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Rogers accuses minister of lying about assembly costs

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The row over the Welsh Assembly fiasco has flared up again following accusations by Lord Rogers (left) that finance minster Edwina Hart lied about the spiralling costs of the project.

In a demonstration of bitterness over his public sacking, Lord Rogers last week sent an e-mail to every member of the assembly in which he sets out his version of events. In it he claims Hart was informed of the rising cost but reported to the assembly that the building was proceeding within budget.

In a response to the assembly, Hart denied the allegations, but refused to be drawn on the details due to 'the continuing threat of legal action by RRP against the assembly'.

And in a signal that the assembly is taking Lord Rogers' allegations seriously, members have called on Janet Davis, chair of the assembly's audit committee, for a review. As a result, the National Audit Office is to conduct a review to track the costs and how they have changed, the assembly's initiatives and a future timescale.

Shadow finance minister Dafydd Wigley of Plaid Cymru, who helped push for the audit, said the conflicting versions of events were 'leading to confusion, speculation and frustration'.

He called for a full exposure of the facts: 'We cannot allow this situation to happen again whereby assembly members are kept so much in the dark, ' he said. 'The Lib Dem/Labour government in the assembly must learn that they have to operate in a transparent and open manner.'

Tory assembly member Jonathan Morgan was also deeply concerned: 'People in Wales are sick and tired of this running farce, ' he said, adding that if Rogers' 'serious' allegations turn out to be true it may cost Edwina Hart her job. 'I wouldn't rule that completely out, ' he said.

Lord Rogers declined to comment short of issuing a brief statement denying suggestions that RRP is considering legal action against individual assembly members.

'The letter's sole purpose was to inform members of the true position, ' the statement said.

But it is clear that the practice would like to continue with the project, despite its turbulent history. In his letter to the assembly, Lord Rogers said: 'We are deeply aggrieved at the unjust treatment we have received, but we remain totally committed to the building and to providing the people of Wales with an assembly building of which they can be proud.'

RIBA president Paul Hyett, who offered to mediate when the row first exploded, supported the continuation of Lord Rogers on the project.

'To suggest that he should be replaced, and that any benefit will come to the building project as a result, beggars belief. The best way forward is either for the architect to be given a proper opportunity to see this project to a successful conclusion or to cancel the design in its entirety and start again.'

The assembly owns the rights to the design and could choose to appoint another architect to implement Lord Rogers' design.

See AJ Plus for Lord Rogers' e-mail and Hart's response to the assembly.

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