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

I do not accept that last point, because the First Minister would have been able to speak to the Prime Minister anyway, had he wanted to, and Welsh Government Ministers were dealing with UK Government Ministers on an almost daily basis. I would go as far as to say that, because at a lower level I was involved in the ministerial implementation groups, and I know that during lockdown they were taking place multiple times every week—I will not quite say every single day, but it felt like it. Every day, Ministers from each of the devolved regions were taking part in the decision-making process. I therefore cannot accept at all the argument that there was a lack of contact.

I am told that there were attempts by No. 10 to talk to the First Minister and that he cancelled one meeting, but I do not know the full ins and outs of that. However, I am absolutely certain that the First Minister would always have had access to the Prime Minister had he needed it, and he certainly has always had access to the Secretary of State for Wales. I know that they are talking on an almost weekly basis. It is inconceivable that the Secretary of State for Wales would not take a call from the First Minister; in fact, I am sure that has never happened.

The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney made the interesting point that it makes sense to have a regional approach, because the virus is breaking out in different ways across the United Kingdom; that is a fair comment. Of course, the same can be said within Wales. There are areas of Wales where the outbreak of the virus is far lower than in other parts of the United Kingdom. Therefore, he may feel that he needs to justify to a tea shop owner in Tenby why there is now a full lockdown taking place in half-term, at a time when that shopkeeper or that tea shop owner would have been hopeful of recouping some of the money that has been lost over the last six months.

I am conscious that Chris Evans must respond to the debate. By the way, he made an excellent speech. I am grateful for the comments he made and I am looking forward to the Henry VII trail that will take place. Of course, by the time Henry VII made that famous march across Wales towards Bosworth, we had already seen the hard border disappear; from the time of Owain Glyndŵr onwards, we have not had a hard border in Wales. Yet, as a result of decisions that are being made at the moment, I fear that it will come back again, which is not something that I, as a Unionist, wish to see.

For as long as this virus continues, the UK Government will want to support all parts of the United Kingdom, and if other Governments or local authorities in other parts of the United Kingdom want to take credit for the enormous help that has been offered, that is absolutely fine by me. I can assure hon. Ladies and Gentlemen here today that we do not want to play politics with this situation; we simply want to eradicate this virus and then get back on with the job of rebuilding Britain.