Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Happy (half) hour

This may come as a blessed relief or a shocking attempt to dodge political accountability, depending on your point of view. Some may even describe it as a slap in the face or snub to Wales. Take your pick.

The monthly parliamentary feast that is Questions to the Secretary of State for Wales will no longer take place every four weeks.

Instead, Secretary of State Peter Hain and his deputy Huw Irranca-Davies will be put on the spot every fifth week.

The idea is to make some of the larger Whitehall departments more accountable. The Wales Office has a small (although rising by 80 per cent next year) budget, relatively few staff and even fewer executive responsibilities. So MPs often ask Ministers to account for the actions of other Ministers, in Cardiff or in Westminster.

The Wales Office has also missed out on one of the reforms to Question Time introduced in the new session of Parliament. Those Ministers held accountable for 40 minutes or more at the despatch box can be questioned on topical issues.

Welsh Questions last but 30 minutes so MPs will need to use their ingenuity to devise questions with a more topical relevance.

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