Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Centre
for International Affairs
Our input relates to two mattersdiplomatic
issues relating to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's role,
and the Department for International Development's official links
1. FOREIGN AND
The issue we wish to concentrate upon here is
the FCO's role as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between
the UK government and the National Assembly for Wales's Cabinet.
We particularly wish to make reference to the supplementary "Concordat
on the Co-ordination of EU Policy Issues" that forms part
of that Memorandum, and have three points to make on it.
(a) Firstly, the role of the UK Representation
in Brussels (UKREP) is crucial in terms of relationships with
the Assembly here. It needs to ensure that its liaison with the
Assembly's representative in the Wales European Centre (WEC) in
Brussels and with key Assembly representatives in Cardiff is close
and effective, this to guarantee Welsh input to policy deliberations
at an early stagewhether they be to the European Commission,
Parliament or other sub-national offices. It seems to us that
the relationship between Des Clifford, as the Assembly's person
in WEC, and UKREP has been quite positive, and we anticipate that
this can be further built upon. However, we are unsure that the
degree of collaboration between UKREP and Cardiff-based Ministers
and officials is so effective.
(b) Secondly, Assembly Ministers and officials
are entitled to attend Council of Ministers' meetings, and have
a clearly defined role to play therein. Yet they are not attending
on a regular basiscertainly not as frequently as the interests
of Wales suggest that they should be. Nor is much being done to
cultivate relations between the Assembly and European Commission
staff or other EU governments at member state or regional level.
It is unclear whether this is due to lack of availability on the
part of the Assembly personnel, or to lack of co-ordination with
the FCO, or whether the FCO is not being active enough in encouraging
such involvement, but we feel that the relations should be formalised
more than at present.
(c) Thirdly, the secondment of National
Assembly staff to UKREP and to European Commission institutions
was laid down and agreed to in the Concordat. The necessity of
safeguarding the career prospects of such secondees has also been
recognised within the civil service. However, such secondments
have not occurred as yetit is still a proposal rather than
a reality. UKREP quite rightly recruits on merit, but it may be
that the Assembly should send trainees at its own expense, for
one or two years, so that they learn the systems and assist in
this liaison role more effectively on their return.
What is stated above is true as well, in more
general terms, for international relations as a whole (Concordat
D3 on International Relations). Allowance is made there for Ministers
or officials from devolved administrations to form part of UK
negotiating teams, and to speak for the UK in international gatherings.
We heartily hope that this becomes a reality, and feel that it
needs monitoring by both sides (presumably by the Parliamentary
Relations and Devolution Department on the side of the FCO) and
potentially more resources made available to service it.
The work of DFID has not been part of the devolutionary
settlement, as it was felt that its responsibilities remained
distinct from those of the National Assembly for Wales.
While in general terms this is quite correct,
the fact that no-one has been appointed by DFID to be its official
point of liaison with the National Assembly has meant that liaison
with Welsh NGOs/aid agencies has at times been uncertain.
Moreover, the issues of development education
and its promotion within the UK has not been passed on to the
Assembly as far as Wales is concerned. This is despite the fact
that all other aspects of education policy and implementation
have been devolved. This has resulted in anomalies being created,
and we feel that in this too there is scope for better co-ordination
through closer DFID/National Assembly links.
27 October 2000