Posted: Wed 5th Oct 2022

Covid inquiry campaigners tell First Minister ‘decisions made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales’ after ‘insulting’ comments

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2022

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The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru campaign have said comments made in the Senedd yesterday by the First Minister Mark Drakeford were ‘untrue’ and ‘insulting’, and reiterated they are still wanting a ‘Wales Covid Inquiry focussing on devolved decision making in Wales’. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The topic was discussed at First Minister Questions on Monday following a lengthy questioning of the First Minister by Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew Davies MS. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Andrew Davies MS asked, “First Minister, you travelled to Scotland last Tuesday to meet with Nicola Sturgeon. Nicola Sturgeon has agreed to have an independent public inquiry into the COVID regulations and rules that were made in Scotland. Why is she wrong and you’re right, because you’re blocking one here in Wales?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister replied, “I’ve explained on numerous occasions here why I believe that the answers that patients and their families in Wales deserve to get when we look back at the events of the pandemic, that those answers are best secured through a Welsh participation in a UK inquiry.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I welcome very much the fact today that the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group here in Wales has secured core participation status in front of the UK inquiry. I had written to them earlier this year supporting their application for core participation status. That will mean that they will be able to ensure that the voice of those people who are members of their group will be heard in that inquiry. I believe from the meetings I’ve had with them—I’ve met with them five times—that, unlike the leader of the opposition, they are moving on from continuing to ask for something which is not going to happen. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Let me be clear about that. I’ve told you time and time again, there will be no inquiry of that sort here in Wales. They are moving on to put their energies and their efforts into making sure, as I want to see, that their questions are properly rehearsed, and the best answers provided in front of the Baroness Hallett inquiry.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mr Davies was unimpressed with the response, “Stop misrepresenting their view, First Minister. Only today they’ve repeated the request for an independent inquiry here in Wales, and through you not allowing such an inquiry to happen, they have had to accept that the UK route is the best route for them to have these explored.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He also reasked his first question, “But I ask you again, First Minister, because you didn’t address the first question: why is Nicola Sturgeon wrong in your mind, and you’re right? Because she has looked at the route that the UK inquiry will undertake, and it is correct that it will look on the four-nation basis that some decisions were taken, but you made a political virtue of the point that you did things differently here in Wales. So, those decisions deserve to be looked at through the lens of a Welsh public inquiry. So, like the COVID-bereaved families, why don’t you allow such an inquiry to happen? And if you won’t, will you answer my first question to you: why is Nicola Sturgeon wrong, and you’re right?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister replied, “…the Member knows perfectly well that the decision is made, there will be no Welsh separate inquiry and, instead, the answers to the questions that people quite rightly want to see here in Wales will be properly, fully, and best answered by the inquiry that his Prime Minister established, and which I was able to discuss with Downing Street on a series of occasions to make sure that Welsh interests were fully represented in the terms of reference and in the way that the inquiry will be conducted. That will ensure that the best possible answers are provided. That’s why I believe that to be the right course of action.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mr Davies came back again, and assured the First Minister he would keep pressing the issue: “I happen to believe that an independent inquiry here in Wales, but also on a UK level, would speed up the process to get the answers that the COVID-bereaved families require, rather than get it pushed into the long grass. Now, you could work positively with the families, with all the interested parties here in Wales, in allowing such an inquiry. But because you say ‘no’, we have to accept it? Well, on these benches, we won’t accept it, because, ultimately, the scrutiny, the torch of scrutiny needs to be placed on the decisions that all the Ministers took, sitting around that bench. So, whilst you might decree that there is not going to be a Welsh COVID inquiry, I have to tell you that the weight of public opinion and the weight of professional opinion here in Wales wants to see that independent inquiry. I will not rest until we have that independent inquiry, despite what you might try to say to the contrary, First Minister.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

In a response that created off mic anger in the chamber, and questions following the session, the First Minister responded, “…there is the impotence of opposition. The leader of the opposition can of course go on making his case for as long and as loudly as he likes. In the meantime, the world has moved on. There is an inquiry, a fully constituted inquiry, set up by a Conservative Government at Westminster in which there will be full participation by patients and families in Wales, in which all the actions of the Welsh Government and of other public authorities in Wales” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Later, Sam Smith-Higgins, of Covid Bereaved Families for Justice, called Mr Drakeford’s remarks “shameful”. She told the BBC Radio Wales Drive programme “To say that families have moved on is just, quite frankly insulting. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The UK inquiry today, some of our team were up there representing Welsh families. In module one of the UK inquiry Wales is not even mentioned in it.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We, along with Scottish and Northern Ireland families have been today saying you need to look at Wales as well.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Several posts on social media have also been made criticising the comments in the chamber: ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​



The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru campaign said of the First Minister comments, “He said that we have ‘moved on’ and are not seeking a #WalesCovidInquiry. This is not true. We believe that decisions made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We demand a #WalesCovidInquiry focussing on devolved decision making in Wales, especially health and social care. Clear enough @PrifWeinidog ?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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