FMQs: Struggling Supply Teachers, Power Grabs & Economic Intelligence



FMQs, 17th October 2017

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Pay & Conditions of Supply Teachers

The Senedd has long been critical of zero-hours contracts and poor working conditions for “gig economy employers” but a recent report into the pay and conditions of supply teachers has revealed many of them pay big tithes to recruitment agencies to get work. Agencies also charge schools above the pay rates of experienced teachers.

The First Minister said the situation was unacceptable, but teachers’ pay and conditions are not yet devolved. Pay and employment when it comes to agencies and supply teachers are matters for individual schools and to change that (removing local management of schools aka. LMS) requires a law change.

Verdict: Block – It would’ve been impossible for many AMs to disagree with Neil’s points but if the Welsh Government doesn’t have the power to do anything it cancels it out.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Westminster’s Brexit “Power Grab”

Did the First Minister agree with Damien Green’s assessment that “talk of a power grab was behind us”? It was encouraging that there were more positive meetings, but there are still risks of a power grab, particularly restrictions of devolved competences in relation to EU law (Clause 11). With the prospect of a “No Deal Brexit” now on the table, did the First Minister agree that it would be bad news for the Welsh economy? What would you do if that happens?

Carwyn re-iterated that he could not support the EU Withdrawl Bill in its current form, but there was a better understanding of the devolved administration’s positions after recent meetings. A no deal Brexit was “an exceptionally worrying prospect” and is becoming the default position, which both himself and Plaid Cymru would oppose. There are no mitigation plans for a “No Deal Brexit”.

Verdict: Block A great deal of agreement, but showed up the fact the Welsh Government has no “Plan B” on Brexit and is placing too much faith in the UK and EU reaching a deal.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Economic Intelligence

Why doesn’t the Welsh Government make use of economic intelligence when devising policy? The Scottish Government publishes reports on economic output, but Wales has no equivalent. He was concerned about the flippancy of the First Minister’s answer. He used automation as an example, with 35% of current jobs at risk in 18 years time from automation.

Carwyn initially responded “We do” to the first question, but later expanded on it to say there was a Chief Economist and department that provides advice. There are also industry bodies and the Public Policy Institute of Wales. The information the Welsh Government is getting is clearly right, pointing to low unemployment and high inward investment.

Verdict: Block – Carwyn’s first answer was petulant but it’s not as if the Welsh Government is completely devoid of data to hand.

Backbenchers

Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.): What plans does the First Minister have to support the pharmaceutical industry?

Wales has a strong record of attracting clinical trials and other support services in the pharmaceutical sector and trade missions that involve pharmaceuticals have been the largest for Wales in many years. It made no sense at all for the UK to have a different pharmaceutical regulatory regime to the rest of Europe.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer….and gave the First Minister an opportunity to criticise the UK Government’s Brexit strategy

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr): Has the Welsh Government specified the provision of electric trains between Cardiff and Swansea in its invitation to tender for the Wales and Borders franchise?

The First Minister didn’t accept that a failure to include electric Cardiff-Swansea services in the franchise specification was a missed opportunity to force through electrification – it was entirely the UK Government’s fault; they made the promise and didn’t keep it. The Welsh Government will continue to support electrification.

Verdict: Miss – I don’t like Carwyn’s answer but he’s right to say that including electrification in the franchise documents wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales): How is the Welsh Government supporting the recruitment of police officers?

The Welsh Government has no involvement in the recruitment of police officers as policing is non-devolved. However, they continue to support PCSOs as that falls within devolved powers (community safety). Mark can’t say policing shouldn’t be devolved then argue that Wales should spend money on a non-devolved service. Policing should be devolved alongside the appropriate budget.

Verdict: Miss – Mark knew policing was non-devolved but asked the question anyway.

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