Thank you, Mr Speaker. I wish to make the following statement on the thirty-sixth summit of the British-Irish Council (BIC), which took place on Friday 19 November 2021. The summit was hosted by the Welsh Government. The heads of the delegation were welcomed by the First Minister of Wales, the Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, who provided the opportunity to use indigenous, minority and lesser-used (IML) languages in the summit meeting. I attended the meeting to represent the First Minister. Minister Hargey represented the deputy First Minister, and junior Minister Middleton also attended. They have agreed that I make the statement on their behalf. The Scottish Government delegation was led by the Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP. The UK Government were led by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. The Government of Guernsey were represented by the Chief Minister, Deputy Peter Ferbrache. The Government of Jersey were led by the Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré. The Irish Government were led by an Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. The Isle of Man Government delegation was led by the Deputy Chief Minister, Jane Poole-Wilson MHK.
A full list of the delegates who attended the summit is attached to the copy of the statement provided to Members.
The Council reflected on the latest political developments across the jurisdictions and took the opportunity to engage on a number of topics of mutual interest, including the economy, trade, ongoing relations with the EU and the twenty-sixth UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Ministers discussed the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the progress of post-pandemic recovery programmes.
In advance of the summit meeting, Ministers with particular responsibility for IML languages met to discuss IML language acquisition in the early years. Following a verbal report on that meeting, the Council held a further discussion on IML languages and early years policy during the summit meeting in order to reflect on challenges and opportunities for policy approaches in that area. The Council also took the opportunity to discuss the recent work of the Council across all its sectors and to take note of the ongoing collaborative work being carried out by officials.
The Ministers took note of the progress made in the implementation of proposals agreed at the thirty-fifth BIC summit in Northern Ireland in June 2021, including the formation of a senior officials group and adoption of a protocol for holding extraordinary summit meetings where they are needed. Finally, the Council noted that the next BIC summit will be hosted by the Government of Guernsey. I commend the statement to the Assembly.