European Programmes: 24th January 2012

Mark Drakeford: Dywedodd y Dirprwy Weinidog cyn y Nadolig ei fod wedi sefydlu fforwm newydd er mwyn cynghori’r Llywodraeth ynglŷn â dyfodol y rhaglenni Ewropeaidd yng Nghymru. Fel mae wedi dweud heddiw, rwy’n cadeirio’r fforwm hwnnw. Y prynhawn yma, rwyf eisiau rhoi gwybod i’r Cynulliad am y gwaith mae’r fforwm wedi ei wneud yn barod ac am y cynllun gwaith sydd gennym ar y gweill eleni.
[The Deputy Minister said before Christmas that he had established a new forum in order to advise the Government on the future of European programmes in Wales. As he has said today, I chair that forum. This afternoon, I wish to give the Assembly information about the work that the forum has already done and the future work programme that we have for this year.]

I want to take a few moments this afternoon to let Members know about the work of the European programmes partnership forum. To begin with, it has been fortunate with regard to the calibre of the individuals who have been recruited to sit on the forum. They represent all the major sectors that you would expect to see advising the Government on the future of European programmes. There is substantial membership from the private sector, including representatives of umbrella organisations and individuals who have led successful businesses within European programme funding areas. We have trade union representation, very senior representation from higher education, and representation from the third sector, local government and from within the Welsh Government.

The forum has met twice so far. It has been quite a challenge to ensure that there is a shared understanding of the emerging picture of the potential for a further round of European funding and then to go on and agree our key areas of work. We will meet next at the start of March this year, and I am determined that at that meeting we will move on from ensuring that we are fully briefed on the task to capturing the views and experiences of forum members, and to ensure that in considering, for example, the emerging findings of the reflection exercise, we bring their expertise to bear on helping to shape the future. There is a substantial challenge in keeping abreast of the developments that are going on around us, which include the state of play at the European level, the policy development that is happening at UK level and the substantial amount of work that is going on here in Wales. The forum is looking forward, for example, to reading the report of the Enterprise and Business Committee, which Nick Ramsay chairs, on its inquiry into the draft legislative proposals for structural funds after 2014. There is work going on about procurement, which Julie James is chairing, and there is work going on within the Environment and Sustainability Committee. Given that thematic concentration is a particular ambition of the Commission for the next round of funding, we are taking a close interest in the work that is going on with regard to the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. Beyond the work that is going on in Assembly committees, we are keeping in close contact with other pieces of work that have been set in train by the Welsh Government, such as the group chaired by Elizabeth Haywood, which is looking into the relevance of city regions to shaping the future economy of Wales.

I have said to the forum that I want our discussions to be difficult and challenging. We will be forming our advice against a background of the most uncertain and threatening economic context of our lifetimes. We will need to be clear-sighted and hard-headed about the challenges facing us, both within and outside of Wales. It is only by having those sorts of discussions, which are not comfortable, but which confront the challenges that we have to think through if we are to make the most of future opportunities, that we will then be able to offer the best possible advice to Ministers in their difficult but essential task of maximising the opportunities that can come to Wales from a future round of convergence funding and of making the most of those opportunities once we have secured them.