Present (via Teams)
- Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (Chair)
- Rebecca Evans MS
- Vaughan Gething MS
- Lesley Griffiths MS
- Julie James MS
- Eluned Morgan MS
- Jeremy Miles MS
- Ken Skates MS
- Kirsty Williams MS
- Jane Hutt MS
- Hannah Blythyn MS
- Julie Morgan MS
- Dafydd Elis Thomas MS
- Lee Waters MS
- Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
- Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
- Carys Evans, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister
- Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
- Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
- Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
- Dan Butler, Special Adviser
- Ian Butler, Special Adviser
- Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
- Sara Faye, Special Adviser
- Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser
- Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
- Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
- Gareth Williams, Special Adviser
- Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
- Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
- Jonathan Scourfield, Specialist Policy Adviser
- Dewi Knight, Specialist Policy Adviser
- Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services
- Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health
- Andrew Slade, Director General ESNR
- Reg Kilpatrick, Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Coordination
- Frank Atherton, CMO
- Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health
- Simon Brindle, Director Recovery and Restart
- Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
- Dylan Hughes, First Legislative Counsel
- Tom Smithson, Deputy Director Restart
- Liz Lalley, Deputy Director Recovery
- John Howells, Director Climate Change Energy and Planning
- Graham Craig, Carbon Budget Policy Manager
- Neil Buffin, Senior Lawyer
- Peter Jones, CMO’s office
- Cathy Weatherup, CMO’s office
- Ffion Thomas, CMO’s office
- Duncan Hamer, Deputy Director Business
- Jo Trott, Head of COVID-19 team
- Christopher Stevens, Restart Social Policy
- Nia Lewis, Restart Economy Policy
Item 1: Minutes of the previous meeting
1.1 Cymeradwyodd y Cabinet gofnodion y 11 Ionawr / Cabinet approved the minutes of 11 January.
Item 2: Senedd business
2.1 Cabinet considered the Plenary forward schedule and noted that 2 emergency questions had been tabled: one about the vaccination figures for the over 80s and the second on the flooding caused by Storm Christoph.
Item 3: 3 week review of COVID-19 Regulations
3.1 The First Minister introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to discuss and agree an approach to the review of the Coronavirus Restrictions (No.5) Regulations, which was due by 28th January.
3.2 Ministers were reminded that the restrictions relating to COVID-19 were for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence, spread of infection or contamination. There must be a threat to public health and the restrictions had to be proportionate in what they were intending to achieve. There was a requirement that the Welsh Government should review these restrictions every 3 weeks.
3.3 The First Minister invited the CMO to provide the latest advice in respect of the transmission of the virus and the impact on the NHS.
3.4 Community transmission rates across Wales had fallen since 8th January and the 7 day average was around 228 in every 100,000 of the population. The positivity rate was around 15%. Only Pembrokeshire and Anglesey were now reporting increased cases, but this was from a low base.
3.5 The precise impact of the new variant, which could be up to 70% more likely to be transmitted, was still being researched. However, it was likely that the variant would be associated with high incidence rates, particularly in the South. It was noted that vaccine coverage was steadily increasing.
3.6 In terms of hospital capacity, the Chief Executive of the NHS reported that there were 2,700 confirmed, suspected or recovering COVID-19 patients occupying beds. Of these there were 1,400 confirmed cases.
3.7 Cabinet agreed that, as indicators remained high across Wales and the capacity of the NHS was a matter of concern the country should remain at Alert Level 4 until the next review on 18th February. It would be important to ensure that in announcing this decision it was made clear that there would be a need for a sustained and significant improvement in transmission rates before the restrictions on businesses could be lifted. It was noted that the financial package to support business was available for the current financial year.
3.8 Ministers also agreed, for the reasons outlined within the paper, that 2 individuals from 2 different households should be able to exercise outdoors, providing they maintained social distancing. This was in line with guidelines in the Scotland and England. In addition, adults living alone and households with a single responsible adult would be able to reform their support bubble arrangements, providing a period of 10 days had elapsed before forming a new one.
3.9 Furthermore, Cabinet agreed that standalone automatic car washes should be allowed to open, alongside those next to petrol stations and garages that were currently open.
3.10 Ministers discussed a proposed approach to reinstating face to face education. It was the government’s principle that schools should be the last to close and the first to open and it was recognised that the current restrictions went beyond the requirements of Alert Level 4.
3.11 There would be further modelling later that week to assess the impact of the new variant and to ascertain the level of headroom required to re-open schools.
3.12 Ministers also noted the position on elections as outlined in the paper.
3.13 Cabinet agreed that officials would need to take into account the decisions made by ministers in relation to the proposals within the paper.
Item 4: Low Carbon Delivery Plan: Climate Change Targets
4.1 The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to legislate for climate change targets and carbon budgets for Wales in line with the recommendations made by the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC).
4.2 On the 17th December, the CCC issued 2 important documents in terms of decarbonisation in Wales. The Committee published a report on Welsh progress to date and released detailed sector by sector advice on the areas for carbon reduction throughout the 2020s and to 2050, while setting out their view on Welsh Government targets and a recommended path to meet the Net Zero ambition.
4.3 The CCC had concluded that net-zero was possible for Wales by 2050. However, this would require substantial increases to the intervening targets and the need for front loading of actions in the next 15 years.
4.4 Much of this action would depend on the UK government, including its approach to Carbon Capture and Storage in South Wales, as this was new technology, not yet proven on a commercial scale. It would also require significant investment, most of which the CCC believed would be derived from the private sector.
4.5 However, the required changes could also bring advantages. The CCC highlighted benefits to air quality, health and biodiversity. Across the economy as a whole, the long term savings in fuel costs would largely offset the cost of the transition and could stimulate tens of thousands of jobs.
4.6 Cabinet welcomed the paper and reaffirmed its ambition to pursue a net zero goal in response to the Climate Emergency. It was agreed that the government should legislate in March in line with the CCC’s recommendations as outlined within the paper.
4.7 It would be important to set such a target in advance of the next Climate Change Conference (COP26) which was being held in Glasgow in November, as it demonstrated Wales’ responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act and as a global leader in decarbonisation.
4.8 Cabinet approved the paper.