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Welsh Labour backbencher breaks ranks to criticise controversial Gething donation

01 May 2024 5 minute read
First Minister Vaughan Gething

Emily Price

A Welsh Labour backbencher has broken ranks and called for Vaughan Gething to return his controversial campaign donations.

The emotional speech from former Transport Minister, Lee Waters came during a double debate showdown on Wednesday (May 1).

Despite both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives tabling motions on the scandal, the First Minister did not attend a large part of the two debates.

The Tories debate called for an independent inquiry into the donations received by Mr Gething during his campaign to become First Minister.

Plaid Cymru’s motion called for an investigation and a cap on future political donations.

Mr Waters said he felt “deeply uncomfortable” about the revelations that have blighted the opening weeks of the First Minister’s tenure.

He said he felt the donations paid to Mr Gething’s campaign by a convicted polluter were “unjustifiable and wrong”.

The £200,000 donation from David Neal of Dauson Environmental Group represents the highest political donation made to a Welsh politician since it became a legal obligation to declare them.

In March, Nation.Cymru revealed that the company was £400,000 in debt to the Development Bank of Wales – a bank wholly owned by the Welsh Government.

The loan was awarded to the company when Vaughan Gething was the economy minister.

Speaking in the Senedd, Mr Water’s said: “£200,000 is a staggering amount of money, unprecedented in Welsh politics and over four times larger than the £45,000 spending cap the Labour Party set to ensure a fair contest.”

‘Shocked’

He added that he was “genuinely shocked” that the donation came from company convicted for dumping toxic sludge in the Gwent Levels – a sensitive wetlands area ministers had been fighting to protect.

Mr Gething says the donations were checked and filed properly with the Electoral Commission and declared to the Senedd.

Following mounting pressure, he appointed Carwyn Jones, a former Welsh First Minister, to carry out a review on the party’s elections process including examining campaign financing.

But Mr Waters said the issue is not whether the paperwork was correct – but whether the “judgement was correct”.

He said: “25 years ago we talked of devolution as the beginning of a new politics; but the reputation of politics, and politicians, seems to be lower than ever.

“The First Minister told a Senedd committee last week that his approval ratings haven’t been affected by the controversy. I must say that surprised me, and troubled me.”

He went on to say that despite not agreeing with the motions tabled by Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives, he felt the situation needed to be “confronted”

The Labour MS said: “I’m deeply uncomfortable with the way I am now in effect being expected to endorse something I think is just wrong.

“For me this is not an issue of confidence, but it is an issue of conscience.”

He ended calling on the not present First Minister to acknowledge the problem and return the money.

Labour MS Alun Davies later said “many” Labour members agree with Mr Waters’ views.

During the Welsh Conservatives motion, Tory MS Tom Giffard read out several comments made to the press by Labour MSs in recent weeks criticising Mr Gething’s judgement.

‘Absurd’

Labour MS Hefin David said the motion was merely a way for the Tories to “carry the story on” instead of spending time on issues such as the NHS and children’s services.

He said he thought it was “frankly absurd” to investigate the First Minister’s donations when he had “followed the rules”.

Mr David later became caught up in a fiery to-and-fro with Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth who attempted to defend his party’s motion calling for a cap on political donations.

Labour MS Alun Davies sat with his head in his hands whilst members called out across the chamber.

In the absence of Mr Gething, Trefnydd Jane Hutt responded to the motions.

Plaid Cymru MS Mabon ap Gwynfor asked Ms Hutt whether she would have accepted the donation.

The Trefnydd did not provide an answer.

Plaid Cymru MS Heledd Fychan used her time on the floor to urge the First Minister to return the money saying, “This is a serious issues, and he [Vaughan Gething] should be here to answer for it.”

Welsh Tory Leader, Andrew RT Davies said it was a “disappointing” that the First Minister hadn’t attended a debate that raised concerns about whether he had breached the ministerial code.

‘Attack’

The First Minister did arrive in the Chamber shortly before the end of the two debates during a contribution from Labour MS Jack Sargeant.

Mr Sargeant said he was disappointed in members who sought to “attack the integrity” of the First Minister.

The Chamber broke into angry shouts from MSs during Ms Hutt’s closing speech as Mr Gething looked on from beside her.

She said: “Our First Minister is here today leading this government, going to Mumbai next week on behalf of thousands of people in the steel working industry.”

The Welsh Conservative motion was not agreed with 25 votes for and 27 against.

The Plaid Cymru motion was not voted through either with 11 votes in favour and 27 against.

The Welsh Conservatives abstained on the vote for a cap on political donations because, the Welsh Tory Leader Andrew RT Davies said, more work needed to be done.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
16 days ago

Shakespeare with more than a touch of Floyd…9 letters ?

Rob
Rob
16 days ago

I suppose this sorry saga will eventually run its course and Welsh labour can tough it out knowing they’ll always get re-elected in Wales come what may. A sad state of affairs which will further discredit politicians (how we once hoped Wales would produce an exemplar government – not difficult given the competition). I don’t know what to think now (other than I wish mr Gething would apologise for his seemingly poor judgement – although there may be more to it than that – and return the money, but he won’t of course). No doubt labour spinners will now seek… Read more »

Annibendod
Annibendod
16 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Hold Labour’s feet to the fire I say. Gething is not fit to lead Cymru. Arrogant and beholden to UK Labour. Showed no shame in having a blatant conflict of interest. Plaid needs to keep it in the public consciousness and offer a better alternative in 2026. I have to say, I quite like Lee Waters. He’s honest and principled. Pity he’s in the wrong party. Like many Labour supporters, I think they’d be even better in Plaid. But there we are. His party has a fatal flaw in their constitutional position so I shall certainly be voting Plaid at… Read more »

Mai
Mai
16 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Hoelen arall drist yn arch Plaid fydd yn gollwng mwy o ddŵr fyasai Waters. Iawn os ti’n ei edmygu ei ben caled ac ar ôl popeth, ond dyw y mwyafrif ddim. Angen gwell gyda ymennydd mwy hyblyg, anhunanol. Mae’n enwog yn wir ond nid gyda edmygedd positif y proletariat cyffredin. Y werin… Rhaid i Plaid esblygu a gwahaniaethu neu marw mwy. Mor a’n effro yn lleol er bod mor effro yn gyffredinol… Trist. Dim diddordeb ynynt bellach – tristach byth i Gymro gynhenid oedd yn gefnogol :-(. Digartref…

Annibendod
Annibendod
16 days ago
Reply to  Mai

Dysga gwers ’97. Mae Cymru’n newid pan mae etholaeth Plaid a Llafur yn unol. Pan mae Plaid yn uno’r dwy etholaeth yna fe fydd diwedd ar Lafur a Chymru’n symud ymlaen. Realpolitik. A serch dy safbwynt, wnes i ymgyrchu gyda ymgeisydd poblogaidd Plaid yn Llanelli yn 2022 a wnaeth Lee Waters ennill mwy o bleidleisiau. Ma’ fe’n mwy poblogaidd na’r argraff creda ti fi.

Mai
Mai
15 days ago
Reply to  Annibendod

Bydd y canlyniad wedi 2024 ac wedi gwesty Sardis ayb yn wahanol dwi’n siwr…? Neu mwy o’r Red Donkey Voting? Os nad, dwi yn edrych ymlaen i pwy mae pobol y Bae yn mynd i feio am bopeth gyda Llafur mewn grym yn y ddwy wlad.

Richard 1
Richard 1
16 days ago

I can’t trust anyone who has such poor judgement as to take such a payment. He has poisoned his own position

Maesglas
Maesglas
16 days ago

Thank goodness there’s one with integrity and honesty in Labour that Lee Waters is ready to speak his mind. The rest of them close ranks around Gethin shady behaviour seemingly only caring about self party interest. What’s particularly galling is the way that Starmer rubbished the SNP for not holding an election yet ignores Gething’s behaviour without even a mention. Hypocrisy. No wonder the voters hold politicians in such low esteem.

David
David
16 days ago

When is an MS going to bring a motion of no confidence in the FM?

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
12 days ago

There are 2 sides to this scandal. There is the recipient who is currently FM, who should have never accepted the donation. There is also the donner who is a convicted polluter who may be seeking influence in the Welsh government. This is NOT how democracy should work. The Senedd should never be bought. The Senedd should represent and be accountable to the whole population of Wales. It would therefore be wrong to return this money and wrong for the FM or the Labour party to keep the money. It should retained inside the Senedd budget and used to benefit… Read more »

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