Assembly Members have been given the legal advice on which they are supposed to base their decision tomorrow on whether to reinstate the two disqualified Liberal Democrat AMs, Aled Roberts and John Dixon.
In brief summary, the two reports confirm that Aled Roberts checked the rules but he was misled because he looked at the Welsh language version.
Unlike the English version, it had not been updated by the Electoral Commission to include the public body he belonged to that was incompatible with becoming an AM.
In John Dixon’s case, he was aware of the rules but did not check them.
The main report is from the assembly’s standards commissioner, Gerard Elias QC and can be read here: assemblywales.org
It is supplemented by a report from the Assembly’s chief legal adviser, Keith Bush
Until now, the position has seemed pretty bleak for both men, as the mood of most AMs has been not to reinstate them.
However, with the Welsh Liberal Democrats taking further legal advice, AMs will have to reflect on the possibility that if the decision goes against Aled Roberts tomorrow, he might be able to take action under the Equalities Act, on the grounds that his rights as a Welsh speaker had been violated.
Any AM who is tempted to at least block John Dixon’s return on party political grounds –a simple dislike of the Liberal Democrats- should proceed with care.
Any decision that was not taken after an impartial consideration of the facts would also be open to legal challenge. On May 19, I blogged about some of the precedents AMs might consider. Keith Bush has cited another, very relevant one.
In 1974, Dr Michael Winstanley, otherwise known as the television doctor, was disqualified on the grounds that he had done some medical work for the Ministry of Defence.
The House of Commons decided to reinstate him. Incidentally, he was a Liberal MP.