Sunday, February 24, 2013

Downgrade of XXX Credit Rating - Mark 2

During the day, I've agreed to be interviewed on this issue in both Welsh and English. Some consistent themes have been coming through the questioning. Let me reflect on them and on what I've said.

Firstly, there's the economic impact of the downgrade itself on the UK's credit rating to Aa1 by Moody's. My approach has been to dismiss this as not being anything significant. In reality, it has had almost no traction with the general public, despite the BBC's desperate efforts to make it a defining issue. Harriet Harman and Ed Balls have never had so many free hits - to little effect in my opinion. This is because the general public are not daft (nothing like as daft as a few backbenchers it seems). From an economic perspective, I reckon the downgrade will not have any significant impact on interest rates at which the UK borrows money (which is what matters) - and the downgrade was factored into the market already.

But from a political perspective its a different matter. In the febrile atmosphere of Westminster it does matter, partly because commentators can come up with various quotes that a downgrade was not going to happen. MPs are very excitable people. We are likely to find out more about what it all means in the lead-in to the budget, and reaction to the budget itself. In interviews with the Welsh media, I've resorted to the 'hindsight' approach. With hindsight, our focus should have been on our commitment to ensuring lowest possible interest rates in the markets, rather than the credit rating which delivered it. The reality is that its not going to make any significant difference. This approach seems to works - mainly because its true.

But please don't think I'm at all dismissive about the state of the UK economy. The Institute of Fiscal Studies reckons the 2012/13 deficit will add another £128 billion to the National Debt, which  will reach around £1.6 trillion by 2016. It was not much over £300 billion in 2000, and not much over £500 billion in 2008. The Coalition Gov't inherited one hell of a mess, and its a long steep road to stable ground. As it is, we are in the midst of the biggest Keynsian cash splurge ever seen in living memory (and beyond). I have four children and two grandchildren, whose contemporaries will have to repay these mind blowing debts. We are probably the most selfish generation in the human history of our nation. And always the questions keep coming asking about a Plan 'B' or "Kick starting the economy to create growth" - meaning even more borrowing. I'd like to see tax cuts myself but it cannot be without more cuts in public spending, particularly welfare spending. And we are finding out just how hard that is in a Coalition.

Another reason why we are a selfish generation is that we seem happy to allow devaluation of our currency - the inevitable consequence of the mega-money that the Bank of England has been printing. It just means that we are devaluing the savings that we should be using to help future generations to repair the damage. If we had fixed exchange rates, what has happened over recent months would have put us in devaluation territory. As it is we may find Sterling depreciation a difficult animal to control. Its a b*****y good job I'm a hill sheep farmer. I'm sure I'd be as terribly worried if I was an economist. One consolation is that at least my family owns a bit of land.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Losing Our AAA Credit Rating

Just agreed to join the cast of Radio Wales Sunday Supplement tomorrow morning to discuss the downgrading of the UK's Aaa credit rating by Moody's earlier this week.  Also 'appearing' on Radio Cymru's Bwrw Golwg to discuss 'militarisation' of foreign aid budget. Great for me - getting straight back into big serious issues after a few days reading thrillers and playing a bit of golf in the sun. Have to get my thoughts in order.

At one level the credit rating downgrade is of very little consequence. Its been factored into the market for months. There can hardly have been an economist who didn't expect the downgrade. Many had expected it sooner. Some Treasury 'body language' had suggested to me months ago that this was almost inevitable. What matters of course is the interest rates the UK has to pay in the bond markets, and the downgrade is unlikely to have any effect on that. What matters is whether the markets have confidence in the UK's ability to come through the economic turmoil that's hitting most developed countries. I suspect the value of sterling early next week will concern the Chancellor more.

But in my world of politics, symbolism matters. Since before the last General Election, "maintaining our AAA rating" has been used so often as a Gov't objective that the downgrade carries much greater symbolic political significance than its economic impact should justify. That's politics though. I'm on with an economist on Sunday Supplement. Be interesting to hear his take on things.

Normally, such a symbolic disappointment for a Gov't would be damaging. But thanks to the nonsensical response of the Shadow Chancellor, the Opposition are in a hopeless position to take political advantage. Our problems are the weight of growing national debt, and continuing deficit. My 5yr old granddaughter, Ffion could work out that increasing public spending is politics of lunacy - except in the minds of the economically illiterate/irresponsible/opportunistic (take your pick). Simple message from me will be "symbolically important, politically disappointing and economically insignificant".

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The 10p Tax

I have to make an admission. I never thought that the 10p rate of Income Tax was sensible, and I still don't think it is. I wouldn't have bothered make this admission, except that Ed Miliband has announced today that he thinks its a good idea. It could be his first policy commitment! He has gone as far as to denounce Gordon Brown's decision to axe it. Though it should be noted that Ed Balls is telling us that its not yet certain to be a manifesto commitment.

Disagreeing with Ed Miliband is no bother. I disagree with most of what he says. But to disagree with Robert Halfon MP is an entirely different matter. I often sit by Robert in the Chamber. He is a star - and its the first time I can recall disagreeing with him. Now I do agree that we should be cutting the Income Tax of those on lowest incomes, so I'd better explain my own position on this area of tax policy.

I believe that the Conservative Party should commit in our next manifesto to raise the tax-free personal allowance to £11,000. I've been hugely enthusiastic about the massive increases in the tax-free allowance the Coalition Gov't has introduced - which will have risen to £10,000 by the next election. We should build on this, and take it further in the next parliament. I'd like to have said £12,000 allowance, but it would cost too much.

Usually, discussion about the 10p tax rate is based on a £9205-£12,000 range. We are told this is likely to cost around £6billion per annum in lost revenue. For the same cost to the Treasury, the tax-free personal allowance could be raised to £10,620. Even at this modest level, all those earning up to £11,800 would be better off than under a new 10p tax band with a £12000 limit. Only those earning £11,800-£12,000 would be worse off. And crucially, we would also be increasing the age-related personal allowance, the freezing of which has caused much concern to so many of my constituents. Personally, I'd like us to go a bit further than £10,620, which is why I advocate an £11,000 upper limit. I'd lay a sizable bet that our Coalition partners will commit to a £12,000 upper limit in their manifesto.

Main reason that I oppose a 10p tax rate is the matter of added complexity in the tax system. (I also believe there should be a top rate of 40p, which is what the Labour Party operated throughout its 13 yrs in office - though I accept that 'politics' rules that out at present). All we should have is two rates of tax, and one level of personal allowance. Keep it simple. While some countries move towards a flat tax, we should not be moving in the opposite direction.  There are other reasons as well, but lets not complicate the case.

What I do find hugely encouraging however is that whenever I hear Robert talk about the 10p tax rate its that we have a Conservative voice (and a respected one at that) making the case for levying less tax on those on lowest incomes. I approve of that big-time. I suppose the differences between us are not that great.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ITV Brilliant on Organ Donation

Regular visitors to this blog will know of my implacable opposition to the Welsh Gov't's proposals to introduce 'presumed consent' into the organ donation system in Wales. It will not increase the number of organs available for donation - no matter how often the opposite is stated by supporters of the change, there is not a shred of evidence to support the contention that it will. Developing and maintaining an 'Opt-out' register is a waste of money and it could well do damage to the organ donation system across the UK. I am discussing this aspect with the Minister in a few days time. But there can be no disagreement about the wonderful initiative taken by ITV this week in support of organ donation.  It is the most positive step taken in support since the reports published by the Organ Donation Taskforce in 2008.

I want every potential organ donor's next of kin throughout the UK to be asked to allow organs to be taken from brain dead bodies in Intensive Care Units as a matter of course. And there must be trained co-ordinators available at every site to ensure the approach is carried out as sensitively and professionally as possible. Professional training is crucial train co-ordinators to manage what will always inevitably be a traumatic situation. I also want as much effort (and money) put into promoting campaigns based on 'Tell your Family' - particularly in BME communities. The key to reducing the refusal rates of next of kin to allow organs to be donated is to reduce the shock of being asked. This is the key change which has produced such excellent results in Spain (world's best) and underpinned the improvements we have seen in the UK - particularly in Wales. What ITV have done this week is beyond my wildest hopes. If it had been advertising space paid for, it would probably have cost about as much as the Welsh Gov't's annual budget.

There is a huge unmet demand for donated organs. Eventually, stem cell research may resolve the problems, but in the meantime, we depend on donation, often altruistically from live donors ( of kidneys). ITV's 'From The Heart' campaign aims to raise awareness of organ donation. A main aim is to encourage everyone to talk to their loved ones about their wishes. There is a range of programmes all week on prime time TV, covering all aspects of organ donation - after working with NHS Blood and Transplant, the body responsible for the NHS Organ donation Register. Just brilliant. I called at a dinner to congratulate and thank Phil Henphrey, Head of News and Programmes for ITV Wales and West to congratulate him and the broadcaster on the wonderful service they have provided to the nation, and particularly to all those waiting for a transplant.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

David Cameron - Saviour of the EU ?

Last Friday, the UK Prime Minister pulled off a spectacular victory in Brussels, a 'smasheroo', a Messi/Gareth Bale flash of brilliance. Not only was the EU's next seven years spending budget (2014-2020)reduced for the first time ever (as he's been negotiating over the last two years) but he achieved this by creating alliances with other EU members, notably Germany's Angela Merkel. This was not supposed to be possible. After the way the then rather rude French President tried to humiliate David Cameron last year, it does give an added tittle of pleasure to see the current French President being outmanoeuvred.

This is of course 'old news' - the agreement having been reached almost three days ago. But I feel the need to make something of it - because the media have virtually ignored it. Its treated on the same scale of importance as if Burkino Faso win the African Nations Football Tournament! From a UK perspective the EU budget deal is a very significant event - historic even. Beats me why David Cameron has not been lauded from every rooftop - except those that belong to the anti-British of course. Their churlishness is understandable. I suspect its partly because of the redefinition of marriage issue. Those who would have been praising the Prime Minister loudest are still feeling bitter about the way they were so dismissively treated last week.

Lets consider what the PM achieved. For years its been assumed that the UK/EU relationship is a one-way street, ever closer union, ever rising spending power. Whatever the EU Commission agreed should come to pass -  after a bit of fuss perhaps - has always come to pass. Until last year's UK veto. Suddenly the reality is apparent to other member states. It doesn't have to be that way. Scales have fallen from their eyes. The necessity to consider major change to cope with Eurozone failure, the comparative fall in international competitiveness, the dangers of public disorder arising from a democratic deficit. These issues are now being discussed around polite Brussels tables - and its all down to David Cameron. Even Ukip's Nigel Farage was forced to admit that DC had done well, until he quickly switched back into 'Eastleigh' mode. The last 7 years budget was a Euro or two short of a thousand billion Euro. The next 7 years budget is around 50 billion Euro less. That's money that would have left a big hole in taxpayer's wallets.

Its a different story in Wales of course, where we have a Labour one-party state. Inevitably, the First Minister was first on the airwaves with his pre-prepared criticisms. Inevitably, if the EU budget is reduced, there is less money for the EU to redistribute in various forms of subsidy - so less EU subsidy for the Welsh Government to distribute. The fact that its recycled British taxpayer's money is simply ignored. For the last 14 years mega-millions of regional development money has been pouring into Wales as subsidy. Ironically, the performance of the Welsh economy has gone backwards during the same period. But spending other people's money is part of Labour's DNA - so less taxpayer's money to the EU has to be bad. And the logic of this position is that the bigger the EU budget, the better. Even Labour in Westminster can see that policy is economic lunacy. But that doesn't stop the First Minister repeating the mantra over and over - usually unchallenged.

So let's hear it for David Cameron. He's achieved something that no other British PM has achieved before. And I say to all those Europhiles who don't like it, he may just have helped save the EU from itself. I think the mood is changing and there's a genuine chance of a significant repatriation of policy to the UK. My money is on a Yes vote for 2017, which is perhaps another reason why the voices of congratulation are more muted than they should have been.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

NHS Failings. Shrewsbury and Telford Trust ????

Charles Moore is a brilliant writer. But I think he's gone too far in the article he's written for today's Telegraph about the NHS. I realise its suddenly become acceptable to point out the failings of the NHS. Hallelujah to that. Whenever I hear the NHS being discussed as if its manned by a million saints, I just roll my eyes. Yes we know there are committed and compassionate people working in the NHS. I've been treated by some of them. To me, Mr Hunt remains a God-like figure - and Tracey remains a caring angel. But I do think its right that Sec of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt takes a realistic approach, realising there are real problems to address - while not making knee-jerk blanket criticisms. As a general philosophy there should be hard-nosed audit to uncover problems, and a determination to put matters right. To build on a recent speech comment that went well "Just because there are a few bad drivers, you don't scrap the Highway Code - just ban the bad drivers"

What happened at Mid Staffordshire was shocking in its awfulness. Its incredible that no-one is being held responsible - and that no-one has yet been charged, or even sacked. We saw supposed carers at the Winterbourne View Hospital being jailed recently for unacceptable behaviour. I'm signed up to Paul Burstow's Private Member's Bill to make corporate responsibility a criminal offence. And I'm involved in pressing for review of the Liverpool Care Pathway to ensure its used properly after negative press reports. Surely allowing hundreds of people to die unnecessarily is much worse than any of this. I'm one who finds it difficult to understand why the man at the top of the West Midland Strategic Health authority at the time, and Chief Exec of the NHS can possibly stay in his job. Whether he's a good man or not is simply irrelevant. Its a question of public confidence.

Its also not credible that there aren't other cases where patients have died in large numbers because of unacceptable care. Its right that the hospital trusts with the worst 'death rates' should be independently investigated - though I do accept that statistics can mislead. The Medical Director of the NHS, Sir Bruce Keogh is shortly going to announce the 12 hospital trusts he is going to investigate to ensure there hasn't been another 'Mid Staffs'. I was inevitably concerned to read that the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust is 7th on the list of NHS trusts with highest rates of recorded deaths above expected levels during 2009-2012 - according to a report in today's Telegraph. This is my local NHS Trust. Its frightening, when I think of the people I've known from Montgomeryshire who have died there. We do not yet know whether it will be on Sir Bruce's list or that there have been unnecessary deaths from 'poor care'. I do hope not, but I owe it to my constituents to follow up this matter with determination.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Telford company buy all shares of Welshpool Business

Significant business matter happened last week that passed me by unnoticed. Don't think it was noticed by many others either. One of Montgeryshire's biggest employers changed ownership on January 31st.

Denso Manufacturing UK Ltd, located in Telford, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Denso International UK Ltd, (part of the Denso Group) purchased all the shares of Shimizu Industry UK Ltd. Shimizu employs around 170 people on the Buttington Cross Estate near Welshpool. It manufactures plastic products for car air conditioners and radiators. New owners manufacture car air conditioners and heaters - so the deal looks to be a good fit.

At present, I have no idea if there any employment consequences of this deal, either positive or negative. No reason to think this is anything but a simple change of ownership, but its such a significant development that I hope I can arrange a visit to the company next week. Inevitably constituents are going to be asking questions, and it would be good to give informative answers.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

DWL Rowlands (Ukip stalwart) - 1934-2013

My good friend, David (DWL) Rowlands died yesterday (Wed) after a short illness. I had known him well since I was elected to Montgomeryshire District Council in 1976. We immediately became friends, drawn to each other by our anti-planning instincts. Together with Hedd Bleddyn Williams, representing Llanbrynmair we saw ourselves as the 'Freedom Fighters'. We shared many interests, and he still wrote to me regularly or called in my Welshpool office to share his opinions (which were often related to the latest outrageous edict from the EU). He was a startlingly honest man, and despite his extensive public involvements, kept his private life to himself.

David's family owned the Montgomeryshire County Times and Express, but after University he entered the world of estate management, and I first heard of him when he managed the Lake Vyrnwy Estate, which in those days comprised a large workforce. David has written extensively about the history of the Dam and estate, and still retained his great love for the Vyrnwy area. He has been taking a keen interest in Severn Trent's current plans to sell on the estate.  He was still trying to protect an area he loved all of his life.

He was elected as Chairman of Montgomeryshire in 1978-81, and was a huge support to me when I was elected to the same position from 1984-87. He was Finance Committee chair for many years, until I took over in 1987, and again a great help to me. David was a key player in the restoration of Llangedwyn Mill into workshops, prominent in the Powysland Club, and several other local voluntary bodies.

David Rowlands would have liked to be involved in national politics, but was too 'independently minded' to join a mainstream party, and first stood as an 'Independent' in the '83 General Election, when Alex Carlile was first elected to Westminster. He later became closely involved with Ukip, flying it's flag in the mid Wales/Shropshire area over recent decades, standing as Ukip candidate on many occassions. Over recent summers David has been one of that intrepid group who man the Ukip stand at local shows. I spent so much time chatting to him, that it would not have been unreasonable for people to think I was a Ukip supporter! His last attempt to secure election was at the General Election in 2010, when I was elected an MP. It was odd contesting an election against a good friend. He garnered over 1000 votes for Ukip in Montgomeryshire.

Over recent years, David suffered much ill health, but I shall always imagine him striding along the streets of Welshpool at tremendous speed, always looking a man of great purpose - totally oblivious to the difficulty being experienced by the persons struggling to keep up with him. Despite ill-health DWL Rowlands (as he was often referred to) seemed to me indestructible. It is sad and seems strange that he has died, He will be remembered with affection by the many people who befriended and worked with him throughout his incredibly active life.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Reorganising the way Wales is Governed

Am going to watch The Wales Report tonight (BBC Wales 10.35) - though it does look as if the producers had nothing much of new interest to cover. Which is why they've invited Lord Elis Thomas onto the programme to say pretty much what we all knew he thought already. Though he comes from a 'Plaid Cymru perspective' I always reckon what Dafydd El says is worth pondering on. When short of material, ask Dafydd El for an opinion is an old BBC standby. Asking Richard wyn Jones for his opinion is another BBC Wales standby. And as usual, they've been hyping it up as if its an announcement of great moment. So better watch.

Lets look at what we're told the great man is going to say. 1) That the number of local authorities should be cut to 5-7 from current 22. 2) That number of Welsh MPs should be cut. 3) That number of AMs should be increased. Only thing missing from the 'full set' is that the Wales Office should be abolished along with the Cabinet position of Secretary of State for Wales. Even though these suggestions flow from a Plaid Cymru perspective, I reckon they're worth considering seriously. So let's do it.

There is certainly a case for cutting 22 primary councils to 7. I recall believing that then Labour Assembly Minister, Sue Essex, had this in mind when she proposed strategic regional authorities when she was the responsible Minister - though it was never spelt out. She was careful not to tread on Labour council leader's toes. And I had some 'conditional' sympathy with the idea. When 22 local councils were established in 1994, it was assumed that some would become 'lead authorities' avoiding the need to create 22 all singing/dancing management teams. Didn't happen. We had 22 costly all singing/dancing teams. Though my 'shadow' responsibilities were all-Wales, I took a particular interest in mid-Wales. I could see case for a Mid Wales Authority, (the old DBRW area) with delivery sub-offices in Montgomeryshire, Brecon and Radnor, Ceredigion and Meirionydd. I still can. Always saw it is reinforcing my desire to 'Bring Montgomeryshire Back'.

But I cannot agree that strategic authorities can be based on current Health Board areas. Powys is completely unsustainable, which is why health responsibilities are currently being shared out elsewhere. There is no population base, and no General Hospital. At least Mid Wales would have Bronglais - though I also believe we should consider hospitals in England as being providers of services to Wales as well. Seems that the First Minister now agrees with this, now that he sees the Welsh NHS as on the point of collapse. About time too.

Of course there's a case for reducing number of Welsh MPs, but its not going to happen anytime soon. The Wales Boundary Commission should be asked to consider how a reduction of say 6 seats could be arranged, without insisting that number of voters should be the same - allowing for sparcity, history and geography   I've just opposed the impact of reduction to 30 seats in Wales with equal electorates as unacceptable to mid Wales. And at some stage there will be a case for 80 AMs but not until the National Assembly has genuine fiscal accountability (until it's responsible for raising tax) and I can't see that happening anytime soon either. The Silk report -Part One has been kicked into the long grass as far as I can see. Only thing left is the scrapping of the Wales Office, for which I can also see the case - but I'm not going to support reducing the Wales voice at Westminster - especially when mid Wales seems further away from Cardiff than Westminster. All things considered, I don't think tonight's Wales Report is going to be anything more than an academic exercise going nowhere.

UPDATE - Watched the programme and could have enjoyed talking through Lord Elis Thomas' comments. Particularly liked his idea of reducing size of Second Chamber, and having 5% from Wales. The appointment of another 70 Lords in the near future seems very odd when we're supposed to be looking to reduce cost of Government. Dafydd El suggested 350 peers. I reckon about 500 would be more realistic - as a first step anyway. and he talked much sense about local government. He was squirming when Huw Edwards was pushing him on MP numbers. Suppose he didn't want to cut across Elfyn, Hywel and Jonathon who have been taking a different line. Not so impressed by Richard Wyn Jones though. I agree with his contention that Wales should not have greater representation at Westminster than rest of UK - which means a reduction of 6/7 Welsh MPs - which does not justify his disparaging tone. My own view is that if the Boundary Commission had been allowed greater flexibility it might have happened last week.

Cameron Leadership Challenge - Total B********

Despite everything, I like the Daily Telegraph. Particularly enjoy Charles Moore - and Boris is always good for a snigger. Sometimes think his interest in politics is a sad loss to journalism. And I've got to know the Deputy Editor, Ben Brogan a bit. He's seems very solid and sensible. But today, I do think the full-page article written by James Kirkup is total b*****ks. Its all about some supposed conspiracy amongst  Conservative MPs to "bring down" the Prime Minister. Don't think I've ever read such tosh.

Now I'm sure Adam Afriyie is a very good man. Certainly he's tall, slim, handsome, well dressed, very rich and it could well be that he's supremely clever, giving of nature and pure as an archbishop. We're told he's a
advantaged because he has a disadvantaged background - though why that should make any difference I do not know. Clearly he has some 'leadership' qualities to have made such a success of his business. But its beyond serious consideration that we should be thinking of him as a replacement for David Cameron. Not sure that I've ever heard Adam speak in the House. So I looked it up on a site called 'They work for You' which informs us he's made 11 contributions in the last year. Looked up my own name to find I'd made 94 contributions - which is probably too many. Now this doesn't tell us that much because it depends on the quality and import of what's said. But any potential Prime Minister has to demonstrate a capacity and desire to command the debating chamber.

Anyway none of this is the point. David Cameron is head and shoulders above any other UK politician in the Prime Minister stakes (though I reckon William Hague is also a class act). He is far more popular that the Conservative Party he leads. He is successfully leading a Coalition Gov't, the political equivalent of herding cats - many of which do not want to be herded. Now I do not agree with everything David Cameron does and says. I think its a mistake that he's brought forward the Gay Marriage Bill as an example. He's about as different from me as chalk is from cheese. But whenever we need a Leader to stand tall and represent the UK, he does it brilliantly.

Its a game. What if a bus or even worse, a wind turbine carrier came along and took out our PM. Who would then step in. I suppose it depends when it is. If tomorrow, the new leader would be one of the existing top team. Reality is it could be anyone. Two years before David Cameron took over, we had never heard of him. And that's how its going to be. Its a game - and a very very silly one.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Constituency Boundaries - The Last Post

On Tuesday this week, the proposal to redraw Parliamentary constituencies was put on the back burner until 2018. Everyone I've met since is delighted that the Montgomeryshire constituency is to remain. But I have not met anyone who knows the background, and detail of just what has happened. Just in case there is an anorak out there who shares my interest in these things, this post runs through it chronologically.

1) - Following the 'expenses scandal',of 4 yrs ago, David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition announced he would reduce the number of MPs by 10% (from 650 to 585). This was included in the Conservative manifesto. At the same time, the Lib Dems included in their manifesto a commitment to reduce no of MPs to 500.Following the election, the Coalition agreed to bring forward a Bill to reduce no of MPs to 600.

2) - The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill was intoduced and approved by both Houses of Parliament after a long ferocious battle. As well as reducing the no of MPs to 600, the Bill required the boundary commissions of England and Wales to redraw boundaries to ensure an equal no of constituents in each constituency - with no recognition for sparcity, tradition or geographical considerations. This would inevitably have a disproportionate impact on Wales, partly because of current over-representation, and partly because the sea border and Offa's Dyke injected added inflexibility into what options could be considered. Crucially, the Bill demanded a tolerance of only 5% in constituency numbers, ruling out ability to cope with anomolies. The Bill also stipulated that there would be a vote in October 2013 to confirm the Boundary Commission proposals. At this stage I realised that I could not support the proposals because of the impact on parliamentary democracy in Mid Wales. I must admit that I had decided to vote against my Government in October. Now this was a big deal for me, since I had always supported my Government previously.

The next significant development in this saga was that Nick Clegg announced, because Conservative backbenchers had prevented progress on a Bill to reform the House of Lords, that he was going to instruct all Lib Dem MPs to take 'revenge' on Conservatives by withdrawing support in the October vote confirming the Boundary Commissions proposals. Since the two issues were not linked anywhere except in Nick Clegg's mind, this was breathtaking stuff. It meant that gov't ministers would be voting against a Gov't bill which they had previously supported. I thought a big deal for a backbencher! The Oct vote suddenly became very significant indeed.

But then opposition peers decided to step in. They developed a strategy which anyone who cares about constitutional propriety will have found deeply shocking. I spent 90 minutes in The Lords watching what I thought a disgraceful spectacle as their Lordships tried to justify what they were doing. They approved an amendment to a totally disconnected bill, the Electoral Registration and Administration Bill, which deferred any further consideration of new boundaries until 2018. Their Lordships were advised that this strategy was improper, but constitutionally, the Lords is not fettered in any way. It would never have been allowed in the Commons. Personally, I believe that this behaviour was too much for the much respected Leader of the Lords, Lord Strathclyde, who has just resigned. He would have been disgusted. Disgust was written all over the faces of Conservative peers. Anyway their Lordships passed the amendment into the Bill, which was then returned to the Commons for approval. Inevitably the Gov't (less the Lib Dems) had no option but to propose that the amendment be overturned and sent back to the Lords to be reconsidered - not unusual and what we call 'ping-pong'. Last Tuesday's vote was on the Gov'ts proposal to reverse the amendment, and send the Bill back.

Personally, I was in a dilemma - as I think were many other MPs. I had nothing but utter contempt for the way the Lords had behaved, and just could not bring myself to vote in support of their amendment. Neither could I vote against it (which I would dearly like to have done) because it would be helping introduce new boundaries, which I had decided to oppose in Oct. Two unacceptable options before me. I could vote for either of them. I accept that many of my colleagues were disappointed , as was the Chief Whip when I was called to discuss my failure to support the Gov't with him on Thursday. So happens that my vote was did not matter anyway, because there was a majority of 42 to allow the Lords amendment to stand. So where are we now. We have agreed that new constituency boundaries will not be considered until 2018, rather than defeated outright, which is probably what would have happened if the vote had taken place, as it should have been, in Oct.

Not sure whether anyone is still with me - not fallen asleep or moved on to more interesting fare. I've no intention of writing another word on this issue - not until 2018 anyway.