Former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns cleared over rape trial row

20 December 2019, 18:26

Alun Cairns cleared of breaching ministerial code
Alun Cairns cleared of breaching ministerial code. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Conservative MP Alun Cairns has been cleared of breaching the ministerial code following a Cabinet Office investigation.

The former Cabinet member stood down as Secretary of State for Wales during the election campaign over links to a Tory candidate who was accused of sabotaging a rape trial.

Evidence in the report, published on Friday, showed it was "unlikely" Mr Cairns knew nothing about his former staff member's role, however it did not conclude he had breached the ministerial code.

The Conservative MP was thought to be the first Cabinet member in modern times to stand down during a general election campaign.

He claimed to be oblivious to the role played by Ross England in the collapse of a rape trial until after the story broke.

However, a leaked email indicated the ex-Welsh Secretary heard about the allegations as early as August 2018.

The Vale of Glamorgan MP was accused of "brazenly lying" following the release of the leaked email.

The Tory MP said he would "co-operate in full" with the investigation
The Tory MP said he would "co-operate in full" with the investigation. Picture: PA

He had previously said he was confident of being cleared of "any breach or wrong doing" and added he would "co-operate in full" with the investigation.

The report by Sir Alex Allan, the prime minister's independent adviser on ministers' interests, read: "Mr Cairns worked closely with his special adviser, who had had conversations with Mr England and who was more likely than not to have known about Mr England's role (as demonstrated by the 2nd August email) - though I accept that Mr Cairns' special adviser would not necessarily have known the judge's actual remarks.

"Mr Cairns asserted that he was not a lawyer and did not then understood the difference between an adjournment, a delay and a collapse.

"It seems to me that these terms are self-evident."

Mr Cairns was confident of being cleared in the report
Mr Cairns was confident of being cleared in the report. Picture: PA

He said Mr Cairns' evidence was that he "would have drawn from the content of the conversation with a member of his staff that there had been difficulties with the trial" but that the "member of staff had not told him that Mr England had had anything to do with it."

Concluding, Sir Alex wrote: "I find it unlikely that Mr Cairns would not have been told something about Mr England's role when he was told about the collapse.

"But all those involved state that they had not informed Mr Cairns of Mr England's role, and there is no direct evidence to contradict this.

"On that basis, I do not find that the evidence upholds the allegations of a breach of the ministerial code."

Mr Cairns was replaced as Welsh Secretary by Simon Hart this week following the Conservatives' election victory on 12 December.