Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
On the 19 June, together with the Deputy Minister for Health, I represented the Welsh Government at the twenty-fourth Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) in Dublin. The Summit was chaired by An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny TD, of the Irish Government. The Summit was attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
- Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, of the UK Government,
- Northern Ireland Executive First Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MLA, and the deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness MLA,
- First Minister Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, of the Scottish Government,
- Isle of Man’s Chief Minister, Hon. Allan Bell,
- Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, of the Government of Jersey,
- Chief Minister, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq of the Government of the Guernsey.
The British-Irish Council Summit is an important opportunity for Member Administrations to collaborate and share good practice on the common issues we face. This Summit provided an opportunity for Member Administrations to consider the economy and the challenges presented by the misuse of alcohol across all Member administrations.
During the discussion on the economy, I noted that the economic backdrop in Wales was improving with employment returning to pre-recession levels. Despite the challenges of austerity, we are seeing areas of strong growth, such as creative industries. I underlined the economic importance of strong ties between BIC Members, such as we have with Ireland where we have an office in Dublin. I noted that we have recently seen the best inward investment in Wales for 30 years. I highlighted the importance of developing skills to secure inward investment, building on the success we have had with Jobs Growth Wales.
In relation to investment I once again stressed the importance of European Union membership to Wales, and expressed concern at the uncertainty for investment that a referendum causes. I noted that the referendum should be held at the earliest opportunity, without impacting on the Assembly elections, to minimise this uncertainty.
The Deputy Minister for Health welcomed the proposal for a coordinated response to alcohol misuse across the UK. Tackling the misuse of alcohol is a priority for the Welsh Government as part of our wider public health strategy. This is a crucial issue with Wales experiencing 467 alcohol-related deaths in 2013. The Deputy Minister noted the imperative to change attitudes to alcohol and our strategy, supported by £50m of annual investment, includes a range of education and treatment services across Wales. In addition, there are a number of Health Improvement interventions which contribute to tackling the misuse of alcohol, including the Change4Life ‘Don’t let drink sneak up on you’ education campaigns. The Deputy Minister also outlined our plans for a systematic review of all alcohol related deaths in Wales, to establish a comprehensive database of alcohol mortality and identify evidence to underpin future work.
The key discussion points of the twenty-fourth Summit were published in a joint Communiqué.