Carwyn Jones, First Minister
Together with the Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science, I attended the sixteenth Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in London on Monday 20 June. The meeting was chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister and attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
- An Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny TD, of the Irish 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, Mr Alex Salmond MSP of the Scottish Government,
- Deputy Chief Minister and Treasury and Resources, Senator Philip Ozouf of the Government of Jersey,
- Chief Minister, Deputy Lyndon Trott of the Government of Guernsey,
- Chief Minister, Hon. James Anthony Brown 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 promotion of economic growth and the vision of an All Islands Approach to energy development across the British Islands and Ireland.
On economic growth, the Welsh Government set out how Wales has been weathering the storm of the global financial crisis and the subsequent recession through innovative policies, such as ProAct and ReAct, and close working with our social partners in business, the public and voluntary sectors.. We highlighted our concern at recent increases in claimant count within Wales, which may signify a period of renewed difficulty in the labour market, and drew attention to how we are tackling youth unemployment through the creation of a young people’s jobs and training fund and extending apprenticeships opportunities for young people.
The economic recovery in Wales is very fragile and must be actively supported through rebalancing growth across the British Islands and Ireland; a ‘recovery’ based simply on economic growth in London and the South-East would not meet that aspiration. We called upon the financial sector to deliver on the promises they have made through the Business Finance Taskforce and Project Merlin to increase the amount they lend and improve banks’ relationships with businesses and in particular SMEs in Wales.
We also used this Summit opportunity to re-emphasise to the UK Government that capital spending cuts pose big risks to the Welsh economy, particularly the construction industry, and that we are keen to discuss fair funding for Wales, including making borrowing powers available to the Welsh Government.
There was unanimous support for an All Islands Approach to energy development and the Council will certainly return to this issue in future meetings. The discussion on energy development provided me with an opportunity to describe the potential that exists within Wales by 2025 to produce twice as much energy through renewables as it consumes.. We also highlighted that access to the grid network and available grid capacity are key fundamental barriers to the development of renewable energy generation in Wales.
I raised the impact of UK Government energy policy on Wales, and Montgomeryshire in particular, as set out in my statement of 17 June 2011 on planning for renewable energy in Wales. We find it difficult to accept a position where decisions made outside of Wales may lead to inappropriate developments for the people of Wales and I again called upon the UK Government to devolve consent powers to Wales for major energy infrastructure projects.
The key discussion points of the sixteenth Summit were published in a joint Communiqué, which is attached. The Irish Government will be hosting the next BIC Summit later this year.