Wales politics

Opposition unites behind no confidence motion in Lesley Griffiths

Wales' health minister faces a no confidence vote in the Welsh assembly in a row about a report into reforming hospital services.

Opposition parties united to table a joint motion and called on Labour's Lesley Griffiths to resign.

Questions have been raised about the report's independence after emails emerged between its academic author and senior civil servants.

Ministers say the report is impartial and supports the case for NHS changes.

With 30 of the assembly's 60 seats, Carwyn Jones's Labour government does not have an outright majority in Cardiff Bay.

At least one Labour AM would have to rebel to get the motion through.

Even then, the motion is not binding and would not force Mrs Griffiths to stand down.

The motion reads: "The National Assembly for Wales has no confidence in the Minister for Health and Social Services."

A Welsh government source said: "If this motion is accepted, we will vote against and it will fall.

"We will not play politics with people's lives, their hospitals or their well-being. We will resist all attempts by these three conservative parties to wreck our NHS."

Mrs Griffiths has resisted calls to stand down after the emails between health economist Marcus Longley and her officials were revealed on Tuesday.

When his report was published in May, ministers said Prof Longley's report provided independent evidence that changes were needed in the NHS.

It warned some services were in danger of "collapse".

But emails shows Prof Longley contacted senior Welsh government officials while he was writing the report asking for "killer facts" to support the case for changes.

Local health boards are finalising potentially controversial proposals to reconfigure services, leading to fears in some communities that hospitals could be downgraded.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives agreed to use an opposition debate on 18 July to table a no-confidence motion in Mrs Griffiths.

'Transparency'

Tory opposition leader Andrew RT Davies pointed to the comments of the British Medical Association (BMA) which said the report can no longer been seen as independent.

However, NHS medical directors have backed the report, saying it proves services need urgent reform.

"This reinforces the air of crisis and doubt surrounding the health minister, at a time when the Welsh NHS requires honesty, transparency and accountability," Mr Davies said.

Plaid health spokeswoman Elin Jones said: "The minister repeatedly failed to answer the key question - why did she seek to portray a report as independent when it quite clearly wasn't?"

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "This was not a decision we came to lightly. It is a serious step when the three party leaders of Wales come together and state that we have no confidence in the health minister's ability to run our NHS."

Mrs Griffiths made an urgent statement to the assembly on Tuesday where she accused opponents of "posturing".

She said there was no evidence that officials in her department sought to influence or change the report, and that the emails show they were simply responding to Prof Longley's requests for data.

First Minister Mr Jones has accused the Conservatives of trying to besmirch Prof Longley's reputation.

Prof Longley, of Glamorgan University's Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care, says his report is an "entirely independent piece of work carried out by myself in partnership with NHS Confederation Wales".

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