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Accepted with ease

Betsan Powys | 12:02 UK time, Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Guests on AM/PM are always welcome but a much coveted programme mug goes to Conservative Assembly Commissioner William Graham for letting slip a few moments ago, live on air, that the Commission last night "agreed with ease" to accept in full the dramatic changes proposed on Monday to the pay and expenses system.

Labour's Commissioner, Lorraine Barrett, said that were "bits and pieces" in the report that not all AMs would like but "you can't unpick it". The recommendations are tightly woven, of course, for exactly that purpose.

There it is then. Our house, here in Wales, is in order. The changes will be accepted as a job lot. No tinkering. No unpicking. What you saw on Monday is what they will get.

I haven't spoken to a single Assembly Member who thought their hands were anything but tied - tied by an entirely justified public anger at greed and the sorts of claims made with abandon ... elsewhere. Right principles, they say but wrong targets.

The Commission includes representatives of the four parties and they'll be acutely aware that there are colleagues who feel utter fury at the lengths to which Roger Jones and his panel has gone to scrap and tighten allowances.

Even the most furious accept that AMs are not inately less greedy, or more public spiritied than those MPs who hit the headlines for getting away with excessive expense claims. Their argument says that the system - hand in hand with the culture here perhaps - has simply never allowed them to line their pockets, not freely at least. It might have felt like "a sweetshop" to some as panel chair Roger Jones put it but others stuck to a sensible diet. In future it'll be the F plan all the way.

The Commissioners will have been just as aware that some are happy to accept the new system is just and fair but are concerned that if "the best people" - whoever they may be - are to be attracted to the job of an AM in future, then £53,108 won't cut it. Will lawyers, school heads, medics, any number of officers in local government, men and women with experience in the private sector be beating a path to the returning officer's door for just over fifty grand? it is a rhetorical question but you know what they think the answer is. No way.

But you won't hear any of this, not for now. AMs don't expect arguments like those to hold any traction for a long time to come. They know too that if the principles are indeed spot on then you'll expect AMs to abide them - targets or not.


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