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24 January 2012

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Minutes and papers of a meeting of the Cabinet.
  • Item 1: Minutes of the previous meeting
  • Item 2: First Minister’s Items
  • Item 3: Forthcoming Assembly Plenary Business
  • Item 4: Welsh Language Strategy
  • Item 5: Discussion on the Silk Commission and other Constitutional Matters

Present:

  • Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister (Chair)
  • Leighton Andrews AM 
  • Edwina Hart MBE OStJ AM
  • Jane Hutt AM 
  • John Griffiths AM
  • Lesley Griffiths AM 
  • Huw Lewis AM
  • Janice Gregory AM
  • Theodore Huckle QC


Apologies:

  • Carl Sargeant AM

Officials:

  • Dame Gillian Morgan, Permanent Secretary
  • Michael Hearty, Director General Strategic Planning, Finance & Performance 
  • Peter Greening, Cabinet Secretary
  • Des Clifford, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister 
  • Jo Kiernan, Special Adviser
  • Andrew Bold, Special Adviser
  • Chris Roberts, Special Adviser
  • Sophie Howe, Special Adviser 
  • Jonathan Davies, Special Adviser 
  • Matt Greenough, Special Adviser 
  • Steve Jones, Special Adviser 
  • Jeff Andrews, Specialist Policy Adviser
  • Anna McMorrin, Specialist Policy Adviser  
  • Marion Stapleton, First Minister’s Delivery Unit 
  • Christopher W Morgan, Head of Cabinet, Plenary and Committee Business Secretariat (minutes) 
  • Emyr Roberts, Director General Education and Skills (item 4)
  • Iwan Evans, Welsh Language Strategy Senior Officer (item 4)
  • Hugh Rawlings, Director Constitutional Affairs and Inter-governmental Relations (item 5)
  • Sarah Canning, Constitutional Policy Analyst (item 5)



Item 1:  Minutes of the previous meeting


Minutes

1.1 Cabinet approved the minutes of the previous meeting.


Item 2:  First Minister’s Items


Monthly Press Conferences

2.1 The First Minister advised Cabinet that he would be hosting monthly press conferences. The first, which had been held the previous day, was themed around the Constitution, Europe and the World, and the First Minister’s speaking note had been shared with Cabinet members. In addition, in between these press conferences, the Minister for Finance and the Leader of the House would be providing fortnightly briefings for the media.

Regional Pay

2.2 The Education and Skills Minister advised Cabinet that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had written to the Secretary of State for Education asking him to outline proposals for regional pay for teachers.  It was acknowledged that this could have implications for the Welsh Government’s policy of not seeking the devolution of teachers’ pay and any developments at a UK Government level would need to be monitored carefully, because of implications for the Welsh block.


Item 3: Forthcoming Assembly Plenary Business  


Plenary Business

3.1 Ministers discussed the Assembly Plenary Grid and noted that the opposition short debate, scheduled for the following day, had been deferred.


Item 4: Welsh Language Strategy


4.1 The Minister for Education and Skills introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to approve a new five-year strategy to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh Language under Section 78 of the Government of Wales Act 2006.    This Strategy would succeed Iaith Pawb.  

4.2 The previous Government had consulted on the new draft Strategy between December 2010 and February 2011.  Following this exercise the Strategy had been developed with the assistance of an advisory group, which had been established by the previous Heritage Minister.

4.3 It was reported that, in order to maintain the political consensus around the language, the aims of the final Strategy were largely consistent with the consultation draft.  Although, there was an additional focus on the importance of technology and new media, to help children and young people further engage with the language.

4.4 The final draft was also informed by an evidence review, which had been commissioned by the Education Minister when he had taken over portfolio responsibility for the Welsh language.  This had included a statistical analysis, which had estimated that the country was losing between 1,200 and 2,200 Welsh speakers a year, mostly due to differences in numbers between those individuals leaving Wales and those returning.

4.5 However, there was generally a lack of evidence available on the effects of initiatives aimed at promoting the use of Welsh, therefore the Strategy contained a commitment to develop an evaluation framework.

4.6 The five-year strategic document contained strong statements reflecting the Welsh Government’s desire to encourage and support the use of the Welsh language against a period of limited opportunities for investment.   The Government would continue to increase the supply of Welsh speakers through the education system and Welsh for adults courses, but there was need to develop more opportunities for those who had acquired the skills, irrespective of fluency levels, to encourage them to use their skills in day-to-day life.

4.7 The Strategy contained six strategic aims, relating to: families; children and young people; the community; Welsh in the workplace; services to citizens; and strengthening the Welsh language infrastructure, which included broadcasting and new media.   It was recognised that all Government Departments had an important role in mainstreaming Welsh language policy and to consider how to bring benefits to the language and Welsh speaking communities, such as through grant giving and procurement procedures.    

4.8 The Government would also need to be prepared to comply with any standards, which the new Welsh Language Commissioner might develop, although Ministers would need to be mindful of the cost implications that imposing duties may have on Government and the wider public and private sectors.   It was noted that the Welsh language Commissioner would be in post from 1st April 2012.

4.9 Cabinet welcomed the paper and noted that the number of people learning and being able to speak Welsh had increased over the past ten years, but agreed that there was a need to increase the confidence of Welsh speakers and encourage them to use the language at home, in the workplace and in the wider community, and in particular, in shops and other retail premises.   There was a need to encourage companies to offer on-line services bilingually which would enable Welsh speakers to participate fully as digital citizens.

4.10 There was also a need for local authorities to ensure that the spelling and translation road traffic signs were correct.

4.11 Cabinet approved the paper and noted that the Strategy would be launched with the Welsh-speaking members of the Welsh rugby team during the build up to their Six Nations match against England.  


Item 5: Discussion on the Silk Commission and other Constitutional Matters


5.1 The First Minister indicated that he had agreed that Ministers should have an opportunity to discuss the Silk Commission and other constitutional matters in advance of any substantive papers.

5.2 There were two sets of current but inter-related issues relating to the constitution: The first was the further development of Welsh Devolution, which was being examined by the Silk Commission; and the second was in relation to Wales’ position in the United Kingdom.

5.3 In relation to the case for devolution of fiscal powers, which formed the first part of the work of the Silk Commission.  It was reported that a call for evidence had been issued and the Welsh Government’s submission would be prepared shortly.

5.4 This was proceeding in parallel with discussions with the UK Government on funding reform.  

5.5 The second stage of the Silk Commission was to review the powers of the Assembly and recommend modifications to the present set of constitutional arrangements.

5.6 In addition to the work of the Silk Commission, there was the matter of Wales’ position in the UK. The Scottish Government’s plans for independence would have major implications for Wales and it was the Welsh Government’s position that Scotland should remain part of the Union.  However, should the Scottish people decide to leave, there would need to be a fundamental reconsideration of how each country remaining in the UK related to each other, particularly in relation to the significant  imbalance of representation from Wales, Northern Ireland and England at Westminster.

5.7 Furthermore, the Commission looking at the West Lothian Question could conceivably recommend new rules limiting the issues on which Welsh MPs could vote on at Westminster.


Cabinet, Plenary and Committee Secretariat
January 2012