They'll be singing in the Valleys...

Yesterday the Welsh Assembly brought in the first tranche of reforms to Assembly Members' expenses and allowances. Having given evidence to Sir Roger Jones' Getting it Right for Wales review, I was very pleased to see the first 28 of 108 measures introduced, with no kicking and screaming.


From now on, AMs will have to provide receipts for all expenses claimed, the employment of family members is being phased out, and no more claims for mortgage interest can be made. Further, if you live within normal commuting distance of Cardiff, there will be no second home allowance at all.


Interestingly, these are the main areas of contention we have seen in Westminster. It is worth repeating that Sir Roger started his inquiry long before the expenses row kicked off in Westminster, and he remained thoroughly independent and unbending in his recommendations. From what we've seen of the Kelly Inquiry's recommendations, and his assertion today that MPs must accept his proposals wholesale, he is on the same track.


The main variation between the two parliaments, it seems, will be how the elected representatives take the news. It can't be easy for some of the AMs who have had to sack their family members, sell property and re-jig their financial affairs, but we have not heard a peep out of them, because they have (rightly) guessed that their would be zero sympathy for any bleating.


Over here, however, the picture is somewhat different. MPs have been vocal about Kelly's advice to date, and there have been many spouses doing the rounds on TV networks arguing their case (I know because I've been on them arguing for the practice of employing MPs family members to come to an end). Disgraced Tory MP David Wilshire disgraced himself even further by saying that MPs were being treated like Jews in 1940s Germany (he has since apologised, but the damage has been done). Other MPs have accused Sir Christopher of 'not living in the real world' - a somewhat ironic statement, you might think. And if that is what's going on in public, you can imagine the pleading, cursing and downright outrage that is being voiced behind the scenes. The Whips are in an unenviable position.


Against this background then, Cardiff has a lot to be proud of. Not only for not tarnishing itself with large scale expense scandals in the first place, but for conducting an efficent, inclusive inquiry that has been adopted willingly by taxpayers' representatives. Making me feel this morning, more than ever, like repeating the words of a Catatonia song: "Every day, when I wake up, I thank the Lord I'm Welsh."  

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