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  1. Health, Social Care and Sport Committee
  2. Plenary begins at 1.30pm with Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Education
  3. Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
  4. Topical Questions
  5. Debate on the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report: Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies
  6. Member Debate: public transport
  7. United Kingdom Independence Party debate: modular housing
  8. Short Debate: The construction industry in Wales

Live Reporting

By Alun Jones and Nia Harri

All times stated are UK

Nadolig Llawen!

That's it from the Siambr from 2017.

Have a great Christmas.

Senedd Live returns on Tuesday 9 January.

Sion Corn

Short Debate: construction industry

The final plenary item of 2017 is the Short Debate.

The topic chosen by Mike Hedges (Swansea East)is the construction industry in Wales.


'Exciting work to find new and creative solutions'

Minister for Housing and Regeneration Rebecca Evans talks about the "exciting work to find new and creative solutions":

"a) the Welsh Government’s decision to start building new models of housing in 2017-18 through its Innovative Housing Programme;

"b) that, of the 22 schemes approved for funding under the programme this year, 7 will be built using modular techniques with programme support totalling £5.6 million;

"c) that a further £71 million will be available between 2018-19 and 2019-20 for the programme to build even more homes;

"d) the welcome extension of the Property Development Fund to £40 million which will support SMEs to build more homes including modular housing and help to bring forward housing sites at an increased rate."

Rebecca Evans

Incentives to identify brownfield sites suitable for development

Conservative David Melding calls on the Welsh Government to "examine incentives for local authorities and public agencies to identify brownfield sites that are suitable for development."

David Melding

'Prevailing situation' regarding Gareth Bennett

David Rowlands explains he is opening the debate "given the prevailing situation" regarding Gareth Bennett.

David Rowlands

United Kingdom Independence Party debate

Modular housing is the topic of the UKIP debate, which they believe "can be used as an innovative component in addressing Wales’s housing needs".

UKIP calls on the Welsh Government to:

a) undertake a review of the planning process to remove red tape and barriers to individuals who wish to build their own modular home;

b) establish a housing development corporation to acquire brownfield sites at existing use value and using compulsory purchase if necessary, where such sites have been undeveloped for three years or more; and

c) develop a register of such sites and give priority on development to small-scale modular housing schemes, to incentivise individuals who wish to build their own home.

Modular housing

'Transport infrastructure has often reflected prevailing power dynamics'

Plaid Cymru's Adam Price says "transport has tended to be in Wales something that is done to us not for us, and certainly not for ourselves.

"Our transport infrastructure has often reflected the prevailing power dynamics".

'Eye taken off the transport ball'

Conservative Nick Ramsay says that "recognizing the importance of a modern public transport network to relieve pressure on Wales’s road network...seems common sense but how often over recent decades has the eye been taken off the transport ball?"

Nick Ramsay

'Not just a project for engineers to play with buses and trains'

Llanelli AM Lee Waters says "This is not just a project for engineers to play with buses and trains, and Ministers must make sure that different portfolios come together to capture this opportunity".

Lee Waters

'Relieve pressure on Wales’s road network'

We move on to the Member Debate in which

Lee Waters (Llanelli)Mick Antoniw (Pontypridd)David Melding (South Wales Central)Nick Ramsay (Monmouth)Hefin David (Caerphilly)Suzy Davies (South Wales West)Mike Hedges (Swansea East)David Rees (Aberavon)Jenny Rathbone (Cardiff Central)Julie Morgan (Cardiff North)

propose that the assembly:

1. Recognises the importance of a modern public transport network to relieve pressure on Wales’s road network.

2. Notes the evidence that a fully integrated public transport system - including active travel - is needed to provide a practical and attractive alternative to car use.

3. Welcomes the commitment to the first stages of a south Wales metro.

4. Endorses the commitment to develop a vision for a north-east Wales metro, and the allocation of funding for the development of a strategic outline case for a Swansea Bay metro, and calls on the Welsh Government to identify funding for full feasibility studies as a next step.

5. Believes Transport for Wales must have the power to act as a development corporation - with the ability to capitalise on rising land values in areas close to metro stations - in order to lever in further funding to expand the metro network.

UKIP AM says society faces 'implosion' from transgender rights
UKIP's Gareth Bennett said society faces "total implosion" over transgender rights.

'A single target unlikely to be helpful in taking forward our policies'

Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn sets out the Welsh Government's response, which can be seen in detail here.

One of the Committee's recommendations - that the Welsh Government "must commit to ensuring a minimum of 20% urban tree canopy cover, to be addressed through Local Well-being Plans and Area Statements" - is declined because "a single target is unlikely to be helpful in taking forward our policies".

Hannah Blythyn

'Not enough trees are being planted'

Not enough trees are being planted in Wales and the Welsh Government needs to do more to meet targets, woodland organisations have said.


Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report

The first debate of the day is on the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee report: Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies.

Committee chair Mike Hedges presents the report which has 13 recommendations, the first of which is:

"The Welsh Government must, as a matter of urgency, refresh its woodland strategy with the aim of significantly increasing planting rates. The refreshed strategy must include long term targets for woodland cover and must incorporate commercial forestry".

View more on twitter

Gareth Bennett's remark on transgender people ruled out of order

The Llywydd Elin Jones rules that UKIP's Gareth Bennett must withdraw his remark about transgender people's "deviation from the norm" because they were "hateful".

Mr Bennett refuses to withdraw the remark and walks out when the Llywydd says he will not be called until he does so.

Gareth Bennett
View more on twitter

Gareth Bennett 'caused outrage'

Joyce Watson claims UKIP's Gareth Bennett has "caused outrage" with his speech on equality and human rights in yesterday's plenary.

View more on twitter

Topical Question 3: small business rates relief scheme

Adam Price (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr):Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the introduction of a permanent small business rates relief scheme for Wales, following its announcement today through a written statement?

The new permanent scheme will limit the number of properties eligible for small business rate relief to two per business in each local authority.

The Welsh Government say this will "prevent larger businesses and national chains from benefiting from the scheme".

Mr Price says, "by my calculation the proportion of small businesses that will benefit is around 70%, not all businesses as suggested by your [election] pledge",

View more on twitter

Topical Question 2: land transaction tax

Simon Thomas (Mid and West Wales)asks: Will the Cabinet Secretary make a statement on the reasons why the starting threshold for land transaction tax will increase for the residential main rates when the tax is devolved in April 2018?

The chancellor announced last month first-time buyers would not pay duty on homes up to the value of £300,000.

Mark Drakeford's original proposal for the new tax was that all homes in Wales up to the value of £150,000 would be exempt from April, but he has now decided that the threshold will be £180,000.

The Welsh Government said the move would reduce the tax burden for about 24,000 homebuyers here - whereas keeping the chancellor's scheme would help around 4,500.

It said the average buyer in Wales would save more than £500 under LTT compared to stamp duty, and about 80% of first-time buyers would pay no tax - the same proportion that is set to benefit from the Chancellor's tax relief for first-time buyers.

Those buying a house in Wales worth between £180,000 and £250,000 will pay no stamp duty on the first £180,000 and 3.5% rather than the planned 2.5% on anything over that.

Land transaction tax

Topical Question 1: number of new homes

David Melding (South Wales Central)asks:Given the recently released new house building figures for Wales, will the Cabinet Secretary confirm why the number of new homes built in Wales each year is shrinking?

Minister for Housing and Regeneration Rebecca Evans says "the number of new dwellings started in Wales increased 2% in 2016/17 compared to the previous year".

Mr Melding says "it is 10 years since this government achieved its target".

'Need for figures and vision about how many doctors we need to train'

Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth emphasizes the need for the Welsh Government "to come forward with definitive figures and a vision about how many doctors we need to train in Wales"

Vaughan Gething says "if we are going to invest more in training doctors here in Wales we will need to see a greater return in terms of Welsh domiciled students".

Rhun ap Iorwerth

Up-to-the-minute information on A&E waiting times

UKIP's Caroline Jones asks what the Welsh Government is doing to improve access to out-of hours GPs, including use of digital technology.

Mr Gething says access is a "whole system issue...flow all through the health care system".

In terms of IT, Mr Gething says a soft launch has taken place of A&E Waiting Times Live, which gives patients “up-to-the-minute” information on waiting times.

Caroline Jones

'We do not have the number of specialist nurses that we would ideally like to'

Conservative Angela Burns says patients often have to travel outside their health board area for treatment for inflammatory bowel disease.

Vaughan Gething acknowledges "we do not have the number of specialist nurses that we would ideally like to".

Vaughan Gething

Ambulance response times

We move on to Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething.

UKIP's Caroline Jones raises the issue of ambulance response times in South Wales West.

Vaughan Gething says the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health board "exceeded the eight minute target for red calls in each of the last 19 months".


A new category in next year's PISA tests

BBC journalist tweets

'Children who are care-experienced do not achieve potential'

UKIP's Michelle Brown asks whether the cabinet secretary has committed to "ring-fencing funding for schools to offer look-after children additional learning time"?

Kirsty Williams acknowledges that "children who are care-experienced at present do not achieve the qualifications in the numbers I would like them to do so".

She adds the Pupil Development Grant is ring-fenced.

Michelle Brown

Is the Seren Network value for money?

Conservative Darren Millar says just 2% of Welsh students made up Oxbridge's intake last year.

Kirsty Williams refers to the government's investment in the Seren Network - "a network of regional hubs designed to support Wales’ brightest sixth formers achieve their academic potential and gain access to leading universities".

Mr Millar raises questions over the Seren Network's value for money.

Darren Millar

'Abandoning' Hwb+ virtual learning platform

Plaid Cymru's Llyr Gruffydd says "it has taken four years to embed the Hwb+ virtual learning platform and getting more than 80% of schools using it... so why is it the best use of public funds to abandon the project?"

Kirsty Williams says "aspects of the platform have been less well used" and the government is developing new online resources.

Llyr Gruffydd

'Considering the evidence on two-year degrees'

Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies refers to the announcement by universities minister Jo Johnson that students in England are going to be offered degrees in two years with a £5,500 saving in tuition fees.

Kirsty Williams says she has "noted" the announcement and is "considering the evidence as to whether those two-year degrees are of sufficient quality and allow students to have the depth of learning that they need, and the cost implications".

Andrew RT Davies

Employability action plan in the new year

Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan says the Welsh Government will publish an employability action plan in the new year.

Eluned Morgan

Access to employability programmes for vulnerable groups

The first of the tabled questions is by Mohammad Asghar: What is the Welsh Government doing to ensure that vulnerable groups in Wales have access to employability programmes?

Mohammad Ashgar

Final plenary of 2017

The final plenary of 2017 begins with Questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.

Kirsty Williams
Nathan Gill 'is rarely' in the assembly
Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd says Nathan Gill is so rarely in the assembly his car parking space is used by somebody else.

Back at 1.30pm

The committee now moves into private session.

Senedd Live returns for plenary at 1.30pm.

Consultation closes on 15 December

'Weakness of the legislation - domestic violence'

Tim Ruscoe says "domestic violence is categorically not a low income issue.

"This bill does nothing to address the effect of alcohol in domestic violence in families who can afford alcohol".

Unhelpful or misguided guidance

Tim Ruscoe tells AMs about examples of some families providing money to young people without considering the associated risks of how this would be spent.

  • One team leader with significant experience in substance misuse has reported hearing situations new to her. She reported having met a 15 year old boy who on completion of his domestic chores including walking the dog and cleaning his room is rewarded on a Friday with a bottle of Vodka to share with his mates. The boy thinks this is within good and safe parameters; he has earned the 4 reward by contributing and he and his mates are not sourcing and consuming in unsafe environments.
  • The same service reported another 15 year old as having in the region of £400 per month disposable pocket money meaning that alcohol costs were of no particularly concern. Both of these boys are from middle income families where parents believe they are acting responsibly.

Barnardo’s Cymru supports the principle of the Bill

Tim Ruscoe makes it clear that Barnardo’s Cymru supports the principle of the Bill.

However he also highlights some possible negative impacts, such as the possibility of substituting alcohol with other drugs, increases of offending to obtain alcohol, increases in exploitation for alcohol and a profitable black market for alcohol.

Tim Ruscoe

'Concrete evidence is scarce'

Owain Clarke

BBC Wales health correspondent

The latest study from Sheffield University, commissioned by the Welsh Government, once again suggests a minimum unit price of 50p for alcohol will have the greatest impact on hazardous and harmful drinkers. But it is also true to say that the new law is likely to have more of a financial impact on less well-off drinkers. Critics claim it is unfair that the poorest will once again be hit hardest - however worthy the aims of the law. But due to the fact that very few places have introduced a minimum alcohol price, concrete evidence is scarce. Much of the research is based on computer modelling and academic assumptions and predictions. But until a minimum price is introduced, runs for a while and is subsequently analysed, it is impossible to say with certainty how and to what extent a minimum alcohol price will change behaviour and improve health."

'They just drink for the effect'

Lynden Gibbs from the Salvation Army says "I don't know any guys that I work with that actually enjoy what they are drinking.

"They just drink for the effect".

Lynden Gibbs