Y Pwyllgor Deisebau
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Buffy Williams AS|
|Jack Sargeant AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Joel James AS|
|Luke Fletcher AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Alain Thomas||Achub Milgwn Cymru|
|Greyhound Rescue Wales|
|Alex Nilan||Almost Home Dog Rescue|
|Almost Home Dog Rescue|
|Vanessa Waddon||Hope Rescue|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Kayleigh Imperato||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Mared Llwyd||Ail Glerc|
|Samiwel Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:00.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 14:00.
Croeso cynnes i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Deisebau.
A warm welcome to you all to this meeting of the Petitions Committee.
Can I welcome everybody to this hybrid meeting of the Senedd Petitions Committee today? To remind everyone, this meeting is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv and the Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptations for conducting meetings in hybrid format, all other Standing Order requirements remain in place. Item 1, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. I'm pleased to confirm that no apologies have been received today, and committee members should be reminded to note any declarations of interest either now or at the relevant point during proceedings. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I just want to declare an interest in relation to one of the items today in the session. I'm a member of Greyhound Rescue Wales and I've also worked on a number of campaigns and sponsored events for Hope Rescue in the Senedd.
Okay. Thank you, Luke. That's noted for the record.
Moving on, then, to item 2, the evidence session for P-06-1253, 'Ban greyhound racing in Wales'. This is the first oral evidence session for this petition, and today we'll be taking evidence from Hope Rescue, Greyhound Rescue Wales and Almost Home Dog Rescue. So, I thank the witnesses for being here in the committee room and also for joining us online, and I welcome you to today's meeting. Again, this is a bilingual meeting and questions may be asked or answered in the language of your choice. Before we start the questions from the Members, can I ask you to introduce yourselves for the record, please?
I'm Vanessa Waddon and I'm the founder of Hope Rescue.
I'm Alain Thomas and I'm the founder of Greyhound Rescue Wales.
I'm Alex Nilan and I'm the chairperson of Almost Home Dog Rescue.
Well, we're very grateful for your time here and for engaging with the committee. This is of clear interest to the Welsh public, I think, with over 35,000 signatures—one of our biggest petitions for the committee since its establishment. If I can start, then, by asking both Alain and Alex—this petition was submitted by Vanessa and Hope Rescue—what is your response to the petition. Perhaps I'll go to Alain first and then over to Alex.
Greyhound Rescue Wales's membership recently voted, by a majority of four to one, to support a ban on greyhound racing.FootnoteLink Prior to that, our position had been neutral—that we would not have a policy on greyhound racing, but we would oppose cruelty to greyhounds wherever we found it. Concerns over welfare at the remaining track in Wales and the proposed expansion of the Valley stadium means that the membership supported a ban on greyhound racing in Wales.
Thank you. Can I just ask, just for clarity, when the members of your organisation did change their minds?
Early March—6 March.
Of this year?
Of this year.
Thank you. Alex, if I could ask you the same thing—what was your organisation's response to this petition?
We're very new to this. We made enquiries as to how, as a rescue, we can support a ban on greyhound racing. We joined a working group to find out where we could take our view, our thoughts and our rescue, and, as a result of that initial attendance at the working group, I subsequently spoke with Alain and Vanessa and we formed a sub-committee to take our views forward on this.
Okay, thank you. Luke Fletcher, you wanted to come in.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I was just wondering if you'd be able to tell us of any other organisations that are currently consulting on their position on greyhound racing. We know that Dogs Trust and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are consulting. Are there any others that you're aware of?
I understand that Blue Cross are currently reviewing their position. Forever Hounds Trust did review their position a couple of years ago and they came out in support of a ban as well.
Just before we move on, then, I wonder if, given the opportunity to respond to the petition, perhaps, Vanessa, would you like to say something about the petition in general first?
Obviously, as the petitioner, we clearly support the petition. We started it for a number of reasons, firstly welfare concerns stemming from our time working at the Valley track between April 2018 and March 2020. We also had serious concerns about the fate of racing greyhounds in Wales now that Hope Rescue is no longer allowed to work at the track.
So, our Amazing Grace project worked at the track for two years, and what we were aiming to do there was to improve the welfare of greyhounds racing there, making sure we could offer a rescue space for them. We were concerned about where the dogs were going, and also we wanted to provide a crisis-intervention service, so that those dogs that sustained a serious injury had access to vet treatment. There's currently no vet at the Valley track, despite repeated calls from the Animal Welfare Network for Wales and a requirement in the Welsh Government-approved voluntary code of practice for the welfare of racing greyhounds, which was published in 2019. And we also wanted to gather information about greyhound racing in Wales and the welfare of greyhounds. So, the project was delivered by our hard-working team of volunteers. We went along to every race night. Any dogs that were surrendered or were injured were taken in, and then we found forward rescue spaces with rescues such as Dogs Trust, Forever Hounds Trust, Battersea, and Greyhound Rescue Wales.
We were also really concerned about the proposal to move Valley from an independent and hobby track to a commercial Greyhound Board of Great Britain track. That's been announced and will be up and running from January 2024. That will greatly intensify racing in order to provide a livestream betting product, and we're particularly worried about the significant increase in dogs that would be seriously injured or killed, and the impact on rescue centres at a time when we're facing unprecedented challenges due to both the number of dogs purchased during the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis.
Okay. Thank you for that, and I should say, as a committee, we really are hoping to hold a further evidence session, which we hope will include the track themselves now, but also GBGB and some other stakeholders as well. So, we'll be looking to do that in our next meeting in a couple of weeks' time. Luke Fletcher, I'll bring you in.
Diolch, Gadeirydd. Looking at it from a dog welfare perspective—and if I could start with Vanessa, if that's okay—what impact would a ban on greyhound racing in Wales have?
So, from our perspective, we always work on—. The foundation of any animal welfare strategy is that prevention is better than cure, and the Welsh Government's own animal welfare plan for 2021 to 2026 does recognise that as well. So, from my perspective, a ban is the only way that you're actually going to address the welfare issues that we uncovered at Valley track. We do have case studies and data to support that evidence, so if you do want to see our raw data and those case studies at any time, you're more than welcome.
The sort of welfare issues that we saw between April 2018 and August 2021: 49 greyhounds sustained a serious injury whilst racing at Valley. That was mostly broken legs. The majority of dogs racing at Valley had their careers extended from racing at GBGB tracks. That might be that they were having increasingly slower race times, they might not have made the grade, they might have been disqualified for interfering or fighting with another dog, or they might have sustained a minor injury. Many of those dogs shouldn't have been racing.
It's difficult to work out how many true injuries there were, because we weren't allowed to take all of the dogs from Valley. Some trainers wouldn't work with us and also there's no vet at the track, so when dogs were bumped or tripped or fell, there was no vet there to say whether they were actually injured or not. And the data's recorded by a layperson there and we found lots of data anomalies. For example, a dog called Zemalda Jo injured herself in a race in 2019. She's recorded on the Valley website, in vague terms, 'May have come off lame'. The reality is she actually broke one of her legs. And Jilly, who some of you have met at events at the Senedd, she sustained a serious injury in 2019 and needed her leg amputated. Her race remarks recorded on the Valley website were, 'She lacked early pace and faded.'
Many of those injuries occurred on the first bend at Valley, and that's a bend that they describe as 'eye-wateringly sharp with dogs coming to grief and finding trouble'. Sadly, five dogs didn't survive their injuries, including one who collided and suffered a devastating fracture, including her skull, face and ribs.
But let's also remember that Valley and GBGB tracks actively encourage children to attend these races and promote it as a fun family night out. So, aside from the fact that they are exposed to gambling at a young age, we're also exposing them to watching dogs break their legs or worse. And, having witnessed these appalling injuries myself, and having to scoop up injured dogs and take them to the vets, I can tell you it's a pretty horrifying sight.
So, the proposal to intensify racing is going to see a significant expansion in the number of races and the number of greyhounds needed to fulfil the proposed contracts for livestream racing. So, these contracts livestream races at betting offices across the world, and they're the main source of income for GBGB-licensed greyhound stadia. Based on GBGB's own statistics for 2021, we're likely to see around 232 injuries if Valley goes ahead and becomes a GBGB track, and around 10 to 15 deaths every year. Now, that's a huge leap from the figures we're currently seeing at Valley. If we have a ban, then that figure's going to be reduced to zero. I'm not really sure how any dog lover could support a proposal that will undeniably harm more greyhounds when there is an option on the table, i.e. a ban, to harm zero greyhounds, and that's the bottom line for me. I can attest that behind every injury or death statistic is a beautiful, sentient animal, and we should be treating them as such, rather than as collateral damage for the sake of a bet.
There are also some issues around a lack of traceability. We found greyhounds racing that, on their retirement forms, said they'd been rehomed as a pet. For example, Belle was recorded as retired as a pet on 8 November 2017; she then went on to race at Valley another 30 times before being surrendered to us. Another dog, Emily, was recorded as being kept by owner for breeding on her retirement form; she went on to race then 32 times. So, lots of data anomalies.
We've also got a really sad example of poor welfare where Valley allowed a trainer to race after being convicted for doping at Swindon track and then suspended, and later found guilty of doping at Perry Barr track. Sadly, three of his dogs at Valley went on to break their legs and one died. That's someone who should never have been racing, and yet they were allowed to race at Valley.
Our raw data also shows health and behavioural issues with dogs surrendered, dental issues, skin complaints, undiagnosed injuries and lameness, fleas, worms, fear and anxiety. It takes considerable resources to rehome surplus greyhounds, both in terms of vet costs and rehab. One example is Bullseye, who came in in January 2019, underweight, in poor bodily condition and with sores on his tail, or Duke, who came in in October 2019 with a high temperature, resulting from an infected tooth and gums.
Also, we've got to look at the intense pressure on rescue centres. We are overwhelmed at the moment. You only need to talk to any rescue centre, including those in Wales, and they will tell you, 'We're struggling.' Our project took in over 200 greyhounds that were surrendered due to trainers having links with Valley, not all of them had raced there, but they came in because the trainer either raced there or somebody worked there, and that's not the totality of dogs. We know that the record keeping isn't great and we can't verify what happened to those dogs that we never got.
So, if we're going to be increasing racing there to become a GBGB track, and they're talking about four times a week, whereas they only currently race once a week, with the amount of greyhounds that they're going to need to fulfil that racecard, we are going to see a significant increase in injured dogs. There are only three rescues in Wales that are approved greyhound rehoming centres by GBGB, and only one is a greyhound rescue. We've read recent reports on a pro-racing forum that trainers are backed up with surplus dogs, they can't get them into rescue centres. So, what's going to happen when there are no rescue spaces for these dogs? Surplus greyhounds are a man-made welfare issue, created by the racing industry. It's additional pressure on rescues, and if racing isn't banned and Valley does become a GBGB track, that's just going to put more pressure on us rescues here in Wales.
Thank you for that, Vanessa. If I can just come back to something you just mentioned—it was very comprehensive; a number of the supplementaries that I thought of you'd answered—I wondered if you could explain a bit more about the GBGB-registered rescues. You mentioned there were only three in Wales that are registered rescues. Is there any particular reason why there aren't more or—
I think I'll pass over to Alain, if that's okay, because Alain is a bit more experienced with the scheme than I am.
The thing I'm keen to get out here is what does it take for a rescue to become a registered rescue.
Greyhound Rescue Wales was a registered rescue until 6 March. You have to be not opposed to greyhound racing. The GBGB claim that welfare is at the heart of what they do, and if that were the case, then I would expect the GBGB to allow rescues such as Greyhound Rescue Wales, which have very high welfare standards and provide the best possible care for greyhounds, to be a member of the scheme. In fact, as soon as it became known that Greyhound Rescue Wales was opposing greyhound racing and supporting a ban, within 24 hours we were removed from the scheme. So, it seems to me that GBGB in this case have put business interests before welfare.
Thank you for that explanation. I was just wondering if Alex wanted to come in.
Yes, Alex. You've pre-empted Alex's wave. Alex.
So, we were approached by GBGB to become an approved greyhound rehoming centre in November 2020, with the inception of the greyhound retirement scheme. We had a meeting with Paula Beniston, the welfare officer, a Zoom meeting, for over an hour, to discuss in more detail. Our committee voted unanimously to decline the offer on the basis that we had to keep our anti-racing views off all of our social media platforms, on which we have 38,000 followers. We couldn't detail anything about our views or the poor state the greyhounds were in when they arrived with us.
Thank you, Alex. Luke, any further questions? No. Buffy Williams.
Thank you, Chair. Thinking about the social and economic aspects of racing, what impact do you think that would have if there was an outright ban on greyhound racing?
So, we don't know how many staff are employed at Valley, but obviously it's undeniable that if a GBGB track came here that that number would increase, but we still feel strongly that the welfare and ethical disbenefits greatly outweigh any economic benefits. If racing were banned now, then it would have minimal economic impact; there's only racing once a week, and animal welfare organisations would work hard to ensure that there are enough rescue spaces.
In terms of economic regeneration, the main source of income for the owners of greyhound stadiums are those livestream contracts, and not public attendance at tracks. Valley reports that it has signed one of those contracts. So, it's likely that very little of the economic impact and value will remain in the local or even the Welsh economy because the money is in those betting contracts. The concept of racing dogs simply to meet the needs and profits of the betting industry is a welfare failure, but it also supports gambling addiction, and the ethics of expanding and promoting on-site gambling in the heart of an already deprived community, I would also question that.
Public attitudes to greyhound racing are changing. Very few members of the public attend racing; physical attendance at tracks is at its historical lowest. At its peak, there were 77 licensed tracks and 200 unlicensed; there are just 20 licensed tracks and three independents now. An exposure of poor welfare has helped that decline. A recent YouGov poll that we commissioned showed that 45 per cent of the public support a ban in the UK, with only 17 per cent opposing and 38 per cent unsure or supporting neither.
Also, the UK is only one of seven countries that do practice commercial greyhound racing. In the US, 41 states have now banned it. It's at odds with a modern, progressive and ethical society. We've now got animal sentience enshrined in law in Westminster, and attitudes are changing now. I think Alain has got some further thoughts.
Yes, I could add to that some more detail about the business model of the racing industry. I think it's fair to say that there will be a few additional jobs created if the track were to develop. At the moment, the impact of a ban would be minimal in economic terms; there are only a few part-time jobs at the track. But, the new business model is completely different, I think, to the one that's in the public perception. I think there's a popular image that greyhound racing takes place in front of crowds at stadiums, where there's hospitality in the form of a bar or restaurant, and that income is generated from ticket sales and food and drink sales. That does happen: it happens about 20 per cent of the time. Eighty per cent of the time, races take place in empty stadia, and that's because the main product of greyhound racing isn't entertainment, it's gambling, and income is produced by broadcasting live racing to bookmakers across the world.
In the case of Valley, development depends on securing a broadcasting contract with a company called Sports Information Services, or SIS, and the SIS website describes their mission like this:
'to maximise value for bookmakers by creating…a betting event every 3 minutes.'
So, there's no mention of greyhounds, let alone welfare. So, to allow SIS to achieve its mission across different time zones, greyhounds have to race in nearly empty stadia, at all hours of the day, from as early as 8 a.m..
So, the dogs concerned race under what is known as the BAGS scheme—Bookmakers' Afternoon Greyhound Services—and this is an issue. BAGS greyhounds are by far the largest and most vulnerable section of the greyhound population in the UK, and they will almost certainly form the majority of the racing strength at Valley. BAGS racing requires large numbers of greyhounds and, because of this, the tracks tend to engage with large-scale trainers who have kennels of 100 dogs or more, and they are contracted to supply a certain number of dogs for race events. And these large-scale operations, to start with, dilute any bond which might exist between the greyhound and the person who will ultimately determine their final fate. The contractual arrangement also creates an incentive to ignore signs that a greyhound may not be entirely fit to race. That increases the risk of injury. And, similarly, the relationship incentivises not allowing sufficient rest between races. So, a House of Commons select committee in 2014 said that:
'BAGS racing supports the majority of all betting income and sustains the continued viability of the sport. However, it also drives high demand for dogs with potentially negative consequences for overbreeding and post-racing welfare.'
A greyhound trainer, posting on a pro-racing forum, described BAGS racing like this: 'I see the same dogs being fed to the lions by the bingo-calling racing managers who have one desire, and that's to make up a race of six dogs, not taking into consideration the young pup might be on his seventh run of the month and has no possible chance of even competing, let alone winning the race. The amount of lame dogs being run on a daily basis is a disgrace, and we all know it, but nothing is going to change.' And those are not the words of an anti-racing campaigner—those are the words of a greyhound trainer.
So, there's the question of whether it's ethical as well to export gambling across the globe to countries that may not even have the safeguards that exist here to protect people from the well-documented harm that excess gambling could cause. I would suggest that, as well as the economic benefits, there are severe disbenefits, and I question whether this kind of business model is one that we want to encourage in Wales.
Okay, thank you. Before I bring Alex in—I could see you had your hand up there—I just want to briefly touch on the House of Commons select committee from 2014. Did they make any recommendations and were they accepted or—?
I'm not aware of that.
You're not aware. Okay. Perhaps we will have a look at that as well. But, if you do come across that information, it would be useful for our clerks to see that as well. Thank you. Alex.
Just with regard to the track that was in Manchester, Belle Vue, that was closed down in 2019. The regeneration of that area has provided 114 new homes for affordable housing for young families in a small community, so I would have no doubt that that could be replicated as an option. Further afield, there are many examples of regenerated tourism around the world on hundreds of greyhound stadium sites that have closed down.
Just going back to the dog welfare perspective a ban would bring, at the moment, just reiterating what Vanessa said, our current situation in rescue and other Welsh rescues that we have been liaising with—we have an overwhelming number of requests to surrender dogs from Welsh families, many for behavioural and financial reasons, as well as elderly owners who are no longer able to care for their pets. Post pandemic, the need for rescue space has become unprecedented. We have kennels where greyhounds are in, and they have been with us for weeks. We also have 50 dogs on our waiting list from Welsh homes. We cannot help those dogs until we rehome the greyhounds. We expect and predict this situation to be similar for a good few years. Not banning greyhound racing will exacerbate this situation, and that's a rescue that has full kennels and six fosterers, and has rehomed 150 greyhounds over the last five years at a substantial cost to our charity.
Thank you, Alex. Alain.
If I could come back on that, because I would like to make a comment on the impact on dog welfare. I want to echo what Alex and Vanessa have both said there. Greyhound Rescue Wales is the only specialist greyhound rescue in Wales, and we home over 100 dogs a year. I could see that with a fair wind, hard work, good luck, good planning, we might increase that incrementally—150 maybe; 200 maximum.
I've got almost 30 years' experience of rescuing greyhounds in Wales, and it isn't easy finding homes for greyhounds. It would be impossible to cope in Wales with a fourfold increase, which is the minimum that is likely to occur, in dogs needing homes if the expansion of Valley were to go ahead. And I would question whether there would be scope to home those dogs over the border in England either. For one thing, I don't think that it would be a good thing for Wales to be seen as a net exporter of unwanted greyhounds, but, secondly, there's a shortage of homes in England as well. It seems, looking at the Greyhound Board of Great Britain statistics, that their homing figures are now stagnating. They've gone up to about 94.4 per cent of greyhounds retiring homed last year, and 94.3 this year, I think—sorry, in 2020-21. Which means 5 per cent don't feature, and 5 per cent in itself is not an insignificant amount. It's the population of Wales as compared to the UK, so hardly insignificant. And the homing that is happening is less now by charities. The homing by charities, including the Greyhound Trust, decreased by 6 per cent between 2020 and 2021, and those are the GBGB's own figures. This was compensated for by a 6 per cent increase in homing by the owners themselves, so retaining dogs, or sending them for breeding or independent rescue [Correction: 'racing'].
Now, I don't know what checks the GBGB carries out on dogs that are retained by the owners, but it seems to me that there is a backlog of greyhounds waiting to come into rescue, and there's ample anecdotal evidence of that, and evidence, such as the evidence Alex has just given, that trainers are taking matters into their own hands because they're not prepared to wait. There's also ample anecdotal evidence on greyhound forums of the Greyhound Trust being overwhelmed by dogs at the moment. So, if we can't home the dogs in Wales, we can't expect to send them to England.
Just really quickly, the injured dogs you take in—how much a year does that cost you in vet bills? Do you know?
I've done calculations—. Alex is indicating as well. It costs an average of £2,709 per injured dog. There's a great deal of variation. Some cost a lot less than that—a simple toe injury, for example—but some are highly complex injuries. I think the most expensive one that we've paid for is over £11,000. So, if you're looking at a figure of—232 injuries did you say, Vanessa?
Over 200 injuries. You can do the maths yourselves—that's a huge amount.
I've got to stress that the injuries that GBGB record are not all serious fracture injuries—there are less serious injuries—but quite a number of them will be. Even if it was only 100 fracture injuries a year, you're talking over £200,000.
Okay. I'll bring Alex in and then we'll go to Joel. [Interruption.] Oh, I'll go to Alex first, then Luke, and then Joel. Alex.
Thank you. I just want to come back in a little while to not just the physical injuries, but the psychological and emotional injuries suffered by the dogs. As a very, very tiny rescue, we have rehomed over five years 800 dogs. A hundred and fifty have been greyhounds. Over 100 of those have had visible scars on thighs, torso and face. Most arrive with balding thighs, where they've lain in their own urine for prolonged periods, and had poor nutrition. Over 30 dogs have had hock or toe injuries and missing digits, and 20 have had extremely bad teeth, resulting in sedation and extractions. These greyhounds have come either directly from the track or shipped from Ireland, where the breeding regime is out of control. Eighty per cent of UK-raced greyhounds originate from Ireland, and many end their days in Wales.
We have evidence of several dogs arriving in Holyhead, being transported down the A55 and miraculously ending up in our local town, in Abergele, petrified and stinking of beer. The cost to our tiny rescue of taking in, rehabilitating and rehoming these 150 greyhounds, including transportation, neutering costs, dental, injuries, pain medication, food and heating bills has been, over five years, over £41,000. The adoption fees and donations we receive for greyhounds on adoption come to approximately £34,000—a net loss to our rescue of between £6,000 and £7,000.
Another local rescue, called Skylor's, based approximately five miles away from us, also predominantly rescues greyhounds and Welsh pound dogs. They confirmed to me that they have taken in and rehomed 78 greyhounds in five years also: a total of over 230 greyhounds for two extremely tiny, small north Walian rescues.
Thank you, Alex. Luke, you wanted to ask a supplementary question.
Yes. Diolch, Cadeirydd. Obviously, these are significant costs that you are highlighting here. I'm wondering if there's any sort of financial support coming from the industry—so, whether that's from the tracks, whether that's from GBGB, whether that's from the gambling industry—at all. I'm aware of the greyhound rehoming scheme, for example, but I'm also aware that not every charity has access to that. I was wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on that.
Perhaps we'll bring Alex in first, because Alex has got the—
That includes any donations from the GBGB, when trainers have decided to give us some funds on bringing the dogs directly to us. We have had several dogs brought to us and the trainers have promised to send us a donation at some later stage, but it's never been received. So, they promised to send it in instalments, but it's never been received. So, that is included in that figure.
Would you be able to tell us how much per dog that donation is from GBGB, out of interest?
The most recent we've had has been £150, but the cost to us in terms of the veterinary care, neutering—based on the size of the dog, whether it's male or female; there is a difference—the dental, a lot of foot treatment, as a lot of them come in with corns and lameness, it's well in excess of £150.
Okay. Thank you, Alex. Alain.
Yes, it's not easy to estimate how much it costs to rehome a greyhound that hasn't got any supplementary severe injuries, and a lot depends on what parameters you take, but, rule of thumb, about £1,500 per dog for our charity. Now, that may sound like a lot of money, but greyhounds need a lot more care than some dogs do when they come into a rescue. Alex has described quite clearly there the condition of some of the dogs she takes, but even dogs that are in relatively good physical condition need a lot of mental rehabilitation. Most come out of racing with no experience of anything other than a barren kennel environment and no socialisation with other dogs. Some carry underlying low-grade injuries that need treatment, and the average stay for a greyhound in GRW kennels is 56 days, and, during that time, our staff have to work intensively with them, so we need a good staff to dog ratio. What they do is they take them into a home environment so that they get used to normal noises, as they'll never have heard a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner before, they walk them in local parks, they meet small dogs, and they interact with them and teach them to play. Our adopters often tell us. 'They come to us and they don't know; they don't behave like a normal dog.' It takes months, really, but we make as much of a start on that as we can.
In terms of how much money we get, we do ask for donations from trainers, and I have to say some trainers are very good. I'm not damning all trainers; there are some good greyhound trainers out there. The good ones will give us £100, sometimes £150, but the average donation for a greyhound is £36.
Vanessa, quickly, and then I'll bring in Joel.
Can I just also say that we will acknowledge that GBGB do have their injury recovery scheme for GBGB-registered dogs, which helps with 50 per cent of the cost of treating career-ending injuries? So, the rescue still has to pay 50 per cent, and I think that's up to a cap as well, and if you're dealing, like Alain said, with some greyhounds having an £11,000 bill—. So, that might sound laudable, but I think the very fact that we have a thing called an 'injury recovery scheme' really says everything we need to know about greyhound racing. It's speaks volumes. The fundamental issue that we should be looking at is ensuring that the dogs aren't injured in the first place, not putting resources into fixing them. This goes back to that 'prevention is better than cure' policy being the foundation of any animal welfare strategy.
Thank you, Vanessa. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. Thanks ever so much for coming today. I just want to ask you a quick couple of questions, if I may. I wanted to get some idea on to what extent the issues that you've raised are down solely to, for want of a better sentence, bad management at the Valley track, rather than the sport on the whole, if that makes sense. I see there's a difference between closing down a track and then just banning the sport entirely, and I was just wondering if I could have some clarification on that first.
Obviously, one of the options for Welsh Government is regulation, but, from our perspective, there are a few points we'd like to make about the effectiveness of regulation. Despite regulation, welfare issues still persist, and we can look to the GBGB for their data and their figures. In 2021, GBGB reported 4,422 dogs suffered a serious injury. Over the last four years—because they've only been submitting their data in the last four years, and that was as a direct result of the EFRA committee we referred to earlier; they were pushed into releasing that data—17,930 dogs have suffered serious injuries. So, regulation might mean more would have been injured without it, but it does not stop those injuries or the deaths.
Greyhound racing is self-regulated by GBGB, and conflicts of interests are common. For example, we have GBGB directors that also have commercial greyhound interests; for example, they might be a trainer or they might be a promoter. Disciplinary hearings are dealt with in-house, and this includes doping, even though in some instances, doping could potentially be an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Greyhounds are known to be given a variety of drugs, some illegal, such as cocaine, amphetamines and steroids, which can lead to organ damage and failure and/or strokes and fatalities. This was highlighted in the Panorama documentary Drugs and Money: Dog Racing Undercover in 2014, and also you only need to read the numerous GBGB disciplinary reports and media articles.
The Irish documentary that Alex referred to just now, the RTÉ Investigates documentary aired in 2019, revealed that 83 per cent of greyhounds raced in the UK are bred in Ireland, that 6,500 were exported and that 6,000 were killed for not making the grade. So, the demand for greyhounds for GBGB tracks in England comes from Ireland, Ireland are putting to sleep around 6,000 dogs that don't make the grade, and 1,000 more pups were bred than actually needed. Distressingly, it also showed footage of surplus greyhounds being killed at a slaughterhouse.
I would say that GBGB continually reinvent their welfare strategies, as each previous strategy failed to deliver the improvements that they promised. We have a new strategy that's just been put out now, but the RSPCA acknowledges that out of 11 improvements previously requested by a coalition of major animal welfare charities, only three were marked as amber and none green. So, progress isn't forthcoming, and GBGB itself acknowledges that it cannot deliver the latest strategy within the current funding levels. At very best, it's an aspirational strategy.
Interestingly, it also finally acknowledges that independent tracks like Valley are unable to provide verifiable levels of welfare, and they will no longer allow an option on their retirement form for GBGB registered dogs to be sold to race there. They've always known that, but now we've made it public, it seems that they're finally taking action. Only this week, a tribunal reported how a whistleblower, an employee at the Swindon track—a GBGB track—was sacked after reporting race-fixing and welfare concerns that resulted in a greyhound losing their leg. And, as I've mentioned with the GBGB recovery scheme, the fact that they have that scheme I think says all we need to know.
We don't believe that regulation can ever adequately protect racing greyhounds from harm. At best, it's a temporary solution and may marginally increase the welfare of greyhounds off the track, but it can never ever eradicate the injuries and deaths on the track. So, the question I think we need to ask is: in Wales, do we find it acceptable that greyhounds are seriously injured and die for the needs of the betting industry? Do we want to be complicit in viewing injured and dead greyhounds as nothing more than collateral damage? Or do we want Wales to truly lead the way in protecting greyhounds? We need to find a more strategic and sustainable solution to these welfare problems, and regulation isn't the answer. With just one licensed track currently in Wales, it's a feasible solution for us right now, or we'll be back here in a couple of years' time showing you that regulation hasn't worked, and, in the interim, 100 more greyhounds would have been harmed.
Thank you, Vanessa, for that powerful testimony there. Alain wanted to come in, and then back to Joel for further questions.
I agree with everything Vanessa has said there. I want to take a slightly different angle in reply to your question. I've seen a change in GBGB in the 20 years that I've been dealing with them. To start with, I would say that there was no genuine will to improve welfare, and then a change came about, and there seemed to be a willingness to dialogue with the rescue organisations and to attempt to make progress. However, what I've seen lately is that progress not leading anywhere. I don't think it's lack of will on the part of some people within GBGB, but I think there's an inherent conflict within the structure and what I said earlier about the business model, which means that dogs have to race frequently, we have to have large-scale kennels, and it is based on exporting gambling across the world. That provides an incentive that works against welfare, and I think that that is a fundamental problem that is going to be very, very difficult to resolve.
Even if that problem were resolved, there would still be the problem of funding. Not much more than 10 years ago, the GBGB—I think it was in 2007—received £14 million in funding from the bookmakers' voluntary levy, which is 0.6 per cent of gross profits and the main source of funding for welfare, but that has gone down. In 2019, it was £6.95 million, in 2020 it went up to £8.87 million, and in 2021 it was back down to £6.75 million. There will not be enough money. The GBGB, by the way, estimates that they need £11 million to deliver this strategy. So, without a statutory levy, there is no chance of even beginning to address that conflict at the heart of the industry. And on that statutory levy, the UK Government has said repeatedly it has no plans to bring one in. So, for that reason, I don't think that regulation will be effective and I fully agree with Vanessa that a better solution would be a ban, because that would prevent the problems.
Thanks for those answers. Obviously, GBGB would say that in taking over Valley stadium they would be looking to professionalise the sport there. What you would say, then, based on their conduct elsewhere in the United Kingdom, is that that wouldn't necessarily happen. Because I'm conscious you mentioned there the regulations that we could do as a Government, but you've also highlighted issues where, for example, GBGB are self-policing, there's a lack of transparency, and it's in-house, so looking to address that just wouldn't solve the situation in terms of animal welfare. You mentioned issues with the track at Valley and the first bend—you mentioned how dangerous that is. So, looking at track design or clamping down on abusive trainers or welfare there, or mandatory vets—you mentioned that there are no vets allowed at these racetracks—you would think that those are non-starters, really, and that the best course of action would be just to outright ban it.
I don't think we can deny that regulation improves welfare, but what we're saying is you will not ever reduce totally the injuries and the deaths. And in fact, for Wales, if we don't ban it now, we're going to see an increase in those deaths and injuries. For me, that's the bottom line. The net result would be an increase in greyhounds being harmed in Wales.
Alex, you wanted to come in, and then I'll bring Buffy Williams in for one final question.
I agree with the previous comments from Vanessa and Alain. From our perspective, it has to be a ban. Something that is probably not talked too much about is that, aside from the physical injuries, the psychological injuries that these dogs suffer is huge. We've had many, many cases, on which I can provide information, of racing dogs that have reared up into the back of their kennels and stayed there for days on end, not wishing to come out, for fear of just being around human beings. And the rehabilitation of those dogs—you can't put a cost on that. It's not about fixing a broken leg; it is about how we rehabilitate those dogs and get them into homes where people are capable of understanding what they've been through and providing them with a long-term forever home. That's an issue for me. So, absolutely; a ban is a definite, from our point of view.
Thank you, Alex. We have run over time slightly, but it's an important petition for the people of Wales, so that's okay. If we take one final question from Buffy—perhaps a brief question and brief answers as well.
Very briefly, and it might be a silly question, but when you were allowed to visit the racetracks and monitor what was going on there, was the well-being of the dogs better?
'We don't know' is the answer. Because of a lack of transparency of data, we don't know what's happening with those dogs now, and that's a real issue. Whilst we were there, we could see the actual races. We didn't really know what went on once they'd left the racetrack, what the kennelling and that was like. We can assume, in some cases, it wasn't great, because of the condition in which the dogs were coming in. The truth of the matter is we don't know what's happening now. I think Alain has got some data, but it's a real issue that we have no idea where those dogs are going.
There's a saying in social research, 'The dog that doesn't bark sometimes tells you more than the dog that does', and we've got a dog that isn't barking here. On Valley stadium's website they list 689 greyhounds who have left the track since 2017. If you average that out, that means 129 greyhounds leave the track each year. We've got historical evidence of dogs being shot in south Wales. We've found that there was an organised network whereby it was routine and it was seen as normal to hand your dog over to someone who would shoot it and charge £10 or £20 for it. The Sunday Times found supporting evidence for what we found here in 2004, with their exposé of the slaughter of greyhounds in County Durham in 2007. So, we don't know what is happening to those dogs, but the historical evidence suggests that we can't be sure that they're all safe. The other figure I have is that we only know of 66 dogs being taken into the normal receiving rescues over a 12-month period, whereas we would have expected 129, and that's using Valley Greyhounds's own data. What has happened to that 60 or so dogs?
We have come to the conclusion of today's evidence session, so can I thank all the witnesses, both in front of me and on the Zoom camera? Thank you so much for joining us today, which will help inform. We'll have a private discussion at the end of committee to discuss what we've heard today and what we'll take forward. As I did say at the start of the session, we are hoping to have a further session, perhaps with the track themselves, GBGB and others. But we are grateful for your time today. There will be a transcript, which will be sent through to you. Please look through that for factual accuracy, and if it has been misrepresented in any way, please let us know. If there is anything that you feel you may have missed out today, feel free to get in touch, and I'm sure committee members will do the same if we have missed any questions. I'm very grateful for your time. We will move on now. You're free to go or you're free to stay and enjoy a thrilling Petitions Committee session. Diolch yn fawr. Thank you.
Moving on to item 3 on today's agenda, new petitions. Item 3.1 is P-06-1252, 'Calling on the Welsh Government not to vaccinate children 12 years and younger against COVID-19':
'Healthy children are at low risk from COVID-19 yet face known and unknown risks from COVID-19 vaccines. Rare, but serious, adverse events and deaths are being reported to monitoring systems around the world. Official guidance is updated as the side-effects become more apparent. Giving COVID-19 vaccines to healthy children to protect adults is unethical and unjustifiable. The Government has an ethical duty to act with caution and proportionality.'
This was submitted by Richard Taylor, with 478 signatures. I'd like to bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. I look to Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. I note that the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommends that children under 12 are vaccinated, but it's not mandatory; it's up to the parents to request it. I think that's probably the correct course, really. I'm conscious that the petitioner wishes to see them not vaccinated, but I think, given the advice of the JCVI and other organisations like the World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, it's probably best that we just thank the petitioner and then close the petition.
Thank you, Joel. I can see Members nodding in agreement, and I do too.
Moving on, 3.2, P-06-1270, 'Make October 21st an official Memorial Day for those killed and affected by the Aberfan Disaster'.
'At 9.15 am on Friday, October 21, 1966, a waste tip above the mining village of Aberfan began to slide down the mountainside, firstly destroying a farm cottage and killing all its occupants. It then approached Pantglas Junior School, where the children had only just returned to their classes after singing All Things Bright and Beautiful at their morning assembly. The slide then engulfed the school and about 20 houses in the village, killing 144 people, including 116 school children.'
There is further evidence and further information available to Members in their packs, and also available to members of the public online. This was submitted by Claire Davies, with 53 signatures. This is, obviously, a very emotional petition and, of course, our thoughts are always with those affected by the Aberfan disaster. Can I invite Members to discuss this particular petition and any actions they may wish to take? And I'll bring in Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Having read through our papers, I did note that the First Minister said that the Welsh Government is unable to grant bank holidays; that power resides with Westminster. I would be minded to go back to the Government on this, mind. There are examples out there of days of national remembrance, for example, which don't require a bank holiday. I think that still fits within the spirit of what the petitioner is asking for here. There could even be scope for us to look at a national day of remembrance for all those who've been killed in industrial disasters and mining disasters. Fundamentally, this is key to Welsh history and to our communities' histories as well, and our relationship with our industrial past. So, this is something I think we should go back to Welsh Government on, challenge them slightly as well and ask why can't we have a national day of remembrance that doesn't necessarily follow with a bank holiday. Armistice Day is an example of that, for example.
Thank you, Luke. I can see Members are all in agreement. Yes, they are. And no further comment on that, so we will write back to the Welsh Government, based on your suggestion there.
Item 3.3, P-06-1273, 'Drastically reduce waiting times for ambulances and at A&E departments'.
'My father had to wait 13 hours after suffering from a serious stroke. Part of the problem was ambulances stuck at A&E departments for several hours waiting to offload patients. Lack of beds and staff have been quoted as a cause. As a result of the long wait my father's chances of recovery have been reduced.'
Again, there is additional information available to Members and members of the public. This petition was submitted by Christopher Evans, with 262 signatures. And I will bring Members in to discuss this petition now, and look to Buffy Williams. Buffy.
Thank you, Chair. I'd like to send my best wishes to the petitioner, as we all would. And I know that we would all have casework sitting in our files back in our constituency offices very similar to this, unfortunately. I think that this is a problem that has been ongoing for a long time. I know that the Health and Social Care Committee have recently held an inquiry into hospital waiting times and ambulance waiting times, and I know that the health committee have recently taken evidence on this. So, until that inquiry and the report, then, has been issued, I think we should leave this petition open and come back to this at a later date when we have the full facts and the evidence we need to make an informed decision.
Okay. There's been a suggestion—thank you, Buffy—to keep it open while the report from the Health and Social Care Committee is being published. I can see agreement with that, and, as a member of the Health and Social Care Committee, I shouldn't think it'll be too long before that happens. Gareth.
The middle of June is what I'm being told, so it shouldn't be too far away.
Thank you. Moving on, item 3.4, P-06-1274, 'Stop the removal of the Rapid Response Vehicle for Monmouth'.
'The Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust are considering cutting the Rapid Response Vehicle (RRV) based at Monmouth ambulance station, leaving just ONE ambulance for the area. This will result in an increase in response times. RRVs were introduced because they can reach critical, isolated, sick, and injured patients quickly, easing pain, suffering, and saving lives. This hasn't changed, and with an increasing population in the area, we need more resources not less.'
Again, there is additional information for Members to consider, and it was submitted by Lorraine Allman, with 3,311 signatures. Before I pass this over to Members to consider, I'm grateful to our colleague Peter Fox who was able to meet the petitioners and some signatories of the petition on the steps of the Senedd when I and other Members were busy elsewhere. So, I'm grateful to Peter for accepting the petition on our behalf. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition now. Luke Fletcher.
Apologies. I think Joel had indicated there.
Yes, thank you, Chair, and sorry to jump ahead of Luke there. It was just a quick thing. When I've gone through the petition—. Again, apologies for not being able to attend the handover the other week. It's very disappointing and concerning to see petitions like this come to us as a committee, and I note from the report that the Minister has almost washed her hands of this and has said that this is a matter for the ambulance service—you know, the ambulance trust. So, there doesn't seem to be any comment from the Minister or the department itself about what's happened here, but I definitely think that we need to pursue this as a committee. And then, whether or not we can write to the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust just to get an idea of why this has been proposed, because, looking at the report, there are concerns about significant numbers of amber incidents not being attended to, and getting rid of the rapid response vehicle would just make that situation a lot worse rather than improve the situation. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Joel. And I can see that all Members—Luke and Buffy—are in agreement with that. So, we'll note that and move on.
Item 3.5, P-06-1275, 'Call on the Government to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Llanbedr bypass scheme'.
'Following months of constructive discussions, the Government withdrew from the scheme to build the bypass at Llanbedr, Gwynedd, based on flawed information in their report. Not only will abandoning the bypass be detrimental to the environment as hundreds of cars will continue to queue in the village, the decision is also a huge blow to any hopes of developing high quality jobs at the airport—the main hope of providing good work for our local people in this part of Meirionnydd.'
And this was submitted by Annwen Hughes, with 2,704 signatures. And I do look to bring in Members to discuss this petition and any further actions. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. In fairness to the Minister, he has been clear that the Welsh Government is committed now to this path they're taking in terms of not building any new roads. I do think that the petitioner raises some valid questions—for example, why local people and local representatives weren't consulted when the decision was made to withdraw the bypass. There are also, in this particular case, I think, a number of issues with emergency vehicles being able to go through the town. I don't necessarily think that it is as clear cut as banning all roads. I think there are some rural areas in Wales that need further infrastructure improvement. I do also know that the Minister has highlighted that he would like to move to more sustainable transport solutions, some of which may work in rural areas, others won't. I know that Lee is looking to create a new plan and publish it, and I would be interested in actually seeing that plan before we close this petition. So, I would like to ask the committee if we can consider at least keeping the petition open until we're aware of what the new strategy is.
Diolch yn fawr, Luke. Members in agreement? Any further comments? No. Members agree with your suggestion, then we will do that.
Item 3.6, P-06-1277, 'Save A&E. Withybush General Hospital must retain 24 hour, 7 days a week, Consultant Led urgent care.'
'Moving care out of county puts adults & children at risk of poor outcomes or even death. It wastes crucial time, when time is not on our side. We have 125,000 residents & millions of tourists. By implementing the downgrades, Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB), will be knowingly putting their lives at risk. We re-iterate, we are a rural, widespread county, with poor roads and public transport network. Refinery, gas plant, ferry ports, firing range, extreme sports, plus one of the most dangerous professions: farming.'
And there is additional information for Members in their packs, and also members of the public who are interested. And this was submitted Jacqueline Doig—and I apologise if I got your surname wrong there, Jacqueline—with 11,168 signatures. I will bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions they may wish to take. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. And just like the previous health-related petition, it is worrying to see that people find it necessary to do this, in the sense of, I would imagine, that common sense or a layman would see this as a vital asset for the community there, and concerns over whether it's being closed are deeply worrying. I note that it's gone well over 10,000 signatures—over 11,000 overall. It'd be interesting to know the geographical spread of that, especially the ones from Wales. I definitely think this is an item that needs to be discussed in the Chamber, and I would ask the committee to support that and that we recommend a debate on it.
Thank you, Joel. I'll bring Luke in next. There are over 10,000—well, there are 10,559—signatures in Wales, and we can find out the data for the locality.
Overwhelmingly, when you look at the heat map, it's Pembrokeshire. It's very local to the area.
Okay. Thank you, Gareth. Luke, would you like to come in?
Yes. I don't disagree with Joel's suggestion there. I was just wondering if there's scope for us to potentially open up the debate to address accessible healthcare provision, so that it allows other Members from different areas in Wales, perhaps, to contribute to the debate more freely, because I don't think this would necessarily just be an issue around this area. I just think giving Members the opportunity to come in on accessible healthcare provision might be a good way for us to have a more detailed debate.
Thank you, Luke. Joel, you wanted to come back in.
Thank you, Chair. It's just to touch upon Luke's comments. Obviously, just given the substantial number of people who have signed this from Pembrokeshire, I do think there needs to be some focus on it in terms of Pembrokeshire matters. But I'm conscious we did expand it with 'save the Cowbridge girls school', so I think there's an opportunity that we can do all of it, really.
Thank you. I will take those suggestions and I think the outcome from that is we will request a debate from the Business Committee for this particular petition, but, of course, it's up to Members, once, hopefully, the Business Committee accepts our suggestion and request for a debate, to widen that scope within themselves. And I'm sure we will see Members from both this committee and the Senedd take that opportunity, certainly.
Okay. Moving on, item 4, updates to previous petitions. Item 4.1, P-05-924, 'Ensure that every school in Wales has Wellbeing Ambassadors', submitted by Dŵr-y-Felin school well-being ambassadors, with 297 signatures. I had the pleasure of meeting with the young people who are now involved with this petition. I and the Deputy Presiding Officer, a couple of months ago, actually met them, and what wonderful people they are. I'm led to believe they are also watching us this afternoon, so: prynhawn da, pawb—good afternoon to you all. And again, thank you for engaging with this committee. It's always great to see our future generations and our future leaders getting involved with our business in the Senedd.
So, they are well-being ambassadors in their school and they are clearly very, very passionate about ensuring that other pupils are supported to provide peer support with issues such as bullying. They were very eager to learn about the Senedd, the petitions process and the committee itself during their visit to the Senedd. I think they enjoyed themselves; we certainly had a good conversation with the Deputy Presiding Officer. We're also very grateful that you submitted a video for all the committee to see, which we watched at the start, before we went live this afternoon. So, I would thank you again for taking part in our democracy and our process here in Wales. It's clear that your passion and commitment are there to be seen, and I think you should all be very proud, because your friends, your family and, certainly, your teachers will be. But enough from me, on that note, I will bring members of the committee in to discuss this petition, and I will look to Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd, and can I just echo what you said in terms of Dŵr-y-Felin's engagement with us as a committee? It's always good to see young people getting involved in politics at any level, and they're definitely a bit more switched on than I was when I was a kid, so that's always good to see as well—it gives you a bit of hope for the future.
In terms of the petition itself, I'm wondering if the committee could write to Welsh Government to ask what developments have happened since November 2019, since we last considered this, specifically about whether the anti-bullying guidance and the whole-school approach framework are now in place, so to what extent have they developed that, and, again, to ask about those well-being ambassadors, which, again, Dŵr-y-Felin has championed here.
Diolch yn fawr, Luke. I can see that Members are all content with that, and, again, we will follow that up, and we thank everyone involved. But I also should give a special mention to those who started the petition, who have now left the school, I believe, so a big thank you to them as well, and, obviously, those taking it forward. It was great to see you some weeks ago and we look forward to more engagement, not just with you, but with schools across Wales. So, diolch yn fawr, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.
Okay, 4.2, P-05-1106, 'Introduce Personal Health Budgets and Personalised Care in Wales'. This was submitted by Rhys Bowler, with 779 signatures. I do invite Members to discuss this petition and any actions the committee may wish to take. Joel James.
Thank you, Chair. I'm conscious that the report makes a substantial possible recommendation, and I'm keen, actually, that we do all of them. I know that it recommends writing to the Welsh Government expressing concern—it doesn't necessarily recommend it; it's an option we can do—at the failure to ensure individuals' independence and control over their care provision. I think that's a must, and then also to ask for them to promote the use of independent user trusts within the NHS community health council framework, and then also to provide practical and detailed guidance. And I definitely think the rest of them, in terms of template examples for the trust and then also that the trustees of IUTs would be appointed by the individual beneficiary or the Centre for Independent Living or a similar entity. They're quite comprehensive and substantial recommendations, and so I didn't necessarily want to deviate from those. I think that if the committee are so minded, those would be great possible actions.
Diolch yn fawr, Joel. Are Members in agreement with those? They are, okay.
Item 4.3, P-06-1213, 'Ban leisure use of Seadoo/jet ski in Cymru. Except in strictly controlled designated areas'. This was submitted by Richard Jenkins from Bridgend, with 1,432 signatures, and I'll invite Members to discuss this petition and actions they may wish to take. I'll bring Luke Fletcher in. Luke.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I think it's fair to recognise that this is a challenge for coastal local authorities, and when you think about Wales as well, with the large coastal area that we have as a country. I do think there's a need for this, though. We have examples of local authorities trying to take matters into their own hands. Gwynedd Council, for example, passed a motion to request that the UK Government bring forward legislation in this area. I know that some councils as well have banned the launching of jet skis from council-owned slipways. So, it seems to me that there is a desire from local authorities as well to do something about this. I am conscious as well that there is a publication due out from a UK consultation into this matter, on whether these types of crafts should be within the scope of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. I'm wondering if it's worth us as a committee waiting for that to be published, again giving us the full facts, as it were, or at least to see what the recommendations are from there before we take this petition any further.
Okay. Thank you, Luke. I can see Members nodding with content at your suggestion.
Item 4.4, P-06-1240, 'Improve health services for people with epilepsy living in Wales', submitted by Janet Paterson with 1,334 signatures. Again, I will bring Members in to discuss this petition and any actions. I'll look to Buffy Williams.
Thank you, Chair. I'd like to thank the petitioner for bringing this petition forward once again. I note that the Minister has made it clear that each health board is responsible for its own level of epilepsy support. Well, that's all well and good, but I'd like to know what the Minister is doing, if possible, to ensure that each health board has the appropriate level of epilepsy support for those that need it. So, I'd like to write to the Minister to find out exactly what she's doing to monitor, like I said, the level of epilepsy support that is out there.
I'd also like to write to the health boards and ask what is in place that meets the needs of people with epilepsy in each individual health board. Epilepsy is a debilitating illness that doesn't just affect the sufferer, but affects the entire family. The level of support out there can be very minimal, or it can be needed on a greater scale. It shouldn't be that one person in one health board is treated differently to another person in another health board—it should be the same right across the board. We need to find out, as a committee, what exactly is on offer and what the Minister is doing to ensure that the level of care is the same across the board. That is something that I feel very strongly about. I don't know how the rest of the committee feel.
Diolch yn fawr, Buffy. I can see both Joel, Luke and myself agree with your suggestion there and passion on this issue. So, we will write back to the Minister and we will also write to health boards, as suggested.
Moving on to 4.5, P-06-1242, 'Improve Endometriosis Healthcare in Wales'. This was submitted by Beth Hales with 5,895 signatures. Before I bring Members in, I do just want to note for the record the response from Mark Hackett, the chief executive of Swansea Bay University Health Board, who has responded to our correspondence, it just wasn't in time for when our papers were published. But, we do all have a copy of that now for the record. So, thanks to Mark for that.
I should also say as well that I had the pleasure of seeing Suzy Davies last week, the former Member of the Senedd, who inspirationally led a debate—perhaps one of the best debates, if not the best debate I've certainly seen in the Senedd Chamber—on the matter of endometriosis. I'd also like to thank the petitioner for consistently engaging with the committee in a good and thoughtful way. So, thank you, Beth, for that.
I will bring Members in to discuss this petition now. Buffy Williams.
Thanks, Chair. I'd like to thank again the petitioner for bringing this petition forward. I note that the petitioner has sent in further calls to the health Minister, further questions. So, I'd like to keep this petition open because they are valid questions. I'd like for the Minister then to answer these questions on behalf of the petitioner. I'd also like for the committee to help raise awareness of endometriosis and what help is out there, and I think it's something that we can do as Members of the Senedd. We all have social media, we all post on there daily almost. If you could take some time then to find—. I know there are brilliant endometriosis nurses out there who have started up a fantastic website called—what is it called? Bloody Brilliant campaign, it's called. If we can all share the Bloody Brilliant campaign and raise awareness of this hidden disability, because that is exactly what it is. You can't see endometriosis, but it's absolutely debilitating. Take it from somebody that has suffered with it for a very long time and who had a hysterectomy at the age of 34. I know what it's like. So, I think, if we as Members of the Senedd can encourage our colleagues to do the same to raise awareness, I think that's really important. But the petitioner has sent forward another set of questions that she would like answers to, so if we can write to the Minister to get clarification on these points, I think that would be really important.
Thank you, Buffy, for that, and I could see Luke Fletcher wanted to come in.
Yes, diolch, Cadeirydd. I just wanted to thank Buffy for giving the personal account there and I wanted to highlight as well, just as a male Member, that I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done by us as men to understand that there is a massive data gap in healthcare that has gone unnoticed now for some time. It's doesn't just come down to endometriosis—it comes down to a number of other areas: how women experience heart attacks differently to men, for example, and the different effects of different medication. And actually, there's a book that I recommend to every male Member of the Senedd, when I get the chance, called Invisible Women, which focuses specifically on this. But I just wanted to echo a lot of what Buffy said and I think there's a lot of work that needs to be done by all of us, really, and I certainly hope that I will be able to play my part as well.
Thank you, Luke, and I would agree with both Buffy and Luke in what you've said there, and it's worth noting, isn't it, the powerful debate of last week, which saw incredible testimonies from our women Members in this Senedd, but also it was good to see our male Members engaging, because, you're right, we do have a role to play in this, and a big one at that.
The petitioner also highlighted the data gaps, I think raised with Health and Care Research Wales and Welsh universities to help improve that quality. So, we'll take that into account. Certainly, as a committee—. We can all do things on our own social media, can't we, as Members, but perhaps as a committee we can have a think, with our wonderful team to the side of me as well, about what we could do as a committee going forward.
Okay, moving on, 4.6, P-06-1243, 'Reinstate cervical screening to every 3 years'. You'll remember that this was submitted by Joanne Stroud at the start of this year, and it reached 30,133 signatures in an incredible amount of time. I can't remember off the top of my head—three days. Three days, over 30,000 signatures, and as a committee we committed to doing all we could to push urgent items to the top of our agenda, and that's something we certainly did do and, obviously, we did debate this on 19 January, at the first possible point after coming back from the Christmas and new year recess. I'll bring Members in there then and start with Buffy Williams.
Thank you, Chair. This petition really did take off, didn't it? And rightly so. I'm pleased to say that Public Health Wales recognised their failings in the way that this was presented to the public. It actually put the fear of god into some women, thinking that they weren't going to have a smear at their allotted times. I think that lessons have been learned and should be learned from this going forward, when there's something as important as a life-saving test that we rely on as women, because cervical cancer is the silent killer—you don't know you've got it until sometimes it's too late. So, I am glad that lessons have been learned. I am glad that the all-important messaging going into the future will be clearer, and I'm also very grateful that the cancer charities who were looking at this are supporting the way that this is being done now, going into the future. So, I don't think there's any further action that needs to be taken on this, but I am very grateful to the petitioner for bringing this petition forward.
Thank you, and I can see that Members are in agreement with that. This was a petition—. As well, there was a change.org one, which was over 1 million signatures, which we did take into account during our consideration and debate. I think I said during the debate about trust and rebuilding the trust of women in healthcare in Wales. That still needs to be considered when making policy decisions in the future.
Okay, we will thank the petitioner for engaging there, and all those who signed and shared the petition as well and engaged in the process.
Okay. Moving on to item 5, papers to note, there is one paper to note today—5.1, P-06-1207, 'Start referring to Welsh cities and towns by their Welsh names'. Are Members content to note that paper? They are.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
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.
Item 6, then. We have now concluded today's public business, and we will go into private session to discuss the evidence that we've heard, and also a further discussion on our annual report afterwards. So, can I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), that the committee now does resolve to meet in private for items 7 and 8, if Members are happy? They are. Okay, well, thank you for that. The committee will next meet on 13 June. Can I thank, again, the witnesses who were in for this evidence session? We will be, again, hopefully having a further evidence session on greyhound racing in Wales. I thank the Members and I thank our wonderful support clerking team and solicitors, and all those others who've made today possible. So, diolch yn fawr—meeting closed.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:22.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:22.
The witness wishes to clarify that the membership voted 3.25:1 in favour, not 4:1 as was said.