The Welsh Liberal Democrats have bowed to the inevitable and sacrificed John Dixon, one of the two Lib Dem AMs disqualified from the Assembly.
All their efforts over the next 24 hours before the crucial vote in the Senedd will be to save Aled Roberts. Party leader Kirsty Wiliams has just issued this statement:
“Tomorrow, Assembly Members will be asked to consider whether it is proper to lift the disqualification of Aled Roberts and John Dixon. The advice of Gerard Elias QC enables them to do so with regard to the facts of each case.
“The Elias report treats each case differently, since the circumstances are very different.
“In the case of Aled Roberts, Gerard Elias has confirmed that ‘at each stage of his selection and nomination process, Aled Roberts followed the guidance provided to him by the Electoral Commission and mirrored on the National Assembly website’.
“He also confirms that the information provided to him referred him to incorrect guidance. Finally, he says that he finds that ‘Aled Roberts did eveything that he could reasonably been expected to do in ensuring that he was not a disqualified person.’
“Gerard Elias also deals with the fact that the guidance offered to Aled Roberts in the medium of Welsh was incorrect and states that ‘he was entitled to assume that the Welsh version would mirror the English version at all times and in every respect.’
“I would like to welcome the statement by the Electoral Commission who have acknowleged their error and offered an apology.
“It is clear that this is a case of enormous importance to the future of the equality of the Welsh language, to the reputation of the Assembly and to Welsh devolution.
“I will do everything I can to perasuade colleagues that Aled Roberts should take his rightful place in the Assembly. Based on the contents of the Elias report, it is hard to see how any reasonable person could conclude otherwise.
“In the case of John Dixon, Gerard Elias concludes that “he honestly believed that he was eligible to be a member of the National Assembly”. However, he also concludes that he had a responsibility to check the Order but did not do so.
“I have already accepted the responsibility that the Welsh Liberal Democrats share in this failiure.
“It has always been my view that the disqualification of both men should be lifted. Whatever the rights and wrongs of either case, to impose a ban on either from taking up their seats represents a punishment out of proportion to any error made.
“However, given that Gerard Elias’ report makes clear that the responsiblity to check the Order rested with John Dixon, I do not believe that there is any likelihood of a majority of Assembly Members being persuaded to disregard the disqualification.
“It is with huge regret therefore that the Welsh Liberal Democrats, with John’s agreement, have decided to withdraw the motion to disregard the disqualification of John Dixon.
“John has already served the public diligently and with distinction on Cardiff Council. I have no doubt that would have been an enormously effective and hard working Assembly Member. He is paying a very high price for his mistake. It is personal tragedy for him and I desperately wish that it were different. But I cannot change the facts any more than I can change the opinions of Assembly Members.
“I hope now that Assembly Members will now be able to focus on the case of Aled Roberts and ensure that justice is done.”