Politics: Welsh vote dispute

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The Independent Online
The Secretary of State for Wales last night dismissed calls for an inquiry into the counting of votes on the devolution referendum, despite admitting that last-minute advice was not applied in some areas.

Ron Davies said in a letter to Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Clywd West, that the discrepancy could not have altered the "clear majority" in favour of a Welsh assembly.

Although new guidance was telephoned to counting officers after the polls closed on 18 September, 2 of the 22 areas did not follow it. The chief counting Officer, Professor Eric Sunderland, had decided to make it clear that people who wrote "no" next to the "I do not agree" box instead of putting a cross should be registered as disagreeing with the proposal. This did not happen in either Pembrokeshire or Powys.

"It is a matter of considerable regret that politically motivated and misconceived allegations have been made impugning the efforts made by the chief counting officer, counting officers and their staff to conduct the various counts properly and effectively," he wrote.

In a parliamentary answer released at the same time as the letter, he added: "I should make clear that I have received no representations calling for an inquiry, and I have no intention of calling for an inquiry on this matter."

The statement did not satisfy the Tories. Nigel Evans, a spokesman on constitutional affairs, said: "Mr Davies is prepared for a question- mark always to remain over the referendum in Wales just simply to ensure that he keeps his job. This is a very sad day and a black day for the people of Wales."