Thursday, 9 October 2008

'Keeping the show on the road'

Peter Hain caused something of a stir with his latest intervention into the debate on the Welsh Assembly's powers. So what of the views of his successor at the Wales Office?

Here are Paul Murphy's thoughts, as shared with the media during a briefing this morning:
"This ain't the time for dealing with constitutional issues. It's time to be dealing with the economy of the country."

The Welsh Secretary meets Sir Emyr Jones Parry of the All-Wales Convention tomorrow in Llandudno. He says he'll be listening, but if Sir Emyr asks his views.....

"I don't think there is any appetite amongst Welsh people at the moment to be wanting to deal in any sort of detail with referendums on future powers. That doesn't mean to say the convention shouldn't go on doing its work."

But he added: "I don't think it is a top priority, I really don't. I think the priority for government, both in Cardiff and London at the moment is to deal with the problems affecting people's lives.

"I don't think it needs somebody with a PhD in history to work out what my views on this are. You know my views.

"I think the issues that affect us at the moment in terms of people's lives, how they live, the economy, and the price and cost of living and so on are the things we should concentrate on.

"I'm not saying that the governance of Wales is important, it is. I just don't think it is a priority at the moment.

"I have always felt that it would be from everybody's point of view, whatever your view is on devolution, completely foolish to enter into a referendum campaign when you know at the end of the day that certainly from those who want extra powers that is likely to be lost and I think that we wouldn't be thanked by people in wales for concentrating on these issues at the moment when you have to concentrate on the issues which affect their everyday lives."

Asked how he would vote in any referendum, he said: "Let's wait and see what happens when it comes and see what the recommendations are. The views of the Welsh Labour Party are that there should be extra powers for the Assembly. As a loyal member of the Labour Party and the Government I don't divert from that.

"You know my views over the years but the Labour Party has spoken within its own conference on what it feels it should do, it's not for me to go against that.

"I just feel this ain't the time to be dealing with constitutional issues. It's time to be dealing with the economy of the country.

"That doesn't mean to say the convention shouldn't go on working, it should do but I'm sure that Sir Emyr will tell me that when he's gone across Wales at the moment people have told him what their priorities are. I'd be very surprised if they're talking of anything else."

Asked his own greatest achievement since taking the job eight months ago, he was succinct: "Keeping the show on the road".

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