FMQs: Homelessness, Bullying & Windfarms

Darren Millar: “I asked the bullying questions at Carl’s request”

Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West) – whose written questions on bullying in October/November 2014 have been at the heart of the debate over the First Minister’s conduct – revealed in a Personal Statement made to the chamber that he submitted those questions after being approached by Carl Sargeant over bullying by “an individual” working in the First Minister’s office, which was taking its toll on himself and others. Carl even went as far as to draft questions for Darren to ask.

If true and backed by evidence, for a Labour cabinet member to have to go to an opposition AM – a Tory no less – on a matter like this raises yet more serious questions about the working culture at the top of the Welsh Government.

FMQs, 12th December 2017

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Homelessness

Falling temperatures have given homelessness and rough sleeping a new urgency. In October, she asked the Welsh Government to abolish a test on “intentional homelessness” to ensure everyone who needs accommodation is found it. Will the Welsh Government consider instituting a cold weather protocol and open emergency shelters for those who need them?

The First Minister pointed to laws introduced to deal with homelessness. After visiting the Salvation Army to see their work he’s convinced people need tailored support. There were some people who’ve lived on the street for years and “it’s a choice that they make” – and he was told as such from homeless people themselves – but for most, it’s not. An additional £20million has been announced in the latest budget for homelessness support.

Verdict: Block – It’s astonishing to hear that some people choose to be homeless, but if it’s what those at the front line tell him, so be it.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Welsh Government Bullying Allegations

(This was asked before Darren Millar’s statement.) Did the First Minister meet with any cabinet colleagues in October 2014 to discuss bullying allegations or the behaviour of special advisers? This is an issue that people have taken interest in and it’s an AM’s duty to ask such questions. He also asked whether collective responsibility for cabinet members (where they have to toe the same line or resign) will be lifted when giving evidence to the investigations?

Carwyn said it was time to leave the matter for the independent investigation. That’s the most reasonable approach because it will look at the whole picture. Collective responsibility applies to policy only.

Verdict: Block – The sort of answers Carwyn should’ve given from the start but Darren Millar’s later statement had made matters worse.

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Windfarms

A wind farm was demolished (for the first time in 25 years) in the Lake District for desecrating an area of outstanding natural beauty. Will Wales follow this lead and give greater priority to protecting the landscape over reducing carbon emissions? There is a balance to be drawn as Wales is “irrelevant” in reducing global greenhouse emissions, but windfarms make a big difference to the lives of people living in Mid-Wales.

Welsh Government guidance on wind farms (TAN 8) has special conditions for national parks. Neil mentioned wind farms specifically, but didn’t mention open casting – did he think that was fine? Wales is never irrelevant and we have a part to play in reducing greenhouse emissions.

Verdict: Miss – A personal crusade of sorts by Neil, but his choice of words was lazy.


David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central): Will the First Minister make a statement on mental health support in the workplace in Wales?

Working to improve the health of employees is a key economic priority and further work is underway with small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to increase access to outreach programmes. It’s hugely important that people recognise the symptoms of stress for themselves so they can get help.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly): Will the First Minister make a statement on the delivery plan for Our Valleys, Our Future?

The Valleys Taskforce Action Plan outlines three priorities on skills, public services and community engagement. SMEs and local authorities working together is hugely important to what the Welsh Government want to deliver. The Metro will also be an important part of this so people can get to work faster.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales): Will the First Minister outline the schedule for the devolution of energy powers under the Wales Act 2017?

Powers to grant consent to energy-generating projects will be devolved from 1st April 2019; oil and gas licensing will be devolved from 1st October 2019. As for why they’re not taking on powers from April (as originally planned), the Welsh Government want to ensure the structures are in place to use the powers as they’re quite complex – that’s why they’ve been deferred by a few months.

Verdict: Block – A reasonable excuse, but there’s been plenty of time to get their house in order in preparation.

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