Monday, 11 January 2010

Whitehall and Wales

'Whitehall have little awareness of devolution.' so says Sir John Shortridge the former Head of the Civil Service in Wales in his evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select committee.
After the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales in 1999, he reckoned that Whitehall departments made a serious attempt to understand the settlement and its implications for the running of government business. But he was now of the view that after this initial burst of activity that the Whitehall civil service as a whole has failed to keep pace with the evolving Welsh settlement.
The problem arises when Welsh issues land on desks of civil servants in Whitehall who have little knowledge of the governance of Wales or the sensitivities involved.
He blames the London-based media as being partly responsible for this state of affairs. 'Ten years on they [the London media] still regularly report on policy developments in England as if they apply to Wales, and in stark contrast to Scotland the rarely provide any serious coverage of political events in Wales.'
He goes on to predict that when devolution comes of age, a future Prime Minister will scrap a separate department for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as 'no longer needed.'
He suggests that the current system could be improved by building a strong network of Devolution 'experts' in Whitehall supporting a Joint Ministerial Committee.
Its interesting that a man until recently at the top of the civil service tree in Wales sees Wales been marginalized by Whitehall and Westminster. Something we've long suspected. The sooner primary law making powers are devolved so that the English centric civil service cease to matter the better Wales will be.

1 comment:

  1. Gill Morgan said something very similar recently.