Down in Cardiff today, for the Politics Show. Wasn't sure what to expect. Would Aled ap Dafydd have recovered from his recent 'savaging' at the hands of the Coco Pops kid, Leighton Andrews, Assembly Government Minister for Education. In what I thought looked like a premeditated attack, he described Aled as 'stuck up', middle classed and a disgrace to the BBC. I particularly enjoyed the 'middle class' bit! Turned out to be almost a 10 minute 'one to one' slot - and very civil. It must have been the muesli I'd eaten, instead of Coco Pops. But let's consider some of the issues we discussed.
There's the matter of what the Wales Office does. For some reason a few think that all the Wales Office does is deal with the Legislative Competence Orders that will be no more (thankfully). Just not true. Government departments do not operate in silos, thinking only about their direct responsibilities. It's nothing like that in practice. Every member of the Cabinet contributes to and takes responsibility for all Cabinet decisions. David Cameron has always greatly valued a Welsh 'voice' at the Cabinet table. I approve of that. And there are many issues with a major impact on Wales, where direct responsibility lies in other departments. Its crucial that the Wales Office has an active involvement - transport/electrification; DCMS/S4C; defence/St Athan, etc.. Why on earth anyone would not want a Wales Office involvement in these issues is beyond my understanding.
Second issue was where we go now with the devolution process. Seems there's a bit of resistance to the idea of 'financial accountability'. UK Coalition Government policy, now that the referendum is over, is to establish a commission to look at how the Assembly can move on from just being a body which decides spending priorities - and how the 'trade-offs' between spending and tax raising, (which even Town and Community Councils have), might be devolved to Cardiff Bay. Governing means making tough choices and taking hard decisions. I think all groups in the National Assembly (I could be wrong here) established the Holtham Commission to consider 'accountability', alongside 'fairness' in funding. Quite a bit of work has already been done on the 'fairness' agenda (fair for or England and Wales) - even if action is on hold until the UK public finances are stronger. Even Gerald Holtham recognised 'fairness' reform to be a 'medium term' issue, which is why an interim measure is being considered (the Holtham Floor). Seems to me that we need to begin the process of thinking about 'financial accountability' as well. Anyway, Aled and I just talked around this important issue. I don't expect much progress until post Assembly election.
Finally, he asked me what law I would like to see the Assembly pass, using its newly acquired powers. I opted out of answering. An overriding objective for me is to strive for a good working relationship between the Governments at Westminster and in Cardiff Bay. It would not help at all if I start trying to tell the Assembly Government what to do. Both sides of the M4 should always have mutual respect in mind. Both sides should try to do its own job as effectively as possible, and try not to interfere in the other's responsibilities. At least, that's my opinion.
All in all, I thought it was a pretty good interview. Didn't drop any clangers, and stayed on friendly terms with Aled. And nobody's complained since.