The Co-operation Agreement

4. Topical Questions – in the Senedd at on 22 May 2024.

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Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

(Translated)

2. Will the First Minister make a statement on the Welsh Government's Co-operation Agreement with Plaid Cymru ending? TQ1095

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour 3:46, 22 May 2024

Thank you for your question, Andrew R.T. Davies. The co-operation agreement was about mature politics. Through working together, we achieved a great deal. As the First Minister set out in Plenary yesterday, while we regret the early departure of Plaid Cymru, we're committed to working collaboratively in the Senedd on key priority areas.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative 3:47, 22 May 2024

I am disappointed that the First Minister isn't here again this Wednesday. Two weeks ago, he was not here for a debate on his portfolio responsibilities. Again, I've put a question down. It does beg the question, what is the point in putting questions down if Ministers don't turn up to answer them? Bitterly disappointing.

You said in your opening remarks this was about mature Government. That mature Government delivered national 20 mph, 36 more politicians and a failed sustainable farming scheme, as well as failure to tackle the chronic waiting lists within our NHS, the declining education standards as marked by the Programme for International Student Assessment on international rankings, and obviously the slashing of business rate relief for many small and medium-sized businesses. That's hardly mature Government and hardly delivering for the people of Wales.

But on a more organisational point, if I may, as you're leader of the house, Minister, I look at the forward programme for government business for the next three weeks, and the first week back after we come back from recess there are two items of business, I look on the following Tuesday, there are another two items of business, and the third week, there are another two—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:48, 22 May 2024

I must remind the leader of the opposition, the question is on the co-operation agreement, not on business coming up.

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

Well, I'm just trying to lead in to the point about how is the Government functioning, bringing forward business that clearly it doesn't seem—[Interruption.]

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

Can Members allow the leader of the opposition to put his question?

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

Clearly, it doesn't seem to have got an idea of where it wants to go. Ultimately, this should have been dealt with by the First Minister to outline and give us confidence that he knows where he wants this Government to go. So, can you as leader of the house give a commitment that the Government will get its mojo back and start delivering for the people of Wales, rather than continuing this downward spiral that it seems to have set its course on?

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour 3:49, 22 May 2024

In my response to his supplementary points, and I'm not sure where the question was—

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

I'm not sure where the First Minister is.

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

I'll come on to the points that you made. The leader of the opposition will understand I'm going to focus on his question. It is a question about the ending of the co-operation agreement on 17 May. It was always a time-limited agreement, but I would have to say that the majority of the commitments—

Photo of Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies Conservative

Like a microwave going 'ping'.

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

Are you going to listen, leader of the opposition, to my answer to your question?

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

The majority of the commitments that we've worked on so collaboratively together are completed or are in the process of being completed, and we'll now look closely at—

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

—how we can progress the outstanding—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

There are too many Members on all benches speaking to conversations outside of what the Minister is trying to respond to. Now, I've asked that everyone gives the Trefnydd the decency of allowing her to respond. 

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. The majority of commitments are completed or are in the process of being implemented, and we are immensely proud of these—we're immensely proud, aren't we, together, of those commitments, what's been completed. And we're now looking closely at how we can progress the outstanding co-operation agreement commitments, and I will name some of them—and, of course, our Ministers here today, our Cabinet Secretaries, are taking those forward; they're hugely important for the people of Wales, which is what our co-operation agreement was working to serve—the Welsh language education Bill, the White Paper on the right to adequate housing and fair rents. These are the issues we're looking closely at. Those are the co-operation agreements that we take together. And can I just say, because I will respond, as the First Minister said yesterday, with his Cabinet team he's focusing on his role as First Minister, as he is the First Minister who went to meet the Tata chiefs in Mumbai, who met the farmers, the steelworkers and health workers in his first few days of office. Yes, he is, actually, in north Wales—on his way to north Wales—to address the Wales TUC. I don't think you'll get an invite to the Wales TUC, Andrew R.T. Davies. [Interruption.] He is focusing—

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour 3:51, 22 May 2024

Sorry, Trefnydd. I would expect people to allow the Trefnydd to respond without trying to speak over her. 

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

Diolch yn fawr, Dirprwy Lywydd. I think I've said my piece. 

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru 3:52, 22 May 2024

I was half expecting Andrew R.T. Davies to offer to enter into a co-operation agreement with you, given that he has already made that plea on social media, when Vaughan Gething became First Minister. But, obviously, electioneering has started. 

I'd also ask perhaps that Andrew R.T. Davies corrects the Record. Actually, 20 mph isn't in the co-operation agreement. There were 46 areas, but that wasn't a part of it, and we did secure an amendment. So, please, correct the Record, because it wasn't part of the co-operation agreement, which is the focus of this question. 

Photo of Heledd Fychan Heledd Fychan Plaid Cymru

(Translated)

On all steps of the devolution journey, co-operation has played an integral part in the work of the Senedd. Indeed, co-operation has been necessary, because no party has had a majority Government in 25 years. As you said in your response, this is mature politics. And we too are proud of the co-operation that has taken place throughout the existence of this Senedd. It is extremely important that no party should have a monopoly on good ideas, and where we can collaborate, that should happen.

Clearly, there was an agreement formalised in this place, and I would like to repeat what Rhun ap Iorwerth said in the Chamber yesterday. The new political direction set by the First Minister and the scandal surrounding the £200,000 donation for the Labour leadership race have taken focus off the important work of this agreement. But we are committed to co-operation and to continue with those commitments. That hasn't changed.

So, does the Trefnydd agree with me that it is important that this Senedd has mature politics and that co-operation should be part of that, and that this Government will continue to be willing to co-operate on the delivery of innovative and progressive policies for our communities? 

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour 3:53, 22 May 2024

Diolch yn fawr, Heledd Fychan. And I couldn't agree with you more. And I don't like to say often, 'Remember those who have been here for 25 years', but there are actually three of us here in this Chamber at the moment. But we have co-operated: we were in coalition with Plaid Cymru for four years, we were in a partnership agreement with the Welsh Liberal Democrats, we've been a minority Government, actually, also working closely together on budgets with both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats—never with the Welsh Conservatives. Never with the Welsh Conservatives. [Interruption.] So, can I just take the opportunity to, actually, say how pleased we were when Rhun ap Iorwerth, your leader, said yesterday:

'We on these benches'—

Plaid Cymru—

'are very proud of what was achieved through that agreement'.

And we share that pride. And he also emphasised to the First Minister—your leader—

'our commitment to continue to work together on issues where we are agreed.' 

He reiterated that message sincerely. We want to extend that. We share that. And can I just take the opportunity, Dirprwy Lywydd, to thank Siân Gwenllian and Cefin Campbell for their work through the agreement? By working together we've achieved a great deal, and let's just list some of those things we've done together, including free school meals for all pupils in primary schools; providing more free childcare; and, Julie Morgan, I pay tribute to the work that Julie did with Siân Gwenllian on Flying Start. The designated Members worked together on a radical package of measures to create thriving local communities, helping people to live locally, addressing high numbers of second homes in many areas of Wales. Mature politics is actually about working with the people on the issues you agree with, and we have a duty to the people of Wales to do that. So, let's continue to work together in the way that you've suggested and decided. Diolch yn fawr. 

Photo of Llyr Gruffydd Llyr Gruffydd Plaid Cymru 3:56, 22 May 2024

I too am very proud of the record of our respective parties in relation to the work that we did under the co-operation agreement. I am, nevertheless, disappointed that the First Minister isn't here, and as much as I support the work of the Wales TUC, does his absence today suggest that he feels more accountable to the Wales TUC than he does to Senedd Cymru?

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour

As First Minister, as I said, he has his duties and roles to play. I'm very pleased to be answering this question today, I have to say, Llyr Gruffydd. Of course, yesterday he was here as First Minister answering questions. But today is a non-Government business day.

But I just want to say that I'm really pleased to have the opportunity to answer the leader of the opposition's question, because it has been ingrained in me in my political life that we should reach out and work together, and I think that's part of the reason why we have been successful in terms of the 25 years—a quarter of a century—of devolution. What we must be most proud of, and with Jane if she was here today, is that we've got through that package of Senedd reform to take this Senedd and Welsh devolution onwards. 

Photo of Jane Hutt Jane Hutt Labour 3:57, 22 May 2024

(Translated)

Moving forward—a way forward.

Photo of David Rees David Rees Labour

(Translated)

I thank the Trefnydd. The final topical question is from Rhun ap Iorwerth.