There’s always been a question over the position of Secretary of State for Wales or Welsh Secretary as it seems to be referred to by most commentators. Though they then use the term Wales Office (To my mind they are using adjectives instead of nouns and nouns when they should be using adjectives but in truth grammar was never my strong point).
However since devolution there it has often been asked do we still need a Welsh Secretary? Would it not be better to combine the role of Welsh, Northern Ireland and Scottish Secretary into one department? Where the Minister would have much more influence on the cabinet. I am under no illusion that the post of Welsh Secretary is the lowest of the low in the cabinet rankings ,and it is common knowledge that none of those eight Welsh Labour MP’s who failed to get elected to the shadow cabinet actually wanted this job.
Nevertheless the position is there, but what is its purpose?
Is it to represent the view of Wales in the government?
Or to represent the views of the government in Wales?
Or a combination of both?
What is clear that this week Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan completely failed in any of these categories, with regards the proposed closure of Newport Passport office
She says she has spoken to the home secretary about the threatened closure. But has not said that she has asked the Home Office why she wasn’t informed of this, and why the Welsh assembly had not also been given the courtesy of knowing their plans.
Can anyone really imagine this happening in Scotland?
Neither Labour nor Libcon governments have an interest in appointing someone who would fight tooth and nail in the interest of Wales or Scotland. During the Second World War Thomas "Tom" Johnston was a highly successful Secretary of State for Scotland virtually ruling the country,and it is commonly believed that the powers that be swore never to let any minister have that power again.
Of course devolution has changed all that and the Welsh and Scottish ministers find themselves dealing wit first ministers who (at least in Scotland) can make decisions without asking the prime minister or the rest of the cabinet.
And now of course they are of different parties.
Nevertheless If Cheryl Gillian can use her influence (if she has any) to save the Newport Office then she will deserve credit if however she is ignored. Then like virtually all her predecessors she would have put her government interest before that of Wales and she should ask herself what is she there for? and consider her position.