Joe Atkinson looks ahead to some of the issues that will be debated in the National Assembly for Wales this week.

Focus on equality and human rights

On Tuesday, AMs will debate the Equality and Human Rights
Commission’s Wales Committee’s Annual
Review for 2017-18
. The review found evidence that poverty in Wales is
deepening and that thousands of disabled people live in unsuitable homes, while
ongoing violence against women and hate crime are also highlighted in the
report. Expect opposition parties to criticise the Welsh Government’s changes to the
Independent Living Grant, which it has come under significant pressure to reverse.
The report also discusses the impact of Brexit on equalities and human rights,
and this will also be the subject of a debate on Wednesday as AMs discuss the joint
findings
of the Assembly’s committees on external affairs and equality. The
committees have expressed concerns over protections for human rights post-Brexit
given that the UK will no longer have to comply to the EU Charter of
Fundamental Rights, especially around issues such as workers’ rights.

Back-to-back health
statements

Tuesday is a busy day for the Health Secretary, Vaughan
Gething, who will be making back-to-back statements, firstly on the findings of
the review of ‘amber’ ambulance calls, and then on special measures at Betsi
Cadwaladr university health board in north Wales. The Welsh Government and Mr
Gething have come in for criticism for their management of the health board,
which has been in special measures since June 2015, when it was told the
measures would last for two years. Three-and-a-half years later, the health board
has not yet satisfied the Welsh Government that it has made sufficient progress
to be taken out of special measures, and this seems unlikely to change any time
soon.

Remembrance Sunday
commemorated

Ahead of Remembrance Sunday there will be two items for
debate in plenary on the armed forces. On Tuesday, local government secretary
Alun Davies will make a statement to AMs on remembering the armed forces and
delivering for Wales’ armed forces community, which is likely to address the
package of support his government provides to veterans. On Wednesday, the Welsh
Conservatives will lead an opposition debate in which they will renew calls for
an Armed Forces Commissioner for Wales; Wales already has commissioners
responsible for promoting the rights of the Welsh language, children, older
people, and future generations, but in April Alun Davies rejected such
a proposal on cost grounds.

Ministers face Budget
scrutiny

As part of the budget scrutiny process, several government ministers
will be appearing before Assembly committee hearings to give evidence on budget
allocations in their individual portfolios. Committees on health
and social care
, economy
and infrastructure
, children,
young people and education
, culture
and Welsh language
, and environment
and rural affairs
will all be scrutinising the government’s spending
decisions on Wednesday and Thursday. The First Minister, Carwyn Jones, is also
facing scrutiny on Monday at the hands of the external
affairs committee
, but this will focus on the latest developments around
the UK’s exit from the European Union.

First vote on the
Renting Homes Bill

The Renting Homes
(Fees etc.) (Wales) Bill
faces its first vote on Tuesday afternoon, as AMs consider
the Bill’s general principles during plenary. The legislation seeks to ban letting
agents from charging fees made in connection with the granting, renewal or
continuance of standard occupation contracts, and makes provision on holding
deposits. The Assembly’s equality committee, which published a stage
one report
on the Bill last month, recommended that the Assembly should agree
the general principles of the Bill, and made recommendations around strengthening
enforcement powers in the Bill.

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