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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Open Warfare

Open Warfare broke out in Plenary yesterday. However, it was not the Government and opposition who were at each other’s throats but members of the Labour group.

The problem centred on a Plaid Cymru amendment calling for a 500 metre exclusion zone around open cast sites. Labour knew that they were likely to lose the vote because the Labour AM for Blaenau Gwent and former Environment Minister, Peter Law, was going to vote for it. As a result the current Environment Minister, Carwyn Jones, was on his feet early on, using his best lawyerly manner to argue that it was out of order. The trouble came when Peter Law intervened:

Peter Law: Further to that point of order, is it not equally daft that we have Ministers, who most people perceive as being paid to think, who—we are told this afternoon—have powers to operate, but who have not used those powers to safeguard and help the communities involved? Therefore, with that in mind, some of us may feel that it may be necessary to use a radical alternative to safeguard those communities for the future.

Carwyn Jones rose—

The Presiding Officer: Order. I will call those who have indicated that they wish to speak on this point of order, but these are debating matters. I certainly have Peter Law’s name down to speak in the debate; he is currently quite high on my list.

Carwyn Jones: Further to that point of order, I take note of your use of the word ‘foolish’ in terms of the description of the amendment. On what Peter said, I am fully aware of my responsibilities as a Minister. My position as Minister will be scrutinised, quite rightly, as will the position of those who held the post before me.

The Presiding Officer: I believe that honour is now satisfied.

Peter Law got his own back later on:

I have heard that a technical advice note on coal is being introduced tomorrow. If we were to measure that TAN on coal on a Richter scale of the confidence that we usually have in the Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside’s technical advice notes, the result would probably be in minus figures, because we are still waiting to debate TAN 8. That gives a perverse incentive for people to establish wind turbines on mountains in Valleys communities, affecting poor people. I do not have much confidence in TANs. What is the point of a TAN that gives you an opportunity to talk about a buffer zone, if it cannot be retrospective for those people who have been through the system and have been forgotten? That is the point.

This brought a sharp riposte from the Labour AM for Merthyr Tydfil, Huw Lewis:

Huw Lewis: I welcome Plaid Cymru’s support for a 500m opencast buffer zone, albeit that it is rather late in the day—six years late, to be precise, as that is how long I have been consistently calling for a 500m zone around opencast sites in this institution. I say to Peter Law that I still have the correspondence between us that dates back to 1999-2000, when I called upon him as the then-Minister to institute a 500m buffer zone around opencast sites, which he did not do. The people of Merthyr do not need you to ride to the rescue today, Peter; they needed you six years ago.

It cannot be long now before Peter Law declares as an independent Parliamentary candidate in Blaenau Gwent.
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