Tory MS accuses Welsh Government of ‘hiding behind English Covid inquiry’
A Tory MS has accused the Welsh Government of “hiding behind an English” Covid-19 inquiry.
Tom Giffard, a regional Conservative Senedd member for South Wales West, criticised the Welsh Government for refusing to hold a Wales-only inquiry into the pandemic.
The Welsh Government has come under sustained pressure from opposition parties and campaigners to only take part in a UK-wide inquiry.
During a debate in the Senedd, Dawn Bowden, the Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, took exception to the UK-wide being branded as English.
She suggested that it was “very interesting” to “hear” a “unionist party” that is now ” talking about an English inquiry”.
The Minister defended the decision of the Welsh Government to refuse to hold a Wales-only inquiry, insisting that a “Welsh element” would be included in the UK-wide one.
Tom Giffard said: “And so assuming that there is no evidence that COVID passes have been a success in protecting public health and the only available evidence seems to be they had a hugely negative economic impact on a number of industries—hospitality, cultural and sporting events, tourism industry,”
“all of them were in your portfolio, Deputy Minister—the only way I think we’ll get to the bottom of whether COVID passes were a success in Wales or not, or indeed whether the Welsh Government significantly overstepped the mark here and cost businesses a lot of income, is to properly assess whether this was the right decision in a Wales-specific COVID inquiry,” he added.
“But both you and the Welsh Government, however, seem unwilling to hold one and are hiding behind an English COVID inquiry instead.
“Of course, there were COVID passes in England, and they were only in place for 44 days there, compared to 130 here, and they targeted far fewer industries too. Given the Night Time Industries Association said there was a 26 per cent drop in trade based on the introduction of those COVID passes, these industries, Deputy Minister, on which so much of our economy here in Wales relies, deserve to know the truth.
“So, can I ask, have you had a specific assurance that the impact of your COVID passes in Wales will form an integral part of your English COVID inquiry?”
Dawn Bowden said: “The first thing I would say is this is very interesting, isn’t it, to hear this from the unionist party that is now talking about an English inquiry?
“This is not an English inquiry, this is a UK inquiry of which Wales will be part, and there will be a very specific Welsh element to that inquiry that the First Minister has talked about in this Chamber many times, and has been very specific in discussions with the UK Government that that specific Welsh aspect of the inquiry is vitally important to explore and to examine and to investigate all of the things that you’ve already highlighted.
“I’ve met with some of the bereaved families in my constituency, and I know how strongly they feel about this, and I know that we have—. And I had every sympathy with their views. Anybody who has lost a relative or a friend or a loved one of any description through this pandemic could not but feel empathy and sympathy with those people.
“But a Wales-specific inquiry, in our view, is not the answer to that question. The UK-wide inquiry, with the terms of reference that will be agreed with us and will be consulted on more widely, will allow all of those families and all of the issues that you have raised to be fully explored, and explored in Wales, because there will be inquiry hearings located in Wales as well for those specific elements of the inquiry.
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