Wales politics

Welsh Government includes Lib Dem Williams at education

Labour ministers Image copyright Wales news service
Image caption Carwyn Jones with his Labour ministers on the steps of the Welsh Government offices in Cardiff

Liberal Democrat AM Kirsty Williams has been named education secretary in Carwyn Jones's new Welsh Government.

Vaughan Gething is promoted to the cabinet as health secretary, and Ken Skates to economy.

Alun Davies returns to government as minister for lifelong learning and the Welsh language, outside the cabinet.

Welsh Labour leader Mr Jones was reinstalled unopposed as first minister on Wednesday, following a deal with Plaid Cymru.

It came a week after the first vote was deadlocked at 29-29 between Mr Jones and Plaid leader Leanne Wood.

After he was sworn in as first minister on Thursday, Mr Jones said he was "delighted to introduce the team who will be taking Wales forward over the next five years".

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Media captionCarwyn Jones says Kirsty Williams will do a 'very good job' as a minister

He said they would have "a central role to play in delivering our priorities and leading and directing the work of the Welsh Government on behalf of the people of Wales".

"As I said in my statement to the assembly yesterday, this will be an open, inclusive, and transparent administration, ready to work with others where it is in the national interest," the first minister added.

"A critical five years lie ahead. My relentless focus, and that of my cabinet and ministers, will be on driving improvement in our economy and in the vital public services that the people of Wales rely on every day.

"I am confident this is the team with the talent, the vision and the ideas to deliver opportunity for all, and build a united, connected and sustainable Wales, now and for future generations."

In other changes, former Health Minister Mark Drakeford is named finance and local government secretary, while Jane Hutt moves from finance to become chief whip and leader of the house.

Mr Skates will retain responsibility for culture and tourism, which he held as a deputy minister.

Julie James and Rebecca Evans remain as junior ministers.

The new government

  • Carwyn Jones - First Minister
  • Ken Skates - Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure
  • Vaughan Gething - Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
  • Mark Drakeford - Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government
  • Kirsty Williams - Cabinet Secretary for Education
  • Lesley Griffiths - Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs
  • Carl Sargeant - Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children
  • Jane Hutt - Leader of the House and Chief Whip
  • Julie James - Minister for Skills and Science
  • Alun Davies - Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language
  • Rebecca Evans - Minister for Social Services and Public Health

'New era'

Ms Williams, the sole remaining Liberal Democrat AM, had been the only non-Labour member to back Mr Jones in the tied vote for first minister.

Her appointment as education secretary is subject to ratification by Lib Dem members at a special conference in Newtown, Powys, on Saturday.

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Media captionKirsty Williams says improving education is a key Liberal Democrat aim

Welcoming the invitation, she said: "Government in Wales has entered a new era.

"Where there is common ground, we must have the confidence and ambition to work together for the good of its people.

"The test of our new approach is not the warmth of our words, but our commitment to get things done."

Mr Jones said: "Kirsty has a wealth of experience and is one of the assembly's most able politicians.

"There are areas outside the education portfolio where we have had productive discussions, but this invitation to join the Government does not constitute a coalition agreement," he added.

"Both of us are very clear about that - as are our parties.

"Welsh Labour, of course, remains committed to delivering on our manifesto promises made to the people of Wales.

"This is a new era for Welsh politics, and today's agreement reflects the need for Wales' progressive politicians to work together."

Analysis by Tomos Livingstone, BBC Wales political correspondent

"For me, growing up in Llanelli, becoming a Welsh Liberal Democrat wasn't the easy choice," Kirsty Williams told activists at the party's annual conference in February.

"For the easy route, you'd join Labour. But, that was unthinkable."

Fair enough, you might think. The next line was "We're not here for ministerial cars", in case people were not getting the point.

But in this topsy-turvy year for Welsh politics, it seems anything is possible.

What do the two sides get from the deal? Kirsty Williams gets the chance to implement party policies in government, something no Welsh Lib Dem has been able to do in Cardiff since 2003.

And Carwyn Jones gets a measure of stability - crucially the additional vote that comes with having Kirsty Williams in government makes it impossible for him to lose a vote of confidence in the Senedd: a crucial measure of comfort when you don't have a majority.

But before Ms Williams can get going on her bulging in-tray - which includes probable changes to the tuition fees regime - there's one more hoop to jump through. The Welsh Liberal Democrats need to approve the appointment at a special conference, in Newtown on Saturday.

After the past two weeks of political drama, who'd bet against a further twist?

Words of warning

The deal with Plaid Cymru allowed Mr Jones - first minister since 2009 - to form a government, with a series of policy concessions to Plaid and an agreement to consult on the Welsh budget, legislation and further devolution.

Labour needed opposition support after the assembly election on 5 May saw the party fall short of a majority.

Image caption Deliver or face the consequences, Leanne Wood warns the new Welsh Government

Plaid leader Leanne Wood wished the new ministers well, but added: "People deserve a government that will deliver for them.

"I hope that this new cabinet will be able to deliver tangible improvements to people's lives in a way that previous Labour governments have failed to.

"Yesterday, I warned the newly-elected first minister that if Labour's sense of entitlement and complacency in government continued then Plaid Cymru would not be afraid to stand up to them in our role as official opposition."

Meanwhile Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies denounced a cabinet of "Labour has-beens", which he claimed "offers voters little hope for the successful governance of their country over the next five years".

"That Kirsty Williams is now joining Labour's Magic Roundabout, which she has spent the last five years railing against, is astounding and shows how elastic her principles really are," he added.

UKIP AM Mark Reckless warned Ms Williams to remember the backlash against the Liberal Democrats when they broke their promise not to increase university tuition fees in England.

"With Diamond Review due to report soon on tuition fees for Wales, it could be groundhog day for betrayal by Lib Dems," he said.

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