Minister outlines list of 'prominent' MPs: Leaked memo sets out rules for correspondence with the Welsh Office. Chris Blackhurst reports

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Indy Politics
THE Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, regards English and Scottish Conservative backbenchers as more important than Welsh MPs, MEPs and local councillors.

The confirmation of what his critics in Wales have long suspected is contained in a leaked memorandum setting out new rules for correspondence with the Welsh Office. Dated 12 July 1993, the memo is from Ann Davies, Cabinet Documents Clerk, to the Welsh ministers' private secretaries.

Mr Redwood's predecessors dealt with letters from all Welsh MPs, MEPs and local councillors. Not any more. Ms Davies says that in future, Mr Redwood 'will no longer automatically reply to letters addressed to him from other MPs, MEPs, councillors and prominent organisations'.

He will only reply to an MP's letter if it falls within his area of responsibility - narrowly redefined to include economic and industrial matters, regional aid, and the Citizen's Charter, but to exclude education, health, social services, and community care - or one of four categories. MPs in those categories are: 19 Welsh MPs he considers 'prominent'; all Privy Councillors; all Tory backbenchers; all Opposition leaders and members of the Shadow Cabinet.

If the letter falls outside Mr Redwood's area or the four categories, it will be dealt with by his two junior ministers, Sir Wyn Roberts and Gwilym Jones. On the 'prominent' list are all four Welsh Tory backbenchers, 13 Labour MPs, Dafydd Wigley, leader of Plaid Cymru, and Alex Carlile, the sole Liberal Democrat MP in Wales.

But 17 Welsh MPs will no longer automatically get through to the Secretary of State - unlike English and Scottish Tory backbenchers. Not deemed 'prominent' are the likes of Barry Jones, Peter Hain, Kim Howells, Edward Rowlands and John Marek.

As for MEPs and local councillors, their letters will not reach him at all - regardless of which party they support.

According to the memo, Mr Redwood will continue to respond to letters from 'most large organisations and companies'. Among the examples given are the Welsh Development Agency, water companies, the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, Sony, Ford and the Institute of Directors. No mention is made of Welsh charities and welfare groups, nor the CBI which is especially active in Wales.

A spokesman for Mr Redwood said his policy towards correspondence was dealt with in a parliamentary answer last week. He had nothing further to say.

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