Welsh Tory leader hopes for unity after sacking shadow ministers

Andrew RT Davies said a smaller cabinet would be more 'progressive'

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Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has said he hopes his AMs won't be divided after sacking four of his front bench team for rebelling against him in a vote on devolving income tax.

Nick Ramsay, Antoinette Sandbach, Mohammad Asghar and Janet Finch-Saunders lost their positions.

Mr Davies is critical of the model of income tax powers in the process of being devolved from Westminster.

The four AMs failed to vote in a Senedd motion criticising the model.

Mr Davies told BBC Wales on Thursday: "You cannot have cabinet responsibility if people don't take that responsibility on.

"So what I have done is create a smaller shadow cabinet that will be more nimble, more progressive in the way it brings forward the ideas that we've been doing for the last 18 months/two years and, in particular, mapping out what we would do with the new [taxation and borrowing] powers once the draft Wales Bill turns into the Wales Bill in Westminster. "

Asked if there was a risk his group of AMs would be divided as a result of the sackings he said: "I very much hope not.

"At the end of the day this was the group's will because, obviously, the position of the group was clearly endorsed in the group meeting on Tuesday.

"For whatever reason four of the members chose not to follow that group position - not the leader's position, the group position - therefore the logic of that is that the shadow cabinet needed to shrink."

Tax bands

Mr Davies has already been involved in a public disagreement with Welsh Secretary David Jones over the model of income tax powers in the process of being devolved from Westminster to Cardiff Bay.

This latest development shows he has been involved in a disagreement with some of his own assembly members on the issue as well.

The model of income tax on offer to the Welsh government is called the lockstep, because any changes up or down would have to be mirrored across all of the different bands.

The result is that a Welsh government would not be able to target a higher rate or basic rate payer.

Mr Davies, like First Minister Carwyn Jones, has been strongly critical of the model, while David Jones has supported it.

On Tuesday, the four sacked shadow ministers failed to vote on an amendment which was critical of the lockstep model in a debate at the assembly.

'That's politics,' says ousted front bench Tory AM Mohammad Asghar

Ms Sandbach said: "The Conservative portfolios are decided by Andrew RT Davies.

"It is entirely within his prerogative to decide who fills those positions.

"However, it is regrettable that he has chosen to divide his party.

"My first duty is to my constituents who I will continue to stand up for as I have done since my time in the Welsh assembly."

Reacting to his sacking as shadow finance minister, Mr Ramsay said: "I am very surprised by this decision especially bearing in mind that I am away on Assembly business in Brussels. However I am very happy to work in whatever capacity the Conservative group asks of me".

Mr Asghar said he was "disappointed, and a bit surprised" adding: "This is politics."

He said: "Definitely there are a few people that don't agree with each other but I'm sure we can thrash things out."

David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, told BBC Radio Wales he was a believer in party unity and was surprised the four AMs had been fired from their shadow posts for supporting a national policy.

"What I certainly wouldn't do is sign up to an amendment attacking my own party policy as I do believe in unity.

"I'm very surprised because Nick [Ramsay] and the others were backing government policy, backing the policy of David Jones which is if income tax is devolved after a referendum it needs to be done with certain restrictions in place."

The MP said he was also concerned to hear that Mr Ramsay heard of his dismissal via social media.

"I've never heard of people being fired by Twitter and I hope that does not become the norm," he said.

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