Y Cyfarfod Llawn

Plenary

05/07/2022

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 in the Chamber and by video-conference at 13:30 with the Llywydd (Elin Jones) in the Chair.

Statement by the Llywydd

Welcome to this Plenary session. Before we begin, I want to set out a few points. This meeting will be held in hybrid format, with some Members in the Senedd Chamber and others joining by video-conference. All Members participating in proceedings of the Senedd, wherever they may be, will be treated equally. A Plenary meeting held using 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.

1. Questions to the First Minister

The first item this afternoon is questions to the First Minister, and the first question is from Tom Giffard. 

Dental Services in South Wales West

1. Will the First Minister provide an update on access to dental services in South Wales West? OQ58287

Llywydd, 99 per cent of NHS dental contract value in Swansea Bay University Health Board and 88 per cent in Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board will now be undertaken by practices that have opted in to dental contract reform. Working under reform principles creates capacity for new patients to access NHS dental care.

I'm grateful to the First Minister for his answer, but I can't exactly say I share his optimism about the dental industry here in Wales. The most obvious example that we're facing a crisis in dentistry is the sheer number of questions that you and the health Minister have faced from Members in recent months on the subject. My colleague Sam Rowlands asked you about the situation in north Wales last week, and, unfortunately, it's an issue prevalent in my region too. Broadlands Dental Surgery in Bridgend has now terminated its contract with the NHS via the health board, citing problems with the way the NHS dental contracts are structured. The health board have said they'll try and find patients a new NHS dentist, but, in reality, given the current the situation, we know it means they'll be added to a waiting list, which is often years long. And instead, patients are being encouraged to take up often expensive private dental cover just to keep the level of service they enjoyed before. So, with dental waiting lists getting longer, fewer and fewer dentists offering places for NHS patients, and a third fewer dental treatments taking place compared to a decade ago, First Minister, one thing is quite clear: you're privatising dentistry in Wales by the back door. First Minister, when will your Government get a grip on the crisis in dentistry in Wales, and what action are you taking to fix it right now?

Llywydd, part of the premise of that question is nonsensical, and the Member knew it when he said it, as well. The contract reform, as we have explained many, many times on the floor of the Senedd, was an optional matter. It was for practices to decide whether or not to opt into it. The vast majority of practices have done so; a small minority have decided to make other arrangements. That was always available to them, as I have had to explain several times now to Conservative Members of the Senedd. 

The truth of the matter is, Llywydd, that, up until the time of the pandemic, the number of dentists carrying out NHS activity in Wales rose every year—rose every year—from 2014-15 to 2018-19, and our ambition is to make sure that there is NHS dentistry available to everybody who wishes to take it up. However, as the Member will know, dentists are contracting professionals. They choose whether or not to take up work on behalf of the NHS. When they choose not to, in that small minority of cases who have made that decision, the money is not lost to NHS dentistry; the money remains in the system. The money remains so that other practices, or new entrants into dentistry, are able to carry out work on behalf of the NHS.

Our estimates for contract reform in the area covered by the Member are that it will create 16,000 extra NHS places, as a minimum, in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board area, and 17,000 extra, as a minimum, NHS patient places in Swansea bay. That's why dental reform and contract reform has been such a priority for this Government. 

First Minister, there has been a lot of goodwill in NHS dentistry for a really long time. Having talked to dentists in Bridgend, and the British Dental Association, unfortunately, it is the case that, with the new contracts, NHS practices are seeing lots of new patients and need to reach high targets of patients. Practices have to cover the cost of treatment due to the level of care needed and time taken to facilitate. This has meant that, essentially, dentists can be working for free. With the cost-of-living crisis, how many of us can afford to do that on a long-term basis? So, staff are leaving practices, and the knock-on effect is that practices cannot reach their targets of seeing new patients, and therefore, sometimes, they are being financially penalised. You have dentists working incredibly hard through the backlog of COVID patients, with costs going up, and there is a lack of goodwill flexibility available with the contracts, I've been told. I know this is being investigated by the Senedd health committee, and I very much welcome their work on this. First Minister, what action is the Welsh Government taking to support dental services with the impact of coronavirus and the backlog of care that is impacting their workload? Also, is there a way of prioritising dental care for children?

13:35

Llywydd, let me give the Member an assurance that no dentist in Wales is working for free. Dentists, on average, earn somewhere between £70,000 and £100,000 a year, depending on the nature of their contract. And while I agree very much with what Sarah Murphy said about the commitment that dentists in Wales have shown during the coronavirus period, they are remunerated, and fairly remunerated, for the work that they do.

The point that the Member raised about the impact of coronavirus, Llywydd, is an important one. On 1 June, the Chief Dental Officer was able to write to dental practices across Wales, de-escalating some of the infection prevention and control measures that dentists have had to implement because of coronavirus. Unfortunately, because of the current rapid rise in the number of people falling ill from the virus, and the even greater transmissibility of the latest variants of omicron, that is a position we will have to keep very carefully under review. Coronavirus has not gone away, Llywydd. Thousands of people in Wales are falling ill with the virus. We have 1,500 people who work in the health service not in work today because they have fallen ill with COVID-19, and we have another 600 people beyond that who are self-isolating because they are in contact with someone who's had the virus. That's over 2 per cent of the entire workforce of the NHS who are unable to be doing all the other things we ask them to do simply because of the continuing impact of coronavirus here in Wales. And aerosol-generating procedures, which is what dentistry relies on so much, are amongst the most challenging procedures for the transmission of the virus. So, I very much welcome all the actions that dental practices have taken, the extra help they've had through the Welsh Government to improve ventilation in those practices, but there's no doubt at all, and no Member in this Chamber should be in any doubt at all, that the operating environment in dentistry, and right across the Welsh NHS, remains very challenging because of the impact that coronavirus is having.

Mental Health Services in Vale of Clwyd

2. What is the Welsh Government doing to improve access to mental health services in the Vale of Clwyd? OQ58331

Llywydd, we continue to provide significant and sustained funding to support mental health services. Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board will receive an additional £4.9 million in recurrent mental health funding, starting this year, to help improve access to mental health support.

Thank you for that answer, First Minister. Of course, as we mark the seventy-fourth birthday of the national health service today, I'd like to give my thanks to the hard-working front-line staff, past and present, who have served to support the nation's medical needs and help save lives. But, First Minister, at no fault of these hard-working front-line staff, mental health services in my constituency and across north Wales are not fit for purpose. Local primary mental health support services figures show that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has the second-worst waiting times in Wales, with just under two thirds of adults waiting less than 28 days for an assessment as of March 2022, which is below the national average, and, for children and young people, just one in three are waiting 28 days for an assessment. These delays are just not acceptable, First Minister. Alongside these waiting times, one of my major concerns related to services in the Vale of Clwyd is the Ablett Unit facilities at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan. Earlier this month, I sat down with one of my constituents, who has a long-term mental health condition and, due to this, has had to stay in facilities across the area. And he noted that the Ablett Unit at YGC is by far the worst, with a tired and decrepit building that is not fit for modern-day use or treatments. And in my regular meeting with representatives of the health board, and, in fact, just as recently as yesterday, they divulged that there are still no imminent plans to progress the proposal of the new mental health development at YGC, and that's simply not good enough, First Minister. So, what is the Welsh Government planning to do, regarding this delay from the health board, to ensure that my residents in the Vale of Clwyd get a service that's fit for purpose in the area that they live in? Thank you. 

13:40

Well, Llywydd, I echo, of course, what the Member said about recognising the work that our very committed staff in the national health service do every single day, on this anniversary of the NHS. I agree with him that the time that assessments are taking under the local primary mental health service in Betsi Cadwaladr are not acceptable. There have been some signs of improvement in recent months, but that improvement urgently needs to continue. Once you have an assessment in the health board, then the performance in terms of from-referral-to-treatment is better in the local primary mental health services, particularly in relation to adults, where, for most of the last 12 months, performance has been above the target set by the Welsh Government. So, once you get into the system, then the help that you receive is usually timely and is appreciated by those in receipt of it. But the assessment period is too long, particularly for children, and there we look for a proper improvement in the way that the health board performs.

As far as the facilities at YGC are concerned, I think, the Member has an over-pessimistic view of developments there. We want to invest in those services, we want to make sure the physical fabric of the services is sufficient for patients, and we look forward to being able to approve the proposals that the health board will bring forward in order to do just that. 

First Minister, there's been a very welcome and significant increase recently in funding for support services for mental health within schools, which will help many young people in the Vale of Clwyd and beyond. We know that the most effective mental ill health prevention and early intervention comes through school counselling services. So, will the Welsh Government commit to facilitating the training and recruitment of as many new school counsellors as possible? 

Well, Llywydd, I thank Ken Skates for that, and I agree with him very much that the best help you can offer, particularly to young people, in the mental health field is that early and preventative intervention that gets them the advice they need. It allows them to meet with a trusted adult who has the training that is necessary to respond to their needs, and that's exactly what the Welsh Government is doing. Over the next three years, we'll invest another £10 million over and above what is there now to improve and expand school counselling provision, and we do so because we know that it is effective. In the last year for which there are figures, 10,600 children or young people received counselling services in schools. Young women accounted for two thirds of those receiving help. Twenty per cent of all the children who got help from the school counselling service were in year 10, so facing examinations, with all the anxiety that we know goes alongside that. But, critically, 87 per cent of children and young people who used the service did not require onward referral. In other words, the help that they got was sufficient to meet their needs. That's why, both for children and for adults, we are putting such an emphasis on investment in tier 0 and tier 1 services—services that you don't need to join a waiting list to get to, services that you can get by immediate access, either through third sector organisations or, in the case of the question raised by Ken Skates, through the self-referral of someone to a school counselling service. If you can do it, if you can do it early and do it effectively, then those young people don't need the more intensive and, inevitably, more pressurised services further up the chain. 

Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

Questions now from the party leaders. The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew R.T. Davies. 

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Could I just send a warm welcome to colleagues in the gallery from Pakistan, who are attending from one of the regional assemblies and watching our proceedings today?

First Minister, why has the Welsh Government failed in its commitment, made some seven years ago, to eliminate the use of B&Bs for young people in the care sector here in Wales?

13:45

Well, Llywydd, I think there are a number of reasons that lie behind that unfortunate fact. The biggest one is that we take too many children away from their families here in Wales. This is a point that I have tried to make ever since I was the health Minister and responsible for social services. We take children away from their families in Wales at twice the rate that children are taken into care in England, and the result of that is that our local authorities find that all their budgets, all the staff that they have, are having to deal with the number of children who are already in the care of that local authority, and when new needs arise and children have to be attended to, there isn't the capacity there to respond in the way that we would like.

We have had a concerted campaign with local authorities over the last three years to try to address and reverse this trend. This is a trend of 20 years and probably more, Llywydd. Year after year, the rate at which children are taken away from families in Wales rises. That delivers a poor service for those children and it delivers a particularly poor service for those families who look for preventative help from a social services department, who find that there's no capacity to do that because their hands are so full of children already inside the care system.

There are local authorities in Wales that buck this trend, that manage to reduce the number of children and look after them safely in other ways. I commend particularly the record of Carmarthenshire County Council, which has a 20-year record of being able to keep numbers going in a different direction, and in more recent times the actions of Neath Port Talbot Council, which has significantly reduced the number of children they take into the care system, freeing up resources to help families to stay together. If you don't do that, then the system is under such pressure that, when children do come into the system, it struggles to provide the immediate help that is necessary for them.

I'm grateful for that answer, First Minister, but the fact of the matter is that a pledge was made seven years ago, in 2015, and some of the answer that you gave me today about highlighting good practice in local authorities such as Carmarthenshire, such as Neath Port Talbot, was highlighted as part of the Government statement at that time about how you drive good practice through local authorities to get rid of the use of B&B and other unsuitable accommodation. Here we are, seven years later, and that commitment has not been delivered.

The consequences of that lack of delivery are highlighted in the report that BBC Wales are covering today, and in particular the words of Gemma, when she said she'd been exploited by older men when she was young before being taken into care at the age of 14, when she'd become addicted to heroin. She had moved house 12 times by the time she was 15. She said:

'I've never fully unpacked anywhere. Nobody ever keeps me very long anyway.'

How can Gemma or any of the other 50 young people in Wales who have been placed in B&Bs, hostels or budget hotels in the last year, or indeed any of the 285 young people in accommodation that isn't regulated by the care watchdog, have any confidence that the accommodation that they are being placed in is safe and secure when you hear stories like that from Gemma?

That's a distressing story, Llywydd, but it exactly reflects the point that I made originally that children like Gemma would have been better served had the system invested in preventative action and early intervention to prevent that very sad story of what happens to children when they get drawn into a system that does not have the capacity to respond properly to their needs. I am sorry to say, Llywydd, that the conversations with too many local authorities have proved too difficult on this topic over that extended period. There are local authorities, despite everything that has been said to them, despite all the advice they have—and they don't lack advice. The leader of the opposition is right in that way. There are reports that the Association of Directors of Social Services in Wales have produced, there is independent advice that has been commissioned for local authorities to demonstrate to them how they can do this better, and yet we have local authorities in parts of Wales who, every single year, manage to find things moving in the opposite direction. There is more that they can do, there is more that they must do in order to be able to provide better outcomes for those young people.

I still think it's important, Llywydd, to put those numbers in their context. They are too high, I definitely don't want to see them, but against the 50 people that the leader of the opposition mentioned, 662 young people left care in the figures that are the most recently available, and of that 662, 628 saw 95 per cent of them assessed as being in suitable accommodation on the day when their care experience ended. So, the system still manages to respond to the needs of the bulk of young people drawn into it, but the answer to being able to do better is to do things differently, not just to do more and more of the same things.

13:50

First Minister, the Government in 2015 made that commitment to, obviously, phase out the use of B&Bs, hostels and budget hotels. Do you still stand by that commitment? I appreciate that seven years have passed, but is it still a Government priority to stick to that commitment? And if it is a Government priority to keep that commitment, will you commit today, in the time that you have left as First Minister, to make sure that that commitment is implemented, so that children like Gemma can have confidence in the system to look after them when they're entrusted to their care? 

I absolutely want to see a position, Llywydd, in which young people are not looked after in those very unsatisfactory circumstances. Since last May's elections, I have been meeting, alongside my colleague Julie Morgan, with leaders of the newly constituted authorities. One of my messages to those leaders is that this is an agenda for them and for their chief executives, not simply for cabinet portfolio holders and directors of social services. For us to make the difference we need to make in the lives of those young people—remembering that the local authority is the corporate parent of those young people; every single member of that local authority has a responsibility to every single one of those young people—then that has to be a responsibility owned in the office of the leader and the chief executive. They have to take responsibility across the range of services.

I mentioned earlier, Llywydd, the success that Carmarthenshire has had in this area. One of the reasons that the then leader of Carmarthenshire said to me for their success is that they have always run education and social services under the one portfolio for these purposes, so that there is no sense that what happens to a child is that when things start to become difficult, the education department thinks it's the social services department's responsibility, and the social services department thinks it should be dealt with by education. That's why I think it is a clear corporate responsibility that lies in the offices of the leader and the chief executive, because it is only by mobilising the support available across all those responsibilities—and that includes housing, of course, as well—that we will be able to make the difference in the lives of young people that we want to see, and I'm sure Members across the Chamber would want to see. 

Diolch, Llywydd. Yesterday, the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, said that the United Kingdom would not rejoin the European Union, the European single market or the customs union if Labour returned to power. Do you agree with that policy, First Minister, and is it the best policy for the people of Wales?

Well, I agree, Llywydd, that the world has moved on. The United Kingdom is no longer a member of the European Union. That is to the regret of many of us in this Chamber, but it just remains a fact. I can't remember how many times I will have said here that once the referendum was held, the focus of the Welsh Government was not on the fact of Brexit because that had been decided in a referendum, but on the way in which we left the European Union. The speech given by the leader of the Labour Party is focused on our future relationship with the European Union, a relationship in which we are no longer members of the European Union. And we'll have to work very hard indeed to repair the damage done to that relationship, which continues to be done every day, by the current Conservative Government in Westminster.

13:55

You've answered the first part of my question, but can you specifically say whether you support the Labour Party's position now not to rejoin the single market or the customs union? Yesterday, Sadiq Khan, mayor of London, said that there are times when he's prepared to disagree with the leader of the Labour Party, when he thinks that to do so is in the interests of the people whom he represents as mayor of London. So, similarly, what is your position as the First Minister of Wales? You've previously said:

'We cannot allow different parts of the UK to be more favourably treated than others. If one part of the UK is granted continued participation in the Single Market & Customs Union, then we fully expect to be made the same offer'

here in Wales. Have you changed your mind or has Sir Keir's speech yesterday changed it for you?

Here is my position, Llywydd, and here's the position of the Welsh Government: we are in favour of the closest possible frictionless trade with the European Union. The idea that you can simply pop back into the single market or the customs union is fanciful. We may wish that we could, but we simply can't. We are no longer members of the European Union. The conditions in which we could do that simply do not exist.

The well has been poisoned in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, and continues to be poisoned by the fact that we have a Government that's prepared to breach international law and to override the agreements it itself signed up to and commended to people as a deal that they should vote for in a general election. The notion that you could simply rejoin something that has moved on, and where the invitation to rejoin does not exist, is not the basis for a sensible policy.

What Keir Starmer set out yesterday, Llywydd, was a different approach in which a Labour Government will renegotiate a very different relationship with our nearest and most important trading partners; a relationship based on respect—respect that is so sorely missing in the way that the current Government treats those partners—and a relationship that will achieve the closest possible frictionless trade for businesses across the United Kingdom and here in Wales. That is a realistic possibility.

The idea that, in a debating society sense, we should say that we should rejoin something that's no longer available for us to join does not seem to me to be the sort of policy that would actually make the difference we'd like to make.

With respect, we had this debate, didn't we, when we jointly presented the White Paper, where, yes, the phrase that we landed upon in the end was 'unfettered access to the single market'? That is not the position that Keir Starmer has now set out.

One example of how Wales loses out from being outside the single market, which is now Labour Party policy, is what's happened at the ports of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke. As your Government predicted, the Welsh ports, subject to the full weight of the new barriers to trade, have lost business through direct-to-Europe sailings from the Republic and, also, through Northern Irish ports that currently are enjoying an indefinite grace period to export through Scotland. It's now more attractive to send goods from the Republic to Belfast and on to Scotland than it is to export them through Wales.

Now, the so-called 'landing zone' for the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, exempting them from most of the required checks, that your Labour Party leader set out yesterday will make that disadvantage for Welsh ports permanent, and it'll do the same for Welsh agriculture and for Welsh manufacturing. Did he consult you before his speech? If he did, did you warn of the clear risks to the future of Welsh ports that this represents?

Let me make these two points to begin with to the leader of Plaid Cymru: first of all, he's completely right, of course, that in 'Securing Wales' Future' we argued for leaving the European Union on the basis that we would remain in the customs union and the single market, but that was before we left the European Union. At that point, that was a perfectly plausible policy, and, in fact, Theresa May came quite close to actually being able to deliver it at her Chequers meeting before the current Prime Minister walked out of her Cabinet.

Unfortunately, we have left the European Union since then, and imagining that the prescriptions we put forward in those circumstances are simply still available to us today—. I just say to the leader of the opposition that it simply isn't there to be done. So, while I agree with what he says about the damage that is being done to Welsh ports and to Welsh businesses, the problem he has is that he is advancing a solution that he doesn't have available to him.

Just returning to the single market, it's not like leaving Plaid Cymru and agreeing to join it again next year. [Interruption.] [Laughter.] There we are; we know. We see how easily that can be done. It is simply not the same sort of enterprise to think that you can walk back into an agreement with the European Union, years after we have left, with a trade and co-operation agreement already in place—. And that's legally binding. That’s how I would regard it. I know the Tories don't regard it as such, having signed up to it, but the TCA is a treaty signed in international law. To say you can just walk back into the single market and the customs union acts as though that international agreement had never been signed up to.

Here is what we would wish to see as a Government. We want to see constructive steps, and you can only have constructive steps if you are in the room together talking, to fix the Northern Ireland protocol. We want to see those unnecessary trade barriers reduced and we want to secure access to those joint programmes, particularly Horizon 2020, which this UK Government said it had negotiated as part of the deal when we left the European Union. All of those things were put in front of the UK Government yesterday, by my colleague Vaughan Gething, in meetings with them. All of those things appear in the speech made yesterday by Keir Starmer. What the leader of the Labour Party is interested in is a genuine realignment of our relationship with the European Union, based on the realities that we face, rather than, I'm afraid, magical thinking.

14:00
Public Transport in South Wales West

3. Will the First Minister make a statement on the work that the Welsh Government is doing to improve public transport in South Wales West? OQ58305

I thank Sioned Williams for that question. Last week, a support package worth a further £48 million was announced by the Welsh Government. This is to support bus services in South Wales West and other areas that have struggled to recover from the pandemic. Measures to reform the industry and to reverse the damage of deregulation will be brought before the Senedd.

Diolch, Brif Weinidog. Providing more affordable, convenient and reliable public transport is essential, of course, if we're going to improve access to education, employment, public services and leisure, and create the more prosperous, greener and more equal society that we all wish to see, especially given that 20 per cent of households in my region of South Wales West don't have access to a car, which is significantly higher than the Welsh average of 13 per cent, and in parts of my region such as the Afan or Swansea valleys, this figure can be even higher. Therefore, one would expect that the Government's plans for a Swansea bay metro would be developing at pace to enhance the extremely poor public transport links in these western Valleys communities. But, this is not at all the case, and there are significant gaps in the maps outlined in the Government's last update on the metro plans. I broadly welcome the plans for the metro as well as some of the measures outlined in the bus White Paper, but these are years away from being rolled out, and in the case of the metro, it seems, will not lead to improved connectivity for all western Valleys communities. Does the First Minister promise, therefore, to properly include areas such as the Afan and Swansea valleys in the Government's metro plans and expedite those plans to ensure my constituents are not left behind? Diolch.

I thank Sioned Williams for those questions. I agree with what she said about the importance of public transport, particularly in some of the communities in her region, but I don't think she offers us a fair account of the work that's being undertaken by the Swansea bay metro. This year's programme, for example, includes business case and feasibility studies into the provision of an additional four trains per hour between Pontarddulais and Swansea, going via Neath, and up to six new stations across the northern Swansea suburbs. The Swansea bay hydrogen bus project will go out for procurement in this financial year. That's procurement of between 20 and 40 hydrogen fuel cell buses to support public transport in the region, and the depot that will be needed in order to service them. Brand new CAF trains will run in the Swansea bay metro region by the end of this year, and the local transport fund, aligned with the metro proposals, is funding the Neath transport hub regeneration. We all wish we could do more; we all wish we could go more quickly. Within the constraints of the budget that we have, I think there are real and immediate actions that the Swansea bay and west Wales metro project is putting into place, and they will contribute to that integrated transport system that we know is important, both in the immediate Swansea area but in its hinterland as well.

14:05

First Minister, I have long believed that organisations such as further education colleges can act as anchor institutions helping to drive economic improvement in their regions. Bridgend College's new campus plans are an example of this, where the provision of new training facilities can be used to support the wider economic agenda. However, for this to be successful, there needs to be more thought given to the public transport needs of those who will access the campus. What are you doing to ensure that key strategic decisions such as this are aligned to the availability of public transport to realise the benefits we all want to see? Thank you.

Those are important points that Altaf Hussain makes about the anchor nature of those major institutions. My colleague Jeremy Miles is being clear with those local authorities and other aspects of the further education system who take part in our twenty-first century schools and colleges programme that those proposals will not be approved in future unless there is an active travel plan to go alongside the physical building proposals. I think myself that, too often in the past, there have been some of those developments—fantastic in themselves, brilliant facilities for the twenty-first century, but without those additional aspects being planned in in that fundamental way. If they're going to succeed in future in that anchor way, then those transport arrangements to and from the developments have to be part of the proposals from the outset, not things that are thought about after the site has been identified and the building created.

The support that the Welsh Government has provided to bus services and rail services in Wales during the pandemic has enabled our public transport system to come through, albeit battered by events, but ready to move on to the next stage, which will involve enhancements and extensions to rail services, including on the Maesteg line, legislating to return power to the people over buses and integrating these modes better together, too. But all of this, First Minister, is done by working with partners out there, and, as important as any partner, working with the workers themselves—the workers who keep the wheels turning on the trains and the buses, keep the stations running and the passengers moving along. It's what we call our social partnership. So, First Minister, noting the UK Government's latest Bullingdon-boy threats to undermine our social partnership approach in Wales, how will this affect our efforts to improve public transport when faced with this threat?

I answered a question earlier from the Member for Bridgend, who pointed to the current rise in coronavirus cases in Wales. I don't think it's often recognised that the single group of workers in the population who were most adversely affected by coronavirus were workers in public transport. You were more likely to fall ill, and indeed more likely to have the more serious consequences of coronavirus, as a bus driver than any other occupation. I completely agree with what the Member for Ogmore said—that our ability to keep those services going during the pandemic relied upon the close working relationships between the Welsh Government and those bodies who provide those services, and that, in turn, relied heavily on those social partnership arrangements. The social partnership council for Wales met fortnightly during the pandemic in really focused meetings in which we were able to work together to find solutions to some of the challenges that face us all. Our trade union colleagues were fundamental to that effort. They were able to report into those meetings the front-line experiences of their members, and then to allow governments—local government, Welsh Government, employers as well—to take the necessary action to respond to those experiences.

Our Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017, passed here in the last Senedd term, was designed to reinforce those positive working relationships. The people who turned up to give evidence at committee in favour of our proposals were employers—people who came to explain why having a properly functioning relationship with a trade union enables them to do the jobs that they need to do. I cannot think that the Conservative Party can point to a single example where that legislation has created difficulties rather than solutions for us here in Wales. That is why it is so desperately disappointing to see them, in that ideologically vindictive way, seeking to reverse the decisions that were made here on the floor of this Senedd within the powers that this Senedd has to take action. We will continue to defend our position in relation to social partnership, and I look forward to the passage of our social partnership and public procurement Bill through the Senedd, in order to further reinforce our ability to do those difficult jobs and to support those people carrying them out on our behalf in just the way in which Huw Irranca-Davies has suggested.

14:10
Travelling to School

4. What progress has the Welsh Government made to increase the number of pupils travelling to school by bike, scooter or on foot? OQ58328

I thank the Member for that question. The Hands Up survey, led by Public Health Wales, has provided a nationwide assessment of the way in which primary school children travel to school. The follow-up study will capture the extent of active travel improvement in the post-pandemic context.

Last week we heard that some pupils are not attending school because families can't afford the bus fare. Obviously, that's an example of the acuteness of the Tory cost-of-living crisis. In light of the climate emergency and some of the tragic events we've read about in the last few days, I hope that we can agree that laying on more and cheaper bus transport isn't the solution for urban areas like the ones you and I represent. The active travel cross-party group report that was published last week says that rates of active travel have not increased since the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 was passed nearly a decade ago. And so, therefore, what consideration will the Welsh Government give to accelerating safe routes to school, more intense development of competent cyclists in primary schools, and a bike loan scheme, such as the one that members of staff who are employed by the Senedd enjoy, so that families can invest in sustainable modes of transport that they can use for their leisure as well as travelling to school?

I thank the Member for that question. Perhaps I ought to declare an interest at this point, because I'm currently using an electric bike, which I have for a fortnight as part of a Welsh Government scheme to allow people to try out different forms of transport to see whether they can be made useful, and a very good experience it has been, I have to say. I thank the cross-party group for their report, which makes very useful reading. Thinking particularly about urban areas, as Jenny Rathbone's question asked me, I do agree with her that the answer lies in the active travel measures that this Government supports. Over the next two years, beyond this one, so three years in all, we will invest £220 million in active travel improvements.

I've been commending some local authorities this afternoon, Llywydd, so let me commend Cardiff as a local authority in this regard. Over 100 primary schools in Cardiff have active travel plans. Fourteen schools already have School Streets schemes, and for Members who, maybe, aren't so familiar with that because they're not yet in place in their own areas, that allows a local authority to close roads around a school in the hour or so before the school starts and in the hour or so after school ends. So, 14 schools in Cardiff already do that, and there are more to come in this year.

In those schools where active travel plans are put in place, the figures suggest that active travel rises—so, children walking or cycling to school—from 59 per cent to 82 per cent. And when, in May, I was able to visit the Trelai Primary School in my own constituency, one of the great things, Llywydd, was to see the cycling scheme that goes alongside their active travel plan: 30 per cent reduction in drop-off by parents in cars at the school and 100—let me make sure that I've got that figure correct—bicycles available for children in what is a disadvantaged part of the city to use, provided by the school itself, with cycling proficiency training for those children as well. And when you put a package of measures together in that way and you have the commitment of the school authorities, as was certainly evidenced in the Trelai Primary School case, then you have a recipe that I think does demonstrate that it is possible to drive up the number of school journeys that are made on foot, by cycle or by scooter, as opposed to relying on either public transport or on the car.

14:15
The Universal Basic Income Pilot

5. What outcomes is the Welsh Government hoping to achieve from the universal basic income pilot for care leavers in North Wales? OQ58318

I thank Carolyn Thomas, Llywydd. The pilot is a radical and innovative project offering financial stability to over 500 people leaving care in Wales. Almost 100 young people in north Wales are eligible for the pilot, and this will enable them to make positive choices in line with the hopes and ambitions they have for their own lives.

Thank you. Can I begin by welcoming this trial and thanking my colleague Jack Sargeant for the groundwork that he's put in to make it a reality? Anxiety and money troubles can be all-consuming and prevent people from thriving or living healthy, happy lives. Financial stability could mean the difference between care leavers learning new skills, being able to afford to network and socialise and build confidence and be happy. It is not always easy to measure these things, but they are incredibly important, nonetheless, particularly for young people, who could really benefit from emotional support and someone they can trust to turn to.

What advice and caring support will the care leavers have access to? And how does the Welsh Government plan to measure the outcomes of the trial, including non-economic metrics, such as happiness and well-being? Thank you.

I thank Carolyn Thomas for that, Llywydd. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the Welsh Government's pilot is that it doesn't just offer an income to young people. The income is really important because it is guaranteed and it is reliable. I was disappointed to see the reaction of the Welsh Conservatives to the pilot. Thinking of the questions the leader of the opposition asked me earlier, we know that, for so many young people leaving care, securing reliable, decent accommodation is one of the major challenges they face.

At the launch event that I attended with my colleague Jane Hutt, I talked there with a young woman who explained to me that she'd left care, she had a flat of her own and the tenancy came to an end, she'd secured another flat, but there was a two-week gap between the flat that she had to leave and the flat that she was going to move into. She said to me that other young people who have families behind them wouldn't need to think about what to do in those circumstances; you know that you can go home for a couple of weeks and you can manage, and then when your new flat is available, you move in. For her, it was a disaster; she was homeless when the first flat ended, and by the time the next tenancy became available, her life had been so badly affected by those two weeks with nowhere to go that she wasn't able to take it up at all. Giving young people a basic income that they know they can rely on will enable them to make different sorts of decisions, investment decisions, in their own future. But because this is a vulnerable group of young people, then, in our scheme, they will also have access to regular advice from those people who they know already, who've been part of their lives already and will continue to be part of their lives during the pilot period. So, when they are making decisions, they will not be making them alone or in isolation, they will be making them alongside the advice and the guidance that they recognise themselves they will need to draw on in order to be able to make the most of the opportunities that are now available to them.

There is an evaluation, a rigorous evaluation schedule that has been agreed for the pilot. It will include qualitative as well as quantitative research. We'll collect the figures, of course, but we will also be collecting the lived experience of those young people in those interviews that allow them to speak for themselves and to make sure that we are able to draw the maximum advantage in terms of learning from the experiment that we will be trying here in Wales.

14:20
Support for Children with Additional Learning Needs

6. What support does the Welsh Government provide for children with additional learning needs? OQ58327

And I declare an interest in this question as a father of a child with additional learning needs.

Llywydd, I thank Hefin David for the question. When the Senedd returns this autumn, we will have completed the first year of the three-year planned implementation of our Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018. That implementation is supported by £21 million each year to bring about service improvements.

And funding the Act—as a member of the committee that took it through the Senedd last term—is really important. Without that funding, then it can't deliver on what it intends to. But my question is about the Together for Children and Young People partnership, which is now coming to a close and hopes to leave a legacy. And one of the things I said in my short debate is that, in order to address issues with additional learning needs effectively, we need to have children's needs addressed more than we have to address their behaviours. In fact, the children and young people partnership told me that they recommend moving away from condition-specific approaches to one that takes strength-based children's need approaches as more important. And I think, in order to that, the whole provision of health and social care needs to be geared to it. The Deputy Minister, Julie Morgan, has agreed to meet with me to discuss these issues, and I'm very, very grateful for that, and I really appreciate her listening to me. But with that in mind, can the First Minister give us that reassurance that health and social care will be geared to addressing need over behaviour in future?

Well, I think those are really important points, Llywydd. I want strongly to agree with what Hefin David just said about a strengths-based approach in this area. For too long, services make, as their first question, 'What is wrong with you?' Whereas I want the first questions to be asked to be, 'What strengths do you have? What assets do you possess? How can we work with you, from those strengths, to help address the problems that you are currently facing?' People who use our services are not problems to be solved, Llywydd, they are people with strengths and assets in their own lives, and the job of a service is to work with them to mobilise those strengths so that, together, we can create that difference.

Tomorrow the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Llywydd—Julie Morgan—will publish a summary report of the findings of the independent demand and capacity review of neurodevelopmental conditions services, and I believe that review will look to build on the strengths that are there in the current system, but will also allow us to identify gaps and propose a set of immediate actions. I think that those actions will draw on the success of the integrated autism service in the way that the service works across health and social care boundaries in the way that Hefin David suggested. And that will need to have a recognition of the breadth of neurodiversity in the population, acknowledging that every person is unique and that we need a proportionate emphasis on diagnosis that needs to be matched with a focus on responding to need. That's the point I think the Member was making, that if you're not careful, clinicians get drawn into a pattern of responding in which it is all about the diagnosis, it's all about the analysis of what is happening and not enough about what you can do to help people who are facing those circumstances. I think that's recognised now quite widely in neurodevelopmental services, and the demand and capacity review will help us to move those services more towards the provision of help, rather than the analysis of the problem.

14:25
The Waste Infrastructure Procurement Programme

7. Will the First Minister provide an update on the Welsh Government's waste infrastructure procurement programme? OQ58330

The Welsh Government's waste infrastructure procurement programme has been successfully completed, with the last contract awarded in 2018.

Thank you, First Minister. As you have mentioned, this programme has been quite successful in helping deliver carbon reductions through the use of anaerobic digestion facilities as an alternative for food waste treatment. I'm also aware that, although modest, the anaerobic digestion facilities create jobs, both in building and running facilities, and have the ability to supply farmers with cheaper, more sustainable fertiliser at a time when the price of non-organic, fossil fuel-based fertilisers is rapidly increasing. With this in mind, I'm wondering what capacity has been identified to expand the use of anaerobic digestion by local authorities for the purpose of processing food waste both in Wales and, potentially, along the English-Welsh border. Secondly, since anaerobic digestion facilities do contribute to the creation of new circular economies in the countryside and that there remains a persistence of high-carbon energy systems in remote rural areas, which AD could help reform, how can the waste infrastructure procurement programme be replicated or reformed to help deliver, through AD, a reduction in carbon emissions in rural areas? Thank you.

Llywydd, I thank Joel James for that further question. He is right that the programme did help to deliver a network of five anaerobic digestion plants as well as two energy-recovery facilities in north and south Wales, and although the programme itself has come to an end, that doesn't mean that we are no longer providing funding support to local authorities and their partners, particularly, for example, with the circular economy fund, so that work can continue to make sure that we're doing everything we can to recycle waste in a way that delivers the benefits that Joel James has suggested. To give one example, Llywydd, we are currently working with the Vale of Glamorgan to provide £10 million to support infrastructure in that local authority to improve recycling performance, to further decarbonise waste and recycling services. And anaerobic digestion continues to play its part in the repertoire of actions we are able to take, and it does come, as the Member says, with a set of further advantages in its production of fertiliser by-products that can then be further used to assist at a time when fertiliser prices around the globe are at an all-time high.

Question 8 [OQ58289] is withdrawn. Finally, question 9, Laura Anne Jones.

The Proposed LGBTQ+ Action Plan

9. Who did the Welsh Government consult with when making safeguarding assessments in regard to women during the drafting of the proposed LGBTQ+ action plan? OQ58312

Welsh Government takes women's safety very seriously. Through impact assessments, engagement with the LGBTQ+ expert panel, and over 1,300 consultation responses, we continue to evaluate potential effects of our LGBTQ+ action plan on women's rights and safety.

First Minister, two weeks ago, the Deputy Minister for Social Partnership gave an update of your Government's LGBTQ+ action plan. Now, this is obviously a delicate subject, and I believe we all want to see rights for trans people extended, but, essentially, not at the expense of women and girls' rights, and it's absolutely vital that we get this right. However, given the Welsh Government's determination to prioritise inclusion above all else, above the safety and dignity of women and girls and above fairness and opportunity, it is, in my opinion, not the right approach and will result in us seeing many detrimental effects for half the population in Wales if we are to go on this blinkered path that this Government is set on.

It is very concerning that some of these new rights will be at the expense of women. As I've said before in this Chamber, First Minister, this isn't about being anti-trans; it is about protecting women. [Interruption.] It's about protecting women and girls. Sadly, the Deputy Minister and this Government appear unwilling to speak to Merched Cymru, to LGB Alliance Cymru, to Women’s Rights Network Wales or to Labour Women's Declaration Cymru. This Government has also ignored offers from Fair Play for Women, Lesbian Labour, Transgender Trend, the Society for Evidence Based Gender Medicine, Thoughtful Therapists, LGB Alliance, Safe Schools Alliance UK and many more individuals. Your Government and Ministers seem to only want to listen to one certain ideological viewpoint and to ignore the rest, and this isn't right. There are valid concerns—

14:30

You need to come to your question now; I've been generous. 

Thank you. There are valid concerns that should be listened to to find solutions for all. First Minister, what women's groups did you and your Ministers actually speak to, and how exactly does this plan ensure women's rights and girls' rights and safety are protected?

Well, Llywydd, you don't have a consultation exercise in which 1,300 consultation responses are received without hearing from all sorts of individuals and groups with a very wide range of experiences and a very wide range of views on this topic. I don't think I can do any better than simply to repeat what the Deputy Minister said when she made her statement. The view of the Welsh Government is plainly this: extending rights for one group does not mean, as she consistently implies on the floor of the Senedd, extending rights for one group does not mean eroding rights for others. [Applause.]

Happy to stop there. [Laughter.]

2. Business Statement and Announcement

And the next item therefore is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the Trefnydd to make that statement. Lesley Griffiths. 

Member
Lesley Griffiths MS 14:32:31
Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd

Diolch, Llywydd. The only change to this week's business is a reduction in the time allocated to today's Stage 3 debate. 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. 

Llywydd, I'd like to request a statement from the health Minister on the delivery of the north Denbighshire community hospital. Back in 2013, the then health Minister, who, of course, is now the First Minister, made an announcement that a new hospital would be built in Rhyl to replace the two previously closed hospitals of the Royal Alexandra Hospital and the Prestatyn Community Hospital. He said that he expected the building to be ready and open in 2016. It's now 2022, nine years after the announcement in 2013, and we still haven't seen a spade in the ground. Now, given that the hospital just down the road from this location in Bodelwyddan is under huge pressure—we know that it's in targeted intervention, and we know that the emergency department in particular needs to improve—the development of this facility now should be absolutely prioritised, because the minor injuries unit and the extra beds will take an awful lot of pressure off the hospital down the road. So, can I ask for an urgent statement, before the end of term, from the health Minister on this important project, and when we can expect to see it delivered? 

Can I ask also for a second statement from the Minister for health? This is on the regulation of aesthetic products, such as the use of dermal fillers and botox. The aesthetics industry is something of a wild west, I think it's fair to say, in Wales at the moment—in fact, across large parts of the world. But we also know that these fillers, because they're not regulated, can cause significant harm, and the number of people that are ending up suffering harm is increasing. I think we need a licensing regime. I think we need to make sure that these things are used safely, in regulated practices, with proper hygiene standards and other things in place too. So, can I ask for a statement on what the Welsh Government proposes to do in order to improve safety in this unregulated industry? Thank you. 

Thank you. Well, there is certainly no space in Government time before the end of term for the Minister for Health and Social Services to do a statement on either of the topics you've raised. You'll be aware that Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is having a look at the way it provides its services right across the board. You'll also be very aware—more than probably anybody in the Chamber—of the significant funding that has been put into Ysbyty Glan Clwyd to help with pressures there also.

I don't disagree with what you're saying about the aesthetics industry, for want of a better word. It certainly does require regulation and licensing, and the Minister for Health and Social Services has heard your request.

14:35

I'd like a Government statement, please, on the mineworkers' pension scheme, setting out how the Welsh Government will put pressure on Westminster to finally do right by these miners and their widows and pay back the money that they owe them. Since 1994, Westminster Governments have pocketed billions of pounds of profit made by the mineworkers' pension scheme, because of how it was privatised. A Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee inquiry recommended in 2021 that these arrangements should be reviewed, but promises made by Boris Johnson and others have been broken. Now, that report is gathering dust, just as that other dust from those years of labouring underground is taking the lives of more and more miners every year. In the gallery today, we're joined by members of the National Mineworkers Pension Campaign; they're now raising funds to seek a judicial review. So, could a statement please be made to express solidarity with their cause and to tell these miners that Wales will fight their corner? Thank you.

Thank you. And I'd be certainly very happy to express solidarity with colleagues who are in the Chamber today. And you'll be very well aware of the pressure that Welsh Government has put on the UK Government, and that will continue.

Minister, I'm contacted almost weekly by residents in Rhondda who've had their application for a disabled parking bay turned down, not because they're not eligible, but because, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, there is only funding available for 12 new bays a year. Since 2011, car ownership per household in RCT has increased by almost 14 per cent, according to the RAC Foundation. The number of disabled parking bays granted each year does not reflect this increase. Too many disabled residents are isolated at home because it's just not worth the hassle or risk of not being able to park outside their own home. So, can I please request a statement from the Minister for Finance and Local Government regarding how disabled parking bays will be funded in the future? Thank you.

Thank you. Well, disabled parking bays are made by the highways authority, which is, obviously, the local authority, by means of a traffic regulation order. And local authorities do need to consider their responsibilities under equalities legislation as well as for highways. There is no specific funding from Welsh Government for the provision of disabled parking bays; local authorities need to consider this as part of their overall budget planning.

Good afternoon, Minister. I'd like to ask for a Welsh Government statement outlining the action that the Welsh Government is taking to support Wrexham County Borough Council's bid to gain UK Government levelling-up funding in order to fully undertake the Wrexham Gateway project, which, as you will know I'm sure, includes the construction of a new stand at the Kop end of the Racecourse ground. And I certainly acknowledge the £25 million of support already committed from the Welsh Government for the Gateway project, for which we're all grateful, I'm sure. But, as you'll know, Minister, a petition with more than 16,000 signatures for the Stadium for the North campaign was formally handed in to Downing Street yesterday, which I had the pleasure of supporting and signing. And it's this petition and this bid that is so important, because, as we know, sport, historically, has been centralised down here in south Wales, and we need to attract major events and major sporting events to north Wales, which would have a lasting benefit across the region. So, in light of this, Minister, will you join me in supporting the Stadium for the North campaign, and will you allow a Welsh Government statement to outline what further action the Welsh Government will take to support this bid? Diolch yn fawr iawn.

No, there won't be a statement around the stadium, as you outlined. As you say, Welsh Government did give £25 million to Wrexham County Borough Council as part of the Gateway. I'm very well aware of the petition that was handed in to 10 Downing Street yesterday. This is a second attempt to try and get some funding out of the UK Government. I passionately believe we should have a stadium up in north Wales that is capable of holding international matches. The Racecourse is the oldest international football stadium in the world, and, certainly, as a child and a young person, that's where I saw my international matches; I could not have possibly been brought down to Cardiff at that time by my parents. So, I think it's very important, for young people particularly, and of course for north Walians, to see international football, and I know it's something that the Welsh Government is very keen to see.

Could I ask for a debate on our procedures here in this place? To my knowledge, we've had no review of procedures in this Senedd since the election last year, and I don't remember any serious review of such things in the previous Senedd either. We had an exchange in First Minister's questions on the single market. Now, wherever you might stand on that matter, and my views are very well known and very clear, it surely cannot be right that we have a debate for 30 minutes tomorrow on the Order paper for this matter. This isn't serious politics; this is the politics of the school yard to believe that we can have a debate on such a serious matter in 30 minutes. It's not a serious way of conducting our affairs here, it's not a serious way of debating major issues facing this country, and it's not a serious way in which we should be reaching conclusions on these matters. So, I would like to ask for a debate on our procedures, I'd like to ask for a debate on how we structure our business in this place, and I would like to see Business Committee coming here and listening to that debate, so that all of us, wherever we stand on these matters, can have a very clear conversation about how we want our business to be handled in this place. 

14:40

Thank you. Well, obviously, Plaid Cymru have chosen to use their time tomorrow for the debate that you have outlined. Both I and the Llywydd have heard your request. I think this is something that we can discuss in Business Committee in the first instance. 

I wish to ask for an urgent statement this afternoon from the Deputy Minister for Social Services, regarding her review into children's services in Wales. I was horrified to see the details of the Logan Mwangi case—a young life ended so soon by those who were supposed to love and care for him. Whilst I'm pleased to see justice being served against the evilness that snatched a young boy's life away before it had begun, we need to make sure that this does not happen again and that social services here in Wales are fit to protect our children at risk. And I wish to send my heartfelt condolences to Logan's dad and the rest of his family and friends, and teachers in Tondu Primary School in Bridgend, who have all been affected by this horrific tragedy. 

Logan was removed from the child protection register a month before his death. His routine visit, just prior to this incident, was not undertaken due to a positive COVID diagnosis, despite personal protective equipment being available for staff to use. And as I said when Logan's killers were convicted, I was surprised that the First Minister said that he didn't think an independent review of children's services was needed in Wales after this tragic case exposed some serious shortcomings in the system. We called for a review back in May, and, given the other three UK nations are conducting one right now, and the fact that Wales has the worst rates for looked-after children, I just can't understand why this Welsh Government is not following suit. These cases should never be allowed to occur, and vulnerable children deserve the full protection of the state, and the seeming cultural complacency within Bridgend council has had a negative influence on this child's fate. And I urge the Welsh Government to order this independent review without delay. Thank you. 

Thank you. I too want to pass on my condolences to those who love and miss Logan. There will not be time for an urgent statement in the way you request, but I can assure you that measures are in place to ensure that learning from events such as this informs the continuous improvement of safeguarding practice in Wales. The Deputy Minister for Social Services is awaiting the findings of the recent inspection of Bridgend County Borough Council's children services—that's been conducted by Care Inspectorate Wales—as well as the completion of the child practice review to look at the events prior to Logan's death, and all findings and recommendations will be closely considered by the Welsh Government. 

Trefnydd, could I ask for a statement, please, from the climate change Minister on the phosphates summit that's happening at the Royal Welsh agricultural show? I know there was a commitment to provide a written statement to this Senedd about the findings from that summit, but this is an important issue not just for my constituency, but a number of constituencies right across Wales. So, I would please ask that we can have an oral statement on what is discussed at the summit, so Members in this Chamber can do their job of scrutinising the Welsh Government on this very important topic. Diolch, Llywydd.  

Well, there will be a written statement. You'll be aware the Royal Welsh agricultural show is happening in the first week of recess. So, there will be a written statement by the Minister for Climate Change over the summer recess. Obviously, there can't be an oral statement. 

3. Statement by the First Minister: The Legislative Programme

The next item is a statement by the First Minister on the legislative programme. And I call on the First Minister to make that statement. Mark Drakeford. 

14:45

Diolch, Llywydd. Today, I am pleased to make a statement on our legislative programme. This is an essential part of our ambitious and radical programme for government that will help to shape Wales for the future. We're now in the third Senedd term since the people of Wales voted to give the then National Assembly the power to make Assembly Acts. Since 2011, we have been building up to the volume of primary legislation that this Government will bring forward over the course of this Senedd term. This is a programme that demonstrates our extensive use of those powers, and at an extensive rate.

Bringing forward the primary legislative programme does not take place in a vacuum. Other pressures exist that have an impact on the Government and the Senedd. A significant programme of subordinate legislation sits alongside and underpins our legislative programme. Very often, there is a lack of understanding about how broad and important subordinate legislation is. In recent years, there has been an increase in the volume of such legislation and the importance of the decisions determined in this way. This has significantly increased the workload of the Executive and the legislature in recent years, both in Plenary and committees.

Since early February 2020, Llywydd, more than 300 items of subordinate legislation have been made in relation to coronavirus alone, often with fundamental impact on the daily lives of our fellow citizens. The current surge in COVID numbers, as we've discussed this afternoon, reminds us that this journey is still not over. And, Llywydd, while the volume of EU exit-related secondary legislation has diminished in the last 12 months, we will still be bringing Brexit-derived statutory instruments to the Senedd until the end of this calendar year.

Beyond COVID and Brexit, in the last 12 months, we have made over 50 SIs to implement major Acts passed in the last Senedd, including legislation to support schools and teachers to deliver our radical changes to the Curriculum for Wales, and the provisions of the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021. Members will consider regulations to make 20 mph the default speed limit in residential areas next week here in the Senedd, a key component of our programme for government. Further secondary legislation will follow during the year, including regulations to implement the Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill, and aspects of the Health and Social Care (Quality and Engagement) (Wales) Act 2020, such as the duty of candour.

Llywydd, we also cannot ignore the legislative intentions of the UK Government, which, in the current climate, represent a significant risk to Wales and to devolution. The Secretary of State for Wales has said that 27 UK Bills announced in the Queen's Speech in May are likely to extend and apply to Wales. It is already clear that many of these will contain provisions relating to devolved areas, and this will result in incursions into the devolution settlement. This requires this Government and the Senedd to remain vigilant, consider proposals in detail, and respond accordingly.

Llywydd, despite these many other legislative pressures and the challenging context during the first year of this Senedd term, we have already introduced four primary Bills to the floor of the Senedd. The Tertiary Education and Research (Wales) Bill was passed by Members last week and will put a new system in place for post-16 education and training in Wales. Members will consider Stage 3 amendments to our Welsh Tax Acts etc. (Power to Modify) Bill this afternoon. That Bill will provide Welsh Ministers with carefully delineated and time-limited powers to respond quickly to protect Welsh citizens against sudden and unexpected decisions of the UK Government that could have a significant impact on the liabilities of individuals and on revenue for Welsh public services. We've already introduced the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill. This unique legislation, delivered in conjunction with our social partners, will ensure the fair rights of workers and lead to more socially responsible public procurement. And, yesterday, we introduced the first consolidation Bill before the Senedd, the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, which will make the law in Wales relating to listed buildings and the historic environment more accessible in future.

Llywydd, I now turn to those Bills to be brought forward in the coming year. This Government is committed to creating a fairer, greener and stronger Wales. The establishment of a climate change portfolio was designed to make it easier to mobilise the main areas of devolved Government with the greatest impact in this area. There is a moral imperative that we make progress on this agenda, and we will bring forward a number of Bills to make a series of important changes over the next 12 months.

As an early priority, Llywydd, we will bring forward a Bill to ban or restrict the sale of some of the most commonly littered single-use plastics in Wales. This will meet our key programme for government commitment in this area. But, in addition, the Bill will also support our ongoing legal challenge to the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. In the current litigation, brought by the Counsel General, the court has indicated it would find it helpful to consider a practical example, in the form of a piece of Senedd legislation, against which it can test the issues under consideration. This Bill will provide that practical example, and in that context we will be seeking the agreement of Business Committee to expedite the scrutiny of the Senedd on this Bill.      

Llywydd, a clean air Bill is a significant priority for this Government. We want to build on action already under way to reduce emissions and deliver vital improvements in air quality, supporting healthier communities and better environments. Our White Paper set out how we intend to enable ambitious air quality targets and put in place a more robust regulatory framework to support them. This will be accompanied by measures to make sure all parts of society play their part in reducing air pollution, and I look forward to working with Members across the Chamber to develop that Bill once it is introduced.

Llywydd, we have set out our ambition to reform the way agriculture is supported in the future, with an emphasis both on high-quality and sustainable food production and rewarding farmers for the delivery of environmental and associated social outcomes. We will publish an outline sustainable farming scheme ahead of the Royal Welsh Show and the series of summer agriculture events that follow. Llywydd, the timing here is deliberate. It will allow for meaningful engagement on the detail of the proposed scheme ahead of the introduction of the agriculture Bill itself, which will be brought before the Senedd in the autumn.

Members will also be aware that we have made significant progress since establishing our coal tip safety taskforce two years ago. The Law Commission's landmark report, 'Regulating Coal Tip Safety in Wales', was published earlier this year. It clearly concluded that the law as it stands is not fit for today's purposes. The report informed our White Paper consultation and we will introduce a Bill on coal tip safety to establish a consistent approach to the management, monitoring and oversight of disused coal tips throughout Wales. This will protect those communities that bear the legacy of our industrial past, as well as support critical infrastructure and the environment by reducing the likelihood of landslides.

Llywydd, we're also committed to simplifying the consenting process for specified types of major on and offshore infrastructure, and we will, therefore, introduce an infrastructure consenting Bill to provide more certainty for communities and developers alike. The Bill will replace existing statutory regimes for the consenting of Welsh infrastructure projects, and it will rationalise the number of authorisations required to construct and operate a project into a single consent.

Llywydd, the annual legislative programme statement has been typically used to announce the Bills that the Government will introduce in the coming 12 months. However, the Senedd scrutinises legislation in a continuum, and Bills do not fall at the end of a session. Therefore, I want to look a little further ahead to the start of the third year of the programme and to mention a number of other important Bills.

Llywydd, as I mentioned earlier, the challenges for both the Executive and the legislature in managing the legislative pressures associated with primary and secondary legislation initiated here, as well as legislation initiated in Westminster, are considerable. To ensure that this Senedd is able to execute its responsibilities and ensure that we have greater capacity to scrutinise legislation, we will bring forward a Bill to reform the Senedd. We're on track to deliver on our commitment set out in the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru to deliver that Bill within 12 to 18 months of the special purpose committee's report. This crucial, once-in-a-generation legislation will create a modern Senedd, reflecting the Wales we live in today and with the means to represent and deliver for the people of Wales.

We heard of the importance of transport earlier this afternoon, Llywydd, and transport accounts for nearly a fifth of our carbon emissions, yet we cannot currently plan bus networks to help break our reliance on private cars by making sure people can access services reliably and sustainably. Our consultation on fundamental change to the way bus services are planned in Wales closed last week. In the autumn of next year, we will bring forward a bus Bill, allowing all levels of government in Wales to work together to design the bus networks our communities need.

And early in that third year we will also introduce a local government finance Bill. It will be before the Senedd before the end of 2023, and that Bill will deliver our programme for government commitment to reform the council tax in Wales. Through partnership working and extensive engagement with ratepayers, we continue to explore options for non-domestic rate reform, and that will require a combination of both primary and subordinate legislative action. 

Llywydd, there's a packed legislative agenda ahead of us, but these are the significant building blocks towards the Wales we want to see. To deliver it, we will continue to work across the Chamber to ensure our legislation is the best it can be and improves the lives of all the people of Wales. This statement demonstrates our commitment to a fairer, greener and stronger future, and I commend this legislative programme to the Senedd.

14:55

Thank you, First Minister, for your statement this afternoon, and I do put on record my thanks to the Government lawyers and the Senedd lawyers who do assist us in our scrutiny of legislation and bringing that legislation forward. We can disagree on the policy positions, but, ultimately, a great deal of legal brain power goes into these pieces of legislation. The reason legislation is so important is it empowers people to have rights, and that is the fundamental narrative of any democracy—that, in law, we as elected lawmakers can put that on that statute book and give people rights.

I do regret the fact that the statement today doesn't have anything in relation to an autism Act, which this side of the Chamber have, obviously, championed on many occasions through debates in the Senedd here. And I also regret that there's no British Sign Language Bill to be brought forward by the First Minister or the Government today. That's another form of empowerment that I would seek support for from the First Minister, if and when Government time allows, or, indeed, to get behind my colleague Peter Fox's legislative proposal on the food Bill, given that, obviously, the legislative statement includes a reference to the agricultural Bill that the Government is seeking to bring forward in September.

So, I'll touch on the five Bills that the First Minister has highlighted, and rather than looking backwards, looking forward to what the First Minister's Government will be bringing forward in the next legislative session. And the clean air Bill, which he and I have spoken about many times in this Chamber, does now seem to be seeing the light of day, which is something to be welcomed. I have previously offered to work with the First Minister and other politicians across this Chamber so that we can have a speedy conclusion and passage of this piece of legislation, when you bear in mind that 1,600 people die prematurely in Wales because of dirty air. I'd be grateful to understand the First Minister's thinking, now that the Government has had time to work this piece of legislation up, as to what types of targets we might see in this piece of legislation, and whether they will be legally binding targets that we will see in the legislation, so that all parts of Wales benefit from the legislation that the Government will be bringing forward. And when does he anticipate that Bill being introduced into the Senedd over the next 12 months? Because, again, I think that would be welcome, to understand when that piece of legislation will be coming into the Senedd.

The agricultural Bill, the much-anticipated agricultural Bill, which, again, in First Minister's questions and in ministerial questions I've raised various issues on. I know there's been detailed consultation with the sector on this particularly important piece of legislation, the first piece of legislation on agriculture in Wales since the Agriculture Act 1947, which will obviously transform the landscape that agriculture operates in. I'd be grateful to understand exactly how the Ukrainian crisis has impacted on the creation and the formation of this Bill, which I think has been cited as one of the reasons why the Government has taken a little longer to bring that Bill forward, and in particular whether the Government's thinking has moved more to supporting, through this Bill, measures to increase food production here in Wales via the support that might be enabled through this piece of legislation, as the 1947 agricultural Act achieved when it was brought in all those years ago.

The single-use plastics legislation is something that we've been calling for for many years now. Indeed, in England, obviously, a piece of legislation was passed in 2020 outlawing certain single-use plastic items. In Scotland, it has just been enacted, on 1 June, with a comprehensive ban in Scotland. I noticed from the First Minister's statement that he seems to be favouring more the English model because he alludes to some parts of the single-use plastics' use not being covered by the Bill in his statement today. Could he confirm if that is the case? It's my understanding that those single-use plastics that wouldn't be covered by the Bill would be predominantly medical devices and medical applications that wouldn't be covered by the legislation, because I think it would be important to understand how the Bill will discriminate between medical and day-to-day use that we have in our everyday lives.

I fully support the coal tip Bill, which I hope the Government will bring forward speedily. I know from being a representative of South Wales Central, which covers three of the valley areas that show great concern on this particular issue, this would be a welcome piece of legislation. But I'd be grateful to understand how this piece of legislation will provide critical infrastructure and support the improvement of the environment that the coal tips and the communities that live under the coal tips will see via the introduction of this piece of legislation. The statement does touch on the critical infrastructure improvements, so I'm interested to know why you need the legislation rather than the tools you've already got to make those improvements in the infrastructure.

The local government finance Bill that the First Minister touched on, it would be good to understand whether the Government's thinking of wholesale reform of local government taxation and doing away with the current council tax operation as we see it as the moment, based on, obviously, the valuation of properties, or whether the Government is thinking more along the lines of moving to a local income tax. Because I think the First Minister would have borne the scars from the last revaluation, as most politicians tend to in this particular fraught area of policy. He was then a senior adviser to the then First Minister, when the last revaluation happened back in the early noughties. So, if you could explain in a little more detail what the Government's current thinking is on that local government finance Bill, and whether we are going to see a wholesale change in the way that local councils raise their revenue, so that we can understand the changes that might be coming forward.

On the Senedd reform, well, he and I disagree over that, but at the end of the day, he got the endorsement from his own conference on Saturday, and I understand through, obviously, Plaid Cymru, that there is the two-thirds majority within this Senedd Chamber. We, on this side of the house, whilst disagreeing with the need for more politicians, have tried to engage in the process via the special purpose committee that was set up, over the voting mechanism and, indeed, what constituencies might look like. So, people can have confidence that there is genuine cross-party consensus; whether you sit on the centre-right, the centre or the centre-left, you can actually believe that that has had all political persuasions come to it. Regrettably, we had to pull out from that committee because of the statement that was made by the leader of Plaid Cymru and the First Minister, but I would be grateful to understand from the First Minister, in drafting that piece of legislation, how comprehensive it will be in dealing with the way the boundaries will be created and, in particular, the confidence that he has—. As someone who has a complete gender balance in his own household myself, having two daughters and two sons, I can fully appreciate how important that gender balance is. [Laughter.] I have to say that my daughters win the argument more than my sons tend to win the argument, and anyone who knows my two daughters would fully understand why that is the case. I would be pleased to try and understand from the First Minister, because there has been a genuine question mark over whether there is competence here in the Senedd to pass such legislation, which would see what has been talked about in the agreements that have been tabled and whether that will make it into the legislation that the First Minister's Government will be introducing to the Senedd.

And just one other final point, I think I'm correct in understanding the timeline for the delivery of that piece of legislation, but I think it would be by the end of 2023. If the First Minister could confirm that. I think I've understood from the statement this afternoon that you are looking to have it introduced and passed through the Senedd by December 2023 to allow a bedding-in period prior to the 2026 election, which we all know is slated in legislation for May 2026. Thank you, First Minister. 

15:05

Llywydd, can I thank the leader of the opposition for the constructive way in which he has engaged with the statement this afternoon, and for his offers of further constructive engagement on a number of the Bills that we'll bring in front of the Senedd?

He was right to point out a gap in my statement, because I didn't refer, I realise now, to backbench legislation and, indeed, committee legislation in the previous Senedd, which also adds to the legislative load that Members of the Senedd have to carry. The Welsh Government will continue to engage with those Bills that are brought forward in that way. We don't always agree, as he pointed out in relation to the autism Bill, where we believe that our national autism service and other measures provide a more effective way of improving services to people with autism, as we debated during the introduction of that Bill.

In relation now, briefly, Llywydd, to the particular questions that the leader of the opposition raised, on the clean air Bill, we will intend to include ambitious air-quality targets within the Bill and to place them within a more robust regulatory framework, so that those targets can be properly supported.

As far as the agriculture Bill is concerned, I think when I mentioned it in my statement, the first thing I said about the agriculture Bill is that it would support sustainable food production here in Wales. And our plans for the reform of agriculture have always had sustainable food production as an integral part of the way in which we see the future of agriculture here in Wales. And, as we have discussed, indeed, previously, the crisis in Ukraine does shine a new spotlight on the need to be able to have a supply of food available without the need to import, and that has been influencing our thinking. But, the Bill will continue to provide a framework for supporting farmers in Wales, both for the work they do in sustainable food production, but also in those other public goods that the public is prepared to find money to support. I look forward to being at the Royal Welsh Show and being able to discuss these things alongside the Minister. 

Our approach in the single-use plastics Bill will be more akin to the one that Andrew R.T. Davies mentioned in England. It will specify a list of specific single-use plastics, the use of which will no longer be possible in Wales. There were 60 such examples identified in the consultation, and we will not bring all 60 of them before the Senedd in the Bill, but we will hope to include a regulatory power for Ministers to be able to add further single-use plastics to that list as the evidence around them matures, and those will then be scrutinised through the Senedd's secondary legislation procedures.

As far as coal tip safety is concerned, the essence of the Bill will be to establish a new supervisory authority—that is what the report of the Law Commission advised us—to oversee a new regime to make sure that there are proper management arrangements in place for the highest category of tips—those tips that have the highest risk to the communities in which they are to be found—and then to compile and maintain a new national asset register. We've learnt a huge amount more than we knew two years ago, when this work began, about the number of coal tips in Wales and where they are to be found. There are over 2,500 disused coal tips across Wales, now with 327 of them in the highest category D designation. We want to make sure that we build on all of that work by having that national register for the future, which in future can go beyond coal tips, because there are many other forms of spoil tipped in Wales, particularly from metal mines. We won't be able, in the first instance, to extend the Bill to the wider range of tips that cause concern in Wales, but we will, through the Bill, open up the way in which that can be done in the future.

As far as local government finance is concerned, we will not be able to bring forward in this Senedd term proposals for a fundamentally different form of local government finance. I wish we were in a position to do that, but the depth of work that is required to move from the current council tax system to a different system—a local income tax system or a land valuation system—is so significant that the background work to enable that to happen will need to continue not just as it was in the previous Senedd term, but during this Senedd term as well. What we will look to do in that Bill is to make sure that we modernise the council tax system, that we make it as fair as we can make it, and that it should become more progressive in both its design and its delivery.

And finally, Llywydd, as far as Senedd reform is concerned and the boundary issue, it will identify boundaries for the 2006 election; it will establish a boundary commission for Wales—

15:10

That would be retrospective. We're not in favour of retrospective legislation, as you know. [Laughter.]

For 2026, and it will establish a boundary commission for Wales, which will be able to review those boundaries in the next Senedd term and fix them then for elections beyond the next one. When the proposals come forward, there will be a solution to make sure that we can pursue our ambitions for gender parity here in the Senedd, and other forms of equality, without running the risk of the whole enterprise being derailed because of competence matters.

Can I just end by continuing to offer to the leader of the opposition an active part in the discussions that will form the Bill? Now that we have concluded the work of the committee and the work of political parties, there will be a lot of detailed work that will need to go into the Bill, which we will bring forward within the 12 to 18-month framework that we've agreed with Plaid Cymru. As that detailed work goes on, I think it would be strengthened by continuing to have a cross-party interest in that, because it will be about the workings of this place beyond the next Senedd term. And people in all parts of the Chamber will have an interest in making sure that that can be achieved in the most effective way possible, and to the extent that the Welsh Conservative party is able to take part in those discussions, I wish to make sure that that offer is extended to you.

15:15

Thank you for your statement, First Minister. Starting with the context that you set out, it has been very challenging recently, partly because of COVID, but also the impacts of Brexit, as you explained. But, there is another a dimension that is also challenging, of course, namely the broad range of—the 27—Bills in another place—in another Parliament—that have, more and more, permeated our areas of responsibility. It feels, occasionally, that there is more legislation happening in Westminster in devolved areas than there is even in this place. 

One of the questions I'd like to ask at the very outset is: how do we cope with the difficult political and legislative environment that we face? We, as a point of principle, have been opposing legislative consent memoranda as a symbol of our dissatisfaction with the totally undemocratic situation, in our view at least. But, how do you believe we can strengthen and safeguard our Welsh legislature against a deliberate attempt to undermine our powers here and the democratic settlement?

We, in Plaid Cymru, in the past, have introduced a self-determination Bill in order to set out the right of Wales, like all other nations under the UN charter—the right to self-determination—as a core part of our political values and our political and legal framework. Are there other ways in which we could collaborate in order to ensure that we do withstand this attempt to undermine our democracy—some Welsh version of the claim of right, for example, which, again, encapsulates this right to self-determination?

In moving to the proposed legislative programme for the coming 12 months, generally speaking I think we welcome the content. There is an environmental thread running through all of this, and many of these Bills—the coal tip safety Bill and the clean air Bill—have been long awaited, and our hopes for this legislation are clear. Plaid Cymru looks forward to scrutinising it carefully and to push the boundaries in terms of its impact as much as possible.

In ensuing years, we will look forward to seeing the co-operation agreement bearing fruit in some of the areas that you've mentioned, such as Senedd reform and a Welsh language education Bill. We must not forget secondary legislation and the Welsh language standards programme, which is going to be reintroduced in the next weeks. We would also like to see legislation in terms of nature targets, and we look forward to collaborating in terms of making council tax fairer.

Generally speaking, one general criticism I would make is that the programme for the next year still looks very thin as compared to the legislative programmes that we see in Scotland, for example, and that has generally been true. It's an average of four, five or maybe half a dozen Bills—that's what we've been delivering, on average, in this Senedd—as compared to around 15 a year in the Scottish Parliament. The Northern Ireland Assembly, when operational, has something in the region of 14 pieces of primary legislation on average.

Of course, the issue of the capacity of this place is very relevant, and Senedd reform responds to this. We have seen a lack of pace in legislating. There were pledges going back four years in terms of legislation around environmental governance. So, there are implications to this. Are there other areas of capacity that need to be addressed—not only in terms of increasing the capacity of this place in terms of the number of Members, but what about the capacity of the rest of the system? The leader of the Conservative Party referred to the good work that's done by civil servants in drafting legislation; as we increase the capacity of this place, do we also need to look at lifting the cap on the number of civil servants, certainly in terms of those who have specialist skills, in order to ensure that we increase and accelerate the legislative process?

Just finally, can I echo your comments on the importance of Member Bills and committee Bills? Again, we haven't been doing as well in this legislature. Only 7 per cent of Welsh primary legislation has come through Member Bills, as compared with 10 per cent in the Scottish Parliament and 16 per cent in the Westminster Parliament. So, are we all agreed that part of Senedd reform is to increase capacity for Member Bills and committee Bills? Because that has an important role to play in a Parliament that is balanced in terms of the power of the executive and the legislature.

15:20

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

I thank Adam Price for those comments. I do agree, of course, with what he said about the challenging context. I talked about COVID and Brexit, but it is true what the Plaid Cymru leader said about the context in respect of the current UK Government.

I don't agree with him and Plaid Cymru about the point of principle that he raised regarding opposing LCMs. When things appear before the House of Commons and we can see that that's a quicker way to do things than we can do them on the floor of the Senedd, then it just makes sense to me to do it in that way. But the most important thing is that that decision is a decision that should rest in our hands. If we see things and we want to be part of that, well, that's fine, and I don't see the case for not doing things when they work for us and for the people of Wales. What isn't right is when the Government in Westminster presses ahead and legislates in devolved areas without getting our agreement, and that's where the important work is to be done.

I am grateful to Lord Dafydd Wigley for the Bill that he has published, and the opportunity to discuss matters with him. I've written with a copy of his Bill to Michael Gove to be part of those discussions that he has agreed to have on the Sewel convention, and how to undertake that in a better way than what we've seen in recent years. There are other ideas that are available as well on how to strengthen the legislative system, where we can use the opportunities that arise in Westminster when they arise, but without the risk that we see today.

I thank Adam Price for drawing attention to the Bills that are to come after the third year of this Senedd term, and the important things that will come before the Senedd in the fourth and fifth years as well. Of course, I don't agree when Members describe the programme as being a very thin programme. We have worked so hard with the capacity we have to do everything that we can in the next year. I can say to Members in all parts of the Senedd that the next year and a half will be very difficult and will be full of work for us all—in the committees and for Ministers. I don’t think that people are going to think after that experience that they’ve had an easy time.

In terms of comparing what’s happening here with what’s happening in Scotland and Northern Ireland, well, the responsibilities in Scotland are different to the responsibilities that we have here and the way that they legislate is different as well. The tradition that has been developed here is to have a number of Bills that are major Bills, which are full of things, and in Northern Ireland, I think—I haven’t studied this in detail—there is more legislation, but it is small-scale legislation, not on the scale of the Bills that we will put before the Senedd.

Of course, I agree that there are a number of things in terms of the capacity of our system and the capacity of the Commission if we are going to legislate more in the future, and capacity on the policy side, and capacity in respect of those who do the legal work and those who draft things for us. But everything costs money. I have to say that. Every week when I stand here and hear from all parts of the Chamber calls for greater investment in transport and health and education and whatever we’re discussing, as a Government, the principle that we’ve operated is that we don’t give ourselves more money as a Government than we can give the public services that depend on the funding that we provide. When we do it in that way, there is not much funding available to increase capacity in any aspect of the work that the Government is doing, and that includes the legislative programme as well.

15:25

Bringing forward the 20 mph regulations has been very warmly welcomed by my constituents when it was announced last week. I obviously also welcome your announcement of the clean air Bill and the bus Bill in the autumn of next year, and I wondered if you can say little bit more about the measures you hope to take to make sure all parts of society will play their part in reducing air pollution. It would be useful to have a little bit more detail on that.

I obviously welcome the agriculture Bill and your emphasis on sustainable food production. In the context of the insecurity of current food supplies because of Brexit and the war in Ukraine, it's obviously a really important issue.

And lastly, I wondered if you could say a little bit more about the  infrastructure consenting Bill. It's probably not something that everybody is going to ask you about, but in the context of households struggling to pay their energy bills, and the rise and rise of gas prices, obviously the speed with which we can make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable allergy is essential to the future wealth and well-being of our country. So, I would be very keen to understand how this infrastructure consenting Bill is going to shorten the timescale for getting renewable energy proposals, once they've managed to pass scrutiny, up and running. I have to say that I need to—

Okay. I just wanted to declare the interest I have as my partner works for Bute Energy and I've also got investments in Awel Aman Tawe.

Thank you to Jenny Rathbone. I tried in my statement, Llywydd, to put more emphasis this year than in earlier statements on the significance of secondary legislation and the workload that that creates here in the Senedd; it is huge. We put a lot of our energy into passing primary legislation. I think of the local government Bill that my colleague Julie James took through the Senedd in the last term; the first successful attempt to reform aspects of local government in Wales. But the Bill itself provides a framework, and then there is the huge job of the detail that comes forward in regulations, and Jenny Rathbone drew attention to the regulations that the Senedd will take next week in relation to 20 mph zones.

I won't say much more on the clean air Bill, Dirprwy Lywydd, because we've already had a clean air plan, and a clean air White Paper, and most of the measures that the Bill will reflect can be found in the work we've already put in front of the public. 

The bus Bill, though, Jenny Rathbone is absolutely right—the bus Bill is part of our efforts to produce clean air, as much as it is to make sure that we have a comprehensive and reliable public transport system. We want to make sure that people are able to leave their cars at home, and we want a bus fleet, as I said in answer to an earlier question today, that runs in the cleanest way possible, and the bus Bill will help us will all of that. 

Can I thank Jenny Rathbone for drawing attention to the infrastructure consenting Bill, because, actually, it is a very important Bill in this programme? We have the powers, as Members will know, to consent to energy-generating projects, electricity-generating projects, up to 350 MW, other than onshore wind, where we have full legislative competence. The tension here is between making sure that we can move ahead with novel technologies that give us the prospect of, for example, harvesting energy from the marine environment, while at the same time protecting that very fragile environment as well. The consenting Bill will allow us to develop a consenting regime in Wales that is quicker and slicker than the current one, that will allow renewable energy projects to move ahead so that they can help us with the climate emergency, but will, at the same time, recognise our obligations to not do things that could put that very fragile environment at risk. And that will be the debate, the balance between those two aspects, which I have no doubt we will have as the Bill makes its way through the Senedd. 

15:30

Thank you, First Minister, for your statement. I didn't realise we were short on time on this one, but I'll try to be brief. I think, as Adam Price pointed out, there is a Bill that is missing—that's the environmental governance Bill, which I think would be a very key aspect of the legislative programme. A Wales-specific environmental governance arrangement is going to be really important moving forward. And the other Bill—and I thank my colleague Andrew Davies for raising it—is my own backbench Bill, and I thank you for your acknowledgement of backbench-led legislation. It is important that those of us on the backbenches who bring legislation forward, or proposals forward, do get the chance to work them up, and I'm very pleased I've had the support to do that. 

I was slightly disappointed that your colleague the Minister for rural affairs suggested in the Chamber she won't be supporting the Bill, and that's disheartening when you're trying to bring something forward and there is a closed mind to it, because I think it is quite fundamental. We have an agricultural Bill looking at farming support and a public procurement Bill promoting social, responsible procurement, but what's missing is a framework to join all of this up, as well as the Government's various strategies. Together we need to ensure that public bodies are more proactive in monitoring the health and accessibility of the food system in Wales, as well as having greater scrutiny and accountability built into the system. 

Yes, sorry. So, First Minister, can I please urge that you consider how you can work together with me to bring about the changes we all need to see, and the many stakeholders across Wales that I've engaged with have asked for? Thank you.

Llywydd, I can give the Chamber an assurance that there will be an environmental governance Bill brought in front of the Senedd during this term. We have temporary arrangements in place, and the account I have is that they are working satisfactorily as an interim measure, but we're committed to a Bill on environmental governance. It won't be in the second year of the programme, but it will be in front of you during this term. 

On backbench legislation, I wonder if I could just say gently to Members that backbench legislation can be influential in more than one way, and it isn't always by making sure that the Bill ends up on the statute book. By bringing a Bill in front of the Senedd, Members create a debate, they create an influence, they shape other aspects of Government policy. So, I don't think the measure of success has to be that a Bill makes its way through the whole of the legislative programme. There are many other ways in which Members bring forward pieces of legislation that are influential and make a difference.

15:35

Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer. Adam Price is correct. Within the past five years, there were 44 UK Bills within the devolved settlement, as compared to 21 Welsh Bills. And many of those UK Bills have been passed without the consent of this Senedd, and many of them give power to UK Ministers to change the devolved settlement. So, how can we reform the LCM process, in order to give this Senedd a greater role?

I'm very concerned, Prif Weinidog, that we are sleepwalking into a very different Senedd—a Welsh Parliament by name but with much weaker powers. Your answer last week to Adam Price that if we elect a Labour Government, that's the way to protect devolution in Westminster—what happens if we don't have a Labour Government? The answer cannot be in Westminster, it has to be here in Wales. What protects Welsh legislation from being repealed again and again, like we see in the indication about the Trade Union (Wales) Act 2017?

Well, Llywydd, I share the anxieties that Rhys ab Owen has expressed. We have faced, since December 2019, a very different UK Government to any that we have seen in the devolution period. Until 2018 the Sewel convention had never been used once to override the will of the Senedd, and I think we've now seen it five times in the last couple of years. Now, this tells us that something very different is happening, and we have a Government with a very different set of attitudes at Westminster. And that is a challenge to us—I don't dispute that. When I said that the best way to resolve the challenge is to have a different Government, though, I was making a serious point, really—that that is the way in which we can find a way to entrench devolution so that future Governments of the current persuasion cannot, as the current has done, seek to reverse decisions made previously and endorsed in referendums successively here in Wales.

In the meantime, we continue to look with colleagues elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and in the UK Government, to find better ways of proceeding. In the new inter-governmental relations structure, colleagues will remember that there are two main committees that sit below the committee of First Ministers and the Prime Minister. One of those committees met last week; the Sewel convention was one of the two items on that agenda. And there are a series of practical ways in which the Sewel convention could be made to operate in a way that offered us greater confidence and greater ability to defend the devolution settlement. The risk, and the risk that I put to UK Ministers, is this: that unless they are prepared to respect the current devolution settlement, or the responsibilities that rest in different parts of the United Kingdom, it ends up not undermining devolution, it ends up undermining the United Kingdom itself.

First Minister, I've challenged you and the Counsel General before to give us a programme full of made-in-Wales legislation. I think this current Senedd of 60 Members will have its hands full in the year ahead, I have to say—there is plenty to get our teeth into here. There isn't everything for everybody, but there is a lot in here. And you'll be pleased to know I will not be talking about the one that's causing our own committee excitement, the consolidation Bill on the historic environment, although that's going to keep us busy, nor am I going to talk about the Senedd reform Bill, welcome as it is and welcoming your comments about everybody being involved in now shaping this going forward, everybody in this Senedd—it's actually about the clean air Bill. Could I ask you to commend the campaigning of people, now over many years, to bring forward a clean air Bill here in Wales, and the work of the cross-party group—many Members of the Senedd here are members of that group, but all the campaigners on it? And will he commit, along with Lee Waters, his Minister, who's been very available to this group, to work with the cross party group in the Senedd to help shape this, including the ambitious targets that the First Minister has described as necessary to be in that clean air Bill? 

15:40

Well, I thank Huw Irranca-Davies, Llywydd, and given that he has mentioned the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, and the only person so far, maybe I should just say something about the significance of that Bill. It is the first consolidation Bill of its sort to come in front of the Senedd. It will do a really important piece of work in making legislation here in Wales accessible to the people who have to use it, whether that is members of the public, but certainly those people who work in this field. And it might not break new ground in the way that some other pieces of legislation will, but it will certainly make the current law more effective in Wales.

I certainly agree with what the Member said about those people who've campaigned on the issue of clean air and the work of the cross-party group, and as that Bill is introduced in front of the Senedd, of course we look forward to go on working with Members across the Senedd, but those beyond who have an interest in it. I'm on record previously, Dirprwy Lywydd—. I've said I can't think of a single Bill that has not been improved as a result of the process of scrutiny that Bills undergo here on the floor of the Senedd, and I'm sure that that will be true of the clean air Bill, as much as it would be of any other piece of legislation. 

Can I thank you, First Minister, for your statement today on the legislative programme? First Minister, in yesterday's Welsh Government press release on addressing high numbers of second homes, which, of course, is part of the ongoing legislative programme, you stated, and I quote,

'Tourism is vital to our economy'.

However, it's not clear to me, from your legislative programme and, indeed, programme for government, what support for the sector is going to be included, as you describe being a vital part of our economy. Indeed, what we do see on the horizon, of course, is a proposed tourism tax, this blurred issue between self-catering businesses and second homes, and with the current detrimental 182-day holiday let regulations, my understanding and assessment from this sector is that these measures are likely to cripple the industry and force many hard-working and local businesses to go bust. And, of course, you will know this is the same tourism sector that supports and sustains many of our communities with tens of thousands of jobs, supporting a vast number of businesses through the supply chain, and, of course, welcoming tens of millions of visitors to Wales every single year. So, in light of this, First Minister, which part of the legislative programme announced today is supporting this vital industry? 

Well, Llywydd, I've heard the demise of the Welsh tourism industry predicted by Welsh Conservatives for the last 20 years. They do the sector no favours at all by the way in which they constantly talk it down. It is a very resilient sector, it is a very successful sector, and part of that is the very considerable support that it already receives from the Welsh Government, and that goes far beyond legislation. There are legislative aspects to that. We are, I'm pleased to say, changing the basis on which holiday lets can be registered for either the council tax or for business rates, to make sure that only genuine businesses making a significant contribution to local communities are able to take advantage of the business rate system, and there will be a visitor levy reform brought in front of the Senedd during this term. And that too will strengthen the industry, because it will allow local authorities to raise modest sums of money, as are raised right across the world, from people who choose to visit Wales, so that that money can be reinvested in those communities, supporting the conditions that make tourism a success. 

I wrote to you recently, as Chair of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee, asking you to include legislation on environmental governance in your statement today. Clearly, that hasn't happened, although the Welsh Government said, I think back in 2018, that you will use the first possible opportunity to legislate on this issue. We're still going to have to wait into next year, from what I understand from a previous response, and also into the the next year after that. You made reference to the interim arrangements. There is no statutory basis to those arrangements. The interim assessor doesn't have enforcement powers. The rest of the UK has acted on this, and that means, of course—and I would ask you whether you would acknowledge—that Wales is now the nation with the weakest environmental governance in western Europe. Surely that should make it more of a priority for your Government.

15:45

Well, Dirprwy Lywydd, as I've explained, when you create a legislative programme, you have choices to make. We have chosen to bring forward the Bill, as the Member mentioned. That's not in the next year, but the Bill is on its way.

Diolch, Deputy Lywydd. I'd like to thank the First Minister for his statement. There's a lot in there I welcome, and a lot in there I've yet to be convinced on. But, on other matters, First Minister, you said during the statement that you do work constructively with the UK Government to legislate on certain areas—something like building safety and the Environment Act—where the Senedd does have competency to create its own legislation, but, if you can work constructively, due to time constraints here, it does make sense. But I do think it is important that the Senedd does have the opportunity to scrutinise any legislation that's put forward, even if you are working with the UK Government, where you are legislating on devolved issues. So, can you outline, First Minister: are there any areas that aren't in your programme that you are working with the UK Government on to legislate in devolved areas? And if you're doing that, how will you ensure that this Senedd is able to scrutinise those things properly, so we're able to make sure that policy is developed in the best interests of the people of Wales, which I'm sure you and I both want?

Well, there is a whole series of areas, Llywydd, on which we will work with the UK Government—sometimes because we choose to do so, sometimes because they put forward proposals in which they seek to legislate in areas that ought to be the province of Members here. Now, the internet safety Bill—I hope I've got that title correct—is an example of a Bill where we believe that there are advantages to Wales of taking powers that will protect people here in Wales. So, we initiate those discussions and we work with our UK colleagues. There are others where our conversations are inevitably more designed to ensure that any powers that the UK Government seeks cannot be exercised unilaterally and without the involvement of either Welsh Ministers or the Senedd itself.

The way in which the Senedd finds out about these things, Dirprwy Lywydd, of course, is through the legislative consent process. We have to lay a legislative consent memorandum that sets out for Members what we are discussing and what we intend to do, and then we have to lay a legislative consent motion. Now, my aim, working with the UK Government, is to be able to put as many legislative consent motions in front of the Senedd that we can support as possible, because that will mean that I am confident that the actions that are proposed are to the benefit of people in Wales. So, that's my starting point: I'm looking to be able to put an LCM that we can say that the Senedd should support. Where we are unable to support it, the Sewel convention is surely plain: if the Senedd refuses consent, the UK Government should not legislate. That's a position we have not secured under the current Government. We did under previous Conservative Governments. We need to get back to that so that the Sewel convention plays the part it needs to play in defending the devolution settlement, but also, as I see it, making sure that it strengthens the United Kingdom.

4. Statement by the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution: The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill

Item 4 is next, which is a statement by the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution—the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. I call on the Counsel General, Mick Antoniw.

Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. Today marks another historic step in our nation’s law-making journey. This is the first consolidation Bill brought forward as part of the Welsh Government's programme to improve the accessibility of Welsh law. With this legislation, we continue the process of creating a Welsh statute book. As a consolidation Bill, this Bill marks the beginning of an ambitious project to bring order to our legislation. This is a long-term programme, but I hope all involved will see that the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill illustrates the many benefits that producing modern, bilingual legislation bespoke to Wales will deliver.

Consolidation involves bringing the pertinent legislation on a topic together, clarifying its structure and adopting more understandable forms of drafting and language. Here, the main Acts on the historic environment have been brought together, along with provisions from other relevant Acts and secondary instruments. The law has been re-presented within a logical structure and, wherever possible, restated in simple, everyday language. Furthermore, the Bill and its supporting documentation are fully bilingual in Welsh and English.

The Historic Environment (Wales) Bill includes around 200 pages, and it's one of the largest pieces of legislation introduced to this Chamber to date. This represents a considerable achievement.

Consolidation is not a mechanical exercise of simply copying existing provisions into a new Bill with an occasional tweak. Rather, the current law has been carefully examined to understand its intent and application so it can be restated without altering its effect. Unlike most legislation that comes before this Chamber, this is not a reform Bill; it does not change policy. So, its success must be evaluated by reference to the extent to which it improves the structure and clarity of the existing law, while preserving its legal effect.

The examination of the existing law highlighted some minor problems and, to address them, changes have been made in line with what is permitted by the Senedd's Standing Order on consolidation Bills. This work has been summarised in the drafter's notes. Tables of origins and destinations have also been produced, primarily to help Members understand where the new law has come from and, conversely, where the existing law has gone to. If the Bill becomes law, these will remain a resource for the future on the UK's free-to-access legislation website, legislation.gov.uk. 

I should thank the Law Commission for England and Wales for their positive engagement with the legislative process in Wales. The commission's report, 'Planning Law in Wales', which is shaping the current planning consolidation, has also been taken into account in the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill. We are also grateful that, at the Welsh Government's request, the Law Commission made four recommendations for changes to this Bill that it considered appropriate in a consolidation Bill. This is again consistent with what is allowed under the Standing Order.

I also draw your attention to the first section of the Bill, which states that it forms part of a code of law relating to the historic environment of Wales. Alongside consolidation, codification provides a tool to create and maintain order in the Welsh law book. If passed by the Senedd, this legislation, together with the associated subordinate legislation, will form a code of Welsh law on the historic environment. This means that the law will all be published together as a code and, in future, any desire to move away from the organisational structure created would have to be justified by the Member in charge. Since this is the first consolidation Bill to come before the Senedd, I know that the Welsh Government and the Senedd will take careful note of its progress and will learn from this process to benefit future consolidation Bills.

So, to close, I present to you the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill and encourage you to support a Bill that will give Wales modern, accessible and bilingual law for the protection and management of our unique and precious historic environment. Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd.

15:55

Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much for your statement. Of course, we welcome measures to introduce, in the terminology used, modern, accessible and bilingual law for the purpose stated. But, of course, often, the devil is in the detail. So, in your written statement yesterday on the introduction of the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill to this Senedd, you stated that you've 

'identified Wales’ historic environment law as a suitable subject for the first project in an ambitious programme of legislative consolidation.'

Can you therefore confirm for the record—and you partially did so, but not wholly, in your introduction—that this is only a consolidation Bill and that the law itself, not just policy, will not be changed or amended to accommodate this? If it will be changed or amended—the law, specifically—in any way, I'd be grateful if you could specify how.

As I noted here last September, when responding to your statement on the accessibility of Welsh law:

'The Legislation (Wales) Act was all about gathering law into different subject filing cabinets, with a headline statute and everything else made with reference to that statute—a huge undertaking designed to help the public find and use law themselves.'

So, to what extent will this consolidation Bill complement or succede this and what capacity do you and your department have to administer the potentially significant undertaking involved?

In your statement yesterday, you noted that:

'Our current historic environment legislation has become a confusing jumble of repeatedly amended provisions.' 

And, of course, our current history itself has become a confusing jumble of facts, truths, myths and misconceptions. Last September, you quoted from the Book of Iorwerth, a text of the Gwynedd or Venedotian code of medieval Welsh law, where the kingdom of Gwynedd, or Venedotia, was a Roman empire successor state that emerged in sub-Roman Britain in the fifth century. Of course, other texts remind us that the goal of the Brythonic people, or Britons, in the west, then and over succeeding centuries, was also to reclaim the lost lands in the east and reunite with their British brethren across our island. Later texts remind us of how Norman invaders brutalised Britons across our island and established new codes of law. How will you, therefore, ensure that, in consolidating Wales's historic environment legislation, this often confused, complex and vital historic record is retained and clarified?

When we were taking evidence on the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill—now Act—in the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee in 2015, one of my questions to the then Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism referred to concerns raised with us that the proposals had, quote,

'enormous implications for capacity and resources’,

adding that this replicated

'concerns raised on other legislation...where, whatever the intent of the legislation, the cost identified...is far higher than that indicated in the explanatory memorandum.'

I therefore repeat my questions to you when I responded to your statement on accessibility of Welsh law last September: what is the total financial cost of this programme of legislative consolidation, and what assurance can you provide that this is not just something that will benefit the legal sector at great cost to the public purse? And finally, what consultation have you had with the historic environment sector itself regarding this Bill?

Can I thank you for those questions? I also welcome the journey through our history, which is always of considerable interest. 

The legislation, this consolidation Bill—. Just, firstly, to deal with the issue of reform, you're absolutely right, this particular Bill is not there to change the law, to reform the law. What it does mean, of course, is, though, that, once legislation is consolidated, it makes the whole process of reform a lot easier, because it has all the law, all the relevant laws, in one particular place, and therefore amendments and changes that might be made by way of reform that might come at a later stage, have a far easier job themselves. So, it is far easier to reform and change a law in the future, but that builds on the process of consolidation itself. And, of course, it leads, as you say, as you quite rightly identified, to a better organisation of the law, because this is a long-term process that will carry on for many years, where we seek to codify the law, to bring the law from various areas—instead of it being scattered in a whole variety of different areas—into one place in a codified manner. And that again not only means that accessibility is better, it makes the law simpler and easier to understand, but it also means that when reform is required, it can take place in a far more, I believe, constructive and simpler way.

The consolidation brings in a number of pieces of legislation that go back well before devolution, but as you'll see from section 1 of the Bill, which provides an overview, it sets out, really, what the legislation contains, but also what the objective and what the purpose of the consolidation is and how that will operate. So, the Standing Orders that we work to allow us to restate the law; they allow us to clarify the law; to remove those obsolete pieces of legislation, bits of legislation that really have no relevance; it can make minor changes where they're necessary—I mean, sometimes in terms of the gendered nature of some of the older legislation; and, of course, making some changes recommended by the Law Commission that are appropriate for consolidation. It can also effectively exclude obsolete, spent or bits of past legislation that have no practical purpose—some pieces that have never ever been implemented.

So, it brings together the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953. It doesn't quite go back as far as the areas that you covered in your speech—I think that's completely understandable. It brings together Parts I and III of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. It brings together bits of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and Part 4 of the Historic Environment (Wales) Act 2016, and it restates certain bits of legislation that are relevant to this area in respect of town and country planning, planning and compulsory purchase.

And, in presenting the Bill, of course, as well as the explanatory memorandum, there are tables that basically set out and identify where the various bits of legislation have come from. But, as I say, this is not about reforming or changing the law; it's about bringing the existing law into a single place, and that will be the challenge. This is a test and, as has been identified already by the First Minister, this is the first of these pieces of consolidation legislation. It shouldn't impact in terms of any issues in terms of the historic record, because all it is doing is bringing forward those parts of legislation that are already in existence.

And in terms of the concerns that have been raised previously with regard to whether there are complex implications in terms of resources and capacity and so on, I think the exact opposite is the effect. I think this actually simplifies matters. Certainly, we wouldn't want to bring a consolidation Bill that actually made things more complex or incurred additional cost, and in actual fact, this should be something that actually reduces costs. It makes it easier for lawyers to understand, it makes it easier for those who practise within the area, or who engage with the area of historic environment, to operate more efficiently, more simply and with less cost.

And with regard to, I suppose, the point you're making about those organisations, such as Cadw, for example—the historic environment organisations—of course this consolidation Bill is not appropriate for a consultation in the same way as reforming legislation, because what you're doing is really just talking about bringing the existing legislation into one place, but there was a working party that was brought together of relevant bodies to really look at the legislation and to be satisfied with the overall direction of that. Certainly, all the indications I have are that that is something that is very much supported, that this consolidation Bill is very much welcomed by those in the historic environment arena, that they are in the process themselves of making changes to actually put on their websites the legislation and the changes that take place. So, I hope that has answered all the key points that you've raised.

16:05

Thank you very much, Dirprwy Lywydd. Counsel General, could I begin by echoing the comments of Lord Justice Green, the chair of the Law Commission, and congratulate the Welsh Government on this important step in making Welsh law more accessible? Now, maybe this is not of interest to everyone, but I'm very excited about this important step. This is a step that's going to transform the law in Wales. And responding to the point made by Mark Isherwood, of course, effective consolidation obviously has clear benefits for the legal profession and it also has clear benefits for us as parliamentarians and for you, Counsel General, as a Government, but also, more importantly, obvious benefits for the citizens of Wales.

As the first consolidation Bill in Welsh law, it's very important that we ensure that we get it right, and I look forward, Counsel General, to working with you and to scrutinising the Bill as a member of the legislation committee. I think that as a young legislature, we have a great opportunity in Wales to ensure that our law is as accessible as possible. We're not like Westminster, which goes back to the twelfth century; Welsh law is young, so we have an opportunity to consolidate and to codify in a way that's almost impossible in Westminster. This also shows that Welsh law is maturing, that we have a living system of law for the first time since the Acts of Union.

The Legislation (Wales) Act 2019 places a legal duty on the Welsh Government to make the law accessible and clear, and to provide for codification. In that regard, Counsel General, you are part of a very worthy lineage. It was nice, as Mark Isherwood said, to see a quote in the explanatory memorandum from the introduction to the Book of Iorwerth in 1240, which mentioned the law of Hywel Dda from the tenth century. But it was even nicer, perhaps, Counsel General, to see that that quote had been modernised into the understandable, modern Welsh language of our time.

'And by the common counsel and agreement...they examined the old laws, and some of them they allowed to continue, others they amended, others they wholly deleted, and others they laid down anew.'

Excellent. I think it's important that we remind ourselves time and time again of the rich legal tradition that we have here in Wales, and be inspired by our history to ensure that Welsh law is fit for the modern age.

Today's announcement, as I said, is an important step forward in codifying the law. I've seen all kinds of talk about timetables for codification. One quote said that it was going to be the work of an entire generation. Do you have any timetable in mind, Counsel General, for how long the codification process will take and what's the timetable for the other consolidation Bills?

And to finish, Dirprwy Lywydd, following an obvious reduction in legal aid, we need law that is drafted in an understandable way and is organised in such a way that the relevant law is all in one place, and people don't have to look in different places. This is a huge task, as you said. This Bill and the explanatory memorandum in both languages are more than 500 pages long. I congratulate you again, Counsel General, in the hope that this is going to be the first of many, many such Bills to appear before us as a Senedd. Thank you very much.

I thank the Member for those comments, and I look forward to working with all Members, and particularly with the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee who will be scrutinising this particular piece of legislation. Of course, it will not have gone unnoticed that this is not a piece of legislation that is sort of amended in the normal way. That is, the main work will be for the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee basically to be going through the Bill, to be assessing the Bill, the drafting of the Bill, to be looking at the drafter's notes, and to be satisfied that this is doing what it says on the packet—that it is consolidating, and not reforming. And, of course, the amendments, I would expect—I would hope—are minimal, but may really be of technical nature, but, of course, there is the option of a further amending stage.

The other, I think, point that you started to mention was, of course, that this is innovative, that this process of accessibility is to some extent unique within the United Kingdom, within the four nations. There have been examples of attempted consolidation in the past in areas of law, but what has tended to happen is that that then has been subsequently undermined by a series of legislation that then doesn't amend the consolidated legislation and so on—education, probably, is an example, particularly in England. And, of course, 'codification' means by putting law into categories it will be within that code that the law is amended rather than the creation of a new piece of legislation. So, that requires discipline from this Senedd and a commitment to and understanding of the concept of consolidation. We will, in fact, be the first nation in the UK to actually introduce legislation in this area, and perhaps it's very appropriate that it is in the whole area of the historic environment, which is so important to all of us and to all our communities. 

You mentioned the point of language and specific attention has gone during the drafting of this to using simple language, to using language that is modern and understandable, and that undoubtedly is something that will be scrutinised during the process. And, again, as others have done, I have to commend the lawyers and all the officials that have been involved in this process because this is—. In some ways, when we started looking at this, it was, 'Well, what is a quick win for consolidation?' Well, when you get to 200 pages, you suddenly realise that no legislation is ever really that simple, particularly when you're going back over such a long period of time and looking for explanatory memoranda for legislation that never had explanatory memoranda, where there was never any clear background documentation as to what certain parts of the legislation were actually intended to achieve or what they actually meant.

In terms of the codification timetable, well, to some extent, it's almost a generational thing, isn't it, because we have to deal with an enormous legislative programme in its own right, but as you will know from the statement I made last year, we're looking at three pieces of consolidation. We will be looking to move on beyond that into the next session of the next Senedd with further consolidation. So, this is a process that will go on for quite a number of years. What is important is that we have a consistent commitment from Senedd to Senedd that this is the way we want to restructure the law, to make the law accessible over generations. So, this is not a short-term, over-a-couple-of-years process; this is a generational approach to doing law better, to making it more accessible. And the points you made about accessibility, they're ones we've discussed many times, and I fully agree with them.

16:10

Finally, Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee, Huw Irranca-Davies.

Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd. We thank the Counsel General for his introductory statement and also for adding to our committee's busy scrutiny programme by bringing forward this historic—in more ways than title alone—first consolidation Bill in Wales. Now, the arrival of this first Welsh consolidation Bill has by some been eagerly anticipated, and, in fact, as we've just heard, if there's one word that's been used most by my committee colleagues Rhys, James and Alun in respect of this ambitious agenda, it is this: excitement. Now, this may be a reflection on us as individual legislators, but I would say that it does reflect on us in a very good way. We take this very seriously. As a committee, we understand that there may be more such consolidation Bills under consideration, so the Counsel General will understand that we really want to get the scrutiny of this first one absolutely right.

The Legislation (Wales) Act 2019, scrutinised by our predecessor committee, passed by the fifth Senedd, placed a duty on the Counsel General to keep the accessibility of Welsh law under review. Then, Standing Order 26C for consolidation Acts of the Senedd was subsequently agreed by the fifth Senedd in March 2021, and it established new scrutiny processes in this Senedd. So, here we are with a landmark first consolidation Bill, and it is a large one at that. We truly appreciate the immense amount of work and time that the Welsh Government will have put into preparing this Bill, which has, of course, followed substantial work undertaken by the Law Commission for England and Wales.

In any field, the consolidation of Welsh law is a daunting task, but it is important. It may seem dry, but having an accessible statute book is vitally important to improving access to justice for our citizens. Our committee is regularly faced with matters that highlight the complexities of our statute book. There are many reasons for complexity. The departure of the UK from the European Union is one such event. It has triggered more law being made at a fast and furious pace—law that has often not been neatly or simply drawn. And, more recently, the increasing occurrences of UK Government and UK Parliament making law in devolved areas is adding another layer of complexity onto an already inaccessible statute book.

This is the first time that the Senedd will play a formal, deliberate role in the consolidation of Welsh law, and, as the responsible committee, we are really looking forward to playing our part. We recognise the importance attached to the consolidation of law as it applies in Wales and, equally, we attach great importance to scrutinising this first consolidation Bill diligently and effectively, and in accordance with Standing Order requirements. This is, Counsel General, truly exciting, to use that word again, just to show that our committee does have its moments. It is an exciting step for legislation in Wales, and if we get this right together, Counsel General, we will set an example of good practice for other Parliaments across the UK and further afield. So, we look forward to our scrutiny of the Historic Environment (Wales) Bill, engaging with stakeholders, and with the Counsel General. Diolch, Dirprwy Lywydd.

16:15

Can I thank the Member for those very supportive comments? I certainly agree with all those comments about the excitement. In fact, I could see the excitement rippling through the Chamber as I stood up to speak and Members exited the room. It's in the very nature of some of these legislative processes that they in themselves do not create a natural excitement, but what they do is create a real excitement about the importance of the way in which we can do law better, clearer, simpler and more accessibly. I think, in terms of our responsibilities to the people of Wales and to this Senedd, to this Parliament, that is of, obviously, considerable importance. The first session I have with the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee, which I look forward to, I believe is on 11 July. I look forward to working with you over what is something that is going to be an important learning experience when we move on to other areas, such as, for example, planning. So, I look forward to that, and thank you for those comments.

5. Statement by the Minister for Finance and Local Government: Progress on Gender Budgeting

Item 5 this afternoon is a statement by the Minister for Finance and Local Government on progress on gender budgeting. I call on the Minister, Rebecca Evans.

Diolch. I would like to update the Senedd on the steps I am taking to help address gender inequality in Wales through our approach to gender budgeting. Gender inequality is still prevalent in 2022, despite the many advances made. The Welsh Government is committed to creating a gender-equal Wales, meaning an equal share of power, resources and influence for all people. Our commitment to gender budgeting is set out in our programme for government.

The term 'gender budgeting' can sometimes lead to confusion, so I want to be clear from the outset about what it means to us. This approach is not about pink and blue budgets, counting how much we spend on different groups. Gender budgeting provides a lens through which we can view our budgets and policy. It helps us to highlight and consider the unintended impacts that a well-intended policy can have on different types of people and areas of impact. Gender budgeting will help us to strengthen and improve our policy making, which will in turn support us in making better budget decisions, resulting in better outcomes. By understanding and mitigating unintended negative impacts and highlighting and building on the positive, we can deliver the maximum value for every pound we spend.

I want to be clear that this work is long-term systemic culture change, and I call on Members of this Senedd, and our wide range of partners, to support us in this journey. It won’t happen overnight, and we cannot do it alone. Our budget improvement plan clearly sets out the steps we are taking to achieve our programme for government commitment. As part of the gender review in 2018, we engaged with world-leading Nordic nations, learning from their approaches to gender budgeting. We learnt about the need to focus on undertaking pilot activity to help us improve the way we assess the impact of our budget decisions, understand the true impact that our decisions are having, and in turn improve what we are doing to achieve the outcomes that we are seeking. Pilots will provide us with valuable understanding of what works and what does not.

In 2019, we launched our first pilot, personal learning accounts. PLAs embed a flexible approach to delivering learning to help address some of the barriers faced by people trying to improve their own opportunities in the workplace. We chose PLAs because there is a focus on industries with a gender effect, and we saw positive initial findings. Through the ongoing evaluation, we have identified some key lessons around the challenges of sustaining positive results when activity is scaled up from local provision to a national activity. We are working to ensure that gender budgeting remains at the heart of programme design and delivery and is not just seen as something that is nice to do.

Our commitment to gender budgeting has been given added momentum by the programme for government commitment and we have now undertaken two further pilots in areas of active travel and the young person's guarantee, each specifically chosen to provide different learning to ensure that we can refine a Welsh gender budgeting approach. While still in the early phases of development, they have already highlighted the importance of doing all we can to proactively engage and improve the way policy is delivered and is being designed, recognising the long-term nature of this work.

Our engagement with other countries leading the way in gender budgeting has been, and continues to be, invaluable in helping guide our work in embedding this in Wales. From the early Nordic exchange to our ongoing engagement with countries such as Canada and New Zealand through the network of well-being Governments, we are not only learning from those who have gone before us but we are also sharing our own experiences to support them in their journeys. This engagement has also served to remind us that whilst many of us, myself included, are impatient for change, this change will take time.

Looking closer to home, we are pleased to work with experts here in Wales such as the Wales Women’s Budget Group and our own budget improvement impact advisory group. I have been pleased to work with the Senedd's Finance Committee to further explore and understand the benefits of gender budgeting in supporting our long-term journey of budget improvement. These groups provide us with knowledge, support and constructive challenge as we continue to progress. We are bringing together this learning through our many strands of work to not only inform our approach, but also to support partners across the Welsh public sector to help us make our vision of a gender equal Wales a reality.

In concluding today’s statement, I am delighted to share with the Senedd the cross-Government work that is under way to explore the potential for a focused package of work in gender research linked to health. Later today, you will hear the Minister for Health and Social Services outline her vision for what a good-quality health service should look like to support women and girls. It is my ambition that by working together across Government we will establish Wales as a world leader in tackling gender bias in healthcare.

The only way we can address mistakes of the past is by working collaboratively and in co-production with those we are intending to help. Over the coming months, we will be engaging with a range of stakeholders to design a plan through true co-production with gender budgeting at its heart. This will ensure that we focus on the issues being faced by women every day and identify solutions that will make a tangible difference to women's lives across Wales. This is the beginning of our journey and it's one to which I'm fully committed. I look forward to today's discussion and to hearing colleagues' suggestions as to how we can work together to truly embed gender budgeting in all of our work. 

16:25

Can I thank you, Minister, for your statement? I think initiatives like gender budgeting can be very useful to help analyse the different impact that policies can have on different genders. We know that whilst gender equality has improved over time, there are still barriers to full equality, and so it's important to look at how we can tailor policies better to meet the needs and circumstances of different groups of people.

As you mentioned, Minister, the Government has introduced some pilot schemes, such as personal learning accounts, and I would appreciate further details about the project, as well as more details about the evaluation of this pilot. How are the outcomes of this scheme helping to inform other Government policies? Minister, you also mentioned that two new gender budgeting pilots were now under way, one for active travel and one for the young person's guarantee. Minister, what outcomes are the Government trying to achieve through this, and how are they being evaluated? How will the Senedd be kept updated on the progress of the various schemes and their impact on Government thinking? 

The programme for government also commits Ministers to implementing targets around gender budgeting. When will these be published, and are the pilot schemes being used to help inform these targets and how progress can be measured more widely? In relation to this, if initiatives such as gender budgeting are to have tangible outcomes, then there need to be appropriate decision-making structures in place. How, therefore, is the Government intending to work with the budget improvement impact advisory group as well as other stakeholders to assess the Government's current policy and budget-making capacities?

Deputy Llywydd, I would like to finish on a broader point: we must also ensure that we properly consider the impact that policies will have on a range of people and protected characteristics and not just focus purely on gender, because of course specific genders and identities are not homogenous groups and have a range of needs. In this regard, we have previously heard various issues about how effective or ineffective the Government's strategic integrated impact assessments are. As such, I would be interested to hear more from you, Minister, about how the Welsh Government is working to develop a strengthened IIA tool specifically to bring greater consistency and depth to impact assessments across departments, including working more closely with the relevant commissioners to strengthen scrutiny. Thank you.

Thank you very much for raising those points and for your recognition, right at the start of your contribution, about the important role that gender budgeting can play in helping us address some of these issues, which have been with us for far too long now. I think gender budgeting will provide us with an important tool in terms of advancing equality here in Wales. 

There were some specific questions about the pilots, so I'm very happy to provide some more information about those. The first pilot that we undertook is the personal learning accounts pilot, and that commenced in September 2019. That programme was then scaled up and commenced delivery right across Wales in 2021. That works really closely with the regional skills partnerships to ensure that provision is there in terms of responding to specific regional skills needs, but we know that some of these are in areas where women have been typically underrepresented or overrepresented. So, we've looked at areas such as construction on the one hand and social care on the other hand. We expect the final report of our learning of the personal learning accounts pilots to be published in late summer 2022. So, there'll be an opportunity for us to explore that in further detail. At this point, we're not able to provide more detail on the gender-specific outputs, but we look forward to more detail being available later on in the summer. 

Some initial findings, though, that I am able to share do really give us a real focus on the need to have that sustained focus on gender budgeting when activity is scaled up. When things are happening at a more focused and small, local level, there's a lot of focus on that gender budgeting; the challenge comes, then, when we scale things up. So, that's something that we're considering carefully as we move to the other pilots. As Peter Fox says, one is the young person's guarantee, and that's one of our key commitments to ensure that everyone under the age of 25 living in Wales has support to gain a place in education or training, or the support that they need to become self-employed.

Taking part in the gender budgeting pilot does enable the young person's guarantee programme to review its systems, review its evidence base and look again at the decisions that are being made, and the design and the delivery of new activity using that gender and intersectional lens. The initial review of the diverse areas of the YPG is currently ongoing, with a view to developing a more detailed plan to ensure that we get the greatest benefit for the programme, and, ultimately, of course, for the young people of Wales. 

In terms of the active travel pilot, obviously this has a really important part to play in providing sustainable transport. That's something that we want everybody to be able to benefit from. Our gender budgeting pilot in this regard is focused on the Wales E-Move programme, which will be considering what learning we can achieve through that. The E-Move pilot is being delivered by Sustrans Cymru, and we're currently working in partnership with them to understand how taking a gender budgeting approach can add value to our current programme and help design the future delivery.

The early analysis of those engaged in the programme so far has shown a higher proportion of participants who identified as female accessing the scheme in rural areas. By exploring and applying that intersectional lens, we'll be looking to understand the characteristics of these users better to get some more insight into the reasons behind this, to help shape our thinking on active travel in the future. But, again, we will be able to share more information with the Senedd in due course. 

The budget improvement and impact advisory group is really important in terms of helping support Welsh Government in its decision making and improving the way we do budgeting. The purpose, really, is about improving not just the budget but also our tax processes to improve outcomes. And that group is going to drive forward work on tackling inequality and taking forward some of our gender budgeting approaches and providing that critical friend voice to us in the work that we're doing in this area.

The group itself is a mixture of members of the previous budget advisory group for equalities, BAGE, with some additions now to cover a wider range of areas of impact. There's a mixture of voluntary sector organisations and public sector organisations, and we're currently working with that group to agree the structure of the work programme going forward. In the coming weeks, we'll be publishing our terms of reference for that group and its 12-month work plan on the Welsh Government's website. 

And then, just to reflect on the really important point about there being a range of characteristics that impact on people's experiences of the choices that we make in terms of budgeting, that's why this has to be about that intersectional approach. So, it's not just about looking at things from a women's perspective and a men's perspective, but really considering all of those other protected characteristics that impact on people's experiences of services and society.

We do know that the most effective gender analyses take that intersectional approach, combining the look at the effect on women and men, but with the other characteristics as well. So, we're able to do that, and also look at well-being through the lens of culture, environment, society and so on as well. So, there are many ways to look at this, and many things that we can learn when we look at that intersectional approach, whilst doing so through that gender lens. 

16:30

Thank you to the Minister for her statement, and, clearly, I welcome what's been said, and I'm encouraged by some of the answers that you've just given, although, perhaps, we all, like you, would want to go further and more swiftly. But a journey has begun, and it's important that we go as far as we possibly can. We'll perhaps never reach the end of the journey, but it is an evolving process. We would want to see progress happening as quickly as possible. 

I'm just thinking, in terms of impact, what do you think that the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and the squeeze on public budgets will be on gender budgeting, because the risk is that public bodies will perhaps feel that they're under too much pressure to tackle something like this, and trying to change mindset and culture, and certainly you and I would argue that this is the time to make that shift to safeguard the people who will suffer most as a result of the crisis that we are facing.

Iceland, of course, started using gender budgeting at the time of the economic crash, and, of course, they are in the vanguard now—they are further ahead than anyone. So, is there an opportunity for us to use the circumstances we find ourselves in to accelerate the process that you have outlined to us?

I welcome the pilots, of course. We have to learn, but I think there is, occasionally, a risk that we suffer some sort of pilotitis—I'm not sure whether that's an official term. But we do need to mainstream at the first possible opportunity, and to learn on the job, if you like. So, again, given the cost-of-living crisis facing us and the implications of that, can we move more quickly on some of these issues?

You've touched on the shorter term timetable in previous responses. Where are we in terms of the long-term timetable? When do you hope that the Welsh Government will be able to look into the eyes of the people of Wales and say, 'Well, this is happening', and when will you be able to say that the broader public sector in Wales will also be undertaking gender budgeting in a meaningful way that is making a difference to the lives of people in Wales?

I understand that the Government is evaluating these pilots and learning lessons, but how is that shared? How are you sharing that learning and good practice? It would be good to understand how that is being delivered more broadly, and also that the public sector learns the lessons that you are learning.

Finally, what's the legislative basis here? Do we need legislation to ensure that this is mainstreamed across the public sector in Wales, or are you confident that it will happen without the need for legislation? Austria has made it a part of its constitution since 2009, and by 2011 every department of Government was mainstreaming gender budgeting across legislation, budgeting and public procurement. If we want this to truly make a difference, then that might be something for you to consider.

16:35

Thank you very much for those points and questions, and I share that desire to move very swiftly on this. In the immediate term, we've got four strands of work that we'll be driving forward, and they are cross-cutting across Government to ensure that we make those interlinkages in terms of gender budgeting. So, we've got knowledge and understanding; support and constructive challenge; communication and leadership; and ongoing learning. These are things that we will be, obviously, engaging the public sector more widely on as we move forward.

I think that our learning from Iceland showed that the pilot approach that they used took seven years from the initial pilots to build towards a more comprehensive implementation, and that was something that they were really keen to share with us. Again, it's something that we've experienced, I think, on that smaller scale with our first pilot—you know, the initial enthusiasm, the drive and the focus at that local level are wonderful, but then the challenge is when you start to mainstream it and take it up to a more national level. That's exactly, I think, the challenge that they faced in Iceland.

We've been engaging with them, as I say, since 2019, and those relationships are still ongoing, as they are with the well-being Governments network as well, to see what we can learn from one another in regard to gender budgeting. We think that Iceland has a very interesting approach. So, seven years on, at least, since they first introduced it, they are now starting, I think, to have that feeling of the cultural shift. They do have, now, comprehensive implementation, and it was supported by passing a new organic budget law.

Obviously, we are keen to explore what is happening elsewhere in terms of legislation. I wouldn't want to suggest that we would be able to find the time within this Senedd term to do that, but it's certainly something that is of interest for the future in Wales, bearing in mind our focus on what finance will look like and the legislation that supports that in future. So, we're keeping a close eye on what's happening elsewhere and what we can learn from the various approaches.

The point about the cost-of-living crisis is really an important one, and I do think that when you are in a crisis, as we saw through the pandemic, it focuses the mind and it actually gives the impetus to break down barriers that we think are otherwise not able to be broken down, so there's no reason why we shouldn't be using this impetus to drive forward the gender budgeting agenda with real focus. I think that there has been some interesting research on the gendered impact of the cost-of-living crisis, which has been provided by the Women's Budget Group at a UK level, and that shows that women generally have lower levels of savings and wealth than men, and even before COVID-19 women were more likely to be in debt, and this has worsened as a result of the pandemic. They're very clear that the cost-of-living crisis will hit the poorest hardest, and women are more likely to be poor, and they've been hit harder by cuts to social security and the provision of public services over the past decade, as a result of austerity. So, there is no doubt that this is a gender issue as well as a cost-of-living crisis.

And then the broader point about how we will be sharing the learning—we'll be doing that through out budget improvement and advisory group. The purpose of that group is to engage with those key stakeholders, so we need to ensure that all of those people who need to be engaged are, and we will be, as I say, publishing more information about the terms of reference of that group, but I'm happy to include the membership of that group for colleagues to see who's involved in it as well. Perhaps I will do that through a written statement in the coming weeks, when we do have the work plan available, so that colleagues can familiarise themselves with that, because I know there's a lot of interest.

16:40

One crucial way to ensure that budgeting delivers for women is through making strategic investments in the care sector. We know that these investments would not just deliver for women, they would also boost our economy and increase overall employment.

Research has shown that investing 2 per cent of GDP in care would create almost as many jobs for men as investing in construction industries, but would create up to four times as many jobs for women. In the UK, this would increase women's employment rate by 5 per cent and would have large positive effects on economic growth and debt reduction, and would help local communities as well. Such investments would also be consistent with transitions towards a low-carbon economy. So, Minister, may I ask what the Welsh Government is doing to explore such strategic investments in care as part of building back post COVID? Thank you.

It is absolutely the case that the social care sector does have that higher proportion of female workers, so the investment that we make in the social care sector does have that direct impact on those workers and their future, and of course on the families who they support. And we know that women tend to live longer than men, so we have more older women to be supporting within our communities as well, so I think that investment in social care is always a good investment and certainly from that gender perspective. We did provide a step change in support for local authorities in our last budget, 2022-23, and particularly so in relation to social care. So, we worked really closely with local government itself to understand the quantum of funding that they would need in order to continue to provide social services of the quality that we would want to see. And they provided us with a figure of £180.5 million over and above the existing resources, so we were able to meet that request in full, bearing in mind that real focus that we have on providing sustainable and quality social services, and that is alongside additional funding in respect of the real living wage. The real living wage, again, I think, is a perfect example of how we're investing in women and making choices that support women, and has that gender focus at its heart, so it's absolutely one of the key areas. And also, not just paid carers, of course; unpaid carers are often—usually—women, and so our support for unpaid carers has to be seen through that gender-focused lens as well. So, I think that the example that has been given is absolutely a perfect one in terms of our gender budgeting approach.

I've been involved with gender budgeting since before my election here, as a founding member of the Wales Gender Budget Group nearly 20 years ago. So, it's not a new concept, but there remains a lot of misunderstanding around it. It's not, as you said, and never has been, about different budgets for men and for women, but it's about following the money and putting flesh on the bones of our values and our commitment to fairness. So, gender budgeting has to be data driven, it has to be outcome focused, and it has to be audited and it has to keep pace with our evolving democracy.

You did talk about pilots and about learning lessons, and you've also talked about the international lessons that are being learnt. But if we look at the statements—and people have talked about trying to end the crisis that people are in—if we look at the top-line statements coming out of the money that is being invested by the UK Government directly into localities, the big-ticket items are always those around construction and change in that direction, and yet we know full well that women are missing predominantly from those careers.

So, in terms of looking at your gender budgeting, which I more than welcome—I think it's decades late, but it's here—how are you interacting with those decisions that are being made outside of your control and directing investment where those inequalities will only be exacerbated and maintained?

16:45

I'm very grateful to Joyce Watson for raising this. I know that she has been a champion of this for many years, and the Wales Women's Budget Group is still going strong and providing really, really constructive challenge to Government. They are telling us that we need to move more quickly on the work that we're doing and we're listening to them on that to try and ensure that we move as speedily as possible and start to embed this approach, recognising, of course, that culture change is difficult, it takes a long time, but I think that if you've got a commitment to it and if you've got leadership where it needs to be then I think that we can get to these points.

They also have been challenging us to provide more detail on our work, which is why we're keen to provide as much information as we can to Members of the Senedd but also provide more detail through our budget improvement plan, which we publish on an annual basis, but looking five years ahead, alongside our draft budget. So, we've been able to do that and make sure that gender budgeting is very much part of our published plans there.

So, we've been listening very carefully to that group, alongside groups such as Women’s Equality Network Wales; I know that Sioned Williams will be sponsoring a launch of the scorecard, which the Minister for Social Justice will be attending, and gender budgeting I know has been a really important part of their challenge to us, so, again, we'll be engaging with those groups as we try and move the agenda forward. But it is absolutely about putting flesh on the bones of our commitment to fairness, and I think that the example that Joyce Watson gave of the construction industry and how we always look to that industry in terms of—. Well, even now, we're looking in terms of the recovery from COVID, building our way out, creating jobs, but I know that Joyce Watson works really hard on the agenda of women in construction to ensure that jobs are there for women and that women do consider construction as a career for them. And that's one of the areas of our personal learning accounts, which look specifically at the construction industry and other industries where we have traditionally seen women underrepresented. So, there are things for us to be doing there.

But again, and finally, to conclude, Deputy Presiding Officer, I think that having it challenged to ourselves in Government to make that culture shift towards gender budgeting and looking through that gentle lens is important, but we have to take that, then, into our meetings and into our discussions with UK Government Ministers so that we are challenging them in the same way. And then we also have to do it with our partners in health boards, in local government and elsewhere to ensure that the learning that we're taking forward and the commitment that we have is driven right through public services in Wales.

6. Statement by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language: Curriculum for Wales Roll-out

Item 6 on the agenda is a statement by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language—Curriculum for Wales roll-out. I call on the Minister to make a statement. Jeremy Miles.

Thank you, Dirprwy Lywydd. After several years in the making, we're on the verge of a momentous change to education as pupils begin to  learn under our new Curriculum for Wales. Made with the profession in Wales for Wales, the new curriculum will begin to be taught from next term. All primary schools and almost half of our secondary schools will introduce the Curriculum for Wales in September, which means that 95 per cent of our schools overall will be taking the next step on the curriculum journey. The remaining schools will join the journey in September next year, and many are trialling the new curriculum approaches in the meantime. By September next year, all learners in year 8 and below will be taught under the Curriculum for Wales.

It has been a demanding year, Dirprwy Lywydd. I remain deeply grateful to our schools, settings and teaching staff for their dedication and relentless focus on improving the outcomes for their learners. Nowhere is this more evident than in looking at the Curriculum for Wales. While the pandemic has affected preparations, there remains a strong commitment to reform throughout the sector, as well as a desire to maintain momentum. There is every reason to be positive about the progress made to date, while recognising at the same time that there is more to do over the coming period.

The Curriculum for Wales specifically challenges the curriculum of every school and setting to raise the aspirations for all learners. Schools and settings are working carefully to ensure that their principles for curriculum and assessment design are meeting the needs of all learners within their setting. Our focus has been and always will be to raise the attainment of every learner, especially our most disadvantaged learners, to ensure they can reach their potential, and that will be the focus of the future as well.

Last week, I published the first annual report on the Curriculum for Wales, to provide Members with an update, setting out the overall picture of the current position of roll-out of reform, the Welsh Government's efforts to support roll-out, and looking forward to the next steps for reform. The report makes important findings about where we are currently, including that funded non-maintained nursery settings are progressing well and have made particularly good progress since the turn of the year. Over more recent months, schools are making faster progress towards designing their curriculum, nearly all schools and settings are identifying their own unique factors and how these contribute to the four purposes and developing understanding of curriculum design considerations, including mandatory elements and school linguistic policy in relation to the Welsh language. Most schools and settings are considering the role of progression, assessment and pedagogy in their local curriculum and context, and designing, planning and trialling their proposed curriculum model, evaluating initial designs and developing medium-term plans. Encouragingly, more schools are happy to discuss trialling approaches and then refine them if they do not work, and almost half of secondary schools, as I said, as well as a number of special schools and pupil referral units, are adopting the Curriculum for Wales for their year 7 learners in September, a year earlier than required. The report also outlines our steps as a Government to help prepare schools for roll-out, to consolidate their efforts as they begin to implement the curriculum and to enable them to continuously improve their curriculum. 

Last week, we published the latest package of supporting materials on curriculum design, assessment and evaluating learner progress to support the process of curriculum development and to build clear links with schools' plans for school improvement. These materials will continue to evolve in line with schools' needs. Before the end of term, we will publish Assessing for the Future development workshops, giving schools an ongoing resource to develop their understanding of how learners progress and how to assess that progress.

This month, we have also published guidance for developers of resources and supporting materials. This has been co-constructed with schools and will give clear guidance to developers on what schools need and how to ensure resources are consistent with the Curriculum for Wales. This will help to ensure that the whole system can co-ordinate its efforts in supporting curriculum roll-out.

The national network will continue to ensure schools and settings have opportunities to share their experiences of roll-out, putting them at the heart of our ongoing efforts to develop further support for the system. The network will also deliver Camau i'r Dyfodol, which will play a critical part in sharing practice and expertise on progression, which is key to raising standards. I'd like to thank everybody who has committed and invested their time in the national network conversations, helping to inform Welsh Government policy and schools' practice. The time invested by professionals in the network has already had an important, tangible impact, directly shaping guidance and supporting materials for schools, contributing to Camau i'r Dyfodol and Assessing for the Future and informing professional learning to support Welsh history, for example. These conversations are a community or a cymuned, and, by continuing to work in co-construction, we ensure that we provide schools and settings with the support that they need.

Looking forward, there is still much to do to secure our learners' well-being and their progression to their full potential, but we are firmly on the right course. As schools and settings begin to implement the curriculum, we will learn new lessons on how to improve the practice in schools and the support that they have access to. The process of embedding our new curriculum and continuously improving it in schools and settings will truly begin in earnest from September. We must make sure that our transformational curriculum delivers for the next generation. To achieve this, our professional learning offer must be accessible to all. Last week, I updated Members on how we are working to finalise our national entitlement for professional learning, from which school leaders, teachers and teaching assistants will all benefit—a truly national offer, and one that will be much easier to navigate.

Dirprwy Lywydd, the new curriculum moves away from just having narrow subjects to having six broader areas of learning and experience. Learning will be purpose-based; through the four purposes, we articulate the kind of citizens that Wales wants and needs. It will help develop higher standards of literacy and numeracy, supporting learners to become more digitally and bilingually competent and to evolve into enterprising, creative and critical thinkers.

We can be proud that the curriculum represents the very best of our education profession's efforts. Rather than being the end of the reform journey, September represents a significant milestone. As a Government, we will continue to take action and support the profession so that every learner, whatever their background, can benefit from a broad and balanced curriculum of knowledge, skills and experience that will achieve high standards and aspirations for all.

16:55

Minister, I just want to start by thanking you for your statement today. We all want the new curriculum, of course, to work. I also want to place on record, if I may, Deputy Presiding Officer, our thanks to school staff for their resilience and hard work in all that they do, but particularly in their efforts to prepare for the new curriculum.

Minister, only almost half of our secondary schools are implementing the new curriculum in September to the original timeline. And I'm still hearing that many schools do not feel that they have been given the adequate time and support necessary also to feel prepared enough to bring in the new curriculum, as some may have wanted to, in September. Regardless of some of the aims that you've outlined in your statement, there has clearly been inadequate professional support to date for teachers, whose job it is to turn the curriculum's vision into a reality. Minister, this is a seismic change for Welsh education, and, to be successful, it absolutely needs to be in conjunction with our teachers, and preparation needs to reflect their differing needs.

All curriculum documentation and guidance must be easy to digest and easily accessible to the people it's designed to support. Too much of what I've read in relation to the curriculum has been confusing, convoluted and often contradictory. Also, it is clear that we have let too many teachers go it alone on curriculum reform, and, outside the pioneer model, left the profession to sink or swim on the basis of what they've managed to digest. Some of the things you've outlined in the statement go some way to addressing this, but is tapered support something that you have considered, Minister, for professional learning, available for teachers as they move forward to full delivery of the new curriculum, like a sort of phasing-in, with specific support for each stage that a teacher gets to as they grow in confidence and knowledge in doing things in a new way? I'm thinking particularly of teachers used to the old curriculum—or the current curriculum, sorry—having been taught using that curriculum and taught it for so many years, but, obviously, it would apply to all teachers going forward.

Also, by devolving a large amount of responsibility for professional learning to regional consortia and local authorities, the Welsh Government has opened the door to a whole host of competing solutions for the same problems. And, although we welcome the flexibility, of course, in the new curriculum, for the roll-out to be successful we must ensure a level of consistency across Wales. The national network has been a good way to share best practice, as you said in your statement, but due to the level of flexibility, Minister, and the fact that you've devolved decision making to schools, LEAs and consortia, how will you ensure that a similar standard, a level of high-quality education is delivered in the same way across Wales?

It is still not clear also how you're going to measure success right from the beginning, from the word go, in September. We will need to know what the barometer of how you'll be measuring the failure or success of the new curriculum will look like, please. Also, if only half of the secondary schools are implementing the curriculum in September, how can schools that do not implement it be compared and assessed alongside them? And what if a student moves from a school using the new curriculum to one that does not and vice versa? Have we looked into that? Also, we need to know how we're going to assess, measure and support students under the new curriculum who are going to either be more able or learners who are struggling that need extra support, as we don't want these students to get lost in the challenges of delivering the new curriculum.

I see in your statement that you are to publish Assessing for the Future workshops, giving schools some guidance as to how they're going to assess progress. But, Minister, can you give parents, teachers, and us in the Senedd an answer today on how you will measure, monitor and compare the roll-out of implementation of the new curriculum as we go along, and could you promise this Senedd today that we'll have regular updates on the progress made? Thank you.

17:00