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Pub Closures: Covid-19

Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2020

What discussions he has had with Welsh Government Ministers on the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on pub closures in Wales. (910248)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State wrote to the First Minister before he announced the closure of pubs in Wales and asked him to consider a tiered structure for covid restrictions, which would have better targeted areas with a high incidence of the virus. Regrettably, at that time the First Minister chose not to do so. I believe he may now be about to follow my right hon. Friend’s advice.

Before the Welsh Labour Government had the bright idea of bringing in a circuit breaker, the infection rate in Wales was 33 per 100,000 head of population. Since then, Wales has had one of the toughest lockdowns. Pubs have to close at six o’clock and they cannot serve alcohol. Infection rates in Wales are now 423 per 100,000. Have Welsh Government Ministers confided in my hon. Friend the reasons for this raging success, and is it perhaps that people in Wales have been so driven to drink with despair that they have to do it at home without social distancing, rather than in pubs?

It is a sad fact that at the moment Wales has the highest number of cases per 100,000 in the UK, the highest number of deaths per 100,000, and the lowest amount of testing, but I do not think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I wish to make any political point out of that. All of the United Kingdom has suffered. What I think we would welcome is a recognition that the Welsh Labour Government do not have some sort of magical answer to this situation which has eluded everybody else. We would welcome Welsh Ministers sitting down and working with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the UK Government, so we can tackle this pandemic together as one nation.

As we have heard, pubs in north Wales have been closed down by the Welsh Government and their trade is being destroyed, despite the fact that infection rates in north Wales are significantly less than in much of south Wales. When my hon. Friend does speak to Welsh Ministers, can he urge them to adopt a more intelligent and nuanced approach to covid restrictions? Otherwise, many of those pubs will never reopen.

As I have just said to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), we would welcome the Welsh Government working in tandem with the UK Government to bring in a tiered system, so that in areas with a low incidence of the virus fewer restrictions are put in place. I believe that is an approach the Welsh Government are finally going to adopt. We look forward to sitting down and working with them.