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Programme for Government

October 5, 2011 9:48 PM
By Peter Black
Originally published by Peter Black and South Wales West Liberal Democrats

Peter Black: I move amendments 3 and 4 in my name.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats support the thrust of this motion, particularly its focus on the economy as part of the programme for government. We are a little taken aback, however, that Plaid Cymru should be asking for that, given that it led the economic portfolio under the previous Government and, in fact, took three years to come up with an economic strategy. Hopefully, this Government will not equal that record in terms of how long we have to wait for its strategy.

However, the One Wales Government at least had targets, even if it missed some of them, particularly in relation to affordable housing. [Interruption.] The affordable housing targets were clearly missed by the previous Government. The programme for government does not include targets or figures; that would not be so bad had the First Minister not already promised that it would. We now find ourselves with a roadmap in the age of the satnav-this document has no compass.

It would be a strange Government indeed that would not want to see things improve. We therefore want to know today by how much this Government is aiming to improve them. For example, how many apprenticeships will there ultimately be? How many hours of education does it want young people on community sentences to receive, and how many visitors to national museum sites does it want to see? It is all very well to say that it will look at these things, but watching them decrease or rise slowly is simply not good enough. Everyone knows that people make the best progress when they have a firm target to aim for. Is the Government simply sick of missing its own targets?

The programme for government commits to continue the funding for certain schemes. Has the Government assessed the success and effectiveness of these schemes, or is it continuing to throw good money after bad? When we come to measure the success of the Government, we have to look at the outcomes, which is what the targets would measure. We do not always want to compare outcomes with England, but there are some apt comparisons that need to be looked at. Wales has the lowest results of the UK nations in the Programme for International Student Assessment, for example-its score fell last year. We are not making any progress on education, regardless of any comparison with England. Literacy and numeracy in Wales are worse than in England.

Waiting times are longer here than they are in England. English patients can access a greater range of drugs on the NHS, particularly cancer drugs, which we debated earlier. Wales built fewer homes as a percentage than the other UK nations; just 918 homes were built in the first quarter of 2011, compared with 1,120 in the first quarter of 2010. Wales has not adopted new technology to screen for bowel cancer, whereas England has allocated £60 million to roll out screening. Homes in Wales are less environmentally friendly than those in England, and the gap is widening. The average efficiency rating of a Welsh home is 81.7 out of 100, compared to 82.4 in England.

The Government has not provided any indication of the steps that it will take to improve things in Wales. The programme for government includes a lot of 'reform', 'evaluate' and 'continuing to', but there are no concrete, measurable targets to which we can hold the Government to account. Without those targets, this is not so much a programme for government as a waste of paper.