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Disbelief over decision that Vaughan Gething’s £200k donations from a convicted polluter do not breach the Ministerial Code

27 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Vaughan Gething. Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

Senior Welsh Labour figures have reacted with disbelief to the official view that donations from a convicted polluter totalling £200k made to party leadership candidate Vaughan Gething do not represent a breach of the Ministerial Code.

The contest to succeed Mark Drakeford as Welsh Labour leader and First Minister has been rocked by Nation.Cymru’s revelation that David Neal, the boss of Dauson Environmental Group which made the donations, got two suspended jail sentences for dumping toxic sludge on the Gwent Levels, a sensitive wetland landscape near Newport that Mr Drakeford rescued by rejecting plans for an M4 relief road that would have gone through it.

Many have argued that by accepting such a large sum from a convicted polluter, Mr Gething has breached the Ministerial Code and brought the Welsh Government into disrepute. The Ministerial Code states: “”Ministers should not accept any gift or hospitality which might, or might reasonably appear to, compromise their judgement or place them under an improper obligation.”

Solar energy plant

Further concerns have been raised following the revelation that another of Mr Neal’s companies has applied for permission to build a giant solar energy plant near his group’s recycling centre on the eastern outskirts of Cardiff – and that Welsh Ministers will decide whether it is approved or not.

The First Minister initially set out the Welsh Government’s line in a letter to Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies, stating: “I am writing in response to your letter of February 22 calling for an investigation under the Ministerial Code into donations received by Vaughan Gething MS from Dauson Environmental Group. The Ministerial Code does not govern the process for the receipt of donations to Senedd Members. These are set and regulated by the Electoral Commission.

“There is an established system in place for the recording and safeguarding of Ministers’ interests and I would expect donations made during these campaigns to be included in future ministerial declarations of interest.”

Investigation

Responding to a question from Mr Davies during a Senedd plenary session, Mr Drakeford said: “I want to make it clear that I followed the absolutely normal procedures of investigation. I don’t say that I’m not having an investigation – I asked for an investigation and the investigation advised me that there was no breach of the Ministerial Code. So there has been an investigation and the answer was provided to me in unambiguous terms.

“Again, for the record, let me make it absolutely clear to people who know nothing about what has gone on, I have received not a single message from anybody about that investigation. Nobody has asked me to accelerate it, nobody has asked me to avoid it. I haven’t had a single piece of correspondence.

“I dealt with it as I would have dealt with any other letter that I would have received under the Code. If anybody wants any further matters to be investigated, they should write to me. They should set out what they think needs to be investigated, and it will be done absolutely by the book.”

Irrelevant

But a senior Welsh Labour figure who did not wish to be named told Nation.Cymru: “The decision that accepting the donations did not amount to a breach of the Ministerial Code is astonishing. The rationale is that the funds were received by Vaughan in his role as an MS rather than as a minister. This is entirely irrelevant.

“The fact is that Vaughan has sought and accepted the largest political donations ever made in Wales. This places him under a clear obligation. It also does not answer the question about what Vaughan promised the company and on what basis did he accept the donations.”

A former Welsh Labour minister told us: “Understandably the First Minister wants to draw a line under this unhappy period. However, I suspect this will satisfy no one. The fact that donations have to be declared to the Electoral Commission has nothing to do with it. That doesn’t detract from the perception that he could be influenced by such a large donation.”

Conflict of interest

Andrew RT Davies said: “The First Minister, by failing to investigate Vaughan Gething, is allowing a perception of a conflict of interest to hang in the air. The scale of these donations, paired with the fact the Welsh Government will rule on business plans made by the donor company, warrants investigation.

“Mark Drakeford should not protect Vaughan Gething from a proper investigation just because Gething is running to be First Minister.”

Another fact arguably inconsistent with the advice given to Mr Drakeford is that ministers who stand as candidates are expected to declare to a Ministerial Register of Interests any donations they receive.

Meanwhile one of Mr Gething’s strongest supporters – former Cardiff Labour councillor Ashley Govier, whose company owns the freehold of the iconic Coal Exchange building in Cardiff Bay – said he saw no problem with Mr Gething accepting such a large donation from Mr Neal’s company, despite his environmental convictions.

He said: “David has been around Welsh Labour circles for many years. – he hasn’t just arrived from nowhere. He’s well known as a Labour supporter and in the past has attended Wales in London dinners, either buying tables or seats.

“We need a business-friendly First Minister, and Vaughan Gething is, in my opinion, the best candidate for the job.”


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Mark Owen
Mark Owen
1 month ago

the stench from Welsh labour is rapidly becoming overwhelming – it is as if they are determined to undermine devolution, Devolution was needed to to stop the ‘Jobs for the boys’ + the unelected quangos which dominated Wales in the 70s.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Owen

Does the great Welsh electorate agree with you ? If so vote Labour out but most likely our electorate won’t even get off its arse on the big day.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

Shocking.

Martyn Young
Martyn Young
1 month ago

It’s a grubby business.

Cedwyn Aled
Cedwyn Aled
1 month ago

Just thinking out aloud…worst case scenario and all that…people disenchanted with Labour rule in Wales could think it an easier prospect to campaign for, and win, a referendum to end both devolution and Labour’s monopoly on power than bother with struggling to get another party elected in Labour’s place.

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

Gething doesn’t see he has done anything wrong, he takes one donation that is equal to 3 to 4 years wages for most people to use to forward his own career from a business man with no expectation of repayment or reward for the payment, rotting fish smell better than this.

Another Richard
Another Richard
1 month ago
Reply to  Why vote

According to Welsh government data the average salary in Wales was £29,266 in 2021. Let’s be generous and allow an estimate of £33,000 today, so the donation represents six years of median salary (pre-tax of course). It is staggering that Vaughan Gething acts as this is all perfectly normal.

Ap Kenneth
1 month ago

Why does any leadership contest need £200K, are they flooding FB with ads, the Western Mail/Daily Post with ads. Email costs next to nothing and visiting branches and holding hustings is only petrol and accomodation. So sounds very fishy and brings Labour into disrepute.

A Evans
A Evans
1 month ago
Reply to  Ap Kenneth

But he isn’t canvassing the public, we have no say in it! So where is the £200,000 going? Into his bank account or into the Labour Senedd member’s back pockets for supporting him?

Mandi A
Mandi A
1 month ago

There is an expression in Gogledd Cymru: “Live in Hope, die in Caergwrle”. The choice of candidate for Leader of Welsh Labour offers about as much ambition. Just six weeks after being appointed Economy Minister, Mr Gething formed Cwmni Egino, a Nuclear Industry Association-led entity with a Wales civil servant on the Board and Mr Alan Rayment, formerly of Horizon, Sizewell C and Bradwell nuclear bids as CEO. The stated aim of the company was to bring benefit to Wales by promoting the SMR model at Trawsfynydd and possibly at Wylfa. Mr Gething made no secret of his 100% immersion… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

That Bay must be full of Piranhas waiting to pounce on greenhorns. Developers, savvy suited con-men with MBAs scouting for shiny new MSs with energy and ambition, do they teach PPE in Cardiff Uni…(Cardiff has hook-up with the House of Commons on how to BS the public and manipulate social media ! Cardiff module Journalism, Communications and Politics BA )

A Evans
A Evans
1 month ago

0ne questio Gethin! WHY would you need £200,000 to gain the top Ministerial post within the Labour Senedd when he doesn’t have to canvas the public? He is simply canvassing within the Senedd members! OR, do the Senedd members need financial “sweetener” to vote for him? Corruption is rife there!

Rob jones
Rob jones
1 month ago

It is because Welsh labour is now a dictatorship and do what they want irrelevant of the electorate who they continue to constantly ignore

Dave Cowdell
Dave Cowdell
1 month ago

Yes, and it was Gething who suspended much routine medical testing such as bowel screening that has resulted in many contracting bowel cancers and the like. The justification was ” to save the NHS” or as we understand it ” kick the can down the road”
Unforgivable!

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