Welsh Parliament Covid inquiry plan voted down

time:2023-06-10 23:25:55source:Al Jazeera author:Press center3

Plans for the Welsh Parliament to set up its own inquiry into Covid have been voted down in the Senedd.

Labour members opposed the idea, despite campaigners urging them to support it.

Opposition parties wanted a cross-party group of Senedd members to investigate the Welsh government's pandemic response.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said an investigation should wait until a UK-wide Covid inquiry is completed.

The vote was tied, with 27 votes for and 27 votes against.

This meant Presiding Officer Elin Jones voted against the motion, in line with established Senedd procedure.

Mr Drakeford has repeatedly refused requests from opposition parties and bereaved families to set up a Welsh public inquiry into Covid.

As a result, the Conservatives - backed by Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats - wanted the Senedd to create a new panel with Members of the Senedd (MSs).

Known as a special purposes committee, it would look at anything that is not covered by the UK's official Covid inquiry led by Baroness Hallett, and would publish a report by December 2024.

Government sources have said that would mean the Senedd and Hallett inquiries running side by side.

The UK inquiry is planning to hold public hearings in Wales next autumn.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group said on Twitter Labour should "do the right thing - the UK Covid inquiry can't scrutinise all matters in Wales so we need this committee".

Conservative Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies said: "If we as parliamentarians cannot form a committee to look at these issues and report in a timely manner before the 2026 election, then what is the point of having a Welsh parliament?"

Mr Davies said the aim of the inquiry committee would be to try to understand how Welsh government decisions had been made in the pandemic, "the ramifications of them and the measures we need to take in the future".

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said that "if the UK inquiry cannot possibly cover all issues, let us do the gap analysis, if you like. Identify what isn't being given the scrutiny it needs, and then focus on seeking answers around those issues".

"What possible objection, could government and Labour members have to that?"

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said it was "really important that we remember that for many of those families, who are still living with the loss and the pain, this is still really there".

"I'm not saying this proposal or an inquiry in London will actually get rid of that, because it won't.

"But it will help people to move on slightly."

Responding to the calls, Mr Drakeford said he would support such a Senedd committee at a later stage, should "aspects of the Covid experience" in Wales "not receive sufficient attention by the Hallett inquiry".

"If that concern materialises, then the motion's central proposal, a special purpose committee, is one that the government can and will support," he said.

"The most straightforward approach would be to receive the Hallett report, then to see if and when, and where any gaps have emerged, and then to allow a special purpose committee to discharge the remit suggested".

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