Y Cyfarfod Llawn

Plenary

25/01/2022

In the bilingual version, the left-hand column includes the language used during the meeting. The right-hand column includes a translation of those speeches.

The Senedd met by video-conference at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.

Statement by the Llywydd

Good afternoon and welcome to this Plenary session. Before we begin, I want to set out a few points. A Plenary meeting held by video-conference, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Welsh Parliament, constitutes Senedd proceedings for the purposes of the Government of Wales Act 2006. Some of the provisions of Standing Order 34 will apply for today's Plenary meeting, and these are noted on your agenda. And I would remind Members that Standing Orders relating to order in Plenary meetings apply to this meeting.

Before we begin today, may I take this opportunity to wish one of our neighbours here in Cardiff Bay a very happy hundredth birthday—Urdd Gobaith Cymru, one of Europe's largest youth organisations? And if we as a Senedd weren't meeting virtually today, I would have wanted all Members to have stood and to have sung: 

'Hei, Mistar Urdd, yn dy goch, gwyn a gwyrdd, / Mae hwyl i'w gael ym mhobman yn dy gwmni.'

But, as we are meeting virtually, and having embarrassed myself completely there, we will wish the Urdd well for the next century and thank them for everything that they've achieved for our young people. 

1. Questions to the First Minister

So, we'll move on very swiftly now to questions to the First Minister, and the first question this afternoon is from Llyr Gruffydd. 

Flood Damage

Thank you, Llywydd. I won't sing the question, I'm afraid. 

1. What support does the Welsh Government provide to prevent flood damage resulting from climate change in communities in north Wales? OQ57533

Llywydd, in line with the co-operation agreement, our draft budget sets out increases in both capital and revenue funding for flood and coastal defences across Wales, as we respond to the challenges of climate change.

Thank you for that response. It's good to hear that. Of course, one frustration is that it takes so long, very often, to deal with repairing infrastructure. In the meantime, the damage can become worse, and the costs can increase. I'm thinking of examples such as the B5606 in Newbridge near Wrexham. It's over a year now since the damage was done there. And Llannerch bridge in Trefnant, Denbighshire, where it's been a year since the damage occurred to the bridge there. In both cases, local residents, when they used to be able to complete short journeys, now have to take very long journeys because the infrastructure's been lost, and that brings a cost in terms of the carbon footprint too. 

So, can I make a request that the Government looks urgently and favourably at requests from local authorities for investment to restore those two examples of infrastructure lost as a result of flood damage and climate change, because the delays mean not only that the work will be more expensive in financial terms, but that there is a higher cost in terms of climate change too?

Well, Llywydd, I thank Llyr Gruffydd for those questions. One of the reasons why we have provided more revenue in the system is to help local authorities to prepare bids for funding to carry out work where that work is necessary. And we recognise the fact that local authorities have had difficulty in bringing everything together and submitting their bids to us. For example, I'm not familiar with the example that Llyr Gruffydd referred to in Wrexham, but I am familiar with Llannerch bridge, and, at the moment, we haven't received a bid from the local council there. 

So, what we have done is not only increase capital funding to carry out that work, but we've also provided revenue to help local authorities and others to prepare for that work, to put their bids together so they can be submitted to us, and in so doing, to accelerate the process that we have. 

First Minister, many seaside resorts across north Wales are, as you will know, exposed to flood risk, including Towyn and Kinmel Bay in my own constituency. Now, there are plans to improve the sea defences in Towyn and Kinmel Bay, as part of the coastal risk management programme. But the proposals that have been developed by Conwy County Borough Council to date are pretty unattractive in comparison to some of the schemes elsewhere in north Wales, including in Colwyn Bay and neighbouring Rhyl, and they just do not seem to reflect the important status of Towyn and Kinmel Bay to the visitor economy. So, First Minister, can I ask you what assurances can you provide to the constituents in Clwyd West in terms of the ability of the Welsh Government to work now with Conwy County Borough Council to bring forward new coastal defence flood protection improvements in the Towyn and Kinmel Bay area that will not only improve flood protection but also enhance the coastline, improve access to our local beaches, and make these resorts more attractive for locals and visitors alike, so that they can achieve blue flag status once the works are completed?

13:35

I thank Darren Millar for that question, Llywydd. He raises a number of important issues. He's right, of course—Conwy County Borough Council is the flood risk management authority for those stretches of the coast, Kinmel Bay to Llanddulas, and the other stretches that he mentioned. As I said in my answer to Llyr Gruffydd, one of the reasons we have increased the revenue side of our budget is to allow local authorities to have some more capacity to develop the schemes that they then put forward for funding. There are 10 coastal risk management programme schemes across north Wales, and the money is set aside—£190 million, I believe, in total—to allow all those schemes to go ahead.

There's an issue that the Member raises that I think is quite a tricky one. The money that is put aside for the coastal risk management programme has to focus on protecting communities and businesses, and so on, from floods—coastal flooding. And it's not primarily there, therefore, to increase the attractiveness of areas, or to attract tourism, but, of course, those are really important considerations when these schemes are being designed. Now, there are tensions, therefore, sometimes in bringing different funding streams together, to make sure that, when work is being carried out, it does the main thing—protecting communities from flood and coastal flooding risks. But the considerations that Darren Millar raises about how those works then impact upon the attractiveness of an area and contribute to its economy more widely are important ones. And I'll make sure that that point is relayed to the people who are responsible for overseeing the programmes.

First Minister, I welcome the Welsh Government's recent announcement of a free tree for every household. Constituents have asked me to enquire whether it will be possible for households to join together and to plant their trees in communal spaces, to create mini forests and, in some cases, to help soak up surface water in communal areas that could possibly otherwise lead to the flooding of homes.

I thank Ken Skates for that, Llywydd. He makes an important point—that tree planting is part of the natural flood defences that we are keen to promote as a Welsh Government. I thank him for drawing attention to our scheme to encourage tree planting by every citizen here in Wales. Ken Skates will know, Llywydd, that the scheme has two components: households will be able to choose a tree themselves and plant it in their own garden, or they will be able to make their tree part of a communal effort. That part of the scheme will be led by the Woodland Trust. I think it's great to hear that there are communities in touch with their local Senedd Member asking how they can act together through this scheme to make a difference of the sort that Ken outlined. In February, a dedicated page will be published by the Woodland Trust—a web page—and then those groups will be able to be in touch with the Woodland Trust and see how that great opportunity for more tree planting can be put to use in that collective way and make a difference in flooding and in other community amenities.

13:40

Question 2 [OQ57495] is withdrawn. Question 3 is next, from Delyth Jewell. 

Welsh-medium Education in South Wales East

3. Will the First Minister make a statement on the future of Welsh-medium education in South Wales East? OQ57532

Thank you very much to Delyth Jewell for that question, Llywydd. Demand for Welsh-medium education remains high in the region. The local authorities are about to present to Welsh Ministers their 10-year plan, setting out how they intend to grow Welsh-medium education locally in response to the ambition set out in 'Cymraeg 2050'.

Well, thank you very much for that. The 'Cymraeg 2050' strategy does refer to increasing the proportion of each school year group receiving Welsh-medium education from 22 per cent by 2031. There are counties in the south-east where there isn't a single Welsh-medium secondary school. But, even in the primary sector, there are areas that are missing out. Since the closure of the Ysgol Gymraeg Rhyd-y-Grug site in Quakers Yard, there is no convenient Welsh-medium school for primary pupils living in the village. The same is true of Treharris in the county of Merthyr, and Nelson, just over the border in Caerphilly. A primary school in that area could serve a large number of pupils: children who either travel long distances on a bus every morning and every afternoon, or who can't access Welsh-medium education. I understand that councils have a responsibility here, but, First Minister, children and families are missing out on a golden opportunity to access Welsh-medium education. Could you take this forward, First Minister, and work with the councils and encourage them to work together to find ways to ensure that children in Nelson and Quakers Yard can have easy access to Welsh-medium education? 

Well, I thank Delyth Jewell for that supplementary question. And it's wonderful to have such a question on the day where we are celebrating the centenary of the Urdd, which, of course, has done so much work to promote the Welsh language among young people. As I've heard when I've been in conversation with officials working on the Welsh in education strategic plans, they have developed the ambition that we were hoping to see in the new plans. And, of course, that does respond to the comments made by Delyth Jewell. We are trying to develop the Welsh language in all parts of the region, and throughout the whole of Wales too, particularly with primary schools. I haven't personally seen the WESPs yet. They will be submitted to Ministers in the coming week, and I do look forward to seeing plans in each and every local authority in the South East Wales region to see what more can be done to bring more children into Welsh-medium education.

When we look at the secondary sector, what we want to see is local authorities collaborating. Where they can't make provision alone, then, they should seek to collaborate with other local authorities in order to deliver Welsh-medium secondary education, which is convenient for children and of a quality where we see the Welsh language continuing to develop. 

May I just declare that I am still a Monmouthsire county councillor? Thank you for that answer to Delyth's supplementary, First Minister. And, further to that, can I just say that providing more Welsh-medium school places across Wales is critical to achieving the Welsh Government's target of 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050. So, I am sure the First Minister will join me in welcoming the news that Monmouthshire County Council's ambitious 10-year plan to double the Welsh-medium school places across the county. Access to Welsh-medium schools in some rural areas is really difficult, and the distance that some would have to travel often deters parents from choosing a Welsh language school for their children. In many rural constituencies across Wales, transport options still remain one of the biggest barriers to parents sending their children to Welsh-medium schools. First Minister, will you and your Government please relook at the current transport requirements and needs for children wishing to attend Welsh-medium education in rural areas across Wales to ensure it is sufficient to meet the needs of parents, children and local authorities? Will you look to invest in this area to ensure, alongside our local authorities, that transport no longer means a barrier to take up Welsh-medium education? Thank you.

13:45

I'm hoping the First Minister will have heard that well enough to answer. There was a problem with your microphone, so if we can have that checked technically before you contribute next time, but I think it was clear enough, just about, wasn't it, First Minister?

Yes, diolch, Llywydd. I thank the Member for that question. Of course, I do welcome very much the growth in Welsh-medium provision in the county of Monmouth and congratulate those who are involved in fostering that growth. It's not that long ago the National Eisteddfod was held very successfully in the county, where Laura Jones's colleague Peter Fox did a great deal to promote that possibility and to make that a success. So, where there is strong local leadership, even in parts of Wales where the language isn't the strongest, we can still achieve very significant growth.

I recognise the points that the Member makes, of course, about the convenience of education through the medium of Welsh and the need to make sure that travel is considered when those plans are being made, and I can assure her that the Ministers responsible—the Minister for education and the Minister with responsibility for transport, Lee Waters—were discussing at the Cabinet only this week ways in which we can deal with some of the complexities that are there in school transport, and put that to work to support our ambitious plans for growing the number of young people receiving education through the medium of Welsh in order to reach our 2050 target.

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

Questions now from the party leaders. And on behalf of the Welsh Conservatives today, Paul Davies.

Thank you, Llywydd. Before I move to questions to the First Minister, I would like to echo your comments in wishing a very happy birthday to the Urdd, who have and continue to make a huge contribution to our language, our heritage, our young people and to our daily life. So, a very happy birthday.

First Minister, around 20 per cent of people in Wales are on a waiting list for non-urgent treatment, of which 1 in 4 of those patients have been waiting over a year for treatment, and more than 42,000 people have now been waiting for treatment since November 2019. Now, last week, the health Minister warned that figures are likely to get worse before they get better. Therefore, in light of the health Minister's remarks a few days ago, can you tell us what modelling the Welsh Government has done in relation to waiting time figures? Because it's vital that, as a Government, you look at the worst-case scenarios so that health boards are able to plan the delivery of services in their regions more effectively. And is the health Minister right that waiting times are likely to get worse?

Llywydd, I think the health Minister is right that, in the short run, we're yet to see in the figures published so far the impact of the omicron wave and the need to divert health service resources to the vaccination programme carried out during December. So, I think the health Minister, through the modelling that is carried out, was simply warning people that the difficult position that will be facing the NHS is going to get worse before it gets better. But the Member Paul Davies will have seen the British Medical Association in Wales saying that, even in the figures published last week, there are the first signs of recovery, and that is underpinned by modelling, modelling carried out by health boards, modelling carried out across specialities, backed up very often by national arrangements, for example in orthopaedics, to make sure that we are trying our best to match new capacity to deal with the pent-up demand that has grown over the last 20 months. And there are a series of ways in which health boards will be planning to do that—maximising their own capacity, carrying out more lists at weekends, looking to co-operate across borders with other health boards and across the border into England, for those counties and health boards that sit along that border, and then to be able to see the tide turn on the lists that have built up over the last COVID-dominated period.

13:50

First Minister, the health Minister has said that we are still in a situation where there are very real restrictions within our hospitals because of COVID, and so your own comments last week that we are past the peak, and the situation has improved significantly, should mean that, following the December figures, waiting times should start to come down. In the meantime it's vital that patients attending NHS sites are not at risk of contracting COVID-19. You'll have seen the damning hospital inspection report into Prince Charles Hospital last month, which found that the arrangements for the prevention and control of infection within the emergency department and clinical decisions unit did not protect patients, members of the public and staff. That report also found significant failings in adhering to local and national guidelines, and staff themselves made it clear that they were worried about contracting COVID-19 and concerned about their patients. So, First Minister, what urgent steps is the Welsh Government taking to address the issues highlighted in that report? And more widely, can you tell us what is being done to ensure that arrangements for the prevention and control of infection in all hospitals actually protect patients and staff?

Llywydd, what Paul Davies said at the beginning points to the whole dilemma here, doesn't it? Hospitals continue to have to deal with very significant numbers of patients who have contracted coronavirus—over 1,000 beds still in the NHS are in that position—with hospitals having to divide themselves into red zones and green zones, with staff still having to wear personal protective equipment, with all the time that that takes and the impact that it has on productivity, the need for deep cleaning of sites and operating theatres between patients, particularly if you're operating where COVID is known to be part of that patient's condition. The health service isn't in a quick way going to be able to carry on as though none of that were happening. There's going to be a long tail of impact on the health service, and I'm afraid that the actions that the health board are taking that would slow down productivity inevitably are exactly the ones that Paul Davies points to, which protect from transmission of coronavirus within the hospital environment.

Now, I saw the report into the Merthyr position, and it was an issue that was raised by members of staff themselves. And where the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales report says that the plans by the local health board to improve that position came into them in a way that gave confidence that those things would now improve.

You can be sure that, right across the NHS, staff work tirelessly to try to prevent COVID from circulating within the hospital. The single biggest contribution we can make to that is to go on driving down rates in the community, because this is a virus that finds its way into vulnerable settings wherever those settings are to be found, and the more coronavirus circulates in the community, the harder it is to prevent that virus from moving in, whether it's into a prison setting, a care home setting, a hospital setting. Closed settings are where the virus thrives, and the biggest contribution we can all make to preventing the virus from circulating in the hospital is to reduce its circulation in the community.

First Minister, clearly this report is another reason why a Wales-wide COVID inquiry is needed, so that issues like this can be scrutinised fully and questions answered over how these failings came to be. Patients have the right to feel safe in a hospital setting, and yet, as this report shows, there are risks of cross-infections, and in some cases patients were at risk. According to recent figures, nearly a quarter of people who died from coronavirus in Wales were infected in hospital, and despite Ministers consistently telling us they were learning lessons and implementing stronger protocols, the Prince Charles report shows that patients are still being put at risk. It's now come to light, thanks to the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group—Cymru, that there was a Welsh Government 'lessons learned' report following the SARS outbreak in 2004, where the Welsh Government committed to an audit and allocation of funding to rectify the lack of isolation facilities. So, First Minister, did that audit happen, and did Welsh hospitals receive the right support to modernise their settings to fight airborne viruses between 2004 and the start of the COVID pandemic? If that is the case, then why are some health boards telling families that a lack of isolation facilities compromised their ability to keep patients safe? And given the calls now for a Wales-wide inquiry from organisations, from politicians and from families across Wales, what will it finally take for the Welsh Government to agree to a Wales-wide inquiry, so that families can get justice and we can finally get answers in relation to decisions taken here in Wales by your Government?

13:55

Well, Llywydd, I've answered this question from Members from the Conservative Party time and time and time again, and I'm not intending to just repeat what I've said to them on those many occasions. What would it take for us to have a Wales-wide inquiry would be for me to lose faith, as he clearly has already, in the Prime Minister's ability to deliver the inquiry that he has promised. Now, if I come to his lack of confidence in the Prime Minister's willingness to do that, then I would have to think again about arrangements here in Wales. So far, as I've also explained many times in the past, the Welsh Government has had an opportunity to be involved in the appointment of the judge, Judge Hallett, who will lead the independent UK-wide inquiry, and I was satisfied with that appointment. I'm very glad that she is someone who has a very strong understanding of the devolved context and will bring an ability to ensure that that inquiry does focus on experiences here in Wales.

There is another hurdle to pass in the next few days, when I hope that we will see the draft terms of reference. They're with the judge still at the moment. Welsh Government, through our officials, have contributed to the development of those terms of reference. The Prime Minister has promised there will be a more formal opportunity for us to comment on them once Judge Hallett has completed her consideration. I will want to see that those terms of reference guarantee that the experience here in Wales will be properly and fully explored by that inquiry. And then there will be a further set of issues that I will need to be satisfied about, about the way in which the inquiry itself will go about its business. I will expect the inquiry to have access to expertise about Wales. I will expect it to have hearings here, directly in Wales, to make sure that it can collect the experiences, the views and the questions of people in Wales who will want that inquiry to be able to make the best sense it can of the experience of families, patients, staff here in Wales during the pandemic. They will only get those answers, I believe, when they are able to explore what happened here in Wales within that wider and sometimes shaping UK context. That is why I believe that that remains the best way of getting answers that people will wish to see from an inquiry about what happened here in Wales. And no doubt that will include the other questions that the Member has raised this afternoon. 

Llywydd, may I also congratulate Urdd Gobaith Cymru on behalf of Plaid Cymru as they reach their centenary, and also on their success with the two world records? And I'd like to thank them for their incredible contribution to Welsh life over the past century, and also thank them for giving you an excuse to show your musical talents here this afternoon. But, on to scrutiny. 

First Minister, there has been much discussion recently about living with COVID. It's important to remember, when we hear that phrase, of course, that according to the Office for National Statistics, almost 60,000 in Wales are living with long COVID. Long COVID or post-COVID-19 syndrome involves a wide range of symptoms, but the most consistent feature, as we know, is a form of severe persistent fatigue that can be completely debilitating. The three occupational groups that are most affected, according to official statistics, are social care, teaching and healthcare—people who have put themselves on the front line to serve others and are now paying the price for their diligence. Does the First Minister agree with me that COVID-19 should now be classified as an occupational disease, as it already has been in eight European countries, as well as in Canada and South Africa, and that those who have contracted long COVID as a chronic disease through exposure at work should be entitled to compensation? 

14:00

Well, Llywydd, that would not be a matter for Ministers, I think, to take such a decision without the advice they would need, and I've seen no advice directly of that sort. But I do agree with what Adam Price has said about the importance of long COVID. The Office for National Statistics figures that I think he was relying on do indeed show 58,000 people living in private households in Wales experiencing the symptoms of COVID four weeks after first contracting the disease, and in nearly a third of those, or around a third of those, people still experiencing those symptoms a year after having had the acute episode.

So, one of the reasons why I feel so frustrated when I hear primarily Conservative politicians talk glibly about living with coronavirus, as though it were some sort of trivial matter, is that we know that the more people who contract coronavirus in the community, even when it may be mild for most people, a proportion of them will end up living with long COVID, and the more people who are contracting the disease, the more people with long COVID there will be. And that is not something to be set aside as though it simply didn't count for anything.  

Specialist clinics for long COVID-19 have so far been established in Canada, the United States, England, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Norway, and, in Italy, the national institute of health there has recently recommended the creation of post-COVID out-patient clinics in their country too. The consistent view among patients is that it's unfair to expect GPs to provide the necessary support for a condition that requires specialist intervention and whose treatment requires a strong link to translational research that can only be provided by dedicated clinics, the absence of which is forcing many people currently to go private. That would be wrong in any case, but it's especially wrong when Office for National Statistics figures show that long COVID is twice as prevalent amongst the most deprived. Is the Welsh Government prepared to rethink its approach and set up specialist clinics that patients and medical experts internationally are increasingly calling for?  

Well, I think there are many downsides to that strategy. I don't have the evidence that the Member refers to; I don't know what he means by many people going private, and I certainly don't recognise the view that it is generally held by patients that GPs are not the right people to provide the help that they need. The English centres are now so overwhelmed by referrals that there are waiting lists as long as long COVID. So, simply setting up a centre is by no means guaranteed to provide the solution that patients need. And I've always believed that if you are suffering from long COVID—. Adam Price was right when he said that 51 per cent of those people report that really debilitating fatigue is the primary symptom. Now, if you've got really debilitating fatigue and you're told that, in order to get treatment, you have to make a long journey from where you live to a specialist centre far away, I'm not certain that that is the best answer to your condition. 

So, the approach we have in Wales is that we want to make sure that our primary care clinicians are as well equipped as they can be to respond to as many people successfully close to their own homes, because of the nature of the condition, and then, where there are people who need a more specialist form of treatment, to be able to provide that through the NHS as well. I'm just not yet convinced that the idea of centres is the right answer for Wales. 

I think the consensus view, certainly amongst the international experts that I've been reading, is shifting towards a complementary strategy, which obviously has a role for primary care, but complements that with these specialist clinics in a condition where knowledge is fast developing. Now, estimates around the world suggest that between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of children who contract COVID-19 develop paediatric long COVID, and, using ONS figures, it is possible to estimate that well over 5,000 children in Wales currently are suffering this condition. If the Welsh Government is not prepared to set up specialist clinics for adults, for the reasons the First Minister has outlined, is it at least prepared to do so for children whose entire lives risk being scarred if they do not get the fastest possible diagnosis, the best medical advice and the most effective treatment, based on the latest knowledge? Surely, after what this generation of young people have already gone through, they deserve nothing less.

14:05

Let me begin, Llywydd, by agreeing with something that Adam Price said, because I don't think—. I didn't meant to characterise this discussion as though the Welsh Government's mind was closed on all of this, because he is right that knowledge is developing all the time. Research studies are reporting all the time. There are 19 high-quality COVID studies currently under way, and Wales is involved in quite a lot of them. So, we are continuing to follow the outcome of that debate, and if there are different forms of provision that the developing knowledge suggests that we ought to provide here in Wales, then of course that is what we will think of doing. I was reflecting, and I still do reflect, that the current state of knowledge does not lead me to believe that putting our major focus on specialist centres is the best way of getting the best help to most people. Now, as far as children are concerned, one of the problems here is that there still is no agreed definition—no agreed clinical definition—amongst the royal colleges and others who are responsible for that of what long COVID in children is meant to be. How would you make a diagnosis? How would you identify somebody? It's difficult when the definition itself is not agreed.

Now, we remain in close contact with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health on this matter. The numbers that we know of, that are reported, of children with long COVID in Wales remain low. And you can extrapolate numbers in the way that the leader of Plaid Cymru did, but the number of children actually in the system identified as suffering from long COVID is not as high as that extrapolation would suggest. Health boards are treating those children in accordance with their specific needs. Now, we have a long COVID expert group here in Wales, and it now has a sub-group, looking specifically at how we treat children with long COVID, and there's a seminar that has been organised for 7 February for clinicians who are involved in the treatment of children to come together and to share experiences and to help us to develop our approach to providing services for them. Just as Adam Price said, Llywydd, our state of knowledge and understanding is developing, generally, all the time in relation to long COVID. I think that is particularly true of children, where knowledge and understanding probably still has quite a lot of ground to make up before we can be certain about the best ways in which those young people's needs can be met.

10 Years Of The Wales Coast Path

4. What plans does the Welsh Government have to mark 10 years of the Wales coast path? OQ57530

I thank John Griffiths, Llywydd. Plans for the Wales coastal path anniversary are well advanced. In all parts of Wales, new ideas to reach new audiences will celebrate this iconic achievement of the devolution era, including, of course, new opportunities for walking by people of all ages and abilities.

First Minister, it was a great privilege for me as environment Minister at the time to open our wonderful Wales coast path, and, since then, local authorities, volunteers and others have worked hard to maintain and improve it. There are circular walks connecting it to local communities, and software apps signposting walkers to heritage features, points of interest, food, drink and accommodation. It's very important for visitor spend and tourism, so important to our economy, and of course it's important for everyone in Wales to have that access to our great outdoors, to connect more strongly to our environment, to have the health and well-being advantages. So, I think with such fantastic assets here in Wales, First Minister, it's absolutely right that we should celebrate the 10-year anniversary, and I think one very effective way of doing it is to walk that path, to organise local walks within local authority boundaries through schools, communities and local walking groups, so, at the time of that anniversary, the whole of the path is walked as part of that great celebration.

14:10

I completely agree with John Griffiths, Llywydd. It is a fantastic national asset. I well remember his involvement at the very beginning and, 10 years on, the Welsh Government want to build further on the achievement of the path, and we've asked Huw Irranca-Davies to lead a review of everything that the Wales coastal path has achieved so far and how we can make sure that its next 10 years are just as successful as the first 10, and to expand its use in different ways. I think the best way, as John Griffiths says, of celebrating the path is to use it, and to use it in all parts of Wales.

And could I say to John as well, Llywydd, that I think Newport County Borough Council does a fantastic job in promoting the 23 miles of the path that lie within the borough? The Newport wetlands centre is one of the places that has created one of those circular walks that John Griffiths referred to, and, as part of the celebration of the 10 years, there are plans to link the coastal path to the Sirhowy valley walk, the Usk valley walk, and to do more to bring children and young people out to celebrate it. We've been talking about the centenary of the Urdd already; it's over 1,000 years, Llywydd, since Gerallt Gymro, Gerald of Wales, described part of where the coastal path in Newport runs as 'glittering with a wonderful brightness', and, if we can bring a bit of that wonderful brightness to celebrate the coastal path during this year, I'm certain that the success that John Griffiths set off 10 years ago will go on being celebrated right across our nation.

It's quite right that we mark the tenth anniversary of the coastal path. It's not often I say that I completely agree and welcome the words of John Griffiths and the First Minister in regards to the coastal path, because it helps link our coastal communities together and helps to promote active travel, and we should be proud of the fact that the path was a world first too. The path passes through my hometown of Prestatyn, which was the first town in Wales to achieve a Walkers are Welcome status, and is also at one end of the Offa's Dyke path, and, from Prestatyn, you can not only walk along the entire length of the Wales coast, you can also walk along its border. So, First Minister, with that in mind, what plans does the Welsh Government have to capitalise on this, as we emerge out of COVID, to give the sector a boost, which has been really hit hard by the pandemic?

I thank the Member for drawing attention to the fantastic conjunction at Prestatyn of the coastal path and north-south route as well. He will know that the path has been consistently featured in national awards and leading international travel guides—the Lonely Planet, the Rough Guides—and, as a result of work that the Welsh Government has done to mark the tenth anniversary, we are pretty confident now that the National Geographic, which is an international-reach publication, will carry a major feature on the coastal path around St David's Day, once again making sure that everything that Wales has to offer, and the hospitality and tourism offer that we make particularly, is celebrated and communicated to an audience not just here in Wales, but beyond the shores of the United Kingdom.

14:15

Question 5 [OQ57534] is withdrawn. Question 6, Mike Hedges.

Pollution in the River Tawe

6. What action is the Welsh Government taking to tackle pollution in the river Tawe? OQ57488

Llywydd, Dŵr Cymru has a programme of action and investment to tackle pollution from its treatment works on the River Tawe. Other forms of pollution, including agriculture and abandoned metal mine pollution, are addressed through Natural Resources Wales. All relevant bodies must make their contribution to addressing river pollution for those efforts to succeed.

Can I thank the First Minister for his answer? There is serious pollution in the River Tawe, especially as it travels through Swansea. We've previously had questions on pollution in the River Wye, but the Tawe also has discharge, as the First Minister mentioned, from Trebanos treatment works, and waste materials, such as parts of trees and plastic, are causing pollution. I'm told there is evidence of eutrophication on the Tawe. My constituents feel there is inadequate action by NRW—those are the ones who think there's any action at all. Will the First Minister raise the important issues around river pollution and possible action to reduce and eliminate them in discussions with Cabinet colleagues as a matter of urgency?

Well, Llywydd, I thank Mike Hedges for that, and I agree with him that river pollution is an urgent matter. I think we discussed last week in First Minister's questions the report of the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons into conditions on the River Wye. These are matters that require urgent attention, and I can assure the Member that, in addition to the things that we expect to be done through our agencies, through the regulators and through private companies, the Welsh Government itself is taking action. Our sustainable drainage schemes for new buildings mean that the risk of urban run-off going into sewers and overwhelming them is reduced, and the nature-based solutions to flooding that Ken Skates mentioned in his earlier question, the agricultural pollution regulations that were passed by the Senedd at the end of the last Senedd term and our new system of farm support will all contribute to a reduction in pollution in our rivers from those sources.

Mike Hedges mentioned the impact of abandoned plastics on our rivers and we are committed to legislation during this Senedd term on the most frequently littered single-use plastics. We're looking as a Government at how we can use, for example, the environmental permitting regulations to tighten up on the pollution that comes from that wide range of sources that Mike Hedges mentioned, Llywydd, because, as well as—and I know it's a particular issue in the River Tawe around Trebanos—the discharge of sewage into the river, there are many, many other sources of pollution that run into our rivers. The mining history around Swansea, in the Swansea valley, is absolutely part of its history that leaves a legacy in terms of river pollution today, and industrial discharges, housing development and road run-off. In order to improve the quality of river water, we have to take a rounded view of all the different ways in which that pollution occurs, and then to move forward, to find ways of addressing them all.

The Governance of the British Broadcasting Corporation

7. What representations has the Welsh Government made to the UK Government concerning the governance of the British Broadcasting Corporation? OQ57513

Llywydd, the Welsh Government will continue, vigorously, to make the case for independent, publicly funded public service broadcasting. With a recently signed tripartite memorandum of understanding in place between the Welsh Government, the UK Government and the BBC, we expect to be fully involved in discussions on the BBC charter.

Diolch, First Minister. As a former member of the BBC Broadcasting Council for Wales, I want to declare for the record.

Since the Tories took control of the UK Government in 2010, the BBC's budget has taken an estimated 30 per cent cut in real terms. Now Nadine Dorries and the Tories want to propose a further two-year freeze in the licence fee, and that's equivalent to the entire UK radio budget. First Minister, the cost of the BBC is 43p a day, yet its true cost is immeasurable in public sector duty and global reputation. BBC Cymru Wales has been the key lead media organisation for reporting, analysing and conveying the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales and the Welsh Government and Senedd Cymru response to it.

First Minister, David Dimbleby wrote to The Times last week to suggest that the BBC should consider proposing to the Government a different method for levying its funding, based on the council tax rate bands, and those in band A would pay the most for possession of a tv set and those in band D, the least. First Minister, what is the Welsh Government's view on this and what can the Welsh Government do to defend our BBC against this outrageous act on it by the Tories, which will erode journalism by stealth?

14:20

Llywydd, can I thank Rhianon Passmore for her series of very important points? I agree entirely with what she said about the importance of the BBC here in Wales. Ninety two per cent of adults in Wales use the BBC every single week, whether that is for sport, for news or for culture, or in the way in which BBC Cymru supports the Welsh language. And the expansion of the BBC operation in Wales has been integral to the remarkable success of the tv and film industry in Wales over recent years. So, we are absolutely right to defend the BBC on a whole range of fronts: its independence and its public service remit to inform, educate and entertain, and also to defend it from what the Financial Times characterised in Nadine Dorries's announcement by Twitter on a Sunday evening as simply part of Downing Street's plan to distract from Boris Johnson's leadership travails.

Now, I think that the David Dimbleby contribution is an interesting one. I'm not myself an unambiguous supporter of the licence fee; it may well be, as John Whittingdale, another Conservative MP and former Minister said just this week, that it still is the least worst way of raising funds for the BBC, but it is a regressive tax; it falls most on those who have the least, and a graded system of the sort that Rhianon Passmore set out may be a way of combining a form of licence fee with greater fairness in the future. But those things need to be thought about carefully and by a Government that has the core qualities of the BBC as something it wants to celebrate, not simply putting the BBC in the firing line because of its own extensive difficulties.

Stalking

8. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Government’s strategy to tackle the growing problem of stalking? OQ57529

Llywydd, we are strengthening our violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence strategy to include stalking and harassment of women and girls in public spaces as well as in the home. Tackling misogyny and male violence lies at the heart of our approach.

Diolch, Brif Weinidog. I welcome your answer. In 2012, following a campaign led by the former Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd, new laws came into force that, for the first time, recognised stalking as a specific crime. My Plaid Cymru colleague Delyth Jewell also played a pivotal role in this campaign. With this being National Stalking Awareness Month, I would like to urge the Welsh Government to do more to tackle this crime and support victims.

Nearly 1.5 million people in Wales and England are victims of stalking every year—a crime that has grown since the start of the pandemic—and with over 80 per cent of victims who call the national stalking helpline being female and the perpetrators generally being male, stalking is clearly a gendered crime. Between January 2020 and March 2021, worryingly, only two full stalking protection orders, or SPOs, were granted in Wales, despite 3,000 stalking offences being reported to the police. Has the First Minister approached Wales's police and crime commissioners to urge them to set up specialist support for victims of stalking and training for police officers? And will the Government also address the lack of SPOs and ensure that counselling for victims of stalking is also included in its violence against women and girls strategy? Diolch.

14:25

Thank you very much for the questions.

There was a series of important points made by the Member there. Just to be clear, Llywydd: we do not agree with the approach of the Home Office, which seems to place the focus on women acting to protect themselves by altering their behaviour rather than changing the attitudes and behaviours of those who carry out the abuse. Now, here in Wales, we have a programme as a Welsh Government of raising awareness, better identification of stalkers, regional training for practitioners in order to address some of the problems that the Member raises. Of course, much of what she says, as she acknowledged, lies in the hands of the police, the non-devolved service. But I can absolutely assure her that the Welsh Government continues to engage directly with the four police forces in Wales on this matter.

Jane Hutt, as the Minister responsible, met the national—by which I mean UK—police lead for violence against women on 1 December. She chaired the police partnership board on 2 December, and that included an update on the police's contribution to the consultation on the VAWDASV strategy from chief constable Pam Kelly, the chief constable of Gwent. And Jane Hutt was again engaged on 19 January with the lead police and crime commissioner for Wales, where discussions included the issue of misogyny. So, our aim is to use our powers as much as we are able to, in that consciousness-raising way, in making sure that practitioners are well equipped, but to work with the police as well, so that they exercise their responsibilities and their powers in Wales that are effective against the issues that the Member raised.

And, Llywydd, maybe I could just finally urge once more anyone who is yet to do so to respond to the Welsh Government's consultation on our revised VAWDASV national strategy. That consultation closes now quite soon on 7 February, and it will be a way of us taking forward many of the points that the Member has raised this afternoon.

Youth Unemployment

9. Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government initiatives to tackle youth unemployment in the south Wales valleys? OQ57504

Llywydd, the Welsh Government is determined that there will be no lost generation in Wales as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Our young person's guarantee is an ambitious programme, designed to provide everyone under the age of 25 in south Wales, including the south Wales Valleys, with the offer of work, education, training or self-employment.

I'm grateful to the First Minister for that. I wonder, First Minister, if you could outline your vision for how this will be delivered in places such as Blaenau Gwent, where, historically, we've had difficulties accessing some of those opportunities, and to ensure that there is equality of access and equality of opportunity for people wherever they live in Wales. I'm anxious that a young person in Tredegar or Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale or Abertillery has the same opportunity to access an apprenticeship, to access opportunities for further and higher education, to access an opportunity to begin a career and work as a child growing up elsewhere, a young person living elsewhere. So, I'm anxious to understand, First Minister, how we can ensure that this is delivered equally across the whole of Wales.

Well, I thank Alun Davies for that, Llywydd. I said in my original answer that the young person's guarantee focuses on more opportunities in education, in skill acquisition and directly in employment. And I will just very briefly mention examples of all three, especially in the south Wales Valleys and in the Member's own constituency.

He will know that part of the inspiration for the idea of a youth guarantee came from a visit that he and I made to Thales in the spring of last year, when we learnt particularly of the very committed work going on there to advance opportunities for young women, for jobs in science and engineering, and that work will continue in February: on 9 February, a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics inspiration event for schools in the Tech Valleys region; and, on 28 February, a careers event for engineering students from Coleg Gwent and from Merthyr college. That success is underpinning a very significant proposal for an advanced engineering centre involving Blaenau Gwent council and Coleg Gwent that will provide 400 places for further education and other students to gain those skills that are needed in advanced manufacturing. Those skills are also, Llywydd, central to our apprenticeship programme, where, for example, over 100 young adults have benefited from the shared apprenticeship programme in Blaenau Gwent in recent times.

Again, Llywydd, I was with Alun Davies when we both met senior members of the Ciner company to discuss the latest move forward in their plans to bring 600 new jobs to Ebbw Vale. And that conveyor belt of skilled young people—skills gained, for example, at an advanced engineering centre—was pivotal. We heard from them that it was pivotal to their decision to locate a factory in the south Wales Valleys. So, on all three aspects of the young person's guarantee—education, skill acquisition, leading then directly into employment—you can see that guarantee in practical operation in the Member's own constituency, and that is replicated then in other parts of Wales. 

14:30
Digital Skills

10. What is the Welsh Government doing to improve digital skills in Wales? OQ57515

Among the steps being taken to improve digital skills in Wales are the new curriculum for schools, investment in further and higher education, and the creation of higher level apprenticeships.

Thank you for that response. A week ago, I questioned the health Minister on a number of issues, including how we can ensure that more steps are taken in terms of developing the digital response to COVID, and developing the Welsh NHS app for example. I'll quote from the Minister's answer here:

'oh my gosh, Rhun, I'm just as eager as you are to see that developing. One of the problems that we have with those digital issues is that we don't have enough people who have the digital skills in our systems.'

What is the First Minister going to do, given that that is the situation in view of the health Minister, so that we can use the pandemic, and the situation we're in, and the difficulties we faced in developing the app and so on, to move things on and to accelerate the process of providing our workforce, and our young people in particular, with the digital skills that Wales needs?

First of all, I agree with what Rhun ap Iorwerth has said about the importance of drawing more young people into the programmes available in our schools and our colleges that focus on digital skills. Where we have done it already, we can see the success of those approaches. In the south-east, through our universities, we have developed people with the skills that have, in turn, attracted companies in the field of cybersecurity to that area. The largest cluster in that sector is here in Wales. One of the reasons that they have moved to Wales and created new jobs here is because of the work that our universities have done with those companies. We therefore develop people who have the necessary skills in order to achieve success in that sector. 

We can see on a practical level the case for doing more. That's why the new curriculum in our schools is going to be so important. That is why we are investing in colleges, not just higher education, but also further education, in order to try and create more opportunities, and to attract young people into a sector where the possibilities for employment in the future, and creating a pathway for young people into the future, are clear when you look at what's happened already. 

2. Business Statement and Announcement

Thank you very much, First Minister. The next item is the business statement and announcement. I call on the Trefnydd to make that statement. 

14:35
Member
Lesley Griffiths MS 14:35:08
Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

Diolch, Llywydd. I have one change to today's Plenary agenda. The motion to suspend Standing Orders and the debate on the legislative consent motion on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill have been withdrawn. Draft business for the next three sitting weeks is set out on the business statement and announcement, which can be found amongst the meeting papers available to Members electronically.

Business Minister, I'd like to call for a statement by the Minister for Economy, please, reacting to the news that one of our major cities, Newport city centre, has more empty retail units now than any other city centre in Britain. Llywydd, in its heyday, Newport was the beating heart of retail in Wales—people flocked to the city centre to do their shopping from far and wide. We now see a bleak picture, after years of neglect by this Welsh Government treating Newport as Cardiff's poor cousin, and bad management from the local Labour council in Newport. One in three retail units stand empty. Even before this pandemic, Newport was reported to be one of the worst-performing cities in the UK in terms of shop vacancy rates, but this of course now has been exacerbated by the pandemic, moving Newport's future into a worrying place. Little has been done to attempt to bring new anchor stores into the Friars Walk development to attempt to combat the devastating departure of Debenhams, the key anchor store in the Friars Walk development, coupled with the cinema complex. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline in his statement whether he and the Welsh Government intend to step in to help Newport City Council tackle the increasingly worrying issues that Newport businesses are facing, and of course the adverse knock-on effect that that has on everyone across my region, and, indeed, Wales. Thank you, business Minister.

Thank you. I don't think this is a problem that's unique to Newport, or indeed unique to Wales. I think all our town centres, unfortunately, have seen a decline in the number of shops; I know certainly, in my own constituency, Wrexham has. So, I really don't think this is an issue that you can lay at the door of Newport local authority. I think it is really important that the Welsh Government continues to work with our local authorities. You'll be aware of the many schemes we have to support our town centres; certainly, the Transforming Towns scheme is one of great importance. I recently visited Bangor, in my capacity as Minister with responsibility for north Wales, to see what actions they were taking to reinvent, if you like, our town centres.

I'd like a statement about ensuring women's safety on public transport, please. My colleague Peredur Owen Griffiths and I have been dealing with the case of a woman in her late 70s who tried to get on a Stagecoach bus in Hay in late November. She was refused entry by an instructor, who told her that the service was only meant for students, even though the timetable didn't say that, and the woman in question had caught the same bus on countless previous occasions. The instructor slammed the door and drove off, leaving her on her own in the dark, in Hay, 30 miles from home. There is no taxi rank in Hay, and so she felt isolated and close to tears. The answers we've received from Stagecoach haven't been satisfactory. But this seems to speak to a wider issue. There have been cases related on social media recently of women across the UK being left stranded at bus stops, after running to get the last bus, within full sight of the driver, who's then driven off. So, I'd like a statement, please, from the Welsh Government, indicating what mandatory training could be made available as a requirement for those working on public transport about the vital role they have in helping secure women's safety.

Thank you. I think you raise a very important point. You'll be aware that the Minister for Social Justice brought forward a statement last week on women's safety in public places in Wales. Obviously, you are asking specifically about public transport, and I do think this is something that we could look at, to see what support we are able to give. I think, from what you were saying, it wasn't just a matter of being left behind; it was being treated rudely as well. Clearly, that is an issue that needs to be taken up with the company. I do hope you get a response in the very near future. But I do think that that wider issue around training is something that we could look at.

I call for a Welsh Government statement on ovarian cancer awareness in Wales. Last Wednesday, I hosted, opened and chaired the online Wales ovarian cancer awareness meeting, organised by Target Ovarian Cancer and the National Federation of Women's Institutes Wales, which discussed the subtle signs of ovarian cancer and the need for a public awareness campaign in Wales. We heard that over 300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in Wales, that the earlier ovarian cancer is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat, and that, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, only 37 per cent of women with ovarian cancer in Wales were diagnosed at an early stage. We also heard that 'it's vital that women are aware of the symptoms if ovarian cancer is to be diagnosed early.' In Wales, only 15 per cent of women would make an urgent GP appointment if they were to experience the symptom of persistent bloating, and this needs to change. 

We, therefore, need to hear from the Welsh Government what steps are being taken by the Welsh Government to improve recognition of symptoms of ovarian cancer among general practitioners, and increase the number of referrals; what steps the Welsh Government are taking to encourage women who have symptoms of ovarian cancer to contact their GP following the easing of coronavirus restrictions; whether the Minister has considered the need for an ovarian cancer national symptom awareness campaign in Wales; and, without a viable screening process to detect ovarian cancer, what steps are being taken by the Welsh Government to address the lack of symptom awareness in Wales. I call for a statement accordingly. 

14:40

Thank you. I was aware that you held the ovarian cancer awareness meeting last week. I think it's really important that such days are held and supported by Members of the Senedd. My understanding is that a lot of the symptoms are silent. I think it is important that we do hear from the Minister for Health and Social Services, and I will ask her to bring forward a written statement. 

3. Statement by the Minister for Finance and Local Government: Procurement Update

We move on now to item 3. That item is the statement by the Minister for Finance and Local Government, a procurement update. I call therefore on the Minister to make her statement—Rebecca Evans. 

Diolch, Llywydd. Procurement is one of the most important and powerful levers the Welsh Government can use to help achieve its programme for government aspiration of a more prosperous, more equal and greener Wales. Sustainable economic growth, fair work, decarbonisation and delivering effective public services are just some of the priorities that can be supported through clear, smart and effective procurement policy. I’m pleased to provide Members today with an update on our work with partners across the public, private and third sectors to support these ambitions.

The diverse scope and vast scale of Welsh public sector expenditure provides firm foundations to maximise our contribution to the seven well-being goals in the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Welsh public sector procurement also has the ability to deliver wider social value outcomes for the well-being of Wales. 'Social value' is a broad term that has been used to describe the social, environmental, cultural and economic impacts of actions taken by communities, organisations, governments and individuals. This Government is committed to working with partners across Wales and beyond to develop a modern and sustainable approach to procurement, and I have commissioned the Wales Co-operative Centre consultancy to map the current social value landscape, including the various tools available to the Welsh public sector. Wales Co-operative Centre will be engaging with stakeholders to capture findings and make recommendations to support the delivery of social value in Welsh Government, and ultimately support a consistent approach across Wales.

Procurement is an area where a great deal can be achieved when progressive partners work together, and the Welsh Government’s co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru includes a commitment to explore how to set meaningful targets to increase the proportion of procurement spend provided to Welsh-based suppliers from its current level. We already encourage and support small and medium-sized enterprises to tender for opportunities, and I'll explore further measures that can make the tendering process easier and more practical for small enterprises in Wales. To further increase the proportion of Welsh suppliers, we will carry out a detailed analysis of the public sector supply chains. I recently met with Plaid Cymru’s designated member, Cefin Campbell, to discuss the early-stage development of this work, and I will provide a further update to members on the different strands of the work in due course.

The Welsh Government already does a lot of work to promote the purchasing of made-in-Wales products, including the use of Welsh steel in infrastructure projects. I'll explore further with my ministerial colleagues the opportunities that the new Wales infrastructure investment strategy gives us to make further progress in this area, including extending the opportunities for Welsh steel in public projects. 

In relation to the UK Government’s procurement reform proposals, my officials have been working closely with the UK’s procurement reform Bill team to input into the development of the Bill. Members will recall my written statement of 18 August, where I set out that provision for Welsh contracting authorities is to be made within the UK Government’s procurement reform Bill. This decision followed engagement with social partners and stakeholders across the public, private and third sectors, and was subject to the receipt of written assurances from the UK Government that joining the UK legislation would not negatively impact Welsh Government’s social partnership and public procurement (Wales) Bill, rather the legislation will complement each other and maximise our ability to achieve the important policy outcomes we seek.

Whilst the UK Government’s procurement reform Bill will focus on the underpinning processes across the commercial lifecycle, the social partnership and public procurement Bill will focus on ensuring socially responsible outcomes are achieved from our procurement. As my colleague the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership has confirmed, my officials continue to liaise with both the UK’s procurement reform Bill team and the social partnership and public procurement Bill team to ensure minimal misalignment between these two important pieces of legislation.

We understand that it is the UK Government’s intention to introduce the procurement reform Bill when parliamentary time allows. My colleague the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership has also previously indicated that we remain on track to introduce the social partnership and procurement Bill in the first year of this Senedd term. It's therefore possible that both the UK’s procurement reform Bill and Welsh Government’s social partnership and public procurement Bill will be introduced to the Senedd around the same time. Together, these two Bills will provide a new, progressive platform for procurement in Wales that delivers social, environmental, economic and cultural outcomes, including our ambition to make Wales a fair work nation.

We are very mindful of the support that will be needed by practitioners and industry as a result of these changes in legislation, and we will work with stakeholders to ensure practical and comprehensive statutory guidance will be in place as soon as possible after the Bills have gained Royal Assent. This guidance will be particularly important in the context of the continued challenge around the lack of procurement capacity and capability in the Welsh public sector. I was pleased to issue a written statement to the Senedd earlier in November highlighting what we are doing to help to boost the profession. In collaboration with stakeholders, we have delivered a programme for raising the capability and capacity of the procurement profession in Wales with funding of nearly £700,000 since 2020. We have supported 118 public sector staff members to undertake the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply corporate award programme. The bespoke courses incorporate use of familiar language and terminology, drawing on Welsh examples to help students put Welsh procurement policy into practice. I have recently approved future funding for the programme that will support another 76 places on the cohort programme.

During the last year, we've also carried out a discovery exercise to help us improve our digital procurement systems and to get them ready to support both procurement reform and other important policy drivers, such as the social partnership Bill. This feedback was used to create our latest digital road map for procurement for the next three years, and this work has now moved into its delivery phase. Our work also aligns with recommendations from the future generations commissioner for a Welsh procurement centre of excellence. We launched a discovery exercise at the end of last year with stakeholder contribution from across the Welsh public sector. I'll be considering the findings and recommendations arising from the exercise over the next few weeks.

There is a great deal of exciting work being undertaken by this Welsh Government to drive forward procurement for the benefit of the Welsh public and for future generations, and I look forward to hearing from Members across the Chamber today. Diolch.

14:45

Can I thank you, Minister, for your statement? I welcome some of the developments that have been previously outlined by the Welsh Government and expanded on by you today. For example, I'm pleased that the Welsh Government has decided to work with the UK Government on its proposals to transform public procurement now we have left the EU. I think using one legislative vehicle and cross-governmental collaboration will help to ensure that there is a more consistent and simplified approach to procurement in the UK. This will open up new opportunities for businesses in Wales, as well as enabling the Welsh Government to pursue its own agenda.

Minister, could you expand any more on your statement regarding discussions with UK officials about the development of the Bill, as well as your views on the UK Government's response to the consultation that was published in December of last year? How will your proposed social partnership and public procurement Bill ensure legislative coherence with a future UK procurement Bill? Also, what discussions have you had with organisations in Wales about the support, besides the statutory guidance and capacity funding that you reference in the statement, that they may need to adapt to the proposed new legislative framework?

I'm also interested to understand how the response to the pandemic has informed Government thinking regarding the procurement landscape in Wales. COVID has put huge pressure on systems that often have had to adapt very quickly, resulting in significant challenges. Minister, what progress has been made to strengthen the procurement sector since the publishing of your statement 'Evolution of Welsh Government Procurement' back in March 2021? Furthermore, could you provide an update on progress on the recommendations made by the future generations commissioner in her recent section 20 report, some of which has important implications for the Welsh Government, particularly regarding leadership?

And finally, Minister, in any discussion about procurement, I couldn't resist referring to my own food (Wales) Bill, which, at its heart, is looking to increase opportunities for local food producers to sell more of their fantastic produce here in Wales. Now your co-operation agreement with Plaid references promoting the purchase of made-in-Wales products and services, what work has been carried out so far to increase the amount of locally produced food purchased by public bodies? Diolch.

14:50

Thank you very much to Peter Fox for those important questions and for giving me the opportunity to say a little bit more about the Welsh Government's response to the challenge of procurement reform now that we have left the European Union. Procurement is very much a complex landscape and one that is now changing, and there are opportunities for us to use the UK Government's Bill in one sense, but then also to augment that, because we've always been very clear that the decisions on the policy outcomes that we want to achieve from procurement should be only made here in Wales, and we do have very different views to the UK Government on some of those things, such as the importance of fair work and the role that procurement can and should play in driving that forward. And that's why our social partnership and public procurement (Wales) Bill will be so important in terms of enshrining those in law.

Nonetheless, I think it is an opportunity for us to use the UK Government's legislation to reform the basic underpinning processes, and those processes were set out in the UK Government's Green Paper to which Peter Fox has referred, 'Transforming public procurement'. We were presented with the option to use the Westminster legislation to reform those underpinning processes. We thought long and hard about what the right thing to do was, and we engaged very widely with Welsh contracting authorities and their view was very much that we should be going with the UK Government on this Bill, however, we should be looking at a Welsh Bill in terms of what we want to achieve. So, the kinds of processes and the nuts and bolts are in the UK Government Bill, and then the outcomes that we want to drive forward will be done in our own legislation. I think that strikes a pragmatic balance in terms of procurement reform after leaving the European Union.

Peter Fox referred to the pandemic, and one of the good things, I suppose, if we think of anything good coming out of the pandemic, has been about the way in which procurement has reformed and the way in which the procurement profession here in Wales has really risen to the challenges. Officials have worked right across the Welsh Government to procure urgent critical items, and those included, for example, the food boxes for those who were shielding across Wales, provision of mental health support to all NHS workers, accommodation for those offenders who were released early during the lockdown period, and then contracting with Royal Mail for prescription delivery, providing support to critical equipment requirement teams and the visitor pods for care homes. So, there are great examples of ways in which the procurement profession here in Wales grouped together, really, to tackle the problems and the challenges of the pandemic, and I think did a really excellent job, also, working closely, for example, with the WLGA to make face coverings available to all Welsh schools. Early on, we worked with a Welsh manufacturer to deliver high-quality, reusable and accredited face coverings, which were then delivered to schools. As well as promoting safer working environments, we managed to create jobs as a result of the expansion of that company. So, wherever possible, we were looking, through the pandemic, to support Welsh businesses but then also to look for those supply chain voids that we could fill. And that's an important piece of work that we're taking forward now beyond the pandemic—looking at our supply chains and where there are opportunities for us to fill those gaps here with supporting new Welsh businesses.

The future generations commissioner's report was really important. We worked very closely with the future generations commissioner when she was interrogating us and officials about the work that we do on procurement, and the report's been very helpful, I think, in terms of focusing our mind on the way forward. The procurement centre of excellence suggestion has been really helpful, and, as I mentioned in the statement, we launched that discovery exercise at the end of last year, again with stakeholder contributions from across the Welsh public sector. Those findings are coming together and I'll be considering them now over the coming weeks as we get everything in place, and I'll be able to provide a further update to colleagues on that as we move forward. But, again, I think having a place where we have that excellence, a home for that excellence, here in Wales, is important. We've looked at the model of the Centre for Digital Public Services, which, again, is a repository of excellence and knowledge and so on, and that's been a useful model for what we're hoping to achieve through the procurement centre of excellence.

There's a lot of interest in what we're doing in terms of food procurement. I know that Peter Fox has had some useful discussions with some of my ministerial colleagues on this as well. Our programme for government does commit to developing a Wales community food strategy during the course of this Senedd term, and that has the potential, I know, to deliver many benefits that could help us along the road to those future generations well-being goals. Of course, food is the common factor, but then societal benefits can be really wide-ranging, including economic benefits, regenerating local communities, improving well-being, mental health and physical health and the environment, and sustainability benefits, too. So, there's a lot for us to have future discussions on, I think, as we take forward that work, because I know this is an area of particular interest for Peter Fox. 

14:55

Thank you, Minister, for your statement. I've used, of course, in the past the comparison that the Welsh economy is like a bucket with holes in it, and it's not water flowing out of it but wealth and money that would strengthen the Welsh economy and local economies across Wales if we managed to close those holes in the bucket.

We are, of course, talking about huge sums here: £6.3 billion a year on public procurement in Wales—less than half of that remains in Wales. Now, we've talked about this for over 20 years of devolution and I still don't feel that we've reached the position that I think we should have reached, to be honest, and we're looking at other nations across Europe where over 90 per cent of the value of public procurement remains within the boundaries of those nations. That's why, of course, Plaid Cymru wanted to create a target of 75 per cent of the value of procurement remaining in Wales, and that is important because every additional 1 per cent that we do keep corresponds to 2,000 new jobs. So, reaching that target would create 46,000 jobs in Wales and would create them without spending any additional money—only spending the money that we already spend in a way that brings more benefit into our economy here in Wales. I'm very pleased—and the Minister, of course, referred to the co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government—that this aim of establishing a target is something that will be considered seriously now to try to ensure the greatest possible benefit for the economy here in Wales. 

I acknowledge the fact that you referred in your statement to increasing capacity and increasing skills within the procurement practitioners in the public sector. Of course, I'm sure we would all acknowledge that there is a long way to go yet, but certainly in terms of capacity after we saw a number of procurement departments being run down over the years as a result of economic cuts and austerity in terms of public expenditure.

There are many benefits, as the Minister has outlined, in good procurement policy. But what I haven't heard in your statement is what the fundamental principles that will be at the heart of public procurement policy are. Tell us, for example, to what extent you will demand in your policy that it will be a 'local first' policy, where possible. That, I assume, would be the starting point, and if it isn't available locally, then you go further afield to seek those products or services that you want to procure.

The statement talks about working with other Ministers, of course—you referred specifically to steel in that regard. Can you tell us what other areas you'll be focusing on and prioritising? I would presume, and we have heard in the previous contribution, that food and agriculture is one sector ripe for benefiting from, and this would all contribute towards increasing the processing capacity in Wales in the context of food in particular.

Will you also encourage every local authority in Wales, perhaps, to emulate the success of Gwynedd Council? Because the council has used the social benefit procurement clause and, as a result of that, they've seen an increase of 39 per cent in their expenditure on contracts and products within Gwynedd. It's gone up from £56 million in 2017-18 to £78 million last year. Now, Gwynedd has shown in that regard what is possible, but, of course, this has to be the norm and not the exception, perhaps. So, I would ask you to congratulate them, but also to encourage other local authorities to emulate that success.  

Finally, Minister, you mentioned the UK Government's procurement reform Bill, of course, and you know where Plaid Cymru stands on letting the UK Government legislate on matters that have actually been devolved to us here in the Senedd. Peter Fox was asking about how we can ensure legislative coherence. Well, let's do it ourselves—let's make sure that both pieces of legislation are introduced simultaneously by the same Government and scrutinised by the same Senedd. But you say you have assurances that allowing the UK Government to legislate on our behalf won't negatively impact the Welsh Government's proposed social partnership and public procurement (Wales) Bill. Are those the same kinds of assurances that they gave you on EU funding or on agricultural funding or the other examples that you yourself regularly remind us of where the UK Government haven't been true to their word?

15:00

I thank Llyr Gruffydd for those important questions, and I'll begin by referencing the agreement that we have with Plaid Cymru in our co-operation agreement, which is to explore how to set those meaningful targets to increase the Welsh public sector procurement from its current level. As a first step, we will carry out a detailed analysis of the public sector supply chains and promote the purchasing of made-in-Wales products and services, and that's going to be an important piece of work. But, actually, we understand at the moment that the percentage of Welsh procurement spend is around 52 per cent. Well, that's the figure that we're able to publicly share. However, we don't consider that to be an accurate representation of the amount of procurement spend that goes into Welsh companies. Obviously, there are a number of reasons for that, one of which being it's based on the postcode of the invoice address for the suppliers being in Wales, and, obviously, there are several limitations to that approach, because it doesn't take into account the supply chain that sits underneath the prime contractor.

At the moment, we're not able to do a more detailed analysis of the supply chain because we don't collect the data to enable this. But during the last year, we've undertaken a discovery exercise to help us improve our digital procurement systems, and that's to get them ready now to support our procurement reform and, in particular, transparency and other important drivers, such as the social partnership Bill. So, as part of that work, we're working on the implementation of the open contract data standard, and that will improve the transparency throughout the procurement cycle, and then the aim is for that then to give us a level of data that we need to get a much more clear picture of the spend that is staying in Wales. And we do have a member of our procurement team undertaking an assignment as part of their Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply qualification to look at spend specifically in Wales. So, as we move forward jointly with Plaid Cymru on this particular piece of work, I know that we will be getting better-quality data to support that work, which I think is important for us to really understand the difference our decisions will be making as we move forward together on that. 

Llyr Gruffydd asked about the capability and capacity of the sector. I know that there are many excellent people working in the sector, going out of their way to try and get good value for public money, and doing more now in the space of getting that social value. As the profession does seek to navigate that increasingly complex landscape, we do need to be investing further in capability and capacity, and that's one of the reasons why we've introduced a programme whereby we're funding 50 individuals from across the Welsh public sector to undertake the practitioner and the advanced practitioner programmes of the CIPS corporate award. All of those individuals have committed to remain in the Welsh public sector for the long term, and I think that that's really important, because often we train up people who leave then to work elsewhere, and take all of that knowledge with them. And we've also got four students who are now in their penultimate year of their logistics supply chain and procurement qualification at the University of South Wales, and they're being offered one-year placements in procurement departments across Wales, including in Welsh Government. Again, that's with the aim of keeping those talented people here in Wales and here in the Welsh public sector.

So, there's a lot going on in the field of capability and capacity, including preparing a suite of core commercial e-learning modules, which will be important, as are the early discussions that we're having around exploring options to establish a national procurement apprenticeship programme, which will be quite exciting, and the possibility of a procurement mentoring programme for Wales as well. So, again, lots happening in that particular space. 

Then there was a question about what are the fundamental principles underpinning all of this, what we really want to achieve through procurement. Well, in March 2021 I published the revised Wales procurement policy statement, and that sets out the strategic vision for public sector procurement in Wales, and that was written in partnership with our stakeholders. It aims, really, to help us define our progress against the well-being goals that we are pursuing for future generations, and it has the future generations Act at its heart. The key to its delivery, really, will be in collaborative working, and we aim to refresh and review that statement regularly with partners, to ensure that it is a true reflection of how we are moving towards that shared ambition for public procurement in Wales. 

Welsh Government has published an action plan to underpin delivery against the statement's principles, and that's published on our website. We're now encouraging buying organisations, either individually or in a collaborative way, to also publish action plans of their own. 

And then finally on this, the proposed social partnership and public procurement (Wales) Bill's statutory guidance will take into account that the Wales procurement policy statement and the associated action plans place contracting authorities under a duty to deliver socially responsible outcomes through procurement that places fair work and social value at the centre, rather than being focused on financial savings.

Areas in which we're keen to look particularly—so, Llyr Gruffydd mentioned steel and food; I'm also very keen to do more work on timber, and this is something that we're looking at across Government. And also we're doing a wider piece of work looking at those supply chain voids that I referred to in response to Peter Fox, so we can identify those opportunities to grow Welsh businesses to fill those gaps.

Then, in terms of the legislative reform, I know we have principled fundamental disagreement on that, but we have had written assurances from the UK Government in this respect. Also, we're exploring which parts of the UK Bill we want to carve out Welsh Ministers from, so work is going on in that space as well. But I do know that officials are meeting very, very regularly with UK Government on this, and are interrogating the detail very, very carefully.

15:05

I welcome this statement and hope we can later on this year have a Government debate on procurement. Procurement is one of the most important and powerful levers the Welsh Government can use to help achieve economic growth. Sustainable economic growth, fair work, decarbonisation and supporting the local economy can all benefit from a progressive procurement strategy. The Welsh public sector, including Welsh Government, health boards and Welsh Government sponsored bodies, together with local government, housing associations, colleges and universities, are major purchasers of goods and services. We have seen what Preston achieved in one city; just think what could be achieved within one nation, as in Wales. Will the Welsh Government make fair work a prerequisite for tendering for Welsh public sector contracts? Will the Welsh Government ensure that any firm that engages in fire and rehire will not be eligible to tender for Welsh public sector contracts? And will the Welsh Government look to reduce the size of the contracts to increase the number of local companies that can tender? Far too often we see the main contract going to someone in England or in Europe and then the subcontracts going to companies in Wales, and far too much of the profit then goes to England and Europe and doesn't stay in Wales.

15:10

I thank Mike Hedges for those particular questions, many of which will be part of the detailed policy discussions that will be had as the public procurement Bill here in Wales starts to develop. And I know that my colleague the Minister for Social Justice will have heard those particular queries in relation to what the Bill will aim to achieve and what legislation will put in place.

I'm really pleased that Mike Hedges acknowledged the importance and the opportunity that public procurement has in respect of decarbonisation. That was one of the areas that he referred to at the start. We're seeking to explore what more can be done in that area. Very recently, we've been publishing Welsh public procurement notices for the Welsh public sector in Wales. That covers Welsh Government, the NHS, local authorities and others. And one of the areas we've been doing work in is in relation to purchased goods and services. So, that would include business travel, employee commuting, waste disposal, use of sold products, transportation and distribution, up and downstream, investments and leased assets and franchises. And I mention that because the importance of addressing purchased goods and services is underlined by research that shows they can account for up to 60 per cent of an organisation's total carbon footprint. So, the opportunities there to make some inroads in relation to the journey towards net zero are quite significant. Part of our work through the procurement notice is supporting Welsh contracting authorities in the ways in which they can drive their carbon footprint down through decarbonisation—down through the choices they make through procurement, I should say. So, that's been really important. 

Mike Hedges is right to point to the good work that was undertaken in Preston. That was really what started part of our journey towards the foundational economy work, looking very closely at what happened there and employing the Centre for Local Economic Strategies to provide us with some detailed advice on how we can start to do similar things here to make sure that we have that pound recirculating within our foundational economy approach here in Wales. So, all very critical points, and some of those more detailed questions will be part of the consideration for the Bill.

Minister, I'm sorry if this sounds a bit like repetition, but we all do know just how important public procurement is and what an actual big economic lever it is for the public sector to help our businesses right across Wales. And, Minister, my question is: what engagement and discussions have you had with the Welsh Local Government Association and the economic forum that they have there to try to encourage local authorities right across Wales to support local businesses, because doing that will help local economies right across Wales? And, following on from that, what is the future of Sell2Wales with this Bill, because I know a lot of local firms in my constituency tell me that they struggle to get on the Sell2Wales frameworks, and then it's obviously very difficult for local authorities then to use local firms because they have to go through Sell2Wales. So, if you could tell me what the future is also for Sell2Wales with this Bill. Thank you. 

Great, thank you for those questions. You're right that this is significant spend within Wales. It's around £7 billion that's spent through the Welsh public sector every year on procurement, and in Wales we have 267,000 businesses, of which 99.4 per cent are small and medium-sized enterprises. So, huge opportunities for us to be supporting these businesses. Our business support agencies in Wales, such as Business Wales and Sell2Wales, are there to help SMEs adapt to and meet the special requirements of the public sector, and also changes in procurement—because of the large amount of reform that we have at the moment, they need to be actively engaged to help them win more contracts. So, one of the things that we are doing is looking very much at our digital systems, and we have a digital action plan for procurement that is now in its delivery phase. One of those important strands of work is to upgrade the Sell2Wales system to support the open contracting data standard work that I've mentioned previously in response to another colleague, and to improve transparency. And I think that that will be important in terms of helping small and medium-sized enterprises engage better, because I think that there's work for both sides, really—there's work for the public sector to do to be more accessible and make its systems easier to navigate, but also work for the private sector to do, then, in terms of engaging.

And I mentioned the public policy notices previously, and one of them, which looks at small and medium-sized enterprises, does give advice to Welsh local government and other contracting authorities in terms of what they can do to help engage more small and medium-sized enterprises. Examples of the advice include cutting down on admin that is needed to tender, simplifying documents, providing very clear briefs that identify all of the requirements and using plain language. You'd think that would be a given, but, actually, procurement is so complex that if it could be broken down for businesses that perhaps haven't navigated public sector procurement before, I think that that will make a difference.

And then we also recommend adopting e-procurement tools, so those would be including, but not limited to, e-sourcing, dynamic purchasing systems, e-auctions, e-invoicing, electronic catalogues and purchase cards, and then packaging large contracts into separate elements to make use of regional lots, if that's possible and appropriate, to ensure that SMEs aren't excluded from contracting. And then we also ask that potential SME suppliers are given the opportunity to discuss in person procurement in order to understand if they are suitable for that particular lot.

So, I think that there's good advice that we've provided recently in our new procurement notes, but I'm very happy to have further discussions with the WLGA as to what more we can do in this space to support them to procure locally. 

15:15

I had a very interesting conversation with an economist recently who gave me a series of interesting statistics as we discussed the Government's policy in terms of procurement, and this is what I learnt. Thirty five per cent of the workforce in Wales work in health, education and care. As a result of that and the number of people working in the public sector, around 70 per cent of public funds go on different levels of wages. From public funds in Wales, around 17 per cent is spent on fleets of cars and so on, the long-term supply chain, things that aren't going to be made in Wales. So, bearing in mind procurement and these statistics, should we not ensure that more of our public expenditure is used on training, developing and local employment, ensuring that we have the skills here to do the work, similar to the programme to develop nurses, 'Grow Your Own Nurse', that Hywel Dda University Health Board has?  

Yes, thank you for raising that question, and, absolutely, I've talked about the importance of capacity and capability within the procurement sector, but there is a great deal to do in terms of ensuring that people have the opportunity to find employment within our public sector. One of the things that I'm quite excited about is our personal learning accounts. So, we introduced these about 18 months ago, and it's part of our piloting work for the gender budgeting approach that we have here in Wales, but I think it's quite exciting now that we're expanding that to other areas too. The personal learning accounts are really there to support people who are potentially in employment at the moment, but who want to move up the ladder in their field of employment, or to potentially retrain to do something else. And I think there are big opportunities for that to be used within the public sector to ensure that people are able to access the roles that are for them. 

I'll give some further thought to the contribution, then, and potentially explore it with some of my other colleagues, because we do have a ministerial group that looks at procurement, and that's there to have those cross-Government discussions to ensure that we're all considering opportunities for joined-up approaches to procurement so that we can learn from each other and identify common challenges across Government. I think that the point you make about skills and capacity is one of those common challenges, so I'll be sure to have that as an item on our next agenda. Thank you.

15:20

Next week, I'm going to be visiting an organic beef and sheep farm in the First Minister's constituency, which I'm much looking forward to. You won't be surprised to know that I'll be raising, with the Farmers Union of Wales officers who are going to be there, what we can do to grow more fruit and vegetables in Wales, which at the moment we currently import, which means they're less fresh and less nutritious. So, in light of the words of Rachel Lewis-Davies from the National Farmers Union, that farmers will grow anything where there is a market, what are we doing to help local authorities break down their procurement needs, particularly with free school meals for all primary schools in mind, so that contracts can be let in bite-sized chunks? Because we don't want all the business going to one particular business; we want to ensure that we have local markets and farmers being able to feed into particular needs for, say, two or three schools until they can expand their business further. But they're not—. How are you going to do this, given that it's not like turning on the tap, and you've got to plan these things? It seems to me that's quite a challenge for the public procurement Bill, which I look forward to scrutinising in the Equality and Social Justice Committee.

Thank you, and I'm smiling at the 'bite-sized chunks'; I thought that was a great way to describe making lots for food contracts smaller. So, that was lovely. Yes, I just want to reassure you that we are very much working with a range of stakeholders to understand the requirements and the opportunities, now, which have been provided by the co-operation agreement measure in respect of free school meals for all children. I think that there is significant opportunity there. And then we're also working with Caerphilly council, who lead the Welsh public sector food frameworks programme, which I know you're familiar with, and also working with Castell Howell and other wholesalers to seek to increase the supply of Welsh food into the public sector through the frameworks. It is ongoing, and it does need to be planned, of course, into the Welsh suppliers' production and supply arrangements. So, it's that point, really, about farmers being able to produce what the market wants them to produce. So, those discussions have to happen too. And Caerphilly council has established a food group through the WLGA, and that's to plan the approach and structure for the next food tenders, which are due in 2023, so another opportunity and a key milestone coming up there, I think. The aim of that work is to maximise the opportunities for small food producers and to increase the amount of Welsh produce that is going through the framework. So, that's going on ahead of 2023, which I think is key.

We're also doing some important work with Monmouthshire council to develop hyperlocal understandings of grower and supplier capability within that council, and that's going to be important work then to help us improve the resilience of local supply chains there, and we've also now funded that work to be scaled up to cover the whole of Gwent. So, again, another important project that we can learn from.

One interesting thing I've discovered in preparation for today was that poultry shortages have hampered our efforts to increase the supply of Welsh poultry, and we found, actually, that local poultry suppliers have greater value on the existing private sector supply chains and that they're less keen to engage with new public sector businesses, because the supply chains that they have with the private sector are working just fine, it appears, at the moment. So, we need to find a way for our offer to be attractive and consistent to producers in Wales. And we do hope that a Welsh public sector poultry line can be developed in 2022-23. So, that's a specific gap in the market, as it were, that we've identified. And then, just finally, we're funding innovative NHS and local authority food procurement projects to increase local supply, and that learning will be shared across Wales.

Thanks, Minister, for bringing forward today's statement. As you outlined right at the start, procurement is one of those significant levers that can be pulled in tackling climate change, and I was really glad to hear you reference that decarbonisation can be supported through a clear, smart and effective procurement policy—that's what you said. Last week, though, I had the pleasure of attending, believe it or not, the Finance Committee's scrutiny of your budget on behalf of a colleague, where procurement was raised by the future generations commissioner, Sophie Howe, and she shared with us that, in 2019-20, she carried out a section 20 review into procurement, looking at 363 Sell2Wales contracts. And the findings were quite staggering. Not a single one of those 363 tenders referenced carbon reduction as a requirement in terms of those tenders. So, there seems to be a significant gap between what is spoken about in the Chamber from the Senedd in terms of climate change and what is being done with those current levers of change through procurement. So, with this in mind, Minister, do you think the current procurement framework reflects how seriously you're taking the climate challenge that we're all facing?

15:25

Thank you for raising that, and it gives me a really good chance to highlight a new approach that we've detailed in another one of our Wales public procurement notices, which is 'Decarbonisation through procurement—Taking account of Carbon Reduction Plans'.

So, essentially, Welsh Government has decided to mandate the use of carbon reduction plans for Welsh Government contracts valued at £5 million or more from 1 April of this year. And we obviously recommend it, then, as good practice to the rest of the Welsh public sector, and it will basically help us go on that journey to net zero by 2030 for the Welsh public sector. And it's supported, then, by the route-map that we've published, the 'Net zero carbon status by 2030: A route map for decarbonisation across the Welsh public sector'. What it essentially does is introduce a requirement for all bidders for public contracts valued at £5 million or more to include carbon reduction plans as part of their tenders, and WPS contracting authorities can verify prospective supply chain partners are committed to working with them to achieve net zero by interrogating those carbon reduction plans. So, I think that those are a really important and significant new approach, which will be mandated now from 1 April.

Alongside that, we've been working hard to provide Welsh contracting authorities with new resources, so we've provided a new net zero carbon reporting spreadsheet and supporting guide for public bodies to calculate and report their carbon emissions. You will have heard in perhaps some of the—or some colleagues will have heard in some of the—evidence sessions about Welsh Government's approach to demonstrating our carbon impact of our spend through our draft budget, and the work that we've got in our infrastructure finance plan, which sits underneath the new infrastructure investment strategy. And then I also just want to highlight a natural resources publication, which is 'Advice on emissions accounting and reporting methods to inform Welsh public sector decarbonisation policy delivery'. So, I think there have been some quite important innovations recently, which should take us forward in this area, and I think that the carbon reduction plans will be an important part of that.

We're talking about the environmental benefits, the economic benefits of developing procurement policies that are robust for Wales, and the pandemic gave us another very clear reason for the benefits of having these strong supply chains, and the Brodwaith company in my constituency was one of those companies that diversified to provided PPE to the health service, and the Elite company in Ebbw Vale was also another company that stepped into the breach in order to provide our health and care services with what they needed. Unfortunately, and this is something that I've raised with the economy Minister and the health board in the north, there are signs that those contracts are going to be withdrawn from these Welsh companies now that things are starting to return to normal. Of course, that is a major loss to those companies, which are in danger of losing business as a result of them having diversified, but it's also a major loss to the Welsh economy and to the health service. Can I have an assurance that the finance Minister will be looking at some of these examples of good practice during the pandemic period to ensure that they're not lost in terms of those specific contracts for the Welsh companies in question, but also the principle of what was trying to be achieved through moving to providing contracts to Welsh companies, and the benefits, as I said, being prominent on several levels?

15:30

Yes, thank you for raising that. And I know that you have written to the Minister for Economy, setting out your concerns particularly in regard to Elite Clothing, and I have had the opportunity to look at that, and I know that the Minister is preparing a response to that. 

I know the commercial procurement delivery team has established a dynamic purchasing system for PPE and work wear, and that's designed to maximise the opportunities for Wales-based employers to engage, and Elite Clothing is now part of that. And that means that the Welsh public service organisations can now liaise directly with them rather than going through sub-contracting arrangements, which hopefully will provide a quicker route to their door for the Welsh public service.

But, as I say, I'm aware of the issue and the fact that the Minister for Economy is looking into it, and I'll be sure to have a conversation with him about it after your contribution today. 

I'm grateful to you, Presiding Officer. And I fear that I'm going to be adding to that conversation, Minister. It's profoundly disappointing that a new way of working, which was embedded, many of us felt and thought, by the statements made by yourself, by the First Minister, by the health Minister, by the economy Minister, in the midst of a crisis and a pandemic, seems to be drying up already. And if we are to make a reality of the rhetoric that we hear from Government, then that must be felt in companies such as Elite, such as those social enterprises that have kept the NHS going during the pandemic, and have supported the work of this Government. Now that support needs to continue. And we simply cannot walk away from our responsibilities and walk away from our rhetoric. We need to make sure that this actually happens. 

So, I'd be grateful, Minister, if we could ensure that the point made by Rhun ap Iorwerth, from Sir Fôn, myself from Blaenau Gwent, are conveyed to the heart of Government, and that we ensure that there is a response that maintains this policy, and which continues to ensure that these people receive the contracts, and we deliver on the promises that we as a Government have made.

Thank you to Alun for reinforcing the points made by the previous speaker. I know that Alun Davies has also expressed his views directly to the economy Minister as well. We will make sure that we have the opportunity to discuss in greater detail both of these particular cases, but then also the overarching point that you make about not losing these new ways of working, and the goodwill, really, that we've had from businesses across Wales, which have switched from their normal production, be it—. Well, we've got examples not far from me where they switched from producing gin to making hand gel, but I think they've gone back to gin now. But there are other examples of businesses locally that have switched from making flags to making scrubs and so on. So, I think, yes, just recognising the way in which businesses in Wales stepped up is really important, and I'll continue these discussions with my colleague the economy Minister.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (David Rees) took the Chair.

4. Statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services: Reform of Hospice Funding

I thank the Minister. The next item is a statement by the Minister for Health and Social Services on the reform of hospice funding. I call the Minister, Eluned Morgan.

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. I'm making this statement today to update the Chamber on the significant progress the Welsh Government has made to deliver on our important programme for government commitment to review voluntary hospice funding in Wales. Hospices play a critical role in providing essential care to more than 20,000 people in Wales affected by terminal illness each year, and help to prevent avoidable admission to hospital. Over 85 per cent of that care is provided in the community. This care has never been more needed than over the last two years when, throughout the pandemic, hospices have been there to support patients, families and carers through the most of difficult of times, in the most difficult of circumstances. 

Everyone in this Chamber will have been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. Many will have lost loved ones, and will know someone who's been comforted by the exceptional range of services and support that hospices across Wales provide. Without these essential services, the NHS in Wales would almost certainly have been more severely impacted.

Pre-pandemic, approximately two thirds of hospice income—representing more than £25 million—was derived through fundraising activities and the generosity of the great Welsh public. However, the need to implement lockdowns and a range of other restrictions on society throughout the pandemic saw a sudden drop in that income. Fundraising events were cancelled, charity shops closed and campaigns were paused. But hospices were resourceful and they did adapt their practices in response to the pandemic. They accessed business rates relief, made use of the job retention scheme, and introduced innovations to improve care for vulnerable people—for example, adapting transport vehicles and use of technology for patient contact.

15:35

Minister, can you hold on a second? I can't see you on screen; I'm not sure if anyone else can see you on screen. They're all shaking their heads. Ah, that's better. Thank you.

Thank you. Despite hospices putting emergency fundraising activities in place and reducing non-essential provision, there was still a very high and growing risk that hospice and end-of-life care services could slip into insolvency. That is why the Welsh Government stepped in and allocated almost £14 million of emergency funding to support Welsh hospices throughout the pandemic. This funding was provided specifically to reimburse hospices for their loss of income through their charitable activities, to protect their core services and to strengthen bereavement support.

Turning specifically to our programme for government commitment to review voluntary hospice funding, the Welsh Government has made significant steps to review the specialist palliative care funding formula, implemented back in 2010-11 following the palliative care planning review undertaken by Vivienne Sugar. Following the Sugar review, an annual budget of £6.3 million was put in place to help take forward the recommendations of her report—£3 million of which was allocated to voluntary hospices. In 2014, that funding was repatriated to health board budgets and ring-fenced until 2017.

While individual hospices have secured additional funding as part of service level agreements with health boards, there has been no recognised uplift of actual core costs since the original allocation back in 2010-11. Recognising this, in July 2021, I asked the end-of-life care implementation board to undertake a voluntary hospices funding review as part of a wider end-of-life care services review, which would include all statutory and voluntary sector provision. The preferred approach would have been to undertake the wider end-of-life care service review first, followed by the review of voluntary hospice funding. However, the urgent need to make recommendations for future hospice funding in time for the 2022-23 draft budget led to a prioritisation of the hospice funding review.

The original funding formula centred on an evidence-based model of care, simply quantifying care delivery around numbers of beds and the largely clinical teams of consultants in palliative medicine and clinical nurse specialists. Hospice at home was excluded from the formula, and has since become a vital part of care closer to home, allowing patients to exercise their choice to die at home. The formula also did not take account of the vital role of children's hospices in supporting children with life-limiting conditions and their families through the availability of respite care. A number of significant considerations were also acknowledged at the outset of the review, including that children’s hospices are inherently different from adult hospices, and a comprehensive assessment for people with palliative and end-of-life care needs had not been undertaken.

The review was led by a small team from NHS Wales Health Collaborative, and included analysis of information templates submitted by hospices and interviews. Regular meetings were held with Hospice UK and all hospices to keep them informed of progress with the work. In addition to this, the extent to which statutory funding contributes to voluntary sector services in other UK nations was also considered.

I received the final review in November 2021. The review recommended funding children’s hospices at a 21 per cent contribution of all agreed care costs. Also, the review recommended increasing adult hospices' funding to reflect the estimated inflationary impact on the original funding formula approach. This would include bed and community service costs, and funding the financial impact of implementing additional beds established since 2010-11. I am pleased to say that the Welsh Government has accepted the recommendations of the review, and will be making an additional £2.2 million available to Welsh hospices on a recurring basis from 2022-23 onwards. Eight-hundred-and-eight-eight thousand pounds out of this funding will go to our two children’s hospices, Tŷ Hafan and Tŷ Gobaith.

Phase 2, which is the wider review of all end-of-life-care, statutory and voluntary sector funding, will consider the whole spectrum of care. And it will do so using locally agreed models of care, applying the principles of value-based healthcare, and it will also be guided by the four aims within 'A Healthier Wales'. This phase will be overseen by the soon to be established national programme board for end-of-life care, as has been set out in the national clinical framework. The board will look at the variances in hospices' models of delivery highlighted in phase 1 of the review, as well as the relationships between health boards and hospices.

In summary, today’s oral statement provides a snapshot of the excellent progress made in reviewing voluntary hospice funding to date. This additional funding provides hospices across Wales with a significant increase to their core funding allocations, and offers a level of certainty on which they can plan and deliver future service provision. However, whilst I am encouraged by this progress on hospice funding, I do not underestimate the ongoing challenge for all end-of-life care services ahead. As such, Welsh Government remains committed to strengthening its focus on end-of-life care. We will continue to work closely with the national programme board to drive actions across Government and with stakeholders to improve end-of-life care services for all. Thank you very much.

15:40

I thank you for your statement. I'm pleased to note that the Welsh Government eventually allocated almost £14 million of emergency funding to support Welsh hospices throughout the pandemic, after I, as chair of the cross-party group on hospices and palliative care, had to repeatedly raise the gap between the money the Welsh Government received from the UK Government in consequence of its funding for hospices throughout the pandemic in England and the amount the Welsh Government initially allocated to support hospices in Wales. 

Twelve years after I hosted the 2006 Assembly event, highlighting the essential role played by hospices in providing palliative care services in Wales, and calling on the Welsh Government to address the growing funding crisis they were facing, attended by every hospice in Wales, I chaired the cross-party group on hospices and palliative care's inquiry into inequalities in access to hospice and palliative care in Wales, which found that there's significant unmet need and undermet need, that statutory hospice funding has flatlined for a decade and therefore fallen in real terms each year, that statutory funding of children's hospices in Wales was significantly lower than in England and Scotland, and that statutory funding for adult hospices in Wales as a percentage of expenditure was lower than in any other UK nation.

Leading the Welsh Conservative opposition debate on hospices and palliative care services in Wales here in 2019, I noted that, while approximately 23,000 people in Wales have a palliative care need at any one time, including over 1,000 children, around 1 in 4, approximately 6,000 people, don't get access to the end-of-life care they need. I called on the Welsh Government to take action to help radically improve access to hospice and palliative care for everyone across Wales. 

In responses to written questions last year, this health Minister confirmed that, of its £8.4 million end-of-life funding, only some £800,000 was allocated specifically to support specialist palliative care services across Wales, and less than £200,000 of this went directly to children's hospices with none for adult hospices. Yet, for example, we heard at last Thursday's cross-party group on funerals and bereavement, which I chaired, that the joint project between Cardiff and Bristol universities to explore care and bereavement experiences during COVID-19 found that these were far more positive when support was provided by hospices. 

Given all of the above, I join our hospices in welcoming this long-awaited announcement, and must flag up the enormous work they've put into achieving this, including the Tŷ Hafan and Tŷ Gobaith children's hospices lifeline fund campaign, noting that they've received less than 10 per cent of their funding from statutory sources in Wales, the lowest level of statutory funding across the UK nations, and calling for the Welsh Government to provide the lifeline that hundreds of children and their families across Wales so desperately need.

Given her statement today that the Minister has accepted the recommendations of the end-of-life care board voluntary hospices funding review, and that she'll be making an additional £2.2 million available to Welsh hospices annually, including £888,000 to Tŷ Hafan and Tŷ Gobaith, will she confirm whether this now closes the hospice funding contribution gap with the other UK nations, both for children's and adult hospices? If not, why not, and what funding gap remains? How will the additional funding be delivered? How will the Minister monitor end-of-life care funding delivered via health boards to establish how much of this reaches hospices and whether this is delivering the best outcomes for patients and their families?

Given the Minister's statement that the funding will be available on a recurring basis from 2022-23, can she commit to this funding being recurrent for at least the lifetime of the sixth Senedd? Can she provide further details on what costs she envisages this funding will cover? Will she confirm whether this funding will be made available to our hospices via a single annual payment, allowing them the resources to invest in ensuring they can make the biggest difference to the people and families that use their services? Can she provide some clarity over how the hospices will report against such funding and confirm whether this will be based on reach and need and not be overly onerous? And finally, how will she, her officials and other public service partners continue to work with our adult and children's hospices, without whose sustainability and input it would be impossible to create a compassionate Cymru, a compassionate Wales?

15:45

Thanks very much, Mark. Can I thank you for your personal commitment to this very important area? I can't imagine the pressure and the difficulties that so many families have had to face during this extremely difficult time. It's hard enough to lose a loved one at any point, but to try and deal with this in the middle of a pandemic must have ben extremely difficult, in particular, I think, when it comes to children. So, thank you for your contribution and thank you for your focus on this. Thank you for recognising that we have given £14 million to the sector to make up for some of the loss that they saw during the pandemic, and for recognising that additional £2.2 million, which I can confirm will be recurrent. 

I am glad to see that you recognise that we've corrected some of the underfunding that was happening, and that's why we made sure that we undertook this review and that we placed a different priority on it. There's a broader review, but we went first for the immediate need to fill the funding gap. It was those experts who came up with the suggestions in terms of where that should land. I'm pleased to say that we've landed more or less in the same place as England when it comes to children's hospice funding, although I think it's really important, when we talk about voluntary hospices, that we're not comparing apples and apples here with England. Because, for example, in Wales, some of the hospices benefit from clinical support, such as palliative medicine consultants, and that's not necessarily the case in England. It is a slightly different way of dealing with the situation. So, thank you for that.

Of course we will be monitoring how this funding is spent, and of course we will make sure that the health boards are really ensuring that they're looking at what the need looks like within this space. I'm very pleased to see that one of the things that's been recognised here is the fact that, actually, ideally, people want to die at home in the comfort of their home and surrounded by people who they love. There's been a significant shift, I think, in terms of the focus of these hospices in terms of making sure that they can give that care within the community. So, I'm pleased that that's been recognised in this changed formula that has been undertaken.

15:50

Thank you very much, Dirprwy Lywydd. The first thing I want to do is to pay tribute and say 'thank you' to the hospice sector in Wales; to thank them for their vital service. Anybody who has had the privilege of visiting a hospice or has experienced the hospice at home service knows about the tireless care that they provide. I've worked with the sector as best as I can as Member for Anglesey, as Plaid Cymru spokesperson and as a Member of the cross-party group to try to bring forward a settlement that would provide the kind of assurance that the sector deserves. I'm pleased that we've had this announcement today. I asked the Minister about this in the health committee the week before last. We were promised a statement, so I'm pleased that she has kept her word on that. And it is a step in the right direction, but there is some way to go yet.

The financial context, as the Minister said, is that there has been no increase in the core budget, truth be told, for a decade by now. Now, I see this as a correction, if you will. I acknowledge what we heard from the Minister—that there will be a next phase in this review from the Government. But to give an idea of the figures and what they mean, £2.2 million in addition will go to the whole sector in Wales every year; it costs around £5 million a year to St. David's hospice alone, with only 10 per cent of the funding for that coming from the health board or Government. Before this announcement, it was 10 per cent of children's hospice funding that came from the public purse. There will now be, if I understand it correctly, the same level as in England, so 21 per cent of funding, but do bear in mind that Northern Ireland pays 25 per cent and Scotland pays half the costs. So, yes, the additional funding is to be welcomed, but I do look forward to seeing a further statement. 

It is unreasonable, I think, for us to continue to expect the same level of care and service that we are used to seeing and that's so important to families across Wales unless we're willing to make a fair contribution to that care. And I'd like to ask the Minister for an assurance that phase 2 of the review will look at the possibility of increasing that core funding to the voluntary sector further. And one additional question. There's more than just sums of money in the question here; we need to ensure too that access to hospice services is equal for everyone, no matter who they are, no matter where they are in Wales. There are major inequalities at present. Is this also something that the Minister is going to be looking at to ensure that this excellent service is genuinely an excellent service that everyone can access?

15:55

Thank you very much, Rhun. You are right to say that there will be a second phase for the review, and I very much hope that that will take less than a year to complete. What will happen is that a small group will be brought together under the leadership of end-of-life care clinical lead, Dr Idris Baker, and that group will be developing and formulating what the remit for the second phase of the review will be. That will be overseen by a new end-of-life care programme, so that will be a sub-group of that programme. And that review will look at funding in the sector and will look at the differences in terms of the different models for hospices that have been found during the first phase of the review.

I'm too am concerned, Rhun, to some extent, about ensuring that people can have access to this help wherever they are, and certainly, this was something that I raised with the children's hospices when I spoke to them in terms of how they cover rural areas, for example, if they're far away from the centres where they're located. They have made it clear that they have already made provision in that regard, but they do know that they have some way to go on that too. So, I hope that we will see that progress, and, of course, that is something that I hope that they will look at in the next phase of the review.

Thank you for your statement this afternoon, Minister. The hospice movement is a truly amazing addition to healthcare in the UK, as they fill the gap left by statutory services. One of the sad realities of life, unfortunately, and one of the sole guarantees in life, is that we all do eventually pass away, and hospices are there to help ensure that those with a terminal illness can have choices about their end of life. My constituents in the Vale of Clwyd are lucky to have the fantastic St Kentigern, based in St Asaph, to provide excellent palliative care. Minister, St Kentigern receives just over a sixth of its funding from statutory sources. Do you think that that's sustainable or fair, given the valuable service it provides to my constituents in the entire north-east Wales region? Even when funding is provided, St Kentigern gets a lower share than similar providers in the south. So, what are you doing to address this disparity? And finally, do you agree that, while no-one should die in an acute hospital bed, not everyone wants to die at home? And therefore, what plans do the Welsh Government have to fund increasing bed capacity at places like St Kentigern to give everyone a choice about how they die with a terminal illness?

Thanks very much, Gareth. As you're aware, about 33,000 people die in Wales every year and about 200 of them are children, and I just can't imagine the agony that parents in particular have to go through. That equates to about 90 people per day, but what we do know is that we're going to see an increasing number of people dying because of the demographic profile of the country. So, by 2039, we'll see a 10 to 15 per cent increase in that number—about 36,000 or so per year dying. And so, clearly, this is an area that will need more attention and we need more of a strategic plan for what the future will look like. 

I'm interested to hear about St Kentigern and their situation. One of the things that we've asked the second review to do is to look at, I guess, the differences that are being looked at—the variances in terms of the different models. So, it will be interesting for them to look at what St Kentigern is doing differently to some of the other places. So, that's something that that review will undertake.

And just in terms of bed capacity: well, we have seen an increase in the bed capacity, and one of the things that the reviewed formula has taken into account is the fact that there is an increase in bed capacity, and it's one of the reasons and part of the justification for giving additional funding.

16:00

Thank you to the Minister for this afternoon's statement. May I begin by saying that it's not just an excellent day for the Urdd for celebrating its centenary today, and the fact that we are celebrating Santes Dwynwen's Day, but relevant to this statement, I also wish a very happy birthday to Tŷ Hafan, which is celebrating its twenty-third birthday today? And the statement is an excellent way of celebrating the contribution made by the two children's hospices in Wales.

The two children's hospices in Wales have been the poor relations in the UK when it comes to state support. Before this announcement, our hospices received less than 10 per cent of their budget from state sources. By way of comparison, children's hospices in Scotland get 50 per cent of their budget from state sources. We're not talking about parity today with other nations, but it is a step in the right direction.

I regard the statement today as the minimum that is acceptable, and it provides a good starting point from which to increase the budget in future. It's easy to get wrapped up in figures and spreadsheets when talking about budget settlements, but what does this announcement actually mean today? The extra cash will be used to do things like provide additional—

Sorry. When you contextualise this announcement today in terms of the financial security that we need for children's hospices, I'm sure there'll be well-spread agreement in our Parliament today, and it's not only long overdue, but it's very, very much welcome indeed. Diolch.

Thank you very much, Peredur, and I too would like to thank Tŷ Hafan for all of the work it does, and to wish them a very happy birthday for all the work that they've done over the years. They've transformed people's lives at a time when people are going through the hardest possible ordeal in their lives, and we can't thank them enough for everything they have done for children and their families over those 23 years. Thank you also—

Thank you, Peredur. But just to say, of course we understand that there is a second phase to this, and, obviously, the financial issues associated with this will continue to be explored during that second phase.

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer, and thank you, Minister, for bringing forward today's statement. Since becoming a Member of the Senedd, one of the first things I did was meet with and visit Tŷ Gobaith in my region, North Wales, who, alongside Tŷ Hafan, do carry out exceptional work, and it's all been acknowledged here today, in supporting young patients and their loved ones. I've been really taken aback by the work that they offer and provide.

One of the huge concerns that they raised with me was this lack of funding from Government, and, therefore, I'm really pleased that cross-party support in relation to this lack of funding has led to Government today announcing a reform of hospice funding. I, like others here today, welcome this long-awaited funding, which is a good start, to acknowledge the importance of this work and make a real difference to the support that hospices can provide to people. But looking ahead, Minister, and at the national programme board for end-of-life care that you're setting up, how will we be assured of their speedy progress, and how will you balance the voice of hospices on this board with competing voices for such important funding?

Thanks very much, Sam. I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to visit Tŷ Gobaith yet, and I very much look forward to doing that, and the same thing with Tŷ Hafan. I'm afraid a pandemic is not the best time to visit hospices, but I very much look forward to having the opportunity to do that and to thank the staff for their incredible work over so many years.

You're absolutely right that the national end-of-life care programme will take into account the need to make sure that we are putting adequate funding in, and they will be looking at the variances in terms of the voluntary sector hospice models to make sure that we are getting a fair assessment, that it's all equal across Wales, making sure that they are giving the service to the whole population. 

16:05
5. Statement by the Minister for Social Justice: Holocaust Memorial Day

Item 5 this afternoon is a statement from the Minister for Social Justice on Holocaust Memorial Day, and I call on the Minister, Jane Hutt, to make the statement.

This Thursday will mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, and, on this day, we remember those who lost their lives during the Holocaust and in the genocides that have followed.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year is 'One Day'. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has highlighted the different ways we can interpret this theme, such as: learning from past events to build a better future, where one day there will be no genocide; focusing on one day in history and learning about the events of that particular day; or remembering those whose lives were an unimaginable struggle during horrific periods of history, where people could only take one day at a time in the hope that the next day would be better.

We support Holocaust Memorial Day not only to remember the direct victims and survivors, but also to remember vital lessons from history. Hate and prejudice are not issues confined to the past. Genocides do not typically begin with mass murder. They begin with an incremental undermining of personal freedoms and the rule of law and an inexorable othering of sections of society. We have a vision for Wales to be a place where everyone is respected and diversity is celebrated. We want to drive out hatred and provide a warm welcome to all, and I want to reiterate that hate has no home in Wales.

On Thursday morning, the Wales ceremony will be broadcast on Cardiff Council's YouTube channel. The First Minister will take part in the ceremony, alongside Holocaust survivor Eva Clarke. Eva moved to Wales after the second world war and found safety and happiness here. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Eva and other survivors of the Holocaust and all genocides who spend countless hours sharing their stories in our communities. Their stories provide a stark warning of the dangers of hateful and divisive narratives and what can happen when people and communities are targeted and dehumanised, just because of who they are.

The UK ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day 2022 will be streamed online on Thursday evening, and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is inviting people across the UK to light a candle at 8 p.m. and place it in the window to remember those who lost their lives during genocide. As part of this effort to light the darkness, buildings across Wales will be lit up purple, including the Wales Millennium Centre, Castell Coch and the Senedd.

Once again, the Welsh Government has provided funding to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to support organisations across Wales with planning their commemoration events for Holocaust Memorial Day this year. In the run-up to the day, the trust has engaged with a diverse mix of organisations across Wales, including third sector organisations, businesses, places of worship, schools, student unions, museums and prisons. The trust has confirmed that some of the Welsh organisations taking part this year include the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru, African Community Centre Wales and the Olive Trust. Local authorities are also playing their part, making statements of commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and sponsoring exhibitions and events. It is encouraging to see the level of engagement and the eagerness to commemorate such an important occasion. It demonstrates a commitment from Wales to always remember those lost during genocide.

The Welsh Government continues to fund the Holocaust Educational Trust to run the Lessons from Auschwitz programme in Wales. The trust has adapted to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a groundbreaking, interactive, digital platform to deliver its learning programme. The programme includes interactive online live sessions, led by experts in the history of the Holocaust, live survivor testimony, and also provides the opportunity to experience the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum through virtual reality technology. The programme will again be delivered digitally in 2022, with an enhanced learning platform to include digitally rendered artefacts from the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum and a new piece of virtual reality focused on the town of Oświęcim, which became known as Auschwitz when invaded by the Nazis in 1939. It will enable participants to further their understanding of the pre-war Jewish community that existed in this town as well as the devastating impact that the rise of Nazism had on the local population.

We take our responsibilities in supporting minority communities seriously because we know the loss of human potential inequality causes, as well as the risks of divided communities. Through our various action plans, we are seeking to eliminate inequalities, whether in relation to race or nationality, sexual orientation, sex or gender identity, or disability. This includes the development of the race equality action plan, amongst others, to help us meet our vision of an anti-racist Wales.

We continue to tackle hate crime where it occurs through funding the national hate crime report and support centre, the hate crime in schools project, and our community cohesion programme. Our anti-hate crime campaign, Hate Hurts Wales, aims to portray the devastating effect of hate crime, but also encourage people to report it and get support.

The most recent hate crime statistics, published in October 2021, showed a 16 per cent rise in recorded hate crimes in Wales when compared to the previous year. I want to encourage victims of hate and witnesses to come forward and report these incidents to the police or to the national hate crime report and support centre, which is run on our behalf by Victim Support Cymru. There is support and it will be taken seriously. Dirprwy Lywydd, we need to continue to challenge hate, wherever we find it, so that one day we can truly honour genocide victims and say with confidence that the lessons of genocide have been learned. Diolch yn fawr.

16:10

Thank you, Deputy Presiding Officer. I want to thank the Minister today for her statement this afternoon. I think it's really important that the Senedd and the nation of Wales takes the time to remember and reflect upon the horrors of the Holocaust and all genocides since, and Holocaust Memorial Day helps us to do just that. I want to pay tribute as well to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and to the Holocaust Education Trust for the work that they do, not only on Holocaust Memorial Day, but all year round, to promote remembrance of these things. Because they don't only offer us an opportunity to consider all those who lost their lives as a result of the Holocaust and genocides since, they also give us an opportunity to consider survivors, those individuals who live with the mental and physical scars from those horrific periods in human history.

It's a great shame, I think, that many events are not being held in person this year because of COVID restrictions, but I am very pleased that the Welsh Government has continued to fund the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and many of its activities to support commemoration across the country. I want to urge Members of the Senedd to engage with events in their constituencies this year, particularly those that involve the first-hand testimonies of those dwindling numbers of people who survived the brutality of the evils of the Nazi regime. Those of us who have attended such events in the Senedd in the past can't fail to have been both moved and motivated by the Holocaust survivors who shared their stories over the years, including Mala Tribich, Henri Obstfeld and Henry Schachter, all of whom have visited the Senedd to share their agonising and shocking stories about their personal experiences and loss. 

Regrettably, of course, we all know that the hate and racism that acts as the breeding ground for the evil that leads to events such as the Holocaust has unfortunately not been completely eradicated, and it's for this reason that we've always got to be vigilant and take swift action to tackle racism and hate wherever it rears its ugly head. While I know of the Minister's personal commitment to stamping out hate and racism in Wales, and welcome very much the initiatives to which her statement has referred, I am very concerned that the number of hate crimes recorded in Wales continues to rise, including reports of antisemitism. The Minister will be aware that concerns have been expressed by the Jewish community in Wales in recent months about the blocking of people from Israel from being able to access the Cadw website. Now, while I appreciate that this matter has now been addressed, regrettably the Welsh Government has still failed to provide any explanation as to why the firewall configuration on the Cadw server was set up in such a way that it allowed people from other nations around the globe to access the Cadw website, yet blocked access from the only Jewish state in the world. Now, this matter was brought to the attention of Cadw back in September of last year, yet nothing was done until I raised the matter in the Senedd in December. So, perhaps, Minister, can you tell us today who was it that set up that firewall in that particular way? Why was Israel blocked? And why did it take months to resolve the issue? The Jewish community, I think, need and deserve answers.

In addition to that, concerns have also been raised about the recent appointment of Rocio Cifuentes as the new Children's Commissioner for Wales. Social media shows that the commissioner attended a protest in Swansea at which there were chants of 'Khaybar, oh Jews', which, of course, is a well-known rallying call to genocide. Now, regrettably, Ms Cifuentes's Twitter feed still promotes the rally to which I've referred. Wales needs a children's commissioner, Minister, who promotes the rights of all children in Wales, including those of the Jewish faith and heritage. So, I'd be grateful if you could tell us what action the Welsh Government has now taken to investigate concerns about Ms Cifuentes's appointment and her suitability for this important role.

And finally, one of the things that I want to applaud the Welsh Government for is the way in which it adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. But, regrettably, Minister, in spite of the leadership shown by the Welsh Government in that particular area, there are many organisations, there are many public sector organisations in receipt of Welsh Government funds, who have not adopted it. Some of those organisations are further education and higher education organisations here in Wales—our universities. Now, these ought to be places where people can feel safe from the evil of antisemitism, but, unfortunately the reluctance of those institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance antisemitism definition, I think is causing many Jewish people and learners at those universities to be fearful about the future. Can you tell us whether the Welsh Government will commit today to requiring anybody in receipt of Welsh Government funds to adopt that definition as a matter of urgency? I look forward to your responses.

16:15

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much, Darren Millar, and thank you for your recognition, particularly not just of our support for Holocaust Memorial Day and the events that we take part in, but also support for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the funding that we provide, and I'm glad that you welcome the events that are being held across Wales. Indeed, I'm sure many Members here will want to refer to them. I think the fact we've got such a range, including the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru—they've got a short film on theme of 'one day', which is going to look at, in the past, 1942, one day in the present, focusing on the current plight of refugees, and then one day 50 years in the future and the issue of climate refugees, all very current and relevant—looking to the Olive Trust, hosting an online memorial event, including speakers sharing personal accounts of the Holocaust, and, indeed, Cardiff United Synagogue supporting the Wales National Holocaust Memorial Day remembrance service online that's being held and partaking in smaller services as well, but including also in the events this week Churches Together in Wales using their opportunities, particularly through social media, Llandaff Cathedral, with a prayer session and choral evensong, as well as Disability Wales—these are all diverse organisations—highlighting how disabled people were targeted and treated during the Holocaust, and using resources to show that impact.

I think it's very sad that we're not having a cross-party event together, Darren, as we have done in many times past. It actually was in 2020 that together we attended as Assembly Members, as we were then, the event in the Senedd—and those cross-party events are important; we will gather, I'm sure, in the future to do that—with, as you said, Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich giving her personal account. But also it was very relevant that we had Isaac Blake speaking about the experiences of Roma and Sinti victims of the Holocaust, but also, I'd have to say, the First Minister and I attending Cardiff United Synagogues' public menorah-lighting ceremony in Cardiff castle on the final night of Hanukkah before Christmas—a historic event, because it was the first ever public menorah lighting to be held at the castle. And I can continue, with our ongoing inter-faith engagement, with faith leaders coming together, including the Jewish community. So, there is much we must be positive about, in terms of recognition of how we come together, learning from genocide for a better future.

Now, I do acknowledge the issues that you've raised. Clearly, the issues around the Cadw server have been addressed. And I would like to just comment on the appointment of the Children's Commissioner for Wales, because I was delighted by the appointment of the next Children's Commissioner for Wales. The cross-party appointment panel that I chaired unanimously agreed on the successful candidate, and the Children, Young People, and Education Committee, which held a public pre-appointment scrutiny hearing, saw no reason not to endorse the appointment. The First Minister has replied to the Welsh Conservatives, who have made a range of unsubstantiated claims, and he set out the robustness of the recruitment process, which all Members are aware of. The appointment process will not be reopened. But I think, importantly, to say to Darren and colleagues, I was determined that the involvement of children and young people was an integral part of the recruitment exercise, and they were involved at a number of points through this recruitment exercise, and I'm sure that Members will want to now welcome the new appointment and the new children's commissioner, Rocio Cifuentes, who will start in her post in due course.

It is important that we continue to be vigilant in terms of our commitment to antisemitism, and I think the ways in which we come together throughout the year, not just now, the National Holocaust Memorial Day, are important. I think to be accountable as the Welsh social justice Minister for the Welsh Government is important in terms of our commitment to tackle hate crime and antisemitism, in particular today. So, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism in full, without qualification, back in 2017, and restating that commitment in 2018, on every opportunity—. And of course this is an opportunity to share the importance of that with all our public bodies across Wales, because its adoption is quite clearly an important step to support understanding and recognition of contemporary forms of antisemitism, to be clear that antisemitism in any form will not be tolerated in Wales, and the Welsh Government stands with the Jewish community. We condemn the vile hatred expressed by individuals who seek to create a climate of fear and aim to fragment our communities.

So, we remain vigilant, but we today also recognise what we can do, what contribution we can make on Holocaust Memorial Day in this Senedd and in Welsh Government and indeed across Wales, as our support for all of these events that I've described will indicate.

16:20

Thank you, Deputy Llywydd. In his excellent book Yr Erlid, Heini Gruffudd of Swansea tells the story of his mother, the scholar and author Käthe Bosse-Griffiths, and the appalling impact of the growth of Nazism and the Holocaust on her and her family in Germany. They, like millions of other families who weren't considered people by the Nazis and their allies, were persecuted and some, like his mother, had to flee, and others, like his great aunt, committed suicide, and millions like his grandmother were killed in the prisoner camps. It's difficult to imagine the suffering. But books such as Yr Erlid, telling the story of one family, help us to understand the way an appalling ideology and prejudice could bring about inhuman cruelty and genocide. The experience of my sister-in-law's family, Dr Zoe Morris-Williams, was very similar, and the descendents of her grandfather, Heinz Koppel, who became one of the foremost artists of Wales, have made a major contribution to their communities and to Wales, with Zoe, the granddaughter of a refugee, saving lives as a doctor.

Just as individual family stories ensure that we understand the incomprehensible, one day, Holocaust Memorial Day, helps us to remember the lives of the millions killed as a result of Nazi persecution and also every family across the globe who have suffered as a result of genocide. A day of remembrance gives us a chance to reflect on these stories and to hear and to understand the warnings that they contain, and to commit to work towards a future without persecution and cruelty of this kind, and to eradicate the racism and intolerance that can lead to that.

We have mentioned in this place that we are currently living through an economic crisis that we haven't seen the likes of for decades. We have seen, in a period of national crisis and economic uncertainty, how intolerance can grow and can be nurtured for political reasons. This isn't a thing of the past. Just last week, I saw a Nazi symbol painted on a bus station wall in Neath. And the frightening statistics on reports of anti-Semitic attacks and racist attacks in Wales show clearly that a lack of tolerance is on the increase here in Wales. The Holocaust taught us that standing against prejudice and xenophobia is crucial.

Refugee organisations warn us that the new Nationality and Borders Bill of the Westminster Government will undermine our ambition here in Wales to be a nation of sanctuary for everyone who needs that sanctuary. Placing people in particular categories, proving their qualification by carrying out physical tests and therefore placing value on one life above another is something that we must pledge, on Holocaust Memorial Day of all days, to oppose. I would therefore like to ask whether the Minister agrees that we must do everything within the Government's ability to oppose the Nationality and Borders Bill of the UK Government, which will be so detrimental to those who are fleeing persecution, and what discussions has she had with the Westminster Government on this Bill. How does the Government ensure that we promote and celebrate the contribution of families who have made their homes here in Wales having fled prejudice, racism and violence? And would the Government agree to issue a statement on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, which would send a message of support to that community too? And what role can the new curriculum play in ensuring that our children understand and learn from the lessons of the past so that we, one day, can see a future that won't be scarred by the most appalling cruelty and will prevent any nation from taking the path that leads to genocide? Thank you.

16:25

Diolch yn fawr, Sioned Williams, and also can we thank you for those powerful accounts of those survivors and family members, and the importance of recognising that those stories must live and continue as they educate us—all of us—and so many have been touched by that? And those stories will be heard, of course, during the week: on Thursday, Eva Clarke, with the First Minister. There are still survivors, who can—. And there are so few left now who can give those accounts, and it is important that we recognise and support those together.

But, I think this is also about—and you mentioned the curriculum—the ways in which we are reaching out to our children and young people, because we funded the Holocaust Educational Trust to run the Lessons from Auschwitz programme in Wales. It's currently being delivered online, but there are seminars guided by experts and first-hand testimonies of Holocaust survivors. Those students—and I think many of us will know the young people who have benefited from those from our schools and our communities—they learn about pre-war Jewish life, the former Nazi death and concentration camps—as I said, Auschwitz-Birkenau—and then they can continue. What's so important is the links you made to the contemporary relevance of the Holocaust. So, many of those students have become ambassadors, Holocaust Educational Trust ambassadors, and that does mean that they continue to share their knowledge, but it influences the whole of their lives and their values, and they share it in their communities. That's the ambassador role: encouraging others to remember the Holocaust.

It is important that you make that connection and that link to what we are doing now in Wales in relation to our commitment to being an anti-racist Wales with our race equality action plan, to ensure that Wales is built on the values of anti-racism, calling for zero tolerance of racism in all its guises. And what's important about that is, again, the way in which that plan is co-constructed with black, Asian and minority ethnic people and communities, and identifying that vision and values that we want to embrace for an anti-racist Wales, and what those actions and goals are that we need to take forward in terms of having an outcome. It's not just rhetoric on racial equality; it's about meaningful action. It is very important that we look at this in terms of all aspects of community life, our education, our curriculum as well, which I also mentioned, and recognising that this is an opportunity for us today to take stock of the progress that we have been able to make in terms of community cohesion and education.

I think it is also very important that you raised the issue of the concerns that we have about some of the legislation, for example, at UK Government level. You'll be very aware, of course, of the joint statement that I made with the Counsel General in terms of the Nationality and Borders Bill. We're very concerned that it could cause unforeseen and unequal impacts on people arriving in Wales, simply due to their method of arrival in Wales. We continue to raise those concerns. 

I think you mentioned Armenia. We know that there are genocides that we are very concerned about and we raise regularly, sometimes through short debates, sometimes in questions, but I would like to say how pleased I am that we've been able, as a Welsh Government, to support the peace academy, Academi Heddwch Cymru, supporting our international relationships through its peace work and partnerships, supporting the promotion of Wales as a place to work, study and live. And how significant it is today, as we celebrate the Urdd and its impact on our communities, our lives, our children and young people and our education. I have not had a chance to say it today, but I'd like to thank the Urdd for the way in which they stepped up to reach out to the Afghan refugees who came to us in August and provided brilliant and wonderful support, a team Wales support, to those refugees, who are now integrated into our communities.

It's something where we can see that—. In every aspect of the points that you've made in your contribution, we can see how relevant Holocaust Memorial Day is to living to our policies, our delivery in Wales of our public services, and, indeed, in how we also raise questions and concerns about UK Government legislative programmes, like the Nationality and Borders Bill, and how we have to speak up on those points. 

16:35

Thank you for your statement, Minister. You quite rightly mentioned the massacres that have occurred since the Holocaust, but I just want to mention a couple of the massacres that occurred during and immediately after the first world war, which are very vividly and passionately remembered by many of my constituents. Sioned Williams has just mentioned the Armenian massacre of 1915. This was a Turkish Government-sanctioned attempt to exterminate the Armenian people. Over 1 million Armenians were murdered, using many of the methods subsequently adopted by the Nazis: forced eviction, forced marches, starvation, stabbing, and ultimately firing squads and burial in thinly disguised mass graves. All of this is painstakingly recorded by Patrick Thomas, the Carmarthenshire priest, who is revered by Welsh Armenians.

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar of 1919 cannot be described as an extermination—the unarmed civilians who were gunned down are counted in their thousands rather than the millions—but the fact that the massacre was carried out by the British army in order to suppress demands for Indian independence should make it equally shocking, because it was carried out in our name, or in the name of the British empire. Roundly denounced by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons, it has never led to a formal apology to the Indians, and particularly the Sikhs—

—who really warn about this. So, I appreciate that, above all, Holocaust Memorial Day remains an unimaginable burden for the Jewish community in Cardiff, as well as the Gypsy and Traveller and Roma community, and also all the gay community, who were massacred by the Nazis. But today, as the prospect of war in eastern Europe raises its ugly head again, what does the Minister think we can do about understanding that it is war and want and racism that fuels these terrible massacres that have divided communities based on our differences of religion, race or sexual orientation, and that war does nothing but harm, as we have seen in the starvation faced by most of the population of Afghanistan this winter?

Thank you very much indeed, Jenny Rathbone, and thank you for speaking up for your constituents, the Armenian community and the massacre, and also your Jewish people and community and families in your constituency, and all our constituencies in Wales. Thank you for acknowledging some of the atrocities and shocking events leading to global changes, Indian independence.

Interestingly, today, I spoke at an event on global solidarity that was organised by Hub Cymru Africa, and we talked about the importance of global solidarity and for Wales to be reaching out, and building on from the League of Nations to the United Nations, the crucial role played by uniting together in terms of ensuring that we have peace and we can't have global solidarity without peace. So, we live in a challenging world.

Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to acknowledge and recognise those atrocities and genocides that are in history, and it is acknowledged by the Holocaust Memorial Day that this is a time for everyone. So, I think, as has been very clearly said by those who organise Holocaust Memorial Day, it,

'encourages remembrance in a world scarred by genocide',

and we promote and support Holocaust Memorial Day—the international day on 27 January—to remember the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, and the millions of people killed under Nazi persecution, and in the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur. I've just met some of those acknowledged, but most importantly, marking, as I make this statement today, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. So, that Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation. Genocide still must be resisted every day and, as they say, in the UK, in Wales, prejudice and the language of hatred must be challenged by us all.

16:40

I'm grateful to the Minister for her statement. I was fortunate enough to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teenager through my school. The stillness and silence that enveloped the concentration camp, the lack of colour or joy and the weight of the atrocities that were allowed to happen there are all memories that will live with me forever. Elie Wiesel, a Jewish Auschwitz survivor who went on to become a Nobel laureate, wrote of his time at the concentration camp. In his 1960s memoir, Night, he shares his grief of the horrors that occurred and the following extract is found printed on a wall in Auschwitz:

'Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

'Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.'

At least 1.3 million people were inmates of Auschwitz. At least 1.1 million people were killed. Six million Jewish men, women and children were murdered in the Holocaust. As time moves on and fewer survivors are able to share their stories directly with the new generation, it is imperative that their stories do not die with them.

I must pay tribute to the Holocaust Educational Trust for their tireless work in ensuring these stories are taught and heard. Their aim is to educate young people from every background about the Holocaust and the important lessons to be learned for today. The trust works in schools, universities and in the community to raise awareness and understanding of the Holocaust, providing teacher training and outreach programmes to schools—

—and teaching aids and resource material. The Lessons from Auschwitz project that the Minister mentioned in her statement allows two post-16 students from every school and college in the country to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. In commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day and the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on 27 January 1945, we bear witness to those who endured genocide and honour the survivors and all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition. As is also written on the wall at Auschwitz:

'Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'

Diolch.

Diolch yn fawr, Samuel Kurtz, and can I say how moving it is to learn more about our new Senedd Members? Thank you very much for the statement today, Samuel, because I mentioned the Holocaust Educational Trust earlier on. I know—it was since 2008 when I was the former education Minister, when we started that funding of the Holocaust Educational Trust—how important it has been to fund that, and to hear from you, your personal statement and testimony of what it's meant for you, going to Auschwitz, learning from the experience and, as you said, reading to us today, reminding us of Elie Wiesel's book, Night. So, thank you very much for being that young ambassador who has come back and influenced us, and we'll always remember that now about you, Sam, in this Senedd.

I think it's important to recognise that, as a result of funding from the Welsh Government since 2008, the Lessons from Auschwitz in person and online project has reached 1,826 students from across Wales, 226 teachers from across Wales, and 41 schools and 142 students participate in the project this year, even through the virtual process and access. The most recent visits actually took place in January 2020, and 162 students and teachers participated, 70 schools across Wales; all of our schools will be involved. I do want to say that this is very important in terms of our new curriculum. This is very much a cross-Government statement today that I'm taking forward. Because in the new curriculum, we're designing it to secure learners' progress towards four purposes, including support for learners to become ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world. That's going to help our learners and young people to grow, like you said, Sam, to recognise that understanding of the complex and diverse nature of societies past and present and to learn through that experience of our support for the Holocaust Educational Trust. We must always, in Wales, look out, learn from history and share it with each other to influence policy and purpose.

16:45

There are some horrors in history that are so evil that human beings want to try and forget them, but we must never do that with the Holocaust, because it was a horror perpetrated almost in plain sight, and it is the banality of the evil and the fact that it happened over years that stands out as well: a railway that was built to take people to gas chambers to die, queues of people to be processed, a web of deception and betrayal, families like the Franks, with Anne and her diary, that were ripped from hiding places and thrown to be slaughtered. 

Minister, Hugo Rifkind wrote a remarkable blog about the Holocaust in 2015 emphasising how important it is that we continue to talk about the fact that it was what people did—the people. This is what I'd like to ask you about. He focuses on how easily it happened, how, although people who killed and the people who were killed had grown up alongside one another, some of them identified traits that they wanted to wipe from the face of the earth. Rifkind said:

'The dead and killers alike knew china teapots, Mozart, varieties of cheese.... Then, one day, they...began to slide towards something else.'

So, Minister, do you agree that this is one of the principal reasons we have to mark this day, because that slide into horror is something that can lurk beneath the most seemingly civilised of societies, of times—that we cannot take for granted that that was another place, another time, that it can never be safe to bury it in history's tide?

Thank you very much, Delyth Jewell. I will simply say that every word you said is pertinent and important for us, not just today in responding to this statement, but in how we move forward as elective representatives, as Government Ministers and in communities. Commemorating the Holocaust is important, to recognise and to ensure that we never forget—never forget—how dangerous, hateful and divisive narratives can be, what can happen when people and communities are targeted and dehumanised because of who they are. I've talked about the 'othering' of sections of society that happens. It can become incremental in terms of undermining freedoms and, indeed, undermining the rule of law. We know the Holocaust didn't happen overnight. It began with a gradual erosion of human rights and divisive rhetoric against people who were different or were perceived to be different to others. So, those are the lessons we learn today.

Thank you, Deputy Llywydd, and thank you, Minister, for the statement. Children, mothers, fathers, grandparents—no-one was immune to being engulfed in the depraved flames of Nazism. More than 6 million people were murdered, as we've already heard, and they were murdered not for any fault of their own, but simply because of who they were. And that number is more than just a figure; behind it are millions of people who were mums and dads, doctors and teachers, men and women who were ruthlessly killed by that depraved regime. Yet the only relief we can take is that, fortunately, some managed to survive that ordeal. One of those was the late Mady Gerrard, who managed to start a new life for herself in Monmouthshire. In recalling her ordeal, she told the South Wales Argus:

'In 1944, at 14 years old, I was deported from my native Hungary to Auschwitz. I was engaged to be married to the love of my life. He was to be a doctor and I was to be an art historian, but that wasn't what Hitler had planned for us. We arrived in Auschwitz on July 8. It was hell.'

We'll never know fully what happened in that camp. Following the war, she returned to her native Hungary hoping to find her father, but she would soon learn that he was one of the 6 million. Holocaust Memorial Day encourages every one of us to remember one of the darkest periods in history, as well as the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Therefore, it's incumbent on us to ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten. As a famous quote at Auschwitz eloquently states, 'The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.'

Therefore, we must learn from the past as well as never shy away from the challenge of hatred in all its forms. I welcome the Welsh Government's funding for the Lessons from Auschwitz programme, which is being delivered in collaboration with the Holocaust Educational Trust. Minister, can you provide assurances that the Welsh Government will provide long-term funding for that programme? Thank you.

16:50