FMQs: EEA, CEOs and HMPs

FMQs, 12th June 2018

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): EEA Membership

Labour’s policy on single market membership has been said to be flexible, but there was nothing flexible about “£5billion being wiped from the Welsh economy”. EEA membership was identified as the least damaging option in the white paper co-authored by Plaid Cymru and Labour, so why is it that Welsh Labour MPs at Westminster are now willing to lay a path for “the Tories to pull us out of the single market?”

The First Minister told the chamber the situation in Norway (EEA membership) was “interesting” and he would prefer a post-Brexit model like that. Nevertheless, he wasn’t responsible for what happens at Westminster – but staying in the customs union at least was “non-negotiable”. The Welsh Government’s position hasn’t changed; we need a “sensible, pragmatic Brexit that works for Wales”.

Verdict: Block – The blurred lines between Welsh and UK Labour hurt Carwyn again, but it’s not as if he can do anything about this.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Qatar CEO Comments & Pinewood Studios Wales

The CEO of Qatar Airways recently made a sexist comment about leadership. What representations did the Welsh Government make to the airline given the strategic partnership between the two?

Secondly, the Wales Audit Office report on Pinewood Studios Wales. When the project was announced it was said up to 2,000 jobs and £90million would be generated; to date, it’s 50 jobs and and a £9million loss. What’s gone wrong? If you were running a small Welsh business seeing the levels of support these companies receive despite these “detestable comments and over-estimations” you would be left scratching your head.

The First Minister distanced himself from the CEO’s comments whilst being non-committal. On Pinewood, Carwyn said it would take time to see results as not all projects are finished or released. The broader picture of the Welsh economy was positive, with low unemployment and record levels of foreign direct investment. The Tories would’ve been quite happy to see Cardiff Airport shut.

Verdict: Hit – There’s still time for things to turn around but Pinewood Wales is clearly heading for this list.

Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West): Prisons in Wales

Comments made by the Public Services Secretary suggest that Welsh prisons shouldn’t be used to house English prisoners. Caroline doesn’t believe “we can go it alone”. Welsh prisons are also overcrowded with 4,747 prisoners for 3,700 spaces, leading to Welsh prisoners being sent hundreds of miles away. Would the First Minister support building more prisons if criminal justice policy were devolved?

The First Minister is well aware that Wales’ prison needs can’t be currently met by Welsh prisons – including Category A and women prisoners. He supports devolution of criminal justice, but it would “take some time” due to the close integration with England. It’s worth thinking about what a Welsh penal policy might look like and the types and number of prison we might want, as well as how prisoners would be rehabilitated. Northern Ireland, Scotland, Guernsey and Jersey all have their own criminal justice and prison systems – there’s no reason Wales shouldn’t.

Verdict: Miss – Caroline seemed to be making a very strong argument in favour of devolving criminal justice; clearly not what she intended.


Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales): What discussions has the Welsh Government had with Arla following its decision to close the site in Llandyrnog?

An urgent face-to-face meeting with Arla has been requested. The announcement came with no warning. Opportunities for the site are being discussed and staff will be eligible for Welsh Government redundancy and retraining support.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West): What is the Welsh Government doing to tackle alcohol abuse? (Drunks attending drink-awareness courses in Gwent).

£50million is spent annually on substance misuse (including alcohol abuse) and AMs will debate the Minimum Alcohol Pricing Bill later today. The First Minister thought the drink-awareness course was a “good idea”, similar to being “bound over” by a magistrate. He also expresses support for a trial of alcohol-free zones at the Principality Stadium.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.): Will the First Minister make a statement on the future of health services in west Wales?

The First Minister urged everyone to take part in a public consultation on the future of Hywel Dda’s hospital services. The plans themselves have been developed with input from doctors, nurses and staff – so it’s not political. It was important to stress that no final decisions have been made.

Verdict: Miss – It’s probably right not to pre-judge a consultation even if there are concerns about services as they currently are.

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