Vaughan Gething calls for fresh start but opposition parties refuse to let donations row die

  • First Minister Vaughan Gething faces his first FMQs since losing a confidence vote in the Senedd.

Vaughan Gething was asked "why are you still here?" as he faced his first First Minister's Questions since losing a confidence vote in the Senedd.

The first minister ultimately lost the vote of confidence last week, which had been tabled by the Welsh Conservatives.

Members of the Senedd voted with 29 in favour and 27 against, seeing the motion pass.

The result was not binding, and Mr Gething has since insisted that he will not step down.

Appearing before his first FMQs since the dramatic vote, Mr Gething was asked by Conservative MS Darren Millar, who is standing as a candidate in the UK General Election, "why are you still here?"

Initially asking a question about how the Welsh Government would support the economy in north Wales, Mr Millar added: "First minister, why are you still here? You don’t have the confidence of this Senedd and you should respect every vote taken by the members of the Welsh Parliament, not just those you agree with.”

Mr Gething responded to Mr Millar’s question on the economy, but did not address the no confidence vote in his answer.

Welsh Conservatives leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, followed up by asking Mr Gething if the confidence vote was a "serious debate or was it a 'gimmick' as you've been calling it all week?"

The first minister had described the move as a "desperate gimmick" from the Conservatives during the General Election campaign.

Mr Gething said he took the debate and the resulting vote seriously, pointing to pairing, a process where when a member of one party cannot vote, a member of the opposition agrees to abstain as well.

It became clear ahead of the vote that Labour's Hannah Blythyn MS, who was sacked from the Welsh Government cabinet by Mr Gething over the alleged leaking of material to the media, something Ms Blythyn denies, and Lee Waters MS, who has openly spoken out against the first minister's acceptance of a controversial £200,000 donation to his leadership campaign, would not be present due to illness.

Responding to the opposition leader's question, Mr Gething said: "I regret the fact that last week we weren’t able to respect the normal traditions on pairing and the conventions that allow the democracy at the ballot box to be respected.

"But the vote took place and the outcome is the outcome - I now need to look at the future and what that means for the few weeks I’ve been the first minister and the way in which I want to lead my country into the future and the need to build confidence across this chamber and acceptance in the reality that I am stood here as the first minister needing to work with other people to make the institution work."

The opposition leader continued his questioning on the vote of no confidence, saying that there is a facility to have hybrid voting, proxy voting and in-person voting, saying that these options would have been available to any member.

He asked: "You have subsequently said that those two members who were absent last week would have voted for you - are you convinced that they would have cast their vote for you, first minister?"

He continued: "It's not for us to have a running commentary on the two people who are not well.

"It's really important that we think about that.

"That isn't just an issue for my own political group - it is an issue for us as an institution.

"I want those people to be able to come back when they're well and able to do so, to be reintegrated not into just my own political grouping, but actually within the institution and I think a lot about the choices I made in trying to protect other people, in trying to make sure there's room for other people to have a route back, because I think that matters.

"It's why I've been prepared to take blows and not respond to different things that have been said.

"That's part of my job in being leader. So, it's how I behaved, it's how I will behave, and I think everyone should reflect on not just what was done last week with the vote, but actually everything around it and the comments that were made as well."

  • Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth asks First Minister Vaughan Gething if he will apologise, a week after he lost a confidence vote in the Senedd.

Plaid Cymru leader Rhun ap Iorwerth pressed the first minister on whether he would apologise for his actions, saying: "The first minister wants a new start, but it doesn’t work like that does it? I’m sure Rishi Sunak would love to have a new start too, but I’m not going to forget 40 years of destructive Tory policies.

"And yes, the first minister would like to wish away the £200,000 donation scandal when the Welsh public clearly think he’s shown such poor judgement, but he can’t. For any kind of reset, he must first address the problem. Does an apology of any kind fit in with his idea of a new start?"

Mr Gething said: "There are three points to respond to - of course, I regret the way that the last three months have been covered and reported and I regret the impact of the choice I made within all the rules at the time and I would not want for either myself or any of more colleagues to go through that again.

"I recognise that there has been real damage caused to a range of people in this place. It’s why I have agreed immediately to an internal review within my own party, to look at how we run our affairs.

"It is also why I have asked the standards committee on a cross-party basis to consider the rules that should apply to all of us regardless of which party we are in - that is me taking seriously the position that we find ourselves in.

"And I think on your second point around pairing, pairing is not a red herring. Pairing is to maintain the democratic judgement of the public at the ballot box. If pairing had taken place in the way it has done and normally does, then we would’ve had a very different outcome.

"But the vote took place and the numbers are the numbers on the day.

"And I don’t think it is an extraordinary thing to want to have a new start for a job I have been in for two months - that I have been proud to win not just a leadership campaign but actually to come into this place with not just the support from across the chamber and indeed within my own group.

"It is important to recognise that we came together after - internal leadership contests are difficult - but I recognise the way that different people have come together to want the government to work and to want to do it in a way that is unified - not just for our party but actually the job we have to do for the country.

"I’m interested in how this government works and functions and delivers on the manifesto we have already been elected on and the promises I’ve made as a leader as to how we can improve the country - that’s what I’m interested in doing, that what I’m committed to doing."

On the campaign trail in Chepstow on Saturday, the first minister told ITV Wales he still had a strong mandate to lead.

He said: "I'm carrying on as the leader. I won my one vote ballot less than three months ago. I have been first minister for less than three months.

"There's a big opportunity ahead of us and everyone understands that once you have a result of an election like that, you've got to have the support of people, like me, who are only stood in front of you because of the platform I have been given by my party and the movement."

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