Welsh First Minister refuses to show evidence for minister’s sacking

The Welsh First Minister has refused to show any evidence for why he sacked a government minister whose “reputation lies in tatters”.

Vaughan Gething said that he had “no alternative” but to remove Hannah Blythyn, from the government as the minister for social partnership last week, after accusing her of leaking messages to the media.

Ms Blythyn, MS for Delyn, immediately refuted the First Minister’s allegations, insisting she was “clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything” and was “deeply shocked” at her dismissal.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, asked Mr Gething to present evidence that links Ms Blythyn to the leak.

He said: “That Member’s reputation lies in tatters today because you dismissed her from the Government because you said she was the source of a leak to the media.

“That is a very serious accusation to make, especially when that accusation gets contested.”

Mr Davies said there were two differing sides, and it would not be unreasonable for people to ask who is telling the truth, insisting that evidence be made available “so that this can be put to bed”.

He added: “Hannah Blythyn has said her integrity remains intact; does yours, First Minister?”

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives

Mr Gething said: “No government of any shade that has had to take action on this basis would publish that information.

“We’ve actually seen that in other instances as well.”

He added: “I don’t accept the member’s assertion that this is the end of the member’s career.

“I think it is perfectly possible in the future for there to be a return, and I look forward to an opportunity to work with her to undertake and to build on the work she’s already undertaken.

“I’m very clear about my integrity and the very difficult choice that I had to make, but I’m very clear about the choice being the correct one for the government and for the work we need to do on behalf of the country, and that underscores all the decisions I have made in this matter.”

Hannah Blythyn, deputy minister for social partnership in the Welsh Government
Hannah Blythyn, the former deputy minister for social partnership in the Welsh Government (The Welsh Government/PA)

He added that he had acted in accordance with the ministerial code and the government’s cabinet handbook, and had sought advice from the Permanent Secretary on the process.

The exchange follows reports on the Nation.Cymru news website, which featured a message posted to a ministerial group chat in August 2020 by Mr Gething, stating that he was “deleting the messages in this group”.

Mr Gething previously told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that lost WhatsApp messages were not deleted by him, but by the Welsh Parliament’s IT team during a security rebuild.

He previously told the plenary that the leaked message was from a section of an iMessage group chat with other Labour ministers and related to internal discussions within the Senedd Labour group.

Mr Gething denied the message contradicted the evidence he had given to the inquiry, adding that the message did not relate to pandemic decision-making.

His decision to sack Ms Blythyn, as well as long-standing concerns about a donation he took from a man convicted of environmental offences, led Plaid Cymru to abruptly end its co-operation deal with the Labour government on Friday.