Rt. Hon. Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales
On the 28 November, together with the Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, I represented the Welsh Government at the twenty-third Summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC) on the Isle of Man. The Summit was chaired by Isle of Man’s Chief Minister, Hon. Allan Bell. The Summit was attended by lead Ministers from the other BIC Member Administrations including;
- An Taoiseach, Mr. Enda Kenny TD, of the Irish Government
- Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, of the UK Government
- Northern Ireland Executive deputy First Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness MLA and Minister for Finance and Personnel Simon Hamilton MLA
- First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP of the Scottish Government
- Chief Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, of the Government of Jersey
- Chief Minister, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq of the Government of Guernsey.
The British-Irish Council Summit is an important opportunity for Member Administrations to share experience and promote good practice. The links developed through the BIC lead to better cooperation and interconnectivity between members. This Summit provided an opportunity for Member Administrations to consider the economy and the importance of digital inclusion across all administrations.
On the economy, I noted that prospects in Wales were improving and unemployment falling, but the growth in average earnings remains disappointing. I stressed that membership of the European Union is crucial to Wales, and that our access to the European market is a major selling point to firms looking to locate here. Uncertainty about our future membership will have a negative effect on our economy.
The importance of Digital Inclusion in Wales was underscored by the videos developed through the Council (available through the BIC website). The clips from Wales were of people supported by the Welsh Government’s part European funded Digital Inclusion Programme, Communities 2.0. The Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty highlighted our strong record of investment across communities to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to enhance their lives by using the latest digital technologies. It has been essential to embed digital inclusion across the Welsh Government’s work and to continue to work closely with partners across the public, private and third sectors. The Minister noted that while there are significant benefits to moving services online many people face barriers to using the internet, so we must ensure that no-one is left behind. Programmes like Communities 2.0 have helped us reach those at risk of missing out on the opportunities the digital world presents. Our ongoing commitment to tackling this important issue is reflected in our revised targets to further reduce digital exclusion amongst adults to 18% in 2015 and 13% in 2017.
The key discussion points of the twenty-third Summit were published in a joint Communiqué.