My own Notice of Motion called for the publication of Director
of Finance's statement to the police in respect of Cllr Brian
Hall's claim for travelling expenses on 1 February 2001 (for
full details see The Time Lord).
As expected the Independent Party used its 8-4 majority to vote
down my proposal and, no doubt, it will deploy its 38-22 majority
to get its own way when the matter is discussed at full council
on 16 December.
Unfortunately, I have only a second hand account, in the form
of telephone conversations with, and a letter from, the police
about what was contained in the Director of Finance, Mark Lewis',
During my telephone conversations, I was told that Mr Lewis had
said that Cllr Hall had permission to travel from Magor to Penllergaer,
via Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock, in order to put an "Irish
inward investor" on the ferry.
I wonder if this was the same inward investor who helped him
put away £52-worth of Chinese nosh in London the previous
In their letter the police say: "I refer to our recent
discussions concerning issues you raised with regards to Councillor
Brian Hall. I can now confirm that we have received a formal
statement from a senior member of Pembrokeshire County Council.
The statement states that in their opinion, no criminal act has
been committed and that they are the injured party in this case.
Having reviewed the circumstances I can confirm that the Police
should not take any further action in this matter unless there
is further significant evidence available.
I have asked Mr Lewis [Director of Finance] whether he would
consent to releasing a copy of the statement provided to yourself.
However, at this stage that consent has not been provided."
Defending the Corporate Governance committees decision to
reject my Notice of Motion the Leader, Cllr John Davies, told
the Mercury: "The committee cannot act as judge, jury and
Being against capital punishment, I don't want to see anyone
executed, but it is difficult to see what is the purpose of this
committee if not to consider the evidence put before it and come
to a decision (judgement?).It is not that the council has been
slow to come to judgement on this issue in the past
On 4 December 2001, soon after I revealed what I had discovered
about Cllr Hall's high-speed dash from Magor to Pembroke Dock
(125 miles in 52 mins if his expense claim is to be believed)
the council put out a press statement in which it said: "The
evidence available to the Pembrokeshire County Council clearly
indicates that no statutory infringement took place and therefore
there are no grounds for complaint."
And, in response to questions from Labour Leader Joyce Watson
at a meeting of the Council on 13 December 2001 (reported in
the following weeks Western Telegraph under the headline
"Answers demanded in expense storm", the Chairman of
Council, Cllr Rosemary Hayes JP, read out a statement; prepared
for her by a senior council officer, in which she asserted: "The
facts are that Councillor Hall undertook approved duties and
can establish that he actually made the journeys for which he
The following day, in a letter to Cllr Tom Sinclair, the Monitoring
the police have investigated the matter about travelling
allowances claimed by Councillor Brian Hall and have found no
evidential basis on which to consider further action.
The facts are that Councillor Hall undertook approved duties
and can establish that he actually made the journeys for which
he claimed allowances. From the facts available to me, I agree
with the conclusion reached by the police."
As far as I am concerned, these three statements were all attempts
by the council to conceal the truth and I am keen to discover
to what extent, if any, the Director of Finance was involved
in this project.
Hence my Notice of Motion.
Perhaps what the Leader meant was that the council is not prepared
to act as judge and jury when the evidence points conclusively
to some conclusion that doesn't fit with whatever storyline it
is currently peddling.
I also notice that the Leader is quoted as saying: "I continue
to believe that local government must exercise honesty, transparency
and accountability, but certainly not at the expense of fairness."
So, in the interests of fairness, I have sent him an email promising
never to mention Cllr Hall's expense claims ever again if he
can, in the interests of honesty, transparency and accountability,
provide me with a rational explanation for how Cllr Hall managed
to eat lunch and drive the 125 miles from Magor to Pembroke Dock
(via Haverfordwest) in 52 minutes.
I threw down the same challenge to his predecessor back in October
2003, after he accused me of making false allegations to the
No reply was forthcoming, and I am not expecting a markedly different
outcome this time around.
A couple of week's ago Dennis MacShane the Minister for Europe
told the "Any Questions" audience what a wonderful
thing it was that Xavier Solano, the EU's foreign policy spokesman,
was in charge of talks aimed at finding a solution to the disputed
election in Ukraine.
How much better, Mr MacShane opined, than having 25 separate
European governments sticking their oar in.
That may be true when all the European governments agree, as
in the Ukraine case, but that is not always the case, unfortunately.
For instance, would Mr MacShane's boss, Tony Blair, have been
happy if a pan-European view, shaped by France and Germany, had
removed from his hands the decision on whether to support Mr
Bush's war in Iraq.
With the benefit of hindsight, maybe.
But the point is that it is better, surely, that our foreign
policy is determined by our own government; accountable to the
people through the ballot box, rather than an unelected Brussels
To subcontract these decisions to the European Commission would
be, to my mind, an unacceptable loss of sovereignty.
Mr MacShane was in the news again when The Scotsman quoted him
as rubbishing Gordon Brown's five economic tests for the Euro,
in a speech to students at Durham University.
According to The Scotsman, Mr MacShane told his audience: "On
the Euro and other things we've waited for the economics to be
right on that - although that was always a bit of a giant red
When challenged by the newspaper Mr MacShane said "red herring"
was a phrase he never used, but when told they had a tape recording
he fell back on that time-worn excuse that he had been quoted
out of context.
Then, on Sunday, we had the spectacle of John Reid on television
insisting that, as there was an inquiry underway into the allegations
that David Blunkett has abused his position to fast-track a visa
application for his ex-girlfriends nanny, we shouldn't prejudge
Yet, it is only a week ago that Mr Blair, who will be the final
arbiter of Mr Blunkett's fate, was telling us that he was certain
that this same inquiry would completely exonerate the Home Secretary.
And they wonder why people are cynical about politics and politicians!