FMQs: Out of the Blocks


Cover-Up

Fresh into his permanent role as Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) went straight for the jugular by asking why the First Minister “vetoed” aspects of the protocol drawn up for the QC-led inquiry into the Carl Sargeant affair?

The First Minister denied he vetoed anything, though Paul continued to probe, asking what parts of the protocol the First Minister disagreed with?

“We’ve seen a succession of so-called independent inquiries relating to your Government. We’ve seen, time and time again, your Government seeking to protect the Government from criticism at all costs. How can you reassure the Welsh people that this is not just another inquiry that ultimately leads to accusations of a Welsh Government cover-up? “

 

– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

Carwyn didn’t believe cross-examination was appropriate; it’s an inquiry, not a trial. There was no evidence to back up what Paul said about a cover-up; he didn’t have to set up the inquiry at all and the protocol has been in the hands of the Permanent Secretary.

Poverty of Ambition

Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) focused on possible changes to eligibility criteria for free school meals in Wales. 55,000 could miss out under the proposals meaning, “more stigma, more hunger, more food banks”.

“You are instituting a policy here that is harsher than the Tory Westminster government’s. Just one year after a prominent promise on page 38 of the Labour manifesto, which read ”we will introduce free school meals for all primary school children’ you are about to break that promise.”

 

– Leanne Wood AM

The First Minister said he would wait until the results of the public consultation were analysed. He denied that the Welsh Government had received £15million in additional funds as a Barnett formula consequential (because of policy changes in England). He shifted the subject to the strides Wales has made in building new schools and the Welsh Government were, “investing more than ever”.

Deep Concerns

Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth) told the First Minister than many farms had spoken to him over the summer recess on the deep concerns they had over the future of direct payments after Brexit. Why didn’t the consultation include the option of retaining current direct payments? Is this an attempt to use Brexit as cover to make deeper changes than necessary?

“…..the last thing we want is to be funded on the basis of Barnett when it comes to farming. That would be an enormous cut in funding as far as Wales is concerned….we know that without that money there is no money for farming, there is no money for farming subsidies, and the promise that was made is breached straightaway.”

 

– First Minister, Carwyn Jones (Lab, Bridgend)

The First Minister said he wanted commitments from the UK Government on farm subsidies post-2022. The £260million funding for farming is also ring-fenced and can only be spent on farming, meaning it didn’t have to compete with other policy priorities.

See also: this exchange between Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) and the First Minister on cross-border connectivity.

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