Three senior politicians including the Conservative leader in Wales, Paul Davies, have apologised over a drinks event in a Welsh parliament building at a time when pubs were banned from serving alcohol on their premises under Covid laws.
Davies, along with the Tory chief whip in the Senedd, Darren Millar, and the party’s chief of staff in Wales, Paul Smith, said they had broken the spirit of the rules and were “profoundly sorry”.
Alun Davies, a former Labour Welsh government minister, also said he was “very sorry” and has been suspended from the Senedd Labour group.
A ban on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol in licensed premises came into force in Wales on 4 December. Four days later, on 8 December, a group of Senedd members and staff allegedly drank alcohol in the Ty Hywel building in Cardiff Bay.
A spokesman for the Senedd commission said: “We are aware of an incident on the Senedd estate last month which may have been contrary to public health regulations in force at the time.
“The Senedd commission takes the public health regulations in Wales very seriously and is currently investigating the matter in order to establish an accurate account of what took place and to determine whether action may be required.”
A joint statement from Paul Davies, Millar and Smith said: “We are profoundly sorry for our actions. While we did not break the rules, we recognise that what was part of a day’s work would not be seen to be following the spirit of them, especially given the tough time the country has been going through.”
A spokesperson for the Senedd Labour group said: “A member has been suspended from the privileges of Senedd Labour group membership while an investigation takes place into this alleged incident.”
Alun Davies said: “I am very sorry if my actions have given the impression that I am in any way not committed to upholding the regulations, which I have consistently supported throughout the last year.
“For context, the purpose of this meeting from my perspective was to seek to persuade the Welsh Conservatives to support my proposal for a Welsh Hearts Bill” [to improve the outcomes for people who suffer cardiac arrests]. This is part of my work across political parties on this issue.
“The Senedd commission has already confirmed to me that I did not breach the coronavirus regulations on the consumption of either food or alcohol that were in force at that time. I have also confirmed to the commission that the regulations on the number of people present and on social distancing were not breached either. I look forward to the commission’s final conclusions on this matter.”
It is understood the alcohol was not bought on the premises and was not served by catering staff.
A spokesman for the catering company CH&CO Group, which offers catering and hospitality services at the Senedd, said: “We are aware of an alleged breach of public health regulations at the Senedd estate.
“As caterers, we take our responsibilities and obligations to restrictions and public health regulations across the UK very seriously. We are currently undertaking a full investigation into this matter.”
The Welsh government’s minister for mental health, Eluned Morgan, has written to the Welsh Conservatives asking them to suspend its members involved while the incident is investigated.