A few weeks ago the first report into the Carl Sargeant affair – on whether there had been a leak of information prior to the November 2017 reshuffle – reported back. Authored by the Permanent Secretary, Shan Morgan, the report concluded there had been no unofficial leaks.
I’m not going to repeat what I said at the time, but my reaction is in Carl Sargeant inquiries not off to the best start.
The Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru tabled a joint motion calling for a redacted version of the report to be released/published (though presumably only to AMs and not the public). The Welsh Government have so far refused to do so as they believe even a redacted version could lead to complainants being identified.
- Calls on the Permanent Secretary to publish, with appropriate redactions to ensure anonymity of witnesses, the report into her investigation on ‘whether there is any evidence of a prior unauthorised sharing of information—i.e. a “leak”—by the Welsh Government of information relating to the ….reshuffle’.
Andrew RT Davies AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For (the motion): It’s an AM’s duty to scrutinise.
- It’s the duty of AMs to properly scrutinise organisations that have allegations made against them.
- It’s a “reasonable request” to see the report itself, its methodology, its conclusions and any action taken since.
- A number of sources put information into the public domain around the reshuffle, including journalists and lobbyists.
- Lobbyist firm, Deryn Consulting, reportedly had information on the reshuffle prior to it happening and journalists received a text from a Deryn employee who said Carl Sargeant would lose his job.
- He hasn’t received a response from the Permanent Secretary to letters he sent over a month ago.
Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales)
For: Let’s set a higher standard for ourselves and our government.
- The findings of the inquiry are a matter of public interest.
- Openness, transparency and accountability are key principles of public life; leaders should also promote these principles through their own actions. “If Carwyn Jones has nothing to hide then he should have nothing to fear from publishing the report”.
- Where does it leave democracy if these opposition debates and motions are ignored?
- It isn’t right for the First Minister to be “judge, jury and executioner” with regard the Ministerial Code.
Neil Hamilton AM (UKIP, Mid & West Wales)
Mixed-views: The report should be published, but it’s unlikely to get to the truth.
- It’s difficult to see how anyone with a good conscience could oppose the motion.
- He has prior experience of internal inquiries into leaks and so on and they never get to the truth; civil servants aren’t trained to be detectives.
- The system of special advisors is geared towards people exceeding their authority because they think it’s what Ministers want.
Lee Waters AM (Lab, Llanelli)
Against: This is political game-playing.
- He believes the text message he received prior to the reshuffle was “gossip” and wasn’t from an official source. He didn’t take it seriously until news of Carl Sargeant’s sacking broke.
- He won’t give the name of the source because he doesn’t want to “leave a trail of breadcrumbs” which could lead to complainants being identified.
- The inquiry by Paul Bowen QC should be the proper avenue to handle the report.
- “The women have been forgotten in this”; even a redacted report could lead to them being identified – the whole thing is becoming subject to political game-playing.
Darren Millar AM (Con, Clwyd West)
For: We need the truth.
- This isn’t political point-scoring, but about getting to the truth of what happened.
- This was the only time in his tenure as an AM that information about a reshuffle was disseminated in this manner; it was clear there wasn’t just gossip and speculation but hard information being shared.
- The Permanent Secretary should give an account to AMs on how she conducted the inquiry.
Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
For: Labour shouldn’t write this off as a “meaningless debate”.
- Key questions remain unanswered about the handling of the reshuffle. More texts have come to light that shows Carl Sargeant was aware the reshuffle was coming.
- If the motion is supported, the Government should act on the Senedd’s will not ignore it or consider it “meaningless”.
Welsh Government Response
Leader of the House, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West)
- Publication of the report could prejudice other inquiries and make individuals less confident about giving evidence.
- A copy of the report will be made available to Paul Bowen QC.
The vote carried despite a large number of abstentions (which count as a “non-vote”). This doesn’t mean the Welsh Government or Permanent Secretary will actually publish the report as the vote is non-binding. As you would probably be interested to know, Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) abstained in line with his party.