Former minister Hannah Blythyn criticises sacking process and says situation caused 'acute anxiety'

  • Hannah Blythyn MS spoke in the Senedd Chamber for the first time since returning to work after being sacked from Vaughan Gething's government

The Labour MS Hannah Blythyn has criticised the way she was sacked from Vaughan Gething's government as a minister, claiming "proper process needs to be put in place" and the situation caused her "acute anxiety and stress".

She claimed she was shown no evidence for her removal and has raised “formal concerns”.

The MS for Delyn was speaking in front of colleagues in the Senedd chamber on Tuesday (9 July). It was the first time the former minister for social partnership had spoken out since being removed from the role, having only released a written statement at the time.

Visibly emotional, Ms Blythyn spoke about the impact the experience had had on her mental health, saying that "it should not be surprising that what happened has been hugely detrimental on a personal level".

The MS was sacked by First Minister Vaughan Gething in May this year over the leaking of phone messages. At the time Ms Blythyn denied leaking any information, something she reasserted on Tuesday.

It was the first time Ms Blythyn had spoken in the chamber since being removed from her position as minister for social partnership.

She said: "I know I can look all my colleagues that sit on these benches in the eye and say I have never leaked or briefed the media about any of you. In fact, I can say that to everyone in the Siambr."

She continued: "While I will not share the detail, I will share that I have formally raised concerns about the process by which I was removed from government; including not being shown any alleged evidence before being sacked, not being made aware that I was under investigation and at no point was I advised, or was it evidenced, that I had broken the ministerial code.

"I absolutely recognise and respect it is within the gift of any first minister to appoint and remove members of their government. I understand the nature of politics and completely accept that.

"I raise concerns not out of self-interest but because I fundamentally believe in devolution and public service. I have also very real concerns that lessons have not been learned from the past.

"Proper process needs to not only be put in place and followed for the dignity and respect of individuals involved but also to uphold the integrity of the civil service and the office of the FM."

Following her leaving government, Ms Blythyn was signed off work and was not present to take part in the vote of no confidence in Vaughan Gething's leadership in June.

Speaking about her mental health at the time, Ms Blythyn said: "I know there has been speculation about my circumstances and about whether I have been well enough to work.

"This has ranged from what is tantamount to misinformation and what can be put down to misunderstanding.

"It should not be surprising that what happened has been hugely detrimental to me on a personal level and led to acute anxiety and stress.

"I have never been signed off work before...but there was a point when the thought of just putting my camera on to vote and seeing you all literally took my breath away.

"I share this now not in search of sympathy - I don't want people's sympathy - but because my recent experience has brought home to me that while we all talk the talk on mental health, there is still more to do to improve out understanding and the impact it has on individuals and their ability to do things we would ordinarily take for granted."

She added: "Sadly I think we get so caught up in the politics that we don't think of the person.

"I am not broken but I know now more than I did before that I am breakable, as we all are."

She said it was a privilege to serve in the government, "particularly under the leadership of Mark Drakeford".

In closing, she said: “In spite of the challenges and difficulties - perhaps because of them - I feel a renewed sense of commitment to the politics of public service and a real determination to continue to contribute to devolved democracy, my community and our country.”

Responding to the statement by Hannah Blythyn in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “Hannah Blythyn’s comments raise more questions for the First Minister.

“People will now rightly ask whether the First Minister publicly sacked Hannah without sufficient evidence that she was guilty of leaking.

“The personal consequences for Hannah of that sacking were clearly enormous, and the First Minister owes her a full and humble apology.”

The Welsh Government said it wouldn't respond to what Hannah Blythyn said because it was a personal statement and that any questions she'd raised "will be dealt with directly".

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth has also issued a letter to the First Minister raising concerns.

He said: "In the interests of transparency and out of courtesy to the Senedd, I ask you to publish all the evidence which supported your decision to dismiss the Deputy Minister and make an urgent statement in the Senedd tomorrow setting out your response to the concerns raised in today’s personal statement by the Member for Delyn."

First Minister Vaughan Gething sacked Ms Blythyn in May this year over the leaking of phone messages. Credit: PA Images

The First Minister’s decision to sack Ms Blythyn followed a report on the Nation.Cymru news website which featured a message posted to a ministerial group chat in August 2020 by Mr Gething, stating that he was “deleting the messages in this group”.

He said the leaked message was from a section of an iMessage group chat with other Labour ministers and related to internal discussions within the Senedd Labour group.

Mr Gething previously told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that lost WhatsApp messages were not deleted by him, but by the Welsh Parliament’s IT team during a security rebuild.

He denied the leaked message contradicted the evidence he had given to the inquiry, adding that it did not relate to pandemic decision-making but “comments that colleagues make to and about each other”.

The First Minister has refused to show evidence for Ms Blythyn’s sacking when asked for it in the Senedd.

At the time of her dismissal, Ms Blythyn strongly denied leaking anything and said she was “deeply shocked” at her dismissal and said she was “clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything”.

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