Support for People and Businesses in Wales: Covid-19 — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:35 pm on 21st October 2020.

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Photo of David Davies David Davies The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Assistant Whip 3:35 pm, 21st October 2020

It is not that the hon. Lady has got under my skin, but if she suggests that the UK Government are deliberately leaving people to die, that is something that I have to tackle. As far as the science goes, at the first Cobra meeting I attended—I have attended a few of them when the Secretary of State has not been available—I saw the Prime Minister ask the chief scientific adviser, “How can we save the maximum number of lives?” The UK Government’s whole approach has been about asking the scientists not, “What will be good for the economy?” but, “What will save lives?” The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that a member of the Welsh Government—I cannot remember if it was the Health Minister or the First Minister—was present at that meeting.

I will probably completely mess up my speech, now but I want to talk about co-operation. I have never seen such co-operation between the UK and the Welsh Governments. From the very start, Welsh Government Ministers have been invited along to every Cobra meeting and to the ministerial implementation group meetings, which are at the level below that, where a lot of decisions are also taken. We have had Welsh Government Ministers, SNP Ministers and Northern Irish Ministers there, all listening to the evidence and all taking part in the decision-making process. It is right that that was the case, because we wanted to approach the matter from a UK perspective.

At the same time, it occurred to the Secretary of State for Wales that it might be useful if he or I had some knowledge of what the Welsh Government proposed—not to take part in any decision-making process, but to have an idea of what was taking place. We wrote to the First Minister, pointing out that his Ministers rightly come to many UK-level ministerial meetings and asking if it would be possible for us to attend Welsh Government ministerial meetings—not to take any part in the decisions, and not necessarily even to say anything, but simply to listen and understand the process in Wales—but we received little response.

In the end, we were told that we could perhaps sit in on some of the meetings, but only for the moments where non-devolved matters were being discussed. I think we have had one invitation in the last six months. That is a disappointing lack of co-operation. It is extraordinary to me that anyone has the audacity, frankly, to suggest that the UK Government are not working hand in hand with the Welsh Government, when the UK Government have fallen over themselves to invite Welsh Ministers to these meetings.