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Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 19:17 GMT
AM's Santa costume sparks row
AM Mick Bates dressed as Santa Claus
'Santa' makes his way into the Assembly chamber
A row has broken out in Cardiff Bay after a Welsh Assembly member appeared at a plenary session on Wednesday dressed as Father Christmas.

Conservative AM Alun Cairns raised a point of order in the Welsh Assembly chamber after Liberal Democrat AM Mick Bates appeared in the Santa suit to raise cash for charity.

Alun Cairns AM;
Alun Cairns AM; 'Mockery'

Mr Cairns, the AM for South Wales West, accused Mr Bates of "making a mockery of the assembly by clowning around in a Santa suit".

Assembly Presiding Officer Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas also stepped into the argument, saying there was an accepted dress code for the assembly chamber, which was that AMs should appear there "in normal dress".

The presiding officer said he would not call members to address the chamber if they were "abnormally dressed".

The reasons for this were very simple, he said.

Members of some political parties might wish to appear in hunting pink to make a certain point - or in sporting gear, which might be seen as free advertising.

Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis Thomas:
Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis Thomas: 'Dress code'

Since it was set up under devolution three years ago, the assembly has introduced new informal codes of conduct with AMs addressing each other by their first names.

But that informality does not stretch to members appearing in fancy dress.

Lord Elis Thomas said ceremonial dress was used in some other political chambers, but this was not a chamber in which people dress up.

Mr Bates, the Welsh Liberal Democrat education spokesperson and AM for Montgomeryshire, defended his seasonal costume, saying it was in a good cause.

He compared it to T-shirts with slogans previously worn by other AMs.

He is raising money for a community transport project by taking part in a fun-run in mid Wales for which participants dress as Father Christmas.

'Scrooge'

Alun Cairns, the Tory economic development spokesman, said: "Mick Bates and his colleagues campaigned for a Welsh parliament, yet he is making a mockery of the assembly by clowning around in a Santa suit."

"On a day when we are to debate 230 job losses in north Wales and the impact of HIV/Aids, Mr Bates has decided to make a mockery of proceedings with his poor choice of outfit."

He acknowledged he was laying himself open to accusations of being a Scrooge in raising the matter.

However, he said he was concerned the event might set a precedent for a range of good causes.

Blaenau Gwent AM Peter Law said that despite the fundraising, the events in the chamber did not add to the dignity and decorum of the place.

See also:

16 Dec 00 | Americas
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