Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

13/05/2024

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jack Sargeant Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
John Griffiths
Peredur Owen Griffiths
Peter Fox

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

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 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

Prynhawn da. Croeso cynnes i chi gyd i gyfarfod o'r Pwyllgor Deisebau. 

Good afternoon, and 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? A particular welcome to Peter Fox and John Griffiths, who'll be joining us shortly. And my thanks to Joel James and Buffy Williams for their work and commitment on this committee, and I wish them well, along with the other committee members, in their new roles in the Senedd. Again, this is a hybrid meeting of the committee. It is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and a 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 is apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. Can I remind committee members they should note any declarations of interest now or at the relevant point during today's proceedings? We've received no apologies today, therefore no substitutions. I'm aware that John Griffiths is running slightly late and will be with us in due course.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New Petitions

Item 2 on today's agenda, 2.1, P-06-1384, 'Introduce legislation where it is mandatory to have an defibrillator in workplaces and sport clubs'. 

'A defibrillator is a device designed to save lives in emergency situations. It plays a crucial role in providing immediate care to individuals experiencing a cardiac arrest. During such a medical emergency, time is of the essence, and the presence of a defibrillator can be the difference between life and death. Research has shown that with the use of a defibrillator, survival rates are increased to 50 – 70%. These devices are user-friendly and can be operated by individuals with minimal training.'

Additional information is available to members of the committee and members of the public around this petition. It was submitted by Sharon Owen with a total of 380 signatures, and I invite committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions you may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths. 

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Whilst I think we thank Sharon Owen for bringing this petition forward and it's had 380 signatures, so that's a good number, and I don't think any of us disagree with any of the sentiment in the fact that defibrillators save lives, I note that the committee did have a similar petition come to the committee in 2021, to install a defibrillator in every school for the public to access. From what the Minister has said in response, the argument hasn't moved on or nothing else has changed in the time since that petition, and I think there's not an appetite there to legislate from the Government, but more to encourage people to install and understand how defibrillators do save lives.

So, I think there's no obvious progress that we can make as a Petitions Committee, given the Welsh Government's position on this. So, I think, whilst we'd encourage everybody to get involved in this in their local areas, and I'm sure Members would want to get involved in plans like this in local areas, I think we're probably not in a position to take anything further with this committee. So, I'd like to thank the petitioner and close this petition.

14:05

Diolch yn fawr, Peredur Owen Griffiths. Are Members content? Are there any further comments? Peter Fox.

I too welcome this being brought forward. It's an important debate; it's a debate that we should have, and I know it's been had in many communities across Wales, and we've seen defibrillators put in place. So, there is no doubt about it that they are welcomed in communities and they save lives, and they're easy to use. But as Peredur has outlined, the Government's position on this, it seems there's very little more we can do. Perhaps the only constructive comment I might make is that perhaps the Welsh Government, if they can't legislate, could at least look to recommend bodies that ought to have them that haven't got them to think seriously about acquiring one—perhaps as an alternative that might help the petitioner make further progress.

Thanks to Peter Fox for the additional suggestion. So, I think there's a suggestion there to close this petition, and thanking this petitioner, but, in doing so, we will write to the Welsh Government to encourage them to encourage sports clubs and schools and community groups across Wales to think about the benefits of having a defibrillator on site, and raising funds to do so. Thank you.

Item 2.2, P-06-1394, 'Intervene in the development of the Penrhos Coastal Park into a holiday resort in Anglesey'.

'History eventually repeats itself, in 1957 Welsh MPs fought against the erasure of Tryweryn and yet, the plan to turn the Welsh village into a water resource for Liverpool went ahead.

'Today, Land & Lakes aim to build a new holiday park over the Coast that houses endangered species and was granted planning permission by the council. Despite long efforts by organisations and members of the community to prevent the development, the council has not revoked permission.'

There is additional information available to members of the committee and members of the public. This was submitted by Madison Lorraine, with a total of 11,992 signatures.

I am aware that the High Court hearing at the start of March gave permission for local campaigners to pursue a judicial review of the decision, and therefore, as Chair, I'm going to suggest that we take no further action on this petition at this particular time, pending the outcome of the judicial review. That process is taking place now, and, today, we note the closure of gathering signatories to this petition and its next phase of the journey, as the committee, but, for now, I don't wish to open up for a discussion, due to the fact that it's going through judicial review. I can see that Members are content with that. Therefore, we'll bring this petition back for consideration once that legal process has come to a completion. Thank you.

Item 2.3, P-06-1410, 'To stop using the name "Anglesey" and exclusively use the name "Ynys Môn" or shorten to "Môn"'.

'Some other counties in Wales don't have a Welsh and English name. Môn is easy to pronounce for all people in all languages. Two names for a county is confusing for tourists, but using one name will help keep the Welsh heritage alive on the island.'

This has been submitted by Bryn Thomas, with 2,245 signatures in total. I invite committee members to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. I look to Peter Fox to lead the discussion. Peter.

Thank you, Chair. Can I also thank Bryn Thomas for submitting the petition? Obviously, there are a lot of signatories to it. This sort of petition has come before the Senedd several times over previous years. I note that the Government, the Minister, has written that

'Safeguarding Welsh place names is an important part of the Welsh Government's work, with both our Programme for Government 2021-26 and Cooperation Agreement with Plaid Cymru,'

and specifically looking to take that forward. But I also recognise that it's important that, where there's a lot of history behind naming conventions over the years, these things can't be changed lightly. But, generally, they should be done in consultation with local authorities. It's the local authority that would ultimately have a remit over making these changes. So, I think, really, to further this, it would benefit from a wider open discussion, or a consultation of some sort, which needs to be conducted, really, between the petitioners and the local authority, to get a feeling for what that wider community actually feels about it, and for the council to act on it in due course, if they felt that were right. So, Chair, at the moment, I think that there's little more that we can do, other than thank the petitioners for bringing this to our attention and wish them luck in moving forward. But I see no progress in us progressing this at the moment.

14:10

Peter makes good points there. Whilst I tend to agree that closing the petition down would be something that we could do, there's—. With Bannau Brycheiniog now, even though the two names are still there in law, the one that's used more commonly, or that's the way that things have gone, is to use Bannau Brycheiniog, Eryri. It's happening in quite a few different places. Maybe, as we close this down, it might be worth writing to the leader of Ynys Môn council to make them aware of this petition and to suggest that maybe it's something that the local authority might want to pick up, to look at, because—. You know, I'm of the view that if there is a Welsh name, then we should be using it, and, as the petitioner says, Môn or Ynys Môn is very easy to say for people who don't necessarily speak Welsh. But it's an important sentiment, so maybe, as we close this down, and probably there's nothing more for this committee to do, but a letter telling the local authority that we've had this petition, it's had this response, and to ask them to maybe consider the next steps.

Diolch, Peredur Owen Griffiths. Peter Fox is right: this is a matter for the local authority, ultimately, so I think your suggestion of writing to the local authority whilst closing this petition, and sending a letter to the local authority to highlight this petition to them, and the number of signatures it's had, would be one that the committee agrees with, and I can see that committee members do.

Item 2.4, P-06-1414, 'Prepare a bid for Wales to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest'.

'Wales is known around the world as “The Land of Song”, and we have a rich culture of music and performance which is recognised and celebrated internationally.

'Wales should have the opportunity to be represented at Eurovision as a nation in its own right. Therefore, we call on the Welsh Government to work with S4C and other relevant bodies to prepare a bid for Wales to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest.'

There is additional information to this petition available to members of the committee and members of the public. It was submitted by Stephen Price, with 344 signatures, and I invite committee members to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Yes. I'd like to thank the petitioner for this petition and to say it was actually in the Plaid Cymru manifesto to further this, so it's no surprise that I'm in favour of taking this forward. Because, yes, we are the land of song, and anybody who was watching S4C last night would've seen Côr Cymru on there. And I've a vested interest, and maybe a declaration of interest, because my brother was the conductor of the winning choir, so that's always good, so congratulations to them. But that competition in the past has submitted a choir for the Eurovision Choir competition, and I know that we've taken part in Junior Eurovision in the past as well. It's having parity and being able to be seen on the world stage and to really enjoy the fact that we are there.

As it says in the petition, we are the land of song. There's probably not a lot the Welsh Government can do based on this, but it might be worth us writing to the European Broadcasting Union and copying in S4C to say that we've had this and that it's a shame that we are not in the Eurovision Song Contest, whereas other countries from outside of Europe are in the Eurovision Song Contest. So, I think it would be good to write to the EBU, copying in S4C, but at the same time closing this petition down and thanking the petitioner for bringing it to our attention.

14:15

Diolch, Peredur Owen Griffiths. Firstly, I should say congratulations to your brother and those competing in the choir competition you mentioned just now. The suggestion is to write to the European Broadcasting Union, copying in S4C, to seek further information about what the process would be for Wales to be able to join or submit an application to the Eurovision Song Contest. Are there any further comments from Members, or are Members in agreement?

I've suggested closing the petition down, but if we are writing, do we need to close it down or do we leave it open for now and see what response we get? 

I was thinking to myself as I was reading this and just wondered how much more mileage there is left in the actual writing, because it looks like the Government has made its position really clear. These things always do take a long time to change mindsets. We'd all dearly love to see Wales be able to have its own voice at the Eurovision Song Contest—it ought to, because it would probably win. So, I'm not sure how much more mileage there is, if we're clear that we're not going to get anywhere. Perhaps outside of this meeting as individuals we can carry on championing where we can.

Thank you, both. I'm also aware that we have had a number of petitions around the Eurovision Song Contest and Wales's participation or lack of participation in the contest up until this petition, so perhaps we do go ahead with writing to the EBU to gather that information based on the latest petition we have. So, if we close the petition, and we can share with interested Members the response we have from the EBU, when we get one, for them to take up in their individual capacities as Members of the Senedd. But as Peter Fox says, the journey of the petition probably is closing it now.

I'd like to welcome John Griffiths to the meeting. Welcome, John.

We move to item 2.5 on today's agenda, and that's petition P-06-1417, 'Ban fireworks from shops':

'Stop selling fireworks in shops as they can frighten and kill animals and hurt people.'

This was submitted by Shannon Clarke with 2,174 signatures in total. I'll invite committee members in to discuss this particular petition and any actions they may wish to take on this petition. I'm looking to Peredur Owen Griffiths to lead. 

Diolch. This is something that I've taken an interest in since I've been elected to this place. It's something that is a little bit difficult for us to legislate on because of the competency. I think it's just the Westminster Government that can legislate on fireworks. But we do have regulation-making powers around where things are sold, so there are aspects of this petition that could be taken forward. I think the Cabinet Secretary, in the response, recognises the previous petitions on fireworks that have been considered in the Senedd and in the House of Commons and that new legislation has been passed by the Scottish Government. I think the noise and soundscapes action plan by the Welsh Government looks at the sale of fireworks, especially loud fireworks. And it goes beyond animals and frightening animals. We all know of young people and people who are vulnerable who get very frightened when these things go on. I know we're only in May now, but in November it causes a lot of distress.

I think there is some more work that needs to be done here, but I think it has probably run its course with what we can do at the moment. I think the fact that it's on the Cabinet Secretary's agenda to look at and to keep working alongside the UK Parliament to see—. But I think it's more of a matter for the UK Government, so I'd encourage anybody who's supported this petition to write to their MPs as well to get that element. And, obviously, as we go into an election period with the UK Government, and there will be hustings and that sort of thing, so it would be worth picking that question up with people who are seeking to be elected, going forward. So, I don't know if there's much more we can do on this petition in this Petitions Committee but encourage people to be involved—I'll certainly be involved in my local area—and keep finding ways of bringing this up in different ways in the Senedd.

14:20

Thank you, Peredur Owen Griffiths. Are there further comments from Members? Peter Fox.

I agree with everything Peredur said again. This is important. I thank the petitioners for bringing this forward, because this is an important subject to keep in the forefront of our minds. As a farmer, I know also how fireworks, especially some of the spectacular ones, can upset and frighten stock, not just domestic animals. There's an important element of this, especially around the decibels, the loudness. I personally would prefer us to be moving to all silent, and I think we should strive for that for the well-being of our animals—all sorts of animals, let alone the wild animals. So, I think it's right and proper this has come forward. I don't know if there's anything we can actually do, but just through it being raised in this arena maintains the importance of this in our eyes as Senedd Members, and I think that's welcomed.

Only, generally, to agree with what's been said, Chair. I think there are lots of issues that we're all very familiar with around fireworks and the dangers that they present and the effects they have on people, pets and animals. It's a matter of finding out what we can do within the Senedd powers. I think I'd agree with what both Peredur and Peter have said, that the general concern is justified and we need to keep thinking about how we can help have better control, better regulation, more safety, but obviously we're constrained in what we can do.

Diolch yn fawr, John. This is a topic that is petitioned on annually in some form, typically around the comments Members have made already, and the effects of fireworks on animals and those vulnerable individuals. Indeed, I see it myself, as a dog dad to Coco and Joey, the effects fireworks have and the firework season has on them. As mentioned already today, the House of Commons Petitions Committee have made recommendations to the UK Government. This committee will be meeting soon with the House of Commons Petitions Committee, and perhaps it's a discussion for us to have as Members to see how they're getting on with those recommendations and in securing support from the UK Government for them.

But in terms of where the power lies, that is with the UK Government. The Welsh Government has always been supportive of the position, I think, of the Senedd when it comes to the sale of fireworks and this petition. Therefore, I think the suggestion is to thank again the petitioner for raising such an important issue, one that this committee is in line with—I would say the majority of the Senedd is in line with—but to close, for now, this petition, and we'll continue to support it as individual Members. Are Members content? They are. 

Item 2.6, P-06-1413, 'Scrap the 50mph limits on the M4 around Newport and Swansea and on the A470 around Pontypridd'. This petition was submitted by Michele Crackett, with 1,136 signatures. And item 2.7, P-06-1416, 'Increase the speed limit on the M4 back to 70mph', submitted by Jonathan Jones, with a total of 566 signatures. Can I propose, as Chair, that we consider these two items together, and take action as a committee forward jointly on these two items? Therefore, I'll invite committee members to discuss both petitions, and, at this point, bring in Peter Fox.

14:25

Thank you, Chair. I'm happy for us to discuss these two petitions together. I thank Michele and Jonathan for submitting them. I know as a regular user of the M4 every day—I come along it as I attend this place, and have done for many, many years—and understand the frustrations that, often, people feel about having restrictions of any sort put on them, especially when it impinges, or they perceive it impinges, on their daily life. Sometimes, it does feel like that. But I am conscious of the Government expectation to take positive action to try and encourage—indeed, it has a legal duty to encourage—lower occasions where nitrogen dioxide levels have been increased, and it's commendable that we try to do that. I know that there are several locations that have been monitored for nitrogen dioxide concentrates over recent years, and there does seem to be a downward trend in those levels as the 50 mph limit has come into place. 

However, I might argue that things don't necessarily need to always stay the same. As we know from the rates of technology and how they advance in motor vehicles nowadays, with emissions getting cleaner and greener—indeed, one in five cars becoming electric, with no emissions—those arguments on nitrogen dioxide emissions get weaker. So, whilst there may be a need at the moment, that's not to say there will be necessarily be always the need, as vehicles become that much greener, safer as well, with the technologies that come forward.

However, I don't want to detract from people's obvious frustration with the situation. I'm not sure what actions we can take—not necessarily to challenge but to glean further evidence that this is the right step that the Government is currently taking in these areas. I know—and it's not attached to these specific petitions, Chairman—that there are other dual carriageways, certainly in the south of Wales, that have now recently become 50 mph, but suggested on the integrity of barriers and things like that in place for a long time. There's a lot of concern when these things come in place, and I think that then drives an anxiety in Members that perhaps these things aren't put in place for the original reason. There might be a general reason to lower speed for noise as well as emissions.

So, I think if there is a way we can explore further evidence that can give people recognition that, for the time being, these 50 mph limits need to stay in place on these stretches. But I would certainly, as an individual, suggest that these need to be reviewed as technology advances and more electric and hybrid vehicles replace and lorries and everything become cleaner and greener, that that doesn't necessarily have to stay in place all the time.

14:30

I thank Peter Fox for those comments. John Griffiths.

Yes, thanks, Chair. As with Peter, I'm a regular user of the M4 around Newport, so I think I ought to declare an interest on that basis. But, yes, I think local Members are very familiar with the issues as far as the 50 mph limit is concerned on that M4 stretch around Newport. As well as the environmental factors that Peter has mentioned, it's also to do with tackling congestion, because perhaps, for some people, counterintuitively, when it was 70 mph, there was a lot more stopping and starting of traffic, which not only resulted in greater congestion, I think, but also anxieties around safety, because when traffic had to stop and start and sometimes vehicles had to brake quite quickly because other vehicles in front of them were stopping unexpectedly because of this stop-start function of the 70 mph limit, it was felt that something needed to be done to deal with that as well as the environmental issues. So, I think, on road safety, on environmental factors, on tackling congestion, it was a necessary move to go to 50 mph. I agree with Peter that you have to keep these policies under review, and obviously consider any change in circumstances, technological or otherwise. But I do think that limit is there for good reasons.

I concur with Peter and with John. As technology gets better and as things improve, we need to keep monitoring this. There's not a lot more we can do with these two petitions as they are, but it highlights some of the frustrations that are out there. But, looking at the trends in nitrogen dioxide, they seem to be coming down, taking your point on board that we need to keep scrutinising the Government on is it still the right decision. I'm sure that's something that we can all do as individuals and as individual Members, but I think currently it is the right reason.

It's interesting, because there has been such a boom in electric cars, and indeed you drive—

It'd be interesting to know, of the thousands of cars that drive that stretch today, compared with, say, 2018, 2019 and 2020, when the main of the assessments were made, how many now are electric, and how they have influenced the downward trend more than speed limits. So, there are quite a lot of challengeable points, I think, around this, as the technology advances. I don't think it's gone away.

No. And I think, with the vested interest of driving an electric vehicle, having electric vehicle charging points and that infrastructure will help drive some of this down again, which might mean, with the safety features of modern cars as well, it will help.

Another point, if I may, on the back of what John said, because I think John's quite right, is that one of the things I have noticed, even though I get frustrated about 50 mph, is that I do notice that I do keep moving when I'm coming to Cardiff—albeit slower, I am moving. So, there does seem to be—. I have to say, begrudgingly, perhaps, at times, that I agree with that point.

14:35

Okay. I thank all Members for their comments. And I'm in agreement with the case for this to be reviewed by Members of the Senedd and others as things move forward with greener technologies and other efficiencies to be made in vehicles and so forth. But as the suggestion is that there's no further to go with the two petitions in front of us in the work of the Petitions Committee, we'll thank again the petitioners and close the petitions. Members agree. Okay.

Moving on, item 2.8, P-06-1415, 'Brynglas Tunnels M4 South Wales relief road to be put into action', submitted by Johnathan Hughes, with 958 signatures, and item 2.9, P-06-1421, 'Hold a public poll on whether to build the M4 Relief Road, then implement the result immediately', submitted by Neil Walters, with 922 signatures. Again, as Chair, I'm going to suggest that we consider both items 2.8 and 2.9 together for this discussion and any actions we may wish to take forward. Okay. And I'll bring Members in to discuss the petitions now and any action the committee may wish to take. John Griffiths. 

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Certainly, again, these are matters I'm very familiar with as a local Member, Cadeirydd, and again perhaps I should make that clear, that I use that motorway around Newport and the associated roads on a daily basis, and declare an interest on that basis.

I certainly think that the decision that the Welsh Government made, Cadeirydd, not to proceed with an M4 relief road was well made for the decisions that were given at the time, both on the environment and the precious Gwent levels that would have been impacted by an M4 relief road and the need to protect the biodiversity, the SSSIs—sites of special scientific interest—and the general nature of the area, and also the possibility to provide real alternatives to deal with the issues around much-enhanced public transport and a more integrated transport system. There have been frustrations around the speed of progress with those alternatives, and I fully understand that, but I still believe that the decision that was made by Welsh Government at that time was the right decision, Cadeirydd, so I've got quite a clear position on these matters.  

Just picking up on what John said there with regard to the alternatives, it has been particularly slow in bringing public transport alternatives that would take people off the roads and onto trains and onto buses—the Government has been particularly slow in developing that. Obviously, it hasn't helped having COVID and other things getting in the way as well, but I think keeping the pressure on the Government to look at those—. But I agree with John, losing a SSSI area like the Gwent levels would be a disaster as well, so it needs to be rethought and to find out exactly what can be done, especially as the latest estimate of cost is it could be £1.4 billion, which is a huge amount of money and, as Chair of the Finance Committee, I'd be interested in seeing where they could find that sort of money. But there we are. But, I think, probably in the same way as John, where we've got to with these two petitions is that we've gone as far as we can, but three out of the four of us are Members who represent south-east Wales in different areas, so it'll be interesting to hear what Peter has to say on the matter.

So, I have a slightly different perspective. I'm also somebody who lives in the south, and I suppose I declare an interest, actually, that I now see my area is part of the Gwent levels—where it wouldn't originally, it's now got a big sign saying 'the Gwent levels', so I absolutely—. And I love the Gwent levels as much as anybody else and cycle down there regularly, and it's a wonderful area.

However, I had reservations when this was originally pulled, if you like, because there was quite a lot of evidence suggesting the need for it to move forward. And I understand the emotiveness around environmental issues. It's very easy to make the environmental issue case, and it's very emotive, and it gets a lot of support. My experience as a farmer and somebody who is connected with the countryside for many, many years, is that I find that habitats actually, when they get moved or disturbed, they regenerate very quickly, and species regenerate very quickly and locate in different places. And actually, we see it along motorway embankments, for instance, where you have a wealth of biodiversity on motorways. So, I think sometimes that message was convenient and so I do have some sympathy for this, because one of the things that I haven't been convinced of, and I haven't known if the Government has done enough assessment on, is the economic disadvantages of not moving forward, especially in the view that the Burns review is extremely slow—or, rather, the recommendations of the Burns review are extremely slow in actually giving any alternative. What we seemed to see was this cliff edge, where you either have it or you don't, and we haven't got any real strong transitional arrangements to get to where the Government wanted to get to and the current situation. We haven't got the public transport, we haven't got the rail infrastructure to move freight, so we still need roads to move freight, and the economy, I think, is struggling as a result of us not making progress on a relief road, albeit I know how emotive it is.

Now, the money was always going to be an issue, and that's why the UK Government were making available additional borrowing powers for the Wales Government to actually do this. Indeed, they were obviously contemplating it, because they spent over £120 million acquiring various land to enable it to progress on. So, whilst finances can be used as a reason not to do things, I think the longer-term recognition of the economy in the country should be considered.

So, Chair, I've got a slightly different position, you can see; however, I don't know what we can do actually in this committee to further this. However, I don't think it's a conversation that has ended, and I'm sure it will keep coming forward. 

14:40

Thank you, Peter, for those comments and the comments of all Members, noting the different sides of the debate that not only you have but I'm sure many others of the Members of the Senedd and the public will hold as well on this issue, and I'm sure it will be a conversation that Members will continue to have and raise in the Chamber in their duties as Members of the Senedd. Are Members content for these two petitions to be closed today? Content? Yes.

Item 2.10,  P-06-1423, 'Reinstate the 552 Cardi Bach coastal bus service in South Ceredigion!':

'Recently it was announced by Deputy Minister for Climate Change Lee Waters that the Cardi Bach service was to continue. Then, as a bolt from the blue, came the news that the service is to be scrapped. The reason, so we are told, is that "European funding has not been replaced as promised." This is very bad news indeed for local residents who don’t have access to a car, as well as for the tourist industry.'

There is additional information available to members of the committee and members of the public for this petition submitted by Wyck Gerson Lohman with 842 signatures in total. I invite committee members to discuss this petition and any actions the committee may wish to take. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. It speaks to a little bit of the last petitions we were talking about: if we want to get people out of cars, then we need to have a bus service, especially in rural Ceredigion. It's that bit about mixed messages, isn't it? The service was to continue and then it wasn't. But I think, in the response, the Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport appreciates that the bus service provides a valuable link. He's also stated that Transport for Wales recently invited bids from operators to run the Cardi Bach service, but none were received, and therefore they cannot reinstate the route at present. He's also asked his officials to meet with Transport for Wales and Ceredigion County Council to look at possible alternatives and will update the committee once there is an agreed way forward.

The petitioner approached, I think it's Pandstravel.wales who are keen to run the service again, but say that the process of submitting the bid made it impossible for them to do so. Now, they informed the petitioner that with the one-year contract they could not meet the specifications and have informed TfW of their reasons, and the petitioner is hopeful that a solution can be found.

There are a few concerns, there, aren't there? If somebody wanted to take this up, it's been made difficult or the procurement process isn't as easy as it could be, especially if somebody wants to do this. So, there's that element that we need to keep an eye on. There is some movement there from the Cabinet Secretary, saying that they are seeking a solution, and especially with the long-anticipated bus service Bill later this year, it's going to be interesting to see how this dovetails into that. So, it could be important for us to keep this petition open for now until we get a response from the Cabinet Secretary, because we haven't reached the end of the road with this yet. So we should keep this petition open in the background until we receive an answer and maybe review it once we get an update from the Cabinet Secretary to see if we can go forward with it then.

14:45

Sorry. Just to briefly say we've had an e-mail from the petitioner just to say there was an error in the briefing. The dates at the beginning of the briefing you had, so we could correct that.

Okay, we note that. We will correct that for the record. Thanks to the petitioner for raising that, and we will make sure the record is corrected at the next meeting on Monday. I can make a factual correction for the accuracy of the transcript and the petition. The suggestion from Peredur Owen Griffiths is to keep it open pending the Cabinet Secretary's update to the committee as committed to by the Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport, and then bring it back to committee once that update has been given by the Cabinet Secretary. Are Members content? Any further comments? No, okay.

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

Item 3 on today's agenda is updates to previous petitions. Item 3.1, P-06-1344, 'Moderate quality agricultural land (grade 3b) should be used for food security not solar farms'. This was submitted by the Campaign Against East Vale Over Development and a total of 271 signatures were collected. I'll bring committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Peter Fox.

Thank you, Chair. I recognise the sentiments and concerns that this original petition presented and I commend the thoroughness of the Campaign Against East Vale Over Development group for the work they've done in bringing this to light and understand there are issues around the agricultural land that is used for solar farms when it could be used for growing food, especially 3b land, which is still land that could grow a variety of crops and feed animals. I believe that solar panels should go in places that can't be used for food, especially at a time when food security is so important to all of us. So, there are a huge amount of concerns, I know, that have been raised. I thank—I'm not sure how to say it, Chair—CAEVOD, I think is the shortened abbreviation of the campaign group. I thank them for the depth of their response to the Minister's observations because it is very thorough and gives an awful lot of additional food for thought on this. I think there is a possible outcome that we, as Members, could agree to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, sharing the petitioner's responses to the Welsh Government, because they may not get to see them without the weight of this committee putting them back to them for deeper consideration, and I'd probably advise that that's the way to go forward.

14:50

I thank Peter Fox for that. Peredur Owen Griffiths.

I think with the change of Minister or Cabinet Secretary, now, with a new one in place, it would be good to write, because when this first came about, it would've been a different Minister. So, I concur with Peter there to write, just to put it on the Cabinet Secretary's agenda.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Just to agree with Peter and Peredur, there is a lot of concern about the use of farmland and the potential use of farmland for solar farms, particularly the larger solar farms, which seem to be proposed more often in the current time. Again, it's a real issue on the Gwent levels, and I've got many local issues with developments and proposed developments. So, I think I would support the action that Peter and Peredur suggest, Chair.

Thank you, John. There is agreement from the committee to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, with the petitioner's response to the committee, which, I agree with Peter, is a very detailed response, posing questions to the Welsh Government. So, we will write for an update on those questions and bring this to committee at a later date.

Item 3.2, P-06-1403, 'Reconsider cuts to Postgraduate funding and increase Doctoral Loans to match UKRI Stipend'. This was submitted by Micaela Panes, with a total of 2,156 signatures. I'll invite committee members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. John Griffiths.

Yes, Chair. Thanks very much for that. I think, as a committee, we would recognise the issues raised as being significant issues that do merit consideration. Subject to what other committee members might want to say, I still think there are outstanding questions and issues on this matter that do merit further consideration.

Thank you, John, for that. Any further comments from Members?

I support John. I think there is further action that we could be taking to—. Members could, obviously, thank the petitioner for highlighting the negative consequences, and also highlighting why the situation is creating such a detrimental impact on the more vulnerable in society. So, I support John that there's further work we can do in communicating with the Government on it.

Thank you, Peter and John, for that suggestion, I think, to write back to the Cabinet Secretary with the concern of the petitioner, acknowledging the impacts on some individuals, perhaps under-represented groups, in this sector. Are Members content? Okay. We'll await the response from the Cabinet Secretary to those questions, and consider the petition again. 

14:55
4. Papur i'w nodi - P-06-1387 Darparu cymorth dyngarol i Gaza
4. Paper to note - P-06-1387 Provide humanitarian aid to Gaza

Moving to item 4, a paper to note. This is regarding petition, P-06-1387, 'Provide humanitarian aid to Gaza'. I should declare an interest, as last time. I know well the petitioner, who is based in my constituency and a councillor. I think I removed myself from the discussion last time we had this—Peredur Owen Griffiths says I did—in front of us. But this is a response from Delyth Jewell, the Chair of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport and International Relations Committee, thanking us for this committee's letter on 23 February—sorry, for sharing this committee's letter on 23 February to the then Minister for Social Justice. It was noted and discussed at the meeting of the culture committee. And they've thanked us for bringing this petition to their attention and, indeed, have asked us to keep them informed of any further responses we get from the Welsh Government. Are Members content to note that paper? Peredur Owen Griffiths. 

Just on that, are we able to follow up with the new Cabinet Secretary, because, obviously, our initial letter went to the Minister for Social Justice? There's now been a Cabinet Secretary change—just to highlight the letter that we sent, even if it's our officials just highlighting it to the Minister's officials, rather than a formal letter, just to make sure that she's aware of it, that's all.

Yes. As this was a previous decision made by the committee, we can find a way of informing the new Cabinet Secretary of that correspondence. John Griffiths wanted to come in. 

I'd very much like to support that course of action, Cadeirydd. I think it's an unfolding tragedy in Gaza, isn't it, in many respects, including the lack of adequate and necessary humanitarian aid. So, any little thing we can do to help emphasise the scale of that unfolding tragedy and just be part of considering how it might be addressed, even if it's in a very modest way, I think that's valuable, and it's certainly something we should do. 

Thank you, John. I can see Peter Fox in agreement with the course of action. So, we will find a way of making sure that the new Cabinet Secretary with those responsibilities is made aware of the previous correspondence to the former Minister for Social Justice, and note the comments of both John Griffiths and Peredur Owen Griffiths about the importance of doing so. Okay. That concludes today's public business. 

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog Rhif 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.

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? I can see they are. Thank you. Therefore, we will meet again on 20 May, a week today, and I bring today's meeting to a close. Diolch yn fawr iawn. 

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:59. 

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 14:59.