Hello all. This is a letter I emailed to Kirsty Williams yesterday. Since there was no response to my blog post earlier in the week, I thought I better pursue the matter as I think the people of Montgomeryshire have a right to know. Will let you know if I hear back!
Dear Ms Williams,
I am writing to seek clarification about an issue which I think is crucially important, and goes to the very heart of politics. I read with interest earlier this week your press release related to the decision by Plaid Cymru and Labour Assembly Members not to cross the PCS picket line, in which you stated:
“It is easy for Labour and Plaid Cymru AM’s to cancel Assembly business but people will rightly expect that as a matter of principle, if they refuse to cross the picket line to work, they should forgo part of their salary in proportion to the amount of time they spent not working, just like everyone else who was on strike.
“Being on strike means not working and if you’re not working, you shouldn’t be paid – it’s as simple as that. Those Labour and Plaid Cymru AMs who essentially had ‘days off’ should not be paid for the time they were not doing what they are being paid to do."
I would argue that your demand is unreasonable, given that Plaid Cymru and Labour AM’s did continue to work within their constituencies during this day, and thus fulfilled their duties as AM’s to represent and work for their constituents.
However, I do agree with the principle that if an AM or MP don’t fulfil their duties and are in actual fact not working when they should be (and aren’t ill) that they should forgo part of their salary. Which is exactly why I’m asking for your clarification regarding the issue below.
It has been widely reported that the MP for Montgomeryshire, Lembit Opik (my opponent in the upcoming election) went on a paid for cruise whilst parliament was sitting. Since he was obviously not representing his constituents as he should have been, and was in actual fact not working, did Mr Opik forgo his salary for that time? Similarly, are you confident that if he has missed crucial parliamentary or constituency business whilst doing any of the below (taken from http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/lembit_opik/montgomeryshire#register) that he has repaid a portion of his salary:
Parliamentary adviser to the Caravan Club of Great Britain. (£5,001-£10,000)
16 January 2010, payment of £6000. Hours: 100 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
Training for the National School of Government. (Up to £5,000)
Broadcasting fees from the BBC. (Up to £5,000)
Fees from ITV for television appearances. (£5,001-£10,000)
Fees for training work for Luther Pendragon.
Journalism for the Daily Sport. (Up to £5,000)
July 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
August 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
September 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
October 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
November 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
December 2009, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
January 2010, received payment of £1600. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
Payments for articles for Mail on Sunday newspaper, Associated Newspapers Ltd, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT:
£1000, 13 August 2009. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
£1000, 2 September 2009. Hours: 6 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
£20,000 received 9 March 2009. Hours: 40 hrs. (Registered 4 March 2010)
Television appearances arranged via Personal Appearances, 20 North Mount, 1147-1161 High Road, Whetstone, London N20 OPH:
£1000, 'Cash in the Attic', 9 June 2009. Hours: 8 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
£984, 'The King is Dead', 31 July 2009. Hours: 3 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
£400, 'Big Brothers Little Brother', 11 August 2009. Hours: 1 hr. (Registered 2 February 2010)
£191.25, 'The End of the Year Show', 30 October 2009. Hours: 2 hrs. (Registered 9 February 2010)
Payment of £150 for political seminar for GovNet Communications, 3rd Floor, St James Buildings, 79 Oxford Street, Manchester M1 6PP, 23 July 2009. Hours: 1 hr. (Registered 2 February 2010)
Payment of £2000 (plus £390 food and accommodation) for after dinner speech and informal seminar for Avery Healthcare Ltd, 1b Basset Court, Loake Close, Grange Park, Northampton NN4 5EZ, 24 November 2009. Hours: 4 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
Speaking engagement for (Cunard) Carnival plc, 5 Gainsford Street, London SE1 2NE, 29 November-4 December 2009. Hospitality, accommodation and travel to the value of £5752. Hours: 10 hrs. (Registered 2 February 2010)
If the answer is yes, and that Mr Opik has repaid a portion of his salary, then I can only commend you as a party for acting honourably and please forgive my questions. However, if he has not I would ask you as the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats to demand and ensure that he does so, in line with your comments earlier this week. Far too many people have become disillusioned with politics, and think all politicians are crooks. We all have a duty to restore the public’s faith in their representatives by practicing what we preach.