• March 11, 2011

Following a successful vote in favour of adopting primary law making powers in Wales last week, the presiding officer for the Senedd/Welsh Assembly Government caused a further debate on the weekend by suggesting that the Welsh Office ministry could now be scrapped, which has in turn led to calls this week for the Scottish and Northern Ireland Office to also be scrapped and replaced with one body.

Lord Elis-Thomas, who is a Plaid Cymru member, said that there is little justification for continuing with a Welsh Office, now that the power of the Senedd will be increased. Mr Ellis-Thomas said that there will not be many more powers left with the current Secretary of State for Wales as a result of the Welsh referendum and any remaining powers should also be returned to Wales, such as the calling of elections, like they have been in Scotland and the north of Ireland. In addition, Mr Ellis-Thomas said that with the scrapping of the Welsh Office ministry, there is also an argument for Wales to adopt the Scottish government’s position of employing a `Scots Lawyer’ to be the Council General equivalent and the Advocate General for Scotland – who is a UK law officer – should now also be replicated in Wales. Mr Ellis-Thomas even went so far as to say the latter role could be undertaken by the same person.

Wales Office Minister David Jones accused Mr Ellis-Thomas of causing `guerrilla warfare’ on the British state with his comments, which have sparked a wider debate this week, leading (UK) Members of Parliament to call for only one UK
Minister to be responsible for the north of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Welsh Office employs 60 staff, the Scottish Office 100 staff and the Northern Ireland Office 110 staff, in addition to the respective (UK) Secretary of States. With a (UK) referendum approaching in May 2011 on whether to keep the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs or to switch to the Alternative Vote= – which in part has been argued to be a money saving exercise, because it will also reduce the number of MP’s – the UK government cannot easily justify keeping ministerial offices open that have little power.

However the UK government have said that they do not have any plans to get rid of any of the Ministries and have argued that the Ministers concerned have an important voice on the UK Cabinet, which Mr Ellis-Thomas contents can and is currently done by Ministers from the Welsh government.

The Welsh Office was originally established as a territorial department in 1965 to execute government policy in Wales. Before the (UK) general election in May 2010, the Conservatives promised to create a Cornwall Minister for the same purpose if it was successful in being elected, which would have increased Cornwall’s influence and standing within the UK. However, despite creating the post of Cornwall Minister before the election, the Cornish are still waiting for the government to fulfil its promise on this issue now that it leads the government. If the existing Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales Ministries are merged into one Office, as has been suggested, maybe Cornwall could also be included in the same administration body.

This article prepared for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot General Secretary Celtic League. For follow-up comment or clarification contact:

Tel: 0044 (0)1209315884            

M: 0044(0)7787318666          


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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