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First Minister plays role of judge, jury and executioner

It is wholly unacceptable for the First Minister to be the sole decider on whether he and his cabinet colleagues have broken ministerial rules.

This week the Welsh Liberal Democrats used their debate to lead on their campaign calling for the Welsh Government to commit to ensuring the policing of the ministerial code is independent and transparent.

The ministerial code provides guidance to Ministers on how they should act and arrange their affairs in order to uphold certain standards. Under the current system, the only person who decides on whether or not the ministerial code of conduct has been broken is the First Minister. Unlike the Scottish and UK Governments, the First Minister has not appointed independent advisers on this issue.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have in the past been successful in pressurising the Welsh Government to publish all expenditure over £25,000 in the interest of transparency and accountability. This would be part and parcel of the same reform agenda to ensure that people feel the process of government in Wales is open, honest and accessible.

Welsh Ministers are the only Ministers in the UK who are responsible for policing their own code of conduct. We all know this evasive Welsh Labour Government tries to shelter itself from any form of scrutiny, but this anomaly goes too far.

Under the current system, the First Minister plays the role of judge, jury and executioner. He decides if he or one of his cabinet colleagues is guilty, what the punishment should be and then he carries out that punishment.

It is wholly unacceptable for the First Minister to be the sole decider on this. The public needs to have confidence that Ministers will be held to account fairly. Sadly, the system for policing the code of conduct in Wales does not instil that confidence.

If a process cannot be trusted, then people will not trust its outcomes. It is time the First Minister stopped ducking from this issue. He must immediately establish an independent procedure for policing the code of conduct. The Welsh Liberal Democrats want the system to ensure that, when the First Minister receives a complaint, then an independent body will decide if the complaint is valid.

At a time of growing cynicism towards politicians of all colours, we politicians have a duty to make our political process as robust as possible. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have a strong record of fighting for a more transparent democratic system. We will not stop campaigning on this until the First Minister does the right thing.

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