‘Shocking’: Drakeford slams Simon Hart’s comments saying Wales shouldn’t have been allowed to handle Covid
The First Minister has described Wesh Secretary Simon Hart’s comments saying that Wales shouldn’t have been allowed to handle the Covid pandemic as “shocking” at a pandemic press conference this afternoon.
Simon Hart had said yesterday on Times Radio that he wished Wales hadn’t been allowed to make its own rules on the pandemic separately from England, saying that “it would have been easier to administer”.
Mark Drakeford said that “continual raids” on the powers of Wales was not the way to make the people of the country feel like a respected part of the United Kingdom.
“I think it’s just important for me to say that level of responsibility that we had in Wales to make decisions was the level of responsibility that the cabinet to which the Secretary of State of Wales belonged and decided we should have at the outset,” Mark Drakeford said.
“It was the UK Government who made the original decisions about where responsibilities should lie. And I think it’s shocking that he [Simon Hart] should feel no responsibility at all for the decision of which he was apart.
“Now, the broader history of the Johnson government has been of, you know, muscular unionism, one in which the powers and financial resources available to devolve governments have been under attack.
“I think that is bad for the United Kingdom. I’ve said this many times. I’ve said it directly to UK ministers.
“The Welsh Government believes that Wales is better off in the United Kingdom and that the United Kingdom is better off for having Wales in it.
“But we need respectful relationships, but recognise that the powers of the Senedd were confirmed in two referendums by people in Wales, and that continual raids on the powers and the responsibilities of the Senedd is not the way in which to persuade people that the United Kingdom is a deal that they are keen to sign up to.
“There’s a better future for the United Kingdom for that, and I hope that the UK Government will begin to realise that and to act accordingly.”
In an interview with Times Radio yesterday, Simon Hart said that he would have preferred it if “we could have approached all of the Covid reactions and interventions as one UK”.
The Tory MP made the suggestion after being asked about the comments of Baron Frost, who sits in the House of Lords, who claimed that the pandemic had shown that it was “nonsense” having different rules in different parts of the UK.
Writing in the Telegraph, Frost said that the step was necessary to “save Boris, the Conservative Party and the country”.
A recent opinion poll showed that 60% of people in Wales preferred the Welsh Government’s approach to tackling the pandemic.
The YouGov survey also suggested that 17% of people in Wales preferred the approach to tackling the pandemic taken in England by the UK Government, while 10% said they don’t know and 13% said neither.
During an interview with Simon Hart, Times Radio broadcaster Matt Chorley said: “On the subject of Covid, your former Cabinet colleague Lord Frost, said it was nonsense for Wales to have its own Covid rules. Do you agree with him?”
Simon Hart replied: “I must say that I wish that we could have approached all of the Covid reactions and interventions as one UK. I think it would have been easier to communicate that to the population. I think it would have been easier to administer.
“We would have got a greater degree of public understanding and compliance for longer, and the real truth is, and sometimes people do say well ‘you know didn’t Welsh Government handle it rather better? Weren’t the outcomes rather better?’.
“The reality is if you look at all of the measurements of success or failure, whatever they might be in Covid, actually there was precious little difference between England and Wales.”
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