FMQs: Carillion, Stressed NHS Staff & Prosperity



Emergency Question: Carillion’s Collapse

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms E & Dinefwr): What plans has the Welsh Government made to respond to the consequences of Carillion entering liquidation?

Finance Secretary, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West) expects “little direct impact” as Welsh exposure to Carillion is “modest”, but the Welsh Government will assess the needs of Carillion staff in Wales.

One contract for works on the A55 was awarded after the profits warning last July and legal advice is being taken by the Welsh Government over Abellio’s (one of the bidders for the Wales & Border rail franchise & Metro) relationship with Carillion.

He didn’t believe the “public should pay for your (Carillion’s) mistakes” and that’s why Wales has never adopted the approach of private companies providing public services.

FMQs, 16th January 2018

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

If Abellio is forced to pull out of the running for the rail franchise, it leaves Wales with only two bidders. What are the value for money implications if Abellio does have to pull out? Did TfW take any action after the repeated profits warnings? It sounds like both the Welsh Government and TfW sat on their hands.

The First Minister would have preferred to run Welsh railways via an arms-length not-for-profit but that was blocked by the UK Government even though it’s a model used in Scotland. Repeating what Mark Drakeford said earlier, discussions were ongoing with Abellio Rail Cymru but there has to be some distance between the bidders and Transport for Wales. Carwyn didn’t believe these large companies had sufficient governance to prevent this issues.

Verdict: Hit – Blimey! Reasonable questions from Neil with, arguably, insufficient answers from the First Minister.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Well-being of NHS Staff

A parliamentary review published today has recommended improved well-being services for NHS staff. Disclosures have been made to Leanne about low morale in the NHS, with some close to breaking point. Allegations have been made that ambulance prioritisation is putting patients at risk, with patients deemed suitable for a 20 minute response time waiting 6 hours.

Carwyn told the chamber that the well-being of staff was a matter for health boards, but they’re encouraged to put the right mechanisms in place to ensure staff well-being. He asked for further information in order to investigate the ambulance claims.

Verdict: Hit – A Minister asking for further information, while perfectly reasonable, is often a concession.

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

Recent prosperity and economic policy papers have offered little hope of wage increases or increases in productivity (GVA). In 1999, Welsh & Scottish workers took home nearly the same average weekly pay, now a Scot earns £49-a-week more on average. Prosperity for All glosses over some of the big challenges like automation and taxes.

Carwyn said unemployment was low in Wales after being perpetually above the UK average. The GVA figures are a legacy of encouraging low-skilled, low-paid, low-value jobs in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s also an issue where too many Welsh businesses reach a certain size and then sell-up; as a result, Wales is under-represented on stock markets.

Verdict: Block – Decent points made by both of them. No easy fix.

Backbenchers

Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales): Does the Welsh Government intend to ban wild animals in circuses in Wales?

A statement from the Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs Secretary is due before the half-term recess. There is “widespread support” for a ban and how we treat animals is an important reflection of a society. He didn’t want Wales to become a “haven” for wild animal exhibits even though we’re behind the rest of the UK & Ireland on a ban.

Verdict: Block – A subtle acknowledgement that the Welsh Government have been slow.

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth): Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government’s priorities for the NHS in Monmouthshire?

The First Minister’s aware of plans to close a dementia ward at Chepstow Community Hospital and move it to Newport but didn’t address concerns over staff shortage and an overall loss of beds. The consultation on the move is still open and the health board is considering future redevelopment and upgrade to facilities in Chepstow.

Verdict: Block – Carwyn could’ve answered properly on staff shortages and bed cuts.

Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid, Ynys Môn): Will the First Minister make a statement on communicating with people who are waiting for superfast broadband services?

Information on Superfast Cymru is available on the Welsh Government website. Telling households where superfast connections are available to them hasn’t been adequate by Openreach. A successor scheme for those places who haven’t been connected under Superfast Cymru is still being developed.

Verdict: Hit – People waiting for faster broadband perhaps shouldn’t be directed to a website. Just a thought.

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