First Minister to face further bullying questions

Carwyn Jones can expect renewed pressure from opponents in the Assembly

An Assembly member-led inquiry into historical allegations of Welsh Government bullying has come a step closer.

The Assembly's business committee has this morning given the go-ahead for a debate and vote in the chamber which could lead to such an inquiry.

It'll be held next week (29th November).

The Conservatives are behind the motion. They want the Scrutiny of the First Minister committee to be able to interview witnesses including Carwyn Jones and to produce a report. You can read more details by clicking here.

Welsh Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies has today written an article for the Institute of Welsh Affairs in which he writes:

The First Minister cannot continue to run from scrutiny or ignore the questions of opposition members. Doing so not only undermines his credibility as leader, but brings the Assembly into disrepute by eroding its ability to carry out basic scrutiny. If he can’t be compelled to answer questions from opposition members then what is the point of our devolved legislature?

Today the Business Committee will meet to decide whether to back a Welsh Conservative motion to instruct an emergency Committee for the Scrutiny of the First Minister meeting. Much hinges on what this cross-party group of Members decides. The Assembly has never faced a harder test than now.

– Andrew RT Davies AM, Welsh Conservative leader

Plaid Cymru says it won't oppose any move which increase transparency and scrutiny. However it's still holding out for the appointment of an Independent Adjudicator to police the ministerial code.

UKIP says it will back the motion. Labour won't comment officially but there are suggestions that it too will agree to it being debated in the chamber.

However, victory in the business committee would only get the Conservative effort so far in that it would mean their proposal would be debated in the chamber, most likely next Wednesday.

It remains to be seen if enough AMs would then agree to instruct the Scrutiny of the First Minister Committee to conduct an inquiry.

What is certain is that Carwyn Jones will be confronted again on these matters by the opposition leaders when the Assembly meets this afternoon.

At a time when he's simultaneously under pressure over his handling of allegations against the late Carl Sargeant and over claims of an historical culture of bullying in his previous Welsh Government, there's never been so much at stake in First Minister's Questions.

Meanwhile it's now seems likely that by-election to choose a successor to Carl Sargeant will be held in the New Year.

Yesterday Presiding Officer Elin Jones formally declared a vacancy in Mr Sargeant's Alyn and Deeside constituency.

Assembly rules mean that a by-election now has to be held by February 7th 2018.