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Evidence Session—P-04-522 Asbestos in Schools

Evidence Session—P-04-522 Asbestos in Schools

 

[80]      William Powell: Bore da a chroeso cynnes iawn i Cenric Clement-Evans.

 

[81]      William Powell: Good morning and a very warm welcome to Cenric Clement-Evans.

 

[82]      William Powell: We move, together, to agenda item 4, our evidence session on petition P-04-522, ‘Asbestos in Schools’, and a review of petitions, which we’ll also come to later on. My colleagues will recall that this petition was submitted by Cenric Clement-Evans and was first considered on 10 December 2013, and has the support of 448 signatures. Cenric, if I could ask you to introduce yourself for the levels and also, maybe, to make a brief opening statement, if you wish.

 

[83]      Mr Clement-Evans: Yn gyntaf, a gaf i ddweud cwpl o eiriau yn Gymraeg? Rwy’n ddiolchgar iawn i’r pwyllgor am yr amser rydych chi wedi’i roi i’r ddeiseb ac am ystyried hyn dros fisoedd. Roeddwn am ddweud cwpl o eiriau yn Gymraeg i ddechrau; byddaf i’n troi at y Saesneg. Rwy’n un o Lerpwl, fel y mae rhai ohonoch yn gwybod, felly heb gael addysg drwy gyfrwng Cymraeg, ond mae addysg yn bwysig iawn i mi.

 

Mr Clement-Evans: First of all, can I say a couple of words in Welsh? I’m very grateful to the committee for the time you have put aside to look at this petition, and for considering it over a number of months. I wanted to say a couple of words in Welsh to start with; I will, then, switch to English. I’m from Liverpool, as you may know, so I haven’t had Welsh-medium education, but education is very important to me.

10:00

 

[84]      So, I’d just like to say thank you very much again for hearing the petition and considering it over what are now very, very many months.

 

[85]      To introduce myself, I am a lawyer, a personal injury lawyer, and I’ve specialised throughout my career in workplace injuries, including industrial disease. What drew my attention to this in the first place was acting for a lady diagnosed with mesothelioma who was a school cleaner. She was a lady with limited educational ability and in fact had gone to a school that was a special needs school. The only place that she could have been exposed, or mainly, would have been in the schools where she had either gone as a pupil or then worked later on. I got to hear about the work that Michael Lees did, who was campaigning in the UK on the issue of asbestos in schools. Michael had lost his wife to mesothelioma some 15 years ago. This was about the time I joined my present law firm, NewLaw Solicitors, when the all-party parliamentary group in Westminster produced a booklet on asbestos in schools, and reading it, it became clear to me that actually it was very English-centric, which is not a criticism of the booklet, but that’s as these things are. So my journey then started with me writing to my Assembly Member to ask, arising from what was said in the booklet—that 75 per cent of our schools in Britain contained asbestos—my question, which my Assembly Member put to the Minister, and which was: ‘How many schools in Wales contain asbestos?’ The answer then came back that, effectively, this isn’t a matter for Welsh Government, which, as someone who campaigns on behalf of injured people, sort of spurred me on a little bit, because I see that this is an area where, actually, unusually for what I do, I can help shape the future and prevent people being exposed to asbestos needlessly in the generations to come.

 

[86]      So, that’s effectively, Chair, why I’ve ended up here, and from that and from discussions, the ‘Right to Know’ petition was born. As you’re aware, it was a call, really, for accessible information for guardians and parents of schoolchildren, but also others who work in schools—with easy access and central access. As a lawyer dealing with industrial disease, I’m all too familiar with documents disappearing over the years. That’s what’s happened, and indeed one benefit, if we had a central database in Wales, as we look at changes with regard to local authorities, and reductions, and possibilities of the ebb and flow of schools, with closures and openings, is that that documentation and information could be retained, which would help people in the future should they sadly find themselves faced with a diagnosis of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a cancer, usually of the lining of the lung, but also of the abdomen as well, and it is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos, and in comparative terms, lower dosages of asbestos compared to other asbestos diseases. So, the petition asked for the questions to be asked: ‘Is there asbestos in the school?’ and ‘Is it being managed in accordance with the control of asbestos regulations?’ And it also asked for access to that information online.

 

[87]      As the petition was being considered, I then became involved in the Asbestos in Schools group in the UK, and I also became an observer member of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee. That has given me access to more and more information. I don’t pretend to be an expert, as such, but I have gained considerable knowledge.

 

[88]      But, in addition to being a lawyer—and some used the term ‘campaigning lawyer’—I am also a father. I am chair of a parent and teachers association of a Welsh-medium high school in Cardiff. I am also a chair of a junior football club and I’m also a husband. So, my kids are going through school and my wife works on supply as a teaching assistant, which takes her through many different schools in the Cardiff area, as it happens. So, I look at it from different angles as well.

 

[89]      The issue, with regard to what is being asked for in the petition, is that there is this lack of agreement between the UK Government and Welsh Government as to who is responsible for policy with regard to asbestos in schools. I can evidence that with responses that have been given in both places—in Westminster and, indeed, here in Wales. During the course of this journey, as you know, Chair, I have called for a steering group, similar to that set up by the Department for Education in England, to be set up in Wales. I’m more concerned, always, about going forward and what happens in the future. I do have, and I’ll be able to give the committee a copy of this, a reply from the chair of the Asbestos in Schools steering group, which I received only yesterday, which is why the committee hasn’t seen it.

 

[90]      For me, Chair, ultimately, I don’t care who is responsible for the issue of asbestos in schools in Wales, as long as someone takes responsibility. The position at the present time is that the Department for Education say, in short, that it is a matter for Welsh Government. Welsh Government say that it’s not a matter for us because it’s a matter of health and safety. Somewhere in between, into a devolutionary crack, schools in Wales are falling. 

 

[91]      I would urge Welsh Government, if their position is correct, that, actually, what they ought to be saying to UK Government, by whatever means, which are well beyond my knowledge, is, ‘You need to do something about it’, and I don’t see that. So, that’s by way of an introduction, and I will try and help the committee as much as I can, but I do have the e-mail, which I can read. I put questions, which were late to the committee on 22 September, to the chair of the steering group and he’s come back to me, as I say, yesterday.

 

[92]      William Powell: Excellent. Mr Clement-Evans, thank you very much for joining us this morning and for those opening remarks. You’ve always been an assiduous petitioner in attending our sessions and monitoring the progress of the petition that you’ve brought.

 

[93]      Before I go any further, I should declare something of an interest: I’m a member of Powys County Council and, in the context of that, I’m an LEA governor both of a secondary school and my local primary school, and I have had some engagement with issues around asbestos, asbestos management and the disclosure of the presence of asbestos in that context. So, I should make that clear just now. Also, I’d like to kick off with a first line of questioning, which is: what level of demand is there currently, in your experience, from parents to have more information as to the presence of asbestos in schools, and what is the evidence for that?

 

[94]      Mr Clement-Evans: That is a very good question. I don’t have an answer to that, because, as far as I’m aware, no-one’s asked that question. But, of course, if you are unaware of the presence of asbestos, then you’re not going to ask about its presence. Indeed, there are certainly surveys carried out by the National Union of Teachers, asking about teacher awareness. You’d expect those who respond to an NUT survey to be fairly active people within that union. The level of awareness, again, is comparatively low. So, I don’t answer the question, but one of the things that I have been doing is raising awareness and the media has supported that. But, on almost a daily basis, Chair, I tweet for the Joint Union Asbestos Committee. I’m the main person doing that. There is, almost on a daily basis, some story in the news in the UK with regard to asbestos in schools. You may be aware that there was an issue, leading, I think, to the closure of classrooms in schools in Stoke, either yesterday or the day before yesterday, and one sees parents’ reactions in the media reporting of these stories.

 

[95]      William Powell: Yes, absolutely. At my own party’s federal conference, I had some engagement with NUT on this very issue, and I know it was a matter of great concern to them and, indeed, to my former union, the Association of Teacher and Lecturers, when I was active in the profession. One more question from me before I open it up to colleagues, and that is: in what way would you like to see the Welsh Government making information available to parents on the levels of asbestos in schools in Wales?

 

[96]      Mr Clement-Evans: Well, I think the first thing, going forward, is to have it available online. Now, I know there are issues about accessing things online, as we saw reported in the media only yesterday, with the lack of knowledge in Wales with regard to the ability to use digital services. Nevertheless, that’s what one would be looking for, so that you have the information there and easily accessible. That would, no doubt, help, for instance, the emergency services, and there’s a duty upon stakeholders to have information under the control of asbestos regulations available for the emergency services so that, when they go to, for instance, in particular you think in terms of fires, it’s very, very easily available for them. That would be an offshoot of this, but, yes, online in due course.

 

[97]      William Powell: That’s helpful. Russell George.

 

[98]      Russell George: Thank you, Chair. I just wondered how you would suggest this obstacle might be overcome. Some people might think that it might cause undue concern amongst parents, if a letter comes home saying that there’s asbestos in the school. People perhaps don’t understand all the circumstances, and just the headline itself could cause undue concern. So, how would you suggest that that’s overcome?

 

[99]      Mr Clement-Evans: That’s a very, very difficult one, because I always get—well, I don’t always get it, but I have had the question as to whether I’m scaremongering. I’m very, very careful to avoid overstating the risk of mesothelioma. You don’t want everybody running scared. Mesothelioma is a really horrible, painful way to die, and that’s not something that one would overstate in the campaign.

 

10:15

 

[100]   You talk about asbestos and its risks. I mean, it’s a very difficult one, isn’t it? I mean, for years, I guess, society has grappled with tobacco and the effects, and, increasingly, the message has been ramped up as to the effects of it. So, I don’t think there’s an easy answer. It is easy, I know, for people to levy at me the charge of, ‘Well, you’re a lawyer, and you’re overstating these things for your own benefit’. And I hope that people look at the media work that I have done over the last couple of years, look at the papers that you have seen presented by me, and see that I don’t overstate it. We’ll always have the media, potentially, overstating it, for their own purposes, but I’m very careful of that.

 

[101]   Russell George: From what I can see, and from what you’re saying, it is that parents should have the choice, and have the information presented to them.

 

[102]   Mr Clement-Evans: Yes.

 

[103]   Russell George: I understand that.

 

[104]   Mr Clement-Evans: One of the difficulties as well, in terms of, ultimately, if someone’s in a situation where they are faced with this diagnosis and seeking compensation, you are looking at, very often, an exposure that took place 30, 40, even 50 years ago, and there is actually no awareness of the exposure at all. So, forensically—I’m not sure whether that’s answering the point—but, forensically, it’s quite painstaking trying to just tease out of someone how they might have been exposed, at a point in time where you have to be incredibly sensitive. You’re going in and you’re speaking to people, with their families, at a really awful time. At the same time, you are having to act quickly to try and get information, to take it to other places to get information.

 

[105]   I’ve probably gone off the point a little bit, but it’s about having that awareness. I mean, I discovered, to my surprise, last summer—because I was asked to do an interview on it—that, as a student in Aberystwyth, I spent three years in Pantycelyn, and they were asking me questions about that, because, apparently, there was asbestos to be found in those halls. Well, of course, I was blissfully unaware of that. I got up to all sorts of things, which, I, clearly, wasn’t prepared to discuss on the radio, as a student. You know, I was asked whether I’d taken a drill around, and, I have to say, I could deny that one, but, you know. [Laughter.]

 

[106]   Russell George: Thank you.

 

[107]   William Powell: Thank you. Joyce Watson.

 

[108]   Joyce Watson: You’ve talked about the steering group and the fact that you’ve been engaging with it. And I’ve read your papers, and you suggest that we ought to have such a steering group in Wales, if I remember it rightly. But the Minister says that that would only duplicate the efforts that are currently happening. Now, what is your view on that?

 

[109]   Mr Clement-Evans: My view—well, is this a potent moment to read from the e-mail that I’ve received, and then I can pass it to you, and I can also—

 

[110]   William Powell: That would be timely. Please do so; we have time.

 

[111]   Mr Clement-Evans: Just to clarify this first of all, I’d asked him the following questions:

 

[112]   ‘Can you confirm for avoidance of doubt that the work of the Steering Group is ongoing?’,

 

[113]   because there was a suggestion from the Minister that it wasn’t, and so I wanted just to be clear. Then I said,

 

[114]   ‘Have there been representations been to the Steering Group’—

 

[115]   —apologies for my English—

 

[116]   ‘on behalf of schools in Wales (other than of course reference to issues arising from Cwmcarn High School)’,

 

[117]   which I knew had been referred. And I’ve never sat on it, and I never attended, by the way.

 

[118]   ‘Does the remit of the Department for Education Asbestos in Schools Steering Group include schools throughout the UK or is it limited to schools in England only?

 

[119]   ‘If the remit of the group is limited to schools in England, could that be broadened to include schools in Wales?

 

[120]   ‘If so what would be required to enable this to happen, including presumably specific input from those with specific knowledge of the education system in Wales.’

 

[121]   Now, I hope you agree that those were open questions and careful questions. As is acknowledged in my e-mail, I had met him very briefly at what was the retirement of Michael Lees, and he just basically said to me, ‘Can you write to me?’, and that’s what I did. So, his response was yesterday:

 

[122]   ‘I can confirm that the work of the Asbestos in Schools Steering Group is ongoing.

 

[123]   ‘The Department for Education’s remit is for schools in England. As such, the Asbestos in Schools Steering Group, which was set up by the department in 2012, only covers the issue of asbestos management in schools in England.

 

[124]   ‘The remit of the committee means it has not received specific representations on behalf of schools in Wales, though as you suggest references to schools in Wales will have been made in the course of its discussions.

 

[125]   ‘Focussing on schools in England enables the group to consider the specific issues faced by English schools, which exist in a different policy framework to those in Wales. I would therefore suggest it is right that the remit of the Steering Group is to consider schools in England.

 

[126]   ‘Clearly, however, many of the issues that schools encounter with regard to asbestos management in Wales will be similar as those faced by schools in England. We are therefore happy to work with the Welsh Government to share the findings of the group as their work continues.’

 

[127]   So, an introduction to my response would be this: I am not an expert on the education system in Wales, but I am aware that there are differences and, indeed, evolving differences, as devolution continues to evolve generally. My main concern, certainly at this time, is that the Department for Education steering group meets, but has no representation from Wales. So, that would make me very, very uncomfortable that there is no specific representation from Wales. And, I, throughout my career, have gone around banging many drums with regard to Wales. I’m on the executive committee of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. They’re now aware that Wales exists. Similarly, that’s why I speak at the Joint Union Asbestos Committee; I put a Welsh perspective, the Asbestos in Schools group the same, and I’ve given Welsh updates at the all-party parliamentary group on occupational health as well. And it’s that lack of representation that would really concern me. Ideally, I would want the Minister to have the best advice available from those in education in Wales, hence my suggestion. And I’m picking up from some of the letters that were sent by this committee in the summer of 2014 to Wales TUC, to Governors Wales—I know that there was no response from the Welsh Local Government Association, as far as I’m aware—but also asbestos experts, so there is a Welsh angle. If there was Welsh representation on what is, I guess, an unelected body in itself, I suppose I’d be more comforted, but I think, ultimately, if we believe in devolution, then the place to have the steering group is in Wales.

 

[128]   Joyce Watson: So, you feel very strongly that there should be Welsh representation on that. So, that’s one thing. Let’s assume we had that. What do you think would be the advantage? Do you think that there are, for example, issues specific to Wales that might not be considered by this steering group?

 

[129]   Mr Clement-Evans: I’m afraid I cannot answer that question, but that almost is to roll back devolution into the bottle, isn’t it, I think, as we remind ourselves, celebrating—or not celebrating, but remembering—Tryweryn where the people of Wales were represented by Members of Parliament who voted against the drowning of a village for water for my home city, as it happens. So, I can’t answer that in any other way, I’m afraid. It just seems self-evident that Welsh education is different. There are bound to be differences.

 

[130]   Joyce Watson: Okay. Finally from me, what do you think a Wales-specific policy could look like? Have you, in terms of the subject—and we’re talking here about asbestos in schools—. Or have you not got that far?

 

[131]   Mr Clement-Evans: I haven’t got that far because I am a lone voice who has been trying to get the commitment for there to be a policy with regard to Wales. Now, I have had a lot of support from many groups. If you look at the Right to Know website you will see logos, certainly from many trade unions in Wales, and significantly Wales Trades Union Congress, and also many charity groups, and support from colleagues in England for the work that I’m doing. So, I don’t think it would be for me to do that. I think that there are more important people in Wales who would be able to define that policy.

 

[132]   Joyce Watson: Finally from me, the Minister has said continually—and this is really the hub of it all, isn’t it—that the HSE, the Health and Safety Executive, are ultimately responsible in Wales. We’ve got a paper that tells us how they look at the risk protection and all that underpins that. I suppose what we’re trying to do here, because we will move forward with this, is make some recommendations in that area. So, are you concerned that the HSE are not taking this seriously, or are you concerned that—? This is what we need to draw out.

 

[133]   Mr Clement-Evans: I understand that question. In simple terms, there has been a complaint made, as I have said in papers previously, to the parliamentary ombudsman with regard to the HSE investigation into Cwmcarn. It is oft repeated that asbestos is safe unless it is disturbed. Well, first of all, it may be trite for me to say this but, unless you know where it is, you don’t know if you are disturbing it. It’s a little more complex than that that the experts would tell us. What I would commend to you is the policy of Caerphilly County Borough Council, who have put in place a process of removing asbestos from areas where children can come into contact with the asbestos. One of the things that was appalling to learn with regard to Cwmcarn was that kids, not misbehaving, were able to scrape asbestos insulation boards with their chairs and desks in their normal everyday behaviour. Again, the evidence—. I am not an asbestos expert but I am told that the asbestos fibres are released by the banging of doors—I can take you to some information but it would probably take too much time—and the closing of windows. I have a 15 year old, which is a challenge to me, I have to say, as he’s doing his GCSEs; he will often slam and bang his way around the house, particularly if he’s challenged as to how much work he’s doing at home. So, schools are unique places in that they contain children. Most of us like to think that we behave in a certain way as adults, but kids are kids—which probably hasn’t quite answered the question. You’ve asked about the HSE. There is a difference of opinion, but then I guess you might say, well, there’s always a range of expert opinions. But, certainly, Caerphilly borough council took the action it did on the basis of two opinions, which were contrary to that of the HSE, ultimately.

 

10:30

 

[134]   Bethan Jenkins: I think what we’re trying to get at, as you know from having watched us, is that HSE will say that it has power over regulation and the policy will be from Welsh Government, but then Welsh Government are saying, ‘No, it’s HSE’s responsibility’. So, I suppose what we’re trying to ask is: what do you think would be a way forward for us to try and ensure that a body of government takes responsibility for this action? Because how it reads to me now is that the Minister is waiting for the UK Government’s reporting and committee steering group to progress and to potentially emulate or to adapt what they are doing. Is that how you see it? Do you know if the Minister has given any evidence to the English committee steering group, so that we can at least then be assured that he is putting some input into the whole process? For me, I agree with you, if it’s not going to include Welsh voices, if Wales are not going to be around the table, then how are we to say that those policies will be able to be adapted for Wales if we’ve had no representation on it?

 

[135]   Mr Clement-Evans: I would very much doubt that the Minister—. The steering group is a group of experts who meet on a regular basis and inform, ultimately, the Department for Education as to policy, and I think that’s its purpose. I don’t think that the steering group has ever taken evidence, but I could be wrong on that. What has happened with regard to evidence is that the Education Select Committee heard evidence—I believe that was in about April 2013—from the then Minister for schools, if I have the title correct, David Laws MP, at that time, it also heard from the HSE, and it also heard from the epidemiologist, Julian Peto, it heard from Julie Winn, on behalf of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, and Michael Lees, and there may, forgive me, have been another. So, that’s the evidence that I’m aware that’s been given.

 

[136]   There have been statements, as I’ve said, in early 2014, to questions asked by Lord Wigley in the House of Lords and also Hywel Williams MP. What Baroness Randerson, as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales at the Wales Office, said on 14 January 2014 was this:

 

[137]   ‘The Health and Safety Executive has responsibility for regulations and guidance as it applies to the management and control of asbestos in all workplaces in Great Britain, including schools. However, within this framework, the development of policies for the management and control of asbestos in schools is a matter for the Welsh Government.’

 

[138]   She then referred to the report by the Committee on Carcinogenicity, which was commissioned, she said, by the Department of Education:

 

[139]   ‘The report was a statement on the vulnerability of children to asbestos and made no recommendations; however, in England, the Department for Education is undertaking a review of its policy on asbestos management in schools. It is for the Welsh Government to decide whether they wish to review any policies as a result of the report.’

 

[140]   I’m not aware of any policy. No-one has come back and said that there is one. But, forgive me, I have raised this issue and pointed out that there appears to be this disconnect. I would be astonished if the Minister was waiting for me to give him a way forward. I would really hope that I’ve made this fairly clear over a period of time. Whether it is resolved by there being agreement—. It appears that this disconnect is because nobody is actually talking to each other and saying, ‘This is the position’. England is saying, ‘Wales, it’s up to you’, and Wales is saying, ‘No, it’s nothing to do with us’. They can carry on doing that forever and a day, but that’s not going to get us anywhere. I don’t know how to get people to talk. I have certainly spoken to politicians from all parties, elected both in Wales and in England, but I’m no further forward.

 

[141]   Bethan Jenkins: I think that’s the key though, isn’t it? I think that’s why you’re asking about the steering group for Wales because, for me, we can’t wait for England to progress their work without us having our own unique take on what is happening here in Wales. It is frustrating, on behalf of the committee and myself, that nobody will take responsibility. So, I think, following on from today, I’d like to see that we can try and get to the end of this conversation—

 

[142]   Mr Clement-Evans: Absolutely.

 

[143]   Bethan Jenkins: —so that we can have—I would support that call for a Welsh committee—so that we can move this forward for the benefit of the people of Wales.

 

[144]   Mr Clement-Evans: If I can respond as well. We’ve taken, and I have taken, an awful lot of this committee’s time in going around in a very large circle and giving you lots of information, and I’m sure that you’re grateful for the long papers that I send you, but actually it’s not dealing with the core issue.

 

[145]   If I had my computer open, I could—. Julian Peto, and I’m probably going to paraphrase it slightly, and he hates this—this was evidence he gave in the transcript—and I’m not sure he likes it being used, but he says something to the effect that it is what the children are breathing that matters; everything else is hot air. I’m sure that every one of us in this room agrees with this because that’s what we have to do going forward. If, ultimately, Welsh Government take responsibility for policy and are content with the guidance of the HSE, that is a different debate; that is a different argument altogether, but we’re not getting to that.

 

[146]   William Powell: Joyce, one point from you and then we will draw things to a conclusion.

 

[147]   Joyce Watson: Only to say that it isn’t entirely true to say that nobody’s taking responsibility for the issue. But, moving on from that, it’s about clarity as to how that’s moving forward. As I understand it, that is what you’re calling for, so that we know how it’s moving forward.

 

[148]   We know that there is responsibility placed on the HSE. We know that there is guidance that’s been issued from the Welsh Government about asbestos management in schools. We know all those things are happening. What we need to move forward, as I understand it, is a clear path that satisfies both those organisations, that is the Government, the elected organisation, and the HSE, and that’s the way that I understand it. But I just wanted to say that it isn’t entirely true to say that nobody is taking responsibility for asbestos in schools. It might be a muddled picture and it might need clarity according to the petition.

 

[149]   William Powell: Diolch yn fawr iawn am ddod ac am y sesiwn ddiddorol y bore yma.

 

William Powell: Thank you very much for coming to the committee and for the interesting session this morning.

 

[150]   I think it’s been an extremely useful session and you’ve brought some really solid evidence, particularly the most recent e-mail exchange that you shared with us this morning, Cenric, that we will be able to take forward when we’ve got a confirmed date with the Minister for education to take this matter forward. We’re also grateful to you for agreeing to contribute your thoughts shortly regarding the wider petitions process. I think it would be fair to say that you’ve not entirely convinced us, despite your protestations, that you’re not something of an expert in terms of the field of asbestos, because if you’re not then I don’t quite know who is.

 

[151]   Mr Clement-Evans: I’m a lawyer. Can I take a moment for a plug? This is relevant to the committee, in that there is a cross-party group on asbestos this evening, after your Plenary session. So, if any of you are available, you would be very welcome. We have an agenda that I’m hoping is more than just asbestos in schools, but actually relates to how we approach asbestos for the future, including treatment and research issues, and I’m hoping that we start something rolling. So, I apologise for the plug, but as it’s relevant to the four of you—in fact, I withdraw the apology. [Laughter.]  

 

[152]   William Powell: Thank you very much indeed. We’re about to move to agenda item 5, which will involve my calling on the motion under Standing Order 17.42. But, first of all, I would assure you as lead petitioner on this that we will be considering today’s evidence at a future meeting, and also that a transcript will be provided for you of today’s session for your records also.

 

[153]   I would also wish to say, before we move to private session, that today is the last meeting, before she goes on maternity leave, of our colleague, Kayleigh Driscoll, who is briefly not in the room at the moment, but will re-join us shortly. She’s been an absolute rock in terms of the support as Deputy Clerk for the petitions process in this place for the last several years, and we wish her well for the time to come. I look forward to her re-joining us very shortly, but I wanted that to be put on the record, and I’m sure colleagues would agree with that.