Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

Petitions Committee

16/07/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Buffy Williams MS
Jack Sargeant MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Joel James MS
Luke Fletcher MS

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Gareth Price Clerc
Clerk
Mared Llwyd Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Masudah Ali Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Sian Giddins Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

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 09:30.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datganiadau o fuddiant
1. Introduction, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Croeso cynnes i chi gyd i gyfarfod cyntaf y Pwyllgor Deisebau newydd.

A warm welcome to you all to this first meeting of the new Petitions Committee.

Welcome to this committee this morning—the first meeting of the Senedd Petitions Committee in the sixth Senedd. 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. This meeting is bilingual and translation is available for Members, and a Record of Proceedings will also be published. Aside from the procedural adaptations relating to conducting business remotely, all other Standing Orders remain in place. I'd just like to take this opportunity as well to welcome Members. We have Buffy Williams, the Welsh Labour Member of the Senedd for the Rhondda, Joel James, the Welsh Conservative Member for South Wales Central, and Luke Fletcher, the Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales West. So, welcome, new Members, to the sixth Senedd; it's great to have you on board. And I will extend that welcome to our clerking teams and teams behind the scenes as well. 

Item No. 1 on the agenda is apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. No apologies have been received today, and therefore there is no need for substitutions. And I remind committee members they should note any declarations of interest either now, or at the appropriate time and relevant point during today's proceedings. So, are there any declarations of interest now? No. Okay. No problem.

2. Cylch gwaith y Pwyllgor
2. Committee remit

Moving on to item 2 on the agenda, the committee remit, I refer members of the committee to the supporting paper—paper No. 1 in the documents received from the clerking team. It's a public paper as well, so it's available for members of the public. Can Members confirm they are content to note the remit of the committee for this sixth Senedd? Okay. I can see nodding heads. Thank you.

3. Deisebau newydd
3. New Petitions

Item 3, new petitions. In line with the practice adopted by the previous Petitions Committee, it is my intention that a written response will be sought from the Welsh Government, or another relevant organisation, in advance of our first discussion of new petitions in the future. Given the short time between the committee being established and this first meeting, it has not been possible to do so for the new petitions that we will be discussing today. However, factual briefings have been provided for Members' consideration by the Senedd's research service, and the clerking team have contacted lead petitioners to invite them to provide further information or background, should they wish to do so.

Item 3.1, P-06-1158, 'The Welsh Government to put in place a dedicated disability Minister within the next term of Government'. That petition was submitted by Alex Chung, with 315 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'With one in five people here in Wales living with a disability according to ONS. It has never been more important for Wales to become a truly inclusive nation for all its citizens. We want Wales to become the first devolved nation to have its own dedicated disability Minister. With a dedicated minister focusing on disability can we make bigger strives towards, a fairer employment system, more opportunities for disabled students and greater support for mental health.'

Therefore, I'll invite Members to discuss the petition and any actions the committee wishes to take. Any comments from Members? Joel.

Yes, thank you, Chair. I'm conscious of the briefing notice that we've had on this, and that it comes already within the remit of Jane Hutt's equality portfolio. But, if I'm honest, I think it is a good idea that we could look at further exploring whether or not the Welsh Government would consider creating a dedicated Minister, because I know, from the election hustings I was involved with, especially with Leonard Cheshire Disability, there is definitely a desire to see that amongst people who do have disabilities in the community. Because ordinary day-to-day things that we take for granted are sometimes overlooked, and loads of stuff was coming up in terms of railway platforms, access to buses, access to shops and pubs, even just—. Little things like that, really. I definitely think—. I don't know what the rest of the committee are feeling, but I definitely think there's some scope here to maybe look into it further and to see if that is a possibility.

09:35

Joel brings up some very valid points there. In Rhondda, we have—. I've been contacted by many, many residents who struggle with their everyday life—you know, pavements, access to shops—and they always find it difficult to know where to turn for that help and support. Maybe this is something we could look into further.

I just agree with Joel and Buffy; I think it's something that we could ask the Welsh Government to look into further. I've had contact from the Bridgend disability group, for example. Joel mentioned train platforms—well, in Pencoed, for example, and the Upper Llynfi line, actually, as well, there have been alterations to platforms that have affected people with disabilities and they haven't really had any consultation on that. I think having a dedicated Minister would actually give people that avenue to go down if they needed help and support on issues like this. So, I think it would be a good idea to at least write to the First Minister and the Welsh Government to see if this is something that they could look into further.

Okay. Well, thank you, Members, for that. I think there's a clear consensus there, Clerk, so if we could arrange a letter to the First Minister on the petition—. Thank you.

Item 3.2, P-06-1159, 'Finally ban the manufacture, sale and use of animal snares in Wales', and this petition was submitted by Robert Curtis, with 6,514 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'Ask most people in Wales and they would probably tell you that they believe the practice of setting snares for wild animals must have been banned in the dark ages, but sadly the truth is very different. In fact thousands of wild and domestic animals are killed or severely injured in Wales every year due to the use of snares.

'Currently we only have a Code of best practice on their use despite the fact that the traps are fundamentally cruel. They have no place in a modern wildlife friendly Wales.'

Can I invite Members to discuss this petition and any actions they would like to take? Luke.

Thank you, Chair. First off, I just wanted a bit of clarification on something, and it might be a stupid question, but I'll ask it anyway. If we supported campaign calls during the election, do we have to declare an interest in the first instance, or is that—?

I was going to say it's a matter for you, but why not?

Well, there we are, then. I supported the calls for this during the campaign. I do agree with what Robert actually says in this petition. They are quite torturous ways of catching animals. I do note from the briefing, though, that the Welsh Government's programme for government mentions a ban already, so I think it'd be wise for us to ask the Welsh Government for timescales on that ban. It could be that this is something that's going to be sorted in the near future, and it'd be good to go back to Robert and give him that news as well.

Yes, thanks, Chair. It was just to touch, basically, upon what Luke's already said in the sense of—. It's not a personal interest, I suppose, it's just something I want to say, which is that I'm a member of BASC, which is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, so just in case that comes up.

As Luke said—. I don't necessarily agree with a full, outright ban of snares. I think there are code-compliant snares out there that are designed just to trap and they don't kill, and I think the statistics look then—. Where they're used and they've trapped animals that shouldn't be trapped, they're often released unharmed. I think from—. Was it the RSPCA, a couple of years back, that said that the numbers that they get reported in terms of animals trapped in non-compliant snares, they're very minimal, really? Over the past six years, I think there have only been about—. Well, I've got the figures here, actually, if I could have a quick look. There have only been about 160. I do agree that there should be a ban on non-compliant snares, because they are barbaric, but it should also be noted that they're mainly used in urban areas, rather than in the rural environment. And one of the concerns I have with an outright ban is that, I suppose—you know, people who are using non-compliant snares now are just going to continue using snares even when they're banned. But then, I suppose, the punishment is greater. So, those are only my thoughts. I'm conscious that the wheels are already in motion with this, but I do think there is scope to have a compromise here, and, with compliant snares, they're not designed to kill; they're just designed to trap.

09:40

Okay. On that basis, can I suggest that we follow up with Luke's suggestion of writing to the Welsh Government following that? And Joel, your points, I think, can be raised in the Chamber when that goes through the programme of Government. So, I think we can note your comments for the record, and let's agree to write to the Welsh Government, and that can be taken up. Do Members agree?

Yes. I'm not going to leave; I'm just going to get up to turn the lights back on, because the sensor has not gone off. 

Item 3.3, P-06-1160, 'Require local Welsh exam centres to accept home-educated students for public exams'. And this was submitted by Claire Woolley, with 393 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'Home-educated students need guaranteed access to suitable local examination centres at affordable prices, enabling them to have the same rights and access to qualifications as every other child in Wales.' 

Can I invite Members to discuss the petition and any action they wish to take? Any comments from Members?

I've looked at this and I think home-educated children should have the same rights as any other child when it comes to sitting exams. How does everybody else feel on this? Because I come from a background of education, and I just think any child should have the right to sit their exams with the knowledge that they have been home-schooled, but they can also sit an exam with children who have been schooled and have the same—. How can I say this—they have the same rights, don't they? Just because they've been schooled somewhere else—. I think they should be able to go into a school and sit that exam.

Okay. Well, on that basis, Buffy, perhaps we could write to the Minister for Education and Welsh Language to just get the Welsh Government's view on this particular petition. Sensible? Members agree? 

Item 3.4, P-06-1161, 'Routine collection and publication of data of how many babies/children return to their care experienced parents care at the end of a Parent and Child Placement'. This was submitted by Nicola Jones, with 60 signatures. And the text of the petition is as follows:

'We believe that many care leavers walk out of their placements because little thought is given to their previous experiences or to their mental wellbeing even though a baby has the right to stay with its parent/s if it is safe to do so.'

The petitioner has provided some further information with this, which is included in your briefing. Therefore, can I invite Members to discuss this petition and any action we'd like to take as a committee? Joel.

Yes, thank you, Chair. I must admit, it took me a while to understand the petition, really, because I think the wording of it confused me a little bit at first. But I definitely think there's an important point that's being raised, and I know one of the suggestions is maybe writing to the children's commissioner to seek their views on it, and I think that's definitely a positive step that we could do. I'm just interested in what other people thought there, really. 

Yes, I agree with Joel. I found it difficult as well to really understand what the text was saying, and I think that's the way to go—basically, write to the children's commissioner and get some feedback there. 

Okay, Clerk? I think we've got consensus on that one to write to the Children's Commissioner for Wales.

Item 3.5, P-06-1162, 'Break up the County of Rhondda Cynon Taff and join the Cynon Valley to Merthyr County'. This was submitted by Sian Davies, with 138 signatures. And the text of the petition is as follows:

'During these local lockdowns it has become very obvious that Cynon Valley (mostly Aberdare) is totally disconnected to the rest of Rhondda Cynon Taff. All of the local ammenities in our area has been moved to Merthyr—our court, hospital, registry for births/deaths, our shopping centre, etc.

'This became very obvious when the residents of Aberdare have been told we cannot travel to Merthyr but has to travel all the way to Llantrisant, have you ever tried going there on public transport either?'

I can say that I haven't. I don't know about other Members, but I would like to invite Members to speak to this petition and any actions they would like to take. Joel, I think I can see.

09:45

Yes, thank you, Chair. Again, I don't know if it's relevant, but I just wanted to highlight that I am a councillor on Rhondda Cynon Taf council. The irony—. I've got to admit that I had a chuckle to myself, not at the petition, but because it's the thought that, where we live in the Pontypridd area, we think the exact same thing about how everything seems to go to the Rhondda or the Cynon valley and the joke with us is it's RCT, so it's Rhondda first, Cynon second, and then the Taf third and last. I can definitely sympathise with the petitioner's feelings here, but from my own personal experience, I don't recognise necessarily what the petitioner is saying. From where we live in Llantwit Fardre—which is near Llantrisant, actually, and it's been some time since I caught the bus to Llantrisant as well—we always get the sense that everything is going to the Rhondda or the Cynon valley in terms of playing fields, running tracks and bowling greens. Even the money spent on sprucing up the high streets, you know, that seems to have been spent in those areas rather than in our area. So, it's up to what the rest of the committee want to do, but I don't necessarily recognise what the petitioner is saying. That's all I'm saying.

Thank you for that, Joel. And I'll bring in the Member for the Rhondda, Buffy Williams.

I agree with what Joel says. He said he doesn't recognise what the petition is asking, but I would disagree, because everybody in Rhondda feels exactly the same as how Joel is saying people feel down his neck of the woods, basically. I just think it's where you live. People in Rhondda feel that money's spent in the Cynon valley and Taf; people in the Cynon valley think money's spent in Rhondda. It is much as much as, isn't it? I think that's the way it's going to be. It doesn't matter which one of the valleys you live in, you're all going to think the next one is having that little bit more.

I will defer to Buffy and Joel's judgment here. I'm in Pencoed, which is on the border with the Rhondda, but I'll defer to their judgment as local Members on this one.

Okay. With that in mind, I don't think there's any further action to be taken by the committee. Does that seem sensible? So, I would suggest we close this petition; agreed? Thank you.

P-06-1163, 'Extend the postgraduate STEMM bursary to all MSc students in Wales'. And it was submitted by Rachel Wrathall—I apologise if I've said that wrong—with 88 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'In June 2019 Welsh Government announced a bursary scheme to increase the number of Welsh graduates who remained or returned to Wales to undertake a master's degree in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics or Medicine (also known as 'STEMM' subjects). This funding currently only extends to traditional Universities, excluding students who choose a STEMM Masters through alternative providers. This excludes some students, who need more flexibility in STEMM subject matter or course delivery.'

I'll invite Members to speak to this petition, and I'll put it on the record that I am an engineer, so this is very up my street. But, Luke, I'll bring you in now.

You're putting me under pressure now, Jack. I have to say, reading what the petitioner has said, I think it's important that we try to be as flexible as possible as a Senedd, but also as a Welsh Government, ensuring that everyone has the ability to access courses that are suited to them. We know, for example, that someone who is a single mother might want to go and study again, so I can sympathise completely with the petitioner, and I'm having a look at the briefing now, and I can see, obviously, the two possible actions we've talked about potentially taking as a committee. I would suggest that we do both, that we write to the Minister for education to seek her views. 'His views', sorry—I was thinking back to Kirsty there. So, write to the Minister to find out what his view is on the petition itself, but also write to the Centre for Alternative Technologies as well, asking whether they've sought designation as a higher education institution from the Welsh Government. But I sympathise with the petition completely, and I think it's something that we should ask both the Welsh Government and the Centre for Alternative Technologies for an opinion on.

09:50

Diolch, Luke. Do Members agree with Luke's proposal? Yes, okay. Thank you.

Item 3.7, P-06-1164, 'Make bullying and harassment in schools a criminal offence from the age of criminal responsibility'. This was submitted by Alanna Louise Virk with 94 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'Too many children are suffering in silence, self harming or committing suicide. Encouraging children to be kind to each other is not working. Bullies do not face the consequences of their actions. Make bullying and harassment a criminal offence for children of the age of criminal responsibility (10 years+).'

I would invite Members to talk about this sensitive petition and any actions they may wish to take. 

This is a very emotive subject, isn't it, especially if you've been a victim of bullying yourself? I recommend that we do write to the Minister for education and seek a response from him. I think it's important that this is addressed. It is an issue that is within our schools and within our communities. It's a very difficult subject. So, I do think we should pass this to the Minister and see what his response will be.

Thank you, Buffy. Are Members in agreement with Buffy there? Okay, thank you.

Moving on to item 3.8, P-05-1165, 'Ban the sale and consumption of alcohol within the Senedd'. This was submitted by Russell Gwilym Morris with 91 signatures, and the text of the petition is as follows:

'We call upon the Senedd to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol within the Senedd. The Senedd is a workplace and most workplaces won't allow alcohol on their premises. There are also many establishments within the capital that Members of the Senedd can go to after a days work to unwind, just the same as the rest of the citizens in Wales do.

'People already feel there is a them and us culture within politics, this would go a little way to help changing that perception.'

Can I invite Members to discuss any actions they may wish to take on this? Luke.

Thank you, Chair. I think it's worth writing to the Llywydd to inform her that the petition has been submitted. I don't know the details of where we source our food and drink from, but I do know it's contracted to an outside body, and I think it's the Commission that's responsible for that. So, I think in this instance it's worth bringing this to the attention of the Llywydd and relevant officers in the Commission.

Thank you, Luke. On that proposal, then, I think we should write to the Llywydd and note this petition to make her aware, and obviously members of the Commission. But with that in mind, perhaps it's not the committee's remit to take this further, so I propose to close this petition on the basis of that. Do Members agree? Thank you. Thank you, Clerk.

Item 3.9, P-06-1166, 'Provide tax free grants to people working in the arts and to provide grant funding to arts venues', submitted by Natalie Bowen with 50 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'Right now, the UK government is encouraging people who work in the arts to retrain. We think this is wrong and that people who work in the arts should be given grants to enable them to keep entertaining people. The arts are the life blood of our community and we should support them financially.'

Can I invite Members to discuss the petition and any actions?

Chair, could I declare an interest in this, simply because I know Natalie? Maybe it would be an idea to write to the Deputy Minister for arts and have a response from the Minister.

Okay, thank you for noting that for the record. Joel wanted to come in.

Chair, just in case, I know a Natalie Bowen, and I think this might be her, although I'm not sure. Because it does sound like something that Natalie would do. So, just in case, I'll highlight that.

09:55

Hi. I was going to say, I'm going to disappoint you all now: I don't know Natalie. [Laughter.] But I agree with what Buffy suggested. I think we should write to the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport to request a response. I agree with what Natalie's saying. The arts and culture, in particular, in Wales are very important and we should be doing everything we can to support the sector.  

Okay. Thank you. I thought we were going for a hat trick of knowing Natalie. I don't know Natalie either, but it would be lovely to meet you by the sounds of things. We've got a suggestion there, Clerk, that I think we'll take forward. 

Item 3.10, P-06-1167, 'Support Welsh travel & tourism businesses', submitted by Matthew Sutton with 138 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows: 

'Coronavirus has had a huge impact on all businesses across Wales, but from the start the travel and tourism industry has had a huge financial impact.

'From the original 5 mile rule, to being allowed to trade for just 7 weeks, and now local travel restrictions re-imposed across much of Wales.'

Can I invite Members to discuss this petition further? Luke. 

Thank you, Chair. I would think that this might be something that we could also write to the relevant Minister on, and I think, actually, it could potentially feed into a wider strategy, hopefully, from Welsh Government in ensuring that tourism actually is a sustainable sector as well. And of course, when I say 'sustainable', that means multiple different things. For example, something that's important to me, and I'm sure it's important to other Members on the committee as well, is that tourism works in partnership with the communities that it takes place in, and actually becomes a benefit to communities. So, I would suggest that we write to the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, I believe, is it? 

Yes, I think that is the new—. We're still getting used to the ministerial responsibilities, but I can see Buffy nodding in agreement there. I see Joel as well, so thank you. 

Item 3.11, P-06-1168, 'Consider re-doing this current academic year for students across Wales', and this petition was submitted by Hayley Whittington-Pike with 184 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'I implore the government to consider re-doing this academic year, should school closures become part of the "fire break" restrictions. It isn't fair to expect the children to catch up with last years missed education, whilst having a stop/start academic year this year. Our children should not be prevented from achieving their full potential, and nor should we as parents be accepting that they just get by. Not all children have the same luxuries of parents at home to help/access to resources.'

I'll invite Members to discuss this petition further and any actions we'd like to take. Buffy. 

I have two children that are still in education. One had their third year in university throughout lockdown, and I have one in primary school that is going to the comprehensive now in September. I know that teaching staff have worked extremely hard to keep children up to speed on their education through home schooling—the virtual schooling. I just think children have gone through enough, and to be expected to sit this year over again, I don't think I would be happy if it was my children, especially with my daughter in university. I wouldn't be happy for her to re-sit another year. That's another year of her life, basically, on hold, when, like I said, teaching staff, education providers are really working very, very hard to ensure that our children are up to speed to where they need to be in their schooling. 

Thank you, Chair. I don't have kids myself, but I am a governor in Pencoed Primary School. I'm not sure if I should declare that as an interest as well. I sympathise with the petition and I do have concerns as well in how the last year, no, two years—I think it might be two years; time has passed completely differently during the pandemic. But I do have some concerns as to how the pandemic has affected the education of working-class children in particular, whose parents might be working and haven't been able to provide the same support that they would have had in school. But I agree with Buffy: I know that schoolteachers have been working very hard to ensure that kids don't fall behind. 

I do note in the briefing we had that the Welsh Government has previously rejected proposals for pupils to repeat the school year. I agree with Buffy and what she said on this. I think this is a very emotive one, again, but I think we need to be conscious of where we're at at the moment, how it will affect children but also where the Welsh Government stance has already been identified.

10:00

Thank you, Chair. Yes, just like Luke I am a school governor as well, and if I'm honest I agree with what Buffy and Luke have said on this. Teachers have worked phenomenally hard to try and do the best of what has been an absolutely terrible situation, and I am conscious of how some parents had the luxury to stay at home and go through the work with their children, but then some of them couldn't, through having to work, or maybe single parents who just couldn't have the time to do it. As Luke said, the Welsh Government has already said 'no' to re-doing the academic year, and I think that is probably, maybe, not a step too far, but that's probably maybe something that can't really be done. But yes, I think it would be worthwhile to write to the Minister and then just to see if any more help and support can be done in terms of the catch-up programme, just to see, going forward, how the situation can be improved for the children.

Okay, then. Thank you, Joel. Can I suggest an action for the committee to take, then? Perhaps we should write to the education Minister to get his latest view on the position of the Welsh Government, but with that in mind, I think that will probably be the only scrutiny this committee would manage to achieve. So, perhaps we write to the Minister, and we will send all correspondence to the petitioner on behalf of the petitioner, but agree to close the petition as well, at the same time. Does that seem sensible? Thank you, Members. Thanks, Clerk.

Item 3.12, P-06-1169, 'Let Welsh citizens vote on lockdown restrictions', submitted by Lee Walters—not Lee Waters—with 289 signatures. The text of the petition is as follows:

'Let Welsh citizens vote on lockdown restrictions.
I believe the population of Wales should have a say on how the issue should
be tackled.
Example
Full lockdown
Half lockdown
No lockdown & masks optional
It’s affecting all people’s lives so all the people should have their say.'

Can I invite Members to discuss this petition, please? Joel.

Thank you, Chair, yes. Although I appreciate the views and what the petitioner has said, I think the electorate has had a say on the lockdown with the current Senedd election that happened in May, and we are a representational democracy, so we vote for people to make those decisions on our behalf. So, my view would be just to close the petition down now, but it's up to what the committee says.

Thank you, Joel. Buffy, did you want to come in on the back of that?

I was just going to say that we need to follow the science. It's as simple as that, really, isn't it? I agree with the sentiment of this petition, but yes, I echo what Joel has said.

Thank you, Buffy. There's been a proposal there, so I assume, Luke, you're in the same position. Yes, so am I. So, we'll agree to close that petition and thank the petitioner for raising his views.

Item 3.13, P-06-1170, 'An immediate independent review of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 selection process in the WPWL'. This was submitted by Mali Beatrice Summers, with 2,526 signatures, and the text of the petition is as follows:

'Abergavenny WFC, Briton Ferry Llansawel Ladies and Cascade YC Ladies have been forcibly relegated from the Welsh Premier Women’s League, the top women’s league in Wales, despite all finishing above the relegation zone. We are calling for a fully independent review of the FAW selection process for the new Tier 1 and Tier 2 leagues to ensure transparency, equality and fairness. Promotion or relegation should be decided on the pitch, and not be driven by money or the size of your men’s team.'

I'll note for the record that this has been quite a well-discussed topic in the Chamber from all parties, and I think Hefin David, Delyth Jewell, and Laura Anne Jones have played an active role in raising this in the Senedd—one of the most cross-party consensus debates in the Chamber I've seen in a long, long time. I will ask Members to discuss this petition further. Luke.

10:05

Thank you, Chair. I was also one of the people who co-signed—I think it was a statement of opinion that Hefin, Delyth and Laura submitted to the Senedd. It's a travesty, really, isn't it? I fully sympathise with Mali's petition and I think we should be looking to write to the Deputy Minister for arts and sport—I know that she's also in talks with the FAW at the moment around this issue—but to get a formal response to the petition for Mali and the people who signed.

I would, as well, like to see us write to the FAW to get their response as well. This is something that I think should be taken quite seriously, to be honest, and I'd hope that other Members on the committee would agree with this as well.

Thanks, Luke. I can see Members nodding in agreement there. So, we'll follow up with those actions suggested. Thank you.

Okay, that concludes new petitions and item 3.

4. Y wybodaeth ddiweddaraf am ddeisebau blaenorol
4. Updates to previous petitions

So, moving on to item 4, updates to previous petitions, starting with the health and social services remit.

Item 4.1: P-05-914, 'Equal Access to Health Care for the Disabled', submitted by Tracy Locke, and it was first considered by the last Senedd Petitions Committee in November 2019 with 121 signatures.

For some background for Members, the petition was considered by the previous committee on four occasions during which time it has considered responses from the Welsh Government, health boards, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and British Medical Association Cymru. In December 2020, the committee agreed to write back to the then Minister for Health and Social Services to draw attention to the further information gathered and to the suggestions made around developing cluster arrangements for GP practices to access equipment and a loan scheme. The committee also agreed to ask whether the Government will consider instigating discussions with health boards and patient groups such as Shine to develop solutions to this problem. A response was received from the then Minister for Health and Social Services on 22 March and correspondence has also been received from the Swansea Bay University Health Board. Responses from other health boards have been considered by the previous committee. A response from the petitioner has also been received.

Can I invite Members to discuss where they'd like to take this petition forward? Any comments from Members? Buffy.

Chair, I'm just looking at the notes here. This is another very emotive subject again. Maybe we could go with the recommendations to produce a short report setting out key issues. Yes?

Okay, I can see nodding of heads from others, so if we could consider that, then, Clerk, that would be great. We'll put that into action. Thank you.

Item 4.2, P-05-974, 'Ensure the technology of prosthetic limbs provided within the Welsh NHS is equal to the rest of the UK', and this was submitted by David Bradley and first considered in September 2020, with 561 signatures. The background of this petition is as follows. The petition was considered by the previous committee on three occasions. In March 2021, the committee heard that the then Minister for Health and Social Services would shortly be considering further advice concerning a review of the petition and agreed to refer the petition to its successor committee to allow it to consider a further update following this. A further response was received from the then Minister on 29 March and further comments have also been received from the petitioner.

Members, what action would you like to take with this petition? Luke.

Thank you, Chair. I can see that this is one of those petitions where it's been fairly successful, and I can see David, as well, agrees with that. I think it's fair, now that the petition has achieved what it set out to, that we close the petition. But I would like, as well, to see us perhaps use this as a case study for how petitions can have an impact in the Senedd and on what Welsh Government does, because something I often worry about is that people don't feel like their voices are being heard, but here's an example where people's voices have been heard. So, I'd be very interested to use this as a case study to help promote the work that the Petitions Committee does, but also, as well, the value that petitions have in the Senedd processes.

10:10

Thank you for that, Luke. I can see nodding heads all round. I fully agree, having sat on this committee in the last Senedd term, and I remember this petition very well. So, I think we should certainly look at promoting this as a case study because that's what we're here to do. We are here to listen and make your voice heard—the members of the public's voice heard—to authorities, including the Welsh Government. So, I'll say 'well done' to David Bradley—a fantastic effort—and I'm pleased this petition could make such a difference. So, we'll close this petition, a successful petition, and thank the member of the public, David, who submitted it. 

Item 4.3, P-05-1078, 'Increase funding for mental health services and improve waiting times for people needing help in crisis. We need a change!' This was submitted by Laura Williams, and it was first considered in January 2021 with 5,159 signatures. The petition was considered by the previous committee in January, which agreed to (a) write again to the Welsh Government to seek its views on the petition, and (b) seek time for a Plenary debate on the petition. The petition closed under the previous debate threshold of 5,000 signatures. The debate was held on 10 March, and a written response from the previous Minister was received on 12 March, and the petitioner has also provided further information. Can I invite Members to speak on this petition? Luke. Thank you. 

Thank you, Chair. I, again, sympathise with a lot of what's said in this petition. I think, over the course of the pandemic, it has had a detrimental impact on people's mental health. I'm glad to see that there was a debate held on this as a result of the petition. Unfortunately though, I am struggling to see where we can take this petition from this point because it has secured a debate in the Senedd Chamber. I think it's now incumbent on us, as Members in that Chamber, to keep pushing this agenda. There's a lot of things that we could be doing, looking at, for example, how we can expand green spaces for people to go to. That's just one point. I won't go through more now or we'll be here all day, but there are a lot of things we can do.

But I think it's important that we give a recap of that debate that happened in the Senedd as a result of this petition to the petitioner, as well as signatories if we can, because, again, this is an example of where a petition has had an impact on the business of the Senedd. So, I think it's important to show that these things do have an effect, that they do provide people outside of the Senedd with an opportunity to dictate the agenda in many ways. 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, I agree with what Luke has just said there. But one thing I was thinking that we could do as a committee is: well, I'm conscious that during the election period a lot was made about campaigning for 24-hour access to mental health services, and I was just wondering if that's something that as a Petitions Committee we could try and push forward, just to see what the latest is with that really. Is that something that could come under the remit of this petition that's just come, because I think that's a valuable thing that we could look at further? It's up to the committee, I suppose. I just thought, well, it's something that we can keep going, and we can put pressure from the committee that end as well. 

I'm just—. I think it's—. Well, I agree with you to keep putting pressure on. Mental health services and mental health illness is a key priority of mine as a Member. Mared, I'm just thinking, would this fall under the petition, or would it be something that we'd have to take up as individual Members separately.

Well, the petition itself asks for increasing funding for mental health services, so it could be encompassed in that, I think, given it's quite wide in terms of what it's calling for, but it does then go into more detail about more specific support. It doesn't specify 24-hour support, but in some of the correspondence we've had from the petitioner, she does talk about support through A&E, and the lack of support, and the lack of access to appropriate services during out of hours or from an A&E perspective. So, I think you could fit within that. 

10:15

Okay, we've got a suggestion there, and thank you for that clarification there. Do Members agree to Joel's proposal? Okay, all Members agree. Thank you for that, Joel, and thanks, Mared, for your clarification. 

Item 4.4—and we're moving into the education portfolio now—P-05-1147, 'Require all schools to provide daily live/recorded teaching to all pupils not returning to school'. Background to this—submitted by Catherine Evans, first considered in March 2021, with 308 signatures. And the background to this petition is as follows: the petition was considered by the previous committee for the first time in March 2021, when it agreed to provide the petitioner's further correspondence to the then Minister for Education and asked the Minister to consider what options there are for raising this issue further with the school or the local education authority concerned. A response from the then Minister was received on 9 April—my birthday—and a response from the petitioner has also been received. Can I invite Members to discuss this petition please? Any comments from Members? Joel.

Yes, thank you, Chair. Unfortunately, I don't know if there's much more we could do really, as a committee now, looking at the briefing notes. The Minister has come back to say that it's the responsibility of the school, the governing body and the local authorities. I think that's probably where it rests. Unless we wrote to every local authority or whatever, which I don't necessarily think would have the desired outcome that we'd want, it might be best if we do just close this. 

Okay, well, there's been a proposal there, and I've seen some nodding from Members, so perhaps we could, in our correspondence back to the petitioner, have a suggestion in there as well that perhaps the petitioner take this up directly with their local authority or their particular school of concern as well, and encourage any members of the public listening to this who have a similar issue to do the same. Members agree? Yes, I see nodding heads. Thank you.

Culture, sport and tourism, item 4.5, P-05-1013, 'Provide financial support for self-employed individuals within the Welsh live music industry'. The petition was submitted by Peter Phillips and was first considered in September 2020, having collected 189 signatures.

This petition was considered by the previous Petitions Committee on four occasions. In March 2021, the committee agreed to write back to the Welsh Government to share the further experiences provided by the petitioner and request that further consideration is given to providing further specific support for the live music sector, given the likelihood that music events will not be able to resume in the short term. A response was received from the then Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism on 19 April. Further comments have been received from the petitioner. Can I invite Members to discuss this petition? Any comments from Members? Buffy, yes.

I don't know what more, really, we can do with this. It's a difficult one, isn't it?

Yes. I have to say, I really do sympathise with the petition. There are gaps in Welsh Government support. I'm sure, as Members, we've all received correspondence from different sectors of the economy as well, which have highlighted these gaps. As a committee, though, I think this is as far as we can go. I know it's been considered four times already by the committee, and now I think it falls down to us as Members individually to hold the Government to account on this and to push for these gaps to be filled by the Government where they're falling short.

Thank you. So, there's been a proposal there from Buffy and Luke to take this up as individual Members of the Senedd—all of us who are Members of the Senedd—if we agree, and to close this and thank the petitioner. Yes, agreement from Joel as well. Thank you all.

Moving on to petitions that may now be resolved. Since the previous committee last met in March, a number of petitions appear to have been resolved. Either the action they were seeking has now been implemented, or the time frames noted in the petitions have lapsed. As such, I am proposing to write a short 'thank you' note to all the lead petitioners who organised the petitions, and to close the following petitions in one: 4.6, P-05-1092, 'Do not delay the May 2021 elections'; 4.7, P-05-1150, 'Provide business rates holiday to holiday home sites in Wales, the same as England'; 4.8, P-05-1151, 'Provide a date for the return of Organised Children's Activities for Babies & Toddlers'; 4.9, P-05-1154, 'Re-open the Welsh hospitality sector by 12 April 2021'; 4.10, P-05-1156, 'Match the funding for small businesses during lockdown with England—including the restart grant', and item 4.11, P-05-1157, 'Allow schools to assess students how they see fit, including the use of open-book assessments'. All those petitions are on pages 95 to 117 in the Members' packs. Are Members content and do they agree with my suggestion to write to the petitioners and close the following petitions that we've noted? In agreement? Excellent. Thank you very much.

10:20
5. Papurau i’w nodi
5. Papers to note

Moving on to item 5, papers to note, the committee has been provided with the legacy reports of both the Petitions Committee and the Chairs' forum of the fifth Senedd to consider as part of its discussion surrounding its ways of working. Are Members happy to note that paper? I see they are. Are Members also content to note that the Welsh Government has responded to the report by the predecessor committee on the petition P-05-805, 'Fair Deal For Supply Teachers'? A copy has been shared with the petitioner too. I see Members are in agreement on that as well. And a final paper to note—. A response is yet to be received to the report on P-05-886, 'Stop the Red Route (A55/A494 corridor)', however, the Deputy Minister for Climate Change has made a statement on the roads review in Plenary on 22 June 2021, which has been provided to the petitioner for information. Given that the committee recommended a review in that report, and the statement is delivering a review, are Members content to close this petition? I see they are. And I'll note, for the record, Clerk, my view on that particular road scheme. My views were made clear during the last Senedd petition; they remain the same, to members of the public, and, if they want to see that, they can see that in the legacy report. And they didn't quite agree with all recommendations, including the review of the road. So, I'll make that clear for the record. Thank you for that.

6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitem 7 ac eitem 8 o’r cyfarfod.
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from items 7 and 8 of the meeting.

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

I'll move on to item 6, and that is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude business from the public. So, that does conclude today's public business of the first meeting of the sixth Senedd of the Senedd Petitions Committee. I thank all Members and the clerking team for their help, and our wonderful team in the background. We will now go into a private session to discuss our ways of working and our strategic approach to the remit we have as a committee. So, therefore, I do propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee does resolve to meet in private for items 7 and 8 on the agenda. Are Members content with that? I see they are.

I will note two things finally before we do go into private session. This is our last meeting before summer recess, but we will be meeting in September in public again, and that will be through the usual channels of Senedd.tv. We perhaps will have a further meeting ahead of that if you want to try and clear up some stuff as well, but, obviously, the clerking team will make Members aware. But, for now, I'd like to say 'thank you' to all. Thank you to the members of the public who have committed—all correspondence that we have sent back, and closed petitions, we will thank the petitioner; I should have made that clear earlier on. And for members of the public keen to get involved, we are, as Luke said earlier, keen for members of the public to submit petitions; it is a chance to get your voice heard in your Parliament. So, you can get involved. Please do so; please keep up to date on the Senedd petitions website, and you can also follow the Senedd petitions Twitter page, which I think is '@SeneddPetitions', and also there is the Welsh-language page there also. With that in mind, I will now close this meeting publicly, and we will meet in private. Diolch yn fawr.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:24.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:24.