Welsh Government minister Hannah Blythyn sacked as media leak row erupts

  • ITV Wales' Gwennan Campbell questioned First Minister Vaughan Gething.

The Welsh Government's social partnership minister Hannah Blythyn has been sacked by First Minister Vaughan Gething for reasons connected to the leak of phone messages.

Ms Blythyn denies leaking material.

In a written statement, Mr Gething said: "I have today asked the minister for social partnership, Hannah Blythyn, to leave government.

"I would like to put on record my gratitude for the work the Member for Delyn has led ingovernment since 2017, most notably her leadership on the LGBTQ+ Action Plan forWales, the fire and rescue services review, and our valuable work with social partners."

However in another statement, the first minister said: "Having reviewed the evidence available to me regarding the recent disclosure of communication to the media, I have regrettably reached the conclusion I have no alternative but to ask Hannah Blythyn to leave the government."

He added: "It is of vital importance we are able to maintain confidence amongst government colleagues so that we work as one to focus on improving the lives of the people in Wales."

However he also said: "Given Hannah’s talents and experience, I have been clear there is a route back for her to take up a government position again in future.

“The government has offered ongoing support to the member.”

In a statement posted on social media, Ms Blythyn said: "I am deeply shocked and saddened by what has happened today. I am clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything. Integrity is all in politics and I retain mine.

"For a kid from Connah’s Quay it is an immense privilege to serve the community that shaped me, let alone to have served in my country’s government. I will say no more at present."

It has not yet been confirmed what specific "disclosure of communication to the media" Mr Gething is referring to, but the first minister has faced criticism from opposition parties after messages between Welsh Government Labour ministers were leaked to the Nation.Cymru news website.

In one text message posted to the ministerial group chat on August 17, 2020, Mr Gething appeared to have said: "I’m deleting the messages in this group. They can be captured in an FOI (Freedom of Information request) and I think we are in the right place on the choice being made."

That was seen by opponents as undermining evidence he gave to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry in which he said he did not delete WhatsApp messages.

Hannah Blythyn had been expected to launch her own leadership campaign when Mark Drakeford announced he was stepping down but chose not to stand and backed Mr Gething's rival Jeremy Miles.

The Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Vaughan Gething’s decisions during the Labour leadership campaign are catching up with him.

"Just weeks into his time as first minister, Vaughan Gething has had to sack somebody from his cabinet, which is almost unprecedented in recent memory in Wales.

"Vaughan Gething needs to prove quickly that he is capable of governing Wales, because as it stands his government is being stretched to breaking point by internal divisions."

Plaid Cymru's leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said it is the first minister himself who should be considering his position.

He said: "In his first two months since his election, Vaughan Gething has undermined the office of first minister and lost the trust of his party and the nation.

"Rather than seizing on the opportunity to put Wales on a fairer and more ambitious path, his tenure has been marred by controversy, a lack of transparency and serious questions about judgement.

"The sacking of one of his ministers, and the allegations and counter allegations which surround it, demonstrates again that the first minister’s priority is self-preservation rather than the public interest. If anyone should be considering their position, it is the first minister himself."

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