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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Scrabbling for high ground

Today's Western Mail records the increasingly desperate attempts by the First Minister to dig his government out of the hole it has got itself into over Alun Pugh's Christmas cards:

The Assembly Government was forced to admit that more than £3,000 of the cost represented legal fees on checking out copyright law, even though the company which makes Scrabble had waived its right to a fee.

Opposition politicians have strongly criticised the scandal, which was first reported in the Western Mail on Saturday.

Last night the Assembly Government issued a "statement of clarification" after earlier confirming to the Western Mail that Scrabble manufacturers Mattel had charged a licence fee for reproducing the picture on the card.

An Assembly Government statement said, "The Welsh Assembly Government would like to make it clear that while the cost of £3,500 for the Welsh Assembly Government's Minister for Culture's Christmas card were broadly correct, Mattel did not receive a payment of any kind at any stage as was previously reported.

The Government have admitted that the actual cost of the Christmas card was £3,325, which included printing costs of £180, £88 for photography, and £3,057 in legal fees. The legal fees were incurred as a result of advice from solicitors representing the Welsh Assembly on copyright and licence issues.

The First Minister told Radio Wales yesterday that "Before signing legal contracts or documents we seek legal advice. In this case, as the document related solely to intellectual property rights, the normal procedures were followed and specialist external legal advice was sought to make sure that we did not open ourselves up to legal action in the future."

All of this is hardly the point. The excuse being given is that the cards promoted the Welsh language. Despite re-reading all the verbiage on this issue I still cannot see how. A purely rhetorical question comes to mind: how many points does one get in a game of Scrabble for the word 'indefensible'?
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