Plaid Cymru call for register of lobbyists as Green Man row rumbles on
Plaid Cymru has called for a register of lobbyists in Wales and questioned the Welsh Government’s attitude to “transparency” following a probe into an “informal” meeting between government ministers, a prominent lobbyist, and the director of the Green Man Festival.
In May it was confirmed that the Government had bought a £4.25m farm seven miles from the festival’s site in Powys to help the festival develop its business.
But it was later revealed by WalesOnline that Climate Change Minister Julie James and Education Minister Jeremy Miles had met with the owner of the Green Man festival at the home of her lobbyist.
Last week a government report said the meeting in May between the ministers, festival owner Fiona Stewart and lobbyist Cathy Owens of Deryn Consulting was a purely social occasion and did not include a discussion about the purchase of Gilestone Farm.
Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “No other event or organisation has been awarded this kind of special treatment by the Labour Government where they are permitted to draft a business case in retrospect after receiving public money from government.
“The facts remain that a furtive meeting was held between government ministers and the owner of the Green Man Festival who was at that time in the middle of drawing up a business plan to justify government spending on her business, at the home of the Green Man Festival’s lobbyist, who happened to also be a former Government special advisor.”
Ms Stewart said she was surprised at the political fallout from the deal, adding “some of the things that have been said, I didn’t quite understand there would be a reaction in that way – especially because we have been around for such a long time,” comments described as “naive, misguided and misjudged” by Plaid Cymru.
Jeremy Miles’ denied the social gathering was a misjudgement and said “I wouldn’t expect as education minister to have any role in the decision making around a farm in any case, but should that arise in the future, then as you will have seen from the first minister’s statement, both myself and the minister for climate change will not take part in it.”
Responding to the minister’s response, Mr ap Gwynfor added: “Mr Miles’ comments are also misplaced. He and his fellow Minister, Julie James, demonstrated extremely poor judgement and left themselves in a compromising position.
“Governments make decisions by collective responsibility, the fact that they had no direct ministerial or portfolio involvement is not defence.
“This episode casts serious doubt on the inner workings of the Welsh Government and its attitude to transparency. Without a significant tightening of the rules Ministers will continue to have carte blanche to meet who they like when they like without anyone knowing about it.
“We urgently need a register of lobbyists in Wales and much greater and clearer transparency on the nature of lobbying in Wales.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.