Cleared AM wished good luck by MEP

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

THE man who sparked a police probe into Aled Roberts’ election as a Welsh Assembly member has now wished the North Wales AM the “best of luck.”

Cllr Roberts has been cleared of breaking the rules and was voted into the Senedd on Wednesday by fellow members.

The former leader of Wrexham Council who is still a councillor for Ponciau, won the North Wales regional seat for the Liberal Democrats at May’s election but was excluded from the chamber after officials discovered that at the time of his election he was still a member of the Valuation Tribunal for Wales, which is not allowed under the rules.

But an investigation by the Assembly’s Commissioner for Standards, Gerard Elias, QC, said Cllr Roberts “did everything he could have reasonably been expected to do in ensuring that he was not a disqualified person for the purpose of nomination or election to the National Assembly.”

Yesterday, Cllr Roberts was in Cardiff Bay taking his seat after a delay of two months.

His Liberal Democrat colleague, John Dixon, who was barred from taking his South Central Wales seat after finding himself in trouble over his membership of the Care Council for Wales, was not reinstated to the Senedd has been replaced as an AM by Eluned Parrott after Lib Dems dropped a bid to reinstate him.

Just after the two men were barred, UKIP MEP for Wales, John Bufton, reported them to police for alleged electoral fraud.

Earlier this month, South Wales Police told them no charges would be brought against them.

In statement yesterday, Mr Bufton said: “I am more than satisfied with the findings of the QC and therefore do not wish to take this matter any further.

“It is appropriate that John Dixon was disqualified and will not return under the advice of Mr Elias, QC, who found that he had failed to read and adhere to the relevant regulations.

“However the QC determined that Aled Roberts had been misled by out of date guidance and as such was not culpable.

“I believe the correct course of action has now been taken and the Assembly has chosen to reinstate Mr Roberts as an AM through a vote.

“It does, however, raise important questions in the future on how the Electoral Commission presents their guidance and the necessity for political parties to fully scrutinise and assist prospective candidates.

“I am satisfied that the procedures have been fair and would like to wish Mr Roberts the best of luck in his career as an AM and extend my support to Eluned Parrott who has replaced Mr Dixon.

“This matter was about doing what is best in the public interest and not about
political gain.”

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The Aled Roberts affair – what went wrong.

UNDER the National Assembly for Wales Disqualification Order 2010, Cllr Roberts was not eligible to stand for election as a member of the Valuation Tribunal for Wales.

Cllr Roberts, however, said he had consulted the Welsh language pages of the Electoral Commission’s website on March 24 and these pages did not list the Valuation Tribunal for Wales as a disqualified body.

Gerard Elias QC, the Assembly standards commissioner, carried out an investigation into the matter.

His report said Cllr Roberts had followed Welsh language advice which referred him to regulations from 2006. The Electoral Commission has issued a statement admitting mistakes were made in the issuing of its guidance for the May 2011 election.

The commission said it was not formally informed by the Welsh Government of the updated National Assembly for Wales Disqualification Order 2010, which came into effect on January 11.

Once the commission became aware of the change, it updated the relevant English language guidance for candidates on March 11.

However, the commission confirmed it did not update the Welsh language version of the guidance for candidates on its website ahead of the election.

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