Monday, July 14, 2014

Ministerial accountability

In the wake of the sacking of Alun Davies, Welsh LibDem leader Kirsty Williams writes:

This week has been one of the most extraordinary since the Welsh Assembly first opened its doors fifteen years ago.

The revelations surrounding Alun Davies as Minister for Natural Resources had begun to die down on Tuesday, following his breaking of the Ministerial Code announced last week. That was until a statement landed in my inbox from the First Minister telling me he’d been sacked.

Reading on, it became clear what had caused his dismissal. After finding out he’d broken the Ministerial Code, Alun Davies immediately went to try and uncover private details of agricultural payments made to myself, our own William Powell and three other Assembly Members. I’m under no doubt that this was an attempt to start a smear campaign against all five of us – all people who had dared to question his behaviour in the Circuit of Wales scandal.

I’m proud to be part of a family that’s been farming in Breconshire for over 100 years – I’ve never hidden that. It’s completely abhorrent that anyone would try and use that background against me or any of my fellow AMs. It was clear that Alun Davies could not keep his job, and I’m glad that he hasn’t.

I’m under no doubt that it isn’t just the credibility of Alun Davies, Carwyn Jones and his Welsh Labour Party that’s been harmed by this episode. The reputation of Welsh politics as a whole has taken a huge knock in the past few weeks, which will affect politicians of all parties.

There is, however, one positive that has come out of this mess. This week, the Assembly’s opposition parties united behind our long-standing call for independent policing of the Ministerial Code in Wales. It’s simply not right that the First Minister plays the role of judge, jury and executioner over issues relating to Welsh Ministers and even himself. The debate we held in the Siambr on Wednesday showed that this scandal has truly hit home with the First Minister, and his opposition to such moves was much more muted this time round.

This scandal was certainly unprecedented in Welsh politics. I just hope that we don’t see anything like it again.

Note: First Minister Carwyn Jones's powers are extensive. In 2007, he appointed himself Counsel General for Wales, a post which hitherto had been assumed to be at arms-length from government.

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