Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Breaches of the Ministerial Code and Circuit of Wales

Carwyn Jones' failure to act against Minister for Natural Resources Alun Davies is shocking in the light of conclusions of his own Permanent Secretary's report.  The report outlines that the Minister had received advice on the 28th March 2013 that he "should not comment on the matter, even in his capacity as AM".  Furthermore advice was given to the Cabinet by the Cabinet Division that Ministers should not comment on the individual merits of a case.  At this stage NRW was opposed to the application. 

Roll forward to the 12th, 13th and 18th June 2013 when the Permanent Secretary's report concludes that the Minister, in arranging a meeting with NRW to "agree a way forward" could only have been acting in his capacity as Minister, as in his role as an ordinary AM he would "have had no role in agreeing a way forward in how NRW responds to its statutory planning responsibility". 

The report to the First Minister clearly outlines "As Mr Davies porfolio area had a key role in the planning process for the Circuit of Wales, including advising on whether the application should be called in by Welsh Government, and could be subject to direction on the exercise of its functions of the Circuit for Wales, it was important that Mr Davies did not by his pronouncments or actions do anything which might be regarded by NRW as conveying an expectation on what the Welsh Ministers required of NRW in respect of  the application"

In that context the email of the Minister of the 13th June is absolutely damning.  He wrote

"Thank you Graham.  This second letter does being to move us in the right direction.  I do appreciate that and I am grateful to you for taking the time to review these matters. 

However I remain very concerned with the processes at work with NRW in this matter.  In addition I do not believe that the current NRW position does reflect the totality of the statutory duties and the demands of the remit letter provided to NRW by the Welsh Government.

It would be very useful to meet.  Could I suggest 11.00am on Tuesday? I would be content to meet at Newport Road or alternatively we could meet at the Assembly in the Bay.  I will also invite a representative of the develop[ers to join us and I hope that between us we can agree a way forward."

Carwyn Jones' Office wrote to Alun Davies expressing "surprise about the remarks attributed to the Minister - in his capacity as AM" in an article in the Western Mail. 

All of this, and more detailed in the report shows a contempt for the advice of his officials not to comment even in his capacity as AM.  A threat is a threat, and as the Minister responsible for setting the budget and "remit" of NRW in his portfolio - the second paragraph is a clear reference to his own portfolio.

Low and behold in August NRW do an about face and drop their opposition to the project, less than 2 months after the Minister's meetings and emails.

I am not surprised that NRW have said that they werent "influenced" - NRW's chief executive Emyr Roberts is a former civil servant working at the heart of the education department for a number of years.  It is unlikely he would turn on his masters who have promoted him, and had NRW accepted that it had been influenced, his head would potentially have been on the block as well.  All of this leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth indeed one that the Minister for Natural Resources says "do as I say...not as I do".

Lets not forget that 750,000 cubic tonnes of peat will be excavated for the project - a clear conflict for a Minister supposedly in charge of our Natural Environment.  Hard pressed farmers who have had lecture after lecture from this Minister over their enviromental failings will quite rightly laugh in his face now, given his rank hypocracy.  It also shows a real weakness in Carwyn Jones' leadership.  The First Minister is clearly happy to cover up for a lousy Labour "Taffia"  - AWEMA, RIFW - now Circuit of Wales.  Speaks for itself really.