Labour MP calls for Senedd colleague to consider resigning over WRU sexism row

  • Tonia Antoniazzi told ITV News that Ms Bowden "can't be trusted"

The First Minister has announced that there will be an investigation under the ministerial code into allegations by a Welsh Labour MP about comments made by a Labour Welsh minister.

Mark Drakeford told Senedd Members that the Sports minister Dawn Bowden had written to him asking for such an investigation.

It followed a claim by the Labour MP for Gower, Tonia Antoniazzi, that Ms Bowden had made "inaccurate statements" about her handling of allegations of sexism at the Welsh Rugby Union.

The First Minister said that he hopes the investigation will be carried out as quickly as possible.

A damming report was produced last month showing the extent of sexism and misogyny in the WRU.

It will be carried out in the first instance by the Director on Ethics and Propriety in the Welsh Government.

In November, a a damning review of the WRU revealed widespread misogyny and sexism at the organisation.

That review followed allegations raised in a BBC Wales documentary a year ago.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives said "people in Wales deserve to know the truth of the matter".

He added: “We hope that the investigation will be thorough, but will not drag on and on without a clear result.

“Everyone who has felt the impact of these events will want to see this investigation concluded quickly and decisively.”

2023 has been a turbulent year for the WRU with allegations of sexism first being made public in January.

Asked why she had not intervened before those initial allegations were made public, Dawn Bowden, who sits in the Senedd and is a Labour Welsh Minister, said at the weekend that she had not been given details of complaints against the WRU.

She told BBC Wales’ Politics Wales programmes that Ms Antoniazzi had raised general concerns but not enough to oblige her to act sooner.

"What I did offer Tonia was for her to let me have the details of who it was, what the details of their complaints were, that they could provide that to me in confidence.

"I would not be divulging that to anybody but it would give me the assurance that what was being said was actually real.

"That didn't materialise. I never got those. Those individuals subsequently went to the BBC but had they come to me a year earlier, and said to me 'this is me, this is my story, this is what happened', I would have been in a very different situation."

That’s led to a furious response from Tonia Antoniazzi who is the MP for Gower. Although she sits in the UK Parliament not the Senedd, she is a member of the same party as Dawn Bowden and it’s extremely rare for such public criticism to be aired.

Ms Antoniazzi issued a statement accusing Ms Bowden of making a “cynical attempt to rewrite history.”

Her statement says that “I was incredibly disappointed that during a recent interview, Dawn Bowden made a number of inaccurate claims relating to our communications regarding allegations of sexism and misogyny in the WRU.

“Given the importance of the issue and the trust a number of whistle-blowers placed in me by sharing their stories, I feel it is important to clarify the communication between Dawn and I.

“Contrary to the statements in her interview, I provided her with contact details of several women across the WRU who were willing to speak with her about their experiences.

“I first raised concerns regarding sexism and misogyny at the WRU with Dawn in early 2022 and she indicated that she was happy to speak with any of the women involved.

"I followed this up on multiple occasions, sharing the contact details of the women affected who were willing to meet with Dawn, as well as making her aware of the emotional impact this was having on these women.

“This was prior to the release of the BBC Wales documentary and there is a record of all of this correspondence that I’m happy to share.

“I am still unclear as to why Dawn chose not to contact these women.

“Given the seriousness of the allegations I shared I remain extremely frustrated that my representations to Dawn were met with what I can only describe as apathy, and that seemingly it was only media interest that led to action.

"Whilst I am pleased that action has now been taken, I am again disappointed at a rather cynical attempt to rewrite history in order to hide political inaction.

“I’d ask Dawn Bowden to withdraw her recent remarks about me, to apologise to the women whose outreach she ignored, and to seriously consider her position.”

ITV News has asked the Welsh Government to comment.

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