Tory minister resigns after affair is revealed

THE political career of the junior government minister and Tory MP for Clwyd North West, Mr Rod Richards, survived barely 18 …

THE political career of the junior government minister and Tory MP for Clwyd North West, Mr Rod Richards, survived barely 18 hours after allegations in the News of the World yesterday that he is having an extramarital affair.

The swiftness with which his resignation letter appeared on the desk of the Prime Minister, Mr Major, yesterday ensured that political niceties were set aside. The customary exchange of correspondence on a ministerial resignation did not take place as Downing Street considered it "unnecessary".

A brief statement from the government announced simply: "The Welsh Office Minister, Mr Rod Richards, has offered his resignation. This has been accepted. An announcement about his successor will be made in due course."

Mr Richards's offence was his dalliance with a 28 year old public relations officer for the Canine Defence League. The British tabloids - have not had such a high profile expose of an MP since a series of scandals in 1992 which led to the Conservatives being accused of abandoning their election pledge of a return to "family values".


At the time a number of MPs, including the Countryside Minister, Mr Tim Yeo, left office rather than "embarrass the government any further".

Ia the short term, however, Mr Major's embarrassment will be that he may have problems replacing Mr Richards, not least because he was the only Welsh speaking at the Welsh Office. The other Conservative Welsh speaker is Sir Wyn Roberts, who has already announced he will step down at the next general election.

Drafted into the Welsh Office to promote the Welsh language, Mr Richards did little to inspire affection among his constituents when he described them as people who possessed "no self worth. They have an inferiority complex". For that remark he received a reprimand from the then Welsh Secretary, Mr John Redwood, who insisted that he withdraw the comment.

He also caused a stir when he suggested that Labour councils in Wales were characterised by "sleaze, corruption and gerrymandering". Opposition MPs stalked out of the chamber.

However, there was little sympathy for Mr Richards among Conservatives yesterday. A former parliamentary private secretary at the Welsh Office, Mr David Evans MP, said: "People who accept high office, a minister of the Crown, or wear an England shirt have to set an example. There are standards to be set and if a minister misbehaves in this way then that is it."