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Posts Tagged ‘Cheryl Gillan’

MPs arriving at this morning’s meeting of the Welsh Grand committee were met with a frosty reception – from the room itself.

In fact it was so cold that one of my pens stopped working.

But that didn’t stop the MPs trying to generate their own heat.  This was better natured than the last time they met, but still bad-tempered. Some of the loud mutterings I picked up from the Labour benches were “waffle”, “central office rubbish” and a lot of variations on “disgraceful.”

Amidst the exchanges, there were some details to seize hold of. On funding reform and it’s link to a referendum the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening, told MPs what Danny Alexander told AMs last week that “the priority for us is to sort out the deficit.”

Unlike Mr Alexander though she said that “We’ll be looking to see what happens in Wales (i.e the powers referendum) and on that basis taking it forward.”

Well that got them leaping to their feet: was this an admission that funding reform IS after all linked to the referendum outcome?

No, said Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan, it’s a reiteration of the coalition commitment to a “Calman-style process” after a referendum.

On the controversial delay to electrification of the railway line from London to South Wales, Mrs Gillan said she remains “fully supportive” of the idea, but more work needs to be done on producing a full business case.

That will come as a surprise, by the way, to Assembly Govt politicians who believe that the business case was already developed by the Whitehall department responsible.

Just time to mention a few of the lighter moments.

The pantomime moment came when Mrs Gillan said “I’m not some kind of viceroy.”

“Oh yes you are,” said serial heckler Chris Ruane MP.

She had her revenge on him later by telling him, when he wanted to intervene, ‘Just sit down.’

And Peter Hain used the hitherto unpoliticised songs of Ken Dodd to predict the UK government’s trajectory. 

The link is tenuous: Ken Dodd’s first big hit was ‘Happiness’; the UK government is said to be planning to measure happiness.

Mr Hain noted that Ken Dodd’s subsequent hits were “Tears” and then “Hearbreak.”

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This morning’s Telegraph has further details on claims that the Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan would be willing to resign over plans to build a high-speed rail link through her Buckinghamshire constituency. She’s quoted as telling Andrew Gilligan, “I would defy the party whip – be very, very sure of that. My constituency comes first in all instances. The impact on the whole area would be absolutely phenomenal.”

Gilligan explains how this becomes a resigning matter:

“For a minister or whip to break party discipline and vote against the Government is automatically a resigning matter. The three MPs are understood to hope that it will not come to that and are lobbying colleagues to change their minds. Sources close to Miss Gillan said the Prime Minister had stressed that the precise route had yet to be fixed.”

Expect Cheryl Gillan’s political opponents to use this row to call for her to show similar determination when it comes to another controversial rail project: electrification of the Paddington to Swansea line. According to the IWA’s website, Click on Wales, which quotes Rail Engineer magazine, the official announcement on Tuesday is likely to be that the line will be electrified as far as Cardiff, leaving it up to the Assembly Government to pay for the rest if it wants.

UPDATE: I gather the announcement on electrification won’t be made tomorrow (Tuesday) but is likely to come on Thursday.

UPDATE 2: A source close Cheryl Gillan points out that the only published route so far for the new High Speed rail link was drawn up by the last UK government and Mrs Gillan’s views on that have been made abundantly clear. But the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government has made no such announcement on a preferred route and even when it does there would be a lengthy consultation.

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