Sacked environment minister Alun Davies 'sorry'

Alun Davies was already under scrutiny for breaching the ministerial code

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Sacked environment minister Alun Davies has apologised to his former civil servants after pressuring them for private information on opposition AMs.

Mr Davies also says he supports First Minister Carwyn Jones, the man who fired him from his cabinet.

He was already under scrutiny over his handling of plans for a racing circuit in his Blaenau Gwent constituency.

The Welsh Conservatives leader has written to the Standards Commissioner about Alun Davies's behaviour.

Mr Davies had been told by his staff that the information he had requested on five AMs was not publicly available.

Despite this, he put pressure on them by asking again for it to be provided.

On Tuesday, he said he wanted to apologise to the civil servants "whom I placed in a very difficult situation".

He also said he was "sorry to be leaving government at this point in time," adding: "I will continue to support the first minister and the Welsh Labour government".

Mr Davies said his "focus in the future" would be his constituency.

The comments from the former minister were made in a statement, however Mr Davies rejected BBC Wales requests for an interview on Tuesday.

His portfolio has been divided up between three other ministers, and there are no plans to appoint another dedicated minister to his former role.

Tory AM Antoinette Sandbach - among those the Labour minister had sought private information on - described the handling of the issue as "scandalous".

During a heated exchange in the Senedd, First Minister Carwyn Jones said the actions were "poorly judged" and "inappropriate".

An urgent question is put to Carwyn Jones about Alun Davies

Opposition parties branded the minister's behaviour "disgraceful".

They accused Mr Davies of launching a "smear campaign" against political opponents and called for him to be removed from his position as an AM.

Mr Jones told AMs it was "quite wrong" that Mr Davies had made the information request.

But he rejected claims that the controversy had raised questions about his own judgement.

Mr Jones said his decision showed that 'the system works' and that the issue would not have come to light had the Welsh government not made it public.

Mr Davies previous ministerial duties have been divided between other ministers.

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Rise and fall

As a minister, Alun Davies was never afraid to speak his mind, and that won him both political admirers and enemies.

BBC Wales' environment correspondent, Iolo ap Dafydd, takes a closer look at the background of the Blaenau Gwent AM.

Alun Davies was never afraid to clash with farmers

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Economy and Transport Minister Edwina Hart will look after agriculture, fisheries and food, Sport and Culture Minister John Griffiths has had environment added to his portfolio and Rebecca Evans is promoted from the backbenches to become deputy minister for agriculture and fisheries.

Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies called for an independent inquiry to examine whether such practice existed elsewhere in the Welsh government.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said an independent adjudicator should look at alleged breaks in the ministerial code, saying it was wrong for the first minister "to act as judge and jury" on such matters .

Responding to his dismissal in a statement Mr Davies said: "I'm remaining absolutely focused on Blaenau Gwent. As I said when I was elected, Blaenau Gwent comes first, second and third."

Mr Davies, 51, was sacked after it emerged he had asked for details of farm subsidies paid to opposition AMs, including Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies and Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams.

He also asked for information on payments to the Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach, Liberal Democrat William Powell and Plaid Cymru's Llyr Gruffydd.

Last week, the Blaenau Gwent AM apologised in the Senedd over a separate row in which he was judged to have broken the Ministerial Code while lobbying for a race track to be built in his constituency.

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'Bad day at the office'

BBC Wales' political editor Nick Servini has been following the twists and turns as the ministerial sacking was announced.

He gave his view on what it all means for the first minister to BBC Wales Today's Jamie Owen.

Carwyn Jones: Last week backing Alun Davies - this week sacking him

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Andrew RT Davies questioned Mr Davies' future as an AM.

"This, effectively, is gross misconduct, and we have today written to the standards commissioner, making the case that this person may not be a fit and proper person to hold elected office," he said.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "The first minister obviously had the opportunity to remove this minister last week. He didn't.

"He made the wrong call.

"This is a judgement call and ultimately I believe the only way we can get confidence back in the ministerial code is to remove the first minister from the ministerial code and have an independent arbitrator, which most people would say is fair and reasonable in a political environment."

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civil servant's email An extract from an email from a civil servant raising concerns about the request from Alun Davies
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Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty William called Mr Davies's actions "atrocious" and "completely unacceptable for anyone serving in public office".

"The fact that Alun Davies used his ministerial office to start a smear campaign against those that dared to hold him to account is disgraceful," she added.

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'Teflon coming off'?

Already the opposition parties are calling for the way the ministerial code of conduct is overseen by the first minister to be overhauled.

Andrew RT Davies has written to the assembly's standards commissioner to raise his concerns.

Does this mark a sticky political patch for Carwyn Jones?

Welsh affairs editor Vaughan Roderick says the Welsh Labour leader may have lost his 'teflon' reputation.

Tough questions for the first minister over the Alun Davies issues

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Mr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru's agriculture spokesman, said: "The public places great trust in our elected cabinet members and it is clear that Alun Davies played fast and loose with that trust.

He added: "Had Alun Davies had the courtesy to ask me in person if I received the single farm payment I would have answered him directly that I do not."

Alun Davies first tried to be elected to a Westminster seat in 1992, standing for Plaid Cymru in Blaenau Gwent, the seat he now represents as an AM.

He has previously been a lobbyist and a spokesman for the UK Atomic Energy Authority and S4C.

Elected to the assembly as a Mid and West Wales regional AM in 2007, he late gave up that seat to win back Blaenau Gwent for Labour.

Mr Davies backed Carwyn Jones for the Labour leadership and joined the cabinet as natural resources minister in March last year.

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