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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 January 2007, 13:32 GMT
Wales@Westminster newslog

The Wales@Westminster weblog, BBC Wales' Parliamentary correspondent David Cornock's diary on political life

Wednesday, 31 January

Family values

posted by David | 1340 GMT |

For once some news from the Welsh Liberal Democrats that doesn't involve Lembit Opik.

The party has appointed "deputy spokespeople" in the run-up to the Welsh assembly elections in May to ease the burden on assembly group leader Mike German's top team.

Among those promoted is Veronica Watkins, the new deputy spokesperson on science and the environment. She is well qualified for the (unpaid) post, having once played a key role in the introduction of bubbles into the now defunct Wispa chocolate bar. She also happens to be married to Mike German.

(Those looking for signs of an Eleanor Burnham leadership bid, and we speak of little else at Westminster these days, will note that she remains a spokesperson on the Welsh language, culture and sport.)

The political world is full of happy coincidences. I was browsing the register of assembly members' interests the other day, as you do, and found time to count the number of AMs who employ or have employed members of their family.

Having used the fingers of both hands and all the toes on my right foot, I counted a total of 15 past and present family employees - one quarter of all AMs. The jobs range from full-time administrative work to part-time research.

Isn't it an extraordinary coincidence that the people best qualified for these taxpayer-funded roles just happened to be family members?

Many MPs also employ relatives, although as the rules for the MPs' register are less strict it is difficult to find out how many.

The Government of Wales Act 2006, another item of essential bedside reading, dictates: "The Welsh ministers must make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their functions are exercised with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people."

Perhaps this should be extended to the employment policy of all AMs? One for the assembly's equality committee perhaps?

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