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Welsh Government refuses to disclose cost of Gething’s failed Tata rescue trip to India

13 Jun 2024 6 minute read
Vaughan Gething. Photo James Manning PA/Wire

Martin Shipton

The Welsh Government has refused to disclose the cost of a trip to India undertaken by Vaughan Gething and three officials in a failed bid to persuade Tata Steel to scrap its plan to make nearly 2,000 workers redundant at Port Talbot.

The First Minister was criticised for engaging in “performative politics” by travelling to Mumbai when Tata’s chief executive TV Narendran had been in London the previous week and made it clear that the group would not reverse its plans.

Questions

A member of the public who does not wish to be identified asked a series of questions about the trip and has now received a response from the Welsh Government.

The questions were answered as follows:

* What were the dates of this trip?

09 May 2024 to 11 May 2024

* Who accompanied the First Minister on this trip?

Kathryn Hallett, Senior Private Secretary to the First Minister; Dickie Davis, Deputy Director Special Projects, and Lead Official for Tata Steel; Simon Jenkins, Head of News and the First Minister’s Official Spokesperson.

* With which airline / airlines did the First Minister and his party fly?

The First Minister and his officials flew out on Virgin Atlantic and returned on British Airways.

* What class of seats on the airline did the First Minister and his party have on both journeys?

Upper Class on the outbound flight and Club World on the return flight.

* Where did the First Minister and his party stay whilst in India?

Reduced rates

The First Minister and his officials stayed at the Taj Lands End Hotel in Bandra West. This was chosen as it is the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) marker hotel meaning it offers significantly reduced rates compared to any other suitable hotels in Mumbai. The Taj Lands End is also classed as a secure site and is used widely by diplomatic delegations to India.

* If in a hotel, what sort of room / rooms / suites did the First Minister and his party have?

The First Minister and his officials each had a room.

* How much did these seats cost (each and in total? How much did these rooms / suites cost per night and in total?

For your questions relating to flights and hotels set out above, I have concluded that the information you requested is exempt under Section 22 of the Freedom of Information Act (2000), information intended for future publication. Details of Ministerial visits overseas and gifts are published in line with the Ministerial code and this information will be published with the next tranche of information in 2025. Section 22 is a publicly tested exemption and I have set out my arguments for non-disclosure at Annex 1 to this letter.

Annex 1 states: “This information is published as a requirement in the Ministerial code. This information will be published along with details of other Ministerial visits overseas according to the usual schedule. The information for the financial year 24-25 will be published after the conclusion of the 24-25 financial year.

“The Welsh Government acknowledges the public interest in openness and transparency, and it is a long-standing requirement that details of Ministerial visits overseas, including the costs, are published in line with the Ministerial code. Therefore, we believe the public interest would be better served in the information being published at the appropriate time. To that end, I believe the information should be withheld under s22 of the Act, until it is published in due course.”

* What were the combined carbon dioxide aviation emissions for all members of the party on this trip? Have these climate emissions been offset and if yes how?

The Welsh Government does not hold recorded information on the carbon footprint of the travel. However, Welsh Government sets aside funding to support international development projects that help combat climate change. Several projects are funded each year – most prominently the Mbale Tree Programme which plants trees in Uganda.

* Apart from Tata Steel officials, who did the First Minister and his party meet whilst in India and what were the nature of those discussions?

The First Minister held a pre-meet with Harjinder Kang, His Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for South Asia and the British Deputy High Commissioner for Western India who also joined for the meeting with Tata Steel. The First Minister also met with members of the Welsh Government Offices in India and various representatives of the Indian press.

* Has Mitch Theaker (Head of India for Welsh Government) met with Tata Steel to discuss their decarbonisation project at the Port Talbot site and their voluntary redundancy proposals?

Mitchell Theaker has met with Tata Steel representatives on two occasions including the meeting with the First Minister and a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care (then Minister for Health and Social Services) [Eluned Morgan] during her visit to Mumbai.

If not, why not. If yes, what was the nature of these discussions and what were the outcomes?

The nature of these discussions has been set out in a written statement of the First Minister’s meeting and a press announcement following the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care’s visit. The extent of Mitchell Theaker’s discussions with Tata Steel have not exceeded or been held separately from the discussions held by the elected representatives on the two occasions outlined.

Self publicity trip

The member of the public who submitted the information request said: “I wanted to find out how much Vaughan Gething’s little self publicity trip to India had cost the taxpayers, but they are sitting on that information until 2025. Very convenient!

“I’ve googled the general costs of those flights and class of seats and they aren’t cheap. It wouldn’t surprise me if the trip in total cost around £10-15k.

“As it was superfluous, I think it’s a scandalous waste of money.

“The talk recently from the Welsh Government has been about the need for more MSs to improve scrutiny. That may or may not be the case, but they could certainly do with improving openness as the recent fiascos have shown.”

A return first class train fare between Cardiff Central and London Paddington costs between £231 and £235.50.


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Frank
Frank
1 month ago

“Welsh government refuses to disclose”!!! Who the hell do they think they are? They seem to be forgetting who their employers are…..us. So cough up and stop trying to be some sort of a superior secret service. We want to know…. NOW! We want to know how you spend every penny of our money. Oh, and every penny you receive too.

Last edited 1 month ago by Frank
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

The whole Welsh Labour Government’s relationship with Modi’s India needs a closer look Mr Shipton…

Popped in to see his mate, ‘our man in India’ I expect…

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

A futile effort trying to be the big I am, the man is an embarrassment to Wales the UK and all the western democracies if only he would go back to being a solicitor and leave Wales alone to succeed in its future.

Paul Symons
Paul Symons
1 month ago

This man is such an embarrassment. He must be aware of how his action are perceived by others yet he is so arrogant that he doesn’t care. If his colleagues are content to keep him in post this must be seen as acceptable behaviour. If this is so how bad will it be when Senned have increased their numbers?

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul Symons

Good question especially as those closed lists will do a damn good job of delivering conformity and compliance making the boss’ job even more of a dictatorship.

Welsh Patriot
Welsh Patriot
1 month ago

A quick check on a travel booking site would give the answer;
4 return business class seats booked at short notice to India, would be close to £20,000. Accommodation, food and local transport would be close to £5,000

So this little jolly cost Welsh Tax Payers approximately £25,000, when he could have met the CEO of Tata in London a week later!

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