FMQs: Labour’s 32-hour working week policy proposal defended

Shorter working weeks “an excellent policy”

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), focused on some of the policy announcements at Labour’s conference, in particular cutting working weeks to 32 hours on average within a decade. Did the Welsh Government support this?

While sharing the CBI’s concerns, Paul Davies was more concerned about the potential impact on the NHS:

“We’ve long debated the recruitment crisis caused by your government….and we know that the health service is already struggling to cope with demand for doctors, nurses and other health professionals. First Minister, can you tell us how many extra doctors, nurses and other vital NHS staff will be needed to meet the extra pressures that this policy will create, bearing in mind you’ve failed to recruit enough to meet the current needs?”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies

The First Minister thought it was “an excellent policy”, which could be popular with workers, drive up productivity and rebalance the economy in favour of working people.

He added that recruitment problems were caused mainly by policies pursued by the UK Government; restrictions on immigration were a far bigger threat to NHS recruitment than shorter working weeks.

Answering the poverty question

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) picked up on a job advert for a lead position for a child poverty review. What was this position, paying £60,000-a-year, about? Surely after 20 years in government, Labour ought to have an idea of why and how children live in poverty.

The Welsh Government has also in previous years dropped a target to eliminate child poverty as well as dropping a ministerial post dedicated to tackling poverty. Scotland was racing ahead with the introduction of binding anti-poverty targets and topping-up universal credit payments. “Isn’t the biggest poverty of all poverty of ambition?”

The First Minister said the idea that Labour wasn’t interesting in tackling child poverty was nonsense and he was disappointed that Plaid Cymru didn’t think it was worth having a deeper understanding.

“….if we have a better understanding, and particularly if we have a better understanding through the eyes of children themselves, then we will be able to do what is something that I know is shared between our parties; we want to make the greatest difference that we can in the lives of children in Wales, and we particularly want to make that difference in the lives of those children where money is the barrier to those children having the sorts of lives and experiences we want them to have.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Net-zero climate targets “would collapse the economy”

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) picked up on another Labour conference proposal, which is to set a net-zero carbon emissions target by 2030 – just 11 years away (the Welsh Government has a 2050 target). He claimed this would be “an absolute disaster and would lead to a collapse in the economy”.

The First Minister wanted the Welsh Government to have “the most ambitious, achievable climate change targets that we can put in place.” Any targets, should the UK Government and its priorities change, will be based on advice from the climate change commission.

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