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Welsh Labour MP backs Gething’s £200k donation from a criminal at political ethics event

27 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds. UK Parliament (CC 3.0)

Martin Shipton

A member of Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet has defended Vaughan Gething’s acceptance of a £200,000 donation from a convicted criminal at a think tank seminar about ethics in politics.

Nation.Cymru revealed that the money which bankrolled Mr Gething’s Welsh Labour leadership campaign came from a company owned by businessman David Neal, who has received two suspended prison sentences for polluting the Gwent Levels, a sensitive and historic landscape classified as a site of special scientific interest.

Torfaen MP Nick Thomas-Symonds is a Shadow Cabinet Office Minister whose responsibilities include how to achieve high standards of ethical behaviour in government. He was on a panel at an event in London on April 25 organised by the Institute for Government. After a discussion focussed on the UK Ministerial Code – which former First Minister Mark Drakeford decided had not been broken by Mr Gething – panel chair Dr Hannah White said to Mr Thomas-Symonds: “Labour’s in government in Wales. The new First Minister Vaughan Gething is facing calls for an investigation into a donation he received for his leadership campaign.

“How would that be investigated under your independent commission [a Labour proposal aimed at improving how allegations of standards breaches are dealt with] and do you think the government in Wales should be setting up something similar?”

Ethics

The Torfaen MP, who backed Mr Gething against his leadership rival Jeremy Miles, responded: “I am a great believer in devolution. If we are privileged enough to form a government, I want to have a genuine partnership approach. So of course, our creation of an Ethics and Integrity Commission, if there are areas of overlap, if there are aspects that the Welsh Government thinks would be helpful for them to adopt, then of course we are more than happy to have that discussion. But it’s a devolved administration and how they choose to police ethics and standards is a matter for them, and quite rightly so – it should be.

“In terms of the donation, there is no suggestion as the rules currently stand that Vaughan Gething has broken any rules. The donation is entirely transparent, it was declared on time and is there for everybody to see. Now what Vaughan Gething also said in the leadership campaign is that he would listen to people and not lecture them, and because of the concerns that have been raised he has set up a review of the rules around this.

“That review [chaired by former First Minister Carwyn Jones] will publish its findings in the autumn. I think that’s a perfectly reasonable decision that I support him taking. But I think it should be pointed out there is no even suggested rule breach on this donation.”

Mr Jones’ focus will be on rules related to future party leadership elections. He will not be making a judgement on Mr Gething’s decision to accept the £200k from a convicted criminal.

High ethical standards

Earlier the seminar was told of recent polling undertaken by IPSOS, which showed there was an expectation from the public that politicians should behave according to high ethical standards. Asked whether they thought members of the current UK Government did so, just 26% thought that they did, but 65% disagree.

Asked whether standards of behaviour were better or worse now than they had been at the beginning of the current term in 2019, only 15% thought standards had improved, while 32% thought there was no difference and 46% thought things had got worse.

On May 1 Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth will propose a motion at the Senedd aimed at capping political donations in Wales. He said “In accepting £200,000 from an individual who he knew had been found guilty of environmental offences, Vaughan Gething has demonstrated a contemptuous attitude towards political donations.

“Not only would the eye watering sum of money not meet public approval, but it also raises wider questions about the First Minister’s judgement.

“Only an independent inquiry can bring this sorry chapter to a close.

“The purpose of having our own parliament is to be able to do things differently and to do them better. The First Minister seems utterly disinterested in seizing this opportunity.

“If he is to have any chance of restoring the Welsh public’s trust, the First Minister must urgently rethink his refusal to commission an independent inquiry and commit to supporting Plaid Cymru’s calls for a cap on individual donations.”

The motion proposes that the Senedd:

* Notes a donation of £200,000 made to the First Minister during the Welsh Labour leadership election, and its declaration on the Member’s Register of Interests.

* Believes that this donation does not meet with public approval* Agrees that there should be an annual maximum cap on the political donations that any individual Member of the Senedd can receive from any individual or entity.

* Calls on the Business Committee and Standards Committee to bring forward proposals for changes to the Senedd’s Standing Orders and the Members’ Code of Conduct that would put the cap into effect.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
26 days ago

Shut the loophole after you have nipped through it…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
26 days ago

I can see the clear red water dribbling away.

Tim Hughes
Tim Hughes
25 days ago

Corruption in plain sight

Llyn
Llyn
25 days ago
Reply to  Tim Hughes

As the corruption is in “clear sight” and corruption is a crime please can you give us evidence to back up your claim?

Tim Hughes
Tim Hughes
25 days ago

He might not have broken any rules but not a good look is it?

Richard
Richard
25 days ago

Were off to a good start then post Oct ?
Business as usual 😉
And there was me worried that “ things could only get better “

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
25 days ago

There seems to be a contradiction in terms between the concept of ethics and the Labour Party. Corruption seems to be so normalised many in the party don’t even recognise it even when its in plain sight.

hdavies15
hdavies15
25 days ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

The only difference between Labour and Tories is that they engage in a “different kind of corruption”. Still a shabby nasty look.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
25 days ago

The Fat Shanks Effect…or how I used Dirty Russian Money to corrupt the UK…

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