04/04/2017 First Minister's Questions


Full coverage of AM's questions to the first minister from the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

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Good afternoon, welcome to the programme and our final


programme before Easter covering of questions to the First Minister.


Carwyn Jones is expecting to be asked about issues


including child health, investment in roads and the work


Don't forget we're @walespolitics on Twitter, where you can see


Business in the Siambr has started, so let's cross to today's questions


That brings us to the first item on the agenda, questions to the First


Minister. Will the First Minister outline


what steps the Welsh Government is taking to improve child


health in Wales? We are committed to improving child


health in Wales. Taking this forward included in commitment for a


programme which was launched last October and that programme includes


the range of preventative measures to help parents and children make


healthy lifestyle choices. Recent report by the Chief Medical


Officer for Wales and the Royal College of paediatrics and Child


health had a very hard-hitting messages about the impact of poverty


and inequality on child health. With the First Minister outline what


steps the Welsh Government is taking to improve outcomes for children


from poorer backgrounds in Wales. What assurances can you give that


tackling the impact of poverty on child health will be a top priority


for this government? It is a priority for others. In


terms of closing the attainment gap, that gap has been closing. We've


seen the grants under way that has worked the of so many young people.


We see the foundation phase and the benefits that gives to children in


terms of developing skills early that'll stand them in good stead for


the future. We always look to see how we can improve outcomes for


children in the future and that has been considered across government at


the moment as part of our prosperity for all.


May I also referred to the local is of paediatrics report. There were 39


notes. Can you consider the recommendations as an agenda to


tackle the issue of child and asked the less and health in Wales. Among


the recommendations is the additional risk to which I's health


when someone is smoked during pregnancy. They know the impact that


has on a number of ways in the development and growth of a child.


The risk of stillbirth and the risk of being premature and so on. That


is based on the numbers that are smoked during pregnancy in England


and Scotland but for Wales that data isn't as robust as it should be


because we rely on self reporting from pregnant mothers to gather that


data. Can I ask you what intention of the government has to look at the


need to gather more robust data in that ADF because how can we know


what these to be done unless we can be sure of the scale of the problem?


We are developing a new child health plan at the moment and that's a look


at the priorities that we should pursue and that the health service


should follow. As part of that we must ensure that the data we have is


robust and this will be considered during the development of that plan.


One of the ways to improving child health is to ensure proper access to


school nurses across Wales. When you congratulate the school nurse


workforce we have in us, they do an excellent jobs in terms of


immunisation and public health messages in schools. The unique


Judith Jo Wood in your constituency, where they have a unique model of


nursing. You will be aware that the school nursing service there is one


which is employed by the school itself and one which gives advice on


all range of subjects not just the pupils but to the staff and the


families. It is a good example of good


practice. I can almost see the school from where I live. We know


the school nurses do an excellent job. We now our childhood


immunisation rates are top of the benchmarks. In 2016-17 the flu


immunisation programme was extended to include every child from aged two


to seven. First Minister, the Royal College of


paediatrics and Child health 2017 state of child health highlighted


the need for safe places for children to play in order to tackle


the quarter of entire population in Wales who start primary school


obese. What is your government are doing to ensure that young people


have access to open spaces and play areas and what actions are you


taking to ensure that every new development provides safe areas for


children to play? In new housing developments we would


expect local authorities to provide those open areas. I have seen them


across Wales. Where new houses are filled there is space for children


to play, there are facilities for children to play on as well. Cycle


paths are increasingly included as part of developments as they should


be. Cycling has to be seen as something normal in terms of


provision of cycling facilities in new developments in the future. That


is certainly much in advance of the situation that previously existed


where housing developers were built a no provision was made at all for


open spaces or four children to play.


Will the First Minister make a statement on cross-border health


arrangements between England and Wales?


The cross border protocol is in place to make sure patients have


access to relevant services. First Minister, he will be aware of


the ongoing future fits process on the future of emergency health care


services for patients in Shropshire and mid Wales. It is important for


my constituents that emergency services are based in Shrewsbury.


The Welsh Government hasn't taken a public position in this regard. Can


I ask what prevents you from taking a view on this matter and making


strong representations to the NHS future programme board on behalf of


mid Wales residents, we knew take a position?


Geographically, Shrewsbury is closer so we prefer services to be based in


shrews believe. But it is important to ensure services are safe and


sustainable. I know with ophthalmology and urology be health


board, Powys, has secured alternative provision through an


organisation called practice that includes community outreach clinics.


From our perspective we would like to see services that are accessed by


worst people in England to be as close to those Welsh patients as


possible. First Minister got today we learn


that has been a 16% increase in the number of junior doctors choosing to


come to or stay in Wales to train to become GPs. Across the Wells NHS


waiting times are going down, average response time is now less


than five minutes. The British Heart Foundation described as a world


leader in cardiac rehabilitation, improvements in cancer performance


is now 40% higher than five years ago. For the fourth successive month


we're getting people home from hospital faster. In England, the


proportion of patients being treated or discharged in time fell below 78%


with nearly half of hospitals... You do need to come to a question. What


message do you have for the people working in the NHS who have had to


endure the Tories attempt to denigrate the Wells NHS over the


last few years? We saw what the Tories did in 2015.


Today, we see more GP training places are being filled and it shows


that the Welsh NHS is seen as a good place to work and that good progress


will continue in future. Thank you. At the same time as


fulfilling a genuine need, cross-border health care corporation


can serve two masters the shortage of staff in Wales that has been


caused by the failure of government to train the Miss that clinicians.


-- clinicians. If we look at the rural authority


like poets it is inevitable that an authority like that will access


specialist services from England. It makes sense for people who live in


large areas of poets, there are specialist services in England that


rely on poets poets patients. -- Powys patients. From my perspective,


the last thing I want to see is any kind of walk down between England


and Wales. 25,000 people across the border the other way to get A


services in Wales. Questions from the party leaders.


Andrew RT Davies. First Minister. Why did the Welsh Government decided


last week to sack the chair of Sport Wales given upon his appointment


they then incoming was told he was entering a toxic environment, that


he was tasked with tackling a dysfunctional and insular


organisation? Disorder government agree that sacking this chairman was


the right thing to do? Sport Wales was facing great


difficulties, that much is true. That is an independent review of


Sport Wales which is continuing at this moment in time. It was quite


clear that the relationship between the chair and the board and


vice-chair had broken down and action had to be taken in order for


the organisation be rebuilt. I am told the review has been


concluded. On February the 13th of Welsh Government's Deputy permanent


secretary dismissed all the allegations made against the then


chair and offered him three options to move the situation forward. All


of which saw him continue his involvement in some shape or form


within Sport Wales. What happened in the very short intervening period


which altered the situation and resulted in the sacking of Paul


Thomas? As is known on the 14th of February


Minister made a statement to AMs on the headline findings of the review.


One of those findings was a clash of culture had developed between the


chair and other board members. It is clear action needed to be taken in


order for the board to become fully functional in the future.


I have the letter here that is in the public domain so you can't


comment on it but it was sent to James Price that itemises the


allegations that are made against the chair and how those allegations


were rebuked. There are some serious allegations levelled against the


previous chair and also the current chief executive of Sport Wales.


Sport Wales handles a considerable amount of public money and has a


dream and to improve elite sports and participation sports around


Wales. I would be interested to hear how the Welsh Government will take


forward the allegations and investigate the allegations against


the previous chair and also the current Chief Executive as the


allegations warrant answers and above all to make sure that Sport


Wales is able to get on with his day-to-day function. I do reiterate,


the Welsh Government told the new chair, Paul Thomas come on taking up


office that he was entering a toxic environment and he was tasked with


tackling a dysfunctional and insular organisation. I do ask once again,


this is the entire government agree with the dismissal of Paul Thomas?


The answer to the question is, yes. The government has taken a view on


this. The organisation remained dysfunctional and the relationship


had broken down. In those circumstances no organisation could


be expected to deliver what it should do in the future. We know all


organisations need to adapt to changing circumstances and the


independent review of Sport Wales operations is continuing. It was


quite clear that Sport Wales could not continue with the dysfunction


that remained in the organisation and the minister took the decision


the best way forward is to take the action that was taken in order to


make sure Sport Wales is effective in future.


Clear the proposed job cuts at the University of Wales is of a concern.


The University of Wales Trinity Saint David is also looking to


downsize its workforce. I would like to place on record my support for


the roles both of those institutions play in our society. I am concerned


about the situation that those institutions are facing. And about


the prospect of losing what are well-paid jobs. What discussions has


your government held since the two sets of redundancies were proposed?


Were the University strategies shared with you and I used at the


side with the explanations they have given for these changes?


I haven't seen any explanations for these changes. I am aware of the


situation at those institutions. We expect a period of consultation and


staff and unions are kept informed. One of the issues that concerns me


is we are seeing a drop in applications particularly from


students from abroad. We know applications through UCAS from EU


countries decreased by 8% between 2016 and 2017. The fewer students


there are, the less many delays, the less money that is pay staff. There


are demographic challenges that you have alluded to but I don't think


that should mean we should lose the positive economic amp -- impact that


the institution generates. We recognise it plays a vital role in


the West as well. The proposals for 4.6% reduction in staff at USW and


the figure for Trinity Saint David is yet to become permanent. I have


had contradictory information and stop many of the roles at risk would


be managers, but from the trade union, I have been told that the


roles could be cut and could include IT, library staff and student


services. Do you think these job losses are normal housekeeping or


are they a sign that these universities are facing a difficult


future? I haven't seen anything on this scale since the 80s. It is not


quite clear what sort of jobs would be lost. There is greater clarity


for both institutions on what they are proposing. I am concerned as to


whether the drop-off of applications is having an effect on the


University's income. Both institutions are feeling the pinch


from the decision taken to lift the University's admission cap in


England. We know the situation around European and international


student recruitment remains volatile. The responsibility to


navigate through these difficult waters forced to us in Wales and it


is you who has overall responsibility for protecting our


higher education sector. What will the Welsh Government do to support


our universities? How will you protect these jobs and make sure


there is no impact in the longer term on courses? Do you intend to


carry on as business as usual or will you stop -- step in and provide


guidance so they can continue to do the good job that they do? We have


provided more money but it is more than that. It is about making sure


Wales is seen as a place that students want to come to. I feel


strongly about this. We have finance schemes that bring in the top


academics into Wales and they attract the best students as well.


Some universities have invested heavily in capital programmes to


improve and build new campuses which are hugely important in terms of


attracting students. What we don't know at this moment in time is what


effect Brexit will have on EU students applying to our


universities and students from other countries such as India where there


has been a significant drop-off of numbers and what effect that will


have on sustainability of our universities. That is yet to be


fully seen in terms of the impact. A certain amount of posturing takes


place. The First Minister wants to play a direct role in these


negotiations and there is a useful role he can play. He can write to


Chancellor Merkel to say it is a mistake to disconnect the trade


talks from other issues that have to be decided such as EU citizens,


writes in this country and vice versa and also the question of the


dowry that the EU wants the British taxpayer to stump up which may be as


much as ?60 billion. We have paid them 500 billion in the last 40


years. Secondly, there is the other development in relation to Spain and


Gibraltar where it seems the EU is trying to use Gibraltar as a


bargaining chip to get a better deal from us. Given that the question of


sovereignty in Gibraltar has been decisively settled by a referendum


when nearly every single resident of Gibraltar voted to retain its links


with Britain, will he write to the Prime Minister of Spain and to the


Chief Minister of Gibraltar supporting the Gibraltarians right


to determination? Bevvies a lot of posturing. There are are issues that


need to be worked through. They have to discuss it as soon as possible


and the future of EU citizens in the UK and EU is resolved as quickly as


possible. I do think there has been a significant amount of hysterical


reporting on some of these issues. It was said the UK was using defence


as a bargaining chip. It is also said that Spain is trying to use


Gibraltar. Spain has been very quiet on the issue of Gibraltar. It has


more to do with sovereignty but with Gibraltar's status as a tax haven


and how will affect Spain in the future. I see nothing benevolent in


this. There are tax havens that need to be resolved. It is clear the


people of Gibraltar wished to remain British and that is what should


happen. That was the decision of a referendum. They also voted to


remain in the EU. When I met with the Minister of Gibraltar, he was


clear the last thing they wanted was a closure of the border. It would be


disastrous. It is in the interests of sprain -- Spain and Gibraltar


that the border stays open. It is true in the interests of both


countries for that border to remain open because 40% of the jobs and


Gibraltar are filled by people who live in Spain. Given the rate of


unemployment in Andalusia is 13% and in Gibraltar, 1%, it is in Spain's


interest to respect the existing status of Gibraltar and its status


as a tax haven also. I will repeat my question. Will he write to the


Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the Prime Minister of Spain supporting


the Gibraltarians's case in relation to sovereignty and to their freedom


to set what tax rates they want in respect of the trade which is


conducted within the territory of Gibraltar? The Prime Minister of


Spain has laid claim to Gibraltar. The issue has come from the


commission and not from Spain itself. It is a matter for the


people of Gibraltar how they choose what relationships they choose to


have. Nowhere should be forced to transfer to another country against


the wishes of its population. It is true of any country. I have met with


the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and will be meeting with him in the next


few weeks. It is Gibraltar's concern about what Brexit might mean for


their own trade situation and their border. That is what Gibraltar has


been concerned about as we look forward to the next two years. The


border is of critical importance to Gibraltar but it is not as though we


have no bargaining chips in our hand in this respect. If it is the case


that Spain has put its claim to Gibraltar's sovereignty on ice and


is prepared to live with Gibraltar, that is well and good. The idea is


fundamentally absurd. This is something which has been decided in


the Council of ministers and in between the commission and the Prime


Minister of Spain. It is vitally important for southern Spain as well


as for Gibraltar that there should be no interference from Spain in the


economic life of Gibraltar at all. I think given the First Minister was a


strong supporter of Remain and Gibraltar and the people of


Gibraltar were in favour of Remain, this is where he can play a


significant role in trying to persuade the EU authorities of the


good sense of coming to sensible agreements with Britain in the


interest of us all. I am not responsible in terms of my devolved


powers but we have a relationship with Gibraltar and have had meetings


with the Chief Minister and continue to have meetings with the Chief


Minister. Gibraltar is in a similar situation to Northern Ireland. It


has its own arrangements in terms of tax but what is clear is there is no


destabilisation of the area around the border on the Spanish side or


Gibraltar is self. I expect that to be examined as part of


renegotiations. Will the First Minister make


a statement on investment in We have a projected spend of ?700


million. That is in addition to funding reserves for the M4


projects. The public inquiry into the M4and the root decided on by the


Welsh Government is underway. The Welsh Government's original


proposals for the M4 route included the motorway in the existing stretch


with the possible creation of cycle and bus lanes and speed


restrictions. Is this still the Welsh Government's intention and is


it being considered considering it could happen negative impact on


journey times from any of my constituents, many of whom would


rely on the existing piece of road regardless all -- of whether or not


the black fruit is chosen? The Welsh Government's evidence is public and


open to examination. It is importantly inquiry considers


evidence before making a recommendation. Anyone who regularly


travels between North and south knows that it's not a pleasant


experience to see the lease and fortunately the most practical way


of travelling across Wales is by car. There have been no significant


improvements to the main road linking the north and south of our


country since the days of the Deputy First Minister. Work -- what work


has been done to analyse which improvements are needed to the A470


to improve this key transport route which links our nation? If the


answer is none or not much, will you commit to carrying out this study


and to cast any improvements required in fall? I would be willing


to bet that we are talking about a relatively small sum compared with


the investment intended with the M4? I would say it is not just the car


that is available because the train service has improved and it has been


improved for many years. When it started, you couldn't get from north


to south and vice versa without changing at Shrewsbury. There is a


serviced twice a day and as regards to the road, we have improvements in


many areas. We have seen significant


improvements on the road for many years now. But we do have a Pinch


Point scheme in order to deal with some of the problems that still


exist. Also for somebody like myself who comes down from the North Down


to Bridgend, it was a great pleasure to see the all-important


improvements at Glendower V. Part of the road was dangerous for many


years but it has been improved now greatly.


Many -- many people have a declining active travel over many years. When


future roads are considered, will he make sure that interventions to


encourage public transport and to build design into the road


infrastructure are at the heart of considerations? I cannot stand here


and preach. What I can say is the vision that was shown on what was


the M4 and what is now the A48 in terms of the cycle route that


exists, was visionary at the time. We have seen it rolled out. The


Church Village bypass had the cycle path running along side it. We


expect when you read screens are in place, there should be an


improvement in the cycle routes also. -- road schemes. The driver --


traveller should not feel they have to travel by car.


Will the First Minister make a statement on


We're committed to ensuring paediatric care delivered on the


basis the best available advice. The First Minister will be aware of


the limitations as Withybush hospital. Have a particular


distressing constituency case which has arisen where a child was taken


out of hours and 2016 in pain. That is diagnosed wrongly as a you're in


infection and treatable by antibiotics, the next morning the


child was taken in with suspected appendicitis bass appendicitis. The


same child in January of this year was taken to the out of hours GP in


Withybush with a fever and that was misdiagnosed as a virus. The title


is driven the following morning by the parents took hungrily where the


symptoms of Scarlets fever were diagnosed which was correct. I know


that an individual case isn't necessarily representative of


everything but given the out of hours limitations on paediatric care


committee had been a paediatrics specialist in Withybush at the time


of the child was taken to the hospital for the diagnosis, it is


possible and likely that those areas that errors may not have been made.


What needs to be bent to restore 24 hour paediatric services at


Withybush. The situation the member this grade


is a diagnosis is GP should be made. GP should be looking at that. You


don't need a consultant to that. There are changes that have taken


place at Withybush, that is true. They are temporary, they are not


designed to be long-term. The health board is working hard to resolve the


issue and to reinstate the 12 hour service as as soon as possible.


First Minister, when children leave hospital particularly if they have a


life limiting condition, they will need medical and social care at


home. That'll affect their carers and other children in the household.


In July last year the Minister said the government was refreshing the


carers strategy at the end of last year and it is still being currently


refreshed in both January and March. If your priorities are young carers


and carers of respite, when can be seen what you mean by that?


We want to make sure the strategy is right, that needs to take into


account as many views as possible in order for the strategy to be robust.


The strategy will be published as soon as possible once it is felt the


strategy is one that can be presented to the people of Wales.


Will the First Minister provide an update on the work


It meant on four occasions and the delivery plan will be published in


July addressing sleep and realities. Jobs and skills, improve public


services and community and personal well-being. The plan is being shaped


by feedback from the initial public engagement events.


Depressed wages and high unemployment have been blighting the


values for at least three decades. The obvious question is, what has


taken you so long? Places like Treherbert are desperate for


investment and the commute to Treforest or further afield from the


Heads of the Valleys is a joke. There are two trains cancelled this


morning. If the city region and the Valleys task force proved to be yet


more false dawns for these communities, that is a risk real


damage will be done to this institution and to devolution not


just to your government and the Labour Party. How do you intend, as


head of this government, to ensure actions match the rhetoric and real


benefits are delivered to the Valleys? What will you do if another


two or five or ten years go by with no noticeable improvements in these


communities? Transport is key, that is why the


Metro is important. It takes in an acceptably long time to travel from


Treherbert down to Cardiff. The service isn't seen as reliable. From


next year we will specify the franchise, we haven't had an


opportunity to do that before. We'll be able to move forward with the


Metro to have more convenient, comfortable and frequent services.


And also to connect Rhondda Fach to make sure people's services I


connected more frequently. That is one way of getting people to jobs in


Cardiff but it isn't just about that, 11 me when people go through


Cardiff Central every year. It is about making sure it is easy to go


from Cardiff into the Valleys as well so investors don't see the


Valleys as being physically distant from Cardiff. That is how they have


been deceived. We want to make sure we have a chance to network that


shows our Valley communities are able to attract more investment in


the future. First Minister, the Valleys in the


West don't get involved. Tourism is important in the Almond Valley. --


Almond Valley. Will you ensure the task force will accept those skills


are making sure there are local jobs for local people.


It is something we intend to develop in future. It is important we don't


forget that transport links are important wherever the particular


valley might be and that means when they get control of the buses next


year we will be able to look at how we can improve services in the Amman


Valley. It is an opportunity for us to creating integrated transport


system across Wales, not just in some parts of Wales to benefit


people who live in the Valleys. I am told that there have been nine


engagement events, five targeted events and for further formal


engagement events planned and a cabinet secretary has intended each


and every one of these engagement events. Can you confirm that is the


case? How are these views being fed back in? If Cabinet secretaries and


intending -- attending these events, I commend that as good practice.


It is important that people see these events as worth coming to. If


they have government ministers at those events I trust they will feel


that is the case. It is right to say that in the initial events there was


frustration people wanted to get off their chest and that is inevitable.


Now what we're finding is people want to move on and see what can be


done to improve their quality of life, whether it is skills, we know


skills are important. Skills are the way to raise GDP. Unemployment is,


on paper, less of an issue than it was. That is something we will focus


on very sharply over the next five to ten years.


What are the Welsh Government's priorities for improving public


The national transport finance plan published in July of 2015 set out in


investment for transport and infrastructure and services for 2015


across all parts of Wales. The South Wales Metro gives us an


opportunity to have a real improvement in public transport


services in the Valleys and I welcome your answer last week about


the importance of Inter Valley transport links. At the moment a


return bus journey between Aberdare and Merthyr is ?7. A train journey


between Aberdare and Cardiff is ?8. More than in the hourly national


living wage. How will the worst governments make sure that there is


for the Metro are set at an affordable level?


Affordable fares are being considered as part of the


procurements over the next rail services. We have the Metro


contract. We want to make sure we see increased patronage especially


off-peak times and we want to see discount to the cost of travel for


people working irregular work patterns is that it is important the


system is integrated and has a ticketing system that has smart


ticketing. That is something that is crucial to the development of the


Metro. In an announcement, one of the most


significant improvements to any commuter in a day cases the opening


of Ebbw Vale line, Graham David trains Wales revealed they are to


double the capacity of commuter trains. -- Arriva trains Wales. The


contracts mean it is trying to deal with rising passenger numbers with


the same number of trains as they had in 2003. What discussion has the


Welsh Government had with Arriva trains to find ways of increasing


the number of trains to provide services between Cardiff -- Cardiff


and the Valleys with Mac it is part of the franchise discussions that


will take place next year. We want to make sure there are more


comfortable trains on the network. The Welsh Government will have


control over these issues and we intend to make sure the network is


improved and developed. I just want to speak up for the


Northern Valleys of the Ogmore constituency. We have four Valleys,


many of which will benefit from better public transport in terms of


faster buses, cheaper ticketing and joined up ticketing. What is the


view of the First Minister on the importance of the Maesteg to


Cheltenham, is it now is, main line or community line, in terms of the


South Wales Metro? For many people in that Valley and adjoining


Valleys, that is as integral to the Cardiff travel to work area as is


Ebbw Vale or Merthyr or anywhere else. They believe they are part and


parcel of the South West travel area. What role do they play?


Hugely important. It was a great act of the Vale of Glamorgan to open


that line. It is an hourly service with no Sunday service. That isn't


something we should be satisfied with. It is important we look to


increasing services on the line. And to see what can be done to rent a


Sunday service. I know full well those trains are very, very well


used. Finau Brent later in the evening than they used to I don't


spend all my time looking at train timetables! I know the service is


hugely important. What action is the Welsh Government


taking to support access to high street banking services


in town centres? These are matters for banks. It is a


non-devolve as we have welcomed the announcement post offices will be


able to provide services. If that is done properly it may well enhance


the service to bank uses rather than reduce the service.


NatWest has announced the closure across South Wales, we have heard


closes on the constituents of Alun Davies, Lynne Neagle, Vikki Howells


and in my constituency. NatWest did it without any consultation. I


condemn that and I think it should have been better. I am concerned


about the impact on elderly and vulnerable people, people who don't


have access to Internet banking and the message that shows two High St


where banks are closing branches closing and we are trying to


regenerate the Northern Valleys. I think it is the wrong thing to do.


You mentioned the post Office, to what extent can we ensure that


people like the post office ensure those services are properly


available? I have seen branch closures in my


own constituency as well over the years. I know branches in Bridgend


town centre itself patronage has dropped because the reasons for


people going into the bank are fewer. Internet banking isn't a


solution. There are people who can't or don't feel comfortable using


electronic services and provision must be made for them. To my mind,


if this is done properly people can access the same services through the


post office that'll give them access to a wide range of branches. It will


help with the sustainability of post offices because they know they


receive commission. The post offices do provide a way of ensuring


services continue for those people who use them. I have been told by


banks they will be more closures but it is the trend they have seen. HSBC


were the last to resist that trend. They kept those branches longer but


it is absolutely crucial that services are not lost people and


they are provided the alternative means of the post office.


Thank you. A statement by Lloyds Bank this week said they intend to


shrink the number of bank branches is concerning. Particularly in terms


of job cuts. That is bound to lead to that. And also the illusion of


face-to-face counter service available. We could also take a


positive view of the announcement partially because what we seem to be


seeing is the bank adapting in response to changes in customer


habits rather than taking the step that has appeared far too easy for


them in the past, to close branches of. Do you agree with me we should


urge the banks to adapt rather than close and that is best for our high


streets in Wales and we should seek to use all legislative and


regulatory tools possible in order to urge them to do that?


I don't believe it is possible to use legislation to change the


situation but I do agree with him that banks should think of every


alternative apart from closure. That should be the final option rather


than the first option. Of course, if it isn't possible to lose the house


to service then it is crucial that the banks deal with the post office


and services can continue in the post office. But we would not wish


to the closure of branches as a priority for the banks. The NatWest


bank in the last 12 days has announced the closure of the


Welshpool and Machynlleth branches. They have done so without any public


consultation whatsoever. It public meeting was held last night in


Welshpool to this regard in the post office was also discussed as a


potential. Along the issues there, there are some about privacy and the


capacity of post offices in some particular rural locations. I


understand absolutely this is an issue ultimately for the bank, it is


a commercial decision. I have raised and had a positive response from


ministers when calling for the government to facilitate a


discussion with the banks and the Financial Conduct Authority and


other partners to explore a community bank model which would see


banks shares services. I wonder whether this would be something he


would be willing to explore? I would consider that. I will ask


the Minister to write to the member with regard to the proposals he has


made. What we don't want to see is a loss of banking services completely


in communities. There is a danger that where banks particularly when


branches are closed, decisions are made in the post office, they don't


leave a cash machine. In Crickhowell, one of the branches


closed but the ATM has remained. I will ask the Minister to write to


the member in that regard particularly with regard to the


suggestion he makes and community banking.


Does the First Minister have any plans to make official visits


to European countries in the near future?


My most recent visits were to Brussels and Norway and a plan to


visit Gibraltar. Does he have any plans to visit the


European Investment Bank in Luxembourg to state Wales's case for


future investments by the banking projects in Wales like Berlin to


Hospital in my constituency and about their case for the UK to


continue as the subscribing partner after we leave the EU?


I can see a senior official level delegation visited the bank in


October to maintain direct dial-up. The vice presidents of the EIB


visited Cardiff. We strongly advocate the UK should remain a


sponsoring partner of EIB, it doesn't cost anything. The UK


contributions loan money. There is no reason why, in leaving the EU, we


cannot remain part of the EIB structure. Thank you First Minister.


The next item on the agenda is the business statement. I call on the


leader of the house. There we are - that was


First Minister's Questions. If you want more more coverage


of the National Assembly you can go online to BBC Wales's Senedd Live


page at bbc.co.uk/walespolitics. The Assembly is in


recess from next week. We'll be back with the next


First Minister's Questions in May. Don't forget for all the latest


political news, watch Wales Today later today at 6.30pm on BBC1 Wales


and Newyddion at 9.00pm on S4C. As for First Minister's Questions


though, from all of us


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