Senedd roundup: Government considering introduction of support bubbles to Wales

First Minister Mark Drakeford has praised the Welsh Public for their cooperation in observing the lockdown but warned the battle with coronavirus is not yet won.

Speaking at Fridays press briefing, as he announced the next stage of easing the restrictions put in place to slow Covid-19 infections, Mr Drakeford said: “Together, over the last three months, we have made an enormous effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus across Wales.”

“We are now making concerted steps to resume something approaching a new normal while living alongside coronavirus.”

“Through all our efforts we have succeeded in bringing the fire of coronavirus under control but that fire is not out.”

Mr Drakeford also revealed the government was considering introducing support bubbles to Wales in the near future.

Both England and Northern Ireland eased regulations to allow people to form a “bubble” with another household from last week.

Adults who live alone can visit someone else’s home and are even allowed to stay overnight. In England, the rule also applies to single parents with children under 18.

The First Minister told reporters he has “looked quite carefully” to see “if we could make a decision around this” and indicated the government is looking at how the arrangements are working in England.

If support bubbles are introduced to Wales, they are likely to involve just two households, but Mr Drakeford said for now talks are still ongoing.

“We will work through that with our chief medical officer and advisors next week,” he said.

Four more deaths from coronavirus have been confirmed by Public Health Wales. The total number of deaths in Wales now stands at 1,475.

There 31 new cases reported in the last 24-hours. The total number of confirmed infections has increased to 15,001. There were 2,773 tests conducted yesterday.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Welsh and Scottish Governments press for Westminster engagement over Brexit talks

Jeremy Miles MS, Counsel General and Minister for European Transition, has written a joint letter with his counterpart from the Scottish Government Mike Russell MSP, calling for the UK Government to consult and cooperate with the devolved nations during the next wave of Brexit negotiations.

Last Friday the Welsh and Scottish Governments boycotted a ministerial video conference with the UK Government after a Brexit extension was refused before they had a chance to discuss it.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon had sent a letter to No 10 on Friday afternoon arguing that the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the transition period should be extended. But it was announced minutes after that the UK would not be extending its transition period with the EU.

The Scottish and Welsh Brexit ministers put out a joint statement after Michael Gove refused a Brexit extension without their input which said: “We cannot accept a way of working in which the views of the devolved governments are simply dismissed before we have had a chance to discuss them.”

In his latest statement on the rift Mr Miles wrote: “We have always looked to work constructively with the UK Government on the future relationship negotiations, but we remain deeply frustrated by the lack of any meaningful engagement.”

“We once again call for the UK Government to honour the terms of reference of the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) which commits all our Governments to work together to agree a UK approach to the negotiations and to ensure that agreed outcomes are secured from the negotiations.

“It is only by working in collaboration with the Devolved Governments that the UK Government can provide the reassurances to the EU that the future relationship agreed can be implemented across all parts of the UK.”

Photo by Stuart Green from Pixabay

Schools and councils to make decision over summer holiday change

The Welsh Government is putting the onus on Schools and councils to decide if the summer holidays start from the 27th of July this year.

Schools in Wales are due to reopen to pupils on 29th June after being closed to most students since the coronavirus lockdown was introduced in March.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams originally indicated that the requirement was for schools to open for four weeks to allow all pupils the opportunity to attend before the summer break but teaching union are concerned that extending the term by a week could causes major problems relating to staff contracts.

Some unions representing support staff have also questioned the safety and practicality of the proposal and warned there may not be enough cleaners and teaching assistants to enable schools to open for an extra week.

Discussions are believed to be continuing between government officials, unions and councils but a spokesman for the government said that decisions over term dates were “best taken by local authorities and governing bodies, as they are better placed to understand their local circumstances”.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education Sian Gwenllian AS, accused the government of creating “complete confusion for everyone” over the uncertainty.

“Whatever the reason for the change it is quite clear that this is not fair to schools or staff and it is certainly not good nor fair on the pupils – where are their needs in the middle of this row?” she said.

Labour MS Lynne Neagle, the chair of the Senedd’s education committee said the well-being of children should “be at the centre” of the discussion about extending the summer term.

“There’s a growing body of evidence about the impact of not being in school on our children,” she said. “I’m really worried that it’s going to seriously entrench disadvantage… [and] widen the attainment gap.”

Mohammad Asghar. Picture by the Senedd.

Online book of condolence opened for Mohammad Asghar 

The Senedd has opened an online book of condolence for those wishing to pay their respects to Mohammad Asghar MS, who passed away earlier this week.

Mr Asghar was the first ethnic minority and Muslim member of the Senedd.

He came to prominence after being elected to the Senedd in 2007 as a member of Plaid Cymru on the list for South Wales East, before moving to the Conservative party – the first member to ever switch parties.

Born in Peshawar in what is now Pakistan in 1945, Mr Asghar moved to Wales to complete an accountancy course in Newport. In 2004 he was elected to the city’s council, becoming Wales’ first Muslim councillor.

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