|Alun Davies AM|
|David Melding AM|
|David Rees AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AM|
|Mark Reckless AM|
|Michelle Brown AM|
|Andrew Gwatkin||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Des Clifford||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Eluned Morgan AM||Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol|
|Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language|
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Gareth David Thomas||Ymchwilydd|
|Rhys Morgan||Ail Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Perthynas Cymru ag Ewrop—Rhan dau: Sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Gweinidog y Gymraeg a Chysylltiadau Rhyngwladol||2. Wales's future relationship with Europe—part two: Evidence session with the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language|
|3. Papurau i'w nodi||3. Papers to note|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting|
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.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 14:01.
The meeting began at 14:01.
Good afternoon. Can I welcome Members and the public to this afternoon's meeting of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? Can I remind Members that the meeting is bilingual and, if you require simultaneous translation from Welsh to English, that's available on the headphones via channel 1? If you require amplification, that's also available on the headphones, but on channel 0. Can I also remind people to turn their mobile phones off or on silent, please, and any other items that may interfere with the broadcasting equipment? We're not scheduled for a fire alarm this afternoon, so, if one takes place, please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe location.
We've received apologies from Joyce Watson this afternoon, and, following last week's changes of membership approved by the Assembly, we now welcome Alun Davies and Huw Irranca-Davies to the committee. Can I put on record our thanks to Vikki Howells for her commitment to the committee in the short space that she was with us?
We move on to the item of business today, which is taking evidence from the newly created Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language. Can I welcome the Minister? For the record, Minister, will you put on record the officials who are accompanying you today?
Thank you. I'm accompanied by Des Clifford, who is director general for the office of the First Minister and by Andrew Gwatkin, who is the head of international relations, trade and investment.
Thank you, Minister. Can I congratulate you on your appointment? Obviously, as a member of this committee formerly, you hopefully understand the commitment we have to understanding the role and policies of the Welsh Government as to its future relationships beyond Brexit, and that's one of the areas we want to focus upon. Perhaps we can start by asking Alun Davies to open up the questioning.
Diolch iti. Llongyfarchiadau ar eich penodiad. Wrth imi ddarllen y papur tystiolaeth roeddech chi wedi’i gynnig i’r pwyllgor, roeddwn i’n darllen trwy hwn, Weinidog, ac yr oedd yn dod drosodd fel rhyw naratif, ond welais i ddim uchelgais, welais i ddim gweledigaeth o beth dŷch chi eisiau’i wneud fel rhan o'ch rôl chi, ond o Lywodraeth, o beth ydy rôl Llywodraeth Cymru yn hyrwyddo rhyw fath o berthynas ryngwladol i Gymru fel gwlad.
Thank you. Congratulations on your appointment. As I read the evidence paper that you submitted to the committee, I was reading through this, Minister, and it came across as some kind of narrative, but I didn't see any ambition, I didn't see any vision of what you want to do in your role, but from the Government, in terms of the role of the Welsh Government in promoting some kind of international relationship for Wales as a country.
Diolch am y cwestiwn yna. Gaf i ddechrau, yn gyntaf, drwy ddiolch ichi am y gwahoddiad i ddod yma heddiw, a hefyd i dalu teyrnged i Steffan Lewis a oedd yn aelod o'r pwyllgor yma? Dwi'n gwybod faint o effaith cafodd e ar y pwyllgor yma a hoffwn i jest ddweud, fel cyn-aelod o’r pwyllgor, faint o effaith cafodd e ar y maes rhyngwladol yma, ac yn arbennig ei agwedd e tuag at Brexit a’r help rhoddodd e i’r Llywodraeth yn dylunio ein hymateb ni i Brexit.
Diolch am y cwestiwn yna, Alun. Gaf i ei gwneud hi’n glir, un o’r pethau dwi’n awyddus iawn i’w gwneud yw sicrhau ein bod ni yn datblygu gweledigaeth ryngwladol i Gymru? Mae hon yn swydd newydd; mae'n gyfle i ni roi rhyw fath o olygfa newydd ar sut rŷm ni'n gweld ein perthynas ni, nid jest o fy adran i, ond ar draws y Llywodraeth i gyd, ac mewn partneriaeth gyda mudiadau eraill dros Gymru gyfan. Dwi yn meddwl bod hwnna'n bwysig.
Beth doeddwn i ddim eisiau'i wneud ar y dechrau oedd gosod allan beth mae'r uchelgais yna'n edrych fel, achos dwi'n awyddus iawn bod pob un yn helpu datblygu beth ddylai hynny edrych fel. Wrth gwrs mae gen i syniadau fy hun am sut hoffwn i weld hynny'n datblygu. Dwi'n awyddus iawn i sicrhau ein bod ni'n gweithio ar draws yr adrannau gwahanol gyda phartneriaethau trwy Gymru gyfan. Dwi'n awyddus iawn i godi proffil Cymru yn y byd, ac, wrth gwrs, un o'r prif bethau dwi eisiau'i wneud yw sicrhau bod ein hagwedd ni tuag at ein perthynas ryngwladol yn edrych ar sut allwn ni gynyddu cyfoeth ein gwlad. Felly, wrth gwrs mae gen i syniadau fy hun am beth ddylai hynny edrych fel, ond beth dydw i ddim eisiau'i wneud o'r dechrau yw cloi lawr y drafodaeth cyn iddi ddechrau. A dyna pham dŷch chi ddim wedi gweld yr uchelgais yna. Wrth gwrs, dwi wedi bod yn trafod y weledigaeth sydd gen i, ond dwi'n awyddus—. Dwi'n mynd i ddod â phwyllgor ynghyd i edrych ar hynny, a dwi yn gobeithio y bydd y pwyllgor yma'n gallu cyfrannu o’r dechrau. Dwi’n awyddus i beidio â dod â rhywbeth sy’n orffenedig i chi ond i ofyn i chi i’n helpu ni adeiladu’r strategaeth yna.
Thank you for that question. May I begin, first or all, by thanking you for the invitation to be here today, and also to pay tribute to Steffan Lewis, who was a member of this committee? I know how much impact he had on this committee, and I would just like to say, as a former member of the committee, how much impact and how much of an effect he had on this international area, and particularly his attitude towards Brexit and the assistance he provided the Government in forming our response to Brexit.
Thank you for that question, Alun. May I make it clear that one of the issues I'm very keen to address is to ensure that we do develop an international vision for Wales? This is a new post; it's an opportunity for us to provide a new view on how we look at the relationship, not just from my department, but across the whole Government, and in partnership with other organisations across Wales. I do think that that's important.
What I didn't want to do at the beginning was to set out what that ambition looks like, because I'm very keen that everybody helps to develop what that should look like. Of course I have my own ideas regarding how I'd like to see that developing. I am very keen to ensure that we work across the various departments with partnerships across Wales. I'm very keen to raise the profile of Wales globally, and, of course, one of the main things I want to do is to ensure that our attitude and our approach to the international relationship looks at how we can increase the prosperity of our country. Therefore, I have my own ideas about what that should look like, but what I don't want to do from the beginning is to lock down the discussion before it starts. That's why you haven't seen that ambition. Of course, I have been discussing the vision I have, but I'm keen—. I'm going to bring a committee together to look at that, and I do hope that this committee will be able to contribute from the beginning. I'm keen not to bring something that's finished to you but to help you build that strategy.
Diolch ichi am hynny ac, wrth gwrs, mi fydd y pwyllgor eisiau chwarae'r rôl dŷch chi wedi'i disgrifio. Ond dwi'n credu ei bod hi'n deg i ni ddod yn ôl atoch chi, Weinidog, a gofyn beth ydy'ch syniadau chi a beth yw'ch gweledigaeth chi fel Gweinidog. Dwi'n derbyn yn llwyr eich bod chi eisiau treulio tipyn bach o amser yn ystyried rôl y Llywodraeth—dwi'n derbyn hynny. Ond beth amdanoch chi, fel Gweinidog?
Thank you for that and, of course, the committee will want to play the role that you've described. But I think it's fair for us to come back to you, Minister, and ask what your ideas are and what is your vision as Minister. I accept entirely that you want to spend some time considering the role of the Government—I accept that. But what about you, as a Minister?
Wel, mae yna rai pethau sy'n glir gen i yr hoffwn i eu gweld, a dwi'n awyddus i weld sut bydd pobl yn ymateb i hyn. Un yw sicrhau ein bod ni’n canolbwyntio ar gynyddu cyfoeth Cymru a sut mae ein perthnasau rhyngwladol yn mynd i helpu hynny. Dwi'n awyddus i’n gweld ni’n cael lot mwy oddi wrth yr adrannau yn y Deyrnas Unedig— felly, gofyn i’r FCO beth maen nhw’n ei wneud ar ein rhan ni, ac ydyn ni’n cael gwerth am ein harian ni oddi wrthyn nhw. Ydyn ni’n cael faint ddylen ni’i gael oddi wrth yr MOD ac oddi wrth DFID?
Dwi’n awyddus iawn inni gynyddu’n proffil ni’n ddigidol, yn rhyngwladol. Dwi’n awyddus, hefyd, ein bod ni’n deall nad ŷm ni’n troi’n cefnau ni ar yr Undeb Ewropeaidd, beth bynnag sy’n digwydd gyda Brexit. Mae 60 y cant o’n hallforion ni’n mynd tuag at yr Undeb Ewropeaidd ac, felly, beth sy’n bwysig yw nad ŷm ni’n colli hynny. Felly, bydd yn rhaid inni atgyfnerthu’n perthynas ni yn hytrach na cherdded i ffwrdd ohoni. Dwi hefyd yn awyddus iawn i sicrhau bod ein gweledigaeth ni wedi’i hadeiladu ar sylfaen gwerthoedd, ac mae rhai o’r gwerthoedd yna’n cynnwys, er enghraifft, y ffaith ein bod ni eisiau gweld Cymru fel fair work nation, ac yn datblygu ar y gwaith rŷm ni’n ei wneud sydd, dwi’n meddwl, yn unigryw yn y byd, ynghylch y Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, ac ein bod ni’n adeiladu ar sail hwnnw. Felly, mae’r gwerthoedd yn rhywbeth dwi eisiau rili sicrhau cyn ein bod ni’n dechrau—ein bod ni’n glir ynglŷn â’r gwerthoedd rŷm ni’n adeiladu’r strategaeth yma arnynt.
Well, there are some things that I'm very clear about as regards what I want to see done, and I'm keen to hear how people respond to that. One is to ensure that we concentrate on increasing the prosperity of Wales and how our international relations are going to help that. I'm keen to see that we get more from the UK departments—so, asking the Foreign and Commonwealth Office what they're doing on behalf of us, and are we getting value for money. Are we receiving what we should from the Ministry of Defence and from the Department for International Development?
I'm very keen for us to increase our digital profile on an international basis. I'm also keen that we understand that we don't turn our backs on the EU, whatever happens with Brexit. Sixty per cent of our exports are to the EU and, therefore, what's important is that we don't lose that. So, we will need to reinforce our relationship, rather than walk away from it. I'm also very keen to ensure that our vision is built on a values-based foundation, and some of those values include, for example, the fact that we want to see Wales as a fair work nation, and develop the work that we're doing, which I think is unique in the world, in terms of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and that we build on that basis. So, the values are something I really want to establish before we start—that we're clear regarding the values on which we build this strategy.
Diolch ichi. Yn eich papur tystiolaeth, dŷch chi'n sôn amboutu'r berthynas newydd a fydd, efallai, gennym ni gyda WTO ac eraill. Hefyd, dŷch chi'n enwi rhai gwledydd ble mae yna berthynas wahanol ganddyn nhw â'r WTO a Llywodraethau gwahanol. Mae tystiolaeth rydyn ni wedi’i chael gan yr IWA a Syr Emyr Jones Parry hefyd yn gofyn ichi, fel Gweinidog, ac i’r Llywodraeth, ystyried enghreifftiau gwahanol fel Gwlad y Basg, Catalonia a Bavaria. Ydych chi wedi gwneud hynny? Oes yna unrhyw syniad gyda chi, neu oes yna fodel gyda chi, i'n helpu ni i ddeall ym mha cyfeiriad rydych chi eisiau mynd gyda fe?
Thank you. In your evidence paper, you talk about the new relationship that we may have with the World Trade Organization and others. Also, you name some countries where there is a different relationship with the WTO and the different Governments. The evidence that we've had from the Institute of Welsh Affairs and from Sir Emyr Jones Parry as well asks you, as a Minister, and the Government, to consider different examples such as the Basque Country, Catalonia, Bavaria. Have you done that? Do you have any idea? Do you have any model to help us understand the direction in which you want to travel?
Wel, dwi'n meddwl bod lot o hwn yn hongian ar beth sy'n digwydd gyda Brexit. Hynny yw, os rŷm ni'n rhan o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd, bydd ein gallu ni i gydweithredu yn wahanol iawn—os ŷm ni'n rhan o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd ai peidio. Un o'r pethau roedd y Prif Weinidog wedi'i wneud yn glir yn ei faniffesto e oedd ei fod e eisiau gweld blaenoriaethau o ran ein perthynas ni gyda rhai ardaloedd o fewn yr Undeb Ewropeaidd. Felly, wrth gwrs, rŷm ni eisoes wedi datblygu perthynas gyda Gwlad y Basg. Rŷm ni'n datblygu perthynas nawr gyda Galicia. Dwi yn meddwl bod yn rhaid inni adeiladu ar y berthynas—y ffaith bod gyda ni'r berthynas agos yma gyda'r gwledydd Celtaidd, felly, Llydaw ac Iwerddon. Mae'n bwysig ein bod ni'n edrych ar y rheini, ond beth hoffwn i wneud nawr yw sicrhau ein bod ni'n ystyried hyn yng nghyd-destun datblygu'r strategaeth newydd. Mae pob tro ŷch chi'n creu perthynas, mae'n rhaid inni edrych ar beth yw'r outcomes. Mae'n rhaid inni edrych ar beth ŷm ni'n mynd i gael mas ohoni yn hytrach na jest creu perthynas er mwyn creu perthynas. Wrth gwrs, mae rhai ardaloedd yn hapus i gael memorandum of understanding, ac maen nhw'n awyddus i weithredu yn y ffordd yna. Mae rhai eraill yn hapus jest i sicrhau bod action plan a'i fod e'n digwydd. Dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n hyblyg o ran beth hoffem ni a beth rŷm ni eisiau gwneud fel Llywodraeth.
I think a lot of this hangs on what happens with Brexit. If we're part of the European Union, or not, our ability to collaborate will be very different. One of the things that the First Minister made clear in his manifesto was that he wanted to see priorities in terms of our relationship with some areas within the EU. Therefore, of course, we have already developed a relationship with the Basque Country. We're developing a relationship now with Galicia. I think we have to build on the close relationship that we have with other Celtic countries, so, Brittany and Ireland. It's important that we look at those, but what I would like to do now is ensure that we consider this in the context of developing this new strategy. So, each time you create a relationship, you have to look at what the outcomes will be, and what we'll gain from that, rather than just creating a relationship for the sake of it. Of course, some areas are happy to have a memorandum of understanding and operate it in that way, and others are happy just to ensure that there is an action plan and that it happens. I think we're flexible in terms of what we'd like and what we'd like to do as a Government.
Can I just add a sentence to this, Chair, in case it's useful to the question that was asked? In respect of the WTO, we are in a dialogue with colleagues governmentally in Canada—Quebec, and we had the deputy high commissioner from the Canadian embassy down here just before Christmas—and Switzerland. The Swiss ambassador was down here, again just before Christmas. Because, in the context of the WTO, those are two examples of countries that already have an independent relationship with the WTO in which there is a, as it were, regional component, a sub-national component, in how they draw up their business. We're very interested to learn from the Swiss and from the Canadians how the provinces can engage in that debate with their federal government, or confederal government in the case of Switzerland, and bring influence to bear, because that's, in a way, a mirror of the sort of position that we have vis-à-vis the UK Government as it develops its independent relationship in a new context with the WTO.
To follow on from Alun's question—and welcome to your post, as well—it's a significant moment when you have a Minister with a focus on international affairs. It really is a significant moment, and many people have been asking for this. But if we look 12 months down the line, what value added would you want to have seen your role give? What would have been the tangible differences? There are lots of process and there is a myriad of possible outcomes, but, if you were to focus it down on two or three things, what's the difference that you'd want to have made in post? What should this committee be asking you in 12 months' time—'Have you made that difference?' Clearly, Brexit is in front of us, but everybody is aware of that. What are the two or three tangibles?
Again, I think part of the problem we have at the moment is, until we have Brexit settled, it's really difficult to say. So, if Brexit doesn't happen, then we could start looking at, 'Right, let's look at increasing foreign direct investment'. If Brexit does happen, then locking down what we've already got in terms of trading relationships and ensuring we continue where we are, with 60 per cent of our trade going to the EU, will be a success story—if we manage to hold on to what we've got. So, it is really difficult, and I think part of the problem we're going to have in developing a strategy is locking down a strategy until we know where we're at in relation to Brexit.
But the danger with that is you could end up firefighting for the next three months, six months, whereas a point that was made to me by a business colleague the other day is, 'You also need to look beyond this as well.'
Sure. So, what I would like to see, and I've already given a direction, is to—at the moment, because we're in this fluid situation—focus on exports rather than foreign direct investment, just because I think, at this point in time, we have to acknowledge that, unless it's a very long-term investment—. And that's another direction that I've given, which is that we should be looking at longer term investments rather than fast-buck investments. So, if you speak, for example, to Stena—they've just invested in a new ferry, and when you speak to them and say, 'Gosh, aren't you worried about Brexit?', they say, 'No, this is a 30-year investment. We will still have a relationship and there will still be ferries going from Ireland to Wales in 30 years' time.' So, they're not looking at the immediate situation.
So, those are two things where I've tried to change the focus already, but part of the problem, always, with these international relations is that, actually, sometimes they take a long time to develop, and so really one of the issues for me is: what are the key performance indicators that we'll be looking at? And what are the outcomes we're looking at? Those are things that I will want to lock down in that strategic plan.
I'll bring Alun back in in a second. In your ambition, therefore, to see things happen, you keep talking about Brexit, but, to me, you want to lock things down at the moment as a consequence. Shouldn't we have that ambition to grasp opportunities and not worry about locking things down necessarily but look where we can gain as a consequence, and shouldn't we be putting forward those ambitions now?
Yes, which is why I think export is our opportunity. There's been quite a big devaluation in terms of the pound. That gives exporters an advantage, and so we need to build on—that's the kind of opportunity that devaluation gives us. So, one of the things that we need to look at is what we can do further to help exporters, but one of the things I'd like to do is to really be much more focused on exporting and becoming known for particular sectors—so, working with Ken Skates's department on those priority areas within the economic action plan. So, rather than waiting for people to come to us in relation to, 'We would like to export', to seek out companies where we would like to grow our strengths—so, in semiconductors, for example, making sure that all of the companies involved in that are actually taking advantage of the opportunities that we will give them.
Yes. Minister, I had intended to question the approach with Stena, on being told that they were investing in a new boat, to say, 'Are you sure you want to do that?' I was about to ask whether you are being sufficiently positive in your approach, but your comments just now about emphasising particular sectors and the advantages of a lower exchange rate suggest that you are.
There's a whole road we could go down in terms of exchange rates and the impact of collapsing currency on the economy, but I wanted to take you up on a particular point you made, which was about outcomes and about timetables. In reply to both me and Huw, you've repeated that. So, I wondered whether you could just give us, for the record, the sorts of areas where you would expect to be putting those outcomes. What are the areas where you would—. I'm not asking you for precise targets this afternoon, but where are the areas you would like to set those targets and the timescale for coming back to committee with this vision that you've described? I think it's important; you've described a committee that you want to set up. Who is it you're looking at seeking this advice from? You've talked about the National Assembly, and we accept that, but who else are you looking to take advice from, along what timescale, and then what sort of areas can we expect to see targets set within?
So, if you just look at—. I mean, there's a whole host of areas that I want to explore. So, if you just look at the relationship with the UK Government, I'm already in the process of arranging meetings with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, just to explore how much further we can push them, for example. So, I would never foresee us as a Welsh nation opening an office, even within the FCO, in Peru for example, but I do want the embassy in Peru to be waving the flag for Wales at least once a year; I want them to do an event once a year. So, I want to know if that's happening at the moment—if not, what can we do to support that. So, I think there are some clear key performance indicators that we could be asking of the UK Government, and that's the kind of thing that I'm trying to develop now. If you look at the Department for International Development, we spend 0.7 per cent of our gross domestic product on that. There are lots of contracts that are available for British companies to go and install water purification or build roads in parts of Africa. There's no reason why we couldn't be trying to land some of those and to help Welsh companies to land some of those investments as well.
So, that's an example of where we could ask for measurements, not just from ourselves but from outside. I'm also keen to make sure—. I've asked today whether I can have discussions with the Welsh Local Government Association. There are networks all over Wales where international relations happen. Part of what I'd like to do is to make sure that we know what's going on all over Wales—that we have a really comprehensive database so that people in Wales know what's going on. So, all of those things will take a bit of time, but I think the key thing I've learnt in terms of international relations over the years is that, actually, what makes these things work best is personal relations. So, we need to build on the personal relations that already exist, and not throw the baby out with the bath water if we are thinking about any kind of restructure.
Can I ask, then—? You've mentioned the FCO and Department for International Development. Who will lead on some of these links, because, clearly, there was a need to discuss with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, there'll be a need to discuss with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. How are you going to organise this across your Cabinet colleagues as to who will lead on some of the relationships so that we can look at these ambitions that you have or will be setting for Wales?
So, in terms of international relations, I very much see myself as the co-ordinator of international relationships across Government. Those relationships are already being developed. So, for example, later this week we've got a delegation coming from Vietnam. Those relationships are being developed by the department for education within the Welsh Government. But we can build on those, hopefully, to look at investment opportunities, to bring more students into Wales to study. So, there are opportunities. Part of my role will be to co-ordinate and to make sure that things don't fall through the gaps. In relation to agriculture, of course, I would see the Minister with responsibility for agriculture to be leading in that area, but there may be some areas where there are gaps, and that's where I'd want to make sure that we are not letting anything go. So, that's where I would, hopefully, plug the gaps in relation to some of those areas you've just touched on.
So, can I just confirm, then? Obviously, BEIS is a big area that's important for inward investment, for our economy, for export, which you highlighted, and you've said that you want that to be one of your main focuses initially. How will you be ensuring that nothing in that area falls through the gaps? Because last week highlighted some of the challenges that come up. Wylfa would be an example of something that takes the attention away for the Minister for Economy and Transport, but you still want to make sure that the issues that you're highlighting on international relations have to be included in discussions. How will you ensure that?
Well, I think we do need clarity in terms of who is responsible for what. We'll all have to be working hand in glove with one another on anything relating to international relations, but Wylfa is quite a good example, because energy is in the portfolio of Lesley Griffiths, economic development and the north Wales economy is in the hands of Ken Skates, and I'm responsible for international relations. We need to be clear about who is leading on that. Now, Ken Skates is leading on that, but we need to make sure that Ken is therefore instructing me to make those international relationships with, for example, the Japanese ambassador if he deems that to be necessary. So, it's making sure that we are clear about who is leading on those kinds of projects. So, that's an example where I think we—. That's a very good example where we need to be working cross departmentally but having a lead Minister.
It just strikes me, in the field of energy, that somewhere like Scotland, which has elements of derogation in the way that they can set their energy tariffs—it used to be renewables obligation certificates; I believe they still have some derogation—. So, they can carve their own way in terms of supporting different types of renewable energy. We don't have that in Wales. So, it just strikes me that that takes negotiation at a UK level, and you've talked about the importance of that. It also then would need negotiation with perhaps international investor communities, Dutch windfarm companies, this, that and the other. For this committee's purposes, I think getting the clarity on who drives this, who co-ordinates it, who does the soft diplomacy, as well as the hard negotiations, is quite interesting. I wonder if, when you come back in three months, in six months, there'll be a real strategic vision and an ability to draw those links into other ministerial colleagues and then up to UK Government.
I think that's essential and I think that's probably where we do need clarity in relation to what our ambition is and who's responsible for delivering that ambition. If you look at—. Renewable energy is a great example, and that's an example again of where people don't invest for five years; they invest for 30 or 40 years. So, that's an area where I think we could really continue to be pushing on inward investment priorities for Wales. So, that's where I would personally like to see us pushing as one of the priority areas.
But my question is actually to do, Minister, with who does that. Is that outwith your portfolio entirely or do you have a role to play in that sort of thing?
Well, I'd co-ordinate that with Ken Skates's department and with Lesley's department, and of course what we'll need to do within the context of the strategy is to make it clear who is leading on those. I would see it as, if we are looking at international companies, then I would hope that they would bring me into those negotiations and discussions.
In your paper to the committee, you highlight that you'd be looking to have the support of a task and finish group in the development of the strategy. Have you got any ideas towards the timeline of that task and finish group? Have you started approaching members to be part of that task and finish group?
Yes. So, first of all, what I wanted to do is to make sure we had quite a tight group of people who could advise us. I wanted to set out the kinds—rather than looking at people, looking at the issues. So, I wanted somebody who's an expert in export, somebody who's an expert in inward investment, somebody who's an expert in digital communications, and somebody who's an expert in branding Wales, somebody from the international community. So, I've set out who I'd like theoretically, then we've looked at names. The invitations are going out this week to be part of that group. We're looking at six or seven people. We are looking at having three meetings. So, it's going to be very much a short time frame, which I would hope would be ready to go out with a final consultation, then, towards the end—well, March, so, just when we're leaving the European Union. Hopefully, we'll have more clarity by then in terms of where we're at. It will be difficult and we'll probably have to adapt in the light of what's happening with Brexit.
Maybe your ambition for more clarity is the important one we have. Will you be able to publish that task and finish group membership for us, say in the next few weeks?
I would hope as soon as we've heard back from the people whether they're happy to serve on that group then we'll let you know. But the other thing I've done is to approach a lot of individuals to ask them whether we can test out the strategy on them. Emyr Jones Parry, for example, has said that he'd be willing to have a look at it, and other individuals who I think could usefully contribute—so, somebody perhaps who has a good understanding of the infrastructure relationships, airports and that kind of thing. So, it won't be just the people on this task and finish group who'll be involved in developing the strategy; it'll be testing it out on a much broader group of people.
Thank you. You've mentioned, obviously, the areas of priorities and regions you may wish to have discussions with. You've already talked about Switzerland and Quebec and Canada as examples of different approaches. I will move on to David, who wants to ask more questions on the relationships between countries and networks and the way forward on that. David.
Yes, thank you, Chair. I have to say, in terms of questioning so far—. I've been here so long I remember the previous occasion when we had an international affairs Minister, the great Mike German. I think he was modestly titled the 'Minister for Wales and the world'.
I think that lasted about 18 months and it just sort of evaporated, really. But it's now been recreated. We are in more stressed times, I think it's fair to say, than in the early 2000s in terms of the international situation we find ourselves in, but, you know, if you're having to have a task and finish group to tell you why you're a Minister for international affairs, it's a bit weak, isn't it?
No. I think that's completely unfair. I think that it's absolutely right that you ask experts when you're developing a strategy, and inviting people in to test your ideas out I think is exactly what a Minister should be doing.
Okay. Well, you talk about co-ordinating, making sure things don't fall through the gaps: I mean, it doesn't seem immensely purposeful. In fairness to you, there were one or two things that do ring, I think, with more purpose, like branding Wales is very important, and then getting KPIs from the foreign office, some sort of annual event that—it's not a huge ask, but it is one they should be doing, I think. I can see advantages to having some structure there. But, if it comes to branding Wales, you're not going to be the Minister pushing that, necessarily, are you? You'll be reliant, presumably, on Ken Skates again.
Well, the point of this is it's also a co-ordinating role. So, it's making sure that we're all singing from the same hymn sheet when we do present Wales's face to the world. But I think it's a little unfair to suggest that, because I'm keen to open a dialogue to make sure that everybody feels like that they can contribute and to make sure that we are giving an opportunity—. I think it's a good thing to involve committees like yours, to ask experts, in developing a strategy. I don't think that's a bad thing; I think that's a good thing. And so—if I set out at this point exactly what I wanted, I think that would close down the debate too early, and I'm very clear that I'm anxious to make sure that people can contribute to this.
Okay. If we do look at the various relationships that have been developed recently and then some of the older ones, there is a certain pattern here—so, Brittany, the Basque Country, Galicia, Noord Holland, Flanders, which is quite a long-standing one—it would be a good pub question, 'What links all those regions together?', and I'm not sure if many people would guess, 'Well, they have a relationship of some kind with Wales.' What's the underlying purpose of that sort of networking?
Well, I think that's why you need a strategic plan, to be clear about are these the right relationships, are they in the areas that we need them to be: if the purpose is to increase the wealth of Wales, are these the regions that we should be linking up with, or should we be looking at other areas? I'd like to explore whether, for example, if what we wanted to do is to make Wales famous in the world for being the place to come and invest in relation to semiconductors, then I don't know if there's any links with Galicia on that. It may be that there is a different place in the world that we should be focused on. So, I'm anxious to look at, first of all: what is it we're trying to get out of this? If it is about economic development, then are we doing the right thing here? And it might be worth considering, for example, that what we do is we send out experts from Wales. You know, you could brief me for three days on how a semiconductor works and I still wouldn't be able to sell it to an expert who wanted to come and invest in Wales. I think it'd be much more healthy to take somebody from the company out to sell Wales on our behalf. Now, I want to make sure that we consider that in terms of the strategy and it may be that that would be a more constructive way of developing our export opportunities or our inward investment opportunities, by using experts rather than generalists who can't say the story, who may be based in the right places but who can't actually sell the product.
I suppose people who've really looked at this in depth have said that these sorts of bilateral relationships are often quite sector-led. You talked about semiconductors or, you know, life sciences or something in universities, and cultural ones, obviously, with the Basque Country and Brittany in particular, but I suppose when you look at the literature and what some of the academic observers have said is that those are fairly organic, they're fairly natural ties to develop, and some of them go back quite a while, Flanders for one, but they're not really core governmental activities. What would be core governmental activities? What sort of bilateral relationships and what sort of continuing membership might you be seeking of either completely new—in terms of how the World Trade Organization operates—but existing ones in the EU, the various programmes—? We might want to remain in the relationship with the Committee of the Regions. Now, that seems to me to be a very substantial area of work on multilateral relationships. So, I presume the First Minister in appointing you—I say you; appointing an international Minister—is more concerned about how that's going to develop, and presumably there's already some sort of existing statement of aims that has been conveyed to you from the First Minister.
Well, he did make it clear in his own manifesto that I've mentioned that he wants to see a set of priority regions in terms of where we have our relationships, and he's emphasised also the need to reach out to partners. What I wouldn't want to see happening is that the relationships that we've established over the past 20, 30 years in Wales with Brussels, with various parts of the European Union, just stop. We need to make sure that those relationships continue. The question for us is: how much effort do we put into them? Where are our priority areas? And I think those are the questions that we really will need to address when we come forward with our strategy: this is a priority area, this is where we're going to put our emphasis and our effort. And I think we need also to have the courage to say, 'No, we're not going to be doing that any more.' And that's something that I've made clear to Des's department—that when we get people or ambassadors from certain parts of the world where we are never going to have very strong relationships, actually, we have to have the courage to say, 'No, we're not going to be pursuing that particular angle.' So, that's what I think a strategic plan will give us and it will give the authority to Des's department to say, 'That is not part of what we do.'
If I may, please, Chair, just add to that, if we come out of the European Union—assuming that's what indeed happens now, that we leave the European Union—I think the Welsh Government has always been very clear that that doesn't mean that Wales ceases to be a European nation as a matter of commerce and of culture and of civilisation and of infrastructure and so on. So, that has to mean something. So, one of the underpinning reasons for our relationships is that we want to give some expression to that.
There is another very important aspect to all of this: if we're outside of the European Union, which could happen quite quickly, we will lose access to all of that institutional information that is now ours as of right. We will literally have to go knocking on the doors of our friends in Brussels to tell us what's happening inside the European Union. So, those informal sources of information, which have always been useful to us—that informal opportunity to network—actually, the premium on that will become very much greater as a result of being outside, because we will have to find new ways of working and new ways of accessing the information and new ways of trying to bring influence to bear.
Minister, one of the new ways, always, is that you could have third-party membership of, say, Erasmus, Creative Europe—you know, it preserves the network, but over time it comes at a cost because you can't get more than evens out and, over the long term, you're going to not get that, presumably. And this committee's heard repeated evidence from witnesses that those networks are very keen. So, where are you in making a decision on whether we should basically commit the time and resources to maintaining those networks?
I think we've been clear that we would like to see those relationships continue. So, Erasmus+ is a particular area that we'd like to focus on. If you think about the science programme, in Britain we do really, really, well from this, and part of the problem about coming out of the EU would be that, actually, whereas we get quite a bonanza in relation to what we put in at the moment, we'd probably be in a relationship that looks much more like Israel, for example, where you can only get out what you put in, and you don't have the opportunity to shape the programme in the first place. So, there are undoubtedly lots of disadvantages of not being part of the EU in relation to some of those programmes, and yet I think there are enough advantages for us to continue with supporting those kinds of things.
That's helpful. In the Committee of the Regions, the British delegation is looking at ways to have some form of relationship in the future. Albert Bore I think has been leading this work as the leader of the delegation. Have you met or do you intend to meet with him, and how are you feeding into that process of some form of ongoing connection with the Committee of the Regions?
I haven't met with Albert Bore yet. I think we'd be open-minded in terms of looking at that, but I think we've also got to be clear about where the impact is going to be greatest because, let's be clear, this is not going to be a department that is flowing with huge amounts of money. We're going to have to be very, very strategic in terms of where we place our priorities. So, I'd want to be very clear about what exactly it is he'd like to see in terms of ongoing relationships with the Committee of the Regions.
That's where the balance is, isn't it, between these bilateral things, where you might be trying to open all sorts of doors.
Or you say, 'Well, actually, a network, multilateral approach is going to give us more return for the sort of investment we can make.'
And some are more effective than others, and that's certainly what I learnt during my time in the European Parliament.
I've got Alun and Huw who want to come in. Before I ask Alun first, just to highlight, Minister, that this committee did do part 1 of its report on these future relationships, and we encouraged the continuation, or some form of continuation or involvement, with the Committee of the Regions, because we see that as an important aspect of the network. So, perhaps it would be a matter of urgency to meet with Albert Bore to discuss what he is doing in that area and arena to see how we can work with him on that.
I think Mick Antoniw is our representative, isn't he, in terms of Welsh Government, so I'd prioritise meeting him. But, yes, I will look at that.
You mentioned the word 'branding', which made me freeze, I have to say. You know, I think it's fair to say over a number of years there have been great efforts made to brand Wales in different ways. What we've never seemed to do is to agree which brand we're using at any one particular time and what that means. We had a ridiculous argument about the Royal Welsh Show last year, and I introduced a food brand for Wales after visiting a trade fair in the middle east. And that was never adopted by other parts of the Government, and the tourism brand is somewhat different as well. We're all looking at different markets; I accept that. And your wish to engage further with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which I wholly agree with—I suspect you will find it very difficult to persuade them to use anything except 'Britain is great' as a brand, and I would suspect that that probably isn't the brand that you would choose to use if you were supporting and sustaining Wales internationally.
So, I'm interested in your approach to this, because in some ways these arguments can all be seen to be a little flippant, but there's a fundamental question here at play, and that is the face that we want to put to the world, the identity that we want to create for Wales, and the way in which we want to promote Wales wherever we are. I accept your reluctance to visit Peru, but, say, for example, the work that has been done in California, for argument's sake—the work has been done very well in Brussels, the work that needs to be done in China, the work that needs to be done elsewhere. What does that face look like? That's what I'm interested in. My experience is that the relationship with the UK Government is far better outside the UK than it is inside the UK, and that embassies and consulates are always very, very anxious to support and to sustain our work, and the work of the Scottish Government as well. But how do we actually take that UK-wide identity, if you like, which is obviously far, far more powerful than a Welsh identity, and then ensure that Wales actually comes through that as well and that we are able to package what we have to offer? You've described that, and David's described some of his issues there as well. How do you package that and how do you then present that face to the world, and what face is it that you wish to present? Because if I look back over the years I've been here, I remember a former Deputy First Minister as well who had a very confused view of the world at different times, and I don't think that the Welsh Government has ever succeeded really truly in pursuing an united, uniformed consistent brand to the world. So, what would that be? What would our face be? And how would you succeed where others I don't think have always succeeded in the past? Is that fair?
I think a huge amount of work has been done on branding within Government.
I don't just mean the logo, by the way. I mean a sense of where we are.
No, no—absolutely. I think part of what we need to do within the strategic plan is to be absolutely clear about what it is that we're trying to sell. Where are our priorities? What is it we're trying to sell? Do we bounce off the back of tourism? There are opportunities for us to bounce off the back of some of the cultural relationships. I think that branding work has developed quite well over the past few years. I was looking at what it looks like on the weekend. What is our face to the world on the website? What are we trying to sell? I think it's quite good, but I think there could be better clarity in terms of the absolute markets that we're trying to go for, rather than a kind of generic approach. So, that's something that we may need to consider.
In terms of the FCO, the British brand is something that we shouldn't turn our backs on. We can bounce off it. We can see it as a positive. It's a huge global brand, and I think it would be wrong for us to just say, 'No, we're just going to do the Welsh brand.' One of the great things about the Welsh offices is that they are almost all housed within the FCO offices. So, the Welsh Government officials who are working there are working hand in glove with those British officials. I think that makes absolute sense. But what we need to do is to make sure that we're getting additional investment out of it and that what's not happening is that the British Government is pulling resources while we're putting resources in. So, that's part of the conversation I think we need with the FCO, just making sure we are getting our share of attention from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is there anything you wanted to add?
Just one sentence—two sentences. I have quite a lot of sympathy with the idea that the Welsh Government has not yet succeeded fully in presenting a proper and unified image of itself internationally. There are multiple reasons for that and it's probably a subject for a whole separate discussion sometime, but I also think that the UK Government and its department and its agencies have also never successfully engaged with us in developing a marketing model that truly reflects the diversity of the UK.
The Welsh Government has no problem whatsoever with the union jack. On the contrary, as the Minister has just described. But, by and large, if Wales is being promoted, we would expect a Welsh flag to appear at least alongside a union jack. It is obviously unsatisfactory to only have a union jack. The great weakness of the GREAT campaign, which the UK has run, which has been quite successful in some respects, is it doesn't accommodate the variety and reflect the realities of devolution within the UK. That's part of the dialogue that the Minister would like us to take forward with our UK colleagues.
In fact, it excludes exactly those images and those methods of communication.
Minister, we've used up a lot of our time allocated already and we still have areas of diaspora, location of offices and business and international trade to question you on. So, I want to move on. Alun had a very small question—it better be very quick.
You haven't spoken this afternoon, really, about soft power, which is what I was anticipating you would do more of. In terms of the way in which we promote business and location and relationships, the soft power, if you like, is something that I think is under-appreciated by the Welsh Government. Is that something you wish to address?
Absolutely. I think that soft power is essential. I think you can go a very long way with it. I think individuals matter when it comes to soft power. I think that one of the things I'd like to do is to engage with the British Council, with the BBC World Service, with those British organisations again where we can try and exert more influence and try and get them to tell our story a bit more for us. So, I think that's a crucial relationship, and then the diaspora, which you've just suggested, Chair, that we can come on to—I think that there are great opportunities there for us to make better use of our diaspora.
Yes, and how well do you think we're doing engaging the diaspora currently?
Well, I think we could do better. I think there are different organisations playing in this area, and we need to make sure that we co-ordinate the work. We need a discussion as to whether we will be looking to support GlobalWelsh, which is the kind of private sector diaspora model, or whether we want to look at the way they do it in Scotland, which is basically Government-run. So, that's something I'd like to consider in the context of a new strategy: what's the best way to do that? But, again, the key thing for me is to find the movers and shakers who make things happen. It's very difficult, and, with the diaspora, part of the problem is that—. Actually, it's wonderful that we have all these people around the world and we need to use them. I've already talked to the branding team and to the team about providing these people with a kind of package of measures: what is it we're trying to sell? Let's give them the information. The danger is that, actually, with thousands and thousands of people all around the world, you can spend a lot of time servicing individuals. So, we need to kind of have different levels of people we engage with within that diaspora focus, I think.
I just wanted to add that we already have a team working very closely on this, but the value of having a Minister is to give it a strategic direction and focus. So, we are already working around the globe through our 20 offices with people who are influential in the market. We're already working with inward investors and supporting exporters on a daily basis, but the real value added now is to give that strategic direction and focus, as opposed to being very thinly spread. So, I think, yes, we do have a lot of work still to do, but we're not starting from zero. We're starting from a strong base, and with the Minister we'll be able to take that forward, both in terms of the diaspora but also in terms of our business engagement.
Can I ask your view, Minister, as to people who had, say, a grandparent or a great-grandparent who was from Wales and moved overseas—do you think, in general, they have as high an awareness of that Welsh ancestry as people with ancestors from Ireland and Scotland in the same category?
Probably not at the moment, and I think that's one of the things we need to do—to engender and get people to understand that they should be proud of that relationship. The difficulty is how you do that and how we encourage people to take that interest, in particular in places like the United States, I think, where that's been such a successful model for Ireland and for Scotland. I think we've probably got work to do in terms of how we can raise the profile and that pride in your kind of ancestry. So, that's something I would like to spend a bit of time on.
Minister, the sort of consultative, open approach that you are taking as Minister for international relations in setting your strategy and considering your priorities in that role reminds me, at least to a degree, of the approach you took in the recent leadership campaign. And I just wonder whether you gained any particular ideas relevant to the field as Minister for international relations, or particular lessons in engagement from that experience, that you would look to apply as you consult and take this open approach in your new role?
Well, I think that, if the Brexit referendum taught us anything, it is that actually we need to engage with the public and make sure that we are listening more to what the public are trying to tell us. So, I think engaging the public is absolutely crucial and that's why I've asked for a Facebook page to be set up, so that I can ask directly people to feed into this process. So, we'll be setting out some questions to try and guide people in relation to the kind of areas that we would like some responses on. But I think we have a wealth of talent in our country, and let's not pretend that it all sits in Government. I think it makes a lot of sense for us to reach out and to use the talent we have across the whole nation.
We'll move on now to our offices overseas, which you've already mentioned. Michelle Brown.
Congratulations, Minister, on your new role. If we could just move to the—. You've explained the relationship between the Welsh offices and the FCO. You can't have a presence everywhere, I acknowledge that, so there are going to be many countries where Wales doesn't have an actual presence but UK Government does. How do you pretty much persuade the UK Government to give Wales the focus that it deserves as a part of the UK? I mean, at the end of the day, the UK Government have got just as much responsibility to promote Wales as a business location and as an exporter as Welsh Government does. So, what work do you intend to do with UK Government to actually make sure that that happens—that Wales also sees its fair share of opportunities that come in through the FCO where we don't actually have a presence in that country?
My understanding is that, actually, we have a reasonably good relationship with the FCO as things stand, particularly in terms of officials' engagement. What I'd like to do is to bring more of a political approach to it and to make sure that we are talking Minister to Minister. I think what has probably been missing is that ability to be absolutely clear in terms of what we would like to get out of the FCO, and by setting that out—. It's quite interesting—if you think about how our Permanent Secretary has come from the FCO, we need to pick up on the opportunities that already exist. There are lots of Welsh people in the FCO, and doesn't it make sense, then, to try and encourage them to do more on our behalf? Because we're pushing at an open door, I think. The problem we've had, I think, is perhaps the lack of strategy, the lack of being clear about what it is we are looking for from them, and that's why really being about clear what our expectations are, I think, would be very useful to them as well as to us.
Thank you for that answer, Minister. The Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee recommended that the Welsh Government should publish a detailed remit for its overseas offices, and that each office should report annually on delivery. Is this something that you're wishing to take forward? If so, how do you intend to do it?
I think the first paper I read coming into this office was that report by the economy committee, which was quite critical of some of the aspects of the offices, but I understand now that there's been a huge improvement in terms of performance measures. What we're trying to do now is we've put a performance manager in place to oversee all of the offices. I met with him last week. It's still early days. It's a much broader function than simply economic development, so we're looking at a multifunctional office where government relations would be part of educational links. So, we need to make sure that we are clear in terms of what we want out of these people. That performance manager now is developing a matrix of priority measures and is receiving monthly reports. I've asked to see those monthly reports so that we can be clear about what we're getting out of them. And I think it's probably too early with some of the offices to assess the impact yet, but some of them, I think, we need to just make sure that they are performing to the expectation that we are hoping for. But we are still in the process of developing meaningful key performance indicators with some of those offices, so that's a process that we're still undertaking.
Thank you. And have you set them targets yet or any objectives yet, or is that something that you're working on?
That's what I was saying—that, actually, we are in the process of developing those. But I think what's key now is, when we have a strategic plan, that they are working to that strategic plan and that their performance indicators will relate back to the strategic plan.
Okay, thank you. Your written evidence highlighted that the focus of Welsh Government's Brussels office has evolved since the referendum, and will continue to do so. Can you set out how you see the work of the Brussels office evolving in the future?
I think what we don't do is to spend 20 years establishing an office and then tear it down because we're leaving the European Union; that's the time to reinforce your relationship. So, I think, if you're going to be pulling out, as the director general suggested earlier, we need to make sure that we build on the fact that we already have an in to some of those networks. So, if we pulled them out, we would be destroying a potentially useful resource base. So, that would be a big mistake. I think now is the time to reinforce some of those areas.
But we also have to recognise that if we do pull out of the single market in particular, then, whilst in the past we've been able to assume that we walk into Berlin or some of these other offices or these other areas, that may not be the situation in future, which is why we've reinforced our offices on the continent—opening a new office in Berlin, for example, and in some of these other places.
We've come to the end of our session that was scheduled, Minister. Have you got five minutes, because I've got a couple of small questions that I want Huw to ask on international trade?
Thanks, Chair. Could I ask, first of all, should we be—maybe it's our line of questioning—worried that, after an hour of discussion and questions and answers, we have not mentioned some of the non-Brexit, non-trade issues such as Wales for Africa?
You may not have mentioned them, but I'm certainly on the case with them. So, I've met with our official. You've got to bear in mind we've only been back for two weeks. So, I've met with the official responsible for Wales for Africa. I think it is important that the image we give to the world is not one that we are turning our backs on the world, and there's a danger that that may be the perception now following the Brexit vote.
So, it's not all—. This is the reassurance I'm seeking, because people have asked me outside here. This is not all to do with Brexit; trade relations and programmes like Wales for Africa and others will continue to be top priorities for Welsh Government and for you as the international Minister.
If I was to say 'top priority' then you'd expect me to be putting as much money into those areas as some of the others.
It's not a question of money. It's just that a little money with Wales for Africa and programmes like that will go a long way.
Yes, exactly. So, I would want to definitely continue with those relationships. I think the impact we're making in some areas is phenomenal with the small amount of money that we're contributing. So, one of the things I've already asked for is to make sure that we know what's going on in Wales in relation to Africa. There are organisations all around Wales who have these tremendous links, and we need to build on them and make sure we all know what's going on where. So, Hub Cymru Africa is—. I've asked this morning, actually—
Okay, thank you. I'm going to turn back to trade now, and just some fast ones to come at you. First of all, we know that there have been difficulties in trade relations with the UK Government; it hasn't always been plain sailing. So, how do you take that forward? How do you improve that? Has there been improvement over recent months? Do you see improvement coming over the next six months?
So, you've got to remember that Britain hasn't done its own trade policy for 40 years. So, it doesn't have the kind of experienced negotiators that the European Union have. So, this is quite a new phenomenon, and we've had to kind of make sure that they are aware that there is a very important devolution aspect to this. I'm pleased to report that, actually, that relationship has improved significantly in recent months, and, certainly, in terms of official-level meetings, that's an engagement that I think has been much more constructive, and we are hoping for some constructive announcements in terms of ministerial engagements in the next few weeks.
That's great. What's your view, as Minister, on the House of Commons recommendation on establishing this inter-governmental international trade committee, which would bring in the devolved administrations within that? Is that a good thing? Would you support that? Are you going to be arguing for that with the UK Government?
We have been very supportive of that. We've been very clear that we would like to see this developed. We have had constructive discussions. I spoke to the Minister responsible last week and made it clear that this is the kind of thing that we'd be interested in seeing develop. It was a very constructive relationship, I think. So, I think we've travelled a long way, but we're not there yet in terms of getting a formal relationship, but we're hoping that something will come very soon.
And on the basis that your relationship is getting better with UK Ministers, have you discussed with them any amendments to the Trade Bill coming forward? Will there be any Wales amendments coming forward to that?
So, there were a series of amendments put to the House of Commons on the Trade Bill. Most of those have been accepted. There's one remaining one. The House of Lords is starting its discussion on the Trade Bill today. There is one remaining issue that is outstanding for us and that's on the trade remedies authority, and we want to make sure that there is Welsh representation and an understanding that we can have an annual report to Welsh Ministers on what's going on with that, and that that will be laid in front of the Assembly as well. So, that is still a sticking point, and we're waiting to hear if they're going to move on that particular issue.
And that sticking point, that's your remaining obstacle to recommending to the National Assembly for Wales that we should support—we should give consent to the Trade Bill.
Once we get clarification on that, I think most of the areas we had concerns about have been alleviated in terms of our concerns.
You said that we've not done trade for 40 years, and that seems to me a key observation, and it applies to devolution because we've had devolution without any politicisation of trade objectives, or at least, if it's been there, to some extent, it's been done within a EU context. Now, as far as I can see, all the UK Government has said so far, in terms of how you deal with the sub-state nature now of the British constitution, is that they're committed to deep consultation, and I'm not sure that's going to go far enough, is it? As a unionist, are you concerned about—? If we have serious trade differences with the UK position, and then, the Scottish Government has profound difficulties, we have profound difficulties on lamb or whatever, we need to get a move on, don't we? Don't you need to be telling UK Ministers that, if they're deeply committed to the union, they're going to need to do more than deep consultation in terms of developing a trade policy?
We've given that message loud and clear, and I think they've understood that it's not in their interest to develop a trade policy where we have particular devolved powers. So, they can make a trade deal with someone that includes references to health, but we're the people who are going to implement it on the ground and we could make their life very difficult. So, they've understood that now. So, I think that's why we've seen much better engagement than we've seen in the past, but, yes, we are hoping that an inter-governmental structure, and a formal inter-governmental structure, will be developed that will mean that we will not see those problems develop. But you've got to remember that this is a reserved area. You've also got to bear that in mind.
Can I highlight a point, Minister? You just said, 'We can make their life very difficult.' Isn't the reality that, if they do a trade deal that becomes a treaty, they can make our lives very difficult?
Yes, absolutely, and that's why this inter-governmental committee that we're hoping that they will set up will be crucial, and we've made it very clear that that's something that we'd like to see movement on very soon.
Time is moving on. I know Members really want to come in and question, but I'm going to call a halt, because we are now 10 minutes over our schedule, with one final question from me. This afternoon, I've heard very carefully the comments you've made—how you want to make the strategy agenda clear, how you want to ensure that everyone understands the purpose of the offices abroad, that we have direction. Is that a damning indictment of previous Governments?
No. I think what's happened in the past is that it's been the First Minister who's had responsibility for that international approach, and, clearly, the First Minister's time is limited. And so what we have now is an opportunity to expand on the work that the First Minister carried out in the past, and to make sure that—in the light of Brexit, I think the circumstances have changed significantly, and that's what allows us, I think, and means that we do have to take this opportunity to have a much clearer approach to our international strategy.
I could expand on my question, but I think I'll probably get the same answer, so I won't. Can I thank you, therefore, Minister, for your time this afternoon? I appreciate the extra time you've given us. It's been interesting to have discussions as to where you see your role in the future, and we'd be very keen to keep a close scrutiny on your actions and the policies, and keep on the communication in relation particularly to the task and finish group and how that pans out and the discussions it has. So, you will receive a copy of the transcript, as usual; if there are any factual inaccuracies, please let us know as soon as possible, so we can get them corrected. So, once again, thank you very much.
Can I just invite the committee also to feed into the development of the strategy? Because there are people here who are also experts, and I'd like to hear from them. And I understand that, in future, you'll want to scrutinise the success or otherwise, but there is an open invitation there for you to contribute to the development of that strategy.
Thank you for that. And you may be aware that we will probably be producing our stage 2 report on the future relationships Wales will have with the EU; I'm sure that will help you as well.
Members, we've got papers to note—item 3 on the agenda. We have two papers to note. The first is correspondence from the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, in relation to the legislative consent memorandum on the Fisheries Bill. Are Members content to note that?
I'm happy to note it, but can I also note that I have some real concern about this legislation going through the House of Commons at the moment? We're being asked to provide LCMs to the United Kingdom Government, and the questions that are being asked by the committee, which we are noting this afternoon, are very real questions—it's a matter for that committee to take its view on these matters. But it is a matter for all of us if decisions are being taken today, almost out of sight of this place, that are going to, in some ways, ensure that we don't have the freedom to determine, in this case, fisheries policies that we believe are right and proper for Wales. And it is something that I have very, very great concerns about, both in terms of the Fisheries Bill and the Agriculture Bill.
Thank you for that. And this paper, obviously, to note is the work undertaken by the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, which has looked at this, which we discussed before. We will clearly have an opportunity to discuss this as the LCM comes before the whole Assembly for consideration. And you are also highlighting the point we have raised before that there are Welsh versions of the Agriculture Bill and Fisheries Bill that we are expecting. We asked the First Minister, and we haven't been given a clear timing on those yet, and they're still on the agenda, as to what is the timeline for those Bills. Because there are implications for the Welsh fishing industry and the Welsh agricultural industry as a consequence of these Bills.
There's also a constitutional issue about the ability of this place to determine a fisheries or an agriculture policy if some key decisions have already been taken without us having the opportunity to debate and discuss those matters.
The LCM debate should give us the chance to do that—to at least start the process of that. But are we happy to note this at this point in time?
The second paper to note is the letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in response to a letter both Mick Antoniw and myself wrote to him on behalf of the inter-parliamentary forum on Brexit. You will note that we wrote to him on 29 October, and we received a response on 17 January, which was the actual date of the next meeting of the inter-parliamentary forum on Brexit. So, there's my disappointment that we got it literally—I literally received this as we were going into the meeting, and it didn't give us an opportunity to really have a good, detailed discussion on it before that meeting. But are we prepared to note it at this point in time? Thank you for that.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Item 4 is a motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting and move into private session. Are Members content to do so? Then we move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:15.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:15.