Cheryl Gillan bids to revive the Welsh grand committee
- 6 November 2013
- From the section Wales politics
Cheryl Gillan has been reliving her time as secretary of state for Wales in front of a House of Lords committee.
Mrs Gillan gave evidence to peers on the constitution committee as part of their inquiry into the implications of coalition government.
She is not a fan, blaming the Liberal Democrat deputy prime minister for allowing an initiative to ensure each Whitehall department has a "devolution minister" to wither away.
A network of devolution ministers set up by the coalition was supposed to meet regularly under the chairmanship of Nick Clegg. Mrs Gillan said it met once under Mr Clegg, who then passed it on to the Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander, before it faded away.
She had other ideas for improving communications between Westminster MPs and Cardiff Bay AMs. The problem? "We're operating constitutionally in too many tramlines and not allowing what I would consider to be better communications."
The solution? "I have always thought that the Welsh grand committee and the Scottish grand committee could be used much better and. I think, I hope your committee would have time to explore whether that is an area of our existing constitutional architecture which could be taken and, for example, there could be joint meetings between the MPs in Wales and AMs in Wales under the auspices of the Welsh grand committee and likewise in Scotland.
"Devolution is here to stay, and we have got to make it work a lot better, and I think that we've got to think of innovative ways that will not turn us, heaven forbid, into some sort of federal set of states within the United Kingdom which is not what I want, but something which improves the communications and exchange of information that is above and beyond what I call the dispute settling arrangements that exist."
Is this an idea whose time has come? The Welsh grand committee, which has not met since June, currently consists largely of Welsh MPs. It is hard to see them wanting to let AMs among their number or AMs wanting to join an institution often derided as a talking shop or the "Welsh bland".