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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

The big issue

All the fuss in the chamber on Tuesday was about appropriate forms of dress. Uproar broke out on the Tory benches when the Labour Minister for Culture, Welsh Language and Sport, Alun Pugh, turned up to Plenary without a tie. I immediately offered to lend him one, only to be rebuffed. He e-mailed back to me that he was getting enough stick as it was without wearing one of my ties. Puzzled as I was at this comment I let it go. Some of the Tories were not being so generous:

David Melding: I am slightly disconcerted that a member of your Cabinet seems to be engaged in a game of strip poker. I hope that he does not make too dramatic a progress. With regard to the disposal of NHS estates, it is important that we have value for money and that we ensure that facilities remain in the locality whenever possible so that we take the local community with us. Are you convinced that that will happen in this case?

The First Minister: You must explain the rules of strip poker to me sometime, David, as I am unfamiliar with that sport.

This was followed up by a rather ungenerous point of order by the Conservative AM for South Wales West:

Alun Cairns: I raise this point of order under Standing Order No. 7, which relates to Members' conduct in the Chamber. I seek your guidance on the appropriate dress code for gentlemen Members in particular.

The Deputy Presiding Officer: I thank Alun for giving me notice of this point of order, as we have been able to research it. The Presiding Officer has ruled that Members should appear in normal dress. He suggested that normal dress would include suits and ties for male Members, but I am aware that those standards of dress have not always been upheld. It is important that all Members should uphold the dignity of the Assembly as required by Standing Order No. 7. If I consider that somebody is not suitably dressed, they will not catch my eye and will therefore not be called to speak.

Peter Law: Further to that point of order, I wondered whether suitable dress encompasses the Liberal Democrat group. We remember Mick Bates coming into the Chamber dressed as Father Christmas. Is that normal dress in the Liberal Democrat Party?

Clearly, some people hold a lot of store by the simple neck-tie. Still, at least one Tory had not lost his bearings, though by the end of his contribution we were all a bit puzzled as to which axis was which. How do you answer (or indeed follow) this?:

Mark Isherwood: Concerns have been raised by both the North Wales economic forum and the North Wales further education and higher education sector colleges that, in economic terms, North Wales is not in Wales because it has vertical political access, but horizontal economic access. When will you take urgent action to deliver sustainable economic development that links north, mid and south Wales? If you do not, and it remains in a west-east axis, what you say will amount to words, not delivery.

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