Wales politics

Alun Davies breached code by lobbying but will not be sacked

Alun Davies
Image caption Opposition parties are now trying to force a debate on the code breach by Alun Davies

The lobbying for a race circuit by Wales' Environment Minister Alun Davies broke guidelines over how ministers should act - but he will not be sacked.

Mr Davies had lobbied environment watchdog Natural Resources Wales over plans for the circuit near Ebbw Vale in his Blaenau Gwent constituency.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said it was "clear" the code had been breached, and Mr Davies has apologised to AMs.

But opposition parties are now calling for a debate on the issue.

Liberal Democrats said the first minister's decision not to punish Mr Davies was "indefensible", Conservatives said the minister should do the "honourable thing" and resign and Plaid Cymru asked if Mr Jones would "simply rip up" the Ministerial Code.


The inquiry into whether the actions by Mr Davies had breached the rule book for ministers was undertaken by Permanent Secretary Sir Derek Jones.

It looked at whether a letter he wrote to NRW "conflicted" with his ministerial role, which includes oversight of the body.

NRW initially objected to the £280m Circuit of Wales scheme but later said its concerns had been addressed.

According to Sir Derek's report, Mr Davies took advice from his own officials in March 2013 and was told he should not comment on the Circuit of Wales case "even in his AM capacity".

Although Sir Derek says this advice was "highly precautionary", he notes that "if followed (it) would protect the integrity of the process in a controversial case".

The report also reveals that the first minister's office got in touch with Mr Davies in August 2013 to express "surprise" that the minister was quoted in the Western Mail backing the Circuit of Wales.

Mr Davies was advised not to make further public comment without seeking advice from the first minister.

'Not influenced'

In a statement on Tuesday, the first minister said managing the responsibilities of being a minister and an AM was a "constant challenge", adding "it is clear to me that the Ministerial Code was breached".

Despite saying Mr Davies had not "exercised sufficient care", Mr Jones said the decision on whether the Circuit of Wales should go ahead was not part of the environment minister's portfolio.

The first minister added: "Natural Resources Wales have been clear that their views were not altered or influenced as a result of the minister's engagement as a constituency assembly member.

"I have addressed this issue with the minister directly and he has apologised to me."

Mr Davies, the Labour AM for Blaenau Gwent, later made a personal statement to AMs.

He said that he had intended to "promote the interests of my constituents as faithfully as possible".

"However, I recognise that ministers need to take special care in managing constituency interests and I regret that, on this occasion, I did not exercise sufficient care to maintain a clear perception of full separation of my ministerial role and my role as a constituency assembly member," he said.

Image copyright Heads of the Valleys Development Company
Image caption Circuit of Wales' aim of bringing motorsport to the Heads of the Valleys is backed by Welsh ministers

The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, called the decision not to punish Mr Davies "indefensible" .

She said: "How can you admit that someone has broken the rules but then refuse to punish them?"

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies called on Mr Davies to resign.

"If the first minister isn't prepared to remove the minister, then I think the minister should do the honourable thing and return to the back benches because the ministerial code has been broken," he said.

Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas asked Carwyn Jones why the minister "did not resign after trampling over the ministerial code, or you did not sack him?

"And if that is the case today, are you going to simply rip up the Ministerial Code, because it's not worth the paper it's printed on?"

Debate move

The three opposition parties in the Assembly have now joined forces in a bid to force a debate on the issue.

They have tabled a 'No Name Day Motion', in what is being seen as a move to increase pressure on Mr Davies.

The Assembly's business committee will now consider whether or not time should be made to discuss Mr Davies' breach of the code on the floor of the Senedd chamber.

But with business managers from the opposition parties all on the committee, they are confident that time can be found to hold the debate before the assembly term finishes for summer.

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