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Assembly decides on knotty issue of wearing a tie.

Byline: By Sally Williams Western Mail

The thorny issue of whether ties are a vital part of office dress code made it to the National Assembly yesterday, when the Presiding Officer was forced to rule on an AM's attire.

Lord Elis-Thomas had to decide if it was alright for Culture Minister Alun Pugh to sit in the chamber with an open-neck shirt.

It came on the day that the tie - for so long the vital accessory to make a suit or shirt formal enough to create an authoritative air - was threatened with the same fate as the bowler hat and rolled-up brolly, being banished to the annals of office history.

A call for ties to be abandoned in the workplace was welcomed by a civil servants' union yesterday as workers across the country went open- necked to cope with sweltering conditions.

The daring suggestion was put forward by Cabinet Secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull, Britain's top civil servant.

He said staff at Whitehall in London should be able to carry out their duties without wearing a tie, as long as they looked authoritative and professional.

Sir Andrew, who was wearing a suit and tie himself at the launch of the National School of Government in central London, said this could be particularly relevant in hot weather.

'Obviously it would not be suitable for people to turn up in blue jeans and trainers because it could undermine their authority, but as long as they looked smart they needn't wear a tie,' he said.

And in the Assembly, Lord Elis-Thomas decided that in warmer weather it was acceptable for AMs not to wear ties.

However, he said his personal preference was for jackets and ties and he stressed he personally would not sit in the Chamber without a tie.

The FDA, the trade union and professional body for Britain's senior public servants, said it was only right to relax the rules. Jonathan Baume, the FDA's general secretary, said, 'Oscar Wilde once said that a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life. Times have changed, thank goodness, and it's only right that civil servants be allowed to leave their wool jackets and ties at home.'

Paul Williams, 41, from Powys who works for the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, said, 'I'm not wearing a tie today - it's far too hot in London.'

Gareth Jones, safety adviser from the University of Wales, in Bangor, said in an office environment, health and safety and ties isn't usually an issue but it can become one in extreme heat.

He said, 'Realistically, if an employer wishes the formal corporate image to remain during those short summer weeks then it may be necessary to ensure that the workplace is kept cool so that staff can work comfortably.

'If not then it could well be considered reasonable for staff to remove their tie on grounds of health and safety.

'By removing your tie and opening your collar, it exposes more skin to the air and naturally more heat is lost.

'I'm not wearing a tie today - it's too warm - but tomorrow, possibly, as I have a big meeting.

'I think this is the same for a lot of staff here who don't meet the public or attend external meetings each day. Where formality is required then ties are worn but where not then it's individual's preference to a large extent.'

In the office of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in Cardiff, chairman Owain Llywelyn, 51, always wears a tie while his colleague, Tom Merrifield, 27, sitting opposite him, prefers an open-neck smart shirt.

Mr Llewelyn, who owns 120 silk ties, said, 'Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy but I'm a conformist and would probably have worn a bowler in the seventies.

'I will keep my tie on at work however hot it gets, I would feel mildly naked without it.

'Pulling a luridly colourful tie out of my wardrobe brightens up a damp, dark winter's day at the office.'

But Mr Merrifield said being dressed casually doesn't mean you lack a professional approach to work.

He said, 'I keep a few ties in the office and only wear them as and when I need to, for meetings and for visiting clients.' Do you know your tie terms?: Apron: The widest end of the tie. Usually the area where pizza grease first lands.

Ascot: A wide scarf originated by the British and worn with a wing-collar shirt.

Bow tie: A thin tie knotted with two loops from a French tie called a jabot.

Club: A common tie design featuring many small, repeating animals, figures or objects.

Cravat: Another French neck-piece historically worn as a loosely-knotted scarf.

Paisley: A common tie design featuring printed or woven Indian-inspired patterns.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 23, 2005
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