Vaughan Gething to face no confidence vote in the Senedd

Vaughan Gething
-Credit: (Image: Matt Horwood/Senedd)


Vaughan Gething will face a no confidence vote in the Senedd next week. The Welsh Conservatives have put forward a motion which says the Senedd has lost support for Mr Gething, who has been in post for less than three months.

Mr Gething was elected as Welsh Labour leader on March 16, becoming First Minister in a vote the following week. But his campaign and first weeks in office have been dogged by questions and now Senedd members will have to vote on his future.

The way the Senedd maths works means that for the Conservative-tabled motion to succeed, Labour members would have to either abstain or vote for it - so vote against Mr Gething in a hugely public and damaging way. Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservatives leader, said the First Minister had a "litany of unanswered questions" and that it was "time to put an end to the obfuscation, the drift and the infighting." The debate and vote will take place next Wednesday, on June 5.

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The text of the motion tabled for debate by the Welsh Conservatives is as follows:

To propose that the Senedd:

1. Recognises the genuine public concern over the First Minister accepting a £200,000 donation for his Labour leadership campaign from a company owned by an individual who has two environmental criminal convictions, and regrets the poor judgement shown by the First Minister in accepting this donation, and his failure to repay it.

2. Regrets the publication of Welsh Government ministerial messages where the First Minister states his intention to delete messages, that could have later been helpful to the Covid-19 inquiry in its deliberations around decision making at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the First Minister telling the UK Covid-19 inquiry that he didn’t delete any messages.

3. Notes the dismissal by the First Minister of the Minister for Social Partnership from his Government, and regrets that the First Minister is unwilling to publish his supporting evidence for the dismissal, and notes the former Minister for Social Partnership’s strong denial of the accusations levelled against her.

4. For the above reasons, has no confidence in the First Minister.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “Next week Senedd Members will have the chance to have their say on Vaughan Gething’s judgement, his transparency, and his truthfulness.

“The litany of unanswered questions has paralysed the Welsh Government to the point that Gething has been completely unable to take action to address record NHS waiting lists, sliding educational attainment and high economic inactivity. It’s time to put an end to the obfuscation, the drift and the infighting and vote no confidence in Vaughan Gething.”

It emerged before Mr Gething was elected First Minister that he had accepted £200,000 from a businessman convicted of environmental offences despite knowing about the convictions. He had also taken money from David Neal in his unsuccessful bid to be elected First Minister in 2018.

Mr Gething said repeatedly he has declared all donations correctly and has no questions to answer about influence on his leadership as a result of Mr Neal's donations. Mr Gething spent more than £220,000 in his campaign to be elected, it emerged after the accounts were filed.

The £200,000 from Dauson Environmental is a huge amount in Welsh political terms, in support of his campaign. It then emerged the company was applying for permission to build a solar farm on a site which requires Welsh Government permission due to its protected location and has received a £400,000 loan from Development Bank Wales, which is funded by Welsh Government. Mr Gething denied he had had any influence on either the loan or future planning decisions.

Mr Gething was publicly criticised by one of his own MSs, Lee Waters, who told him to return the money. Mr Waters told the Senedd chamber on May 2: “The First Minister has said the donations to his campaign were checked and filed properly with the Electoral Commission and declared to the Senedd and that there is no case to answer. But the issue is not whether the paperwork was correct – it’s whether the judgement was correct. I welcome the appointment of Carwyn Jones to look at the rules for future elections. The suggestion in Plaid’s motion of a spending cap for each of us is worthy of consideration but to agree to it today would prejudge the review. The Conservative motion is based on a false premise. Decisions on loans from the development bank are made at arm’s length precisely to avoid conflicts of interest.” For the latest politics news in Wales sign up to our newsletter here.

He has also faced votes tabled by opposition parties that there should be both an independent investigation, and a future cap on donations. There were weeks of questions about what should happen to the unspent £31,636 from Mr Gething's campaign, which would normally have gone to the Labour Party. It was then announced it would go to "progressive causes" and not the wider party funds, prompting speculation that Labour did not want to become directly embroiled in the donations controversy.

He also faced outrage over a newly-emerged 2020 message in which he said he was deleting messages related to the Welsh Government's handling of the pandemic, and had to deny he had committed perjury while giving evidence to the Covid-19 inquiry.

On May 16, Mr Gething sacked Hannah Blythyn, his social partnership minister, accusing her of leaking information to the media. Ms Blythyn denied the allegation but Mr Gething refused to release any evidence about how he had come to his conclusion.

Plaid Cymru then quit the co-operation agreement, the deal in which the party was working with Welsh Government. Their leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said at the time: "I remain deeply concerned that the First Minister has failed to pay back the £200,000 donation to his leadership campaign from a company convicted of environmental offences, and believe it demonstrates a significant lack of judgement. Money left over has now been passed on to Keir Starmer's Labour Party. I am worried by the circumstances around the decision to sack a member of the Government this week relating to matters that should be in the public domain already."

Public support for Mr Gething has plummeted. Mr Gething's support has dropped 27 points in the last month. His net approval rating is now down 17%, according to polling by Redfield & Wilton who questioned 900 people in Wales between May 18 and 19.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have announced they will vote against Mr Gething in the no-confidence vote. Mid and west Wales Senedd Member Jane Dodds said: “This vote is about cleaning up politics in Wales.

"We all expect our leaders to meet the high standards that their office requires, and the First Minister has not met those standards. Vaughan Gething has had the opportunity over the recent months to do the right thing and return the donation yet has failed to do so."

Will the no confidence motion work?

Analysis by Ruth Mosalski

Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies had said his party would take this action and he's stuck to his word but it feels like slightly odd timing. The way Senedd rules work mean that you can't just throw something like a no confidence motion into the running order of the twice-weekly whole sessions of the Senedd willy nilly.

They need to be filed by 6pm on the Wednesday before the Senedd sits the following week, so it doesn't allow anything too reactive. For example, because of standing order rules, and a break for the half term holiday, this is the first time they could have put a no confidence motion in since Hannah Blythyn was sacked on May 16.

But more than that, when the general election was called, I for once expected the Conservatives would put this action on hold and stick to their campaigning, making gains out of being able to repeatedly call Mr Gething's choices into doubt. Polling has shown his numbers have dropped massively, so let Labour have to fight that battle themselves.

They knew, as we all did, that when Sir Keir Starmer visits, he too will have to answer questions about Mr Gething's choices. We've seen Mr Gething refuse to speak to the media at his own party's campaign launch presumably in a bid for the narrative not to be about donations.

Plaid have made it clear they will have to back it, but they wouldn't have put a motion of their own forward. Maybe there is a political masterstroke at work and they have worked behind the scenes and have some Labour members who will abstain or even vote for the motion - and publicly refuse to back Vaughan Gething in the most dramatic way possible. We know lots of them are unhappy privately, some have made that unhappiness clear publicly, but for a serving MS to stand up in the chamber and vote against him would be a huge, huge deal.

So maybe this move is just electioneering. At a time when all political eyes are focused on the general election campaign, the media is being bombarded with visits and events the length and breadth of the country, this is a way the Conservatives in Wales get guaranteed airtime to once again make it clear they don't think Vaughan Gething is up to the job. Either way, get the popcorn ready, it'll be a big day in the Senedd.