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Tory chief apped.

IT was First Minister's Questions at the Assembly and the first question was an important one from the Conservative Leader about achievement targets in health, education and transport.

But it was a question Rhodri Morgan did not have to answer because the Conservative Leader had taken time off from his Assembly duties to deliver 17 law lectures in Hong Kong.

Last night Nick Bourne's absence from the Assembly for its final week before the Easter recess was condemned as "disgraceful" by his predecessor Rod Richards, who now sits as an Independent Conservative.

Other members of the Tory group were privately furious about Mr Bourne's decision to earn several thousand pounds on the side from teaching Chinese students about company law at the University of Hong Kong.

One, usually a Bourne loyalist, said: "It would be inconceivable for Iain Duncan Smith to take time out from the House of Commons for such a purpose, so why should it be acceptable for his equivalent in Wales?"

Mr Bourne's spokesman Steven Jenkins said: "This obviously has to be set up and arranged months in advance.

When the arrangements were made, the National Assembly was originally meant to be in recess.

A spokeswoman for the Assembly's Presiding Office said: "Dates for the Easter recess were fixed at the Business Committee on November 27 last year. Before that, no firm dates had been set."

Before his election to the Assembly in 1999, Mr Bourne was a law professor at Swansea Institute of Higher Education.

Mr Bourne has made an entry on the Assembly Members' Register of Interests about an earlier trip to Hong Kong.

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NICK BOURNE: Under attack
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 24, 2002
Words:275
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