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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Hain fails to offer value for money

On Friday's BBC radio programme, Good Morning Wales, the Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain, was once more peddling his nonsense about regional list AMs. Yet again he alleged that we are systematically abusing public money, though he failed to give any evidence to back up this claim and none exists. He also alleged that 15 of the twenty list AMs had set up their office in the constituency they fought last time, with the intention of using it as a resource in their bid to unseat the sitting constituency AM at the subsequent election.

Not only is this untrue and unsupportable by the facts but Mr. Hain has even got his boundaries wrong. To achieve the number of 15 I can only assume that he has included me in his calculations. Alas for him, my office is in Swansea West, which I have never fought, and it has been there since 1999. My office is a proper regional office and those of my staff who are based there take enquiries and casework, organise press coverage, visits, surgeries, and other events across Swansea, Gower, Neath, Aberavon, Ogmore and Bridgend. They also support my work as an regional AM and a party spokesperson by carrying out appropriate research and identifying issues on which I can campaign.

As if to underline his cavalier attitude to evidence Mr. Hain then tried to rebut the findings of the Arbuthnott Commission in Scotland, which argued that a restriction on candidates fighting both in the constituency and on the list would be "undemocratic and unacceptably limit the choices available to voters." To do this he quoted a piece of 'research' carried out by the Bevan Foundation, which, he said, unequivocably proved that the Welsh public backed Labour's plans to introduce a pre-counter-revolutionary Ukrainian system into Wales.

The Bevan Foundation's researchers had apparently herded 46 unsuspecting voters into a room, spend an hour or so explaining how undemocratic the Assembly's voting system is and then asked then to give a view as to whether the Government of Wales Bill is taking the right approach to reforming it. If this is the sort of evidence-based policy making Peter Hain relies on then no wonder he is making such a mess of his dual jobs of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales. This survey has all the statistical validity of predicting the climate change by putting ones finger in the air, as was proved by Dragon's Eye, who interviewed 47 people in a Caerphilly street and found only one who actually cared.

Another survey was published last week as well. This is a study carried out by academics at the London School of Economics. They devised a formula to find the most cost-effective MPs in the country that measures the amount of expenses claimed by MPs against their voting record in the Commons between 2001 and 2004. This formula is, to be frank, rather crude, as voting is just a small part of an MPs job, but if the Bevan Foundation report is good enough for Mr. Hain then perhaps it is a valid indicator of worth after all. For they found that Peter Hain offers the least cost effective service of any MP in South Wales. Answer that one Peter, oh and while you are at it perhaps you can tell us why you need to spend so much taxpayers money on postage and stationery?

Hope you had a good holiday, slightly bemused that this subject is still continuing.

if Hain is manipulating facts and figures can't you report him to the parliamentary standards committee or something?
I think that is unlikely.
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