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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rocket Science

I note from Hansard that I got an honorary mention in the House of Commons Committee stage debate on the Government of Wales Bill. Obviously, it is not for me to advise my own MP in how she raises things in the House but does Sian James really want to get into a debate with Lembit Őpik on asteroids? I think not:

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire, LDem): The hon. Lady gives us further evidence of the contradictions in the Government's position. A further example would be councillors. We can all agree that the most effective campaigners and councillors that Wales has ever seen are Liberal Democrats. There can be few hon. Members in the Chamber who are not Liberal Democrats who relish the prospect of an army of Liberal Democrat councillors marching into town to put right the wrongs that they have failed to address. Given the incontrovertible evidence of the effectiveness of Liberal Democrat councillors, is the Secretary of State was originally the title given to the two officials who..."planning to ban them from basing their activities in constituencies held by other parties, such as Neath, Ogmore or Rhondda?

Sian James (Swansea East, Lab): We are getting into the realms of asteroids here. People expect their representatives to be where they are accessible—that is not rocket science. They want their representatives to be where they can be found, so why not spread them around? If representatives base themselves in one spot, it is great for them and their political aspirations, but it does not do a lot for people in the wider region. For example, would it not be nice if someone in Llanelli opened an office in Caernarfon, or if someone else opened an office in Aberystwyth? If people were to spread themselves around, they would be a lot more effective and would get a lot more respect from the public. Hon. Members have already asked what we have to do about this. We have heard about—

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. I remind the hon. Lady that interventions are meant to be brief.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire, LDem): I forgive the length of the intervention, Mrs. Heal, because we can see what is happening to the hon. Lady. She is frit, because of the extraordinary effectiveness of my fellow Liberal Democrat councillors, and Peter Black—

The First Deputy Chairman: Order. Can we get back to debating the main components of the amendment?

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire, LDem): I apologise, Mrs. Heal. I was responding directly to the hon. Lady's intervention, and I would like to add two points of clarification. First, asteroids are rocket science. Secondly, any politician will seek to make a deep impact in his or her neighbourhood. Just as local councillors will seek to maximise the effectiveness of their political operation by basing their offices where they think that would be in the best interests of their party, it is hardly surprising that politicians elected to the Welsh Assembly will seek to maximise the effectiveness of their work, in their party interests as well as in those of the people whom they have been elected to represent, by basing their offices in an expedient fashion.

I'm a Plaid Man despite living in London, but this is one area where I hope that Plaiid can actually work together with the Lib Dems' and the Tories to get rid of the attempt a 21st century form of gerrymandering.
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