Tuesday, 4 July 2017

FMQs: Abortions, Smoking & Sport

Another summary of FMQs from the Senedd.

FMQs, 4th July 2017

Party Leaders

First up was Plaid Cymru leader, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda) who asked whether Wales will follow England in providing free abortion services to women from Northern Ireland (following a court ruling)? Her second question was whether the Welsh Government were going to stick to a manifesto commitment to lift the pay cap for NHS staff?

To the first question, the First Minister said "yes" and the Welsh Government are actively considering how to implement it. Again, the answer to the second question was "we would like to do it", but he believes any financial commitments should be met by the UK Government.

Leader of the Opposition, Andrew Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central) returned to the Circuit of Wales saga, in particular, the Welsh Government's proposed support for an automotive technology park in Ebbw Vale. The existing enterprise zone in the town has created just 172 jobs in five years, so why was the First Minister so confident that this proposal would work? Would businesses need the track for testing?

The Welsh Government's confidence is based on their proposed £100million investment and having sounded out business support for the project, the First Minister believes it can deliver the projected 1,500 jobs. After those discussions with businesses they've said they it wouldn't be essential but would be "nice to have".

UKIP leader, Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales) – as last week – decided to continue the questioning on the Circuit of Wales. He largely repeated what he said last week about the figures standing up to scrutiny without excessive burden on the public purse, and the decision being mainly down to Treasury and ONS accounting methodology.

The First Minister believed that if the project had strong support from private backers it shouldn't need a government guarantee to underpin it. He was open to taking another look at any new proposal, but on the terms that were presented the project was too much of a risk.


John Griffiths AM (Lab, Newport East) asked for a statement on progress with local government reform. There's a need to local government to be more representative of the population, with just 28% of councillors being women.

A new Local Government Bill will be introduced in the next parliamentary term. We're a long way from being able to say local government is properly representative. Some progress has been made with 51 people taking part in a diversity and democracy programme prior to May's local elections, but there's still a long way to go.

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales) asked about access to tobacco products in Wales. A survey found 62% of Welsh smokers have bought tobacco without duty paid and this black market trade is threatening local shops.

The Public Health Act 2017 will introduce a register of tobacco retailers and makes it an offence to hand over tobacco products to under-18s. It's a matter for HMRC to pursue investigations on tax and duty issues. The Welsh Government continue to aim to reduce smoking rates in Wales to just16% of adults by 2020.

Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) wanted a statement on the importance of sporting success to the international image of Wales. Swansea receives global publicity because it's home to a Premier League team; was the First Minister pleased Swansea City remain in the English Premier League for another season?

Sport plays an important part in our culture, and Wales' Euro 2016 exploits will have done more to raise the profile of Wales than any politician. Visit Wales has worked with Swansea City since 2011 to improve marketing of Wales. The First Minister added that it was an anomaly that Wales doesn't compete in one-day cricket tournaments – unlike Scotland and Ireland – and he would support a Welsh cricket team if there were no financial hit to Glamorgan. Elite sport is also important in promoting healthy lifestyles, citing cycling as an example.Another summary of this week's FMQs from the Senedd.


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