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Cabinet Committees

Volume 512: debated on Wednesday 23 June 2010

6. What recent discussions she has had with the Prime Minister on the representation of the interests of Wales in Cabinet Committees. (3037)

May I add my congratulations to the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) and her ministerial colleague on their elevation to the Government Front Bench, but will she confirm that the previous Secretary of State sat on as many as a dozen Cabinet Committees and his ministerial colleague sat on up to a dozen as well, and in the light of that—and of the delay in the referendum date, as well as the appointment of a lovable rogue whom I like very much indeed but is an arch devo-sceptic as Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs, and the attack on Welsh MPs—will she tell us why this is not telling the Welsh that they—

Oh dear me. I think the hon. Gentleman needs to catch up with the procedures of the House because I believe Select Committee Chairmen are now elected. That has nothing to do with the Government. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman had spent less time sitting on Committees he would know about the changes that were made in the House. I must remind him that what impresses the electorate is not the number of Committees a Member sits on, but what they do for Wales. We have already done more for Wales in the five weeks we have been in office than the previous Administration did over 13 years. The hon. Gentleman might also like to note that we have reduced the number of the Committees that he sat on in his ministerial capacity to 11. It is better to have a small set of fully functioning Committees where relevant people continually discuss related issues than for Members to be able to boast that they are sitting on a lot of Committees.

May I also give a warm welcome to the Secretary of State for Wales and say, as somebody who might well be chairing a Committee, that I am sure that the vast majority of people in Wales will want us out and about in Wales trying to put right the problems that the Labour party created rather than sitting around in Committee Rooms?

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing his new position on the Welsh Affairs Committee? I wish him well, and I hope he will bring education about devolution to this House, because I remember reading the last Select Committee report, which said that it was disappointing that, even after 13 years of the previous Administration, the Welsh Affairs Committee had found that

“Whitehall has not fully engaged with the complex nature of the devolution settlements.”

The ignorance of devolution arose under the last Government, and I hope my hon. Friend will, through the good offices of his Select Committee, put that right.

I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her appointment as the Secretary of State for Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr Hain) has said, she is the first woman Secretary of State for Wales. However, she follows a time-honoured tradition of Conservative Welsh Secretaries who represent English constituencies. She represents Amersham and Chesham, or is it Chesham and Amersham? Anyhow, it is somewhere in Buckinghamshire. Could the Governor-General, or should I say the Secretary of State for Wales, tell me how many times she has visited Wales since her appointment?

I do not know whether I should welcome the hon. Gentleman’s remarks or just feel sorry for him. I have lost count of the number of times I have been in Wales since I was appointed, but I think it is about nine or 10 already. If that is the best he can do for a question—to ask how many times I have been on a train—when we are facing such economic troubles in this country, then I do feel sorry for him, which was my first emotion.