Why is the First Minister running scared from leaders’ debate? – Kirsty Williams

2013 Tachwedd 5 12:00 PM

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have accused the First Minister of 'running scared' after it has been revealed that he has still not decided whether he is to take part in a leaders' debate on the Coalition Government's recent Silk Commission announcement, despite being asked Friday morning.

On Friday morning (1st), the BBC's 'Wales Report' contacted all parties to check the availability of their leaders for a debate set to take place on Wednesday morning. All opposition parties ensured that diaries would be changed in order to allow this debate to take place.

Following a suggestion from the First Minister's office that an earlier slot on Wednesday morning would be better for the First Minister, opposition party leaders changed their diaries to suit his diary commitments.

With less than 24 to go until the debate takes place, the First Minister's office still hasn't confirmed whether or not he will take part in the leader's debate.

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

"The First Minister has made it abundantly clear in the past that he speaks on constitutional issues for the Welsh Government. Has he all of a sudden decided that constitutional issues are no longer part of his portfolio or is he just running scared of debating these matters?

"When it was politically convenient, the First Minister consistently called for Silk's key recommendations to be implemented. Now he has got his wish, he's trying to wriggle out of taking responsibility. The fact that the Welsh Government hasn't categorically said the First Minister can't take part due to diary commitments would indicate that this is a political decision rather than a practical one.

"The announcement from the Coalition Government last week was a great milestone in Welsh devolution. These substantial changes will have a significant influence over the future of Welsh politics and the lives of the people of Wales. People have a right to know where parties stand on these issues and a leaders' debate would help heighten public interest. For the First Minister not to take part is deeply embarrassing for this government. They already have a poor record of defending themselves in the media. Just a few months ago, the Health Minister failed to address his government's shambolic handling of the Welsh NHS on the same programme.

"I understand that Welsh Labour is split on Silk's recommendations. However, the First Minister needs to show some leadership and take some responsibility. Running scared should never be an option for the leader of our nation".

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