FMQs: Ambulances, Russia & The Loch Ness Monster

FMQs, 13th March 2018

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Ambulance Response Times

Despite progress, there’ve been a number of high-profile serious ambulance delays, on occasion up to 20 hours. Andrew asked the Welsh Government to accept these extreme cases exist and requires a response from the Wales Ambulance Service. The Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend recently had to use a bereavement room to hold patients and over the last three years, the equivalent of 1,000 nurses have been lost in the Welsh NHS.

The First Minister had “no reason to doubt” the examples given. However, ambulance response times have improved since a new call category system – devised by clinicians – was introduced and more registered nurses were working in the Welsh NHS than ever before. A&E delays are often caused by delays in moving patients out of hospital – so it’s important to focus on that as a policy.

Verdict: Block – Both of them could’ve done a bit better as we’ve heard the same arguments put forward before.

Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Salisbury nerve agent attack

Jeremy Corbyn’s recent exchange with the Prime Minister over the Salisbury attack was condemned by Labour MP, John Woodcock, who suggested Corbyn might be a threat to national security himself if he didn’t understand the threat posed by Russia. Did the First Minister agree? Did he also agree with Nicola Sturgeon that Russia “shouldn’t be allowed to launch attacks with impunity”?

Carwyn tried to deflect it by dragging up Nigel Farage’s claim that a trade deal with the US was possible within 48 hours. Nevertheless, he was sure the investigation had the full support of politicians within and outside Westminster. He agreed with Nicola Sturgeon and whoever was responsible should be brought to justice.

Verdict: Miss – As much as I would like to see AMs debate issues like this as a parliament with control over defence and foreign affairs, it seemed to be a waste of discussion time.

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): South Wales Metro

Mick Antoniw AM’s (Lab, Pontypridd) recent comments describing the South Wales Metro as a “Loch Ness Monster” summed up how many AMs felt. The Welsh Government haven’t explained what’s going on and haven’t published any detailed tender document. Leanne asked the First Minister to confirm they no longer planned to electrify the Ebbw Vale line by 2023?

The First Minister said the Ebbw Vale line wasn’t included in any electrification plans in the first place (countered by Leanne Wood who quoted a statement saying Maesteg and Ebbw Vale were definitely included in electrification plans). The Welsh Government are showing their commitment to the Metro by taking control of the track from Network Rail. “There will be more frequent services, there will be better services, the trains will be better, the Metro will happen”.

Verdict: Hit – We’ll all believe it when we see it.


Mandy Jones AM (Ind, North Wales): Will the First Minister make a statement on further devolution to Wales in light of powers that will be transferred back from Brussels following Brexit?

The Welsh Government’s immediate priority is to protect areas that are already devolved. They don’t agree with any attempt to remove powers from the Assembly as they come from Brussels – they shouldn’t be diverted to the UK Government either. The preferred option of Wales and Scotland is to “create certainty through agreement, not imposition”.

Verdict: Miss – Mostly repeating what has already been, and will be, said as part of the Continuity Bill debate.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy): Will the First Minister make a statement on the future role of community and town councils in Wales?

An independent review will report back later this year. It’s not realistic to expect the same service from all community councils as they vary dramatically in size – from under 100 people to over 50,000. Community councils are, nevertheless, important and utilise local knowledge that shouldn’t be underestimated.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West): Will the First Minister provide an update on Maternity Network Wales?

Since launching in 2015 the network has focused on reducing stillbirths, improving the quality and safety of maternity services and working with women and their families. Causes of stillbirths are still not fully understood and it’s hugely important for bereavement services to be available to parents – who don’t see it as a stillbirth/premature birth but as a loss of a child.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

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