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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 July 2005, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
AM expenses row grows after leak
Montage of Leanne Wood and her memo
Plaid Cymru say Leanne Wood's advice in her memo was rejected
A row over the roles of different types of Welsh Assembly Members has grown after allegations of expenses abuse.

A leaked memo written two years ago by Plaid Cymru AM Leanne Wood suggested list AMs could cut back on constituency work to concentrate on party matters.

Presiding Officer Dafydd Elis-Thomas criticised the memo, but he had already asked for an expenses inquiry and denied bowing to Labour pressure.

Ms Wood said she welcomed an inquiry, as long as it included MPs and MEPs.

The dispute began after Ms Wood's paper, "What should be the role of a regional AM?" dated August 2003, emerged. Plaid said it was a discussion document which was never taken up.

On receipt of every invitation ask: 'How can my attendance at this event further the aims of Plaid Cymru'?
Extract from Leanne Wood's paper

The Labour-run assembly has 60 members - 40 of them in directly-elected seats, and the other 20 representing regions of Wales, elected by proportional representation from party lists. Currently, all list AMs represent opposition parties.

Labour has long been critical of list members and is planning to introduce new rules to prevent people from standing in both constituencies and the regions.

Ms Wood, who was first elected on the list in 2003, suggested in her memo that regional AMs' offices could be sited in Plaid target seats.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain
Mr Hain says candidates must not stand in constituencies and lists

She wrote that very few of the 2,500 people helped by former Rhondda Plaid AM Geraint Davies had indicated they would vote for him, and she questioned if regional AMs should "actively promote" such casework.

'Outstanding record'

Ms Wood said deciding against casework could free up staff, adding: "We need to be thinking much more creatively as to how we better use staff budgets for furthering the aims of the party."

She wrote that Plaid list AMs should follow "one simple golden rule," which was, "On receipt of every invitation ask: 'How can my attendance at this event further the aims of Plaid Cymru'?

"If the answer is very little or not at all, then a pro forma letter of decline should be in order."

Labour MPs called for an inquiry and Welsh Secretary Peter Hain told the Commons Plaid had been "caught red-handed abusing the system".

Lord Elis-Thomas told BBC Radio Cymru on Thursday that he would meet officials to discuss whether the content of the memo should be investigated by the Audit Commission for Wales.

The presiding officer was also critical of the content of Ms Wood's memo, adding that AMs are elected to serve their constituents and not their party's interests.

Lord Elis-Thomas rejected claims he was put under pressure to act on expenses by Mr Hain. But his deputy, independent AM John Marek - a former Labour AM - accused Labour of playing politics and said the row could only harm the assembly.

Plaid said any evidence of wrongdoing by an AM should be reported, and it would co-operate, adding: "Plaid Cymru elected members at all levels of government have an outstanding record of representing the people of Wales."

Ms Wood said: "I have absolutely nothing to hide, so I welcome any inquiry into the expenses system.

"However, such an inquiry shouldn't be confined to regional assembly members. All AMs, MPs and MEPs' expense accounts should be examined."


SEE ALSO:
Hain wants AM expenses cut
27 Jan 04 |  Wales


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