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

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A life in the day

I have written my entry for the History Matters website only to find that it needs to be less than 4,000 characters. I have reproduced the unabridged version below:

As a member of the Welsh Assembly, a history graduate and a regular blogger I have taken a keen interest in the 'History Matters: Pass it on' mass blog being promoted by the National Trust and English Heritage. I have been blogging for over three years now and have the second longest running blog of any political representative. The first thing I did this morning therefore was to post about the mass blog. The time against this post is shown as 6.20am but actually I cheated a bit and wrote it the night before.

By 8.15am I had managed to struggle through Swansea traffic, made worse by on-going roadworks, and reached the BBC studios in Alexander Road just in time for an interview on the 'mass blog'. I had been asked to contribute because of my position as a pioneer of the art of political blogging in Wales. OK, I may have exaggerated that a bit, but the BBC researchers do tend to flatter you so as to persuade you to come on their programmes at unearthly hours of the morning.

In the interview I made the point that the internet was a largely classless medium that was not just confined to the young. It seems to me that this exercise in blogging our day would not just establish an insightful record for future generations but also raise an awareness of and interest in history generally.

Following the interview there was another drive through difficult and unsympathetic traffic conditions as I made my way to the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay for a number of meetings. It took an hour altogether as it was not until I got to Bridgend that traffic started to flow properly on the M4. The A4232 from Junction 33 down to the Bay was very busy as usual and the poor weather conditions did not help.

On arriving in my office I was confronted by a large pile of post that had built up over the weekend. Assembly Members tend to spend only three days in Cardiff in meetings, with Mondays and Fridays, as well as weekends often being filled with constituency engagements. It is often the case that I work a solid 70 hours over seven days each week and rarely have time for a day off. I am not unique in that regard.

Most of the post consisted of glossy reports from various Welsh and UK organisations, invitations to meeting and events, and a fair number of letters from constituents about problems or issues they wish to draw to my attention. There was a letter in there for example, about a housing problem being faced by one of my constituents. I gave instructions to my caseworker to write to the local Council's tenancy relations officer asking him to intervene on a number of alleged breaches of tenancy law. There was an invitation to the Annual General Meeting of the Swansea Council for Voluntary Services and a letter from the Environment Minister replying to a query I had raised with him about biomass crops.

One of the best jobs as an Assembly Member is greeting visitors from our constituency or region to the new Senedd building. Accordingly, no sooner had I got my mail into some sort of order than I was needed in the Chamber Gallery to talk to an Aberkenfig Senior Citizens' Group. I was also due to talk to Brynhyfryd School from Swansea later in the morning but they arrived early and so I missed them due to being in another meeting.

After addressing the senior citizen's group I came back to my office where I had a scheduled meeting with the Clerk to the Assembly's Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills Committee. I have been chair of this Committee since 2003 and hold a weekly planning meeting to discuss the agenda and other matters. Today, we just needed to confirm that everything was in order for tomorrow morning's meeting and I needed to sign a letter to the British Ambassador to Denmark to thank him and his staff for facilitating the Committee's recent visit there, as well as for his hospitalty.

Straight onto another meeting, this time of the six strong Welsh Liberal Democrat group. We went through the Plenary agenda for today and tomorrow afternoon and agreed how we will vote and who will speak on each item. We also divied up supplementary questions to the First Minister and other Ministers and discussed the Assembly Government's draft budget, which has been tabled today. The Government does not have a majority and so depends on the opposition to get its budget through. The Party leaders have already held a number of meetings to discuss what should be in the budget but the Government have taken no account of our views. This means that there will inevitably be a joint opposition amendment and confrontation next week. At the top of the shopping list we are presenting is more money for schools. That is my personal top priority.

By 1pm I am in another meeting. This time it is a pre-meeting of the First Minister's Scrutiny Committee. The purpose is to decide what topic we will be quizzing him on in the next meeting in early January. My suggestion of the future of public services is adopted. Fortunately, there are sandwiches provided so I am able to grab something to eat.

Back in the office I finish dealing with my correspondence and make my way down to the chamber for the afternoon's Plenary session. I have a question at number 10 to the First Minister on the cost to Welsh Police forces of the Government's abortive merger proposals. The First Minister tells me that the Home Office has agreed to meet the cost in full, which catches me a bit on the hop, but I recover enough to manage to ask him a supplementary urging his government to closely monitor the promise so as to ensure no Police Authority is short-changed.

I have to speak in a debate on the Youth and Community Work Education and Training (Inspection)(Wales) Regulations 2006, the Welsh Liberal Democrat debate on the quality of food and the debate on safeguarding vulnerable children, however I have a very bad cold and my voice is a bit dodgy. I talk to the other Party's Education Spokespeople about the first debate. We have all had representations from Higher Education Wales expressing concern about the regulations and I am anxious to hear what others think about the issue. After a brief discussion with my group agree to vote in favour but seek assurances from the Minister on what consultations she has had on the issue.

I then spoke for ten minutes in moving the Welsh Liberal Democrat minority debate on Food Quality. The motion reads: 'To propose that the National Assembly for Wales: 1. Calls on the Assembly Government to develop andpresent for consultation by the end of the year a wide-ranging "Quality of Food" strategy to improve the quality of food consumed in Wales. Such a strategy should embrace: a) Making Food Studies part of the National Curriculum, teaching children about nutrition as well how to cook healthy food; b) Improving the nutritional standard of school meals and meals provided in hospitals; c) Healthy eating schemes aimed at areas of social deprivation; d) Reducing the levels of pesticides and toxins in food and e) Further encouraging the production and consumption of organic food.

There are a number of amendments and I have to contend with interventions about a school in Caerphilly but I manage to get through it alright despite my faltering voice. By the time of the third speech however, I do not feel able to sustain a speech so I pull my name from consideration.

My last duty of the day is a meeting of the Assembly's Shadow Commisson. This is the body which will take over the running of the Assembly Parliamentary Service after next May's elections so we are spending a lot of time planning for that event. These meetings are held behind closed doors and unauthorised disclosure of what goes on there can have dire consequences. However, we do publish our minutes and papers on the internet after a certain period of time. Some of the issues we are currently grappling with include the development of the ICT service, how we promote the new Assembly and organisational structures.

It is now 7.52pm. I have an early meeting tomorrow morning so I intend to spend the night in Cardiff. This does not mean that I can relax however, as I still have a rather thick agenda paper to read before I retire for the night.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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