Posted: Thu 4th May 2023

New Senedd committee could be established to examine Wales’ handling of the pandemic

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, May 4th, 2023

A new Senedd committee may be established to examine Wales’ handling of the pandemic.

The Welsh Conservatives and the Welsh Government have jointly submitted a motion in the Senedd to establish a Wales Covid-19 Inquiry Special Purpose Committee.

The move follows long-running calls for Wales to have its own inquiry into how the pandemic was handled.

It is also in response to gaps identified in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry concerning the preparedness and response of the Welsh Government and other public bodies during the pandemic.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS, emphasised the importance of scrutinising the decisions made by First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Labour Government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Davies reiterated the Welsh Conservatives’ commitment to an independent Welsh Covid inquiry, to ensure bereaved families receive the answers they deserve.

Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS, criticised the Welsh Government for avoiding scrutiny and failing to acknowledge the need for an independent Wales Covid-19 inquiry.

He expressed hope that the new special purpose committee would provide the scrutiny bereaved families and loved ones deserve.

However, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, raised questions about the “openness and transparency” of the deal, which was struck behind closed doors.

He expressed concerns about the government’s willingness to be scrutinised over decisions relating to the pandemic and questioned the motives behind Labour’s choice to make a backroom deal with the Tories.

Iorwerth argued that the purpose of a cross-party inquiry should be to gain wider buy-in and public confidence, and suggested that Labour’s decision to partner with the Tories instead of pursuing a cross-party approach raises more serious questions about the process.

The news of the Welsh Government’s willingness to open itself up to scrutiny over its handling of the pandemic comes as a surprise to some, with Plaid Cymru questioning if the agreement is a “stitch-up.”

Iorwerth emphasised the importance of adequately scrutinising decisions made in Wales regarding the pandemic response.

Earlier this week, the Labour Welsh Government had repeatedly dismissed calls for an independent Wales-specific public inquiry.

It had voted against a motion tabled jointly by Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives to establish a Wales Covid-19 inquiry special purpose committee.

First Minister Mark Drakeford had indicated his potential support for such a committee at a later date.

Plaid Cymru wrote to the First Minister in March 2023, requesting an update on the situation and offering to “engage constructively” with a new committee.

However, the Labour Welsh Government has now jointly tabled a motion with the Welsh Conservatives to establish the Senedd Covid committee, following meetings between the First Minister and the leader of the Welsh Conservatives.

The vote on the motion will take place in Plenary on Tuesday 16th May.

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