Friday, 30 November 2007

Trials and tribulations of Government

Whatever you do, don't panic! Gordon Brown isn't the only politician to be having a run of bad luck lately. Here in Wales, the Minister for Heritage, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, will be taking on board a second challenge since coming to office. The Welsh media, on the other hand, seem to enjoy the trials and tribulations of the Welsh Assembly Government and always seem to have something to play with.

This run of bad luck tends to come in three, and sometimes that figure is per week.

  1. Wales Millennium Centre
  2. The National Botanic Garden of Wales
  3. What's next?

The deadline is soon, but we may have to put up with a different number three to satisfy the media in the meantime.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

National Assembly needs to do its homework

Wearing his other hat as part-time Secretary of State for Wales, Peter Hain MP, was in the chamber of the Senedd yesterday afternoon to address the Assembly on the Queen's Speech.

Mr Hain rejected claims Westminster was blocking some proposals, but said it should be able to "probe their basis".

Addressing the assembly on the Queen's Speech, he also insisted it would be "disastrous" to lose a referendum on law-making powers for Wales.

Mr Hain said he backed the Labour-Plaid coalition but building consensus on powers would "take time". Plans for a referendum on assembly powers are central to the One Wales deal which formed the basis of the coalition between the two parties after the election.

Calling for a "mature relationship between Wales and Westminster", Mr Hain said:

Parliament cannot rubber stamp or let anything through 'on the nod'... We have no desire to meddle in future policy developments, which are the prerogative of the Welsh Assembly Government and the assembly... But it is an important principle that Parliament and Whitehall departments are allowed to probe the basis of legislative requests, and that in doing so are not presented as 'unreasonable' or 'obstructive.

This must have felt like a personal message for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning & Skills Minister, Jane Hutt AM, who was Minister for Business 2005-07, and should know better. This left me with the thought that there was an underlying message of, "DO YOUR HOMEWORK"

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

AM Bloggers: Blogging - It's the future

An update to an earlier post and what was recorded at committee.

Blogs Aelodau’r Cynulliad / Use of Blog Sites by Members

[41] Jeff Cuthbert: There is a paper from the Commissioner for Standards on this, and we have a private briefing provided by Keith. I have given two television interviews on this today; it seems to have excited the media.

[42] Kirsty Williams: We have not been as popular since we dealt with the Freemasons. [Laughter.]

[43] Jeff Cuthbert: I know. Allegations have been made by certain bloggers that we are doing this because we do not have enough to do. I can assure them that that is not the case. It is important, because the last three complaints to the committee relating to Assembly Members have been in relation to their blog sites, so we would be negligent if we did not draw the conclusion from that that there is a downside to blogs that Members ought to reflect on. We do not want a series of complaints relating to blogs coming to the committee that may be avoidable. I will use this as an opportunity to stress that under no circumstances are we talking about restricting freedom of expression, trying to dissuade the use of new technology or anything of the sort. However, if there are downsides to using blogs that Members ought to be aware of, it is our job to draw those to their attention, and they will then make their own decisions. Members should be made aware of any important considerations. It is recommended that that should probably be done through the issuing of a note.

[44] As I said, we have the commissioner’s paper and Keith’s paper, so I will ask both for any further comments.

[45] Mr Penn: You have covered the point. It is not part of my role to suggest that blogs are not an appropriate way to communicate with the community and constituents. However, there is a track record, as we had in the early days—as Kirsty will remember—on the use of Assembly resources. That was the cause of many complaints and we were certainly proactive then in encouraging Members to understand the rules without restricting their right to use Assembly resources. We simply made them aware of the rules. Interestingly, I have been meeting with new Assembly Members over the past two days and they have all referred to the issue of blogs—they are aware that it is a potential problem and have asked for my guidance. I am not going to give them guidance except to say that they should be cautious, because it is an area of activity that can produce complaints. Therefore, many Members are looking for a bit of guidance, although some will resist it. As you said in your introduction, it would be worth considering issuing a note to help Members to be aware of the issue. That is probably the right course.

[46] Mr Bush: The only thing I wish to add is that my note has drawn attention to the fact that it is not only what people write on their own blogs, but the facility that they give to third parties to say things, that can get them into trouble. Interestingly, there was such a case before the courts in the past month or so, where Sheffield Wednesday Football Club supporters’ club is being sued by the directors of the club, because people posted allegations about financial impropriety on the supporters’ club website. So, the courts are becoming increasingly conscious of this issue.

[47] Obviously, this committee will specifically be concerned with breaches of the code of conduct that may be committed by Members giving a platform to abusive, defamatory or illegal conduct or statements generally. An element of that must be to make it clear that people cannot simply say, ‘I did not put it on my blog; I simply allowed someone else to do that’, and for that to mean that they have a defence.

[48] Brynle Williams: I am going to show my ignorance here, ladies and gentlemen. The bottom line is that you are not subject to any parliamentary privilege on a blog—is that right? If any Member posts anything on a blog, he or she has lost all parliamentary privilege, simply by having that blog.

[49] Mr Bush: Absolutely. Parliamentary or Assembly privilege only attaches to publications that are made under the authority of the Assembly. So, an individual Member’s blog is not covered by that privilege.

[50] Brynle Williams: I am sorry for putting it in such simple terms, Chair, but it has to be clear in my mind. I now know exactly where I want to go and what it is.

[51] Mr Bush: I should add for completeness that a person has a defence, of course, if he or she takes reasonable care to avoid something defamatory being said. So, if it is impossible for you to tell that something has been said—if it is an obscure reference to something that you do not or could not understand—the law will not impose liability on you in that situation. However, as we all know, many comments that are posted onto blogs are clearly defamatory and anyone who permits that to be done does so at his or her own risk.

52] Brynle Williams: So, no politician should have a blog site; it is as simple as that, but we do not live in a simple world.

[53] Kirsty Williams: I think that the committee should agree to the commissioner issuing a note to Members, to make them aware of their responsibilities and the potential pitfalls in this area. It is not to restrict anyone; it is simply to make Members aware of their responsibilities and how blogs may or may not bring them into conflict with the code.

[54] Mr Penn: I think that good organisations use complaints as a source of learning. The message to give is that we have received a number of complaints and we have learnt some lessons from that, which we are passing on to Members for their use and consideration.

[55] Jeff Cuthbert: Absolutely. I think that we should ask Richard and Keith, perhaps together, to prepare a suitable note, based in particular on the powerful statement that Keith has included in his private briefing, which we can then perhaps e-mail. I do not know of any other problems that are coming up, but blogs are being used every day, so the sooner that this is done the better. Perhaps you could prepare something—I do not think that we need to wait until our next meeting—and circulate it to the four Members. We will then take feedback on this. We could perhaps meet should there be any minor tweaking to be done, if you are content. I see that you are; thank you.

All done and dusted with nothing to worry about, and carried out with a minute to spare.

Disabled Children Matter

Providing an update to an earlier post, I've noticed the BBC has reported that most Assembly Members have now backed a call for £21m to be safeguarded to support disabled children in Wales.

Campaigners gathered outside the Senedd on Tuesday to demand "significant extra resources" from ministers. Children's Minister Jane Hutt told AMs she was considering the funding issue and also how best to develop flexible services to meet individual needs.

Labour AM Lynne Neagle said she was encouraged so many backbench AMs, from all parties, had supported her call for better funding by signing up to a statement of opinion she had tabled in the assembly. She urged the minister to respect the "majority opinion" in the assembly and do everything she could to get the £21m spent in the way most AMs wanted.

Lee Ellery, 23, from Swansea has cerebral palsy and was hopeful ministers would respond positively to the campaign:

Disabled people need to have the services that everybody's entitled to - education, social services and all the other services that go with it. The problem for many disabled people is the transition process from school to college. They don't have the correct careers advice and general problems from people not seeing disabled people quite as they should. They sort of assume that they should be able to do jobs which are not the jobs that they want to do themselves.
The following is an update of the list of Assembly Members that have added their names to the Statement of Opinion:

OPIN-2007- 0082 - Mae Plant Anabl yn Bwysig/Disabled Children Matter
Codwyd gan / Raised By:
Lynne Neagle
Tanysgrifwyr / Subscribers:
Andrew RT Davies 13/11/2007
Karen Sinclair 13/11/2007
Mark Isherwood 13/11/2007
Joyce Watson 13/11/2007
Sandy Mewies 13/11/2007
Ann Jones 13/11/2007
Jeff Cuthbert 14/11/2007
Janice Gregory 14/11/2007
Darren Millar 14/11/2007
Nicholas Bourne 14/11/2007
Huw Lewis 14/11/2007
Lorraine Barrett 15/11/2007
Christine Chapman 15/11/2007
Eleanor Burnham 15/11/2007
David Melding 15/11/2007
Mike German 15/11/2007
Lesley Griffiths 15/11/2007
Val Lloyd 15/11/2007
Leanne Wood 15/11/2007
Alun Davies 19/11/2007
Kirsty Williams 19/11/2007
Paul Davies 19/11/2007
Trish Law 20/11/2007
Irene James 20/11/2007
Jonathan Morgan 21/11/2007
Mick Bates 22/11/2007
Mohammad Asghar 22/11/2007
Bethan Jenkins 22/11/2007
Alun Cairns 22/11/2007
Nick Ramsay 26/11/2007

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Llandudno will be the Cardiff of the North

Senior Civil Servants from Cardiff have promised staff in North Wales that the proposed Llandudno office which was due to open in late 2008, will serve the whole of Wales in the same way as the office based in Cardiff. Staff have also been promised that Llandudno Junction will also mean more job opportunities and career development for staff.

Staff in North Wales see this differently:

650 people are expected to work there, of whom 160 will be transferred from Cardiff. In reality, this means that 490 staff will be pulled from all the other Assembly offices in the North Wales area that are set to close. The remaining 160 jobs that are said to be transferring from Cardiff are mainly in non-managerial grades (support staff), leaving the statement "more job opportunities and career development for staff" as empty and meaningless. If the potential vacancies aren't of a higher grade or different set of skills, then how can they be seen as an opportunity to develop one's career?

The staff know this and are disappointed that those in authority are taking them for fools. Staff must be asking themselves whether or not false hope is better than no hope.

Enter the Dragon and one MP's call to update the Union Flag

In a Commons debate, Wrexham's Labour MP Ian Lucas said Wales' Red Dragon should be added to the Union Jack's red, white and blue pattern.

He said the Union Jack currently only represented the other three UK nations. But Stewart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborough, said the plan was "eccentric" and would be unpopular. "I do not believe it would add to the unity of the country," he said.

However as the BBC has reported, Culture Minister Margaret Hodge conceded that Mr Lucas had raised a valid point for debate.

She said the government is "keen" to make the Union Jack "a positive symbol of Britishness reflecting the diversity of our country today and encouraging people to take pride in our flag".

And the minister acknowledged that a number of people across Britain were unhappy about flying the Union Jack as they felt it does not "truly represent the United Kingdom." However, she said redesigning the flag had not been part of a consultation currently being carried out.

Wales had no explicit recognition in the Union Flag because Wales, having been annexed by Edward I of England in 1282 and following the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, was legally part of the Kingdom of England and was therefore represented by the flag of England. (The present-day Flag of Wales and St David's Cross emerged, or re-emerged, in the 20th century: the former based on the historical emblem of Wales, the Red Dragon, and the latter based on the arms of the Diocese of Saint David's.) I have always thought this to be the reason of its omission, in addition to Wales never having been a kingdom, however, the Kingdom of Ireland, which had existed as a personal union with England since 1541, was likewise unrepresented in the original versions of the Union Flag.

What are the chances of us starting to see variations of a possible design in the press? I'm wondering whether or not only the dragon will be used, and possibly placed in the centre. What part will be green, if any? Will a mythical creature appear too odd, and the use of blue and green too painful on the eye?

It's not as if it'll be the first time the Union Flag has been updated, and there are more variations than the possibilities of different coalition governments at Cardiff Bay.

One final question before I get back to work: Why do I get the impression that certain people are merely attempting to sound more Welsh by raising the issue?

Update: David Cornock has posted a photo of Ian Lucas MP and his version of the flag on his blog. I can't see his version ever being taken seriously as the dragon dominates the flag.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Welsh Woman of the Year

The winners of the Welsh Women of the Year can be read online after being published in the Western Mail on the weekend. There was one award that surprised me upon publication of a recent report.

The Western Mail Val Feld Award

Name: Jane Hutt, AM.
Age: 58
Lives: Barry
Profile: Education Minister for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Jane Hutt is formerly the Health Minister, and is the Labour AM for the Vale of Glamorgan. She was first elected in 1999.

Jane said:

I was surprised and honoured to receive this special award, which was given in memory of Val Feld, whose lifetime contribution to promoting equality and fair play in Wales I deeply admire.
Jane Hutt AM was surprised to receive the award, but not as surprised as some.

Congratulations to all winners and I hope that I'm not sounding too bias.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Sir Emyr's around Wales rally ends in 2009

Following on from my last post and the mention of yet another eminent man, Sir Emyr Jones-Parry, who was a major figure in Welsh news yesterday and today. He's certainly made the most of his media appearances yesterday and I enjoyed listening to him answering his critics on Dragon's Eye and then on Waterfront last night.

Don Touhig did make mischief yet again on Dragon's Eye, but I hardly think that a man whose political career has rarely got off the ground should question another on his unsuitability and lack of Welshness, and then attempting to make him look like a victim of his own success. Fancy taking on a career diplomat yet again, and with such a weak argument.

Sir Emyr:

Anybody who tells me I need a sat nav, I'll compete with them in a rally around Wales without a map.
I did happen to cover my eyes when Sir Emyr started to question the original devolution settlement and wished him to stop while he had the upper hand. I guess even a diplomat can get it wrong sometimes, so there's hope for all of us.

Sir Emyr, you're always welcome at mine for dinner on your rally around Wales. Most of the population are behind you and you'll always find that we're proud of one of our own that has done good.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Fundamental flaws found in drawing up a new law

Fundamental flaws have been identified with one of the Welsh Assembly Government's first attempts at drawing up a new law as reported by the BBC.

Under the 2006 Government of Wales Act, Wales-only legislation can be created in certain devolved areas. But a scrutiny committee has found a number of problems with proposals for legislation to improve travel to schools and further education. These include a basic lack of powers over key issues, such as seat belts. The Enterprise and Learning Committee's scrutiny report found the new law, known as an assembly measure, would be powerless with regard to vehicle standards, seating arrangements or seatbelts. The committee also found inadequacies over codes of conduct.

In order to plug the gap the Assembly Government will present more detailed proposals in the new year. But if it fails to request enough powers to plug the gap, the committee has said it may consider bringing forward its own request for extra powers from Westminster. It wants the Assembly Government to give further consideration to the code of conduct, including to the issue of who will be covered by it. The committee also wants the assembly government to give further consideration to the possibility of staggering the opening and closing times of schools.
In recent months I've been notified of the first recruitment of legal trainees for solicitor's Training Contracts, having been advertised by the Welsh Assembly Government on its website. With an emphasis on providing opportunities for trainees, the real need lies in a demand for more experienced staff. As I've been led to understand, the Legal Services Department of the Assembly Government is vast in numbers and should be equipped to tackle any legal proposal before a problem arises at committee level. If it feels that they haven't got the manpower or expertise, they've the backing of the UK Government Legal Service (GLS) with their expert knowledge in drafting legislation for Westminster. At this stage of devolution there's no time to be too proud in asking for assistance.

On 22 October 2007 the Welsh Assembly Government made an announcement that Professor Thomas Glyn Watkin had been appointed as the First Welsh Legislative Counsel. Professor Watkin is an eminent man and as I understand, made sacrifices to become Counsel. The Welsh Assembly Government are very fortunate to have him in their employment, and on talking to someone in the Legal Services Department, I've been informed that he was actually appointed in April 2007 and has a token number of staff to call upon.

This just doesn't bode well for the future and will inevitably slow up procedure if it continues.

Paul Flynn MP checks out the NHS

I'm new to blogging, but even I know that bloggers are allowed a day off. Paul Flynn MP seems to think otherwise, after collapsing in the House of Commons tea room on Tuesday evening and receiving treatment in hospital after suffering a mini-stroke.

Paul finds it odd:

... as a working politician to be asked if you know the name of the Prime Minister.
This makes me think what sort of trouble you'd be in if you were asked the same question and weren't interested in politics at all.

Best wishes and I hope you make a speedy recovery Paul.

Gentle Reminder to Readers

Although I don't publish the source of some of my posts - when it's received from an individual rather than found in the media - can I please take this opportunity to remind those who have emailed recently that they should notice that I've published their comments anonymously. I assume that if you email rather than use the comments section then you wish to remain anonymous.

Most use a personal email address such as Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail etc. when emailing, but I will respect your request for anonymity either way.

I'm only thinking of you!

Miss Wagstaff xx

- Providing a Social Network since 1 November 2007

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Welsh Government Package for Disabled Children (2)

There's now an update to the original post which was received by email this morning. Comments can be added to the original post.

Why won't Plaid AMs/MPs be my friend?

I started writing this post a few days ago and wanted to post when it was time for a lighthearted moment.

Some of you will probably notice that I have joined Facebook, particularly as I've a link to my profile on my blog (top right). Most of you have been generous and have welcomed becoming my friend, however, I just can't seem to convince a Plaid AM/MP to join my family of new friends.

To date, members from all parties have joined me as 'Facebook friends'. Since originally typing this, to my delight Bethan Jenkins AM confirmed friendship on Tuesday, however, she's the only one.

There was talk in the comments section of an earlier post today that my account had been suspended, but I'm sure that it was just a technical hiccup and not down to a complaint as suggested. This lady is offering the hand of friendship to all, and as we know, there's nothing wrong with that. Anyway, to my further delight the account is now active again.

It's been said on Facebook that I'm taking you all out for a drink when I reach 200 friends - gulp - my purse isn't big enough for all that loose change!

Remember that the hand of friendship has no colour or party affiliation.

AM Bloggers up against the Standards Committee

This evening the Standards Committee is considering the use of blog sites by Assembly Members. Committee Members are going to "consider the issue of Members publishing to blog sites and the potential for this to result in breaches of the Code of Conduct, and consider whether to issue a note to Members regarding the use of blogs".

Standards of Conduct Committee, Agenda STD(3)-03-07
Date: Wednesday 21 November 2007, 6.00 - 7.30pm, Committee Room 2

  1. Apologies
  2. Nomination of committee member under Section 10.2 of the Complaints Procedure (6.00 - 6.05pm)
  3. Review and Revisions to the Complaints Procedure (6.05 - 6.25pm)
    Paper STD(3) 03-07 (p1) Review and Revisions of the Complaints Procedure
    Committee Members are invited to consider the paper produced by the Secretariat in relation to the good practice review of procedure following each complaint.
  4. Ministerial Code (6.25 - 6.35pm)
    Paper STD(3) 03-07 (p2) Ministerial Code
  5. Status of the commissioner for Standards (6.35 - 6.45pm)
    Paper STD(3) 03-07 (p3)
  6. Use of Blog Sites by Members (6.45 - 7.05pm)
    Committee Members are invited to consider the issue of Members publishing to blog sites and the potential for this to result in breaches of the Code of Conduct, and consider whether to issue a note to Members regarding the use of blogs
  7. Chair’s Visit to Strathclyde University (7.05 - 7.15pm)
    Paper STD(3) 03-07 (p4)

Committee Membership:
Jeff Cuthbert, Labour (Caerphilly)
Christopher Franks, Plaid Cymru (South Wales Central)
Brynle Williams, Welsh Conservative Party (North Wales)
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Liberal Democrats (Brecon and Radnorshire)

Most blogs by Assembly Members consist of nothing more than surgery dates, advertising of local events, and letting us know that they are "Working Hard for You". There are a few well-worth reading and add something special to the political debate, and I think you know which ones I'm talking about. Let's hope they have a say in the matter and have briefed their colleagues well.

Good luck, Members!

Update: From the BBC at 15:20 and the blog of Peter Black AM at 15:43 including the following little gem from Peter:
People often complain about the creation of a nanny state. It seems that the nanny state culture is alive and well within the National Assembly for Wales itself... What will they seek to issue guidance on next, press releases, pamphlets, how to frame an attack on your own party leader, lectures to the Institute of Welsh Politics?

Monday, 19 November 2007

Welsh Government Package for Disabled Children

Miss Wagstaff hears that there has been a call for the Assembly to cough up the 'consequential' in response to a massive investment in disabled children in England.

It is feared the £21m – Wales’ share of a £340m UK government package for disabled children – has been swallowed up by the general health, social services and education budgets, already struggling under the strain of a tight financial settlement.

In England this money will be used to fund short breaks for disabled children, provide childcare and support, and help disabled children shape the services they need.

The equivalent funding for Wales, known as a consequential, amounts to £21m. But the money is not ring-fenced and the Assembly Government is under no obligation to spend the money in the same area as England – in this case, on disabled children.

Labour AM Lynne Neagle has managed to get herself on the front page of today's Western Mail, along with a few high profile children's charities. She has called for the Assembly to cough up the money and put us on par with England.

Wayne Crocker, from Mencap Cymru, said:

Without real money to help them do this they will continue to be left at the bottom of the box and live lives limited by the type of poor opportunities given to them in today’s Wales.
The Plaid Cymru/ Labour coalition are saying "NO", which shouldn't be a big surprise after the recent budget announcement. Of particular interest, however, is Lynne Neagle's Statement of Opinion calling for the cash to be forthcoming. The Welsh Conservatives and Welsh Liberal Democrats have all signed up, and every Welsh Labour backbencher, bar one, has signed as well. However, as of Monday morning, only one Plaid Cymru AM, Leanne Wood, has signed.

How come? It has been explained to me that Helen Mary Jones might be trying to enforce a 'three line whip' (drastic measure) against signing the Statement of Opinion on the basis that... wait for it... it would mean the One Wales Government doing the same as they are doing in England!

This doesn't look good for disabled children in Wales, and all for the sake of Plaid keeping their political purity. As an aside, any idea who the only Labour backbencher not to sign is? Step forward former Plaid politician and now Labour AM, Alun Davies. Maybe he's trying to tell us something.

Update: 21 November 2007 at 11:30

The following was received from a reliable Plaid Cymru source.

This is Leanne Wood and Helen Mary Jones' amendment to the statement of opinion by Lynne Neagle. Worth adding to your blog discussion I should think.

This Assembly notes the evidence from the Children's NSF SAAT Report 06/07, showing that services for disabled children and their families are consistently the weakest area of service delivery across Wales.This Assembly therefore calls on the Welsh Assembly Government to reaffirm its commitment to fully implementing and funding both the NSF and the recommendations of the Equality of Opportunity committee report on services for young disabled people and to ring fence funding and make it clearly traceable through the Assembly government budget.

Pay and pension can be a lottery

Sir Jon Shortridge's windfall caused a stir in the Welsh press last week. The Assembly Government’s retiring top official Sir Jon Shortridge will walk away with a lump sum of more than £235,000, it has been revealed.

The article goes on to say that the Permanent Secretary, who has announced his retirement in April at the age of 61, has built up the huge pension during a long and distinguished civil service career. Sir Jon’s pension is linked to his annual salary of £180,000 to £185,000 – nearly £60,000 more than his political master First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who was paid £122,682 in 2006 to 2007.

Sir Jon’s pension pot at March 31, 2007, of £75,000 to £80,000 a year and a lump payment of three times his pension – published in the Assembly’s accounts for 2006 to 2007.

There's nothing wrong with this as the organisation and responsibility of the individual in question is vast. In the private sector this is common place, but in the public sector it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths and has been branded “unbelievable” by a former ASW worker.

Former ASW steel-worker John Benson, who has been battling to win pensions justice, said:
We are only asking for justice and fair play at a time when the Prime Minister is talking about British values of fairness. The sums the Permanent Secretary will receive are frankly amazing and unbelievable while we struggle to make ends meet after the collapse of our companies and our pensions.
The report shows that eight other key senior Assembly Government managers currently earn more than £100,000 a year. In itself, this statement is just the tip of the iceberg. Sources tell me that in fact, at least 25 staff earn in the region of £100,000 a year and that doesn't even include any potential bonuses that Senior Civil Servants can earn.

The staff of the Welsh Assembly Government contain over 145 Senior Civil Servants (not counting those employed by the Assembly Commission) and salaries range from £60-80,000 to £180,000 plus bonuses if you are fortunate to meet certain targets.

The majority of the workforce in Wales will never reach this comfort zone in terms of salary, and unfortunately, what we have to regretably accept is that the numbers of civil servants will rise over the coming years, not fall. We might not like the increase and expenditure, but let's just hope and pray that they earn their salary.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Tagged to take part in the 'Crazy Eight'

I have been tagged by Dylan Jones-Evans to take part in the Crazy Eight. As everyone else seems to be doing this I'd better get on with it. Like Dylan, if I started it again tomorrow some answers will probably change.

8 things I’m passionate about:

My partner.
My son.
My friends.
My job and doing the right thing.
My social life (Good food and good wine and good conversation).
Having fun and plenty of it.
Healthy work-life balance.
Attempt to be passionate about most things I do.

8 things I want to do before I die

See my child and future children grow up and have families of their own.
See Wales become a successful and respectable partner within the UK.
Start my own business.
Move to the countryside.
Travel as much as possible.
Give my children the best education and much love and support.
Make sure that I have made the most of opportunities that pass my way.
Have a walk-in wardrobe built for myself.

8 things I say often

Very good.
Please tell me you're joking.
I'll take a stab at it tomorrow.
"X, do you love your mummy?"
What shall we do this weekend?
Are we going out tonight?
Any chance of something to drink?
Chwarae Teg to my English partner.

8 books I’ve read recently or am still reading

501 Must-Visit Destinations.
Numerous Children's books.
Rough Guide to Venice.
Alastair Campbell, The Blair Years
Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper's Daughter.
Past Times Historical Anecdotes
Kerry, Too Much Too Young (was recommended by my sister).
Too many books relating to my work in human resources.

8 songs I could listen to over and over and do:
Baby Can I Hold You, by Tracy Chapman
Motorcycle Emptiness, by Manic Street Preachers
Somewhere Only We Know, by Keane
Wicked Game, by Chris Isaak.
Angels, by Robbie Williams
Sarabande, by Handel (atmospheric)
Little Bird, by Annie Lennox
In My Life, by The Beatles

8 things that attract me to my best friends

Social life
Shared passion/interest

8 people I think should do Crazy 8s
I think that most people have been covered, but here goes.

David Cornock, Normal Mouth, Glyn Davies, Ceredig, Bethan Jenkins, Homage to Catatonia, Paul Flynn MP, Julie Morgan MP (what are the chances of those two?).

Blogroll list

As you can see to your right, I have already created an extensive list of blogs that either I read regularly or have added to create a balance. If you would like to be added to this list please leave a message or send an email.

Miss Wagstaff

Friday, 16 November 2007

Tinkering, Tailoring, but not Soldiering and Spying

After watching Dragon's Eye last night it seems obvious to me that someone needs to get a tight grip on the reins of Plaid Cymru.
As Glyn Davies and Peter Black AM rightly point out in their blogs today - it was awful to watch and just sums up how naive some of their politicians can be with their 'dangerous nonsense'.

With talk of the 'increasing militarisation of Wales', 'pulling out of NATO', and 'St Athan should be stopped until we have a full explanation of who the investors are, what their priorities are, who they're answerable to and who is going to be trained there', Jill Evans MEP seems to be doing damage to the party by pulling it back to its roots of pacifism, which is a narrow minded and idealist outlook to have in this modern world.

John Smith MP (Vale of Glamorgan) responded with:
The very idea that a senior responsible mainstream politician could be questioning [St Athan] at this stage is quite frankly madness... Every senior politician I approached to ask for help, including Plaid Cymru politicians, supported me on this.
Glyn Davies (Conservative PPC Montgomeryshire) posted:

But it does make you wonder what sort of a country Wales would be if Plaid Cymru were to be in charge. I have a message for all those Plaid supporters who must have been holding their heads in despair as Rhun ap Iorwerth was reading out the garbage that their only MEP had written, and watching with disbelief as Arfon made a bad position worse.
The BBC have also covered the story this morning. I know that it's only a proposal report to put to its National Council, but imagine there will be some embarrassed faces this morning as Plaid seem to be pulling in opposite directions - except within the Assembly.

Had a passing thought before I had to get back to work. I'm also beginning to think that Adam Price MP has added 'acting leader of Plaid Cymru' to his Chief Spokesman role since Plaid 'joined' the Labour party in the Assembly. Or have I just been a little slow in coming to this decision?

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Members' Restaurant Launch


Do you find yourself at a loose-end this evening?

Perhaps you are unemployed; cannot be bothered to cook; or simply feeling the pinch at home at the thought of Council Tax rising next year, and this is making you feel unwell.

....Why not attend a respectable function at the National Assembly.

As Assembly Member and Assembly Commissioner Lorraine Barrett AM respectfully reminds us:

Don't forget to come along to the opening of the new restaurant on the first floor tonight at 6.30pm. Click on the XXX below for more details which were sent to you by Charlton House.


Lorraine Barrett AM
Cardiff South & Penarth
National Assembly for Wales
Cardiff CF99 1NA

Thank you to Lorraine for the invitation, but I'll be dining with my partner this evening. We do however share something in common - Like yourself, I'll be getting a freebie as he's paying.

Hat Tip to the Anonymous

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Drowning in Clear Red-Green Water

I am so pleased that an Assembly Member has pointed out that John Griffiths, AM for Newport East was waffling such utter nonsense when he appeared on the Politics Show last Sunday.

As Huw Lewis AM states, "I am at turns intrigued, bewildered and not a little worried by this political pitch."

In my view, Huw Lewis, AM for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney was short changed when sacked from the Welsh Assembly Government before a coalition was formed with Plaid Cymru this year. Huw may be anti-Plaid/Nationalism, but he is an able politician and one of a very few Labour AMs that punch above their weight, or even deserve their seat in the Assembly.

The reason behind Huw's dismissal made him an easy sacrifice for Rhodri Morgan to make, but to leave talentless fools such as John Griffiths in government is inexcusable. Even the irony doesn't escape us, with him being a Deputy Minister with special responsibility for skills. Not to mention the hypocrisy of a government minister appointed by the Queen and swearing an oath to Her Majesty, while also known as a staunch republican, albeit in the closet when it suits.

Perhaps I underestimated Rhodri Morgan's strategy in doing this, and that he's actually thinking long-term and about how Labour will survive post coalition. After all, someone has to make waves when it comes to Plaid's ambition and that is a tall order now that they are in government, which may take more effort than the work of just one man.

And that is because the 'Red-Green' label is just that – a label
Speaking as a woman, when I go shopping, I may be attracted to labels, however, most of them end up in the bin at the end of the day.

Monday, 12 November 2007

AM.PM...and the winner is

This morning, David Cornock reminded us that a political award ceremony is virtually upon us. It's the annual AM.PM awards, and the winners will be announced live on the BBC programme of that name on December 5. A panel of experts, made up of pundits from the programme, will decide the winners.

The categories are:

  • Politician of the Year;

  • Newcomer of the Year;

  • Communicator of the Year;

  • Campaigner of the Year;

  • Most Outspoken.
Votes are required from the public for the new categories this year, which are:
  1. Most overrated AM/MP;

  2. Most invisible Cabinet Minister;

  3. Politician most likely to talk about policy rather than coalition/constitution;

  4. Most sycophantic politician during plenary;

  5. Politician most likely to be dragged from the Senedd and flogged on the entrance steps;

  6. Politician most likely to have done more for policy than any member of the Cabinet; and

  7. Politician most likely to have nearly understood what's going on with the budget.
Answers on a postcard c/o National Assembly for Wales/Palace of Westminster. It's anyone's guess what the prize will be. Miss Wagstaff guesses that it could be an all expenses paid trip to the Senedd and meal for two in the new restaurant. My frock is ready, I just need to find a postage stamp.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Their Name Liveth for Evermore

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Coalition creates new commitment - apparently

The following is taken from an email that I received last week and had to check out a few facts before publishing - don't forget to click on my email tab to send me any interesting titbit of information.

The email concerns this new coalition in Cardiff Bay that we keep hearing about, and the talk of it creating a new commitment.

What does this all mean?

As you can gather, the DFM or the Deputy First Minister as he is known to the majority of us, now has his own Private Office to deal with his affairs as both Minister for Economy and Transport and that of DFM. Apparently, it has been described to the media as an exceptionally busy and important place to work and the team has been drawn from the great and the good (cough!!!) across a variety of private offices of other ministers in Cabinet Secretariat.

Yes, we all expected that, but what else?

Apparently, the new Private Secretary to the DFM has felt the need to point out 'internally' that the office:

works closely with the First Minister's Office and that it is their job to try and avoid potential and perceived conflicts between the two. The different offices are all working to support one government, regardless of who the leader is, and not two different parties. The principles of good faith and fairness underpin all.
Sounds to me that there are known divisions within the staff of the Welsh Assembly Government, in addition to those we have recently witnessed in both political parties.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Alun Cairns AM is in the chair and means business

Alun Cairns AM and Chair of the Assembly's Finance Committee has spoken frankly on his blog about scrutiny of the 'One Wales' budget.

He talks about the failure of scrutiny in past Assembly Committees and the need for all this to change with the current set up. He also mentions his previous 'scraps' with Minister Andrew Davies, and the how the committee will effectively tackle scrutiny of the budget over the coming weeks.

He goes on to say:

The big challenge for me is to see how the priorities in ‘One Wales’ are to be reflected in government’s budget. This is the time to scrutinise the affordability or the extent of commitments. Commitments have also been made on the money saved from the bonfire if the Quangos and I suspect some members will want to look for evidence that the figures are being achieved.

Being serious, I take the role as chairman of the committee seriously and will act independently and in a balanced way; however, we need to couple this with the general lack of scrutiny in the past and anyone (ministers in particular) giving evidence should be able to answer the basic premise of funding priority
following One Wales.

Alun has spoken about his commitment to the function of the committee and his role. As a 'Scottish' terrier known for biting the nether regions of past Labour Government Ministers in the Assembly, we could be in for an interesting month or so.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Andrew Davies' first ‘One Wales’ budget, ‘A bigger bang for the Welsh buck’

They really should sack the Communications Officer that came up with that headline.


The total Departmental Expenditure Limit for 2008-09 is £14 billion. This is split between Main Expenditure Groups (MEGs) as follows:

  • Health and Social Services - £5.7 billion;
  • Social Justice and Local Government - £4.2 billion;
  • Environment, Sustainability and Housing - £734 million;
  • Rural Affairs - £148 million;
  • Economy and Transport - £1.2 billion;
  • Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills - £1.8 billion;
  • Heritage - £155 million;
  • Central Administration - £329 million;
  • Other Ministerial Services - £10 million;
  • Central Match Funding - £30 million; and
  • Public Services and Performance - £59 million.

Full details can now be read here.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Inequality at the Assembly

The BBC reported yesterday on research commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2005, in relation to equal opportunities.

Summed up:

  • 37 people from an ethnic minority background applied for jobs at the assembly government in the last financial year out of more than 1,200 applicants.
  • Just one ethnic minority employee was recruited by the Welsh Assembly Government in the whole of the last financial year.
  • There were also only two promotions of workers from ethnic minority backgrounds.
  • Many groups including ethnic minority groups had the perception that the organisation did not provide career opportunities for them.
  • The pay gap between men and women working for the Welsh Assembly Government has gone from 3.8% to nearly 11%.
As an organisation, the Welsh Assembly Government should be setting the standard within Wales and have fallen short on all counts. Opposition parties have called this deeply worrying and disappointing.

In a desperate attempt to spare the blushes of Jane Hutt, an assembly government spokesperson said that applicants from ethnic minority groups had risen from 2.1% in 2005-06 to 3.7% in 2006-07. This reflected work that had been done to raise awareness of the assembly government as an employer among ethnic minority groups, the spokesperson added.

The increasing pay gap between men and women within the government was due, said a spokesman, to a relatively large number of male civil servants transferring from old quangos like the Welsh Development Agency.

Having made a couple of telephone calls this morning, I can reveal that everything is back in order.

Not only has a woman (and a black woman at that) been working for Rhodri Morgan (Office of the First Minister) for some time, but also the next Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Assembly Government will be Welsh-born, as opposed to someone drafted in from outside Wales as usual.

The message from this is 'Onward and Upward', but with tongue firmly planted in cheek from this young lady.


Welcome to the blog of Miss Wagstaff Presents.

If you would like to contact Pippa Wagstaff and friends, you can either hang around the restaurants and bars of Cardiff Bay with the aim of bumping into someone who partly covers her face with her fingers, or you could just email welshwagstaff AT gmail DOT com.

I hope you enjoy your visit.

Pippa Wagstaff

Trumpet Blowing

Just for fun:

"There’s a new Welsh blog that gets the bit between its teeth in Welsh politics called Miss Wagstaff , and goes for the detail. In a Welsh Assembly Government that may turn out to always be a set of rotating coalitions, it may be that bloggers can be a force to keep politicians’ behaviour at least vaguely transparent... The style is a little bit like Westmonster, but (to my ear) without the partisan edge, with more detail, and a little less snarky", The Wardman Wire, November 2007.

"As I suspected: Miss Wagstaff is in fact Mai Tits. I mean Davies." Ordovicius, November 2007.
"Miss Wagstaff offers the alternative version...", Peter Black AM, November 2007.
"Were I to spend too long in the Assembly's dining facilities, would my GP be able to prescribe me a free gym membership?" Daniel Davies (Tiger Tales), November 2007.
"They still like to have a go, though the the most recent attempt is more of a place for them to hang out together than anything else", Ordovicius, November 2007.
"What do you mean you had the same thought? You are Seneddwr....and Arsembly for that matter. You're so obvious!, Anonymous, November 2007. "Doesn't everyone get accused of being Arsembly and Seneddwr from time to time? I'll consider it a compliment, even if I am the wrong sex." Miss Wagstaff, November 2007. Notice I've corrected the spelling (lol)

"An excellent blog looking at the politics of Wales." The Poliblogs, November 2007.

"Kudos to the fantastic Miss Wagstaff for the lowdown..." Homage to Catatonia, November 2007.

"The impressive Miss Wagstaff has triggered some interesting blogospheric rumblings." Normal Mouth, November 2007.
"THREE Blogs that should be nominated for in the Best Blog by a Woman Non-Lib Dem category, and state why:I am afraid that I am going to introduce a distinctly Welsh flavour here by nominating the excellent Miss Wagstaff, dedicated to holding the One Wales Government to account..." Peter Black AM, December 2007.
"From A ...dam Price MP to V.. alleys Mam and W... agstaff (Miss) (not leaving anyone out on the way of course) Nadolig Llawen iawn i chi gyd." Betsan Powys (BBC), December 2007.
"By the way, do we actually know if Miss Wagstaff is a woman? ..." Bethan Jenkins AM, December 2007.
"Pippa Wagstaff of the excellent blog Miss Wagstaff Presents... has addressed in a very roundabout way (without clearly answering; there's a politician in her yet!) the issue of who is behind the Pippa Wagstaff blog. It appears there may be some speculation that the pen-name Pippa Wagstaff may be former AM Christine Gwyther...." Damon Lord, January 2008
"Pippa is a very good blogger, and writes intelligently and in depth on a number of issues regarding Wales, and is one of my regular reads." Damon Lord, January 2008
"Senedd Whip is to be a guest blogger on Miss Wagstaff - who is your beau Pippa?" Valleys Mam, January 2008
"Rated E for Excellent" Valleys Mam and Normal Mouth, February 2008
"Did you know that your blog has been banned in the Welsh Assembly Government? When staff there try to access your site the Internet security software automatically denies access! What are they afraid of?" April 2008
"Hi, Fake accounts are a violation of our Terms of Use. Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Impersonating anyone or anything is prohibited. Unfortunately, we will not be able to reactivate this account for any reason. This decision is final. Thanks for your understanding, Bella User Operations Facebook", July 2008
"It seems this blog has been around for a while but I have been slow off the mark", Martin Eaglestone August 2008
"Her blog has also been blocked on Welsh Assembly Government computers. I wonder if they can still read mine. This level of paranoia does no credit to the One Wales Government. Are they really that worried about adverse comment that they might seek to suppress it soviet-style? It says a great deal about Labour and Plaid Cymru's style of doing things." Peter Black AM August 2008
"Best Cardiff Bay Gossip blog, Witanagemot Awards", August 2008
"No. 6 - Miss Wagstaff Presents, Total Politics Top 20 Non Aligned Blogs list, Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9.", August 2008
"No. 4 - Miss Wagstaff Presents, Total Politics Top 40 Welsh Blogs list, Guide to Political Blogging in the UK 2008-9.", August 2008
"Best Newcomer; and Most Improved Blog", Welsh Blog Index Awards 2008, August 2008.
"The winner of the prestigious Sauregurkenzeit Award [Cambria Politico] for political blogging in Wales is: Miss Wagstaff Presents. Congratulations to Pippa Wagstaff on consistently good blog content, on a successfully accomplished redesign and upgrade and, of course, winning the most votes in the online poll.", October 2008
"The Welsh Politico Blog Award 2008 nominations. Adrian Masters (Presenter of Dragon's Eye, and former presenter of the BBC's Politics Show Wales): MISS WAGSTAFF PRESENTS: How to make enemies and alienate people - Insider gossip with substance. As always. Alan Davies (Managing Director of Junction 31 and Director at Cymro Consulting): MISS WAGSTAFF PRESENTS: Wiped from the Face(book) of the earth - Miss Wagstaff Presents is a must read- first for all the juicy inside gossip from Cardiff Bay. First to get political scoops. She/he/it has a finger on the Welsh political pulse like no other journalist. This story is testament to her growing influence, and the fear she strikes in to our Welsh political classes (particularly Labour ones!)", October 2008
"Certainly, we have heard nothing for weeks from "Pippa Wagstaff" which was allegedly run by Conservative staffers", April 2009

Posts in the Archive

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