Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lets be fair to Assembly Members

I'm very much an ex-Assembly Member, but I remain deeply committed to its success - and the last few weeks have been desperately disappointing. The institution has lost a lot of ground in public esteem. Some of it has been self-inflicted. The decision to publish AM's allowances on the last Friday before recess was stupid, and has drawn a heavy price. The introduction of a new and novel power for the Secretary of State to intervene in the making of Assembly Measures was the result of deliberately trying to wind up MPs. If you poke a crocodile in the eye, don't complain if it bites your finger off. And the curry launch of the All Wales Convention gave all the appearance of Nero fiddling for no apparent purpose. The most damaging of these by a mile has been the negative publicity about member's expenses.

I'm not commenting on individual claims. But I do think the focus on Assembly Members has been extremely unfair. The only reason they've been having so much stick is that we all know the detail of their claims. This is in stark contrast to the rules that apply to MPs, whose expenses are not made public. And this coming week Leader of the House, Harriet Harman intends to slip through a measure (under the cover of the Obama inauguration) which will put MPs expenses outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. Two column inches on page 15 - maybe. Now I'm not saying that any MP makes any claim that would excite the interest of the Western Mail or BBC, but I do think MPs and AMs should be treated in the same way. Because so many people believe its not acceptable for politicians to claim anything at all, publication is always going to be news, and AMs are always going to left standing in a poor light.

Now, before any of my visitors start getting personal, I'd best make it clear what I would do if I were to become an MP. After another fuss about politicians employing family members, I posted many months ago that I wouldn't employ any family - unless all efforts had produced no takers and I was completely stuck. Well, since I believe MPs and AMs should be treated the same in relation to expenses, I would publish any claim I might make in exactly the same way, and on the same day as Assembly Members. And that's a promise - unless Harriet Harman slips through a law to stop me. And while I'm about it, I promise that I would not touch the utterly disgraceful 'Communications Allowance' that as far as I can see is no more than the use of taxpayer's money for political purposes.


Anonymous said...

Well done Glyn. The Assembly system may be harsh but the Westminster system propsed by Harman is a disgrace. An MP could, for instance list £5,000 for "hotels" without saying whether that was three nights in seven star luxury or thirty nights in a B&B. It tells the electors nothing.

Anonymous said...

Expenses need to be transparent, whether for AM's or MP's.
The fact that the government has slipped through their new proposals whilst other important news is taking the headlines is just another disgraceful move from them.

Anonymous said...

a good piece Glyn but the Tories will always be in the spotlight in the Assembly because of the still hostile view of the majority of party members toward devolution.

On the issues of expenses all parties are guilty that the Assembly is held in very low self esteem by the welsh public (Nick Ramsey's two £1,000 TV's for instance), what about Huw Lewis, Lynne Neagle, Alun Davies, Gareth Jones and Eleanor Burnham's expenses?

As for the all parties showing some good judgement maybe they need some training, we had the First Minister on the Politics Show today in a tracksuit - so much for those in Cardiff Bay respecting the place they work, if that's the case why should the rest of us in Wales care?

Glyn Davies said...

I hope that there will be media pressure which encourages all politicians to work to the new rules that wil be drawn up on the basis of Sir Roger Jones' report

Anonymous said...

Glyn bach..lets be honest ..its all about the future of proff Bourne..very much a bourne ultimatum?

Anonymous said...

Of course, none of this will be a problem when the Conservatives win the next election because they'll overturn this sneaky law... Ah, no they won't. Why's that Glyn?

And I might add that if you really wished the Assembly success, then you would stop illustrating the expenses issue of the last few weeks as 'a problem with the Assembly'. It's actually a problem with your Conservative colleagues who've been ripping off the Welsh tax-payer.

So the lesson for the Welsh public on this matter seems fairly clear - don't vote Conservative, they're in it to milk the system.

If you mean what you say Glyn, you really need to ditch the Conservative tag.

Glyn Davies said...

Anons - I suppose that just because I post in a non partisan way, there's no reason why you have to. But I'm not sure you are adding anything to the debate.

Anonymous said...

Pity that you don't answer the points put by Anon 11:16:00. While it is certainly a very partisan contribution, shouldn't you be willing to stick up for your own party?

If I'm going to vote for you, I have to be happy to vote for your party too.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - I thought the points were put in a way that didn't warrant a response - but since you raise them as well, and rather more reasonably, I will respond.

I agree that all parties at Westminster seem to be opposed to publication of expenses, which is why I did not attack the Government, but the Leader of the House who is leading on it.

I do not believe it to be fair to single out Conservative AMs as being particularly guilty of excessive claims. I accept that much of the media focus has been on the Conservatives, but I think if you look at all the claims, you will see little difference between parties. I decided not to throw stones on this issue, but my personal view is that the two claims that offended me most, though both entirely within the rules, were made by Labour members.

Matt Wardman said...

Harman tried to get the Assembly to pull the same trick. To Lord D's credit, he sent her away:


Glyn Davies said...

Matt - Praise be to the Lord