Posted: Thu 17th Oct 2019

FMQs: Labour accused of broken promises on GP access and Pacer trains

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 17th, 2019

The below a summary of this week’s First Minister Questions session from Cardiff Bay via our partnership with ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Broken promises on GP access? ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E.& Dinefwr) called back to a 2011 Labour manifesto commitment to make GP surgeries more accessible to working people. Extending GP opening hours was meant to have been achieved by the end of 2013, but: ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In terms of core hours….last year showed a decline in the numbers of GP practices even being able to offer that within three health boards….Another aspect of your commitment focused on extending the availability of appointments prior to 08:30. No progress has been made on that, as almost four-fifths of surgeries are not offering appointments before 08:30, and when it comes to evening appointments, not one surgery within Cardiff and Vale, Cwm Taf or Abertawe Bro Morgannwg health boards were open after 18:30 last year, and only 1% of surgeries within Betsi Cadwaladr.”
– Adam Price AM ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister said several trials were run on extended hours, but their use fell below expectations and there was no justification for the extra expense committed to that. He accepted that the service doesn’t operate at a level the Welsh Government would like, but it was a result of discussions with GPs. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In response to Adam Price asking for investment in more GPs, the First Minister disagreed with a “one-eyed focus” on GPs as it didn’t reflect how primary care services were delivered – though the number of filled GP training places is at the “highest (level) it has ever been”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Broken promises on trains? ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.), pointed to recent surveys of rail passenger satisfaction a year since Transport for Wales and Keolis Amey took over the rail franchise. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In the last week, it’s been confirmed that “Pacers” won’t be completely withdrawn by the end of 2019 as originally promised, while there are reports of some trains “not even bothering to stop” at some stations and rampant overcrowding. When was the Welsh public finally going to see a “train service fit for the 21st Century?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister told AMs that Transport for Wales have been unable to obtain the trains they wanted as quickly as they wanted, but repeated that improvements are expected when the new timetable is introduced in December. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“….there will be a 10% increase in capacity for service users from 15th December, there will be 200 additional Sunday services here in Wales – which is a 45% increase on current rates – and of course we want to see that new, modern accessible rolling stock made available here in Wales.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West) ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Illegal referendums and prison ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The first question on the situation in Catalonia came from an unexpected direction and probably not for the reasons you would’ve expected either. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) asked – in light of the imprisonment of Catalan political leaders by Spain – about the Welsh Government’s position on judicial judgements, drawing comparisons with their outspoken support for Supreme Court verdicts relating to Brexit. He also found it extraordinary that people were expecting the EU to intervene when Catalan independence is as welcome to them as the Brexit. He also had eyes on Scotland: ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Others think they (the SNP) should hold a second referendum without a second section 30 order from the UK Government. Ultimately, if a Scottish Government were to seek to hold such an illegal referendum or perhaps a future Welsh Government, isn’t prison for contempt ultimately our last line of constitutional defence?”
– Mark Reckless AM ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister believed Mark Reckless was stretching arguments beyond all recognition. He was reluctant to discuss non-devolved matters, but it was concerning that democratically-elected politicians have been imprisoned for going about their responsibilities peacefully. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

It was no surprise that many AMs look to the EU for protection in certain areas as “our membership of the EU that we enjoy today so many of those rights that otherwise would not have been afforded to us.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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