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First Minister urged to ‘do the right thing’ amid donation controversy

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A FORMER minister urged Vaughan Gething to “do the right thing” and return a £200,000 leadership campaign donation from a convicted environmental polluter.

Lee Waters, who was the deputy minister for climate change until last month, described accepting the donation from Dauson Environmental Group as unjustifiable and wrong.

He said: “£200,000 is a staggering amount, unprecedented in Welsh politics, and over four times larger than the £45,000 spending cap the Labour Party sets to ensure a fair contest.

“The fact it came from a waste company with a conviction for damaging the Gwent levels, at a time when some of us were fighting hard to protect this sensitive area, really shocked me.”

He made the comments as the Senedd debated Conservative calls for an independent investigation and Plaid Cymru proposals for a cap on donations.

He told the Senedd: “It would not be a sign of weakness to say it was a mistake to take the donation and now all the facts are known, to give it back.

“It can still be done – in my view it should be done – and sometimes doing the right thing is the hardest thing but you rarely regret it in the end.”

Mr Waters welcomed the appointment of Carwyn Jones, the former First Minister, to lead an internal review of Labour’s election processes, including campaign finances.

The Llanelli MS accused the Tories of double standards, saying two home secretaries, a chancellor and a former prime minister were found to have broken the ministerial code.

He said: “What did Rishi Sunak and the Welsh Conservatives have to say about that? Not a dicky-bird. We can all see through their double standards.”

Andrew RT Davies criticised Vaughan Gething for failing to turn up at the start of the debate on his responsibilities and leaving it to another minister to respond.

He raised concerns about a £400,000 loan to a subsidiary company of Dauson from the Welsh Government-owned Development Bank in the same financial year as the donation.

Stressing that the donation was correctly declared and there was no rule-breaking, the Tory group leader said perception of a conflict of interest has caused considerable public disquiet.

Rhun ap Iorwerth described the First Minister’s “nothing-to-see-here” attitude as at best complacent and at worst contemptuous towards the electorate.

“People will come to their own judgement about his absence this afternoon,” he said.

Plaid Cymru’s leader warned: “This chapter raises broader concern about the fundamental health of our democracy. There is a risk of a poison affecting our politics here.”

Jane Dodds, the Lib Dems’ leader in Wales, agreed that the episode has cast a dark shadow over Welsh democracy as she urged Mr Gething to give the money back.

She argued the wider goal should be to eradicate big money from our politics.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MS for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, said some people will perceive that the First Minister’s job was bought as a result of a donation in a close election.

He told the chamber: “No-one should ever be left thinking money talks, that money is able to control the future of our politics, of our democracy.”

Hefin David, the Labour MS for Caerphilly, described the row as a non-issue.

He stressed the donation was properly registered and Mark Drakeford instigated an investigation while he was First Minister, finding no breach of the ministerial code.

Dr David said: “We are, for the first time, asking for a politician who’s obeyed all the rules – demonstrably obeyed all the rules – to be investigated, and I think that is frankly absurd.”

Raising concerns about hypocrisy, he highlighted six-figure donations to Plaid Cymru.

Alun Davies, a fellow Labour backbencher, who represents Blaenau Gwent, advocated introducing a fit-and-proper-persons test for political donations.

Jack Sargeant, the Labour MS for Alyn and Deeside, raised trade unions’ concerns about the potential unintended consequences of a cap on donations.

Jane Hutt, responding for the Welsh Government, stressed there is no link between the donation and any arm’s-length loan decision made by the Development Bank.

She said the First Minister, who took his seat in the chamber more than an hour into the debate just before the vote, has complied with all the relevant rules.

Ms Hutt, who is chief whip and trefnydd, the Senedd’s equivalent of the leader of the house, did not say whether she would have accepted the donation when questioned.

The Conservative motion was narrowly rejected 25-27 following the debates on May 1, while Plaid Cymru’s motion was defeated 11-27 with 14 abstentions.

News

First Minister quits after less than four months in job

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FIRST MINISTER Vaughan Gething has announced his resignation.

Gething did not offer any apologies for the events of the past few months or for his campaign donations.

He expressed that he had hoped for “rebuilding and renewal” under his leadership over the summer.

“I recognise now that this is not possible,” he stated.

He described this period as the most challenging time “for me and my family”.

“A growing assertion that some kind of wrongdoing has taken place has been pernicious, politically motivated and patently untrue,” he declared.

“In 11 years as a minister, I have never made a decision for personal gain. I have never misused or abused my ministerial responsibilities.

“My integrity matters. I have not compromised it.

“I regret that the burden of proof is no longer an important commodity in the language of our politics. I do hope that can change.

“To those in Wales who look like me – many of whom I know feel personally bruised and worried by this moment, I know that our country can be better. I know that cannot happen without us.”

He added that he would discuss a timetable for the election of a new leader.

Responding to the resignation Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The people of Wales have lost faith in the First Minister, belatedly he has done that right thing and resigned.

“But the people of Wales are losing confidence in Labour’s ability to govern Wales.

“This could be the third Labour First Minister in seven months – a revolving door of chaos.

“Labour has put party interests ahead of the interests of the nation for too long.

“The people of Wales must be given the opportunity to elect a new government and an election must be called.

“Plaid Cymru stands ready to serve with a platform which puts fairness and ambition at its heart.

“Voters the length and breadth of Wales deserve a government which is unrelenting in addressing the issues that matter most to them – from record high NHS waiting lists and the scourge of child poverty, to below average educational outcomes and building an economy that works for all.

“After 25 years at the helm, Labour is unable to rebuild and refresh from within.

THE FULL STATEMENT

Here is Vaughan Gething’s statement in full: “I have this morning taken the difficult decision to begin the process of stepping down as leader of the Welsh Labour Party and, as a result, First Minister.

“Having been elected as leader of my party in March, I had hoped that over the summer a period of reflection, rebuilding and renewal could take place under my leadership. I recognise now that this is not possible.

“It has been the honour of my life to do this job even for a few short months. To see the dedication to public service from our civil service, and the dedication to civility from the Welsh public.

“To see the election of a new government in Westminster, and the fresh hope that brings to Wales. I have always pursued my political career to serve Wales.

“And being able to show underrepresented communities that there is a place for them, for us, is an honour and privilege that will never diminish.

“It’s what drew me into public service. Before becoming an MS I fought employment cases for people who’d been mistreated at work.

“I wanted to give power those without a voice.

“That has always been my motivation. I also campaigned to help create the Senedd, clocking up 30 years of work to support Wales’ devolution journey.

“This has been the most difficult time, for me, and my family. A growing assertion that some kind of wrongdoing has taken place has been pernicious, politically motivated and patently untrue.

“In 11 years as a Minister, I have never ever made a decision for personal gain. I have never ever misused or abused my ministerial responsibilities. My integrity matters. I have not compromised it.

“I regret that the burden of proof is no longer an important commodity in the language of our politics. I do hope that can change.

“I will now discuss a timetable for the election of new leader of my party. Finally, I want to say thank you to those who have reached out to support me, my team and my family in recent weeks. It has meant the world to all of us.

“To those in Wales who look like me – many of whom I know feel personally bruised and worried by this moment, I know that our country can be better. I know that cannot happen without us.

“There will – and there must be – a government that looks like the country it serves.

“Thank you.”

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Business

Concerns over risk to public funds in TVR deal

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TAXPAYERS could face a multi-million-pound bill after the Welsh Government spent more than £14m on a failed attempt to attract sports car manufacturer TVR to Wales.

Adrian Crompton, the auditor general for Wales, said the Welsh Government spent £4.75m buying the former Techboard factory in 2021 and £7.6m on refurbishment.

TVR received a £2m five-year loan and a £500,000 investment from the public purse, with the aim of creating 150 jobs and building 2,000 sports cars in Ebbw Vale by 2020.

But at the turn of 2024, the carmaker confirmed it no longer wants to lease the factory – or locate production in Wales – after announcing a new base in Hampshire.

Mr Crompton, who oversees the annual audit of some £24bn of public money, said selling the building for a market value of about £7.5m would net taxpayers a loss of £4.85m.

In a letter dated July 12, he told a Senedd committee that ministers have been trying to find an alternative tenant since November, with TVR paying a £322-a-month rent in that time.

Mr Crompton wrote that the 180,000 sq ft factory – which could generate an income of about £735,000 a year – has attracted some market interest but no formal offers.

Wales’ auditor general said Welsh Government officials’ advice was not to award a contract for the factory refurbishment in advance of a lease agreement with TVR

But he told the public accounts committee: “In August 2020, the minister wrote to TVR telling them the Welsh Government would progress refurbishment with or without them.”

Refurbishment of the factory, which was initially expected to cost £4.5m in 2017, was finally completed in July 2023 with the budget having ballooned to £7.6m.

Taxpayers could be on the hook for a botched investment in the company’s shares, the letter revealed, despite TVR being deemed a high-risk business at the time.

The Welsh Government bought 3.3% of the sports car manufacturer in 2016 but the public’s stake in the company has since more than halved to 1.6%.

TVR received a multi-million investment as part of a joint venture with Ensorcia, a lithium-mining business, which diluted the Welsh Government’s shareholding in 2021.

In May, ministers received external advice about the TVR stake – including a lower valuation than paid in 2016 – and secured an option to sell the shares back to the company.

Officials are now preparing ministerial advice for a decision on whether to sell the shares at a loss or retain the investment in the hope the price increases.

Mr Crompton said TVR breached loan requirements in September 2016 because it had not secured a promised £5.5m private-sector investment to start production.

He added that TVR negotiated extensions to the Welsh Government’s loan default requirement, which otherwise would have led to early repayment in full

In April 2022, TVR paid the Welsh Government £4.3m, covering the £2m loan and accrued interest, which released the company from a requirement to base itself in Wales.

Mr Crompton wrote: “The Welsh Government had to extend the loan repayment period but still achieved a return on investment when TVR eventually repaid it….

“Full repayment has now removed the conditions that were originally attached to the loan.”

In his briefing, the auditor general said he reviewed Welsh Government support for TVR after receiving correspondence that expressed concerns about the risk to public funds.

Mr Crompton pointed out that the public purse will have incurred further costs in terms of officials’ time over many years, external advice and professional fees.

Ministers’ attempts to woo TVR coincided with the failed £425m Circuit of Wales project.

The proposals for a motor racing circuit in Blaenau Gwent collapsed in 2017, with Ken Skates, then-economy minister, refusing to underwrite a £210m loan.

In 2020, Mr Skates wrote off nearly £15m related to loans for the Circuit of Wales after failing to claw back taxpayers’ money.

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News

LIVE – Welsh Government ministers quit and call for First Minister to go

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FOUR senior ministers of the Welsh Government have dramatically tendered their resignations in a bold protest against the leadership of First Minister Vaughan Gething.

Among those stepping down are Jeremy Miles, a prominent contender for leadership, along with Julie James, Mick Antoniw, and Lesley Griffiths.

The resignations come amidst mounting discontent within the Welsh Government, culminating in a sharp call for change at the top. Jeremy Miles, who recently held the position of Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy, and Welsh Language, expressed profound disappointment in a statement on social media earlier today. He lamented the recent tumultuous months, including a challenging no-confidence vote, describing them as “incredibly painful.”

Cabinet Secretary Julie James, responsible for Housing, Local Government, and Planning, became the third minister to resign this morning, adding weight to the growing dissent. Meanwhile, Mick Antoniw, the Counsel General, announced his departure with a sense of regret, stating, “With great sadness I am resigning from the Welsh Government.”

The wave of resignations underscores deep-seated concerns over the direction of leadership under Vaughan Gething, prompting urgent calls for his resignation. The ministers have been unequivocal in their stance that Mr. Gething “must leave office,” setting the stage for a potentially tumultuous period in Welsh politics.

UPDATE: 11:45 –

FIRST MINISTER Vaughan Gething has announced his resignation.

Gething did not offer any apologies for the events of the past few months or for his campaign donations.

He expressed that he had hoped for “rebuilding and renewal” under his leadership over the summer.

“I recognise now that this is not possible,” he stated.

He described this period as the most challenging time “for me and my family”.

“A growing assertion that some kind of wrongdoing has taken place has been pernicious, politically motivated and patently untrue,” he declared.

“In 11 years as a minister, I have never made a decision for personal gain. I have never misused or abused my ministerial responsibilities.

“My integrity matters. I have not compromised it.

“I regret that the burden of proof is no longer an important commodity in the language of our politics. I do hope that can change.

“To those in Wales who look like me – many of whom I know feel personally bruised and worried by this moment, I know that our country can be better. I know that cannot happen without us.”

He added that he would discuss a timetable for the election of a new leader.

UPDATE: 11:15 –

Adrian Masters, ITV Wales’ Political Editor has said on X, formerly Twitter, that Vaughan Gething is to step down as First Minister and Welsh Labour Leader today.

UPDATE: 10:34 –

Andrew RT Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, has also said Mr Gething should quit. He told Herald.Wales: “Vaughan Gething’s time as First Minister is rightly coming to an end. But Labour cannot fool the people of Wales.

“These Ministers, like Jeremy Miles, sat in his cabinet, they stood by his side, and they are culpable for the breakdown of governance in Wales. Wales will remember.”

UPDATE: 10:23 –

Here are some of the resignation letters which were shared on X, formerly Twitter, this morning:

THIS PAGE IS UPDATING: As the situation continues to unfold, stay updated with our live coverage by refreshing this page for the latest details.

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