Memorandum submitted by the Honourable
Society of Cymmrodorion
The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion is a
London-Welsh based learned society (founded in 1751), which takes
an all-embracing interest in the encouragement of studies of the
literature, science and the arts as they relate to Wales. Its
approach to these areas is catholic and encompasses contemporary
as well as historic issues.
The Society welcomes the Committee's enquiry.
Its scope is large. While the promotion of Welsh interests may
have common threads in any country in the world, the Society would,
however, like to concentrate on one particular aspect: the effectiveness
of UK government arrangements in ensuring that Welsh interests
are taken into account when UK policy on EU issues is determined
in Whitehall. This we see as being fundamental in promoting Welsh
Power within the European Union is principally
vested in the Council of Ministers. We think, therefore, that
the Committee, if it decides that this is an appropriate subject
for investigation, should focus its scrutiny primarily on how
the Whitehall machinery for formulation of UK policy on EU issues
arising from decisions in the Council of Ministers, can take into
account particular Welsh dimensions, where they exist. We recognise
that it is the responsibility of the UK government to formulate
policy on EU issues for the UK as a whole, and cannot therefore
be tailored to the interests of one region within it, be that
Scotland, Wales or, say, south-east England. Our unease, which
we hope the Committee can assuage, is that following the setting
up of a Welsh Assembly, the Welsh voice on EU issues in Whitehall
might be diminished rather than enhanced.
Subsidiary aspects that might also be looked
at are: representation on Brussels official level committees,
secondment of staff to the office of the UK Permanent Representative
(UKREP) and attendance at both Whitehall and Brussels ministerial
We are aware that at the time of the Welsh Referendum,
the UK government stated that following the establishment of a
Welsh Assembly, concordats would be agreed between the Welsh Assembly
and UK government departments providing for Welsh input into Whitehall
policy formulation on EU matters. While some concordats may have
been agreed, little publicity has been given to their terms. The
Committee could usefully make known the terms of these concordats,
ascertain whether they are operating to the satisfaction of both
the Welsh Assembly and UK government departments and establish
whether there are any gaps.
It would be useful to establish whether there
is a concordat between the Welsh Assembly and the Cabinet Office
regarding Welsh representation in the various official level inter-departmental
committees for discussion of EU issues, for which the latter provide
both the chair and the secretariat. We presume that prior to devolution
the Welsh Office were invited to attend the main official level
inter-departmental committee. But what is the position post-devolution?
Has it been agreed that official serving the Welsh Assembly may
also attend either as full participants or observers? If not,
the Committee may wish to investigate the obstacles and see if
they can be overcome. If representation is still limited to the
Welsh Office (with the latter charged with liaising with the Assembly),
what would be the position if some day the Welsh Office became
subsumed into an Office for the Regions?
The importance of a Welsh presence on inter-departmental
committees can be illustrated by a hypothetical (but not unlikely)
case of a Ministry of Agriculture Memorandum submitted to the
relevant official committee in relation to one of the many schemes
for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Under concordat
arrangements Welsh views may have been taken into account by MAFF
in drafting the memorandum. However such a memorandum might be
vigorously challenged during committee discussion by UK government
departments, requiring drastic amendments. Failing agreement at
official level, the matter might be raised to ministerial level,
with no Welsh input assured. A similar scenario could be envisaged
for a discussion of the EU Structural Funds. Non-involvement of
officials serving the Welsh Assembly in these discussions would
not only deprive them of insight into the dynamics of UK policy
formulation, impoverish their understanding of all the complex
factors that UK policy has to take into account, but would weaken
the Welsh input into UK policy formulation.
The Cabinet Office has traditionally been reluctant
to disclose which ministers are members of Cabinet committees.
In the light of devolution, however, it would be useful to establish
whether the Secretary of State for Wales is a member of the relevant
Cabinet committee dealing with EU issues, or he is only invited
where a strong Welsh interest is recognised. As the First Secretary
of the Welsh Assembly is not a member of the UK Cabinet, it seems
unlikely that he would be invited to attend. The Committee may
wish to confirm, however, that he will have access to the Prime
Minister if he deems important Welsh interests to be at stake.
Draft EU legislation and other issues for the
agenda of the EU Council of Ministers get thoroughly discussed
beforehand in meetings of the EU member states at various official
levels convened by the Commission in Brussels. UK officials attending
these meetings follow the UK line agreed in Whitehall. It might
be useful if, on occasion, officials of the Welsh Assembly might
be invited to accompany the UK team. During discussion they would,
of course, be required not to deviate from the UK line.
The office of the UK Permanent Representative
(UKREP) is a major player in UK policy formulation, particularly
in relation to negotiating tactics. UK departments eagerly seek
posts in UKREP. The Committee might investigate how feasible it
would be to arrange occasional secondments of one or two officials
serving the Welsh Assembly (who remain members of the UK Civil
Service) to UKREP.
The Committee may wish to press that the First
Secretary of the Welsh Assembly should be part of the UK ministerial
team to an EU Ministerial Meeting when an issue of major interest
to Wales is being discussed.
The Committee may wish to enquire whether post-devolution
arrangements to give Scotland a voice in UK policy, hold any useful
lessons for Wales.
14 October 2000