Secretary of State for Wales

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Secretary of State for Wales
Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg
Royal Arms as used by Her Majesty's Government
Alun Cairns 2016.jpg
Alun Cairns

since 19 March 2016
Wales Office
Style The Right Honourable
(Formal prefix)
Wales Secretary
Appointer Elizabeth II
Formation 18 October 1964
Website Official website
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Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Wales (Welsh: Ysgrifennydd Gwladol Cymru) is the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Wales. He or she is a member of the cabinet and the head of the Wales Office. He or she is responsible for ensuring Welsh interests are taken into account by Her Majesty's Government, representing the government within Wales and overseeing the passing of legislation which is only for Wales. The current Secretary of State for Wales is Alun Cairns, following Stephen Crabb's appointment as Work and Pensions Secretary.


In the first half of the 20th century, a number of politicians had supported the creation of the post of Secretary of State for Wales as a step towards Home Rule for Wales. A post of Minister of Welsh Affairs was created in 1951 under the Home Secretary and was upgraded to Minister of State level in 1954.

The Labour Party proposed the creation of a Welsh Office run by a Secretary of State for Wales in their manifesto for the 1959 general election. When they came to power in 1964 this was soon put into effect.

The post of Secretary of State for Wales came into existence on 17 October 1964; the first incumbent was Jim Griffiths, MP for Llanelli. The position entailed responsibility for Wales, and expenditure on certain public services was delegated from Westminster. In April 1965 administration of Welsh affairs, which had previously been divided between a number of government departments, was united in a newly created Welsh Office with the Secretary of State for Wales at its head, and the Welsh Secretary became responsible for education and training, health, trade and industry, environment, transport and agriculture within Wales.


During the 1980s and 1990s, as the number of Conservative MPs for Welsh constituencies dwindled almost to zero, the office fell into disrepute. Nicholas Edwards, MP for Pembrokeshire, held the post for eight years. On his departure, the government ceased to look within Wales for the Secretary of State, and the post was increasingly used as a way of getting junior high-fliers into the Cabinet. John Redwood in particular caused embarrassment when he publicly demonstrated his inability to sing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau", the Welsh national anthem, at a conference.

The introduction of the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government, after the devolution referendum of 1997, was the beginning of a new era. On 1 July 1999 the majority of the functions of the Welsh Office transferred to the new assembly. The Welsh Office was disbanded, but the post of Secretary of State for Wales was retained, as the head of the newly created Wales Office.

Since 1999 there have been calls for the office of Welsh Secretary to be scrapped or merged with the posts of Secretary of State for Scotland and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to reflect the lesser powers of the role since devolution.[1][2]

Ministers and Secretaries of State

Colour key
  Conservative   National Liberal   Labour

Ministers of Welsh Affairs (1951–1964)

Name Term of office Political party Welsh
Prime Minister
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe
(also Home Secretary)
David Maxwell Fyfe, Nuremberg, 1946.png 28 October 1951 18 October 1954 Conservative No Sir Winston Churchill
Gwilym Lloyd George
(also Home Secretary)
Gwilym Lloyd George cropped.png 18 October 1954 13 January 1957 Liberal & Conservative No[1]
Sir Anthony Eden
Henry Brooke
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
No image.svg 13 January 1957 9 October 1961 Conservative No Harold Macmillan
Charles Hill
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
No image.svg 9 October 1961 13 July 1962 National Liberal & Conservative No
Sir Keith Joseph
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
No image.svg 13 July 1962 16 October 1964 Conservative No
Sir Alec Douglas-Home

Secretaries of State for Wales (1964–present)

Name Term of office Political party Welsh
Prime Minister
Jim Griffiths No image.svg 18 October 1964 5 April 1966 Labour Llanelli Harold Wilson
Cledwyn Hughes No image.svg 5 April 1966 5 April 1968 Labour Anglesey
George Thomas No image.svg 5 April 1968 20 June 1970 Labour Cardiff West
Peter Thomas No image.svg 20 June 1970 5 March 1974 Conservative No[2] Edward Heath
John Morris Lord Morris.jpg 5 March 1974 5 May 1979 Labour Aberavon Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Nicholas Edwards No image.svg 5 May 1979 13 June 1987 Conservative Pembrokeshire Margaret Thatcher
Peter Walker No image.svg 13 June 1987 4 May 1990 Conservative No
David Hunt Lord David Hunt of Wirral.jpg 4 May 1990 27 May 1993 Conservative No John Major
John Redwood John Redwood.jpg 27 May 1993 26 June 1995[3] Conservative No
David Hunt
Lord David Hunt of Wirral.jpg 26 June 1995 5 July 1995 Conservative No
William Hague William Hague, Foreign Sec (crop).jpg 5 July 1995 3 May 1997 Conservative No
Ron Davies Rondavies1998.jpg 3 May 1997 27 October 1998[4] Labour Caerphilly Tony Blair
Alun Michael AlunMichael crop.jpg 27 October 1998 28 July 1999[5] Labour Cardiff South and Penarth
Paul Murphy Paul Murphy cropped.jpg 28 July 1999 24 October 2002 Labour Torfaen
Peter Hain
(also Ldr. of the Commons 2003–05
Northern Ireland Sec. 2005–07
Work & Pensions Sec. 2007–08)
Peter Hain.png 24 October 2002 24 January 2008 Labour Neath
Gordon Brown
Paul Murphy Paul Murphy cropped.jpg 24 January 2008 5 June 2009 Labour Torfaen
Peter Hain Peter Hain.png 5 June 2009 11 May 2010 Labour Neath
Cheryl Gillan Cheryl Gllian Official.jpg 11 May 2010 4 September 2012 Conservative No David Cameron
David Jones David Jones (cropped).jpg 4 September 2012 14 July 2014 Conservative Clwyd West
Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb 2015 (cropped).jpg 15 July 2014 19 March 2016 Conservative Preseli Pembrokeshire
David Cameron
Alun Cairns Alun Cairns 2016.jpg 19 March 2016 Incumbent Conservative Vale of Glamorgan
Theresa May


1 Formerly MP for Pembrokeshire, but represented an English constituency while in office.

2 Formerly MP for Conway, but represented an English constituency while in office.

3 Redwood resigned to stand in the 1995 Conservative leadership election. During the election, Hunt acted as Secretary of State.

4 Resigned following a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common.

5 Following Government of Wales Act 1998, held office as inaugural First Secretary for Wales from 12 May 1999.


  1. ^ "WALES | 'Scrap Welsh secretary' demand". BBC News. 19 March 2001. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 
  2. ^ "UK | Wales | Wales Office in melting pot". BBC News. 12 June 2003. Retrieved 7 June 2010. 

See also

External links

  • Current duties of the Secretary of State for Wales
  • Labour Party in Wales – covers the history of the post
  • Hain promoted in Brown's cabinet, BBC News Online, 28 June 2007
  • Hain takes work and pensions job, BBC News Online, 28 June 2007
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