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Incoming FM says there are ‘lessons to learn’ over controversial donation

The incoming first minister of Wales has said “everyone has lessons to learn” after being criticised for taking a £200,000 donation from a man whose company was convicted of environmental offences.

Vaughan Gething, who is due to become the leader of the Welsh government on Wednesday, defended his decision to take a sizeable donation from a man whose company has been convicted of environmental offences.

The decision to take the money was branded “unfortunate” by Carwyn Jones, a former first minister of Wales, who told the BBC that “lessons there need to be learned”.

Speaking to the PA news agency after his election victory, Mr Gething said: “Everyone has lessons to learn about the past and the future.

“And Carwyn would say the same about himself as well.

“I had a good conversation with him earlier, when you’re making choices in government, you’ve got to be prepared to make choices and to reflect on whether you think they’ve been the right thing to do.

“If you can’t learn then you’re not going to be the right person, not just to lead the government, but you can’t be the right person in politics, because that’s part of what life teaches you.”

Atlantic Recycling, which is part of Dauson Environmental Group and controlled by David Neal, gave Mr Gething £100,000 on December 18 2023 and £100,000 on January 11 2024.

The company was found guilty of environmental offences in January.

It was also fined £300,000 for one of its workers’ deaths in February after it pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety at work rules.

Asked if he would return the money, Mr Gething did not answer the question, instead stressing that he has always followed the rules for donations, and it has been properly reported to the Electoral Commission and the Senedd.

“None of my manifesto has changed or been reduced back,” he added.

“I’m very clear in my manifesto, that we want to see further penalties for firms that breach their environmental obligations, and regulations.

“That’s my commitment, that’s what people can expect me to deliver.”

He said that was part of Labour’s plan to help the environment, stressing the need for more “green” jobs to help lift people out of poverty.

Talking about his ambitions for the first day in office, Mr Gething said he needed to put together a government with people “from across our group”.

He added: “I look forward to making offers to people on each side of the contest we have had and then to have a united and capable Welsh Labour government, because we have faced some really significant challenges.”

Mr Gething also said this was a chance for opportunity, with a general election this year, which he said could “fundamentally change what we are able to do”, particularly if Labour gets in power in Westminster.

The incoming first minister believes there is a place for Jeremy Miles, his opponent in the leadership race, in his cabinet, and he said he looked forward to offering that.

Mr Gething also promised to “listen to the public” on many of the more controversial policies that have arisen in the Welsh government, including new 20mph speed limit policies and farming subsidies.

He said he understood why farming communities are anxious, with there being less money available since the UK left the EU.

“We’ve got to design a scheme together,” he said.

“And the consultation has just ended, so we need to look at what’s come from that and then to see what we can do together.”