Senedd: Welsh Conservative suggests some barber shops may be 'money laundering front'

A Conservative politician has been criticised for suggesting barber shops were a "front" for money laundering.

Gareth Davies, Senedd member for the Vale of Clwyd, was speaking during a debate on the Welsh government's draft budget.

There were calls for the Senedd to be recalled in December to debate the budget after the Welsh government warned of its "toughest" financial situation since devolution.

Mr Davies said the government's budget was a "real blow to small and medium-sized businesses" in Wales.

"It's funny that the only businesses on the average Welsh high street that appear to be thriving unimpeded by the Welsh government these days are pop-up barber shops, unsightly vaping and e-cig outlets, and cash-only hand car washes, among a variety of other potential money-laundering fronts," he said.

After audible groans from members in the chamber, Mr Davies said: "It's true, it's true."

Labour member for Ogmore, Huw Irranca Davies, then asked Mr Davies to clarify whether he had intended to classify the business sectors as "fraudulent".

While Mr Davies said he understood the point, he gave a high street in Denbighshire as an example.

"Take Prestatyn high street - you've probably never been there in your life - but we had probably two barber shops 15 years ago, but there's probably about 15 now, all of a similar theme," he said.

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A spokesperson for the Labour group in the Senedd said it was "disrespectful and harmful to make such sweeping and stigmatising statements characterising different businesses".

"The comments were made in very poor taste and I hope they are withdrawn," they added.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Conservatives said Labour had "decimated" Wales's high streets.

They added the government was "dealing a final nail in the coffin to many more Welsh businesses" with cuts to business rates relief.

"Labour should listen to Welsh Conservative calls to support our businesses so Welsh high streets can thrive," the spokesperson said.