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Friday, January 21, 2005

"The King has no clothes"

Regional Committees fulfil a useful function. They provide a vehicle for the Assembly to interact with the public in their own communities, whilst taking evidence from local bodies on key policy matters.

One of the innovations that I initiated when I was the first Chair of the South West Wales Regional Committee in 1999 was an open mike session or public question time. This has since evolved into a variety of different formats including Cabinet road shows and, in the last Assembly, question time with the First Minister at the North Wales Regional Committee. The value of these sessions is that they allow the public to ask questions directly of Assembly Members and Ministers and, if necessary, get a written answer as well.

It was during the public question time session at today's South Wales East Committee that one of the problems with this format emerged - you cannot always get politicians to give you a straight answer. A schoolboy submitted a written note to the effect that he had asked a question at the previous meeting in Barry, had been promised a written answer, but had not yet received it. The Chair duly read this out and promised that he would chase it up. At this point the boy stood up and interrupted.

"The Minister was at the meeting and did answer my question," he said. "But I did not understand the answer as there was so much waffle. That is why I asked for a written answer." This boy will go far.

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