A new Assembly year and FMQs has a new home. It’s going to be pretty much as it was on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr, but it’s worth explaining how I pick backbench questions.
Firstly, they need to address a national issue or national initiative (not a local one, unless it’s been in the headlines) and not repeat a question that’s been asked in the previous two FMQs. They also have to actually have been answered in the chamber, not in writing. It’s as simple as that, really.
Follow-up questions aren’t included only the original (unless they’re exceptional), but answers to follow-up questions will be included in the summary of First Minister’s answer.
So the number of backbench questions will vary from now on; some weeks there might be none, other weeks I might have four or five – it depends on what AMs ask.
FMQs, 19th September 2017
You probably would’ve noticed that it’s the 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, and that’s where Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda), started. She wouldn’t forget the campaign or victory but was less than glowing about Labour’s record since then. Why were outcomes consistently worse than Scotland? Did the First Minister agree with Ron Davies’ comments on the Welsh Government needing to do more on “the big issues”?
The First Minister was proud of the Welsh Government’s record. The country has more confidence, is more recognisable abroad and things that were once seen as inevitable – like high unemployment – are no longer so. He rejected comparisons to Scotland, saying Scotland was “no Shangri La” and Wales is outperforming them in some areas, like unemployment. If she wants a different government, it’s her job to convince the electorate.
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central), turned his attention to the case of a worker at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board (ABMU) who was convicted of murdering a 65-year-old woman and is currently serving a 21-year sentence. He criticised the fact ABMU were allowed to investigate itself. Not one member of staff or patient were interviewed during that process.
The First Minister accepted it was a “complicated picture”. It’s not for him to tell Healthcare Inspectorate Wales what it should or shouldn’t do in a follow-up investigation, but it would be right to get as wide an evidence base as possible.
UKIP Leader, Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales) focused on the Welsh Government’s post-Brexit migration paper (here). Any move to maintain current levels of immigration goes against public opinion, with as many as 86% of people wanting immigration reduced. Shouldn’t we do more to protect low-skilled workers in Wales by reducing the immigration of similarly-skilled people?
Carwyn told the chamber than immigration should be tailored to suit the needs of the UK and targets were artificial. He rejected any idea that Wales “suffers” from immigration and blamed Neil Hamilton for being part of the government that drove down wages in the first place when he opposed measures like the minimum wage.
Mark Reckless AM (Con, South Wales East): What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government regarding the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Fair Movement of People‘ policy document?
The First Minister said the UK Government “didn’t wish any discussions” but the paper has been sent to them. He dismissed suggestions that Wales should do more to fill positions with our own workers, citing the NHS as an example, as most health services employ foreign doctors. We need an immigration policy that’s “sensible and fair” and avoids short-term labour shortages. A closed-border Hard Brexit wasn’t voted for by the public in either 2016 or 2017.
Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales: Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government action to tackle forced labour in Wales?
The Welsh Government launched an ethical supply chains code for businesses in March 2017, with the aim of making supply chains transparent and preventing exploitation. Local government also has some pre-existing powers under trading standards responsibilities.
Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn): What is the Welsh Government doing to protect and promote the rights of disabled people in Wales?
The Welsh Government are working closely with disability groups to set up a new framework. It’s impossible to reverse what the UK Government has done on things like Personal Independence Payments (PIP), particularly in light that 61% of appeals are successful.