Time for ministerial code to be policed independently – Kirsty Williams

June 26, 2013 10:33 AM

Speaking before the debate on the Standards Committee's report on Lobbying and Cross Party Groups, Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is calling for a review of the policing of the Ministerial Code as the current system lacks democratic accountability and impartiality.

The Standards Committee recommends that the First Minister looks at establishing a formal mechanism for the independent investigations of alleged breaches of the ministerial code and that the reports of any such investigations should be made publicly available.

The Commissioner for Standards and the Assembly's Standards Committee have previously raised concerns about the impartiality of Ministerial scrutiny. While 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 recently established 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:

"Welsh Ministers are the only Ministers in the UK who are responsible for policing their own code of conduct. We all know this evasive Welsh Labour Government tries to shelter itself from any form of scrutiny, but this anomaly goes too far. We need to have Government ministers that are fully transparent and accountable to the people of Wales.

"Previous 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?

"If a process cannot be trusted, then people will not trust its outcomes. It is time the First Minister stopped ducking from this issue. He must establish an independent procedure for policing the code of conduct. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want the system to ensure that, when the First Minister receives a complaint, then an independent body will decide if the complaint is valid.

"At a time of growing cynicism towards politicians of all colours, we politicians have a duty to make our political process as robust as possible. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a strong record of fighting for a more transparent democratic system. We will not stop campaigning on this until the First Minister does the right thing."

What would you like to do next?