FMQs, 9th January 2018
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): NHS Winter Pressures
Were highly-publicised pressures in the Welsh NHS over the last few weeks predictable and preventable? Some problems were unique to Wales, such as a lack of out-of-hours GP services in Cardiff. What measures will be taken to address these pressures, which tend to happen year-in year-out?
The First Minister paid tribute to NHS staff and said winter was always a challenging period. He believes the response has been “professional”; more resources were made available and the situation is stabilising. He didn’t believe the problems were predictable, citing a 54% spike in “Red” (most serious) 999 calls over Christmas-New Year’s 2017 compared to 2016.
Verdict: Block – It’s unclear whether the problems were predictable or not.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): NHS Winter Pressures
Could the First Minister honestly say the Welsh NHS had performed well over the holiday period? The story from him was one of an NHS performing well under pressure, but there’s another story of hospital resembling a “battlefield”. The Welsh NHS “needs more beds, needs more nurses and needs more doctors”. Will he accept responsibility for failing to train enough doctors in Wales?
Carwyn was categorical that the NHS performed well and staff were “magnificent and heroic”. The issue with beds is more complicated that Leanne makes out; it’s more important to get people out of hospital as soon as they’re fit to go home. Recruitment campaigns for doctors have been successful and although he agrees in principle with lifting NHS pay caps to improve working conditions, the price tag is “hundreds of millions of pounds” and has to come from somewhere.
Verdict: Block – A similar answer to earlier questions, but surely it’s no bad thing to train more of our own doctors?
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Brexit Transition Fund
Although Neil welcomed the recently-announced £50m fund for business preparedness for Brexit, isn’t it about time the Welsh Government were more optimistic about Britain’s chances? He cited a reduction in regulations in order to help further expand Cardiff’s growing financial sector.
The First Minister couldn’t resist a dig at the latest UKIP clown car antics, saying they had “cheered everyone up”. In terms of the questions, it was fantasy to assume new markets and trade agreements would appear by next year – though he welcomed the UK Government moving more towards the Welsh Government’s views on Brexit. The issue of financial regulation is non-devolved and a Welsh financial sector will still have to operate in a wider European market.
Verdict: Miss – Bringing up non-devolved matters is a straight red card, Jeff even if unintended.
I said last year I wanted to come up with a fairer way of selecting backbench questions. I’ve decided to use this random number generator….and in doing so ended up picking all-Labour questions. The only rule is the question actually has to be asked on the day.
Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales): Will the First Minister make a statement on efforts to recycle plastic in Wales?
The Welsh Government are working with industry to increase capacity for recycling plastics, while a study of a producer responsibility scheme for plastic is due to report back in February. A tax on disposable plastic is also being considered.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward, but it’s good that the Welsh Government are apparently taking plastics recycling seriously after China’s recent announcement of an import ban (Wales exports 4,000 tonnes of plastic a year).
Jane Hutt AM (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan): Will the First Minister make a statement on Welsh Government action to mark the centenary anniversary of women’s suffrage?
Details of celebration plans will be available later this month, but the First Minister accepted there was a lot more to do on other aspects of equality. He wasn’t against the principle of gender quotas in the Assembly elections as recently recommended.
Verdict: Miss – The most interesting answers weren’t even related to the question.
David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon): Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government’s economic priorities for Aberavon in 2018?
Economic priorities are in the Prosperity for All strategy. 37 applications have been made for funding within the Port Talbot waterfront enterprise zone and enhanced capital allowances have been secured for three specific sites within the zone. The Welsh Government is not in a position to sell land to the Ministry of Justice for a new prison due to “unsatisfactory correspondence”.
Verdict: Miss – Is what it is, but an interesting titbit on the prison.