21 September 2004
With the Foxhunting Bill making its way through Parliament, we will be hearing a good deal about the Parliament Acts over the next few months.
These Acts of 1911 and 1949 are designed to ensure the supremacy of the will of the people, as represented by the elected House of Commons.
There is a long history of clashes between the two Houses of Parliament going back to at least 1832 when the Lords tried to block the extension of the franchise contained in the Reform Bill.
That was resolved when Prime Minister Grey persuaded William IV to create sufficient peers to give the Whigs a majority in the upper house.
In the event, the threat was enough and the Lords gave way.
This was clearly an unsatisfactory solution for the long term and in 1911 the Liberals, fed up with having their legislation blocked by the Conservative majority in the Lords passed the first of the Parliament Acts.
Naturally, the Lords tried to stymie this Bill, too, but eventually relented when Asquith made known George V's willingness to create 400 new Liberal peers on the Prime Minister's advice.
Then, in 1949, Atlee's Labour government frustrated by Tory obstruction of its nationalisation programme passed the second of the Parliament Acts, the main purpose of which was to reduce the Lords' delaying powers from two years to one.
Broadly speaking, the present situation is that the House of Lords has no powers to delay legislation certified by the Speaker as a "money Bill" and can only delay other Bills for one session of Parliament.
There are those, of course, who claim that even these restricted powers are too great and that the will of the elected chamber should always prevail.
On the face of it, that is an attractive proposition.
However, it is as well to remember that there is one specific type of legislation to which is not subject to the Parliament Acts
And that is any legislation designed to extend the life of a Parliament beyond five years.
Without that safeguard only the Royal Assent would stand between a majority in the House of Commons and the abolition of elections altogether.
Unfortunately, as the weeks slip past with no sign of a writ, the chances of my being sued by either Cllr Brian Hall or his erstwhile business partner, Dr Michael Ryan, become disappointingly remote.
This is a pity because there are so many interesting questions I would like to see answered from the witness box, under oath.
For instance, the issues I raised on May 20 2003, when I wrote a long piece questioning Dr Ryan's credentials (see Strange goings-on).
One claim that appears both on the website of Dr Ryan's company ORA Ltd (www.oriain.com) and in a press release put out by former County council Leader Maurice Hughes in November 2002, is that he had been a Director of the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) in the USA.
When I emailed the AURP they replied that they "...have no recollection of this person being a Director of AURP."
Four weeks after I published this important piece of intelligence on my website, I received a letter from Dr Ryan's Cardiff solicitors demanding the usual retraction, apology and formal undertaking not to repeat these defamatory remarks, failing which they would be advising their client to commence formal legal proceedings etc, etc, etc.
With regard to my comments on Dr Ryan's Directorship (or non-Directorship) of the AURP the solicitors wrote: In their ordinary or natural meaning, those words meant and were understood to mean that our client was dishonest, was not to be taken seriously, and was not a person with whom the Council should be conducting business."
By way of an explanation for the AURP's failure to detect Dr Ryan on their radar, the solicitors offered the following convoluted tale: "Our client's involvement with AURP was during the mid 80's (sic), when the organisation was in its infancy and had mutual membership with the IASP [International Association of Science Parks], of which our client was then President and Director General. Our client's dealings were with AURP whilst it was located as a stand alone organisation based in Phoenix, Arizona and which subsequently transferred to Washington as part of a restructuring process and is now serviced by a specialist conglomerate."
And later, in the same vein: "We are advised that AURP has undergone major change in recent years from a self-sufficient organisation to a major conglomerate. Our client would not, therefore, expect AURP to recall his Directorship and in particular, his attendance at board meetings as this was on a trial basis."
So there you have it: Dr Ryan was involved with AURP on a trial basis only during the time it was a small time outfit in Phoenix.
However, that isn't what appeared on the prospectus designed to snare investors which he faxed to Hall on 16 October 2000 where it says simply: "Director of University Research Parks, Washington, USA."
Nor would it be immediately obvious to an unsuspecting potential investor that the entry in Dr Ryan's CV which states: "Senior Executive Officer, Dublin County Council, Dublin, Ireland." refers to the nine years he spent as a road safety officer following his ten years in the police.
Unfortunately, I have not had time to check up on "Economic Advisor, Prime Minister's Office, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia" and "Scientific Advisor, NATO Science for Stability Program, Brussels." which appear in the same document.
By the way, is it true, as it says in an item on the Irish Defence Ministry's website announcing his appointment to Chair the Civil Defence Board, that he has a "PhD in Industry"?
What I do know for certain is that Dr Ryan wrote to his line manager in the county council, Mr David Thomas, on 3 September 2000 (see Hall - Ryan) informing him that ORA Ltd had decided to set up UK company which would "exclude the territory of Pembrokeshire and any other area of Wales which you may request within reason."
Just six weeks later, on 16 October, Dr Ryan sent a fax (see Hall - Ryan) to Hall outlining elaborate and well advanced plans to um, er trade in Pembrokeshire.
So elaborate and advanced, indeed, that it would be most surprising if the plans didn't predate his 3 September letter to Mr Thomas.
You might also wonder how this offer not to trade in Wales squares with the auditor's report which records: "Following his appointment, Dr Ryan wrote to the Council on 3 September 2000 stating that ORA Ltd intended to establish a company in the UK. The letter sets out a commitment that the company would not trade in Pembrokeshire [and any other area of Wales which you may request within reason] and the Council's Monitoring Officer regards this as contractually enforceable. Dr Ryan has also confirmed to us that, at this stage, he envisaged business opportunities aimed at technology transfer and property development and investment mainly in the Cardiff and Swansea areas associated with the universities."
So, if he intended to pursue business opportunities in Cardiff and Swansea, why was he, at the same time, writing to Mr Thomas with an offer not to trade in Wales.
Curiouser and curiouser!
Even curiouser is that Dr Ryan, who clearly intended to trade in Pembrokeshire even though he had given a "contractually enforceable undertaking" not to do so, is still employed by the county council.
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