Lockdown confusion is the result of wriggle room in the Welsh Government’s bad law

The Welsh Government are expected to announce today that people will be able to travel five miles to visit family and friends. Picture by Jaggery (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Suzy Davies, Welsh Conservative Senedd Member for South Wales West

The words “emergency” and “legislation” don’t work well together. Well-made law creates certainty and means less need to reach for lawyers. Making law in haste means repenting at leisure.

Just look at the bunfights over the lockdown – culminating in this week’s high profile case of the human instinct behind the dilemma of ‘Dad v SpAd’. So far we’ve had an MP driving to London to ensure his father received “essential supplies,” whilst coincidentally celebrating his birthday, and the not so infamous “picnic-gate”.

And all because of wriggle room in the rules.  It’s pretty obvious that, had any of this ended up in a court of law, credible arguments could have been made on both sides.

That’s why, to move the focus to the Senedd – the Welsh Parliament – for a minute, we need to look at what’s happening here.

It’s a legislature. Never a doorstep issue but the primary purpose of the institution. No-one cares about the work you do scrutinising regulations made by Welsh Government or preparing amendments to improve Welsh Government-drafted statutes.  Welsh Government policy is up to them but a great deal of it will have to be underpinned by some form of legal instrument to get it into place. It’s the Senedd’s job to make that law, not the Government’s, and this legislature remains the main check of the freedom of people against the dictatorship of the executive.

I’d like to think people might care a bit more if they understood our role. The Members of the Senedd are the ones looking out for them.

So how many of you reading this realised that the Welsh Conservatives, the official Opposition in the Senedd, did not support the latest Welsh Government Coronavirus regulations? You know, the ones about libraries and garden centres.  It was neither a party political stunt nor an assault on Welsh Government’s safety-first policy position.  It was an objection to bad law.

Bad law which achieved the twin objective of:

1) Using the same science to support two contradictory positions: Driving a carload of people to a garden centre to encounter any number of strangers but still not allowing you to walk to meet a friend on a deserted beach; and

2) Using the word “locally” to determine what is permissible exercise, but without any attempt to define what that word means.

I think the confusion which has followed – is “local” the same as “nearest”? If my exercise is fishing, can I drive to the river? – makes the point.

That’s one of those lawyers-rubbing-their-hands moments right there.

 

Wait

Considering the amount of quick-turnaround draft legislation the Welsh Government had to prepare as a result of Brexit, you’d have hoped they’d have got better at it by now.

I don’t say “emergency legislation” as that’s an official description, debased some years ago by the introduction of the Agricultural Wages Act as emergency legislation; it took almost two years to bring in the secondary legislation to make it do anything.

And getting better at it is not just about clarity.  It’s about proportionality and prior consultation. The Welsh Government has recently published a draft regulation, with no requirement for it to be debated, postponing all council by-elections to February 2021 at the earliest.

Why February?  Two by-elections in my region were suspended by the initial lockdown rules.  Do those communities have to wait nearly a year for local representation?  Did Welsh Government ask them?  I don’t know so.

I’m using my role as an MS to get that overturned, to bring the Minister before your representatives to explain herself and to ask her to publish something proportionate.

Or maybe that February date is a hint that we’ll be in lockdown beyond Christmas?

I’m sure it’s not but if I were a mischievous commentator, I could suggest it.  The breeding of hares to set running has been a hallmark of the public experience of a committed attempt to stop people becoming ill and dying.

It has not been helpful. But the one place that we should all be able to look for certainty, rather than supposition, is the law.

The frenzy this weekend proves that.

It also shows why MSs’ role as lawmakers is so important and why it needs to be taken seriously.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

54
Leave a Reply

avatar
16 Comment threads
38 Thread replies
1 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
26 Comment authors
Philip DaviesHuw J DaviesPaulMichael richardsO.R Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Never a Tory.
Guest
Never a Tory.

There’s no confusion at all. It’s the Tories that has caused the confusion. I’m not a Labour supporter but they’ve dealt with this in a sensible way. It appears the Tories caused unnecessary deaths because of their incompetence.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

Typical. Just parrot your own view without taking any differing view on board and discussing it point-by-point.

How exactly doesthe fact of English Tory muddle demonstrate Welsh Labour/Liberal/Green/Plaid competence? And how does your simple unwavering certainty that all is wellwith Wales’s Covid 19 legislation supposed to convince me that I or Suzy Davies are misguided in our concerns?

This is just the modern tribal politics of ‘Yah! Boo! Sucks to you!’ and frankly it opens the way to arbitrary, intolerant and dictatorial government.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

The point is approaching 38,000 UK dead!

Paul
Guest
Paul

You’d better ask Bill Gates about the death toll, we’re all being tricked to believe that the lockdown is necessary, wrong, its a plan to control the human race. Open your eyes.

Steve Duggan
Guest
Steve Duggan

Which party, here in Cymru, is rocking the boat and why? Do you honestly believe it’s because they care about the public or is it more to do with consolidating any vote they may have gained in December? Sorry I do not trust them – not after what they have done to this country over the last three decades.

Huw J Davies
Guest
Huw J Davies

Thanks to that internet thing I’ve just measured the distance to my son’s house. To drive on usual roads is around 7 miles but using Google maps’ straight line measurement it is 4.75 miles. If I invest in a compass and a machete, go up hill and down dale I would be legally able to visit, it seems. Not sure whether the police would accept my explanation for the machete, mind. I thought ‘stay local’ was conveniently confusing but the 5 mile radius does nothing to improve things. In a city, 5 miles is very local, in rural Wales a… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Guest
Kerry Davies

Read Drakeford’s statement. The 5 mile limit is not a hard and fast enforced barrier and you should use your common sense. I appreciate that taking responsibility and making decisions for themselves is really hard for people like RT and that Tories like Suzy can’t tell the difference between laws and regulations, guidelines and advice but adults are supposed to be able do this. I popped down the shop yesterday, the round trip was 25 miles but the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations state that I can make such a journey …. 6.2.(a)to obtain basic necessities,… Read more »

Huw J Davies
Guest
Huw J Davies

I actually posted it based on the previous day’s news/predictions and before the official announcement when the 5 mile limit was being talked of as the new official limit. You said I should use my common sense. I did say the ‘stay local’ advice was better (as this allowed for some flexibility/common sense). You seem to have done more miles in one shopping trip than I have managed in two months! But then I have been isolating properly due to previous cancer treatments and a heart attack. In any event thank you for providing us with regulation 6.2(a). I tried… Read more »

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

Try using that rigmarole with the plod

Huw J Davies
Guest
Huw J Davies

I think I’ll just stay home! Doesn’t help that BBC teletext for Wales (page 1610 not the red button one) states, at 22:57on Monday 1 June. Under the heading ‘What do the latest lockdown rules mean?’ “Coronavirus restrictions in Wales have been relaxed…two different households can meet each other outdoors.. however, people still need to stay two metres apart, and should remain within five miles of their home. The changes came into force on Monday, 1 June.” Has there been yet another last minute change that I missed? Teletext also has the ‘Test, trace,protect’ system launches in Wales just above… Read more »

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

This is a brilliant, and sane article, raising serious concerns over the quality of administration and legislation during this emergency. This of course affects Wales and England together and seperately, and to varying degrees, but always with the same worrying conclusions: our law-makers are tending to produce government that is not fit for purpose. The poor quality of our legislators in both England and Wales is producing bad, inconsistent law, and is leaving too many vague and ambiguous areas that are open to misinterpretation or over-interpretation, whether in good faith or from malicious opportunism. There will consequently be a lot… Read more »

Hogyn y Gogledd
Guest
Hogyn y Gogledd

Oh dear.

It was all going so well until “the usual torrent of leftist Welsh bigotry”

Just a tory shill.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

– – – and there goes any hope of a rational response.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

I don’t doubt that you get your (un)-fair share of ad hominem attacks and needless bile but Hogyn y Gogledd hasn’t demonstrated either. His accusation of you being a shill is backed by direct quote, address it without obfuscation and you may find a willingness to engage. Alas, it seems you don’t really want that, as evidenced by your ‘Cymru-fying’ of any political opposition that comes your way and a prepackaged response to criticism which amounts to ‘see, see, proves my point’ without justification. Shame, you often make good points before summarily undermining them with pettiness. ‘Gorau Chwarae, Cyd Chwarae’… Read more »

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

I would happily have shrugged off any personal attack, had it been accompanied by any attempt to rationally illuminate or even dismantle Suzy Davies’s interesting and important case. As it is, the word ‘shill’ flung in one’s face must be very damaging to any prospect of rational discourse. I mean, telling me I am ‘an accomplice of a confidence trickster or swindler who poses as a genuine customer to entice or encourage others’ invites the simple ‘right back at you’ response, doesn’t it? And for goodness’ sake – Why is addressing an issue in a Welsh context inappropriate in a… Read more »

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Dear, dear. It’s my ball, and I’m taking it home with me. In no particular order, then: What, pray tell is my ideology? ‘Voices in you head again’ – when have we had an interaction before? ‘probably punch you out of the ring’ – ‘I’d beat you all in a debate but you’re not worth my time’, wow, that’s a corker right from the Gorseinon College debate team reserves! Your response to Hogyn y Gogledd wasn’t a ‘right back at you’ response, it was a reaction to being called a shill (an epithet too often thrown around, I agree. Further,… Read more »

Jason Evans
Guest
Jason Evans

My only contribution to this debate is to say absolutely fantastic replies Ceri.
Rational sensible Welshman 1 – Foaming over sensitive spitting out the dummy unionist 0.
Or to put it in Davies’ terms, he was knocked straight out the ring.
You made my friday Ceri. Gwych

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Thanks Jason but I have no interest in playing this faux-pugilistic game anymore, it doesn’t help Cymru, it distracts and only serves to force us into straw-manning unionists, (which is exactly what they want) allowing this kind of attitude from otherwise sensible individuals. It’s people like Mr. Davies we need to engage with, but when we reach bedrock they invariably start hand-waving and claiming the whole thing is beneath them. There’s room in the conversation for the sensible unionists to be heard – where are they? Suzy Davies could be a good candidate, but I fear she’ll revert to hiding… Read more »

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Davies’s points were rational and interesting. There are loads of contradictions in the lockdown regs on both sides of the border, possibly because the politicians don’t really understand the problems of dealing with the virus and dislike not having a simple panacea for the masses. Good use of the latest far left juvenile trendy buzzword ‘shill’ though, a pat on the back in next years GCSE classes.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Yeah, shill is a bit of a lame one. Shame, because there are clearly shills of all political stripes working in the media and, with good evidence provided, could prove a useful term in pointing out badly motivated writings. Problem is it has been co-opted, in a predictably twitterish way, to mean ‘anyone I disagree with’. It does seem to have broken the bounds of being a purely ‘leftist’ word now though, at least stateside, thus making it all the more likely to be simply an ad hominem. (Hogyn Y Gogledd did, however, point directly to a quote that prompted… Read more »

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

‘ … the politicians don’t really understand the problems of dealing with the virus and dislike not having a simple panacea for the masses.’

I suspect that’s true; politicians prefer situations in which they can portray themselves as purveyors of the perfect solution.

But clearly this isn’t that sort of situation. The scientists know that well, because hypothesis, peer review, debate, maybe run a pilot, maybe fine-tune the proposition, are all their stock-in-trade. They know how to live with uncertainty, whereas politicians – aware that the public are unforgiving of serious and obvious miscalculation – are invariably uneasy with it.

Aron
Guest
Aron

Suzy Davies Have a word with yourself! Is this the pot calling the kettle black! Her party should know the definition of confusion!

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

You just won’t take any view seriously that comes from a different perspective, will you? Your only answer is contempt, in preference to rational engagement. It seems you have – and you are far from being alone in this – a warped and immature notion of democratic debate. Address her arguments, why don’t you? But no: Instead you prefer to just assume a righteous stance and pompously dismiss anyone who fails to capitulate to your arrogance. Why exactly must we all accept your sweeping assertion as a useful contribution to what should be a serious debate? Are you capable of… Read more »

Hogyn y Gogledd
Guest
Hogyn y Gogledd

Pot meet kettle.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

Sensible responses are not the same as stupid ones. You are a bit silly if you are trying to blacken my name by admitting your own chromatic deficiency. The insult is designed for use by objective observers, after all.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Suzy Davies always strikes me as one of the more constructive and consensual opposition members, and I think she makes a sound point here. But her criticisms – as indeed she seems tacitly to acknowledge at the start of her opnion piece – can be levied no less at the Covid-19 legislation imposed by her party’s government in England, as amply demonstrated in the recently publicized ‘Dom Durham Dash’ incident! Maybe creating law which offers certainty rather than supposition in dealing with a foe as amorphous as a new virus is practically more difficult than it might initially appear? Have… Read more »

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Totally agree on Suzy Davies, she does seem to be the sort of politician Cymru needs. I do feel, however, that the Tories on both sides of the clawdd tend to get a little hyper-focused on the ‘right this very second’ issues which don’t really last as talking points for more than a few seconds. It smacks of living a political life of quiet desperation (the English way. Sorry, had to finish my mangled attempt at adapting a Pink Floyd quote), never addressing the underlying problems and refusing to engage in good faith with opposition. We see this most clearly… Read more »

Welsh Sion
Guest
Welsh Sion

Have they done better in Scotland, I wonder?

__________

The people seem to think so. BBC poll earlier this week:

A massive 82% think that Nicola Sturgeon has handled things well, and just 8% think she’s done poorly.

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

I too think she’s ‘handled things well’, but that opinion’s based on her calm and rational demeanour in her press briefings and interviews rather than on any real scrutiny of the Scottish government’s specific policies on countering the pandemic.

Gareth Wyn Jones
Guest
Gareth Wyn Jones

Double population of Cymru not much more deaths than Cymru in total, of course super-spreaders could have caused more problems here …. Cheltenham festival not far and of course that match which should never never have gone ahead

Jonathan Gammond
Guest
Jonathan Gammond

Emergency legislation as a temporary measure or with a sunset clause is a different matter to rushed legislation such as the infamous Dangerous Dogs Act or bills that overrely on secondary legislation.

Mike
Guest
Mike

It’s got to be hard to make good laws quickly, but what they *are* achieving is keeping the discussion away from opening Wales to the waves of visitors that are likely to come the moment the restrictions are relaxed. In the long run that’s got to be worth a little confusion around whether or not we can visit Granny yet.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

‘a little confusion around whether or not we can visit Granny yet.’ is not what the article is addressing. And the filthy Sais will be back soon enough, forcing their nasty money on us again.

Ceri
Guest
Ceri

Yes, all that filthy money has made Cymru the richest are of Western Europe and we all live in gold hous…wait.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

Actually, quite a lot of your fellow-countrymen in Wales depend on the hospitality industry, and by dint of talent and hard work these fine people were making a very good living from the despised ‘waves of visitors.’ But you spit on these livelihoods as if they represented some third-world subsistence economy. And I suppose you’d throw the English Chancellor’s tax-funded furlough money, that is keeping many of them from bankruptcy, back in his teeth? Your repudiation of my irony only confirms that you actually do blame England and the English for all of our economic problems in Wales, and that… Read more »

stuart stanton
Guest
stuart stanton

Also confusion on Radio5 earlier when the presenter (Rachel somebody?) asked Mark Drakeford why it was now permissible for English people to travel wherever they want in Wales? Given a sharp rebuke. People commenting might bear in mind that five miles is more than enough for most Valleys’ people, though maybe the six miles from Abertillery to Ebbw Vale would have been more appropriate. Keep the Lockdown tight, Wales. Only this week have buses and trains around Leeds put limits on passengers, just in time judging by observation. 10 people per deck of a bus and 8/10 per train compartment.

Walter Hunt
Guest
Walter Hunt

In the Welsh Government’s Health and Social Services Budget there is an unquantified allocation to “effective health emergency preparedness arrangements”. There should have been a plan in place for dealing with a contagious respiratory tract infection. That plan should have considered implementing and easing a lockdown based on infection risk, if an initial comprehensive system of test/diagnose/identify, track, trace and quarantine/hospitalize failed. As part of that plan, consideration should have been given to what legislation would be necessary for fair, clear, risk based, enforceable law.

Kerry Davies
Guest
Kerry Davies

Interesting and valid point which suggests that Wales needs to split from England and govern it’s own lawmaking and enforcement which I doubt Westminster would agree.

Dawn Passmore
Guest
Dawn Passmore

I’m really proud of the way the First Minister has dealt with the crisis. I’m delighted that Wales is not party to the chaos and confusion caused by the tories in England. It is becoming blatantly evident that the Conservative Party in Westminster care only about profit and certainly not people. The way they have conducted themselves throughout this pandemic is utterly deplorable and we will remember that.

K. K
Guest
K. K

I really can’t be bothered to listen to you Suzy because your party have and will always be a blight on Welsh society. Name me something you have done for Wales in your entire existence? Nothing. You only act in self interest and given your vocal protestations about scrutiny could you tell me why your masters in London have outsourced over £1 billion pounds worth of health contracts to private companies which will cost the taxpayer even more for services in England and make the rich even richer? This article is nothing more than an old fashioned attempt at divide… Read more »

Gareth Wyn Jones
Guest
Gareth Wyn Jones

KK you are right, bad behaviour as a party will only go so far, the fight back against the ‘populists’ will accelerate now as people see who’s interests they are working for as the case of DC shows. You can try to be as reasonable and thoughtful as you like but in the end Suzy you are a ‘Toxic Tory’

Simon Gruffydd
Guest

So, while AM’s niggle over the details of lockdown legislation, the excess in deaths in care homes continues – not due to Covid-19 but do to the lockdown itself and the disastrous policy of ‘saving the NHS’ while throwing the old and vulnerable under the bus. If you think this is nonsense because this is not what the BBC and other “reliable” news sources are saying, do your own research, starting with the Welsh government statistics: https://gov.wales/notifications-deaths-residents-related-covid-19-adult-care-homes-1-march-22-may-2020-html

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Hi Simon!, just though to report to you on how your favourite Loose Covid country and its tight neighbour are doing, here goes; Sweden cases: 36,476 Deaths: 4,350 Finland cases : 6,776 Deaths; 314. As for the United Kingdom, deaths stand at 37, 837. I think that says enough about the UK Conservatives? Can hardly wait for the next election!

Gareth Wyn Jones
Guest
Gareth Wyn Jones

She may or may not have valid points in this article but the tories do not have any moral or ethical authority, this is a problem they will encounter more and more as people realise just how really rotten they are (The DC scandal being a good example of this process). The elected tories all have put their name to the shenanigans (hooliganism) instigated by Johnson since he became prime minister (many who did not agree either left the party or were thrown out) not to mention their appalling handling of the covid-19 crisis which has see the highest worst… Read more »

Gareth Wyn Jones
Guest
Gareth Wyn Jones

23.4 thousand not million as posted

Gareth Wyn Jones
Guest
Gareth Wyn Jones

Come on Suzy where do you stand on D Cummings? resign/sacked, yes or no?

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

The Welsh covid-19 regulations are not law, surely, in the way that, for instance, the Welsh Language Act is. The number of infections was going up, and Drakeford had to act quickly to come up with a response that would enable the Welsh people to play their part , whether willingly or reluctantly. There was never going to be enough time to throw it open for debate in the Senedd to allow for the picking apart of each small point. With the possible exception of the 5-mile limit, none of Cymru’s lockdown measures seem to have been arbitrary, but have… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Guest
Kerry Davies

A voice of reason.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

I see that you made the same point above. Drakeford has in fact stated today (29th May) that the 5-mile limit is only guidance, and that people shoud use their discretion. If you yourself had to drive 25 miles to put food on your table, that’s exactly the kind of situation in which the plod would, I hope, use their own discretion and let you carry on, This ruling (or guidance) is nothing to do with “bad law”.

Philip Davies
Guest
Philip Davies

‘ – – – by virtue of it NOT being law, it is open to reasonable flexibility by the heddlu’ – are you serious?

It is precisely because the police were charged with actually enforcing such non-laws, that the common-sense and general goodwill of the public was randomly set at naught time and again by officious jobsworths bullying decent and inoffensive people.

Steve Duggan
Guest
Steve Duggan

Suzy I’m not a Labour supporter but your party is in no position to criticise the Welsh Government’s policy making. Get the UK Government to act responsibly and put the public’s health before the economy – and then you come back on here and judge the situation in Cymru.

dean skates
Guest
dean skates

Commrade drakeford should resign he’s not got a clue we are United kingdom not divided kingdom little bit of power gone to his head

O.R
Guest
O.R

Resign for doing his job?
Time for a cold shower deano

Michael richards
Guest
Michael richards

Why can’t we just follow national policy our figures are the best in Britain. As for visiting family but only in a 5 mile radius get a life what’s the difference between 5 and 50 miles as long as you only visit family. God did we really vote for a Labour senate a bunch of point scoring idiots. Time for normality now.