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Devalued post still poses challenge for Hain.

THE post of Secretary of State for Wales is widely regarded as the lowest position in the Cabinet.

Largely devalued since devolu-tion, the holder of the title wields far less power today than they did before July 1, 1999 - when much of the power exercised by the old Welsh Office was transferred to the National Assembly.

But the Welsh Secretary is the key Government figure liaising with the assembly, as well as representing Wales' interests in the Cabinet and Parliament.

Peter Hain's predecessor Paul Murphy was tipped for a return to Belfast in 2001 as a replacement for Peter Mandelson as Northern Ireland Secretary.

And there was also little doubt he would have relished the chance to pick up where he left off at the Northern Ireland Office in 1999.

Mr Murphy's promotion to Welsh Secretary in July 1999 was seen as a reward for the excellent work he had done as minister responsible for political development at the Northern Ireland Office.

In 1998, he was the unsung hero who helped Mo Mowlam with the peace talks that led to the Good Friday Agreement, winning him praise for his quiet diplomacy.

Now it is up to Neath MP Peter Hain to continue cordial relations between Cardiff and Whitehall.

His relationship with the First Minister will be crucial - even more so as Mr Hain was campaign manager for Mr Michael, Rhodri Morgan's rival in the Welsh Labour leadership contest in 1999.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Oct 25, 2002
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