Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd

Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd

25/09/2018

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

David J. Rowlands Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Janet Finch-Saunders
Mike Hedges
Rhun ap Iorwerth

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Graeme Francis Clerc
Clerk
Kath Thomas Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Kayleigh Imperato Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Lisa Salkeld Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

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.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:00.

The meeting began at 09:00.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Good morning, bore da, and welcome to the Petitions Committee. We have received one apology, from Neil McEvoy, who is engaged in other business. And we will note that Rhun ap Iorwerth is not with us at this moment, but we would hope that he will join us after the Business Committee.

2. Deisebau newydd
2. New petitions

If we can move on straight away to new petitions, the first petition is 'Roads surrounding Trago Mills/Cyfartha Retail Park'. This petition was submitted by Rowan Powell, having collected 141 signatures. We've had an initial response to the petition, which was received from the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Transport on 25 August. The committee has had notes to consider on the matter. Do we have any comments with regard to this?

We'll just wait for the petitioner to come back to the comments from the Minister.

That's what we always—I won't say 'always do', but that's what we normally do—

You’re in agreement with that. So, the action we’ll take is: the committee could await the views of the petitioner and the information provided by the Cabinet Secretary before considering whether to take any further action on the petition.

The next new petition is ‘Ban Single Use Plastic Items in Wales’. This petition was submitted by Ban Plastic Straws Wales, having collected 161 signatures.

We’ve done a bit of work, haven’t we, as a committee, and I think it’s fair to say that all Members are very supportive of banning plastic and things. So, how does this tie up with others? Do we—?

Yes, I think that we would probably be doing that. I think that, in the first instance, with this particular petition, we could await a response from the petitioners to the correspondence received from the Minister for Environment before considering action on the petition, and we could also write to the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee to share details of the current petitions on this subject in the context of that committee’s inquiry into the micro-plastic pollution in Welsh rivers.

And the committee would be very pleased to receive it.

Yes, I think it’s a matter of us tying these all together because there are several. So, are we happy to do that? Yes, fine.

Okay, we move on to the next new petition, which is ‘Reopen St David's Medical Centre, Pentwyn Full Time’. This petition was submitted by Joe Carter, having collected 380 signatures. An initial response to the petition was received from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services on 23 August. I think that his comment basically is that this is a contractual matter between Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board and Pontprennau medical centre.

So, do we know whether Maria Battle, chair of the Cardiff and Vale university health board—? Because this was sent out on 21 August—

Yes, I think that one of the actions we could consider is that we could wait for further information from the chair of Cardiff and Vale health board before considering whether we can take any further action on this petition.

Yes, or what we could do is ask—. It says that the Cabinet Secretary has written to Maria Battle, chair of the Cardiff health board. Why don’t we write a quick letter to Maria asking her whether we can have a copy of the letter she sent back to the petitioner?

I agree with that. I think that we should always write directly to health boards et cetera. I know it's making work for the clerking team, but I think we should keep a list of how long we are waiting for replies and publish it at the end of the year.

09:05

Because, sometimes, the Cabinet Secretary will pass the buck to the health board and then the health board, you know, if they're not responding—we need to know.

Can we write to the health board? But can we, every time we write to any of these bodies, like Qualifications Wales, the WJEC or local authorities, keep a list of how long it takes for them to reply and produce a list at the end of the year? Naming and shaming never does any harm.

Well, yes, we've had several occasions where they have been pretty reticent in their replies to us, so I think that's a good point to make. 

I think, in this case, it's worth pointing out that the Cabinet Secretary wrote, following receipt of the letter from us, to the health board to ask the health board to respond to us.

We haven't had a response, but we don't know from the Cabinet Secretary's letter exactly when the health board were written to.

So, if we write to the health board and ask them, 'We understand that the Cabinet Secretary asked you to write to the petitioner. Could we have a copy of that letter for our Members?' Yes, let's do it.

Okay. Fine. The next new petition is 'End the unfairness and discrimination in the financial support for victims of the contaminated blood scandals who were infected in Wales'. The petition was submitted by Contaminated Whole Blood UK Group, having collected 159 signatures. I think we ought to note that there is a UK-wide inquiry into the issue concerned and there is a meeting on the twenty-fourth of this month with regard to that.

That said, Chairman, on page 113, it says, about a Plenary debate in 2017, highlighting that 273 patients in Wales—. It says here:

'Responding to that debate, the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport highlighted work underway to reform the system of financial support provided by the Welsh Government to those affected by hepatitis C and HIV through treatment with contaminated blood.'

Why don't we write to the Cabinet Secretary and ask for an update on the work under way? Let's see where he is with it.

Yes. We note that the Cabinet Secretary has, in the past, said a more balanced package of overall support to its beneficiaries is being looked at, but that was in 2017.

Yes, but my proposal is that he has said, in responding to that debate a year ago, that work is under way to reform the system. So, let's ask him how far it's gone.

Okay. The Cabinet Secretary's letter back to the committee from August of this year says that officials are currently working on what the scheme benefits and payouts are going to be for this year.

Yes. Well, we can just ask for some timescales. It's very topical at the moment, isn't it? It was on the news last night.

Okay. So, committee could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services to provide the examples provided by petitioners. Is that right? Okay.

And to ask for an update.

And to ask for the timescales for determining the scheme benefits for 2018-19. Yes.

The next new petition is 'To Amend the School Admissions Code Relating to Summer-Born Children'. The petition was submitted by Flexible Admissions Wales Group, having collected 241 signatures.

We have a briefing from our clerks with regard to this. Are there any matters that we wish to bring up? I'll just point out there's initial response to the petition received from the Cabinet Secretary for Education on 6 August. The Cabinet Secretary states:

'it would not normally be appropriate for a child to be placed in a year group that is not concurrent with their chronological age'.

It happens, you know, though. It's a shame if children are missing the foundations—the sort of recreation class.

There is a schools admission code, of course, but the petitioners are calling for the code to be amended and that requests for the delayed admission of summer-born children are met where the parent believes it's in the best interests of the child.

09:10

I understand that there's a review of the school admissions code taking place. Can we write back and ask for an update on that? It's incredibly difficult. I'm a school governor as well as a member of this committee, and it's incredibly difficult with children coming in. It's an arbitrary cut-off—on 31 August, you're in one year and on 1 September, you're in another. It's arbitrary, but if it was 31 July and 1 August—. You have to have a cut-off somewhere and whatever date you decide to have it, some people are going to fall on the wrong side of it. I think all we can do is write to the Cabinet Secretary and ask about the review of the school admissions code. It is incredibly difficult. My niece was born in July, my daughter was born in September; they are two months apart and yet they were in two different school years.

Yes. My own daughter was born on 29 August, so, there was a difficulty, I suppose. But I have a feeling that, after two or three years, that levels out quite easily. But there we are. The committee could write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Education to seek further information about the review of the school admissions code, including the scope and intended timescales before considering further action on the petition. Are we happy with that?

Fine. The next new petition is 'Presumption in favour of rural schools'. This petition was submitted by Cymdeithas Rhieni ac Athrawon Ysgol Gymunedol Bodffordd—Ysgol Gymunedol Bodffordd Parent and Teachers Association, having collected 945 signatures.

I'd like to point out here that we should note that signatures to the petition have now achieved the critical mass of 5,000, so we should consider it for debate. We had correspondence from Cymdeithas yr Iaith on the twenty-fourth, which we now have to hand, having had to have it translated.

It's got to 5,000, so I think we should ask for it to be debated. It is a huge issue. I mean, there are villages that do not want to lose their schools and I can understand that, but there's got to be a minimum number of pupils that makes a school viable and that's not one. So, we really do need some sort of guidance on how we can keep rural schools open and how we ensure that children are being properly educated. A school of five and a school of 10 covering the ages of three to 11, it's very expensive to run, but, more importantly, it's very difficult to get the level of education that children deserve.

I've got to be honest, we've fallen victim in my own constituency, where the consultation, which is meant to be quite a deciding factor, with parents, governors and all interested parties— . They actually went back to the local authority and they didn't actually go back to a meeting; they decided it without even taking into account—. What happens is they start advising that they're thinking of closing the school, because there's this new superschool going to be built, and so people actually then stop sending their children. So, in effect, they work it so that their numbers drop considerably over a period of two years, and we've lost some really good schools in our rural areas. Now, we're finding that the new superschools cost considerably more and other schools have been affected by that, so, I actually think that this is a really valid petition at this moment in time. I think it should go to a debate.

We were back last week for the first time after summer recess and it's fair to say that some Members were very anxious about how this was being carried out. I think that the Welsh Government, Cabinet Secretary or whomever should have a little bit more of a handle on it when you've got communities going through this process. I wrote in during the time with my own constituency of Aberconwy and it was very much, 'We can't get involved'. Well, I'm sorry, but I do think that there is some responsibility to be placed on the Cabinet Secretary. Sometimes, it is actually a given that it's better, especially with the Welsh language and culture, to have two smaller schools where, especially our farming families, can get their children into particular schools. We're seeing that ripped away from our rural parts, so, yes, let's go for debate.

09:15

I think it's fair to point out, at this point, the Cabinet Secretary for Education has prioritised creating a presumption against the closure of rural schools. This will require a stronger case for closing schools defined as rural, including consideration of all other viable options. The Welsh Government laid a new code before the Assembly on 17 September and anticipate it being in force by the end of 2019. The Cabinet Secretary, in the meantime, has asked local authorities to take the spirit of the draft code into account in their decisions. I am afraid that this will probably not affect this particular school, because it's likely that Anglesey county council are likely to put the notice in before 2 September—

Let's ask for there to be a debate. We've all got a lot to say on it, and I think that there are 50-odd other Members who would probably also have a lot to say on it.

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

Right, we now move on to updates to previous petitions, and the first of these is 'Lowering the Voting Age to Sixteen'. This petition was submitted by Sgiliau in January 2018, having collected 87 signatures. Now, in view of what the Welsh Government is proposing, I believe, possibly in light of the success of this campaign, and expected legislation to lower the minimum voting age to 16 for both Assembly and local authority elections, the committee could close the petition and offer its congratulations to the petitioners. Are we content that that should be—?

The next petition is 'Male domestic violence victim support services to be independently run & funded'. The petition was submitted by FNF Both Parents Matter Cymru and was first considered by the committee in February 2018, having collected 139 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 1 May, and agreed to encourage the petitioner to contribute to the consultation on the draft guidance for the commissioning of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence services in Wales, and we were to write to the leader of the house to ask for reassurance that the Welsh Government will proactively seek the views of those affected by male domestic abuse. 

We had a response from the leader of the house on 7 August, and the petitioner has provided further comments. The leader of the house has described how a range of organisations were encouraged to contribute and have contributed to a recent Government consultation. Responses are currently being analysed.

I know in my own area the only services available for men suffering from domestic violence are through Women's Aid, and that, in itself, is a bit of a problem. You find that it's—. I've had an increase in alleged male victims coming to see me, and it's very difficult for them to engage with services that are named one gender. So, I think it needs looking at generally.

So, the committee could write to the leader of the house to request that the committee is notified when the analysis of the recent Welsh Government consultation on the regional commissioning guidance is published, before considering the petition further in light of that response.

Yes. There has to be true equality and balance. It shouldn't be gender—we should be ruling domestic violence and abuse out, and the only way you're going to do that, really, is by engaging with men as well. I think there is a weakness in the system at the moment. So, yes, I think your idea's good.

Fine, thank you.

The following two petitions are grouped together for consideration, and the first of these is a petition that was submitted, which is 'Slaughter Practices'. This petition was submitted by Royce Clifford and was first considered in June 2012, having collected 400 signatures. I'll read this particular petition out—

'We call upon the National Assembly to urge the Welsh Government to ban the practise of slaughtering animals without pre-stunning them.'

And then we have the second petition, which is 'CCTV in Slaughterhouses'. This petition was submitted by Animal Aid and was first considered in November 2012, having collected 1,066 signatures. On 3 July the committee questioned the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs and agreed to write to her to ask for assurances that all abattoirs in Wales will be encouraged to apply for grant funding for the installation of CCTV. A response from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 18 August, and then we had some other, further, unsolicited correspondence, particularly from a member of the public, David Grimsell. Have any of you had time to look at those notes? Do you have any comments?

09:20

I have two comments. I think that we should ask the Cabinet Secretary how many now do not have CCTV. 

The number has changed, so how many now have got CCTV? And I think it should be mandatory. I feel very strongly that if they can put CCTV in my local pub, I see no reason why they can't put it in a slaughterhouse. The other thing about it is that they've offered them funding. How much of that has been taken up?

Yes, but really it's how many are left. Perhaps we can ask for a list of those that haven't got CCTV so we can make it public. If people are refusing to have CCTV in their slaughterhouses, I think everybody should have the right to know.

Okay, fine. In addition to that, the committee has previously called on the Cabinet Secretary to reconsider the need for CCTV to be a requirement, and questioned her in July on the reasons the Welsh Government is not pursuing this approach. Therefore, the committee could write back to the Cabinet Secretary to reiterate its view that the Welsh Government should make CCTV mandatory in Welsh slaughterhouses, and to ask the Cabinet Secretary to inform the committee about the uptake of funding under the food business investment scheme when this is known.

Yes, and just to add the other thing—how many haven't taken it up, and who they are. 

Good, all right. Okay. The next petition is: 'Establish Statutory Public Rights of Access to Land and Water for Recreational and Other Purposes'. The petition was submitted by Waters of Wales and was first considered in November 2016, having collected 3,478 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 17 July and agreed to write to the Minister for Environment to ask, further to her written statement of 19 June, for more detail about the consideration given by the Welsh Government to options for reform of access. A response from the Minister was received on 24 August. The Minister expressed the view that, leaving the EU,

'now is not the right time for substantive access reform.'

I'm baffled why that's being used as an excuse, but there is uncertainty and risk and complexity about this, because we've got the anglers, and I know it causes quite a problem. But I've never had anyone coming—. I have people coming to see me in my constituency where they feel that there needs to be some kind of code of practice, whether that's statutory or not. I don't know how you'd enforce it, frankly, because, at the end of the day, if you look along all our rivers, you've got private ownership of land, and it can be the proverbial nightmare getting involved in this. 

I think in truth the legal issues involved in these matters are pretty complicated.

Yes, but I'm just baffled why we're blaming the EU on this.

That's to put it mildly, and I think that it may be that the Government are obfuscating a little bit on this—their decisions with regard to this.

Yes, and to be honest, you'd have thought, in this day and age, that maybe these groups could get together and—

My mother would have said, 'Why can't they go out and play nicely?' But best wait for the Minister to respond. See what the Minister says for the consultation and what she intends to do.

I have to be honest, I do sympathise with some of the anglers, though, because, suddenly, people from other areas are using the rivers—they come in, and suddenly cause mayhem. I'm not siding with anyone on this, but I do think it's just a pity that the Government couldn't show some guidance or produce some kind of statutory, or non-statutory maybe—.

I look at the river Tawe, which I know very well because I live within a quarter of a mile of it, and the fishing part of it is much higher up the river, and then there's the bit that is used by boats, which comes as far as Landore weir, or as far as the bridge—Beaufort bridge—now because they can't go under Beaufort bridge. But that is ideal for people who want to move up and down the river, where the upper bit is used by anglers for fishing, and also it can get quite shallow, depending on how much rain we've had. So, zoning might well be a way forward. Let's wait for the Minister to come out with her intended approach, and then we can perhaps take it up again.

09:25

I think it's true to say that there are so many issues involved here. We're talking about destruction to the spawning grounds et cetera, so there are a number—. So, I think perhaps I would be reluctant to close this petition at this moment in time because there are other ongoing petitions that are likely to impact on this. I think the committee could await the Minister for Environment's response to the consultation and further detail about her intended approach later in the year. Are we happy to do that? Fine.

The next petition is: 'Calling on the Welsh Government to Ban The Use of Wild Animals in Circuses in Wales'. I think the petition was submitted by Linda Joyce Jones. It was first considered in January 2018, having collected a total of 6,398 signatures. I think all the indications from the Welsh Government are that they will be bringing forward legislation with regard to this. So, the possible actions are that in light of the Welsh Government’s commitment to bring forward legislation in the next 12 months, the committee could congratulate the petitioner and her supporters on the success of their campaign, and close the petition. In doing so, the committee could write to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for the additional information sought by the petitioner in her latest correspondence.      

Yes, it would be nice, having coming this far on this one—it would be good to know what the timescales are and to ensure that this is done sooner rather than later.  

The following two petitions are—I think it's appropriate for us to group them together—. 'Proposed New Fishing Bylaws and Failings of NRW'—we've just mentioned the problems with regard to fishing waters in Wales, and this is another example of this ongoing problem that we have with it. The petition was submitted by Sian Godbert and was first considered by the committee in May 2018, having collected 1,070 signatures. If I didn't read that particular petition heading, it is: 'Proposed New Fishing Bylaws and Failings of NRW'. 

I've got to be honest, this is quite a hot topic in my constituency, and we rely heavily on people coming in as visitor trade with regard to angling and everything. I've met with the local angling clubs, their children and their families. It's a really good initiative, and, to me, this falls in with the future generations Act and everything. I actually think that we really need to call the Cabinet Secretary to a meeting, because of the way that the decisions have been taken thus far on this. You know, when you've got NRW following undemocratic practices—and I've seen it all; I've got all the evidence—I do think that we need to get the Cabinet Secretary in to explain, because this won't just impact in Aberconwy, it will impact across all our areas. But, you know, if anything, they're helping so much just to keep the rivers and to sustain the healthy upkeep of our angling community. You know, they're very responsible, these clubs. They're the ones that want to see everything—. So, it's a really hot topic in my—. 

I've had correspondence from people—Richard Evans is one of them—with regard to this. They are very dissatisfied with what's happened with NRW. I will just link on, if I can, to the next petition, which is 'Give Welsh Fishing Clubs and Salmon and Seatrout a Chance'. This was submitted by Reuben Woodford and was first considered by committee in May 2018, having collected 1,710 signatures.   

And the committee last considered both petitions on 3 July and agreed to write to NRW to seek their views on the most recent comments. A response from NRW was received on 4 September. The petitioners have provided further comments and the committee has received further unsolicited correspondence. The Cabinet Secretary has appointed the Planning Inspectorate to hold a public inquiry into the proposed bye-laws, but I know, from correspondence that I have received, that the Planning Inspectorate are not really the people who are properly qualified to carry out this particular investigation, shall we call it.

09:30

I think we should ask the Cabinet Secretary to come along. I thought it worked really well last time—it saved about 10 letters going backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.

Yes, I thought so. And this will be a one-issue item on an agenda.

Well, it might not, because we might have other things we want to talk to the Cabinet Secretary for environment about as well. But I think it is important that we get the Cabinet Secretary—. Otherwise, we just engage in continual correspondence, without any great increase in knowledge. 

Could I caution the committee on the timings for this? We've received the correspondence from the Planning Inspectorate. So, the Cabinet Secretary—the bye-laws produced by NRW were referred to the Cabinet Secretary, to make a determination on whether they should be made or not. The Cabinet Secretary has decided to ask the Planning Inspectorate to look at this matter and make a recommendation to her before she looks at it. It seems likely that, if we call the Cabinet Secretary in during the time that that planning inquiry will be going on, the Cabinet Secretary will be very reluctant to get into this issue and answer any questions, given that she will ultimately be making the decision after the planning inspectors make their inquiry. I think that could be a course of action for the future, but it may be wise for the committee to wait during the inspectors' inquiry, and to see what recommendation comes out of that, before you raise the issue with the Cabinet Secretary.

As long as we don't leave it where it's a done deal, and it sort of disadvantages our—. 

Well, the possible actions are that the committee—well, we are advised not to undertake further action into the petitions during the course of the inquiry being conducted by the Planning Inspectorate. Therefore, the committee could take a watching brief, obviously, until the report of the Planning Inspectorate is known.

Can we send any representations in to the Planning Inspectorate?

I think the inquiry has closed now.

I think it was 19 September that representations had to be received. 

The planning inspector will be holding oral hearings with representatives on all sides of this, as we understand it.

So, are we content to keep a watching brief until such time as we have that report?

Oh, we've missed the date anyway, by which we could make any representations—the nineteenth.

Yes. And, in reality, the committee, at this point, is a scrutiny body of the Welsh Government, or NRW's actions, in the same way that the Planning Inspectorate will be scrutinising the process that's been followed in setting up these bye-laws. I think for the committee to write to the planning inspector and submit evidence at this stage, where we are with the consideration of the petitions, would probably have been premature anyway.

So, we'll wait. But I still think, whatever the decision is, we should ask the Cabinet Secretary in to explain why they've made that decision. Maybe we can't affect the decision, but we can hold the Cabinet Secretary to account for the decision that's been made. 

Normally, if there's a deadline on something like this—could we have had this sooner, so that we could have made representations, perhaps?

But I don't think it's quite the position of the Petitions Committee to make representation. I think we can pass on the correspondence, but I'd be loath for us to have come to a collective decision on something that is just coming in from a petition. Sending the petition on, I think, is an excellent idea. We did do that, didn't we—?

Yes. And actually that's why the committee has received correspondence from the planning inspector, because all items of correspondence that the Welsh Government had received on this were passed to the inspector.

09:35

We'll make a note in the minutes of the meeting that the committee is minded to get the Cabinet Secretary in to a future meeting once the timescales are right in terms of the inspector's inquiry.

We'll move on to the next petition, which is 'Ban the USE of LARSEN TRAPS (Multi Corvid Traps)'. This petition was submitted by Action Against Wildlife Persecution, having collected 1,943 signatures. 

The committee considered the petition for the first time on 15 May and agreed to write to stakeholders to seek their views on the issues raised by the petition. We've had responses from the RSPCA, the RSPB, the Countryside Alliance and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but had not commented when papers were finalised.

It's fair. They will have had sufficient time to reply. If someone's been on two weeks' holiday, they'll actually have had an opportunity somewhere along the line.

I think we should point out that the RSPCA and the RSPB have some very real concerns about the regulation of the traps rather than the actual use of those traps. Are we happy with that? We'll wait for the views of the petitioners. 

We welcome Rhun ap Iorwerth to the committee. Rhun has been involved with the Business Committee until this particular time. I'm afraid you may have missed a number of items, but the one you may well have wanted to make some comments on, Rhun, was the one about closure of schools on Anglesey. Could you explain to Rhun exactly what we've decided on that, just so that Rhun will know exactly where we are?

Of course. The committee had a discussion around the code and the particular details of the petition and, given the number of signatures and the clear interest, Members were of the view that the committee should write to the Business Committee and ask for time for a debate in Plenary on the petition. 

I'm very pleased that that's the decision that we came to as a committee. There are a number of key issues that need to be explored when it comes to the Assembly floor, not least what the petition asks for in terms of whether Government is ensuring that local authorities the length and breadth of Wales are keeping to the code. But also, what is key is whether the code is anything more than words without the resources that come to support any code. So, I'm very pleased that that now will—. Had I been here, I would certainly have been supporting taking that to Plenary. What I was particularly concerned about was that we had 900 names down here when I personally handed in a box of many thousands. So, I was afraid that it had got lost somewhere.

Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to catch up on what happened there.

There was another one as well, which we'll talk about afterwards, on the summer-born children. 

Would you like to update Rhun on that, just for the record?

The committee is writing back to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for details of the current review that she's indicated is going on around school admissions to find out the scope of that and timescales.

Excellent, because I think there is precedent in other parts of the UK for action that could be useful. As someone who was born on 27 August, I am most definitely one of the youngest of the summer babies. Thank you very much.

Okay. We move on to the next one. We're now considering, Rhun, some of the previous petitions. We move on to 'Control Rapidly Expanding Intensive Poultry Industry in Wales'. It's on page 29. The petition was submitted by the Brecon and Radnor branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, having collected signatures online and on paper to the total of 4,567 signatures. The committee first considered the petition on 5 June and agreed to write to Natural Resources Wales to seek their views on the issues raised by the petition, and to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs to seek further information about how consideration is, or could be, given to the issue of clustering of smaller poultry developments. Responses have been received from both, and the petitioners have also provided further comments. I think we ought to note that NRW confirm that units of under 40,000 bird places are outside the environmental regulatory framework, with NRW’s role being reduced to one of a statutory consultee.

09:40

They say that they would urge us to recommend to the Cab Sec for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs that amendments to the legislation that seek to improve the enforcement and education around the use of these traps be made. In Scotland, the system requires that such traps be registered with the local police—

That was the one we spoke about just prior, where we're awaiting responses from the petitioner. 

What concerns me about this is that four 35,000 chickens or poultry within a small area would all fail to meet the 40,000. I think we need to—. It's another one I'd like to talk to the Cabinet Secretary about, because it's not just 40,000 in one; it's a combined effect, isn't it? If somebody builds five 30,000 in an area, they've got 150,000 and they're still—. So, I think it needs an area-based approach. If somebody wants to build one within one mile or two miles of an existing one, and that takes it over 40,000 within that two-mile area, then it needs to be treated as the effect on the area. So, I think I'd like to talk to the Cabinet Secretary about this, because I think that this is something that has come in unexpectedly. I don't think anybody expected us to become the new Norfolk and, all of a sudden, we have. 

I think she points out that guidance is given to local authorities with regard to clustering and to take those into account before they give planning permission for these units. But it's the strength of that information or that suggestion that it's probably not actually impacting on the ground and on what is actually being carried out. And of course, a major concern of the petitioners is over a lack of in-house expertise in local authorities to carry out environmental assessments.

Again, I think that local authorities—I think Powys is a major one, isn't it, but I think there are also some in Carmarthenshire—

And Ynys Môn. But they never expected this. They've been used to cattle and sheep, which they know a lot about. But all of a sudden, you're having Norfolk imported into Wales and it's causing confusion. Of course people haven't got the expertise because they haven't dealt with it before. This is a fairly recent phenomenon, these very large poultry farms in Wales.

So, if we move on to possible actions. The committee could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs to raise the issues highlighted by NRW and the petitioners and ask: for her response to the suggestion that current requirements for local planning authorities to carry out environmental assessment of applications for units of under 40,000 bird places are insufficient to protect habitats and the environment; whether the Welsh Government intends to reconsider the thresholds in future, as suggested by NRW; for her response to concerns over the capacity and expertise with local planning authorities to adequately carry out environmental assessments required; and in light of the above, whether she considers that there are grounds to curb further expansion of this sector whilst further research is conducted, and controls designed. Are we happy with that or are there any additional—

I just think that, depending on the answers, we still ought to hold the possibility of asking the environment Secretary in to discuss it.

09:45

Yes. For the time being, I think, the letter is the most important thing, but keeping an open mind, yes, absolutely.

Yes, fine, okay.

Right, we move on to the next three petitions, which we are grouping together. The first is 'Penegoes Speed Limit Petition'. This was submitted by Isabel Bottoms, Peter Bottoms and Sarah Holgate, and was first considered by the committee in December 2016, having collected 298 signatures. The second is 'A487 Trunk Road Through Tre-Taliesin: Urgent Need for Effective Speed-Calming Measures'. This was submitted by Antony Foulkes and was first considered by the committee in April 2017, having collected 52 signatures. And the third: 'Petition to extend the 40mph speed limit in Blaenporth'. The petition was submitted by Rosemarie Chaffers-Jones and was first considered by the committee in January 2018, having collected 75 signatures.

We’ve had quite extensive information with regard to all the speed limitations, et cetera, and we’ve had correspondence, obviously, with the Cabinet Secretary on many occasions. So, the committee last considered the three petitions on 15 May, and we agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for further details about the progress of the speed limit review to date—he's indicated to us that there is a review ongoing—the principles underpinning it, and the assessment criteria used.

It's interesting, isn't it? We all, as Assembly Members, can sympathise and work alongside campaigners who want to introduce or change speed limits for very, very good reasons—more often than not, safety related. The question is how far we're able to take individual requests as a committee. Now, it might be nice to have an ongoing file of petitions seeking changes to speed limits that we can check against progress over the three-year periods that are being set out by Government. It's whether we feel we're adding any weight to the petitioners' calls by doing so. I'm not entirely convinced. The important thing is we have given a platform to those very, very valid requests for particular changes. There's probably not much more we can do.

That's right. The committee could agree to keep a watching brief on the petitions and write to the Cabinet Secretary to seek an update at a set point in the future. But the committee could close the petitions in light of the assurances provided by the Cabinet Secretary that the petitions and the views of the petitioners and local communities will be taken into account during the ongoing speed limit review.

Yes. I mean, in my own constituency, I've managed, where it's not trunk roads, to work with the local authority, where we've had pinch points, and they've brought the speed limit down. It's taken a lot of time, but we've got there, through me as the local Member working with the local authority. I've just got one now at the moment that's on a trunk road, and apparently the residents have tried working with the Government, and they said, 'No-one's listening to us.' So, I've just got involved in that now. It's going to be an interesting one to see how I can work with the residents. As Rhun said, I fully sympathise, because we are getting more cars on the road now, and some of the speed limits, especially on derestricted roads, are just not appropriate for some of our villages as the main thoroughfare.

I think should the committee now close these petitions and, obviously, on matters that may come up in the future, we could seek an update at a set point in the future. But from the point of view of these petitions, I think that we have received an assurance, and it's at the end of what the committee can do on these particular—

And can we also proactively encourage them to petition us again in the three years' time, you know, if it hasn't—

And to speak to their own local Members, because, you know, probably—. We collectively, but really their own Members too could help. You know, it would be good advice for them to contact their own—

09:50

I think it's true to say that, if there are issues such as the ones that are now coming up, then I'm sure that we'll receive other petitions on this so we can reopen it. But, from the point of view of these, I think we've gone as far as we possibly can with regard to these particular ones.

What else can we do? They've gone to the Cabinet Secretary, we've passed them on, the Cabinet Secretary has said he's taking what's been said into account. That's all we can achieve. As somebody who drives through Tre-Taliesin fairly regularly on my journey up to Bangor, I can understand exactly why they want the speed limit reduced.

Yes, fine. Okay. So, I think it's agreed that we'll close these particular petitions and await further matters with regard to that.

The next petition is 'Don't take Neath off the main railway-line'. The committee first considered this in June 2018, with the petition having collected 10,472 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 19 June and agreed to write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport. But given the assurances from the Welsh Government that they will oppose any attempts by Network Rail to close Neath station, I think that we can safely close this particular petition.

It's a very strong and supportive response from the Cabinet Secretary, but it's not within his remit, is it?

The only reason I would argue to perhaps keep it there is because of the sheer size of the petition. It is something that we can refer to Plenary debates because of its size. And, whilst I don't think there's any particular action that we can take as a Petitions Committee now, should it turn out during the course of consultations that there is a change in direction on policy, having this on our books means that we can still refer it to Plenary. As I say, I'm not suggesting that we need to do anything with it, but—

No, I agree, but, Rhun, if we're keeping this petition open and, if something should happen and this matter should arise again in the future, and they are attempting to close Neath, I'm absolutely certain that there would be another petition coming before us again, which would be more relevant at that time and probably more up to date in its submissions to us.

I think this is one of these where one person, Professor Barry, came up with a suggestion that gained no support from anywhere, about taking Neath off the main line, and that's generated an awful lot of discussion. But we've had the maximum possible assurance from the Cabinet Secretary that there is no proposal. There never has been a Government proposal. There has never been a proposal that the Government has even considered. All you've had is one transport expert suggesting that something should be done, and I think it's something that would have very little support anywhere, because Neath is a major part of the main line between Swansea and London. Leaving aside anything else, what you'd end up with is more traffic on the M4 and you'd end up with more traffic going into either Swansea or Port Talbot. So, it's against what the Government is trying to do, which is get people out of their cars and onto public transport; it would do the opposite. So, I think we can safely close it because it's just one person's idea. It's not a very good one, and I think it's one where the Government has said that they haven't received it but they would not support it.

It would be a very strange decision given that something like 870,000 passengers a year use that station. So—

The M4 doesn't need another 870,000 transport journeys.

I would be in favour of closing this particular petition at this moment in time. 

Yes. We have noted that we would pursue this as individual Members if there was any suggestion that this might be overturned, and I congratulate the petitioners on highlighting this. However remote a threat it is that this might happen, it was felt keenly by people who clearly have seen Neath as a key station, and they were absolutely right to bring us this petition. And if anything should change, I will be personally encouraging them to double the number of signatures and bring it to us again. 

09:55

I'm sure they would. Fine, okay. 

We may feel that this next petition has been covered by our comments on the petitions previously with regard to speed limits, but we will take note of this: 'Reduce the speed limit on the A487 in Penparcau'. The petition was submitted by Rhian Lewis and was first considered by the committee in July 2018, having collected 262 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 3 July, and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport to ask for further information about the current status of previous commitments to explore the potential to de-trunk the A487 in Aberystwyth, and whether this work is still being taken forward; and consider the petition again alongside other existing petitions relating to speed limits once the Cabinet Secretary had responded to the committee’s previous correspondence relating to the speed limit review. A response from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 25 August. The Cabinet Secretary has confirmed that there are no plans to de-trunk this section of the A487.

So, the possible actions are that, having received an answer about the potential for de-trunking the A487 through Penparcau, the committee could proceed to group the petition with the other petitions concerning speed limits and take the action agreed earlier in relation to these. Are we content? 

I don't think there's any more as a committee that we can do, although I have no doubts that the local campaign will continue, and I wish them well. 

In general, I think we really need to have an item on how we're going to sort out the A487, a road that, as I said earlier, I know well. It's unfortunate that you have a major road that goes through villages, and that does create—. I'm surprised that we haven't had further complaints from either Meirionnydd Nant Conwy or Caernarfon, because you've got the same problem as you go up further on the north part of the road, which I'm sure Rhun knows better than I do, where all of a sudden you're driving along and you're going through a village, right through the middle of it.  

Yes. I mean, the A487 is one of our big problems in terms of our trunk road network in Wales. The A470 and the A487 together form the north-west to the south routes and, frankly, the A487 is worse than the A470 in terms of the villages it goes through, and it needs addressing.  

It just goes through a village. You're just sort of travelling along, you're doing 60 or 70 mph, depending on whether there's something in the middle of the road or not, and all of a sudden you end up going through a village. It's not surprising that people are not getting their speeds down effectively. So, I think that there is work that needs to be done on the A487. Perhaps in relation to this and the other ones, we could ask the Cabinet Secretary if he has any plans for the A487.   

Okay. Would you like us to keep this particular petition open whilst we engage in that correspondence? Otherwise, once it comes back, there'll be nothing obvious to link it to for the Petitions Committee.

Yes. Just hold it there while we get an answer. But I think we really—. We're getting these, there's a lot about the A487 coming in, and there could be a lot more coming in in the future if people see us as a route. We really do need to address what is, as Rhun knows better than I, a fairly substantial problem. 

So, we'll write to the Cabinet Secretary about the general problems that the committee feels exist on the A487, and what plans the Government has to address them. 

And we'll keep the petition open until that time.

Okay, the next one is 'Unacceptable Waiting Times for NHS patients in A & E Wrecsam/Wrexham Maelor Hospital'. The petition was submitted by Charles Dodman and was first considered by the committee in January 2017, having collected 14 signatures. The committee considered the petition on 5 June and agreed to await the views of the petitioner on the latest information received from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, and to write to north Wales community health council to ask about their awareness of concerns in relation to waiting times for Wrexham Maelor Hospital and A&E department and whether they have carried out any work on this issue. A response from the North Wales Community Health Council was received on 27 June. Do we have any comments with regard to it?

10:00

Nothing in particular. I mean, these are issues that we're all very, very familiar with—very familiar with—and, clearly, there's more information that we could seek from the health board about what's going on.  

Fine. Okay, so the committee could write back to Betsi Cadwaladr university health board to seek an update on the subject matter of the petition—correspondence was previously received in Feb 2017—and for details of their response to the findings and recommendations of the Wales CHC review into patient experience in A&E.

The next petition is 'Recognition of Parental Alienation'. The petition was submitted by Families Need Fathers Both Parents Matter Cymru and was first considered by the committee in May 2017, having collected 2,058 signatures. We've had, obviously, papers on this matter. Are there any comments that you'd like to make with regard to this?

We've held an evidence session on this as well, obviously. The key issue that arose from the evidence session was the difference between some of the advice given in Wales and the advice given in England. If there was a suggestion that there was a review of whether that guidance should be changed here in Wales, well, we could do with an update on that, couldn't we?

It does say that the review of the guidance

'is actively considering the work being undertaken by Cafcass England in respect of alienating behaviours.'

So, the possible actions of the committee: we could write to Cafcass Cymru to ask for an update on the development of new practice guidance and for details of how consideration is being given to adopting the approach of Cafcass in England, in light of the concerns expressed by the petitioners. Are we agreed on that, then? Yes.

The next petition is 'Prescription drug dependence and withdrawal—recognition and support'. This petition was submitted by Stevie Lewis and was first considered in May 2017, having collected 213 signatures online. The committee last considered the petition on 1 May and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services to outline the evidence received and ask a number of detailed questions. A response was received from the Cabinet Secretary on 29 June and the clerking team agreed with the petitioner to consider the petition in the autumn to give her more time to respond. The petitioner has provided further comments and extracts from forthcoming reports. We should say that a substance misuse treatment framework is in development, supported by research that is due to be completed this autumn. The framework will be subject to public consultation.

I think it's true to say that there are very serious concerns with regard to the business of prescription drug dependence and we ought to thank the petitioner for bringing this to light and for giving us the opportunity to explore the matter fully, because I think that it is a very serious matter. 

To date, the committee has gathered written responses from the Welsh Government, health boards and professional bodies, and from people with personal experiences. Therefore, the committee could schedule evidence sessions on this issue to gather further detailed views, as requested by the petitioner. A list of potential participants in this could be produced if the committee wished to take this approach, or the committee could use the evidence it has already gathered to produce a report on the petition at this stage. Evidence has been exclusively gathered via correspondence so far. Do we feel that we need to have people in front of us?

10:05

I've got to be honest, I sympathise a lot with this because, in my own constituency, we still have a system that, you know, somebody can present—in fact, people do present to my own office—and it's very difficult after 5 o'clock—on a Friday, it can be 4.30 p.m.—there's no support for anyone with any alcohol or drug dependency, prescription drug dependency. We do need support services, you know, because, when people suddenly become unwell, or they decide they want to stop taking, you need support more all-round than what's available at the moment. And I do think that there needs to be more in terms of genuine helpline numbers where, you know—. I know there's a recommendation from the Cabinet Secretary, but I would like—. It would be quite an interesting topic to take evidence on. Because, when we've done it previously—I was on the health and care committee previously—whenever we went to any workshops, a lot of people with addictions to drugs or alcohol, or prescription drug dependency, just said that it's that lack of support over a weekend, it's that lack of support over an evening, and I'm afraid that until we get our health services working—

Mike, do you have any comments on that, about taking evidence?

I think I'd be quite happy either way, but, if the majority of people want to take evidence, let's do so.

The issue I have is one of timing and how any evidence that we would gather in addition to the fairly comprehensive written evidence I think that we have—how that ties in or could tie in with the substance misuse treatment framework that's being developed now and whether it's better for us to put what we have into the process of developing that framework, rather than wait for oral evidence, which would be likely to replicate what we already have in—.

We don't really know if the health committee have done work on it, do we?

No. That's the one concern I have, because I think we're totally in agreement on this being a major issue that needs addressing. But is it more important that we try to feed into—

Yes, especially because we know explicitly that you have, and the team and this committee have, gathered a lot of evidence already.

Absolutely, yes. Yes. I think that that's a very good suggestion. Are we all in agreement with that?

And do we know, will this dovetail with that development, with that framework development? Do we know?

We understand that it should do. We don't know the exact time frame for when that framework will be published. We sought an update from the Government prior to the summer, which indicated that the research had taken longer than originally anticipated; so, it had put the development of the framework back slightly. The research is due to be completed this autumn. So, I think we can anticipate the framework being early in 2019.

And have Government signalled that they'd be happy to take our report as a committee and give it consideration as part of the development of a framework? 

We haven't talked to them about a committee report specifically, but I think the Cabinet Secretary has previously stated that the petition will be taken into account in that. But, clearly, we could strengthen that position by producing something formal from the committee.

One thing we could do is we could draft a report based upon the evidence we've already got. That will come to committee for consideration in the future, and, if at that point Members feel there is an area of that that we need to take further evidence on, that's always an option open as well.

Fine. Happy? Are we all agreed on that? Fine, thank you. 

Right, the next petition is 'Causing Nuisance or Disturbance on NHS Premises'. The petition was submitted by Claire Thomas and was first considered by the committee in January 2018, having collected 74 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 23 January and agreed to await further response from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services before considering any further action on the petition. The Cabinet Secretary has advised that he was considering enacting the relevant provisions. A response from the Cabinet Secretary was received on 12 July. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be discussed but had not commented when the papers were finalised. We ought to say that the Cabinet Secretary has apologised for the delay. He has advised that officials are working with legal services and that he hopes to receive advice as soon as possible in relation to enacting sections 119 to 121 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

Obviously, these have been implemented in England and it begs the question why they haven't been implemented in Wales prior to this. 

So, the committee could await a further update from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services, as offered in his latest correspondence. Are we happy to do that? 

10:10

Okay. The next one is 'Pembrokeshire says NO!! To the closure of Withybush A&E!' This petition was submitted by Myles Bamford-Lewis and was first considered in July 2018, having collected 40,048 signatures, which is by far a record for any petition that has been submitted to us on previous occasions.

So, we all know the machinations that are going on with regard to this with Hywel Dda et cetera. So, the committee could agree to consider the petition again following the imminent debate on this petition and the health board meeting on 27 September. We are bringing this to debate tomorrow in the Assembly, so I think that's the best course of action.

Yes, we're happy, but what happens—? We've taken it to a debate. What can we do after that? Because that's always been our end point up until now. 

That's something that's changed with the introduction of the 5,000 signature threshold. Traditionally, a debate would always be the end point of a petition because the committee would have published a report and made recommendations to the Government. With the petitions that we push to an earlier debate, because of the number of signatures they've received, then, in terms of the clerking process, we would bring the petition back to a meeting after the debate and the committee can then decide. A previous example was in relation to wild animals in circuses, for example. The debate led to a change in policy and the petition has now been closed. But we do have a couple of petitions that have been debated that are still open.

Yes, but this is a rather unusual one in that the decisions are being made this week, aren't they, by the local health board? And our debate in Plenary coincides with the two-day process of coming to a decision, so—.

Yes. We've had a chat about this and we note that we should hear something sometime during the day with regard to the decisions that have been made, and we were hoping that we may be able to incorporate that in the debate if that should be the case. And we'll be relying on the clerking team to update us if we're able to include it then and update my debate details.

In a way, regardless of how, you know, the timing's a bit strange, we are carrying out one of our basic duties as a Petitions Committee here by giving a voice to 40,000 people who've signed a petition—even though the timing makes it rather difficult for our debate to influence, with decisions going out at the same time.

Yes. Well, I will note that the petitioners are seeing it as rather strange—shall we put it that way—that they're having this meeting on the day of the debate, but we can't make any real comments with regard to that. It's just a comment.

To be fair, the health board had scheduled its meetings over two days before the Business Committee and the Assembly was able to meet to set a date for discussing the petition, so—. 

I think one thing we might want to note is that I think it was unfortunate that, in Hywel Dda health board's letter to the committee, it stated that the public board meeting was on 27 September, when, in fact, the meeting to discuss these proposals is on 26 September, which is the same day as the debate.  

Okay. Okay, we'll move on to the next petition, which is 'Ensuring Equality of Curriculum for Welsh Medium Schools e.g. GCSE in Psychology'. The petition was submitted by Chris Evans and was first considered by the committee in November 2017, having collected 652 signatures. The petition was scheduled to be considered at the meeting on 17 July. However, due to time constraints and to allow the petitioner additional time to provide comments, the committee agreed to defer the consideration of the petition to a future meeting. Correspondence has since been received from Qualifications Wales, which provides an update on the current position. Qualifications Wales states that

'there are some subjects for which the number of learners in Wales is too low to make it viable for any awarding body to develop qualifications for award only in Wales.'

Do we have any comments with regard to that? I think this doesn't only come down to psychology. There are a number of other subjects, et cetera, which fall into this category as well, so we ought to mention that.

10:15

There are a whole host of issues relating to the capacity that we have in Wales to offer Welsh-medium courses, qualifications, tuition. In our house, currently, we have a 16-year-old who is having to cobble together a course—A-level science courses—herself, because the written material isn't there to support her. In this case, I think we have to await the views of the petitioner on a number of issues before moving on, but this is a major issue that the Government needs to grab by the scruff of the neck. There's room here for Government to take specific action where the market, if you like, in offering qualifications, won't act in itself.

We should note that the petitioner hadn't provided comments prior to the publication of papers, but provided comments over the weekend, I believe. So, there's a sheet on your tables with some very short comments. The petitioner has replied to essentially say he's got nothing further to add but that, in his particular school, the impact of this has been detrimental to the psychology department.

'The psychology department in this school has been ruined'.

The Government needs to take action here, you know.

[Inaudible.]—petitioner comments at this point, in this situation, is not an option any longer. The committee would need to determine whether to follow this up and how.

Can we get the Government's response to that, you know? What are they going to do about it?

Can we also write to the WJEC and ask them—or it might be Qualifications Wales, but I think it's the WJEC—to ask them what subjects there is not adequate material available for for GCSE and A-level? We're talking about one subject here. It could be the only subject, although I very much doubt it, but we need to know how many subjects are in there, and then we can raise it in much greater detail with the Government. We've got a commitment that Welsh and English are going to be treated equally. Now, it's not going to be treated equally if somebody doing GCSE psychology in English has an unfair advantage because of the amount of materials available over somebody who's doing GCSE psychology in Welsh.

We've had some information back from Qualifications Wales on that point, actually. So, this is figures from pupils entered in 2017: there are approximately 20 GCSE subjects where material is not available in Welsh. Most of them are in languages, and psychology is by far the largest in terms of number of pupils entered, but the issue does also affect, for example, statistics, engineering, astronomy and economics. The majority of the others are foreign languages.

Well, foreign languages, you wouldn't expect, because they also aren't available in English either, but I would expect that something as normal or general, or generally studied, as statistics would actually be in there with the material—and psychology. Some of the others are very much niche subjects, but, even so, if we're going to have equality between English and Welsh, you can't have equality except when you're doing these subjects.

And this is about the Government needing to step in to fill in gaps where the qualifications market doesn't fulfil it.

So, how do we go about that? What's the best approach that we use? Do we write to Qualifications Wales?

10:20

Well, I think Government needs to know what's going on here. I think that sentence from the head of psychology in Wrexham sums it up, you know: the policy of Qualifications Wales has ruined the psychology department at this very good school in Wrexham.

But I think we also want to ask what action the Government is taking to ensure that materials are available in all the non-foreign-language subjects.

I don't think we need to take foreign language out of it, because there's still a medium of teaching foreign languages as well, of course.

Previously on this petition, we've written to the Cabinet Secretary who has stated that she sees it as an issue for Qualifications Wales. Qualifications Wales has sent information to the committee that outlines their policy and why they have determined not to require any exam board introducing qualifications in Wales to make sure that those are available in English and in Welsh, and the WJEC, which does make all its qualifications available in both languages, has chosen not to offer these subjects because of the pupil numbers, we understand. So, I think that, if we're writing to the Government, we are in a position where we are reiterating Qualifications Wales's policy to them, perhaps—

Yes, I think so, and saying, 'You've told us that it's down to Qualifications Wales, you've told us as a Government that our answer is elsewhere. Now, those bodies elsewhere that the Minister is ultimately responsible for, are telling us, "We're not going to take action."' Therefore, the Government has to respond to them and decide whether they're happy or not.

I was just going to say that Qualifications Wales, in business terms, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Welsh Government.

So, we'll write to the Cabinet Secretary.

So, the Cabinet Secretary needs to respond to the block that has been put in our way by Qualifications Wales.

Fine, okay.

We move on to the next petition, which is 'Fair Deal For Supply Teachers'. The petition was submitted by Sheila Jones and was first considered by the committee in May 2018, having collected a total of 1,425 signatures.

This petition was to be considered on 17 July. However, due to time restraints and to allow the petitioner additional time to provide comments, the committee agreed to defer consideration of the petition to a future meeting. A response from the petitioner has now been received.

I think we ought to note the interventions that have now taken place. Do we have any further comments on those?

I'll just reiterate what I've said many times: I don't like the idea of supply teachers being provided by agencies. I would much prefer either the education consortium in an area or local authorities to provide supply teachers. I don't like the fact—and I've got friends who are supply teachers—that a large proportion of what they are being paid for being a supply teacher is being creamed off by the agencies for very little work apart from telling them where vacancies are. I think that we should be looking to asking whether the Welsh Government would consider a public sector solution to supply teachers.

Yes, fine. 

The next petition is 'Reintroduce educational support funding to MEAS and the TES to Neath Port Talbot CBC'. The petition was submitted by Unison Neath Port Talbot and was first considered by the committee in July 2018, having collected 334 signatures. The committee first considered the petition on 3 July and agreed to write back to the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ask for further information about the formula used to allocate funds to each local authority. I think we've had a response from the Cabinet Secretary, and it was received on 6 August. Following the concerns raised, the Cabinet Secretary has agreed £8.7 million of transitional funding in 2018-19 to enable authorities to provide support for minority ethnic and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller learners.

10:25

Have we got the Children, Young People and Education Committee's short report and can we share that with the petitioners? This is something that I, again, feel very strongly about. We had a system that was working well and the Cabinet Secretary changed it and now we've got a system that isn't working anywhere near as well and I would just hope that the Cabinet Secretary can learn from what she's done and get it right next time.

I think because the Children, Young People and Education Committee has looked at this, I don't think there's any merit in us taking it further other than, perhaps, making sure that everything we have is given to them.

And their short report will be sent to the petitioners.

Yes, off the top of my head, I'm not sure what the outcome of that inquiry was, whether there was a report, but there will certainly be some output that we can share with the petitioners.

Well, whatever the output was, can we share it with the petitioners?

Yes, and I think, given that, during the autumn, committees like the Children, Young People and Education Committee will be performing budget scrutiny of the Welsh Government, then, given that there's a sort of question mark hanging over whether the transitional funding will be repeated in the next financial year, we could ask that committee to raise those matters.

Yes. Are we happy with that? Right, we move on to the next petition, which is 'Our natural world is being poisoned by single use plastics...it’s time to introduce a tax!'

As we know, there are many of these very similar petitions being presented, and all expressing the same concerns with regard to use of plastic. But this particular petition was submitted by Friends of Barry Beaches and was first considered by the committee in March 2018, having collected 102 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 25 May and agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to seek an update on the developments of a potential tax on single-use plastics, and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance responded on 7 July. The Cabinet Secretary considers that a UK-wide tax would be the most effective means of using taxation to tackle this issue. UK Government consultation ended in May and the Welsh Government is working with Treasury to consider the responses.

I was one of those, along with Simon Thomas, who was very keen on bringing this as our first tax, but I was convinced by the Cabinet Secretary, whose view was that we wouldn't get it through if the Westminster Government were producing a tax on exactly the same issue. So, I think we need to keep a watching brief and perhaps we could write to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance asking what stage this has got to.

So, the committee could agree to keep a watching brief on UK-wide discussions about the development of a potential tax on single-use plastics and await a response to the consultation from the UK and Welsh Governments. Are we happy with that?

Can we also write to the Cabinet Secretary to ask for an update on where we've got to on this?

The next one obviously touches on the same subject and is 'Ban plastic straws (when drinking milk) in our schools'. This petition was submitted by Ysgol y Wern and was first considered by the committee in July 2018, having collected 1,034 signatures. Officials are working with local authorities and suppliers to explore the issues associated with plastic straws and to try and find practical alternatives. Having seen the comments by the Welsh Government again on these matters, the committee could await further information from the Welsh Local Government Association, which said that they are looking into this matter, and, following a planned meeting of local authority education cabinet ministers, could also seek a further update from the Welsh Government in the future in relation to ongoing work by officials and the trial taking place in Pembrokeshire.

Yes. This is a special petition that I think we should pursue as much as we can. I don't think there's much we can do before that WLGA meeting, probably, and hopefully they've got the message as loudly as we have and that they take the action that they can.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o’r cyfarfod
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting

Cynnig:

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

Motion:

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

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.