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

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  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    So the Language Bill is not going to be challenged by the Government in the high court then. Shows they were wrong and just being their usual Prima Donnas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    But we know you are a Scientist Boxer because you alway want to brag about it. Showing yourself up again for what you are and what we all know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    #124 'Never take things at face value when you don't know who or what you are talking to or about.'
    Perhaps you should take your own advice, boy bach.
    Due to the noms de plume on this blog, neither you nor JT know if the other was a major general or a traffic warden

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    If your Welsh philosophers wrote in Welsh, Alf bach, it is not so surprising that they remain in total obscurity.
    If you try putting so-called 'original' placenames in Pembrokeshire, I foresee some interesting civil disobedience. I remember the contortions of the Nats when, after years of daubing English signs green, they were faced with red &blue paint on their new bilingual signs. signs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    Haven't you heard of Political Philosophy John. That is what Politics is all about. Implementing ideas and philosophies . Though for Politicians it is usually foe self interest

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    Not saying anything about the Language Bill challenge then Boys Bach.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    ... yet you dismiss a philosophy that is a jewel of justice because of its origins !

    The USA is not all bad, its certainly different, its origins are with the non-conformists of Britain, and this nonconformity is generally approved of in the context of Wales.

    Turn back the covers on any society and you will find pockets of greatness, listen to Sandel's lectures and you will be surprised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    Wrong John I have had to take responsibility for others for the last 37 years in a way you and the majority of people would never be able to cope with. Never take things at face value when you don't know who or what you are talking to or about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    ... you confuse politics with philosophy alf.

    ... and you have obviously disregarded the invitation to read "Mahatma Gandhi's Talisman". My guess is your mind has its shutter down.

    Lets hope you never have to make decisions that impact on people !

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Humm John tell me one place in the world America doesn't have it's long and greedy tentacles. Who are the ones who want to spread their free world doctrine of greed and corruption around the world. Imagine what it would be like if the Tea Party got in. No sorry John definitely no rebuttal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    ... that's a very cutting statement alf :

    "American philosophy is slowly destroying this world"

    A rebuttal :

    Michael Sandel lectures at Harvard, he is particularly interested in the concept of the veil of ignorance (Mahatma Gandhi's Talisman [1948]).

    Before condemning all US philosophy because it is "American" I suggest you google "Mahatma Gandhi's Talisman".

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    ... time move on alf, people change, one persons correct can be changed by the stroke of a pen.

    An example, in Caerphilly, an area originally "Pen-yr-Heol" has become "Penyrheol", its pronounced "penrowl", now try telling the locals they must change 60 years of usage, its not going to happen, and lets be candid, what does it matter.

    What matters is the people can live a safe and happy life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Michael Sandel. American is he John? Says it all. American philosophy is slowly destroying this world. Now they are looking for other ones to destroy as well. Why don't you try reading from some Welsh Philosophers you might find them interesting and gain some knowledge. I wonder what vitriol I will have back from this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    ... no Fo, just time moves on, and as one gets older much that seemed important .....

    .... well its not very important.

    I still get to be a little grumpy with regards too injustice, I listened to a series of lectures on-line by Michael Sandel at Harvard, you might say it changed the way I see much in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    What are you on about John. What is being dictatorial about calling a Village, Town Or City by its correct and original name. That would be common decency and respect for the area you move to, or live in. The names have an historical meaning to that specific area from long before people migrated here. You just can't answer my comments except with vitriol can you. Because you have none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    Re 111

    John bach,

    So, what happened to "Its a little like Caerphilly or Caerffili, not very important" all of a sudden?!

    And no insults, just history. Uncomfortable?

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    ... I don't have a personal preference alf, although I expect the majority of English speakers might object to a dictatorship of the minority.

    With regards to Owen IV, there wasn't a reference in the book as to the source, so I have emailed a question to Dr. Ian Mortimer, the author.

    The problem with "People would soon get use to them" is that imposition is a bitter pill to swallow ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Well said Alf.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Yes John, But which is the correct and original name. It would have to be the Welsh one. before it was Anglicised. Just like Pontneddfechan turned to Pontneathvaughan. or Hirwaun became irwin. Just because the English overlords or migrants couldn't pronounce them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    No need for billingual name places just put them in Welsh as we are living in Wales. Also I'd go further and just call the police Heddlu. In Ireland they are the Garda and Irish is spoken by about 8% of the population. No probs there. Ambulance is another example. People would soon get use to them. Think how cost effective it would be.


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