Ieuan Wyn Jones to stand down as AM to lead science park

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Former Plaid Cymru leader, Ieuan Wyn Jones, is to stand down from his Ynys Mon seat, triggering a by-election.

He announced on Tuesday that he was leaving the Welsh assembly to lead the new Menai Science Park, denying the new role was a conflict of interest.

An AM since 1999, Mr Jones took Plaid into government for the first time as deputy first minister in the One Wales coalition with Labour in 2007.

The Anglesey AM was replaced as leader by Leanne Wood in March last year.

Explaining his plans, Mr Jones, who was also MP for the island for 14 years, said he was "fiercely committed to and passionate about creating a better economy for Anglesey and the north west of Wales".

He said: "In my maiden speech in Parliament in 1987, I said that I had been elected to put Anglesey on the political map of Wales, and I am pleased to have been able to deliver real results for the island both as an MP and AM and through my roles as leader of Plaid Cymru and as deputy first minister of Wales and economy and transport minister.

"I would like to thank the people of Ynys Môn for their support and assistance over the last 26 years and more, and I am committed to continuing to serve their interests in the new role that I am taking up."

Reacting to Mr Jones's decision to stand down, Plaid leader Ms Wood tweeted: "A big thanks for all you have done for Plaid Cymru and for Wales over 26 years."

Later she said: "Ieuan Wyn Jones has a proud record of serving the people of Ynys Mon for 26 years. His decision to take on this new challenge of leading the science park project is a continuation of his commitment to the area."

Born in 1949, solicitor Mr Jones led the party between 2000 and 2012.

He stood down as Plaid's leader after the party's disappointing showing at the 2011 assembly election. The party was widely seen as having failed to capitalise on its period as junior coalition partners.

Former Plaid MP and AM Cynog Dafis said Mr Jones left an "enormously significant record" behind him.

"I think his contribution to Plaid Cymru and to Welsh politics generally has been enormous," Mr Dafis told BBC Radio Wales.

"He was absolutely crucial, I believe, in getting a 'yes' vote in that 1997 referendum [and] in setting up the Plaid Cymru contribution to the campaign.

"I really do think that in a sense he's a kind of giant of Welsh politics over the last 20 years."

At the start of his weekly question session in the assembly chamber, First Minister Carwyn Jones paid tribute to the former Plaid leader as "somebody who I worked with in government for four years and somebody who I have, and had, the utmost respect for and I wish him well in his future endeavours".

"I know that he has much to contribute yet to the public life of Wales," he added.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said Mr Jones had "always been an effective assembly member and I applaud his many years of public service".

"It is fitting that this experience will be put to excellent use at the Menai Science Park," he said. "While Ieuan and I may hold different opinions politically, I wish him well in his important endeavours to increase opportunities for the people of north Wales."

Discussing his new job, Mr Jones said Anglesey and north west Wales was "a beautiful part of the world, but people need good jobs to enjoy the benefits of living and working here".

"I believe that the best contribution I can make in the next few years is lead the project to build Menai Science Park, and use the skills and expertise I have built up over many years to ensure that it plays a leading role in strengthening and broadening our economic base."

The deal for £10m of capital funding to set up a science park linked to Bangor and Aberystwyth universities was a surprise element of the budget deal agreed between the Labour Welsh government and Plaid Cymru in November 2012.

Since then there have been few public details about how the project will work in practice.

Menai Science Park will be led by Bangor University in collaboration with Aberystwyth.

As a result of the £10m for the science park and an extra £40m for apprentices, Plaid agreed to abstain on the budget vote, giving Labour a comfortable majority.

Mr Jones was the Plaid finance spokesman when the budget deal was agreed - so would have played a key role in securing the funding.

However, speaking on BBC Wales' Welsh language news programme, Newyddion 9, he strongly denied any conflict of interest.

He said there was no conflict whatsoever and the post of chief executive had not been created when he was campaigning for the £10m investment from the Welsh Government to set up the venture.

He also said it was too early to set a date for the Anglesey by-election, but said he did not wish to do two jobs for too long.

Earlier this year, Bangor University said it was seeking a "person of high prominence" in Wales to become chief executive officer of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) set up to operate the Menai Science Park.

It said the successful candidate would be "effective in business engagement, politically astute, a proven networker and quite simply a person with credibility".

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