Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr), returned from his visit to the SNP conference full of admiration for Nicola Sturgeon and drawing unflattering comparisons to Carwyn:
“Yesterday, when the Scottish First Minister called for any Brexit backstop affording Northern Ireland a special single market status also to be extended to Scotland, it was reported as major news by all UK media. Do you as First Minister of Wales echo that demand and when you speak on these matters why does no-one seem to take any notice?”
– Adam Price AM
The First Minister disagreed with his Scottish counterpart as it would shift the problem from Ireland. What was important was the UK and Ireland remaining in the same customs union with similar single market arrangements.
Adam Price then called for the proposed repeal of the Continuity Act to be halted until the outcome of the Supreme Court case with Scotland’s Bill; if the court rules in Scotland’s favour it could remain in force.
Again, the First Minister disagreed because an agreement was reached with the UK Government. The exchange went further with the topic of an Irish consulate (re)opening in Cardiff and the First Minister rejecting the idea that Ireland was to be compared flatteringly to Wales as an independent state.
“If you want to go to Ireland to get health cover, be my guest, because health provision there is far, far, far inferior to what we have here. Things have to be paid for in Ireland that are free here. It’s the reality, for example, that if you want to have a baby in Ireland, you pay*. That’s what happens there. The reality is the tax rates are higher, the cost of living is higher.”
– First Minister, Carwyn Jones (Lab, Bridgend).
* This isn’t true. Maternity and post-natal services are free at state hospitals. The Irish do pay (largely subsidised) fees for routine health care; for example, a GP visit costs around €50/£44 (sometimes higher), there are prescription charges and hospital inpatient stays are charged at €80/£70 a day to a maximum of €800/£703. Fees are waived for those on low incomes. And while personal tax rates are higher than the UK, things like tuition fees, business taxes, the equivalent of council tax and TV licences are generally lower. His point about the cost of living is right, though.
Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) asked why the new contract for delivering broadband services hasn’t yet been rolled out?
“And let me remind the First Minister that the Welsh Labour party’s 2011 election manifesto committed to ensure, and I quote, ‘that all residential premises and all businesses in Wales will have access to next-generation broadband by 2015.’ Well, that is clearly another broken promise by your Government.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM
The First Minister said discussions with BT were ongoing and as there’s no competition they’re the only provider. There was no broadband offer from the Tories in Wales and the issue isn’t even devolved, so where were the UK Government as well?
“For them, the market must determine everything. If we left that to happen in Wales, most of Wales would not have superfast broadband. We’ve intervened as a Government, we put investment in, and that’s why you raise it, because of the shame that his own party has done so little.”
– First Minister, Carwyn Jones.
Mandy Jones AM (Ind, North Wales) asked whether the Welsh Government will support a proposed amendment to UK animal welfare laws which will give special protection to service animals (i.e. police dogs, police horses) when they’re harmed in the line of duty – known as Finn’s Law.
Any changes would require the Senedd’s approval as it’s a devolved matter and the First Minister said the Welsh Government were “looking favourably” in terms of implementing the law. He called for members of the public to call the police if they suspect any mistreatment of animals.
An announcement on the future of third-party puppy sales was also expected before the end of term.