ON 24th September in the Business Committee of the National Assembly for Wales, Labour and Plaid Cymru joined forces to block a vote that could have led to the full release of the inquiry into Carl Sargeant’s death.
Independent AM Neil McEvoy introduced a No Named Day Motion on 17th July 2019 calling for use of Section 37 of the Government of Wales Act to force full publication of the leak inquiry report, including all notes and interviews conducted as part of the inquiry, with redactions to ensure anonymity.
Mr McEvoy submitted the motion after the Welsh Government only revealed a closure minute note from the investigation, which was just one page long and contained almost no information on the investigation.
Speculation has been rife about the information collected as part of the report when it was revealed that certain journalists knew of Mr Sargeant’s sacking from government before it had taken place. Mr Sargeant went on to take his own life just days later.
Under pressure, the former Labour First Minister, Carwyn Jones, established an inquiry to report on whether there had been an unauthorised leak of Mr Sargeant’s sacking.
In a further twist, the then leader of the Conservatives alleged that the source of the leak was the controversial lobbying firm Deryn.
This led to stronger calls for the leak inquiry to be published. But not only did the Welsh Government refuse to publish the inquiry, they took the extraordinary step of initiating legal action to try to prevent the National Assembly for Wales voting to force publication. In the event, the vote took place and Labour had enough votes to prevent publication, since several opposition AMs were missing.
In March 2019, Neil McEvoy submitted a second motion to force publication. Days later the new First Minister, Mark Drakeford, agreed to publish the leak inquiry, after the Coroner’s report into Carl Sargeant’s death was concluded. The Business Committee of the National Assembly then agreed not to allow Mr McEvoy’s motion through to a vote, anticipating that the First Minister would release the inquiry.
In a further explosive release, during the inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death the family’s legal firm, Hudgell Solicitors, revealed phone records showed that:
‘According to phone transcripts obtained in evidence, after learning of Carl’s death, the former First Minister [Carwyn Jones] made two short calls to his wife and father, followed immediately by long phone calls to Ms Owens and Jo Kiernan, a senior adviser at [lobbying firm] Deryn.’
The nature and purpose of the lengthy phone calls to the lobbying firm implicated in the leak is still unknown.
The former First Minister was also accused of lying under oath during the inquest into Mr Sargeant’s death.
Following the Coroner’s report concluding the Welsh Government released a closure minute note of the investigation into the leak, falling well short of delivering the full report it had promised.
Mr McEvoy tried for a third time to have the full report released, again submitting a motion to use Section 37 of the Government of Wales Act. When the motion was first considered at the Assembly’s Business Committee the party whips agreed to return to their groups and consult. After that consultation Plaid Cymru decided to vote with Labour to BLOCK the motion and prevent all AMs being allowed a vote on the Assembly floor.
Plaid’s blocking vote came on the same day as they accused the Prime Minister of trying to shut down democracy in Westminster through prorogation of Parliament. The Presiding Officer later confirmed that Labour and Plaid had blocked the motion, while the Conservatives and Brexit Party had voted to support it.
Independent AM Neil McEvoy said:
‘I really am astonished that Plaid has decided to side with Labour and prevent the Assembly having a democratic vote on releasing the Carl Sargeant leak inquiry.
‘On the same day their MPs in London stated that government should not override the voice of parliamentary democracy, their Chief Whip in Wales was working with the government to stop the Welsh parliament from voting on a matter of major public interest. Why are they proroguing releasing the leak inquiry?
‘As for Labour, they have yet again shown that they have no commitment to democracy or transparency. People will now rightly ask what both parties are trying to keep hidden when we really need answers from this very troubling period in Welsh politics.
‘I’m not going to let this go though. I’ll be sending this motion back to Business Committee every week until they agree to let us have a vote. Plaid and Labour can keep explaining to the Sargeant family why they refuse to let them, and the public, know the full details surrounding his death.