Paul Davies MS has said he is stepping down as the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament following a Senedd investigation.
Darren Miller MS has also confirmed that he will be stepping down from his front bench role within Welsh Parliament.On Friday 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.
In a statement Paul Davies MS said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on the 8th and 9th December. They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but more importantly with the people of Wales.
“Whilst using the Senedd facilities at all times my colleagues and I maintained social distancing. There was no drunk or disorderly behaviour. We did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested. What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on the Tuesday and a beer on the Wednesday. I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.
“For the last 10 months of the pandemic, I have followed the Covid-19 regulations to the letter. As with everyone across Wales, I have not seen family members or friends, I’ve not eaten at my favourite restaurants and, like you, we enjoyed a subdued Christmas compared to other years. I will continue to follow the Welsh Government’s Covid-19 Regulations and I would urge everyone to play their part in defeating this virus so that we can all return to normality.
“My priority as Leader of the Welsh Conservative Group in the Welsh Parliament has always been to bring the Conservatives into government in Wales. Our main focus as the Welsh Conservatives must always be on challenging and removing a failing Labour government.
“I am grateful for the support of colleagues in the Welsh Conservative Party for their support in this difficult time, and especially to my wife Julie and my Senedd colleagues who have offered empathy, trust and advice. They have treated me with the same courtesy and decency I hope I have always extended to others.
“Over the last couple of days, I have been speaking with colleagues in the Senedd and the wider Conservative Party. Whilst they have confirmed they do not wish to see me step down, I believe that my actions are becoming a distraction from holding this failing Welsh Labour-led Government to account, not just on their roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines but from more than 20 years of their dither, delay and failure. Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday. However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.
“It is for the group to decide how best to choose a new leader, but I hope that process will be seamless and speedy, and I pledge my support to whoever becomes leader.”
In a statement Darren Millar MS said: “This has been a difficult week. I want to apologise to my family, colleagues and constituents for any embarrassment that some of the media stories may have caused in recent days.
“There have been some wildly inaccurate and unfair reports so I want to set out the truth.
“As has been the case in most weeks since September when the Hybrid Senedd was sitting in Cardiff Bay, on both the 8th and 9th December last year I used the self-serve catering arrangements that were made available for Senedd Members. On both evenings I served myself a pre-ordered, pre-prepared meal that was reheated in the microwave and ate it while drinking an alcoholic beverage and discussing work matters with colleagues.
“Social distancing was maintained throughout these working dinners and it simply did not occur to either me, my colleagues or the catering team that the arrangements may have been inappropriate.
“There was a member of catering staff present in the tea room for a short time after my arrival on the 8th December but she did not serve me a drink, nor did I request one. In fact, I encouraged the member of staff to go home and close up the counter as it had been a long day for her. No members of catering staff were present on the 9th December and the counter was closed for the whole evening.
“While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.
“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group Leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front bench role in the Welsh Parliament.
“I am cooperating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”
Simon Hart MP, Secretary of State for Wales said: “I have greatly enjoyed working alongside Paul over the last year following our best general election result in Wales since 1983.
“He has played a crucial role in helping link the Welsh and UK Government as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and has been undeterred in his pursuit to hold the Welsh Labour Government to account since 2018.
“I look forward to continuing our important work with his successor as we approach one of the most important Senedd elections that we’ve ever had in May.
Commenting on Paul Davies’ stepping down as group leader, Glyn Davies, Chairman of the Welsh Conservative Party, said: “We accept Paul’s decision to step down, and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his service as leader of the Conservative group in the Senedd. The process to find a successor will now get underway.”