MONTHLY REPORT

23/06/2014

Alun Ffred Jones AM

Arfon Assembly Member         

May 2014

 Diary of the Month

 Thursday, May 1

 Morning – Chair Environment and Sustainability Committee  

Afternoon – speak at Renewable UK Cymru conference at Cardiff City Hall

 Friday, May 2

 Caernarfon office

 Monday, May 5

 Bank Holiday

 Tuesday, May 6

 Plenary in the afternoon

 Wednesday, Mai 7

 Chair Environment and Sustainability Committee  Plenary – pm

Dyfodol i’r Iaith meeting  – Planning for the Welsh language, Senedd, evening

 Thursday, May 8

 Finance Meeting, am

Technical briefing meeeting, Wales Bill  

Fly back to the north pm

Canvass in the evening

 Friday, May 9

 Surgery, Caernarfon

Meeting with Economic Developoment Committee, Gwynedd Council –feedback on S4C HQ bid

Campaign meeting, evening

 Monday, May 12

 Drive to Cardiff

 Tuesday, May 13

 All-party meeting on Welsh language

Public Accounts Committee

Cekebrate success of Nant Gwrtheyrn – lumchtime

Plenary – afternoon

 Wednesday, May 14

 Finance Committee – am

Da Urdd Gobaith Cymru Peace and Goodwill  message, Assembly – lunchtime

Plenary – pm

 Thursday, May 15

 Environment Committee  - visit Garwnant forest near Merthyr and CSW sawmill at Newbridge on Wye

Mayday Talwrn  - present event at Penygroes

 friday, May 16

  Jill Evans meeting  – am

Meet Aled Davies re Gwynedd planning policy  - pm

Surgery, Caernarfon – pm

 Saturday, May 17

 Canvassing  – Groeslon – am

Gŵyl Fai, Dyffryn Nantlle - pm

 Monday, May 19

 Meet HSBC representatives with Hywel Williams MP to discuss opposition to closure of Penygroes branch

Visit  Llyn Ogwen to launch Environment Committee report on sustainable land management

 Tuesday, May 20

 Public Account Committee – am

Ysgol Gynradd Rhostryfan visit Assembly

Plenary and briefing on Future Generations Bill  – pm

 Wednesday, May 21

 Chair Environment and Sustainability Committee  

Ysgol Llanllyfni visit Assembly

Sponsor W.I. event of fate of the High Street

Radio interview for Manylu programme

Plenary

 thursday, Mai 22

 fly up north – am

interview with Eifion Glyn re Welsh language standards – Byd ar Bedwar

 Friday, May 23

 Caernarfon office

Visit Carmel village hall with Hywel Williams MP for show organised by Bronyfoel, Carmel and Groeslon schools

 Tuesday, Mai 27

 Meet Dafydd Meurig and Dyfed Jones in Talybont to discuss safety of children attending Ysgol Llandygai.

Caernarfon surgery

Meeting with Dilwyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s new CEO

 Wednesday, May 28

 Eisteddfod yr Urdd

Reception at Annedd Wen, watch Drama Medal Ceremony and Neges Ewyllys Da and visit vatious stalls

 thursday, May 29

 Commonwealth Games Baton Ceremony at Arfon Leisure Centre

Meet Geraint Day in the afternoon to discuss Bangor office arrangements

 Friday, May 30

 Radio interview, Post Cynta’

 Saturday, May 31

 Plaid Cymru Executive meeting, Wrexham

Visit Saith Seren cooperative centre, Wrexham.

  QUESTIONS AND SPEECHES

6 May

Questions to First Minister Carwyn Jones

Jobs

A.Ff.J.

Referring to your comments on the economy, there is a report this morning saying that there were 46,000 fewer jobs in Wales in 2013 compared to 2008. That pattern is also very typical of the regions of England. It is only the south-east of England that shows a large growth in the number of permanent jobs. That is hidden to an extent by growth in the self-employed sector, but many of those are part-time posts, according to the analysis. Do you accept that having an economy in Britain where this massive growth takes place in one part, while the rest of the regions and nations are suffering, is a mistake and in fact actually undermines a prosperous economic future for all parts of Britain?

C.J.

Yes, that is true in my opinion. There has been too much emphasis on growing the economy in London and the south-east of England...

Statement: The Wales Infrastructure Investment Plan (WIIP): Opportunities for New Investment

A.Ff.J.

Plaid Cymru is very pleased to be able to welcome this announcement today, although we regret the fact that it has taken three years for us to reach this stage and for it to be announced. It is worth bearing in mind that in the party’s manifesto in 2011 we stated clearly that a minimum of £2 billion needed to be spent on capital schemes in addition to Barnett to sustain employment and promote business in Wales, and that, of course, because of the recession and the unemployment that we anticipated at the time. In those days, borrowing powers were a long way off and that is why the party introduced the idea from its Build for Wales scheme, an idea that, to be fair, was supported by the Minister making the announcement here today. Unfortunately, the Labour Party decided to criticise the idea as a completely impractical idea, but here we are today and here is the Government announcing a scheme along the same lines as Build for Wales, with the same aims and objectives, so very good.

In your statement you make reference to the fact that you have already secured over £1 billion of additional capital expenditure. Could you go into detail as to where exactly you get that figure of £1 billion, and then confirm that the money that you are announcing today is an additional £1 billion and that the borrowing of £500 million that the Government intends to do in the future, therefore, makes an additional capital expenditure total of £2.5 billion, which is very close to the figures that Plaid Cymru had back in 2011?

We welcome the investment in the Heads of the Valleys road—a scheme that was promoted by the former Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones—and the investment at Velindre.

You made reference to transport schemes in north Wales—could you go into more detail as to what exactly these schemes are? There is a great deal of vagueness surrounding these compared with some of the other schemes that you refer to. Do they include, for example, the new bridge over the Menai, or the electrification of the north Wales line, or the electrification of the mid Wales line? It is important that every part of Wales receives some benefit from this strategic funding—of course, it needs to be spent strategically, not just scattered across the country, but it is important that there is a broad geographical distribution to this funding to ensure the benefits that you referred to in your statement.

Reference has also been made to the fact that we need to make the most of this funding in terms of securing more contracts for companies from Wales, and that is for obvious reasons that we do not have to pursue today, exactly as Gerry Holtham used to say back in the spring of 2011. What are the most recent statistics as regards the percentage of capital contracts that come to companies from Wales? If you do not have those figures with you today, would you be willing to update the Assembly on that? We have to increase that percentage from the current 50% closer to 75% in order for us to ensure the best benefit for the people of Wales and the businesses of Wales.

Jane Hutt, Finance Minister

Diolch yn fawr, Alun Ffred Jones. I am very pleased that you welcome this announcement today. Of course, it comes on top of the work that has already been achieved...

7 May

Questions to the Health Minister Mark Drakeford

I do not expect you to comment on the individual case, but a constituent of mine has been waiting for months for a colonoscopy. The results were not conclusive and there will need to be further investigations. He has now gone to the back of the next queue. If he were willing to pay, the same specialist who is treating him would be willing to arrange a procedure within weeks at the same hospital. Why is the Labour Government overseeing a system that provides better healthcare to those who can pay for it?

M.D.

I heard what the Member said, but without having sight of the details and the background to the case that he is raising, it is impossible for me to answer the question. If he wishes to write to me, because he is raising important issues-

A.Ff.J.

Everyone knows.

M.D.

Well, I have not seen the details at all, but I am happy, if the Member were to write to me, to look into his question and answer him in full, because the points that he has raised are important.

Questions to the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty Jeff Cuthbert

A.Ff.J.

Will the Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s progress in relation to sustainable development?

J.C.

 I thank the Member for that question. Sustainability and ensuring the right long-term development path for Wales is at the heart of our programme for government. I look forward to welcoming Members’ views on the latest sustainable development annual report when we debate it in July and look forward to introducing the future generations Bill shortly thereafter.

A.Ff.J.

The term ʻsustainable development’ is included in two Welsh Acts. What is the Welsh Government’s definition of the term ʻsustainable development’ now?

J.C.

You are quite right—we do have the ‘One Wales: One Planet’ definition. It is likely that, in terms of the face of the future generations Bill, it will be the Brundtland definition that will appear.

Energy

A.Ff.J.

I am pleased to take part in this debate today, and the fact that we have tabled many amendments show that we take this debate seriously.

Climate change has been pushed to the outer reaches of political debate in recent years, for obvious reasons, and that has been a huge mistake. The warnings of scientists are frightening—and they should be frightening—to the whole world. Recent reports, as we heard earlier, underline the evidence that has been presented over a decade and more now. We have to respond, and we have to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels.

Although I appreciate the spirit of the Liberal Democrats’ motion, and agree with much—the majority, indeed—of what Bill Powell said, the party has to accept its responsibility as part of the coalition in London. However, I do agree completely with Bill Powell’s comments on UKIP’s blind and stupid stance on climate change—a very dangerous stance if it were to be successful in future elections.

May I refer to some of the amendments that we have tabled? The first amendment, amendment 2 in the name of Elin Jones, corrects the disingenuous sentence that suggests that the Liberal Democrats do not have a role to play in the UK Government. The motion today tries to suggest that there is a great difference between the Liberal Democrats and what is happening in the Government. It is a coalition Government, and I know that that can be difficult and uncomfortable for those in it, but you have to accept the responsibilities that come with that. It is not a Conservative Government in Westminster, but a coalition Government, and that Government has turned its back, in many respects, on the very important subject of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. However, I will not pursue that further.

Our second amendment, amendment 3, refers to the fact that we do not have control over this industry in Wales. We very often complain about the Westminster Government—about what it is doing in terms of energy policy—and, indeed, the motion today complains about the UK Government’s stance on renewable energy. Of course, if energy were fully devolved, without any meaningless limit such as 50 MW, then we would not have to complain at all. Plaid Cymru is completely clear on this—the people of Wales own our country’s natural resources, not the Westminster Government and not private companies. The people of Wales should benefit from those natural resources, and the Welsh Government should be creating energy policy, not the Westminster Government.

The Labour Party here often says that it is in favour devolving energy in full, apart from nuclear—for some reason, we are not able to deal with nuclear. Indeed, the Labour Party has voted here in favour of devolving those responsibilities. However, it is another matter completely when Labour Party members in Westminster come to vote—they are not supportive. You have to speak with one voice if you are to be taken seriously.

Amendment 4 asks the Government to look at the possibility of establishing a national energy company for Wales. Once again, we are trying to underline the need for the people of Wales to benefit directly from our resources. Such a company would be able to generate and sell energy directly to customers in Wales and, possibly, outside of Wales, and keep any profit either to invest in energy infrastructure or to subside the bills of customers in Wales. We do have a model in Wales, of course, Glas Cymru, which is for water, and we could do that for energy as well in the future.

Another way to reduce energy bills, of course, would be to use less energy in the first place, and this is what amendment 6 refers to. The Government’s schemes, Arbed and Nest, are two successful examples from this Government and we congratulate the Government on those. However, the Government should build on this success and expand these schemes. Certainly, the state of some of the old housing stock—and this is true in west Wales, north Wales and south Wales—means that it desperately needs to be retrofitted, and it is very important that we have a programme to deal with that.

13 May

Water Strategy for Wales

A.Ff.J.

You refer in your statement to taking action to ensure continuous improvement—something that I would warmly welcome. You have also just said that we must concentrate on what we can achieve with the powers that we have. So, I would like to refer to a particular case, namely Llyn Padarn; a body of water where an area of special scientific interest has been polluted over a number of years, and where the population of the rare arctic char is about to become extinct. There was a court case last week where NRW admitted that its inspection processes had been deficient, and it withdrew from the court case.

We know that pollution from sewage is at the heart of the problem, and of course Natural Resources Wales, and its predecessors, is the manager in this case for Welsh Water. What I want to ask you today, in the light of this statement, on the challenges that we face is this: what assurances can you give to the residents of the area, those who use the lake and fishermen that biodiversity and the water quality in the lake and the rivers within the catchment area will be protected for the future?

Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food:

I am aware of the issue that the Member is very eager to raise with me this afternoon...

A.Ff.J.

You refer in your statement to taking action to ensure continuous improvement—something that I would warmly welcome. You have also just said that we must concentrate on what we can achieve with the powers that we have. So, I would like to refer to a particular case, namely Llyn Padarn; a body of water where an area of special scientific interest has been polluted over a number of years, and where the population of the rare arctic char is about to become extinct. There was a court case last week where NRW admitted that its inspection processes had been deficient, and it withdrew from the court case.

14 May

The Performance of Services

A.Ff.J.

Will the Minister make a statement on the performance of services provided by local authorities?

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government

Diolch. Every local authority has a duty to provide efficient, high-quality services for its local population. The levels of performance are subject to scrutiny and challenge by independent regulatory and audit bodies, as well as authorities’ own scrutiny procedures.

A.Ff.J.

Thank you very much, Minister. Gwynedd Council collects food waste and has entered into a partnership with a private company to produce electricity from gas and to produce fertilizer. There will be enough electricity to supply approximately 900 houses each year. Would you congratulate the council on its innovation in this field as in many other fields?

L.G.

Yes. I saw the project myself and it certainly is innovative...

Railways: Plaid Cymru Debate – HS2 and Wales

A.Ff.J.

 Just in terms of accuracy, we are referring to the second report, which takes into consideration the most recent developments, including the electrification of the railway to south Wales. I say that just so that Eluned understands that we have done our research. She referred to Crossrail, and I think that we have to agree to disagree on that. We consider Crossrail to be a scheme that was specifically there to improve and to benefit London, and that Wales should have directly benefited from that via the Barnett formula.

However, both KPMG reports are the Government’s main basis for this huge expenditure of over £20 billion. It is true, and I think that we should recognise this, that the Westminster select committee has criticised those figures and the so-called advantages, saying that it overemphasises the advantages. Certainly, this major scheme will improve access to work and increase productivity in the midlands and in the south-east of England—as if that area of England need this addition, which is already driving a great divide between that area and the rest of the UK. My question is: what will the impact be for Wales? The KPMG report—the second report, to again be clear—tries to measure the effect of the scheme on various parts of the UK, and, in looking at Wales, refers to the fact that north-east Wales, Wrexham and Deeside in particular, could benefit because they are fairly close to Crewe and are likely to see slight gains in terms of productivity. The predictions for the rest of north Wales are not certain at all. They cannot predict that with any certainty.

Certainly, the electrification of the railway across north Wales could make a substantial contribution and make the necessary links, but we have not seen a promise of that—not to mention David Jones leading some sort of charge somewhere or other. I cannot imagine such a thing, but, even if that were the case—. That is, let us see that commitment, and let us have that commitment, if that is the case. By the way, I recognise that this Government has already done a great deal more than the Labour Government did in terms of railway development.

However, on an all-Wales basis, according to the KPMG figures, the influence on the Welsh economy is likely to be negative. In his presentation, Rhun tried to examine that. We predict a general loss of anything between £120 million and £180 million a year. That is why we think that there should be consequentials coming to Wales as a result of this development. As I said, the size of the loss is somewhere between £120 million and £180 million. We need that money in order to strengthen the economy of Wales so that we are more viable and can withstand some of these inevitable influences that occur as a result of such major developments.

Nick Ramsay

I hear what you say about the KPMG report, but you must accept that there is, potentially, some benefit to the Welsh economy if you improve the infrastructure of the UK economy as a whole.

A.Ff.

Well, we are talking here about expenditure of £20 billion, and you say that there could be a little bit of a difference for the Welsh economy. I am saying that we would want to see a lot more than a little bit of improvement perhaps to the economy of one part of Wales. I want to see the economy of the whole of Wales improving. Therefore, I think that the appropriate way of doing that is to have the Barnett consequential from this expenditure so that we can strengthen the economy across the board in all parts of Wales in order to be able to compete effectively with other parts not only of Britain, but of Europe and beyond.

Surely, the majority of us here in this Chamber today would agree that Wales needs to have a fair share of the HS2 expenditure. There are exactly the same arguments—far stronger arguments, in truth—than those relating to the Olympics. Promises were made regarding the benefits to Wales from that huge expenditure, but we saw very little in terms of outcomes and benefits for Wales. We argue that that would be even more true of this very expensive project.

20 May

Questions to First Minister Carwyn Jones

A.Ff.J.

Too often these days, one has to arrange to be ill a week in advance in order to see a GP on time. That is why the pharmaceutical service within the community is exceptionally important in terms of giving advice. What is the Government doing to secure the future of those pharmacies that exist at present in the majority of our larger villages and towns?

Carwyn Jones:

The system in terms of pharmacies ensures that there are not too many of them in any given area...

Heritage-led Regeneration

A.Ff.J. Will the Minister make a statement on heritage-led regeneration in the north-west?

John Griffiths, Minister for Cuture and Sport:

Welsh Government works with a range of partners to take forward heritage-led regeneration across Wales.

A.Ff.J.

I am sure you will join me in congratulating those responsible on the work that has been undertaken in Caernarfon and the improvements made to the sea wall in the area known as the 'south of France' under the castle walls. That will be a huge contribution to the tourism industry in the ensuing years. Looking ahead, in two years’ time, it will be 150 years since the Mimosa sailed to Patagonia and since the establishment of the historical links between Caernarfon and Patagonia, through Lewis Jones in particular, and also between Wales and Patagonia. Does the Government have any plans to celebrate that and to use that celebration to promote tourism and our awareness of our heritage in Wales?

John Griffiths

It is very much recognised within Welsh Government that those links with Patagonia are a very important part of our past and, indeed, our present and future...

21 May

NATO Summit

A.Ff.J.

Obviously, the cost of security is pretty hefty in these matters. Do we know what the cost of security will be, and do you know whether any of that cost will fall on Wales or on Welsh police forces?

Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport

As I think that I indicated to you, this is an UK Government event, and I would not like to comment on any matters to do with security...

Questions to the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis

Arts in Schools

A.Ff.J. Will the Minister make a statement on the role of the arts in schools? 

Huw Lewis

I thank the Member for Arfon. I am totally committed to the arts and cultural activities playing a central role in our schools and also to closer partnership between our schools and arts and cultural organisations. The Welsh Government has responded positively to all 12 recommendations of Professor Dai Smith’s recent report.

A.Ff.J.

Thank you very much. We look forward to seeing that report implemented. There is an exciting scheme called ‘Raising the Roof!’ that has started in two schools in my consituency—Ysgol Maesincla in Caernarfon and Ysgol Bryncegin in Maesgyrchan in Bangor. It is an ambitious musical training course for children from these deprived areas, and I would like to invite you to see the fruits of this very exciting venture sometime during this year.