The First Minister of Wales may have misled Assembly Members in 2014 over his awareness of allegations of bullying within his own office, the Welsh Conservative leader has said.
Andrew RT Davies has called on Carwyn Jones to refer himself under the Ministerial Code, which he claims appears to have been broken.
In November 2014, Darren Millar AM submitted a Written Assembly Question to the First Minister asking:
Has the First Minister ever received any reports or been made aware of any allegations of bullying by special and/or specialist advisers at any time in the past three years and, if so, when and what action, if any, was taken?
The First Minister responded saying: No allegations have been made.
But during First Minister’s Questions today, Andrew RT Davies challenged the First Minister on this issue. He said:
So, can you confirm that – not like the answer you gave Darren Millar back in 2014 – that these allegations were raised with you, and that you did investigate them at that time?
In reply, the First Minister said:
“What I can say, is that any issues that were brought to my attention at that time were dealt with, and that’s what the answer was given and that answer is correct, back in 2014.
“If, however, there are other issues that people want to bring forward then they are welcome to do so, but he asked me a direct question: Were these issues… were any issues raised with me dealt with? The answer to that is yes they were dealt with.”
Speaking outside the Chamber, Andrew RT Davies said:
“The First Minister’s comments suggest that he may have misled Assembly Members over his knowledge of allegations of bullying within Welsh Government.
“Today, in direct contradiction to his assertion three years ago, he revealed to the Chamber that issues of bullying were in fact brought to his attention and that he dealt with them personally.
“In light of this very troubling revelation, I call on the First Minister to refer himself under the Ministerial Code so that this apparent breach of the rules can be properly investigated.
“Given that Carwyn Jones is the sole arbiter of the ministerial code, he should, as Alex Salmond did in 2012, appoint an independent Whitehall mandarin to set in motion an independent investigation.
“A healthy and functioning democracy cannot and must not tolerate politicians, especially leaders, who are less than truthful, and Assembly Members deserve answers as to why the First Minister knowingly withheld from them information of such gravity.”
Notes to Editors:
Full transcript from FMQs (14/11/2017)
Andrew RT Davies
First Minister, recently we’ve had allegations put by a former cabinet minister and by a senior special adviser that in the last Assembly government that you were first minister (to), there was ‘bullying, mind games, favoritism, deliberate personal undermining, and that culture was allowed to flourish unchecked’.
Also, the special adviser cited the behavior as being ‘pure poison’.
Could I ask you to comment on those allegations, First Minister, as if they are correct then that is no way to run a government, is it?
Well, first of all, can I say that I have heard the allegations of bullying by Leighton Andrews. I listened to what he has to say, and I heard what Steve Jones had to say, and what I will say is this… If people wish to come forward to me and explain things to me about their experience, then I’m more than willing for that to happen and they can contact me either through my office or the Permanent Secretary.
Andrew RT Davies
First Minister, the allegations are levelled very much at your office, and the allegations – or the people making the allegations – state quite clearly that they raised these allegations with you on numerous occasions and just gave up.
They just gave up. They believed that they weren’t being taken seriously and these issues were not being addressed. And indeed in an Assembly Written Question by my colleague, Darren Millar, who asked the question back in October/November 2014, you actually responded to him by saying that no allegations had been made.
How can people have confidence that if they do choose to raise these serious concerns with you, that they will be taken seriously; and in the absence of them having that confidence, would you commit to referring those allegations for investigation by an independent third-party so that we can fully understand whether they are serious allegations that stack up and action is required, or they have no substance and they can be discarded.
I think it’s hugely important that where people have concerns that they are able to express those concerns through a confidential process.
I don’t think doing it in the public domain is the way to do these things, and I invite people to come forward with any concerns that they might have and contact my office or the Permanent Secretary, so that I can make an assessment of what was said to be happening at that time.
Andrew RT Davies
Is it fair to say though First Minister, that these allegations were raised with you at the time? Because both individuals – senior individuals within the government – are categorical in their allegations that they say were raised on numerous occasions with you; not just on one-off occasions. But they were raised on numerous occasions with you.
And indeed, they were levelled at your office. They weren’t levelled at the wider government structure – they were levelled at the office of First Minister.
So, can you confirm that – not like the answer you gave Darren Millar back in 2014 – that these allegations were raised with you, and that you did investigate them at that time? And as I said, if they do stack up will you commit to referring them to an independent person do that they can be looked into and these actions addressed?
What I can say, is that any issues that were brought to my attention at that time were dealt with, and that’s what the answer was given and that answer is correct, back in 2014.
If, however, there are other issues that people want to bring forward then they are welcome to do so, but he asked me a direct question: Were these issues… were any issues raised with me dealt with? The answer to that is yes they were dealt with.