Welsh Government refuse FOI request as it could harm relationship with UK Gov

Coronavirus covid-19 test. Picture by Tom Wolf (CC BY 2.0).

The Welsh Government have refused a BBC Wales Freedom of Information request on the basis that it could harm their relationship with the UK Government.

BBC Wales Political Correspondent James Williams had sent the FOI request on 31 March asking for “all contacts between the Welsh Government and Roche regarding the provision of coronavirus testing”. But it was rejected on 5 June.

Among the reasons given by the Welsh Government for not releasing the correspondence was because it could “prejudice relations between two or more United Kingdom administrations”.

The Chief Executive of Public Health Wales has said in May that Wales was due to receive 5,000 coronavirus tests a day from Roche before the UK Government stepped in. Wales eventually received 900 tests from that allocation.

 

Capacity

Plaid Cymru have called for the correspondence between the Welsh Government and Roche to be released, while the Conservatives suggested the Welsh Government had suggested that the deal with Roche was on a firmer footing than was the case.

On 21 March Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething had announced that the Welsh Government would have access to 6,000 tests a day by 1 April, and 8,000 tests a day within a week of that.

But those targets were revised in the wake of Roche’s announcement, before the target of 9,000 tests a day by the end of April was completely abolished.

Only in the last week of May did Wales reach the capacity to conduct over 9,000 laboratory tests.

‘Crucial’

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said that the most crucial thing a Government could do in a time of crisis was to be transparent with its citizens.

“It is therefore deeply disappointing that the Welsh Government has decided not to publish the correspondence between themselves and Roche – correspondence which would reveal exactly why the deal – which would have secured 5,000 daily Covid-19 tests for Wales, collapsed,” he said.

“The Chief Executive of Public Health Wales suggested last month that the full 5,000 daily testing capacity did not come to Wales after the Westminster Government stepped in.  Why then is the Welsh Government so ready to protect Westminster by choosing not to publish this correspondence when the collapse of the deal – and apparent gazumping, left Wales drastically wanting in terms of crucial Covid-19 testing capacity?

“For the sake of transparency and public interest this information should be published. And if they won’t publish it now, will they do so ahead of any future independent inquiry?”

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