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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 16:48 GMT
Who's next for 'part-time job?'
By Vaughan Roderick
BBC Welsh Affairs editor

Clockwise from top left, Kevin Brennan, David Hanson, Kim Howells and Paul Murphy
Options for Welsh Secretary, but who will Gordon Brown choose?
Within minutes of Peter Hain's resignation the speculation began over who might succeed him and whether he might prove to be the last ever Secretary Of State for Wales.

The role of the Welsh Secretary has diminished considerably since the establishment of the Assembly and it has become effectively a part-time job.

It's been argued that a new cabinet post should be created combining the roles of the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland Secretaries but it seems unlikely Gordon Brown will take such a radical step in a forced re-shuffle.

If the Prime Minister takes the usual route of selecting the Welsh Secretary from the ranks of existing ministers he will have to choose between Justice Minister David Hanson and Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells.

Dr Howells' outspoken opposition to the Labour/Plaid Cymru coalition in Wales could make for a rocky relationship with Cardiff Bay and it is possible that he himself wouldn't want the post.

Mr Hanson is a better bet and combining the Welsh Secretary and Northern Ireland Secretary's duties would provide a good fit for the Delyn MP who was previously a Northern Ireland minister.

Peter Hain launching his deputy leadership campaign

Mr Brown could recall Torfaen MP Paul Murphy to ministerial office as a stop-gap measure until the next major re-shuffle.

If the Prime Minister took the unusual step of promoting a more junior minister to the cabinet the obvious candidate would be the schools minister Kevin Brennan.

While Rhodri Morgan would be delighted to see his former researcher and advisor in the role Mr Brennan himself has told the BBC that he regards such a move as unlikely.

It is unlikely the appointment will be made without the new Welsh Secretary having responsibility in another area.

The final option for the Prime Minister would be to hand responsibility for the Wales Office to a minister outside the cabinet possible Mr Brennan or current Wales Office minister Huw Irranca Davies.

But that would certain to be met with accusations from the opposition that Wales was being downgraded and had lost its voice at the Cabinet table.

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