Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol
Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee10/05/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Alun Davies AS|
|Carolyn Thomas AS|
|Delyth Jewell AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Hefin David AS|
|Heledd Fychan AS|
|Tom Giffard AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrew Gwatkin||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Desmond Clifford||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Mark Drakeford AS||Prif Weinidog Cymru|
|First Minister of Wales|
|Paula Walsh||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Haidee James||Ail Glerc|
|Rhea James||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Hoffwn i groesawu'r Aelodau i'r cyfarfod hwn o'r Pwyllgor Diwylliant, Cyfathrebu, y Gymraeg, Chwaraeon, a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol. A oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan, os gwelwch yn dda? Dwi ddim yn gweld bod.
Good morning. I'd like to welcome Members to this meeting of the Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee. Are there any declarations of interest? I don't see that there are.
Felly, gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at eitem 2, sef papurau i'w nodi. Mae'r papurau sydd ar ein hagenda'n cynnwys 2.1, diogelu’r casgliadau cenedlaethol; 2.2, effaith costau cynyddol; 2.3, mae hyn yn ymwneud â chysylltiadau rhyngwladol Llywodraeth Cymru; a 2.4, yn ymwneud â chytundeb cysylltiadau rhyngsefydliadol. Ydyn ni'n fodlon nodi'r papurau hyn?
So, we'll move on to item 2, papers to note. The papers on the agenda include 2.1, safeguarding national collections; 2.2, the impact of increasing costs; 2.3, this relates to Welsh Government international relations; and 2.4, which relates to the inter-institutional relations agreement. Are we content to note these papers?
Gaf i jest ddweud un peth?
Can I just say one thing?
Yes, of course.
I thought the letter, letter 2.1 from the Minister, was quite an inadequate response to the points that were raised. I don't think the committee needs a lecture from the Minister on the difficult decisions that Government are facing, and certainly it's not the role of the committee—the final sentence:
'it would be helpful if the Committee could suggest areas where we might reduce spending in order to facilitate this.'
The Minister needs to recognise that she's subject to democratic scrutiny, and trying to make school-yard points like this, I think, really diminishes her role. I think we need to be very clear that it's a serious issue that we expect the Government to take seriously, and that the Government needs to respond in a more serious fashion to this level of scrutiny.
Diolch, Alun. I was actually quite troubled by that last—whether it was the last sentence or just the last thought in the letter as well. Did anyone want to raise anything else on that? Heledd.
Ie, os caf i ategu'r sylwadau hynny, oherwydd dwi'n dal ddim callach os ydy'r casgliadau cenedlaethol yn ddiogel neu beidio yn Amgueddfa Cymru na Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru. A dwi'n meddwl, os oes yna risg parhaus, fod angen inni gael trafodaeth aeddfed ynglŷn â hynny, ac yn sicr ein bod ni'n gweithio drwy'r heriau hynny ac yn deall y risg. Felly, dwi'n cytuno efo Alun Davies, a dwi'n meddwl bod yn rhaid i ni wneud y pwynt yn ôl i'r Llywodraeth, o ran ein cwestiwn ni oedd, yn dilyn yr ymweliad hefyd a chlywed am y gwaith sydd yn digwydd yng Ngholeg y Drindod yn Nulyn ac ati, ac ar ôl beth ddigwyddodd ym Mrasil a'r amgueddfa genedlaethol yn fanna, ac fe fuodd yna dân yn y llyfrgell genedlaethol hefyd. Dwi'n meddwl bod hwn yn risg, a dylai fo ddim fod jest yn fater o ran arian. Mae'n rhaid i ni ddeall y risg a beth mae'r Llywodraeth yn gwneud i ddeall y risg hwnnw.
Yes, if I may echo those comments, because I'm still none the wiser as to whether the national collections are safe in Amgueddfa Cymru or the National Library of Wales. And I think that if there is a risk, an ongoing risk, then we need to have a mature discussion about that, and certainly that we work through those challenges and that we understand the risks. So, I agree with Alun Davies, and I think that we do need to make the point back to the Government in terms of the fact that our question arose following the visit and hearing about the work that's being done in Trinity College Dublin, and after what happened with the national museum in Brazil, and there was a fire in the national library too. I think that this is a risk, and it shouldn't just be a matter of funding. We need to understand the risk and what the Government is doing to understand the risk as well.
Diolch, Heledd. Dwi'n cael y teimlad, yn sicr, gan Alun a Heledd, a buaswn i'n tueddu cytuno, y dylem ni ysgrifennu yn ôl at y Llywodraeth yn mynegi hyn. Ydy pawb yn hapus â hynny? Ie. Ocê, grêt. So, gwnawn ni gylchredeg—achos mae hyn yn sensitif, gwnawn ni gylchredeg—
Thank you, Heledd. I get the feeling, certainly, from Alun and Heledd, and I would tend to agree, that we should write back to the Government expressing this. Are you all content with that? Yes. Okay, great. So, we'll circulate, because this is sensitive—
Could you start it off by saying, 'While I accept'—
Of course. What I was going to suggest, Carolyn, because—
'While I accept that funding is an issue, this is a major priority and we're'—
What we'll do, Carolyn, if it's okay—forgive me for interrupting you—is we'll circulate a draft of the letter to Members to make sure that everyone's happy with what the tone is. Okay?
Okay, thank you.
Okay. Diolch, bawb. If there are no other issues that anyone wants to raise—.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 4 a 5 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 4 and 5 of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) a (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Felly, dwi'n cynnig o dan eitem 3, o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42, i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod ar gyfer eitemau 4 a 5, os ydy'r Aelodau'n fodlon i ni wneud hynny. Ocê. Ac ar gyfer unrhyw un sydd yn gwylio, buaswn i'n eich annog chi i ddod yn ôl ar gyfer 10:30, pan fyddwn ni'n cymryd tystiolaeth gan y Prif Weinidog. Ond, am nawr, gwnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni'n breifat.
So, I propose under item 3, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, to resolve to exclude the public from the meeting for items 4 and 5, if Members are content to agree the motion. Yes. And for anyone who is viewing, I would encourage you to return at 10:30, when we'll be receiving evidence from the First Minister. But, for now, we'll wait to hear that we are in private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:34.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:34.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 10:29.
The committee reconvened in public at 10:29.
Croeso nôl. Dŷn ni'n mynd yn syth at eitem 6. Dŷn ni'n edrych ar ein hymgynghoriad ar gysylltiadau rhyngwladol rhwng Llywodraeth Cymru ac Iwerddon, a dŷn ni'n craffu—. Yn gyntaf, cyn inni fynd ymlaen at Gymru ac Iwerddon, dŷn ni'n cynnal ein sesiwn flynyddol ar gysylltiadau rhyngwladol Llywodraeth Cymru, ac felly dŷn ni'n craffu ar waith y Prif Weinidog. Croeso ichi a diolch ichi ac i'ch swyddogion am wneud yr amser ar ein cyfer ni y bore yma. Dŷn ni wir yn ei werthfawrogi e.
Welcome back. We're going straight away to item 6. We're looking at our inquiry on relations between the Welsh Government and Ireland, and we're scrutinising—. First of all, before we go on to Wales and Ireland, we're holding our annual session on Welsh Government international relations, and therefore we're scrutinising the work of the First Minister. Welcome to you, and thank you to you and your officials for making the time for committee. We really appreciate it.
Diolch yn fawr, Cadeirydd.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Would you mind introducing your officials, please, for the record?
Gyda fi am y sesiwn gyntaf mae Des Clifford, cyfarwyddwr swyddfa'r Prif Weinidog, a Paula Walsh, dirprwy gyfarwyddwr cysylltiadau rhyngwladol.
Joining me for the first session, we have Des Clifford, director of the office of the First Minister, and Paula Walsh, deputy director for international relations.
Thank you, both, very much. If it's all right with you, we'll go straight into questions. I know we've got 45 minutes of this session. Could you please outline what your priorities will be for the next 12 months in the international relations portfolio in terms of medium-term activities and how you're going to be measuring them? A nice juicy question to start with.
Chair, sorry, can I make sure—? This is the—. Are we starting with the Ireland relationship?
No. We're starting with international relations.
I'm so sorry. I was told we were doing it the other way around.
Would you prefer to start with Ireland?
No, no, no. I'm happy to do it whichever way—.
Oh, sorry. Yes. Des is here for—
I'm here for Ireland, and I have another colleague, but we can just sort that out in the meantime.
Right, okay. No, no, we'll start with Ireland, then.
Are you sure?
Yes, that's absolutely fine.
Okay. Sorry, Chair.
I'm very sorry for that confusion. So, we will move straight into those questions instead, and I'm going to hand over straight to Tom Giffard.
That was unexpected. Could you provide your view on the current state of Wales-Ireland relations?
Thank you. Well, I think, in a way, devolution itself reset the relationship between Wales and Ireland. You saw in the early part of devolution the establishment of a consulate here in Wales. By 2012, we had established our presence in Dublin, in the embassy, and I think the second major reset is around Brexit. Up until then, I think it would be fair to say that the primary relationship for the Republic of Ireland was with UK Government, both member states of the European Union. But Brexit had a chilling effect on relations between the Republic and the UK Government, and I think it led to a greater interest on the part of the Government of Ireland in its relations with the devolved parts of the UK, so that, in 2020, you see Fine Gael fight an election in Ireland with an explicit manifesto commitment to strengthening ties with Wales. That is translated into the programme for government of the new coalition administration, and then you see the shared statement that now forms the overarching document that governs our relations.
So, in many ways, I would say that our bilateral relations are stronger than they have ever been and that the shared statement and the action plan gives it a coherence and a shape beyond what was there before, always remembering that relations between Wales and Ireland have gone on for centuries and have always been close. We're not talking about something brand new here, but I think we are probably talking about a different level of formality in the relationship and a different degree of priority attached to it.
When you spoke about the shared statement, how do you as First Minister ensure that it's not just something that's signed and forgotten about—that it's something that runs through Government, through every department?
Well, that is my responsibility, because I have oversight of our relationship with Ireland and oversight of the shared statement. I don't see it as my job to constrain bilateral activity; I am very glad to see a whole range of Ministers in the Welsh Government making the most of the opportunities that the shared statement provides. But it's my job, in a way, to make sure that different bits of the Welsh Government know what other bits are doing. So, we're a clearing house in that way, in making sure that all the activity that goes on under the umbrella of the shared statement is shared across the Government. But, as I say, I don't see my job as a policing role; I see it as making sure that I'm enabling my colleagues to make the most of the opportunities.
Chair, Des leads on all of this, from the official point of view, because knitting together activity at the official level across the Government supports Ministers in everything that they do, and if you wanted more on that side of things, Des is the person to tell you.
Perhaps I could just add a couple of sentences, if I may, Chair.
Yes, of course.
So, it's very much an authorising environment. We are very keen that as many parts of Welsh Government are engaging with their Irish counterparts as possible, and, indeed, outside of Government—your own committee visit last week, which was very helpful in that regard—and there's a lot of other civil society engagement in support of that. But I think, for example, even just this calendar year, so far, I think the finance Minister, the education and Welsh language Minister, the economy Minister, and the climate change Minister have all met their Irish counterparts, in one form or another. So, there's a very regular engagement going on, which is very much encouraged by the First Minister.
And finally on international offices, obviously, as you're aware, we as a committee went to Dublin and it was a very interesting visit—about a fortnight ago now, wasn't it? Sorry, time flies when you're having fun. [Laughter.] But one of the things that struck me, I guess, from the conversation we had in the British Embassy with Welsh Government officials in that international office was the metrics that they are set. Because I asked the question, 'How do you judge the success of the work that you're doing?' And one of the things that became quite clear was that the metrics that are being set are things that are not necessarily tangible—so things like building Wales's profile, increasing trade links, and so on. It strikes me that it's probably quite hard for a critic to point to whether that international office is doing a good job if there aren't numeric or tangible outcomes. So, how are we as a committee supposed to judge the success of the Welsh Government international office in Dublin?
Well, I think it's a mixture of both. I don't think we are without tangible metrics—you can count the number of trade missions, you can count the number of encounters between Welsh Ministers and Ministers in the Republic and you can count economic indicators. Ireland has become our second-most important export market in the last 12 months, overtaking France, overtaking Germany, which have, for many years, been in that sort of, 'The United States is the lead, and then—'. You can count inward investment, you can count the number of companies that establish here, you can count the number of jobs that there are here in Wales, and the extent to which those are linked to the work that our presence on the ground in Dublin helps to make all of that happen.
But the intangible things are very important as well. International relations for us is not just a matter of counting numbers. It is about Wales's profile in the world, it is about our ability to mobilise relationships—political, business, arts, sports—all those things that, in the end, make up the quality of the relationship that we have. So, I think you need them both, but I don't want to underplay the importance of that soft-power stuff, which I think in many ways is the bedrock of that successful relationship.
Tom, I think Alun wanted to come in with a supplementary.
Yes. I'm interested in that, First Minister. And I was interested in Des Clifford's description of 'an authorising environment'—I like that, I think that's a great way to empower people. And the number of ministerial meetings is clearly a useful way of describing that high-level engagement. But my concern would be: what is the glue that holds a lot of these things together? And, what are the mechanisms by which you ensure continuity? Because we know the danger is that there's a ministerial meeting coming up, so there's a flurry of activity; the ministerial meeting is done, and everybody says, 'Phew, thank God, let's move on to the next ministerial meeting'. So, how do you ensure continuity of direction of travel? And I think we should say as well, as a committee, how grateful we are to the Welsh Government for the work that was done in hosting us in Dublin. The Welsh Government office in the embassy were very kind and very effective in helping facilitate our visit there, and I think all of us around the committee are very grateful to the Welsh Government for ensuring that that happened.
Wel, diolch am hynny, wrth gwrs.
Well, thanks for that, of course.
The glue is the First Minister's office—and Des. He's too modest to say it, but if anybody represents the continuity in our relationship with Ireland, over the whole of devolution, Des has been a continuous presence in it. And that is a very important part of glue, isn't it—those personal relationships that you can draw on. But the First Minister's office is the clearing house for all of this, so we are the glue that holds those bits together.
But the point that Alun makes about how you make sure that you have continuity of contact and that these things lead to something—well, the shared statement, I think, definitely helps there, because it commits us to a regularity of engagement. The pinnacle of that now is the annual exchange of Ministers from the Government of Ireland and the Government in Wales. So, I was in Dublin and Cork with Vaughan Gething and Lesley Griffiths back in October, and in October of this year, we will have a return visit from Ministers in the Government in the Republic. We’re hoping that, this year, we will have it in north Wales to emphasise some of the very clear links that there are between Holyhead and all the developments around marine energy, and so on. And the fact that we meet on a cycle means that it can’t just be a one-off meeting and then it all goes away; these things have to be reported back, there is a series of work streams that flow from those meetings, and I think the relationship is genuinely a dynamic one in which there is activity all the time going on to make sure that we are making progress on those key commitments that we’ve entered into.
Chair, if I could—
There's a trajectory over time, isn't there, in this? Because, if you go back 10 years, 15 years, to think about where Welsh Ministers and Irish Ministers were then meeting, it tended to be—as Alun Davies will remember very well—in the margins of European business in Brussels. We weren’t really operating at Minister-to-Minister level in a bilateral context in that way. So, I think that the shared statement that we now have with Ireland, the ministerial forum, is about a trajectory that has been moving over 20 years.
It's just worth noting that it’s historically, I think, important and relevant that the relationship between Wales and Ireland actually was initiated originally by Ireland, because they were looking at devolution; they were looking at changes within the UK, before it happened, and they had a strategy from day one of devolution of opening a consulate in Cardiff and in Edinburgh. And remember Rhodri Morgan, as the incoming First Minister, his first visit outside of Wales was to Dublin, where he was—‘fêted’ is probably the only word I can use, really—fêted as an international visitor in meeting the Taoiseach, the President. We were slightly taken by surprise at that stage, because I don’t think we were expecting that level of engagement, but I think it caused us, within the Welsh Government, to think in bigger horizons. And I think over a 20-year trajectory, we’ve gone to a much more structured relationship with the Irish Government, which is capable of repeating itself and being durable over time, not just dependent on individuals having personal relationships, which I think is what’s important to any institutional and national-level relationship.
Thank you for that. Tom, are you happy to—? Okay.
Gwnawn ni symud ymlaen at Carolyn Thomas.
We'll move on to Carolyn Thomas.
Can I just ask a question on the shared statement? The parliamentarians that we met at the Irish embassy, or the Oireachtas, were unaware of the shared statement. We met CHERISH, who'd used part of it for grant applications. We just wondered, as you go forward to create the next shared statement and joint agreement, would you look at perhaps including some metrics and outcomes in that, going forward, to help maybe increase or push forward some outcomes there, to make sure that, maybe, there's more engagement, going forward? When we met with parliamentarians and other stakeholders it was really, really positive, and they do want to strengthen relationships going forward, and we all—committee members—found it really, really positive. So we were thinking how we could do that going forward as well, and have that measured going forward.
Well, my experience of being in Ireland and in other contacts with Irish Ministers and parliamentarians is exactly that—there is a very strongly positive disposition and investment in the relationship. In the end, the shared statement and the action plan is an agreement between Governments, so, of course Governments want to involve partners, and you'll see there's a series of key partnerships that now come out of the shared statement—our partnership with the Urdd, our partnership with Arts International—these are things that now are dynamic parts of the shared statement. And I think the next time around, when we come to revisit, I think, less the shared statement—because I think the shared statement probably is an enduring statement of the shared values—but the action plan, which is always in refreshment as new priorities emerge, then I think engaging people will be easier next time, because we've got those partnerships already in place. I am very keen on supporting closer parliamentary links as well.
We have invested, very modestly, it must be said, but we have invested a small amount of money in the British-Irish Association activity. So, that's an annual meeting. It brings together Ministers, parliamentarians, senior business leaders; it has an annual conference. Since I've been First Minister, we've always had a ministerial presence in that annual meeting. I've been every other year; I'll go again this September. And that's part of our effort to support the strand in the agreement that is about greater parliamentary engagement in all of this, and I think there are other things that can be done around the British-Irish Council as well to foster those non-governmental but very important links.
Okay. We also heard lots of concerns post Brexit regarding funding, and so just what's your view on the impact of that on the cross-border co-operation and the impact of Brexit? It was mentioned that Horizon, if that is going to happen, could be two years down the line—not sure what's going to happen there. Will there be funding in the interim? There was talk now of Ireland working with other EU countries; France is their nearest EU neighbour. So, funding is a really big concern to carry on with these partnerships that have been created. So, just, really, your view on that and is there any replacement funding, or funding for the interim?
Of course. Thank you. Members here will know the position of the Welsh Government always was that our future was better secured through membership of the European Union, and nothing that has happened since suggests to me that we got that wrong. But not only did we leave the European Union, we had a bad Brexit as well. We had a bad deal. I sat interminably in meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations. I consistently, and alongside Scottish colleagues, tried to persuade the UK Government that, in leaving the European Union, we should have remained members of Horizon, we should have remained members of Erasmus+, we should remain members of Creative Europe and we should have remained members of intergovernmental INTERREG arrangements. We're not in any of those. Horizon is the only one that the UK Government made an in-principle commitment to. Accession to Horizon was badly held up because of all the difficulties over the Good Friday agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and so on. I'm glad—and I say that, Chair, to be positive about something—I'm glad that the Windsor framework appears to be an advance and to have thawed some of the other difficulties, and it has led to discussions on Horizon, at least, purposefully opening up again. We're not at the table, but at official level we are definitely engaged in feeding in, because Wales has a very strong interest in Horizon. If we do become an accession member—associate member, rather—to Horizon, we will still have missed out hugely. We will have missed the first three, maybe even four, years of the current programme. Other people will have moved on, relationships will have developed with other countries and Welsh institutions will no longer be part of that. So, we will be joining even that train very late in its journey and we haven't joined it yet.
There is—if I may, Chair—there is a four-nations discussion about Horizon, which we're represented at on a ministerial level. I think Ministers met in January, and will be meeting again later this month. We continue to agitate for the position that the First Minister has outlined. We would join—. Tomorrow morning would not be too soon, really, for us to be part of Horizon.
Forgive me. I'm going to go to Heledd in a second.
Just one point, then, which is that the biggest loss of money, of course, is in the inter-territorial co-operation programme. We had €100 million in the last multi-annual financial framework; all of that is gone. We are providing a very modest amount of money, £150,000, through Agile Cymru, to at least keep some of those relationships alive in the interim. I did discuss directly with Ministers in the Irish Government back in October about whether we could create a pool of money in which we would jointly invest to do more than that. There was an interest in that. Those discussions have gone on and I have some hope—I wouldn't put it higher than that—that we will conclude an agreement of that sort in October, so that we will put money in, the Irish Government will put money in, and we will be able to do more to sustain those 20 years—. This is what I find so frustrating—and I know, talking to colleagues in universities, they find so frustrating—there was 20 years of investment in those relations, and they were just thrown away in a single day.
Can I just come back with—? It was mentioned that, by association, they would be able to carry on with partnership working on schemes they've already been working on. Is that something that we could take to the UK Government?
Well, I've made that case many times to the UK Government. Many countries that are not in the European Union are able to participate in the four areas that I was advocating for, including inter-territorial co-operation programmes. We would like to do that, but so far—you know, once the door is slammed, then it takes a lot of effort to prise it back open again.
Thank you. I've got a request for—. We'll come back to you after that.
Os caf i, felly, jest yn benodol o ran Horizon, gaf i ofyn pa ymateb ydych chi wedi ei gael, felly, gan Lywodraeth Prydain wrth wneud y dadleuon yma? A faint o bryder ydy o i chi o ran yr holl gysylltiadau, ac rydym ni'n gwybod y manteision lu sydd wedi bod drwy Horizon? Ydy o'n bryder mawr gennych chi os nad ydyn ni'n gallu parhau?
If I could, therefore, specifically in terms of Horizon, may I ask you what response have you had, therefore, from the UK Government in making these arguments? And how much of a concern is it to you in terms of all the relations and links, and we know the advantages that there have been through Horizon? Is it a great concern to you if we can't continue?
Wel, wrth gwrs, rydym ni wedi'i glywed yn barod oddi wrth bobl yn y maes prifysgolion am y perygl maen nhw yn wynebu, achos mae pobl mewn gwaith nawr heb yr arian i fwrw ymlaen gyda'r gwaith maen nhw'n ei wneud heb gael cysylltiad cryf trwy'r Horizon. Beth mae Llywodraeth yn Deyrnas Unedig yn ei ddweud yw does dim problem nawr o gwbl mewn egwyddor. Maen nhw wedi cytuno â’r Undeb Ewropeaidd yr egwyddor o gael Prydain nôl yn Horizon. Y ddadl nawr yw arian. Rŷn ni wedi colli mas ar y ddwy flynedd gyntaf, ac, os bydd rhyw fath o ddisgownt ar y pris i fynd yn ôl i mewn, achos dŷn ni ddim wedi bod yno, a'r gost o fynd yn ôl—dyna beth maen nhw'n siarad amdano. Dwi wedi gweld nodyn sy’n dweud bod y trafodaethau’n mynd ymlaen yn ddigon da, ond dŷn ni'n colli amser, onid ydyn ni, bob tro, rŷn ni'n colli mwy o amser, a gyda amser, rŷn ni'n colli mas ar gyfleon i'n prifysgolion ni hefyd.
Well, of course, we've already heard about this issue from individuals in the university sector with regard to their concerns, because people in the sector don't have the funding now to continue with their work, unless they have the funding available via Horizon. What the UK Government is saying is that there's no problem now in principle. They've agreed with the EU the principle that the UK should return to Horizon. The debate now is funding. We've lost out for the first two years, and whether there'll be some kind of discount on the price to return to Horizon, because we haven't been there, and the cost, then, of returning—that's what they're discussing at the moment. I've seen a note that says that the discussions are ongoing relatively positively, but we're losing time, aren't we, all of the time, and, with that, we're losing opportunities for our universities too.
Diolch am hynna.
Thank you for that.
Carolyn, was there anything else you wanted to ask?
When we met with Irish Government officials, they said they were really keen to carry on with partnership working, even if it means funding some of them, finding funds, and, in the written evidence, there was mention of pioneering funding opportunities, future funding opportunities, so are there other ones, other than that you've already mentioned, that you can think of grappling?
Well, there are funds that both Welsh institutions and Irish institutions draw on beyond what I've talked about. I think—did I see that you met with or heard from Philip King?
Yes, we were very, very taken with that.
So, you know the fantastic work that he is involved in. The Welsh Government and the Irish Government are now agreed on funding for Other Voices in Ceredigion again—
Is Cardigan in Ceredigion?
I believe it is, so I wasn't completely—
You're both right.
Yes, we are.
[Inaudible.]—banished from the committee for geographical infelicity. [Laughter.]
In Cardigan, in Ceredigion, we will be fair, again, and that's money beyond what we talked about, and there are individual opportunities that arise, individual institutions, universities, bid into other pots of money, not just Horizon, with partners in Ireland—all of that is a long way away, though, from the major, organised, guaranteed funding that we had as part of the inter-territorial co-operation programme.
Just finally, I want to—. Holyhead has free-port status, possibly, and Pembrokeshire, Fishguard, but they did mention that Cork hasn't really gained from having free-port status, or is that something that we need to look at going forward, and your views on that?
Well, the way in which Cork is very much part of the discussions we have is around the Celtic sea and floating offshore wind. So, a big part of the free-port status for Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire ports is around opportunities in the Celtic sea. I think the truth of the matter is that there is no port anywhere in Europe that is currently equipped to do all the things that will be needed to make a success of floating offshore wind. My aim—when I've had conversations in Cork back in October, and with the Government of Brittany recently—is that we approach this on a collaborative and not a competitive basis. There is enough work to go around for all the ports that would have an interest in this. What we don't want is our ports competing with one another and everybody losing out. So, that relationship with Cork is a very important one and I'm very keen that it's a collaborative relationship. And when we met in Cork, that was very much the view of the Irish Government as well. There's a lot for us to do to get the maximum advantage of the natural resource that lies between us, and, Brittany and Brest, they have a part to play in that as well.
Thank you for that. We've got just over quarter of an hour left of this session. Alun, did you want a supplementary or—?
The First Minister mentioned earlier the status of the trading relationship between Wales and Ireland, so, rather than spend time in committee this morning, I wonder if the First Minister could write to us with the Government's analysis of the current trading relationship between Wales and Ireland.
There are some facts and figures—thinking back to Mr Giffard's original question—there are some facts and figures that we can provide the committee with on volumes of trades, sectors in which the trade is growing and so on.
That would be very useful.
Very happy to share that.
Thank you for that.
Fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Heledd Fychan.
We'll move on to Heledd Fychan.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Dwi'n ymwybodol iawn hefyd bod amser yn brin ac mae lot o gwestiynau. Jyst i fynd yn ôl at y cwestiwn o gyllid, yn amlwg, rydyn ni wedi canolbwyntio o ran Horizon, ond mi oedd yna nifer fawr o gynlluniau gwahanol, ariannol. Rydych chi wedi sôn yn eich tystiolaeth ysgrifenedig eich bod yn archwilio cyfleoedd ariannol yn y dyfodol gyda'ch cymheiriaid Gwyddelig. Oes yna fwy o wybodaeth ynglŷn â hynny, oherwydd, yn amlwg, mae’n rhaid edrych ar gyllid amgen oherwydd beth sydd wedi digwydd o ran Brexit?
Thank you very much. I'm very aware that time is scarce and that there are many questions to ask. Just to go back to the question of funding, obviously, we've concentrated on Horizon, but there were a number of different financial schemes. You've mentioned in your written evidence that you're looking at future funding opportunities with your counterparts in Ireland. Is there any information on that, because, clearly, you have to look at alternative funding because of what's happened in terms of Brexit?
Wrth gwrs. Wel, does dim lot mwy i'w ddweud na'r hyn dwi wedi'i ddweud yn barod. Rôn i'n trafod hwn gyda Gweinidogion yn Iwerddon yn ôl ym mis Hydref. Mae cytundeb nawr mewn egwyddor i greu rhyw fath o gronfa lle rŷn ni'n rhoi arian i mewn, maen nhw'n rhoi arian i mewn, ac mae’r trafodaethau yna'n parhau. Yr uchelgais sydd gyda fi yw dod yn ôl at ein gilydd ym mis Hydref gyda phecyn o bethau lle rŷn ni wedi cytuno ar y manylion a faint o arian gallwn ni ei ffeindio a faint o arian gallan nhw ei ffeindio hefyd.
Of course. Well, there isn't a great deal more to say than I have already said. We were discussing this with Ministers in Ireland back in October. There is now an agreement in principle to create some sort of fund where we put money in and they put money in, and those discussions are ongoing. The ambition that I have is for us to come back together this October with a package of things that we have agreed on in terms of the details and what funding we can find and what funding they can find too.
Iawn? Ocê, grêt. Fe wnawn ni symud at Alun Davies.
Okay? Okay, great. We'll move on to Alun Davies.
I'm just recollecting what Philip King told us. We had a very enriching conversation with him whilst we were in Ireland. One thing he said that has stuck in my mind: where culture leads, commerce follows. I thought that was quite interesting. And it's very true, of course, because you do tend to do business with people who you like, you trust, you're familiar with and the rest of it. And we've been near neighbours for the best part of 2,000 years, so, we know each other as two countries, as two cultures and the rest of it. And I'm thinking, therefore, if we accept that proposition, then that implies that, within the action plan, within the shared statement, to the level of almost prioritisation, although I'm sure you'd want to shy away from that—that the shared statement or the action plan aren't simply a series of actions, but a pathway. And to some extent, Des described that, the relationship that has developed over the last 20 years or so. And I'm interested as to seeing what your priorities would be now in terms of taking the shared statement and the action plan forward. Where would you like it to go in the next period?
And if I just, in the time, cover another issue, there's a very crowded institutional and political agenda between the islands of Britain and Ireland, shall we say, and I'm interested as to whether you have any views on how this should be developed. Heledd will be in Jersey this coming weekend, looking at BIPA and developments within BIPA. You've mentioned the BIC. I've found BIC to be a bit hit and miss. It was great when we were discussing culture and some of the big political issues, but sometimes conversations were really Ministers sitting around reading lines to take at each other, and it wasn't a very enriching thing. Do you have any ideas on how that can be taken forward?
And a final point. The Northern Irish issue has been dominant for too long, in lots of different ways, but the Windsor framework now provides an impetus, if you like, to change and to develop those relationships. Do you see Wales as having, potentially, a role to play in that sort of institutional creation of a new context for some of these different relationships?
Diolch yn fawr. I'll try and be brief because there's a lot to cover there. In terms of immediate priorities under the action plan, here are three, I think, that will have a dominating impact over the coming months. There is Greenlink, the interconnector, which reached financial close in March of this year. It is a 200 km cable joining Wales and Ireland. It will cost £400 million in private sector investment. It is identified by the European Union as a project of European significance, because not only will it connect electricity exchange between Great Britain and Ireland but it will flow on into the wider part of Europe as well. So, renewable energy, electricity of the future, all of that is a big part of our conversations. But the interconnector is a very tangible thing that we've got to bring to fruition in the coming months.
On borders and the Windsor framework, as I said earlier, I welcome it and it's a big step forward. It has not resolved all the issues that remain to be resolved, particularly what happens to goods that leave the United Kingdom, enter the island of Ireland, let us say through Northern Ireland, but are destined for southern Ireland, or the other way around. Those are really tricky issues. They're not resolved. There are meetings today. There's a meeting in Belfast tomorrow that Welsh Government officials will be attending. Bringing the whole target operating model to a close is something that is going to preoccupy us, because there is a very specific Welsh interest in it. Get it wrong, and we will drive trade away from Holyhead and into Liverpool and Scotland, going direct to Northern Ireland. So, that's a big one.
And maybe the third, slightly longer term, but very important thing for us, is language. Language has always been a point of contact between us. There's a common issue here that is beyond Ireland. It was very prominent when I visited the Basque Country just before Easter. In many ways, the Basque Country have done better than Wales. They now turn out a higher proportion of their young people from education who are fluent in the Basque language. They share the same challenge that we do as to where those young people use the language that they've acquired. Where are those beyond-education opportunities? In many ways, the Urdd is a European leader in this. Back on St David's Day, when Jeremy Miles was in Dublin to celebrate St David's Day, he launched Chwarae yn Gymraeg—so, using sport as a context in which young people who have acquired fluency in the Welsh language can use it in a social setting. We're doing a lot of work with our Irish counterparts on that whole agenda, and as I say, it goes wider than just Wales-Ireland as well. So, I think, on immediate priorities, those would certainly be three of them.
On the BIC, my experience is a bit like Alun's—when it's good, it's genuinely good, but it isn't good always. And for one minute, Chair, one of the more cheerful things that I've been involved in when I've been First Minister is that we hosted the BIC here in November 2021. Wales has a lead on indigenous languages, and at a bit of insistence—and we did have to insist a bit with our UK Government colleagues—we had simultaneous translation in Welsh, in Scots Gaelic and Irish Gaelic. The Scots Minister, Kate Forbes, is a first-language Scots Gaelic speaker; she contributed in the Plenary meeting in that language. The Taoiseach at the time, Micheál Martin, is a first-language Irish speaker; he contributed in that. Jeremy and I were there; we spoke in Welsh throughout. The Manx delegate spoke in Manx, and then translated it. We didn't have simultaneous translation for Manx; she translated it herself. The Jersey representative spoke in Jèrriais, it's called—medieval French is the basis of that. We had six different languages being spoken in St Fagans in that plenary session, and I just thought it said something really powerful about the way in which that council is made up of such plural voices. And it definitely, in difficult times, has provided a forum where the Irish Government and the UK Government have been able to come together and speak. I'm very keen we continue to invest in it, and to do more with BIPA alongside the BIC as well.
And then, finally, on the Windsor framework, my hope for that is that if it creates a different atmosphere in relations between the UK Government and the European Union—. And I was in Brussels on St David's Day, just after the framework was agreed, and there was optimism there that that would allow us now to reopen some other parts of the agreement that we can do better on. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I think, if, instead of spending our money on Taith—which I'm very proud of—that we use that money instead to reinvest in opportunities for our young people through Erasmus+. And so I hope that the Windsor framework does lead to a better atmosphere, that it will allow us to return to some things we didn't get right in the original withdrawal agreement, and could put right now.
Heledd, did you want to come in for a supplementary? No. Okay. Alun, was there anything further that you wanted to ask?
I'm very grateful to the First Minister for that answer. You've covered a lot of the institutional structures there. In terms of Government to Government, we met a colleague of yours who was seconded to the Irish Government whilst we were in Dublin, and it reminded me of the secondments we did with the Commission and with UK departments of state some years ago. I've always felt it's a good way of learning—institutional learning together. I was wondering whether you have any plans, as two Governments, to work more closely together. You've mentioned language policy, and I think there's a lot that we can learn from each other in terms of language policy, but also in terms of delivering some of these programmes and delivering some of these ambitions in the shared statement and the action plan. I'm interested as to whether you think there's any of that meshing together of that institutional experience, to learn and to share knowledge.
If I may, before you answer that, I think Heledd also has a supplementary. Because of time, I might put both questions to you at the same time.
Dim ond yn benodol o ran y secondiad, pa gynlluniau sydd i ddysgu o hynny? Oherwydd mi roedd yna ganmoliaeth enfawr i'r person a aeth, ond ansicrwydd o ran sut roedden nhw'n mynd i ddod nôl, ac i ba rôl, a sut fyddai hynny wedyn yn digwydd, a sut hefyd i ddysgu'r gwersi fel bod yna bosibiliadau eraill ar gyfer secondiadau yng Nghymru ac yn Iwerddon.
Just specifically in terms of secondment, what plans are there to learn from that? Because there was major praise for the person who went, but also uncertainty on how they were going to return and to what role, and how that would happen, and how we can learn the lessons so that there could be further possibilities for secondments in Wales, and in Ireland too.
Diolch yn fawr. Y cam cyntaf yw i gael adroddiad llawn gyda'r person sydd wedi bod draw yn Iwerddon ac i dynnu gwersi mas o'r profiadau mae e wedi'u cael, ac o'r llwyfan hynny, i wneud mwy. Mae lot mwy o bosibiliadau, dwi'n meddwl, i rannu pobl rhyngom ni ac Iwerddon. Pan oeddwn i draw yn Cork, roedd Simon Coveney yn siarad am bosibiliadau i ni rannu expertise ac yn y blaen ym maes cynllunio morol. Sori, dydy’r Gymraeg ddim gyda fi.
Thank you very much. The first step is to have a full report with the person who has been in Ireland and to draw lessons out of the experiences that he has had, nd from that platform, then, to do more. There are many more possibilities, I think, to share people between us and Ireland. When I was in Cork, Simon Coveney was speaking about the possibilities for us to share expertise and so forth in the field of marine planning. I don't have the Welsh terms for that.
We face a common challenge in designing a consenting regime that enables developments in the Celtic sea while respecting the environmental standards to which we are committed. Those people are in short supply, the skills are rare. They think that in some ways we've already done a bit more than they've been able to. We talked there about the opportunities that there will be to share expertise and personnel in that area.
A beth roedd Alun yn ei ddweud o ran y maes iaith a hefyd cynllunio iaith, i wneud mwy gyda'n gilydd yn y maes yna. O ran incwm sylfaenol, mae peilot gyda nhw, mae peilot gyda ni. Maen nhw'n gwario €25 miliwn, mwy neu lai yr un swm rŷn ni'n ei wario ar y peilot sydd gyda ni fan hyn. So, mae yna lot fawr o bosibiliadau i wneud mwy yn y maes secondiad, ond y cam cyntaf yw tynnu gwersi mas o beth rŷn ni wedi ei wneud yn barod. Bydd adroddiad yn dod mas. Mae Sean yn gweithio ar hwnnw. Mae yna ddau beth, yn fy marn i. Y peth cyntaf yw ble allwn ni fynd yn y gwaith rŷn ni'n ei wneud gyda'r diaspora, beth roedd yn Sean yn ei ddysgu yn y Llywodraeth yn Dublin, ond ble fydd y posibiliadau mwy cyffredinol i wneud gwaith fel yna yn y dyfodol.
And what Alun was saying with regard to language and language planning, to do more with each other in that area. With the basic income, they have a pilot, we have a pilot. They spend €25 million, more or less what we're spending on the pilot that we have here. So, there are many possibilities to do more in the secondment field, but the first step is to draw lessons out from what we've already done, and a report will be coming out. Sean is working on that. There are two things, in my view. The first is where can we go with the work that we're doing with the diaspora, what Sean learnt from the Government in Dublin, and where will the more general possibilities be to undertake that sort of work in the future.
Diolch am hynny. Dwi'n falch bod Sean wedi cael cymaint o name checks. Fe wnaethon ni i gyd fwynhau cwrdd â fe bythefnos yn ôl.
Thank you. I'm pleased that Sean has had so many name checks. We enjoyed meeting him a fortnight ago.
We've got three minutes left of this session. Can I ask if there's either a particular focus or something that you would like to see this committee focusing on with this inquiry work? Is there something that you would like us to keep in mind in particular?
I do think there are a number of things that the committee is well placed to look at. The first would be how we strengthen the parliamentary dimension of this relationship. As I say, the Welsh Government is a supporter of all of that. When this comes up at BIC, I am one of the voices, with some others, who are the most enthusiastic for strengthening the links between the work of the council and BIPA. Not all voices are as committed to that. So, I think there is definitely work that this committee is well placed to do, to help, in a practical sense, to go beyond the declarations of good intent. What would it look like? How would it operate? What would the institutional mechanisms be? How would they mesh with what is there already? I think there's some much more practical stuff that would be great if the committee were able to be involved in that.
I think the committee's ideas about how we involve stakeholders—not a word I really like, but others with an interest—in all of this. We're in the second half of the current action plan period. There will be a process of thinking about where the priorities in that lie in the future. How do we make sure we involve the people we need to involve? What should we learn from what we've done so far? You will have heard from lots of people, I'm sure, in the inquiry, and that will be another area.
If I could just add one thought to it, Chair. I think one of the things we're quite keen on is the idea that the relationship should genuinely be a whole-of-Wales relationship and a whole-of-Ireland relationship. Alun talked about Dublin being institutionally crowded. I'm very pleased that the last inter-ministerial forum was held in Cork. We'll be doing ours in north Wales later this year. Other Voices and the work Philip King and colleagues on this side of the Irish sea are doing together is great as well, because that's very much bringing together Cardigan in Ceredigion with Dingle in County Kerry. It is just much easier, institutionally, to do things between Cardiff and Dublin. You have to try quite a lot harder if you want to do things—. To some extent, Cork is relatively easily accessible as well. But we'd like to think that, in a Wales-wide context, we are able to encourage partners to look at other parts of Ireland—in the west, in the middle of the country, in the north-west of the country—as well, so that we're not just reliant on a Cardiff and Dublin nexus.
That's really useful. Time is against us, I'm afraid, and we've run out of time for this session. We had other questions. Is it all right if we write to you with those questions? Thank you so much again. We will take a five-minute break, for anyone who is watching, and we'll be back again in five minutes for the annual scrutiny session on international relations.
Mi wnawn ni gymryd brêc o bum munud ac aros nes ein bod ni'n breifat.
We'll take a five-minute brake and wait until we're private.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:15 a 11:22.
The meeting adjourned between 11:15 and 11:22.
Croeso nôl. Dŷn ni nawr yn symud ymlaen at ein sesiwn sgrwtini ar gysylltiadau rhyngwladol Llywodraeth Cymru. Dŷn ni'n craffu'n flynyddol ar waith y Prif Weinidog. Wel, fe wnawn ni fynd yn syth i mewn i gwestiynau, ond, cyn hwnna, a allaf i ofyn i chi i gyflwyno'ch swyddogion ar gyfer y record?
Welcome back. We now move on to our scrutiny session with regard to Welsh Government international relations. This is our annual scrutiny on the work of the First Minister. We'll go straight to questions, but, before that, may I ask you to introduce your officials for the record, please?
Cadeirydd, diolch yn fawr. Mae Paula Walsh dal gyda fi, sef dirprwy gyfarwyddwr cysylltiadau rhyngwladol, ac mae Andrew Gwatkin wedi ymuno â ni, fel cyfarwyddwr cysylltiadau rhyngwladol a masnach.
Thank you very much. I still have with me Paula Walsh, deputy director of international relations, and Andrew Gwatkin has joined us, director of international relations and trade.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. So, First Minister, and for anyone who's been watching earlier, we go back to the future now; there's been a spoiler about what the first question is going to be. Could you outline for us, please, what your international relations priorities will be for the next 12 months, including whether there are any medium-term activities in the action plans that are going to be carried out, please?
Well, Chair, thank you very much. Well, the next 12 months is going to be a particularly busy period in international relations because we will be bringing to fruition a series of bilateral arrangements with key regional partners elsewhere in Europe, and indeed beyond. We hope to formally sign those arrangements with Flanders and with Baden Württemberg. We will be pursuing new interest in what is one of the original memorandums of understanding, signed back in 2002 between Wales and Silesia in Poland—a part of Poland with a long coal-mining history, heavy industry. We signed a four-year MOU. I remember watching Rhodri Morgan go off to Poland dressed, as I remember it, in his grandfather's overcoat, and it snowed heavily while he was there. [Laughter.] But, that was a four-year period, and the new Marshal of Silesia is particularly keen on reviving that relationship. He led a delegation to Wales a few months ago, and we hope to make some progress in reviving our relationship there.
We have an emerging relationship with Ontario as a result of the Wales in Canada year. We want to do more on that in the next 12 months. And, again, in one of the very long-standing relationships, there's been a long-standing relationship between Wales and Alabama in the United States, because of the Welsh Window, and it is the sixtieth anniversary of those awful events, and there is to be a major marking of that. The Urdd, we hope, will be there for that, so that's another one of the events that we will be putting effort into over the coming 12 months.
It's Wales in France Year. That's a big focus for us, chosen because the Rugby World Cup will be in France in September, October, so it gives us a natural focus for that. I was in Paris to launch Wales in France. It was, I thought, a genuinely very successful launch. We're lucky, the current ambassador to France is a Welsh woman from the Rhondda—very supportive indeed of the Welsh relationship. And sport is a platform, isn't it? Sports diplomacy is not just about sport; it's about all the other things that go alongside it. So, all of that is there for the next 12 months.
You asked, then, about actions within the action plans in the more medium term. Shall I just give a couple of examples from one of the action plans, because this could take us quite a long time, really? So, in the public diplomacy strand in the action plan, we commit ourselves to building on the Future Generations Leadership Academy role. We want to do more there. Thinking back to our last session on Ireland, one of the things I didn't mention in that parliamentary space is that, because the office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales is part of that relationship, there's been a private Member's Bill, promoted through the Dáil, to establish a future generations Act for Ireland. The young ambassadors, I think, have been fantastic in helping us there.
We say that we want to do more with our partners in relation to the circular economy, and the Circular Economy Hotspot, which is a global event, is coming to Wales in 2024, and that's partly because we've been able to use our international relations work to highlight Wales as the third most successful country in the world as far as recycling is concerned. That's a medium-term part of that action plan. And maybe, finally, we were committed, in that action plan, to developing links through the United Nations, and when I was in Paris for the launch of Wales in France Year, I also went with others to UNESCO to talk about how we might be able to strengthen our relationships there. The Gordon Brown report, which I know is a party report, but aiming to set an agenda for an incoming Labour Government, if there were to be one, proposes that both Wales and Scotland would have independent rights to become members of international bodies like UNESCO. Part of my visit there was to explore what appetite there would be and on what terms such membership could take place. So, those are medium term—those three things are medium-term ambitions of the strategy.
Thank you very much. A number of things that you've set out actually lead quite nicely on to what I know Hefin wants to explore with you.
Felly, fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Hefin David.
So, we'll move on to Hefin David.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Could I ask the First Minister how he's reflected on Wales's responsibility as a globally responsible nation, following his visit to the Qatar world cup? Some time has passed now to reflect on that. Has that had an impact on how he sees our global strategy?
Well, in many ways, our participation as a Government at the world cup was a very challenging period, because that part of the world does not share some of the values that are particularly important to us in Wales. How do you approach that—how do you approach, as a globally responsible nation, your relationships with people whose values are different to your own? Well, I think a starting point, at least for me, Hefin, is that you cannot start from a position of moral superiority. That can't be your first position, that somehow we know better than everybody else, because there are many things that happen in Wales that will be regarded as offensive by people who live in Qatar. So, in the end, challenging as it is, I suppose I think the experience reinforces me in my belief that we have to find respectful ways in which we can continue to engage with other parts of the world whose values are not the same as our own, but where 'respectful' means a willingness to stand up for the things that are important to us as well, and not to stand back from them or shy away from them. You've got to make them part of the dialogue, but, without a dialogue, you don't make any inroads into that tricky territory.
I fully agree, and this is tricky territory, and it is very difficult, on an international stage especially, for a small country. But you think about Uganda and the LGBTQ+ legislation that is regressive—hugely regressive. Are those universal values, though, that we could forge a light and a way in the world, and perhaps we are a little bit too tentative in the way we do that?
Well, look, I think it is very important, as I say, that we don't stand back from the values that are important to us. The developments in Uganda are abhorrent, aren't they—straightforwardly abhorrent. And our relationship in Uganda is not with the Government of Uganda; it is, essentially, with young people in that part of Uganda where the Wales and Africa programme has done so much to help people in Mbale. So, again, how do you separate the views of a people and the views of a Government? It's a mistake, I think, to imagine, in a part of the world where a Government does something we don't agree with agree with, that everybody in that part of the world agree with what their Government are doing either.
Are we too tentative? Could we do more? We agreed a statement of values with our key partners in the run-up to the world cup. We published it. Every single encounter that I had when I was in Qatar, and Vaughan Gething as well, whether that was with Ministers in the Qatari Government, whether it was the interviews we did for media, we always—absolutely always—made it clear where Wales stands on these key issues. So, you've got to use the platform, but you mustn't do it in a preaching way. That's my view.
And you used your probably more considerable soft power than you've got formal power—you used that. You told us in the Senedd that there were two follow-up actions from Qatar: to organise a visit for a group of women museum educators to Wales, and to support a migrant worker centre in Qatar. Can you give us a progress report on those two activities?
I'm very pleased to be able to let the committee know that the visit to Wales from museum educators in Qatar is happening this month. They'll be visiting the Senedd, that group; if there are members of the committee who'd be interested to meet up with them and things, I'm sure we could try to make that happen.
Fantastic. Thank you.
It was one of the striking things to me, and one of the things I remember most of my visit to Qatar, was a visit to the Museum of Islamic Art—the most wonderful museum. But the director of the museum is a woman, the two deputy directors were women. We think of that part of the world as a place where women don't have those sorts of leadership roles, and, in many ways, we're not mistaken, because, you know—. But it's not a simple picture. So, having people back to Wales, and learning from them—. If you go into our National Museum, in Cardiff, would we think that it genuinely reflects the history of Muslim people in Wales? I somehow doubt it, really. So, we have things to learn, as well as things that we want to share.
On the migrant workers centre, the most recent activity that I'm aware of on this happened back in March. It was led by the international TUC, who, with the International Labour Organization, have been the major players in this. There is a new prime minister in Qatar, and they published stuff in the middle of March, setting out the steps that the Qatari Government now needs to take in order to deliver on that commitment, and we continue to support both the FAW, who were a big voice in that, but also the work of the international TUC as well.
Thank you, Chair.
Ocê. Diolch am hynny. Mi wnawn ni symud ymlaen at Alun Davies.
Okay. Thank you very much. We'll move on to Alun Davies.
Thank you very much. These sometimes can be quite difficult issues. As you know, I was in Qatar, at the time, and I thought the Welsh Government's presence there was really very impressive. Given the difficulties that you've already been describing in answer to Hefin, what the Welsh Government was able to achieve, I thought, was very, very considerable, and certainly, it was greatly appreciated by Welsh people who were visiting Qatar at the time, and commented upon.
I think that has been quite a good period for the international strategy, I have to say, because I'm looking at all these different opportunities, as, sometimes, the international events, as in the France world cup, they're almost opportunities that you'd leap upon and maximise the value. But, also, of course, we've got our ongoing international relationships, and I am concerned about how we're developing institutional relationships with the European Union. Now, the appointment, I thought, of Derek Vaughan, perhaps our most unlikely ambassador, has really transformed the relationship with those institutions, and I've seen, as a member of the Committee of the Regions contact group, the impact that Derek has had since his appointment, and I think that has been really, really impressive—very, very impressive, the work that he has carried out, supported by the office in Brussels.
So, I'm interested now, if we've got this platform, how then do we develop it? We have been debating, discussing, the shared statement and action pan with Ireland. Now, clearly, it would not probably be appropriate to have a mirror image, or to seek that same sort of relationship with the institutions of the European Union. I recognise that. But the Welsh Government, from its perspective, in conversation with the European Commission and the European Parliament and potentially the European Council, can also develop that shared statement of values and ideas and then develop its own action plan on how it sees the future.
Well, there are a number of things, Chair. First of all, I very much agree with what Alun Davies said about the success that Derek Vaughan has made as the Welsh Government representative in Europe. We've been able to do things, as a result of his ability to keep doors open for us, that we would not have been able to do otherwise. Two Welsh Ministers have now addressed the European Parliament in the last few months. At that major committee level, Jeremy Miles went and spoke to the Parliament about Taith and Vaughan spoke recently to the committee that deals with regional economic development, and the chair of that committee will be in Wales later this month. So, I think we are doing our very best to keep those relationships alive.
Wales continues to have a positive representation in Europe, because, when we were members of the European Union, Wales was always thought of as a part of the United Kingdom that was an active player, a contributing player, who wanted to make the most of that, and that reputation helps us still. At that big level, I wrote to Ursula von der Leyen, when she was appointed. I had a very positive reply from her about the wish of the European Union to continue to work with Wales. I have attended, again, only a few months ago, the weekly meeting of all the EU ambassadors to the United Kingdom, and had a very good session with them. There is a huge interest in what goes on in Wales. We have a lot of visits from ambassadors wanting to come to Wales and see what we do, and so on. But, I suppose, in the end, my view is that we are a regional government and that our key relationships, in the end, are with other regional governments in Europe. We're not a member state. We shouldn't act as though we pretended we were, and the way that we build up a European reputation now, in the future, is by having those strong regional partnerships that do more than just the partnerships themselves; they give us an opportunity to continue that reputation as being good European partners.
Alun, if I may, before we go back to you, can I ask, briefly, we haven't seen von der Leyen's response, would you be able to share it with the committee, please?
Yes. I'm sure we can find it. I'm sure somebody will have it. [Laughter.]
That would be very useful, please. Thank you. Sorry, Alun.
I'm grateful to you for that, First Minister. So, you've described the territory, if you like, that you would like to see a strategy developed upon, and I'm interested to understand how you see that, say, European strategy developing in the next period, the rest of this Senedd, for example.
At the European level itself, I think amongst the elements in the strategy would be continuing to have open dialogue with parliamentarians at the European level, and Derek's role has been very important to us in continuing that. There is a small group of Members of the European Parliament who are friends of Wales—the friends of Wales group. So, part of our strategy is keeping our lines of communication open and strong at that parliamentary level.
Then, I think it is a matter of us being part of European-wide networks where we have a clear Welsh interest in doing so, so the CPMR, the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions, will be held in Cardiff at the end of this month. It's here because of Derek, really, because he attended an earlier meeting of the network on our behalf and persuaded our colleagues there that Wales would be a good place for them to come. There will be people from all around Europe here over those few days. It will be a real opportunity—well, Alun, you will know from the Committee of the Regions work as well, those are real opportunities to keep Wales's name alive and prominent amongst those in that network. We continue to chair the Vanguard Initiative, which brings together a series of European regions interested in smart specialisation. So, the second strand is to make sure that we are active at that network level.
And then, the third strand, as I say, is to have deeper relationships, more formal relationships with, Chair, what, in the end, has to be a small number of key European regions. It would be no problem at all for us to collect a far wider range of bits of paper, because there's no shortage of parts of Europe wanting to have a relationship with Wales. I have taken the view, and this is my view, really, that I don't want an approach to international relations that is about trophy hunting. In the end, we are a small country with limited resources, and that means you've got to choose and, in the end, concentrate what you can do, so that what you do with those places is genuinely meaningful, has a work programme behind it; it's not just a declaration, it has substance to it. And that means that you've got to make choices and do less than you might like to, because we can't do that everywhere.
I've got no issue with that. But, in terms of institutional relationships, you've spoken before about your frustration about some of the places that Wales hasn't been able to play a role in terms of the post-withdrawal agreement institutional relationships. I know that this committee and the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee have expressed frustration. Certainly, when I attended the parliamentary partnership assembly, it was very frustrating to be told to sit in silence—that's not what I'm used to. You're discussing major issues affecting Wales, and you're told as Welsh parliamentarians that you don't have a role in that. Now, that's been evolving and changing, and you've said that you want Welsh officials and Ministers to play a greater role in some of the UK-EU post-Brexit structures. So, I'm interested to understand how you would see some of those institutional links in institutional structures developing over the coming years.
Well, they are currently at a weak ebb. The current UK Government very much takes the view that those are responsibilities for it to discharge and that it doesn't see a place for devolved Governments being in the room, even—as it seems to me—in discussions where there are direct devolved responsibilities at stake. So, at official level, as Alun Davies said, there is dialogue, there is discussion; that sort of day-in, day-out level of contact has not dried up. But at a political level, that's where that stops, and in those forums where there is engagement between the United Kingdom and the European Union, the current UK Government regards that as exclusively, really, their area of activity and we've not succeeded, even when we've made the case, for there to be Welsh representation in the room. And, I suppose I don't really see that that is likely to change during the final months of the current Parliament.
Diolch am hynny.
Thank you for that.
Heledd, did you have a supplementary?
Ie, os caf i. Roeddech chi'n sôn ynglŷn â blaenoriaethu, ac yn amlwg, ers i’r strategaeth ryngwladol gael ei hysgrifennu, mae cymaint wedi newid yn y byd, nid yn unig o ran Brexit, ond hefyd efo COVID, ac ati. Ydych chi, o ran edrych o ran lle a lleoliad ac adnodd swyddfeydd Llywodraeth Cymru ar y funud, ydy hwnna'n rhywbeth rydych chi'n ei asesu'n barhaol, felly, er mwyn ategu'r pwynt roeddech chi'n ei wneud ynglŷn â'r angen i flaenoriaethu, i gael yr effaith mwyaf?
Yes, if I may. You spoke about prioritisation, and since the international strategy was written, so much has changed in the world, not just in terms of Brexit, but also with COVID, and so on. So, in terms of looking at the resource and location of Welsh Government offices at the moment, is that something that you assess continuously, to echo the point that you made with regard to the need for prioritisation, to have the greatest impact?
Wel, wrth gwrs, dŷn ni yn gwneud hynny drwy’r amser. Roedden ni wedi gwneud pethau yn fewnol, ond yn fwy swyddogol nôl yn y flwyddyn 2022, i weld os rŷn ni’n hyderus bod y swyddfeydd sydd gyda ni ledled y byd yn y lleoedd gorau ar gyfer y strategaeth sydd gyda ni ar hyn o bryd. Ar hyn o bryd, dwi ddim y meddwl rŷn ni’n mynd i newid, so rŷn ni’n mynd i wneud mwy, i agor mwy o swyddfeydd pan mae'r strategaeth bresennol gyda ni. Wrth gwrs, mae’r strategaeth yn dod i ben yn 2025, so ar ôl hynny, bydd rhaid i ni ailedrych, unwaith eto, i weld os bydd y flaenoriaethau sydd gennym ni'n mynd llaw yn llaw gyda ble mae’r swyddfeydd. Ar hyn o bryd, does dim bwriad i newid beth sydd gyda ni.
Of course, we are doing that all the time. We had been doing things internally, but more officially back in 2022, to see whether we're confident that the offices that we have globally are in the best places for the strategy that we have in place now. Currently, I don't think we're going to change, so we're going to do more, to open more offices when we have the current strategy. Of course, the strategy comes to an end in 2025, so following on from that, we'll have to look again to see whether the priorities that we have go hand in hand with where the offices are. Currently, there are no plans to change what we have.
Diolch am hynna. Alun, a oedd unrhywbeth arall? Na? Ocê, grêt. Wel, mi wnawn ni fynd yn ôl at Heledd, felly.
Thank you for that. Alun, was there anything else? No? Great, we'll go back to Heledd, then.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Os cawn ni edrych yn benodol felly ar y strategaeth ryngwladol, beth ydy'ch barn chi o ran y cynnydd sydd wedi bod?
Thank you very much. If we can look specifically at the international strategy, what is your view of the progress that has been made?
Wel, dwi’n meddwl ein bod ni wedi cael amser digon llwyddiannus gyda’r strategaeth. Dyw’r cyd-destun ddim wedi bod yn un hawdd, fel roedd Heledd Fychan yn ei ddweud. Rŷn ni wedi wynebu lot o newidiadau—COVID, Brexit, Wcráin—so mae’r cyd-destun i wneud pethau’n rhyngwladol wedi bod yn heriol. Ond, dwi’n meddwl ein bod ni’n gallu edrych mewn nifer o feysydd lle’r rŷn ni wedi llwyddo i wneud pethau yr oeddem ni’n bwriadu eu gwneud pan oedd y strategaeth yn cael ei hysgrifennu. Ambell waith, mae hynny’n dibynnu ar bethau sydd mas o ddwylo'r Llywodraeth; ambell waith, mae posibiliadau'n codi—fel roeddwn i’n siarad am Qatar; beth bynnag rŷn ni’n meddwl am y problemau yng nghyd-destun Qatar, roedd Cymru ar lwyfan y byd am y mis yna, onid oedd? Roedd pobl ledled y byd yn clywed am y tro cyntaf am Gymru. So, ambell waith, mae’n bwysig i’r strategaeth fod yn ddigon hyblyg i ymateb i’r posibiliadau sy’n codi. Rŷn ni wedi gwneud mwy na jest yr hyn yn Qatar; roedd tîm Cymru yn y maes hoci yn India ddiwedd y flwyddyn diwethaf, ac mae gan filiynau o bobl yn India ddiddordeb yn y gêm ac yn clywed am Gymru, ac roeddem ni'n gwneud lot o waith gyda'r tîm a phobl eraill i godi enw Cymru yn India ar y pryd. So, cryfder y strategaeth yn fy marn i yw ei bod yn rhoi cynllun i ni, a rŷn ni wedi bwrw ymlaen â'r cynllun, ond gyda digon o hyblygrwydd i ymateb i'r newidiadau a'r posibiliadau newydd sydd wedi codi yn y cyfamser.
Well, I think we've had quite a successful time with this strategy. The context hasn't been an easy one, as Heledd Fychan said. We have faced many changes—COVID, Brexit, Ukraine—so the context to do things internationally has been challenging. But, I think that we can look at a number of areas where we've succeeded to do the things that we intended to do when the strategy was being drawn up. Sometimes, that has depended on things that are out of the hands of the Government; sometimes, possibilities arise—as we were talking about Qatar; whatever we think of the problems in the Qatar context, Wales was on the world stage for that month, wasn't it? People across the world were hearing for the first time about Wales. So, sometimes, it's important for the strategy to be flexible enough to respond to the possibilities that arise. We've done more than just, for example, in Qatar; the Wales team in the field of hockey was in India at the end of last year, and millions of people in India are now interested in the game and have heard of Wales, and we did a lot of work with the team and other people to raise Wales's profile in India at the time. So, the strength of the strategy, in my view, is that it gave us a plan, and we've moved forward with that, but with enough flexibility to respond to the changes and the new possibilities that have arisen in that time.
Os caf i, ymhellach i hynny, rydyn ni wedi clywed gan amryw o dystion, pan rydyn ni wedi bod yn holi ynglŷn â phethau fel Qatar ac ati, ynglŷn â pha mor ffantastig oedd o; mi glywsom ni bethau positif iawn pan oeddem ni'n Iwerddon ynglŷn â'r ymgyrch ac ati. Roeddech chi'n sôn yn fan yna ynglŷn â'r hyblygrwydd a phwysigrwydd hynny. Oes yna wersi wedi’u dysgu sy’n mynd i ddylanwadu ar y strategaeth ryngwladol rŵan, o ran gweld grym chwaraeon ac ati? Fe wnaethoch chi bwysleisio hynny'n gynharach efo sports diplomacy. Ydych chi'n gweld bod yna fwy o le i gynllunio mwy proactive felly, fel ein bod ni'n gallu cael manteision hyd yn oed yn fwy? Ydy hynny'n rhywbeth rydych chi wedi bod yn adlewyrchu arno fo?
If I may, further to that, we've heard from a range of witnesses, when we have been asking them about issues such as Qatar and so on, about how fantastic it was; we heard very positive things when we were in Ireland about the campaign and so on. You spoke there about the flexibility and importance of that. Are there lessons that have been learned that are going to influence international strategy now, in terms of seeing the power of sport and so on? You emphasised that earlier with sports diplomacy. Do you see that there is more of a role for more proactive planning, so that we can derive even greater benefits? Is that something that you've been reflecting on?
Wel, gallaf ofyn i Andrew i ddweud rhai pethau hefyd, ond, ydw, dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni wedi dysgu lot o wersi o’r profiadau rŷn ni wedi’u cael dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf, ac nid jest dramor hefyd. Roedd y bencampwriaeth wheelchair rugby yma yng Nghaerdydd dros yr wythnos diwethaf ac roedd yn llwyddiannus dros ben. Roedden nhw'n meddwl ei fod wedi tynnu lot o bobl i mewn i Gymru ac roedd lot o lygaid ar Gymru bryd hynny. Felly, rŷn ni yn fwy agored i bosibiliadau sy’n codi pan fydd cyfleon yn dod atom ni fel yna, ac roedd sports diplomacy yn rhywbeth yr oedden ni yn siarad lot amdano pan roedden ni draw yng Ngwlad y Basg. Does dim timau gyda nhw, fel y mae timau gyda ni. Mae pêl-droed yn rhywbeth enfawr yng Ngwlad y Basg, ond does tîm Basgeg gyda nhw ar lefel ryngwladol, so roedden nhw'n edrych arnom ni gyda lot o envious glances. Ond roedd lot o ddiddordeb mewn gweithio gyda ni ar sut y gallwn ni ddefnyddio chwaraeon fel maes i wneud mwy na'r chwaraeon—fel y dywedais i, i greu cyfleon i bobl ifanc ddefnyddio’r iaith Gymraeg ac iaith Gwlad y Basg, er enghraifft, hefyd. So, rŷn ni wedi dysgu lot o wersi, ond gallaf ofyn i Andrew a oes mwy y mae e eisiau ei ddweud.
I'll ask Andrew to say a few things as well, but, yes, I think that we have learnt many lessons from the experiences we've had during the last few years, and not just abroad. There was the wheelchair rugby championship here in Cardiff over the last week and it was very successful. They think that it drew many people into Wales and there were a lot of eyes on Wales at the time. So, we are more open to possibilities that arise when such opportunities come our way, and sports diplomacy was something that we were talking a lot about when were in the Basque Country. They don't have teams like we have. Football is something massive in the Basque Country, but there is no team there at an international level, so they were looking at us with a lot of envious glances. But there was a lot of interest in working with us on how we can use sport as an area that can be more than sport—as I said, to create opportunities for young people to use the Welsh language and the language of the Basque Country, for example, as well. So, we have learnt many lessons, but I can ask Andrew if there's more that he'd like to say.
Diolch. Yes, I totally agree that when we find that we can combine and we can travel together, when we have support for a trade mission from Wales Arts International or we do something, as we did in Paris, and we have someone demonstrating our modern culture and what we stand for, it is so much more powerful. And I think the sports diplomacy has really highlighted that. It's great to have the success of Welsh teams in all sorts of different sports, and that's fantastic to see that routine qualification now. And I think that says a lot about us and the way things are developing in our country, which is fantastic, but the combination of that really just brings a so much more complete picture and message of what we are. We're not just turning up as a business and saying, 'Please sign a deal with us'; we're saying, 'We are Wales, we are this, we stand for this, we can demonstrate something, our young people are leading the way'—all of the things that are important to us. So, absolutely, I think that is a very powerful learning point for us all and something that's probably come through stronger than ever with the work that we've done on sports diplomacy, starting with the Commonwealth Games; yes, in Qatar, but also with the Women's Rugby World Cup and the hockey as well. So, yes, I absolutely agree.
Diolch. Ac os caf i jyst ddychwelyd i'r swyddfeydd tramor, efallai, o edrych ar y gwaith dros y flwyddyn ddiwethaf a'r cylchoedd gwaith unigol, a ydych chi'n fodlon fod bob swyddfa wedi llwyddo i wneud yr hyn yr oeddech chi'n gobeithio ac yn enwedig o edrych ar y gyllideb ar gyfer y flwyddyn ariannol hon, felly? Yn amlwg, mae yna heriau o ran yr arian ar gael—mae yna dermau real i'r gyllideb. Oes yna feini prawf wedi eu gosod fel eu bod nhw'n blaenoriaethu'r gwaith oherwydd y cyfyngiadau hynny?
Thank you. And if I may just return to the overseas offices, looking at the work over the past year and the individual remit for those offices, are you content that every office has succeeded in doing what you had hoped it would, particularly looking at the budget for this financial year? Clearly, there are challenges in terms of the funding available—there are real-terms impacts on the budget. Are there criteria that have been set to prioritise work because of those limits?
Wel, mae adroddiadau misol yn dod i mewn o bob swyddfa, ac mae Andrew a phobl yma yn y Llywodraeth yn mynd drwy'r adroddiadau bob mis i weld a yw pob swyddfa yn cadw at bopeth rŷn ni wedi cytuno â nhw y byddent yn ei wneud dros y flwyddyn. Ambell waith, mae hi'n heriol. Mae'n heriol pan rŷn ni'n colli pobl—so, i recriwtio pobl, pobl gyda'r sgiliau ar y llawr yna. So, ambell waith, dyw'r gwaith ddim yn dod trwyddo, ond dyna'r her fwyaf, dwi'n meddwl, sydd gennym ni. Dim ond un neu ddau o bobl sydd gennym ni mewn swyddfa, so os ŷn ni'n colli rhywun, os oes swydd newydd gyda nhw, mae'n cymryd amser i recriwtio rhywun newydd a dyw'r gwaith ddim yn cario ymlaen fel roedden ni'n bwriadu. Ond, heb hynny, dwi'n meddwl, a dwi'n gweld yr adroddiadau sy'n dod i mewn, maen nhw'n dangos y gwaith maen nhw'n ei wneud ar bob agwedd o'r agenda rŷn ni wedi'i gytuno â nhw.
Mae cyllid y Llywodraeth i gyd o dan lot o bwysau a phan dwi'n treial arwain y trafodaethau gyda Gweinidogion eraill ac esbonio bod yn rhaid i ni i gyd wneud pethau i fyw o fewn yr adnoddau sydd gennym ni, dydw i ddim yn gallu gwneud yr achos yna gyda Gweinidogion eraill os ydw i ddim yn fodlon gwneud yr un peth â'r cyfrifoldebau sydd gen i. So, mae toriad mewn termau real yn y cyllid sydd gennym ni. Rŷn ni wedi dysgu rhai ffyrdd o wneud y gwaith mewn ffordd newydd oherwydd COVID, so dydyn ni ddim yn talu fel oeddem ni i bobl deithio i bob cyfarfod ac yn y blaen. So, rŷn ni wedi torri lawr ar yr arian, peth bach, ond dydyn ni ddim wedi torri lawr ar yr uchelgais.
Monthly reports come in from every overseas office, and Andrew and people here in Government go through those reports every month to see whether every office is keeping to everything that we've agreed with them that they would do over the year. Sometimes, it is challenging. It's challenging when we lose people—so, recruiting people, people with the skills on the ground there. So, sometimes, the work doesn't come through, but that's the biggest challenge, I think, that we have. We only have one or two people in an office, so if we lose somebody, if they are appointed to a new post, it takes time to recruit a new employee and the work doesn't carry on as we intended. However, aside from that, and I see the reports that come in, they do show the work that they're doing on every aspect of the agenda that we've agreed with them.
The funding of the Government is under a lot of pressure, and when I try to lead the discussions with other Ministers and explain that we all have to do things to live within the resources that we have, I cannot make that case with other Ministers if I'm not willing to do the same with the responsibilities that I have. So, there is a real-terms cut in the funding that we have. We have learnt some ways of doing the work in a different way because of COVID, so we're not paying as we used to for people to travel to every meeting and so on. So, we have cut back on the money a little, but we haven't cut back on the ambition.
Iawn, ocê. Diolch am hynny. Efallai bydd rhai cwestiynau mwy penodol byddwn ni'n eu danfon atoch chi mewn ysgrifen, os yw hynny'n ocê, achos dydyn ni ddim eisiau cymryd yr amser i gyd. Mae gennym ni jest dros chwarter awr ar ôl. Wnawn ni fynd at Carolyn Thomas.
Right, okay. Thank you very much for that. Perhaps there will be some more specific questions that we will send you in writing, if that's okay, because we don't want to take up too much. We've just got a little over 15 minutes left. We'll go to Carolyn Thomas.
Okay. So, my question was regarding funding, but you've touched on that already, on overseas visits. Are decisions linked to the international strategy of what visits are undertaken, or are they outcomes based, on what decisions are made? And also, I believe that the costings are normally published annually and the last lot was due back 5 April, so there's a request if the fundings could be sent to the committee, if possible.
Yes, I think that's the final point, Chair. We've shared that information previously, and we'll share it again once it's fully collated.
If the question is about ministerial visits, particularly overseas, then that is another one of the clearing house functions that the First Minister's office carries out. I have to approve every overseas visit by every Minister. I'm consulted early on, and we decide sometimes to go ahead and sometimes we decide that there are other and better ways in which we could pursue the same objective. By the time a ministerial visit goes ahead overseas, it's been through that process, I've formally agreed it, and the basis on which I agree it, of course, is its alignment with the international strategy. So, I wouldn't be likely to approve a visit that was outwith the ambitions of the strategy itself.
Sometimes, as we were saying in the question that Heledd Fychan asked me, opportunities arise, don't they? It probably wasn't part of our plan to send Dawn Bowden to the other side of the world during this year, but then Wales's women's rugby team qualified for the Women's Rugby World Cup. Part of our shared ambition, I think, across the Senedd, is to make sure that we do more to put disability sport, women's sport, on a par with the way that we've treated men's sport in the past. And a Welsh Government Minister would certainly go to the men's Rugby World Cup, and I thought it was right that a Welsh Minister went to the women's Rugby World Cup as well. So, it's aligned with the strategy, because sport is part of the strategy, but it was a late addition to the programme of visits that we would otherwise have been planning.
Carolyn, forgive me interrupting, but Tom wants to come in with a supplementary, and then, we'll come back.
I'm glad you mentioned that visit to New Zealand, because that's the one that immediately crossed my mind as well. When a circumstance like that arises, when you have a team that qualifies—I wouldn't want to say 'unexpectedly'—that isn't part of your plan, or part of your international strategy, what do you see the role, then, of the Minister is when they go to a place like New Zealand? Is it just, as you alluded to, to cheer the team on, and be a part of that, or are there diplomatic things you can tie into them that may not necessarily be primary responsibilities of your international strategy?
Well, my view is it's got to be the second. It's not enough to go and just focus on the precipitating cause of the visit. So, when Dawn Bowden went to New Zealand, she had a much wider programme of contacts with the New Zealand Government. Now, again, there is always a bit of luck in some of these things; the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand had been in this country, as part of the Commonwealth Games, and I had an opportunity to meet him when I was in Birmingham. So, we were able to use some of the contacts that we had already established to get help from the New Zealand Government in putting together what I thought was a very impressive programme for Dawn, so that she was able to meet a range of Ministers in the New Zealand Government, well beyond her own portfolio brief, but where there are clear interests that we have in common. She was able to do some, I thought, really interesting stuff on women in leadership—New Zealand has been a leading light in that in recent times, and that was part of the visit as well.
So, for me, it was important to be there, because Welsh women were there competing. By itself, that would not have been enough for me to have agreed for the visit to go ahead.
Okay. I think Alun also wants to come in on this point.
It's an interesting thing. I think the fact that Ministers do these visits is absolutely essential in terms of learning lessons and understanding, and becoming a sort of modern Welsh magpie, if you like, learning things from all around the world. But in order to do that, to maximise the value, as you've just described—and I don't want to just focus on one particular visit—but to maximise the value of any particular period of time, in any particular location, of course, one of the ways in which we can do that is the use of the British embassy, of the British consulate network. And I know from my experience that the consulates and embassies that we have in different parts of the world have always been superb in what they've been able to do in facilitating Welsh Ministers. And I'm interested to understand to what extent you see that network, and the work of the Foreign Office, sustaining and supporting your ambition for the international programme, and maximising the value for Wales on the world stage.
Well, on the whole, Chair, I would say that this is a positive part of the picture and our relationships with successive UK Governments. It's not without its wrinkles—I'll mention one in a moment—but, on the whole, I would say that Welsh activity abroad has been positively and strongly supported by UK colleagues. We are careful when we go abroad. I don't go abroad to criticise the United Kingdom; I don't think that's what I'm there for. It doesn't mean that I don't sometimes have to explain why the Welsh Government takes a different view on some matters, but I don't purposely go abroad in order to criticise anybody else, I go there to promote Welsh interests and the things that we think Wales can achieve, and we're generally very well supported.
Our offices, as you know, are often in embassies and gain benefits from that. And, by and large, our relationships at a political level have been okay as well. When I was in Qatar, we had a joint reception by the UK Government and the Welsh Government. I shared a platform with James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, and it was all very proper and positive.
There is sometimes just that underlying tone of the UK Government in making sure that devolved Governments don't get ideas above their station. I've had to send a letter just recently to the Foreign Secretary explaining that his instruction to embassies that at any meetings that the Welsh or Scottish Governments carry out as part of a visit overseas there would have to be a UK Government representative in the room—. I've had to write to him to explain that that would not be happening.
Why would it?
Well, why would it, indeed? These are meetings of the Welsh Government. There is no right of the UK Government to have a presence in the room at all. As of right, they often are. They often are because you'd want them to be there, and there's a good reason for them being there. But there was a letter from the Foreign Secretary to all embassies instructing them that they were to be in the room if we were holding a meeting. Well, I'm assuming for a moment that that was just unhappy drafting in the letter. But, other than those occasional wrinkles, the big picture here is a positive one where we have good support from embassies and the Foreign Office when we ourselves are attempting to carry out work overseas.
Diolch am hynny. Mi wnawn ni fynd yn ôl at Carolyn Thomas.
Thank you. We'll go back to Carolyn Thomas.
Last year we had discussions that the strategy would be refreshed in 2025, hopefully. Is that date still your target? And would you have any papers for committee for discussions regarding it?
My expectation, Chair, is that there will be a modest refresh of the strategy to take it to the end of the current Senedd term. I think a more fundamental refresh of the strategy is better left to an incoming Government, whoever that would be. So, I do think I want to extend the life of the strategy, and I don't just mean by putting '2026' on it instead of '2025'. I think some refreshment of it and particularly the priorities, and so on, is right. But, if there's a bigger piece of work to be done, I think a new Senedd, with the new mandate it will have, and so on, is better placed to do that. But, of course, when we come to do it, we'll be very happy to share the documentation we would normally share with the committee.
Grêt, diolch am hynny.
Great, thanks for that.
Thank you. Okay, we've got around seven minutes left. I'm going to go back to Tom Giffard to finish the session.
So, we've talked, obviously, just now about UK Government relations. Can you describe how the Welsh Government is involved in those relations, in terms of the refresh of the UK Government's integrated review, for example?
We're not involved in the integrated review. There is some engagement at official level where there are things that would be of relevance to us, but, in the same way as I described in the Irish context, since 2019, the view of the UK Government, I think, has been different to its predecessors. It has a hard-and-fast line between what it regards as its responsibilities and where devolved Governments are not part of the picture. So, whilst at official level we will have contact and understanding, at political level we don't.
Okay. And then, in terms of, as you mentioned post Brexit, arrangements were set out for a potential increase in terms of devolved Governments being engaged in international relations, such as input into the development of foreign policy by common frameworks. I can guess the answer, but, in your view, do you have more opportunities to inform and participate in UK foreign policy and international relations since Brexit?
I'm afraid, genuinely, I think the answer would be 'it's not been the case so far.'
I guessed correctly.
Yes, you did guess, Tom. Now, the UK Government's hands have been very full with lots of other things. The contrast for me will be this: while we were members of the European Union, there was a Joint Ministerial Committee on Europe. It was very active. It depended a bit on who the individuals concerned were, but when—. My mind has gone blank—who was the Foreign Secretary who was also a Welsh Secretary and also a leader of the Conservative Party?
William Hague. Well done, Alun. [Laughter.] It was like a quiz question, I'm sorry. [Laughter.] When William Hague was Foreign Secretary, he put a lot of energy into making sure that the Joint Ministerial Committee (Europe) was an active part of the way in which devolved Governments were drawn into positions that the UK Government would then take in its relations with Europe, up to and including Welsh Ministers representing the United Kingdom at various meetings with the European Union. Now, that, I think, is the most engaged period between devolved Governments and the UK Government in relation to foreign relations. I think it's nothing like that at the moment, and the ambitions that were there, indeed, to draw devolved Governments into that have not yet been realised. It's not a completely bleak picture; we've probably had better relations with that part of the UK Government that is involved in negotiating new trade deals elsewhere in the world than we might have anticipated. We often don't agree with the outcome, but I don't think we could say that we haven't been involved.
And just finally from me, on embassies, and Welsh Government presence in embassies, you spoke a bit about the impact, perhaps, having the UK Government has on the work that the Welsh Government is doing, but can you speak to how Welsh Government presence in those embassies informs the work that the UK Government is doing, and how having Welsh Government presence physically in the building helps drive that?
Well, I think, when it works well, then there's no doubt at all that having a direct Welsh presence inside the embassy means that the profile of Wales is different, and the issues that matter to Wales get heard very regularly and then feed into the work that the wider embassy carries out. So, I hope you might have seen that in the Irish context—the fact that we're there in the Dublin embassy means that our voice, our presence and our interests are more prominent in the way that the UK understands that relationship. And sometimes, again, chance does play its part, as I say. If we think of our relationships with the French embassy, at the moment we have a very experienced Welsh Government official there. That definitely helps. We have an ambassador who has a very strong interest in Wales in any case. That definitely helps. And we have a very particular focus on that work because of the Wales in France Year. When you get a combination of factors like that, the fact that we're in the embassy itself is very, very, very useful to us, and you don't get that combination everywhere.
Thank you for that. If I might ask one final question of you, it's similar in vein to the final question we had in the previous session: what do you think this committee's role should be in an international relations context between now and the end of the Senedd, please?
Well, I don't know, but I'll tell you what I think the biggest challenge is that we face, and then if you thought that committee had anything to help, that would be very useful. So, I think the biggest challenge, I think, I face in trying to work with our international relations team is to prioritise the resources that we've got against the possibilities that exist, because the possibilities that exist far exceed our ability to match them. There are so many things we could be doing in this field, and how do we make those decisions about where our resources and our activity would have the biggest impact? So, we've had to choose, as I said, the number of regional relationships that we will put a real effort into. Are they the right ones? Were there other choices that we could have made? There is that wide range of international activities that we could be investing in, from global efforts on renewable energy on the one hand, on climate change, there's all the stuff that goes on in terms of the international trade relations that the UK Government has been pursuing in other parts of the world. The list goes down and down the page, and then we have to choose, out of all the things we could be doing, where Wales's essential interests are best served. Where do we mobilise the pretty small resource that we have to best effect? That's the thing that I think we grapple with most often. I meet the international relations team every month, and almost always part of the discussion is about that—what choices do we make and how do we try and make them in the best way. And if the committee had thoughts on that—. But could I say this in the gentlest way that I can, that, in the end, it is a matter of choices? Generating more lists of things that we could be doing is great, because it opens up the possibilities, but a list with a sense of, 'If you had to draw the line, the committee will put these things near the top and these things a bit further down', that would be even more helpful.
Okay. Thank you very much.
Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi am y dystiolaeth y bore yma a bach o'r prynhawn hefyd. Bydd transgript o'r hyn sydd wedi cael ei ddweud yn cael ei ddanfon atoch chi ichi wirio ei fod e'n gofnod teg.
Thank you very much for your evidence this morning and a little bit of the afternoon too. A transcript of what has been said will be sent to you to check for factual accuracy.
Thank you very much again for making the time. We know that you're very busy, so thank you for taking the time to be with us today. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Diolch yn fawr. Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod, ac o ddechrau cyfarfod 25 Mai 2023, yn unol â Rheolau Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting, and from the beginning of the meeting on 25 May 2023, in accordance with Standing Orders 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Aelodau, fe wnawn ni symud yn syth ymlaen. O dan eitem 8, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42, rwy'n cynnig bod y pwyllgor yn gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod heddiw a hefyd o ddechrau'r cyfarfod nesaf, ar 25 Mai, os ydych chi yn fodlon inni wneud. Dwi'n cymryd eich bod chi, felly fe wnawn ni aros i glywed ein bod ni yn breifat.
Members, we'll move straight on. Under item 8, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, I propose that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of today's meeting and also from the beginning of the next meeting, on 25 May, if you are content for us to do so. I see that you are indeed content. We'll wait to hear that we're in private.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:16.
The public part of the meeting ended at 12:16.