Questions Without Notice from the Party Leaders

1. Questions to the First Minister – in the Senedd at 1:46 pm on 2 March 2021.

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Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 1:46, 2 March 2021

(Translated)

Questions now from the party leaders. Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Plaid Cymru

Diolch, Llywydd. Labour is like a gambler that bets everything on winning power in Westminster every five years—the view of Manchester's Labour mayor, Andy Burnham. First Minister, isn't that the story of Welsh politics for the last 100 years? 

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:47, 2 March 2021

Well, Llywydd, clearly, it's not in any way a description of Welsh politics over the last 100 years, otherwise how would we be talking today in the institution that we have here in Wales, a powerful Senedd with independence of action, with primary law-making powers? If the Member's initial proposition were true, then none of that would be true. 

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Plaid Cymru

You described independence today in The National, First Minister, as a nineteenth-century response to a twenty-first century problem, going on to propose home rule instead, an idea from the 1880s. The problem is that home rule will never solve the fundamental problem in the Welsh democratic deficit. As the head of Labour for IndyWales, Bob Lloyd, said yesterday in the Daily Express:

'For the last 100 years Wales has voted for a socialist party in domestic elections, yet hasn't got what it's asked for.'

And if you don't agree with Bob Lloyd, will you at least acknowledge that Sam Pritchard, chair of the Wales Co-operative Party, to which many of your Senedd colleagues belong, has some logic to his argument that independence is the best way to achieve a more equal society, because Wales would not be bound by the voting patterns of people in southern England. We've never voted Tory in Wales, yet we've had Tory Governments two thirds of the time. Is there any reason to think that will be different in the future?  

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:48, 2 March 2021

What I would see different in the future, Llywydd, is the entrenchment of the current settlement so that it cannot be rolled back unilaterally by any Government at Westminster. I want a new settlement for the union so that Wales's place in it is fully respected and the decisions that are made on a four-nation basis are made on the basis of equality of participation, where no one player can outvote or can use its authority to impose itself on others. In that way, my view and the view of my party in this Senedd will be that of the great bulk of the Welsh population, because what the bulk of the Welsh population is in favour of is home rule in the sense that decisions that are made in Wales about Wales are made only here in Wales, but that we do not cut ourselves off from everything that we can achieve together by a four-nation voluntary association across the UK. That is what people in Wales favour. That is what my party has always stood for. 

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Plaid Cymru 1:49, 2 March 2021

Yesterday, your colleague Chris Bryant MP, dismissed independence supporters as 'childish'. You yourself have suggested supporters of Welsh independence are inward-looking and 'inherently right-wing'. With recent polls showing that more than half of Labour voters are now in favour of independence, and that support is highest among our young people, on the national question, isn't it the independence movement, rather than you, First Minister, that is looking not backward but forward to the future of our country?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:50, 2 March 2021

Llywydd, I welcome anybody who wants to debate the future of our country, and all views ought to be treated properly and with respect. My view is the one I have just set out for you, and I think it is the view that most progressive people in this country share. They do not want an inward-looking nationalism. They do not want a future for our country in which we are ripped out of the United Kingdom. They want a future for our country in which Wales has a powerful set of capacities to make decisions for ourselves on the things that affect people here in Wales, but they want also to be able to work co-operatively, collaboratively, alongside progressive people in other parts of the United Kingdom, whether that is in the south of England or the north of England or in Scotland or in Northern Ireland, where progressive people can come together to share an agenda on a voluntary basis. We achieve more together than we do apart. That is my view, and it will be the view that the Welsh Labour Party takes into this election. The Member will continue to make his case to take Wales out of the United Kingdom. He's entitled to do that, absolutely, but I think he will find, once again, that that is a minority voice here in Wales, and the bulk of the Welsh population continues to believe that the future for our country lies in powerful institutions here in Wales, in a successful United Kingdom.

Photo of Elin Jones Elin Jones Plaid Cymru 1:52, 2 March 2021

(Translated)

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew R.T. Davies.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

Thank you, Presiding Officer. Good afternoon, First Minister. When campaigning for the Labour leadership, Keir Starmer pledged to reverse the Tory cuts in corporation tax and said there'd be no stepping back from Labour's core principles. This week, Keir Starmer said he opposes a rise in corporation tax. Which position do you support, First Minister?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour

Llywydd, I'm not responsible for corporation tax, and I don't propose to debate views on matters for which, as First Minister, I have no accountability to the Senedd.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

Well, I am amazed by that answer, because you spend week after week debating points that you have no responsibility over. But an area you do have responsibility over is council tax, First Minister, and there's a huge amount of consequential funding that's come to the Welsh Government from the UK Government—£5.8 billion-worth of support. There is a cost-of-living crisis developing now, with this COVID crisis hitting the economy really hard. One measure you could do to help with council tax is freeze it here in Wales to help families the length and breadth of Wales. Will you commit to using the powers that you have to freeze council tax and use the consequentials to fund the funding gap?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:53, 2 March 2021

Llywydd, what I commit to is waiting until tomorrow's budget is out of the way and we are certain about how much money we have available to us here in Wales to use next year. We will then consider the purposes for which it could be applied. I think last week the Member was urging me to use that money to support businesses here in Wales. Today, he wants me to freeze the council tax. I understand why he wants to do that, because the largest council tax rise in Wales last year, of course, was imposed by Conservative-controlled Conwy council. So, if he's asking me to protect council tax payers in Wales from the Conservative Party, I will think of that very carefully.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative 1:54, 2 March 2021

Well, we have Captain Hindsight in Westminster and Professor Do-little down here in the bay, who's not prepared to do anything with the powers that he has to help hard-pressed families across the length and breadth of Wales. One action the First Minister is proposing, though, is the imposition of nitrate vulnerable zones. Only last week, your leader in Westminster talked about supporting farmers, at the National Farmers Union annual conference, for the great work that they've done, right the way through the pandemic, feeding the nation. This morning, Members have received a letter from Glanbia, a large milk processor, saying how damaging the regulations could be to future supplies of fresh milk here in Wales, and how they might well have to consider relocating their production facilities or re-aligning their operations here in Wales. Your own Minister has stood on the floor of the Plenary and, time and time again—at least seven times—said that she would not implement these regulations while the pandemic was in full flow. Ultimately, the regulators also cast a view over these regulations by saying they will have perverse outcomes. So, instead of keeping the strapline 'Professor Do-little', will you now intervene and make sure that these regulations aren't put in place that will have such a damaging effect on the supply of good, wholesome Welsh produce, and, ultimately, a devastating impact on the agricultural industry here in Wales?

Photo of Mark Drakeford Mark Drakeford Labour 1:55, 2 March 2021

Llywydd, I look forward to voting in favour of the regulations on the floor of the Senedd tomorrow. They will support those farmers who do not pollute our land. They will support those farmers who understand that their reputation and their future incomes depend on them being able to demonstrate that the standards of agriculture here in Wales are of the highest. They will make their contribution that is absolutely necessary to tackling climate change and the environmental crisis that we face. I'm not the person who wants to do little, or, in his case, do nothing, to turn back the tide of agricultural pollution. His party will vote in favour of continued pollution here in Wales tomorrow. My party is determined that we will take the action necessary, after many years of attempting to put this right by voluntary means. We will support those farmers who do the right thing already by bearing down on those who persistently and deliberately pollute our land, our water and our environment, and the Member should be ashamed of the fact that, week after week, he comes here to make this his top priority in asking questions of me, when he could do his part too, instead of talking the talk, to do something practical to help this nation to support those farmers who do the right thing already and make the contribution that we need to make to securing the future of this beautiful but fragile part of our planet.