CUTTING the number of Welsh MPs to reflect the post-devolution age would be “bonkers”, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy said yesterday.
Mr Murphy, giving evidence to a committee of MPs examining the first decade of devolution, said there was no case for following Scotland’s lead and trimming Wales’ current quota of 40.
He said, “It’s a funny old thing to argue for less representation for your country in the UK Parliament.
“Let’s have 20 fewer and let’s have less influence, shall we? It’s bonkers, to be honest, to argue that.”
Scotland, with a tax-raising parliament, was in a very different situation, he argued. It has cut its number of MPs from 72 to 59.
Some estimates suggest Wales should lose up to eight MPs in order to have similar-sized constituencies to England – but the idea has met firm resistance.
It was also announced yesterday that Mr Murphy, who took over from Peter Hain last Thursday, would act as Minister for digital inclusion, a post inside the Ministry of Justice.
The Torfaen MP, who has already served one stint in Gwydyr House, from 1999 to 2002, is widely seen as a less enthusiastic devolutionist than Mr Hain.
But he told the Justice Committee yesterday he would be happy to see more powers given to the English regions.
“It’s a personal view but I don’t see why we can’t have regional government in England, like in Spain, which is different from place to place,” he said.
Greater co-operation between MPs and AMs was to be encouraged, he said, saying, “Logistically it can be difficult sometimes but I think there is a case for AMs understanding more about we [MPs] do and vice versa, and that’s happening.”
He had already discussed a possible new referendum on greater powers for the Assembly with First Minister Rhodri Morgan and his Plaid deputy Ieuan Wyn Jones, but not the “detail” of the issue, he told MPs.
Mr Murphy said people in Wales had gradually gained a better understanding of how the devolved system worked.
“Your constituent is likely to go to an AM to deal with health issues and they will come to me to deal with employment or tax and all the rest of it,” he said.
“That didn’t happen at the beginning, but it is happening now.”