How will Wales cope with the refugees? – 19th October 2016

Oct 27, 2016 | Assembly Business | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 19 October 2016

0:56:07 to 2:54:50

We need to look at the likely cost and resource impact of resettling refugees here in Wales. How will it impact on local councils financially? How will it impact in terms of the housing list? How will it impact on the health and education services?

Spoken Contribution – 14:25:57

I just wanted to raise a technical issue with the Minister. Now, when you made your statement on local government reform recently, you kindly briefed me some days before, and I was grateful for it, and, of course, I respected the embargo. With your local government settlement, to my disappointment, I only received the briefing at 1.30 p.m. today. Could we have an early briefing wherever possible, as I feel this would benefit the work of the Assembly, and perhaps could you enlighten me as to the reason why we have these embargoes, as I feel they do impede somewhat the work of the Assembly?

Spoken Contribution – 15:15:32

Thanks. Thanks, Chairman, for your statement. It is a welcome development that the committee is looking closely at the issue of refugees. A lot of the work, though, will inevitably involve hearing from groups who are involved with refugees, groups trying to help them to integrate with society as a whole, groups providing services for refugees, and some of these groups also call for us to take on more refugees.

As you stated, Chairman, we do need to be outward facing and, in considering refugees, we do need to take into account their impact on the wider community. We need to look at the likely cost and resource impact of resettling refugees here in Wales. How will it impact on local councils financially? How will it impact in terms of the housing list? How will it impact on the health and education services? So, along with hearing in detail from the providers of refugee services in Wales, the Assembly must also—at the same time, I feel—consider these wider implications.

Spoken Contribution – 16:08:08

Thanks to Sian for moving the debate today. Some of the Plaid Cymru proposals we in UKIP Wales fully support. Yes, we agree with the first part, that good local government can make—and I paraphrase here—a valuable social contribution. There’s nothing to disagree with there. On point 2, on poverty of ambition of local government, as attested by the Williams commission, well, yes, we regret that, too. Point 3 is where we have some points of departure from the Plaid proposals. Like them, we support electoral reform. To be more precise, we, too, want some form of proportional representation for local elections and, in our manifesto, we supported the introduction of the single transferable vote in Wales. We certainly do want to depart from first past the post, which can tend to deliver large Labour majorities on less than 50 per cent of the vote. So, it’s no real surprise, then, that we want an end to this unrepresentative system and Labour want to retain it. So, we are with Plaid on that one, whether they like it or not.

The national pay scale proposed by Plaid we also like. We have some absurdly overpaid local council chiefs in Wales. In Pembrokeshire, the chief executive gets £200,000; that’s more than the Prime Minister—utterly absurd. Recently, we had the pay scandal in Labour’s rotten borough of Caerphilly, and there are many other rotten Labour boroughs in Wales. So, some kind of national pay scale—

Spoken Contribution – 16:09:46

Sure.

Spoken Contribution – 16:10:18

Thank you, Hefin, and, given the information you have imparted, I may, perhaps, have been mistaken and I do withdraw my comments.

This doesn’t actually detract from the substance of the need for a national pay scale, perhaps along the lines of the civil service pay scale. That would be entirely welcome.

But we now come to the issue that has only fleetingly been mentioned today—Rhun just mentioned it—votes for 16-year-olds. Well, we do completely oppose that for the following reasons. The first one being simple medical evidence. Firstly, we are dealing here with adolescents and not adults, and there are significant differences between the two groups. Parents have long observed behavioural changes that affect many children when they enter adolescence. They’ve also observed that, often, adolescents are not the most rational of creatures. Scientists are now uncovering firm evidence of genuine medical differences between the brains of adults and those of adolescents. I quote from ‘The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction’, a booklet produced by the National Institute of Mental Health in Maryland, USA, the largest research organisation in the world dealing with mental health:

‘The research has turned up some surprises, among them the discovery of striking changes taking place during the teen years. These findings have altered long-held assumptions about the timing of brain maturation. In key ways, the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until the early 20s.

‘An understanding of how the brain of an adolescent is changing may help explain a puzzling contradiction of adolescence: young people at this age are close to a lifelong peak of physical health, strength, and mental capacity, and yet, for some, this can be a hazardous age. Mortality rates jump between early and late adolescence. Rates of death by injury between ages 15 to 19 are about six times that of the rate between ages 10 and 14. Crime rates are highest among young males and rates of alcohol abuse are high relative to other ages. Even though most adolescents come through this transitional age well, it’s important to understand the risk factors for behavior that can have serious consequences. Genes, childhood experience, and the environment in which a young person reaches adolescence all shape behavior. Adding to this complex picture, research is revealing how all these factors act in the context of a brain that is changing, with its own impact on behavior.

‘The more we learn, the better we may be able to understand the abilities and vulnerabilities of teens, and the significance of this stage for life-long mental health.’

End of quote.

We recognise that some adolescents are perfectly capable of rational thought and have a reasonably sophisticated political understanding. However, many are not and do not. In many ways, the Welsh Assembly recognised the vulnerability of this age group when it changed the law in Wales to prohibit 16 and 17-year-olds from being able to legally purchase cigarettes. If young people of this age are not to be trusted to exercise judgment over whether or not to buy a packet of fags, then why on earth are we proposing that we lay on them the responsibility for electing politicians? It’s absurd. There is an argument that this age group pays tax, so should be entitled to the vote. But the truth is that, with university expansion, this group is actually cossetted in adolescence for a longer period, with most of them institutionalised in the education system until the age of 21 or later.

Spoken Contribution – 16:14:01

The reality is that, of the 16 to 24 age group, only 30 per cent pay income tax. If you want to extend the tax argument, you could extend the vote to 10-year-olds who go to the shops and pay VAT on a packet of Smarties.

Spoken Contribution – 16:14:14

Yes. We support the Conservative amendments.