‘Ugly nationalism’ behind Wales’ different Covid restrictions says Tory MP
The Welsh Government’s desire to handle Covid differently in Wales is motivated by “ugly nationalism” a Conservative MP has said.
Craig Williams, the MP for Montgomeryshire, was responding to Welsh First Minister’s condemnation of Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson’s plan to end free Covid tests in England.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Craig Williams called on Boris Johnson to “reach out” to Mark Drakeford to ensure that Covid measures were also eased in Wales “as quickly as possible”.
The Welsh Government had yesterday criticised the move to end free tests, with First Minister Mark Drakeford saying that “any decision to change the existing National Testing Programme would be premature and reckless”.
But Craig Williams said that he welcomed “the path to freedom that the Prime Minister has set out”.
“I am sure that, like the Leader of the Opposition, the Welsh First Minister will condemn the plan today, but will in about two weeks present this same plan as his own,” he said.
“Will the Prime Minister reach out to the Labour First Minister and the other devolved Administrations—we have worked well with them, when ugly nationalism is put aside—to get those freedoms for residents in Montgomeryshire as quickly as possible?”
Boris Johnson responded that he would “extend the hand of co-operation” and that “the similarities in our approach greatly outweigh the differences”.
Greg Smith, the MP for Buckingham, also called on the Prime Minister to ensure that Wales and Scotland did not continue with Covid restrictions.
“Freedom works. Indeed, we should always cherish freedom, but as we have seen in the past when restrictions have been lifted, some bodies, particularly those with a union hand hovering over them, have continued with restrictions regardless,” he said.
“So, as we rightly lift these restrictions and allow others to lapse, can my right honourable Friend give a clear message that the turn towards personal responsibility is not a licence for those bodies to carry on with the restrictions regardless?”
Boris Johnson responded that the “instinct for liberty burns just as brightly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”
“I think the people of the whole United Kingdom will understand that we want a sensible, balanced and proportionate approach that moves away from legal compulsion—something that has been quite extraordinary for these times—and in favour of people being considerate towards others and taking personal responsibility,” he said.
Yesterday the UK Government’s Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, said that Wales could continue to offer tests for free but would have to find the money out of its own budget to do so.
“We have to learn to live with COVID,” he said. “The Prime Minister has outlined a balanced plan to help us achieve that.
“Mass testing costs around £2 billion per month – surely our resource, funding and effort is a better use with a more targeted approach?
“If Welsh Government want to continue funding blanket testing going forward then that is a decision for them, they already have the adequate resource and funding to do so.
“This will mean tough decisions against other priorities, but that’s what mature governance is all about.”
Earlier Mark Drakeford said that tests had played a pivotal role in breaking chains of transmission and it was “essential that this continues”.
“Any decision to effectively turn off the tap on our National Testing Programme, with no future plans in place to reactivate it, would put people at risk,” he said.
“In Wales, we’ll continue to make decisions to protect the health of people based on the scientific evidence available to us.”
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also expressed concern over the plans.
“The reality of UK finance flows means this decision determines the money devolved administrations (paid for by taxpayers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) have for testing,” she said.
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