This morning I met Oliver Dowden, HM Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office. The most recent ministerial meeting to take place was the finance ministers’ quadrilateral on 29 August. My colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work discussed the governance and terms of reference for that forum with UK and Welsh Government ministers.
The most recent ministerial discussion at which the quadrilateral review of intergovernmental relations was on the agenda was the joint ministerial committee (European Union negotiations) on 28 June. There is a meeting of the JMC(EN) tomorrow, and the new Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will co-chair that meeting.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that intergovernmental relations with the UK Government are broken, and that the attempts to formalise a respect agenda are continually rebuked by a disrespected UK Government? Clearly the best way to have a respect agenda would be for Scotland to become an independent nation and to formalise relations as equals.
I cannot disagree with a single word of that. Even in its present confused state, it is important for the UK Government to recognise that procedures and relationships are not simply in its gift. I had occasion to say to the Paymaster General this morning that, although the UK Government might wish to change the way in which the intergovernmental review is discussed by, for example, doing it trilaterally rather than through the JMC(EN), that is a matter for all participants, not just for one of them. He took the point, but it is an important point and it has been emphasised by Mark Drakeford. The JMC process does not belong to the UK Government, and the more it behaves as though it does, the harder it will be to make any progress.