Wales politics

Bullying allegations in 2014 dealt with, says Carwyn Jones

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Media captionCarwyn Jones said if people wanted to raise other issues they were "welcome to do so"

Allegations of bullying at senior levels of the Welsh Government three years ago were dealt with at the time, First Minister Carwyn Jones has said.

Two ex-senior government figures have said a toxic culture was undermining ministers, including Carl Sargeant.

Mr Sargeant was found dead days after being sacked by Mr Jones, pending a probe into inappropriate behaviour.

The first minister told AMs on Tuesday: "Any issues brought to my attention at that time were dealt with."

The complaints about the atmosphere at the heart of the Welsh Government in 2014 were made by former Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews and Carwyn Jones's former media advisor Steve Jones.

Steve Jones's comments have led Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies to claim Mr Jones may have "misled" AMs when, in November 2014, he told Tory AM Darren Millar no allegations of bullying had been made by special advisers.

Mr Andrews and Steve Jones have insisted in the past week that the first minister had been made aware of allegations.

After AMs paid tribute to Mr Sargeant on Tuesday, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies used First Minister's questions to pursue the bullying claims.

Carwyn Jones said: "Any issues that were brought to my attention at that time were dealt with.

"That is the answer that was given, and that answer is correct back in 2014.

"He asked me a direct question: were these issues, were any issues raised with me dealt with, the answer to that is, yes they were dealt with," he said.

Image caption It has been claimed Carl Sargeant was one of a number of ministers undermined by advisers

The inquest into Mr Sargeant's death was opened on Monday.

There will also be an independent investigation into the first minister's handling of the Alyn and Deeside AM's dismissal from the cabinet.

The first minister said: "The first thing to do of course is for a QC to be appointed, for the terms of reference to be set and that of course is entirely a matter for the QC, who will act at arms length. That process will need to proceed as quickly as possible.

"I did notice that one of the comments the coroner made yesterday was that he seemed to indicate that the inquiry would influence one of the outcomes of his inquest.

"We need to clarify exactly what that means -whether he wants the inquiry to conclude before the inquest or not."

'Brutal business'

During the session Neil Hamilton, UKIP Wales leader, questioned Mr Jones on his handling of allegations against Mr Sargeant.

Referring to remarks by Carwyn Jones that he had acted "by the book", Mr Hamilton said: "Does he now think that that book should be thrown away and replaced by another one that is informed by principles of fairness?"

The first minister said it was hugely important for the whole story about the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Sargeant to be told "at once and not in bits".

He called for a new approach to the tone in which politics is conducted, calling it "a very brutal business".

"Perhaps as parties we should consider how to take, not the edge, not the need for forensic examination, not the debate, not the scrutiny out of politics but to see how we can make it less brutal than it is," he said.

Analysis by Vaughan Roderick, BBC Welsh affairs editor

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Media captionVaughan Roderick says Carwyn Jones faces two separate situations "which could bring him down"

Carwyn Jones is facing two problems, two situations that are separate, but linked, that could bring him down.

The first of those of course is the circumstances surrounding Carl Sargeant's death.

The other one is the more dangerous issue in the short term - about a written answer to a question from Darren Millar back in 2014 where the first minister insisted there were no inquiries into bullying going on in the government.

We're up for tumultuous times - but today was a day of sadness in the assembly, a day to say farewell to Carl Sargeant.

But this situation could turn very ugly very quickly.

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood raised the issue of how political parties should deal with allegations of sexual misconduct in a way that is fair to everyone.

She suggested the office of the assembly standards commissioner could provide an independent way of looking at claims.

Carwyn Jones responded: "How can we create a complaints process that's different, not weaker, a complaints process that supports all parties.

"Let's be honest, we're a small country and we are all small parties.

"There is great merit in exploring, with the presiding officer, how the standards commissioner can change roles."

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