Welsh FM insists sacked minister was behind leak to the media

The First Minister of Wales has insisted it was “clear” that a sacked government minister was behind a message leaked to the media, despite her emphatic denials.

Hannah Blythyn was removed from the Welsh Labour government by Vaughan Gething in May, following messages from the Covid pandemic being leaked to the media.

Ms Blythyn broke her silence about her dismissal in the Senedd on Tuesday, using a personal statement to insist she was innocent, and that she could “look all my colleagues who sit on these benches in the eye” and say she had not leaked to the media.

Vaughan Gething sat in front of a screen and microphone
Vaughan Gething told the Senedd that the messages could only have come from Hannah Blythyn’s phone (Matthew Horwood/Welsh Government/PA)

The embattled First Minister told the Senedd on Wednesday the messages could only have come from the former minister’s phone, adding that there had been a “breach of trust”.

Mr Gething has come under sustained attack in recent months for his decision to sack Ms Blythyn and over a series of rows concerning donations he took while running to be Welsh Labour leader.

This led to the collapse of a co-operation agreement between his party and Plaid Cymru and he subsequently lost a non-binding vote of no-confidence in the Senedd.

Addressing the Senedd on Wednesday, he said: “It is, of course, vital for the function of government that ministers have trust in each other at all times, and that private discussions remain private.

“For these messages to be provided to a journalist is a breach of that trust.”

He added: “Having cross-checked the photograph with a full set of messages, it became clear that the photograph could only have been of one member’s phone.”

Vaughan Gething giving a speech
First Minister of Wales Vaughan Gething recently lost a vote of no confidence and faces a second vote in the coming days (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Gething added that he would “rather not go through this detail in public” but said he had spoken to the member of May 16 setting out his analysis and insisted “I had evidence to support the decision.”

Sitting behind Mr Gething, Ms Blythyn could be seen shaking her head as the First Minister spoke.

The First Minister is now facing a second vote of no-confidence in the Senedd next week, with the Conservatives hoping to “compel” him to publish the evidence he used to sack Ms Blythyn.

Mr Gething lost the previous vote in June in part because Ms Blythyn and another Labour MS, Lee Waters, were not present.

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday, Ms Blythyn said she had “formally raised concerns” about the process by which she was removed from government.

She said she was not shown any evidence before her sacking, nor was she made aware she was under investigation.

Ms Blythyn led a guarded attack on the First Minister, saying a proper process needs to be in place to ensure the “integrity of the Civil Service and the office of the First Minister” and said she had enjoyed her time in government under Mr Gething’s predecessor, Mark Drakeford.

The First Minister’s decision to sack Ms Blythyn followed a report 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”.

He said 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 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 denied the leaked message contradicted the evidence he had given to the inquiry, adding that it did not relate to pandemic decision-making but “comments that colleagues make to and about each other”.

The First Minister has not shown any evidence for Ms Blythyn’s sacking.

At the time of her dismissal, Ms Blythyn strongly denied leaking anything and said she was “deeply shocked” at her dismissal and said she was “clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything”.