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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Murphy fends off Wales Office attack
Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, presiding officer Welsh Assembly
Lord Elis Thomas attacked the 'unhelpful' change plans
Wales Office Minister Paul Murphy has said he is "surprised" by criticism from Welsh Assembly Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas

Lord Elis-Thomas questioned the relationship between the Wales Office and the assembly in front of the Lords Constitutional Committee on Monday.


A close working relationship exists between the first minister, his cabinet and myself

Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy

The committee is conducting an inquiry into the workings of devolution and relationships between institutions within the UK.

Lord Elis-Thomas said he did not know what the role of the Wales Office was in relation to the National Assembly and the Welsh Assembly Government.

He said Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy and Minister of State for Wales Don Touhig had only taken a formal part in the assembly activities on a few occasions since devolution.

Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Bay
The relationship between the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Office is questioned

"I wouldn't say it's a roaring tribute to active partnership," concluded Lord Elis-Thomas.

"I think there is a question mark over how this role (of welsh secretary) has been developed as a constitutional role.

"To what extent it is seen as being a representative of the UK Government and Cabinet in Wales, and to what extent is it seen as a conduit for the Welsh Assembly at Cabinet level?"

Regular meetings

But Mr Murphy responded by saying that a "close working relationship exists" between the first minister, his cabinet and himself.

"I have a regular weekly meeting with the first minister," he said.

"I represent Wales in the Cabinet, and Don Touhig and myself sit on more than 20 cabinet committees, representing Wales in Whitehall and Westminster.

"I follow closely the debates of the assembly, and am always ready to meet colleagues at the assembly, and to attend meetings and debates when this is necessary."

Paul Murphy
Paul Murphy was 'surprised' by the comments

The Lords Constitution Committee has been set up to investigate how inter-institutional relations are working and developing.

It can suggest what changes might be made to improve relations and to help it respond to future challenges.

But the committee has said it will not seek to report on subjects within the remit of the devolved legislatures.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan, Finance Minister Edwina Hart, Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones and Jon Shortridge, Welsh Assembly Permanent Secretary, were also due to be interviewed by the committee on its two-day visit.

At the end of 2001, Plaid Cymru's Lord Elis-Thomas criticised the way in which Rhodri Morgan brought in the term Welsh Assembly Government before assembly members had agreed on it.

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