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Cabinet Secretary for climate change dodges questions on convicted polluter who donated to FM’s campaign

16 May 2024 4 minute read
Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs – Huw Irranca-Davies

Emily Price

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change has dodged questions about the convicted polluter who made a significant donation to the First Minister’s election campaign.

Responding to his counterpart Janet Finch Saunders in the Senedd on Wednesday (May 16), Huw Irranca-Davies said there were “101 important environmental matters” that could have been brought to his attention instead.

His comments came after the Shadow Climate Change Minister raised the issue of enforcement by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) on firms who are caught breaking environmental rules.

NRW undertook a year-long investigation in 2012 into the illegal dumping of waste at a Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Gwent levels.

The owner of the recycling firm Dauson Environmental Group, David Neal, received two suspended prison sentences for dumping toxic sludge in the sensitive wetlands area.

Mr Neal made national news in March this year when he was found to have donated £200,000 to Vaughan Gething’s campaign to become Welsh Labour leader.

Several members of the First Minister’s Cabinet and his Labour backbenchers have said he shouldn’t have taken a money.

Noxious odour

Resources Management (UK) Ltd which is part of Dauson Environmental is more recently facing an injunction from NRW and Pembrokeshire County Council over noxious odours emanating from the Withyhedge landfill site in Haverfordwest.

Public Health Wales has issued advice saying that the odours and emissions coming from the site could be harmful to people’s health.

Resources Management had until Tuesday (May 14) to respond to NRW but did not meet the deadline.

Speaking during questions to the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Mrs Finch Saunders said Mr Gething has “sold any credibility on the nature crisis down at the Gwent levels” just to become First Minister.

Mr Irranca-Davies accused the Tory MS of “making political points”.


Mrs Finch-Saunders asked whether the Cabinet Secretary thought the First Minister had “crossed his own red line” and “undermined his Welsh Government” by supporting an individual who has “caused misery to so many people”.

Mr Irranca-Davies responded saying: “There are 101 important environmental matters that could have been brought to my attention by Janet as the frontbench spokesman.

“Rather than that, she’s focused on issues that the First Minister has already addressed repeatedly.”

Raising the issue of the Withyhedge landfill site, the Tory Shadow Minister said she found it “appalling” that the First Minister had accepted money from an “environmental law-breaker”.

She said Mr Gething’s refusal to return the donation had led to the Welsh Government being perceived as “backing a donor instead of the local community” which is clearly suffering from and “environmental disaster”.

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change said he didn’t wish to conflate the Withyhedge issue with the political points made by Mrs Finch-Saunders because he had “an enormous amount of empathy” for the locals affected.

He said: “But I’ve made clear, when asked about this in previous questions – and so has the First Minister – that NRW, as the regulatory and enforcement body on the ground, are not only there, and also engaging with residents, but have put in place the measures that they require of the operator.”

The Cabinet Secretary later said that NRW have enforcement powers that they can take if regulations are not adhered to.

He said: “I don’t think this is a question of an inquiry; this is a question, I have to say, for you and also for residents, of seeing the enforcement bodies on the ground, NRW, but also Public Health Wales, doing the work that they should do in order to resolve these issues very promptly and speedily now, because it’s been going on too long for those local residents.”


Following the exchange in the Senedd, Mrs Finch-Saunders said: “Only last year the Senedd Climate Change Committee branded the Welsh Government efforts on environmental governance as ‘inadequate’, yet the First Minister’s actions show that he is not taking the crisis seriously.

“By asking NRW to ease restrictions on the individual who donated more than £200,000 to his leadership campaign, the same individual with a criminal record for environmental crimes, Vaughan Gething has sold any credibility this Labour Government had on the nature crisis down the Gwent.

“The Cabinet Secretary refused to answer for his leader’s shortcomings, this is why the Welsh Conservatives continue to call for an independent inquiry into the donations to remove the current stink surrounding Welsh politics.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 days ago

Regarding dodging questions; anyone interested in the India/Cymru relationship might like to see the ‘Long Read’ on today’s Guardian…

Pity our politics had to turn out so sordid…

Alan Jones
Alan Jones
10 days ago

If Huw Irranca Davies has “101 other important envirionmental matters to deal with” then it’s abundantly clear what he & others in the party need to do, return the money, apologise to the Sennedd & the people of Cymru & then move on & get on with the role of governance. Can’t he see as obviously Gethin cannot, that although no “rules were broken” in the eyes of a lot of people inside & outside the sennedd bubble the party is now compromised in any dealings now or in the future with David Neal. This along with the loss of… Read more »

10 days ago
Reply to  Alan Jones

Plaid need to divorce themselves from Labour pronto or end up with egg on their face

10 days ago

Now you have to wonder at the people that are in the cabinet, that is how worried they are that they will be tainted by this. I would walk.

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