Friday, February 01, 2008

Guilty - but in an odd sort of way..

I've never met Labour Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, Joyce Watson. I suppose she took my spot in the Assembly as a result of last May's election. So far, she has not made much impact - but she has today. She's been all over the media as a result of her being referred to the Assembly Standards Committee for using Assembly stationary and postage to send 2,000 self-promoting leaflets to her constituents. This is against the rules, and it looks to me that she is guilty as charged. The 'Tower' beckons.

But what is odd about this is that if she did this as an MP, there would have been no problem. She would have been perfectly in order to spend £10,000 every year sending out such leaflets - using her 'Communications Allowance'. On my desk today is a glossy leaflet from my local MP informing me of all the meetings he has held over the last year - paid for by the taxpayer. And its not the first time. In my opinion, it is scandalous - and the most scandalous aspect of this is that it is entirely within the rules. (Montgomeryshire people will be interested to see Cllr. Graham Brown of Llandrinio, leading light in the 'Montgomeryshire Independent Group' featuring so prominently on a Lib Dem leaflet. Perhaps he's defecting to the Lib Dems).

I suppose that the Standards Committee should demand that Joyce Watson should repay the money because it looks an 'open and shut case. But I can understand why she would feel sore about this. Why on earth is it (rightly) improper for Assembly Members to distribute unsolicited mail at the taxpayer's expence, while MPs can carry on doing the same thing regardless. This blog demands yet again that MP's Communications Allowance be banned.

18 comments:

Morgan Hen (Morgan the Old) said...

Glyn.

Its time you took on John McCain's mantle in Wales on campaign money

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Didn't I write on here just a few days ago that, "I hear McCain's secret in winning FL is found somewhere hidden on your blog." OK, so that's the secret, take on John McCain's mental attitude here in Wales!

PS "And now for something completely different" ... anyone else a tad bit concerned about these strange Internet marine cable cutting incidents over the past few days? Is something in "the works" - a military op about to go down somewhere in the Middle East? "Just a thought to give everyone pause for thought."

Glyn Davies said...

morgan - What does John McCain say that is noteworthy about campaign money?

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn: Missourians sometimes say “show me the money” whereas McCain’s finance law says “show me where it came from” or more accurately, “that it didn’t come in wrong amounts from wrong sources”. How does this relate to Wales? Well, I don’t think Peter Hain would fall foul of McCain’s campaign finance law – even if Wales became the 51st of the United States of America.

In re: Internet outages between the West and the Middle East – what if a mission was/is going down but in the other direction – instructions relayed in code via the Internet from certain Middle East big-yin terrorist leaders and their terror networks to their moles/clones in the West will either be disrupted and/or re-routed by these outages. The NSA and their brethren might be hoping the disruption to the Internet links between the Middle East and the USA will lead to re-routing of Internet traffic through alternative pathways more accessible to NSA/CIA hardware/software. The Presidential campaign grabbing a lot of attention in the USA and Europe – something the terror freaks don’t like– so some big terror op is pushed up to execution stage to switch attention back to them – to target and destroy another high value/iconic asset(s) in the USA and/or Europe or over the Atlantic.

Maybe it’s a good thing (I think NOT) that Cardiff “International” Airport sucks so bad with no regular scheduled flights to major US cities. Why have a true International airport serving South Wales? It’s not like the WAG (Welsh Assembly Government) really wants to boost the Welsh economy, addicted as the WAG is to handouts from London and the EU. Eight years of WAG and Wales is going backwards on the economy and education (re: latest Gross Value Added per head stats, and OECD comparative education attainment stats).

Glyn Davies said...

Christopher - are you Dan Brown?

Gareth said...

First off, Joyce Watson is clearly in the wrong by mailing out anything to known party members (I seem to remember Alun Pugh doing the same thing) and hopefully will have the book thrown at her. Her actions of course pail in comparison to Derick Conway’s unique method of funding his kid’s degrees

As for MP’s communications allowance, I might be wrong but was it not introduced last year to prevent what was then the ‘legal’ way of using Commons postage for what Joyce was doing.

I do find it strange though Glyn that you in opposition attack the Communications budget, yet conservative MP’s once in power have no objection to using it to pay for flashy websites, take a look at the imprint at the bottom of this - http://www.philipdunne.com, and that’s in addition to the survey that was delivered by the Royal Mail to me a few weeks ago.

Glyn Davies said...

Gareth - I'm not being partisan about this at all. And I'm not criticising MPs for using it. If its there to be used, it is entirely in order to use it. It could well be that I'd have used it myself, although I wouldn't now because I've become a lot more conscious of the damage this allowance is doing to politics.

And you may know more about the background to the introduction of this allowance than I do. I just don't think that MPs or AMs should be able to send out unsolicited mail at taxpayer's expense to the general public or to party members. I'm just against the Communications Allowance being available at all.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

The Independent newspaper published a rather interesting article today (Feb 2, 2008) about the Speaker of the Lower House, Mr Michael Martin.

I quote (from The Independent): “It seems unlikely that MPs will mend their ways in the wake of the revelations about Derek Conway's freeloading. One reason is that any proposed reform of the system is likely to be blocked by the powerful figure of the Speaker Mr Michael Martin … Mr Martin's own record in the area of questionable expenses has not gone unremarked. It has been revealed that his wife Mary has claimed huge sums, including nearly £50,000 for free air travel when accompanying her husband on various overseas trips. She has even claimed a few thousand for her shopping trips by taxi "in connection with household expenditure in connection with the Speaker's duties". Meanwhile, the Speaker already gets a salary of £137,000 while he and his wife have free accommodation inside the parliamentary estate.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/columnists/richard-ingrams/richard-ingrams-week-questions-of-cash-perks-and-the-need-for-reform-777221.html

johnny foreigner said...

Good for you Glyn.

Now, if you could start a campaign to end the payment of up to £250.00expenses without producing receipts, you may be on the long road towards regaining a little public confidence in the probity of politicians in general.

Time for a bit of Glasnost and Perestroika.

Your means-tested mate.

johnny.

Glyn Davies said...

johnny - I do agree with the need for receipts to support claims. That is what happened at the National Assembly. I'm not against allowances (except the Communications allowance which is nothing more than a re-election fun - but if its taxpayer's money, it has to be vouched for.

Anonymous said...

Glyn - the "National Assembly" is just a big county council. Let it go, man.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Yet more oxygen of publicity:

From today's (Feb 2, 2008) London’s Evening Standard:

“Tory politicians Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton switched their fashionable London apartment to a family trust and used their parliamentary allowances to avoid death duty. Using a loophole in Commons rules, they claim more than £30,000 a year in "rent" from the public purse, which is paid to a family trust set up for their two children.”


http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23435438-details/article.do?ito=newsnow&

Glyn Davies said...

anon - I have - and moved on. I didn't have much choice. There is some truth in your description of teh Assembly as being like a big county council, which is why I've so often said that I do not consider it to be worthwhile as it currently stands. I also think many people underestimate the role of County coucillors, who have a lot more power than is often realised.

Christopher - I've read it all in today's Mail and just do not know what to say.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn: this is a terrible curse that has fallen on Cameron - a good portion of the British voting public still remember (real or apparent) systemic sleaze in John Major's government. This is not Cameron's 'doing', but it is a legacy that is now hitting him full in the face. Cameron has worked so hard to change the public's perception of the Conservative Party and 'now this'. (Even Labour previously admitted it can no longer rely on the public remembering the Conservative Party of times past. Now we have serious worries about ongoing systemic sleaze in the Tory Party.)

Like what I hinted at, if not expressly advocated, a few days ago, there is only one real solution for Cameron to counter-act this ENORMOUS problem (given the public's enhanced mistrust), and that is genuine clearing up of this systemic abuse - NEW RULES stopping such ignoble troughing on public funds by MPs. It is not like some Conservative MPs just have their head in the trough, no, they have their shoulders, back-side and feet - along with family - troughing on the public purse.

THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTALBE

For some Conservative Party MPs it has become a family business - the Derek Conway and Sir Nicholas and Ann Winterton PLC family troughing businesses being just the tip of the iceberg – the oxygen of publicity will drip drip drip and destroy Cameron’s dream.

Given the public's memory of perceived or real systemic sleaze in the John Major government, the Winterton's and Derek Conway's will ruin Cameron's chances of making PM UNLESS Cameron takes clear meaningful steps to clean up this mess - and pronto; delaying or listening to tangential arguments will not save Cameron's dream.

CAMERON MUST ACT - AND ACT NOW.

Harry James said...

" also think many people underestimate the role of County coucillors, who have a lot more power than is often realised"

But very rarely used wisely!
So say most of us!

Glyn Davies said...

harry - you sound just the man who should be standing in May's county council elections.

Anonymous said...

No way would I become a Councillor.
It would be a conflict with the business I run.
Could not do with the customers crossing over the line with the business.
There perhaps lies the problem.

Glyn Davies said...

anon - you are right in that it is difficult for business people to become councillors until the business is established. This usually requires 100% commitment. I was able to attend no more than one meeting every two weeks for my first term as a councillor - and was on the point of retiring at one stage. But I do encourage people with business experience to become involved with Local Government when they are established and can spare the time. If you have an opinion about something, it is very satisfying to do try to do something about it.