Apology from Tory leader and suspension of Labour MS amid allegations of possible Covid breach in parliament
ITV Wales Political Editor Adrian Masters reports live from the Senedd
Three senior Welsh politicians have apologised and denied any wrongdoing following allegations that they may have broken Covid regulations by holding an informal gathering in an office of the Welsh Parliament.
Labour MS Alun Davies has also been suspended from the party's group pending an investigation that a group of MS's and staff members allegedly met socially for drinks in the Ty Hywel building - which is attached to the Senedd - following a plenary meeting on December 8.
The Senedd Commission, which looks after the running of the parliament, said it has been made aware of an incident in December and is investigating to establish what took place and whether or not any action is needed.
At the time, pubs, restaurants and cafes were no longer able to serve alcohol to customers in Wales after the Welsh Government's alcohol ban came into force at 6pm on Friday December 4.
The Welsh Parliament is now on full lockdown but at that point was meeting in a hybrid form, limiting attendance in the chamber to 20 members. Strict social distancing and other measures were in force throughout the building as they had since last summer.
A spokesperson for the Senedd Labour Group said: “A member has been suspended from the privileges of Senedd Labour Group membership while an investigation takes place into this alleged incident.”
In a statement, Mr Davies said, “I am very sorry if my actions have given the impression that I am in any way not committed to upholding the regulations which I have consistently supported throughout the last year.
“For context, the purpose of this meeting from my perspective was to seek to persuade the Welsh Conservatives to support my proposal for a “Welsh Hearts Bill". This is part of my work across political parties on this issue.
He added, "The Senedd Commission has already confirmed to me that I did not breach the Coronavirus regulations on the consumption of either food or alcohol that were in force at that time. I have also confirmed to the Commission that the regulations on the number of people present and on social distancing were not breached either. I look forward to the Commission’s final conclusions on this matter.”
Following the suspension, the three Conservatives involved issued a statement and apologised for their actions but insisted they did not break the rules.
Paul Davies, Darren Millar and Paul Smith said, “We are profoundly sorry for our actions. While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
The session that day had been beset by technical problems and had to be abandoned ahead of a vote on the UK Government’s controversial UK Internal Market Bill.
People were still allowed to meet up as four separate households but only with distancing and other measures and in a regulated environment, such as in a pub or cafe.
On the day of the alleged gathering, ITV News reported Wales was the only part of the UK where infection rates did not appear to be falling at the end of November.
During the week beginning December 7, there were 18,000 reported cases of coronavirus in Wales, with 570 people per 100,000 testing positive for the virus.
Labour minister Eluned Morgan said she has written to the Welsh Conservatives calling on the party to take "appropriate action" and suspend those involved while the investigation continues.
In a statement, the Senedd Commission said:
“We are aware of an incident on the Senedd estate last month which may have been contrary to public health regulations in force at the time. The Senedd Commission takes the public health regulations in Wales very seriously and is currently investigating the matter in order to establish an accurate account of what took place and to determine whether action may be required.”