Welsh Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 131

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 6 November 2012

Members present:

David T.C. Davies (Chair)

Guto Bebb

Glyn Davies

Mrs Siân James

Mr Mark Williams

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Elfyn Llwyd MP, gave evidence.

Chair: Good morning, Mr Llwyd.

Mr Llwyd: Good morning.

Q445 Chair: Thank you very much indeed for coming along. Diolch yn fawr iawn am ddod heddiw. We all know each other quite well, so perhaps I could just begin by asking you about accurate figures on the number of veterans in Wales. We have heard quite a few differing estimates. Do you have any thoughts yourself on this?

Mr Llwyd: Yes, Chairman. First, thank you very much for changing the dates to accommodate me due to my knee surgery. Secondly, I am very pleased that you are looking at this area of policy.

Estimates suggest that roughly 5 million exservice people reside in the UK, and I would say that there are something in the region of 250,000 in Wales. Arguments still persist as to how many are involved in the criminal justice system. I tabled a question for the then Minister of State back in 2008, asking precisely what the figures were. It came out that in 2001 they had scoped and it was 6%; in 2003 it was 4%; and in 2004 it was 5%. There has been an argument, as you well know, about that. The Home Office in 2001-2 recorded that roughly 6% of inmates were veterans.

Q446 Chair: So between 4% and 6% would be a fair figure to use.

Mr Llwyd: I am afraid I don’t accept that and I will explain why. A survey by the MOD in 2007 estimated that in one prison alone-Dartmoor-it was 17.5%. So, together with the National Association of Probation Officers, we did a scoping exercise and we found that it was nearer 10%. Since then the MOD and MoJ, largely due to pressure from the union and myself, have scoped and they have come back with a figure of roughly 6%.

Unfortunately, those figures are not reliable. I don’t wish to be offensive so I will say why. First, they did not include people who had served in Northern Ireland, people under 21 and, crucially, women. Finally, and you may think very importantly, they did not include reservists, of whom very many serve, as you well know, in Afghanistan and did serve in Iraq. I would say the figure is nearer 10% than 6%. Whatever the figure is, it is quite a large proportion and I am very concerned that the whole approach is rather disjointed. It depends really on which regiment you were in, whether your senior officers were interested in you on discharge and so on.

It may assist the Committee, Chairman, to know that yesterday I received figures from the House of Commons Library, which said that there were 3,112 prisoners on the prison estate in Wales, and, as you well know, prisoners from north and mid-Wales are very often incarcerated in Manchester, Shrewsbury, Liverpool and occasionally Preston, so I would say you can add a further 1,000 to that. My best guess in terms of prisoners from Wales in the estate is about 4,000 to 4,500.

Q447 Chair: Although, to be fair, some of the prisoners in Wales may come from England because there are some specialist prisons like the one at Usk.

Mr Llwyd: Yes, there are. It is unfortunate that we have to do this guesswork because it really is such a crucial matter, and it is vitally important to determine the accurate figure in order to look to providing proper services for them.

Q448 Chair: You mentioned the possibility of veterans’ courts, similar to the ones in the United States, I believe. What would you see as the main advantage? Also, do you not think there is a danger that if we had a special veterans’ court it could be seen as giving special treatment to people?

Mr Llwyd: Precisely. I went to America with the Howard League two years ago. As I departed, I had misgivings about going to the veterans’ court. This was a court set up in Buffalo, New York State, by a judge called J.G. Russell. The whole point of the exercise was that other courts could refer veterans to his court to be dealt with. Typically, they were people who were facing 12 to 18 months in prison. The whole point is that they are given a mentor, but they have to appear before the court every three weeks; they have to prove that they are off drugs and alcohol and that they are actually in work, and so on. After completion of a period of maybe 12 or 18 months, they come before the court. I witnessed two of them actually finishing their course that day; they were given a scroll-a medal-and, crucially, they went into employment. The other point is that any reference to the offence was scrapped, so it was treated as if it never happened.

That approach was poohpoohed by other courts in the US, but now it has become part of the mainstream thinking. Judge Russell started it and there are now plans for 30 other courts throughout the United States dealing with this.

I take your point, Chairman. Equality before the law is vital. That is an important point, but this is not giving favourable treatment, in my view. It is giving people specialist treatment because of the special needs they might have. If I could just say one other thing, Mr Davies, the reoffending rate is a phenomenal 0%.

Q449 Chair: This may be an unfair question because your speciality is criminal law and not human rights law, but do you know if it would even be possible in the United Kingdom, under the current human rights legislation that we have, to have a separate court for dealing with a separate category of people?

Mr Llwyd: It is not a separate court; it is a separate means of disposal, because they are actually charged before whichever court it might be. That court will decide. Even federal courts in the States now refer to the Buffalo court and to similar courts. But I take your point. Equality before the law is vital, but I would argue that these people, having been through what they have been through, are a category at special risk.

Q450 Mrs James: Just following up on that, Mr Llwyd, previously with another Committee, I visited specialist courts in New York. There is a specialist court in Red Hook in New York, which looks at repeat offenders and petty offenders, and it is very successful. We already have specialist courts in Britain-for domestic violence, for example-and we know that they can work. Would we really be saying, and is what you are suggesting, that putting this in place has such benefits that it is very worth while our doing it?

Mr Llwyd: I sincerely believe that, because, as I say, over three years it was found that the reoffending rate was 0%, and that is incredibly good-it can’t be better, obviously. I have given all the information to the Ministry of Justice, and a Minister has been considering it. He is not in place at the moment, alas, but he did look favourably upon it and he could see the benefits. Clearly we are now in a position where funds are short, but I really would hope, when funds permit, that we will be looking at a veterans’ court, not to give special treatment but to deal with-

Mrs James: Continuity.

Mr Llwyd: A certain disposal, thereby saving the state a huge amount of money, avoiding reoffending and incarceration and so on, and the social rupture of breakdown families.

Q451 Mrs James: It is the fact that they see the same judge every time; there is continuity and the judge can recognise that they are moving forward, because they already live chaotic lives so there is the chaos of going to a different court.

Mr Llwyd: Yes, that is precisely the point, together with the fact that they are mentored very closely by an exvet, so they speak the same language. The bond seems to grow between them, and the accused then feels, "Well, I can’t let my mentor down, nor do I want to let the court down because they are spending time on me and I want to come out of this at the right end." That is what happens in the States, and I believe, if we set it up properly-it will be labour-intensive; I have no doubt about that-it will avoid social rupture, further people going into prison and the revolving door syndrome.

Q452 Mrs James: Coming back to resettlement provision by the Ministry of Defence, we have heard a lot from other witnesses about lack of support from the Ministry of Defence. Do you have any concerns about their current resettlement programme?

Mr Llwyd: I have grave concerns about it because it really depends on which regiment you are with, it depends crucially on how long you have served and it depends on whether your commanding officer is at all interested. I do believe that it’s a very patchy situation. There are some regiments that deal with it carefully and there are others that don’t bother at all; they just hand out a few leaflets and that’s that.

My view is that we need to be looking at a standard procedure throughout the services, throughout the regiments, so that people are properly assessed and assisted months before the actual day of discharge occurs. I know it is a cliché, but we spend six months training these people up to the highest levels before they go into combat. We need to spend a few months decompressing them, getting them back into civvy street, because the evidence that we have now is that so many are disjointed, without a home to go to, from broken families. There is alcohol abuse. They can’t even look after their personal finances. I am not speaking in a denigratory manner about them; it is just a fact of life. For example, when I visited Llanelli, SSAFA told me that 60% of their inquiries were to do with money management. These people, obviously, don’t have to look at bill paying and so on.

There is a huge amount of good will out there. There are in fact between 3,000 and 4,000 charities. You may question the validity of that and whether we need fewer doing specialist matters, but my view is that we need to ensure that the MOD pass everybody through a two or three-month period of resettlement, whatever it might be, but a proper period, to avoid what we are seeing on the streets now.

Q453 Mrs James: The Committee has visited Veterans First Point in Scotland, which is doing outstanding work in this area. Do you think that we should be doing this in Wales and who do you think should be responsible for it?

Mr Llwyd: I do think we should be doing it in Wales. I have read about the Edinburgh project. It seems to me to be a common-sense thing to do, quite frankly. The Welsh Government, together with the MOD, should jointly fund it. Defence is a reserved matter. I would put it simplistically: these people have very often been damaged due to service in the armed forces, or they have lived disjointed lives and are not able to take a full part back in civvy street. I would argue it is a joint responsibility and I am disappointed that hitherto the Ministry of Defence did not contribute to any of this work currently being done in Wales. I think it should be done jointly as a matter of common sense.

Q454 Mr Williams: To carry that further, and elaborating on responsibility, what are your expectations of the development of community covenants across Wales? Six local authorities have introduced them and another six are in the process of introducing them. How satisfied are you that that is going to really deliver, society’s responsibility back to those veterans? We have heard a lot of good words in this place-the Armed Forces Bill-but in the end it is practicalities on the ground, isn’t it?

Mr Llwyd: Yes, it is, and to that end I tabled several amendments to the Armed Forces Bill to clarify what exactly was expected under the covenant, but unfortunately they were not successful. But in any event I take your point. Local authorities are doing their best, but what it needs is-I wouldn’t say pressure-continued input from the political field, to ensure that these things are being kept up, and that every authority will adopt a proactive positive approach towards the needs that service people present with. To answer your question, it is patchy so far, but it is moving forward.

I can also say that, together with other colleagues, I have persuaded a clearing bank in Wales to offer a suite of financial services designed for exservice people. There will be an announcement in the new year. It will be rolled out in Wales, and if it succeeds it will be rolled out UK-wide. That is another string to the bow, as it were. But what we need to do now is to inquire of all our local authorities what is being done and what is being offered under the covenant and ask, "Do you think you could improve on it?"

Q455 Mr Williams: We could add to that mix Government agencies, DWP specifically, and the health boards.

Mr Llwyd: Yes, absolutely.

Q456 Glyn Davies: Good morning, Mr Llwyd. One of the issues we so often read about with the armed forces, particularly while they are serving and after they have left the armed forces, is the pressure of the job on their personal behaviour and the likelihood of an alcohol and drug culture, first of all while they are serving. How real do you think that is?

Mr Llwyd: I think it is a massive problem. It is what is known in medical parlance as selfmedication, which is anything but selfmedication actually because you are putting off the evil day. I can’t imagine what people who are suffering as a result of service are going through, quite honestly. I don’t know how I would react either, so I am not sitting here in judgment. But it is a massive problem-a huge problem. I know that the MOD said recently that it has improved, but I do not accept that, I am afraid, because it is so endemic within the services. It has been for generations and still is.

A paper was published earlier this year by Dr Ian Palmer of the Medical Assessment Programme, Kings College, London, based on his clinical findings, albeit of a small cohort of 150 veterans, and 80% of those presented with severe or moderate alcohol problems. This is a small study but it is current. I cannot see how the situation has improved and I don’t know what figures the MOD would use to say it has improved anyway, because as far as I know there hasn’t been any research done.

Q457 Glyn Davies: What support do you think can be given to improve the situation?

Mr Llwyd: Coming back, Mr Davies, to what I was saying earlier, maybe these things should be tackled a couple of months before discharge. If a person presents with an alcohol problem, they should be dealt with on discharge or probably before that if possible, but at least the provision should be there for them as soon as they are discharged so that immediate action is taken. I say this with respect, but I do believe that the MOD are in denial about this problem. They are also in denial, I am afraid, about the incidence of PTSD and other complaints that some people present with. This is, I am afraid, just another example of being in denial about the whole issue.

It is all very well some of the MOD people saying, "Well, people served in the second world war and did this, and they coped perfectly well." That may well be and thank God that they did. The problem now is that these young people spend a few months at home, then go off on a tour of duty for six months, come back for a short while, then go off for another six months and so on. It is a rapid return and that, in my view, is creating more problems.

Q458 Chair: We have had the MOD in, obviously, in the course of this inquiry-you may have seen the transcripts. They would flatly deny that; they would say that they absolutely do recognise that alcohol and stress are both problems and that they are doing a lot about it. They have talked about two schemes they have set up. One is to get members of the armed forces talking to each other. I forget what it was called. It had one of these funny acronyms, but it was about talking it over with your mates if you feel that you’ve got a problem with things that you may have seen whilst serving. They also said that they have started educating people a lot more about alcohol misuse. What is your response to that?

Mr Llwyd: I am delighted that it’s happening. I read the transcript and I could see that the whole idea of speaking with your peers about problems that have encompassed a group is very sensible because they are speaking the same language. It is no use me, as a person who has never served in the armed forces, having a word with a person who has problems, because I do not speak their language; therefore I do not get into their world, but if they speak to their peers it is a very good thing. Clearly, if that work is now being done with regard to alcohol, then I am delighted. I hope it will be done extensively and that it will bear fruit, because currently we are looking at a very serious problem.

Q459 Glyn Davies: Can I move to the issue of mental health issues affecting veterans? Again, over the years we have read all sorts of reports-even after quite a long delay-about exmilitary personnel suffering from mental health problems. How much of an issue do you think this is? How well do you think we are dealing with these issues and what value is the All Wales Veterans Health and Wellbeing Service, as I think it’s called? What help has that provided in Wales?

Mr Llwyd: To answer your last point first, it is a very good initiative. It is early days yet. It is very well meant and it is going to be extremely helpful, but it is too early to provide a detailed assessment. But it is going in the right direction and it is becoming more and more well known throughout Wales, so that is a very good thing. Hopefully, it will bear fruit as we go along. As I say, it is rather early yet.

With regard to the mental health issue, when I was on the Howard League panel we interviewed several senior members of the military, some of whom were psychiatrists. They reckoned that, in terms of mental health problems, the British military who had served would perhaps present with 3% to 4% of people suffering from those kinds of things. In the United States it is 33%. There is a huge vacuum between those figures. I am just giving you the bald figures; I do not know what the situation is. I suspect that the United States have had to come to terms earlier with these traumas than is the case here; for example, because of the fallout from the Vietnam war, where they had to get up to speed and provide a veterans’ department and so on.

Whatever the figure is, it is quite substantial, but it is sometimes misleading just to say PTSD. PTSD is one of dozens of things that can occur. You have people who are unable to sleep and people who have terrible flashbacks. You have clinical depression and other kinds of depression. You have various complaints that arise, but it is all very convenient to label them under the umbrella of PTSD, which is misleading because PTSD, for example, can show itself in the first month or it can take 12 years to develop. That is where we are on that one.

To answer your question, the Murrison report is a very useful document produced by this Government, and the four recommendations are very helpful indeed. Briefly, it talks about structural mental health systems that we need to put in place; trial of an online early intervention service, which they want to see happening; an uplift in the number of mental health professionals conducting veterans outreach from Mental Health Trusts, in partnership with a leading mental health charity; and, finally, a vets information service to be deployed 12 months after a person leaves the armed forces. That is very useful, and it is echoed by some recommendations from the Health and Wellbeing Committee of the National Assembly as well, so that hopefully the all Wales service will now be further beefed up.

Q460 Glyn Davies: Is there anything beyond that? You have pretty well answered the question I was going to ask you. What improvements are we going to see in the way we deal with this issue?

Mr Llwyd: For example, GPs need to be brought up to speed about how to identify and deal with it. There is a very good referral service in The Heath in Cardiff, which deals with the whole of Wales, but in reality it is referrals from mid-Wales down to south Wales. That has just been given further finance for the current year. It is doing a lot of very valuable work. There is a clinic in north Wales also dedicated to this area of problems, so that is important. One of the problems we have there, by the way, is that when military people join up they are deregistered from their GP practice, and that needs to be addressed. The other point is that the MOD are not happy about giving their medical notes to GPs because of some data protection problem. That needs to be cleared up because a GP who receives a patient who has been serving should have all the necessary information in his or her hand to assist the patient. Those two problems need to be put right in order to improve the service.

The Welsh Government has made it a priority to ensure that people with PTSD are given timely interventions and that there are effective treatments for it. There is a need for increased capacity, which they are now looking at. The Health and Wellbeing Committee in the last Assembly did a very valuable job. The Murrison report is an excellent document as well. Read both together and we can really improve matters.

Chair: That is a very good point. By the way the acronym was TRiM. I cheated a bit; I had to look it up. Trauma risk management was the title.

Mr Llwyd: Right.

Q461 Guto Bebb: I have a quick supplementary to the questions that were asked by Mr Davies. The services in north Wales are improving. There is a recognition that there is a need for those services in north Wales, but isn’t it the case that mental health services in north Wales in general are often seen as an afterthought by the health service because of the pressures it is currently facing?

Mr Llwyd: I’m afraid that’s right. From my experience we are a bit behind generally on mental health in north Wales and it needs addressing. One sadness I have is that years ago we had a dedicated clinic in Llandudno-in your constituency. I referred to the possibility that the MOD are in denial; I went to see a Cabinet Minister who was then the Secretary of State for Defence and said, "Is there any opportunity of getting some funding for this clinic in north Wales so that we can carry on with it?" He gave me a wry grin and said, "I’m very sorry, I take your point, but it’s a health matter." Less than a year after that he became Secretary of State for Health. I went to see him and he grinned and said, "It’s a defence matter." Now that centre is closed. That really is disgraceful, to be honest.

Q462 Guto Bebb: The second point I make in terms of north Wales is that you have mentioned the fact that there are services offered from The Heath, but obviously The Heath is a very long way away from north Wales. To what extent do you think that we should be trying to deliver crossborder services in this area of work, especially in view of the very high recruitment rate from north Wales counties?

Mr Llwyd: We could do that of course, because there are clinics in the northwest where I meet people from the northwest, and they are fairly well covered. I see no reason why we can’t have crossborder arrangements, to be honest-no reason at all. There is some good work now going ahead in north Wales in terms of clinics, but it is also a very difficult situation because very often exmilitary do not want to admit that they have a problem; they feel they might be letting their families down or the regiment down and so on. Some people will not, until the eleventh hour, present at all for any help, so we need to look at early intervention and early diagnosis-even before they leave the services too-to be able to take them along a pathway. Giving people leaflets is no use because they will not read them; they will throw them away. They have left the services and that’s that. Onetoone discussion over a period of weeks and getting a service ready for the person when they leave the services is the way forward.

Q463 Chair: One of the criticisms I have heard of inquiries such as this is that we are looking at people who already have a problem, so there is perhaps a tendency, it has been suggested, to over-exaggerate the size of the problem. A lot of people in the army at all levels are keen to say that this is a problem but it affects only a minority of people, and we should try and remember that. Is that a sentiment with which you would have some sympathy, Mr Llwyd?

Mr Llwyd: No. This again comes under the general heading of denial, I am afraid. It is a very big issue. I would say, Chairman, that it is going to become an even bigger issue.

Q464 Chair: But as a percentage of the overall number of people concerned?

Mr Llwyd: Indeed. Yes, of course, I agree, but for all the individuals it is a very serious matter.

Chair: Absolutely.

Mr Llwyd: Actually, for society as well because I think-

Q465 Chair: I completely agree with that. The point they were making was that we mustn’t try to suggest that all people who serve in the armed forces are likely to come out with some form of post-traumatic stress disorder or have behavioural problems.

Mr Llwyd: No, I agree.

Q466 Chair: The vast majority are not going to be affected in that way at all.

Mr Llwyd: I agree entirely, but there will be, none the less, a significant percentage, and if the military covenant means anything, we should be really getting up to speed to assist those people. But I take your point, of course, that the vast majority will leave without any trauma; that is agreed. There is a sizeable minority, however, who will unfortunately present. They will, in my view, increase as the years go by, because I mentioned problems taking between a month and 12 years to develop. By the time we have the full fallout from Iraq one and two and Afghanistan, we will have a massive problem five years hence. I hope I’m wrong but I think we will have it.

Q467 Jonathan Edwards: As you know, Mr Llwyd, the MOD and the third sector are working to put together a network of residential rehabilitation centres, mostly located around barracks, where barracks are currently located. In the case of Welsh veterans of course, that would mean returning across the border. During the inquiry we have heard quite compelling evidence, I feel, that there should be a facility of this sort located within Wales so that veterans can receive treatment nearer their homes. Do you agree with those sentiments?

Mr Llwyd: Yes, I do, and I would be delighted to see it happen; there may be one, in Carmarthenshire for example, perhaps to serve the whole of Wales. But, yes, I do agree. I know there has been a discussion about it in Carmarthen; that is why I mentioned it. There is a property in Carmarthenshire that is being looked at now to see whether it can happen. But I will say this: let us be very careful about this issue, because there was a similar centre not so long ago in the northeast run by a lady by the name of Mandy Bostwick, who is a highly qualified practitioner. Unfortunately, NHS funding was not available, people were not referring, and that centre has already folded up. We must not fall into that particular trap.

If we are serious about dealing with the problem, yes, we do need a centre because it is not a matter of being able to deal with it on an outpatient basis very often. In a severe case, it means having to stay six weeks or more. I have a friend who was a vicar in the military, and has gone down with PTSD. He will be required to spend six weeks in a centre in Derbyshire in order to try and deal with it. So, yes, we do need a dedicated centre.

I keep stressing-I take the Chairman’s point-that it will be a minority of those serving but it is a sizeable minority. We owe it to them to make sure that we look after them properly. It is possible. According to my research, better people than me say it is possible to treat successfully 99% of those who present with PTSD. Other traumas are very often slightly easier to deal with, so we can put these things right. We have the will; let’s really get on and do it.

Q468 Jonathan Edwards: The Welsh Local Government Minister for Communities, Carl Sargeant, has just been appointed Armed Forces Minister in the Welsh Government, responsible for coordinating activity in relation to veterans across the Welsh Government. Is this something that you welcome?

Mr Llwyd: Yes, I do. I have also argued that there should be an appointment here in London. There should be a Cabinet Office Minister with a crosscutting remit across all vital Departments, to ensure that veterans’ affairs are adequately dealt with. It would not cost the earth, it would be sensible, and I hope that at some point in the future there will be that appointment because it is important.

Q469 Jonathan Edwards: The current Armed Forces Minister in the UK Government is located in the MOD. Do you think that is an issue and it should be transferred to the Cabinet Office?

Mr Llwyd: No, I don’t. He has to stay where he is, but I think we need a dedicated Minister to deal with veterans’ affairs, and that appointment should properly sit within the Cabinet Office in order to look across all Departments, where relevant, to ensure that there is a suite of services available for this particular cohort.

Q470 Jonathan Edwards: Looking at provision across the countries of the United Kingdom, do you think we are doing things better in Wales or worse?

Mr Llwyd: We are doing rather well because the first thing you need to do is recognise the problem. The problem has been recognised and we are looking now at solutions. I think we are doing quite well, the Scots are doing quite well, and, if the Murrison report is adopted, our friends in England will be doing well too. We are getting there. When I first started banging the drum in 2007, I was one of very few voices on this particular issue, but now it is becoming a live issue. It has become, as you well know, a manifesto. It was a manifesto issue for all our parties at the last election and we are now beginning to deliver on it, but it needs further coordination and a great deal of concentration, and mad things like people not commissioning and sending people to be dealt with need to be swept away. If the need is there, then the money must follow it to have these people dealt with in good time.

Q471 Jonathan Edwards: The nature of the devolution settlement means that some aspects of veterans’ care, such as health, are devolved, yet issues like criminal justice are reserved. Do you think that creates an issue?

Mr Llwyd: Yes. I would say that anyway, wouldn’t I, but given where we are at the moment, it does create some complexity. My disappointment is that the Welsh Government have put together a mental health wellbeing project in Wales and asked the MOD to contribute something less than £50,000 towards it. There has been just rejection-nothing at all. "Will not assist." That is not helpful because, as I tried to say earlier on, it is a joint problem in effect because these people came to be damaged as the result of a reserved matter, not because of any devolved matters. I really think that is not helpful and I hope that as we go along we refer to the covenant. One of the messages that we should be sending home is that we need proper coordination across Whitehall and also the Welsh Government. They need to be cooperating on this.

Q472 Guto Bebb: On the point about lack of cooperation from the Ministry of Defence, why do you think that they were willing to fund the centre in Edinburgh, which we visited, but they are unwilling to play a role in relation to the Welsh Government’s proposals?

Mr Llwyd: I don’t know-in a word.

Guto Bebb: I’m just asking.

Mr Llwyd: I have no evidence to assess one way or the other, but the Edinburgh project is slightly different from the Welsh project. The Welsh project is about diagnosis and the medical side, whereas the other one was the very good idea of a onestop shop. Who knows? If we apply for a onestop shop in Wales, maybe they will assist us, and if that were the case it would be very helpful. I don’t know what else. I won’t blather-I don’t know.

Guto Bebb: That’s fine.

Q473 Chair: Mr Llwyd, one of the concerns some people have is over the number of charities and whether they are all as effective as they might be. Do you have any concerns in that department, and do you see an argument for some form of benchmarking now, perhaps by COBSEO or some other organisation, so people know that when they give money to a charity it is going to be well spent?

Mr Llwyd: I do. Charities, really, are all well meaning and they are all rowing the same boat, but unfortunately there is a lot of duplication, and because people don’t concentrate on some areas of delivery, perhaps there is not a high degree of expertise in every charity. I meet with these people regularly every six months or so. We have a round-the-table discussion down here and they are beginning to realise that, although we learn from each other in terms of good practice. I would really like to see fewer charities perhaps but concentrating on certain areas, because, as I said, there are over 3,000 charities in the field and that is a huge number. There must be a massive amount of duplication by definition. We need to tighten things up a little, perhaps through charities getting together in partnership to deliver a service or whatever. That would be a good idea.

Q474 Mrs James: Just as a matter of information for you on the local authorities’ military covenant, in Swansea we will be formally signing a military covenant at a ceremony on 4 December with the Army. The local authority is making it a formal proceeding so that we emphasise the importance in the city and county of Swansea of the military covenant.

Mr Llwyd: I am very pleased about that and I hope that other local authorities will follow suit.

Q475 Chair: That ends our questions for today. Thank you very much indeed, Mr Llwyd, for coming along and we wish you all the best for your recovery from your operation.

Mr Llwyd: Thank you very much. Diolch yn fawr.

Chair: Thank you.

Prepared 8th February 2013