Posted: Mon 13th Sep 2021

First Minister refuses to commit to holding Wales specific inquiry into Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic

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The first minister has again refused to commit to holding a Wales-wide public coronavirus inquiry into the Welsh Government’s handing of the pandemic.

As we have reported over recent months Mark Drakeford has faced increasing calls for decisions made over the last 19 months to be examined at a devolved level.

The UK Government also already confirmed it will hold a UK-wide inquiry and last month Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed an independent inquiry into the Scottish Government covid response would begin by the end of the year.

In August opposition parties Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives reiterated their calls for a separate investigation into how the pandemic was handled in Wales and the decisions that were made.

In a letter to the first minister, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies MS said it was “imperative that families who have lost loved ones have the answers they deserve”.

However the Welsh Government has continued to resist pressure and previously suggested doing so would lead to “duplication of much of the work done by a UK-wide inquiry.”

The most recent public briefing First Minister Mark Drakeford was pressed on why his decisions that have affected Welsh lives and livelihoods won’t be scrutinised in Wales.

Mr Drakeford said provided there is a specific Welsh focus in the UK-wide inquiry, he believes that is “the best way to move ahead.”

He said: “I absolutely want the decisions that we made here in Wales to be properly scrutinised, that is not the issue.

I am absolutely determined that the things that the Welsh government has done and the things that other actors in the Welsh context have done should be subject to that investigation and scrutiny.

The question is, how is that best done. I had a meeting in a conversation with Michael Gove, the minister in charge of the Cabinet Office, who is leading from the UK Government on this, I met him last weekend.

“I said to him that we will need assurances that a UK-wide inquiry would be constructed in a way that would allow for a direct focus, a specific separate focus on the decisions that were made here in Wales. But also then to be able to understand them in that wider UK context.

“I talked to him about making sure that to UK inquiry has access to Welsh specific expertise, that such an inquiry would, for example, maintain Wales, and feel the evidence directly in Wales. And as part of its report, it would have specific chapters, reflecting the Wales only experience.

“provided that the inquiry does deliver that I continue to believe that that is the best way of having a proper focus on the decisions that were made here in Wales. But to do so in a way that can also explore the interconnectedness between Welsh decisions and what was happening across the whole of the UK.

“I was encouraged by that meeting by the response of Mr. Gove. I’ve written to him today to set all that out on paper for the UK Government.

“I think so long as we can get an agreement with them that the Welsh experience will be properly and thoroughly included within that Uk inquiry, that is the best way to move ahead.”



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