Conservatives say ‘No answers on conflict of interest probe’

First Minister Carwyn Jones

First Minister Carwyn Jones

Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones has refused to comment on an apparent conflict of interest engulfing Labour’s Natural Resources Minister, over an application for a motor racing circuit in his constituency, say Welsh Conservatives.

In June 2013, the Minister wrote to Natural Resources Wales, a body that he is responsible for in his ministerial capacity, urging support for the Circuit of Wales.

The Minister wrote, “I am anxious that this development goes ahead” and “I am very disappointed with the approach NRW has taken in this matter.”

Natural Resources Wales had initially had concerns about the proposals, but after the Minister’s intervention, the plans were given the green light.

An hour before the First Minister’s weekly question session with Assembly Members, he issued a statement announcing that the Permanent Secretary will undertake an inquiry, which will report back within two weeks.

Andrew RT Davies AM, Leader of the Opposition, said, “By announcing a two week-long inquiry into whether this Labour Minister has broken the ministerial code, Carwyn Jones thinks he has kicked this issue into the medium to long grass.

“These are serious allegations that a senior Labour Minister has used his position as a minister to secure an advantage in his constituency.

“I congratulate my colleague Antoinette Sandbach who wrote to the First Minister about her concerns and shamed Carwyn Jones into launching an inquiry.

“It seems the First Minister is keener to hang on to his Natural Resources Minister than his former Education Minister Leighton Andrews, who was dropped from the Cabinet like a stone following a conflict of interest.

“We await the Permanent Secretary’s conclusions as to whether the ministerial code has been broken in this instance and hope his inquiry can be concluded promptly.

“A cynic would think the timing of the First Minister’s announcement of an inquiry was designed to avoid answering any questions in his weekly question session about a potential conflict of interest.

“I am disappointed that the First Minister, whose job it is to oversee the ministerial code, has failed to show leadership on this issue and make his own decision based on the available evidence.”

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