I have accepted three urgent question under Standing Order 12.66. I call on Russell George to ask the first urgent question.
Last Wednesday, all Sport Wales board activities were suspended by Welsh Government until a governance assurance review is completed. I provided a written statement to Members yesterday setting out the circumstances and the terms of reference for the assurance review. It would be inappropriate of me to comment further on this matter until the review has been completed.
Well, I hope that still allows me to ask a number of questions, Minister. [Laughter.] Of course, the abrupt nature of the board’s suspension is an unprecedented intervention by Welsh Government, so there are some questions here that I would like to ask. Can I ask when did you first know that Sport Wales had become dysfunctional? Did you and the Government have confidence—or do you in the Government have confidence in the chair of Sport Wales, and if not, does the legitimacy of his review into Sport Wales carry any weight? And, indeed, do you recognise the findings of the leaked report? I would ask whether the vote of no confidence was linked to the findings of the chair’s leaked report?
I thank you for those questions. I think it’s important to recognise that Welsh Government did act swiftly and appropriately and in the best interests of the organisation. Officials had been aware that there were some tensions within the board over the past two to three weeks, but the expectation really was that the normal governance processes would enable the board to manage this and arrive at an agreed solution. But this wasn’t the case. Sport Wales is a Welsh Government sponsored body and, as such, it does have a well-developed governance process, so we will only intervene in exceptional circumstances, and in general, we expect all of our sponsored bodies to resolve problems themselves. They were unable to use the governance process to resolve the issues, and when this happens, issues can then be raised with Welsh Government. But a conclusion of dysfunctionality, which is where we’re at now, was based upon the fact that the board had reached a point where they adopted the vote of no confidence without exhausting both of those avenues. The chair’s review and the assurance review that Welsh Government has commissioned are separate. They do seem to be conflated in the recent press reports. It’s worth mentioning that I did meet two of the four members of the independent panel, which is working on the chair’s review this morning to discuss the way forward with that chair’s review. Those panel members I met were also representing the other two members of the panel who couldn’t be here today. I just want to take this opportunity to applaud the panel for the integrity that they’ve displayed in the work that they’ve undertaken this far. They are very clear that the emerging themes in the chair’s review will now require peer review. So, I expect this work to conclude early in the new year, once the assurance review has been completed. The finished report will also then provide us with guidance on the way forward for the sector. And, of course, I’m keen to keep Members updated.
Will you appoint an interim board to take things forward and will you accept concerns from wider afield, from, maybe, organisations interacting with the body already? And I suppose my main question is: how can we arrive at this point where the organisation’s board was suspended last week? Shouldn’t these things have been resolved before coming to this point?
I think I’ve described the situation under which the decision was arrived at last week. There’s no intention to appoint an interim board while the assurance review is undertaken over the course of the next eight weeks, because governance arrangements currently exist for Sport Wales. So, any business or any issues that the chief executive would normally bring to the attention of the board will now be brought to the attention of a senior Welsh Government official.
Of course, it is concerning that the board has been suspended, which does indicate a certain amount of lack of co-ordination, but of course it’s good that the normal activities of Sport Wales will continue in the meantime, and hopefully with minimal disruption. I’m sure the staff at the organisation will be able to run the show for the next few weeks without the contribution of the board. Of course, as we know, board members are sometimes political appointments, so sometimes staff do get on better without them butting their noses in. But we will await your report in eight weeks’ time with interest. Thank you.
I thank you for giving me this opportunity to put on record my thanks to all of the staff at Sport Wales who are doing a really great job in really difficult circumstances. So, I appreciate the opportunity to put on record that thanks and also to reassure Members that the day-to-day business of Sport Wales is continuing throughout this period.
I thank the Minister.