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Cairns: Double standards over Welsh public appointments

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"The title of the debate is 'Open Government, Nolan, the Economic Development Minister and the Welsh Development Agency', and it would not take a genius to calculate the point that I am seeking to make. I wish to draw the public's attention to the way in which the new chief executive officer of the WDA was appointed and how the process shows the arrogance and double standards of the Assembly Government's operations.

Before I highlight the way in which the principles of open government and Nolan have been abandoned for political purposes, I remind Members of the First Minister's previous standpoint on senior and public appointments.

There is no doubt that all Members, in all parties, will recognise the important role that the First Minister played in influencing John Major to commission Lord Nolan to undertake a review of the public and senior appointments process.

The First Minister was clearly an advocate of equal opportunities and earned considerable respect for his efforts, so much so that, when he was a Member of Parliament, he was elected chairman of the Select Committee on Public Administration. It is worth highlighting some of the comments that he made when the committee considered public and senior appointments in 1999. He stated:

'We want to shed some light into this murky corner of the democratic system that seems to remain forever free of the principles of fair play, external assessment and natural justice that apply to other appointments.'

He also stated: 'These are the last hold-outs of tradition, the ultimate bastion of the great and the good. They sustain this old-boys network that keeps out women and ethnic minorities from posts thought suitable only for white, Anglo-Saxon males'.

And that 'The days of sending out the cabinet secretary down to the Reform Club to find someone who fits the bill should be over. These jobs should be advertised openly and monitored to ensure equal opportunities.'

I am sure that all Members would support and agree with those comments.

The First Minister also claims to have one of the most open governments in western Europe. In a previous debate—and many comments along these lines have been made today—he also said: 'Breaking down the culture of secrecy and bringing openness, inclusiveness and accountability to public life in Wales will be the hallmark of my leadership of the Assembly.'

We know where the First Minister stands on that. Given those points, I was extremely surprised and disappointed to receive a call from a WDA board member who said that he had received representations from the Minister for Economic Development and Transport's office asking him to support the appointment of Gareth Hall as chief executive.

Naturally, I tabled a number of written questions in order to clarify the situation. They were accepted by the Table Office as being in order and as being the responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development and Transport.

If they were not, there is no doubt that they would have been rejected immediately, and rightly so. The Minister, however, felt otherwise and passed the buck to the chairman of the WDA to answer the questions. Despite listing nine specific and detailed questions, the responses that I received from Roger Jones were vague and bland, to say the least. They clearly avoided key elements of the questioning.

The Minister refused to offer any further information when questioned in the Economic Development and Transport Committee. The key issue for him is to list details of the communication between his office and the Welsh Development Agency in relation to the chief executive's appointment. That is a matter for the Minister, not the Welsh Development Agency.

The Minister refused to answer in committee, therefore the Chair requested a paper for the following meeting. No paper was offered and, having since pursued the matter through the clerk, I understand that, even today, the Minister is using the principles of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to avoid giving that information.

Further investigations with the relevant departments have shown that, if this were the case, the details should have been published 15 working days after the questions were tabled—a deadline that passed some weeks ago. If they are still refusing to publish the data, I ask on what grounds are they refusing, so that we can challenge them through the information commissioner.

As a result of the vagaries, the committee invited the agency's chairman, Roger Jones, to give evidence. The information blocked by the Minister would have been key to the questioning of Mr Jones, but the Minister's silence spoke volumes.

In his opening statement, Mr Jones claimed that, in view of Graham Hawker's sudden resignation, an open recruitment policy would have taken eight months and left the agency leaderless for that period. This does not make sense on two counts: Mr Hawker, in his resignation speech, indicated that he wanted to work his six months' notice, and, secondly, Mr Jones had previously advised me, in response to the written questions, that it had taken merely three or four months from the appointment of recruitment consultants to the appointment of Mr Hawker.

Mr Jones stated that Mr Hawker was unemployed at the time of his appointment, which meant that there was no requirement for him to work a notice period. Again, this does not add up. I have never heard of the Nolan principles and equal opportunities being abandoned because of the notice period that someone would have to work to take up an advertised appointment.

There may well have been another unemployed individual who was ready to take the post, or even a self-employed individual who was not tied to an organisation that would require a notice period. There may well have been a businessperson, the chief executive of an organisation, who would have left his or her own company readily to take up the post.

However, the appointment process that was followed with the Minister's support means that we will never know. In the unlikely event that the post would not have been filled in six months, the obvious action, which is taken by every private and public sector agency, would have been to appoint an acting chief executive for the remainder of the period.

The First Minister's statement to the Public Administration Select Committee did not contain a footnote that said that the Nolan principles and equal opportunities would only apply if the person to be appointed did not have to work a notice period.

On what basis was Mr Hall appointed? According to Roger Jones, interviews had already taken place as part of an internal restructuring programme. The interviews were for different roles that required different skills and competencies, yet it was felt that the panel was sufficiently equipped to appoint a candidate from among those that it had interviewed for other jobs.

Again, this does not make any sense because the appointment was not even advertised internally, therefore there may well be other directors in the agency who would have liked to have applied for the job and may well have been more appropriate candidates. Nic Neal, a former chief executive, Hilary Hendy, Zoe Harcombe, Gareth John, Siân Lloyd Jones, David Childs, Chris Farrow, Geraint Davies, Mike King and Karen Thomas were all dismissed—they were not even asked whether they wanted to apply for the job or if they felt that they were suitable.

What sort of message does this send to the senior management of the Welsh Development Agency, which will face an extremely turbulent time in the coming months? None of these people would have had to work a notice period either, and I am sure that they would have been released in order to take up a promotion to the ultimate leadership role within the agency.

I will summarise what happened. Mr Hawker resigned on 15 July, and Mr Hall's appointment procedure was completed just eight days later. A board member claimed that he was pressurised to accept Gareth Hall as chief executive.

Mr Jones would not answer whether the board was united on Mr Hall's appointment. The principles of equal opportunities and the Nolan review were abandoned on the basis that it would take eight months to re-appoint, although previous individuals had been appointed within three months, and the outgoing chief executive was prepared to work the six months' notice period.

The appointment was made on the basis of interviews for other jobs, in spite of the different skills and competencies required for those roles. No-one, other than Mr Hall, was invited to apply, and the Minister refuses to make available information on the communications between his office and the Welsh Development Agency in relation to the appointment.

It is clear: the Minister wanted Mr Hawker out and Mr Hall—someone whom he felt would bow to his political interference and political meddling—in. That is the reality of what they wanted. The principles of the Nolan review and open government, once advocated so strongly by the First Minister, do not apply because they are inconvenient.

Equal opportunities do not apply either, and Roger Jones is left to carry the can and make questionable statements to save the Minister's skin. I was extremely concerned about Mr Jones last week because it was obvious that he was answering questions that should have been answered by the Minister, and had to make statements, which I believe that he would rather not have made, in order to save the Minister's skin. Of course, we all know the truth.

The Minister has been keen to highlight that he did not speak to the WDA—he has said as much in the Chamber, and it is on record—but what about his officials? Roger Jones has denied an influence for your sake, Minister, but will you state whether your officials called the agency seeking to influence the appointment of the chief executive officer? Yes or no? You know the consequences of lying, Minister.

To paraphrase the First Minister, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Welsh Development Agency are the ultimate bastion of the great and the good. They sustain the old-boys' network that keeps women and ethnic minorities from posts that are thought to be suitable for white, Anglo-Saxon males only.

It seems that the days of sending the cabinet secretary down to the Reform Club have changed to sending the head of the economic development unit out to the Hilton hotel to meet the chairman and directors of the Welsh Development Agency.

The First Minister has claimed in statements that breaking down the culture of secrecy and bringing openness, inclusiveness and accountability to public life in Wales will be the hallmark of his leadership. However, these principles clearly do not apply to the Minister for Economic Development and Transport because they are uncomfortable and will show an uncomfortable truth."

"Teitl y ddadl yw 'Llywodraeth Agored, Nolan, y Gweinidog Datblygu Economaidd ac Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru', ac nid oes rhaid bod yn athrylith i ddeall y pwynt y ceisiaf ei wneud. Hoffwn dynnu sylw'r cyhoedd at y ffordd y penodwyd prif weithredwr newydd y WDA a sut y dengys y broses drahauster a safonau dwbl ffordd Llywodraeth y Cynulliad o weithredu.

Cyn imi amlygu'r ffordd y mae egwyddorion llywodraeth agored a Nolan wedi'u diystyru at ddibenion gwleidyddol, atgoffaf yr Aelodau o safbwynt blaenorol y Prif Weinidog ar uwch benodiadau a phenodiadau cyhoeddus. Yn ddi-au, bydd pob Aelod, ym mhob plaid, yn cydnabod y rhan bwysig a chwaraeodd y Prif Weinidog wrth ddylanwadu ar John Major i gomisiynu'r Arglwydd Nolan i gynnal adolygiad o'r broses o benodi pobl i swyddi cyhoeddus ac uwch swyddi. Yr oedd y Prif Weinidog yn amlwg yn cefnogi cyfle cyfartal a bu iddo ennyn cryn barch am ei ymdrechion, i'r graddau iddo gael ei ethol yn gadeirydd y Pwyllgor Dethol ar Weinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus, pan oedd yn Aelod Seneddol. Mae'n werth amlygu rhai o'r sylwadau a wnaeth pan oedd y pwyllgor yn ystyried penodiadau cyhoeddus ac uwch benodiadau yn 1999.

Dywedodd: 'Yr ydym am daflu rhywfaint o oleuni ar y rhan amheus hon o'r system ddemocrataidd yr ymddengys nad yw egwyddorion chwarae teg, asesu allanol a chyfiawnder naturiol sy'n gymwys i benodiadau eraill byth yn gymwys iddi'.

Dywedodd hefyd: 'Dyma'r hyn sydd ar ôl o ran traddodiad, cadarnle olaf mawrion y genedl. Mae'n cynnal y rhwydwaith hwn o gyn-ddisgyblion sy'n golygu na chaiff merched a lleiafrifoedd ethnig swyddi y credir eu bod yn addas i ddynion gwyn, Eingl-Sacsonaidd yn unig,'

A: 'Dylai'r dyddiau pan oedd ysgrifennydd y cabinet yn cael ei anfon i'r Reform Club i ddod o hyd i rywun a oedd yn addas ar gyfer swydd fod ar ben. Dylid hysbysebu'r swyddi hyn yn agored a dylid eu monitro i sicrhau cyfle cyfartal'.

Yr wyf yn siwr y byddai pob Aelod yn cefnogi'r sylwadau hynny ac yn cytuno â hwy.

Mae'r Prif Weinidog hefyd yn honni bod ganddo un o'r llywodraethau mwyaf agored yng ngorllewin Ewrop. Mewn dadl flaenorol—ac mae llawer o sylwadau ar hyd y llinellau hyn wedi'u gwneud heddiw—dywedodd hefyd:

Bydd dileu'r diwylliant cyfrinachgar a sicrhau natur agored, cynwysoldeb ac atebolrwydd mewn bywyd cyhoeddus yng Nghymru yn nodwedd amlwg o'm harweinyddiaeth yn y Cynulliad.

Gwyddom safbwynt y Prif Weinidog ar hynny. O gofio'r pwyntiau hynny, cefais fy synnu'n fawr ac yr oeddwn yn siomedig iawn i gael galwad gan aelod o fwrdd y WDA a ddywedodd ei fod wedi cael sylwadau gan swyddfa'r Gweinidog dros Ddatblygu Economaidd a Thrafnidiaeth yn gofyn iddo gefnogi penodiad Gareth Hall yn brif weithredwr. Yn naturiol, cyflwynais nifer o gwestiynau ysgrifenedig er mwyn cael eglurhad o'r sefyllfa.

Derbyniodd y Swyddfa Gyflwyno eu bod mewn trefn ac mai cyfrifoldeb y Gweinidog dros Ddatblygu Economaidd a Thrafnidiaeth oeddent. Pe na bai hynny'n wir, yn ddiau, byddent wedi'u gwrthod ar unwaith, a hynny'n briodol. Fodd bynnag, nid oedd y Gweinidog yn cytuno a throsglwyddodd y cyfrifoldeb dros ateb y cwestiynau i gadeirydd y WDA. Er gwaethaf rhestru naw cwestiwn penodol a manwl, yr oedd yr ymatebion a gefais gan Roger Jones yn amwys ac yn ddisylwedd, i ddweud y lleiaf. Yr oeddent yn amlwg yn osgoi elfennau allweddol o'r cwestiynau.

Gwrthododd y Gweinidog gynnig unrhyw wybodaeth bellach pan gafodd ei holi yn y Pwyllgor Datblygu Economaidd a Thrafnidiaeth. Y mater allweddol iddo yw nodi manylion yr ohebiaeth rhwng ei swyddfa ac Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru mewn perthynas â phenodi'r prif weithredwr. Mater i'r Gweinidog yw hynny, nid Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru. Gwrthododd y Gweinidog roi ateb yn y pwyllgor, felly gofynnodd y Cadeirydd am bapur ar gyfer y cyfarfod dilynol.

Ni chynigiwyd papur ac, ar ôl mynd ar drywydd y mater drwy'r clerc ers hynny, deallaf, hyd yn oed heddiw, fod y Gweinidog yn defnyddio egwyddorion Deddf Rhyddid Gwybodaeth 2000 i osgoi rhoi'r wybodaeth honno. Mae ymchwiliadau pellach gyda'r adrannau perthnasol wedi dangos, pe bai hyn yn wir, y dylid bod wedi cyhoeddi'r manylion 15 diwrnod gwaith ar ôl i'r cwestiynau gael eu cyflwyno—terfyn amser a ddaeth i ben sawl wythnos yn ôl. Os ydynt yn parhau i wrthod cyhoeddi'r data, gofynnaf ar ba sail y maent yn gwrthod, er mwyn inni allu eu herio drwy'r comisiynydd gwybodaeth.

O ganlyniad i'r mympwyon, estynnodd y pwyllgor wahoddiad i gadeirydd yr awdurdod, Roger Jones, roi tystiolaeth. Byddai'r wybodaeth y gwrthododd y Gweinidog ei rhoi wedi bod yn allweddol i'r broses o holi Mr Jones, ond yr oedd tawelwch y Gweinidog yn dweud cyfrolau. Yn ei ddatganiad agoriadol, honnodd Mr Jones, yng ngoleuni ymddiswyddiad sydyn Graham Hawker, y byddai recriwtio agored wedi cymryd wyth mis ac y byddai'r awdurdod wedi bod heb arweinydd am y cyfnod hwnnw.

Nid yw hynny'n gwneud synnwyr am ddau reswm: nododd Mr Hawker, yn ei araith ymddiswyddo, ei fod am weithio cyfnod o chwe mis o rybudd, ac, yn ail, yr oedd Mr Jones wedi fy hysbysu o'r blaen, mewn ymateb i'r cwestiynau ysgrifenedig, nad oedd ond wedi cymryd tri neu bedwar mis ar ôl penodi ymgynghorwyr recriwtio i benodi Mr Hawker. Nododd Mr Jones fod Mr Hawker yn ddi-waith pan gafodd ei benodi, a oedd yn golygu nad oedd yn ofynnol iddo weithio cyfnod o rybudd. Unwaith eto, nid yw hynny'n gwneud synnwyr. Nid wyf erioed wedi clywed am rywun yn diystyru egwyddorion Nolan a chyfle cyfartal oherwydd y cyfnod o rybudd y byddai'n rhaid i rywun weithio cyn dechrau ar swydd a hysbysebwyd.

Efallai fod unigolyn di-waith arall a oedd yn barod i dderbyn y swydd, neu hyd yn oed unigolyn hunan-gyflogedig nad oedd ynghlwm wrth sefydliad a fyddai'n gofyn iddo weithio cyfnod o rybudd. Efallai fod gwr neu wraig busnes, prif weithredwr sefydliad, a fyddai wedi bod yn barod i adael ei gwmni neu ei chwmni i dderbyn y swydd. Fodd bynnag, mae'r broses benodi a ddilynwyd gyda chefnogaeth y Gweinidog yn golygu na fyddwn byth yn gwybod hynny.

Pe na bai'r swydd wedi'i llenwi o fewn chwe mis, a fyddai'n annhebygol, y cam amlwg i'w gymryd, a gymerir gan bob asiantaeth yn y sector preifat a'r sector cyhoeddus, fyddai penodi prif weithredwr dros dro am weddill y cyfnod. Nid oedd datganiad y Prif Weithredwr i'r Pwyllgor Dethol ar Weinyddiaeth Gyhoeddus yn cynnwys troednodyn yn dweud mai dim ond os nad oedd yn rhaid i'r unigolyn a benodwyd weithio cyfnod o rybudd y byddai egwyddorion Nolan a chyfle cyfartal yn gymwys.

Ar ba sail y penodwyd Mr Hall? Yn ôl Roger Jones, yr oedd cyfweliadau eisoes wedi'u cynnal fel rhan o raglen ailstrwythuro fewnol. Yr oedd y cyfweliadau ar gyfer rolau gwahanol yr oedd angen sgiliau a chymwyseddau gwahanol ar eu cyfer, ond teimlwyd bod y panel yn ddigon medrus i benodi ymgeisydd o blith y rhai yr oedd wedi cyfweld â hwy am swyddi eraill. Unwaith eto, nid yw hyn yn gwneud unrhyw synnwyr oherwydd ni hysbysebwyd y penodiad yn fewnol hyd yn oed, ac efallai fod cyfarwyddwyr eraill yn yr awdurdod a fyddai wedi dymuno ymgeisio am y swydd ac efallai y byddent wedi bod yn ymgeiswyr mwy priodol.

Cafodd Nic Neal, cyn-brif weithredwr, Hilary Hendy, Zoe Harcombe, Gareth John, Siân Lloyd Jones, David Childs, Chris Farrow, Geraint Davies, Mike King a Karen Thomas oll eu diystyru—ni ofynnwyd iddynt a oeddent am wneud cais am y swydd neu a oeddent o'r farn eu bod yn addas hyd yn oed. Pa fath o neges y mae hyn yn ei chyfleu i uwch reolwyr Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru, a fydd yn wynebu cyfnod cythryblus iawn yn y misoedd i ddod? Ni fyddai'n rhaid i unrhyw un o'r rhain weithio cyfnod o rybudd ychwaith, ac yr wyf yn siwr y byddent wedi cael eu rhyddhau er mwyn cael dyrchafiad i'r brif rôl arwain yn yr awdurdod.

Crynhoaf yr hyn a ddigwyddodd. Ymddiswyddodd Mr Hawker ar 15 Gorffennaf, a chwblhawyd gweithdrefn benodi Mr Hall gwta wyth diwrnod yn ddiweddarach. Honnodd aelod o'r bwrdd ei fod wedi'i roi o dan bwysau i dderbyn Gareth Hall fel prif weithredwr. Gwrthododd Mr Jones ag ateb y cwestiwn ynghylch a oedd y bwrdd yn gwbl gytûn ar benodiad Mr Hall.

Diystyrwyd egwyddorion cyfle cyfartal ac adolygiad Nolan ar y sail y byddai'n cymryd wyth mis i ailbenodi, er bod unigolion wedi'u penodi o fewn tri mis yn y gorffennol, a bod y prif weithredwr a oedd yn ymadael yn fodlon gweithio'r cyfnod o chwe mis o rybudd. Gwnaed y penodiad ar sail cyfweliadau ar gyfer swyddi eraill, er gwaethaf y sgiliau a'r cymwyseddau gwahanol yr oedd eu hangen ar gyfer y rolau hynny. Ni wahoddwyd neb i wneud cais, ac eithrio Mr Hall, ac mae'r Gweinidog yn gwrthod rhyddhau gwybodaeth am yr ohebiaeth rhwng ei swyddfa ac Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru mewn perthynas â'r penodiad.

Mae'n amlwg: yr oedd y Gweinidog am gael gwared ar Mr Hawker ac am i Mr Hall—rhywun y credai y byddai'n barod i blygu i'w ymyrraeth wleidyddol—gael y swydd. Dyna'r hyn yr oeddent am ei gael mewn gwirionedd. Nid yw egwyddorion adolygiad Nolan a llywodraeth agored, a gefnogwyd mor frwd gan y Prif Weinidog yn y gorffennol, yn gymwys am eu bod yn anghyfleus.

Nid yw cyfle cyfartal yn gymwys ychwaith, a Roger Jones sy'n gorfod ysgwyddo'r bai a gwneud datganiadau amheus i achub croen y Gweinidog. Yr oeddwn yn bryderus iawn ynghylch Mr Jones yr wythnos diwethaf am ei bod yn amlwg ei fod yn ateb cwestiynau y dylai'r Gweinidog fod wedi'u hateb, a bod yn rhaid iddo wneud datganiadau, y credaf y byddai wedi bod yn well ganddo beidio â'u gwneud, er mwyn achub croen y Gweinidog. Wrth gwrs, gwyr pob un ohonom y gwirionedd.

Bu'r Gweinidog yn awyddus i bwysleisio na siaradodd â'r WDA—mae wedi dweud hynny yn y Siambr, ac mae wedi'i gofnodi—ond beth am ei swyddogion? Mae Roger Jones wedi gwadu dylanwad er eich mwyn chi, Weinidog, ond a nodwch pa un a ffoniodd eich swyddogion yr awdurdod i geisio dylanwadu ar benodiad y prif swyddog gweithredol? Do ynteu naddo? Gwyddoch beth yw canlyniadau dweud celwydd, Weinidog.

I aralleirio'r Prif Weinidog, Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru ac Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru yw cadarnle olaf mawrion y genedl. Mae'n cynnal rhwydwaith y cyn-ddisgyblion sy'n golygu na chaiff merched a lleiafrifoedd ethnig swyddi y credir eu bod yn addas i ddynion gwyn, Eingl-Sacsonaidd yn unig. Ymddengys bod y dyddiau pan anfonwyd ysgrifennydd y cabinet i'r Clwb Diwygio wedi mynd heibio ac yn awr anfonir pennaeth yr uned datblygu economaidd i westy'r Hilton i gyfarfod â chadeirydd a chyfarwyddwyr Awdurdod Datblygu Cymru.

Mae'r Prif Weinidog wedi honni mewn datganiadau y bydd dileu'r diwylliant cyfrinachgar a sicrhau natur agored, cynwysoldeb ac atebolrwydd mewn bywyd cyhoeddus yng Nghymru yn nodwedd amlwg ar ei arweinyddiaeth. Fodd bynnag, mae'n amlwg nad yw'r egwyddorion hyn yn gymwys i'r Gweinidog dros Ddatblygu Economaidd a Thrafnidiaeth am eu bod yn annifyr a byddant yn amlygu gwirionedd annifyr."

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