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Welsh Culture Minister resigns over smoking ban blunder

Welsh Cabinet member Rhodri Glyn Thomas has quit his job after breaking Wales' ban on smoking in public places.
Welsh Cabinet member Rhodri Glyn Thomas has quit his job after breaking Wales' ban on smoking in public places.

Welsh Heritage Minister and former Shadow Health Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas was asked by staff to leave a pub after he was spotted smoking a cigar.

In contravention of Wales’ ban on smoking in public places, Mr Thomas walked with a lit cigar into a Cardiff pub well known to journalists and politicians at the nearby National Assembly.

Smoke-free legislation came into force in Wales on 2nd April 2007, ending smoking in enclosed public places.

Before the smoking ban was introduced, Mr Thomas was Plaid Cymru’s shadow Health Minister and a strong advocate of the smoking ban in public places.

In a speech given in October 2006, Rhodri Glyn Thomas defended the smoking ban saying that "The main argument driving forward the smoking in public places ban is not ill health caused to smokers. It is the ill health caused to other non smoking people through passive smoking."

Mr Thomas, an Assembly Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, became the Welsh Minister for Heritage after Plaid Cymru and the Labour Party formed a government coalition in 2007.

This is not the first time during the past year that Mr Thomas has been at the centre of a controversy. Two weeks before his smoking ban incident, he had mistakenly announced the wrong winner of a literary award.

After a meeting with Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones on 18th July, the Heritage Minister announced his decision to resign from his post.

“In the light of the publicity that has been following me in the last weeks I feel that my position in the Government is no longer sustainable”, he said.

The First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan, accepted his resignation and said: “I would like to thank you for your contribution as a Minister over the last year both in Cabinet and for the way you have managed your department. In particular, you deserve recognition for your hard work in taking forward the Welsh Language LCO and as regards the Wales Millennium Centre.”

Opposition leader Nick Bourne, of the Welsh Conservative Party, said: "The smoking ban was introduced in the interests of public health to protect people from the risk of smoking-related illnesses. There can be no exceptions to the rules and Rhodri Glyn Thomas would have been fully aware of that fact.”

However, Mr Bourne thought the matter wasn't a resigning issue and said: “It seems to me there was probably more internal pressure from the government than external pressure from opposition parties or the media.”

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Arfon constituency, Alun Ffred Jones, has been appointed Wales' new Heritage Minister following Mr Thomas' resignation.

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Celtic Countries is the online magazine for people who enjoy the Celtic nations, their natural splendour, culture, and lifestyles.

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