First Minister urged to ‘right a wrong’ and commit to Wales Covid Inquiry
Plaid Cymru’s leader has urged Mark Drakeford to “right a wrong” before the end of his time as First Minister by committing to a Wales specific Covid inquiry.
During FMQs today, Rhun ap Iorwerth asked the First Minister to acknowledge the “hurt and grief” of bereaved families with an inquiry that can properly scrutinise the decisions made in Wales during the pandemic.
The Welsh Government has long argued that the pandemic response in Wales should be considered within a wider UK context.
The Wales Covid-19 Inquiry Special Purpose Committee was set up in July by the Senedd to look at each stage of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and fill in any “gaps” – but opposition parties and campaigners have said this is not enough.
During a UK Covid Inquiry evidence session in the summer, Mr Drakeford admitted that his government was “not as prepared as it could have been” ahead of the pandemic.
The Welsh Government has said it will not offer a “running commentary” on the UK inquiry proceedings.
In the Senedd on Tuesday (December 12), Mr ap Iorwerth said the decision to not commit to a Wales specific inquiry reflected badly on Mark Drakeford’s time as Wales’ First Minister.
He said: “Now, that sidelining of Wales has been seen in pretty graphic form in the UK Covid inquiry also. Yes, that UK inquiry will visit Wales soon, but the chair admitted from the outset that there just could not be in-depth scrutiny of what happened here, and the frustration at that reality has been heard loud and clear in recent days by the Covid bereaved families in Wales.
“Now, as the First Minister reaches five years in office, I suggest to him that that refusal to accept proper scrutiny through a Wales-specific inquiry was one decision that reflected very badly indeed on him and on his Government.
“Now, as he reflects on his time in office, and by way of acknowledging the hurt and grief of the Covid bereaved, will the First Minister now consider righting that wrong?”
Mark Drakeford said his decision not to commit to a Wales inquiry was not “a wrong” but was the “right decision” to give families the “answers that they need”.
Responding to the Plaid Cymru leader, the First Minister said: “They simply would never have got those answers through a Wales-only inquiry in which, as UK Ministers have made it plain, they would not participate.
“And if we’ve learned anything in the last few months, surely it has been that in order to be able to understand the actions that were taken here in Wales, you have to place them in the wider context of decisions that were being made at that UK level.
“Rip the context away, as you would suggest, and there would be no answers that make sense for anybody. Having a Wales-specific module within the inquiry, sitting here in Wales, will allow the focus to be placed on the decisions that were made here. I absolutely want that to happen.
“But, you will get a proper understanding of decisions that were made here, because they are inescapably—as the evidence that has been so vividly in front of the inquiry over the last few weeks has demonstrated, the decisions that were made here were inescapably made in a UK context, and a Wales-only inquiry would never make that apparent to people.”
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