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Cofnod y Trafodion
The Record of Proceedings

Y Pwyllgor Deisebau

The Petitions Committee

13/09/2016

 

 

Agenda’r Cyfarfod
Meeting Agenda

Trawsgrifiadau’r Pwyllgor
Committee Transcripts


Cynnwys
Contents

 

4....... Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datganiadau o Fuddiant
Introduction, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

 

4....... Deisebau Newydd
New Petitions

 

9....... Y Wybodaeth Ddiweddaraf am Ddeisebau Blaenorol
Updates to Previous Petitions

 

18..... P-04-668 Cefnogi Sgrinio Blynyddol ar gyfer Canser yr Ofari (CA125)
P-04-668 Support Yearly Screening for Ovarian Cancer (CA125)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle y mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

 

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.


 

Aelodau’r pwyllgor yn bresennol
Committee members in attendance

 

Gareth Bennett
Bywgraffiad|Biography

UKIP Cymru
UKIP Wales

 

Janet Finch-Saunders
Bywgraffiad|Biography

Ceidwadwyr Cymreig
Welsh Conservatives

 

Mike Hedges
Bywgraffiad|Biography

Llafur
Labour

 

Neil McEvoy
Bywgraffiad|Biography

Plaid Cymru
The Party of Wales

 

Eraill yn bresennol
Others in attendance

 

Jenny Chapman

Cyd-ddeisebydd

Co-petitioner

 

Margaret Hutcheson

Deisebydd

Petitioner

 

Swyddogion Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru yn bresennol
National Assembly for Wales officials in attendance

 

Jonathan Baxter

 

Gwasanaeth Ymchwil

Research Service

 

Jessica England

Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

 

Graeme Francis

Clerc
Clerk

 

Kath Thomas

 

Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

 

Katie Wyatt

Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 9:00.
The meeting began at 9:00.

 

Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datganiadau o Fuddiant
Introduction, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

[1]          Mike Hedges: Can I welcome everyone to the meeting this morning? I just remind you that participants are welcome to speak in Welsh or English and headsets are available for translation of Welsh to English. There is no need to turn off mobile phones or other electronic devices, but please ensure any device is on silent mode because it is highly embarrassing when it goes off and starts making a noise in the middle of a meeting. Apologies and substitutions: no apologies have been received. We’re expecting Janet Finch-Saunders to join us later. Is that correct?

 

[2]          Mr Francis: Yes.

 

Deisebau Newydd
New Petitions

[3]          Mike Hedges: That takes us on to the first item, new petitions. No. 1, ‘TATA Steel Port Talbot Power Plant’. Graeme, do you want to introduce it?

 

[4]          Mr Francis: I certainly can, sure. So, this is a new petition. It collected over 500 signatures. And previously when this was first considered, or when it was first received, before dissolution of the previous Assembly, there was a special meeting held by the Enterprise and Business Committee at the time, looking at the wider Tata Steel situation. So, it was decided by the previous committee to let that run its course first. That did happen on 5 April, and now it returns to this committee for consideration of any further action that you want to take.

 

[5]          Mike Hedges: Can we ask the Enterprise and Business Committee if they intend carrying on with this? I think having two committees doing the same thing would be a waste of resources. If they’re not, can we come back to it? Is that okay? Yes.

 

[6]          The second one: ‘Rename Cardiff International Airport to Princess Diana International Airport’. That’s fairly self-explanatory. The suggestion is that we write to Cardiff Airport seeking their views on the specific proposal, and whether the principle of naming an airport after a prominent Welsh person has been considered. I’m not sure the word ‘Welsh’ should be put in there, actually. It’s a ‘prominent person’.

 

[7]          Neil McEvoy: Yes, I think ‘prominent Welsh person’ is good.

 

[8]          Mike Hedges: Yes, a ‘prominent Welsh person’. It’s fairly common in the rest of the world, and I think the key thing is that you get somebody who’s got longevity, because Marco Polo and Leonardo da Vinci were a long time ago, but people have heard of them. I think you need something that is going to last. In a hundred years’ time, will somebody recognise it? Otherwise you’ll keep on having to change the name of the airport.

 

[9]          Gareth Bennett: Liverpool’s got John Lennon International Airport. I’m never quite sure about that. I mean, does it really sound like an airport?

 

[10]      Mike Hedges: And Belfast’s got George Best. People like Marco Polo and Leonardo da Vinci will continue forever; whether others do, time will tell. But I think you need not somebody who’s famous now, who is likely to be not famous in 50 years’ time, otherwise people will be asking, ‘Why is it called that?’

 

[11]      Gareth Bennett: Yes. So we’re not going to go for ‘Charlotte Church international airport’, then.

 

[12]      Neil McEvoy: We could have Owain Glyndŵr. He’s the most prominent Welsh person ever, I think.

 

[13]      Mike Hedges: He would be popular in north Wales, wouldn’t he, rather than down here?

 

[14]      Neil McEvoy: He burned the castle down, so—.

 

[15]      Mike Hedges: Okay. Are we happy to write to the airport?

 

[16]     A Treatment Fund for Wales—There Must be an End to the Healthcare Postcode Lottery’. I’ve been told that the announcement of a new treatment fund addresses the issues raised in the petition. So, can we just write to the petitioners and tell them that? Yes.

 

[17]      ‘Student Finance Funding For Postgraduate Courses’. There’s a loan scheme in for 2017-18 academic year. It’s impossible to get one in for 2016-17, if only because 2016-17 is in the process of starting. So, shall we close the petition and tell the petitioner that it’s coming in for 2017-18? It just wouldn’t be possible, would it, to bring it in for 2016-17? I mean, the academic year starts Monday.

 

[18]      ‘Road Safety Improvements Along the A487 Trunk Road between Cardigan and Aberystwyth, to Include Passing Places’. We’ll actually be receiving that petition at lunch time today—informally.

 

[19]      Mr Francis: Yes, although the paper you’ve got says that 99 signatures have been received for that, the paper signatures being handed in total 750—at lunch time.

 

[20]      Neil McEvoy: So, it’s 12.00 p.m., is it?

 

[21]      Mike Hedges: Yes, 12.40 p.m. In light of the petition and speaking as somebody who drives that road not regularly but occasionally, I could almost declare an interest as you can get awfully stuck on it. The suggestion is that we write to the Cabinet Secretary seeking a specific timetable for the review that his officials are currently undertaking and asking that the committee is informed as soon as the outcome is known.

 

[22]      The other option is: in light of the additional information received from the petitioner, Members might wish to draw specific comments requesting a study into the provision of safe overtaking lanes to the attention of the Cabinet Secretary and ask that they are taken into consideration when undergoing the review. Any preference, or—

 

[23]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Sorry I’m late.

 

[24]      Mike Hedges: No problem. Any preference, or merge them?

 

[25]      Gareth Bennett: We could do.

 

[26]      Mike Hedges: Yes, merge them. We’ll ask for a timetable and ask that that specific item is taken into consideration. Yes, okay.

 

[27]      The next one is ‘EMA Attendance Requirements for Young Adult Carers’. We’ve written to the Minister and we’ve had a response. We haven’t had a further response back from the petitioner. I think that we’ve seen that the Minister’s response is very positive. Shall we await the views of the petitioner to give them a chance to reply back? The Minister has responded very favourably to, I think, something that probably people hadn’t thought of until the petition came in. Okay, is everybody happy with that?

 

[28]      Gareth Bennett: Yes.

 

[29]      Mike Hedges: ‘Proposal to Postpone the Restrictions on Fishing in Welsh Rivers’. Again, we’ve written to the Cabinet Secretary and had the response. The petitioner has sent further comments, which are in the papers for the meeting. What action do we want to take?

 

[30]      Gareth Bennett: Pass it on to the Minister for fisheries.

 

[31]      Mike Hedges: We’ve already written to the Minister.

 

[32]      Gareth Bennett: Oh, sorry.

 

[33]      Mike Hedges: We’ve written to the Minister and the Minister has responded.

 

[34]      Gareth Bennett: Right.

 

[35]      Mike Hedges: We can either—. The petitioner has submitted further comments, so we can actually send the petitioner’s further comments to the Minister.

 

[36]      Mr Francis: The letter from the Minister informs us that there’s a Natural Resources Wales consultation due at some point either later this year or early next year, and that’s where—. So, there’s going to be further consultation, so you may wish to just let that run its course.

 

[37]      Mike Hedges: Yes, we’ll let it run its course, but can we send the petitioner’s letter on to NRW, so that they’ve got it ready for their consultation?

 

[38]      Mr Francis: Yes.

 

[39]      Mike Hedges: Okay.

 

[40]      Mr Francis: Do you want to close the petition?

 

[41]      Mike Hedges: Yes, close the petition and just write on.

 

[42]      The next one—at least three of us have an interest in this—is ‘Keep our Councils Rejuvenated by Introducing a Fixed Term’.

 

[43]      Janet Finch-Saunders: This would be unprecedented, I mean—.

 

[44]      Mike Hedges: Well, I don’t think it would be fair on the electorate. Many of us have been elected. If the electorate don’t want us, they’ve got an opportunity to remove us, but stopping people being a candidate, unless they’ve committed an offence, I think is fundamentally wrong. It’s up to the electorate. I mean, they may or may not want us to continue and we’ll discover that in just under five years’ time, but it’ll be their decision and it’s the same with the local authorities. A number of councillors will discover next May whether the electorate want them to carry on or not, but that will be the electorate’s decision; I don’t think we should interfere with the electorate’s decision.

 

[45]      Neil McEvoy: I don’t think you’d get enough councillors, to be honest. It takes you four years to know how to do the job really.

 

[46]      Mike Hedges: And you’d end up having funny things like people getting their husbands and wives to stand because they’ve run out of their term. It’s just wrong.

 

[47]      Gareth Bennett: Yes, but the thing is, is it up to us to decide? We could just pass it on to the local government Minister; he’d probably think it’s a load of nonsense anyway, wouldn’t he?

 

[48]      Mike Hedges: We have.

 

[49]      Gareth Bennett: We have? Sorry.

 

[50]      Mike Hedges: He didn’t actually use the term ‘load of nonsense’. He said that it has been considered and rejected.

 

[51]      Gareth Bennett: Okay. He said it more politely.

 

[52]      Mike Hedges: Yes. So, can we close this?

 

[53]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes.

 

[54]      Mike Hedges: ‘To Make Mental Health a Part of the National Curriculum’. Do you want to introduce this?

 

[55]      Mr Francis: Yes, just to draw your attention to the fact that there are two quite similar petitions on this. There’s one later on under a petition that was previously considered by the former committee as well. So, the suggestion is that we consider them both together and decide on similar actions for the two.

 

[56]      Mike Hedges: Shall we do this when we get to the other one, or do you want to do it here? Okay, if we do it here then. The Cabinet Secretary responded to the issues raised in the petition. What do we want to do? Do we close it because the Cabinet Secretary’s responded or keep it open?

 

[57]      Janet Finch-Saunders: I think it’s a good response really.

 

[58]      Mike Hedges: Yes, and I do. Okay. Are we happy with that? Thank you, Janet.

 

09:11

 

Y Wybodaeth Ddiweddaraf am Ddeisebau Blaenorol
Updates to Previous Petitions

 

[59]      Mike Hedges: Updates to previous petitions now. First, ‘Trees in Towns’, which was submitted by the Coed Cadw Woodland Trust, with 2,258 signatures. It was first considered on 8 March: await further comments from petitioners and ask the incoming committee to consider the petition further when they are available. That’s the background. And we’ve had the petitioner’s response. So, are we happy to write back to the Minister, asking if guidance can be produced on the benefits that trees can offer in towns and cities?

 

[60]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes.

 

[61]      Mike Hedges: Because, leaving everything else aside, one thing is that the canopy cover is nice, but it also helps against flooding. We’ll write to Natural Resources Wales and ask what support it provides for planting individual street trees in towns and cities.

 

[62]      Next, ‘A Fair Deal for Forest Rallying in Wales’.

 

[63]      Janet Finch-Saunders: I think that NRW have met, haven’t they, with the Motor Sports Association? I think that it is for those two bodies to come together and find a way forward.

 

[64]      Mike Hedges: Yes. Perhaps we could ask Natural Resources Wales if they have reached agreement. And if they have, then we just close the petition. I would hope they would. I think, sometimes, people take some of these initial opening positions to be a final position, and I think that Natural Resources Wales perhaps started with a very optimistic or expensive opening gambit. Right. So, we’re happy with that.

 

[65]      ‘Objection to the Current Proposals for the Designation of SACs for Porpoises’.

 

[66]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Do I have to declare an interest? I’m a harbour porpoise champion.

 

[67]      Mike Hedges: You could actually tell us something about it.

 

[68]      Janet Finch-Saunders: I think, again, the response from the Cabinet Secretary is very good. It covers all the directives and everything.

 

[69]      Mike Hedges: So, are you happy to close the petition?

 

[70]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes.

 

[71]      Mike Hedges: ‘Ban Polystyrene (EPS) Fast Food and Drinks Packaging’. We last considered this on 12 July, when we decided to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs to ask for an update and emphasise the importance of collecting the relevant data. We’ve had a reply from the Cabinet Secretary. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be considered, but had not responded when the papers for this committee were finalised. Have they responded yet?

 

09:15

 

[72]      Mr Francis: No.

 

[73]      Mike Hedges: No response from that. The Minister has responded; the petitioner hasn’t come back to us. It does appear to be in the process of being resolved. Are we happy to close the petition? Yes.

 

[74]      The next one is ‘Make Political Science Compulsory in Education’. It was last considered on 24 November 2015, when they wrote to the Minister to ask whether there’s a strand of Professor Donaldson’s work relating to political science, which the petitioner could either be involved with and/or kept informed of. The Members also agreed to close the petition once the response had been received from the Minister. We’ve now received a response. The petitioner has been informed that the petition would be considered, but had not responded when papers for the committee were finalised. In light of the previous committee’s decision, are we happy to close that petition? Yes.

 

[75]      ‘To Protect the Future of Youth Music in Wales’, the petition from the Friends of Bridgend Youth Music, was considered on 16 June 2015. The committee last considered it on 12 July, when it considered correspondence from the then Minister for Education and Skills and the Welsh Local Government Association, and agreed to press the Welsh Joint Education Committee for a response to previous requests for information. In doing so, Members also wished to express their disappointment at the WJEC’s lack of response to previous correspondence. We’ve had a response from the WJEC, and an apology. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be considered today, but has not responded. Have they still not responded?

 

[76]      Ms Thomas: No.

 

[77]      Mike Hedges: Well, we’ve had a comprehensive response from the Minister, the WLGA and the WJEC. I’m not sure what else we can do. Are we happy to close it? Yes.

 

[78]      ‘Equal Access to Welsh Language’; this petition was submitted on 23 February 2016, saying the Welsh language should be as accessible as the English language. It was considered on 12 July.

 

[79]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Sorry, on this one, it’s not quite right what they’re saying here, because it says that it’s relatively easy to find a free English class and it is impossible to find a free Welsh language class. There are Welsh language classes available that you don’t have to pay for—I’ve been to them.

 

[80]      Neil McEvoy: Where?

 

[81]      Janet Finch-Saunders: In Aberconwy.

 

[82]      Neil McEvoy: Oh, right. There’s huge provision for English, but there’s very little for Welsh, in Cardiff.

 

[83]      Mike Hedges: In my experience—and you’re both talking from experience—in Communities First areas, there’s a lot of provision for things like Welsh classes, et cetera. Whether it exists outside the Communities First areas—. But there are free classes run by colleges and the university, within Swansea, for example. Also, some classes that are free are sort of means tested. So, people who are retired and/or on benefits get free access.

 

[84]      Neil McEvoy: I think the point he’s making though, as a newcomer to Wales, is that the cultural identity of the country is almost ignored. If you look at the refugee council, they don’t teach people who come here a single word of Welsh. This is the same principle, really, and I think it would be good to debate this, actually, because it’s a big issue. You know, people come from Poland, Romania, and so on, and they’re not aware of even the fact that the language exists, sometimes.

 

[85]      Mike Hedges: Well, what we can do is ask the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee to take this up with the Welsh Language Commissioner. It really does fall well within their remit, and I’m sure they’ll want to do that. Are we happy to do that?

 

[86]      Neil McEvoy: Yes.

 

[87]      Mike Hedges: We’ll close it for us, and we’ll pass it on to them.

 

[88]      ‘School Times an Hour Later’—. Well, in fact this is not true—it might be true for the area there, but I speak as a parent and my daughter’s secondary school starts at 08:50. But leaving that aside, they want school to start an hour later. It was considered on 12 July. We’ve written to the Cabinet Secretary for Education on the issue raised by the petition. We’ve had a response and a research briefing. The petitioner has submitted his further comments, which are in the papers. Any thoughts? My only thought is if it started an hour later, it would create absolutely terrible problems for parents. If their children started school at 09:30, it would cause parents a lot of problems because they tend to drop their children off on the way to work.

 

[89]      Gareth Bennett: There’s a big problem with traffic gridlock at rush hour, and a lot of it is contributed by parents taking their kids to school, though, isn’t it? So, if kids did go to school an hour later, theoretically you’d get some of the traffic off the road at peak times.

 

[90]      Neil McEvoy: The fact that he’s only 13, though, is really good.

 

[91]      Mike Hedges: Yes. So, options are to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Education to ask if consideration can be given to providing guidance to local authorities, whether the information set out in the research brief suggests that it’s an area where further research is needed, and whether Welsh Government would support such research. Are we happy to do that? Yes.

 

[92]      ‘Introduce Compulsory Mental Health Education in Secondary Schools’ is similar to the one we’ve just dealt with.

 

[93]      The next one is health, well-being and sport—‘A Full and Independent Investigation in to the Health Risks of Wireless and Mobile Phone Technologies in Wales Including All Schools’. It was submitted on 13 May 2014 having collected 11 signatures. It was considered by us on 12 July when we considered correspondence from the Minister for Health and Social Services and agreed to write to the centre for radiation, chemical and environmental hazards to ask what action they have taken following receipt of information sent to them by the Minister at the request of the previous committee. Simon Mann, the head of CRCE’s radiation dosimetry department, has now responded and his response is in the meeting’s papers. The petitioner has also submitted further comments. These are in the meeting’s papers. In addition, further information from the petitioner, which was too voluminous to publish, was sent separately to Members by e-mail. What do you want to do? I mean, we’ve sent the petitioner the CRCE’s response, haven’t we? So, shall we close the petition or can somebody think of any other action we can take? Close it? Yes.

 

[94]      ‘Give Every Child in Wales the Meningitis B Vaccine for Free’ was first considered on 12 July with 1,195 signatures. When it was considered for the first time, we sought the views of the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport. A letter was sent to the Cabinet Secretary on 27 July. A response was received on 9 August and is available. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be considered by the committee but has not responded. Have they still not responded?

 

[95]      Mr Francis: No.

 

[96]      Mike Hedges: Shall we give the petitioner another fortnight to respond? And whether we would like to consider this as an item for a debate. So, let’s get the petitioner to respond first, see what response we get and then we’ll give them an opportunity perhaps in our pre-meeting in a fortnight’s time or a month’s time as to whether we’d like to actually see this as an item from the petition we would like to take to a Plenary session. Is everybody happy with that? Yes.

 

[97]      Mike Hedges: ‘45000 Reasons Wales Needs a Dementia Strategy’ was submitted by the Alzheimer’s Society with 5,681 signatures. We considered it on 12 July. We considered it, we’ve written to the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, a letter was sent on 10 August—sorry, a response was received on 10 August and is available in the public papers. The petitioner was informed the petition would be considered by the committee but has not responded. What action do you want to take?

 

[98]      Janet Finch-Saunders: Again, the Cabinet Secretary’s response is very good, actually, and it does state on the last line that signatories of the petition will also have the opportunity to provide their views on the strategy, when it’s open for consultation. So there’s action ongoing on this. So, we can make them aware of this task and finish group and see if they’ll participate by joining the consultation, and then they can feed their concerns into that.

 

[99]      Mike Hedges: I think that having us running in parallel with the consultation would not be particularly beneficial. So, we’ll let them know about the consultation.

 

[100]   ‘The Restoration of Inpatient Beds, Minor Injuries Cover and X-Ray Unit to the Ffestiniog Memorial Hospital’—the committee considered this on 12 July and asked the new Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport for an update. A letter was sent to the Cabinet Secretary on 3 August, and a response from the Cabinet Secretary and the petitioner have been received and are available in the public papers. What do you want to do?

 

[101]   Janet Finch-Saunders: I think there needs to be some sensitivity around this one. I think they are struggling with the bed capacity there. I’m not sure whether it needs debate, but it certainly needs—. I know there’s been a lot ongoing. The older people’s commissioner has exchanged further letters. There is a lot of concern. It’s not in my area, but I’m aware of the concern about this because of the demographics of the area.

 

[102]   Mike Hedges: The petitioners have asked that we keep the petition open—

 

[103]   Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes, I think we should.

 

[104]   Mike Hedges: —and agree to write to the Minister and petitioners again later in the autumn for a progress report.

 

[105]   Janet Finch-Saunders: I think we should do, to be honest.

 

[106]   Mike Hedges: Are you happy with that? Yes.

 

[107]   Mike Hedges: ‘A Roundabout for the A477/A4075 Junction’ is from Pembroke Town Council. It was considered on 19 January and, at the meeting on 12 July, the committee considered correspondence from the then Minister for Economy, Science and Transport and the petitioner, and agreed to write to the new Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, asking for an update on the stage 4 audit and for our petitioners views to be taken into account. A letter was sent to the Cabinet Secretary on 3 August, and a response was received on 16 August. The petitioner was informed that the petition would be considered by the committee but has not responded. Have they still not responded?

 

[108]   Mr Francis: No.

 

[109]   Mike Hedges: Well, a stage 4 road safety audit was due to take place in early 2016. The audit was to inform whether any further changes are to be required in the area. The committee may wish to consider writing to the Cabinet Secretary expressing disappointment at the delay and asking for a firmer timescale—it’s not going to happen in early 2016, so asking for a date when it is going to happen. Given the undertaking to consider the matter through road safety audit and that the petitioner’s views will be taken into account, does this give sufficient grounds to close the petition? I think it does, but I think we want a date from the Minister and the process to actually have started before we close it. Are you happy with that? Once it’s under way, then we’ve got no further role, but I think we’ve got a role to pressurise until it becomes under way.

 

[110]   ‘Improvements to the Railway Provision at Kidwelly Carmarthenshire’—we first considered this on 12 July. The committee considered the petition for the first time on 12 July. A letter was sent to the Cabinet Secretary in July and a response was received in August, which is available in the public papers. The petitioner was informed the petition would be considered by the committee. Has there still been no response?

 

[111]   Mr Francis: No.

 

[112]   Mike Hedges: Are we happy with the Minister’s response?

 

[113]   Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes.

 

[114]   Mike Hedges: Yes. Can we note it, and close it down? We’ve had the Minister’s response and the petitioner hasn’t come back to us. Are we happy to close it? Yes.

 

[115]   ‘Install a Traffic Lights System at Cross Hands Roundabout’—we considered it for the first time at the last meeting. We agreed to write to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure to ask for an update on the position. We had a response on 28 August. The petitioner was informed the petition would be considered by the committee. Has there still been no response? No?

 

[116]   Mr Francis: No, I don’t think so.

 

09:30

 

[117]   Mike Hedges: Should we wait for the views of the petitioners and give them another two weeks to come back to us? Yes.

 

[118]   ‘Resurfacing of the A40 Raglan-Abergavenny Road’—considered for the first time on 12 July. We wrote to the Minister in July and the Minister has responded. In light of the Minister’s response and the correspondence received from Nick Ramsay AM, we could consider a further letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, seeking clarification on any plans to erect noise barriers where there’s still the intention to resurface this, as identified in the noise action plan 2013-2018. Shall we do that?

 

[119]   Mr Francis: Just as a little bit of background on this one—this section of the road is in the Welsh Government’s noise action plan. The Cabinet Secretary’s response to the committee doesn’t mention that plan. So, just seeking clarification—.

 

[120]   Mike Hedges: And the last one of this section, ‘End Use of Welsh Language’. It’s calling for the scrapping of ‘the compulsory expensive provision of Welsh language by public sector’. It was considered on 23 February. The committee agreed to wait for the petitioner’s views on the response of the First Minister. The committee agreed to wait for the petitioner’s views. The petitioner has now responded. What do we wish to do? We’ve got two choices. We can either write again or we can close it.

 

[121]   Neil McEvoy: I think we should close. I wasn’t here when it was accepted. In my opinion, I don’t think this should have been accepted as a petition. It’s advocating cultural genocide. I find it offensive and it’s a good example of language racism, basically. It’s not accurate, if you look at the economic benefits of the Welsh language. I don’t think that any minority should be singled out and persecuted and the whole thrust of this petition seeks to do that, really. I really don’t think it should have been discussed previously. I feel very strongly on that.

 

[122]   Mike Hedges: The good news is, Neil, that not one member of the committee was on the committee at that time and the clerk wasn’t even working for the Assembly at that time. So, we can all hold our hands up and say, ‘It wasn’t us, guv’. I suggest that we just close it.

 

[123]   Neil McEvoy: Yes.

 

[124]   Mike Hedges: Happy to close it? Yes. That takes us to the end of the early bit. We’ve got an evidence session timetabled for 10:15. Are we happy to—? What time will they be here?

 

[125]   Ms Thomas: Before 10:00.

 

[126]   Mike Hedges: If we reconvene at 10 o’clock, that will give us an hour with them. Everybody has had the research brief for the meeting. Okay, thank you very much.

 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:33 a 10:05.
The meeting adjourned between 09:33 and 10:05.

 

P-04-668 Cefnogi Sgrinio Blynyddol ar gyfer Canser yr Ofari (CA125)
P-04-668 Support Yearly Screening for Ovarian Cancer (CA125)

 

[127]   Mike Hedges: Can I first of all welcome the petitioner, Margaret Hutcheson to the meeting? I’ll ask you to make any opening remarks and in doing so, it might be helpful to explain why you submitted the petition, why you believe it is important and what outcome you would like to see occur. If you could, for the record, introduce yourself and your colleague introduce themselves as well, and, after you’ve made your opening remarks, then the Members will ask you some questions. Is that okay?

 

[128]   Ms Hutcheson: All right.

 

[129]   Mike Hedges: Okay, would you like to introduce yourselves?

 

[130]   Ms Hutcheson: My name’s Margaret Hutcheson. I’m a retired palliative care nurse.

 

[131]   Ms Chapman: My name’s Jenny Chapman and I’ve come along as moral support for Margaret.

 

[132]   Mike Hedges: Thank you.

 

[133]   Ms Hutcheson: Can I carry on?

 

[134]   Mike Hedges: Please do.

 

[135]   Ms Hutcheson: I’ve written it out, just so that I won’t forget anything. The reason I’m bringing this petition is because ovarian cancer is a silent killer and several of my nursing friends have been diagnosed with it. Two of them are chemotherapy nurses in Velindre and both said that they were never offered a CA125 blood test. Instead, they both had a late diagnosis. Seven thousand, one hundred women are diagnosed each year and 4,200 die of it.

 

[136]   The CA125 blood test has been improved, and whereas in the past roughly 41 per cent of women would be detected, the newer test can detect 86 per cent. The recent results of the United Kingdom collaborative trial of ovarian cancer screening—UKCTOCS—study suggests tumours can be detected early. To the best of my knowledge, the only awareness campaign at present is a leaflet put in general practitioner surgeries, which you’ve got, and possibly in other places I haven’t seen them. But I question how many women actually see them, because I know recently I had an appointment in my surgery and I had to really look for it, because I was told there was one there. It’s not very well set out; the symptoms are not as well set out in the surgery one as they are in the ones I’ve handed out. Anyway, by the time the symptoms become apparent, which are listed down there, it’s invariably a late diagnosis and a very poor prognosis. This has been the case with several of my friends. The symptoms in the leaflet are common in other conditions, which is why I feel that the sooner screening is set up, the more lives it could possibly save.

 

[137]   A CA125 blood test may not be perfect, but I feel it’s better than nothing, which is what we’ve got at present. There is no screening programme in Europe yet, for some reason. In Wales, we have a very poor survival rate, alongside the UK and Denmark. Wales does not have a drug cancer programme and according to a friend who is now in the terminal phase of ovarian cancer, there are few trials being offered. She also stated that treatment hasn’t changed since she stopped treating patients over 15 years ago. She used to be a chemotherapy nurse in Velindre.

 

[138]   Annie Mulholland, who recently campaigned for various things to do with ovarian cancer, died recently. She went over the border to England where she received treatment at the Royal Marsden. There she received Avastin, denied to patients in Wales, and was included in drug trials that never came to Wales, she stated. She survived for five years, whereas the sufferers I’ve met over the past two years have not been as fortunate.

 

[139]   Cancer Research Wales has financed various studies, and scientists at Bangor University had a grant to study new genetic and biological markers for cancer, with an emphasis on ovarian cancer, which is often diagnosed too late. They are hoping it will provide a tool for diagnosing it early and provide a range of new potential therapies.

 

[140]   Women are not aware of ovarian cancer. The message is not out there in the public. We used to have a well-woman clinic set up in doctors’ surgeries, but they were disbanded years ago. I just feel that if they were reintroduced they could include ovarian cancer screening and some of the tests that they would do.

 

[141]   There is a private clinic in Cardiff, which charges £200 for a CA125 test. It costs, I believe, between £20 and £25 on the NHS. I think women over 50 would be happy to pay this on a yearly basis if the Welsh NHS couldn’t afford to introduce it, because I know, at the end of the day, everything is down to funds. Women do not realise how at risk they are if they still have their ovaries in situ. A friend, a nurse, was recently told that her ovarian cancer had spread to her liver. Prior to the latest diagnosis, she was told that she would need an emergency scan, and that it was six weeks that she was going to have to wait for it. Now, this is, you know, way unacceptable. Fortunately, after two to three weeks, she was able to have it due to a cancellation.

 

[142]   At a reading of my petition in February, one of the panel mentioned his car had a yearly MOT—why can’t women? The cost of treatment far outweighs the cost of screening, in my opinion, not forgetting the cost to the patient of horrendous treatment and hospital appointments, which are never-ending. I do know this because my friend spends more time back and forth to the hospital than she does having a social life. Also, one of my nursing friends, who used to be a chemotherapy nurse, actually spent her retirement money—. She retired at 55 at the end of March and in the August she was diagnosed with between grade 3 and grade 4 ovarian cancer. She paid for Avastin out of her pension money—and it cost her a lot of money—because she wasn’t able to have it in Cardiff.

 

[143]   There are lots of other things that I’ve written in my letters, if you want to ask me questions about them. These are just some of the smaller points.

 

[144]   Ms Chapman: Are there any questions, please?

 

[145]   Mike Hedges: Any questions? Shall I start? One thing with screening, and all screenings, is that you can get false results and it can lead to concerns. What, do you think, is the likely possibility of people getting false results and being treated, or are having concerns that they shouldn’t have?

 

[146]   Ms Hutcheson: Right. Well, when they check your CA125, the cut-off point there is 35. So, if it was way above there I think then they may refer somebody on for perhaps a transvaginal scan or an ultrasound scan. I do know that a CA125 can give a false reading because you could have an infection or perhaps something else wrong, but to err on the side of caution they could do a scan.

 

[147]   Mike Hedges: Neil first and then you, Janet.

 

[148]   Neil McEvoy: I’ll come back in a bit.

 

[149]   Mike Hedges: Janet, you can go.

 

[150]   Janet Finch-Saunders: The UK national screening committee doesn’t currently recommend—

 

[151]   Ms Hutcheson: No, it doesn’t.

 

[152]   Janet Finch-Saunders: Why do you think that they are saying that they don’t recommend it?

 

[153]   Ms Hutcheson: So much money is pumped into research. They like the money coming into—I am being very cynical here—they like all the money that’s coming into research. They’ve got the results in front of them and, in fact, the BBC have said, ‘Blood test “boost” in ovarian cancer fight’, and that regular blood tests can detect 86 per cent of ovarian cancers. It’s up to them. Basically, it’s all down to funding. I know this.

 

[154]   Janet Finch-Saunders: I’m a great believer in prevention.

 

[155]   Ms Hutcheson: So am I.

 

[156]   Janet Finch-Saunders: You know, because nine times out of 10 with anything, the sooner you pick it up—

 

[157]   Ms Hutcheson: Yes, exactly.

 

[158]   Janet Finch-Saunders: —certainly for the patient, there’s a greater chance of survival.

 

[159]   Ms Hutcheson: Exactly.

 

[160]   Janet Finch-Saunders: But also, if you’re looking at resources, again, the sooner you pick something up, rather than having to deal with the aftermath—

 

[161]   Ms Hutcheson: Well, exactly. And this is my argument: you know, it’s a cheap test and it can save lives.

 

[162]   Ms Chapman: At the end of the day, I think a lot of women—and I speak for myself, personally—would be willing to pay the £25 themselves. If you were really hard up—and I discussed it with my daughter the other day—you could save £5 a week until you had the cost of the test, as long as it was made available to them on the NHS to have it for the price that the NHS pays.

 

[163]   Janet Finch-Saunders: Yes. I have to be honest with you, I think I’d feel more confident that that was available to me.

 

[164]   Ms Hutcheson: Yes. Exactly. I agree. But the thing is, you see, women are not aware of ovarian cancer, and this is the problem. The message just isn’t out there in the media. To think it’s acceptable just to put one of those in a doctor’s surgery, or it could be in supermarkets or something—get real, it’s not going to happen.

 

[165]   Ms Chapman: How many times have you been in the doctor’s surgery and you would go up and look at the board and say, ‘What’s on the board this week, then?’? It doesn’t happen.

 

[166]   Ms Hutcheson: It’s just not happening. I have phoned friends of mine who are over 50 and told them to go to their GP and ask for a test. I don’t know if you’ve read it in one of my letters, a friend of mine—. I’ve got a photograph here. There are four of us. This was my sixtieth birthday party. Two of them—Karen died at the age of 57; Jackie was diagnosed a year ago and she was grade 4, which is the highest. You know, she had no chance. She’s dying now. She knows it. It’s gone to her liver. There’s no chance. But, you know, none of them were aware of it. Even in the nursing profession they’re not aware of just how—. The fact is, if you’ve got your ovaries in situ, you are at risk. There’s no doubt about it. They say it’s familial. Well, it can be, but in all my friends’ cases it wasn’t. It wasn’t in the family; they were just diagnosed. They were just unfortunate; they were diagnosed with it.

 

[167]   Mike Hedges: Neil.

 

10:15

 

[168]   Neil McEvoy: First, I’d like to thank you for starting the petition and coming here today, because it’s certainly enlightening. I wondered if you have any idea—if you haven’t, then we will be able to find out—what the up-front cost would be to introduce screening. Have you any idea on that?

 

[169]   Ms Hutcheson: Well, like I say, the blood test is between £20 and £25.

 

[170]   Neil McEvoy: It would be good if we could write to the Minister and maybe put a figure on what the cost—

 

[171]   Mike Hedges: We’ve got the Minister coming either next time or the time after, so we will be able to ask the Minister exactly those questions.

 

[172]   Neil McEvoy: I think, ultimately, we’d save money—

 

[173]   Ms Hutcheson: Absolutely.

 

[174]   Neil McEvoy: —because you wouldn’t have the rear-guard action of trying to cure the cancers.

 

[175]   Ms Hutcheson: Exactly, but it would need to be done on a yearly basis because, you know, I don’t know if they have done enough research into finding out how—. I know that one of the girls that I meet up with—she’s another nurse—had been part of the UKCTOCS study. Then they stopped screening her, and, about a year later, she presented with a lump and went to a GP. Unfortunately, the GP did a CA125 straight away and found that she did have it, but it had spread. This is the problem. I don’t know what the figures are of how quickly it spreads. Perhaps they don’t know; I don’t know.

 

[176]   Neil McEvoy: One thing that I’d like as well is maybe your permission to reproduce this footage and package a video to put out on social media, if that would be okay.

 

[177]   Ms Chapman: That would be good.

 

[178]   Ms Hutcheson: Okay, yes.

 

[179]   Neil McEvoy: Okay, we can do that.

 

[180]   Ms Hutcheson: But one of my friends as well—Jackie, who’s very ill at the moment—. When she told me her diagnosis—she has got two daughters in their 40s—I suggested that she get her daughters to go to their GPs and ask for a CA125. It’s written in my letter. The one daughter went to her GP, and the GP said, ‘Well, your mother’s got to die of something.’ Now, that was appalling. The GP wouldn’t do the CA125 on her and said, ‘You can have it done privately.’ So, Yvonne went to Spire and they said, ‘Oh, well, we can’t do it because we haven’t had a GP referral letter’. So, then she had to go back to the GP. This is so unacceptable.

 

[181]   Then, her other daughter, who is a bit younger, went to her GP. The GP did a CA125. It was raised to 55, so they sent her for a scan. So, you know, different GPs. This is what’s frightening. I think a lot of GPs are not really—. Not many GPs actually see a case of this. Sometimes, in their whole working life, they’ll see perhaps two. But, you see, most of these are diagnosed in accident and emergency departments. You know, they go there, with trauma, in a crisis. I know that has happened because I know somebody who was dead within a year with it. So, you know—. I suppose I’ve come across too many people with it. I think this is why I’m quite concerned.

 

[182]   Ms Chapman: I suppose the point is that, once they’ve reached the point where they are able to be diagnosed, it is too late.

 

[183]   Ms Hutcheson: It’s too late, and it’s spread.

 

[184]   Ms Chapman: That’s the frightening thing.

 

[185]   Ms Hutcheson: That’s what’s so awful about it, yes.

 

[186]   Ms Chapman: Maybe one option to offer GPs if cost is an issue to them is that they send a standard letter out to all women over 50, inviting them to the surgery to have the test done and just saying, ‘You can have the test done at your own cost, which is £20 or £25’. Even if the surgery subsidised it and paid half, and the patient paid half—that’s another way around it.

 

[187]   Ms Hutcheson: I think women would be able to afford between £20 and £25, but they’d have to have a letter inviting them because, as I say, they don’t know about it. You never see television programmes about it. Breast cancer is just—. Obviously, there are so many more people diagnosed with breast cancer. But, over the years, because so much money has been spent on research and treatment, and since Herceptin was prescribed, they have a much better prognosis, whereas ovarian cancer women don’t. That’s the frightening part about it.

 

[188]   Mike Hedges: Anyone else?

 

[189]   Gareth Bennett: What did the—? You mentioned the well women’s clinics that they used to have in GP surgeries. What services did they provide?

 

[190]   Ms Hutcheson: I’m not too sure. I suppose things like gynaecological ones, the pill. I suppose a lot of women years ago went to—. And HRT. Those kinds of things.

 

[191]   Gareth Bennett: So, there never was a situation where they would have had these scans?

 

[192]   Ms Hutcheson: No, not for ovarian—. Not to my knowledge.

 

[193]   Ms Chapman: They do smears and that sort of thing, and they do pelvic examinations.

 

[194]   Ms Hutcheson: They did, actually, yes; I think they did quite a lot of things.

 

[195]   Ms Chapman: So they could have picked up if there was inflammation within the pelvis. If somebody had ovarian cancer, then they could quite possibly have picked up that maybe there was a mass there, and sent them for a scan. But that was—you know, that would have been better than nothing. At least women were being examined.

 

[196]   Ms Hutcheson: They were looked at.

 

[197]   Ms Chapman: And looked at, yes.

 

[198]   Gareth Bennett: I think that, obviously, this is a major area of concern, but, as you pointed out yourself, a lot of it is what can be afforded.

 

[199]   Ms Hutcheson: I know; I don’t understand it.

 

[200]   Gareth Bennett: So, the more—. There’s been a kind of understanding here that there may be a possibility that, if you take early action, the costs are actually smaller in the long run, but, of course, the more facts and figures we get on that, or the relevant Minister gets, then the better the case we can make.

 

[201]   Ms Chapman: When you look at the costs of whatever it costs to provide the cancer treatments, the scans, I know, cost hundreds of pounds; in-patient treatment when they’re admitted at the end—you know, towards the end, it’s going to be huge.

 

[202]   Gareth Bennett: Do we have any total kind of—? Does any organisation have any total figures or projections for this kind of thing?

 

[203]   Ms Hutcheson: You’d have to get that really from Velindre, which is where they get treated.

 

[204]   Ms Chapman: It’s going to be vastly more than £25. You’re looking at thousands probably—the cost of the drugs alone.

 

[205]   Janet Finch-Saunders: In terms of statistics, how far behind other parts of the UK are we here?

 

[206]   Ms Hutcheson: Well, they say Wales has the worst outcome for cancer and heart disease.

 

[207]   Janet Finch-Saunders: So higher morbidity rates because of—

 

[208]   Ms Hutcheson: Yes. I don’t know why.

 

[209]   Janet Finch-Saunders: Have we got figures for that?

 

[210]   Ms Hutcheson: I’m sure there must be figures, because they’ve stated that on many occasions—that Wales really are behind. Denmark are pretty poor as well.

 

[211]   Janet Finch-Saunders: You’ve raised some awareness in me, because I have to confess that I always thought the smear picked up—

 

[212]   Ms Hutcheson: I know; women do, but it doesn’t.

 

[213]   Janet Finch-Saunders: You get your result—fine.

 

[214]   Ms Hutcheson: I know; I know, and it doesn’t. It doesn’t. The smear is for cervical cancer. This is just completely hidden; it’s a silent killer, and nothing’s being done about it, really. How many women were aware of the UKCTOCS report? Only the ones who were actually on the study. Everybody else wouldn’t have known. When I first spoke to Kath, you weren’t aware, were you? So, you see—.

 

[215]   Janet Finch-Saunders: It’s quite scary, really.

 

[216]   Ms Hutcheson: It’s quite frightening.

 

[217]   Janet Finch-Saunders: So, how can we now, as a Petitions Committee, look to further some more work on this?

 

[218]   Mike Hedges: We’re going to get the Minister in. I’ve been now told that it’s the next meeting; I knew it was one of the next two meetings—it’s the next meeting. We’ve had this information from Margaret Hutcheson today and it’s an opportunity then for using that information when we question the Minister next week—in a fortnight’s time. I’ve got a couple of questions as well that I’d like to ask. You’ve said that the results and survival rates are better in Europe. Do you know why?

 

[219]   Ms Hutcheson: No. I’ve been on the internet to find out why, because they don’t have screening, but I think they’re referred a lot earlier for things. I don’t think they have to wait around for scans like they do here. So, I think there are different reasons why—

 

[220]   Janet Finch-Saunders: It could be lifestyle.