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Welsh secretary accuses Labor of being ‘silent’ on Vaughan Gething donation

The Welsh Secretary of State has accused the Labor Party of being “silent” over a controversial donation from the Welsh Prime Minister.

Vaughan Gething has come under increasing scrutiny since his appointment in March, for receiving a £200,000 donation from a man convicted of environmental crimes.

Opposition groups have raised concerns over a possible conflict of interest and breach of the ministerial code, while members of his own ranks have questioned his decision-making.

Conservative Party Conference 2023
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

During Questions in Wales, Conservative MP (Wrexham) Sarah Atherton said: “The Development Bank of Wales was supposed to help businesses with cost of living pressures.

“Does (Mr Davies) agree that it is unacceptable that a company received £400,000 from the bank and then was able to give £200,000 to the First Minister of Wales?”

Mr Davies responded: “The Development Bank of Wales, which is ultimately owned by Welsh taxpayers, should be there to support businesses as they face cost of living pressures.

“He was able to give a £400,000 loan to a company which was then able to turn around and add £200,000 in political donations to enable the Prime Minister to win the (Welsh Labor leadership) election campaign.

“That’s a very good question, but it’s not a question for me; This is a question that should be answered by shadow MPs. But on this issue they remained very silent.

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts said the Welsh Government and UK Government “must reaffirm our commitment to integrity and transparency”.

“Twenty-five years after the start of devolution, does the Secretary of State agree with me that governments at both ends of the M4 must reaffirm their commitment to integrity and transparency ?

Mr Davies said: “I can absolutely assure (Ms Roberts) that this Government and this political party are fully committed to integrity. »

This drew laughter from Labor members, as Mr Davies continued: ‘Their own Prime Minister took £200,000 from a convicted criminal who had received £400,000 from a bank he was responsible for,’ came before the Covid committee and said all the messages on his phone were accidentally deleted by the IT department.

“But now we see a screenshot in which he urges people to delete their posts so they cannot be subject to a Freedom of Information (FOId) request, and they have the audacity to laugh when people ask about standards.

“I say (Ms Roberts) makes a very good point: let’s collapse the coalition and stop supporting the Welsh Labor government, and then we can have a decent government with decent values ​​to run Wales.”

Portraits of the British Parliament
Jo Stevens, Welsh shadow secretary (Richard Townshend/PA)

“But this screams hypocrisy, the Senedd Conservatives voted against a Plaid Cymru motion to set a cap on political donations, his party has still not returned a £10 million donation from a man who made racist and misogynistic comments.

“In this spirit of open democracy, will the Secretary of State support a cap on donations to political parties?

Mr Davies said: “I’m not going to sit here and start making policy right away, but what I would say to (Ms Roberts), and I think she would agree with this, is that I wouldn’t have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars. of pounds in donations from a person who had twice been convicted of environmental crimes.

“And if Labor is happy with that, that’s their business.”

Earlier in the session, Welsh Shadow Secretary Jo Stevens said: “I would like to mark this week the 25th anniversary of Welsh devolution delivered by a Labor Government.

“It has helped nurture a confident, modern and outward-looking Wales and we on this side of the House are proud of it.”

She added: “A mother whose 11-year-old son was hit by a car near his school in Flintshire said the 20mph speed limit probably saved his life.

“So, does he agree that this intervention represents important support for the Welsh Labor Government’s policy to protect lives, particularly those of children?

Mr Davies said: “I also recognize the 25th anniversary of devolution, we were promised it would deliver better schools, hospitals and public standards, and what we actually have are the lowest waiting lists. longest in the UK, worst educational standards. in the UK, and a Prime Minister willing to accept a £200,000 donation from a twice-convicted criminal.

“This is the record for 25 years of Labor government in Wales.

“And as for the 20 mph limits, I said up front, I support them being put in place outside of schools, hospitals and other places where there are vulnerable pedestrians. I don’t like the blanket ban that has been imposed as part of the Welsh Labor Government’s anti-motorism agenda.”

Ms Stevens said it was “literally rich” for Tory MPs to “go hunting” for donations, as she referred to Tory donor Frank Hester.

She said: “The Welsh public don’t like divisive politics, they don’t like Wales being constantly criticized by their party, and is that why the Conservatives haven’t won a vote? national elections in Wales for over a century?

Mr Davies replied: “The fact is that what the people of Wales want are public services that match what has been delivered by this Conservative government in England. »