Wales Office "builds on success" - says Wales Office

In the bedside reading bestsellers' list, it may struggle to outsell the Silk commission's first report.

But the Wales Office's latest annual report will be pored over by political geeks anxious to discover more about the role played by the department and to measure its performance.

The report covers a period which "has seen the Wales Office build on its success in the previous year". That success, according to the Wales Office, included the establishment of the (Silk) commission on devolution and announcements of rail electrification and broadband expansion (even if other government departments foot the bill for both). The report covers a year in which the prime minister replaced Cheryl Gillan as secretary of state with her deputy, David Jones. Two unpaid ministers - Stephen Crabb and Lady Randerson - took his old job.

With few executive responsibilities and a relatively tiny budget, the Wales Office is a curious beast. It used to be said that advisers advise and ministers decide. In the Wales Office, ministers visit. "We have supported our Ministers as they have travelled the length and breadth of Wales," says the report. These visits largely go unreported by national media as they have to compete for airtime and page space with visits by ministers who have announcements to make and money to spend.

As with so many political documents, the annual report is notable as much for what it leaves out as for what it includes. A change in the number of single member constituencies in the National Assembly for Wales was scrapped after a coalition split at Westminster over changes to parliamentary boundaries.

The report merely (under)states: "It did not prove necessary to take forward the proposed changes to assembly constituencies...." The anoraks among us can fill in the context.

The Wales Office plays a role liaising with other Whitehall departments. The report says: "The Wales Office worked closely with the Home Office to ensure that issues specific to Wales were fully considered throughout the implementation of the new policing policies."

The report doesn't ask why - if the departments were working closely throughout - no-one spotted this problem before the taxpayer was presented with the bill.

David Cameron's promise to lead the greenest government ever is reflected in Whitehall's "carbon reduction commitment".

"The Wales Office," says the report, "is committed to reducing its environmental impact by........ using public transport rather than cars when travelling to meetings."

I wonder how that one's going.