Why are Yorkshire MPs speaking for Wales at Westminster?

Stephen Kinnock. Picture by House of Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Labour politicians were quick to react yesterday when it was revealed that the Conservatives had appointed an MP from Yorkshire, Stuart Andrew, as a minister in the Welsh Office.

However, Labour don’t have a leg to stand on, on this particular issue.

They announced the same day that their replacement for outgoing MP Stephen Kinnock on Westminster’s Welsh Affairs Committee was another Yorkshire MP, Thelma Walker.

This isn’t a matter of not being sufficiently Welsh to represent Wales. Stuart Andrew is, as the Conservatives were quick to point out, “a Welsh-speaking Welshman”.

It’s a matter of democratic legitimacy. Both Thelma Walker and Stuart Andrew were elected to represent the best interests of the people of Yorkshire – not Wales.

Although perhaps shorter of Welsh MPs than Labour, the Conservatives have little excuse. A Welsh MP, Guto Bebb of Aberconwy, made way for Stuart Andrew.

But Welsh Labour’s inability to find another Welsh MP to sit on the Welsh Affairs Committee is inexcusable. They are in possession of 28 of Wales’ 40 constituencies.

There are at least six Welsh Labour MPs that only sit on one committee in the House of Commons:

  • Jo Stevens – Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
  • Stephen Doughty – Home Affairs Committee
  • Chris Evans – Public Accounts Committee
  • Susan Jones  – Petitions Committee
  • Ian Lucas – Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
  • Albert Owen – Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

It should be noted that Thelma Walker is already on the education committee, so she is taking the second committee on despite the fact that six Welsh Labour MPs are only on one.

There are also five MPs who are only on two committees:

  • Ann Clwyd – Committees on Arms Export Controls, Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Stephen Kinnock – Brexit Committee, European Scrutiny Committee
  • Madeleine Moon – Defence Committee, Defence Sub-Committee
  • Chris Elmore – Whips, Consolidation Bills (Joint Committee), Procedure Committee
  • David Hanson – Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, Justice Committee

Only five Welsh Labour MPs are on three or more committees, and the rest are blameless because the either sit on the Welsh Affairs Committee or have other roles, such as frontbench work or whips.

This raises the question: Why on earth don’t any of these eligible MPs want to be on the Welsh Affairs Committee?

With Wales struggling to have its voice heard at Westminster, is being on the Procedure Committee, for example, really more important for a Welsh MP?

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