FMQs, 13th February
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Hywel Dda Health Board Budget Deficit
Hywel Dda health board (which serves west Wales) is projecting a budget deficit of £70million at the end of the 2017-18 financial year. Four of Wales’ health boards are now under some form of government intervention. What’s going wrong and how on earth can a £70million deficit be brought under control?
The First Minister told AMs the Health Secretary made it clear to the health board that these deficits were “unacceptable”. The board said they would exceed their £59.8million deficit target only last December and he also admitted concerns about financial management. Harking back to previous comments, he told AMs “difficult choices” need to be made.
Verdict: Block – A draw; this is clearly going to become an issue but Carwyn was honest on the scale of the problem for once.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Devolution of Criminal Justice
The Thomas Commission – established to consider the future of criminal justice in Wales – is due to report back in 2019, but that might be too late to ensure justice powers are devolved ahead of the Sixth Assembly in 2021. There’ve been noted failures in the probation system, which Leanne linked to privatisation and staff cuts – leaving powers in Westminster’s hands hasn’t worked. Also, there’ve been a number of incidents at HMP Berwyn which raise questions about plans for a super prison in Port Talbot.
The First Minister believes the case for devolution of criminal justice would be strengthened after the Commission reports back; how fast any changes are made depends on the UK Government. Some powers Wales will have never had before – such as penal policy – and will require careful examination. He believed it was wrong to profit from rehabilitation of offenders. On Port Talbot, the UK Ministry of Justice still hadn’t answered questions to the Welsh Government’s satisfaction.
Verdict: Miss – Broad agreement between the two of them.
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): “Third World” Health Service
The number of beds in the Welsh NHS has been cut by 18% since 2010 and in some parts of Wales was being called a “national health shambles”. Why couldn’t the NHS be more open and transparent? Was the First Minister satisfied presiding over an NHS that in some parts of Wales was “worthy only of the third world”?
Unsurprisingly, Carwyn found the idea “outrageous”. He used the example of Uganda where they have 7 consultants serving 7 million people at one hospital and no treatments available even after routine diagnostics like endoscopy, with many people dying of preventable illnesses. The NHS in Wales was being funded at a higher level than England and calling it a shambles was an insult to NHS staff.
Verdict: Miss – As often is the case with Neil a semblance of an argument is tainted with snake venom.
Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West): Will the First Minister outline how the Welsh Government is tackling poverty in South Wales West (….by cutting taxes)?
The First Minister didn’t understand what UKIP wanted. They’ve argued against new taxes, but want to create a low-tax, business-friendly economy which would require devolution of extra tax powers. UKIP don’t have any sort of economic plan at all.
Verdict: Miss – Caroline’s one of the more likeable UKIP AMs, but her clumsily-worded and contradictory statements were easily pounced upon.
Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central): What steps is the Welsh Government taking to improve the welfare of puppies and dogs in Wales?
The Welsh Government take animal welfare seriously and will consider additional measures – such as a ban on third-party sales – in due course, though in many respects Wales is ahead of the game. Enforcement of current laws and regulations (by councils) is, of course, very important and being closely monitored.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.
Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn): Will the First Minister provide an update on Welsh Government plans to enhance educational facilities in Islwyn?
£28million has already been spent in the constituency under the 21st Century Schools programme. Another round of funding for Caerphilly county worth £110million, beginning in 2019, has been approved in principle. 150 schools and colleges have been rebuilt, built or refurbished in Wales that the Tories wouldn’t have otherwise touched.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer, straightforward Tory bashin’.