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Tory MS brands small high street businesses ‘money laundering fronts’

07 Feb 2024 4 minute read

Emily Price

A Tory MS has been criticised for branding small high street businesses as potential fronts for money laundering.

During a debate on the Draft Budget in the Senedd on Tuesday (February 7) Vale of Clwyd MS, Gareth Davies said barber shops, e-cig outlets and cash-only hand car washes were “thriving unimpeded by the Welsh Government” despite “potentially” engaging in illegal activities.

He said: “This budget is a real blow to the small and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of the Welsh economy – it’s 99.3 per cent of all enterprises in Wales.

“And it’s funny that the only businesses on the average Welsh high street that appear to be thriving unimpeded by the Welsh Government these days are pop-up barber shops, unsightly vaping and e-cig outlets, and cash-only hand car washes, amongst a variety of other potential money laundering fronts.”

Concern

Senedd Members called out across the Chamber with Ogmore MS Huw Irranca-Davies calling for an intervention.

He said: “I just want to clarify – we’re all extremely concerned about things such as human trafficking and money laundering.

“You’ve just categorised a series of business sectors, entrepreneurs, some of them, and classified them all as fraudulent.

“Could you just clarify that is what you meant when you went through those, that these are fronts for illegal operations, all of them? Money laundering – you specifically said money laundering.”

The Tory MS replied: “Take Prestatyn High Street – we had probably two barber shops 15 years ago, but there are probably about 15 now, all of a similar theme.”

MSs continued to call out in the Chamber with some demanding another intervention which Mr Davies refused.

Resentment

He added: “Facing this dismal year ahead, perhaps people can raise their spirits and remedy all of this negativity with a theatre production, or going to see the mid-Wales orchestra, but I’m afraid these are have all been completely defunded too.

“And what are people actually concerned about here in Wales? Let’s ask that question. Opinion polling from September last year shows that the economy is the issue people are most worried about, followed closely by the NHS.

“These issues that people don’t care about are the trendy socialist UBI schemes, bank-rolling 36 new politicians and spending £34 million on the 20 mph roll-out.

“This budget presents an increase of £22.5 million for funding the free-school meals programme—the Welsh Government demonstrating that they are more concerned with honouring Plaid than improving the curriculum in schools and the quality of teaching, because education, overall, has been cut in this budget.

“Parents in the Vale of Clwyd would prefer to be in a position where they can easily afford to pay for their own child’s meals, rather than living on state subsidence.

“The irresponsible allocation of funds into schemes that no-one asked for will lead to increasing resentment towards the Welsh Government, unless they are prepared to rethink their spending commitments.”

Slur

Speaking after the debate, Huw Irranca-Davies said: “There was an audible intake of breath from most members of the Senedd as Gareth appeared to write off whole sections of high street businesses as money launderers.

“Even some Conservative members had their heads down in their papers or in their hands.

“It may be that Gareth set out to be provocative. There are undoubtedly individual businesses who will be operating fraudulently or illegally.

“I was involved as a UK Minister in the establishment of the Gangmasters Licencing Authority which aims to tackle people-trafficking, including the hidden people trafficking which operates in businesses under our noses.

“We want people to report any suspicions of criminal activity to the police, wherever they occur.

“But to brand whole swathes of our high street businesses as potential criminal money-launderers is a terrible slur on the many local businesses who are trying to create jobs and make a living and bring life to our towns.

“For a party which talks up it’s pro-business credentials, they are talking down to some hard-working entrepreneurs.

“I’m sure Gareth will have some interesting conversations next time he sits down in a local barber’s chair or gets his car hand-washed.”

Nation.Cymru invited Mr Davies to comment but he did not respond.


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Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
13 days ago

Allan â nhw i gyd yn yr etholiadau nesaf, y torïaid anwybodus yma. Y cwmnïau mawr rhyngwladol a Phrydeinig sy’n rheibio Cymru ac yn ei godro’n sych, nid y busnesau bychain. Ffei ar eich pen chi.

Last edited 13 days ago by Rhufawn Jones
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

What an absolute plebeian Vale of Clwyd MS Gareth Davies is. More unsubstantiated Welsh Conservative claptrap. Any crooks and criminality likely occurs in the Tory party. I hope small busineses in Clwyd including the wider electorate are reminded of his attitude come the next Senedd elections.

hdavies15
hdavies15
13 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Very unusual and unjustified outburst from the Aelod for Clwyd. Tories, like most of today’s Labour are more comfortable engaging with big business, the type of corporate entities who look after clapped out politicians when representative duties come to an end. Neither party pay much close attention to the factors that make life particularly difficult for SME’s although the volume of lip service is monumental.

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
13 days ago

Dog whistle racism we’ve sadly come to expect from the conservative party these days

Gareth
Gareth
13 days ago

How ironic, that a Tory politician complains about possible criminal activity in the high street, while his party has refused to implement border checks for goods entering Britain from abroad, and leaving the N Irish border wide open to all sorts of shenanigans, along with opening up the discredited ” freeports”. A total lack of self awareness, or just ignorant, I am not sure.

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
13 days ago

Up until the Ukraine war Russian money was being laundered around the London markets illegal money and the tory scum where having very large donations from russian billionaires not to stop it

David
David
13 days ago

Does Gareth Davies believe that post masters who have their business on the High street are guilty because they use the Horizon system, when Post Office HQ in London are responsible for almost every crime imaginable.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago

You missed out betting shops and charity shops…half a billion wages for one and hospices and children etc struggling for the other…

They can always find the worst of people for Welsh Secs…

Ap Kenneth
13 days ago

I think he should be more concerned with the probable illegal activities surrounding the provision of PPE and the obtaining of loans subsequently never repaid during the Pandemic.
Just wait till Gareth davies needs his nose hair sorting. Might be painful?

Richard E
Richard E
13 days ago

A real vote winner 🗳️with the small shop
keepers of Prestatyn, Rhyl, Denbigh,
Rhuddlan, St Asaph , Bodelwyddan
etc etc .

Keep it up Gareth 👍🏼

How about a campaign 🔜 against free bus passes next ?

Why vote
Why vote
10 days ago

Wonder if all the claims for expenses that are in his accounts are all above board I’m sure they are, whould he like to make them available to prove there is no pot and kettle here as he has just accused thousands of small businesses of criminal behaviour. I hope he has reported all of his evidence to the police and tax man for them to raid the high street and arrest all of the barbers and close all the car washers, or can he be done for withholding evidence. what a numptie.

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