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Welsh Covid-19 bereaved families given voice at UK inquiry

04 Oct 2022 4 minute read
Screenshot taken from the YouTube channel UK Covid-19 Inquiry of chair Baroness Heather Hallett during the public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic. .

Today, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru (CBFJC) took a major step forward in their campaign for change when the UK Covid-19 Inquiry Chair granted them Core Participant status in Module 1. 

Former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Heather Hallett opened the independent inquiry in London today, October 4, saying she would conduct a “thorough” and “fair” hearing, and those who have suffered will be at the “heart” of the public inquiry.

As a group dedicated to speaking on behalf of those bereaved by Covid-19 in Wales, CBFJC has campaigned ardently for a Wales specific inquiry. 

They still firmly believe that that to hold such an inquiry would achieve the proper scrutiny that Wales deserves.

However, despite five meetings with the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, he remains unconvinced that this is the right way ahead. 

The First Minister has continued to insist that all decisions made by the Welsh Government must be seen in the context of those made by the UK Government. 

CBFJC has shifted its focus to ensuring that Wales is fully scrutinised in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry.

Module 1 will examine the resilience and preparedness of the United Kingdom for a pandemic.

As one of only 28 groups granted Core Participant status the group will have a key role in the Inquiry process. These include being represented and making legal submissions, receiving disclosure of documentation, suggesting questions, and receiving advance notice of the Inquiry’s report.

Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees, the group lead said: “This is a key milestone in our campaign & a huge relief to know that Welsh families will be represented in the UK inquiry.

“We thank the Chair, Baroness Hallett, for recognising that CBFJC is best placed to assist this public inquiry to achieve its aims by representing the collective interests of a broad spectrum of those bereaved by Covid-19 in Wales in relation to Module 1.  

“Whilst welcoming the Chair’s commitment to scrutinising the actions of the devolved administrations, we remain concerned that Module 1 will not go far enough in examining the Welsh specific issues that need to be investigated in depth by this Inquiry.” 

Key step

Craig Court, from Harding Evans Solicitors, representing the group, said: “It is vitally important that the people of Wales can have full confidence that this public inquiry will fully scrutinise decision-making in Wales in respect of Covid-19 and that the experiences and voices of the Welsh people will be properly heard and represented.

“Recognising the group as a Core Participant in Module 1 is a key step to ensuring that those experiences are brought to the fore.”

The CBFJC Group added: “The Chair’s visit to Cardiff in March to consult with Welsh families on the Terms of Reference was a welcome start to the inquiry.

“We look forward to continuing to work with her and the UK Inquiry team on developing the scope of the Listening Exercise and the commemoration work.”

Wales inquiry call

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said: “We welcome the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group being granted core participant status for the UK Covid Inquiry.

“However, if he had any dignity, respect or courage, the First Minister would announce a Wales-specific Covid inquiry to address the reasons why Wales has the highest Covid death rate in the UK. Instead, he is running scared.

“I asked the The First Minister why Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to be holding a Scottish-specific Covid inquiry and he was right not to. He failed to answer and continues to maintain that his self-described ‘differing approach’ does not need to be scrutinised.

“The First Minister may think that ‘the world has moved on’ as he insensitively proclaimed in the chamber today, but the bereaved families most certainly have not, they deserve answers.”

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