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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Exclusive - inside the Assembly Senedd building

I said yesterday that I would post pictures of inside the new Assembly building and in particular the controversial artwork. The picture above is of the Members' tearoom at the rear of the new Chamber. As you can see a particularly garish pink was the colour of choice for the wall here.

The aim is to be able to stage the first Plenary in the new building sometime in the middle of January. On our tour yesterday this seemed to be ambitious if only because of the large number of snags that need to be corrected and the fact that the ICT equipment is still being installed. Nevertheless, it is likely that this work will continue around us as we debate.

The Chamber itself was particularly impressive but I found the Committee Rooms hard to get used to. This is partly because they appear to have modelled them on squash courts as this picture makes clear.

The table itself is very impressive and at least they have toned down the artwork at the back. Apparently, each one of these tables needs four people to move it. There are two more Committee Rooms that can be merged into one meeting room capable of accommodating 40 people. The photograph below shows the dividing wall being moved into place. It apparently also doubles up as artwork!

The next photograph is of the chamber itself. As you can see, it is equipped with the latest ICT equipment and there is even enough room at each desk to sign Christmas cards. It is actually possible to read individual computer screens from the public gallery so I suspect that this will act as a limiting factor for AMs in how they use them. Nevertheless it is possible to get full internet access, to work on documents and e-mails on our main Assembly profile, to send messages to other seats in the chamber and there is even a button to press that tells the Presiding Officer that we want to speak. This ability to work in the Chamber is useful as the main route from our offices is so tortuous that if we tried to move between them and the Chamber on anything like a regular basis we would all be missing votes.

Disabled access in the chamber is provided by two platform lifts on the steps leading down to the well of the chamber. Finally, the Presiding Officer gets used to his new surroundings!

It is worth noting here the plasma screen in the top right hand corner of the photograph. The graph is an example of the way that votes will be recorded. The screens can also include live coverage of the Assembly if required or act as a video conferencing facility. Apparently, the draft bill allows for the Secretary of State for Wales to participate in Assembly proceedings by video conference. It will be like having a rally featuring Orwell's Big Brother!
"tearoom", for the benefit of the uninitiated, being the assembly speak for "bar". Tearooms do not get denounced from the pulpit by fire breathing men of God - such as the very reverend Rhodri Glyn Thomas, who as we all know enjoys nothing more than a nice cup of "tea" at the end of an exhausting days "work" !!!

Why should the fact that the screens can be seen from the public gallery limit the use AMs are likely to make of their IT facilities? I am looking forward to the online scrabble comp during the debates on the "Sheep and Goat identification Order (Wales) 2006" and other such monumentally important legislative initiatives.
This particular tearoom will not serve alcohol I understand.
It's looking very good though. Odds of Westminster ever catching up in a manor that allows MPs to work while in the chamber?

Ah well, thanks for the picture Peter, even with that Pink stuff.
That pink strip reminds me of the tide mark left in flooded buildings. What genius came up with that?

So the messaging system between AMs - anything like a conference backchannel?

Whose decision to go with Microsoft? What was the reasoning?
Sorry I dont know the answers to any of these questions.

Your photo's are some of the most unflattering I've ever seen (particularly the first one); they don't do it justice.
I disagree David, but I am happy for you to point me to some other photos.
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