Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Carwyn Jones threatens Llywydd with court

The Welsh Government  has threatened Elin Jones the Llywydd of the Assembly with court action if she allows a tory debate on the leak inquiry to go ahead. 

Such a move would be unprecedented.  For an executive branch of government to take the legislature to court is unheard of in any government within the UK. It’s the equivalent of Prime Minister Terresa May  taking John Bercow the Speaker of the House of Commons to Court for allowing a debate to go ahead.

In a press conference the Tory Leader of the Opposition

Andrew RT Davies said the government's action was "unprecedented and a direct challenge " to the legitimacy of the assembly.

The row hinges on a Welsh Conservative motion down for  a debate invoking a clause in the Government of Wales Act that would have forced the report  on the leak inquiry conducted by the Welsh civil services permanent secretary to be published.

An angry Mr Davies said he would not be "fobbed off by white collar civil servants".  He went on to say "There's a bloke who lost his life here. It's our duty as politicians to get answers.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “This is much bigger than any single debate. The way section 37 is being interpreted by the Presiding Officer puts Welsh Government in the perverse position where we could be compelled to publish information without regard for any other laws or rights. We believe this is unlawful and given the significance of the issues surrounding section 37 we will seek proper determination by the courts.”

The office of the Llywydd said " I have taken advice and carefully considered your arguments. Having done so, I am not persuaded of the case which you have advanced. As a result, the motion remains scheduled for debate tomorrow."

So it looks as if the matter will now go to judicial review. 

Whatever the legal argument, the action looks again as if the Welsh government is being heavy-handed. Why use the nuclear option on the eve of a vote unless, of course, they have not got the numbers to win the vote? It draws attention again to the predicament the government finds itself following the events surrounding the cabinet reshuffle and the untimely death of Carl Sargeant.