Friday, 18 January 2008

Lord Elis-Thomas goes to London

Is he a Presiding Officer [a role of equality and impartiality] or a party politician that feels he is the real voice of Plaid Cymru?

The Cardiff Bay crowd have always been left confused and bewildered by this dual role, and his thirst for getting involved in anything that not only raises his own profile, but also puts him in the position of official spokesman for Wales - it is seen as legendary in the corridors of Elis-Thomas House.

Elis-Thomas is in the House of Lords this week - we all know that the National Assembly is NOT in recess - but we note that they are left in the capable hands of Rosemary Butler.

In the House of Lords this week, Elis-Thomas, is not only fighting on behalf of Welsh Ministers - did he do that before the coalition in Cardiff Bay? But can also be seen to play party politics.

House of Lords Debates: Local Transport Bill, Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Lord Elis-Thomas (Crossbench) Hansard source

My Lords, in rising to speak against the amendments in this group, I declare an interest as the Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd in the National Assembly. I am disappointed in the noble Lord because I tried to offer him a piece of gentle advice in Grand Committee—that he should reflect on this matter and consult with his Conservative colleagues in the National Assembly. Therefore, I have to spell out in more precise terms what I was trying to allude to in a gentler manner during our earlier discussions.

There is exhibited this evening a massive contradiction on the Conservative Front Bench. On the previous amendment, we heard his noble friend argue that charging by local authorities in, I presume, England should be for transport purposes and that this was the attraction of such charges. He mentioned a series of broad transport spending decisions that could make charging acceptable. As an example, he quoted the very successful congestion charge scheme in London. Yet, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is denying to Welsh Ministers what his noble friend is willing to grant to English local authorities. Surely, the Conservative Party needs to develop some consistency on these matters.

The noble Lord is seeking to limit spending on transport to trunk roads and, in Amendment No. 119D, to stop the onward march of devolution. I would ask him to reflect: is this now Conservative policy? I have followed the development of his arguments from his speech on Second Reading on 20 November, where I detected a difference of emphasis between the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, who took a balanced view of devolution, its progress and the implementation of the 2006 Act, and this crusade against framework powers. As a practitioner and student of devolution for some 35 years, it fascinates me to know where this is coming from. Is it now Conservative Party policy in Westminster, Cardiff and anywhere else that no powers are to be granted to the National Assembly for Wales by the framework powers route? If that is the case, it is absolutely contrary to what was set out in June 2005 in the original White Paper of the then Labour Government, Better governance for Wales, which said that the Government intend to draft, "parliamentary bills in a way that gives the Assembly wider and more permissive powers to determine the detail of how the provision should be implemented in Wales". That was stated in the White Paper and it has been the settled, understood view of Welsh Conservatives, and of any other Conservatives who take an interest in devolution—that it is appropriate for both these routes to be pursued.

In Grand Committee the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, deployed three arguments to demonstrate why this should not be the case. First, he said: "Broadly speaking, we disapprove of this process for three reasons: first, a provision on Wales in a broader Bill may not be adequately scrutinised".

Well, what have we been doing? His speech on Second Reading, the discussion in Grand Committee and our debate this evening are fine examples of scrutiny by Parliament and of framework powers. I am sure that the House of Commons can match that when this Bill appears in the other place. He goes on to say that these framework powers involve, "the transfer of powers that the Assembly has not requested".

I will not tell the noble Lord that he is misleading the House as that would be out of order, but it is the next best thing to it. These powers have been requested by Welsh Ministers—in fact, by my honourable friend in another place, Ieuan Wyn Jones, the distinguished Deputy First Minister and Minister for Economy and Transport. It has been requested by him, because he is the Deputy First Minister of a Cabinet that has the support of two-thirds of the Assembly. By any democratic calculation that I make, that has been requested by Welsh Ministers with the support of the Assembly.

Perhaps Elis-Thomas is just seeing this as his party and public duty and showing the way for others in the party to follow. A training video on behalf of the Plaid Cymru party - I'm the first, the last, the everything - this is how it should be done!


Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 12:24  

You should see his office.

Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 12:36  

"the distinguished Deputy First Minister and Minister for Economy and Transport"

I hope that's just the politeness of chamber talk.

Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 12:43  

Your pal Senedd Whip has commented on Betsan Powys' post on the pompous man who asks, "Why do we write "Assembly boss harassed colleague" when the boss in question worked for the Assembly Government?"

Dafydd El has a point, but remember it was Assembly security guards that 'harrassed' local residents and hotel guests with their cctv cameras last year.

Either way, they both get bad press.

Miss Wagstaff 18 January 2008 at 12:47  

Welcome, Pier Pressure!

Anon 12:43 The easy option would be to drop the Assembly from Welsh Assembly Government as most people would agree. That's just too simple an option. I suspect permission from the UK Government would be needed.

Joe 18 January 2008 at 12:50  

What else would you expect from the Assembly's speaker, ambassador and signer of legislation ;>D

PC 18 January 2008 at 13:02  

Even those in Plaid Cymru feel that he has yet to step out of the shadow of the more honourable and party focussed Dafydd Wigley.

Tail end 18 January 2008 at 13:14  

He gave Rhuan Ap Iorwerth a bit of a going over on Dragon’s Eye last night - ouch!

hafod 18 January 2008 at 14:03  

DET's a pompous twat at the best of times, but even you must be able to see that him swanning off to London is no different to Rhodri doing his "taith iaith" to try to win back Labour votes.
I hope no Assembly Govt expenses were incurred on that particular trip.

Dotcommentator 18 January 2008 at 14:34  

I heard yesterday that Rhodri Morgan was spotted at the Riverside market in Cardiff recently. He was allegedly overheard speaking to a dog owner whose dog had stuck its head in his grocery bag: “I don’t think it’s right that you let your dog go round licking people’s bread.” That's my valued contribution for today.

Pier Pressure 18 January 2008 at 14:36  


I agree with your comment, however, I was concentrating on his role of Presiding Officer with a particular emphasis on that of showing equality and impartiality. You wouldn't expect it of any other Assembly/Parliament and we seem to be finding our feet and making it up as we go along in the Senedd.

Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 14:40  

Dotcommentator. Haven't they got a market in Michaelston-le-Pit? You've got to love the way Rhodri makes the people feel he's one of them.

Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 16:07  

I don't understand what you're trying to say, that DET shouldn't say anything in the House of Lords and just go there for the sherry and a nap?

Or are you saying he's made a bad speech (it looked well balanced and to the point to me).

DET is sometimes popous but I'd prefer that any day to the 'I'm one of the boyos' as played by Rhodri Morgan the son of a univsity professor.

Pier Pressure 18 January 2008 at 16:22  

Anonymous 16:07 You miss my point.

How can he put on his Presiding Officer hat one minute and take it off the next? He must accept his role and responsibility as Presiding Officer of the National Assembly and also accept its constraints.

I'm not arguing against anything he's saying, but I do object to someone who accepts a role that is meant to be impartial and non political, and then doesn't remain so. He is not in the Lords to defend the Welsh Ministers, their wants, needs and waht is best for them - they can do that themselves.

Perhaps he will step back from this once other Plaid peers are created, and before it undermines the position of Presiding Officer.

Anonymous 18 January 2008 at 17:45  

There's some sensitive souls commenting on here

Anonymous 20 January 2008 at 08:36  

It just shows the nonsense that out system has become. What happened to one man one job.
I wonder how much he claimed in expenses that week,surely if he did its double funding. I am amamzed at how much non paid Lords actually get

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