Welsh health minister heard calling colleague’s question ‘ridiculous’ over Zoom

Wales’s health minister was caught dismissing a colleague’s question as “ridiculous” during a virtual Welsh Parliament committee meeting.

Vaughan Gething’s remarks in response to fellow Welsh Labour MS David Rees were picked up by a microphone and come after he was overheard swearing about Labour’s Jenny Rathbone during a virtual sitting of the Senedd last April.

On Wednesday, Health, Social Care and Sport Committee chairman and Plaid Cymru MS Dai Lloyd started the Zoom session by warning participants that microphones are “being controlled behind the scenes, as it were, and they will be managed automatically, hopefully”.

But technology seemingly caught Mr Gething out for a second time after Mr Rees asked how many care homes in Wales are currently allowing visits for relatives due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Rees asked: “How many care homes across Wales are you aware of that are allowing visits, and how many are not? Do you have those numbers?”

Mr Gething was seen raising his eyebrows and shaking his head before muttering: “Ridiculous question.”

Conservative Party conference 2016
Conservative Party conference 2016

The question was answered by deputy health minister Julie Morgan, who told Mr Rees: “No, we don’t have those numbers.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, claimed the remarks showed that Mr Gething and the Welsh Government want to stamp down on scrutiny.

Mr Davies told the PA news agency: “This is not the first time that the health minister has been caught dismissing serious questions and concerns from his Labour colleagues.

“It’s not a ‘ridiculous question’ to ask Vaughan Gething for specific numbers on those care homes allowing visits – far from it. These policies are a light at the end of the tunnel for residents and their families.

“The Welsh Labour Government’s arrogance and consistent attempts to shut down scrutiny has to stop. Wales is not a dictatorship.”

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth told PA: “The care home crisis has been well documented.

“We’re talking about the most vulnerable of people, extremely concerned friends and relatives, and under-pressure care workers, and yet here we have the health minister, on record, dismissing legitimate concerns.

“Apart from being just plain rude, the health minister appears all too often to be keen to evade scrutiny on very important matters.”

In April, First Minister Mark Drakeford dismissed calls to sack Mr Gething after he accidentally left his microphone on and swore during a virtual Senedd session.

Following a question from Cardiff Central MS Ms Rathbone, Mr Gething was heard saying to an unknown person: “What the f*** is the matter with her?”