Devolution: A Decade On - Justice Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by Tom Jones

  I submit the following as evidence/opinion for the Select Committee review of Devolution. I do so in a personal capacity but with knowledge gained from taking a lead role on the links between Whitehall Depts and Wales when serving as a member of the Richard Commission.

  I am aware of the role of the Secretary of State for Wales in promoting understanding and goodwill where the so-called jagged edges and innocent amnesia exist and of the good intentions of Ministers and senior Civil Servants to ensure that best practice occurs. However, the system is flawed and depends too much on goodwill and interventions, belatedly, from within Wales.

  A transparent, accountable operational structure appears to be missing. There is a lack of clarity within Departments on who are the key stakeholders in Wales. Stakeholders in London/England are involved much earlier than those from Wales. Sometimes, there is confusion within civil society organisations in Wales as to whether they should respond directly to Whitehall or via the Assembly or both!


1.  Scrutiny

  Who scrutinises policy and actions of Departments delivering in Wales when there are no Welsh MPs on the relevant Select Committee? Questions to ask would be about—who from Wales was consulted, was the Welsh Language taken into consideration, was the new policy duplicating or in harmony with Assembly policy in overlapping fields, was the timing sensitive to other policy developments in Wales, were Wales-based case studies considered, were other possible funders [European etc] involved? What financial resources were made available to develop the policy in Wales? For the above questions to be properly answered, there has to be a form of Wales proofing similar to the Rural proofing that new Governmental policies are expected to undertake. Ministers should be able to demonstrate that such account has been undertaken.

2.  Transparency

  Is the mediating and informing role of the Secretary of State for Wales's Office published as a plan of activity and reported on an outcome basis? Are Civil Society organisations aware that they can go there for help?

  How do non departmental public bodies work in Wales? Do they receive clear instructions in their remit letters or corporate plan approval from Ministers as to how they should work in Wales, are they allowed to vary policy in Wales to coincide better with patterns of working and delivering which may be diverging? Should they report separately on their activities in Wales—a separate summary? To what extent should they engage with the Assembly directly and how should conflict of policy be accommodated or resolved? Some NDPB's have Wales Committees, some are informal, some are advisory and a few are statutory. Again this can be confusing for the public from a scrutiny position. Ideally—they should be on a statutory basis given the process of Devolution, with clear accountability, policy capacity and financial resources to deliver effectively in the Welsh environment. There is also some confusion around the various so called Welsh member. It can be seen as token representation, sometimes referred to as the member for Wales or the member from Wales or a member with some knowledge of Wales but with no direct mandate to report or consult or lobby. Even the appointments process is confusing as it sometimes involves the Assembly and sometimes doesn't. Recruitment agencies rarely rate an application from Wales as being suitable for Chairmanship but rather as being reserved for a member from Wales slot!

  Finally, most Departments and public bodies have offices in Wales. Some are seen as National, some described as Country and some treated as simply another and smaller regional office. This is confusing and embarrassing to staff and confusing to external stakeholders who are uncertain at what level to raise an issue.

  I hope that these opinions may be of some value in raising questions and pointing to some answers. There is some confusion and lack of clarity in the absence of a promoted code and framework. I welcome this review by the Select Committee and look forward to its conclusions.

April 2007

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