Archive for November 8, 2006

20th November 2001

Reducing Cannabis to a Category C Drug Q2 Alison Halford: What discussions has the First Minister had with the UK Government and the other devolved bodies over the decision to reduce cannabis to a category C drug? (OAQ14010) The First Minister (Rhodri Morgan): None. This issue is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for the Home Department , and is not devolved to the Assembly. I have not discussed it with the Home Secretary, nor has he discussed it with me, and I have not had discussions of this kind with my counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is a statutory requirement to consult with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs before making any changes in drug classifications, and there is Welsh representation on that advisory committee. Alison Halford: Do you agree that this move by the Home Secretary is welcome on several fronts? In 1998, 130,000 people were arrested for drugs related offences, 70 per cent of whom were in possession of small amounts of cannabis. Thus in one year 65,000 people achieved a criminal record that will reduce their chances of securing meaningful employment. Will the First Minister welcome the Home Secretary’s decision to …..

15 November 2001

Communities First Programme Q1 Alison Halford: Will the Minister make a statement on how Delyn’s selected communities will benefit from the Communities First programme? (OAQ13982) The Minister for Finance, Local Government and Communities (Edwina Hart): I want all eligible communities across Wales to benefit from the programme, including those in Delyn. The programme is designed to empower communities to take responsibility for their own regeneration. Communities First is a new way of regenerating our most deprived communities. Each community is required to set up a Communities First partnership to drive change, with strong representation from local people. Alison Halford: I am sure that you agree that we must ensure that money is spent on outcomes in our communities and not on costly local bureaucracy and administration. The last thing that we want to do is to fund local authority staff. In order to ensure that Delyn’s communities receive the maximum benefit from this excellent initiative, what steps have been taken to ensure that the bidding process is not too time-consuming or costly? Edwina Hart: We hope that we have designed a simple bidding process that is not time-consuming, but I am always mindful that there must not be unnecessary bureaucracy. …..

6th November 2001

Attracting Events such as the Ryder Cup to Wales Q7 Alison Halford: What lessons can the Assembly learn from the recent successful Ryder Cup bid in order to continue to attract valuable events like this to the rest of Wales in the future? (OAQ13630) The First Minister: The Assembly learnt significant lessons not only from the successful Ryder Cup bid for 2010, but also from staging other prestigious sporting events such as the Rugby World Cup—when the Assembly had just been established—and the FA Cup Final. The final round of the Network Q Rally, the world rallying championship, will be held in Cardiff and the forests of north Glamorgan, Gwent and mid Wales at the end of November. There are three drivers in contention for the championship and it will draw hundreds of thousands of people to those forests and Cardiff. There are lessons to be learnt: the primary one being how to form the necessary private-public partnerships to get such events off the ground. They are not matters for the private sector or public sector alone. The main lesson to be learnt is how those sectors can work together. 2.30 p.m. Alison Halford: I congratulate you, Rhodri, on the …..

1 November 2001

Substance Misuse Q1 Alison Halford: What progress has been made in tackling substance misuse in Wales? (OAQ13239) The Minister for Health and Social Services (Jane Hutt): The Welsh substance misuse strategy was launched last year following extensive development, and consultation with experts from all the relevant services in Wales. I have established a new advisory panel on substance misuse, and enhanced the Assembly’s ability to support and advise those working in the area of substance misuse by bringing the Welsh drug and alcohol unit into the Assembly. The strategy is being delivered locally by five drug and alcohol action teams in Wales. Alison Halford: I congratulate you on all your initiatives. Notwithstanding, heroin use in Wales has unexpectedly increased over the past few months and drug charities report a rise in heroin use from four to 84 cases a year. Catherine Zeta Jones recently claimed that it is easier to get drugs than beer in parts of Wales. Drugs Aid states that it is increasingly difficult to find detox beds. It is known that once an addict is turned away, he or she may never apply for help again. Can you assure me that treatment, where possible, will be immediately …..

17 July 2001

Q24 Alison Halford: Would the First Minster make a statement about his recent WalesTrade International trip to South America? (OAQ12678) The First Minister: I made a statement to Plenary on 20 June regarding the purpose of my visit. That purpose was to accompany a WalesTrade International trade mission to Argentina and Chile, to establish formal links with the Welsh colony in Patagonia, and to exchange views with senior figures in Argentinian and Chilean politics, including Presidents de la Rua and Lagos. When a trade mission of Welsh businesses is led by a senior Minister, the publicity surrounding the group is heightened, resulting in exporters benefiting from more doors being opened to their products and services. The feedback that I have had confirms that that was the case. The trade mission was successful, with orders won topping £56,000 and prospective orders totalling £4.2 million.

12 July 2001

Q6 Alison Halford: Would the Deputy Presiding Officer make a statement about the number of Assembly Members’ offices equipped with a working video conferencing system? (OAQ12534) Transferred for written answer. The Deputy Presiding Officer (John Marek): I can confirm that desktop video conferencing has been installed in 27 Assembly Members’ offices to date. A remaining 17 Members are awaiting the installation of additional communications links that will enable their constituency offices to be connected to the bay for desktop video conferencing installation to be completed.

12 July 2001

Q21 Alison Halford: Would the Minister make a statement on teacher recruitment in north Wales? (OAQ12505) Jane Davidson: There is no evidence in Wales as a whole or in north Wales that schools generally face significant and immediate recruitment difficulties. Teacher vacancies in Wales remain low. In January 2001, there were just 99 teacher vacancies, which constitutes a vacancy rate of 0.4 per cent. We are not complacent, however. We are offering incentives for initial teacher training courses where we have had difficulty recruiting, and these are having an effect. Latest figures show a 25 per cent rise in applications compared with this time last year.

10 July 2001

Q12 Alison Halford: What discussions has the First Minister had with the Home Secretary with regard to the Crime Bill and its impact on Welsh police forces? (OAQ12473). The First Minister: I have not had any discussions myself. However, according to the Queen’s Speech, the Home Office intends to introduce four new pieces of legislation on law and order in this current 18 month Parliament, which will all impact on Welsh police forces. They are: the Police Reform Bill; the Criminal Justice Bill; the Proceeds of Crime Bill and the Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill, which is an interesting title. Welsh chief constables and the chairs of the police authorities for Wales, along with their English counterparts, will meet the Home Secretary on Thursday. Alison Halford: I understand and accept that you have not had discussions. However, in light of the enormous work devoted by police forces to cannabis, and the impact of treating cannabis as a criminal drug, if you had had discussions with the Home Secretary, what would your view be on decriminalising this substance in Wales? The First Minister: I do not have a view on that matter, as it is not a matter for this Assembly. It …..

5 July

Q26 Alison Halford: What plans has the Minister to improve the transparency of the process of allocating funds to economic development to enable the various sources of financing to be individually identified? (OAQ12394) Michael German: All major funding proposals are discussed with the Economic Development Committee during the budget planning round. Any in-year changes are made under Standing Order No. 19 procedures, with the Committee having the opportunity to see proposed changes before they are finalised. The Committee has the opportunity to discuss in detail the business plans and strategic objectives of key agencies such as the Welsh Development Agency and the Wales Tourist Board. There are also regular reports to the Committee on these agencies and on major programmes and budgets, such as the structural funds programmes and regional selective assistance. In this way, the process in which major funding decisions are taken and monitored is already transparent and open.

28 June 2001

Q7 Dafydd Wigley: Has the Minister had discussions recently with the Secretary of State for Wales on United Kingdom legislation that may have an impact on social exclusion among young people in Wales? (OAQ12185) Edwina Hart: I discuss this issue in my regular meetings with the Secretary of State for Wales. Partnership with the UK Government is essential to ensure that programmes, such as the New Deal, to tackle exclusion are also discussed by the administration. However, I am mainly concentrating on the Assembly’s programme to tackle social disadvantage, Communities First. Dafydd Wigley: Do you accept that one problem facing young people, which causes social exclusion, is the difficulty of finding a suitable place to live? Do you also accept that the housing benefit system has a detrimental effect on the situation as it restricts young people to renting a single room? Are you aware that the report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Welsh Affairs recommended that this regulation be changed? Have you had discussions with the Secretary of State to that end? Edwina Hart: I am aware of the comments made in Parliament about this issue. If the Assembly agrees, I am happy to raise that …..