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Kirsty Williams angered at FM’s continued contempt for democracy

July 3, 2012 11:52 AM

The Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, has this week been forced to submit a Freedom of Information request after the First Minister repeatedly refused to answer questions put to him publicly in the Chamber and in written form.

Last month in the Senedd, the First Minister surprised everyone by stating that he would welcome the nuclear submarine at Faslane to Milford Haven. Following these outlandish comments, the First Minister was hauled back to the chamber to clarify his remarks, but he instead dodged directly answering any questions. Kirsty Williams consequently submitted Assembly Written Questions to the First Minister asking whether his Government carried out a risk assessment for the proposed move and whether the decision had been made at Cabinet level - he responded saying that he had nothing further to add. Kirsty Williams subsequently wrote directly the First Minister repeating the questions, but once again he refused.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have now been forced to use the last resort of submitting a Freedom of Information request to extract answers from the Welsh Labour Government, a move which has angered the Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

Kirsty Williams commented:

"It is a sad day for a democracy when the only method of getting answers from the Government is by a Freedom of Information request. I was bitterly disappointed with the First Minister's response to my Written Questions. My questions were not difficult or challenging to answer, it was just a case of the First Minister refusing to answer them simply because he didn't want to. That is not how democracy should work. The First Minister's flippant attitude in the Senedd is bad enough, but Written Questions are an incredibly important tool for democratically elected politicians to hold the Government to account. To choose to completely bypass this essential process is inexcusable.

"The public deserve to know whether the First Minister's comments on Trident were based on a collective decision at cabinet. It is also important to be made aware whether his Government has carried out a risk assessment with regards to the move. If neither of these actions were done, then some might find this all rather strange, it is not every day, after all, that a leader of a Government offhandedly states that he would welcome £20 billion worth of weapons of mass destruction to his shores without having done his homework.

"The issue of Trident coming to Milford Haven is of course one which would give rise to much debate. But it must be understood that this isn't directly about Trident. This is about a lazy Labour Government that resents being held to account. Time and time again this Welsh Labour Government has declined attempts made by the Welsh Liberal Democrats to encourage further transparency within our democratic system."