Another really bad day for democracy in Wales. Details of Assembly Member's allowances have been made public today. Hell of a hoo-hah. And there really shouldn't have been. The actuality is that the National Assembly has a genuinely accountable and transparent system of member expenses - which is not the case in some other Parliaments. What really depresses me is that no AMs were prepared to face the media to justify their claims. I've never agreed with 'under the desk' approach, which seems to have been by cross party agreement today. As always the media asked me to do the justifying - because for the last few years I've always been willing to do it. However, I'd arranged it so that I couldn't do the Richard Evans Phone-in on Radio Wales today. After watching Dragon's Eye last night, it was obvious that my party was going to be in the firing line. It just didn't seem to be my place to justify things, so I arranged lunch, in order that I could genuinely say I was committed elsewhere. Didn't like it though. Never like ducking the flak.
But I did make a few comments for Radio Cymru - in Welsh. And that's because my excuse of being in a restaurant fell over , because Gwenllian Grigg was happy to do the interview over a mobile phone!! The comments I made were based on two personal principles. Firstly, any politician who makes a claim on the taxpayer should be willing to face the media to justify it. I couldn't hide my disappointment with today's response from AMs. And Secondly, I gave my full support to Sir Roger Jones and his committee as they inquire into what should be an appropriate expenses regime. Of course, some people will not accept that politicians should have any expanses, but Sir Roger must recommend some clear guidelines which the majority of people will support.
I was also deeply unimpressed that the information was published on the day after Assembly Members had left Cardiff Bay for the Christmas recess. It just added to the appearance of politicians not being prepared to stand up and be counted for the way they had used taxpayer's money. OK, so this may be off the front pages by next week - but its been a damaging day for Welsh democracy. Final nail in the coffin of a referendum on law making powers for the National Assembly - not logical I know, but factual nonetheless.