Question to Deputy Minister: European Structural Fund Programmes 2014-20

Dydd Mawrth, 8 Ionawr 2013
Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Mark Drakeford: Minister, the programme monitoring committee that oversees the current round of European funding has been strongly supportive of your determination to ensure that we are able to begin the next round of funding in January next year. However, Members were sufficiently concerned at our meeting in December to ask me to write to you on two matters that lie beyond the control of the Welsh Government. You have dealt this afternoon with issues to do with the budget, and, in your answer to Rhodri Glyn Thomas, you referred to the UK partnership agreement. Can you confirm that the Welsh programmes cannot be formally approved by the European Commission until that UK partnership agreement is reached? Are you concerned that the timetable for concluding that agreement appears to be slipping, and what steps are you able to take to impress on the UK Government the necessity to deploy the necessary pace and pressure to ensure that Welsh programmes are not delayed by the time taken at UK level, which would stand in the way of our implementing programmes in January next year?

Alun Davies: I hope that that will not be the case. I have received your letter and I will be responding formally to you and the PMC. I am grateful to the PMC for the work it did and does. The debate that it had in December was certainly useful to us in developing our position. On the budget, we have communicated clearly our concerns to the United Kingdom Government about its current negotiating position. We have also communicated very clearly to the United Kingdom Government that it is possible for it to achieve its negotiating objectives while, at the same time, not damaging the financing and funds that are available to Wales. I have spoken at length to UK Government departments about that and I have communicated to the Foreign Office and, for that matter, to the Foreign Secretary that it is possible for the UK Government to pursue its own negotiating position while, at the same time, protecting the interests of Wales. We will continue to do that and to work closely with the United Kingdom Government to ensure that, as these negotiations are pursued over the coming weeks and months, the Welsh position is acknowledged and protected.

In terms of the wider issues about the development of the programmes, in response to Byron Davies’s comments earlier I referred to the discussion that we had within Government about the timing of this consultation. We are anxious to both ensure that there is a wide and informed public debate on these matters while, at the same time, ensuring that we have sufficient time following that public debate to deliver and develop the programmes as a consequence. Our programmes will form part of the overall UK programme itself. As I indicated to Rhodri Glyn Thomas, my expectation is that Wales and the other devolved administrations will have their own chapters in that partnership document and that we will have the opportunity in that chapter to outline how we see the programmes developing in Wales. We are working hard to deliver and develop those programmes according to the timetables that we have available to us. I can only hope and trust that the United Kingdom Government is doing so for England and that it will be able to meet the deadlines that we have set ourselves. The relationship with the UK Government on these matters is very good and very positive, and we are working very closely together to ensure that we are both able to meet our objectives of having programmes up and running in January 2014.