Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Friday, 27 February 2009

Two Tories reject Bourne offers

Andrew R Davies replaces Jonathan Morgan (top right), and Alun Cairns (bottom left) replaces William Graham
The changes involve the posts of health spokesman and chief whip

Two leading Welsh Conservative assembly members have left the shadow cabinet in a surprise reshuffle.

Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan, health spokesman since 2003, turned down the education portfolio.

Chief whip William Graham also rejected the offer of another job and is replaced by Alun Cairns.

Leader Nick Bourne said it would bring a "fresh perspective" but the changes have raised more questions about tensions within the Conservative group.

Mr Graham, the South Wales East AM, had been offered another post but will now take a backbench role, the party confirmed.

South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies moves from education to Mr Morgan's old job as health spokesperson.

He is succeeded as education spokesman by Paul Davies.

The move raises questions about tensions in the Conservative group between Mr Morgan and Mr Bourne, according to BBC Wales' political editor Betsan Powys.

Nick Bourne AM
Leader - Nick Bourne (pictured)
Chief whip, heritage and business manager - Alun Cairns
Economy - David Melding
Health - Andrew RT Davies
Education and the Welsh language - Paul Davies
Environment - Angela Burns
Finance - Nick Ramsay
Local government - Darren Millar
Rural affairs - Brynle Williams
Social justice - Mark Isherwood

Mr Bourne has repeatedly faced questions over his leadership in recent months, with Mr Morgan rumoured to be keen to replace him.

BBC Wales political reporter Brian Meechan said Mr Morgan was once seen as close to the Conservative assembly leader and the pair shared the same view about making devolution work.

However, when Mr Bourne faced questions over his expense claims for an iPod and a trouser press in December, Mr Morgan was seen to be amongst his chief critics.

In a statement, the party said Mr Morgan will be nominated as chair of the assembly's influential audit committee.

In addition to being chief whip, Mr Cairns, AM for South Wales West, will act as heritage and business manager, while working alongside David Melding AM as a spokesman on the economy.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar will be nominated as chair of the health, well-being and local government committee.

Mr Bourne said he wanted to promote AMs elected in 2007 and give people "fresh experience", but he did not intend to demote Mr Morgan.

Jonathan Morgan and William Graham have turned down other posts within Nick Bourne's team

He said: "If that had been my intention at the outset I would not have offered Jonathan a key frontbench role in education.

"That is a disappointment. Jonathan is a mate and he's a great performer and I feel sorry that he didn't take up the education portfolio."

Mr Graham was offered another post, but it was his "prerogative" to turn it down, Mr Bourne said.

"I'm disappointed, but he has given very good service in the past and I thank him very much for that."

Mr Bourne said the changes would bring a "fresh perspective" to the "vitally important role of scrutinising the Labour-Plaid assembly government and its policies".

"In particular, by appointing Alun Cairns to work alongside David Melding on the economy it underlines just how seriously Welsh Conservatives take the challenge of helping Wales emerge in a strong position from the recession," he said.

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