Why it’s time for Carwyn Jones to go

The First Minister. Picture: National Assembly.

Tim Richards, LLB.PGCE.

When it comes to his role in the way in which Carl Sargeant was treated, Carwyn Jones has claimed that he had acted “by the book”.

But whatever book it was, it didn’t come from a shelf in the Law section.

In simple terms, Carwyn Jones has got himself into the mess he is in because he mixed up politics with the law.

It is clear that the basic principles of natural justice in the law were the last thing on Carwyn Jones’s mind. He did not give Carl Sargeant any details of what he was accused of, what evidence there was against him, or a chance to give his side of the story.

Let us remember that Carwyn Jones was in the middle of a political reshuffle when he “sacked” Carl Sargeant, saying that he had no alternative, because of allegations about his conduct.

But in fact, he had not sacked him, as is clear from Carl Sargeant’s statement at the time. He said that: “Given the nature of the allegations, I agreed with the First Minister that it was right that I stand aside from cabinet today”.

And his statement clearly shows that he intended “to write to the General Secretary of Welsh Labour requesting an urgent independent investigation into these allegations in order to allow me to clear my name”.

The fact that Carwyn Jones used the word “sacked” was highly misleading as the correct legal term should have been ‘suspended’.

Carwyn Jones should have known that, as he once held the job of Counsel General, the legal officer of the Welsh Assembly who is supposed to advise the Welsh Government on the law.

It is little wonder that Carl Sargeant was upset as it must have looked like he had already been judged.

But as if this was not bad enough, at no time did Carwyn Jones give Carl Sargeant or his solicitor details of what he was alleged to have done.

When his solicitor asked the Welsh Labour party the following week all he got was the internal Welsh Labour party rule which was supposed to justify his suspension.

So far as Carwyn Jones was concerned, the allegations were an internal Labour party disciplinary matter. This says a lot about how he regards the Welsh Assembly.

He also told Carl Sargeant’s solicitor that “his special advisor Matt Greenough had spoken to the complainant or complainants to verify the complaint”.

This is a rather strange statement as it does not even make it clear whether it was one or more than one complaints.

At the same time, he told BBC Wales that: “I asked my office to speak to those women involved who had provided detail of those incidents. As a result of those conversations, I felt I had no choice but to refer the matter to the party.”

Flawed

As a lawyer and First Minister, Carwyn Jones should have realised that making the investigation an internal Labour party matter was avoiding independent scrutiny as Welsh Ministers are, like members of the UK Government at Westminster, covered by a Ministerial Code of conduct.

Sexual harassment is covered by the catch-all clause in the Ministerial Code: “Ministers of the Crown are expected to behave in a principled way that upholds the highest standards of propriety”.

As Carwyn Jones was alleging that Carl Sargeant should be sacked as a Minister because he broke this code he should have used that disciplinary procedure, but he preferred to keep it in-house so that he could control it.

It is no wonder that Carl Sargeant’s family do not trust Carwyn Jones to set up a truly independent inquiry.

They have pointed out that his plan to ask the Permanent Secretary to hire a QC to look into what happened is deeply flawed because he reports directly to the First Minister and is therefore not independent.

The family has argued for “a truly independent body” that “must also be responsible for agreeing the terms of reference and appointing the chair and secretariat for the inquiry”.

In the final analysis, Carwyn Jones has a mountain to climb as he has lost credibility through his mishandling of both the Cabinet reshuffle and his lack of answers to serious questions about how he has dealt with the whole affair.

More worrying for him is that if he does ensure that the Inquiry is truly independent then it will damn him for his failure to act justly with Carl Sargeant, and if the inquiry is not independent then he will have brought the whole Welsh Assembly into disrepute.

It is not a question anymore of whether Carwyn Jones will resign – it is when.

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