FMQs, 6th March
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Mental Health Patient Deaths
There’ve been reports that 271 mental health patients have died over the last six years in “EnglandandWales”. Leanne asked if any Welsh health board had been warned by a coroner regarding deaths of mental health patients? There have been calls for an inquiry, particularly as a large number of people who commit suicide often have contact with mental health services in the year before their death and young people can go 10 years between the first symptoms and receiving help.
The First Minister wasn’t aware of any warnings to Welsh health boards. There are issues with certain sections of the population not seeking help when they need to or dismissing mental health symptoms. Provision for young people has “improved substantially” since an £8million cash boost.
Verdict: Hit – Leanne seemed far more clued-up on the situation than Carwyn.
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): The costs of “The Beast from the East” & National Procurement Service
Local authorities face substantial bills following clean-up operations after last week’s snow. What help could they expect from the Welsh Government? Secondly, Andrew turned to a critical report into the National Procurement Service, having missed all its goals to save money and having to be bailed out by the government and unable to pay back the initial funding made available to it.
Discussions have taken place with councils and they’ve been asked to quantify what extra financial pressures have been placed upon them. On the procurement service, Carwyn pointed out that it hasn’t lost money and is on target to make the expected savings of £40million. The service will have to consider whether to increase subscriptions to cover its costs more effectively.
Verdict: Block – It’s factually correct to say the National Procurement Service hadn’t lost any money, but the concerns can’t be dismissed.
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales): Carwyn’s US Trip
Neil wondered what the First Minister actually did on his trip to North America last week? There were no scheduled meetings with members of the US Government and Carwyn met with Hillary Clinton the same day Donald Trump announced new tariffs on imports – which the UK was “caught in the slipstream of”. If the UK had an independent trade policy the UK could strike its own deals.
Carwyn wondered if Neil thought he should’ve “broken down the door of the White House” to demand a meeting with the President. The prospect of steel tariffs put’s a hole in Neil’s vision of a post-Brexit world and a free-trade deal with the US as it’s clearly an unfriendly act. US businesses want free trade but it’s clear the US Government doesn’t; protectionist governments don’t see free-trade deals.
Verdict: Miss – Trumped.
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales): Will the First Minister make a statement on support for claimants of the Welsh independent living grant following its cessation?
The Welsh Government are providing £27million to councils to meet the needs of those receiving the grant. They’ve been monitoring what councils are doing now as well as in a transition period as the grand comes to an end. They’ve made sure every penny goes to recipients, unlike the rest of the UK.
Verdict: Block – There’s clearly some concern on the ground about this issue based on the follow-up questions from other AMs.
Neil Hamilton AM: Will the First Minister provide an update on progress to lower the minimum age for voting in elections in Wales?
Changes to the voting age in local government elections are likely to be included in a new Local Government Bill this autumn; a separate consultation is taking place for Welsh General Elections. There are inconsistencies in different minimum ages for different behaviours (drinking, driving etc.) but 16 is appropriate for voting. It can also ingrain the habit of voting.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.
David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon): What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government on the devolution of the criminal justice system to Wales?
The UK Government rejected arguments for devolution in the previous Wales Bill. A Commission has been set up to provide “an expert, independent long-term view”. If it gets to a point of devolving criminal justice then we need a Welsh penal policy and it’s time to start a debate on what that should look like.
Verdict: Miss – A standard response, but interesting comments. Sounds like Welsh Labour are coming round to devolution of criminal justice when they’ve been less than enthusiastic in the past.