Carwyn Jones, First Minister
Together with Carl Sargeant, Minister for Local Government and Communities, I attended the seventeenth Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Dublin on Friday 13 January. The meeting was chaired by An Taoiseach, Enda Kelly, of the Irish Government and attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
- Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg MP, of the UK Government,
- First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Peter Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister, Mr. Martin McGuinness MP MLA of the Northern Ireland Executive,
- First Minister, the Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP of the Scottish Government,
- Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst of the Government of Jersey,
- Minister of the Home Department, Deputy Geoff Mahy of the Government of Guernsey,
- Chief Minister, Hon. Allan Bell MHK of the Government of the Isle of Man.
The BIC continues to play a unique and important role in furthering, promoting and developing links between its Member Administrations and in providing a forum for consultation and co-operation. On this occasion, the Summit provided an opportunity for Member Administrations to discuss two substantive items; the economy with specific focus on youth unemployment; and recovery approaches to address misuse of drugs across the British Islands and Ireland.
On the economy, I set out how the Welsh economy is inextricably linked to the state of the UK and global economies. The impact of the challenges faced within the Eurozone and the UK Government’s decisions on fiscal policy are hitting job creation in Wales and as a consequence we have seen our unemployment rate rise over the past year.
The Welsh Government is doing all it can to minimise the adverse effects of these economic challenges and I drew attention to two major new funding packages for the Wales SME Investment Fund and the Wales Economic Growth Fund, totalling £55million, to stimulate the Welsh economy and support business growth across Wales.
Increasing employment opportunities for young people remains a key priority for the Welsh Government and we are addressing this through the creation of our £75million programme, Jobs Growth Wales and increasing Apprenticeship opportunities for young people. I also outlined our approach to preventing children and young people from disengaging from learning and supporting them with entry to the Labour market.
On the misuse of drugs, the Minister for Local Government and Communities outlined Welsh Government’s approach to supporting rehabilitation and tackling harm associated with substance misuse including funded training provided for recovery based programmes in Wales. The Minister highlighted two specific actions taken to implement our strategy ‘Working Together to Reduce Harm’; the Take Home Naloxone Scheme and the European Funded Peer Mentoring Scheme. He also emphasised the importance of fully integrating rehabilitation and recovery into mainstream services within the wider community.
As I earlier told the Assembly I would, I also raised the issue of formal links between the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly and the British-Irish Council. The Council agreed to remit this matter to its newly-established Standing Secretariat for further consideration, and discussion as necessary with the BIPA secretariat.
The key discussion points of the seventeenth Summit were published in a joint Communiqué, which is attached. The next BIC Summit will be hosted by Scotland in summer of this year.