Prime Minister Boris Johnson expects politicians to go “above and beyond” in following the Covid-19 restrictions amid reports Senedd members had been seen drinking during a pub alcohol ban, his press secretary has said.
Former Welsh Government minister Alun Davies allegedly consumed alcohol with Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies, chief whip Darren Millar and the party’s chief of staff Paul Smith in a Senedd tea room.
The incident happened on December 8, four days after a ban on the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol on licensed premises came into force, although off-licences were allowed to sell alcohol until 10pm.
All four men deny breaking Covid-19 rules and say they observed social distancing while meeting to discuss working together on a proposed bill, and consumed alcohol not bought from parliamentary premises.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said as far as she knew Mr Johnson had not spoken to Mr Davies.
“The Prime Minister expects everybody, no matter their standing, no matter their status, to be sticking to the rules as well as they are able,” she said.
“But I would just say more broadly – and we will come back to this again and again – the Prime Minister needs everybody, no matter their status, no matter their position in life, to be going above and beyond in following the rules on Covid.”
Health minister Vaughan Gething told the Welsh Government briefing he was not aware of the “all the facts” of the incident.
“There is a broader point here and that is that any challenge, any sense of people not all being in this together, isn’t helpful in terms of messages that we all need to follow,” he said.
“What I will say, though, is in my own interaction with Senedd Commission staff, I’ve always been polite and respectful and the people that I’m around have been polite and respectful as well.”
Earlier, Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told BBC Radio Wales: “I think it’s very serious, poor behaviour by a group of politicians.
“I think the public hate hypocrisy, they hate being told to abide by the rules by all of the politicians and then suddenly they find examples of where it looks like the rules may have been broken, or the behaviour has been inappropriate given the decision being taken to ban the sale of alcohol.”
Welsh Labour said Alun Davies had been suspended from its group in the Senedd pending an investigation.
A Welsh Conservatives source told the PA news agency that the group believed they had not broken Covid-19 rules as the alcohol was not bought from the Senedd site, or served by catering staff.
In a statement, Paul Davies, Mr Millar and Mr Smith said they were “profoundly sorry” for their actions.
Fellow Conservative MS Nick Ramsay denied he was part of the group.
In a statement, his lawyer said Mr Ramsay had attended the tea room on his own for a meal.
“Others came in whilst he was there, but it was not a ‘gathering’ Mr Ramsay was part of,” the statement added.
A spokesman for the Senedd Commission, the corporate body for the Senedd, said it was aware of an incident on the Senedd estate which “may have been contrary to public health regulations in force at the time”.
Catering company CH&CO Group, which offers catering services at the Senedd estate, said it was aware of “an alleged breach of public health regulations” and was investigating.