The evidence provided by the Natural Resources and Food department was late, often contradictory and far from transparent. As a committee, we were unable to scrutinise properly due to the quality of the evidence.The Minister’s budget included a number of basic errors, such as referring to schemes and policy areas that have ceased to exist. While this is embarrassing and shows a lack of competence, far more worrying was the level of financial management evident in the department as a whole.
The Minister seemed unable to give sufficient information on a large range of issues, resorting instead to partisan hectoring and references to the Westminster government. Evidence that he did give was often contradictory to what his officials had to say. That just isn’t good enough.
Perhaps if the Minister spent more time treating his position with the professionalism and respect it deserves, rather than engaging in tribal politics, some of these serious concerns might not have arisen.
Thousands of pounds' worth of funding has been announced in a bid to keep communities across Wales tidy.
The £943,833 sum will support 75 projects as part of the 'Tidy Towns' initiative, helping tackle issues including vandalism, littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling.
The money will also be used to transform wasteland across Wales into communal areas, such as nature reserves or community gardens.
It is really important that we all feel proud of where we live. However, problems such as fly tipping, dog fouling and littering can have a negative impact on the lives of residents and affect the way we feel about our local communities.
I am therefore delighted to approve funding for 75 projects across the country that will help tackle such problems head on and improve the local environments of people living in Welsh cities, towns and villages.
The Welsh Assembly has voted to regulate farm workers' wages after the UK Government last month ended controls for England and Wales. The legislation was rushed through the Senedd this week under emergency procedures that enabled it to be passed before AMs began their summer recess.
The decision to introduce this Bill with such urgency was not one we took lightly. However, swift and decisive action was necessary to ensure we are able to provide continuous support to our agricultural sector beyond 1 October 2013. By preserving the provisions of the 2012 Agricultural Wages Order in Wales we are providing continuity of a statutory regime that is well-known and respected by the sector; a regime that acknowledges the distinctiveness of Welsh agriculture, supports skill development and encourages new entrants into the industry.
This is a significant moment in the history of our Assembly as for the first time in the history of this body we have used emergency procedures to bring forward a Bill. Agriculture is a fundamental part of Wales’s economy, identity and rural heritage. I am very pleased that we have passed a Bill that will strengthen our agricultural industry and protect our rural communities
– Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies AM
The bill will not become law until the Queen has given Royal Assent. The Assembly Government must first wait to see if the UK Government decides to ask the Supreme Court if the legislation essentially an agricultural measure and so within the Assembly's competence.
If it was seen as employment legislation it could be struck down as being outside the powers granted to the Assembly by Westminster.
Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies has replied to farmers leaders who criticised him in an open letter. They said he was not offering the same financial help as in other parts of the UK to Welsh farmers hit by last month's snow.
He has told them that 'short term subsidies' are not the answer and that there are issues of fairness and affordability.
I will consider bringing forward a proportion of ... Farm Payments, particularly for those who have been hardest hit to date by the weather ... I am willing to keep other possible measures under review, while the evidence of the precise nature and extent of the problems you describe becomes clearer ... But you – as the industry’s leaders – must also understand that many other parts of the economy within Wales (and indeed other parts of agriculture) have suffered from the effects of the weather over the last 12 months, and more generally in the global downturn of recent years.
There is a real matter of fairness and affordability here. It is also hard to see how repeated demands for short-term subsidies support the process of change necessary for farming businesses to meet the increasing challenges of the global marketplace. We need solutions for Welsh agriculture that are sustainable - in every sense.
– Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies AM
Mr Davies said he fully appreciated the impact of the snow on both animal and human welfare, and had every sympathy with those who have suffered losses. He will meet the the main banks to discuss what help they can provide. He also wants a further meeting with the farmers' leaders themselves.
In short, I am standing shoulder to shoulder with the wider farming community in helping move Welsh agriculture through the current difficulties.
Leanne Wood has fought the Rhondda before, twice standing for Westminster. During her 1997 election campaign, she was pictured with Plaid Cymru's candidate in neighbouring Cynon Valley, Alun Davies. He's now Labour AM for Blaenau Gwent and has just become a cabinet minister.
Carwyn Jones has completed his cabinet reshuffle with the appointment of Alun Davies as Natural Resources and Food Minister. He steps up from the deputy rural affairs portfolio to take over from his old boss John Griffiths, with responsibility for the environment.
No-one has left the cabinet but two have joined it, meaning there will be fewer deputy ministers as the total size of the government is limited by law. The two new faces have come to the top table by very different routes.
Mark Drakeford was a defeated Labour candidate in 1999 and served Rhodri Morgan as a special adviser. Alun Davies is a former Plaid Cymru parliamentary candidate who changed parties to become a regional AM before successfully taking on the task of winning back Blaenau Gwent at the last election.