31 October 2000

Alison Halford (Delyn):

Does he intend to publish what are the exact functions of policy co-ordinator for North Wales. (OAQ7414)

The First Minister:

I refer you to the answer I gave to Janet Ryder (OAQ7387) in Plenary today. Follows {{Q7 Janet Ryder: Will the First Minister make a brief statement on co-ordination of Government policy in north Wales? (OAQ7387)}}

The First Minister:

In my new role as Minister with special responsibility for the co-ordination of Government policy in north Wales, I will ensure that the north is properly represented and seen to be properly represented in all Assembly policies, including matters related to resource allocation and public appointments. I will also ensure that the North Wales Regional Committee’s voice is heard loud and clear at Assembly Cabinet level.

Janet Ryder:

I welcome that announcement. As Minister with responsibility for the north, will you guarantee today that you will attend every meeting of the North Wales Regional Committee and will allow full scrutiny of your actions regarding the north in those meetings?

The First Minister:

It would be rather too much for the North Wales Regional Committee to want to invite me to every meeting. I have to be invited. I cannot invite myself to the meetings. I understand that Ann Jones asked the Committee to invite me; it has done so and I have agreed to attend. I understand that its next meeting, at which I will be present, is on 8 December.

Alison Halford:

I had a supplementary question to Tom Middlehurst’s withdrawn question. However, my point has been covered by Janet Ryder’s supplementary. We were going to invite the First Minister to the North Wales Regional Committee meeting. He has now signified his willingness to do so and I will be delighted to buy him tea as soon as he arrives at the meeting.

The First Minister:

Every time I am invited to a North Wales Regional Committee meeting, I will seek to attend.

Dafydd Wigley:

I am pleased to hear that assurance as the First Minister fails to attend half the meetings that he arranges in the North. How can he operate as Minister for the North when he withdraws from meeting after meeting? For example, he withdrew from a meeting with the University of Wales in Bangor a fortnight or so ago and from a meeting to open the Welsh Highland railway—and I can understand that—and a range of other meetings. Will he give an assurance that he will keep his engagements in the North from now on and and attend every meeting of the North Wales Regional Committee?

The First Minister:

Steady on, Dafydd. That was over the top. How could anyone expect any first minister, or anyone with my duties, to attend every meeting to which he or she is invited? It is a pity that that happens. However, I do not think that my record is shameful, and I am happy with it. I will visit north Wales during the next two weekends.

Peter Rogers:

As the co-ordinator of Government policy in north Wales, will you instruct Cabinet colleagues to review their procedure in answering letters? We receive a variable level of response in north Wales and, in some cases, we do not receive any replies.

The First Minister:

I am not sure that that is an issue particularly related to letters received from north Wales. I hope that he is not referring to the postal service between north and south Wales. I am aware of a serious problem in the postal service in Cardiff during part of last week, which may have delayed some communications. If Peter wishes to write to me with the details—I am not aware of a complaint about the time taken to reply to letters—and if there is a problem, I will be able to examine it and try to sort it out.

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