Wales politics

Scotland has better Whitehall relationship than Wales, MPs say

Theresa May meets Carwyn Jones at visit to Cardiff Bay
Image caption Theresa May meeting Carwyn Jones in Cardiff Bay in July

The Scottish Government enjoys a "more effective" relationship with UK ministers than its Welsh counterpart, MPs have said.

The constitutional committee wants ministers from the four UK nations to work more closely together in the run-up to Brexit.

Chairman Bernard Jenkin said Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should not be a Whitehall "afterthought".

UK ministers have pledged to seek stronger relations between governments.

MPs were told by Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones that "the level of formalised bilateral machinery" between the UK and Welsh governments was "fairly non-existent".

Mr Jones said there were examples with Downing Street "when letters have not been responded to or been responded to very late, sometimes many months down the line".

The committee said "starkly different evidence" from the Scottish Government indicated it had "a well-developed network of informal and formal bilateral relations" with UK ministers.

Image copyright Thinkstock

The report said leaving the EU "offers both risk and a fresh opportunity, and, therefore, an incentive, to develop more effective intergovernmental relations in the UK".

MPs said the emphasis should be on the UK government to nurture relationships with the devolved administrations in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Mr Jenkin, a Conservative MP who campaigned for Brexit in June's referendum, said the "time pressure" of negotiations to leave the EU "now forces the machinery of intergovernmental relations in the UK to be imbued with a sense of purpose".

"We cannot go on with the notion that the devolved administrations are treated as an afterthought by Whitehall, particularly as all the devolved administrations are run by different political parties," he said.

"It is, therefore, vital that the UK government's commitment to engage with the devolved administrations is meaningful and not simply a tool to allay the concerns of the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive," Mr Jenkin added.

Image copyright Parliament
Image caption Bernard Jenkin says the UK government must now treat devolved administrations properly

In October, Theresa May promised to strengthen relations with ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland ahead of a meeting of the UK's top politicians.

Mrs May said at the time she hoped it would be the start of a "new grown-up relationship".

Responding to the MPs report on Thursday, a Welsh Government spokesman said: "We very much agree with the central conclusion, that our inter-governmental machinery needs significant further development if the UK is to meet the challenges of Brexit effectively."

"We need to see a wholehearted commitment on the part of all the UK administrations to redrawing the relationship between the component parts of the United Kingdom in the post-European Union period, including both the distribution of responsibilities and the machinery of government between the four nations."

A spokeswoman for UK ministers said they were "committed to the strength of the Union and determined to make a success of Brexit".

"That means striking a deal which works for all parts of the UK," she said.

"We are working closely with the devolved administrations through the Joint Ministerial Committee process so they're fully engaged as we form our negotiating position."

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