New Welsh Cabinet announced

Carwyn Jones has announced his new cabinet; details from the Western Mail are here, and from the BBC are here.  There are a number of new names among the Labour ministers, though the Plaid members and their portfolios remain unchanged.

There are two interesting points, following up my earlier post immediately after Jones’s election.  One is that he has no finance minister: Jane Hutt is responsible for ‘business and budget’, but the other aspects of the portfolio have vanished.  Presumably Jones will take responsiblity himself for major issues like negotiations with the Treasury over finance.  While these will be difficult and high-profile, given the tough regime looming for public spending, the desire for action on the Holtham Commission’s work by the new government after the election, and the quest for internal efficiency savings, it’s surprising that he hasn’t sought the support that a fully-fledged and full-time finance minister.  Jane Hutt has of course doubled up these functions before, in the summer of 2007 between the appointment of a Labour minority administration and the formation of the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition.

The second is that the post of Counsel General has gone to John Griffiths (a solicitor, and one of few qualified lawyers in the Assembly), combined with the post of ‘leader of the legislative programme’ .  This is a less senior version of the portfolio Jones himself held before becoming First Minister.  Again, given the weight and complexity of legal issues with which the Assembly Government has to deal (including both devolved and Westminster legislation, and a referendum), it is a big question whether this approach is in fact sustainable.  That’s reinforced by the fact that Griffiths appears to have similar standing only to deputy ministers (his legislative role clearly overlaps the ‘business’ part of Jane Hutt’s portfolio).  The logic of providing that the Counsel General was not to be a ‘Welsh Minister’ in the legal sense was to ensure that she or he was free to advise impartially, and without being in danger of having to give disagreeable advice to more senior ministerial colleagues (as they wouldn’t, in the strict sense, be colleagues).  There is in fact a serious risk in this approach.

UPDATE: Martin Shipton analyses the new cabinet in today’s Western Mail; his story is here.

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Filed under Labour, Plaid Cymru, Wales

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