As the First Minister’s visiting the United States and Canada on a trade mission this week, Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West), filled in. LotHQs is a bit of a mouthful though.
LotHQs, 27th February 2018
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Trade ties with the USA
Neil was pleased the First Minister was talking up post-Brexit trade with the US but was dismayed it was later “torpedoed” by Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence on a customs union, which would hamstring the UK’s ability to draw up new trade deals. How can these two conflicting positions be reconciled? Shouldn’t we be nicer to Trump too if we want better trade deals?
The Leader of House didn’t believe the two ideas were conflicting. On suggestions that people needed to be “nicer” about Trump to secure new trade, Julie said there was a big difference between the presidency and the US as a whole.
Verdict: Miss – Batted away surprisingly easily.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn): EU Customs Union Membership
Filling in for Leanne Wood, Rhun kept his opening statement simple – did the Welsh Government support remaining in the customs union or not? A little while ago they made it clear they wanted to remain in the current customs union, not a newly-negotiated customs union as alluded to by Jeremy Corbyn – who wants to “pick and choose” aspects of the single market.
The Leader of the House stressed the importance of keeping open-minded as negotiations with the EU continue, but there was a need for some sort of customs union. It’s about getting the best deal overall and will depend on what’s put on the table by both sides.
Verdict: Block – Did a better job of it than Neil Hamilton.
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): M4 Newport Bypass Vote & Abellio’s withdrawal from rail franchise bid
Andrew welcomed a future vote on the M4 Newport bypass (after a motion calling for one was rejected by the Senedd). He wanted more details on what type of debate and vote it will be – the most “constitutionally binding” type being a budget vote or a final decision vote based on the public inquiry outcomes.
Secondly, as only half of the bidders remain in the running for the rail franchise contract, did the Welsh Government do all it could to make sure Abellio could remain a bidder? Are they confident the two remaining bidders are robust enough to see the process through?
The Leader of the House said at this time the vote/debate is likely to be a “soft/to note” debate on the inquiry findings – but it was impossible to be certain on the timings and wordings before the inquiry has reported back or appropriate legal advice has been sought. On the rail franchise, Julie said the Welsh Government “worked very hard” to keep Abellio in the running, but she was confident in the remaining two bidders.
Verdict: Block – Sounds like the future vote isn’t going to affect a decision on the bypass itself.
Despite my attempt to randomise selection of backbench questions, this was indeed the (all Labour) draw.
Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley): Will the First Minister outline the Welsh Government’s plans for its food and fun school clubs this summer?
A further £500,000 will be made available for 2018-19. The scheme has won seven awards. They’re doing what they can to ensure people involved meet all of the requirements/qualifications before a national roll-out.
Verdict: Block – There were concerns that regulations stop childminders being given funding if they look after relatives under the Welsh Government’s free childcare programme.
Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside): Will the leader of the house make a statement on investment in transport in north Wales?
The Welsh Government recognises the importance of improving transport between north Wales and north west England. Local authorities on both sides of the border are looking to develop improvements, including a north Wales metro and improved bus connectivity with Liverpool.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.
Rhianon Passmore AM (Lab, Islwyn): Will the First Minister provide an update on the Welsh Government’s assessment of the impact of leaving the European Union on Islwyn?
Brexit will affect every community. Measures are being taken to ensure devolution is respected vis-a-vis Brexit. Julie didn’t buy suggestions (from Cardiff University’s arch-Brexiteer academic, Prof. Patrick Minford) that consumer prices would fall after Brexit and subsequently benefit constituencies like Islwyn.
Verdict: Miss – It’s hard to judge what would happen at constituency level. Obligatory “Evil Tory baby-eaters etc.” from the member for Islwyn.