THE AM for Blaenau Gwent came under continued pressure yesterday over the Circuit of Wales row amid further calls for Alun Davies to return to the backbenches.
Opposition AMs quizzed the First Minister Carwyn Jones in the Senedd over advice given to the Blaenau Gwent AM not to comment on the Rassau racetrack planning application.
The issue isn’t going to go away and the three Assembly opposition leaders have all signed a motion calling for a debate that could take place next Wednesday.
Carwyn Jones previously told the Senedd on Tuesday that Alun Davies had breached the ministerial code over contact he had with Natural Resources Wales in 2013 over the £280 million Circuit of Wales project, following an inquiry by permanent secretary Sir Derek Jones into the matter.
But Mr Jones said the breaches were not serious enough to justify Mr Davies being removed from his post.
Alun Davies apologised on Tuesday.
NRW, which Mr Davies is responsible for, had been objecting to a planning application for the scheme but dropped their objections last August.
Tory leader of the opposition Andrew RT Davies said yesterday: “It doesn’t matter now whether he is sacked, or whether he resigns but – I regret – Mr Davies must return to the backbenches.”
Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: “Alun Davies should have done the honourable thing and resigned. As that hasn’t happened, the First Minister must take swift action to remove him from his position.”
Plaid’s Simon Thomas asked an urgent question in the Senedd chamber about advice given to Mr Davies that he shouldn’t comment on matters relating to the Circuit of Wales, as claimed in the report by permanent secretary Sir Derek.
The First Minister said: “This advice didn’t come from me, it was excessive in terms of what it says, it goes further then what was required by the ministerial code”.
Mr Thomas asked if Mr Jones: “if he still believes in the merits of his minister” following the report’s publication, to which Mr Jones said he did.
“He might have made it clearer that he was acting on behalf of constituents,” the first minister later said, but added that NRW were still objecting to the project a month later after the correspondence, on July 16.
Alun Davies held his regular ministerial question time in the Senedd yesterday, where Tory AM Russell George asked: “How can my constituents have the confidence that you are not promoting projects in your own constituency over that in other constituencies?”
Plaid’s business manager, Elin Jones AM, said: “At this point we have little confidence that the First Minister has taken the significant breaches of the code by the Minister for Natural Resources seriously enough.”
Simon Thomas told the Argus he thinks there are two reasons why Carwyn Jones is protecting the Blaenau Gwent AM.
“One is the government supports the project, they wouldn’t want anything to happen that would increase the likelihood of a judicial review,” he said.
“The second reason is political – he’s lost one very good communicator in Leighton Andrew. He doesn’t want to lose another.”