Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Welsh Lib Dem minister survives after Brexit revolt

Despite breaking the whip, Kirsty Williams remains Education Secretary, taking questions in the Senedd as usual. Photo: Senedd TV

The only Liberal Democrat in the Senedd, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, has triggered Conservative claims that cabinet responsibility is now in 'chaos'. She voted with Plaid Cymru and against her Labour colleagues at the end of a debate on Brexit.

Carwyn Jones needs to clarify whether his ministers are still bound by collective responsibility, because at present it appears that the Cabinet Secretary for Education can opt out whenever she pleases. It makes the First Minister look incredibly weak.

It cannot be government by ‘pick and mix’. It’s a longstanding tradition that ministers adhere to the principle of collective responsibility, and where an individual feels that they can no longer support the government’s position they remove themselves from the cabinet.

Whilst I personally respect Kirsty Williams’ right to take this position, it is on the basis of collective responsibility that she joined the government and Labour backbenchers would have every right to be furious if they feel that she is receiving special treatment.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM

Kirsty Williams voted with Plaid Cymru to oppose triggering Article 50 unless the UK government guaranteed future participation in the European Single Market. Labour AMs were whipped to vote against and the First Minister argued that it would be wrong to object to the Brexit talks getting underway following the result of the EU referendum.

Carwyn Jones had warned Kirsty Williams that she was bound by collective responsibility in a formal letter he sent her after her appointment last May.

As Cabinet Secretary for Education you are, of course, a fully fledged member of this Government ... collective responsibility is binding on all of us in Government and this calls for a disciplined and consistent approach to conducting business.

– First Minister Carwyn Jones AM

Andrew RT Davies contrasted Kirsty Williams' survival in the Welsh Cabinet with the situation at Westminster, where former shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens resigned from the Shadow Cabinet because she wouldn't toe the line on Brexit.

Despite her rebellion, Kirsty Williams says she supports the Welsh Government's position on Brexit, set out in a White Paper agreed with Plaid Cymru. She went further than the First Minister would have liked but survives because in the end her vote was a criticism of Theresa May's government, not the government she serves in under Carwyn Jones.