MP asks whether it would be possible to ‘suspend devolution’ to avoid Covid ‘confusion’
An MP elected as a Conservative has asked whether it would be possible for “devolution to be suspended temporarily” as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Rob Roberts, who now sits as an independent after a 12-week suspension for sexually harassing a member of his team, said that his constituents were finding the differences in Covid regulations between Wales and England “confusing”.
He said that under the Wales Acts, devolution could be suspended at a time of national crisis and he asked the Attorney General whether she had advised it.
“Over the past 18 months, my inbox has been full of people who are frustrated and confused by the differences between the England and Wales covid rules, my constituency being close to the border,” he said.
“As part of the devolution settlement, under the Wales Acts, there is provision for devolution to be suspended temporarily during times of national crisis in order for decisions to be made by Westminster for the whole of the United Kingdom.
“Will the Attorney General confirm whether she gave any advice to the Government along those lines? If not, what would a national crisis that would trigger such a clause be?”
The Attorney General, Suella Braverman, answered that the UK Government “must respect the arrangements set out in each of the devolution settlements”, but agreed that “sometimes the rules of other Administrations can be confusing”.
“This week, for example, under Welsh Government guidance it is okay to go to the pub, but not to the office,” she said.
“The vaccine roll-out and the immense financial support provided by the UK Government are two outstanding examples of what can be achieved when we work together as one United Kingdom, co-operating for the good of the Union.”
Conservatives at Westminster, including the Prime Minister, have aimed sustained fire at Wales’ Covid restrictions this week.
The stricter rules introduced in Wales from Boxing Day mean that groups of no more than six people could meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.
Meanwhile, outdoor events are limited to 50, while 30 people allowed indoors, leading to many sporting events being cancelled or played behind closed doors.
Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the restrictions in Wales as “baroque eccentricities”.
The Welsh Secretary Simon Hart also said the Welsh Government was guilty of a “huge number of mystifying and contradictory positions”.
Mark Drakeford announced on the 30th of December last week that the rules would stay in place for another week, as the situation in Wales had “deteriorated in the last week as the omicron wave has arrived”.
“We have seen a marked rise in cases of coronavirus – the majority are likely to be caused by the omicron variant,” he said.
“This is similar to the position in the rest of the UK.”
A further update is expected today or tomorrow.
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