04/04/2017 First Minister's Questions


04/04/2017

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


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Transcript


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Good afternoon, welcome to the programme and our final

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programme before Easter covering of questions to the First Minister.

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Carwyn Jones is expecting to be asked about issues

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including child health, investment in roads and the work

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

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

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

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Minister. Will the First Minister outline

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what steps the Welsh Government is taking to improve child

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health in Wales? We are committed to improving child

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

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programme which was launched last October and that programme includes

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the range of preventative measures to help parents and children make

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healthy lifestyle choices. Recent report by the Chief Medical

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Officer for Wales and the Royal College of paediatrics and Child

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

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

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steps the Welsh Government is taking to improve outcomes for children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the moment as part of our prosperity for all.

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

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notes. Can you consider the recommendations as an agenda to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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school nurses across Wales. When you congratulate the school nurse

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

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immunisation and public health messages in schools. The unique

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

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

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

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

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families. It is a good example of good

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

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

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

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immunisation programme was extended to include every child from aged two

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to seven. First Minister, the Royal College of

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paediatrics and Child health 2017 state of child health highlighted

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

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the quarter of entire population in Wales who start primary school

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

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

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taking to ensure that every new development provides safe areas for

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children to play? In new housing developments we would

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

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

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

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paths are increasingly included as part of developments as they should

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

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

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is certainly much in advance of the situation that previously existed

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

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open spaces or four children to play.

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

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arrangements between England and Wales?

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

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

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

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

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my constituents that emergency services are based in Shrewsbury.

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

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

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strong representations to the NHS future programme board on behalf of

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mid Wales residents, we knew take a position?

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

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

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sustainable. I know with ophthalmology and urology be health

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board, Powys, has secured alternative provision through an

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organisation called practice that includes community outreach clinics.

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

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

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possible. First Minister got today we learn

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

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

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

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

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leader in cardiac rehabilitation, improvements in cancer performance

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

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

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

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

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

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endure the Tories attempt to denigrate the Wells NHS over the

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

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

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

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

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fulfilling a genuine need, cross-border health care corporation

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

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

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-- clinicians. If we look at the rural authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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services in Wales. Questions from the party leaders.

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

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

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

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he was tasked with tackling a dysfunctional and insular

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organisation? Disorder government agree that sacking this chairman was

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the right thing to do? Sport Wales was facing great

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

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

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clear that the relationship between the chair and the board and

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

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

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

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secretary dismissed all the allegations made against the then

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

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

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

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which altered the situation and resulted in the sacking of Paul

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Thomas? As is known on the 14th of February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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allegations that are made against the chair and how those allegations

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were rebuked. There are some serious allegations levelled against the

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

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

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dream and to improve elite sports and participation sports around

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

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forward the allegations and investigate the allegations against

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the previous chair and also the current Chief Executive as the

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allegations warrant answers and above all to make sure that Sport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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this. The organisation remained dysfunctional and the relationship

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had broken down. In those circumstances no organisation could

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

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organisations need to adapt to changing circumstances and the

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independent review of Sport Wales operations is continuing. It was

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quite clear that Sport Wales could not continue with the dysfunction

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that remained in the organisation and the minister took the decision

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

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make sure Sport Wales is effective in future.

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

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The University of Wales Trinity Saint David is also looking to

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

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

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about the situation that those institutions are facing. And about

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

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

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

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side with the explanations they have given for these changes?

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

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

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

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is we are seeing a drop in applications particularly from

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students from abroad. We know applications through UCAS from EU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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are they a sign that these universities are facing a difficult

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

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

:16:52.:17:01.

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

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

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University's income. Both institutions are feeling the pinch

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

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England. We know the situation around European and international

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student recruitment remains volatile. The responsibility to

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

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is you who has overall responsibility for protecting our

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Some universities have invested heavily in capital programmes to

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

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

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effect Brexit will have on EU students applying to our

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universities and students from other countries such as India where there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:20:13.:20:16.

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

:20:17.:20:22.

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

:20:23.:20:27.

sovereignty in Gibraltar has been decisively settled by a referendum

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

:20:33.:20:36.

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

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Chief Minister of Gibraltar supporting the Gibraltarians right

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

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

:20:56.:21:01.

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

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

:21:08.:21:10.

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

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

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

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

:21:32.:21:36.

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

:21:37.:21:41.

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

:21:42.:21:48.

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

:21:49.:21:52.

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

:21:53.:21:57.

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

:21:58.:22:00.

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

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

:22:07.:22:19.

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

:22:20.:22:23.

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

:22:24.:22:28.

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

:22:29.:22:35.

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

:22:36.:22:41.

interest to respect the existing status of Gibraltar and its status

:22:42.:22:48.

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

:22:49.:22:55.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the Prime Minister of Spain supporting

:22:56.:23:00.

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

:23:01.:23:04.

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

:23:05.:23:10.

conducted within the territory of Gibraltar? The Prime Minister of

:23:11.:23:15.

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

:23:16.:23:18.

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

:23:19.:23:24.

people of Gibraltar how they choose what relationships they choose to

:23:25.:23:32.

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

:23:33.:23:38.

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

:23:39.:23:42.

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

:23:43.:23:51.

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

:23:52.:23:55.

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

:23:56.:24:00.

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

:24:01.:24:08.

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

:24:09.:24:13.

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

:24:14.:24:19.

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

:24:20.:24:23.

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

:24:24.:24:34.

fundamentally absurd. This is something which has been decided in

:24:35.:24:38.

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

:24:39.:24:46.

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

:24:47.:24:51.

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

:24:52.:24:56.

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

:24:57.:25:01.

strong supporter of Remain and Gibraltar and the people of

:25:02.:25:06.

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

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significant role in trying to persuade the EU authorities of the

:25:11.:25:15.

good sense of coming to sensible agreements with Britain in the

:25:16.:25:23.

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

:25:24.:25:27.

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

:25:28.:25:30.

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

:25:31.:25:35.

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

:25:36.:25:43.

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

:25:44.:25:49.

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

:25:50.:25:55.

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

:25:56.:25:56.

renegotiations. Will the First Minister make

:25:57.:26:05.

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

:26:06.:26:17.

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

:26:18.:26:25.

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

:26:26.:26:31.

Welsh Government is underway. The Welsh Government's original

:26:32.:26:35.

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

:26:36.:26:42.

with the possible creation of cycle and bus lanes and speed

:26:43.:26:46.

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

:26:47.:26:52.

it being considered considering it could happen negative impact on

:26:53.:26:55.

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

:26:56.:27:01.

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

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

:27:10.:27:15.

open to examination. It is importantly inquiry considers

:27:16.:27:17.

evidence before making a recommendation. Anyone who regularly

:27:18.:27:26.

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

:27:27.:27:29.

experience to see the lease and fortunately the most practical way

:27:30.:27:34.

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

:27:35.:27:38.

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

:27:39.:27:44.

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

:27:45.:27:50.

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

:27:51.:27:56.

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

:27:57.:28:03.

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

:28:04.:28:06.

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

:28:07.:28:13.

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

:28:14.:28:19.

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

:28:20.:28:24.

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

:28:25.:28:28.

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

:28:29.:28:34.

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

:28:35.:28:43.

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

:28:44.:28:50.

many areas. We have seen significant

:28:51.:29:06.

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

:29:07.:29:11.

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

:29:12.:29:17.

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

:29:18.:29:23.

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

:29:24.:29:29.

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

:29:30.:29:32.

years but it has been improved now greatly.

:29:33.:29:45.

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

:29:46.:29:54.

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

:29:55.:30:00.

encourage public transport and to build design into the road

:30:01.:30:03.

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

:30:04.:30:12.

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

:30:13.:30:20.

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

:30:21.:30:25.

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

:30:26.:30:29.

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

:30:30.:30:35.

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

:30:36.:30:38.

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

:30:39.:30:43.

traveller should not feel they have to travel by car.

:30:44.:30:46.

Will the First Minister make a statement on

:30:47.:30:48.

We're committed to ensuring paediatric care delivered on the

:30:49.:30:59.

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

:31:00.:31:04.

the limitations as Withybush hospital. Have a particular

:31:05.:31:07.

distressing constituency case which has arisen where a child was taken

:31:08.:31:15.

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

:31:16.:31:19.

infection and treatable by antibiotics, the next morning the

:31:20.:31:29.

child was taken in with suspected appendicitis bass appendicitis. The

:31:30.:31:32.

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

:31:33.:31:38.

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

:31:39.:31:41.

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

:31:42.:31:47.

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

:31:48.:31:52.

that an individual case isn't necessarily representative of

:31:53.:31:56.

everything but given the out of hours limitations on paediatric care

:31:57.:32:00.

committee had been a paediatrics specialist in Withybush at the time

:32:01.:32:04.

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

:32:05.:32:07.

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

:32:08.:32:18.

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

:32:19.:32:19.

Withybush. The situation the member this grade

:32:20.:32:30.

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

:32:31.:32:35.

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

:32:36.:32:42.

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

:32:43.:32:45.

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

:32:46.:32:49.

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

:32:50.:32:56.

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

:32:57.:33:00.

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

:33:01.:33:04.

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

:33:05.:33:09.

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

:33:10.:33:13.

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

:33:14.:33:18.

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

:33:19.:33:22.

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

:33:23.:33:27.

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

:33:28.:33:31.

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

:33:32.:33:37.

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

:33:38.:33:40.

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

:33:41.:33:42.

Will the First Minister provide an update on the work

:33:43.:33:44.

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

:33:45.:33:54.

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

:33:55.:34:00.

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

:34:01.:34:03.

by feedback from the initial public engagement events.

:34:04.:34:08.

Depressed wages and high unemployment have been blighting the

:34:09.:34:12.

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

:34:13.:34:17.

taken you so long? Places like Treherbert are desperate for

:34:18.:34:23.

investment and the commute to Treforest or further afield from the

:34:24.:34:27.

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

:34:28.:34:33.

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

:34:34.:34:37.

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

:34:38.:34:41.

damage will be done to this institution and to devolution not

:34:42.:34:45.

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

:34:46.:34:50.

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

:34:51.:34:54.

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

:34:55.:35:02.

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

:35:03.:35:04.

communities? Transport is key, that is why the

:35:05.:35:09.

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

:35:10.:35:15.

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

:35:16.:35:23.

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

:35:24.:35:25.

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

:35:26.:35:30.

Metro to have more convenient, comfortable and frequent services.

:35:31.:35:37.

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

:35:38.:35:45.

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

:35:46.:35:49.

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

:35:50.:35:53.

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

:35:54.:35:56.

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

:35:57.:36:01.

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

:36:02.:36:06.

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

:36:07.:36:09.

shows our Valley communities are able to attract more investment in

:36:10.:36:17.

the future. First Minister, the Valleys in the

:36:18.:36:35.

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

:36:36.:36:42.

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

:36:43.:36:46.

are making sure there are local jobs for local people.

:36:47.:36:58.

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

:36:59.:37:06.

forget that transport links are important wherever the particular

:37:07.:37:10.

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

:37:11.:37:14.

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

:37:15.:37:21.

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

:37:22.:37:25.

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

:37:26.:37:31.

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

:37:32.:37:36.

engagement events, five targeted events and for further formal

:37:37.:37:40.

engagement events planned and a cabinet secretary has intended each

:37:41.:37:46.

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

:37:47.:37:51.

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

:37:52.:38:00.

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

:38:01.:38:05.

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

:38:06.:38:09.

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

:38:10.:38:14.

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

:38:15.:38:18.

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

:38:19.:38:22.

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

:38:23.:38:26.

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

:38:27.:38:32.

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

:38:33.:38:36.

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

:38:37.:38:43.

on very sharply over the next five to ten years.

:38:44.:38:44.

What are the Welsh Government's priorities for improving public

:38:45.:38:46.

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

:38:47.:38:59.

investment for transport and infrastructure and services for 2015

:39:00.:39:04.

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

:39:05.:39:08.

opportunity to have a real improvement in public transport

:39:09.:39:11.

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

:39:12.:39:14.

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

:39:15.:39:19.

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

:39:20.:39:23.

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

:39:24.:39:28.

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

:39:29.:39:31.

for the Metro are set at an affordable level?

:39:32.:39:34.

Affordable fares are being considered as part of the

:39:35.:39:38.

procurements over the next rail services. We have the Metro

:39:39.:39:43.

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

:39:44.:39:48.

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

:39:49.:39:53.

people working irregular work patterns is that it is important the

:39:54.:39:56.

system is integrated and has a ticketing system that has smart

:39:57.:40:04.

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

:40:05.:40:09.

Metro. In an announcement, one of the most

:40:10.:40:17.

significant improvements to any commuter in a day cases the opening

:40:18.:40:25.

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

:40:26.:40:28.

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

:40:29.:40:36.

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

:40:37.:40:43.

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

:40:44.:40:48.

Welsh Government had with Arriva trains to find ways of increasing

:40:49.:40:51.

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

:40:52.:40:58.

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

:40:59.:41:00.

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

:41:01.:41:04.

comfortable trains on the network. The Welsh Government will have

:41:05.:41:07.

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

:41:08.:41:14.

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

:41:15.:41:18.

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

:41:19.:41:23.

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

:41:24.:41:26.

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

:41:27.:41:33.

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

:41:34.:41:37.

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

:41:38.:41:44.

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

:41:45.:41:49.

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

:41:50.:41:53.

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

:41:54.:41:57.

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

:41:58.:42:04.

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

:42:05.:42:08.

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

:42:09.:42:13.

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

:42:14.:42:20.

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

:42:21.:42:29.

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

:42:30.:42:35.

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

:42:36.:42:39.

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

:42:40.:42:44.

hugely important. What action is the Welsh Government

:42:45.:42:46.

taking to support access to high street banking services

:42:47.:42:54.

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

:42:55.:43:05.

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

:43:06.:43:10.

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

:43:11.:43:14.

the service to bank uses rather than reduce the service.

:43:15.:43:20.

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

:43:21.:43:24.

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

:43:25.:43:34.

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

:43:35.:43:38.

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

:43:39.:43:45.

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

:43:46.:43:48.

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

:43:49.:43:54.

where banks are closing branches closing and we are trying to

:43:55.:44:00.

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

:44:01.:44:04.

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

:44:05.:44:13.

people like the post office ensure those services are properly

:44:14.:44:16.

available? I have seen branch closures in my

:44:17.:44:19.

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

:44:20.:44:27.

town centre itself patronage has dropped because the reasons for

:44:28.:44:33.

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

:44:34.:44:38.

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

:44:39.:44:41.

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

:44:42.:44:46.

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

:44:47.:44:49.

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

:44:50.:44:55.

help with the sustainability of post offices because they know they

:44:56.:45:01.

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

:45:02.:45:05.

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

:45:06.:45:13.

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

:45:14.:45:18.

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

:45:19.:45:24.

it is absolutely crucial that services are not lost people and

:45:25.:45:28.

they are provided the alternative means of the post office.

:45:29.:45:35.

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

:45:36.:45:46.

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

:45:47.:45:50.

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

:45:51.:45:56.

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

:45:57.:46:04.

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

:46:05.:46:09.

seeing is the bank adapting in response to changes in customer

:46:10.:46:12.

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

:46:13.:46:17.

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

:46:18.:46:23.

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

:46:24.:46:27.

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

:46:28.:46:30.

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

:46:31.:46:36.

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

:46:37.:46:40.

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

:46:41.:46:45.

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

:46:46.:46:52.

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

:46:53.:46:56.

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

:46:57.:47:01.

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

:47:02.:47:06.

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

:47:07.:47:12.

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

:47:13.:47:22.

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

:47:23.:47:27.

consultation whatsoever. It public meeting was held last night in

:47:28.:47:31.

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

:47:32.:47:36.

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

:47:37.:47:43.

capacity of post offices in some particular rural locations. I

:47:44.:47:48.

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

:47:49.:47:53.

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

:47:54.:47:55.

ministers when calling for the government to facilitate a

:47:56.:48:01.

discussion with the banks and the Financial Conduct Authority and

:48:02.:48:04.

other partners to explore a community bank model which would see

:48:05.:48:08.

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

:48:09.:48:13.

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

:48:14.:48:17.

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

:48:18.:48:23.

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

:48:24.:48:26.

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

:48:27.:48:34.

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

:48:35.:48:40.

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

:48:41.:48:48.

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

:48:49.:48:52.

the member in that regard particularly with regard to the

:48:53.:48:54.

suggestion he makes and community banking.

:48:55.:48:55.

Does the First Minister have any plans to make official visits

:48:56.:49:00.

to European countries in the near future?

:49:01.:49:06.

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

:49:07.:49:13.

visit Gibraltar. Does he have any plans to visit the

:49:14.:49:18.

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

:49:19.:49:22.

future investments by the banking projects in Wales like Berlin to

:49:23.:49:25.

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

:49:26.:49:29.

continue as the subscribing partner after we leave the EU?

:49:30.:49:34.

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

:49:35.:49:39.

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

:49:40.:49:45.

visited Cardiff. We strongly advocate the UK should remain a

:49:46.:49:50.

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

:49:51.:49:59.

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

:50:00.:50:07.

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

:50:08.:50:11.

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

:50:12.:50:13.

leader of the house. There we are - that was

:50:14.:50:15.

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

:50:16.:50:17.

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

:50:18.:50:20.

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

:50:21.:50:25.

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

:50:26.:50:28.

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

:50:29.:50:31.

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

:50:32.:50:36.

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

:50:37.:50:41.

though, from all of us

:50:42.:50:47.

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