PLAID Cymru leader Adam Price has sent a letter to the Permanent Secretary, Dame Shan Morgan, regarding using civil service resources for electioneering purposes. The letter reads as follows:
At this crucial juncture in the election campaign, I wish to raise numerous areas of concern which have come to light over the past couple of days.
Firstly, the agreement with opposition parties to provide advanced notice of, and input into, any changes to Covid restrictions was broken on Monday April 19th.
Regrettably, the first I knew of the relaxation to outdoor household mixing was when I read an embargoed BBC press release on Monday night.
The decision had therefore been taken without prior consultation with opposition party leaders, and ahead of my scheduled meeting with the First Minister.
It goes against the spirit and letter of our understanding with the Welsh Government during the pre-dissolution period.
Furthermore, the First Minister’s letter of 24th March 2021 which forms the basis of this agreement with the opposition parties during the pre-election period, says that ‘[W]e will provide you with a copy of the draft summary alert level assessment prepared as part of this process to provide some context for the discussions’. This commitment has not been honoured for the scheduled meetings held on Tuesday March 30th and Tuesday April 20th, despite me raising this issue with officials at the meeting on Tuesday 30th March.
Secondly, the First Minister misled the public in his “Ask the Leader” interview on BBC ONE Wales on Tuesday April 20th.
When addressing the issue of tighter restrictions last Christmas, the First Minister said the government “took a lot of flack for it” and had “no support from opposition parties.”
This is categorically untrue, evidenced by the fact that the BBC reported on December 15th that Plaid Cymru had been pressing the case for tighter restrictions. Plaid Cymru’s position is also set out in the Senedd Record.
At a time of heightened political awareness, I seek your guidance on how I can best ensure that the First Minister corrects this inaccuracy. In particular, I would be grateful if you could confirm if the Ministerial Code, including its provisions in relation to accuracy, remain operational during the pre-election period.
Thirdly, the First Minister further stated in the interview that he will “on Friday set out what a Labour government would do in the 3 weeks that follow the election.”
It would be completely inappropriate for the incumbent party of government to use the resources and communication channels of the government to make party political announcements less than two weeks before polling day.
As set out in the pre-election guidance document Elections to Senedd Cymru May 2021: guidance for Welsh Government officials “Welsh Government premises and resources should never be used for campaigning purposes”. Whilst Annex B of the document rightly recognises the unique context in which this Senedd election takes place in relation to the provision of factual public health information and the communication of the outcome of the
Arweinydd | Leader
Wednesday 21st April 2021
scheduled 21 day reviews, the guidance clearly states that “Welsh Government communications activity during the pre-election period must not be seen or perceived to be influencing, or potentially influencing the outcome of the election on behalf of any political party, or carry any implication that the government is taking a position on any issue related to the election campaign through its channels” and explicitly restricts the use of government communication channels to anything other than the provision of public health or other factual information.
You may be aware that the deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner has written to the Head of the Civil Service in Whitehall to highlight a possible breach of ministerial rules by the Prime Minister relating to critical comments about London’s Labour Mayor in a Downing Street briefing.
I trust that you will agree that what the First Minister described last night on television about his intention to use the Welsh Government’s platform for communicating the outcome of the 21 day review this Friday to set out the hypothetical policy choices a future Labour administration might make, were the Labour Party to be in government after the election, would extend beyond the scope of the activity permitted under the government guidance. I therefore request, in your capacity as the guarantor of the neutrality of the machinery of the state, that you intervene to ensure that any communication through this platform upholds the letter and spirit of the guidance which is in place to ensure parity and fair play for all.
In light of my genuine concerns around matters affecting the fairness of the election campaign I would be grateful if you could arrange an urgent meeting with my office, ahead of Friday, to discuss further.
As part of that meeting, we will also want to review the arrangements in place for sharing factual information – including scientific modelling – on a fair and equal basis to all prospective First Ministers.
The people of Wales rightly expect us as political leaders to continue working together and to support the efforts to control the virus given the unique public health context which underpins this election campaign – as Plaid Cymru has largely done throughout the pandemic – however, voters will rightly expect the resources of the state to be used properly and fairly during this period. Given the public interest in this matter, I will be making a copy of this letter available in the public domain.
Arweinydd/Leader, Plaid Cymru