Shadow minister says Welsh Government’s handling of the Covid pandemic could ‘get lost’ in UK-wide inquiry
Concerns have been raised that the UK-wide Covid inquiry, which is due to get underway in September, will not sufficiently scrutinise the Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic, sparking new calls for a Wales-specific inquiry.
Earlier this week Baroness Heather Hallett, Chair of the inquiry, announced preliminary hearings will begin as soon as September this year, ahead of substantive public hearings starting in late spring 2023.
Aspects of the pandemic will be grouped into modules, with the first considering the extent to which the risk of a pandemic was properly identified and planned for.
A second module will cover core political and administrative governance and decision-making around the pandemic in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the third module will examine the impact of coronavirus and the governmental and societal responses to it.
The Welsh Conservatives say they are concerned about the confirmed structure of the inquiry and claim only the second module will specifically examine the response in Wales.
Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “We’ve had a good relationship with the Chair so far and have been pleased by how she has understood the need to consider all the governments of the United Kingdom in this inquiry.
“So, I am disappointed in to see in this framework the potential for the actions of the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay to get lost in a UK-wide investigation.
“I will be calling on the Baroness Hallett to reiterate her commitment to properly examining devolved governments and reflect this in the inquiry’s workings.
“Of course, Mark Drakeford could do the right thing and order the Wales-specific inquiry we deserve in our search for accountability for the decisions taken – from hospital-acquired infections to schools closures to business support – that resulted in the most Covid-related deaths of all UK nations.”
A statement from Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru said: “We thank Baroness Hallett for her opening statement yesterday and for recognising the ‘devastating nature of bereavement’.
“We are pleased that module 2 is going to be split by devolved nations and the hearing(s) held in Wales. However we are curious to understand how Wales will receive the proper scrutiny it deserves in modules 1 and 3.
“We agree with Russell George in reiterating the need for a Wales specific inquiry to ensure that Wales doesn’t get lost amongst the decisions being taken by other nations.
“We are asking the First Minister to reconsider his position on a Wales specific inquiry. The UK Inquiry set up based on these modules clearly does satisfy the FMs ‘tests’ that ensure Wales will be fully scrutinised.
“We cannot have Wales become the dreaded footnote we all feared.”
Mark Drakeford has previously said that he had the “opportunity to comment on” the terms of reference of the Covid enquiry, and that the views of those campaigning for a separate Welsh inquiry were taken on board.
Plaid Cymru, and the Welsh Liberal Democrats have repeatedly joined with the Tories in calling for an inquiry to be held in Wales on the decisions made in Wales.
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