Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
As Members know, the NATO Wales 2014 conference was held at the Celtic Manor Resort on 4-5 September. This conference had particular significance due to the levels of current international tension in several parts of the world.
First and foremost the conference passed off securely and without incident, either for those directly engaged with the conference or for the wider Welsh public. I wish to pay tribute to the months of planning on security and resilience arrangements by the police, Welsh Government, local authorities, the NHS and a range of other agencies. It is of primary importance that democratic governments are able to conduct their affairs in secure conditions and we can all, I think, be proud of the effectiveness of Welsh agencies who worked diligently with UK colleagues to ensure a viable and safe conference.
I should like to pay tribute, too, to businesses and the general public across Newport and Cardiff, both for their support for NATO Wales 2014 and their tolerance of some inevitable disruption arising from security and logistical management at centres associated with the conference. I am firmly of the view that the benefits to Wales greatly outweighed any short term disruption.
The benefits to Wales arising from the conference are clear. The Celtic Manor Resort, hotels across the whole of South Wales, caterers, logistics companies and a wide range of other service providers have all benefited directly. A message has gone to the world saying “Wales IS Open For Business” – and can deliver.
We have demonstrated yet again that we have the business infra-structure and the organisational capacity among public bodies to support even the largest and most prestigious of events. During the course of the conference, and in the period leading up to it, Wales has been at the centre of the international news agenda and has received numerous mentions in global reportage. Commercial concerns pay many millions of pounds on advertising and the benefit to Wales from this level of coverage is almost incalculable.
The bulk of the costs of the conference have been paid by the UK Government. The Welsh Government has worked closely with UK colleagues and some costs fell to us. In due course, we will publish an account of what the Welsh Government invested around the Wales NATO Summit and an indication of the benefits to the Welsh economy.
NATO’s affairs, in policy terms, lie outside the scope of the Welsh Government and the National Assembly but it is appropriate to say that the security of Wales and the United Kingdom, and our fellow democracies, is something that we should never take for granted. I am mindful, too, that Welsh service personnel across the forces play a full and active role in maintaining our collective security, sometimes at a heavy cost, and I trust that Members will join me in acknowledging our debt to them.