FMQs: Leaves on the Line

There were a number of questions relating to Brexit and the withdrawal agreement, but there’s a statement on that later – hence why this is being published a bit earlier than usual. There’s also likely to be a lively debate on the repeal of the Continuity Act, which I’ll cover tomorrow.

Too few levers as it is

Substituting for Adam Price, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) asked the First Minister whether the draft agreement works for Wales? Carwyn said no, as he was always in favour of remaining in the EU

Rhun then turned to this afternoon’s vote on repealing the Continuity Act.

“The Supreme Court is busy considering whether a Scottish Continuity Bill is within the competence of the Scottish Parliament. If the court agrees that it is, the Scots will have a powerful legislative shield against the Westminster power grab. Yet while you have raised concerns about the nature of UK withdrawal as is being proposed….you’re proposing this afternoon that we repeal the Welsh Continuity Bill….Now, given that the Supreme Court will come to its decision within a matter of weeks, why not delay withdrawing the Welsh Continuity Bill until we understand the lay of the land?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The First Minister told AMs that any Supreme Court ruling will likely apply to Wales; if they deem Scotland to have certain powers, then Wales will too. However, Wales made an agreement in good faith – after many months of negotiating – with the UK Government and one of the terms was to repeal the Act.

In response to Rhun saying Wales had “too few levers as it is” – and repeated calls for a “People’s Vote” – the First Minister said there wasn’t anything wrong in “going back to the people” now that they know what Brexit will mean in practice.

Paul demands miracles

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli. Pembs.) asked how the First Minister assessed the first few weeks of the new rail franchise?

“With great difficulty, because there have been enormous problems, as we can see. I’m glad that Transport for Wales has issued the apologies that is has. It had been affected by Storm Callum and they have inherited an elderly fleet. But we did say, we were honest at the start, it would take some time to replace the trains that we wanted and to get the kind of service that we want to provide to Wales.”
– First Minister, Carwyn Jones

Only a month ago the Economy Secretary was saying rail services would be “transformational”, but now it wasn’t living up to expectations according to Paul Davies. Some services have been cancelled multiple times in the last 20 days – “an absolute shambles”. He demanded the tender document be published in full – something the Welsh Government have refused to do – in order to scrutinise the franchise requirements.

It “was weak ground, even for him” replied the First Minister. Nothing was said about transforming rail services in a month and some problems are beyond the Welsh Government’s control. The First Minister did, however, promise to publish the document in a “suitably redacted” format.

Welsh Government to meet with Schaeffler

Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli) asked for an update on what the Welsh Government were doing to support employees at the Schaeffler plant in Llanelli, which is set for closure with the loss of up to 220 jobs.

The First Minister confirmed the Welsh Government will meet with Schaeffler in December. The aim is to support workers and find new uses for the Llanelli site. The talks have, apparently, been positive so far.

In response to comments from Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales), the First Minister said the Welsh Government have had a heads-up on closures in the past and have been able to help as a result. There was no notice this time. He also reminded the chamber the £50million Brexit preparedness fund is available to help businesses through current uncertainty.

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