Brexit in Wales – Agriculture and Fisheries

Last week, the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee focused their attention on Agriculture and Fisheries and the implications for Wales following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

You can watch the full session on Senedd.TV.

As part of the session, Members and invited experts discussed their views on the priority areas for agriculture and fisheries in the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and the challenges post-withdrawal.

You can follow the discussions on Twitter and Facebook using #BrexitinWales.  To keep up to date on the work of the Committee follow @SeneddEAAL.

Key Issues for Agriculture in Wales


Policies affecting Welsh farming and its food supply chain are determined largely by the EU through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), food safety and animal welfare legislation and also indirectly by the World Trade Organisation rules.

The CAP is the EU’s mechanism for providing direct support to farmers, for protecting the countryside and for supporting the development of rural areas. The CAP runs for a seven-year period. Under the 2014 – 2020 round Wales receives around €322 million of funding each year in direct payments to farmers in addition to €355m million for its 2014 – 2020 rural development programme.

The Welsh Government is directly responsible for implementing the CAP in Wales (and is required to comply with the various EU Regulations which set the legal framework for the policy). For farmers eligible for the CAP this means the Welsh Government manages the direct payments they receive.

How would the UK withdraw from the CAP? Would it be phased in over time or stop immediately after the UK leaves?

The Welsh agricultural sector is heavily dependent on the current subsidies it receives under the CAP to make a profit. This is particularly the case in upland livestock farms. The Chancellor’s announcement that the UK Government will honour current levels of direct payments to farmers until 2020 has been welcomed by the farming unions.

However, some have called for clarity on how any fund distributed after withdrawal will be allocated to the Welsh Government and subsequently by the Welsh Government to Welsh farmers. Clarity on the levels and types of any funding available after 2020 has also been sought.

Continue reading “Brexit in Wales – Agriculture and Fisheries”

More consistency and transparency needed – Welsh Businesses give their views on Business Rates in Wales

The Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee spends a lot of time talking to people in the world of Welsh business. Business rates is one of the issues that arises frequently and provokes strong reactions.

It was also an issue that cropped up heavily in our summer consultation when we asked people what work the Committee should be prioritising. For that reason, the Committee decided to hold an early one-day session looking at business rates in Wales. The event was held on 5 October, just days after details of a revaluation of business rates in Wales was published.

A Business breakfast to hear views from across Wales

The Committee invited a cross section of business representatives to a breakfast event at the World of Boats in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday to hear their views on the subject.


To ensure we got the full picture from businesses Wales-wide, we filmed interviews with businesses across the country, so that we could show attendees a short video, summarising some of the key issues to help stimulate discussion.

Businesses spoke about the difficulties they experienced and suggested ways to improve the system for SMEs. Here’s some of the issues raised in the video:

It would have helped if we’d had that little bit of relief especially in the six months when we weren’t trading, so there was no money coming in only money going out and yet we had to still pay business rates…

Katia Fatiadou, Quantum Coffee Roasters Ltd, Cardiff Bay

When we pay business rates we don’t get anything back in return, absolutely nothing…so business rates are a cost to the businesses and there’s no return whatsoever.

Robert Griffiths, Ruggers Carpets, Merthyr Tydfil

A successful business rates policy would be based on a calculation of the company’s financial and profitability rather than the rateable value of the premises that they’re currently working out of or the premises that they potentially want to move in to.

Joshua Weaver, We are Promotional Products, Welshpool

At the event the biggest discussion points were how rates are calculated, what the money is spent on, whether and how rates could be reduced to promote economic development, as well as specific issues relating to the cost of investment in equipment (e.g. by major industries like steelworks), high street vs. out of town retail, and how holiday rental cottages should be assessed.

What happened after breakfast?

Later that morning, the committee held a formal meeting in the Senedd, taking evidence firstly from a panel of experts, and then from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, who is responsible for business rates in Wales. The session, which can be seen on highlighted the need for greater consistency and transparency when it comes to business rates, a better appeals system, and clarity on any changes that may happen in the future.

Members made a number of references to what they had heard, from businesses at the breakfast event and from the video interviews, during the Ministerial scrutiny session.

Next steps

At the breakfast session, some participants indicated they might have further information they wished to share with the committee. They have been invited to share that in writing.

Once the Committee has considered any additional information, it will discuss its conclusions before writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, with recommendations for improving the current regime.

Keep in touch

Members of the Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee

The Committee was established to hold the Welsh Government to account on issues such as economic development; transport; infrastructure; employment; skills; and research and development, including technology and science.

Keep up with the work of the Committee by following us on Twitter @SeneddEIS.

Do you remember the summer of ’99? A look back from those who have worked at the National Assembly for Wales from the start

In May 1999, following a referendum held in 1997 and the passing of the Government of Wales Act in 1998, The National Assembly for Wales held its first plenary meeting in what was then known as Crickhowell House in Cardiff Bay.

A lot has happened over the past 17 years but some things have remained the same. At the Official Opening of the Fifth Assembly in 2016, nine Assembly Members who were returned to represent their constituencies for the fifth time were photographed together. They have served as Assembly Members since the first Assembly in 1999.

Left to right: David Melding AM, First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones AM, Deputy Presiding Officer Ann Jones AM, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, Jane Hutt AM, Kirsty Williams AM, Presiding Officer Elin Jones AM, Lynne Neagle AM and John Griffiths AM.

As well as the Assembly Members, The National Assembly Commission employs staff to support its work. The photograph inspired us to we gather a few thoughts and memories from staff who worked during the historic first year of the Assembly and remain working here to this day.


Adrian Crompton, now the Director of Assembly Business, was proud of how the National Assembly had grown and matured into “a powerful, well-resourced parliament that sets standards which other legislatures from around the world aspire to”. He added, “Working at the Assembly is an absolute privilege, something that is brought home to me by the work I do in the Middle East and North Africa with parliaments eager to develop the democratic freedoms and culture that we often take for granted”.

Ioan Bellin works for Simon Thomas AM, “The biggest change at the National Assembly in my time here has been the separation between the legislature and the executive”. Separation occurred in 2007 when the National Assembly for Wales was separated from what was then the Welsh Assembly Government. Ioan also remarked that walking through the Senedd gives him great pride as he remembers the construction process and the building’s official opening on St. David’s Day 2006.

Nia Percy has been recording and filming Committee and Plenary meetings from the beginning for broadcasting contractors Barcud Derwen and Bow Tie.  “Technology has advanced a great deal in seventeen years. We couldn’t imagine back then how web-streaming on Senedd TV would develop to largely take over from traditional broadcast on terrestrial television channels.” Through her broadcasting work she feels proud that she “plays a part in the democratic process, making the Assembly accessible and available to the people of Wales”.

Ray Jones who works as both a freelance broadcaster and for the Commission’s Front of House team also credits the Assembly with “the way in which technology has been embraced, helping it to reach out to the electorate” as one of the most important developments.

Many of the original staff from 1999 commented on the friendly and open nature of the Assembly. Joanne Thomas who now works for Rhiannon Passmore AM said she “enjoys the friendliness of the people within the National Assembly and the way in which the various departments within the Assembly Commission are so helpful.”

The current Director of Commission Services, Craig Stephenson, says that his most memorable time was the first few days after the 1999 election where Assembly Members arrived far too early.

“We’d asked, rather naively in hindsight, for elected Members to come to the Bay on Monday 10 May. However, they started turning up on 7 and 8 May – catching us all on the hop. While I remember it being a historic and fantastically exciting day, it was definitely a day that demanded all hands on deck. When I compare that day with how we welcomed our returning Members in 2016 it is evident that we as an organisation have become much more sophisticated in the way in which our services have evolved. I am as proud to work for the National Assembly now as I was back in May 1999”.

We’d like to thank all Members and Staff for their continued contributions to the work of the Assembly over the years and extend a welcome to those who are new and will shape the next five Assemblies.

You can find out more about the work of the Assembly and keep up to date with the latest news by visiting our website.

Black History Month: Betty Campbell (MBE) the first black Head Teacher in Wales addressed the Assembly Workplace Equality networks

Betty Campbell photoOn the 8 July 2016 Betty Campbell (MBE) was invited to speak at the Assembly by its ‘INSPIRE’, Women’s network, and ‘REACH’ (Race Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) network, as part of the Assembly’s Diversity and Inclusion week.

Diversity and Inclusion week is an event that we do every year as part of the Assembly’s commitment to promoting and supporting an inclusive workplace. In that week a series of events and other awareness-raising activities take place to promote and celebrate diverse and inclusion.

If you were not lucky enough to hear Betty in person you can still hear, on YouTube: what inspired her; what helped her reach were she got to; what she has to say to inspire others facing similar barriers and her advice to people facing their own obstacles. Find out more about Betty and why the networks invited Betty to talk to them by reading our blog from August earlier this year.

Black History Month: Mental ill Health does not discriminate

By Abi Lasebikan, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Network Coordinator and Co-Chair of the Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage Assembly Workplace Equality Network

world-mental-health-day-300x300World Mental Health Day (WMHD) falls annually on the 10 October. Its overall objective is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.



October is also Black History Month (BHM), when bhm-logoinspirational individuals and events from within the Black Minority Ethnic (BME) communities are celebrated, recognised and valued. In this article the terminology BME is used to describe all people of non-white descent.

One in four of us will be affected by mental illness in any year. It does not matter what your age, gender, religion /belief, sexual orientation, race, or if you are married or in a civil partnership, expecting/have a child or a disability – Mental illness does not differentiate.

There are however issues that are particular to specific characteristic groups. So I thought I would take to opportunity of the fact that WMHD is falling in BHM to touch on the complexities of the issues that some BME people with mental health issues face.

The Mental Health Foundation, MIND, Diverse Cymru and a number of studies, by Ethnos Research and Consultancy  for example, have shown that in general, people from black and minority ethnic groups living in the UK are more likely to:

  • Be diagnosed with mental health problems.
  • Present in crisis, be diagnosed and admitted to hospital.
  • Experience a poor outcome from treatment.
  • Disengage from mainstream mental health services, leading to social exclusion and a deterioration in their mental health.
  • Face discrimination because they have a mental health issue, including being treated less favorably by their own communities because of their mental illness, due to various social and cultural reasons.

These differences may be explained by a number of factors, including:

  • Poverty and racism.
  • Mainstream mental health services failing to understand or provide services that are acceptable and accessible to non-white British communities and meet their particular cultural and other needs.
  • People in some ethnic minority groups being reluctant to engage with mainstream health services or hold off from seeking help for a number of different reasons such as, taboos in the communities, use of traditional medicines or faith-based healing, or fear (for example of the stigma, shame and social repercussions it may bring on the individual and family).
  • It has been recognised that mental ill health is still taboo in society at large and BME communities are no different in the, often negative, response towards mental illness. As people tend to function, to a large extent, within their own communities it is important to tackle discrimination and negative perceptions about mental ill health across the whole of society, including people from the BME communities.

That is why, for me, it is so important to talk to the individual and always remember that behind the mental illness is a person and human being. Don’t let the mental ill health define the person, instead focus on the individual and their needs. Avoid making assumptions, have a conversation with people about their own needs and wishes and be flexible with support provision.

mental-health-awareness-day-2016By getting people talking about mental health we can break down stereotypes, improve relationships, aid recovery and take the stigma out of something that affects us all.To learn more about the Time to Change campaign to challenge stigma and discrimination visit their website.  I am proud that the Assembly has signed the Time to Change Wales pledge to challenge stigma and support staff experiencing mental illness.

I am pleased that the Assembly will be hosting a joint workplace equality network event on the 13 October 2016, where individuals from the Assembly’s various networks will be talking either about their own personal experiences or the issues faced by their communities. To find out more about our networks visit our blog from July, earlier this year.

Brexit in Wales – EU funding, research and Investment

Brexit in Wales – EU funding, research and Investment

This week, the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee focused their attention on EU funding, research and investment and the implications for Wales. You can watch the full session on Senedd.TV .

The objectives of this session were to consider:

  • the implications for Wales of Brexit on access to key EU funding sources;
  • the potential impact of Brexit more broadly on Welsh Higher Education;
  • to understand the potential implications and impact of Brexit on access to finance for key infrastructure developments in Wales.

You can follow the discussions on Twitter and Facebook using #BrexitinWales.  To keep up to date on the work of the Committee follow @SeneddEAAL.


On 2 October the Prime Minister made a speech on Brexit at the Tory Party conference, covering a number of issues:

  • Article 50: the UK Government will trigger this no later than the end of March 2017. It will not consult the Houses of Parliament in doing this, asserting the right of royal prerogative, and that the UK Government will defend this position in the courts.
  • Great Repeal Bill: to be presented in the next Queen’s Speech, the Bill will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and enshrine all existing EU law into British law.
  • Control over immigration: the UK will decide on its own immigration rules post-Brexit.
  • Workers’ rights: the Prime Minister gave a commitment to preserve existing workers’ rights enshrined under EU law and to further enhance these.
  • No opt-outs, one United Kingdom: the Brexit negotiations will be undertaken as the UK and the UK will as one United Kingdom – there is no opt-out for Brexit and the Prime Minister stated ‘I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union between the four nations of our United Kingdom’.
  • No replica model: negotiations with the EU will not be about copying another model – Norway model or Switzerland model. It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union. The focus will be on free trade, in goods and services aimed at giving British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the single market – and let European businesses do the same in the UK.

EU funding

Wales continues to be eligible to participate in EU programmes and access EU finance until the UK formally leaves the EU. Wales currently receives a considerable amount of funding from the EU.

The Wales Governance Centre published research ahead of the EU Referendum that suggests that Wales – in contrast to the UK as a whole – is a net beneficiary of EU funds.

These are some of the most relevant sources of EU funding to Wales:

  • Structural Funds: under the 2014 – 2020 round Wales has been allocated almost £2 billion from the EU – with £1.6 billion going to West Wales and the Valleys and over £325 million to East Wales.
  • Common Agricultural Policy (CAP): under the 2014 – 2020 round Wales receives around £250 million of funding each year in direct payments to farmers in addition to €355m million for its 2014 – 2020 rural development programme.
  • Horizon 2020: is the EU’s programme to support research and development and innovation. Up to May 2016 Wales has secured around €45 million from Horizon 2020 for 95 projects, including around €10 million for the COFUND initiative, with Welsh Higher Education accounting for around €28.5 million of this total.
  • Erasmus+: the EUs programme to support mobility in the field of education and training. This includes mobility in higher education for students and staff, which is a high priority for Welsh universities. It also includes mobility in other forms of education: further education, vocational training, and school education, as well as youth engagement, areas where Wales has traditionally been actively involved.

Accessing EU funding

Given non-EU Member States take part in a range of EU programmes, there will be strong interest in the negotiations in considering (i) whether the UK Government will prioritise continued participation in EU programmes beyond Brexit and (ii) if it does, which areas will be on its priority list.

The role of the Welsh Government and the Assembly in identifying which programmes would be of most interest to Welsh stakeholders and lobbying the UK Government to prioritise these in its negotiations is something to be considered.

What we can be certain about is that Wales will not be able to receive support from the regionally managed Structural Funds programmes nor the Common Agricultural Policy (including the Rural Development Programme).

UK Government: EU funding guarantee update

On 3 October the UK Chancellor Philip Hammond MP published an updated UK Government guarantee to support projects receiving funding under the current round of EU programmes.

The October statement extended the original deadline to ‘the point at which the UK leaves the EU’, following pressure from the Devolved Administrations, including the Welsh Government for the deadline to be extended.

The October statement confirms that the UK Government will:

  • Guarantee EU funding for structural and investment fund projects, including agri-environment schemes, signed after the Autumn Statement and which continue after we have left the EU.
  • These conditions will be applied in such a way that the current pipeline of committed projects are not disrupted, including agri-environment schemes due to begin this January.
  • Where the devolved administrations sign up to structural and investment fund projects under their current EU budget allocation prior to Brexit, the government will ensure they are funded to meet these commitments.

The specific references to agri-environment schemes due to begin in January alleviates the concerns expressed by the Welsh Government about the uncertainty around funding for these.

Higher Education

There is consistent support from the Welsh HE sector for continued participation in Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+. Both are viewed as important elements of the international and outward looking approach of the sector. The ability of academics to move posts freely within the EU was also valued highly.

The Welsh HE sector has consistently over recent years highlighted the under-funding of research capacity in Wales as a significant barrier to Welsh success in Horizon 2020. In 2015 the Leadership Foundation published a report which states there is a shortage of around 600 researchers in Wales.

Welsh HE has underlined the importance of EU funding to the sector, with EU Structural Funds being viewed as an important source to help ‘fill’ the funding gap, and to enable key investments that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place. The Swansea Bay Science Campus is a good example of this, combining EU Structural Funds with European Investment Bank finance, and is covered in further detail below in the section on EU investment in Wales.

EU students and Welsh HE

The Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data shows a total of 7,095 EU national students were enrolled at Welsh universities in 2013/14 (a 4% increase from 2012/13). The majority came from Germany (18%), France (13%), UK EU-domiciled (11%) Spain and Ireland (8% each), Greece (7%), Poland (6%), Italy and Bulgaria (4% each), and Romania (3%).

In terms of the most popular subjects for EU students in Wales, enrolments were as follows:

  • Business & management -1,105
  • Humanities – 1,691
  • Engineering & technology – 988
  • Science – 926
  • Social sciences – 688

It is estimated that EU students currently provide at least £24m to Welsh universities and the overall impact to Wales attributable to income from EU students was £47m. An EU student studying in Wales on average generates £19.7k for Wales and 0.19 Full-time Equivalent jobs. Additional impact is also generated in the rest of the UK from students studying in Wales. These are likely to be a conservative estimate according to Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

EU Investment in Wales

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union’s bank, owned by and representing the interests of the Member States. The UK owns a 16% share: the same as Italy, France and Germany. Although the EIB does invest outside the EU, 90% of loans are made within the Union.

Over the previous decade the EIB has directly invested nearly £2 billion in Wales. The EIB describes current EIB lending in the UK as being “at record levels and supporting a more diverse range of projects than many other EU countries”.

Following a departure from the EU, legal obligations concerning EIB loans already agreed in the UK would not change. However, Article 308 of the TFEU states that Members of the European Investment Bank “shall” (i.e. must) be Member States. Leaving the EU, therefore, would mean the UK would no longer be a member of the EIB.

The EIB is another source of finance to which organisations in Wales are eligible to apply for support. A number of projects were successful during the Fourth Assembly including the Science and Innovation Bay Campus at Swansea University (see below), officially opened in October 2015, which received €60m investment from the EIB. The Welsh Government submitted a number of project ideas for support under the European Fund for Structural Investment, managed by the EIB, during 2015, including the South Wales Metro project.

EU funding in Wales following Brexit  

It is not necessarily the case that leaving the European Union would result in either an end to the UK contributing to the EU budget, or receiving funding from it. As discussed in the previous blog on alternative models to EU membership, countries outside the EU that currently have a high degree of access to the Single Market (such as Norway and Switzerland) contribute to the EU budget and enjoy some level of participation in EU funding streams.

The European Economic Area Agreement ensures participation by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in a number of EU programmes, including Horizon 2020 (research and innovation) and Erasmus + (education and training). Although EEA members are not generally eligible for European Structural Funding, Norway and Liechtenstein qualify for some cross-border and transnational programmes. No non-EU countries are currently part of the CAP.

Fundamentally, the UK’s future access to EU funding programmes – both for the current programming period (2014-2020) and beyond – will be subject to negotiations during the withdrawal process.

Next steps

Next week on 10 October, the Committee will be looking into the implications for Wales in relation to agriculture and fisheries. The National Assembly for Wales’s Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee are also looking at these implications. You can contribute your ideas on how to address the implications on their online dialogue page.

You can read more about the implications for Wales by the National Assembly for Wales’s Research Team or catch-up on our previous blogs on international law and trade and developments to date.

You can follow the discussions on Twitter and Facebook using #BrexitinWales.  To keep up to date on the work of the Committee follow @SeneddEAAL.

Concerned about the future of the BBC in Wales? Put your question to Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC

The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee wants to hear from you before their meeting with Tony Hall, the Director General of the BBC.  The meeting takes place on 2 November and will be streamed live on Senedd.TV. The deadline for questions is 21 October.

On Twitter you can use #AskBBC or tweet the committee @SeneddCWLC.

You can also leave a comment on the Assembly’s Facebook Page or e-mail your question to


Who is Tony Hall and what does he do?

 Tony Hall – the Lord Hall of Birkenhead – is the 16th Director General of the BBC. The Director General is the Chief Executive Officer of the BBC, its Editor-in-Chief.

To find out more about Tony Hall and the role of the Director General you can visit the BBC’s website.

Why is he coming to the Assembly?

The Assembly’s new Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee is currently looking at the impact of the BBC Charter and what the future of BBC programming in Wales will look like.

The Committee will be covering areas including the BBC Charter Review and the recently appointed role of ‘Director of Regions and Nations’.

BBC Wales’s annual budget is in excess of £150 million and produces programming for Radio Wales, Radio Cymru, television and online services. BBC Wales also makes 10 hours a week of TV for S4C.

In recent years the amount of English language content produced specifically for Wales has declined.

A message from Bethan Jenkins AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee:

The BBC is a cornerstone of many people’s media consumption and could be about to undergo a number of significant changes under the Charter Review.

 In some ways Wales benefits greatly from the BBC through its drama village in Roath Lock where Sherlock, Doctor Who and Casualty are filmed. All world-class productions which put us firmly on the map.

 But there is a lack of programming and content specific to Wales and recent budget cuts are deeply concerning

 So we will be asking the Director General what he thinks the BBC in Wales will look like in the future.

What is a committee?

 A committee is made up of a small group of Assembly Members from different parties who look at particular issues in more detail. They often seek input from external expert advisors and members of the community before making decisions.

Committees recommend ways in which (for example) government policies could be more robust and its expenditure more effective, efficient and economical. Committees engage proactively and innovatively with individuals and organisations which can articulate the voice and experience of the people of Wales.

Full list of National Assembly for Wales committees