FMQs: Lagoons, Syringes & The High Street

FMQs, 26th June 2018

Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda): Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Decision

Yesterday, Labour MPs backed Heathrow’s third runway the same day the UK Government cancelled the Swansea Tidal Lagoon. Any government that’s serious about tackling climate change can’t take decisions like these. There was still a “window of opportunity” to save the lagoon by setting up a publicly-owned energy company to take the project forward. Will the First Minister bother trying or just wring his hands?

The First Minister wasn’t responsible for how votes go at Westminster but expressed his own disappointment and concern that the lagoon has been scrapped. It would be wrong for the UK Government to suggest wind and nuclear are the only options worth pursuing. He accused Leanne and Plaid Cymru of trying to shift blame away from Westminister; it wasn’t for the Welsh Government to fill “enormous gaps” in UK Government policy.

Verdict: Block – Carwyn wrung his hands, but it’s a legitimate argument to say Wales isn’t responsible for taking a project like that forward; “devolution” at work. A reminder of what I said about the Faroe Islands a few weeks ago.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central): Opiate Use in the NHS

In light of the report last week into the use of opiates at Gosport Hospital, had the Welsh Government taken a look at its recommendations to determine what implications there might be for the Welsh NHS? Various safety notices had been issued over a particular syringe used to administer the drugs and they were supposed to be withdrawn from 2015 – is the Welsh NHS still using them?

The Welsh Government will consider any findings relevant to Wales. On the syringe issue, the First Minister said health boards had complied with the order (which implies they’re not being used). He wasn’t aware of any specific concerns raised in Wales, but patients and families who do have concerns can either contact the health board or AM.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West): Retail Crisis

A number of large retailers have announced closures in Wales over the last few months, with the loss of thousands of jobs. Some of the closures – particularly department stores – will see the loss of businesses that have been there for 130+ years. Many other high street names and traditional retailers could disappear by 2028. Wouldn’t a radical cut in business rates help the situation?

The First Minister wasn’t “going to pretend the challenges facing the retail sector were easy”, particularly with regard to online shopping and people browsing in shops but buying online. The solution is in making sure town centres and high streets were more “mixed” – with increased housing alongside offices and shops. It would take more than a rates cut and he raised the idea of online retailers paying more tax – though it would need to be led at a UK level.

Verdict: Block – The situation is bad, but both raised points worthy of further discussion.


Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn): Will the First Minister make a statement on Glastir grant payments?

£39million has been paid to farmers this year and the Welsh Government has consistently made payments in a timely manner. There’s now a window for payments set down in European regulations. There are also a number of alternative funding schemes for farmers.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli): What analysis has the Welsh Government undertaken of the opportunities outlined in the Institute of Welsh Affairs’ case study, “Swansea Bay City Region: A Renewable Energy Future”?

The First Minister welcomed the report, but the “mood music” around the announcement yesterday is that tidal power is too expensive and not seen as important by the UK Government. He supports further devolution of energy powers to Wales, but the energy market itself would remain controlled at Westminster.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd): Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government’s strategy to tackle problem gambling?

A cross-Government group is currently considering recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer to determine what additional work is needed. The First Minister said it would be difficult to find time to introduce a law on fixed-odds betting machines. One major problem is the proliferation of gambling adverts and the easy use of online betting sites.

Verdict: Miss – Straightforward question, straightforward answer.

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