The Welsh Conservative leader has bowed to pressure to quit after he had drinks with colleagues, triggering allegations he broke an alcohol ban.
Paul Davies – who had claimed the backing of his party to stay on in the job – admitted he had “damaged trust and respect” with the people of Wales.
Mr Davies drank alcohol with Tory chief whip Darren Millar, the party’s chief of staff Paul Smith, and former Labour Welsh government minister Alun Davies last month.
An investigation by the Welsh parliament’s chief executive concluded “a possible breach of regulations occurred” and referred the controversy to Cardiff Council.
On Friday – one day after Priti Patel, threatened partygoers in England with £800 fines – Mr Davies had insisted he had the backing of colleagues to continue in his post.
The resignation comes at a bad time, meaning the Conservatives have lost their leader little more than three months before the Senedd elections in May.
Mr Millar has also quit as chief whip, but both men continued to insist they had not broken any rules, four days after a pub alcohol ban was brought in last month.
In his statement, Mr Davies said: “I am truly sorry for my actions on December 8 and 9.
“They have damaged the trust and respect that I have built up over 14 years in the Welsh Parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative Party, but more importantly with the people of Wales.”
But he added: “What we did was to have some alcohol with a meal we heated up in a microwave, which was a couple of glasses of wine on the Tuesday and a beer on the Wednesday. I broke no actual Covid-19 regulations.”
Plaid Cymru criticised the delay before the pair resigned, saying it “was obvious to everyone else that their positions were untenable”.
“Everyone will be asking what took them so long,” said Senedd member Helen Mary Jones.
The Conservatives are expected to move quickly to find a replacement for Mr Davies, prompting suggestions they will turn back to former leader Andrew RT Davies.
However, earlier this month, he was sharply criticised for likening the attack on the US Capitol building incited by Donald Trump to the anti-Brexit campaign.
Paul Davies’ resignation statement continued: “Yesterday I indicated to the Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament that I wished to resign, but they urged me to reflect further, and we agreed to meet again on Monday.
“However, for the sake of my party, my health and my own conscience, I simply cannot continue in post.
“Therefore, I am stepping down as leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament with immediate effect.”
Mr Davies was suspended from Welsh Labour’s Senedd group on Monday by Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, after the allegations emerged.