'Possible breach' of Covid regulations in Senedd estate alcohol incident, investigation finds


An investigation into allegations that a group of Welsh politicians consumed alcohol on the Senedd estate days after a pub alcohol ban was enforced has concluded that a "possible breach of regulations occurred".

Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies, Darren Millar MS and the party's chief of staff Paul Smith apologised earlier this week after allegations surfaced of a potential Covid breach.

Labour MS Alun Davies was also involved in the incident and was suspended from the party group.

On Friday, the Senedd Commission confirmed that an investigation had found a "possible breach of regulations" and that it had referred the matter to Cardiff City Council.

The Commission said: "The Commission’s internal investigation has established that alcohol was consumed by five individuals in the Senedd’s licensed tearoom, four of whom are elected members.

"The investigation has concluded that a possible breach of regulations occurred and therefore the Chief Executive of the Senedd Commission has referred the matter to Cardiff Council.

"The Regulations in place at the time imposed strict restrictions on members of the public with regard to the consumption of alcohol.

"Given that the possible breach in question occurred as a result of the consumption of alcohol by Members of the Senedd I have also written to the Standards Commissioner to ask him to investigate whether these Members acted in accordance with the duty in the Code of Conduct to conduct themselves in a manner which maintains and strengthens the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the Senedd."

The gathering took place in an office of the Welsh Government estate

In a joint statement issued earlier this week after the allegations emerged, the Conservatives involved 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.”

Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies received the unanimous backing of his party shortly before the Senedd Commission's statement

The findings came as Tory leader Paul Davies received the unanimous backing of his party to continue in his role.

Janet Finch Saunders, the group's chair, said: "The Group extended its unanimous support for Paul Davies to continue in his post as Leader of the Group.

"The Welsh Conservative Group met today to discuss events involving three members of the Group on the 8th of December."

"The Group extended its unanimous support for Paul Davies to continue in his post as Leader of the Group."

The decision was criticised by other Senedd members, with Plaid Cymru's Helen Mary Jones describing it as a "grave error of judgement".

She said, “Their leader and their chief whip should be setting an example in the middle of a pandemic rather than getting embroiled in an incident which is in danger of bringing the Senedd into disrepute. It would seem that the internal machinations of the Tory group is stopping them from doing the right thing.”

The First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined his feelings over the Conservatives handling of the allegations at Friday's press briefing Credit: PA Images

At Friday's Welsh Government press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said he "acted immediately" to suspend Alun Davies after hearing of the allegations on Monday.

He said that reflected his position on how he felt the Welsh Conservatives should have responded.

"It's not for me to make decisions about members of the Conservative Party but from the fact that I suspended the Labour member, you can take it that I believe that other people in the same position should not simply have carried on as though nothing at all had happened," Mr Drakeford said.

The First Minister told reporters he understood that a single member of Senedd staff was on duty at the time of the incident and he was anxious that she did not "carry the can" for what had happened.

He said anyone making the law in Wales could not be a "law-maker and a law-breaker", adding that politicians should be doing everything they can to ensure they are complying with Covid rules.

Earlier this week, in a response to a letter from Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's press secretary said he expects politicians to go "above and beyond" in following Covid-19 restrictions.

Allegra Stratton said as far as she knew, Mr Johnson had not spoken to Mr Davies.

"The Prime Minister expects everybody, no matter their standing, no matter their status, to be sticking to the rules as well as they are able," she said.

"But I would just say more broadly - and we will come back to this again and again - the Prime Minister needs everybody, no matter their status, no matter their position in life, to be going above and beyond in following the rules on Covid."

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