Following the sudden ousting of Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales) as UKIP group leader, there was a new face leading that group’s questioning at this week’s FMQs.
FMQs, 22nd May 2018
Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Public Accounts Committee Circuit of Wales report
There’ll be more from me on this tomorrow, but Andrew said it made “depressing reading”, particularly the lack of ministerial oversight. How could government departments be run by officials with no oversight from a minister? Smaller organisations often have to jump through hoops and go through various stages of due diligence to get minor grants, yet nothing like that happened for the Circuit of Wales. Will the First Minister commit to sanctioning and disciplining those involved?
The First Minister accepted a full response was required in time, but it wouldn’t be right to prejudge any response. He didn’t mention any disciplinary action.
Verdict: Hit – As said, I’ve got a post on the report coming; Andrew wasn’t blustering when he called it “depressing”. It really is that bad.
Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Child Poverty
The Welsh Government can lift people out of poverty but often choose not to or don’t take up the levers to fix it, claiming that devolving the administration of welfare – which has the support of numerous charities and is already devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland – would undermine the UK’s social union. Did the First Minister believe the UK Government and Conservatives were best placed to tackle child poverty?
The UK Government is best placed to tackle it because they control welfare, but they’ve walked away from that role. It was “extraordinary….as a progressive politician” to be accused of not wanting to address child poverty. The Scots are spending money on bureaucracy that could be going on welfare and if Wales were independent we would have less money to spend on welfare.
Verdict: Hit – Being an effective government means occasionally taking responsibility for things you don’t want to take responsibility for; it’s not a pic-n-mix.
Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West): Devolution of Policing
Police & Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in Wales have expressed support for devolving policing. Did the First Minister agree and, if so, on what timescales? Would this undermine the Commission for Justice too? The cost of PCCs has sky-rocketed despite increases in violent crime. Would the Welsh Government abolish PCCs if they had the chance, given low turn-outs in elections?
It’s true that all four Police & Crime Commissioners were in favour of devolution of policing and the First Minister supports that as well. It would be for AMs to decide whether or not to abolish PCCs after policing is devolved.
Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer; not exactly the best FMQs debut but not awful either.
Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales): Will the First Minister make a statement on the provision of orthopaedic surgery?
The First Minister had sympathy for people waiting too long for surgery, but there has been a reduction in the number of patients waiting more than 38 weeks in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board since October 2017, with discussions on a new orthopaedic plan for north Wales ongoing.
Verdict: Block – It’s a little depressing that long waits to undergo surgery for painful conditions are now routine.
Dawn Bowden AM (Lab, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney): What action has the Welsh Government taken recently to help tackle poverty in valleys communities?
“Delivering good-quality jobs and supporting better public services”. He’s written to the UK Government asking them to reconsider welfare changes due to the fundamental flaws in universal credit. The UK Government also doesn’t believe in “fair work”, which has led to people in work relying on foodbank etc. to cover essentials.
Verdict: Miss – There’s action for you….strongly-worded letters. Ironic, considering the exchange with Leanne Wood earlier.
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales): How will the First Minister ensure that workers have a strong voice in any discussions relating to public service reorganisation (“privatisation” of dialysis services in north Wales)?
There’s a workforce partnership council which includes public sector employers and trade unions. No member of staff (dialysis service) will be forced to move to the independent sector and no final decision has been made on the renal service model.
Verdict: Block – Curious answers from the First Minister, who at one point recently said he opposed the service being privatised but has now seemingly come to accept it.