Reform of Ministerial appointments process needed, say Welsh Conservatives

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies AM, has called for fundamental reform of key political appointments in Wales: suggesting that Ministerial positions and Special Advisers should first appear before Assembly committees to “assess their suitability” for high profile duties.

The calls were published in an article for the Institute of Welsh Affairs yesterday, in which Mr Davies sets out what a Welsh Conservative Government would do to restore trust in politics, and politicians.


It follows a speech last week to the think tank Gorwel, in which the Welsh Conservative Leader outlined proposals to tackle voter apathy and disengagement.


Writing for the IWA's website – Click on Wales – Mr Davies said:


“We must restore trust in politics and politicians – and I truly believe that Wales can lead the way, starting by reforming the process for key political appointments.


“It is my firm belief that before taking up a Ministerial post, AMs should be subject to ‘Confirmation Hearings’ in front of the appropriate Assembly Committee. A similar ‘hurdle’ – albeit, usually a symbolic one – exists in America, where appointments by the President are made subject to the approval of the Senate.


“The necessity of obtaining Senate approval is in place to act as a check on presidential power, and here in Wales I can see a very persuasive case for checking the power of the Executive.


“Committee members would not have power of veto over the First Minister’s cabinet appointments, but this symbolic process would shine a light on their suitability to serve in the cabinet – as well as giving the public a clearer sense of who holds these important positions of power in Wales.”


Mr Davies said ‘Confirmation Hearings’ should also be extended to Special Advisers.


He said:


“Journalists publish lists of Special Advisors as though they’ve uncovered a guilty secret, tucked away in dark recesses of the Ministerial briefcase.


“Such mistrust linked to significant Government appointments is unfortunate – and it’s something I’d want to change as First Minister of Wales.


“Special Advisers have huge involvement in policy decisions, on what appears in the papers, and in what many Ministers say – all without an electoral mandate. And that’s why the appointments process needs to be reformed.


“Clearly they play important roles, providing political advice and support to Ministers but it’s not unreasonable to suggest that before appointment, Special Advisers should be subject to similar scrutiny to Ministerial appointments – giving the Assembly an opportunity to properly assess their suitability for such high-profile, public, political roles; and provide a dose of reality to SPADs as to what their role should entail.”

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