Wales politics

Two more Lib Dem candidates ineligible for assembly

Two more Liberal Democrat candidates for the Welsh assembly would have fallen foul of rules that disqualified two of the party's AMs, it has emerged.

Wyn Williams and Stephen Churchman were members of public bodies from which assembly members are barred.

Lib Dem AM Aled Roberts was disqualified from the assembly a fortnight after May's election.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams called it "a huge administrative error" but said she would not resign.

She told BBC Dragon's Eye that the mistake meant the party did not provide their candidates with "robust support".

Ms Williams said "the Liberal Democrats did not do what we should have done" and she added that they left candidates "to their own devices far too much."

Mr Roberts was readmitted on Wednesday after an investigation found he was misled by outdated advice for candidates.

Mr Williams stood in the target seat of Montgomeryshire, while he was a member of Meat Promotion Wales.

Mr Churchman was the party's candidate in Dwyfor Meirionnydd while he was on the Snowdonia National Park Authority.

AMs are barred from the organisations under an order intended to prevent conflicts of interest.

The development was revealed on the BBC Dragon's Eye programme.

Meanwhile, the elections watchdog has been criticised for its handling of Mr Roberts's case who returned to work in Cardiff Bay on Thursday.Mr Roberts, former leader of Wrexham council, stood down because he was a member of the Valuation Tribunal for Wales, which deals with appeals about business rates and council tax.

A investigation by assembly standards commissioner Gerard Elias QC found Mr Roberts "did everything that he could have reasonably been expected to do" in checking he was eligible to stand for election.

He relied on outdated advice provided online in Welsh by the Electoral Commission, the report said.

AMs lifted his disqualification by 30 votes to 20 in the Senedd on Wednesday, with three abstaining.

Presiding officer Rosemary Butler said the commission had "unambiguously endorsed" the Elias report after some AMs called for her to re-open the matter.

"The commission apologised yesterday to the Welsh Assembly and Aled Roberts for the mistakes we made.

"We fully accept the conclusions of Mr Elias' report and have nothing to add to the statement we have already made."

Plaid chief whip Jocelyn Davies asked the presiding officer to discuss with the Electoral Commission how its computer records can be independently verified by an expert.

Mr Roberts said: "A link was sent out on 24 March from the Electoral Commission to the county councils and the Welsh link was wrong. I did look at it.

"If their figures aren't reliable, then that's a matter for them.

"But I know what I did, and that's the evidence I gave to Mr Elias."

He said he would not accept his AM's salary for the period when he was disqualified.

Mr Roberts was one of two disqualified Lib Dems.

John Dixon, elected for the South Wales Central region, will not return after he failed to read the relevant regulations as a candidate.

He was replaced as an AM by Eluned Parrott, the party's second-place candidate in the region.

Dragon's Eye is on BBC One Wales at 2335 BST on Thursday.

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