Tuesday, 7 March 2017

FMQs: Aid, Air & Dogs

After last weekend's “excitement” I was hoping to return to normality. Plaid's Assembly Group have dealt with the issue in a refreshingly swift and professional manner even if – despite what I wrote on Sunday - a suspension seems too strong. As far as I'm concerned the matter's closed.

So it's annoying to have to bring up the highly-personal smear piece posted today on another blog run by someone who was once employed by the BBC. It wasn't overtly sexist but it used a sexist trope just before International Women's Day and after bullying has been widely discussed in public.

It was entirely predictable unfortunately, and tells you all you need to know about the current state of political discourse and what that particular site specialises in.

When something like that happens it gives all of us who do this a bad name. It's a point of pride that I've never had to resort to trawling social media or intruding into personal lives for stories and photos (both of which seem like creepy activities for old men to be doing).

I won't give it any further oxygen and I suspect the target would've been expecting it anyway. Needless to say, “Don't let the bastards grind you down.”

FMQs, 7th March 2017

Party Leaders

UKIP leader, Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales), focused on public spending cuts and the forthcoming budget. The UK is facing a £60billion public spending deficit, and increased borrowing will hand massive debts to future generations. We can cut public spending without anyone being disadvantaged – particularly foreign aid; a £3.5billion cut would free up the sort of money the (Welsh) Finance Secretary wants to protect within the Welsh budget.

The First Minister believes there's a strong case to borrow now to invest in the future and it's never been cheaper to borrow on the international markets. Increased income from improved economic performance can pay off borrowing now and in the future. On aid, it's a moral question of rich countries helping poorer ones. Aid also buys friends, trade links and allies.

Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda), threw Plaid's support behind the Trade Union Bill, which will disapply aspects of the Trade Union Act in Wales. There are question marks over whether it would be in the Senedd's powers under the Wales Act's reserved powers model. What were the Welsh Government's plans to ensure the Bill isn't overruled, and was Plaid's vote against approving the Wales Act (because of concerns of a “power grab”) vindicated?

The First Minister acknowledged that competence will change, and he's determined to pass the Bill with Plaid Cymru support. It would be a matter for the UK Parliament to override an Act of the Assembly, and in doing so they could instigate a constitutional crisis.

Conservative leader (and now de facto Leader of the Opposition), Andrew Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), discussed the “frightening figures” that 5 people a day in Wales - 2,000 people a year - were dying because of poor air quality. Week In, Week Out invited the Welsh Government to take part in a programme on the subject, but that was declined. People need to see leadership as this should be a pressing priority. Would the First Minister agree to hold a summit on the issue?

Carwyn said it's for local authorities to review air quality. The Welsh Government are considering responses to a consultation on the subject. There's no doubt that addressing air quality will provide a long-term health boost. One way to do that is to reduce the number of cars standing idle in traffic with their engine running – which creates pockets of poor air quality – as well as encouraging people onto public transport.


David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East) asked for an outline of the Welsh Government's plans to improve access to Cardiff Airport. He welcomed improvements in the airport's performance, but a direct rail link could give it a competitive edge over local airports.

The Welsh Government are continuing to develop proposals to improve access by car and public transport. The focus at the moment is on improving the frequency of current rails services via Rhoose; future consideration may be given to a rail spur but it faces opposition. The terminal itself could also be relocated closer to the rail line.

Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs.) asked what plans did the First Minister have to address GP recruitment problems? Professional indemnity is a major barrier for GPs who want to go part time or are in semi-retirement and want to go back to work, which would help reduce queues and waiting times.

The Welsh Government will continue to work with partners to address challenges facing GPs, supported by a £27million package announced last week. Indemnity is a matter being raised in discussions with the profession and the package will address that, as well as pensions administration and practice costs.

Michelle Brown AM (UKIP, North Wales) asked what enforcement action has been taken under dog breeding regulations introduced in 2014? Local authorities are said to not have the resources to enforce the legislation on puppy farms. Also, does the Welsh Government intend to ban third party dog sales in Wales?

The First Minister said officials were working with heads of trading standards to judge the effectiveness of the regulations. Puppy farming and legitimate third party dog sales are separate issues, and third party sellers are often responsible dog breeders. It's important the “real rogues” are dealt with. He'll also consider further investigating the introduction of an animal abuse register – a policy recently championed by Bethan Jenkins AM (Plaid, South Wales West).

Urgent Question

Following the news about Ford in Bridgend last week, there was further turbulence in the automotive sector with news of GM agreeing to sell Vauxhall to the owners of Peugeot and Citroen.

Hannah Blythyn AM (Lab, Delyn) asked what discussions had been held on the future of Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory in Cheshire? Jobs looks safe until at least 2020, but Ellesmere Port needs new products after that date. Did the Welsh Government agree that the Nissan post-Brexit deal should apply across the UK automotive sector?

Economy & Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South), wrote to the company's head on the importance of the Ellesmere Port plant to the north Wales economy. He's also requested urgent meetings with management and has spoken with Vauxhall officials on possible opportunities for the site.

An estimated 450 people from Wales are employed at Ellesmere Port and a dozen Welsh companies are supported in the supply chain. Uncertainty over Brexit needs to be resolved; what's good for Nissan should be good enough for the whole automotive sector. There are also opportunities for a greater proportion of the supply chain contracts to be captured by Welsh companies.


Post a Comment