No further action for minister and Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies who breached code - Carwyn Jones
Updated 5:59pm Tuesday 1st July 2014 in News
UPDATE 3pm: There were opposition calls for Alun Davies to stand down amid ripped papers and accusations of burying bad news in the Senedd this afternoon.
Alun Davies was found by first minister Carwyn Jones to have breached the ministerial code over the Circuit of Wales but has held on to his job as natural resources minister.
Andrew RT Davies told a Senedd debate that a “cynic might say that 45 minutes after the job losses announcement at Tata today was a good day to bury bad news” prompting heckles from Labour benches.
He called for Mr Davies to stand down as minister.
“I think the minister should do the honourable thing and return to the backbenchers because the ministerial code has been broken,” he said.
But Mr Jones said the Assembly commission were told before the Tata announcement, and said Tuesdays was the appropriate day in his judgement to release a statement.
Simon Thomas, for Plaid, listed four “clear breaches of the code” before ripping up his papers.
The AM said if the first minister could confirm those, “can you confirm on what basis did the minister either did not resign after trampling over the ministerial code, or you didn’t sack him.
Mr Thomas, wripping up his copy of the code, added: “And if that is the case today are you going to rip up this ministerial code because it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”
Mr Jones, mocking Mr Thomas and accusing him of getting his facts wrong, said: “Oh the drama, the drama.”
He added: “To my mind there were some breaches of the ministerial code. In my judgement they were not so serious to justify the minister being removed from his post.”
Mr Jones said there was no suggestion there was any influence on NRW’s final view on the Circuit of Wales planning application: “If there had been a suggestion there had been influence matters might have been somewhat different.”
“There is no ban on ministers making representations on planning issues,” he said.
UPDATE 2.45pm: Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies has apologised to the public for breaching the ministerial code early this afternoon.
The natural resources minister said he didn’t take sufficient care to separate managing his constituency interests with his work as a minister.
But he said his comments had no influence on the final view of Natural Resources Wales regarding the Circuit of Wales.
The full statement from Mr Davies, delivered in the Senedd, said: “As members will know, in seeking to further the interests of my constituents questions were raised about possible conflict with my role as a minister.
“The first minister commissioned an enquiry to establish all the relevant facts and he concluded that I did in fact breach some specific elements of the ministerial code.
“I have already apologised to the first minister and would like to do so again now for the public record.
“My intention was to promote the interests of my constituents as faithfully as possible.
“However I recognise that ministers need to take special care in managing constituency interests and I regret that on this occasion I did not exercise sufficient care to maintain a clear perception of full separation of my ministerial role and my role as a constituency Assembly member.
“I note however that my comments had no influence on the final view of Natural Resources Wales regarding the Circuit of Wales planning application.
“Presiding Officer, I am proud to serve my constituency of Blaenau Gwent, I am proud to serve this government as a minister and I will continue to fulfil both roles with all my energy. Thank you very much.”
UPDATE 1.50pm: Proceedings have kicked off in the Senedd this afternoon - and leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Kirsty Williams has challenged First minister Carwyn Jones over why Leighton Andrews had to go but Alun Davies doesn't, despite a breach of the ministerial code.
But Mr Jones said the circumstances were different - and has said that the report on the matter will be published after Mr Davies delivers his apology after first minister's questions.
Davies breached code but will not be sacked, says Jones http://t.co/iDG51HvzcY <-- no integrity, no hounour. S Wales Taffia at it again— Antoinette Sandbach (@ASandbachAM) July 1, 2014
UPDATE 1pm: The first response from opposition parties to Carwyn Jones' statement has come in - with Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams saying his decision that Alun Davies breached the ministerial code but won't face further action is "indefensible".
Ms Williams called it a bad day for the Assembly.
She said: “The First Minister’s decision is indefensible. How can you admit that someone has broken the rules but then refuse to punish them? This begs the question of what even is the point of the Ministerial Code?
“The First Minister dithered on his decision and has now completely failed in his duty to hold his Minister to account. This is a bad day for the National Assembly.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been calling for reform of the Ministerial Code for many years now. This sorry episode once again shows why an independent advisor is needed on the Ministerial code.”
UPDATE 12.49pm: We've had a little more background from this from a source within the Welsh Government, who indicated the situation could have been very different had Natural Resources Wales seen the matter differently.
Blaenau Gwent AM Alun Davies has held on to his job despite Carwyn Jones finding there had been a breach of the ministerial code.
But the decision came down as it did, the source said, after NRW had stated that Mr Davies was acting as a constituency AM in his dealings with them, and that it had not felt under any undue pressure.
It's understood that today's statement from Alun Davies will reiterate his apology to the first minister and apologise to the public as well.
Previously the leader of the opposition, Tory AM Andrew Davies, has called for Mr Davies to resign had a breach been uncovered by the probe.
12.18pm: BLAENAU Gwent AM Alun Davies broke the ministerial code over the Circuit of Wales, the first minister has said this morning
But Mr Davies appears to have held on to his cabinet post with Carwyn Jones saying he will take no further action.
Mr Davies, minister for natural resources, has apologised and is expected to make a statement in the Senedd later today.
A probe was commissioned by the first minister Carwyn Jones from permanent secretary Sir Derek Jones after it was discovered that Mr Davies, who is natural resources minister, had contacted environmental body Natural Resources Wales in favour of the project.
NRW had been objecting to the scheme but later dropped its landscape and ecological objections. Mr Davies is responsible for the body.
Mr Jones told AMs in a statement that he believed the minister did not exercise sufficient care in establishing the perception of separation between his ministerial and constituency roles.
But he said the minister wasn’t making a decision on the issue and nor would he have been in any of the circumstances that might have unfolded – and that NRW said their views weren’t altered or influenced as a result of the minister’s actions.
Mr Jones told AMs: “Members know that I asked the permanent secretary to examine circumstances surrounding suggestions of a perception of conflict between the Minister for Natural Resources and Food’s ministerial role and his constituency interests.
“That report has been completed and a copy will be placed in the members library later today.
“I asked for a report setting out the relevant facts. Having carefully considered the matter it is clear to me that the Ministerial Code was breached. Managing the potential for conflict between ministerial responsibility and constituency interests represents a permanent challenge for all of us in government. In some cases the issues are not clear cut and careful lines must be drawn.
“On this occasion I believe that the Minister for Natural Resources and Food did not exercise sufficient care in clearly establishing the perception of full separation between his ministerial and constituency roles. "However, the Minister was not a decision-making Minister in this matter and nor would he have been in any of the circumstances that might have unfolded. In addition, Natural Resources Wales have been clear that their views were not altered or influenced as a result of the Minister’s engagement as a constituency Assembly Member.
“I have addressed this issue with the Minister directly and he has apologised to me. He will be making a personal statement in the Chamber later today and I will be taking no further action on this occasion.”