Cabinet Responsibility in chaos as Kirsty Williams defies Welsh Government whip on Article 50

The First Minister has been urged to clarify whether ministers are still bound by ‘collective ministerial responsibility’ after Lib Dem cabinet secretary, Kirsty Williams, voted against the Welsh Government and the triggering of article 50 in a Senedd debate yesterday.

Her vote came after First Minister, Carwyn Jones, told AMs:

“We cannot and should not try to block those negotiations beginning. That after all is what the referendum was about and the result has to be respected.”

In spite of that warning, Ms Williams voted against her Welsh Government colleagues.

Collective responsibility is a constitutional convention that members of the cabinet must publicly support all governmental decisions taken in cabinet – even if they do not privately agree with them.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, said the rebellion made Carwyn Jones look “weak”, with Jeremy Corbyn having disciplined MPs who refused to follow the whip in Westminster votes.

He said:

“Carwyn Jones needs to clarify whether his ministers are still bound by collective responsibility, because at present it appears that the Cabinet Secretary for Education can opt out whenever she pleases.

“Alternatively, he should confirm if the Welsh Government has changed its policy to act on the Welsh people’s wishes as expressed in the referendum on June 23rd and to support the triggering of Article 50.

“It makes the First Minister look incredibly weak.

“It cannot be government by ‘pick and mix’. It’s a longstanding tradition that ministers adhere to the principle of collective responsibility, and where an individual feels that they can no longer support the government’s position they remove themselves from the cabinet.

“Whilst I personally respect Kirsty Williams’ right to take this position, it is on the basis of collective responsibility that she joined the government and Labour backbenchers would have every right to be furious if they feel that she is receiving special treatment.”


From the Record of Proceedings, 27th May 2016.


Andrew RT Davies – Leader, Welsh Conservatives

“First Minister, you put your government together last week after, obviously, being voted in as First Minister. Can you confirm today that all members of your cabinet are bound by collective responsibility on all issues that are brought forward by the Welsh Government?”.

Carwyn Jones – First Minster


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