Posted: Wed 9th Dec 2020

First Minister hits out at ‘disgraceful’ stance of Conservatives in row over impact of latest Covid-19 measures on businesses

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 9th, 2020

Wales’ First Minister has hit out at the “disgraceful” stance adopted by the Conservative party over new restrictions on hospitality businesses. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Restaurants, pubs and bars have been banned from selling alcohol and forced to close at 6pm after the latest measures were introduced in Wales on Friday, with only takeaways and deliveries allowed after that time. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions have also been required to close completely under measures designed to stop the spread of Covid-19 following a recent increase in cases. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mark Drakeford previously announced a £340m support package for those impacted by the decision, but it hasn’t stopped criticism from his political opponents. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

During a plenary session in the Senedd today, Conservative MS for the south east region Laura Anne Jones said it had caused “anger and frustration” for many firms, who felt they were being unfairly penalised. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said: “First Minister, we all recognise that cases are rising across Wales, and the seriousness of that, and that public health and safety must come first. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“But do you recognise the anger and frustration of businesses across Wales that have made great efforts to ensure the safety of their customers only to be punished by these latest government damaging restrictions? ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Brains spent £500,000 on personal protective equipment, ensuring its commitment to protect its customers. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Will you agree to publish the data, in the interests of transparency, so people can see the evidence on which these decisions were made?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The question provoked a fiery response from Mr Drakeford, who said the Conservatives had failed to grasp the seriousness of the pandemic. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He also drew attention to the level of financial support provided for businesses impacted by the decision. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The First Minister said: “I’m afraid the Conservative Party in Wales is in a disgraceful position in relation to this matter, and that disgrace was very well illustrated in the member’s question to me. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“In the face of the numbers that we see here in Wales and the grip of the coronavirus crisis in Wales, she consistently, as does her party, avoids their responsibility for facing up to that and wants instead to make ridiculous allegations about sectors of the economy being punished in Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“That sector is receiving £340 million-worth of support from the Welsh Government, where her party in Westminster is providing £40 million for the whole of England. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“Here in Wales, we work with the sector, we do our very best to be able to help them to deal with the consequences of this emergency. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“But this is a public health emergency and it’s time the Conservative Party in Wales really did recognise that.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The matter was also raised by Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell, who questioned whether there had been a breakdown in communication between the government and businesses. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said many pubs had been forced to throw beer down the drain because of how quickly the decision was taken. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said: “I feel that the restrictions that have just been talked about with the hospitality sector, which came in last Friday, could have been met with less resistance if there’d been a longer lead-in time. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“(It) would have allowed businesses time to plan in terms of both staffing and stock, because failure to allow that time led to businesses having to close at short notice and pour beer down the drain. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I’m aware of one business, which is in Caerphilly county, that sent a message to members saying that they’d taken the difficult decision to suspend some services until mid-January because they had no confidence in the government’s ability to commit to a reliable schedule of releasing restraints by the promised deadline. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“So could I ask, First Minister, what assurance could you provide to the hospitality sector that you’ll give them as much time as possible to prepare in future, both in terms of lifting and imposing restrictions?” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Responding to her comments, Mr Drakeford said the measures had been brought in based on advice from the chief medical officer, who informed that action needed to be taken. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He added that how quickly the restrictions were introduced was down to the need to protect people’s live. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “The longer you wait, the more lives are lost. It’s a terribly difficult balancing act between giving businesses the time they need…and allowing those businesses to prepare against the certain knowledge that every day without the restrictions is a day less to have an impact on the coronavirus pandemic that we face. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We provided a full week of advance notice. On the following Monday, we provided all the detail of what would be required. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“I don’t deny for a minute that that is a short period of time for businesses to be able to react, but we did give them what I thought was the longest we could, consistent with the advice we received that action was needed.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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