National Assembly (List Members)
Oral Answers to Questions — Wales
11:30 am

Photo of Mark Tami

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside, Labour)

What plans he has to introduce legislation affecting the position of list Members in the National Assembly for Wales.

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Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office; Neath, Labour)

The White Paper "Better Governance for Wales", promises to prevent constituency candidates standing as list Members in line with our manifesto commitments.

Photo of Mark Tami

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside, Labour)

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that he has seen the Leanne Wood guide to being a good Assembly list Member in today's Western Mail, in which she advocates avoiding casework but using the considerable budgets to employ staff only two to three days a week so that they can spend the rest of the time on political activity, and of course Leanne's golden rule:

"On receipt of every invitation, ask 'How can my attendance at this event further the aims of Plaid Cymru?' If the answer is 'very little' or 'not at all', then a pro forma letter of decline should be in order."

Is not it time that we had an urgent inquiry into the role of these list Members, who are unelected and unaccountable?

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Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office; Neath, Labour)

The answer is yes. Plaid Cymru list Members have now been caught red-handed abusing the system in the Assembly. The Presiding Officer should have a proper inquiry into the abuse of taxpayers' money by Plaid Cymru list Members. These instructions from Assembly Member Leanne Wood are a consistent abuse. I will read out another example—

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Adam Price (Spokesperson (Economy and Taxation; Education & Skills; Miner's Compensation; Regeneration; Trade & Industry); Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Plaid Cymru)

As we all know, politics—[Hon. Members: "Apologise."] May I speak? Politics is a much-maligned profession, and it is usually other politicians who do the maligning. May I suggest to the Secretary of State that his constant disparaging remarks about Assembly Members will make it difficult for us to encourage people of calibre of all parties to put their names forward for the next Assembly elections? Is that what he wants?

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Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office; Neath, Labour)

I am absolutely astonished. The hon. Gentleman is defending the behaviour of Plaid Cymru list Assembly Members who have abused the system. I will read out another section from the advice:

"We need to be thinking much more creatively as to how we better use staff budgets for furthering the aims of the party."

Those are the equivalent of Commons staff budgets applied to the Assembly. I and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will be taking the Government of Wales Bill through the House in the next year or so, and if the Assembly does not to tighten the rules on the behaviour of list Members and the abuse of their allowances, I might have to take powers under the Bill to do so myself.

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Nia Griffith (Llanelli, Labour)

Given the utter contempt that Leanne Wood is showing for constituents by describing casework that a Plaid Cymru regional Assembly Member did for 2,500 constituents as a waste of time, because canvassing returns showed that few of them were inclined to vote for Plaid Cymru, will the Secretary of State order a thorough investigation into the role of regional AMs, and seek to establish whether their offices and staff are a waste of public money?

Photo of Peter Hain

Peter Hain (Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office; Neath, Labour)

I am tempted to read out even more damaging quotes, but I will spare the House. I agree very much with my hon. Friend that this is an abuse of the system. It vindicates exactly the Government's policy of banning list Members from standing in constituencies. They must make a choice. Taxpayers will want to know that list members are not abusing the Assembly's resources, because ultimately those resources are voted by the House of Commons. I think it is time that Plaid Cymru, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members stopped defending this outrageous behaviour by Assembly list members.