Wednesday 22 February 2012

Resurrect the WDA?

I wonder what the reaction would be if the Assembly set up a committee to look into the war in Afghanistan, and then, when it published its report, criticised William Hague for declining to attend to give evidence.  Actually, I don’t wonder at all – I’ve got a pretty good idea what the reaction would be.
But how different is it really from a position where a committee of the House of Commons decides to look at a devolved issue – economic development – and then criticises the minister responsible for not agreeing to be grilled by the MPs?
I can understand the irritation in Cardiff at the uninvited interference.  I hope, though, that such natural and justifiable irritation will not lead to a too hasty rejection of the report.  The fact that much of what the MPs have to say is none of their business doesn’t mean that they aren’t making some very valid points.
Their call for the UK Government to extend electrification of the railways – a matter for which they still have responsibility – to Swansea and the Valleys lines is one with which many of us would agree, although I’d like them to have gone further and declared that those were merely the next two steps on a programme to electrify the entire network in Wales.  There is life west of Swansea.
Their message about the loss of the WDA echoes what many in Wales have been saying for some years.  It was a mistake at the time – both for the Government of the day and for the main opposition at the time in supporting it, as Elin Jones recently highlighted.  And there were plenty of people saying at the time that it was a mistake.
I never understood why the baby – the WDA – was being thrown out with the bathwater – the system of appointed members of the great and the good to run quangos.  The latter could have been done without carving the WDA up and incorporating it into the civil service.  Getting back the ethos and culture of that body will not be easy at this stage, but it’s disappointing to see such a lack of will to try.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why does anyone think this time that Welsh Labour Ministers will listen to the calls for action on a new WDA body, when they have stubbornly refused to act for the past few years despite overwhelming evidence from a range of sources that proved that getting rid of the WDA has done Wales and Welsh business harm?