Lord Crickhowell

Dec 082016
 

When the incoming Labour government offered us devolution in 1997 I didn’t get too excited, but still, if Kinnock and George Thomas are against it, I thought, then it might have something going for it. So I voted Yes, but only because I saw devolution as a step on the road to independence. Encouraged by Ron Davies calling devolution “a process, not an event”.

Once the Yes vote had been arranged everyone assumed that the new Assembly would sit in Cardiff City Hall, but a dispute over costs blew up that was never satisfactorily explained. I believe that this spat was contrived, dreamed up in London to compensate Associated British Ports for not getting the planned opera house designed by the late Zaha Hadid.

It was no coincidence that the driving force behind the opera house project – as head man at Welsh National Opera – was Nicholas Edwards (later Lord Crickhowell), Secretary of State for Wales under Margaret Thatcher, and chairman of Associated British Ports, the company that owned Cardiff docks.

With Cardiff City Hall ruled out we had a national ‘competition’ to find a replacement. The ‘winner’, in the sense that it was the only entrant to meet the requirements of price and immediate availability, was Swansea’s pre-war Guildhall designed by Percy Thomas. But in April 1998 Secretary of State Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be sited in Cardiff after all.

Swansea Guildhall (picture from 1991)

Everyone in Swansea – and indeed people in Cardiff and the rest of Wales – then realised that the ‘competition’ had been a charade, and that the Assembly was going to Cardiff even though there was no site for it. As late as 2001 Swansea politicians were still claiming a conspiracy.

Further, I have always believed that Ron Davies, being vulnerable to pressure, was ‘leaned on’. His justification at the time for ripping up the ‘competition’ rules and awarding the prize to Cardiff was that to have located the Assembly in Swansea would have undermined Cardiff’s status as capital of Wales. So why have a ‘competition’?

Without a building for the Assembly it was decided to lease Crickhowell House down Cardiff docks, named after Lord Crickhowell. The ‘Welsh’ Government is still leasing Crickhowell House, now renamed Tŷ Hywel. You might be interested in the figures.

From 1999 to 2012 the public purse splurged £40,654,093 on leasing, maintaining and improving the building. The current lease runs until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m plus VAT. When I submitted my FoI in 2013 the building was owned by Crick Properties, but was bought in March 2014 for £40.5m by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The final bill for leasing and maintaining this building will be well over £100m, after which it will still belong to whoever owns it at the time. We could have had a new, purpose-built building for a tenth of that figure. But of course, that would not have suited Associated British Ports and those linked to the company.

The squalid saga of how the public purse was abused in order to transform Cardiff docks into Cardiff Bay for the benefit of Associated British Ports is explained in the Corruption Bay document I put together in 2000-2001.

It’s well over 18 years since Ron Davies announced that the Assembly would be located in Cardiff . . . somewhere. In that time Cardiff – which, incidentally, voted against devolution – has prospered greatly from hosting the Assembly, and gained from politicians and civil servants making decisions that talk of ‘Wales’ but benefit only Cardiff.

To the point where, today, it seems that all investment is focused on Cardiff while other urban areas are condemned to managed decline and our countryside and coasts serve as recreation and retirement areas for England. The north, certainly the north east, is, with the connivance of the ‘Welsh’ Government (acting on the recommendation of a Mrs Hain), being detached from Wales to become commuter territory for Merseyside and Greater Manchester. For some time now, dwellings around Wrecsam have been advertised by estate agents as being in ‘West Cheshire’!

The Mersey Dee Alliance is the plan for north west England to absorb north east Wales

This process of dismembering Wales is made easier by Cardiff’s distance from and indifference to the north east.

Few things illustrate the Cardiff-centricity of contemporary Wales – and more worryingly, how it has become accepted in official circles as the template for all development – than the Cardiff Capital Region project and its associated Metro system.

The City Region is nothing but a scheme for encouraging further investment in Cardiff but, by improving local transport links, it’s hoped that the Valleys and the M4 corridor from Bridgend to the border will feel part of this enterprise. In truth, it’s the formalisation of a city-commuter region arrangement. To dress it up as anything else is dishonest.

That this project has progressed so far with so few objections from those communities being reduced to dormitory status can be attributed to the malign influence of a Labour Party that may be losing its grip but still deals ruthlessly with dissent. Plus the fact that opposition parties seem to share the ‘Everything in Cardiff’ mindset.

To ensure that the focus remains on Cardiff major developments elsewhere in the region may be sabotaged, and this explains the recent attacks on the Circuit of Wales project at Ebbw Vale. These attacks came from the traditional mouthpiece of the Cardiff business community, the Western Mail, and BBC Wales which, as I remarked in Circuit of Wales Revisited“has as much claim to being our national broadcaster as the Mule has to being our national newspaper”.

Despite my criticisms, what I’ve dealt with thus far is understandable, even excusable, in that it’s the duty of the politicians and the business community of a city to promote the interests of that city.

Of course my absolution does not extend to Assembly Members from other areas who simply nod through every project to promote and enrich Cardiff. Nor does it extend to those who pose as our ‘national media’, or other institutions and bodies claiming to represent the whole country.

Cities, even capital cities, looking out for themselves is one thing, but we have now reached the stage in Wales where Cardiff serving its own interests, and being encouraged to do so by the media and the ‘Welsh’ Government, is working against the interests of the country as a whole.

Worse, we are now seeing the corruption that is almost inevitable when the public life of a country is concentrated in a relatively small city, and when this concentration sees those with the power of patronage and control of the public purse rubbing shoulders on a regular basis – and too regularly in social environments – with those wishing to enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. Two examples will help explain what I’m talking about.

First, a case that attracted much attention was the deal to sell off land on the outskirts of Cardiff to a very well-connected group of Cardiff businessmen at a knock-down, agricultural-use price, despite the fact that everybody knew the land had been earmarked for housing. I dealt with this in Pies, Planes & Property Development and Pies, Planes & Property Development 2. Let’s not beat about the bush, this was corruption, pure and simple.

Next, have you ever wondered why Wales – unlike Ireland and Scotland – does not have a national cricket team? The answer is that we are represented by England. No, honestly, and to be precise, by the England and Wales Cricket Board (though the ‘Wales’ bit is never used).

Swalec Stadium, home to England Test matches and the reason Wales has no national cricket team

In 2015 Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was an honour to welcome the Test match between Australia and England to Cardiff, adding: “Attracting major events not only boosts our international profile, but has clear benefits for our economy”. 

Two points: First, a national team would boost our ‘international profile’ far more, because many people around the world now believe that Cardiff is in England; second, how much of the money generated by the Test match did other parts of Wales see?

Of course, at one time, we did have a national cricket team, but that was before Glamorgan County Cricket Club and others surrendered to England in order that Cardiff could enjoy the publicity, the prestige, and the revenue, from hosting England ‘home’ matches. Another example of the counter-devolution strategy at work and another step towards Englandandwales.

Another way Wales loses out to Cardiff is in the exodus of too many of the brightest and best from other parts of the country. ‘Ah, but the same thing happens in Ireland’ shout Cardiff’s defenders. Not really. The fastest growing cities there are Cork and Galway, and perhaps more importantly, Donegal and Kerry, Sligo and Roscommon are not being overrun by tens of thousands of retirees, problem families, good-lifers, hippies, paedophiles, white flighters and tourist trappers.

The economic imbalance in Wales that makes Cardiff so attractive to our young people deprives many rural communities of their future leaders, their opinion-formers, those who might challenge the invasion taking place. Coincidence, no doubt.

We have reached the stage now where that economic imbalance is so severe, and being exacerbated year on year, that those who direct things in Cardiff – including those who not so long ago would readily display their contempt for ‘Welshies’ – are quite open about their long-term strategy of positioning the city as a medium-sized provincial English city, in competition with Bristol, Sheffield, Newcastle and others. Slowly but inexorably Cardiff is turning its back on Wales.

For Cardiff has the advantage that, as capital of Wales, it can always argue that projects in the city are ‘national’ in importance, and being done for the benefit of 3.2 million people. Which makes it odd that Plaid Cymru politicians get exercised over Crossrail 2 and HS2 being described as ‘national’, yet seem oblivious to the same thing happening under their noses in Cardiff.

Though sometimes the brew gets really heady and ambition stretches beyond competing with Sheffield, proven by an article this week by Siôn Barry, Business Editor of the Wasting Mule, whose brother Mark is the brains behind the Metro system. Barry quotes some estate agent – a profession renowned for its scrupulous avoidance of exaggeration and misrepresentation – who believes that Cardiff can become a “global capital”.

click to enlarge

Think about that. We are asked to believe that a city of less than 400,000 people can compete with Tokyo and Paris, Buenos Aires and Beijing. It’s laughable; with the laughter ratcheted up to hysterical level by the fact that Cardiff’s just a provincial centre, and the full idiocy is realised by remembering that those pushing this bollocks, at the Wasting Mule and elsewhere, oppose Welsh independence, without which Cardiff is not, and never can be, a real capital.

This kind of stuff gets hyperbole a bad name; it borders on the delusional. Young Matt Phillips of Knight Frank clearly needs help, but rather than waste money on some expensive treatment I suggest that he be slapped around the head with a freshly-caught halibut until he recants. (It never fails.) As for those who repeat such nonsense, well, they want to believe it, but worse, they also want you to believe it.

Welcome to the never-never world of devolution. An estate agent tells a journalist that Cardiff is about to go head-to-head with Paris, this is repeated as gospel by our ‘national newspaper’, yet it takes place to the backdrop of Wales being colonised and by other means having its identity eroded as the prelude to complete assimilation into England.

While it yet lasts, this fantasy I’ve described bears some resemblance to a corrupt Third World country where all the goodies are concentrated in the capital and the provinces are allowed to rot; what’s missing is the dictator and his extended family and friends ripping off the state finances, but standing in we have ‘Papa’ Jones and his Labour Party, plus Labour’s cronies in the Third Sector and gangs of well-connected businessmen.

As I said at the start; when I voted Yes in 1997 it was only because I saw devolution as the first step on the road to independence. Devolution has been a complete failure in that regard, and it has even failed as a devolved system – apart from the growth of Cardiff. And this week we were told that even the devolution some thought we had is worthless because Westminster can overrule the ‘Welsh’ Government any time it chooses.

To remedy the situation in which we find ourselves Wales needs to be ‘re-balanced’. I believe that the quickest and surest way of achieving that necessary objective is by moving the Assembly out of Cardiff. Which is why I have launched a petition urging that the Assembly be moved to Aberystwyth. Click here to sign that petition.

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UPDATE 20.12.2016: Well, bless my soul – Plaid Cymru agrees with me!

Mar 152016
 

Back in October 2012, on my old Google blog, in the post Wales: Sicily Of The North, I touched on the emerging story of publicly-owned land being sold off rather cheaply by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales. Sold to the mysterious, Guernsey-based company, South Wales Land Developments.

Information on the deal was sparse in 2012 beyond the fact that the public face of South Wales Land Developments was one Langley John Davies. As I said back in 2012, “a busy boy, our Langley”, who’d been involved with many companies, but of course information on SWLD was sparse because it’s based in Guernsey.

Some information on SWLD has since filtered into the public domain, this tells us that there are only two directors, Langley Davies and Jane Pocock. Davies has some background in property, but most of his companies seem to have been in finance and loans, perhaps for vehicle purchase.

Pocock’s background as a director was exclusively in vehicles – vans by the look of it – until she joined Davies in another Guernsey-registered company, Imperial House Investments Ltd (Incorporated 30.11.2013), and then South Wales Land Developments.

Lisvane

You’ll note that nothing has ever been filed for either Imperial House Investments Ltd or South Wales Land Developments. And while the role of SWLD will be explained below, I can’t begin to guess at the purpose of IHI. (All suggestions welcome.)

Clearly, Davies and Pocock were unlikely buyers of parcels of land in various parts of Wales, and probably didn’t have the £21m needed to complete the purchase. And although the report from September 2012 tells us that the land has already been transferred to South Wales Land Developments, SWLD wasn’t incorporated in Guernsey until the first of February 2014.

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This was all rather confusing until we learnt last year that the initial offer for the land came from GST Investments, also of Guernsey, and that GST stands for (Sir) Gilbert Stanley Thomas, brother to Peter Thomas OBE; scions of the House of Pies founded by their father Thomas Stanley Thomas, who died last year aged 98.

The quid pro quo for Davies and Pocock distracting attention from Sir Stan might have been him becoming a director of their company Vans Direct Ltd, Company Number 06971144, in September 2013 . . . and no doubt investing ‘a little something’ in repayment for services rendered.

So here are two, linked, questions:

  • Seeing as the original purchaser in March 2012 was Stan Thomas, why has the ‘Welsh’ media avoided mentioning his name, and that of his company, GST Investments?
  • Why have we been repeatedly told that these parcels of land were sold, in March 2012, to a company, South Wales Land Developments, that didn’t officially exist until February 1st, 2014?

We know now that Langley Davies and Jane Pocock were fronting for Stan Thomas, and were no doubt paid well to hide his involvement in the purchase, but why would Thomas have felt the need for this subterfuge?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that around the same time as the land sales were being ‘arranged’ he and brother Peter were benefiting from another lucrative deal at the expense of the Welsh public purse. This was the sale of Cardiff airport to the ‘Welsh’ Government for £52m.

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The airport had been owned by Glamorgan Country Council and then its successor councils of Mid, West and South Glamorgan until another round of local government reorganisation saw the facility privatised and sold to TBI plc in April 1995. So what do we know about TBI?

A 2004 BBC article tells us, “Stanley Thomas, now 62, started TBI with developer Paul Bailey in the early 1990s, and the firm became a fully listed company on the Stock Exchange in 1994”. True . . . up to a point. The original company, Incorporated on August 8th 1972, was called Markheath Plc, Company Number 01064763

Markheath changed its name to Thomas Bailey Investments Plc in March 1994 and to TBI Ltd in 2009. Clearly using the surnames of Paul Bailey and Gilbert Stanley Thomas to give us TBI. Though Paul Bailey only served as a director of TBI from 28.03.1994 to 28.02.1996, while Thomas became a director on the same date but stayed on until 04.01.2005.

And yet, another curiosity is that TBI seems to have been in existence before Bailey and Thomas became directors. As of September 5th 1992 – eighteen months before they joined – we find five directors, named Springer, Haines, Creber, Rendle and Westcott. While another who became a director at the same time as Bailey and Thomas was a Paul Meyrick Guy. Check out the full list of directors here.

The influx of Iberian names post January 2005 can be attributed to the fact that in 2004 TBI became a subsidiary of (90% owned by) the multinational, Barcelona-based Abertis Infraestructuras SA.

TBI figures

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Before proceeding maybe we should establish who Paul Meyrick Guy is. He lives on Rudry Road in Cardiff or, to be more exact, in the suburb of Lisvane. Rudry Road meanders out into open country, under the M4 and on towards the Rhymni river, through the kind of green fields so coveted by ‘developers’. And wouldn’t you know it – he’s a neighbour to Peter Thomas!

Paul Meyrick Guy has held many directorships . . . many, many directorships. In his 61 years among us Guy has held no less than 111 directorships. Is this a record?

Having mentioned Peter Thomas it struck me as strange that he was never a director of TBI like his brother. Though in the BBC report I linked to earlier, headed ‘Brothers go from pies to planes‘, it says, “The brothers, from Merthyr Tydfil, own almost a fifth of TBI’s shares“. In the graphic above we see that in 2012 TBI’s net worth was £408,634,000, so work it out for yourself.

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It became known in the early part of 2013 that Cardiff Airport had been sold to the ‘Welsh’ Government. And although sold for £52m the site was independently valued in the £20m – £30m bracket, suggesting that the ‘Welsh’ Government paid well over the odds.

According to the article I’ve just linked to, “Ministers bought Cardiff Airport from its Spanish owners Abertis for £52m”. Note that in this report – and other reports at the time – the Thomas brothers’ company, TBI, has now vanished from the picture. But as I explained above, TBI still owned Cardiff Airport, but TBI was now owned by Abertis.

Thomas Brothers

To put the price paid for Cardiff Airport into perspective, consider this: Also in 2013, the Scottish Government bought Prestwick Airport for £1, and Prestwick is a ‘real’ airport, with transatlantic flights.

Also owned by TBI-Abertis was Belfast International Airport, enjoying passenger numbers over four times higher than Cardiff. It too was sold in 2013, to a US company, as part of a package that also included Stockholm Skavsta Airport, terminals at Orlando Sanford in Florida, and an airport management business in the USA. The package price was just £244m.

If Cardiff, with less than one million passengers a year, and airlines abandoning the facility like the proverbial rats, was worth £52m then Belfast must have made up almost all of the package price in the other sale with Stockholm, Orlando, etc., thrown in for good luck!

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The latest news in the land sale scandal is that the ‘Welsh’ Government plans to begin legal proceedings against Lambert Smith Hampton, the company that advised the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales with the valuation of the land. But is LSH the right target? And even if it is, should it be the only target?

There is an obvious and understandable desire on the part of Carwyn and his gang to deny political opponents ammunition, to look ‘strong’ (don’t laugh!), especially with elections coming up in May, but it’s all pointless window dressing.

I say that because the problem exposed by the sales of Cardiff airport and the prime development land reaches deep into the Welsh body politic, and exposes associated weaknesses in the media and elsewhere.

I have always argued that Wales is Europe’s Third World. The greater part of the country is ignored and allowed to decline while investment is poured into the capital at the behest of – and for the benefit of – business interests that don’t give a damn about Wales or the Welsh people. Devolution has only made things worse.

The warnings were there at the very outset, when Lord Crickhowell – formerly Nicholas Edwards MP – and his gang at Associated British Ports, manoeuvred the newly created Assembly into taking out a punitive lease on Crickhowell House, owned of course by ABP, and then to build the new Assembly building on land owned by ABP rather than take over Cardiff City Hall, or Swansea Guildhall which had clearly won Ron Davies’ ‘competition’.

And let’s remember that this crew had already made a killing with the Cardiff Bay Development Corporation, using public money to redevelop land owned by ABP. Where was the ‘Welsh’ media when this scandal needed to be exposed?

The ‘Welsh’ media is the Cardiff media, and will support anything it believes is in Cardiff’s interests, even when done at the expense of the rest of Wales. (The city region project and the ‘improvements’ demanded for the M4 being ongoing examples.) And when it comes to powerful individuals like Nick Edwards and the Thomas brothers then men like these are beyond scrutiny and above criticism.

Which explains why few if any Welsh people are aware that the Thomas brothers made a killing out of the sale of Cardiff Airport – because according to the ‘Welsh’ media the vendor was a totally unconnected Spanish company!

Equally, in the land deal, Stan Thomas has not been mentioned in the mainstream media, we’ve only been told of his mouthpiece, Langley Davies, and South Wales Land Developments, a company that exists in name only.

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Let’s be blunt. We are dealing here with corruption. Corruption and incompetence at the very highest levels within a devolved system. Facilitated by a ‘Welsh’ Labour Party that knows nothing about business and can be given the runaround by any shyster spinning a line.cash dispenser

The aforementioned ‘Welsh’ Labour Party then deludes itself into  believing that it creates a ‘balance’ by investing in the Third Sector. But here, again, it is given the runaround by parasites in it for no one but themselves. Here’s a very recent example.

And what benefits do we, the Welsh people, see from the enrichment of Cardiff businessmen, or the billions poured into the Third Sector? We see nothing – this is the cause of our deprivation.

This is Wales in the twenty-first century; the perfect storm of a devolved administration that is little more than a cash dispenser being run by people who understand nothing of the world beyond political debate and who are preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals and interests.

No matter who you vote for in May, nothing will change. This system cannot be tinkered with, or improved from within, it must be swept away. Wales needs a revolution, and a fresh start. Independence, and a new capital far from Cardiff and its malign influences, is the only answer.

Mar 212013
 

CARDIFF: The council of our capital city is advertising for an ‘adviser’ to the council leader . . . though not in Wales, for the advertisement appeared in the Sunday Times. Which I assume means that knowledge of Cardiff, or Wales, is not required. As this article makes clear, the news has provoked a debate to which a number of people have made interesting contributions.

Local Government consultant Jeff Jones wants to see full-blown political appointees as in the USA. Which is where we’ve been heading since New Labour came to power in 1997 and took on what were clearly political appointees as ‘special advisers’ to the Prime Minister and other senior cabinet members. Though this was never a satisfactory arrangement, partly due to these appointees’ ambivalent relationship with the civil service and, towards the end of Blair’s tenure of No 10, advisers for Blair and Brown being engaged in almost open warfare. Plaid Cymru’s Neil McAvoy also sees this danger and makes the same point while generally endorsing Jeff Jones’ argument.

One problem here is the ambiguity surrounding the exact status of this ‘Head of Cabinet Office’ post. Given that Cardiff is controlled by Labour we can safely assume that whoever is appointed will be a Labour Party member or supporter. Yet we shall be asked to believe that the post is politically neutral. Another worry for me is that the post was advertised as offering an opportunity to ‘shape policy’. Now, with Caerffili and Carmarthenshire fresh in our minds, do we really want more unelected people exercising control over our local authorities?

The answer to this and many other problems in local government is to give us eight new authorities with no more than thirty full-time councillors per authority. Attract a better quality of councillor prepared to make the council a job and a mission rather than using it as an excuse to earn beer money from handing out contracts and planning consents to friends, family, and those belonging to the same organisation.

CARMARTHENSHIRE: Today’s Wasting Mule carried an incredible letter from Siân Caiach, former Plaid Cymru luminary, more recently Plaid’s nemesis in Llanelli. (Standing as an independent in 2011 she gained 2,004 votes, while Plaid Cymru lost to Labour by Sian Caiachjust 80.) That aside, what she says in her letter is so damning of both Carmarthenshire County Council, and the Welsh Government, that answers must be forthcoming to explain the lie upon lie that almost destroyed one of the area’s traditional industries. No, more than that, part of its culture. And the culture of a wider area. How many of us used to enjoy a packet of cockles on a Saturday night as the sellers made their way from pub to pub, jostling with the ladies trying to make us feel better about ourselves (and to banish or sublimate our carnal thoughts of them) by buying War Cry

It is difficult to imagine the pond life running Carmarthenshire – whether that be the Nazi-Soviet pact nominally in charge, or he who breaks butterflies on wheels – being so utterly and bastardly irresponsible as to do what is alleged by Siân Caiach, just so they could build yet more houses in the county, for yet more English colonists. But if that is the case, then we can almost guarantee that the English Planning Inspectorate is lurking somewhere in the shadows.

CYMRU: In my post of February 18th I told you I had submitted two Freedom of Information requests. One asking how many publicly-funded bodies we have in Wales ‘helping people back into employment’, and the other asking how much we are paying for Tŷ Hywel, formerly Crickhowell House, so central to the scam that was the regeneration of Cardiff docks. The reply to the first of those FoIs was dealt with here a few days ago. I now have some answers to the second FoI, and boy! do they make interesting reading!

First, let’s recap. Crickhowell House is an office block in Cardiff Bay, built in the late 1980s by Associated British Ports. (Head honcho, Lord Crickhowell, formerly Nicholas Edwards MP for Pembrokeshire and Secretary of State for Wales from 1979 to 1987.) The building cost some £11m to build and no one wanted to buy or lease it until 1993, when the Tory-controlled Welsh Office under David Hunt helped out his old friend, Lord Crickhowell, by taking out a 20-year lease on the building for the use of the Welsh Combined Health Services Authority. Crickhowell House was far too big and the WCHSA never used much more than a third of it. You will probably remember that from 1999 to 2006 Crickhowell House was used as the Assembly building. The lease was said to be worth just over £2m a year plus maintenance and other costs. So this Tory old pals act takes us from 1993 to 2013.

Next, when the deal was done with Associated British Ports to lease for 150 years, and for just £1, the land on which the Senedd today stands, it was rumoured that Ron Davies secretly agreed to extend the lease on Crickhowell House for a further 5 years. So that would have been another £10m+. It was even being suggested there was an option to extend the lease further. So in order to get at the facts I submitted my FoI. The answers to which may be read here.

The facts are that Tŷ Hywel is leased until 2032 at an annual cost of £2.3m + VAT. Yet the total figure given, in response to my question, “What will be the total expenditure, since 1993, of leasing,improving and maintaining Tŷ Hywel?” the answer given is £40,654,093 (from 1999), which can’t be right, can it? By my calculations, at £2.3m a year the lease from 1999 to 2032 comes to £75.9m. Add in the six years from 1993 to 1999 and it’s closer to £90m! And that’s without VAT, maintenance and all the other costs! I’d like you to give some thought to these figures, see if they, literally, add up.

CommissionThe reply contained the names of two bodies that I just had to check, because they were new to me. The first was the Assembly Commission, described as “the corporate body of the National Assembly for Wales”. And Crick Properties, who now own Tŷ Hywel. The Assembly Commission is made up of the Presiding Officer and four other AMs with various portfolios. Today’s Commission members are shown in the panel (click to enlarge) though it would have been Dafydd Elis Thomas who led the Commission when it decided to extend the lease on Tŷ Hywel in 2007. Crick Properties turned up little on Google, apart from this intriguing snippet on Slugger O’Toole. But given the name, it must be reasonable to assume a connection with Lord Crickhowell.

Another thought struck me as I digested the astronomic figures for Tŷ Hywel. We like to pride ourselves in Wales on the fact that we rejected Private Finance Initiatives. But remember this; in addition to £2.3m + VAT per annum lease, the Assembly Commission is also responsible for upkeep and renovation of the building. So if Tŷ Hywel, a building that will end up costing us well over £100m – yet is said to have sold in 2009 for £31m – is not a PFI, then what is? And bear in mind that the sale price in 2009 was greatly inflated by the fact that the Assembly Commission had agreed – in 2007 – a lease extension to 2032. Which means that had they refused to extend the lease, then the Assembly Commission might have been able to buy the building for considerably less than £31m.

So there you are, mes enfants; three stories which, in their own way, paint a depressing picture of public life in Wales today. Lies being told, public money being squandered, the interests of the people ignored and democracy treated with contempt. Why do we bother playing this game we can’t win? And if we could win it, would the victory be worth it?