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Welsh secretary Alun Cairns resigns amid controversy over aide’s role in 'sabotaged' rape trial

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Welsh secretary Alun Cairns resigns amid controversy over aide’s role in 'sabotaged' rape trial

The Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has resigned his ministerial position over claims he was not honest about his knowledge of former aide Ross England’s role in a rape trial last year that led to its collapse.

The resignation, which came just minutes before Prime Minister Boris Johnson formally announced the beginning of the election period in Downing Street, is the latest blow to the Conservatives’ campaign.

Yesterday, leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg caused widespread offence with comments about the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.

A row has also erupted about a Tory campaign video featuring footage of shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer which shows Starmer apparently unable to answer a question in an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, when in the original clip he gave an immediate answer. Presenter Piers Morgan called the social media video “the purest definition of fake news”.

Cairns endorsed his “friend and colleague” England as a candidate for the Welsh Assembly in December 2018, eight months after the trial fell apart.

Cairns said last week he had not been aware of England’s role in the collapse of the trial until late last month, but BBC Wales said it had seen an email sent to Cairns in August last year which mentioned it.

The Crown Court judge presiding in the trial in April 2018 accused England of a “deliberate” attempt to “sabotage” it, by making claims about the victim's sexual history.

The defendant, James Hackett, who was a friend of England’s, was later convicted at a retrial.

England said he had acted honestly in court.

Cairns tendered his resignation in a letter to Johnson in which he said: "You will be aware of allegations relating to the actions of a party employee and candidate for the Welsh assembly elections in the Vale of Glamorgan.

"This is a very sensitive matter, and in light of continued speculation, I write to tender my resignation as secretary of state for Wales.

"I will co-operate in full with the investigation under the ministerial code which will now take place and I am confident I will be cleared of any breach or wrong doing."

Johnson responded: “I am pleased to hear you will co-operate fully with the Cabinet Office during this process.”

He said he was “extremely grateful” to Cairns for all his work in post since 2016. “In particular, I would like to put on record my gratitude for all the support you have given to this Government in ensuring we honour the commitment to the people that we leave the European Union.”

Cairns still intends to contest the Vale of Glamorgan seat in the forthcoming general election.

England was suspended as a Tory candidate last week. A full investigation is now due to be undertaken.

 

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