FMQs: First Minister stands by Chief Whip who “campaigned against the government”

Emergency Question: Storm Ciara

Before FMQs, Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy) asked about the Welsh Government’s response to Storm Ciara, which resulted in major flooding in the Conwy valley – with Llanrwst particularly hard-hit.

Serious flooding is becoming a regular occurrence in the valley and the AM questioned the speed Natural Resources Wales flood warnings were issued and also called for an independent review of flood defences in the valley.

Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales) added that the narrative that flood defences were too expensive had to change when ultimately they’re designed to save money by avoiding costly outcomes.

Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham), said Conwy Council and NRW will need to take a look at the causes and bring forward appropriate recommendations for work. £350million is being invested in flood defences this term.

While she was pleased the Flood Re insurance scheme means 90% of insurance companies cover flood-prone homes, due to financial services being the responsibility of the UK Government, businesses aren’t covered by that scheme and she promised to take that up with Whitehall.

First Minister defends deputy “campaigning against her own government”

Following the news that Deputy Minister and Chief Whip, Jane Hutt (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), had campaigned against the closure of a ward at Barry Hospital, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) asked whether the First Minister would sack her?

With the Welsh Government at risk of “turning double standards into an art form” it was a simple matter of accountability and the principle of collective cabinet responsibility:

“Now, I completely understand why Labour backbencher Members want to campaign against health closures under your Government, but surely the position of Ministers is different. Accountability for the health service must lie with Ministers collectively in the Welsh Government, otherwise what is the point of the Welsh Government?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister dismissed Adam Price’s interpretation as “nonsense”. It was quite clear there had been no ministerial code breach:

“Here is paragraph 4.7 in the ministerial code: ‘Ministers are free to make their views about constituency matters known’…..What (Jane Hutt) did is entirely consistent with the ministerial code…(she) has a better understanding in her little finger of the probity and decency required of ministers than his question this afternoon demonstrates for a moment.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Domestic violence victims face postcode lottery seeking support

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), raised a “postcode lottery” in support for domestic violence victims found by the Wales Audit Office last year. The Welsh Government is yet to formally respond to that report. He was willing to support the government on this, but it was time to get a move on to address weaknesses.

“I’m concerned about the continuing delays associated with the 2015 (Domestic Violence) Act, because your government has now taken more than four years to lay national indicators following that Act, and we on this side of the Chamber want to work with you to ensure that the national indicators and the objectives of the national advisers on domestic abuse are appropriate. I am concerned that the objectives don’t appear to focus on a major area of helping to increase victim confidence and access to justice, especially as four out of five women do not report abuse to the police.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM

The First Minister said all local domestic violence strategies were under review and it’s been reported that there’s been “real momentum” since the auditor’s report was published. Extra funding has been provided towards domestic violence services in the 2020-21 budget.

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