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Covid-19 Restrictions

Volume 682: debated on Wednesday 14 October 2020

We have, of course, worked hand in hand with the Welsh Government throughout the covid-19 pandemic. The Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with Welsh Ministers about the ongoing UK-wide response to covid-19, and those include discussions between the Secretary of State and the First Minister and, of course, meetings between the UK Government and all devolved institutions.

Restricting the virus is vital, but the Welsh Government’s lockdown measures in Clwyd South and the rest of north Wales need reviewing. Given the difficulties they are causing, particularly for hospitality, the wedding industry and leisure businesses, by using county boundaries rather than being targeted on the specific areas with high covid case numbers, is the Minister able to outline how often the Welsh Government have invited the UK Government to participate in their covid-19 planning meetings and whether they have discussed using more detailed evidence by community rather than just by county?

That is a very good question. Although the UK Government extend an open invitation to the devolved Administrations to take part in Cobra meetings and ministerial implementation groups, the same spirit of co-operation has not thus far been forthcoming. I was invited to one meeting by Welsh Government Ministers to discuss parts that were reserved to the UK Government anyway. We stand ready to accept the same level of co-operation from Welsh Government as we have always extended to them.

With cases rising across the UK, the First Minister has called for an extraordinary meeting of Cobra to discuss plans for a so-called circuit-break lockdown. The measures are already under active consideration in Wales and would be implemented by the Welsh Government if they need to be, but of course, any such measures are more effective if we apply them with a four-nation approach across the whole UK. Will the Government now listen to their own scientific advisers and the Opposition and agree to meet the devolved nations to discuss these specific proposals?

Throughout this pandemic, the Government have listened to a wide range of scientific advisers, some of whom will be advising circuit breakers, whereas others will be suggesting that measures are too strict. The Government have listened to all and tried to steer a course through the middle of this. They have listened to Welsh Government Ministers on numerous occasions, with more than 100 such meetings having taken place. We will continue to listen with an open mind and to follow the evidence.

Unlike this Tory Government in England, our Labour Government in Wales do follow the science. The rules in Wales have stopped people taking the virus with them from high-prevalence to low-prevalence areas, thus protecting people’s lives. We want the same for visitors to Wales from across the rest of the UK, where rates are even higher, so why are this Tory Government ignoring the First Minister yet again, failing to stand up for the people of Wales and playing politics with people’s lives?

We certainly are not playing politics with people’s lives. The hon. Lady will be aware that 25% of the workforce of Wales travel over to England to work there, and playing politics with people’s lives potentially means looking at livelihoods as well. The reality is that we have followed the science all the way through this process and, more or less, the Welsh Government have followed exactly what the UK Government are doing.

The hon. Member for Cardiff North (Anna McMorrin) says we should follow the science, but 10 minutes ago, Public Health Wales told me that it did not even carry out a community-level analysis prior to instigating these lockdown measures. Does my hon. Friend agree that this virus does not respect county borders and that, once again, all the Labour Welsh Government are doing is throttling businesses and letting down the people of north Wales?

First, let me wish my hon. Friend penblwydd hapus for tomorrow. It is the case, of course, that this virus does not respect boundaries, but the UK Government do. Although I fully accept that some people may have concerns about the slightly different approach the Welsh Government sometimes adopt in this matter, the UK Government respect devolution and the reality of Welsh government, and my role as a Minister is to work constructively with Welsh Government Ministers. At this moment, I do not wish to start playing politics and criticising them.