Shadow ministers sacked in reshuffle by Welsh Conservatives

Andrew RT Davies Andrew RT Davies thanked his departing shadow ministers for their work

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The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, has sacked four members of his front bench team for rebelling against him in a vote on the devolution of income tax.

Nick Ramsay, Antoinette Sandbach, Mohammad Asghar and Janet Finch-Saunders lost their positions.

Mr Davies is critical of the model of income tax powers in the process of being devolved from Westminster.

The four AMs failed to vote in a Senedd motion criticising the model.

Mr Asghar was shadow minister for equalities and sport; Ms Sandbach represented the group on rural affairs; Mr Ramsay was business; and Ms Finch-Saunders spoke on local government issues.

Their responsibilities will be re-assigned to the rest of the group:

  • Suzy Davies, shadow minister for culture (including equalities, heritage, Welsh language and sport)
  • William Graham, shadow minister for business, enterprise and skills
  • Russell George, shadow minister for agriculture and natural resources
  • Mark Isherwood, shadow minister for housing, communities, local government and north Wales

Mr Davies has already been involved in a public disagreement with Welsh Secretary David Jones over the model of income tax powers in the process of being devolved from Westminster to Cardiff Bay.

This latest development shows he has been involved in a disagreement with some of his own assembly members on the issue as well.

Start Quote

It is regrettable that he has chosen to divide his party”

End Quote Antoinette Sandbach North Wales AM

The model of income tax on offer to the Welsh government is called the lockstep, because any changes up or down would have to be mirrored across all of the different bands.

The result is that a Welsh government would not be able to target a higher rate or basic rate payer.

Mr Davies, like First Minister Carwyn Jones, has been strongly critical of the model, while David Jones has supported it.

On Tuesday, the four sacked shadow ministers failed to vote on an amendment which was critical of the lockstep model in a debate at the assembly.

Ms Sandbach said: "The Conservative portfolios are decided by Andrew RT Davies.

"It is entirely within his prerogative to decide who fills those positions.

'That's politics,' says ousted front bench Tory AM Mohammad Asghar

"However, it is regrettable that he has chosen to divide his party.

"My first duty is to my constituents who I will continue to stand up for as I have done since my time in the Welsh assembly."

Reacting to his sacking as shadow finance minister, Mr Ramsay said: "I am very surprised by this decision especially bearing in mind that I am away on Assembly business in Brussels. However I am very happy to work in whatever capacity the Conservative group asks of me".

Mr Davies said he was confident the new shadow cabinet had "everything it takes to continue breaking barriers and providing innovative ideas".

"I want to thank Nick Ramsay, Antoinette Sandbach, Janet Finch-Saunders, and Mohammad Asghar for their excellent service and I look forward to continued campaigning with them as a Welsh Conservative group," he said.

"From scrapping stamp duty to boosting small business. From putting excellence back in education to putting money back in the health service.

"Welsh Conservatives are the only real alternative to a tired and lazy Labour government that's run out of ideas."

David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, told BBC Radio Wales he was a believer in party unity and was surprised the four AMs had been fired from their shadow posts for supporting a national policy.

"What I certainly wouldn't do is sign up to an amendment attacking my own party policy as I do believe in unity.

"I'm very surprised because Nick [Ramsay] and the others were backing government policy, backing the policy of David Jones which is if income tax is devolved after a referendum it needs to be done with certain restrictions in place."

The MP said he was also concerned to hear that Mr Ramsay heard of his dismissal via social media.

"I've never heard of people being fired by Twitter and I hope that does not become the norm," he said.

On Thursday, Mr Asghar said he was "disappointed, and a bit surprised" adding: "This is politics."

He said: "Definitely there are a few people that don't agree with each other but I'm sure we can thrash things out."

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