Posted on Our Kingdom on 28th January 2008
The fall-out from Peter Hain's resignation may take some time to be fully felt. The impact on the progress of Welsh devolution is especially intriguing. But so too are the implications for territorial representation around the Cabinet table. Paul Murphy may have returned to Gwydr House, but since he last sat in the old home of the Welsh Office things have changed. The building looks much the same, but the Department has disappeared. The Wales Office has been subsumed into the Department of Constitutional Affairs (now Ministry of Justice). His return to the Cabinet was a surprise (not least for him) but the most unexpected aspect was the return of the role of Welsh Secretary as a full-time post (the Scottish job remains part-time). Mr Murphy has not demurred in interviews when asked if he is a 'stop-gap' appointment, nor has he revised his view that a UK Ministry is desirable - these issues will need to be looked at in the coming months, he said. His most circumspect response has been:
If eventually the Prime Minister decides to either merge them all or some other method, that's obviously for him, but at the moment he has obviously decided that is not the case
Significantly he will also Chair a Cabinet committee on (English) local government and the regions. So we have a well-respected former Northern Ireland Secretary, taking on Welsh affairs and an overview of regional Government, within the framework of a UK-wide Ministry. Is this a pre-cursor to a full blown Devolution Ministry? Mr Murphy seems to think so.