A New First Minister of Wales – Appointment of New Cabinet

Following his election as First Minister of Wales, Vaughan Gething has appointed his new ministerial team, revealing both a shake-up in departmental responsibilities and a surprising degree of personnel continuity.

Announcing his Cabinet, Gething said:

‘This Ministerial team will answer the call of the generation in waiting, to create a stronger, fairer, greener Wales. We will take action to strengthen our economy by providing opportunities for everyone and being steadfast in our commitment to a just transition to net zero. Our goal to deliver green prosperity is reflected by the creation of a new Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language.’

He continued: ‘I believe in a Wales that recognises that we can celebrate our differences and take pride in all those things that draw us together and make us who we are. While there will be many challenges ahead, there are even greater opportunities. I am ambitious about the work this team will do to make Wales an even better place.’[1]

Composition of new Cabinet[2]

Vaughan Gething MS – First Minister

Mick Antoniw MS – Counsel General Designate

Jeremy Miles MS – Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy & Welsh Language

Eluned Morgan MS – Cabinet Secretary for Health & Social Care

Rebecca Evans MS – Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution & Cabinet Office

Julie James MS – Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government & Planning

Lynne Neagle MS – Cabinet Secretary for Education

Ken Skates MS – Cabinet Secretary for North Wales and Transport

Huw Irranca Davies MS – Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change & Rural Affairs

Lesley Griffiths MS – Cabinet Secretary for Culture and Social Justice

Jane Hutt MS – Chief Whip and Trefnydd (Minister responsible for organising government business)

Ministerial roles:

Hannah Blythyn MS – Minister for Social Partnership

Jayne Bryant MS – Minister for Mental Health and Early Years

Dawn Bowden MS – Minister for Social Care

Gething’s new Cabinet establishes several key changes in the structure of Welsh Government.

Firstly, Gething has opted to return to the arrangements set out by the third government of Carwyn Jones, wherein senior cabinet members are once again referred to as cabinet secretaries, as opposed to ministers. This reverses the decision taken by the first government of Mark Drakeford and seemingly reflects the Senedd reform agenda codified in the Senedd Cymru (Members and Elections) Bill. After all, with the anticipated growth of the Senedd from 60 members to 96 at the next election, and aspirations for further devolution and budgetary responsibilities, the title of cabinet secretaries reflect the continued strengthening of Welsh devolution; it also brings the Welsh Government into alignment with the cabinets of the UK and Scottish governments.

Second, Gething has reorganised the responsibilities of government departments, primarily through the fragmentation of the powerful climate change brief. Following the 2021 Senedd Elections, Mark Drakeford amalgamated transport, planning, housing, and energy into one ‘super-Ministry’, with the expressed aim of weaving environmental and climate change considerations throughout all policy areas and decision-making.[3] Gething has resolved to follow a different approach, merging energy with economy, climate change with rural affairs, and shifting planning into the revived housing and local government brief. Transport has also been resurrected following its absorption into the climate brief and is now joined with the portfolio for North Wales, which has been handed to Ken Skates, who returns to government after a spell on the backbenches. The decision to intertwine economy and energy likely reflects Gething’s manifesto pledge to invest in green prosperity as a both of a source of employment and community prosperity and indicates that green energy will be at the heart of Gething’s plans for economic growth. Similarly, the decision to weaken the powerful climate change department would suggest a desire to avoid the centralisation of decision-making into one position and instead balance power and decision-making responsibilities across various cabinet briefs.

Thirdly, and perhaps most surprisingly, Gething has carried out a relatively minimal cabinet reshuffle, placing a premium on conciliation and continuity, with many key allies of the former First Minister Mark Drakeford, and defeated leadership rival, Jeremy Miles, remaining at the top table. Miles himself has oversight of the new Economy, Energy, and Welsh Language department; a likely product of his strong showing amongst Welsh Labour Party members. Key backers of Miles, including Julie James and Lesley Griffiths remain in Cabinet, with James taking up her former responsibility for housing and local government, with additional responsibility for planning, the latter of which gives James responsibility for planning consent in the Development of National Significance regime. Griffiths leaves the rural affairs brief, likely to allow for a reset following anger over the Sustainable Farming Scheme, to the newly created culture and social justice brief. Miles-backer Huw Irranca Davies enters cabinet with responsibility for the enjoined rural affairs and climate change position, whilst Miles supporters Julie Morgan and Lee Waters both depart from cabinet.

Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government and Planning

Julie James MS is the new Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government and Planning. In her new role, James retains oversight over the planning system and will continue to adjudicate on planning consent for the Development of National Significance (DNS) regime. James also holds responsibility for Section 106 Agreements, the National Infrastructure Commission, Future Wales: The National Plan 2040, as well as the oversight and implementation of planning policy and the Planning Acts. James consequently retains responsibility for the passage of the Infrastructure (Wales) Bill through the Senedd, and the subsequent roll-out of the Significant Infrastructure Project regime.

As part of the shifting and breaking up of her climate change portfolio James has lost responsibility for climate change policy and net zero in exchange for housing, including social and affordable homes, building regulations, and second homes, and local government, including governance, elections, and finances. James also has responsibility for regeneration policy, including Strategic Regeneration Areas, town centres, and derelict land.

James’ retention of ultimate decision-making over the DNS regime will ensure a degree of continuity between the previous administration and its replacement. It will, therefore, remain to be seen whether there is a change in approach from a Gething-led government to help drive forward his vision for a ‘stronger, fairer, greener Wales’, and whether greater certainty over the timescales for determining applications can be given to ensure that Wales is able to maximise the benefit of the next generation of green jobs and investment.


The appointment of Vaughan Gething’s inaugural cabinet has been less sweeping than perhaps would have been anticipated, with a wider shakeup of ministerial responsibilities caveated by minimal personnel change. The decision to keep Drakeford-era ministers and backers of his leadership content opponent, Jeremy Miles, in key positions thereby demonstrates Gething’s preference for conciliation and intra-party unity.

Gething’s unifying approach likely stems from his marginal victory in the leadership contest and desire to take as much of the party with him into his new administration. Gething’s decision also reflects the overtly politicised nature of an election year, with any rumour of internal party discord likely to be seized upon by opponents. It is therefore probable that Gething has placed a premium on stability ahead of the general election, ensuring that Welsh Labour is best placed to capitalise on likely losses from the Conservatives.

It is also worth emphasising that Gething has inherited Drakeford’s mandate from 2021, limiting his ability to significantly alter course from the existing policy and legislative agenda. The true test of Gething’s authority, aside from the general election, will be the 2026 Senedd elections, whereby the Senedd is set to expand from 60 to 96 members. This will likely present Gething with a new pool of Labour MSs, all signed up to Gething’s leadership and manifesto, who could provide the personnel for a post-election cabinet reshuffle, should Welsh Labour perform well.

Ultimately, Gething’s new cabinet embodies the political context in which he was elected and, in placing consensual politics at the heart of his government, looks ahead to strategically important elections which will be seen as an opportunity to deliver a mandate for a Gething-led Welsh Labour party, but also to determine the future shape of Welsh politics and devolution.

Appendix – Responsibilities of Cabinet Secretary for Housing, Local Government and Planning
  • Housing and housing-related activities of Local Authorities and housing associations, including housing management and the allocation of social and affordable housing
  • Supply and quality of market, social and affordable housing
  • Second Homes
  • Homelessness and housing advice
  • Matters relating to housing provided by the private rented sector and regulation of registered social landlords
  • Aids and adaptations, including Disabled Facilities Grants and Physical Adaptation Grants
  • The provision of housing-related support (but not the payment of Housing Benefit)
  • National Infrastructure Commission
  • Oversight and implementation of the Planning Acts and all aspects of planning policy and the determination of called-in planning applications and appeals
  • Planning gain – Section 106 Agreements contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990
  • Developments of National Significance: determination of planning applications and connected consents
  • Building regulations
  • Fire safety in high-rise buildings
  • Land Division
  • Future Wales: the national plan 2040
  • Regeneration, including Strategic Regeneration Areas; legacy regeneration; Transforming Town Centres and provision of sites and premises, derelict land and environmental improvements relating to regeneration
  • Structural, democratic, financial and constitutional reform of Local Authorities including co-ordination of regional collaboration models
  • The Local Government Partnership Council
  • Local Government performance, governance and constitutional matters, scrutiny arrangements, cabinets, elected mayors, the role of councillors, their diversity, conduct and remuneration.
  • Coal tip safety
  • National Parks
  • Fire and Rescue Services including community fire safety
  • Local Government electoral arrangements, sponsorship of the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales and the timing of Local Authority elections
  • Local Government finance policy including financial reform
  • The un-hypothecated funding of Local Authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners through the Local Government revenue and capital settlements
  • Financial governance, financing and accounting relating to Local Government
  • Public Service Boards
  • Public libraries
  • Local archive services
  • Local Government workforce matters
  • One Wales Public Service, including Academi Wales

[1] Welsh Government, First Minister Vaughan Gething announces new Welsh Government Cabinet, 21 March 2024, https://www.gov.wales/first-minister-vaughan-gething-announces-new-welsh-government-cabinet

[2] Welsh Government, Cabinet Secretaries and Ministers, April 2024, https://www.gov.wales/cabinet-secretaries-and-ministers

[3] Welsh Government, We must keep following the science, says new Climate Change Minister, 13 June 2021, https://www.gov.wales/we-must-keep-following-science-says-new-climate-change-minister