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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wales Office Ministers keep digging

Liberal Democrat AM, Jenny Randerson, has obviously hit a sore point in her criticism of the huge increase in the Wales Office budget. Not only did she provoke Peter Hain to come onto Radio Wales yesterday and make some very personal and insulting comments about her, but now his junior Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, has stepped into the row.

The Minister accused his department's critics of being “poorly-informed” and of attacking the work of civil servants:

Mr. Irranca-Davies said the department was taking on extra work to ensure the new Orders in Council process – the gradual, and novel, transfer of powers to Cardiff Bay – worked smoothly.

“It requires skilled, professional, committed people behind the scenes,” he said.

“I take offence when politicians, for a cheap political point, refer to hard-working committed individuals as ‘layers of mandarins’.

“To attack the Wales Office in such a flippant and poorly informed manner is to directly attack the devolution process, and to attack the needs and aspirations of the Welsh people.

“I will be generous, and suggest that attacks on the Wales Office are due to fellow politicians being poorly informed."

Mr. Irranca-Davies is certainly protesting too much. The point is that the Government of Wales Act is a mess. It may well be devolving additional powers to the Welsh Assembly but it is doing so in the most inefficient and ineffective way possible. It is causing additional layers of bureaucracy to be created both in the Assembly and in the Wales Office so as to administer Legislative Competence Orders and it is directly responsible for this latest example of empire building at Gwydr House.

Far from 'directly attacking the devolution process and the needs and aspirations of the Welsh people', Jenny Randerson is part of a group of people who want to see this process move forward more quickly and without us having to go cap-in-hand to a bunch of cranky MPs every time we want to do some good. If anybody is holding up the devolution process it is them.
Of course the 2006 Act is a mess . The real debate evolves around the comments of the Sage of Wapping Peter Riddell and the Economist who both argue that Scotland and Wales should have tax raising powers. We would then have a mature political debate about public expenditure instead of spin.
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