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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Unrest on the backbenches

There was some significant unrest on the opposition backbenches yesterday afternoon during questions to the Finance Minister as the whole session was effectively hi-jacked by the party leaders.

A tradition has grown up in the Assembly that on First Minister's Questions, in the interests of effective scrutiny, the party leaders will be able to ask two or three supplementaries on a question of their choice. Quite whether this system produces any light is a matter of opinion, often there is just a heated row and nobody is any the wiser. However, almost surreptiously the party leaders have extended this privilege to questions to other Ministers on a Wednesday afternoon as well. The result is that less time is available to backbench AMs to drive home their own points, even when they serve on the relevant subject committee and have a specialist knowledge.

Yesterday, this 'abuse of procedure' was taken to extremes when on one question the Plaid Cymru leader asked three supplementaries closely followed by the Tory Leader with an enormous five additional questions. What was worse was that he asked two supplementaries on one subject and then switched to a completely unrelated topic for his next three. The Presiding Officer looked perplexed, those of us wishing to get in on this question or subsequent ones were enormously frustrated.

I suggested to the PO that we should change the procedure so as to enable the party leaders to have their extra supplementaries to the First Minister but then to extend this privilege to the relevant party spokespeople only on questions to other Ministers. I hope he listens because otherwise we are in danger of turning question time into a party leader ego-fest.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

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