Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Wales Office - our voice in Westminster.

You have to admire him. The great Machiavellian Lord of Meirionydd that is. Whenever he feels a bit bored, he just puts a call into the BBC, tells them he wants to say something significant - and 'Bob's your Uncle' he's starring on the Politics Show. Despite his 'significant something' being no more than a re-hash of what he's said before - and blatant propaganda for Plaid Cymru, his own political party, during the run up to an Assembly election. Lord Elis Thomas plays the BBC as if it's his own personal Stradivarius. Mind you, I can't complain, because it nets me a 'slot' on Post Cynta tomorrow morning to comment on his comments. That's the way it works - like a circular firing squad.

Lets consider what his Lordship told the viewers he wants. Seems he thinks an appropriate response to this week's Yes vote is to abolish the Wales Office, including any ministers at Westminster responsible for Wales. Since he's a member of a political party that wants an 'independent' Wales, this should come as no surprise to anyone. This will happen if and when a majority of the Welsh people support it. But personally, I think it would be most unwise to set aside Welsh interests in favour of a political agenda, which around 15% of the Welsh people support. I see the Wales Office as the 'Voice of Wales at Westminster and the voice of Westminster in Wales'. Scrapping the Wales Office would be more self-destructive than when the WRU sacked Mike Ruddock.

None of the above either surprised or bothered me. But two of his 'opinions' did. Firstly, he gave credit for the announcement about the electrification of the Great Western Line into Cardiff, and the reduction in train journey time to Swansea to everyone except the Secretary of State for Wales. And the second irritating comment was that the Secretary of State delivered this week's referendum because she had "no choice". On both issues he was just plain wrong. On the second issue, let's look at the facts. It was AMs who left the decision to ask for the referendum until so late in the political cycle that it took a mighty commitment by Cheryl Gillan to deliver it before May 2011. So little preparation work was done on the referendum before the General Election, that only by total focus on the subject was the incoming Conservative-run Wales Office managed to pull it off in time. And in passing, was it not Lord Elis Thomas himself who at one stage wanted the referendum delayed until after May 2011 anyway! I was never sure that he actually wanted one.

I've just about heard enough unjustified Labour driven propaganda about the Wales Office not delivering for Wales. How many more times are we going to hear that the Severn Barrage was 'cancelled'. It was never going to happen. All that the previous Labour Government achieved was to 'blow' mega millions on an impossible dream. They did quite a lot of that sort of thing. And Cheryl Gillan did deliver electrification into Cardiff - which in my opinion no-one else would have done. And she delivered an Assembly powers referendum to a timetable that no-one else would have done. Actually, I never really get cross about these things. There's always the comforting thought that the people are not daft.


Anonymous said...

I don't agree with Daf a lot. However I thought it was hilarious that Hain and Gillan united against him, with no opinions on reform. Trying to save their jobs I think!!! as I don't think either would get a position in cabinet if there was no SoS for Wales.

But in all seriousness Glyn, the whole point of the Assembly was to democratise the Welsh Office. We then had a Wales Office which was essential under the LCO process.

Now, what does Cheryl and yourself do from day to day? I can't imagine you are Wales's voice in London day in day out!?

I do though believe there needs to be some form of representation, so perhaps a 'Secretary for the Nations' could be created. And so if there was a problem with Wales he or she could address this. And then all functions the SoS has transferred to the Assembly (not Gov)- it's crazy that things like elections are governed by our Governor General still!.

If you Glyn (which I think you do) believe the Wales Office as it is should exist, please give a blog stating this.

My only message on the Wales Office effectiveness came this week. When asked about St David's becoming a bank holiday Minister David said absolutely no way. Just a few days later, we had an announcement from the main UK Gov that it could. That's how switched on the Wales Office is.

So for once I agree with Daf El. Get rid of it and reform it. Let's get a powerful 'switched on' Secretary for the Nations- or get a forum for the First Minister of all nations to access cabinet (e.g like the Council of Ministers they have in Germany, this would keep to your "Respect Agenda")

Glyn Davies said...

anon - Fair comment, which I would need some time to respond to, which I don't have now. Hope I have time tomorrow, though I find little time for blogging Mon -Thurs. All I have time to say for now is that a 'Secretary of State for the Devolved Nations' would not mean the abolition of the Wales Office. For quite a few years this was such an arrangement. I remember Curry, Spelman and Ancram doing the job for the Conservatives before Cameron recreated the specific 'Wales' position in the cabinet. And you say that the Wales Office was needed to manage the LCO process, but this cannot be the case. LCOs were not invented until 2007! I can understand that you may think that all Welsh issues should be devolved - but they are not. There remains much undevolved which (inmy opinion) needs a Wales Office to deal with.

Jac o' the North said...

Nice try, Glyn; but the wind is blowing the other way.

Even before devolution few who understand the system believed the "voice of Wales in the cabinet" argument - with the likes of Hague and Redwood, who needed native guides to get around!

The Secretary of State for Wales is the voice of London in Wales; a kind of governor-general post that owes more to the 19th century than the 21st. It is now largely defunct and will soon be gone.

Jeff Jones said...

What's the problem Glyn? Dafydd El only stated the obvious. Why have three cabinet ministers for the devolved administrations? The only logical political reason at the momnent is that it gives the Liberal Democrats an extra cabinet seat. Common sense would argue for just one and that is of course assuming that you believe that the devolved adminitrations with full lawmaking powers should be represented at all at this level. After all where is Yorkshire's voice in London? They could easily be included in abeefed up Department of the Communities and the Regions. After all for years Wales was covered by a junior minister in the Home Office without much trouble. Thursday's vote will probably also see the 'West Lothian' question finally resolved. It cannot be right that MPs from the devolved administrations can still speak and vote on issues which only concern England. Such a change might cause major problems for a future Labour government but unfortunately as usual some Labour politicians never think through the consequences of their actions.

Anonymous said...

The days of the Wales Office are now dead, we in Wales have have our own Government. Anything that London wants to impose or the Welsh need should be done through these channels. Perhaps Cameron should create a Convention where the FM's of the Nation meet up each month to press any problems. Having a Governor General like we have now only keeps 2nd rate politicians within a job.... and it's "sooooo" last century(!).
If it was effective I could justify it, but it seems not. With the St David's day issue, they were not switched on with Central Government- they were as clueless as the WAG were.

The West Lothian Question must now be answered and I think the Gov have two options:
1) English votes on English issues or
2) A devolved English Parliament.

Now I don't like 1) as if this was true, it will have a direct implication for Wales (as Barnett would be adjusted... so it seems unfair). Furthermore this would diminish the role of Parliament as a British one.

2) is a much better one, but only if we come truly federal. Where everything to do with Wales should be made in Wales (which was basically what most voters and Carwyn felt the referendum was about).

Then the other stuff like Security, national taxes could be done in London. But then again would this diminish the Union? personally I don't think so.

These could be exiting times for the Constitution of the UK, whether the politicians have the b*lls to do it is another thing!

If it is done, I hope the tories do a better job than labour.

Anonymous said...

It didn't take the Welsh Nats long to start pushing for extra powers and the abolition of the Welsh Office. All through the referendum campaign, the YES lobby threw verbal stones at the NO team for fear mongering that this was the thin end of the wedge. 'It's just a constitutional tidying up exercise' they said; and now within days of winning they are grasping more and more powers for the discredited Labour-Plaid govt. If we do go down a fully devolved law making, tax raising parliament in Cardiff - then it is only morally right that England gets its own full Parliament, not a lop-sided English votes mess.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see anybody denying abolishing the Wales Office, coz frankly people don't give two hoots about the "Ministry". Really what does it do now?, surely most would like to save money and see it closed down, or severely reduced. This isn't nationalism... it's just common sense!

Anonymous said...

I agree with some that there must be a Wales Office.
After all they have announced policies recently stating... er... erm.

Oh, but I remember I got a letter from them on... erm.. err... well.

I remember that Cheryl and her team laying out proposals saying... er errrmm... well.

Actually, I now question is there a need for it? isn't it just like a pressure group? which seems by the way to fail under both ConDem's and the Labour party.

Jac o' the North said...

An English parliament makes sense, Roman. Otherwise we'll have a House of Commons with bouncers deciding whether Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish MPs can enter that day because English-only legislation is being discussed, or chucking them out when such legislation comes up.

All because devolution has progressed after 12 years and is established in the devolved countries and Northern Ireland, but the problem lies in London, where too many people still don't understand the implications for England.

This includes politicians, civil servants, media and many others who really should be up to speed by now. The tragedy is that the only ones who seem to get it are fringe groups like the English Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Peter Black stated on his blog that money saved from the Wales Office would go to the WAG for their services, is this true?.

I thought at first this would be just pennies. But if you look at the Wales Office site and there are 60 workers within it, with 13 'senior' staff on top of Ministers and PPS. This, surely would save millions.

I navigate to see what work they do and it seems that there is very little on the site, next to nothing in the 'news' section. This indicates to me, it is an artefact of another age and must be removed and the people of Wales given the dosh.

Anonymous said...

Go for it Wales!

Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) - Libya 'rebels' want it, so why not the people of Wales?

Just one caveat: Wales needs England more than England needs Wales...

Anonymous said...

Ah! The Wales Office! 'our' voice in Wales. Yes yours, Gillan, Hain and Jones. Not once do I meet anyone who contacts the W.O if they have a problem. It's the WAG. They should be our voice in London!

Anonymous said...

If the Welsh Office and the Secretary of State for Wales are to be our representatives in the UK cabinet, then surely it would make far more sense for them to be appointed by the Frst Minister of Wales?

At present the SoS does not represent a Welsh seat, does not represent a party that has been endorsed by the Welsh electorate, and is appointed by a Prime Minister who has no democratic mandate from the Welsh people.

The last point is of course the decisive one, and would still be the case if the UK government co-incidentaly also held a majority of Welsh seats as was the case before last May.

With the best will in the world, isn't it a matter of fact that the SoS and the Welsh Office represent the UK government and not the people of Wales?

Anonymous said...

I just hope they don't include questions on what the Wales Office does in the next edition of Trivial Pursuit.

Anonymous said...

"I just hope they don't include questions on what the Wales Office does in the next edition of Trivial Pursuit."

Nor on the WAG regarding the mess in Education (PISA and Estyn reports), the mess in the Dept. Transport/Economy, the dreadful Welsh economy - (bottom of the UK economic league tables); no Welsh university in the world's top 100 university, etc. etc.

and, oh, let's not discuss the millions spent on a supercomputer setup in Swansea and very little to show for it in terms of the man in the street *zip patents* whereas much simpler computer simulations of batteries recharging c/o a university outside Wales has generated extremely valuable IP that will secure lots of jobs and earn millions in IP fees.
Chris Wood

Anonymous said...

Simon Dyda,
I'm preety clued up on the Constitutional goings on around here. But even I have no idea what so ever what the Wales Office actually does now. I mean what can Cheryl Gillan be doing from 9am - 17:00 on say a Tuesday. If you look at Welsh Questions you'll notice that almost all questions asked to her were not about her post, those that were, were to do with LCO's. That's now gone.

What would be great Glyn if you could give us a 'typical' Secretary of State week. Say what productive work she does. An no 'engagements' or 'meetings' from 9-5 do not count!!

YR WYLAN said...

'What would be great Glyn if you could give us a 'typical' Secretary of State week.'

A very fair request from anon. And while you're at it what do you do in the Welsh Office?

Anonymous said...

Saw Guto Bebb on TV today, and he had it In the short term keep the Wales Office, (by short I mean until a review on funding is over). But in the long term change it (I think, but not too sure, he said it should be scrapped). I think he mentioned there should be a mechanism for Welsh/Scots/N.I Govs deal with London Gov. I think that's right, anything then in the future could be dealt by Nick Clegg and the Constitution Office. But really when W.O is abolished, the Tories should take this opportunity and make a major step and really tidy up devolution- clear funding through, give the Assembly big bulking of power (similar to Scots) and be done with.

It'd be great though Glyn to see where my taxes are going at the moment on the W.O. What does Gillan do from Monday-Friday 9-5. And that will indicate to us what Hain is shadowing..... don't think that'll be a long blog!!

Anonymous said... add to the above, I think Leanne Wood said it all on the same programme as Bebb. Would people in Wales go on the streets if the Wales Office was to be abolished?.


Anonymous said...

Might be worth the Good Lord becoming a Good Lord @ The Lords?

He can then mix with the great and the good at leisure and still fire off e-mails to his media chums on any issue he wishes.