WELSH secretary Alun Cairns has quit after being accused of lying about his knowledge of an allegation that a Conservative candidate had sabotaged a rape trial.

Mr Cairns, who had served in the role under David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, claims he had been unaware of former staff member Ross England's role in the collapsed trial until after the story broke last week.

But BBC Wales said it had obtained a leaked email sent to Mr Cairns which showed he had been made aware of the allegations as early as August last year.


The allegation relates to the April 2018 trial of Mr England's friend James Hackett, who was later found guilty of rape after proceedings were restarted.

Labour's Jo Stevens told the House of Commons last week that the judge in the case, Stephen Hopkins QC, said Mr England had "single-handedly" and "deliberately" sabotaged the trial at Cardiff Crown Court, after ignoring his instructions not to refer to the woman's sexual history.

In his resignation letter to the prime minister, Mr Cairns said: “You will be aware of allegations relating to the actions of a party employee and candidate for the Welsh Assembly elections in the Vale of Glamorgan.

“This is a very sensitive matter, and in light of continued speculation, I write to tender my resignation as secretary of state for Wales.

“I will cooperate in full with the investigation under the Ministerial Code which will now take place and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrongdoing.

“It has been an honour to serve in your government and a privilege to see the positive steps you have made in such a short time.

“Your work to secure a deal to leave the European Union has been extraordinary and the opportunities it brings are exciting for all parts of the country.

“I thank you for your commitment to the Union and the way in which you have made it central to all areas of government policy.

“My experience of seeing your work first-hand with cabinet colleagues gives me confidence for the future.

“Your vision and drive to move the country forward to meet the opportunities of Brexit and to protect and enhance public services is exemplary.

“I will continue to work to support your vision and ambitions for the country and am grateful for the honour of serving in your cabinet.”

Replying, the prime minister said: “I am extremely grateful for all the work you have done in the role as secretary of state since March 2016. In particular, I would like to put on record my gratitude for all the support you have given to this government in ensuring we honour the commitment to the people that we leave the European Union. Given your long service as secretary of state, you can be proud of your record if delivery for the people of Wales, in particular in ensuring the abolition of tolls on the Severn bridges.

“This follows an unstinting record of service to the party in Wales with over a decade as Assembly Member for South Wales West where you were a vocal critic of the Welsh labour Government.”

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Paul Davies said: “I am sorry to see Alun resign today as the secretary of state for Wales however, under the circumstances this was the right decision for him. Alun has rightly stated that he will cooperate fully with any investigations.

“I would like to thank Alun for his service to Wales as our secretary of state where he brought an end to the Severn Bridge Tolls which will leave a lasting legacy on the Welsh economy.”

But shadow Welsh secretary Christina Rees said: “Alun Cairns stepping down as secretary of state is far from the end of the matter, and is a shoddy halfway house that will fool nobody.

“He has still not explained his behaviour and still not addressed the grave issues raised by the leaked emails yesterday. Worse still, neither he nor any senior Welsh Tory have apologised to one person who most deserves it - the victim herself.

“He should do the right thing - apologise, and step down as a candidate.”

Mr England has since been suspended from the party pending the matter being presented to the party's candidates committee.

The email, dated August 2, 2018, was sent to Mr Cairns by Geraint Evans, his special adviser, and was also copied to Richard Minshull, director of the Welsh Conservatives.

It said: "I have spoken to Ross and he is confident no action will be taken by the court."

Four months later Mr England was selected as the Welsh Conservatives' candidate for the Vale of Glamorgan for the 2021 Welsh Assembly election.

South Wales Argus:

Alun Cairns and Ross England

The Welsh Conservatives said the email had "no new information" and the party had no record of the judge's comments relating to Mr England.

A spokeswoman said: "There is no new information from this leaked document confirming an informal conversation which took place a considerable time after the trial collapsed and is consistent with statements made.

"The full details of this case are still not known and we have taken action in writing to the court. All forthcoming information will be taken into account as the party conducts a thorough investigation."