TWO ministers should step aside from decision making related to the Welsh Government’s £4.25 million purchase of a farm for the Green Man festival after attending an off the record dinner with its boss, the Welsh Tory leader has said. 

Climate change minister Julie James, whose department is responsible for planning, and education minister Jeremy Miles attended an informal dinner at the home of lobbyist Cathy Owens and her client, Green Man Festival boss Fiona Stewart. 

Following the revelation of the dinner, which didn’t have to be declared under the Welsh Government ministerial code which allows “informal” meetings to be kept off official records, Conservative leader in the Senedd Andrew RT Davies has called for both ministers to “recuse themselves” from any related decisions. 

He said James had put herself in a “compromising position” by attending the party as alternative uses for the farm, which have been raised in relation to its potential management by the Green Man Festival, would require planning permission. 

He has also asked first minister Mark Drakeford to set out the terms of reference of an inquiry he has ordered permanent secretary Andrew Goodall to undertake into the attendance of the ministers at the dinner party held at the home of Owens, a former special adviser to Welsh Labour ministers. 

The informal dinner party meeting was uncovered by the Western Mail which said it had taken place on May 23. That is after the Welsh Government had bought the farm at Talybont-on-Usk but while it was awaiting a business case from Green Man, which stages its annual August festival some seven miles away at Crickhowell in Powys. 

In a letter to the first minister RT Davies said: “I would also, in light of the dinner party that has taken place, and the position the Ministers have put themselves in, seek assurances from you that they will now recuse themselves from any decisions in their portfolio areas that relate to Gilestone Farm.” 

In the letter RT Davies outlines a number of potential areas which he claimed could now present a conflict of interest for the ministers who allowed themselves to be entertained by Owens, at her home, with her client present and without any official records being kept. 

READ MORE: Call for lobbyist register as First Minister orders Green Man meeting inquiry

He said in the letter: “I have several concerns, including the compromising position the Minister responsible for Planning has put herself in, given the alternative uses that have been explored for Gilestone Farm which would be subject to planning permission.  

“Additionally, the Education Minister’s role in approving funding requests for projects of an educational nature, the relationship between Green Man and Cardiff University, and the stated aim to develop educational usage on the farm.” 

The National Wales: Jeremy Miles and Julie James should step aside from decision making related to the purchase of a farm for the Green Man festival, according to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. Pictures: Huw Evans Agency; VisitWalesJeremy Miles and Julie James should step aside from decision making related to the purchase of a farm for the Green Man festival, according to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives. Pictures: Huw Evans Agency; VisitWales

The Welsh Tory leader has also called for the permanent secretary’s inquiry to address what he claimed is a perception that Owens’ firm, Deryn Consulting, provides “favourable access” to ministers. 

“It is vital that Permanent Secretary’s inquiry is swift, thorough, and deals with these matters, as well as the perception of favourable access to Ministers via lobbying consultancy Deryn Consulting and Cathy Owens.” 

He has also asked the first minister to make the terms of reference of the inquiry public and that any findings and recommendations should be published. 

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The Tory leader also claims the dinner party shows that a Senedd answer, from economy minister Vaughan Gething, in June that “no ministerial meetings” had taken place with Green Man, or its management company, is “misleading”. RT Davies had asked for details of any meetings between “the minister” and officials. 

In response to questions related to RT Davies’ letter a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Mr Davies will receive a response to his letter in due course.” 

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