FMQs: Devolution of welfare administration “should be explored”

Bovine TB

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) demanded an apology from the Welsh Government after personal details of farmers were leaked to animal rights groups.

The First Minister refused, saying he didn’t want to repeat what had already been said on the matter. Paul Davies was disappointed by this lack of apology, but the wider issue was more important:

“….in the 12 months to September 2018….Wales has seen an increase in the number of cattle slaughtered because of suspected TB, with 9,700 cattle lost….You are clearly not doing enough to tackle this problem, given that the number of cattle being slaughtered is increasing. Therefore….do you accept there is absolutely no prospect of bovine TB being eradicated in Wales by your target date of 2041?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister said there were no easy answers to the problem and defended the Bovine TB programme:

“There are many good things that have happened as a result of all those endeavours, including better biosecurity at farms, including better traceability and better testing as well, which partly explains some of the ways in which the numbers that he referred to rise.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Miners Pensions

Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) took a number of causes which were close to Steffan Lewis’s heart.

First of all, calling for reforms to miners pensions whereby the UK Government syphons off half of any surpluses in the scheme. The First Minister said he was happy to take up the matter with those campaigning for changes.

Secondly, the mental health of new mothers.

“Can the First Minister today confirm that, in response to Steffan’s efforts, his Government will do everything necessary to ensure that all expectant or new mothers in Wales will have the perinatal mental health treatment they require in Wales and that no-one will be put in the tragic position of having to potentially be separated from their baby and families for treatment?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister told him that efforts for new mothers have been concentrated on community services, but there was nonetheless an ongoing commitment to providing in-patient/hospital services within Wales.

Brexit was another cause Steffan was heavily interested in and the First Minister confirmed that discussions are ongoing with the Scottish Government on how Wales and Scotland will respond to this evenings vote on the Brexit deal at Westminster.

Tackling Poverty

Prior to what was perhaps one of the more surprising answers of the afternoon, John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) asked about the Welsh Government’s priorities for tackling poverty. Universal credit was “cruel and inhumane” often leading to debt and homelessness. Was it now time to reconsider the devolution of welfare administration?

The First Minister acknowledged the opposition to the idea, however:

“…..other Members point quite rightly to the difficulties that might lie in its path, and there is a history that we’re all familiar with – for example, in the forced devolution of council tax benefit, where we took on the administration, but the UK Government badly short-changed us in terms of the amount of money required for the benefit itself, and nothing at all to pay for administration. But, having pointed to those warnings, then my view is that we ought to explore the devolution of administration. We want to do it carefully, but I think the case is made for exploration, and I’m happy to give him that assurance this afternoon.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford

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