Call for Mark Drakeford to ‘withdraw comments’ about Covid Bereaved Families for Justice
Plaid Cymru have called on the First Minister to “withdraw comments” he made at the Senedd today about the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice campaign.
Mark Drakeford suggested that the campaigners were no longer calling for a Wales-specific Covid inquiry.
“I believe from the meetings I’ve had with them—I’ve met with them five times—that, unlike the leader of the opposition, they are moving on from continuing to ask for something which is not going to happen,” he said.
His comments came after Covid Bereaved Families for Justice secured ‘core participant’ status in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.
As one of only 28 groups granted Core Participant status the group will have a key role in the Inquiry process. These include being represented and making legal submissions, receiving disclosure of documentation, suggesting questions, and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.
The campaigners however said that the First Minister’s claim that they had given up on a Wales-only inquiry amounted to having “lied to the Senedd”.
Part of his letter to us dated 8/8/22 is below. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/8qncPj0CK7
— Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru (@cymru_inquiry) October 4, 2022
Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth wrote to Mark Drakeford after today’s First Minister’s Questions asking him to withdraw his claim about Covid Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru.
“I am writing to you to ask you to withdraw your comments made in the Senedd this afternoon regarding the campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru,” his letter said.
“You said that that group ‘are moving on’ from their calls for a Wales-specific independent public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic in Wales. You will be aware that the group has responded on social media this evening, stating that this is incorrect.
“The campaigners, like me, are as determined as ever that the Welsh Government has done Wales a disservice by refusing a Wales-specific COVID-19 inquiry. They are still of the opinion that decisions made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales.
“You also indicated that you supported the campaign’s request to obtain core participant status in relation to the UK investigation. The campaigners have understood this to mean that you stated you wrote to the UK Covid inquiry to give your support to the campaign’s application.
“Perhaps you meant to refer to the fact that you had told the campaigners themselves, but tonight the campaigners have noted your own words that you felt you could not officially support the application.
“These campaigners have done an outstanding job gathering evidence in the hope of getting to the truth in relation to the response to the pandemic, and as a sign of respect for them, I would like you to reflect on what you said today.”
Speaking in the Senedd earlier the First Minister had said that he “very much” welcomed the fact that the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru had secured core participation status in front of the UK inquiry.
“I had written to them earlier this year supporting their application for core participation status,” he said. “That will mean that they will be able to ensure that the voice of those people who are members of their group will be heard in that inquiry.
“I believe from the meetings I’ve had with them—I’ve met with them five times—that, unlike the leader of the opposition, they are moving on from continuing to ask for something which is not going to happen. Let me be clear about that.
“I’ve told you time and time again, there will be no inquiry of that sort here in Wales. They are moving on to put their energies and their efforts into making sure, as I want to see, that their questions are properly rehearsed, and the best answers provided in front of the Baroness Hallett inquiry.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds joined for Mark Drakeford to apologise over comments he made when questioned about a Welsh specific Covid inquiry today in the Senedd.
Commenting, Jane Dodds MS said: “The First Minister clearly misrepresented the views of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice campaign today and should apologise and withdraw the claim.
“On the whole it was disappointing to see Labour today dismiss such a serious issue out of hand.
“If Labour supports devolution they must understand that with increased powers comes increased scrutiny. This should not be sought to be avoided.
“An inquiry is not about apportioning blame, but rather learning vital lessons to ensure we are more prepared for the future.
“We will continue to call for a Welsh specific inquiry even in the face of opposition from Welsh Labour.”
Earlier today Former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett had opened the independent inquiry in London today, saying she would conduct a “thorough” and “fair” hearing, and those who have suffered will be at the “heart” of the public inquiry.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru said had shifted their focus to ensuring that Wales is fully scrutinised in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.
Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees, the group lead said: “This is a key milestone in our campaign & a huge relief to know that Welsh families will be represented in the UK inquiry.
“We thank the Chair, Baroness Hallett, for recognising that CBFJC is best placed to assist this public inquiry to achieve its aims by representing the collective interests of a broad spectrum of those bereaved by Covid-19 in Wales in relation to Module 1.
“Whilst welcoming the Chair’s commitment to scrutinising the actions of the devolved administrations, we remain concerned that Module 1 will not go far enough in examining the Welsh specific issues that need to be investigated in depth by this Inquiry.”
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