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Jones kept misleading AMs on bullying, says ex-minister

A former Welsh Government Minister is claiming the First Minister was made aware of bullying claims by three cabinet ministers in 2014.

Leighton Andrews has emailed Carwyn Jones, saying an independent adviser’s remit should be widened to consider all of his answers about a historical bullying culture in the Welsh Government.

He has also revealed a text message he received from a Welsh Government Special Adviser on 14 October 2014, confirming that the First Minister had agreed to speak to Mr Andrews, Carl Sargeant and their fellow Cabinet Minister Lesley Griffiths.

The text does not specify what would be discussed.

The text received by Leighton Andrews Credit: Leighton Andrews

In his email, Leighton Andrews tells the First Minister:

"I believe that you have misled the National Assembly on several occasions since Carl Sargeant’s death".

He claims the misleading answers were regarding whether or not the First Minister knew about bullying or other issues or concerns and whether or not there had been a demand for a formal investigation. He also makes several further claims:

  • That the independent adviser’s current remit "appears to be rather narrowly drawn"
  • That the issues raised in 2014 were "significantly more serious than a ‘petty dispute about the title of a bill’ as you claimed in an interview... with ITV Wales".
  • That it isn’t a personal dispute. He tells the First Minister "if you wish to continue to represent this as a personal dispute between us, that is a matter for you. It is not."
  • That the First Minister is playing down his concerns about bullying and showing "extraordinary disrespect to four people who have served in your cabinets including the late Carl Sargeant".

Here is his email in full:

Dear First Minister,

I understand that questions about whether you have broken the Ministerial Code by misleading the National Assembly have to be submitted to you in the first instance before they can be referred to the Independent Advisor.

I regret to say that I believe that you have misled the National Assembly on several occasions since Carl Sargeant’s death, notably in answers in First Minister’s Questions on 21 November and 5 December, and in a variety of written answers relating to what you knew about bullying or other issues of concern and when, whether there had been complaints or demands put to you by me or others for a formal investigation, and whether or not questions had been raised with you as to whether a special adviser had broken the code for special advisers. Whether you have misled the Assembly deliberately or inadvertently is obviously a matter for the Independent Advisor.

I am therefore writing to ask you to refer all of your relevant answers on these issues to the Independent Advisor. The current reference appears to be rather narrowly drawn around a comparison between answers in November 2014 and November 2017.

For the record, the issues which I and other Cabinet Members raised with you in the autumn of 2014, and one other Cabinet Member had raised with you prior to that, were significantly more serious than ‘a petty dispute about the title of a Bill’ as you claimed in an interview on 5 December with ITV Wales. I will be giving evidence to the Independent Advisor, drawing on contemporaneous diary notes and other documentary records, including text messages, as will others.

You are aware that beside myself, three people have confirmed to media organisations the issues I raised in November about the ‘toxic’ culture which at times existed on the Fifth Floor of Ty Hywel. These issues are obviously relevant not only to the inquiry by the Independent Advisor, but also to the broader QC-led Inquiry.

If you wish to continue to represent this as a personal dispute between us, that is a matter for you. It is not, and that will become increasingly clear during the inquiry proceedings.

I have noted your answer in the Assembly on 21 November where you state that the matters presented to you ‘were issues of competing priorities, of people feeling that some people were listened to more than others and people feeling that they want to see you as First Minister to explain their position.’ That answer revealed extraordinary disrespect to four people who have served in your Cabinets, including the late Carl Sargeant, and the concerns we expressed to you over time.

Yours sincerely,

Leighton Andrews

– Email from Leighton Andrewws to Carwyn Jones

Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies has reacted to these latest developments by demanding an absolute assurance from the First Minister that he will in no way screen the evidence submitted to the inquiry and that it will be received and reviewed only by the independent investigator and his team.

The growing body of evidence now emanating from a number of well-placed sources further strengthens the case that the First Minister may have misled the Assembly.

Welsh Ministers of the Crown, and in particular the First Minister, have a responsibility to adhere to the highest principles of honesty, transparency and integrity.

This new evidence would suggest that Carwyn Jones has on several occasions fallen short of these principles, and in doing so opens himself up to allegations that he broke the Ministerial Code.

– Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies AM