Scrutiny of the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs and the Minister for Environment on the Welsh Government’s draft budget 2018 – 19

Nov 22, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues | 0 comments

Plenary 22/11/2017

11:49
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Spoken Contribution – 11:49 Watch this contribution on Senedd TV Thanks, Chair. Hannah’s probably getting fed up with people welcoming her, but everyone else has done it, so I better do it as well. I’m not trying to embarrass you. Cabinet Secretary, you’ve mentioned Brexit a couple of times already. Do you feel that you do have sufficient resources in your department to prepare for Brexit? You also mentioned how the ministerial round table is in operation. How are they prioritising resources in this area?
Lesley Griffiths AM

Lesley Griffiths AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

Party: Welsh Labour

Do we have sufficient resources? I’ve just actually—. The reason I was late, Chair, and I do apologise, was that I’ve just had a Cabinet sub-committee around Brexit, and obviously resources are something that we talk about all the time. But I’m confident that, at the current time, we are able to resource this huge amount of work, and it is—you know, I can’t underestimate how significant this work is. So, if you think that 90 per cent, probably, of business in my portfolio is EU-related, you can understand the implications that Brexit has on my portfolio. We’ve really mobilised our stakeholders in a way that I don’t think any other department has. If they come and tell you differently, I really don’t think that it’s the case. I think, in our department, we set up the ministerial round table within, probably, three weeks of the referendum result. I have to say that we’re now starting to really reap the rewards of doing that because—. I think we’ve got another one in a fortnight on 6 December; we have one about every six weeks. They are really helping us with our preparations for exiting the EU. In relation to staff resources, I’m not sure if you’re referring to staff resources, but the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have had 500 new officials. We haven’t received any consequential funding, because I’m told that they’ve had their new officials just from finding them somewhere; I’m not quite sure where. But if there is—. Maybe today, in the budget, we might see an announcement about consequentials, and, believe me, I will be making a huge plea for my department because, my officials, we’ve got a small team, that—. Is it okay to say that they’re hand-picked? I think that’s fair to say, but they’re doing it on top of the day job. I haven’t reduced any other elements of work; I haven’t reduced any of our priorities. So, I have to say that they are doing an excellent job on top of the day job in relation to Brexit. Funding is obviously of great concern, and I can assure Members I am constantly putting pressure on the UK Government around funding. We were promised the same amount of funding to Wales after Brexit, and we are absolutely holding them to that. In every meeting that I have with any of my ministerial counterparts in the UK Government, funding is always top of the agenda.
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Regarding funding, of course you’re right in what you say. Specifically on the European maritime and fisheries fund, do we have any information regarding successor funding for those funding streams?
Lesley Griffiths AM

Lesley Griffiths AM

Title: Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

Party: Welsh Labour

No. The trouble is, after 2020, there’s a black hole. They’ve said we’ll have funding until 2022, so I want to know what funding we’re going to have. It’s really hard, when you’re trying to format policy and strategies, if you don’t know what funding you’re going to have. For instance, I’ve been very clear in saying that we’re going to have our own agricultural Bill and fisheries Bill, but it’s hard to know how to frame those when you don’t know what the funding is. So, the UK Government will be publishing, I understand—although they’re not sharing their drafts with us—a fisheries Bill and an agriculture Bill in February and May of next year. So, I’m hoping that, if they’re able to put some funding around their strategies and policies, we’ll be able to have some idea. But, please believe me: funding is absolutely top. And I think that goes for all Cabinet Secretaries who are involved in Brexit negotiations.
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks.