Wales politics

Ministers admit changing post-Brexit vote press release

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones addressing the media on 24 June

Welsh ministers have admitted a press release saying they backed free movement of people despite the Brexit vote was altered after being sent to journalists.

The release, issued ahead of a news conference hours after the result, was later edited to remove the reference.

The change came after First Minister Carwyn Jones did not mention free movement when he made the statement.

Plaid Cymru called for an independent inquiry into the circumstances.

The Welsh language version of the press release was only changed to remove the reference weeks later.

Mr Jones has since said he believes the continuation of unrestricted free movement of people would be unacceptable to people after the referendum result.

In a debate in the Senedd on Wednesday, Plaid Cymru Shadow Economy Secretary Adam Price joined Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies in questioning Economy Secretary Ken Skates on why the original press release made reference to retaining the free movement of people and was then altered.

Mr Price said: "Doctoring a government website, which set out the government's official position, to reflect a change in the political weather can never be accepted.

"I have no idea whether this case a case of cock-up or conspiracy but we clearly need an independent investigation into the circumstances under which the government policy changed, and why the press web notice was changed retrospectively.

"If this has been done to avoid embarrassment to the first minister then it is clearly a very serious matter indeed."

Image caption The original statement emailed to journalists after the referendum result

Mr Davies called the Welsh Government's admission "extraordinary". He also questioned whether the sole Liberal Democrat member of the Welsh Cabinet, Kirsty Williams, had been consulted on the change.

He said: "This extraordinary admission comes more than a week after I discovered Labour's change of policy, and actually raises more questions than it answers.

"Chief amongst those is why the press release was retrospectively changed, and when the Welsh Government's education secretary became aware this pledge had been dropped.

"Does she and her party now back an end to freedom of movement for people?"

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said a new press release was issued 40 minutes after the original with no mention of free movement.

He also said: "The Welsh language version online was incorrect, and based on an earlier draft. This has now been changed.

"The Welsh Government's view on freedom of movement has been articulated a number of times by the first Minister and other ministers.

"It was clearly a big concern for many voters, and as such we regard it as something still open for debate as we develop our thinking."

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