.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Friday, May 26, 2006

Snouts in troughs

Things are getting a bit fraught in the Assembly. There are tensions in the Office of the Presiding Officer between the PO and his deputy and there are a number of members who, faced with some real electoral threats to their future in the Senedd, are starting to get edgy. There was an exchange a few days ago for example between Llanelli AM, Catherine Thomas, and the Plaid Cymru rival for her seat, Helen Mary Jones, that just bristled with malevolence.

John Marek is another member whose bitterness has spilled out into the chamber. He was attacked by Labour last month for organising a fact-finding trip to Gibralter. Apparently, some Labour AMs felt that his justification for this visit was less than robust and they said so in a press release. I would guess that he is also coming under attack in Wrexham itself and is beginning to feel the strain.

A week last Wednesday the Deputy Presiding Officer objected strongly to the establishment of a Shadow Commission and a Committee to draw up Standing Orders for the next Assembly, post-Government of Wales Bill. His main objection in both instances was that he had not been consulted or involved in the process that led to the motions. A week later he was on his feet again, accusing Labour of all sorts of evil. He did not get things completely his own way however:

John Marek: I confine my remarks to the support of amendment 1, which is about whether we will give the Minister the power to subsidise air transport passenger services in Wales. I do not believe that we should give him that power. He did say, in his opening remarks, that he would be open to scrutiny in committee and that everything would be open and so on, but it would be difficult, if he has decided to give a company public money to run air services, for any committee or Plenary meeting to muster a majority to stop that happening. Plenary ought to keep this power unto itself, and if the Minister should want to throw public money away in subsidising air services in Wales, then he should come to Plenary and ask our permission.

There are two major reasons for this. The first is that of the environment. The visibility of the damage that aeroplanes do is now above the horizon, and it will become an increasingly important point as time goes on, and not just in Wales, but everywhere. Are air fares too cheap, and is our planet in danger because of the amount of air travel and the noxious fumes that air transport emits? I am not arguing for no air travel, but I am trying to argue for control, and we can have that control if Plenary decides not to give this particular power to the Minister.

Carl Sargeant: Will the Member be walking to Gibraltar, then? [Laugher.]

John Marek: That is a typically fatuous comment, of course.

The Presiding Officer: Order. This debate is not about international or inter-European air travel—if, indeed, Gibraltar is a European region; it is entirely about air services in Wales. As far as I am aware, Ynys Môn is not Gibraltar.

John Marek: I think that you make my case for me. The Labour Party, as usual, is laughing, but I will come to the point about snouts in the trough in a minute.

My first argument is that there are environmental considerations that will become increasingly important as time goes on, and we should not allow the Minister to use his powers to subsidise air services in Wales.

My second point is that this is Labour Party members with their snouts in the trough again. [Assembly Members: ‘Oh.’] Well, they have plenty of snouts in the trough with secret donations and proposals to make the donors Members of the House of Lords. We only have to talk about the Deputy Prime Minister to know where public money is spent and whether it is being spent properly. I do not think that we have any lessons to learn from the Labour Party.

If the Minister subsidises air services from Cardiff to Hawarden, Cardiff to Valley, or to other places in north Wales, is he prepared to say that he will not use them and that he will use his own ticket, not subsidised by public money. Is he prepared to give a commitment on behalf of the Government that these air services will be subsidised for business reasons and not for public reasons? I suspect that the Government wants these services because members of the Cabinet would love to go from Cardiff—and they are nearly all from Cardiff, or near Cardiff—to north-east or north-west Wales. Even if they were to give me an absolute guarantee that they would not benefit personally from these air services, I would still be in favour of amendment 1; I shall not vote against it, but I might just be tempted to abstain. However, I do not think that they will give me such a guarantee; they are here to please themselves on this matter— [Assembly Members: ‘Oh.’]
Oh, yes, but not in any corrupt way, because it is a perfectly proper way for them to do it. However, I believe that they are here to please themselves in this regard, when they should be arguing for a proper train service between north and south Wales that the ordinary working men and women of Wales can use, and not just those who are privileged to have public service jobs and whose tickets are paid for by the public sector.

It was an entertaining argument but not the best way to win friends and influence people.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?