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Pressure mounts on Drakeford to order investigation into Gething’s £200k donation from a criminal

26 Feb 2024 6 minute read
Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA Media

Pressure is mounting on First Minister Mark Drakeford to order an investigation into Economy Minister Vaughan Gething for a potential breach of the Ministerial Code after he accepted donations totalling £200k to his Welsh Labour leadership campaign from a convicted polluter.

Welsh Labour has been shaken by the size of the donation from a Cardiff-based company called Dauson Environmental Group, whose director David Neal was given two suspended prison sentences for dumping toxic sludge on the Gwent Levels, a sensitive conservation landscape south east of Newport.

The area is of particular significance for the Welsh Government because in 2019 Mr Drakeford personally used his planning powers to reject a proposal to build the M4 relief road through the Gwent Levels on environmental grounds.

Dauson also has three financial charges against it from the Development Bank of Wales, which is owned by the Welsh Government. This means that Dauson is in receipt of taxpayer investment from a publicly owned bank for which Mr Gething, as the Economy Minister, is responsible.

Solar farm

It has also emerged that Dauson has submitted a Development of National Significance planning application for a solar farm next to its recycling site in east Cardiff. A decision on whether to approve the scheme or not will be taken by Welsh ministers, leading to further concerns about how the group’s donations to Mr Gething’s campaign will be perceived.

According to a clause of the Ministerial Code, “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.”

A member of Labour’s Senedd Member support staff contacted Nation.Cymru to say: “There is serious tension at the moment in the Labour Group and staffers, and the anticipation that Mark may have to instruct an independent adviser to investigate VG under the ministerial code next week. It couldn’t be worse timing given the Covid Inquiry is about to start in Wales.

“There is alleged pressure from Welsh Labour towards Mark to not do this, as it would be seen as Mark interfering with the leadership contest potentially. But Mark does not have a choice. But if Mark instructs an adviser to investigate him as a minister and then he is elected as FM, he may have to preside over his own investigation outcome.

“On top of this, there is serious concern that if VG is elected as leader and First Minister, that after this donation scandal he would not be able to command the authority of the Labour group. Before this week, there was still very much the sense that whoever won, the group would come together.

“Even one of his own campaign managers, an MS for Newport is struggling as she fought to protect those Gwent Levels. And Vaughan took a donation from someone convicted of dumping on the Levels.

“There is not even a guarantee he would be able to appoint a competent Welsh Government Cabinet as he would not have enough supporters to do so, which could potentially be a route in which the Labour group could force VG out of his position as FM as quickly as he was in it, should he win.

“VG does have Labour group loyalists such as [Caerphilly MS] Hefin David and [Cynon Valley MS] Vicki Howells, but nobody realistically believes, including VG, either are competent to serve as government ministers for VG. But he might find himself with no other choice but to utilise any MS left who would be willing.

“Many now, including one MS who supported VG, feels like his potential appointment as FM could be untenable. And that mood amongst the membership has been largely in support of Jeremy [Miles – the Education Minister and other candidate in the contest].”

Obligation

A senior Welsh Labour figure told us: “Vaughan hasn’t just broken the Ministerial Code. He has driven a coach and horses through it. This is by far the biggest donation to anyone in Welsh politics in recent times. By accepting such a huge amount of money from this crook, Vaughan has clearly placed himself under an obligation.

“He should never have put Mark in this terrible position. But of course there should be an investigation under the Code.”

In June 2022 Newport West MS Jayne Bryant, who is on Mr Gething’s campaign team, raised the issue of criminal dumping at the Gwent Levels during a Senedd plenary session.

She said: “The Gwent Levels are a fantastic resource and need to be treasured and protected. It formed around 8,000 years ago and the man-made landscape dates back to the Romans. It really is a stunning part of Wales that I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to visit. I’d like to take this opportunity to push for more tools to be given to public bodies for them to be able to fight effectively in its defence.

“A particular threat is that of industrial-scale flytipping, where criminals utilise the Levels’ isolation but relatively easy access to the M4 to dump tonnes of refuse and waste. Local government and NRW do their best to issue fines and notices, but community groups have often found these processes arduous and the fines issued comparatively ineffective. Can the Minister please look at the processes we use to protect the Levels and whether there are any ways we can look to arm public bodies with stronger powers and deterrents, so that firmer and swifter action can be taken against the selfish criminal organisations who exploit this fantastic landscape?”

Enforcement 

In her response, Climate Change Minister Julie James said: “ I’m very happy to look again at whether we can strengthen the enforcement abilities of the various agencies around it, but actually, what we really need to do is make it so obvious that this is a site of special scientific interest and nature conservation that it becomes just unthinkable that somebody would behave in such a way.”

We contacted Ms Bryant to seek her views on Mr Gething’s decision to accept donations totalling £200k from someone who criminally polluted the Gwent Levels. She did not respond to messages we left for her.

We asked the Welsh Government whether the First Minister would be referring Mr Gething for investigation under the Ministerial Code. A spokesman responded: “I can confirm that the First Minister has received a letter from [Senedd Conservative group leader] Andrew RT Davies.

We will respond to Mr Davies in the usual manner.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Leave it to Smiles…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Julie James for God’s sake grow up !

Not enough players to make a theater group let alone a government, any production would close after the first night…

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

Look in to it. When after the coronation. As he’s done nothing wrong. Followed all the rules. This is what happens if you makeup your own rules with your mates.

Jen
Jen
1 month ago

so if the membership actually votes for VG as leader the suggestion is the Labour MSs will ignore the result and refuse to work with the elected winner? Hmm….

Mandi A
Mandi A
1 month ago
Reply to  Jen

Stormont without the billions of extra monies

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

For those of us who were involved in local government in the 1979s to 90s – this sort of apparant practice was the expected norm in the Vallleys. One party Gvt and and arrogance of entitlement just created bad results – who ever the party.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Deep dive, open the books now. Act fast. If its iffy then punish and remove. Leave no stone unturned. If iys above board, defend.

Don’t be a Tory.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

They are all Tories … pale pink ones !

mike hedges
mike hedges
1 month ago

The attack on Hefin David and Vikki Howell is totally unjustified. Hefin is one of the cleverest Senedd members and Vikki Howells is an experienced secondary school teacher. There are several current ministers less able than those two.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

The £200,000 gift from an environmental criminal is very questionable Surely Gething should withdraw from the leadership contest.

Andrew Scalisi
Andrew Scalisi
1 month ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

The very same director who is currently causing uproar in pembrokeshire for daily dumping of waste from Cardiff causing a huge stink In the town and villages of pembrokeshire.

William
William
1 month ago

Time prime ministers and first ministers were elected by the whole population and not just by a limited number of party members

Peter Howell
Peter Howell
1 month ago

Will Drakeford answer in his usual way by throwing his book around in temper and shouting because someone has had the brass nerve to ask for an answer?

Rob jones
Rob jones
1 month ago

Nothing will be done labour are too corrupt

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