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Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Blogging from the chamber

Well here we go. I am sitting in the chamber with my new Blackberry, Edwina Hart is answering questions on alcohol and drug abuse and there is barely a handful of Labour AMs here. I am down to ask a supplementary on question seven on social housing for older people. I am starting to get used to this device.
Comments:
Okay, you win.
 
Are you allowed to blog in the chamber?

The Presiding Officer's Protocol on Conduct in Chamber / Rules of Debate states that "Members may not bring food, drink or intrusive electronic equipment into the Chamber"

The reference is aimed at mobile phones, but presumably would also cover blackberries!

Tut, tut ...
 
We are at the cutting edge of new technology. A blackberry is hardly intrusive. In any case in the new chamber we will have full internet and e-mail access on our desks anyway.
 
As we’re talking about “chamber business”, maybe Peter could all tell us how long he was in the Presiding Officer’s chair on Tuesday? Could you also tell us what Standing order 1.11 says, Peter.
 
re: martyn willims

why do i think i missed something?

what happened?

what is SA 1.11?
 
Standing order 1.11 states that in the absence of the Presiding officer and his/her deputy, then a member (usually, a member of the panel of chairs) can Chair the plenary session for no more than 15mins. Peter (as Chair of the Education and Lifelong Learning Committee) was in the Chair on Tuesday afternoon from 5:00pm until 5:21pm (according to the Record of Proceedings) – which was contrary to standing orders.

Standing order 1.13 states that if both the PO and DPO are temporarily unable to serve, then the Clerk of the Assembly shall take the Chair in order to elect a member to temporarily serve as PO until either the PO or DPO is able to return. Why wasn’t this procedure followed?

I also want clarification of the term “absence”. If the DPO was not in the building, then I’d have no justification to complain, but when the PO asks a member to Chair the meeting in his place, when the DPO is in the building, then I think that’s totally unacceptable. This is even more so unacceptable when last week (or the week before), Christine Gwyther took the the Chair in the PO’s temporary absence, even when the DPO was in the Chamber ready to vote.

The opposition are totally ignoring standing orders; they are doing what they like. They are being totally irresponsible, and it’s about time the people of Wales knew what they are actually doing.
 
Martyn, if you and your Labour colleagues cannot lift your aspirations and imagination above the level of that of a petty bureaucrat obsessed with the minutae of every rule and regulation then it is no wonder that your grip on power in the Welsh Assembly is slipping.
 
I can imagine the people of Wales taking to the barricades once they hear that an AM was in the chair for six minutes, a whole six minutes, more than standing orders say he should have been.
 
Oh, so let’s just forget about standing orders then shall we?

Standing orders are quite clear. They are there for a reason. The opposition are quite clearly advocating abusing standing orders, and doing what they like. I think this a clear example why the drafting of standing orders should be left to the Secretary of State for Wales.

If you think the violation of standing orders is “petty”, then I seriously question your ability to Chair future plenary meetings. Several serious violations of standing orders have occurred during the last few weeks, and I find it totally unacceptable that it has been left to happen, and I find it staggering that you, Peter, have replied in such a way that you did not even acknowledge that you failed to act, as temporary chair, to suspend the sitting until the PO or DPO returned to the chamber, as you should have done.

It is not my fault that, after nearly 7 years in the Assembly, you still don’t understand the meaning and procedure of standing orders.
 
Get a life Martyn, get out and do some stuff instead of reading standing orders.
 
Well, this has clearly rattled a few cages.
 
you have to wonder several points.

a) why didnt labour insist that the standing orders were obeyed, the fact they didnt means that they are responcible as much as the opposition of erroding the authority of standings orders.

b)why the line of reponcibility isnt longer than just the presiding officer and deputy presiding officer if, as it sounds, they are insufficient for the job.

c) why havent they got more help from assistants to help take on their constituency work loads so that they can be in the chamber.

as for you arguement that this is why standings orders should be made by the secretary of state i dismiss with contempt. as i said previously labour are just as much to blame than the opposition

for not asking the plenary to be ajurned after 15 minutes etc... they show a distinct lack of will to inforce standing orders, which could be indicative of them being uninterested in them or shows a simple lack of knowledge.

moreover where is the progressive devolution in having the secretary of state ruling with a dictat over the assembly we elected the assembly more than we elected peter hain therefore i would be better suited to having our rules for our assembly decided by the representatives for the whole of the welsh people, rather than a new labour goon who represents only neath (not that im saying anything against neath - you know what i mean)
 
The Government are not responsible for ‘order’ in Plenary meetings. That is the responsibility of the Chair. If you argue that Labour should have raised a point of order, then why didn’t the opposition raise a point of order? Is it maybe because it was their intention to violate standing orders? Why didn’t Peter act in accordance with standing orders? Why did the Clerk let what happened, happen?

The line of responsibility is sufficient. If both the PO and DPO are unavailable, then the Clerk of the Assembly takes the Chair in order to elect a temporary Presiding Officer. That is what should have happened on Tuesday.

You’ll find that when the PO or DPO vacate the chair, they do not go back to their office to conscientiously work on constituency casework; they go to the member’s tea room to drink a glass or two of wine.

You cant really have progressive devolution when you have such an immature opposition, trying to disrupt the business of the Assembly, violating standing orders, refusing to delegate functions, etc.

Peter Hain would not draft Standing Ordersd as MP for Neath, he’d draft them as Secretary of State for Wales.

And you better not have anything against Neath!!!
 
Just for the record the PO was in his office signing orders.
 
The DPO was present on Tuesday. He voted. I think the point here is that John Marek gets paid an extra £20k on top of his already substantial AMs salary to deputise for the Presiding Officer when his Lordship needs to nip to the loo - sorry, take a 'comfort break'.

Besides, who decides which Committee Chair should run the Plenary? I don't seem to recall Rose Butler, Jan Gregory or Ann Jones ever been called upon to do so.
 
The way that the PO and DPO manage their time and their affairs is not a matter for me. It is a matter for them and for the Assembly as a whole. Remember that John Marek was elected DPO only because of the support of the entire Labour group.

There is a rota of Committee Chairs to sit in on Plenary comprising one from each party.
 
Really? So Peter Law voted for Marek !!!

It's worth bearing in mind the shenanigans surrounding Marek's election, but be careful to be accurate. The Labour Group supported Marek as least worst option only after David Melding (who would make a spledid PO or DPO) pulled out at the last minute under massive pressure from CCO and other membersc of the Tory group
 
who'd have thought that a simple message saying "im blogging from inside the chamber" could errupt into this!

re: martyn williams

it is the responcibilities of all members of the assembly to be vigilant and aid in up keeping the rules of the place, i remember that when leanne wood (pc) got expelled from the chamber for refering to the queen as miss windsor duing the queens speach debate a point of order was brought by a conservative am (i believe,) and was subsequently judged on by the chair

out of interest since wales is a principality why isnt there a princes speech?

any way i digress, i wasn't saying it is wholly the responcibility of the labour group to inforce the rules but like wise it is not the sole responcibility of the opposition parties to inforce compliance to the rules. nor is it soly the responcibility of the chair. it is the responcibility of all members equally any one of any party or persuasion should have stood up yelled "point of order" and saved us from having this debate.

with regard to peter hain (has he actually spent any time in the welsh office - ok cheap snipe) anyway i was refering to my preference to standing orders being drawn up, debated, and passed by the representative of more than just one constituency, a panel / committee of AMs, multi-party, can better reflect the population of wales than one MP with single constituency, with a large work load that requires a lot of attention else where (in my opinion it is incorrect to combine two secretary of state positions as it undermines them)

as regard to my comment on devolution, it is hardly fitting for a polity striving for independence from westminster, to be dictated the rules of the game from the said parliament. it is preferable in my opinion that the assembly starts to stand on its own two feet "clear red water and all that" and to show its independent spirit and begin to creat a welsh polity and not a transposed english version.
 
There was nothing fundamentally inaccurate about my statement with relation to the election of the DPO. The Labour group took the decision to support John Marek, Peter Law took the decision to defy that decision and stand himself. Seems to me to be the pattern of events since.

Welsh Spin's gloss on events is just that - spin.
 
Peter,

I’m still waiting for a response to my questions.

You should have ruled that continuing in the Chair after the 15mins was out of order, and should have suspended the sitting until the PO or DPO decided to return to the Chair.

Why did you allow standing orders to be violated?
 
Martyn, I am indulging you by even responding to your last post. I am only doing so because I am concerned that you are coming across as a bigger geek than you really are. I have no intention of responding to your questions as I do not consider them to be ones worthy of an answer. I really do have other, more important matters to deal with. If you don't like this response then I suggest you complain to the appropriate authorities.
 
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