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Welsh Conservatives leader quits over Senedd drinking row

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Paul Davis has resigned after he drank alcohol on the Senedd estate days after a pub alcohol ban came into force.

Paul Davies said the controversy over the events of last month had become a “distraction” and that he is standing down with “immediate effect” despite appeals from colleagues to continue.

He was said to have drunk alcohol on the Welsh parliament estate with Tory chief whip Darren Millar, the party’s chief of staff Paul Smith and former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies, who has already been suspended from Welsh Labour’s Senedd group.

The incident happened on December 8, four days after a ban on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises came into force, although off-licences were allowed to sell alcohol until 10 pm.

An internal investigation by the Senedd Commission established that “alcohol was consumed by five individuals”, four of whom were elected members, in the Senedd’s licensed tearoom.

The investigation concluded that “a possible breach of regulations” occurred and therefore the matter has been referred to Cardiff Council.

Announcing his resignation, Paul Davies said he was “truly sorry” for his actions on December 8 and the following day when further drinking reportedly occurred.

“They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party but, more importantly, with the people of Wales,” he said.

He insisted “there was no drunk or disorderly behaviour” and “we did not have to be escorted out of the building as some reports have suggested”.

“What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on the Tuesday and a beer on the Wednesday,” he added.

“I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.”

Mr Millar said he was also stepping down from his frontbench role in the Senedd and he wanted apologise to his family, colleagues and constituents for any “embarrassment” that media reports of what happened may have caused.

Darren Millar has stepped down as Tory chief whip in the Senedd
Darren Millar has stepped down as Tory chief whip in the Senedd

He said he joined working dinners on December 8 and 9, adding: “On both evenings I served myself a pre-ordered, pre-prepared meal that was reheated in the microwave and ate it while drinking an alcoholic beverage and discussing work matters with colleagues.

“Social distancing was maintained throughout these working dinners and it simply did not occur to either me, my colleagues or the catering team that the arrangements may have been inappropriate.”

His statement added: “While I am advised that I did not breach coronavirus regulations I am very sorry for my actions, especially given the impact of the tough restrictions that people and businesses are enduring.

“For this reason, and given that Paul Davies has resigned as Welsh Conservative Group leader in the Senedd, I have decided to step down from my front-bench role in the Welsh Parliament.

“I am co-operating fully with ongoing investigations and will continue to do so.”

Back in May, Mr Millar criticised Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething for being photographed going for a walk with his family and eating chips – despite Covid-19 restrictions.

At the time, Mr Millar called for Mr Gething to be sacked, saying: “It looks to the public that it’s one rule for the health minister and another rule for them.”