Peter Hain: Irish Sea commuter

The Western Mail is not very happy that Peter Hain will be dividing his time as Secretary of State for both Northern Ireland and Wales.

Nor is Plaid Cymru’s Helen Mary Jones:

“In the previous government, Peter Hain was part-time Secretary of State for Wales, combined with his duties as Leader of the Commons. Now we have the unlikely and unfair combination of Northern Ireland Secretary and Secretary of State for Wales.

“This is unfair in principle and in practice, not just to the people of Wales, but also to the people of the north of Ireland. At a potentially troublesome point in the peace process – when Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has lost his seat at Westminster – the Northern Ireland Secretary will need to be physically present there on many occasions.

“At the same time, we expect the White Paper on the National Assembly for Wales. Whatever Mr Hain’s ambitions or assessment of his own capabilities, it seems unreasonable to ask anyone to undertake two distinct and major responsibilities like this.”

Helen Mary Jones added that the move was bad news for anyone who hoped for a strong voice for Wales in the cabinet:

“Until the National Assembly has proper legislative powers, it is insulting to suggest that the Welsh Secretary’s role should be diminished even further.”

It certainly sounds as if the state of devolution in Wales contrasts with that in Northern Ireland. Having said that, if Mr Hain’s dual role signals a determination to hand power to local politicians then it’s all to the good.







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