Tufnell promises Pembrokeshire will be at the heart of government policy – ​​The Pembrokeshire Herald

A MINISTER who was sacked by the First Minister of Wales over accusations of leaking information to the press has broken her silence to tell the Senate her version of events.

Hannah Blythyn, the Labour MP who has represented Delyn since 2016, has again strongly denied the allegations made by Vaughan Gething.

She was accused of leaking messages between ministers, which showed that the First Minister had deleted messages from the time of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to circumvent access to public information regulations.

Ms Blythyn had been on holiday and her personal statement was her first appearance in the chamber, known as Siambr, since her dismissal in May.

Describing serving in government as a privilege – “particularly under Mark Drakeford” – she said: “This is not an easy announcement for me to make, nor one I take lightly.

“Indeed, there were times in the recent past when I was not sure whether I could ever stand and speak in this Siambra again.

“I do this today because I know that my removal from government has been discussed in this place while I was away.

“I also feel responsible for the people closest to me and my numerous voters who have shown great patience, understanding and trust in me…

“I know I can look into the eyes of all my colleagues who sit on these benches and say that I have never exposed or informed the media about any of you.

“I can actually say that to everyone in this Siambr.

“While I will not disclose details, I would like to inform you that I have formally raised concerns about the process by which I was removed from government.”

Ms Blythyn said she was not shown any of the alleged evidence before being dismissed, was not told she was under investigation or informed she had broken the ministerial code.

She told the Senedd: “I absolutely recognise and respect the fact that every First Minister has the power to appoint and dismiss members of his or her Government.

“I understand the nature of politics, I completely accept it. I raise issues not because of my own self-interest, but because I fundamentally believe in decentralization and public service.”

She concluded: “Despite the challenges and difficulties – perhaps because of them – I feel a renewed sense of commitment to public service policy and a real determination to continue to contribute to decentralised democracy, my community and our country.”

She added: “I have serious concerns that lessons have not been learned from the past.

“Not only must appropriate procedures be implemented and followed to ensure the dignity and respect of individuals, but also to maintain the integrity of the civil service and the office of the First Minister.

“I would like to take a moment to reflect on something very personal and somewhat difficult for me, but I think it is important to say because of the way we do politics.

“I know there has been some speculation about my situation and whether I am well enough to work.

“It all ranged from disinformation to what could be considered a misunderstanding.”

Ms Blythyn told the chamber that the last few months had taken a toll on her mental health and she appealed for more supportive policies.

She said: “It should come as no surprise to anyone that what happened had a huge negative impact on me on a personal level and led to severe anxiety and stress.

“I had never received a discharge note from work before… There came a moment when the thought of being able to vote and see all of you literally took my breath away.

“I share this now not to elicit sympathy, I don’t want sympathy from others, but because my recent experiences have made me realise that although we all ‘talk’ about mental health, we still need to do more to improve our knowledge and the impact it has on individuals and their ability to do the things we usually take for granted.

“Unfortunately, I think sometimes we get so involved in politics that we don’t always think about the human being.”

Immediately after her dismissal, Ms Blythyn wrote on social media: “I am deeply shocked and saddened by what has happened.

“I said clearly and unequivocally that I have not disclosed and have never disclosed anything.

“Honesty is the key to politics and I stand by my honesty.”

A statement issued by the First Minister at the time said: “It is vital that we maintain the trust of colleagues across Government, which is why we are working as one to focus on improving the lives of people in Wales.”

Mr Gething did not rule out his Labour colleague returning to government in the future, praising her work in the fire service and the Welsh LGBTQ+ Action Plan.

Martin Shipton, deputy editor of Nation Cymru, wrote an article in early May accusing the First Minister of misleading the UK’s COVID-19 inquiry by failing to admit to deleting the data.

In August 2020, in a ministerial chat, then-Health Minister Mr Gething wrote in a leaked iMessage: “I am deleting messages in this group.

“They can be covered by FoI and I think we are all in a good position in terms of the decisions we make.

Ms Blythyn, a trade unionist from Connah’s Quay, backed Mr Gething’s opponent Jeremy Miles in the Labour leadership race after Mark Drakeford stood down.

The left-winger, who has been tipped as a potential future leader of the Welsh Labour Party, served as deputy minister for housing, local government and the environment under the former First Minister.