Welsh ministers must be subject to independent investigation – Williams

2010 Hydref 5 12:53 PM

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is today calling for a review of the policing of the Ministerial Code as the current system lacks democratic accountability and impartiality.

Recent requests to bring Ministers to account have resulted in the First Minister conducting investigations into his own colleagues, without any reference to independent and impartial opinion.

As the National Assembly prepares to gain primary law-making powers in the forth-coming referendum, the Executive of the National Assembly needs to be more democratic and accountable.

The Assembly's Standards Committee and the Commissioner for Standards have previously raised concerns about the impartiality of Ministerial scrutiny. Whilst allegations of misconduct of Assembly Members are investigated by the independent Commissioner for Standards, allegations of misconduct of Government Ministers are investigated by the First Minister.

In the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister last year set up a panel of former Presiding Officers to advise him on the application of the Ministerial Code. In Westminster, the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Cabinet Secretary, can refer the matter to the independent adviser on Ministers' interests.

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

"We need to have Government ministers that are fully transparent and accountable to the people of Wales.

"Recent requests to bring Welsh Ministers to account over their behaviour have resulted in the First Minister investigating his own cabinet and party members. In one instance, the former First Minister undertook an investigation of himself, acting as the judge and jury in his own trial.

"It is simply unacceptable that in Wales, there is no independent scrutiny of the Ministerial Code. This raises the age old question who watches the watchmen?

"The Assembly's Standards Committee and the Commissioner for Standards have previously raised concerns about the impartiality of Ministerial scrutiny. The reality is that local councillors and Assembly Members are subject to a higher level of scrutiny than Welsh Government Minsters.

"In Scotland, the First Minister set up a panel of former Presiding Officers to advise him on the application of the Ministerial Code while in Westminster the Prime Minister, after consultation with the Cabinet Secretary, can refer the matter to the independent adviser on Ministers' interests. It's time that we reviewed our system here.

"If we are to have an Assembly that is worthy of making primary legislation, then we need to have proper checks and balances to ensure the Government is properly held to account."

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