Opposition politicians reiterate calls for Wales-specific Covid inquiry
Opposition parties have reiterated their calls for a Wales-specific coronavirus inquiry.
Preliminary hearings began in London on Tuesday for UK-wide inquiry, ahead of evidence being heard properly early next year.
The Covid inquiry is being chaired by retired judge Baroness Heather Hallett with the first stage examining the UK’s “resilience and preparedness” for an event such as the coronavirus pandemic.
The Welsh Government has previously rejected calls for a Wales-specific inquiry, claiming a UK-wide process is the best way for Welsh voices to be heard.
However, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds has accused the devolved Labour government of dodging scrutiny and of missing an opportunity to ensure Wales is fully prepared for any future pandemic.
She said: “Decisions made in Wales, by our devolved government were often different and had an impact, be it negative or positive.
The bereaved families of Wales deserve an inquiry that pays full attention to that decision-making in Cardiff Bay.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats strongly believe in devolution, but Welsh Labour needs to understand that with increased powers comes increased scrutiny. This should not be sought to be avoided.
“I would once again urge the First Minister and Welsh Labour to reconsider their position. An inquiry is not about apportioning blame, but rather learning vital lessons to ensure we are more prepared for the future.”
Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies MS challenged First Minister Mark Drakeford on the lack of a Wales-specific inquiry this afternoon and accused him of “misrepresenting” the view of bereaved coronavirus families.
The Welsh Conservative leader said: “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?”
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “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.”
Commenting on the exchange, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “We welcome the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group being granted core participant status for the UK Covid Inquiry.
“However, if he had any dignity, respect or courage, the First Minister would announce a Wales-specific Covid inquiry to address the reasons why Wales has the highest Covid death rate in the UK. Instead, he is running scared.
“I asked the The First Minister why Nicola Sturgeon was wrong to be holding a Scottish-specific Covid inquiry and he was right not to. He failed to answer and continues to maintain that his self-described ‘differing approach’ does not need to be scrutinised.
“The First Minister may think that ‘the world has moved on’ as he insensitively proclaimed in the chamber today, but the bereaved families most certainly have not, they deserve answers.”
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