Y Pwyllgor Deisebau - Y Bumed Senedd
Petitions Committee - Fifth Senedd15/12/2020
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Jack Sargeant AS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Leanne Wood AS|
|Michelle Brown AS|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Mared Llwyd||Ail Glerc|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Steffan Lewis||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:05.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:05.
Good morning—bore da. I welcome everyone to this virtual meeting of the Petitions Committee. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from attending this committee meeting in order to protect public health. The meeting is, however, broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and all participants will be joining by video-conference. The meeting is bilingual, and translation is available. A Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. No apologies have been received.
Item 2, COVID-19 new petitions. Item 2.1, P-05-1046, 'Reconsider lockdown and investigate scientific evidence that it does not work and causes more harm'. This petition was submitted by Anne Ellis, having collected 2,189 signatures, and the text of the petition reads:
'The Welsh Government is committed to rolling and ever more severe lockdowns based on the rise in the number of Covid positive test results and their belief that this will lead to more cases of Covid and a dramatic rise in deaths. Could they also consider the views of Professors Sunetra Gupta, Carl Heneghan and Karol Sikora (amongst others), and take note of the Great Barrington declaration and its signatories; and acknowledge that lockdown actually causes more harm than good.'
Now, as yet, we haven't received a response from the Welsh Government. Our clerking team wrote on 16 October. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Jack.
Thanks, Chair. Good morning, all. I think we need to wait for a response, don't we, from the Welsh Government. It's quite clear the petition is quite active in this, so I think it's only fair that we wait to see what the response is from the Welsh Government and take further action then.
Okay, everyone agreed? Okay, 2.2, P-05-1054, 'The Hair & Beauty sector has proved itself COVID secure. Do not close us and risk Welsh jobs again'. This petition was submitted by Sarah Bruton, having collected a total of 6,074 signatures, and it states:
'The Welsh hair and beauty industry has complied with the strictest regulations since re-opening, and has proved itself as not just covid-secure, but one of the safest settings in terms of transmission. We have extensive PPE, hygiene measures and the ability to comply with track and trace. Our industry was one of the last to re-open and has suffered some of the biggest losses as a result of national and local lockdowns.
'We have done everything right and we should not be punished by closure.'
Now, a response was received from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales on 6 November. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of this meeting, but has not done so. How would you like to take this matter forward? Leanne.
Chair, I think this was a petition that was obviously very relevant ahead of the firebreak. We are in a different situation now, but I do have a lot of sympathy with the arguments that are laid out by the petitioner. These businesses did take a huge hit during the first lockdown, and many of them have invested to change the spacing in the salons and invested in personal protective equipment and all the rest of it. And there is an argument to be said about people's mental health being or well-being being supported by being able to get regular hairdressing appointments. It's quite difficult to keep control over your hair when you're not able to get a cut. So, I think we should keep a watching brief on the issue. I'm not really clear what further action as a committee that we can take. If the numbers increase and the scientific evidence says that certain businesses have to close, then it's very difficult to put up an argument against that, but, certainly, the argument has been made that the spread of COVID is limited in these settings, and these businesses have really been struggling. So, if we could keep an eye on it, but also be realistic in terms of how little we're probably going to be able to achieve, given that so much has changed anyway since the petition was first submitted.
Okay. Do you agree, Jack?
Okay. The next one: 2.3, P-05-1060, 'Allow supermarkets to sell "non-essential" items during lockdown'. This petition was submitted by Gareth Howell and collected 67,940 signatures. The petition reads:
'The Welsh Government, as part of its 17 day "firebreak" lockdown, is banning the selling of non-essential goods from shops that are allowed to remain open. We do not agree that this is a prudent or rational measure, and will create more harm than good.'
Now, the petition collected a significant number of signatures at the beginning of the firebreak lockdown. As this coincided with the October half-term recess, the committee agreed to seek time for an urgent debate prior to considering the petition at a committee meeting. The Plenary debate was held on 11 November. No written response to the petition has been received from the Welsh Government and the petitioner has provided further comments following the debate. How would you like to take this one forward? Jack.
Thanks, Chair. It's clear from the numbers, isn't it, and the reason from the committee for pushing for an urgent debate—. I note that that debate has taken place now. I also note the further comments back from the petitioner, and, yes, we haven't had a formal written response, but we have had a Government response during the debate. Perhaps I could put forward that we note the further response from the petitioner. We could send that to the Welsh Government for their information, but they are managing a pandemic and we have had a debate in this time, so let's not expect a written response, but I think we should definitely note it and send it for their information for future evidence in lockdown, or potential lockdown—whatever happens; I obviously don't know. That would be my preferred way forward.
I agree with Jack.
Yes. Okay, Clerk?
Item 2.4, P-05-1062, 'Abandon the rt-PCR test for covid-19 testing as its unfit for purpose'. This petition was submitted by Robert O'Shea, having collected 96 signatures. The petition text refers to concerns about the sensitivity of the PCR test, which it claims results in false positives. No response to the petition has been received from the Welsh Government. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments. What possible actions would you like to take forward?
I think we should await the response from the Government.
Item 2.5, P-05-1070, 'Advise all people who are extremely vulnerable or previously shielding in Wales to stay home, not work, during periods of high covid 19 community infection'. This petition was submitted by Carol Dent, having collected 252 signatures. The text reads:
'Consider the welfare and genuine fears of extremely vulnerable people relating to covid 19 during periods of high community infection rates. Many extremely vulnerable people in Wales are terrified of going out each day to work for up to eight plus hours in what we all know to be unsafe environments.'
Now, a response was received from the Minister for Health and Social Services on 27 November. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments and a number of supporting e-mails. How would you like to go forward? Jack.
Chair, I think, from the petitioner's response to us, there's been a suggestion that some employers, perhaps, are showing a lack of empathy towards people that are high risk. I think this is a really serious issue, and I do think we should write back to the Minister on that, just so we can—[Inaudible.]—feel confidence that the Welsh Government are doing all they can, and local authorities are doing all they can as well, to tackle that issue. Because it is an issue and it does need addressing. So, yes, let's write back with the further concerns and get a response from the Minister.
Okay, to support that? Leanne.
I feel very strongly about this issue. And it seems to me that it's being considered in extremes—so, people are either completely shielded and have no choice other than to stay at home and get everyone else to do their shopping and everything else for them, or they get no protection from that whatsoever. The way that the Minister is explaining the rationale for not continuing with some form or protection for people is that he—they don't want people to be like prisoners. But people are asking for this protection; it's protection for people in the workplace who don't have understanding employers. Now, there are many fantastic employers who are going the extra mile and providing protections for people in the workplace, and other employers who are saying, 'Look, if you're worried, stay off, do what you can from home, but we accept that you can't do your job fully from home.' There is a range of people and different employers in the way that they approach this.
But for so many people in those jobs where the employers are not so great, they feel at incredible risk every time they go to work. And some sort of certification, some sort of letter from the chief medical officer, like they had before, that they could show to their employer and be protected from the sack if they took time off work, or they could be protected from losing their income if they took time from work, is what this group really needs—the shielders, the former shielders, who are in work.
So, I'm not satisfied with the response that we've had. I think we need to make the point that it's not just two extremes here—it's not prisoner versus no protections at all; there is somewhere in the middle here, where people can be protected. And there's got to be some sort of balance around mental health and anxiety with all of this as well. Because, if you've got a condition where, if you catch COVID, you're at serious risk of losing your life, and you're not able to provide for your family, the pressure that that puts on you, mentally, you can't sleep at night—how can you perform in your job, and then how can you get well or even just maintain stability? So, we've got to take this up. I know this is not the highest number of signatures of petitions that generally come before us, but I think this is such a crucial issue to such a vulnerable group of people, and they need a voice and they deserve our support.
Okay. Are you happy to support, Jack? Thank you.
P-05-1074, 'Raise the number of people allowed in outdoor spaces so football can restart for all teams in Wales'. This petition was submitted by Mark Morgans, having collected 5,330 signatures, and it reads:
'the current rules and legislation only allow 30 people to be in an outdoor space! With football teams needing 11v11 plus officials and staff....it's pretty impossible to run competitive adult leagues until this number is lifted! Games can be run safely and effectively if the number is increased to 30 people not including the players and officials on the field. Please liaise with the Football Association of Wales and consider raising the numbers so Tier 2 & below can start playing again.'
Now, we did receive a response from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 23 November. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting today but has not done so. Jack.
Thanks, Chair. I think this is quite a big issue—I've had a number of people contacting me about it. I do note as well that, this weekend, the Cymru Premier north and south teams have also started their return to football, so that was good to see. But I think there is an issue in grass-roots football and lower leagues—that certainly needs to be looked at and return to safe play as soon as possible. In terms of what the committee can do, I think we've already written to Business Committee for a debate on sport during lockdown. And I think we would—. If we were successful in securing that debate, I suggest that we could include this topic in there. Separately, I also know that a number of Members have raised this during First Minister's questions and other avenues as well, so I think there's not too much the committee could do yet with this. So, I would suggest closing the petition, but making a commitment, firstly, if we secure a debate, which we're hopeful for, for sport and physical activity that we will include this topic, and secondly, that Members of all parties, from all benches, take this up during Plenary and other avenues where perhaps we can get a more substantial answer quicker than the actual Petitions Committee.
Thank you. Happy to support?
Yes, I am, and given that the petitioners are from the Rhondda and that there have been such a substantial number of people signing this petition, it's definitely something I want us to keep alive as an issue, so I fully support what Jack has suggested. And if this petition can be included as part of a Plenary debate, with the other petitions that we've had submitted—I recall some of those referencing improvements to mental well-being as part of that. I think this is such a crucial debate for us to be having that I'm fully supportive of what Jack has proposed.
Thank you. The next petition is 2.7, P-05-1076, 'Allow all the Performing Arts to re-open—live music, dance, theatres and concert halls'. This petition was submitted by Catherine Tanner, having collected 338 signatures. And the text reads:
'Why can we sit on a plane wearing a mask with no social distancing for 8 hours...but we can't watch a concert under those same conditions?
'Why can people in pubs/cafes sit 2m apart, talk and not wear masks...but we can't sit in silence watching live music, sat 2m apart?'
'The Welsh Government must stop unfairly treating the arts and live music while everything else has reopened.'
Now, a response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 25 November. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not done so. Can I invite Members to discuss this and any actions you wish us to take? Leanne.
Chair, we've got another committee looking at this issue, so I think we could say 'thank you' to the petitioner for raising this, pass on the petition to that committee, who can then carry on with their scrutiny of the wider issue, the impact on the industry, and recommendations can be made by that committee. I think that's the best way to take this forward now.
Thank you. Everyone agreed, yes? So, we move on then to 2.8, P-05-1095, 'Implement a 2 week holiday-lockdown for schools before 24 Dec'. The petition was submitted by Andrew Chambers, having collected 10,836 signatures. It's page 109 in your pack. It collected 10,836 signatures. And the text reads:
'School are still having issues with COVID cases with whole year groups being sent home in some cases even after the recent 2 week fire break lockdown. A break of 14 days will enable some families to have that all important time over Christmas and New year to revive those family ties and gain some important mental health issues in the young and old.'
A research brief has been provided. The committee has not yet received a response to the petition from the Welsh Government. However, it only wrote to request one on 27 November. The petition has been scheduled for discussion at the earliest available opportunity, due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting but has not done so. Leanne.
Well, I think this should be considered a successful petition, because the position with regard to schools ahead of Christmas has changed, and the number of days for isolation has been reduced down to 10 as well. So, I think, given all of that, and given the widespread discussion this has had within the Senedd and in the media, we should congratulate the petitioner and agree not to take any further action at this time.
Okay. All Members agreed?
Thanks. Hi, Michelle.
The following two petitions will be considered together, and they are 2.9 and 2.10. And 2.9 reads: P-05-1099, 'Don't shut the Hospitality Sector (Pubs, Restaurants, Cafes) without providing scientific evidence'. This petition was submitted by Nathan Gill, having collected 25,301 signatures, and it reads:
'The Welsh hospitality sector has proven that it is able to comply effectively with the strict COVID regulations, with pubs, bars, restaurants, cafés, and many other settings being equipped to deal with social distancing. Hospitality has already adapted to using PPE, extra hygiene measures, as well as the government’s track and trace system.'
And 2.10, petition P-05-1100, reads: 'Allow pubs and restaurants in Wales to serve alcohol & stay open after 6pm'. This petition was submitted Gwilym Owen, having collected 4,619 signatures. The text reads:
'Restrictions announced by Mark Drakeford will come into force 6pm, 4th December, which will see the hospitality industry forbidden from selling alcohol, and having to close at 6pm. These new restrictions will be detrimental to the hospitality industry and they need our support.'
So, the background to this is that a research brief has been provided and the committee has not yet received responses to the petitions from the Welsh Government, although it has not been possible to provide the usual timescales due to the time-sensitive nature of the issue raised. The petitioners have agreed to the petitions being referred to this committee meeting for consideration, but have not submitted further information. Members, what action would you like to take on the issue of these two petitions? Leanne then Michelle.
I think we should receive a response from the Government, and it would be helpful if the Government could lay out the science behind the decisions that it's taken. It's just out of time, isn't it? By the time this comes back now in the new year, the situation will have changed again. That said, it's had a huge number of signatures and clearly people feel very strongly about this issue. So, we should refer it back to the Business Committee, given that the two of them combined have got a high number of signatures, and ask the Business Committee if it can find time, if it feels that it's a sufficient petition, and if it's relevant by the time it comes before the Business Committee in the new year, then the Business Committee can make a decision as it sees fit.
I agree with Leanne. I also see from the petition that the petitioner's claiming that only between 1 and 3 per cent of new coronavirus infections are transmitted in pubs, bars and restaurants. This data doesn't seem to be recognised by the Office for National Statistics, although the petitioner's said that it's come from the ONS. So, I'd like to write back to the petitioner and ask the petitioner on 2.9 where they've actually got their data from.
Does data you have give different information, then, Michelle?
I'd just be really interested to know where they've got this 1 and 3 per cent from, Leanne. I'm not disputing—. It may have come from a credible source, it may have not come from a credible source. I think, to be fair to the petition, and to all other people who've signed the petition, we should write to the petitioner and ask them where they've got this figure from.
Okay, I'm happy with that.
So, other new petitions, 2.11, P-05-1045, 'To make shared-decision making and monthly mental health care-plan reviews a legal requirement'. This petition was submitted by Tesni Morgan, having collected 1,462 signatures. Another petition on change.org has received a further 5,100 signatures.
'On the 27th of August 2020 our darling Bronwen took her life after a long battle with her mental health.
'We as a family truly believe that it could have been prevented. During the last 6 months of her life, Bronwen's mental health deteriorated drastically. She was making multiple attempts to take her life, putting herself in dangerous situations on a regular basis. Bronwen was hopeless, her current care-plan was not fit for purpose and she and the family were begging for something to change.'
Now, we've received a response to the petition from the Welsh Government—. No, a response to the petition has not yet been received, and our committee wrote on 9 October. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioners have provided further information. How would you like to take this forward? Jack, then Michelle—Jack, then Leanne, sorry.
Thanks, Chair. I think we should start by saying that we're fully behind the family here as a committee. These circumstances really do ruin communities, not just the family, but communities as well, and my heart goes out to all those affected. It's quite difficult to talk about, but I think, really, it's not good enough: we need a response, the petitioner deserves a response, Bronwen deserves a response, I think, first and foremost. We've got to do more, haven't we? Mental health isn't good enough; it wasn't good enough before the pandemic and you could argue it's got a lot worse. I want to see us getting away from this one in four of us suffering with mental health. Four in four people have mental health, and some have better days than others, and tomorrow might be different for the other person. So, I think we need to write back to the Welsh Government with a little bit of urgency on this, and a bit stronger than perhaps we usually would to request a response.
Okay. Leanne, do you—?
Yes, I fully agree with what Jack has said and share the sentiments that he expressed as well. I think condolences to the family should go from the committee, and also, an acknowledgement of—you know, to put effort, political effort into something like this when disaster has hit your family is a brave thing to do, as Jack knows as well. So, I think we should definitely support the sentiment behind the petition, and certainly make sure that the Welsh Government gives a response at the very least to this family.
Okay, thank you.
P-05-1056, 'Give Local Authorities powers to control the housing market in rural and tourist areas of Wales'. This petition was submitted by Osian Jones, on behalf of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, having collected 5,386 signatures, and it reads:
'In a number of rural and tourist areas, a large proportion of local inhabitants are deprived of homes as house prices have been inflated by demand for second homes and holiday homes. The First Minister could direct the relevant Ministers to engage in urgent discussions with Local Authorities to draw up a strategy to ensure community control of the housing market mainly through amendments to the planning system.'
Now, a response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 27 November, a research brief has been provided and the petitioners have provided further comments. Leanne.
Thanks, Chair. Clearly, this petition has reached the 5,000 signatures ahead of the time before the threshold was changed. It's a crucial issue in many communities, and like so many other issues, the problem has been exacerbated by the COVID crisis. There are a number of things that can be done, I think, in the short term, ahead of some of the longer term actions that need to be considered, perhaps in the next Senedd term. I think what we could do is we could write to the Minister to ask that powers be granted to local authorities to enable actions to be taken in order to rectify the situation, or at least bring in some measures so that there is a level playing field. There are changes that could be made to the land transaction tax, there are changes that could be made to the council tax premium. One thing I'd like to see the committee press for is for one of the other committees—or maybe even this committee, if we have time in the new year—to inquire into this question of the loophole with the council tax premium payment, so that if you have a second home, you can change the category for that to be business use, to avoid paying the proper amount of tax on that property.
So, there's a number of different things that could be done—additional guidance could be granted to local authorities—but I think the petition explains to us the urgency of the situation. As time goes by, the situation gets worse and worse, and so, I would very much favour writing to the Minister, making a request for local authorities to have those additional powers, and also to think about how we can raise this in the Senedd. Now, I know the Minister has a statement coming up on this issue in the new year; that's really good. If we could ask for some of the issues that I've outlined here today to be included in that statement, I think that would be helpful, because then, as Members, we can scrutinise the Government on their plans and what they have and what they haven't done by then, and depending on what comes out of that statement and how questions are answered, I may want to come back to this again and push for an additional Senedd debate at some point, albeit I understand that time is short.
Okay, thank you. Are all Members agreed, or any other comments?
I personally think that we should wait until the Welsh Government has made its statement, see what they say, and put it on the back burner until then, and then, if the Welsh Government's proposals don't match up to expectations, then we can consider it for a debate.
Yes. Jack, any comments?
I'm happy to support that wait. I think the statement's being made. I think we need to address that in the statement.
Would you like to ask what we'd like to be included in the statement, though?
Yes, I'm happy to do that.
Great. Thank you.
Everyone happy with that? Okay. P-05-1064, 'Extend Land Transaction Tax a further 6 months past 31st March and increase the threshold to £300k'. This petition was submitted by Gavin Powell having collected 58 signatures. It reads:
'House sales are a proven method of securing stability within the financial markets and an increase of 6 months on the current guidelines would secure long term stability. In addition in line with Help to buy Schemes the value should be increased from the current £250k threshold to £300k threshold.'
A response was received from the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd on 12 November. A research brief has been provided and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to go forward? Jack.
Thanks, Chair. As a constituency Member, I've had many of these during the first time around, and we've dealt with them, but I think that as a committee, I don't think there's much more we can do. I think the Minister's been quite clear on her position here, therefore I don't think we can take this forward as a Petitions Committee. So, I think we should thank the petitioner and I suggest closing this petition, but again, as Members in our own rights, we could raise this directly with the Minister when constituents contact.
Do all Members agree?
Okay. P-05-1069, 'Save the farmland and green fields at Cosmeston'. This petition was submitted by Michael Philip Garland having collected 5,272 signatures, and the text reads:
'We call on Welsh Ministers to adhere to their environmental and climate change policies and to the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2005 and urge the Welsh Government to withdraw their plans for a 576 housing units development on the scenic coastal fields and farmland at Lower Cosmeston Farm, Cosmeston.'
Now, a response was received from the Minister for finance on 6 November, a research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. Can I invite Members to discuss this and any actions you wish us to take?
I would like to write back to the Minister to share the concerns raised by the petitioner, and ask for these to be considered by the Welsh Government in relation to the development. I'd also seek a response to the specific points raised by the petitioner. I'd also like to ask Welsh Government how they are balancing protecting the environment versus their desire to build.
Okay. Any other comments?
I agree with that proposal.
Okay. Are you clear on that, Clerk? Thank you.
Item 2.15, P-05-1071, 'Print the vehicle registration on all drive through fast food packaging'. This petition was submitted by Michael John Powell having collected 8,341 signatures. This is the text:
'Fast food packaging is a major contributor to littering in the streets of our communities. We believe printing the vehicle registration on all drive through fast food packaging will help reduce this costly blight.'
Now, a response was received from the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on 3 December. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting today, but has not done so. Comments and decisions—right, Jack then Leanne.
Thank you, Chair. I think there's a real number of people who have signed this. However, I note the petitioner has had the opportunity to come back, but hasn't yet come back. I feel we should wait to see what the response is, the Welsh Government's and the Minister's response to the petition, before we decide whether or not we should ask for it to be scheduled for a debate. But I think we certainly need to understand the views of the petitioner, given they've had a response. So, I'd suggest that we just hold off for a bit more before making a further decision.
I would agree with that. This has become a major issue, littering, and there's been a reduction in local councils' cleanliness services, for understandable reasons—I'm not having a go. But I think the desire is to put the onus on the businesses that produce the packaging that creates the waste, and so it's a great idea. There may be unintended consequences to something like this that would need a serious looking at, but I agree with Jack: it's not an idea that we should put in the bin—excuse the pun. It's something that deserves some further attention, because litter does blight communities and some of these companies are making vast profits, and they have an onus, and a duty to communities, to at least make communities look a bit clean and tidy.
I think this is a brilliant idea. I think it definitely deserves some serious consideration. Obviously, as Leanne said, we need to beware of the law of unintended consequences. Littering may well be an offence, but unless somebody's caught in the act, they get away with it. You know, when you're approaching a certain fast food outlet, you can see the packaging strewn across the road, whether it's in the town or whether it's in the countryside. It is a blight, and I think if there's no identification of the person whose packaging it is, who's actually discarded that packaging, then there can be no prosecution.
So, I think, at first sight, this is a great idea. I would, however, be interested to see what the Welsh Government's litter prevention plan is going to say. I am struggling right now to find a better way of addressing this, because if people know that their number plates are going to be printed on that packaging, they're not going to sling it out of the window, are they? Because if it's found, they can be fined. So, I think I would like to wait to see what the Welsh Government's litter prevention plan is, but I'd also like to write to Welsh Government and make this suggestion that we think this is a really good idea.
Okay. Everyone in agreement? Yes.
Okay. Item 2.16, P-05-1072, 'Investigate what powers the Welsh Parliament has in relation to banning conversion therapy'. This petition was submitted by Samuel Fletcher, having collected 144 signatures. The text of the petitions reads:
'Under Teresa May, the Conservative manifesto had a goal of banning conversion therapy. Almost two years later, this has not happened. This petition calls on the Petitions Committee to investigate what powers the Welsh Parliament has in relation to this issue, and then ban conversion therapy if possible. This barbaric and homophobic act must end.'
A response was received from the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip on 25 November. A research brief has been provided, and the petitioner has provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.
I think we need to support the petitioner and their further comments. The Deputy Minister has said that offering conversion therapy
'would be in breach of their professional codes of practice'
and describes the practice as 'unethical and potentially harmful.' But the petitioner then says that the letter contains
'no measure as to what the Government could/should be doing to ban conversion therapy'
and points out that it's not the well-respected medical bodies that we need to be concerned about, but it's other camps and facilities. So, I think we need to write back to the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip to ask what further information can be provided about the steps that the Welsh Government has considered taking, or would consider taking to prevent conversion therapy being able to take place in Wales. We should have no place for this kind of thing here.
Yes, I totally agree with Leanne. It's snake oil.
Item 2.17, P-05-1073, 'Create and build a new branch of National Museum Wales dedicated to Welsh involvement in colonialism'. This petition was submitted by Kieran Sawdon, having collected 103 signatures. The text of the petition reads:
'The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted some ugly truths about Wales' history that a massive amount of us never learned. This has been because, traditionally in Wales, the Empire is largely ignored as we choose to focus on the colonialist elements that we had to face ourselves. This does not wipe Wales' slate clean of any wrongdoing. A new, dedicated museum run by National Museum Wales would provide us with a proper means to stimulate these difficult conversations and educate our future generations.'
A response was received from the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 25 November, and a research brief has been provided. The petitioner was offered the opportunity to provide further information in advance of the meeting, but has not done so. So, I invite Members to discuss, and any actions you wish to take. Leanne then Jack.
Thanks, Chair. There's some very interesting work going on on this front now, and I think this is a useful contribution to the debate. I wonder if we could write to Amgueddfa Cymru to highlight the sentiment in this petition, and to ask for further information about what work they're doing in relation to this subject.
Okay. Everyone agreed?
Fully support, yes.
Right. Thank you.
Item 2.18, P-05-1077, 'Stop the voting boundary change to Ystrad Mynach south'. This petition was submitted by Philip Morris, having collected a total of 1,355 signatures—912 online and 443 on paper. The petitioner has pointed out that the paper signatures are exclusively from the area affected. The text reads:
'The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales have extremely advanced proposals, now with the Welsh Government, which move Forge Mill estate and Coopers Court into Llanbradach community council. The residents of this entire area were not informed, although their local community councillors were fully aware. We have had no consultation, only just finding out by accident that these proposals exist.'
A response was received from the Minister for Housing and Local Government on 27 November. A research brief has been provided. The petitioner has provided further comments. The committee has recently considered another petition about specific local government boundary reform proposals, during the consideration of which it noted that it would not be appropriate for the committee to scrutinise specific recommendations alongside the established legal process for boundary reviews. So, I open it up to the committee for your views to take forward. Jack.
Thank you, Chair. I think the previous petition you were referring to was the one in my constituency, so I'm fully aware of that. On that basis, and what we've done in the past, I don't think there's too much that we can do as a committee here. I think what we can do, and I think it's what we did previously as well, is we can write to the Minister to draw her attention to the petition and the additional comments the petitioner has provided and see if she will take that into account as part of her decision process. But in terms of us as a committee, I don't think we can do too much to influence this decision.
Everyone agreed? Okay.
Now we move to item 3, updates to previous petitions, 3.1, P-05-908, 'CF3 against the Incinerator'. The petition was submitted by Andrew Evans and was first considered in May 2020, having collected 2,224 signatures. The committee has now considered this petition on three occasions. It last considered the petition on 7 July. We agreed to seek clarification from the developers about the potential number of wagons to and from the plant, the capacity of the furnace, and the potential emissions from the plant, and also to note that a statutory consultation into the proposals is under way and a full planning application is due to be submitted in the autumn, and that we would keep a watching brief on developments at the current time. A response has been received from the Proteus Communications Group, and the petitioners have provided further comments. What action would you like to take on this issue? Jack.
Thanks, Chair. Again, I'm not too sure there's much we can do as a committee now. We've considered this on a number of occasions and done—. I think it's run its course, really. Given the fact that it has gone to the Planning Inspectorate, I don't think there's much more as a committee that we can do. So, I'd suggest we thank the petitioner and close it. It's certainly run its course, and we've given support where we can.
Okay. Do all Members agree?
Okay. Thank you.
Item 3.2, P-05-1003, 'Demand an EIA now on the dumping of radioactively contaminated mud in Welsh waters'. The petition was submitted by Cian—. Is that—?
Cian Ciaran—thanks. It was first considered in September 2020, having collected 10,692 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 15 September, and agreed to write to the Business Committee to seek time for a Plenary debate on the issue. The debate was held on 21 October and the petitioners have provided further views following that. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.
Clearly, a large number of people have concerns about this, and I don't think their concerns have been addressed by the actions so far. I think the committee could write, now, to Natural Resources Wales, to seek an update on the marine licensing process for this application, and I think we can ask them to respond to the additional responses that we've received from Cian Ciaran and the other petitioners on this.
Okay. Moving forward to P-05-914, 'Equal Access to Health Care for the Disabled.' This petition was submitted by Tracy Locke and was first considered in November 2019, having collected 121 signatures. The committee has discussed this petition on four occasions. We last considered it on 17 July and agreed to write to all local health boards to ask for details of how many GP practices in their areas provide adjustable treatment beds and hoists for the use of disabled patients. The committee also wrote to Shine and to the Spinal Injuries Association to seek their views and experiences of the provision of adjustable treatment beds and hoists in GP services in Wales. Responses have been received from five health boards, Shine and the British Medical Association Cymru. The petitioner has also provided further comments for you there. How would you like to go forward on this issue? Leanne.
Well, this petition has—we’ve received it on four different occasions now, and it’s certainly shone a light on the problem that people face with this. I’m quite staggered at the variance in information that’s been received. Maybe there were differences in understanding of the questions, but not all health boards have responded, and a very uneven picture has been painted of this. I think we should go back to the Minister and draw attention to the further information that’s been gathered here and to the suggestions that have been made around developing cluster arrangements for GP practices to be able to access equipment on a loan scheme. And in line with the proposal from the BMA, the committee could also ask whether the Government will consider instigating discussions with health boards and patient groups such as Shine in order to develop solutions to this problem. It’s clear that there is a group of people here who are being let down by not being able to have access to basic equipment so that they can access services in their GP surgeries.
Okay. Does everybody agree with those proposals?
Thank you. Item 3.4, P-05-965, 'Push the government into introducing a separate ward other than maternity ward, for families going through a miscarriage'. This petition was submitted by Peter Leigh-Robinson, and was first considered in July 2020, having collected 52 signatures. We’ve discussed this petition on four occasions, also. We last considered it on 29 September, agreeing to write to the Minister for Health and Social Services to ask him to intervene to ensure that all health boards are supported and enabled to provide separate facilities for people experiencing a miscarriage.
The committee also wrote to all health boards to highlight the petition and the issues raised by the petitioner, and we asked for information about the provision of facilities in their hospitals, and specifically, whether support is available separately to maternity wards, or that it could be improved in light of the experience of the petitioner. We also asked for details of support services available to families who have been bereaved, both through miscarriage and through other causes. Responses have been received from all seven local health boards, though no further response has been received from the Minister. The petitioner has also provided further comments. How would you like to take this forward? Leanne.
We’ve clearly got a problem here. All of us as Members, I’m sure, will have come across cases where women who have miscarried are dealt with in the same space as women who are pregnant or due to give birth, and it just adds to the harrowing situation that they’re in. So, there needs to be a policy decision taken here. It’s clear that all of the health boards say that support would be provided in individual rooms where possible, but this may result in accessing the same waiting rooms as pregnant women or families going through birth. So, okay, we can accept that they will strive to provide those services separately, but all too often, it’s absolutely not happening.
I think we should write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services providing a summary of the findings from the health boards, and sharing the responses that we've received, and I think we should request a further response in terms of this question of a policy decision. I accept a number of the health boards have referred to the difficulties providing services through the pandemic, and we had debate in Plenary just last week about that, and I know it's really, really difficult because space is limited, but this question is not an optional extra; this is a basic, basic thing that we need to get right. Because, at the moment, the way that women are being dealt with in this situation is adding to their trauma, and that's not right. We can't continue like that.
Okay. Does everybody agree with that? Thank you.
Item 3.5, P-05-995, 'Freedom to Donate Blood'. This petition was submitted by Arron Glyn Bevan-John and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 2,726 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 29 September. We agreed to write back to the Minister for Health and Social Services to share the petitioner's response and request that the Welsh Government considers expressing support for the principle of using a more individualised donor selection policy, instead of the current three-month deferral period, and to write to the Department of Health Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs and the Joint Professional Advisory Committee on Donor Selection. We also agreed to keep a watching brief on this issue in light of the work being carried out by the FAIR—that is for the assessment of individualised risk—steering group, and due to be considered by SaBTO in late 2020, and to consider the petition again at that point. A holding response was received from the Minister on 24 November, and the petitioners have provided further comments. But we've also had some good news on this petition, and I'll just hand over to the clerk.
Thank you, Chair. As Members will likely have seen, an announcement was made yesterday by the Welsh Government, and I think by all Governments across the UK, that the processes that the Chair has outlined had concluded, and that the intention was to change the eligibility criteria for blood donations, with effect from June 2021, to go down the route that the committee had requested in relation to an individualised risk assessment, rather than blanket bans. We received some additional correspondence from the petitioner yesterday, which has been circulated to you all by e-mail.
So, I think it's fair to say that the petition—well, I believe the petition has certainly helped. How would you like to go forward? Leanne.
I think we should congratulate the petitioner. This is really good news. I don't think we should be under any illusion that it achieves equality, because there are still issues outstanding in terms of discrimination, but, nonetheless, it's a step in the right direction, and it's certainly made a big step forward in terms of what the petitioner set out to achieve. So I think we should say a big congratulations and well done to everybody involved.
Thank you. The following two petitioners will be considered together—3.6 and 3.7. So, 3.6, P-05-1001, 'Hold an independent inquiry into the choice of site for the proposed new Velindre Cancer Centre'. The petition was submitted by Amelia Thomas on behalf of the Save the Northern Meadows campaign, and was first considered in September 2020, having collected a total of 5,348 signatures. Petition 3.7, P-05-1018, 'Support for the current proposed plans to build a new Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, in any future inquiry.' The petition was submitted by Natasha Hamilton-Ash, and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 11,392 signatures.
We considered both petitions for the first time on 15 September, and we agreed to write again to the Minister for Health and Social Services to seek a response to the petitions, as well as in relation to concerns recently expressed over the clinical model. We also agreed to agreed write to the health and social care committee to ask whether it intends to conduct any work into this matter, and also to write to Velindre University NHS Trust to ask a number of further questions with regard to the transforming cancer services programme, and to write to cancer leads in each health board in Wales to seek their views on the model proposed. Responses have been received from all of the above, and the petitioners for P-05-1001 have provided further comments and copies of other correspondence. What action would you like to take on this issue? Leanne.
Well, it's clear that this facility is much needed, and we all want the best possible cancer facilities. But it's also clear that the facility needs to be absolutely right. So, it's useful to see both sides of the opinion together. I know that this has been quite a controversial issue in the local area, but we've had some new information here now, from a number of different parties, and there's been—
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:06 a 10:18.
The meeting adjourned between 10:06 and 10:18.
[Inaudible.]—this committee. Sorry, we had some minor technical issues there, and I revert back to Leanne Wood about the petition.
Diolch, Chair. I was saying before we lost the signal there that, in the light of the fact that we've received different evidence now from a number of different parties and that the publication of the advice from the Nuffield Trust is in place, we should write back as a committee to the Minister for Health and Social Services, drawing attention to the information that's been received by the committee in the context of the scrutiny of the outline business proposal within the Welsh Government, request an update on the current status of the work, following the publication of the Nuffield Trust advice, and an indicative timeline for further consideration by the Welsh Government, and seek a response to the further points made by the petitioners in respect of the view of the independence of the Nuffield report, and requesting that a full independent review of the clinical model is still required. I think we need to make that point prior to the decision made by the Minister. All of us want the best, optimal facility here, and it's potentially very exciting, what's going to be achieved, but we've got to get it right.
Okay. Do all Members agree? Okay.
So, then we move on to 3.8, P-05-992, 'We call on the Welsh Government to create a common body of knowledge about Welsh history that all pupils will learn'. This petition was submitted by Elfed Wyn Jones and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 7,927 signatures. The committee last considered the petition on 3 November, noting the correspondence received in advance of the Plenary debate scheduled for 4 November and agreeing to return to the petition following the debate. The petitioner has provided further comments also following the debate. Jack. [Interruption.]
Sorry, Jack. Go on.
It's all right. Jack, then Leanne.
Thank you, Chair. It's a very important petition, isn't it? I think the debate we held clearly expressed that. However, there is clearly work to be done and I think this Petitions Committee fully supports that work. However, I do note the Children, Young People and Education Committee are currently scrutinising the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, so it might be best if we pass this information over to them and they take it forward, rather than duplicating the work. It's certainly an important petition that I think has full support from the committee, but I'm just conscious of duplicating the work when it could be done more efficiently, perhaps, by the children and young people's committee.
No, I agree with the position just put by Jack. I think this has achieved, already, great things, this petition. The debate in Plenary has been really important, and the fact that the children and young persons committee is seriously looking at this question as part of their scrutiny of the curriculum Bill is testament to the work that has gone into this petition. So, I think we should be very grateful to the petitioner for the work that's been put into this. I will personally be keeping a watching eye on this, because it's something that I feel very strongly about, as do many people in my party and my persuasion of politics. But I think this has achieved now—. It's gone as far as it can here in the Senedd, so I would support Jack's proposals now in terms of allowing the children and young people committee to take it forward.
Okay. All Members agreed?
Okay, then we'll move on. P-05-883, 'National Welsh History Week'. This petition was submitted by Phil Rowe and was first considered in June 2019, having collected 86 signatures. Now, the committee has discussed this petition on four occasions. We last considered it on 4 February, and we agreed to keep a watching brief and return to the petition alongside a similar forthcoming petition, P-05-992, and that calls on the Welsh Government to create a common body of knowledge about Welsh history that all pupils will learn. The Senedd debated petition P-05-992 on 4 November. How would you like to take this one forward? Anyone?
I just think it's a very similar situation to the last petition that we discussed, isn't it? There's been a Plenary debate now on creating a common body of knowledge about Welsh history, and there's been a pledge from the Deputy Minister to discuss how promotional work can develop a wider narrative. So, I think that the petition has achieved as far as it can achieve, and so we could say, 'Thank you very much. Well done', and close the petition, Chair.
Okay. Everyone agreed?
Yes, fully agree.
And then, finally, 3.10, P-05-1025, 'Ensure fairness for students taking exams in 2021'. This petition was submitted by National Education Union Cymru and was first considered in November 2020, having collected 2,022 signatures. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 13 October and we agreed to await the findings of the independent review currently being conducted into the awarding of grades in 2020 and 2021 and decisions expected to be made shortly by the Minister for Education, and also to write to WJEC to ask for a response to the petitioner's concerns over the differences in approach to adapting course content being taken in relation to individual subjects, and the call for increased optionality in examination papers if course content is not reduced. On 10 November, the Minister announced that there should be no end-of-year exams for GCSE, AS and A-level qualifications in Wales in 2021. A response was received from WJEC on 16 November, and the petitioners have provided further comments. Jack.
Thank you, Chair. A decision's been announced by the Welsh Government, hasn't it? So, I think it goes some way to where this petition was heading. However, the petitioner has come back with some concerns and the suggestion to write to Qualifications Wales. So, I'll put forward that to the committee, just so the petitioner feels comfortable that this is the right way forward. I think that's only fair. But I think the decision's been made; it's going that way. But, yes, we can write to Qualifications Wales to give the petitioner some assurances as to the questions posed.
Okay. Everyone agreed?
Okay, thank you. And so that brings us to the end of this meeting. All that remains, really, is to announce that the committee's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 12 January 2021. Can I just say, before I close the committee, huge thanks to our clerking team and to the members of the committee, and indeed to everybody who has sent in petitions during what has been a very hard and difficult year for us all? I think we're all looking forward to 2021, when things hopefully are not going to be anywhere near as difficult. But I would like to wish everybody watching or who has sent in petitions, or are interested in this committee, and to our clerking team and to Members, a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda. Diolch.
Daeth y cyfarfod i ben am 10:27.
The meeting ended at 10:27.