Concerns Gething deleted messages taken ‘very seriously’ by Covid inquiry

Concerns that the First Minister of Wales may have deleted messages during the pandemic are being taken “very seriously” by the Covid inquiry, a representative has said.

Vaughan Gething, the embattled Welsh leader, may have to give further evidence to the inquiry over fears he deleted messages that may be important to its work.

It comes after a series of text messages were leaked from a 2020 ministerial group chat, in which Mr Gething said he was “deleting the messages in this group” because they could be caught by the Freedom of Information Act.

Farmer protests
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies wrote to the Covid inquiry to raise concerns about the leak (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The First Minister has always denied the leak contradicted evidence he gave to the inquiry, insisting it was not related to pandemic decision-making.

Since the messages were made public, the Conservatives have repeatedly demanded he be recalled to the inquiry.

A letter from the Covid inquiry’s secretary to Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Conservative leader, on Wednesday said: “The inquiry is aware of the article of May 7 published by Nation Cymru regarding Mr Gething’s WhatsApp messages.

“The inquiry takes allegations of destruction of potentially relevant materials very seriously and will take any steps it considers appropriate, including issuing requests for written statements pursuant to Rule 9 of The Inquiry Rules 2006.”

Responding to the letter, Mr RT Davies said: “Families who lost loved ones during the pandemic expect answers from the Labour Welsh Government.

Cabinet meeting
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies has called for Mr Gething to be recalled to the inquiry (Lucy North/PA Wire)

“It’s time for Gething to level with bereaved families and provide a clear explanation on what messages were deleted and why.”

On social media, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said: “(Inquiry chairwoman) Baroness Hallett is not ruling out Vaughan Gething being re-called to the COVID inquiry, saying the inquiry takes ‘allegations of destruction of potentially relevant materials very seriously’.

“He needs to be recalled.

“Sir Keir Starmer also needs to discuss this with him today.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid Cymru, accused Mr Gething of “ducking and diving his way through his first months in office”.

He said: “The fact that the UK Covid inquiry is giving serious consideration to recalling Vaughan Gething as a witness is a grave matter.

Farmer protests
Leader of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, accused Mr Gething of ‘ducking and diving’ his way through his first months in office (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“Vaughan Gething is ducking and diving his way through the first months in office, apparently deleting important messages and accepting dodgy donations.

“The First Minister and Labour Welsh Government should be acting without distraction but regrettably they are consumed by scandal at a time when the challenges facing our economy and public services are so vast.”

Meanwhile, Mr Gething faces a confidence vote in the Welsh Senedd on June 5 following the collapse of a co-operation deal with Plaid Cymru earlier this month.

Mr Gething has been involved in a series of rows since becoming First Minister.

Concerns were raised after he accepted a donation from a man convicted of environmental offences during his run to be Welsh Labour leader.

Mr Gething has also refused to show any evidence to explain why he sacked Senedd member Hannah Blythyn from his Government after he accused her of leaking to the media.

Ms Blythyn 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.

Labour leader Sir Keir is visiting Wales on Thursday and will meet Mr Gething.

Sir Keir recently gave the Welsh First Minister his backing, telling reporters on Wednesday that Mr Gething is “doing a good job”.

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