also encouraging them to relax conditions on proofs that were required in order to improve that online process. However, the extent of the changes that were put in place was very carefully balanced with making sure that it still continued to meet online identity verification standards, which are quite strict, and also the child safety requirements that were built into the scheme as well. 

As a result of that criticism as well, we also worked closely with the National Entitlement Card Programme Office and the local authorities to improve the offline application process often, because there are a number of ways that people can apply. Local authorities worked with us, worked hard to support the offline applications. They increased the availability of undertaking that in collaboration with schools, which is an easy and simpler, accessible process for families, and they also have dedicated staff on hand to support those who might need additional support with an application. So, that included care-experienced young people and asylum seekers. So, that was an initial shock in the very early stages after launch. But I'll hand over to Carole to touch on other aspects.  

Yes, I think, as Paul mentioned before, one of the main unintended consequences, perhaps, of the scheme has been the noticed uptick in anti-social behaviour that has taken place on bus, but we are working with local authorities and bus operators to try to put strategies in place to tackle that. But that's very much the minority of young people; the vast majority of people who use the offer of free travel do so with respect to other passengers and to the drivers and bus operators as well. Thanks.  

Thank you, Carole. And I'll ask the same of Paul and the industry.

14:50

Yes. So, I think there were two good answers there from Gillian and Carole. On the engagement piece beforehand around getting the cards out there, I think maybe working with the education boards and the schools more to get the cards out through that would be a lesson learnt, if not an unintended consequence. Working more with Police Scotland to make clear processes for engagement between the bus operator and Police Scotland to direct resource where it might be needed to help anti-social behaviour hotspots is maybe another lesson learned. And the unintended consequences that relate to anti-social behaviour have been (1) the increase in anti-social behaviour, but (2) the impact that that has had on another aspects of bus service provision, for example, it being a factor that makes it more difficult to recruit drivers or leads to more of a turnover of drivers if they're experiencing abuse, or potentially that as a factor that is suppressing travel from the older and disabled persons sector of society.

Thank you, Paul. I have a supplementary from Peredur.

Maybe not necessarily an unintended consequence, but a positive consequence: has it helped the industry in getting people back on buses and giving a stability of payments that keep the industry going, which was obviously hit—? If it was anything like the industry here in Wales during COVID, it was really bleak times for public transport. Is that an unintended consequence maybe, or an intended consequence, of being able to support the industry back on its feet and to create a whole new generation, or generations, of new people who will be using buses?

I think my view on that would be that it's an intended consequence, and, as Gillian spelt out in her opening summary of the scheme, it's in line with our national transport strategy and other Government policy documents to grow the use of public transport, of looking at the sustainable transport hierarchy and encouraging people to walk, wheel or cycle and use public transport. So, that, I think, is part of the design of the scheme, and it has done that, it has increased the number of journeys from that age cohort and has been part of a wider push from the sector to grow patronage for all ages. We've worked with Transport Scotland on all our schemes and projects, such as a bus marketing campaign that we ran last year, which we match funded. So, yes, it's very much part of our joint ambition to grow bus use.

Chair, I didn't—. I think I didn't get it right. Once anti-social behaviour happens on the bus or there is some substance misuse or anything, now, these children, do they go through a period of rehab, or is there anybody who will be mentoring them or looking after them? Because education is important. We don't want them to suffer because of not going on those buses and not to use that transport. What do you do in those cases?

So, there is no ability within the scheme as it stands to remove the card from somebody who has committed anti-social behaviour, an offence, on a bus. It's part of a Young Scot card that may contain other products that are vital for that young person's education, and so it's not practice for operators to remove a Young Scot card from someone.

In terms of mentoring, I think this is part of the case for wider work that involves other stakeholders, such as youth support groups, to look at preventative measures to discourage anti-social behaviour, and to help those that have maybe committed it to be rehabilitated. So, CPT Scotland has started a work stream with Unite Scotland—the union that represents many bus drivers in Scotland—and ATCO, the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers at local transport authorities, and hope to bring Transport Scotland and Police Scotland into that work to look at a range of preventative measures that may go down that path, as you suggested, of looking at how we help young people who have offended on buses.

Thank you, Paul. Did anyone want to come in? Carole, did you want come in on the back of that?

Just to cover that we have other options within local communities, working with social work services and local police and local authority services, to try and put in place enhanced education and preventative measures around anti-social behaviour as well. Thanks.

14:55

Thank you. Are there any final questions from Members? No. Just a final question from me on the increase in service provision. It seems that this has been successful and there has been a demand and it's intended for the demand to go up, but what has the impact on the availability of bus drivers been due to this programme? Paul.

It's one of those where you have to pull out again and look at the wider context, I'm afraid. We could say that anti-social behaviour has made it more difficult to recruit drivers, but there is a whole series of factors that have made it more difficult to recruit drivers as we've come out of the pandemic, and Brexit as well. So, we have been working with Transport Scotland through a Government-led bus taskforce to look at ways to encourage driver recruitment. Operators have been investing in improved pay and conditions, and actually the situation is improving through operator hard work and through support of other key stakeholder such as Transport Scotland. So, it's certainly a factor that is making it more difficult, but I couldn't pin any driver shortage issue onto the free travel for under-22s scheme—that wouldn't be fair.

That's good. Are there any further comments from Transport Scotland? No. We will be considering our evidence here today and from the stakeholder session we had earlier this year, and of course the session we had with our Youth Parliament colleagues, and we will create a report with a set of recommendations to the Welsh Government. If you could think of, perhaps, any recommendations the committee may wish to consider putting forward then—. I don't mean to put you on the spot right now. You don't have to do that. But if you could think of any that perhaps we might be interested in hearing, just after this session has drawn to a close. You will receive the Record of Proceedings to check for factual accuracy. I saw many people noting the numbers down, Gillian, but just to make sure that we do have that right for the record, we'll go back to our recording as well. But if you wanted to check and just sign that off. We may have questions on the follow-up of this, which we will write to you with, but likewise, if there is information that you feel you should share with us and haven't yet had the opportunity then please do so. But can I just say, on behalf of the committee, thanks for sharing the experience and the scheme that you've set up in Scotland? It really does seem a progressive way of providing public transport for young people, and I think it's been useful for the committee in our work. So, diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much. We'll send you those documents through to check over. But in the meantime, thank you so much.

3. Deisebau newydd
3. New Petitions

We will move to item 3 on today's agenda, and that's new petitions. Item 3.1, P-06-1395, 'Halt significant new development on the Gwent Levels SSSIs'.

'The Gwent Levels is an ancient landscape, rich in culture and important for biodiversity, recreation, flood alleviation, carbon storage and food production. It is now facing multiple, adjacent, enormous solar proposals amongst other development proposals. The Welsh planning system in its present form is unable to control development, and the destruction which these will cause under present arrangements would mean the end of this beautiful, fragile and complex wetland.'

There is additional information available to members of the committee and members of the public regarding this petition. It was submitted by Deborah Joanne Munton with a total of  5,713 signature collected. And just to say, for the record, that Peredur Owen Griffiths and I met with a number of campaigners this afternoon, including the mascot of the shrill carder bee. I'm not sure if you can see this, the image, for the record, committee. But we met with a number of stakeholders and campaigners this afternoon, including a number of young people who are wildlife champions in their own right. I think some of them are in the public gallery today. It's fantastic to see you with us, and thanks for your efforts. I will bring in committee members to discuss this petition and any actions the committee may wish to take now. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

15:00

I'd like to extend a welcome to you up in the gallery, and I know you were outside earlier with a number of people who are very interested in this in my region in south-east Wales. The Gwent levels is somewhere that everybody should go and visit and see, so that's my bit for tourism in south-east Wales, to go and see this fantastic landscape.

The petition closed in January, and, as is our custom, we sent it for comment from the Minister. We've had a response from the Minister, Julie James, and we've had some comments back from the petitioner as well. There's a couple of important things I think that we need to possibly write back to the Minister about that have come out in that correspondence. Part of it is the defining of exceptional circumstances and guidance that should be alongside the new chapter 6, I think it is, in 'Planning Policy Wales', which I think is in the process of being published. Maybe we'd be able to ask the Minister to publish that very quickly, because it does have a bearing on some of these planning applications that are going through. Also, there is post-construction monitoring of developments on the site, and there have been some studies carried out into these, so I think it would be very good to ask the Minister, again, to release that and to publish that information very quickly. Obviously, solar panels and solar farms have been in the news, for particular reasons, over the last few weeks as well, with what's been going on, so there's also an interest from the public from that point of view.

There's also the infrastructure Bill going through the Senedd at the moment that has particular protections, potentially, for SSSI sites, and it would be good, in the letter—if we do agree to write to the Minister—to ask, after the Stage 3 discussions tomorrow, what protections there are within the Bill, or as it becomes an Act, and what the intention is, within the Bill, to protect places like the Gwent levels, to make sure that they're not overdeveloped and that the development is in keeping with—if there are developments—such a finely balanced ecology. So, we need to be very careful. I think if we got some of that information back, Chair, then we'd be in a better position to see if we need to do any further work or any further inquiries or anything, but I think that would give us a lot of information to take us forward, and get it on the public record to help with understanding the impacts of these big developments in very important areas in South Wales East, but also in other parts of Wales where this might be going on as well.

Diolch yn fawr, Peredur, for those suggestions. Altaf Hussain.

I don't know fully about it, but preservation is important. And, recently, we know that we're coming up with a nuclear plant in Anglesey. Do we still need these additional things destroying the landscape in many areas? So, I think we need to look into that, and it maybe worth stopping all this for the time being, and getting evidence or maybe an okay from the UK Government that they're going ahead with nuclear and you don't need all these things. 

15:05

Thank you, Altaf, for that. Are there any further comments? No. There's been a suggestion to write back to Welsh Government Ministers with the questions posed by Gwent Wildlife Trust and also from members of the committee to seek further evidence, and bring this for consideration again perhaps when we can discuss the options of Altaf's suggestion as well. And to note, I think it would be best if we do write after the Stage 3 debate on the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill that is to take place tomorrow, on 19 March. So, if we need to consider any further actions from the committee, then we can seek to do that in an online setting between Members when we do write to Ministers. 

So, if we're able to do that after tomorrow, but discuss outside of the meeting if we're able to as to the wording around it. Because I think there is an element of urgency around it. 

Are Members content? They are. Thank you. 

Item 3.2, P-06-1404, 'Increase clarity and rights for people on direct payments or WILG to live independently'. 

'There’s a power imbalance against disabled people. LA’s are failing to provide services focusing on well-being, voice and control and co-production—core principles of the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014. We need fairness and better advocacy support & a national organisation to represent the voice of Direct Payment users; Dispute resolution process; Better communication channels; LA complaints panels to have knowledge Welsh law & policy; Re-training LA staff in the spirit & intent of the Act'.

This has collected 377 signatures in total. I'll bring committee members in to discuss this petition and any action they may wish to take. Buffy Williams. 

Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank the petitioner for starting this very important petition. I can see that there are clearly are some problems, as indicated by Audit Wales, and the Senedd's own health and public accounts committees. I can see in the paperwork that legislation is expected to be introduced after Easter. So, with that in mind, I'd like to keep the petition open, but we could write to the health committee raising awareness of these issues and the role the Bill could play in addressing them, if possible? I think that would be a good way forward.  

Thank you, Buffy. Are Members content? They are. I should have said at the start that this was a petition submitted by Nathan Lee Davies from the Wrexham constituency, who I do know is an avid campaigner on these issues, and I think has worked locally with the Member of the Senedd for Wrexham, Lesley Griffiths, in the past on these issues. There's been a suggestion from Buffy Williams to write to the Health and Social Care Committee with the points Buffy has raised. Are Members content to do so? They are. We'll do that. Thank you. 

Item 3.3, P-06-1406, 'Financial penalties for Local Education Authorities who do not comply with timeframes for ALN'. 

'Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Reform Wales has identified significant failures by local education authorities when complying with the timeframes for (1) ALN determination; (2) Finalising Individual Development Plans; (3) Complying with tribunal orders. We believe local education authorities should be held accountable for these failings. We believe there should be financial penalties to the local education authority for these failings.'

This was submitted by Victoria Anne Lightbown, with a total of 327 signatures. I'll bring Peredur Owen Griffiths  in to discuss this petition. I think Victoria and Additional Learning Needs Reform Wales have already submitted a similar petition, and I believe I met with Victoria a few weeks ago, if memory serves me correctly. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

15:10

Again, on a similar theme to some other petitions that we've had recently and that we will be discussing in May, I think, in Plenary, I think this adds to that discourse around ALN and it adds another aspect of the complexities of what's going on, and what people have to work within. Obviously, within local authorities we need to be able to challenge the way things are happening, and to have that public discourse within what we're doing, and I think that the debate that we have in May will help. So my suggestion will be that we keep this one open, that we add this one in with the others that we are discussing, and maybe you'd be able to make reference to it in your opening remarks, Chair, when we come to this discussion, so that it's on the record and we're able to discuss them together as a big piece of work that we're able to discuss. That would be my suggestion.

Thank you, Chair. Delays in assessment for children with ALN, children slipping through the net, children just not getting the support they need and deserve in their education, is just not acceptable. I agree with everything that Peredur has just said. I was just wondering as well if we could flag the petition up to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, just so that the Chair is aware that there is another petition that has come through with similarities to the other petitions that we've raised with the Chair of that committee, because there seems to be a pattern emerging here.

Thank you, Buffy. I'm in regular contact with the Chair of the CYPE committee, and I know the clerks are in regular discussion, but I think you're right—we have, in the past, with most, if not all, of the ALN petitions, given the work and interest of that committee, written a note highlighting the petition, and I think we should do that again, and can do that again with this particular petition. There's agreement from the committee—. Sorry, Altaf.

It says that there should be penalties. Penalties for what? Do they know what they're doing? Do they have any guidelines that they're not abiding by, or, otherwise, penalties, really, for what, unless there is something that they are not doing right? If they are not doing that right, then you have to put certain measures into it rather than going for the penalties, because that is not the right way to look at it. 

Yes, thank you for that, Altaf, and I think that is certainly something that we could draw out in the debate that we have in May. Peredur Owen Griffiths asked me to refer to this petition in my opening as Chair of the committee, and I can commit to doing that, and referencing the other petitions, and I'm sure Members might want to flush out arguments on all sides of the debate. 

Okay, 3.4, P-06-1408, 'Make safe the access to the Secret Garden A4042 Goytre Fawr for both pedestrians and vehicles'.

'This is a popular garden centre with busy tea rooms. Access to the centre off the A4042 (50 mph here) is badly marked with two lanes north-bound reducing to one. Collisions are frequent.

'Leaving the Garden Centre drivers are free to turn in either direction. Cars often come out too slowly or stall with traffic bearing down on them; another source of incidents. There is no pedestrian access here for the people of the nearby village of Little Mill. The junction does not support Active Travel.'

Again, there is further information available for members of the committee and the public, which describes the catalogue of collisions and near misses. This was submitted by Janet Elizabeth Butler, with 265 signatures in total. I invite Members to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Buffy Williams.

15:15

Thank you, Chair. I'd like to thank the petitioner. I can see that a draft feasibility study has been prepared on this petition, and it looks like there is some movement being made. So, I wonder if we could forward these questions, or any related questions, to the Deputy Minister, for the Deputy Minister to answer, and, in doing so, we could close this petition, unless anybody has any objections, because I don't really know where else us a committee can go with this petition.

Thank you, Buffy. Yes, I think we can forward this petition. I can see Members being content with that. Before I carry on, I'll bring Peredur Owen Griffiths in.

Just a quick question, really, with this road—and I'm trying to picture it; I know roughly where it is, I think—is there anything that the council could do, or is it a trunk road? I don't know where the responsibility lies.

I'm pretty sure it's a trunk road.

The spur off to Little Mill would be local authority.

Yes, that's what I'm—. So, there isn't any need, then, to send a letter to the council to ask them to do something. If it's a trunk road, then it comes under the Deputy Minister. I just wanted to double check. There we are. Thanks.

Just to clarify—. Before we move on to that comment, I'll bring Altaf Hussain in.

You're absolutely right, the council probably has this area, which they can look into. I think we need to get in touch with the highways proper council, and get the general manager to take—

But if it's a trunk road, then it's the Deputy Minister—

Well, they will let you know, rather than going to the Minister and then getting it back to the council. It might be easier to go to the council first.

Thank you, Altaf. There was a suggestion from Buffy to write, with the petitioner's thoughts on the current progress to date, to the Deputy Minister. Let's make this suggestion to both write to the Deputy Minister in the Welsh Government, and forwarding that letter to the local authority as well. Are Members content to do that?

I'd be content to close the petition down after that, if that was the case.

Great. And just for the record, apologies to the petitioners as I gave the online collected signatures. There are 265 online and 965 paper signatures, so a total of 1,230. Just to clarify, for the record, that we'll make the amendment as necessary. Thank you, all.

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

Okay, moving on to item 4 on the agenda, updates to previous petitions. Item 4.1, P-06-1326, 'The Senedd should scrutinise the prepayment meter scandal in Wales'. This was submitted by Bethan Sayed of Warm This Winter Wales and Climate Cymru, with a total of 299 signatures. We received the Welsh Government's positive response a couple of weeks ago now, and I am pleased to say that we have received a response from Ofgem with regard to the recommendations our committee made directly to them. This has been brought back to committee today just to note the responses from both the Welsh Government and Ofgem, and then the Senedd will debate the report, as we do with normal parliamentary inquiries and reports, in the Senedd on 1 May 2024. Are Members content? 

Okay. Thank you. The following two items will be considered together. So, firstly, 4.2, P-06-1359, 'Offer Welsh working parents the same financial support for childcare as England', submitted by Jade Richards, with a total of 10,820 signatures, and petition 4.3, P-06-1362, 'Match the new childcare offer in England of 15 hours for 2 year old's from April 2024', submitted by Madelaine Hallam, with a total of 407 signatures. I bring committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Buffy Williams. 

15:20

Thank you, Chair, and I'd like to thank the petitioners. I remember the debate that took place not so long ago in the Chamber, where Members raised the very serious concerns of parents from across Wales, and I can see that the petitioners were not satisfied with the Deputy Minister's response. As a debate has been held, I'm unsure where we as a committee can go now with this petition. The only thing I can suggest is that we as Members continue to fight for this on the Chamber floor for our own constituents, for our own working parents. I think it's really important and I think it's important that we don't let this fly under the radar. But, as I said, I'm not sure now where, as a committee, we can go with this petition. So, in that respect, I would like to thank the petitioner and close the petition, but pledge that we will all continue to fight for the rights of working parents throughout Wales. 

Thank you, Chair. On this, really, you don't want that in England they will have one rule and we'll have another rule for the children who are going here. In the whole of the United Kingdom—. I would suggest, really, to get in touch with the Secretary of State and take his opinion. What does he think? 

Thank you, Altaf, for that. We have debated the petition already on the floor of the Senedd, so I take the view that there's probably not much more we can do as a committee. But we can, as individual Members, as I think was fleshed out in the debate, continue to bring up these types of issues on both sides of the debate again. Peredur Owen Griffiths. 

And, of course, as part of the co-operation agreement, you'll be aware that childcare forms part of that, so we are doing things here in Wales that are developing this and, obviously, looking at childcare beyond that level. From memory, I think, the offer in England was going to be starting in 2025, I believe. So, at least we've started doing it in Wales already, so we're ahead of the game in that sense. So, it's not just a mirroring of what was happening in England. If we were mirroring what was happening in England, it wouldn't be happening at the moment. So, at least it's happening beforehand with different parameters, but at least it is moving forward, and, as Buffy says, we will continue to advocate for this in our casework and in the work that we do.

Okay. Diolch. Moving on to 4.4, P-06-1369, 'Use only Welsh names for places in Wales', submitted by Mihangel ap Rhisiart, with a total of 1,397 signatures. I'll bring committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths. 

Buaswn i'n leicio diolch yn fawr iawn i Mihangel ap Rhisiart am ddod â hwn gerbron, achos mae'n beth pwysig iawn ein bod ni'n safio enwau Cymreig a Chymraeg. Mae'n un o'r pethau, fel dŷch chi'n gwybod, sydd yn y cytundeb cydweithio, ac mae yna waith, o beth dwi'n ddeall, wedi bod yn cael ei wneud. Beth fyddwn i'n licio gofyn inni ei wneud ydy ysgrifennu at y Gweinidog, pa bynnag Weinidog fydd mewn lle ar ôl dydd Mercher rŵan, i ofyn am amserlen ac am unrhyw adroddiadau sydd wedi cael eu paratoi, ac unrhyw ymgynghoriadau sydd wedi digwydd, fel ein bod ni'n cael gwybod yn union beth ydy goblygiadau colli enwau Cymraeg ar lefydd. Hefyd, i ofyn a oes yna unrhyw argymhellion o'r adroddiadau hynny a beth fyddai, wedyn, amserlen y Gweinidog i weithredu ar yr argymhellion hynny, gan fod hwn wedi bod yn rhywbeth maen nhw wedi bod yn gweithio arno fe ers tipyn o amser. Diolch yn fawr.

I would like to thank Mihangel ap Rhisiart for bringing this petition forward, because it is a very important issue that we do save Welsh place names. It's one of the things, as you will know, that is included in the co-operation agreement, and, as I understand it, there has been some work done in this area. What I would like the committee to do is to write to the Minister, whoever is in post after Wednesday, in order to request a timetable and for any reports that have been prepared, and any consultations that have taken place, so that we can know exactly what the implications are of the loss of Welsh place names. And also, to ask whether there are any recommendations contained within those reports, and then what the Minister's timetable would be for implementing those recommendations, as this has been something that they've been working on for quite some time now. Thank you.

15:25

Diolch yn fawr, Peredur. Are Members content with the suggestion? Altaf.

I'm sorry. I don't really know. I have just read about it when I got the papers. Now, the question is that we are, at present, thinking that one third of the population should be learning Welsh by—

By 2050. So, do you think we should stop it, at present, and go, in 2050, to look into it, when one third of the population of Wales will be speaking Welsh?

Because naming the cities and towns—that is what it is.

It's to do with using only the Welsh names. So, for example, 'Bannau Brycheiniog', for example—

It's just a matter of using the Welsh names and also the protection of historical Welsh names.

So, I don't think that has a bearing on how many Welsh speakers there are. Obviously, that 2050—

So, what will happen to the English names that they have, also? They will be removed, or what?

Well, what's happened with Bannau Brycheiniog and Eryri is that they haven't been removed, they're still there, but in all correspondence and as the public name of things, that's the natural way that you'd use them. So, that's why I'm asking to have a look at if there are any—. I know that there is some work being carried out and we need to look at those reports to answer some of those questions that you've got, to see whether or not there is evidence of what happens if you take away the Welsh name, or take away the English name. What impact does it have and what impact might that have? And I think that there's probably some very fascinating stuff to look into, but without seeing those reports, we can't really get into much of this discussion, because we'd probably be making a few assumptions without the information, before we get it. So, I would suggest that we ask for a copy of—for them to be published and to ask for that timetable of any actions that might come from them.

Okay. Thank you. Are Members content with that suggestion and way forward? Yes, they are. Okay. That does conclude today's public business.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

We will go into private session, when we will discuss the outcome of the evidence that we heard from both Transport Scotland and the Confederation of Passenger Transport in Scotland. Can I propose, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting? Are Members content? They are. Thank you.

We will then meet on 22 April 2024 after the Easter recess, and a reminder to committee members and avid watchers of this committee that we do have a debate this Wednesday, on 20 March. Okay. Meeting closed. Diolch yn fawr.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:29.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 15.29.