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2. Business Statement and Announcement

April 04, 2017

13 speeches by…

  • Elin Jones
  • Jane Hutt
  • Bethan Jenkins
  • Julie Morgan
  • Neil John McEvoy
  • Joyce Watson
  • Steffan Lewis

Elin Jones

The next item on the agenda is the business statement and announcement, and I call on the leader of the house, Jane Hutt.

Jane Hutt

Diolch, Llywydd. I have three changes to report to this week’s business. As promised last week, the First Minister intends to lead a debate this afternoon on the European Union. As such, I will move a motion to suspend the relevant Standing Orders to enable this to take place, which I hope you will support. I’ve also made some changes to the ordering of today’s oral statements. Finally, the debate on tackling poverty through the warm homes programme has been postponed. Business for the next three weeks is shown on the business statement announcement found among the meeting papers available to Members electronically.

Bethan Jenkins

I wanted to ask a question with regard to whether the Welsh Government are able to make representations to the UK Government with regard to the potential deportation of a family—the Rebwah family—who are currently based in Swansea. There are two families who left Iraq in tragic circumstances. Two of the fathers froze to death on their way, and the mother died. One of the families have had—the orphaned children—a reprieve and they can stay for two and a half years. That has been confirmed as an emergency, so we do welcome that. But the other children have not been allowed to stay, and they are Marwa, who is five years old, Dani, who is 11, and Mohammed, who is 12, along with their mother. They’re currently with their uncle, based in Swansea, who is Iraqi but now has British citizenship. He actually went over to the camp that they were in, in Bulgaria, and demanded that he would not leave until they were granted status to come with him to Swansea. So, they have absolutely nothing to go back to, because they were actually in a camp, having fled Iraq, at the worst of the war in Iraq. I understand—of course I understand—the fact that we don’t have powers over immigration here, but this family have been put through such a traumatic experience; they’re seeking support through our mental health services at the moment because of those traumatic experiences. And I would urge you, as a Government, to support the family in Swansea and to show that by making urgent representations to the UK Government.

Jane Hutt

Well, as the Member has said, clearly, immigration and asylum policy isn’t devolved to the Welsh Government. I really do thank Bethan Jenkins for raising this question, for also sharing with us the plight and circumstances of this family, which we’re very sympathetic to, in terms of the circumstances of this case. And, of course, I know that our services, which are available to that family, and to those people affected—to the Rebwah family—will be available. And, of course, this has been noted and shared, and is on the record in terms of your representations.

Julie Morgan

Last Friday, my constituent, Ronahi Hasan, from Llandaff North, was named as the student journalist of the year at the Wales Media Awards, for a piece she wrote on her homeland of Syria, which was published in the ‘Western Mail’. Ronahi came to this country as a refugee in 2008 with her family, with three children. She had to sell her house to pay people smugglers, and it’s been a very hard struggle to settle here and make a life for herself and her family in Wales. But, now, the family are British citizens and are making a tremendous contribution to life here in Wales. So, would it be possible to call for a statement about what has happened to the Syrian refugees who have settled here in Wales, which would give us an opportunity to pay tribute to people like my constituent, who have achieved so much? And I know the vast majority of us here in the Assembly would support that.

Jane Hutt

Again, I’m very glad that Julie Morgan has drawn this to our attention, so that we can also congratulate Rohani Hasan from Llandaff North, who was named student journalist of the year at the Wales Media Awards. And, indeed, this is a real opportunity for us today here in this Chamber, in the Senedd, to acknowledge that and recognise that, and I’m sure we will want to read that piece that she wrote on her homeland of Syria. We do know that there are many refugees, including those from Syria, who have overcome remarkable barriers, as well as traumatic events, to successfully make a life for themselves in Wales and contribute to our nation. So, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children did issue a written statement last week, providing an update on refugee resettlement in Wales, and he of course will have heard this exchange today.

Neil John McEvoy

Cabinet Secretary, Womanby Street is a place famous for live music right across Wales, and I’m sure there are many of us in this Chamber who’ve had some very late nights in those venues. Many renowned musicians have started their careers in Womanby Street. Now, Wales is a musical nation and music is the heartbeat of Wales. It’s also the heartbeat of this city, and we need to encourage live music in Cardiff and across Wales. But the problem is that the current planning regime just doesn’t do that, because it allows developments to be built in areas sometimes just next to a live music venue, and then, when a complaint is made, the venue will have to close down. So, you can have a music venue like the one in Womanby Street, there for 35 years. There can be a development next door, a flat can be put in, and that will justify the closure of the live music venue. Now, what we need in Wales is the agent of change principle written into planning law. There’s a petition, and I understand that more than 3,000 people have signed it. There’s also a statement of opinion, which I’ve put in, and I would encourage every AM here to sign that. Now, what we need to do is designate places like Womanby Street as cultural centres, which need to be protected through the planning law. The Mayor of London is doing this, so will your Government? Over to you, Minister.

Jane Hutt

The Member has drawn attention to the importance of live music in Wales, which, of course, many of us have enjoyed in both public and private venues across Wales, and you draw attention to one here in the capital of Wales, in Cardiff. Indeed, you also say that there is a petition on this issue that’s coming forward, and I’m sure the Petitions Committee will handle that and make sure that it is then drawn to our attention.

Joyce Watson

Leader of the house, I’d like to request that we have a debate on the licensing fees for dog breeders and pet shops in Wales. It was recently brought to my attention that the licensing fees for both can vary significantly—dog breeding licences from £23 to £688, and pet shop licences can range from £23 to £782. As a consequence of the UK Government austerity, many local authorities have significantly had to cut their budgets and consequently find themselves with inadequate animal inspectors. There have been, as I’m sure you’re all aware here, some terrible cases of neglect and animal cruelty in dog breeding premises in my area, and I believe that introducing a fair licensing system for all breeders and all pet shops could potentially raise the necessary funds to help bridge the gap, and to ensure that these establishments are regularly inspected so that high levels of animal welfare can be maintained and cruelty and neglect avoided or reduced at the very earliest opportunity.

Jane Hutt

I also thank the Member for drawing this important issue to our attention today. The Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014 controls the licensing of dog breeding in Wales. The Pet Animals Act 1951 and Pet Animals Act 1951 (Amendment) Act 1983 cover the licensing of pet shops, which, of course, you raised. Local authorities are responsible for the enforcement of these regulations, but there are a number of work strands in relation to the licensing and registration of animal welfare establishments in Wales, and the Welsh Government has indicated its commitment to work streams on responsible ownership and mobile animal exhibits.

Steffan Lewis

Last week, I had the honour of meeting the deputy mayor of Hargeisa, Somaliland here in the National Assembly. It was interesting to hear about the relative stability and peace that has been secured in that country without international recognition. I know there’s been significant support across this Chamber for Somaliland recognition, particularly in previous Assemblies, and, indeed, a vote took place in 2006 to recognise Somaliland. The deputy mayor was keen to see that support continued, and renewed if possible, on a cross-party basis, and I can certainly confirm that Plaid Cymru would be very keen to support again the recognition of Somaliland on behalf of the National Assembly for Wales. Can we have a statement by the Welsh Government reaffirming the Welsh Government’s recognition of Somaliland?

Jane Hutt

Steffan Lewis also raises a very important point about those close links, and, indeed, questions and points about those links in terms of Somaliland, drawing attention again to the stability that’s been achieved and the recognition of people from Somaliland. Just a few weeks ago, Julie Morgan raised this issue with us. So, certainly, we will look at how we can express our support in the way that you request.