"Sleeping" Wales Office attacked in Lords debate


It may have been a short debate about bilingual ballot papers but it also raised questions about the UK government department that represents Wales.

Labour peer Lord Touhig, a former Wales Office Minister, wanted to know why his old department had not spotted the UK government's failure to make sure the ballot papers in next month's police and crime commissioner elections would be bilingual.

He described Secretary of State David Jones and junior Minister Stephen Crabb as "the sleeping beauties of Gwydyr House" (the department's Whitehall office) and said they didn't seem aware of what was happening.

Lord Touhig was speaking during a 45-minute debate on the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Welsh Forms) Order 2012

"Where were the Wales Office ministers in all this?" he asked. "Did they know about this mess? If they did, what did they do about it?

"After all, there are three of them now. The last time we had three ministers in the Wales Office was before the National Assembly for Wales existed.

"In pre-devolution days the Wales Office actually ran public services like health and education. They were responsible for everything from agriculture to transport. The present Wales Office doesn't run anything at all."

Lord Touhig looked back on his four years in the department. "We had just two ministers. We certainly had a much greater workload than the three there now - we included responsibility for taking through legislation, something the present trinity of ministers do not have to do because the National Assembly has legislative powers.

"These sleeping beauties of Gwydyr House didn't seem to be aware of what was happening at all. We've all heard of the term 'sleeping partner' but I'm sure we didn't expect it to apply to an entire government department. Under this government, the Wales Office has no profile, the ministers are invisible, they have no mandate."

The ministerial workload was actually questioned in Lord Touhig's day after official figures revealed ministers received an average of just one letter a week from MPs in the post-devolution era.

Home Office Minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach said his department and not the Wales Office were responsible for conducting the election.

The order paving the way for bilingual forms to be issued should be formally approved in the Commons this evening (without a vote or debate) - less than 24 hours before the postal ballot papers are due to be sent out.

David Cornock Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    #30 Don't know what list you're using, Woody. Top of their counties ??? Specifically, when did Cardiff - Ysgol Glantaf overtake Cardiff High in the ratings: be it Oxbridge places or the A-level points average? A very nice school, mind. I once had occasion to ask a senior pupil the direction of the headmaster's office, and he conducted me there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Dicbig what do the following top performing schools have in common?
    Caerphilley-Ysgol Cwm Rhymni, RCT-Treorchi, Pembrokeshire-Ysgol Prescili, Vale of Glamorgan- Bro Morgannwg, Cardiff-Ysgol Glantaf, Carmarthenshire-Ysgol Duffryn Amman, Conwy-Eirias High School
    Denbighshire-Ysgol Dinas Bran.Flintshire-Castell Alun. I could go on but no room. Answer all billingual schools and top of their counties

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Bitter and Twisted DicBig. Not all of us can afford Private Education for our kids so we do the next best thing and send our kids to Billingual Schools. My kids went there and are now reaping the benefits abroad and at home. Their billingualism has helped to master other langauages and in my sons case help him to do business. Private Education would have led up a different ALLEY

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    #26, The people of Wales have yet to be asked whether they would approve tax raising powers for WAG, and the Labour Party (De facto Political Wales) is realistic enough to side step that particular bag of worms, Carwyn knows it would impoverish the little people, take away the services that are needed to survive....

    ... and the little people, they know what's best !

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Three Welsh Office Ministers? I didn't even know there used to be two when post devolution one would have been enough. In these times of Civil Service cuts how is this possible. Perhaps that's why there's such a lot of 'low profiling' going on and no heads popping up over the parapet. Time to wield the axe I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


    You wish! A very clear majority of Welsh citizens back tax raising and borrowing powers for the National Assembly (Silk Commission poll, July 2012). As, of course, does the UK Government - no free rides any more!!

    Any red coloured Welsh Government will eventually have to respond according to the wishes of their electorate.....the Silk Commission.....and a sense of responsibility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.


    are u deluded?

    i hear welsh all over the rhondda!lol lol

    i'm actually crying here.There may well be welsh schools all over,i went to one,but do you honestly believe that all these thousands of kids just speak welsh?you never heard welsh outside of the classroom in school,unless a teacher was near.
    it's a dead language,being propped up at great expense for no apparent reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    #22, devolution "was" a process Cythraul, it has moving into a siding.

    The brake that was put on this "process" was the offer of tax-raising powers, it terrifies the politicians of all the parties employed in Cardiff Bay.

    My prediction is that nothing will happen until after Salmond's referendum, then a UK wide convention will be called, this will nail the lid on the separatist coffin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Yeah I suppose the Rhondda is very British with two billingual Comps in the Valley with over a thousand students in each.I use Welsh everyday in my business, You have to keep people employed in S4C to meet the increasing demands and the rising audience figures.Its certainly the language of friends. You are quite bitter towards the language and look for any excuse to ridicule it

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.


    Devolution is a process Mr Tyler, not an event, and the ball is rolling. Even Don Touhig appears to have finally woken up!

    A shabby place? Unlike the prosperous, confident society we've become under centuries of Westminster rule of course. Ha! There's your delusion for you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    i suppose you don't get more british than the rhondda valleys do you woodsey!
    welsh is not the language of business,welsh is not the language of friends,welsh is no longer the voice of worship,nor the language of the internetIn fact,can you please tell me woodsey the point in welsh?other than to keep people employed by s4c that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    As I wrote Cythraul ...

    ... delusional !

    When the Labour Party in Wales works with the Conservatives (and Lib Dems) at Westminster, any aspirations the separatists might have are without a doubt, without substance.

    Having said that, in the unlikely event of independence, there can be no doubt Wales would be a shabby place with Cythraul and chums in charge ...... ethnicity would rule !

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.


    Delusional Mr Tyler? I can assure you that the National Assembly for Wales, the Welsh Government and Welsh laws are very real!

    Ethnicity? All you need do is bear in mind that us Cymry/Welsh are an official nation in the UK, Cymru/Wales is our homeland, and we now exercise the right of self-determination. Other British/EU nationals are free to come and go as they please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    #12 'Viewing figures up for Radio Cymru'
    AISB It paints a charming picture, fit for St Fagans, of our little Welsh family, all dressed in flannel, gathered round, huddled together against the permanent rain, the sole source of heat the reddening valves on their steam radio.
    The phrase in English, for the imperfectly bilingual, is 'listening figures'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    ... thank you for letting me stay Cythraul, your #14, where you state ...

    "You're free to stay of course, but it's on our terms now....."

    ... I must respond with "delusional" !

    You should understand Cythraul, we do not live in a dictatorship where ethnicity predominates, we live in multicultural Britain that accommodates even the perverse ....

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    re woodsey

    lol-the delusion tastews devine

    name one welsh speaking community in the rhondda?

    walk through cardiff and you'll never hear people speaking welsh.


  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    ... I think you have missed something in translation woodsey (#13), I was born in Wales of parents born in Wales. You seem to assume an that I am English, not that it would be an embarrassment or inconvenience, my wife is English, my daughter, well it depends on who is winning.

    ... as for changing ways, that's the world moving forward !

    Myself, I quite like being British-Welsh !

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    "Your culture is unknown to me, as is your language, to both I am indifferent, but living in Wales is my choice, and I exercise that choice"

    Unfortunately for you 'colonial types' in your ever decreasing circle of wagons, things are changing. Us Cymry/Welsh are gradually exercising our choice of national self determination. You're free to stay of course, but it's on our terms now.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Thas the Trouble John Tyler English people don't embrace any culture other than their own. Its dates back to the age of Empire. They are monoglots that feel that the country they reside in should change to their ways. Its a sad trait

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    It may be dying in your little British enclave but it is thriving everywhere else. Viewing figures up for Radio Cymru and S4C . 39% of children in Billingual education. Some dying langauage bigdig


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