Sunday, December 21, 2008

Will it ever end?

Another day, another blistering attack on Nick Bourne's leadership of the Conservative Group in the National Assembly. The Welsh media are on a feeding frenzy. Today, its Matt Withers in the Wales on Sunday. Hopefully we can have a break from all this over Christmas, and see knives used on the turkey instead. But since the Assembly Group haven't even met to discuss the allowances issue yet, the whole circus is likely to start up again on the first week the Assembly is back in session next year.

Yesterday's coverage of what's being called 'iPodgate' in the Western Mail was based on of the opinions of Monmouth MP, David Davies, who was an AM himself for 8 years. What he was reported as saying was sensible - and what I would expect Sir Roger Jones' Committee to recommend when it reports in 2009.

The first suggestion that David argued for is a 'fixed amount' to be allowed for Assembly Members to pay for 'second homes' - but only for those who live too far away from Cardiff Bay to commute. Actually, this is not much different, in principle, from the current position, except that most people think AMs living too close to Cardiff qualify for the allowance. And of course there's the tricky business of agreeing what is a reasonable 'fixed amount'.

David Davies also calls for 'stricter rules' on what is eligible to be claimed as an office expense. This will inevitably form part of Sir Roger's Committee recommendations, and is sensible. But I don't think this will be as effective a control as publication of the details. The current hoo-hah will see to that. A question worth asking is whether the restrictions, the need for receipts and the publication regime should apply to MPs as well. Personally, I'd like to see MPs following the Assembly's requirements on a voluntary basis. That could be done tomorrow.


Valleys Mam said...

Its sad that the press feel they have to vilify a good man over nothing of vital importance
I say again they should be looking at the state of Wales economically socially and culturally, but may be they just arent up to that level- where is David Cornock when you need him.
You are right Glyn , but I think the Conservative group need to grow up,stop the inner squabbles and do their job as an opposition.
The splits whether real or imagined would be forgotten if they challenged the government more robustly and showed they had policies fit for purpose here in wales

Glyn Davies said...

VM - I agree that this is causing us harm. I don't know who's leaking stuff to Betsan and Vaughan at the BBC, but we would all like it to stop. I've even had to reject a comment implying that my blogging about this matter does us harm - and I've been a consistant supporter of Nick. I've rejected two others that I thought inappropriate. It would be odd if I didn't blog on this story at all. I suppose some people think that a story will just go away if we say nothing and wish it away. Anyway, if they don't want to read what I blog, why bother to visit.

P-Man said...

Let's see, while the Western Mail et al. see fit to make a huge fuss out of an Ipod ... what of the future of Wales - its economy, the well-being of its people in terms of job creation?

Here is a letter that puts this matter into some perspective - the letter was sent a few minutes ago to the Western Mail:

"I am writing with regard to Professor Dylan Jones-Evans excellent article in the Western Mail ("Singapore shows Wales how to survive recession", Dec. 20, 2008).

In his article Professor Jones-Evans points to the reputation that Singapore has developed for economic growth in key areas of technology and innovation.

Could Singapore’s success have anything to do with its university system? For example, how does Cardiff University (CU) match up to the National University of Singapore (NUS) in terms of registered patents covering technology and innovation?

According to Wikipedia, CU and NUS have, respectively, 7,840 and 7,173 post-graduate students. Thus, CU is slightly ahead of NUS in terms of post-graduate students, who typically provide the grunt work in research projects. One might expect therefore that CU and NUS have about the same number of registered patents.

Interrogation of the U.S. patent database reveals startling statistics. As of December 19, 2008 CU and NUS have 38 and 243 issued U.S. patents, respectively.

This means Cardiff University has less than one sixth as many issued U.S. patents as the National University of Singapore. More specifically, the National University of Singapore has at least six times as many issued U.S. patents as Cardiff University.

Let’s assume that I have made a mistake, that Cardiff University has 78 registered U.S. patents as of Dec. 19, 2008, twice as many as I could find. Even if this were true, Cardiff University would still have only one-third as many registered U.S. patents as the National University of Singapore.

This great difference does not mean NUS is doing more world-class research than Cardiff University. After all, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) was recently sounding off its trumpet about how well Cardiff University is doing in terms of world-class research.

So why is Cardiff University so badly behind a comparable university in a former third-world state?

Is the Welsh Assembly Government even remotely interested in asking the same question?"

Stuart Rendel said...

VM should realise that the Assembly is pretty irrelevant to the present economic crisis. Talk to businessmen privately and they will tell you that the Assembly is next to useless.The situation will get worse from 2010 on wards as the cutbacks in public expenditure start to bite. Most people are genuinely annoyed at the publication of the expenses list. Let's not forget that it would not have been published without the FOI act and the requests of journalists.I dread to think what will be discovered when the expenses for other years are published. Bourne is in the firing line becsue of his own stupidity and the way in which he has reacted to the whole affair.His excuse that the ipod was used to learn Welsh was seen as just part of the cover up. At least he didn't defend the purchase of a trouser press as being essential for him to carry out his duties as an AM. He was fairly flippant on a radio phone in last week and then to make matters worse refuses to debate the issues with Alun Davies. His decision to give a donation to first charity and then pay back the money made the hole he was in even deeper. Of course he isn't the only AM who has been a fool.Carwyn Jones's letter in last Saturday's Western Mail should in my opinion ring alarm bells for anyone who thinks that he has the qualities to be First Minister. Bourne's problem is that too many in his own party obviously want him to step down as Leader. Today's Western Mail about the evidence being given to Roger Jones by a Newport Council group is just further evidence of splits in the Tory ranks. On a more general point the whole affair which involves AMs from all parties has really damaged the Assemnbly. How any AM for example can ask for a receipt from a newsagent for a 60p paper and then claim the money back as one Labour Am did just beggers belief. No wonder Dafydd El doesn't want a referendum in 2011. All the'no' campaign has to do is publish the expenses and ask to you want another 20 to join the gravy train.

Glyn Davies said...

Stuart - The Assembly's impact on the current crisis is limited, because it's budget is linked directly to the Chancellors decisions. But I agree that it does seem largely ineffective in the face of such a disastrous position. But so does Gordon Brown, and as far as I can see, he's making the position worse - particularly for the next generation.

I also agree that the expenses issue has wrought serious damage on the Assembly. As well as concern about individual claims, which I'm leaving to the media to comment on (which is what publication facilitates) its not been handled well. I have not thought for some time that there is the slightest chance of a referendum on law making powers being held before 2011.

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

Glyn> Brown has, as I'm sure you know, made the situation very bad for overseas retired British expats. Their British pensions have dropped in value with the pound. Brown mismanagement of the economy and his government's recent remarks have served to undermine the pound.