Lesley Griffiths survives vote over hospital report row

The opposition parties claimed that though the government had won the vote, they still had questions to answer in the NHS report row

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Wales' health minister has survived a no-confidence vote in a row about a controversial report into reorganising hospital services.

Opposition parties tabled the motion against Lesley Griffiths after emails emerged between the report's academic author and civil servants.

The motion was not binding, meaning it would not have forced her to resign.

It came after she defended officials against allegations they colluded with health economist Marcus Longley.

Published in May, Professor Longley's report was hailed as an independent analysis that supported the need to make changes to hospitals.

Local health boards are preparing to reveal potentially controversial plans that are meant to put the NHS on a long-term footing.

Opposition parties called for the minister to stand down after it emerged last week that Prof Longley emailed her officials while he was writing the report, saying the content of the correspondence raised questions about his independence.

Start Quote

The NHS is our creation. It's safe with this government and it's safe with Lesley Griffiths”

End Quote Carwyn Jones First Minister

In one email, Prof Longley asks NHS Wales medical director Dr Chris Jones for further evidence "to sharpen up the document and its impact in supporting the case for change".

Prof Longley and the Welsh government strongly deny claims that the report, which was commissioned by the NHS, was not an independent piece of work.

Split

The Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats supported a no-confidence motion on Wednesday at the last plenary session before the long summer recess.

It was defeated 29 votes to 28.

As the assembly's 60 seats are evenly split between the government and the opposition, the motion would have needed a Labour rebellion to get it through the Senedd.

The likelihood of that happening took a hit when Plaid AM Lord Elis-Thomas stayed away from Cardiff Bay to preside over a graduation ceremony at Bangor University.

He criticised his party's stance, saying the debate "puts prejudice before evidence".

First Minister Carwyn Jones quoted Lord Elis-Thomas's words back at his party when he came to Ms Griffiths's defence in the Senedd.

Mr Jones added: "The reality is this - the NHS is our creation. It's safe with this government and it's safe with Lesley Griffiths."

Earlier in the day Ms Griffiths, her officials and Prof Longley all faced questions from AMs on the assembly's health committee.

The minister said there was no collusion with Prof Longley and the contact between him and officials was "entirely appropriate".

Prof Longley insisted his findings had not been "sexed up" and that he emailed civil servants to request information that was not publicly available.

But Tory health spokesman Darren Millar said their performance at the committee was "unconvincing".

"The revelations of the past week provided yet further evidence that we have a minister who doesn't have a grip on her department," he said.

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