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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Daggers drawn

Plenary went on rather late yesterday so I was obliged to leave before the short debate to attend a meeting in Swansea. The short debate is the Assembly equivalent of an adjournment debate in the House of Commons. There is no vote and opportunities to participate are limited. It is essentially an opportunity for a member to speak for 15 minutes on the subject of his or her choice and have a Minister respond to the matters raised.

Nevertheless there have been one or two memorable contributions including the time Dafydd Wigley led a walkout of the Plaid Cymru group in the early days of the Assembly.

Yesterday's short debate however was as equally entertaining with Labour AM, Alun Davies leading an all-out assault on the Deputy First Minister and with Ieuan Wyn Jones laying the blame for government failures at the feet of those of his Labour cabinet colleagues, who had been in charge of transport before him.

Alun Davies' central charge was that before the One Wales Government the heads of the valleys dualling programme was due to be completed in 2015, since the leader of Plaid Cymru came into post though, the Mid and West Wales AM alleged that this deadline had slipped to 2020.

Alun concluded that the evidence "exposes, describes and highlights some very serious inconsistencies from the Deputy First Minister. Despite our personal differences on this issue and our wider political differences, I believe that the Deputy First Minister is an honourable man. However, he must explain these inconsistencies and account for the different explanations that he has offered Members. There is a serious danger that people here and elsewhere have been misled by the statements that have been made and that the policies of previous Governments have been misrepresented. This is an issue for the whole Government, and it is one that it must address. It has the potential to damage the credibility and integrity of the Government, and it is time that these questions were answered."

In return the Deputy First Minister was equally as robust. He said that Alun Davies had overlooked the publication of two key documents by the previous Labour Government "entitled 'Heads We Win’ and 'Turning Heads’, both of which state that the road should be completed by 2020." He went on:

"Let us get this on the record once again. In my time as Minister, there has been no slippage whatsoever in the programme for the Heads of the Valleys road or in the end date for it. That is highly unusual, because all the roads schemes in the trunk road forward programme are within time envelopes. The reason for that is that road programmes very often have some slippage. Some programmes are brought forward; others are delayed. I am not responsible for anything else in relation to that road."

This is one of the most public rifts yet in One Wales Government and shows that some Labour AMs are getting impatient at having to put up with Plaid Cymru as allies. They are champing at the bit to have a go at Plaid Ministers. That was also evident from tweets posted by Alun Davies during Plenary in particular:

On Planet Plaid Cymru little Ieuan battles away for Wales. What fiction. PC have really made themselves look ridiculous; and

Plaid Cymru making fools of themselves in the budget debate.

On balance it seems that this round was won by Ieuan Wyn Jones but that does not take account of the damage that has been caused to inter-party relations. It is also little comfort to the good citizens of Porthmadog who are going to be kept waiting for their by-pass after the Deputy First Minister told Plenary "if you were to ask me when the Porthmadog bypass will be completed, I could not tell you, because there is no end date for it."

The full debate can be watched here:

as already postulated by myself he is the 'Dennis skinner' of the assembly!
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