The First Minister, Carwyn Jones AM, made the following statement on 12 July 2016
“Llywydd, I had hoped to be here today with a freshly pressed copy of the Programme for Government in my hand. However, it is not yet the time to do so. The Brexit referendum result has changed things fundamentally. There are many questions about the future to which we simply do not have the answers. The impact of Brexit on our own budgets and programmes will be very considerable. Our partners in HE and the private and third sectors will be greatly affected as they map out their futures. We all await a serious indication of the UK Government negotiating position towards Brexit – and, crucially, confirmation from the UK Government that Wales will not lose out as a result of our EU exit.
Nothing would further intensify that sense of dislocation between people and the Governments that are here to serve them, than me making promises today that I know our Government may struggle to deliver.
I am therefore delaying publication of our Programme for Government until September, by which time we hope we will have firmer information on which to base a realistic assessment of our financial situation.
So much has changed in a few short weeks since May’s elections to this Assembly. For many of us, it has felt at times as if we are living in a parallel universe. The decision to leave the European Union is momentous and, as I have said, the real world implications of the vote are still very far from clear – financially, socially, and for Wales’ place in the world. As a government, we are utterly determined to get the best deal possible for Wales from the process ahead.
There is a huge amount of work already underway to set firm foundations for delivery over the next five years. I am proud of the way we have weathered austerity over recent years, and sheltered as best we could the services that people really rely on from the worst of the financial storm that has engulfed us. But there are still choppy waters ahead for our finances.
There are already worrying economic signs stemming from the EU vote, which could have a serious knock on effect on the public finances. And, despite the cast iron pledges of Leave campaigners, we still have no guarantees from the UK Government that the £600m or so a year we receive in EU funding will continue to flow to Wales after the UK’s exit takes place – and I must tell you very candidly that without this assurance we face a very large hole in our future budgets.
I call on the UK Government once again today to give the guarantee we need on every penny of that funding, which would give us a far clearer picture of what we will have to deliver what the people of Wales voted for in May. It’s time to make those promises a reality.
Since the vote last month, the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and I have been working closely with Welsh business and inward investors to give them as much reassurance as we possibly can. We have been listening closely to their concerns. Our ‘ask’ of them is clear – keep your nerve, keep investing, remember all the things that make Wales a great place to do business, and keep talking to us.
Despite the circumstances, we hear many positive messages, and we hope to be able to make some significant new announcements very soon. I want to send a similar positive message back today based on what we’ve heard from businesses in recent weeks.
We know that infrastructure is critical when it comes to investment decisions. And so, despite the uncertainty over the significant element of EU funding, I’m confirming today that we will be pressing ahead with the development of the Metro project, which has such transformational potential. It may not be in exactly the same form as before, we will have to look at alternative funding models and it may take longer to get to where we want to be, but I believe this is an important signal to employers that Wales is still open for business, eager to progress and that our ‘offer’ to investors will only improve. My colleague the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy will say more later on this.
So, yes there is uncertainty, but we will continue to lead and we will refuse to be gloomy. Chris Coleman was a great example to us all when he talked about the daring to dream, and being unafraid of the future.
There will be no stone left unturned by me and this Government – and this whole chamber I suspect, in our ambition to deliver for Wales.
I want to look forward to the rest of this Assembly, and set out the positive measures we are determined to implement over the next five years. The people of Wales elected this government to make real improvements in their lives, and we will deliver on this.
We were elected on an ambitious programme, with very clear priorities – to deliver more and better jobs through a stronger, fairer economy, improve and reform our public services, and build a united, connected and sustainable Wales.
Wales in the 21st century is diverse and complex, but the expectations of people are simple. Healthy lives, good education, good jobs, strong communities and infrastructure that meets our needs. As a small country, we have strengths and opportunities that many others do not have. We have the opportunity to build a strong team approach and join up our programmes to reinforce and build on what people and communities are doing for themselves.
The Future Generations Act is a call to arms. It cannot make our decisions for us, but it can help us to work together to build the Wales that we want. I am clear that we do not drive improvement by publishing strategies. We drive improvement through action and through strong leadership. I will be working with my Ministers over the autumn to develop four cross-cutting strategies which will set the framework for how we deliver our priorities:
A secure and prosperous Wales
A healthy and active Wales
An ambitious and learning Wales;
And a United and Connected Wales.
No single Minister can deliver these priorities, and I am setting us and our partners the challenge of working together to find innovative ways to make a change in all of these areas for the people of Wales. We will be working on these strategies throughout the autumn to consider how we can have the greatest impact and genuinely wrap services around people at the times and places when they need them.
As part of our Compact to Move Wales Forward with Plaid Cymru, we have already set out our immediate priorities for our first 100 days in office. Although the 100 days falls at the end of August, we have hit the ground running and work is well advanced.
We are developing plans in all of the areas I spelt out in May and also for those areas of common ground with Plaid Cymru. The Minister for Skills and Science has already made a statement on the immediate changes to apprenticeships to meet our commitment for 100,000 all age apprenticeships. These will ensure that opportunities are not restricted by age and are widely available.
We have made a statement on our legislative priorities – again focusing on those areas that enjoy broad support across this Chamber, and using legislation only when it is clearly the best way to bring about change.
Discussions are progressing on the establishment of a Review into the long-term future for the NHS in Wales.
We have established the three Liaison Committees – for Constitution, Finance and Legislation. All of the committees have met, and already they are showing the truth of my commitment to work openly with others and in acknowledgement of the wishes of the people of Wales.
This afternoon the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport will make further statements on the plans for a New Treatment Fund that will remove variability in access to innovative, new, high cost drugs. The Cabinet Secretary for Education will announce her plans for a self-improving education system this afternoon which will encompass our commitment to increase investment in schools.
These plans show how we will place health, jobs and schools at the heart of our plans for Government. And we will make announcements on the other commitments in due course.
We are also, of course, pressing ahead with the programme agreed with the Liberal Democrats, under which Kirsty Williams became Cabinet Secretary for Education. These will be reflected in the strategies that we will develop over the autumn.
All of these priorities are a crystal clear indication that this is a government open to the best ideas in Wales, wherever they come from, if they can make a real contribution to our goals.
I made clear my desire for this Government, and this Assembly to be different. The election of Committee Chairs was an immediate and welcome move to openness – and it is in this spirit that I wish us to continue. This is a Government committed to working collaboratively and innovatively, as the only way of meeting the ambitions of the people of Wales.
Together we can build a Wales that is more confident, more equal, better skilled and more resilient. As a country we have punched above our weight, and now we are ready to do more. I want to see a Wales which is prosperous and secure, healthy and active, ambitious and learning, united and connected.
This is the Wales we are determined to build over the coming five years.”