COMMENTS by the the Green Man festival's boss expressing surprise at the reaction to a deal between it and the government over a farm purchase show the need for greater scrutiny in Wales.

That's the view of a Senedd Member who has been prominent in raising questions over the decision of the Welsh Government to use more than £4 million of public money to purchase Gilestone Farm, in Talybont-on-Usk, near Brecon, with the intention it to be handed to the festival.

Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs spokesperson Mabon ap Gwynfor has asked questions in the Senedd over the deal and has called comments made by festival boss Fiona Stewart, expressing surprise at how the deal has been subject to public debate, "naive".

The £4.25m purchase came to light in May and the Welsh Government confirmed it had bought the farm before it had seen a business case from the fesival which is staged at the Glanusk Estate, some seven miles away in Crickhowell.

It has since emerged that after the government bought the farm, but while it was still waiting for Ms Stewart's festival to submit a full business case, two government ministers had been entertained at the home of the festival's lobbyist while Ms Stwart was also present.

The meeting between lobbyist, and former Welsh Government special advisor Cathy Owens, Ms Stewart and climate change minister Julie James and education minister Jeremy Miles wasn't declared as they had called it a 'social event'.

Such "informal" meetings are allowed to be kept off the official record under the Welsh ministerial code but after the dinner party was revealed - and following an investigation - James and Miles accepted that they should play no part in any future decision making related to the farm and festival

The civil service probe found the pair hadn't broken the ministerial code but first minister Mark Drakeford was advised to issue advice that such meetings should be declared in future.

This week with the festival, that attracts some 25,000 people, taking place Ms Stewart told BBC Wales she had been taken by surprise by some of the comments made since the purchase first came to light in May.

She also said the festival had submitted what she called a "vision document" to the government and Powys council.


The festival boss said: "I am surprised, some of the things that have been said, I didn't quite understand there would be a reaction in that way - especially because we have been around for such a long time.

"We have been in Powys for 20 years, and there is quite a lot of popular support for the event around here.

“There was an extensive vision document submitted which was massive, so that portrayed lots of the targets and what we would want to do, and how we were going to do things."

But Plaid's Mabon ap Gwynfor said Ms Stewart should recognise the unusual situation of the purchase having gone ahead without a business case and said the episode has highlighted a need for tighter rules around lobbying in Wales.

"Fiona Stewart’s comments are naive, misguided and misjudged.

“No other event or organisation has been awarded this kind of special treatment by the Labour Government where they are permitted to draft a business case in retrospect after receiving public money from government," said the Dwyfor Meirionnydd member.

He said: “This episode casts serious doubt on the inner workings of the Welsh Government and its attitude to transparency. Without a significant tightening of the rules Ministers will continue to have carte blanche to meet who they like when they like without anyone knowing about it. We urgently need a register of lobbyists in Wales and much greater and clearer transparency on the nature of lobbying in Wales."

The Plaid MS was also dismissive of comments made by Jeremy Miles who sought to downplay the off the record dinner party by claiming as education minister he "wouldn't expect as education minister to have any role in the decision making around a farm in any case".

Ap Gwynfor said Miles was ignoring the principle of collective responsibility.

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