FMQs: “Are ethics non-devolved, First Minister?”

“Our head(teachers) are not marching in the streets”

First up at this week’s FMQs was Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) who asked why spending-per-pupil in Wales was £678 lower than England?

The First Minister rejected this figure, but Paul told him it came from the NASUWT union. He accused the First Minister of overseeing a managed decline in educational standards and budgets.

“….let me give you some figures: under your party’s stewardship, we’ve seen the worst GCSE results in a decade; the lowest ranking PISA scores in the UK…. an 8 per cent real-terms cut to funding for education….and the leader of your own council in your own constituency has warned that the £57 million funding gap in education created by your Government could see the loss of 1,300 teachers or 2,400 teaching assistants across Wales.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister accused Paul Davies of attacking teachers by suggesting that standards are deliberately getting worse. He also pointed to recent improvements in top grades at GCSE core subjects. Unlike in England, headteachers in Wales weren’t marching in the streets saying their schools were underfunded.

If the Tories want to see more money spent in Wales, he told them to take it up with London.

“Are ethics non-devolved?”

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) returned to the issue of militarism following last week’s question on Saudi pilot training. He asked whether the First Minister was content with Saudi pilots being trained in Wales?

Carwyn said it was a non-devolved matter but hoped for a peaceful settlement in Yemen. This wasn’t enough for the Plaid leader.

“You say that it’s a non-devolved matter, but are ethics non-devolved? Is morality non-devolved? Where does it say in the Government of Wales Act 2006 that matters of conscience are reserved with Westminster?….Now, on Sunday….you and I both pledged, and I quote: ‘To strive for all that makes peace.’ So, in honour of that pledge, are you prepared to promise that no Welsh Government money will go to a company that is directly supplying weapons to Saudi Arabia while this bloody conflict continues?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister wasn’t aware of any such companies…..until Adam Price revealed the Welsh Government has provided £1million to Raytheon, whose weapons are being used in Yemen; Raytheon’s Welsh operations are also involved in delivering air-to-ground capability for Saudi Arabia.

The First Minister promised to look into it and report back, though whether that can be done before he stands down is another matter.

Buzz in our towns

Russell George AM (Con, Montgomery) asked for the First Minister’s opinions on a recent Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) report that called for the establishment of a town centre fund.

Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) added there was evidence that empty shops put off other businesses opening, while Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley) mentioned that while many people want to see vibrant town centres, they’re often reluctant to shop there.

The First Minister played down expectations of a high-street retail revival:

“I think we have to accept that we are not likely to see the same number of retail units in towns in the future. If I look at my own home town of Bridgend, there are many, many units that are empty and will probably never be filled. Some of them have been empty for many, many years.”
– First Minister, Carwyn Jones (Lab, Bridgend)

He suggested turning more retail premises into housing to help “create a buzz” and said the 9am-5pm operating model often doesn’t work anymore. Businesses also needed to work together to figure out what their respective town’s unique selling points are.

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