Wales’ Health Minister slams Welsh Secretary’s ‘clumsy’ and ‘ill-judged’ comments

Simon Hart (left) by Chris McAndrew (CC BY 3.0). Health Minister, Vaughan Gething. Photo by Ymnes (CC BY 2.0)

The Secretary of State for Wales’ intervention in the Welsh Government’s handling of the lockdown was “clumsy and ill-judged”, Wales’ Health Secretary Vaughan Gething has said.

Yesterday the Welsh Government said that they will not bow to pressure by Simon Hart MP after he warned of potential “carnage” for the tourism industry if the lockdown isn’t lifted quicker.

The Welsh Secretary had written a letter directly to Senedd members and local authority leaders warning of the consequences if the tourism industry remains in lockdown all summer.

“We’re all learning and I’m sure the Secretary of State for Wales recognises that he has learning to take from the coronavirus pandemic too,” Vaughan Gething said at today’s briefing.

He had “the luxury of not being a decision-maker” and it would be “much better for all of us if the Secretary of State engaged in a more constructive discussion with us”.

“We are making very difficult decisions about balancing the risks in public health with the harms lockdown cause,” he said.

“I think it was a clumsy and ill-judged intervention for the Secretary of State to make,” he added.

‘Time’

In his letter, Simon Hart urged Members of the Senedd and heads of local councils to put pressure on the First Minister to set out a “roadmap” for the tourism and hospitality industries when he announces changes to lockdown rules on Friday.

It drew attention to comments made in the media over the last few weeks by the First Minister which alluded to the potential for no return to tourism until next year.

“Comments such as these do little to provide certainty to businesses and the public at precisely the moment when government should be outlining a clear pathway to recovery,” the Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said.

“Without such a pathway, businesses will not be able to plan, and job losses will become inevitable.

“Throughout the pandemic, I have kept in close touch with the First Minister, and am more sympathetic to his predicament than perhaps has been reported. However, on this point, I believe action is needed.

“Today I spoke with members of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, and it is clear that we have reached a critical moment. Some have already started laying off staff. One member claimed that ‘the carnage starts in July without a roadmap’. Put simply, if businesses cannot plan, they will struggle to survive.

“I need not rehearse the value of the tourism and hospitality industries to our country, which employ hundreds of thousands of individuals, both directly and in supply chains, often in our most rural communities. Losing these jobs risks plunging communities into deprivation.

“I write to ask you all to do everything in your power this week to encourage the Welsh Government to set out a roadmap for the tourism and hospitality industries in Wales.

“With an announcement on Welsh Government lockdown measures due this Friday, time is of the essence.”

But yesterday the Welsh Government responded by telling the Welsh Secretary that they made the decisions on how best to respond to the pandemic in Wales, not the UK Government.

“We thank Mr Hart for his advice, but the First Minister makes decisions based on safety and science rather than lobbying efforts by UK Government Ministers,” the Welsh Government said in response.

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