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First Week Back at the Senedd

Lara Stace
Lara Stace

Senedd Members returned to the Siambr this week, following a well-deserved break after the rush of the Senedd Election and first weeks of the Sixth Senedd. The Senedd is still gearing up, with committees not yet announced and a plenary agenda dominated by questions to, and statements by, Ministers.

It will be a few weeks yet before we return to an agenda jammed with committee evidence sessions, questions to Ministers and debates about draft legislation. However, these early weeks provide the opportunity to flesh out our understanding of Ministers’ responsibilities, as the list of Ministerial responsibilities published by Welsh Government offered a disappointing level of detail, with many responsibilities copied across both lead and Deputy Ministers.

This week we saw the debut of the new faces in the Ministerial team and, of course, the Minister for Climate Change Julie James MS. Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden MS, set out part of her role within the economy portfolio – ensuring the cultural sector plays a key role in the economic recovery. Another newbie, Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle MS, discussed social prescribing, as part of the holistic mental health and wellbeing agenda she will oversee.

The Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MS, made her debut not in a statement, but in response to a short debate about climate change and mental health brought forward by Plaid Spokesperson for Climate Change, Delyth Jewell MS. Julie James spoke passionately about the cross-government opportunities to tackle climate change and support the environment in Wales, and listen to the views of young people in the process. She discussed at length the breadth of the new portfolio, which ranges from active travel and remote working, to supporting town centres, and marine conservation.

In terms of what was discussed during Plenary this week, the statement by Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan MS, was dominated by the presence of the Delta – formerly known as the India – variant in Wales. Although the numbers are low, the Minister repeated her concern about the transmissibility of the variant and the potential impact this may have on a national level. This has been borne out by Public Health Wales, which has warned that clusters of Delta cases have developed into localised community transmission and highlighted the importance of maintaining those habits which have become so mundane – social distancing, hand washing and face masks.

Marking Carers’ Week, the Deputy Minister for Social Services highlighted the announcement of £3 million funding in 2021-22 to support emergency respite care and the development of a short breaks fund. Both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives’ spokespeople questioned whether this is sufficient as a long-term solution, or simply a “sticking plaster” after a rough year for unpaid carers. The subject hasn’t just attracted attention in Plenary, but also in the myriad written questions proposed by Senedd Members – and with a Welsh Labour manifesto promise of more support for carers, it bodes well that there is a body of support for the agenda within the Siambr.

For a bird's eye view.
Am olwg oddi uchod.

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