The minister, the email account, and the racetrack

  • 3 July 2014
  • From the section Wales
  • comments
Alun Davies and Carwyn Jones
Image caption Code breached - but no sacking for Alun Davies by the first minister

I'm told Carwyn Jones had to think hard about his decision not to sack his environment minister Alun Davies for breaking the ministerial code.

That would suggest it could have gone either way.

The crucial position is the one taken by Natural Resources Wales, which insists that it was not influenced by Mr Davies.

If it had left any room for confusion, then it's difficult to see how the minister could have remained in the job.

For those who have missed the story, here's my one-minute summary I used on Wales Today:

Developers from the Circuit of Wales want to build a major motor racing track near Ebbw Vale.

As well as being the local AM, Alun Davies is the Welsh government's environment minister, which means he overseas the watchdog Natural Resources Wales.

He lobbied NRW in support of the track which he's allowed to do as the local AM, but not as a Government minister.

Crucially NRW had objections to the track but then said that its concerns had been met by the developers and it recommended to the Welsh Government that it should support the proposal.

As a result, some have questioned whether Mr Davies unduly influenced the body. As I mentioned earlier, NRW insists that did not happen.

Carwyn Jones said the guidelines for ministers were broken. A report he commissioned found that Alun Davies had ignored the advice from his officials not to comment on the matter.

So that's my summary, the question is now we've had the report, an apology from Alun Davies and the public backing of Carwyn Jones, is that it? The opposition party leaders at the Assembly don't agree on much but I'm told they very much agree on keeping the pressure up on this next week.

There are a number of questions that remain unanswered.

An obvious one is why a media-savvy minister like Alun Davies ignored the advice of his officials.

After all it's not as if this is a low-key project. The plan for a £250m racetrack is one of the most ambitious schemes the Heads of the Valleys has seen in years.

We've obviously asked the minister for an interview without any joy.

Image caption Opposition parties are pressing for a debate on Alun Davies's actions

Opposition AMs quizzed the First Minister after Plaid tabled an urgent question.

The possibility was raised that Mr Davies' behaviour could cost the taxpayer millions of pounds because it paves the way for a challenge to the planning decision in the courts.

Another question raised in the chamber was whether the fact that Mr Davies' email to NRW came from his constituency Assembly Member account, rather than his Ministerial account, was enough to show he was writing to them in his capacity as the local AM.

Carwyn Jones said he believed it wasn't enough in itself and more should have been done to show that he wasn't speaking to NRW in his capacity as the Government minister who overseas the body.

In the meantime of course, we still don't know whether the Circuit of Wales will go-ahead. There was no comment from the developers regarding this story. If they can't raise enough funding then the whole debate about the minister, the email account and the racetrack will have been academic anyway.

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