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News in brief: ‘Spineless’ Prime Minister blasted over bullying response

21 Nov 2020 7 minute read
Westminster Government Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0)

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader and Home Affairs spokesperson, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has called for the resignation of Home Secretary Priti Patel and described the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson MP, as “spineless and lacking a moral compass” for failing to act in response to an independent report finding her guilty of bullying and harassment.

The Prime Minister’s adviser on the ministerial code, Sir Alex Allan resigned yesterday after Boris Johnson rejected the report’s findings.

The Cabinet Office’s bullying inquiry was launched in March, prompted by allegations that Ms Patel belittled colleagues and clashed with officials in three different departments.

“The Prime Minister has again showed himself to be spineless and lacking a moral compass in deciding to protect his friends instead of showing leadership, “Ms Saville Roberts said.

“Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work, a right denied to staff by Priti Patel through bullying and offensive behaviour.

“Not only has the Home Secretary been found to be a bully, the independent advisor has been bullied out of his job. This makes a mockery of the supposed kinder, gentler ‘reset’ in Downing Street, proving that the bullies are still very much in charge.

“The Home Secretary should immediately resign, and the Prime Minister must apologise for tolerating bullying at the very highest level of government.”

Patel said in an interview broadcast on Friday evening: “I’m sorry that my behaviour has upset people and I have never intentionally set out to upset anyone. I work with thousands of brilliant civil servants every single day and we work together, day in day out, to deliver on the agenda of this government and I’m absolutely sorry for anyone that I have upset.”

Picture by DFID – UK Department for International Development. (CC BY 2.0)

Minister highlights “robust processes” used to secure PPE for Wales

Health Minster Vaughan Gething has defended the procedures followed by the Welsh Government in the procurement of PPE during the coronavirus pandemic, following a series of scandals surrounding the awarding of contracts by the UK Government.

On Wednesday the parliamentary spending watchdog the National Audit Office published a report that found multiple shortcomings in the UK government’s contract process for the purchasing of PPE from suppliers.

The NAO reported that PPE suppliers with political connections were directed to a “high-priority” channel for UK government contracts where bids were 10 times more likely to be successful.

In recent months, several firms with links to senior Tories have secured major contracts, leading to allegations of cronyism.

Overall, £10.5 billion of contracts relating to the pandemic were awarded without competitive tender, according to the NAO.

In a written statement, Mr Gething said: “The awarding of coronavirus contracts, in particular for the provision of PPE, has rightly been an issue of significant public interest since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.  NHS Wales has responded effectively to the challenges of the pandemic balancing the need to secure critical services with extreme urgency whilst maintaining robust processes that have ensured value for money, safety of users and adherence to procurement regulations.

“Since March 2020 over 451 million items of PPE have been distributed to health and social care in Wales. We continue to have a stable supply of PPE to meet the needs of our health and social care workforce.

“The vast majority of the PPE issued has been directly sourced by NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership with all contracts awarded subject to robust governance.  This includes additional scrutiny from a Finance Governance Group comprising of senior representation from audit, finance, counter-fraud, legal and risk. All contracts over £1m are also approved by the Welsh Government in line with the requirements of the NHS Wales Act 2006.

“All contracts over the EU Procurement threshold are published on the EU public register – Tenders Electronic Daily.

“Our priority now is to maintain a secure position and value for money on PPE over the longer term with Welsh businesses having an important role to play in strengthening the resilience of our PPE supply chains. NHS Wales PPE procurement plans blend local manufacture with international supply.

“People in Wales should be assured about the probity and success of our PPE procurement.”

Public Health Wales has confirmed 28 deaths because of Covid-19 and 1,016 new positive tests for the virus in the last 24 hours.

The highest number of new cases was in Rhondda Cynon Taf (119) followed by Swansea (114) and Caerphilly (89).

Cardiff (612) Swansea (597) and RCT (595) have recorded the most new positive tests in Wales over the last 7 days.

Blaenau Gwent has the highest weekly infection rate in the country at 396.5 per 100,000 of the population, up from 365 yesterday, and the highest positive test proportion at 18.6%  per 100,000 test, an increase from 18.1% on Friday.

Compared to the previous seven day rolling total the infection rate across Wales has dropped from 348.5 per 100,000 people to 171.2 and the positive test proportion has fallen from 13% to 12.5%

Andrew RT Davies

Shadow minister calls for probe into care home outbreak

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Andrew RT Davies has called for an urgent investigation into the outbreak of Covid-19 at a care home in Llangollen.

15 deaths over the last three weeks are linked to the virus and 56 residents and 33 staff have tested positive for Covid-19 at Llangollen Fechan Care Home.

“This is horrendous, and my sympathies and condolences go to the families who have tragically lost a loved one in this Llangollen care home,” Mr Davies said.

“This raises serious questions over testing and infection control in one of the most vulnerable settings in society, and at this stage of the pandemic given the knowledge we have acquired on transmission, is deeply concerning.

“Labour’s health minister must initiate an urgent investigation into such outbreaks and direct testing and financial resources at protecting the most vulnerable in society.”

Speaking at yesterday’s government press briefing First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “A lot of help is being provided both to that care home in Llangollen where there is that very sad story today, but other care homes as well, to make sure that all those basic things the care home itself has to take responsibility for are being done in the best possible way.”

An incident management team is investigating the cause of the outbreak and movement of staff and residents is currently being restricted to help reduce further transmission.

New countries added to safe-travel list

Israel, Jerusalem, Namibia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Uruguay, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands have been added to list of travel corridors for England, Wales and Northern Ireland from this morning having been assessed by the Joint Biosecurity Centre as posing a lower coronavirus infection risk

No new countries are being removed from the travel corridors this week

The change means passengers arriving into England, Wales and Northern Ireland from these destinations will no longer need to self-isolate so long as they haven’t been in or transited through any other non-exempt countries in the 14 days preceding their arrival.

At the same time, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice to no longer advise against all but essential travel to Israel, Jerusalem, Namibia, Rwanda, Uruguay, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands.

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