Inquiry concerns as pressure on Jones continues

Carwyn Jones faces a series of inquiries into his decision-making Credit: PA, Steffan Rousseau

Concerns are being raised about the way evidence is being taken for one of the inquiries into issues raised following the death of Carl Sargeant.

Meanwhile, a separate inquiry has yet to start because of differences over its terms of reference.

James Hamilton, an independent adviser to the Scottish Government, is in Cardiff again for a third week of evidence-gathering.

He is looking into whether or not the First Minister breached the ministerial code over answers he gave about allegations of bullying. You can read the background here.

Some of those he's spoken to so far have expressed concerns about the location of the evidence sessions in Welsh Government headquarters at Cathays Park or on one of the government floors in Ty Hywel, the Assembly office block.

I've also been told that witnesses are being escorted through Welsh Government office areas, which it is claimed could be intimidating for some and could potentially put them off giving evidence.

Those familiar with the location say it's not in an open-plan office and that the need for guests to be accompanied is an Assembly regulation.

Here's the official response from a Welsh Government spokesperson:

It is for James Hamilton to determine the operation and logistics of his investigation. As the inquiry is being conducted on behalf of the Welsh Government, it is appropriate to conduct interviews on Government premises, although Mr Hamilton has been open to using alternative venues where requested.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Terms of Reference row:

Paul Bowen QC is leading an inquiry into the sacking of Carl Sargeant Credit: Brick Court Chambers

Meanwhile another inquiry has yet to begin.

Paul Bowen QC was appointed last month by Permanent Secretary Shan Morgan to look into the sacking of Carl Sargeant at the same time as his suspension and investigation by the Labour party.

The reason for the delay is because of questions about terms of reference. 'We're not quite there yet,' admitted a government source although they wouldn't confirm what the sticking point is. They said it's not a dispute nor a disagreement, it's a discussion, a conversation.

However I understand from other sources that the difference of opinion is over which time period the inquiry examines.

I'm told that the Permanent Secretary believes the inquiry should only look at events leading up to the reshuffle on 3rd November 2017 and on that Friday while the Sargeant family and friends want the QC to consider events following the reshuffle, including the First Minister's interview with me on the following Monday and a similar interview with BBC Wales.

Welsh Government sources say they're taking all the inquiries seriously and engaging with them. 'We set them up for goodness' sake,' I was told.

Leak inquiry report 'must be published':

Andrew RT Davies is demanding the leak inquiry report be published Credit: PA, Peter Byrne

An earlier inquiry by the Permanent Secretary into whether or not there had been a leak of the reshuffle in which Mr Sargeant lost his job has already concluded. It found there had been no unauthorised briefing ahead of the reshuffle last November.

However the Conservatives are continuing to push for her report to be published. The Welsh Government says it must remain secret because publication would identify those who gave evidence, breaking the promise of confidentiality that they were given. The Tories say it can be published in a redacted form.

Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies has renewed his efforts today following an answer to a written question.

He had asked Carwyn Jones to 'confirm that there was no authorised or unauthorised briefing or sharing of information before the cabinet reshuffle on 3 November 2017' and was told 'As the Permanent Secretary’s statement made clear, there was no leak.’

According to the Welsh Tories that means 'the First Minister has rejected the opportunity to confirm that he did not authorise any briefing or sharing of information before his cabinet reshuffle in November.'

Andrew RT Davies said:

The First Minister’s refusal to answer simple and straightforward questions just adds to the murkiness of his recent actions.

Last week, he refused to publish the report into the leak investigation but this latest development makes that position untenable.

If Carwyn Jones has nothing to hide then there is no reason why he cannot allow for the publication of a redacted version of the inquiry report, so that Assembly Members of all stripes can decide for themselves whether there’s a case to answer for here.

We know a number of prominent individuals were aware of the details of the reshuffle before the cabinet members were themselves informed so the fact Carwyn Jones claims the leak inquiry allegedly found no evidence of this sharing of information is most questionable.

This slippery and shoddy approach to answering questions on a highly emotive subject can only lead to the impression that they are trying to prevent significant information from being disclosed.

A redacted report, protecting the identity of individuals who have given evidence, must be published immediately. Nothing else will suffice.

– Andrew RT Davies AM, Welsh Conservative leader

A political crisis:

The First Minister apologised to Adam Price in the chamber

At first sight, Carwyn Jones being forced to apologise to a political opponent as he did to Plaid Cymru's Adam Price last week appears unconnected to the wider political crisis.

But it is another sign of a First Minister under pressure from all sides and seemingly lacking public support from his colleagues.

Last week Economy Secretary Ken Skates admitted in an interview with the BBC that there'd been tensions within Welsh Labour during the Alyn and Deeside by-election, while backbencher Jenny Rathbone told the political commentator Gareth Hughes that the First Minister's future was 'on the agenda.'

Labour MPs, too, have told me that Carwyn Jones hasn't reached out to them for the support they would be willing to offer. 'Not even a phone call,' said one.

However a Labour AM told me not only that they hope Mr Jones continues in post but they criticised colleagues who are working with opponents to make life difficult for him.

They claimed the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru are already planning confidence votes to try to bring down the First Minister. In this week's Sharp End, Mark Reckless who sits with the Tory group, wouldn't deny that charge and said it was 'important that the two groups work together.'

I asked a Welsh Government source if all this isn't distracting the First Minister.

In response I was shown the Welsh Government's plans for the week - a packed grid of activity and announcements - by way of demonstrating to me how much Carwyn Jones is 'getting on with the job of governing Wales.'

All of this is moving very quickly. It's very confusing and very dark. There's still grief and anger mixed in with some increasingly bitter politics. "It's become very personal, very nasty," I was told today.

That's why I've taken this opportunity to look back at how we got here and what might happen next in what can only be described as an unprecedented crisis in Welsh politics: