Six days after first reports that Welsh Tory leader Nick Bourne (pictured) was under pressure for having used Welsh Assembly office allowances to purchase an iPod – a move which was approved by the relevant authorities on the grounds that he was using it to learn Welsh – he has reimbursed the Assembly for its cost.
Another Conservative Assembly Member who also bought an iPod in similar circumstances, Alun Cairns, has done the same, a day after it emerged that the pair had made charitable donations of £250 and £200 respectively.
Mr Bourne said:
“Although the purchase of these iPods was within the rules of the
Assembly and authorised by the Fees Office, I recognise the perception
that this expenditure was inappropriate. Alun Cairns and I have decided therefore to reimburse the National
Assembly for these items in addition to the charitable donations we
have made. We apologise to the people of Wales."
This was clearly the right thing to do, but it is a shame that it took nearly a week for that conclusion to be reached, since it allowed the story to fester for days on end. There was also the somewhat unfortunate tale – reported widely – about an alleged attempt by the Tories to engender a "gentlemen’s agreement" between the parties at Cardiff Bay not to raise the issue of each others’ expense claims.
An inquiry into Welsh Assembly Members’ allowances is currently being conducted, although Mr Bourne is now signalling that Tory AMs will be bringing forward stricter rules in advance of the official report being published.
But that may be too little too late as far as his own future is concerned, not least because this is not the first time in recent months that he has been at the centre of controversy.
The Western Mail called for him to resign yesterday amid reports in a number of media outlets that he no longer has the confidence of the majority of the Conservative group at Cardiff Bay.
It is now widely expected that he will be replaced sooner rather than later by Cardiff North Assembly Member, Jonathan Morgan.