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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 15:29 GMT

UK Politics

Morgan proposes an open assembly

Rhodri Morgan: Contesting the leadership

One of the contenders running to become Labour's leader in the National Assembly for Wales has pledged to introduce a freedom of information code.

Cardiff West MP Rhodri Morgan said he would introduce a "tough and far-reaching" non-statutory code for civil servants.

The leftwing backbencher MP is running against Welsh Secretary Alun Michael after the position to potentially become Wales' first secretary became vacant following the bizarre resignation of Ron Davies.

[ image: Ron Davies: Resigned in October]
Ron Davies: Resigned in October
Former Welsh secretary Ron Davies resigned from the cabinet in October after a "moment of madness" on Clapham Common. He resigned as Labour's candidate to become leader in the assembly a few days later.

His successor will be chosen by an electoral college made up of the Welsh Labour party the party's MPs, assembly candidates and euro MPs as well and trade unions. With the vote held on February 19.

Mr Morgan said: "Breaking down the culture of secrecy and bringing openness, inclusiveness and accountability to public life in Wales will be the hallmark of my leadership of the assembly."

Mr Morgan said a code covering the assembly could be in place from next May.

The government's long awaited Freedom of Information Bill was not included in this year's Queen's speech, raising fears it could not become law for at least another two years.

He said: "The establishment of the national assembly presents us with an ideal opportunity to promote an open and transparent system of government from day one.

'Opportunity not to be missed'

"This is an opportunity which should not be missed by awaiting a Freedom of Information Act of Parliament."

The code for Wales would build on the existing Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

It would bring into force the government's white paper proposals on freedom of information ahead of the passage of legislation through Westminster.

The effect would be to make it much harder for civil servants to deny access to official information and records requested by the public.

Mr Morgan said: "The introduction of the national assembly gives an early opportunity to deliver on the Labour Party's long-standing commitment to bring the workings of government out of the darkness and into the light".

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