Ministerial committee meets to review UK devolution

Among the senior ministers from the UK’s devolved administrations meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to discuss the UK’s second full year of devolution were Sir Reg Empey and Mark Durkan.

Following the meeting held in Cardiff the Northern Ireland Assembly Minister for Enterprise and Investment Sir Reg Empey said the second annual meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) marked a “significant and important event in the development and strengthening of ties between the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and central government in London”.

Sir Reg said that the meeting provided not only the opportunity to reflect on recent events in Northern Ireland, but also to take stock of the experiences of devolution in the last twelve months: "Devolution is now an established part of the political world in the UK. The essence of devolution is, that working in partnership with each of the administrations and the UK Government, each of us can effectively provide a democratically accountable level of service and decision making which addresses the needs of our people."

In relation to the Northern Ireland Executive, Assembly Minister of Finance and Personnel, Mark Durkan said: "Despite the political difficulties over the last period we, as an Executive, have been able to deliver a comprehensive Programme for Government and an agreed budget for services and programmes across 11 departments. We have also brought forward strategies on key issues, including work towards the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner.

Mr Durkan emphasised that, as part of the devolved structures, the JMC provided an additional opportunity to input directly into the highest level of government and had an important role to play in shaping decisions and policy planning for the devolved regions.

Chaired by the Prime Minister, the Joint Ministerial Committee is comprised of the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, the Regional Secretaries of State and the First and Deputy First Ministers of each of the devolved administrations.

The Joint Ministerial Committee allows the administrations to exchange information and take forward joint action in these areas. UK and devolved Ministers also meet regularly outside the JMC framework in both formal and informal settings. (SP)

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