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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 07:16 GMT
'Yes, Minister', says Commons speaker

Rhodri Morgan can be addressed as First Minister in the House of Commons, the Speaker has confirmed.

Michael Martin has written to Mr Morgan saying he would not regard the oral use of the term "First Minister" as out of order.

The letter comes after he ruled that Mr Morgan should be called First Secretary rather than by his new title of First Minister in parliamentary documents.

The confusion arose after the new coalition cabinet in the Assembly changed its members' titles from secretaries to ministers.

The House of Commons Speaker said the former should be used as it was laid down in the Government of Wales Act which set up the Assembly.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin: "Oral use" is acceptable

In the letter Mr Martin said: "The ruling I gave about the designation First Secretary related to the order paper where it is proper that the terminology approved by Parliament should be used."

His counterpart in the Welsh Assembly, Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas accused him of failing to act in the spirit of devolution.

Mr Morgan said he was delighted with the latest clarification.

'Avoid confusion'

"I am absolutely delighted to have had this explanation from the Speaker," he said.

"It fully vindicates the decision to adopt the title of minister which was done mainly to avoid confusion with civil service titles."

The change to the Assembly cabinet's titles was seen as an attempt to give the members' roles greater status.

But the Speaker ruled against the move after a Conservative MP raised the issue as a point of order.

Following Mr Martin's decision, Mr Morgan said it would have been more courteous if the Assembly had been consulted about the matter first.

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