Wales politics

AMs warned to behave in private lives by commissioner

Assembly members being are warned to behave in their private lives to avoid bringing the assembly into disrepute.

Standards commissioner Gerard Elias QC said AMs were the "trustees of the reputation" of the assembly both in their public and private lives.

He said they had avoided the scandals seen in other political institutions.

But Labour AM Keith Davies and Plaid Cymru's Bethan Jenkins have both been censured by AMs over separate alcohol-related incidents.

Mr Elias made the comments in his annual report published on Tuesday.

He said it was the responsibility of AMs to ensure that the assembly maintained its reputation as a "beacon of standards".

The commissioner said although he recognises the right of AMs to a private and personal life, they could face investigation and possible sanction if it is alleged their conduct brings the reputation or integrity of the assembly into disrepute.

"In a nutshell, the standards of the National Assembly for Wales should be a beacon by which the way is lighted for all public servants and bodies in Wales," said Mr Elias in his report.

'Beg to differ'

"As I have said, it may be an onerous responsibility for assembly members but I suggest, respectfully, it is an absolutely vital one and one that goes with the job.

"I have said many times that one role of the commissioner is to take action whenever the reputation of the National Assembly is called into question by the conduct of a member.

"During the year covered by this annual report, I have had to investigate two admissible complaints relating to members," he said, referring to Mr Davies and Ms Jenkins.

"It was alleged that their personal conduct, involving alcohol, brought the National Assembly into disrepute.

"There were voices - but not of the two members themselves - which suggested that the conduct in question fell into the realms of personal and private conduct and was not, therefore, a matter for the Commissioner for Standards.

"I beg to differ. Whilst recognising absolutely the entitlement of a member to a private and personal life which is to remain so, every member must appreciate that where it is alleged the conduct of a member brings the reputation or integrity of the National Assembly into disrepute, that conduct is amenable to investigation and possible sanction."

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