Welsh Government is hellbent on dodging scrutiny of a Wales-only Covid inquiry
Tom Giffard MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport
One-in-four people who died from coronavirus in Wales were infected in hospitals.
Wales has the highest death rate of any other UK nation, while measures such as Covid passports were controversial and ineffective.
Those are just three reasons why Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay should launch a Wales specific public inquiry into their handling of the pandemic – but the list is as long as my arm.
Mistakes have been made by governments of all hues across the globe during this unprecedented crisis, but Labour here in Wales are hellbent on dodging scrutiny.
Instead of admitting mistakes were made and allowing full scrutiny to take place, Labour ministers are still too scared to hold one and are instead hiding behind a UK-wide inquiry.
Quite frankly, it is scandalous. People up and down the country who have lost loved ones and have been affected by restrictions since the pandemic began deserve answers to their burning questions.
Decisions made in Cardiff Bay – both good and bad – had a direct impact on lives in Wales and cannot be dismissed by a Labour administration that was keen to stress at every opportunity that they have done things differently.
If First Minister Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry?
That’s the question many people across Wales will be asking themselves. Just what has this Labour administration in Cardiff Bay got to hide?
This avoidance of scrutiny – in the face of public scandals such as delays to testing in care homes and hospital discharges into care homes – should sound alarm bells.
If the Labour Government is truly going to learn lessons should we have to face a new pandemic, it must hold a Wales-specific inquiry.
Drakeford’s nationalist friend in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, has commissioned an inquiry to look into her government’s actions.
Ignore what happened in Wales
However, Drakeford is still trying to escape scrutiny and instead wants to have his government’s actions confined to a single chapter in the UK-wide investigation, and due to failings in our media they will focus on the decisions made by ministers in Whitehall and ignore what happened in Wales.
But this Labour government has always been keen to dodge scrutiny from the very beginning of devolution.
In April 2020, Labour’s Jenny Rathbone asked then health minister Vaughan Gething questions about the pandemic during a virtual plenary session.
Gething, who is now in charge of our economy, replied: “What the f**k is the matter with her.”
And even on non-Covid matters, the Labour Government has been avoiding scrutiny with a string of damning reports involving the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.
A recent report into its vascular services found an amputee’s wife had to carry him to the toilet after being sent home without a care plan, and that follows the release of the long-suppressed Holden report which revealed a “culture of bullying” at the Hergest Unit.
The health board has been plagued with problems for years, with damning reports into the deaths of two patients published last month – highlighting further failings in mental health services in North Wales.
When questioned by the Welsh Conservatives on the vascular services report in the Senedd, the First Minister failed to clearly apologise for the major failings.
There is certainly a theme emerging with this Labour administration.
Some of the things in need of proper scrutiny are Labour’s use of the ineffective Covid passes, discharging care home residents back into their homes without a Covid test and thousands of incorrectly addressed shielding letters being sent out.
On Labour’s watch, children in Wales have lost out on the most learning and the country has seen economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.
The failure to regularly test NHS frontline staff and allow large scale events to go ahead as initial cases rose at the start of the first wave also need to be thoroughly investigated through a Wales-specific inquiry.
Sadly, the First Minister is making a mockery of the parliament and the country he professes to love. Labour ministers should not be able to use emergency powers and the widest use of devolved powers ever and think it is okay for them not to be scrutinised and be held accountable.
Not only would a Wales-specific inquiry play a key role in examining Labour’s response to the pandemic, but it would also ensure lessons are learnt for the future.
We are not alone in our calls for a Welsh probe, with groups such as Asthma UK and the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group also wanting to see Labour’s decisions go under the microscope.
Len Lambert died separated from his wife of 60 years. Sharon Jones died after catching Covid in hospital. Phil Smith died alone, separated from his family. Their loved ones have questions and need answers. That’s why they and others formed the bereaved families group, are now asking for a Wales inquiry.
Grieving families deserve answers, and that can only be delivered by full and independent scrutiny of the decisions taken by the Labour government in Cardiff Bay through a Welsh coronavirus inquiry.
Nothing else will suffice, and it’s high time the Labour administration commissions one.
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