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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 12:07 GMT
Wales@Westminster newslog

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

Wednesday 8 February

Breaking the habit

posted by David | 1200 GMT |

Plaid Cymru are keen to point out that the "london government" is responsible for many of the ills facing the Welsh.

Now the nationalists seem set on revenge. Next week the Commons will vote on whether smoking should be banned in English pubs or clubs.

The Scottish Nationalists, who form a Westminster alliance with their Welsh cousins, tend to abstain on laws that affect only England, as does the lone Scottish Tory MP.

But Plaid Cymru argue that intervening in English pubs and clubs is justified to create a "level playing field" with pubs and clubs in Wales.

This decision may yet open a can of worms. Does university education or the NHS require a similar playing field? "Welsh solutions for English problems" may prove a unlikely political slogan.

The votes on smoking may yet be close. It would be a neat political reversal were smokers in England forced to stub out their cigarettes on the decisive votes of Welsh nationalists.

Home sweet home

posted by David | 0855 GMT |

Like many Welsh ex-pats across the globe, I logged on eagerly yesterday to watch the opening exchanges in the Welsh assembly's new building.

Richard Rogers' iconic design may have cost five times as much as envisaged at the time of the 1997 referendum (a problem not unique in the construction of political buildings), but it is a striking addition to the Cardiff Bay waterfront.

The assembly's presiding officer, Lord Elis-Thomas, describes it as a building with no hiding place. The public areas are designed to represent modern, open government.

AMs have moved to the senedd from the basement of Crickhowell House, once described by First Minister Rhodri Morgan as "the very embodiment of Tory sleaze and that corruption-ridden past".

The television shots of the debating chamber possibly do not do the new building justice, although it looks far less like the polytechnic language laboratory its predecessor was once compared to.

Viewed from the front, the computers on AMs' desks look so large they could be cash registers.

Viewed from the rear, it is possible to watch members e-mailing each other, working on their research (or surfing the net).

Members sit at desks, rather than on benches, so there is no chance for Westminster-style "doughnutting" where politicians crowd into shot to be seen nodding vigorously in agreement with colleagues.

One background is a strong blue and yellow stripe, giving viewers the impression of a wallpaper catalogue, although at least that distracted from one AM's unfeasibly large lapel flower; a decoration so huge it would be the envy of many a circus clown in search of the perfect water-squirting joke bloom.

The road to the new Senedd has been a bumpy one, but AMs are happy in their new home. The history of public buildings is littered with financial and teething problems but unlike Westminster's hugely expensive Portcullis House the indoor plants aren't dying and it doesn't leak. At least not yet.

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