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Welsh think tank IWA calls for Wales-specific Covid inquiry

13 Sep 2021 4 minutes Read
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford in the Senedd

Wales’ most prominent independent think tank has called for a Wales-specific inquiry into Covid-19.

The Institute of Welsh Affairs said that a Wales-specific inquiry was “necessary” but also said that a formal link to the UK-wide inquiry would be needed to be effective. 

Andy Regan, Policy and External Affairs Manager at the IWA, writes in The Welsh Agenda, that establishing a Wales-specific inquiry would be a “test of political courage in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster”.

“An inquiry cannot bring back the loved ones we have lost, but it could help the Welsh Government prevent or mitigate the long term impacts,” he said. “There is still scope to make a real difference to Covid’s victims by looking forward as well as back.

“It is the IWA’s view that the purpose of an inquiry should primarily be to identify opportunities for better preparedness for the next crisis, and to address the long-term impact of Covid-19.

“We, therefore, conclude that a Wales-only Covid-19 inquiry is necessary, but that it cannot achieve everything it should without – and this is crucial – a clear and formal link to a UK-wide inquiry. 

“It is otherwise reasonable to fear that Wales would become a ‘footnote’ within a UK wide inquiry.”

‘Reconsider’

The First Minister has so far resisted pressure to announce an independent inquiry in Wales, arguing that a UK-wide investigation into the pandemic is sufficient.

However in a letter last month in response to Tory Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies, he added that if the “approach” of the UK Government is “found to be inadequate” that could change.

The Welsh Government has said it has “requested” that the UK Government make sure that “specific chapters of the inquiry deal exclusively with the lived experiences of those here in Wales”.

Pressure is mounting on the First Minister to reverse course following an announcement from the Scottish Government that it will hold an independent judge-led Covid inquiry in Scotland.

Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have both argued that Wales needs its own inquiry.

In a letter to Andrew RT Davies, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “It is inaccurate to assert that the Welsh Government is not subject to the scrutiny of inquiry.

“I am clear that the UK-wide public inquiry – which will cover the actions of all 4 nations should examine the circumstances and decision-making here and report with specific chapters/ commentary on Wales.

“The inquiry should also look at the wider UK context in which many of our decisions were made. This approach, if managed correctly, will provide the fullest and most coherent account of the pandemic as experienced in Wales.

“I look forward to discussing the terms of reference of the UK-wide inquiry with your counterparts in the UK Government so that I have the assurances I am seeking for a comprehensive inquiry.

“If the detailed terms of the UK Government approach are found to be inadequate then we, of course, reserve the right to reconsider.”

‘Accountability’ 

Commenting on the response, Andrew RT Davies said: ““The First Minister was always keen throughout the pandemic to stress that he and his ministers are responsible for decisions made in Wales. Yet he does not want the accountability that comes with power.

“The most wide-ranging use of devolved powers exercised by the Welsh Government should not be shrouded in the shadow of a UK-wide inquiry and must be examined fully, publicly, and transparently in Wales.

“Most shameless of all is at the end of the letter when Mr Drakeford suggests he might change his mind if the UK remit is not to his liking, despite indicating to the Senedd he’s content with the proposals put down.

“It’s an embarrassment and an insult to grieving families who have lost loved ones in Wales during this crisis.

“Playing politics like this and running down the clock does not reflect the actions of a confident and mature government in a functioning democracy, but those who have been caught red-handed in their use of excessive powers and knowing their decisions in areas such as care homes and hospital acquired infections will be fully tested and potentially exposed.”

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