Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs

  Our input relates to two matters—diplomatic issues relating to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's role, and the Department for International Development's official links with Wales.


  The issue we wish to concentrate upon here is the FCO's role as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding between the UK government and the National Assembly for Wales's Cabinet. We particularly wish to make reference to the supplementary "Concordat on the Co-ordination of EU Policy Issues" that forms part of that Memorandum, and have three points to make on it.

  (a)  Firstly, the role of the UK Representation in Brussels (UKREP) is crucial in terms of relationships with the Assembly here. It needs to ensure that its liaison with the Assembly's representative in the Wales European Centre (WEC) in Brussels and with key Assembly representatives in Cardiff is close and effective, this to guarantee Welsh input to policy deliberations at an early stage—whether they be to the European Commission, Parliament or other sub-national offices. It seems to us that the relationship between Des Clifford, as the Assembly's person in WEC, and UKREP has been quite positive, and we anticipate that this can be further built upon. However, we are unsure that the degree of collaboration between UKREP and Cardiff-based Ministers and officials is so effective.

  (b)  Secondly, Assembly Ministers and officials are entitled to attend Council of Ministers' meetings, and have a clearly defined role to play therein. Yet they are not attending on a regular basis—certainly not as frequently as the interests of Wales suggest that they should be. Nor is much being done to cultivate relations between the Assembly and European Commission staff or other EU governments at member state or regional level. It is unclear whether this is due to lack of availability on the part of the Assembly personnel, or to lack of co-ordination with the FCO, or whether the FCO is not being active enough in encouraging such involvement, but we feel that the relations should be formalised more than at present.

  (c)  Thirdly, the secondment of National Assembly staff to UKREP and to European Commission institutions was laid down and agreed to in the Concordat. The necessity of safeguarding the career prospects of such secondees has also been recognised within the civil service. However, such secondments have not occurred as yet—it is still a proposal rather than a reality. UKREP quite rightly recruits on merit, but it may be that the Assembly should send trainees at its own expense, for one or two years, so that they learn the systems and assist in this liaison role more effectively on their return.

  What is stated above is true as well, in more general terms, for international relations as a whole (Concordat D3 on International Relations). Allowance is made there for Ministers or officials from devolved administrations to form part of UK negotiating teams, and to speak for the UK in international gatherings. We heartily hope that this becomes a reality, and feel that it needs monitoring by both sides (presumably by the Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Department on the side of the FCO) and potentially more resources made available to service it.


  The work of DFID has not been part of the devolutionary settlement, as it was felt that its responsibilities remained distinct from those of the National Assembly for Wales.

  While in general terms this is quite correct, the fact that no-one has been appointed by DFID to be its official point of liaison with the National Assembly has meant that liaison with Welsh NGOs/aid agencies has at times been uncertain.

  Moreover, the issues of development education and its promotion within the UK has not been passed on to the Assembly as far as Wales is concerned. This is despite the fact that all other aspects of education policy and implementation have been devolved. This has resulted in anomalies being created, and we feel that in this too there is scope for better co-ordination through closer DFID/National Assembly links.

Stephen Thomas


27 October 2000

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