Welsh secretary David Jones denies being 'anti-devolution'
WELSH Secretary David Jones has refuted accusations of being “anti-devolution” during his first appearance at the Despatch Box.
Neath MP Peter Hain said Mr Jones was “interfering” in an “anti-devolution manner”, while Shadow Welsh Secretary Owen Smith asked if he thought devolution “had been good for Wales”.
In response, the Secretary of State said he felt “strongly” that devolution was “developing, and that as the Assembly and the Assembly Government mature as institutions they could be very good for Wales indeed”.
The exchanges came during Welsh Questions in the House of Commons and marked the first outing for Mr Jones and his deputy Stephen Crabb following last month’s Government reshuffle.
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Mr Hain asked why Mr Jones had referred the first two laws passed by the Welsh Assembly under the Government of Wales Act 2006 to the Attorney-General.
But Mr Jones denied that his reference of the Local Government Byelaws (Wales) Bill to the Supreme Court could be regarded as “disrespectful or hostile in any sense”.
He added: “It is simply an administrative procedure to clear up the issue of competence and that is it.”
Mr Smith then said the Secretary of State’s view that the Assembly “could” be good for Wales was “hardly a ringing endorsement of the devolution settlement that was so decisively supported by the Welsh people”.
He added: “Is not the truth that the right hon Gentleman cannot speak for modern Wales – devolved Wales – but we on this side of the House can and will?”
In response, Mr Jones said his intention had been “to point out that under the Labour Assembly Government, coupled with 10 years-plus of Labour Government in London, Wales has been the poorest part of the United Kingdom.”
He went on to add: “I believe that a lot more could be done to make Wales a happier place to live, and for that purpose it is necessary for us in the Wales Office to work closely with the Welsh Assembly Government.
“I am willing to do that.”
Earlier this week Mr Smith claimed Mr Jones intervened in legal matters “very selectively” and “only when it suits his anti-devolution mindset”.
In response to another question from Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan about the UK Government’s “respect agenda”, Mr Jones said he was “fully committed”, adding: “We are working closely with the Welsh Government and I am very pleased with the relationship I am cultivating with Carwyn Jones, the First Minister.”