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Friday, December 11, 2009

On the new Welsh Government

Just over a week ago I had a go at guessing who might end up in Carwyn Jones' cabinet. Some I got wrong but by and large I was not far off the mark.

The two significant differences were over Jane Hutt and Huw Lewis. I was of the view that Jane Hutt would be dropped. She has not been a huge success in either of the two portfolios she has held of health and education, amongst other instances presiding over a huge rise in waiting times in the first administration and failing to fund the Foundation Phase properly whilst in charge of education.

Nevertheless, her appointment as Minister for Finance and Assembly Business is a shrewd move. It plays to her strength, which is as a conciliator, a negotiator and a deal-maker. She proved that when she was last Business Minister and those qualities too will hold her in good stead in putting together some of the most difficult budgets the Assembly will ever have faced.

Huw Lewis is another matter. As Deputy Minster for Children he will at last have the opportunity to put into effect what he has been preaching for years. He may not have polled well enough in the leadership election to have guaranteed himself a cabinet place but I believe that it was a mistake not to have offered it to him.

As I said in my previous post I thought Huw should have been given the Social Justice and Local Government post. Then he really could have shown what he could do. Still, Carl Sargeant should do well in that job, though I will be intrigued as to how he adapts to the local government side of his portfolio.

As predicted Edwina Hart, Jane Davidson and Gwenda Thomas stay in post, whilst Leighton Andrews gets his reward for running Carwyn's campaign by inheriting Education and Lifelong Learning. I also suggested that Lesley Griffiths would be promoted and so it proved. She will be deputy to Ieuan Wyn Jones, though it is not yet clear what exactly the boundaries of her brief are.

Again, as I suggested John Griffiths has been made Counsel General. This job was designed for a high powered lawyer though that is not to say it should not be filled by a solicitor like John. Nevertheless, this is the second time this post has been used for political reasons to increase the size of the cabinet beyond its statutory limit of nine by appointing an Assembly Member. One cannot help but feel that we are not getting value for money in the way envisaged by the Government of Wales Act 2006.

Alun Davies was overlooked for promotion and yet he indicated a few days ago that he would be vacating the chair of the rural affairs sub-committee. My guess is that he will be rewarded for his support for Carwyn by inheriting the chair of Communities and Culture from the new Chief Whip, Janice Gregory. Amongst other things this committee is responsible for broadcasting, which has been a strong interest of Alun's in the Assembly.

As to whether that prediction turns out to be true or not we will have to wait until January to see.
You're wrong about the Government of Wales Act on a number of points.

Firstly, the limit on the number of ministerial posts is 12, not 9. The limit covers all ministerial offices, including Deputy Ministers, and it's up to the First Minister to decide how to carve up the posts. If he wanted 12 Ministers in the Cabinet, that would be allowed.

Secondly, the Government of Wales Act explicitly envisages that the First Minister may choose to appoint an Assembly Member as Counsel General (see Section 34).

In light of these points, it is hard to see how either Carwyn Jones or Rhodri Morgan can be accused of using the post of Counsel General to somehow subvert the intentions of the Government of Wales Act.
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