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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 17:44 GMT
Morgan refuses to give Iraq views
Rhodri Morgan on Question Time
Rhodri Morgan told host David Dimbleby he left the issue to MPs

First Minister Rhodri Morgan repeatedly fended off questions about his views on the Iraq war during a debate on BBC Question Time, held in Aberystwyth.

He was asked for his opinion by a member of the audience, but said he did not have a view because he was not a member of parliament when MPs voted.

Asked again by presenter David Dimbleby, Mr Morgan replied: "Opinions are cheap, votes are not."

On Friday Mr Morgan told BBC Wales he had no regrets about his performance.

'Not in Commons'

Pushed on whether he supported the war in Iraq, Mr Morgan told Question TIme: "Look, Parliament was given a vote on it and I had just left the House of Commons.

Rhodri Morgan in Iraq
Mr Morgan visited troops in Iraq in March 2005

"I had left the House of Commons - if I had stayed in the House of Commons I would have had a vote."

Asked again how he would have voted if he had still been an MP, he said: "I don't know because I have not looked at the issues because I'm not in the House of Commons - I left it to the MPs in the House of Commons.

"There are 660 of them (MPs) doing that job.

"If I had been in the House of Commons, not only would they (people) have heard my views, they would have actually seen which way my hand went up.

"That's the key thing - that's their job, it's not my job."

'Mealy-mouthed'

Fellow panellist Leanne Wood, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for social justice in the assembly, said: "You must have a view."

A member of the audience described the first minister as being "mealy-mouthed" and "woolly".

On Friday, speaking to BBC Wales in Ruthin Mr Morgan accepted that he had been given "a rough ride by the good people of Aberystwyth".

Bu he said he stood by everything he said and on reflection would not have done anything differently.

BBC Wales Welsh affairs editor Vaughan Roderick said: "If you listen to Mr Morgan it's all about the devolution settlement.

"In the same way that Tony Blair would never dare to criticise a policy of the assembly government, then he says the assembly's first minister shouldn't criticise a policy decided by Parliament.

"In other words, it's not his place to second guess Westminster on foreign affairs.

"But the opposition simply don't buy it. They say the question he is being asked isn't which way he would have voted in a very specific Commons vote at the time of the war: it's a broad question of does he think the war was a good thing or not.

"They are livid because they say he is sitting on the fence: that he doesn't want either to endorse an unpopular war on one hand or alternatively publicly disagree with Tony Blair.

"The opposition will try and use it consistently between now and the assembly elections.

"In a sense it's an argument about what the first minister of the assembly government should be.

"Is he simply that: the chief minister of the government or is he Wales' national leader who should speak for Wales on important matters like Iraq, where, after all, many Welsh soldiers served?"

Mr Morgan made a visit to Welsh troops in south-east Iraq in March 2005.

He has been first minister of the assembly since Alun Michael's resignation in February 2000.

He stood down as MP for Cardiff West at the 2001 general election but remains AM for the area.

Mr Morgan, aged 66, has previously announced that he will stand down in 2009, after the next assembly election in 2007.




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SEE ALSO:
Iraq pact 'was made before war'
03 Feb 06 |  UK Politics


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