FIRST MINISTER FAILS TO STOP ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON SARGEANT LEAK INQUIRY

Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies (right) takes First Minister Carwyn Jones to task for trying to stop today’s leak inquiry debate. Carwyn Jones failed

The beleaguered Labour First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has failed in his bid to stop the Welsh Assembly debating (later today) the report of the leak inquiry into the suicide of fellow Assembly Member and former Welsh Labour Government Minister Carl Sargeant .

Carwyn Jones – and ex barrister by profession – had attempted to stop today’s scheduled debate from taking place by writing a long letter full of unconvincing legalese to the Assembly’s presiding officer Elin Jones.

Presiding Officer Elin Jones dismissed the First Minister’s attempt to defer today’s leak debate

Elin Jones however had abruptly dismissed the First Minister’s two page letter – and told him in a curt three-line reply that she was not persuaded of his arguments and that the debate WILL be going ahead [ It’s scheduled for later today .]

Yesterday in the Assembly’s weekly “Questions to the First Minister” Penarth AM Andrew R T Davies – Leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh Assembly – opened-up the attack on the evasive Carwyn Jones.

Conservative Leader and Penarth AM Andrew R T Davies questions First Minister Carwyn Jones about his attempt to stop today’s leak debate

Andrew R T Davies (Conservative South Wales Central)  said “When devolution came into being in 1999 we said at that time that things were going to be different, politics was going to be different. This morning, your Government, and you in particular, wrote a letter to the Presiding Officer indicating that you were minded to seek a legal judgment from the court to stop a debate in this Chamber taking place tomorrow. The only place we can find any comparable comparisons is the country of Egypt, where the executive tries to stop the legislature debating and discussing and voting on a motion that comes before it that is deemed in competence. Why are you trying to silence the Assembly?”

The unprecedented letter from First Minister Carwyn Jones urging Presiding Officer Elin Jones NOT to hold a debate today on the Sargeant leak inquiry . She dismissed his request

Carwyn Jones – despite correspondence to the contrary – lamely claimed that his letter was not about attempting prevent the debate.

Andrew R T Davies didn’t agree. He said   “As I understand it, First Minister, from the letter that you sent to the Presiding Officer, you seem to deem yourself outside the scope of the Government of Wales provision, and therefore you do not feel that you are bound by the provisions within the Government of Wales Act, and that is what you will be seeking a judgment from the court on if you seek that route. That, in effect, places you above the law, if you take your interpretation to the extreme, because you are saying your Ministers are bound by the provisions within the Government of Wales Act but you yourself are not. Now, surely, First Minister, you should allow this debate to go ahead tomorrow, allow the debate, because it’s deemed to be in competence—it’s on the order paper—and I would seek confirmation from you today that you will not try and intervene and stop this debate taking place tomorrow afternoon.”

On the ropes, Carwyn Jones then resorted to the “It isn’t me” defence by saying “I have no power to intervene to stop the debate taking place; that’s a matter for the Presiding Officer.” [ PDN Note: He’s right. It is. But that was  exactly why he had written to the Presiding Officer Elin Jones to try to get her to pull the debate scheduled for later today]

Labour AMs seemed less that engaged with the First Minister’s remarks and a number of Labour seats were remained empty throughout the “First Minister’s Questions” session

Blustering on, Carwyn Jones then claimed Andrew R T Davies “inadvertently misleads the Assembly”  in claiming  the effect of section 37, “as we interpret it”,[ It wasn’t clear who the “we” he referred to are”]   is to put the First Minister beyond the law. It is not.”

Dancing on the head of a legal pin, the First Minister said “The interpretation that we place on section 37 is that it applies specifically to Welsh Ministers and NOT to the functions of the First Minister.” [ There were groans of  incredulity and laughter from the Assembly chamber at this assertion] .

Patronisingly the First Minister went on to lecture the AMs telling them “Now, THAT is an issue that is HUGELY important in law.“… and just in case the AMs  hadn’t grasped the point first time, he reiterated it  …“It’s HUGELY important.” he said.

Carwyn Jones then carried on with his impromptu law lecture:  “Now, if something is in dispute in terms of the law, it’s perfectly proper that clarity is sought as to how the law operates. We can’t operate in a slapdash way; we have to make sure we have clarity for Government and, indeed, for the Assembly.”

Conservative Leader Andrew R T Davies (South Wales Central) puts pressure on First Minister Carwyn Jones

Andrew R T Davies however wasn’t prepared to swallow any of the First Minister’s dubious logic. He said ” I never thought I’d stand in this Chamber and find us debating these types of points, where you as First Minister  (because it’s your signature on the bottom of that letter ) are trying to prevent a debate coming forward tomorrow because you want to seek a judgment of the court to prevent that happening.”

Andrew R T Davies reminded Carwyn Jones “You have said time and time again that the substance of the debate tomorrow, which is the leak inquiry report, is in the ownership of the Permanent Secretary, and it is for her to determine whether that report should come forward. Why are you intervening now to try and stop that report coming forward? …. Today—the first day back after the Easter recess—we are looking at you as First Minister who has sent a letter to the Presiding Officer, trying to silence the Assembly. That is the wrong way to do democracy here in Wales.”

After an intervention by the Presiding Officer, Carwyn Jones went on to say “Thank you, Presiding Officer. First of all, I have no fear of the leak inquiry; I ordered it. And it is something that I was under no…uh ….. [at this point Carwyn Jones faltered, and might well have been about to say he was ‘under no obligation to hold any leak inquiry’ (potentially a comment which could land him in even more trouble)  and changed his sentence in mid-stream . He went on to say ] “….it was not imposed on me, it was something that I took forward and Members can see the conclusion.”  The First Minister’s verbal gear-graunch was not missed by AMs in the chamber.

Carwyn Jones went on to admit that ” There have been discussions with the Presiding Officer. It’s not the case that this came out of the blue. It’s not something I would choose to do, I have to say, if other options were available, but we have to protect the position of a senior member of Welsh Government staff who, if the motion was passed, would be at risk of prosecution. This is a serious issue—a HUGELY  serious legal issue—[ that favourite word “huge” was being waved about again – but failed to impress the AMs ]   .

The First Minister then went on to deploy one of the most well-worn, least convincing but most desperate justifications  ….“National Security. He confided to unimpressed AMs ” Now, I have in my possession documents that are given to me as First Minister that deal with National Security. Under the interpretation at the moment that we have, that would be releaseable—that would be releaseable. [AMs again groaned in disbelief]  Well” – said the First Minister  “it IS; there is no clarity on it.”

He then went on clutch at further straws –  citing whistle-blowers, commercial confidentiality and tender bids. As the patience of AMs waned, Carwyn Jones lectured them tetchily “If Members don’t want to listen—. I’m trying to put a reasonable case here for them. If they don’t want to listen, that’s a matter for them” .

The First Minister went on to assert that “There is now no guarantee of confidentiality without further clarity. There is no guarantee. I cannot give, as First Minister, any guarantee of confidentiality to anybody, nor can any other Welsh Minister, until this matter is clarified” adding feebly “That’s how serious the situation is”.

Many AMs might well have concluded that –  given the leaks which are already said to have poured  out of the First Minister’s office –  at least on that he is right.

 

 

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16 Responses to FIRST MINISTER FAILS TO STOP ASSEMBLY DEBATE ON SARGEANT LEAK INQUIRY

  1. Chris Franks says:

    Well done to the Presiding Officer Elin Jones for protecting Welsh democracy.

    • Philip Rapier says:

      The First Minister is himself a Lawyer. He takes advice from the WAG (Civil Servant Barristers). .He cannot go against that advice .The Presiding Officer may choose to risk overruling the advice. This Presiding Officer’s decision may on legal advice be made subject to Judicial Review by the High Court Court at a later date.
      The Welsh Government needs no lectures on democracy from the Party of “wrong and ustable” Teresa May’s Tories and their shameful illegal attempt to deport 57000 West Indian Commonwealth Citizens in the Windrush Scandal.
      The same Tories who were crushed by just one woman in the High Court over denying MPs a Brexit vote.

    • Peter Church says:

      Strange, Philip (hard left) Rapier is not replying to defend the undemocratic First Minister!!
      I take this as a sign that Carwyn has lost the support of even the most die hard Labourites.

  2. BluesMan says:

    Carwyn Jones has got to go this is getting embarrassing!

  3. Eilir says:

    The whole affiar stinks more than a kipper on a hot beach and Jones has answers to give.

    It’s 19 years now since the Welsh Assembly was created (on only 25% of an electoral vote) and has Wales improved? The NHS is a shambles, trying to get a GP appointment means waiting 3 weeks or putting aside one hour of your time first thing in the morningl to repetitively press re-dial in the hope that you win the automated call queuing lottery simply to see a doctor, our welsh schools are ranked the worst in the UK and businesses are firightened off by all the red tape on this side of the severn.

    The only thing the Welsh government has been succesful at is voting to increase their over inflated salaries year in year out. We need to stop rewarding their failure or better still get rid of the whole shambles.

    • jonathancoleuk says:

      Couldn’t agree more, apart from one or two notable exceptions they’d be hard pressed organising a party in a brewery

  4. Chris David says:

    Yes indeed although it shouldn’t come to one officer having such power. She’s abused her power before banning an elected member because she doesn’t like what he had to say. But still yes this decision is good and I for one hope it leads to the end of Carping Carwyn.

  5. Mike Baker says:

    Astonishing that the First Minister should even consider this move

  6. Nigel Bull says:

    Give the man a political revolver and bottle of whisky to rid us of this embarrassment to the country. We have still to find out more about the accusations made by Cathy Owens on The Sunday Politics Show., oh sorry that one has been successfully buried by both Labour and The Assembly.

  7. Peter Church says:

    The labour line is now Carwyn only asked for a postponement of the debate, strange his letter did mention postponement just that the debate be stopped.
    Well done the presiding officer for publishing the letter and shame on the so called First Minster for writing it.

  8. CelticMan says:

    Shame on Carwyn – he should go. Now!

  9. Staff says:

    Should have gone years ago..who on earth does he think he is..
    Just a total waste of time and money..
    Do The Right Thing And Resign ..There is no smoke without fire..

  10. Chris David says:

    I noticed that during the debate Plaid and the Conservatives were talking about the Issues and actions while Labour harped on about legal precedent. In other words they wriggled, prevaricated and generally tried to block justice. Corrupt lot in Labour Wales ?

  11. Mike Baker says:

    So having been refused permission by the presiding officer, the first minister gets the Labour faithful to vote against disclosure, what I ask is there to conceal that they go to these lengths ??

  12. Chris David says:

    So lets see the Labour lemmings here justify this one. Labour has effectively denied the country justice and democracy. It is just plain wrong that what the world may see as a corrupt and morally bankrupt group of people, can use the law to deny the public knowledge of something they own. This is a virtual dictatorship– did someone say Egypt. Yes indeed what do they seek to conceal. Perhaps they have used the law to cover up unlawful activity? Isn’t that a crime? This makes every single Labour AM very suspect.

  13. Fiona says:

    Shifty looking.

Comments are closed.