Support our Nation today - please donate here
News

Standards Commissioner refuses to investigate £200k donation to Vaughan Gething’s campaign

08 Mar 2024 6 minute read
Vaughan Gething. Photo James Manning/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

Senedd Standards Commissioner Douglas Bain has decided that donations totalling £200k by a convicted criminal to Vaughan Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership campaign do not merit a formal investigation.

They represent the highest political donation made to a Welsh politician since there became a legal obligation to declare them.

The decision not to investigate was described by information rights campaigner Jamie Roberts, who made a complaint about the matter, as proof that the current standards regime isn’t working. :

Nation.Cymru revealed how Mr Gething received two donations of £100k each from waste company Dauson Environmental. The group’s main director, David Neal, has received two suspended prison sentences for illegally dumping toxic sludge in the Gwent Levels, a sensitive wetlands landscape near Newport that First Minister Mark Drakeford rescued by rejecting plans for an M4 relief road to run through it.

Mr Roberts asked the Commissioner to investigate the donations after Mr Drakeford said he had been advised that acceptance of them did not place Mr Gething in breach of the Ministerial Code.

Support

In his complaint to Mr Bain, Mr Roberts said: “I am concerned about the possibility that these donations may have been made with the expectation of gaining Mr. Gething’s support for a planning application by Dauson Environmental to build a solar farm in his constituency – a project that requires ministerial approval.

“The potential implications of such a transaction are deeply troubling, as they raise questions about the integrity and impartiality expected of our elected representatives. The Ministerial Code clearly states that ministers must avoid any conflict of interest between their public duties and private interests.

“While the First Minister has indicated that the receipt of donations by Senedd members falls outside the scope of the Ministerial Code, it is imperative that your investigation also considers whether any actions taken, or to be taken, by Mr. Gething in his capacity as an MS in relation to Dauson Environmental’s planning application could constitute a breach of the standards expected of Senedd members.”

Mr Roberts added: “I hope that your inquiry will examine the procedures and safeguards currently in place for the acceptance and declaration of donations to Senedd Members. It is essential to ensure that these processes are robust enough to prevent any potential conflicts of interest and maintain the high standards of conduct expected from our elected officials.”

Admissibility criteria

In his response to Mr Roberts, the Commissioner stated: “The only aspect of your complaint which could amount to a breach of the Code of Conduct or another relevant provision is your concern about ‘the possibility that these donations may have been made with the expectation of gaining Mr Gething’s support for a planning application’ for a wind farm [it is in fact a solar plant]. If proved, that could amount to a breach of Rule 10 of the Code [which states: “Members must not accept any financial inducement, gift, hospitality or other benefit as an incentive or reward for carrying out their functions as a Member of the Senedd, for influencing proceedings in the Senedd, or which might otherwise appear to a reasonable and impartial person to influence, or potentially influence, their actions as a Member].

“As you know I can investigate a complaint only if all the admissibility criteria set out in paragraph 4.2 of the Procedure have been fulfilled. At present, your complaint does not do so because you have not provided me with evidence sufficient to satisfy me that the conduct of which you complain may have taken place. A wholly unevidenced statement that it is a possibility is not sufficient.

“I am not satisfied that any of the other matters you refer to in your complaint might, if proved, amount to a breach of the Code of Conduct or of any other relevant provision. Insofar as they were complaints about Mr Gething’s conduct they are not admissible and are dismissed. The donation to which you refer was registered in the Register of Members Interests in accordance with Standing Order 2.4. Under Standing Order 2.1 that register is open for inspection by members of the public. There was nothing clandestine or lacking in transparency about the Member’s receipt of the donation.

“Further if Mr Gething takes part in any proceedings, whether in Plenary or in any Senedd Committee, related to the donor he will have to comply with Standing Orders 13.8A and 17.24A before taking part in the proceedings. And under Standing Order 2.9 he would be prohibited from voting on any proposal relating to a matter in relation to which he was under a duty to declare an interest.

“I would draw your attention also to Rule 12 of the Code which imposes a duty on Members to be open and transparent with other Members, officials of the Senedd Commission and officials of any other public body or authority in disclosing any activities undertaken on, behalf of, an individual or organisation with which a Member has a financial relationship. Failure to comply with any of these provisions, if proved, could amount to a breach of a relevant provision.”

‘Remarkable’

Mr Roberts responded: “I find it quite remarkable that significant donations made by a developer to a constituency MS, coinciding with the submission of a development of national significance (DNS) planning application in his constituency are not deemed sufficient grounds for investigation. It’s important to understand the DNS process, where planning inspectors and, subsequently, Welsh ministers consider representations, including those from local elected representatives, before coming to a determination.

“As can be seen from the Planning and Environmental Decisions Wales website, local MSs typically contribute their views on DNS applications in their constituencies, expecting to significantly influence the planning inspector’s recommendations and the minister’s decisions.

“Given the controversial nature of the solar development, one would ordinarily expect the local MS to articulate the concerns and questions of their constituents and the local community as part of the planning process. However, with these substantial donations, there’s a clear conflict, muting Mr. Gething’s ability to represent his constituents effectively on this matter.

“This situation not only compromises the integrity of the decision-making process but also raises serious questions about the influence of financial contributions on political representation. If the scope of your investigation does not extend to such matters, it surely indicates that the current process is not adequately equipped to address potential conflicts of interest of this nature.”

Neither Mr Gething nor Mr Neal will discuss how the £200k donations came about or whether they discussed the matter.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

This is disgraceful!

Donations to politicians, and political parties, from convicted criminals should be prohibited by law!

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Davies
Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

Exactly, this is as bad as the Tory party receiving money from Putin’s Russia, both are equally dirty, and should be investigated and if dodgy, criminal charges should be brought.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Ethics and Standards are a vital core part of good / quality governance and this i feel reveals the need for our Senedd to look afresh at what this issue reveals. its a continuing pathway of course and the increasing footprint and impact of our national legislature demands an evolving response. During my tenure on the Assembly’s Partnership Council and Ombudsman’s Ethics Panel we due up early guidelines and guidance up to the standards of that time. Things have moved on and matured as is right and new unanticipated challenges and challenges plus of course public expectations must see Senedd… Read more »

jim
jim
1 month ago

It is absurd to say the decision on the M4 relief road “rescued” the Gwent levels. The amount of land to be taken was small, and the route mainly skirted sensitive areas and ran adjacent to existing development.

Frank
Frank
1 month ago

I smell a rat. Something is not quite right about this business. It all goes back to when the Brynglas by-pass was refused the go-ahead across the Gwent levels.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank
Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

Mr Gething if or when he wins the leadership vote will forevermore have every decision he makes scrutinised by the general public ie voters as dodgy, really dodgy, blatantly dodgy. He will be as the old saying goes, Be Tarred with the same brush as the people he associates with, bringing the political party supporting him into disrepute, Is this the end of the welsh Labour Party.

Mozart
Mozart
1 month ago
Reply to  Why vote

Hopefully

Lord Custard
Lord Custard
1 month ago

Time for a new ministerial code. No politician should be getting donations this large.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago
Reply to  Lord Custard

A code for all @ The Bay

Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago

They are not going to investigate London Labour’s chosen poodle.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.