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Watch: The video that shows Gething’s evasive response to questions about his ‘dodgy donations’

03 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Screengrab from the attempted interview with Vaughan Gething. Image BBC Wales

Martin Shipton

Vaughan Gething is facing criticism over his evasive response to journalists asking questions about the “dodgy donations” scandal.

News outlets have been frustrated by the First Minister’s lack of candour in addressing concerns relating to the issue.

In the latest incident, a BBC journalist asked him whether he knew that the waste group which donated £200,000 to his Welsh Labour leadership campaign was under criminal investigation at the time the money was handed over.

Mr Gething has faced constant scrutiny and negative publicity since news of the donation was broken by Nation.Cymru in February – a month before he narrowly won the leadership election and became First Minister.

Suspended jail sentences

Dauson Environmental Group, which made two donations of £100k each to Mr Gething, is owned by businessman David Neal, who has received two suspended jail sentences after being convicted of illegally dumping toxic sludge in the protected Gwent Levels near Cardiff.

A criminal investigation into suspected environmental offences by one of Mr Neal’s firms, Resources Management Limited (RML), is being carried out by Natural Resources Wales, the environmental regulator. RML runs the Withyhedge landfill site near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, which people have complained since October 2023 is a “stink bomb on steroids”.

RML said it would “continue to fully cooperate with any pending investigations by Natural Resources Wales”.

NRW is overseen by the Welsh Government and it had been briefing ministers about the Withyhedge site controlled by Mr Neal since before Mr Gething became First Minister in mid-March. Health Secretary Eluned Morgan and then-Climate Change Minister Julie James both had meetings with the regulator about problems at Withyhedge in February.

Ease restrictions

It was revealed in March that Mr Gething has also previously spoken to NRW on behalf of Mr Neal back in 2016, asking them to ease restrictions on one of his businesses, Atlantic Recycling Ltd.

The second chunk of money Mr Neal gave Mr Gething in January 2024 was donated the day before another of Mr Neal’s company’s outlined plans for a new solar farm on the Gwent Levels, in an area of Special Scientific Interest.

Having had no response to questions sent to the Welsh Government, BBC Wales Investigates reporter Paul Heaney approached Mr Gething at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in Meifod, Powys as the First Minister was walking towards the main Urdd tent.

A clip from the programme shows Heaney introducing himself, whereupon Mr Gething immediately says: “I’ve got to go to meet at the Urdd …”

Heaney says: “We’ve just got some important questions about your political donations.”

Questions

Mr Gething says: “I’ve answered lots of questions about donations and I’m here at the Urdd to meet businesses here. I’ve got lots of people to see and I’ll be more than happy to answer more questions in the Senedd no doubt.”

Heaney says: “Sure, Mr Gething we’ve discovered that a company controlled by David Neal was the subject of a criminal investigation back in December when you accepted the donation. Were you aware that a criminal investigation was underway when you accepted the money? Should you have known?”

Mr Gething ignores Heaney and walks into the tent.

A spokesman for Welsh Labour told BBC Wales that the issues had “previously been addressed by Vaughan Gething and are a matter of public record.”

A Welsh Labour insider said: “This story has been running for five months now, and shows no sign of ending. It has completely overshadowed Vaughan’s time in office and has damaged the Labour brand. Polling shows the public want Vaughan to pay the money back.

“This clip shows him visibly angry at the suggestion he should have asked basic questions of the donor before accepting £200,000. This is about judgement and every time Vaughan speaks on this matter he shows his judgement is seriously lacking. Time for some humility and to listen to the people of Wales – pay the money back.”

The clip was reminiscent of another from 2017 when Mr Gething, as Health Secretary, walked away from ITV Wales’ health reporter James Crichton-Smith because he didn’t like a question that was put to him about the murder of Cardiff grandmother Christine James by an NHS worker who had been the subject of three sexual assault allegations from vulnerable people who were being cared for.

After telling Crichton-Smith that he saw no need for a public inquiry, he leant forward aggressively towards the reporter and said: “I was clear about the interview we’ve done today and I’ve answered the question about where things are.” Mr Gething then curtailed the interview and walked off, with the camera following him as he disappeared through a door several seconds later..

A spokesman for Welsh Labour told BBC Wales that the issues had “previously been addressed by Vaughan Gething and are a matter of public record”.

BBC Wales Investigates: A Big Stink is available on iPlayer and BBC One Wales at 20:00 BST on Monday June 3.


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Maesglas
Maesglas
11 hours ago

I’ve watched the program and can’t believe that this man is still in the job. Hardly behaved with probity. It says so much about Labour that his chums close ranks behind this man with Starmer even saying that he is doing a good job. They care nothing about Wales or the behaviour of their cronies as long as they can get power even if it means spinning the message that he’s good. Sadly, it’s unlikely that the Labour MSs will show courage and break ranks by voting him out because they know they will probably face expulsion by Starmer’s UK… Read more »

Adrian
Adrian
2 hours ago
Reply to  Maesglas

The luke-warm ‘he’s doing a good job’ is hardly a resounding message of support. I think even Starmer can see this isn’t going to end well for Gething.

Rhisiart
Rhisiart
10 hours ago

He’s shot himself in the foot with this one – no escape.

Why vote
Why vote
3 hours ago

Why should VG answer questions he is the leader of a country it is beneath him to talk to reporters that’s why he has a press office to hide all of his failings. I hope he’s not claiming expenses for a jolly to the Urdd ” I’m here to meet business ” submit receipts all free.

John Ellis
John Ellis
4 minutes ago

Watching BBC Wales’s ‘The Big Stink’ yesterday evening – and particularly James Heaney’s attempt to interview him at the Urdd Eisteddfod at Meifod – reinforced my already existing impression of Mr Gething’s evasive arrogance in responding to perfectly legitimate questions. It’s not a good look.

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