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Plaid Cymru abruptly ends Welsh Labour government co-operation deal

Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru/PA)
Rhun ap Iorwerth (Plaid Cymru/PA)

Plaid Cymru has ended its co-operation agreement with the Welsh Labour government with immediate effect, party leader Rhun ap Iorwerth has said.

He cited concerns over First Minister Vaughan Gething’s election campaign finances as a factor, claiming the receipt of £200,000 from a company convicted of environmental offences “demonstrates a significant lack of judgment”.

Mr ap Iorweth also said he was worried about the First Minister’s decision to sack his minister for social partnership, Hannah Blythyn, following the leak of a phone message to the media which she insisted she was not behind.

The agreement, under which Plaid voted with Labour on a series of policy areas to ensure a majority in the Senedd, was originally due to last until December.

It was established following the 2021 Senedd elections, in which Labour gained 30 out of the 60 seats, one below a majority.

Without Plaid Cymru to support it, Labour now finds itself as a minority administration in Cardiff Bay, which may prove troublesome when it seeks to pass new laws, as it does not have guaranteed support from another political party.

Vaughan Gething
Vaughan Gething (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Plaid leader said: “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 judgment.

“Money left over has now been passed on to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.”

He added: “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.”

Mr Gething said: “The co-operation agreement was about mature politics, working together on areas where we agree. While it was always a time-limited agreement, we are disappointed Plaid Cymru has decided to walk away from their opportunity to deliver for the people of Wales.”

The First Minister thanked Sian Gwenllian and Cefin Campbell, Plaid’s two designated members for the agreement.

“By working together we have achieved a great deal, including free school meals for all pupils in primary schools, providing more free childcare, introducing a radical package of measures to create thriving local communities, helping people to live locally and addressing high numbers of second homes in many areas of Wales,” he said.

“We will now look closely at how we can progress the outstanding co-operation agreement commitments, including the Welsh Language Education Bill and the White Paper on Right to Adequate Housing and Fair Rents.”

On Thursday, the First Minister said he had “no alternative” but to ask Ms Blythyn, Labour MS for Delyn, to leave his government.

She insisted she was “clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything” and was “deeply shocked” at her dismissal.

It followed news reports which featured a message posted to a ministerial group chat in August 2020 by Mr Gething, stating that he was “deleting the messages in this group”.

Conservative Party Conference 2022
Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, said that the Welsh public ‘won’t be fooled’ (Jacob King/PA)

Mr Gething previously told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that lost WhatsApp messages were not deleted by him, but by the Welsh Parliament’s IT team during a security rebuild.

The Welsh Labour leader has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks, with repeated calls for an investigation into donations he received while running to be Welsh Labour leader.

Earlier this month, he survived a Senedd vote calling for an independent inquiry into the £200,000 donation he took from a man convicted of environmental offences.

On Thursday, the BBC reported that more than £31,600 from Mr Gething’s leadership campaign would go to the Labour Party.

The Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies told the broadcaster it is “odds on” there will be a no confidence vote in Mr Gething, following his turbulent time as First Minister since taking up the office on March 20.

Plaid Cymru’s withdrawal from the co-operation agreement could lead it to move against him in such a vote, but Tory leader Mr Davies was not forgiving of the Welsh nationalist party either.

“Together, Labour and Plaid have worked together to divert resources away from the people’s priorities and towards vanity projects like putting more Senedd Members in Cardiff Bay, and have been hand in glove on policies like the destructive sustainable farming scheme and 20mph.

“This move from Plaid means nothing and the Welsh public won’t be fooled,” he said.