Letter from the Secretary of State for Wales to the Chair of the Committee
I am pleased to enclose a memorandum as the coalition Government's response to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee's report into Wales and Whitehall.
We are grateful to the Committee for the comprehensive and wide ranging report into the relationship between Government Departments in Whitehall and the devolved institutions in Wales. I attach great importance to this report, and our response, which is aimed at improving the mutual knowledge and understanding between Whitehall and the Welsh Assembly Government. This resonates with our 'Respect Agenda' as improved devolution awareness across Government will demonstrate our commitment to working with the devolved institutions on the basis of respect and show the coalition Government's commitment to a new relationship so evident through the recent JMC meetings and visits by the Prime Minister.
Our response only addresses the recommendations aimed at HMG and outlines what we are doing to strengthen our relationship with the devolved institutions and improve devolution awareness in the civil service, such as:
our 'Respect Agenda', the commitment to make every effort to work together and find common ground with the devolved institutions in Wales to benefit the people of Wales;
a firm commitment to the Joint Ministerial Committee as a forum to promote discussion and a better understanding of the different needs and priorities across the UK, demonstrated by the early meeting chaired by the Prime Minister;
the appointment of a Minister in each Department to ensure devolution is considered;
my commitment to work to ensure that cross-border services work effectively for people on both sides of the border between England and Wales; and
specific devolution training for all entrants to the Civil Service Fast Stream, which prepares future senior managers, as well as devolution training for new entrants to the Senior Civil Service.
The Committee's report also addressed the Legislative Competence Order process. We have noted the Committee's recommendations but feel it is not the right time to pursue changes to the process whilst the question of further powers for the National Assembly for Wales following a referendum remains unanswered.