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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