Badgers are dominating discussion at the Royal Welsh. Not in their own right but as a consequence of the reprieve they have received courtesy of the Courts from the Welsh Assembly’s attempts to cull them in North Pembrokeshire. So they survive, but should those who have failed to dispatch them also keep their jobs.
It does come down to the individual ministerial responsibility. In other words should they take the rap for the clear failure of their advisors.
I’m not sure whether there are badgers on the farm at Crichel Down, but it became one of the most famous farms in British constitutional history. Why? Because civil servants handled the landowner unfairly. So much so, that the Minister of Agriculture at the time, Sir Thomas Dugdale was forced to resign.
He took full responsibility to ‘Parliament for any mistakes and inefficiency of officials in my Department, just as, when my officials bring off any successes on my behalf, I take full credit for them.’ Thus the benchmark for ministerial responsibility for the Westminster government was laid down.
Of course, there have being many resignations of ministers from the UK government, since Sir Thomas Dugdaleon.
There have been no resignations in Wales.
Not one minister in Wales has felt it necessary to drop on their swords because of mistakes by their department. Naturally enough many have taken the credit for any successes.
But last week saw some calling for the resignation of Elin Jones, the Rural Affairs minister because of the very dramatic and public failure of her policy of culling badgers to prevent the spread of bovine TB. This week she has the unenviable task of explaining WAGs future intentions to the farming community at the Royal Welsh.
But is she the guilty party in all of this. If heads should roll should it be hers? It would be most unfair if the Minister was to go, for she was not the cullpable minister. No, the blame lay elsewhere. After all her policy was clear and unambiguous, she wanted measures in place to stop the spread of the disease. It was then left to the civil servants to draw up the orders to implement the policy. For this they would have to take legal advice.
In the debate on the Minister’s statement last week it was established that the legal advice was provided internally by the WAG itself. And who was responsibly for such advice, the Counsel General. And who was the Counsel General at the time, a certain Carwyn Jones.
Now that really puts the cat amongst the pigeons or more appropiately amongst the badgers!