Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Westminster behind the times

I learn from Iain Dale's blog this morning that the House of Commons Modernisation Committee is proposing that MPs be allowed to check emails in the Chamber, as long as it doesn't interfere with the business of the Commons. "So what" was my instinctive response. We did that all the time when I was an Assembly Member. They still do - and more. Two weeks ago Alun Cairns told us, via his blog, that Local Government Minister, Brian Gibbons was noticed buying a new suit on-line during an important debate. Multi-tasking is an essential requirement if you want to become an Assembly Member! Alun tells me that after checking up on all the suit prices, Brian moved on to the Archers website.

But on reflection, I agree with Iain about MPs checking their emails. They don't have individual seats or computers in the Chamber, as do AMs. It would involve them all indulging in that most irritating habit of constantly checking their blackberries. I find that some of them actually check them mid-conversation, giving a perfect impression of not listening to what anyone else is saying. I suppose there could be a degree of honesty about this practice! Its also the case that AMs are expected to be in the Debating Chamber rather more than MPs are because there are only 60 of them.

Mind you, I'm not at all sure that Brian Gibbons should be allowing his attention to be diverted. He has form. When he was the Health Minister, he pressed the wrong button and voted for a independent review of the Welsh Ambulance Service immediately after he had spoken on behalf of the Government, roundly condemning it. The vote was lost by one vote- and Brian has never lived down the embarrassment. Brian was also the AM who played football for our Assembly football team in the Annual Parliamentary Shield, sponsored by McDonalds, wearing a shirt with a big 'golden arches' M on the front. When a story broke about our Health Minister supporting a fast food company, Brian said that when he looked down at his shirt he thought it was a W for Wales. (He could have been joking - you can never tell with the Irish).


One Wales Watcher said...

Not sure that the ever-present computers and the like are a good thing in the Senedd, Glyn. A few contributions (Bourne, Morgan, Neagle) aside, yesterdays One Wales 'debate' was a travesty. Less time surfing- and snooping on those surfing! - and more time listening and engaging would be a change for the better here!

Anonymous said...

ams only spend two half days in the sennedd as it is. the least they should do is turn up and concentrate

Glyn Davies said...

oww - availability of computers - as long as its not abused of course. But I do agree about the rest of your comment. I have seen enough of Asembly debates to know what its like. One problem is that it is difficult to prepare anything - because of the time limits that are imposed. When I was first elected, I used to prepare 5 minute speeches - but soon stopped bothering when I was resticted to 3 minutes at the last minute. Only the opening speakers can be certain their time won't be cut.

anon - AMs probably spend a lot more time in the Debating Chamber than MPs. Its just that there are around 650 of them and only 60 AMs - so you don't notice

Anonymous said...

its about respect Glyn, i understand than our AM's can't always be in the Chamber and whenever i see them they are always at their computers, but i am amazed that AM's of all parties are not always in the Chamber for First Minister Questions which is an important part of the week surely they can clear their schedules for an hour a week and maybe shut the computers off in the Chamber for FMQ maybe that would focus minds and we get better debate.

If our politicians want us to be more involved they need to start respecting the National Assembly for Wales and its role in Welsh Life, its not a giant coffee shop which seems to be the mentality down the Bay at present.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - pity you comment as anon because your's is a great comment. And its not only First Minister's Questions. Its other Minister's Questions as well.

The only response I want to make is that not all the AMs are the same. Some do show the right level of respect (David Melding and Jenny Randerson immediately come to mind as two of the best) and others don't. Whenever we just group people, we dismiss the efforts of the commited

Anonymous said...

nice to see a good word for a liberal am glyn