The UK Government took Wales’ testing kits – fixing devolution should be minimum compensation
Ben Gwalchmai, co-founder of Labour4indyWales
I was more than a little shocked to read that Adam Price is now heading up Welsh Government efforts to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from China. ‘Isn’t the UK doing that? Doesn’t that make the Cabinets look…overwrought?’
A tweet from Eluned Morgan on April 12th showed that the FM or Adam may have overreached and caused a clash. Disarray? This is the political price that Mark and Vaughan have had to pay for siding with the Kingdom. Now they’re playing catchup.
That ‘siding with’ the UK saw the Roche contract for testing kits pulled out from underneath them. Though we’re still not absolutely clear on the legal reality of what happened between Roche, Welsh Government, and the UK Government, the political reality is clear: the UK Government will always put south-east England first. Even if it means stealing. In broad daylight.
Notably, this isn’t just a Welsh issue. They’ve taken PPE away from Cornwall in efforts to ensure Kent has it. This is structural, not national. We’ve seen it when a care home can’t get supplies because they’ve been told ‘England comes first’. One of the worst UK Governments in a century has shown the detailed, life-threatening cracks in the UK constitution.
Our asymmetric devolution keeps falling down a cliff and getting back up again. Dusting itself off, cracking a smile, giving a cheery wave – only for the rest of us to see it’s lost another tooth. Pandemic Control is a Reserved issue but Health is Devolved. The Coronavirus Laws brought in mean Welsh Government has more power to change laws during this time of crisis and so police have new powers – but Policing isn’t devolved. What should happen if Welsh Government decides that they don’t want to end their lockdown but the “UK” Government does? Well, chaos. Chaos and further viral spread in Wales. Chaos, viral spread, and overuse of authoritarian powers by out of control police forces. On both sides of the border.
The UK Government of 2016 buried a report which showed they were unprepared for a pandemic and so the blame falls on all the governments of the UK. Rightly. Welsh Government should have revealed everything about the broken Roche testing deal and fought with UK Government to ensure that the blame lay clearly at Westminster’s feet.
For anyone looking even slightly passed the headlines, it looks like this: the UK Government made it more difficult for Wales to fight the virus, now we need compensation. A price must be paid (and not just to Adam).
Clearly, Welsh Government’s bandwidth will be taken up by Covid-19 until the worst of the contagion, then the clean-up, and the analysis of its handling is all done. After that though, there must be a heavy price paid indeed.
What form might this compensation take? For the moderates of Wales:
- immediate funds to raise all key workers’ wages,
- Devolution of Justice and Policing [J&P],
- then Devolution of Broadcasting.
As the front line in this crisis, a raise for key workers is clearly necessary. This should be done tomorrow. Devolving Justice would stop many of Wales’ police tweeting that they’ll be issuing fines as prescribed by the UK when the Welsh ones are smaller but also allow us to enforce our own lockdown timings. The Devolution of Broadcasting would then mean that all of us here get the information that is relevant to us, without mistake.
For the more radical among us: this crisis has shown that it only takes political will to solve big problems. Nothing else. Homelessness? Solved. NHS funding? Here’s the “magic money tree” (that Theresa said didn’t exist). Climate Crisis? Stop commuting and work from home.
Though Lab4indyWales will be submitting a full Policy Package to Welsh Labour’s currently open Policy Forum Consultation, here are my own Top 3 suggestions:
- A Universal Basic Income – as detailed here on Nation
- A Corfflu Gwyrdd Cymru / Welsh Green Corps – an army to fight the climate crisis by increasing biodiversity, carbon capture, and installation of solar with local mini-grids, paid by UBI, fed & housed
- #indyWales – to make clear the constitution, to rework Britain to be fair, and to never suffer how Y Gofid Mawr is making us suffer now, ever again.
Because Wales has to get something from this crisis and the people of Wales must know the truth. Or the Welsh Government must take the UK Government to court.