FMQs: Tories accused of “weaponising” the NHS ahead of UK election

First Minister won’t be drawn on PISA test “hypotheticals”

The latest round of results from the international PISA test – a consistent source of woe for AMs for the best part of two decades – are due to be published in December.

By and large, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) went through a series of quickfire questions where the First Minister confirmed that Wales’ PISA results will be published alongside everyone else’s and the Welsh Government haven’t yet received any advanced notice of the result, but:

” (The) Education Minister said in 2017 that we need to make progress in the next set of PISA results if we’re to hit the next target. If the news for Wales on 3rd December isn’t positive at all, or isn’t positive enough, what will the response of the Government be in that situation? Will you accept the strategy isn’t working? We’ve had a PISA target since 2006 after all. Will it be a catalyst for a much-needed boost in funding for the education system in Wales? Or will you be tempted to do what you often do under these circumstances, which is to drop the target?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister refused to speculate on a set of hypothetical results, describing it as a “wholly meaningless question”.

Marbella-based NHS manager “appointed following Senedd committee advice”

One story that made the headlines around the UK recently was the revelation that a management consultant brought in to help troubled Betsi Cadwaladr health board is working for £2,000-a-day from his home in Marbella – something which rankled Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.).

“….the Member refers to a director in the Betsi Cadwaladr trust who has been appointed following the advice of the Public Accounts Committee, that said that the health board should take immediate and urgent action to appoint a director to assist the health board to carry out the necessary reforms. So, the health board has followed the advice of the committee chaired by his colleague (Nick Ramsay), and I’m sure he’ll be glad that the health board has listened so attentively to that advice. “
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Paul Davies countered by saying there was no way the Public Accounts Committee recommended the salary or the working location. Did the Welsh Government accept that the £360,000, nine-month contract would take money away from frontline services, letting north Wales patients down yet again?

The First Minister said the Tory leader can’t dismiss committee advice when it doesn’t suit him. The sums of money reflect the NHS market that’s developed in England and is the sort of money paid to people in similar positions there. It was unfair to attack the integrity of someone on the floor of the Senedd who wasn’t there to defend himself; it was an “old Tory trick” of weaponising the NHS before an election.

Unnamed Labour AM accused of verbally abusing Brexit Party staffer

Someone else who was firmly in election mode was Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) and he was none too happy with what he described as Labour hypocrisy:

“One of your AMs in my region has said (the snap election is) a mistake of historic proportions. Another has said that it’s unsafe to have any election until the electoral system is reformed and abuse of politicians is dealt with. Since that Labour AM….told a female member of my group to ‘F off’ just two weeks ago….Do you not agree that is rank hypocrisy and that the real reason Labour resisted having an election is that you fear you will lose and you prefer to block Brexit in this House of Commons?”
– Mark Reckless AM

The First Minister said categorically that any issues regarding conduct of a Labour AM is a matter for the standards procedure – this isn’t the way to deal with it. Contrary to what Mark Reckless said, the First Minister was looking forward to the election. It’s a choice between a backwards-looking, privatising Conservative government, or a Labour government committed to a fair future for all, not just a privileged few.

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