11 February 2009
Committee Media Officer: Rebecca Jones
tel: 020 7219 5693
Press Notice No 17
Statement from the Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee
Yesterday (Tuesday 10 February), the Welsh Affairs Committee received a request from Rt Hon Paul Murphy MP, Secretary of State for Wales, inviting the Committee to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed Welsh Language Order. We were happy to accept this request and we look forward to working constructively with our Welsh Assembly counterparts during this process.
I have already arranged a meeting with Mark Isherwood AM, the Chairman of the Assembly Committee with responsibility for scrutinising the proposed Order, to discuss joint working arrangements, and we hope to conduct a joint session between members of both committees in the course of our inquiries, to share information. I will also hold discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones AM, and the Chair of the Welsh Language Board, Meri Huws, about the proposed Order
The Committee is clear in our desire to conduct scrutiny of proposed orders as expeditiously as possible and to the degree of detail required, as is the case for all the Legislative Competence Orders (LCOs) we receive. It is therefore disappointing to have to correct inaccuracies regarding the work of the Committee which have appeared in recent media reports, accusing the Committee of purposely delaying the passage of legislation.
It appears necessary for me to clarify the scrutiny process. The Committee cannot examine an LCO until it is invited to do so by the Secretary of State. The Committee has always accepted the Secretary of State’s invitation to scrutinise a proposed order at the first opportunity possible. Written evidence is invited in order for the Committee to fulfil its duty to consult on the LCO. Arrangements are then made to take evidence from the appropriate Ministers and other interested parties, the timing of which is dependent on the availability and commitments of Welsh Assembly Government Ministers. At the same time, the ongoing work of the Committee, which currently includes inquiries into the Olympics and Paralympics, digital inclusion, and cross-border transport services, will also be undertaken thoroughly. It seems that in reporting the Committee’s LCO scrutiny, these facts are often put to one side.
I am also concerned by a recent suggestion that the Welsh Affairs Committee is anti-devolutionist. I have spoken of my own personal support for democratic devolution over three decades on many occasions and my desire to see it work for the benefit of the Welsh people. I can also place on record the commitment of all committee members to our work on LCOs and to undertake that work thoroughly and expeditiously.
Dr Hywel Francis MP
Chairman, Welsh Affairs Select Committee
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