Posted: Mon 3rd Jun 2024

Vaughan Gething’s campaign donor linked to criminal investigation during leadership bid

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

The controversy surrounding Vaughan Gething, Wales’ First Minister, has intensified following a BBC Wales investigation revealing that a major campaign backer was under criminal investigation at the time of the donation.

Resources Management Limited (RML), a firm controlled by millionaire businessman David Neal, donated £200,000 to Mr Gething’s leadership campaign while being investigated for suspected environmental offences by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Welsh Government ministers were briefed about the investigation before Mr Gething – the UK’s only current ruling Labour leader – became First Minister.

Mr Gething, who narrowly won the Welsh Labour leader contest earlier this year, previously said he had done nothing wrong and has not broken the ministerial code.

The continuing row in Wales is an unwelcome distraction to Sir Keir Starmer during the general election campaign, although the Labour leader has publicly backed Mr Gething.

RML runs the Withyhedge landfill site near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, which people have complained since October 2023 is a “stink bomb on steroids”.

Colin Barnett started the Stop the Stink campaign to force RML to fix odour issues at the Withyhedge site. It now has more than 2,000 members.

He said, “They’re probably very surprised they’ve had such fierce resistance from a rural area that they thought was quite small, but the problem is, they’ve affected so many of those villages.”

NRW says it has identified the smell as hydrogen sulphide.

Huwel Manley, from Natural Resources Wales, said the regulator was working with the local authority, local health board, and Public Health Wales to fix the issues.

“We identified issues of concern late last year. The company is under investigation at the moment.”

In a statement, Mr Neal said he would “continue to fully cooperate with any pending investigations by Natural Resources Wales, and it is working to stop the smells.” He added, “We have never requested or expected anything in return.”

Health Secretary Eluned Morgan and then-Climate Change Minister Julie James both had meetings with the regulator about problems at Withyhedge in February.

Some Labour members have also questioned the judgement of the First Minister, with the BBC learning that one senior figure within Welsh Labour offered to loan Mr Gething the money to allow him to pay back the donation, which was turned down.

But other senior party figures have also publicly backed the First Minister, including party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow Welsh Secretary Jo Stevens.

Speaking on the election campaign trail, she said, “Vaughan didn’t break any rules in that leadership campaign and we are just looking forward to getting on with the general election. There’s positive reaction for him on the doorsteps.”

A spokesman for Welsh Labour said the issues had “previously been addressed by Vaughan Gething and are a matter of public record.”

Politicians in the Senedd will vote on Wednesday on whether they have confidence in Mr Gething’s leadership.

If he were to lose the vote, he would not be forced to resign, but it would put him in a difficult position.

It was proposed by the Welsh Conservatives leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, who said the debate will give people the chance to have their say on Mr Gething’s “judgement, transparency and truthfulness.”

Speaking to the BBC today, Mr Gething said there is “no evidence at all” that he broke any rules on campaign donations.

“We did all the due diligence we are required during the contest several months ago,” Mr Gething said.

“I’m not even aware of the detail of the criminal investigation that’s taking place,” he said.

Mr Gething will face a vote of no confidence in his leadership in the Senedd on Wednesday.

The Welsh Conservatives have tabled the vote following the donations controversy and concerns about deleted text messages brought up following his Covid Inquiry appearance.

Mr Gething dismissed Delyn MS Hannah Blythyn from her role as Minister for Social Partnership for allegedly leaking information to the media, a claim she denies.

BBC Wales Investigates: A Big Stink is available now on iPlayer and BBC One Wales at 8pm on Monday 3 June

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