The Lib Dem two and the no-named day motion

Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler AM Image copyright Other
Image caption Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler will have the final say

The frantic behind-the-scenes negotiating over the fate of the two disqualified Liberal Democrat AMs has spilled out into the corridors and corners of the Senedd.

Why? Because there's a new document in play, one that lays out clearly for Assembly Members what the legal lie of the land currently is.

The Presiding Officer Rosemary Butler has been given legal advice that she cannot allow the current situation of 58 AMs to continue.

Under the rules, she must inform the Regional Returning Officers by Friday that the two list seats are now officially "vacant" which means, in turn, they must nominate the second name on the North and South East Wales lists to become AMs in place of Aled Roberts and John Dixon.

But - and there's always a but - the Liberal Democrats can delay this process by immediately tabling motions before the Assembly to reinstate the two but at a future date.

The Regional Returning Officers must consult with the Presiding Officer before they put forward the second names. Mrs Butler says that if she tells the RROs that there is a prospect that the two could be reinstated at some point in the relatively near future, then that should be enough for them to hold off from formally nominating the second on the list.

This is where timing and politics are going to collide. The Lib Dem strategy seems to be that they will table a separate motion for each disqualified AM, thereby allowing themselves the greatest possible flexibility in lobbying the other parties to reinstate each case on its merits.

The earliest the two motions could be debated by AMs, it's understood, is June 14th. However, there's a growing feeling among the other parties that their patience is running out and they want the situation resolved before the Royal Opening.

In the background, of course, is the police investigation, still ongoing, into whether the two broke electoral law by failing to declare their memberships of the Care Council for Wales and the Valuation Tribunal for Wales. Sources in Bay are suggesting that it could be wrapped up by the end of the week, with the papers then transferred to the CPS for consideration on whether there is a case to prosecute one or both men.

The advantage of tabling the reinstatement motions is clear - it should, in theory, stop the RROs from returning the second list candidates as AMs on Friday and it also enables some time for the police and CPS to conclude their investigations.

However, time and again, that word patience comes up when you speak to members from the other three parties. The feeling from many members is that this has gone on long enough and needs to be resolved before the Royal Opening in less than two weeks time.

If it comes to votes in the chamber to reinstate the two, then the gut feeling, I would say, in the corridors of Ty Hywel today is that the two would not be allowed to retake their seats.

As a footnote, the Commission's legal advice to the Presiding Office provides some interesting background on how the Assembly realised that two of their members were not qualified.

During a meeting between the Clerk of the Commission and the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government on the morning of Tuesday, May 17th, the Permanent Secretary drew the Clerk's attention to the fact that it appeared to Welsh Government officials that John Dixon was still a member of the Care Council for Wales and therefore disqualified from being an AM.

They believe that government officials became aware of the situation "some time the previous week". One can imagine, anyway, that after that meeting, all hell broke loose in the Commission.

Mr Dixon was contacted by the Chief Legal Adviser at 11.45 and told he was disqualified, he should surrender his security pass and was no longer entitled to the rights and privileges of an AM.

At around 14.45 that day, Aled Roberts approached the Chief Legal Adviser to tell him he continued to be a member of the Valuation Tribunal and was then also told he was therefore disqualified as an AMs.

Later that afternoon, the Lib Dems tabled the motion to reinstate them, which was then withdrawn "after discussions with other parties".

And here, as they say, we are.