Clarification is required on the implications of comments made by Labour’s First Minister – following the sacking of a Labour backbencher as committee chair.
That’s the message from the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, who has today written to the Assembly’s Presiding Officer.
Andrew RT Davies has highlighted a claim – made in the Senedd – that, in her role as Chair of the All-Wales European Programme Monitoring Committee 2014-2020, the sacked Jenny Rathbone was bound by the same conventions as other Welsh government ministers.
Despite this, Mrs Rathbone remains a member of the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee; a position which no member or representative of the government can be given.
Those AMs who make up this committee often have access to confidential and privileged information, which would very often conflict with any role or guideline within the ministerial code.
Earlier this week Mrs Rathbone was removed from her position as European Monitoring Committee Chair for speaking out against the Welsh Labour government on issues surrounding the M4.
Welsh Conservatives tabled an Urgent Question on the First Minister’s decision to sack his AM. In response, Carwyn Jones said:
“The chair of the programme monitoring committee is an appointment made by the First Minister because that person, as is made clear in a letter of appointment, a representative of the Welsh Government. It’s further made clear in the provisions of the appointment that that person is required to have particular regard to acting within the spirit of collective responsibility, the main principles of the ministerial code, and the code of practice for ministerial appointments to public bodies.” (Early Draft Record, National Assembly for Wales).
Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies AM, said:
“There are extremely serious questions to answer and I urge Labour’s First Minister to clarify his comments.
“If Carwyn Jones is right – and Mrs Rathbone has been subject to ministerial convention – her involvement in Assembly committees must be clarified immediately.
“Members who sit in these sessions are required to scrutinise government actions and decisions made by ministers.
“Either you scrutinise ministers effectively – or are bound by ministerial convention. I find it difficult to see how you can do both.
“The First Minister’s comments have raised significant concerns and I hope both he – and the Presiding Officer – can shed light on decisions and process.”