Today’s Western Mail carries a story about the Welsh Government agreeing to spend more than £5,000 of public money on an insignia (or ‘posh badge’) for the Counsel General, the chief legal officer to the Welsh Government (read it here http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/welsh-politics/welsh-politics-news/2012/06/19/should-wales-top-legal-officer-get-5-000-new-insignia-91466-31207773/).
Now I’m as fond of jewellery as the next girl, but obviously that is £5,000 that could have been spent on something more practical. More worrying in my view, is that it betrays a very distorted set of priorities within the Welsh Government when it comes to the status of Wales as a legislature.
Wales’ laws have been diverging from those of England since before the advent of devolution in 1999, but the pace at which we can expect that process to continue will be much faster now that Wales has full legislative powers (or, at least, it should if the Government choose to put forward any legislation). But the people of Wales have no single place of reference if they want to find out what the Law of Wales looks like. We have no statute book, and that means that those laws that are made in Wales for Wales are not actually accessible to the people of Wales. If you or I fall foul of one of those laws, or if we wanted to challenge things like planning decisions or health cases in court, where would we go to find out where we stand?
Funding for the online equivalent of a statute was pulled by the Welsh Government (it was continued for a brief period by the National Assembly itself, but the original funder was the Government). The Counsel General has told the Assembly that he has no budget of his own to support things like this. But apparently, money can be found from somewhere to buy a bespoke silver badge so that the Counsel General can look ‘dignified’ when he appears in court on our behalf.
As a taxpayer, I cannot understand this frivolous use of my money when so many other things could have been given priority over this. As a relative newcomer to politics, and a proud supporter of devolution, it angers me when decisions like this are taken and bring the Assembly into disrepute.
No other Counsel General or chief legal officer in the UK has an insignia. Perhaps the other nations’ representatives are confident enough in their own status that they don’t need a badge to prove that they’re important. Or perhaps they recognise that true dignity comes from what you do rather than what you wear.