The Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
On the 21 June, together with Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, I attended the twentieth Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The Summit was chaired by the Northern Ireland Executive First Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, and the deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness MLA. The Summit was attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
- An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny TD, of the Irish Government
- Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, of the UK Government,
- First Minister, Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP of the Scottish Government,
- Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, of the Government of Jersey,
- Chief Minister, Deputy Peter Harwood, 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 significant 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 the economy, with a specific focus on energy tariffs and their impact on the economy; youth employment; and the benefits of creating a new BIC Creative Industries work sector
The Summit also received an informative presentation from the Culture Company set up to deliver the Derry~Londonderry’s cultural programme during the city’s tenure as UK City of Culture 2013. This was of particular interest to Wales as Swansea Bay has secured a place on the shortlist to become UK City of Culture 2017.
On the economy, I emphasised that although there were signs of improvement across the UK, incomes are still being squeezed and economic circumstances are still difficult for too many of our people. I highlighted that the Welsh Government’s Jobs Growth Wales scheme has worked well and has far exceeded its original target of getting 4,000 young people into work. However our SMEs are continuing to find difficulty in securing bank credit on reasonable terms. I stressed that a particular challenge in attracting investment from existing and potential investors remains rising energy costs, especially for some major energy-intensive operations which are key contributors to the Welsh economy. This is hampering our efforts to grow the private sector in Wales and create sustainable jobs, and needs to be addressed by the UK Government. I also stressed that membership of the European Union is crucial to Wales and that anything that would impinge on our access to the European market would be of great detriment to the Welsh economy. Our experience is that being a part of the EU is also an incentive for investment from other parts of the world.
On the creative industries, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport set out the Welsh Government’s support for a BIC Creative Industries work stream as this area of the economy is one of the fastest growing sectors in Wales. The Minister highlighted the work that has already taken place in Wales, including the establishment of a Broadcasting Advisory Panel; the Welsh Government’s current work on an extensive research project to map the creative industries across Wales; and our independent review of industry education and training which will work to aid young people in future work within the creative industries sector. Each of these areas of work will be of significant interest and will prove useful to the new BIC Creative Industries work stream.
The key discussion points of the twentieth Summit were published in a joint Communiqué.