Wales

Carwyn Jones defends record after four years as first minister

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Media captionCarwyn Jones said Cardiff Airport would not be sold completely

First Minister Carwyn Jones has defended the Welsh government's record running the NHS and education after a series of results have suggested Wales is falling behind in both areas.

He gave a wide ranging interview in his end-of-year news conference which also marked exactly four years since he took over as first minister.

Much of the news conference was spent responding to problems in health and education.

The latest concerned new figures, obtained by the BBC, showing that Wales consistently has the longest delays in the time that patients are kept waiting in ambulances at accident and emergency units.

In one case, a patient had been kept inside a vehicle for more than six hours before being admitted.

In response, the first minister acknowledged that while there were problems with the ambulance service last winter, the vast majority of patients were not waiting long, and those that were did not have life-threatening conditions, he said.

He also responded to last week's results from the Pisa international education league tables after Wales came bottom in the UK.

Mr Jones repeated his claim that while the results were disappointing, they didn't show the entire education system was in crisis.

He also repeated the ambitious target of reaching the top 20 when the next Pisa tests are carried out in 2015.

Since the results were published last week, there have been claims from within the Welsh government that ministers took their eyes off the ball on education, particularly in the early years of devolution.

Achievements

I asked him whether people should feel let down by the Welsh government since devolution as a result of the gap that has emerged in the results by Welsh teenagers and those elsewhere in the UK.

He said he did not believe people should feel disappointed, but added: "There is clearly an issue in terms of delivering on the ground. There is no getting away from that. "

Mr Jones began by outlining the government's record on unemployment since he took office, along with a big rise in inward investment projects and the planned introduction of a scheme to help first time buyers get onto the property ladder.

But he said he felt his greatest achievements in that time had been the referendum on full law-making powers for the assembly and the change in the law to bring in an opt-out organ donation system.

Today's news conference also marked almost exactly a year since the Welsh government announced it was going to buy Cardiff Airport.

Earlier this year the £52m deal went through. Since then, he said the book value of the airport had risen by around £3m and that talks had got under way with a potential operator to take over the running of the airport in the medium term.

He said: "We would never sell it completely but we don't want to run it.

"We have an arms length company running the airport but in terms of the longer term solution for the airport, as we have always said, we are looking to bring in an established operator and the interest is there."

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