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Covid-19 Restrictions

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2020

What comparative assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the covid-19 restrictions implemented in Wales and England. (908727)

The UK Government work closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure a broad UK-wide approach in our response to covid-19. There is consistency across the United Kingdom in the restrictions implemented to tackle the virus, with some divergence to reflect differing rates of transmission.

I thank the Minister for his answer. We will get through this pandemic only with a measure of trust between the public, the Government and the Welsh Government. Does he agree that the Welsh Government were wrong to introduce their nanny-state ban on supermarkets selling non-essential items during their lockdown?

My hon. Friend makes a very useful point. Any policy that allows members of the public to buy vodka but not baby food is patently devoid of common sense. By needlessly testing the public’s patience and sowing confusion, the Welsh Government have undermined this Government’s efforts to tackle the virus across the United Kingdom.

Following the Welsh Labour Government’s decision to introduce a firebreak lockdown in Wales, coronavirus cases have begun to fall across the board. At the time, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives described the 17-day lockdown as “unnecessary” and “disproportionate”, yet just days later, the Minister and his Welsh Conservative colleagues voted for a lockdown in England that is at least a fortnight longer and may last longer still. Will the Minister finally join me in welcoming the Welsh Government’s decision? Is it not time for him and his Welsh Conservative colleagues to put party politics to one side and support responsible actions to combat the pandemic that are in the interests of the people of Wales?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is the UK Government who have been trying to put party politics to one side. That is why we have invited Ministers from the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government to come to the many meetings that we have been holding in order to develop ways to tackle this virus. The fact of the matter remains, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already pointed out, that cases are higher in Wales and testing is lower than that it is in England, so I urge the hon. Gentleman to do whatever he can to encourage the Welsh Government to work more collaboratively with the UK Government to tackle this virus.

As my hon. Friend will know, the border between England and north Wales is densely populated, with many thousands of people travelling across it in both directions every day for work, social and business purposes, and many other purposes too. However, the Welsh Government have sought to close that border, causing considerable inconvenience and disruption to those people. What future arrangements can be put in place to ensure that there is no repetition of this disruption?

My right hon. Friend is certainly right that these closures have caused a certain amount of confusion for people living along the border—confusion about whether or not people can travel to and from work, confusion about where they can go to do their shopping, confusion about what sort of shopping they can buy, and confusion about whether or not those who are in a household bubble can go on holiday with each other. The fact of the matter remains that the Welsh Government’s actions have been legal, but I am not sure that they have been sensible.