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First Minister of the National Assembly for Wales has blocked the appointment of a leading Welsh barrister to the post of Counsel General on the grounds of his hunting connections.

Gerard Elias, QC, had been recommended for the £140,000-a-year-post as the National Assembly’s leading legal adviser by an independent panel of civil service commissioners. But Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan vetoed the appointment, using Elias’ hunting and freemasonry connections as primary reasons.

“I judged that the legal advice of a Counsel General who was prominently associated with these two controversial areas would not carry the unnecessary stamp of untrammelled authority,” Rhodri Morgan told Assembly Members.

But Elias’ links with hunting are unbiased and independent. With no previous connections to hunting, he was appointed a commissioner to the board of the Independent Supervisory Authority for Hunting (ISAH). A prerequisite of that appointment was that he should be neither pro- nor anti-hunting.

In addition, the barrister had given notice of his resignation from the ISAH board subject to his appointment to the post of Counsel General. He had similarly expressed his intention of resigning from the freemasons if his application was successful.

Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, responded to the news: “It is scandalous to suggest that anyone should be barred from a role because they are associated with the supervision of a legitimate and lawful activity. Mr Morgan should accept the recommendations of the civil service commissioners and not allow any personal or political factors to influence the appointment.”

Rhodri Morgan, who is the ex-MP for Cardiff West, and his wife Julie, MP for Cardiff North, have consistently voted for a ban hunting with dogs.