Tony Blair’s government wanted Assembly to be ‘subordinate’, says former minister
Tony Blair’s government wanted the National Assembly to be “subordinate in every possible way”, according to a former Welsh Government minister.
Alun Davies was responding to recently released letters which discussed what titles the leaders of the institution, which is now known as the Senedd, or Welsh Parliament, should be given.
He said the UK Government didn’t want the Assembly to be “perceived as a Parliament in any way”.
It was argued by Downing Street officials and UK Government ministers that leading figures in the Assembly should not be given the title of Minister, unlike members of the Scottish Government.
This was so that they would not be confused with “Ministers of the Crown”.
The first leader of the Assembly, Alun Michael, who was later replaced by Rhodri Morgan, was originally given the title of First Secretary instead of First Minister.
Alun Davies said: “The impression given in this correspondence is that the UK Govt wanted to ensure that the new National Assembly was subordinate in every possible way and that it must not be perceived as a Parliament in any way. We’ve travelled a great distance in 20 years.”
A letter from Lord Irvine of Lairg, the Lord Chancellor, to the Secretary of State for Wales, Ron Davies, on 13 November 1997, said: “I was asked, following yesterday’s DSVVR discussion, to write to you with proposals for the titles to be given in the Government of Wales Bill to the leading members of the Assembly.
“I understand that, unlike the case of members of the Scottish Executive, it will not be acceptable to colleagues for these leading figures to be called Ministers.
“In these circumstances my suggestion is that the person elected by the Assembly to lead it should be called the Assembly First Secretary, its subject committees should be called Assembly Secretaries.
“I believe that this terminology would both make clear that these people’s responsibilities relate exclusively to the Assembly’s work without fear of confusion with Ministers of the Crown, yet also give them a proper status as important figures in our devolution policy.
“You will appreciate the presentational importance of the latter consideration, given that comparisons will inevitably be made with the use of the term ‘Minister in the Scottish Bill.
“I hope, therefore, that colleagues will feel able to agree to this.”