14 November 2000

Alison Halford (Delyn):

What actions has he taken to ensure that the weaknesses in the link between Whitehall and civil servants in Wales, as highlighted in the Phillips Report, do not occur in the future. (OAQ7729)

The First Minister:

The National Assembly brings a new political dimension to the working of Government within the UK. The option of ignoring or dismissing Welsh concerns is no longer available. The Minister for Rural Affairs meets the UK agriculture Ministers regularly. The creation of the independent UK Food Standards Agency, with specific arrangements to advise and account to the National Assembly, means that in food safety matters we in Wales are not dependent on a Whitehall link. In addition, the National Assembly is now fully informed on the deliberations of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, the expert committee advising the UK Government on BSE and new variant CJD matters. As with the other devolved administrations, the National Assembly sends an observer to the SEAC meetings. Following devolution, the concordats with Whitehall departments formalise their commitment to keeping the National Assembly informed on, and involved with, matters of common concern. The action that is underway by the UK Government to respond to the Phillips report involves the National Assembly and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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