Welsh Secretary and newspaper’s political editor clash over ‘Westminster parasites’ comment
The Welsh Secretary of State and the Western Mail’s political editor-at-large have clashed online after the latter said that there were “parasites” at Westminster.
The Western Mail’s Martin Shipton was responding to the claim that expanding the Welsh parliament from 60 members to up to 100 would be a drain on the taxpayer.
In response, he pointed out that “the cost entailed in expanding the Senedd is minute in terms of the overall budget,” before adding: “The real parasites are in Westminster.”
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart took issue with his comments, and called for a change of “tone”.
“Improving the tone of political debate is as much the responsibility of commentators as it is politicians,” he said.
“I haven’t always got it right but Shipton Martin is an old hand and knows the impact on politics as a whole when we get this wrong.”
Martin Shipton responded on social media: “I was responding to the tired and inaccurate narrative from those who oppose devolution that Senedd Members are motivated by making money for themselves.
“Unfortunately, there are well-documented examples of that being the case so far as some Westminster politicians are concerned.”
But the Welsh Secretary said that the use of “parasites” was “offensive”.
“Neither institution is perfect but if we resort to the ‘tired and inaccurate narrative’ that implies all politicians in Westminster are “parasites” (a pretty offensive term btw) then we will never improve it,” he said.
Martin Shipton responded: “I would never – and have not – suggested that all politicians in Westminster are parasites. But some sadly are.”
The debate came after Welsh Labour’s conference in Llandudno voted unanimously in favour of increasing the size of the Senedd to between 80 to 100 members over the weekend.
Expanding the Senedd from its current 60 members was included as part of the Plaid Cymru cooperation agreement with the Welsh Government.
Among those calling for a larger Senedd was Police Crime Commissioner for South Wales Police, Alun Michael, who said it would be needed to be able to devolve powers of criminal justice and policing.
“Having served in parliament for 20 years, having served as the first First Minister, I’m conscious more perhaps than anybody have the importance of the role of the backbencher and it is important, as has already been said that holding to account, but there are other things as well,” he said.
“On committees. That’s the place where consensus can be built and where questions can be asked.
“A lot of things are happening to prepare the way for the devolution of criminal justice and policing – it will happen. And my belief is it will happen sooner than we think. Because it’s right.
“The expansion of the Senedd is essential because the journey of devolution is not yet complete. There is more to come. And the capacity needs to be there for those backbenchers to do the job of holding to account that you rightly said, cannot be done by to smaller number of representatives.”
Meanwhile, the cost of refurbishing the Palace of Westminster has soared to an estimated £22bn – the same as the entire Welsh Government budget for running Wales’ NHS, local government, education, transport and other services for a year.
The body which is in charge of repairing Westminster have submitted their estimates for the cost of fixing the building to the Westminster parliament.
It lists three main options for restoration, one which involves MPs leaving the building, another that involves some MPs using the building, and another that involves them staying put.
The first option will cost £7-13bn and take 19-28 years, the second will cost £9.5-18.5bn and take 26-43 years, the third would cost £11-22bn and take 46-76 years.
The £22bn price tag compares to the £62.914m cost of running the Welsh Parliament during the 2021-22 term.
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