I won’t use the “Hit, Block, Miss” scoring system this week; it would’ve been neither fair nor right.
FMQs, 14th November 2017
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Welsh Government Bullying Allegations
If allegations from Leighton Andrews and former special advisors about the toxic culture are correct, then it’s no way to run a government. Allegations were made, but due to inaction the people involved “just gave up”. The First Minister told a Tory AM – around the time Leighton Andrews raised his concerns – that no allegations had been made. Would the First Minister be willing to have these allegations looked at by the independent inquiry?
The First Minister has listened to what people have had to say about the bullying allegations and if anyone has any other experiences to discuss they are free to contact him. He doesn’t believe these things should be discussed in public. He insisted that issues brought to him at that time “were dealt with.”
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Welsh Government Bullying Allegations
Following on from Andrew’s points, Neil pointed to a Martin Shipton article where senior Labour figures told him about the working environment in the Welsh Government. He moved on to the Carl Sargeant affair, asking if the First Minister was really satisfied that he handled it “by the book” and, if so, whether the book itself should be thrown out and replaced?
Again, the First Minister asked for people to share any information they have with him confidentially. On the inquiry, the whole story should “be told at once and not in bits”. There are lessons for all parties to learn; politics can be a brutal business and we need to make it less brutal without taking away the edge and the scrutiny.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Welsh Government Bullying Allegations & Harassment
Plaid isn’t prepared to make any premature statements on anyone’s future, but questions still need to be answered. Do we have a timescale for the independent inquiry? Should the independent Standards Commissioner (for the Assembly) be given the responsibility for looking at harassment and other similar cases in the future?
The First Minister said that for the inquiry to proceed a QC needs to be appointed and terms of reference set – all of which will be done at arm’s length. He wants it to proceed “as swiftly as possible” but gave no firm timescale. He saw merit in exploring the role of the Standards Commissioner, but any future complaints process should be “different, not weaker”.
Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy): Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s public procurement priorities?
The Welsh Government’s goal was to maximise the opportunities for Welsh businesses whilst meeting the challenges of austerity. On the issue of procuring health services from outside Wales, but where we can provide treatment we will. Procurement policy can also create jobs by maximising the impact of major infrastructure projects like A465 dualling.
Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central): How will the Welsh Government deal with the anticipated spike in child poverty in Wales as a result of changes to welfare benefits?
The First Minister was concerned about the possible spike in child poverty. Some measures already taken, or will be taken, by the Welsh Government to address this include widening access to free childcare, continuing investment in the Flying Start programme and programmes to get people into employment. The new scourge is in-work poverty and that demands a loosening of austerity measures by the UK Government.
Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales): Will the First Minister make a statement on preparatory work for the process of awarding the Wales and Borders franchise?
The Economy Secretary issued a statement on November 6th. There are still issues that need to be discussed with the UK Department of Transport, but there are no big problems in taking the process forward. He would prefer to run the railways with an arm’s length public body with the finance transferred – something Scotland can do but Wales can’t. He also sees no reason why Great Western Railway can’t provide Welsh language services on their trains.