Secretary of State for Wales

Secretary of State for Wales

Royal Badge of Wales (Red Dragon version)
Alun Cairns

since 19 March 2016
Wales Office
Style The Right Honourable
(Formal prefix)
Wales Secretary
Mr. 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. They are a member of the cabinet and the head of the Wales Office. They are 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

Name Term of office Political party Nation
of Birth
Prime Minister
Sir David Maxwell Fyfe
(also Home Secretary)
28 October 1951 18 October 1954 Conservative  Scotland No Sir Winston Churchill
Gwilym Lloyd George
(also Home Secretary)
18 October 1954 13 January 1957 Liberal & Conservative  Wales No[1]
Sir Anthony Eden
Henry Brooke
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
13 January 1957 9 October 1961 Conservative  England No Harold Macmillan
Charles Hill
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
9 October 1961 13 July 1962 National Liberal & Conservative  England No
Sir Keith Joseph
(also Min. of Housing & Local Govt.)
13 July 1962 16 October 1964 Conservative  England No
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Name Term of office Political party Nation
of Birth
Prime Minister
Jim Griffiths 18 October 1964 5 April 1966 Labour  Wales Llanelli Harold Wilson
Cledwyn Hughes 5 April 1966 5 April 1968 Labour  Wales Anglesey
George Thomas 5 April 1968 20 June 1970 Labour  Wales Cardiff West
Peter Thomas 20 June 1970 5 March 1974 Conservative  Wales No[2] Edward Heath
John Morris 5 March 1974 5 May 1979 Labour  Wales Aberavon Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Nicholas Edwards 5 May 1979 13 June 1987 Conservative  England Pembrokeshire Margaret Thatcher
Peter Walker 13 June 1987 4 May 1990 Conservative  England No
David Hunt 4 May 1990 27 May 1993 Conservative  Wales No John Major
John Redwood 27 May 1993 26 June 1995[3] Conservative  England No
David Hunt
26 June 1995 5 July 1995 Conservative  Wales No
William Hague 5 July 1995 3 May 1997 Conservative  England No
Ron Davies 3 May 1997 27 October 1998[4] Labour  Wales Caerphilly Tony Blair
Alun Michael 27 October 1998 28 July 1999[5] Labour  Wales Cardiff South and Penarth
Paul Murphy 28 July 1999 24 October 2002 Labour  Wales Torfaen
Peter Hain
(also Ldr. of the Commons 2003–05
Northern Ireland Sec. 2005–07
Work & Pensions Sec. 2007–08)
24 October 2002 24 January 2008 Labour Kenya British Kenya Neath
Gordon Brown
Paul Murphy 24 January 2008 5 June 2009 Labour  Wales Torfaen
Peter Hain 5 June 2009 11 May 2010 Labour Kenya British Kenya Neath
Cheryl Gillan 11 May 2010 4 September 2012 Conservative  Wales No David Cameron
David Jones 4 September 2012 14 July 2014 Conservative  England Clwyd West
Stephen Crabb 15 July 2014 19 March 2016 Conservative  Scotland Preseli Pembrokeshire
David Cameron
Alun Cairns 19 March 2016 Incumbent Conservative  Wales 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

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