FMQs: Booze, Budgets & Brexit

FMQs, 24th October 2017

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Alcohol Pricing & Drugs (more here)

What assessment had the Welsh Government made on the effect minimum pricing of alcohol would have on other forms of substance abuse? It doesn’t look like any assessment has been made; drug-related deaths have to come down alongside alcohol-related deaths. While criminal justice powers aren’t devolved there are measures the Welsh Government can take on harm-reduction, such as safe injecting rooms.

Carwyn believes the proposed law will help reduce health issues around alcohol and help pubs by preventing supermarkets from undercutting them. Current drugs laws have made it difficult to keep up with emerging street drugs like “spice”; Leanne is right to say there’s a problem with open drug use and dealers need to be targeted.

Verdict: Hit – Carwyn gave decent enough answers; shame they weren’t directly related to Leanne’s points.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Health Board Budget Deficits

Betsi Cadwaladr health board is under special measures but its budget deficit has doubled to £50million in this financial year and the numbers waiting longer than treatment targets increased by 79%. The Welsh Government’s own managers are saying this is the board reports, so how can people in north Wales have confidence their health board is on the road to recovery?

The First Minister doesn’t expect any health board to run a deficit in this financial year (without expanding further). Patients can have confidence in the board and recruitment campaigns have been successful. Every time a health board under-performs in England the Tories never say it’s the fault of Jeremy Hunt or the Conservatives.

Verdict: Hit – Unsatisfactory answers and Carwyn meandered off-topic.

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Minimum Alcohol Pricing

How could the First Minister support a law that’s regressive in how it works as it would disproportionately affect those on low incomes while “champagne socialists” living in Cardiff suburbs remain unaffected? There’s evidence from the CEBR that heavier drinkers are least responsive to price changes.

The First Minister asked whether Neil Hamilton suggesting people on lower incomes are bigger drinkers? That amounts to snobbery. Should we reduce taxes on tobacco because it’s regressive as well? It’s the same argument.

Verdict: Block – Neil was suggesting a form of reverse snobbery if anything, but Carwyn’s tobacco tax argument stands up (to an extent).


Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy): How does the Welsh Government ensure patient safety in Wales?

Local Health Boards are held to account via a range of measures and the Welsh Government encourages an open reporting culture. It’s natural that as more people come forward to report things, recorded incidents will increase – it doesn’t mean there are more incidents overall (re. reports of 77 excess deaths in Betsi Cadwaladr health board). The mortality rate in Betsi Cadwaladr health board is slightly below the Welsh average.

Verdict: Miss – Answered the question, but could’ve elaborated a bit more.

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly): Will the First Minister make a statement on patterns of self-employment in Wales?

Self-employment remains a “cornerstone” of the Welsh economy and the Welsh Government remained committed to supporting start-ups. A new report by the FSB (pdf) suggests that while many people believe self-employment is down to redundancy, it’s actually down to a desire to be more entrepreneurial – which is good news. People need encouragement most of all, particularly in the Valleys, while there’ll be additional financial support via the Development Bank.

Verdict: Miss – Answered the question without trouble (not that trouble was the intention anyway).

David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East): What assessment has the First Minister made of the impact any changes to immigration controls following Brexit will have on the NHS in Wales?

“Yes, it’s bad.” The First Minister “couldn’t care less” where doctors come from to work in the Welsh NHS. Although EU workers may make up a smaller percentage of NHS workers, can we afford to lose them? The idea of regional immigration quotas is “interesting” and there’s a case for a specific Welsh immigration quota suited to our needs if the UK Government sets a UK-wide quota post-Brexit.

Verdict: Miss – Took a chance in front of an open goal; interesting that he supports a regional quota in certain circumstances.

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