Sacked minister raises ‘formal concerns’ over her dismissal

A former Welsh government minister who was sacked after allegedly leaking messages to the media has said she was shown no evidence for her removal and has raised “formal concerns”.

Hannah Blythyn, the former minister for social partnership, was sacked by embattled First Minister Vaughan Gething in May, following messages from the Covid pandemic being leaked to the media.

Ms Blythyn read a personal statement to the Senedd on Tuesday, in which she maintained her innocence and said the allegations had damaged her mental health.

Mr Gething has come under sustained attack in recent months from both the opposition and his own benches.

His decision to sack Ms Blythyn contributed 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.

He has also faced a series of rows concerning donations he took during his bid to become Welsh Labour leader.

Ms Blythyn, who has not appeared in the chamber since she was removed from government, said she had formally raised concerns about the process of her removal.

Ms Blythyn said: “I know that I can look all my colleagues who sit on these benches in the eye and say that I have never leaked or briefed the media about any of you. In fact, I can say that to everyone in the Siambr (Senedd chamber).

“Whilst I will not share the detail, I will share that I have formally raised concerns about the process by which I was removed from government, including not being shown any alleged evidence before being sacked, not being made aware that I was ever under investigation and that at no point was I advised or was it evident that I may have broken the ministerial code.”

Ms Blythyn said she recognised that it was the First Minister’s power to remove people from government but said she raised concerns about her dismissal because she “fundamentally believe in devolution and public service”.

She said a proper process needs to be in place to ensure the “integrity of the Civil Service and the office of the First Minister”.

The former minister added: “It should not be surprising that what happened has been hugely detrimental to me on a personal level, and led to acute anxiety and stress.

“I have never been signed off work before when I have struggled with this in itself, but there was a point when the thought of just putting my camera on to vote and seeing you all literally took my breath away.”

She said they often spoke about “kinder politics” in the Senedd, but she argued this would not be possible “without kinder people”.

Mr Gething’s office said it would not be responding to Mr Blythyn’s comments through the media and any questions raised will be dealt with directly.

Speaking after Ms Blythyn made her statement, Andrew RT Davies MS, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “Hannah Blythyn’s comments raise more questions for the First Minister.

“People will now rightly ask whether the First Minister publicly sacked Hannah without sufficient evidence that she was guilty of leaking.

“The personal consequences for Hannah of that sacking were clearly enormous, and the First Minister owes her a full and humble apology.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, has written to the First Minister requesting an urgent statement in response to Ms Blythyn’s comments and for evidence to be provided in “the interests of transparency and out of courtesy to the Senedd”.

In a letter to Mr Gething, he said: “I have previously raised with you my concerns that no proper process was conducted prior to the minister’s removal from office and having heard the member’s representations today, I remain unsatisfied that due process was undertaken.”

Mr ap Iorwerth said there were “two conflicting accounts” which “casts a further cloud on your ability to govern without distraction”.

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 refused to show evidence for Ms Blythyn’s sacking when asked for it in the Senedd.

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”.