Don't mention the GCSE: ministers gather in No 10
- 19 September 2012
- From the section Wales politics
A Welshman, a Scotsman, a Northern Irishman and an Englishman go into a room.
Yes, the joint ministerial committee has been meeting again, today in 10 Downing Street, with the prime minister in the chair.
The agenda covered the economy, public finances and aviation policy, although energy and transport costs also featured prominently.
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones renewed his case for the Welsh government to be given borrowing powers, suggesting they were the key to funding improvements to the M4.
He also pressed for the devolution of air passenger duty which he said would help airports in north and south Wales. The first minister says he told David Cameron the idea of a "Boris Island" airport in Essex was "fanciful".
Mr Jones's counterparts in Scotland (Alex Salmond) and Northern Ireland (Peter Robinson) were also present, along with their deputies and the Welsh Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant.
The Wales Office, the UK government department that looks after Welsh interests, was represented by its newest recruit, junior minister Baroness Randerson, who had to rush to another meeting afterwards so was unable to be interviewed about her new education role. (Secretary of State David Jones is abroad on a family holiday - his first for a year - that was booked before his recent promotion.)
The official communique has now been published by No 10. This paragraph caught my eye: "The meeting also covered the state of relations between the four administrations of the UK. Ministers reaffirmed the importance they each attached to the respect agenda, to effective inter-governmental relations and to the underpinning machinery such as the memorandum of understanding which established the joint ministerial committee."
Carwyn Jones was happy to field questions about the continuing GCSE row, although he suggested it was time to move on.
He said his government is talking to Northern Ireland about the future of GCSEs on the assumption that an exam known as the English baccalaureate certificate would not be appropriate for Wales.
He said politicians would always disagree on some issues, but reserved his strongest criticism not for Michael Gove but for the regulator in England, Ofqual, which has criticised academic performance in Wales. "For a chair of an arm's length body to criticise another nation's education qualifications is unprecedented," said Mr Jones.
The "respect agenda" clearly remains a work in progress.