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Andrew RT Davies: In Wales, Gething is running scared of an independent investigation into his donations | Conservative Home

Andrew RT Davies is the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives and an MS for South Wales Central.

Welsh Labour has, historically, had a level of discipline that has to be admired. They hardly ever go on record to criticise others within their tribe, let alone criticise the First Minister.

But since Vaughan Gething took office, that discipline has evaporated. He is embroiled in a donations scandal that is tearing his government apart.

Gething beat Jeremy Miles to become leader of Welsh Labour and, as a result, the First Minister of Wales. During his campaign, Gething raised over £250,000.

In a Welsh context, that is an absolutely colossal sum: in 2018, Mark Drakeford spent £25,000 during his leadership campaign. Carwyn Jones, who was in charge before Drakeford, spent less than £15,000.

Miles, Gething’s leadership rival, raised just under £60,000 for the battle. Despite having much deeper pockets than his competition, Gething won the contest only by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

It wasn’t so much the sum of the donations Gething received that has pushed Welsh Labour unity to the limit and made the activities of the First Minister national news across the UK, but the source of the cash.

Gething received £200,000 from Dauson Environmental Group, owned by a man who has been prosecuted for environmental offences and has even received suspended prison sentences. For companies dealing with waste and environmental issues, many of the relevant regulations are decided by the Welsh Government.

The owner of the group has business interests that will require planning permission, and Gething has lobbied the Welsh environmental regulator on his behalf, because the firm operates in some part within his Cardiff constituency.

Naturally, there have been questions about Gething’s judgement, not least from his own side, and about the perceived conflict of interest. His leadership rival, one of his backbenchers, a Labour council leader, and a sitting Labour MP are among those who have been prepared to put their concerns on record.

First Minister’s Questions descended into a farce last week when Gething was answering questions repeatedly on matters directly linked to his own donors. A Cardiff Senedd Member raised an issue around a taxi firm Veezu. The First Minister responded, praising Veezu for taking action on the issue – but failed to mention that Veezu donated £25,000 to him in February.

Then a Welsh Conservative raised an ongoing problem with Withyhedge landfill in Pembrokeshire, which is releasing an awful odour and causing substantial grief for thousands of local people. Withyhedge landfill is owned by a firm that’s part of the group that gave Gething the £200,000 donation.

This is untenable. But wait, there’s more. Another of the subsidiaries of the firm that gave the £200,000 donation managed to secure a £400,000 loan from the Development Bank of Wales (a taxpayer owned bank overseen by the Welsh Government) last year. You’ll never guess who was economy minister, and therefore responsible for the bank, when that loan was made. That’s right. It was Gething.

All of this when, if you take a look at Companies House, the Development Bank of Wales is losing millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned pounds.

I’m not accusing the First Minister of wrongdoing. But a reasonable person might feel, when presented with these facts, that there are questions to answer here about what influence, if any, has been bought.

The First Minister of Wales is judge, jury and executioner when it comes to the Ministerial Code. So the Welsh Conservatives have tried to persuade Gething to appoint an independent person to investigate and give him a clean bill of health. This isn’t unheard of; in fact Carwyn Jones, the former first minister, did exactly that during his time at the helm.

Gething has refused, point blank, to do the same. So last week we held a debate during our opposition time to get some answers and to give Labour the chance to give the people of Wales the answers they deserve. In his arrogance, he didn’t even show up to the debate. He appeared in the chamber shortly before it was time to cast his vote against giving the people of Wales answers.

This is a flavour of what we would see if Labour were to get into Downing Street. Gething, feeling that his party’s polling numbers look healthy, is displaying naked arrogance and contempt for the public.

But it’s not washing with the average punter in the street, and it clearly isn’t washing with people within his own party. With Welsh Labour at breaking point over this saga, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that another first minister may have to step down before the year is out.

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