NEIL Hamilton, MS for Mid & West Wales, and Leader of UKIP Wales has warned that the country’s lowest earners will suffer most if a longer and harsher lockdown continues.

Speaking in ‘virtual plenary’ Mr Hamilton, a member of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee, said he was extremely concerned the measures will hit the poorest harder.

He said:

“After 20 years of devolution, 22 % of the people of Wales of working age are living in poverty, and the average disposable income in Wales is only three quarters of the average in the United Kingdom.

“Those in poverty are more likely to be hit by the economic impacts of coronavirus than anybody else. The Learning and Work Institute Cymru said recently that Wales is more exposed than many other parts of the UK to the economic impact of lockdown, and we have the highest proportion, at 18%, of workers employed in industries most affected by lockdown measures.

“If unemployment goes up amongst those groups, we are going to be in a very serious economic predicament in Wales. A paper published this week by Cardiff University has shown that Wales lowest earners are 10 times more likely to have been affected by COVID-19 shutdown than those on the highest salaries.

“A harsher lockdown and a longer lockdown means that Wales will go backwards and those at the lowest levels of income in society are going to be the ones who suffer most.”

Adding later he said:

“We are not children and this is not a dictatorship. As a lifelong libertarian, I am very concerned about the grave erosion of civil liberties which is taking place. What is happening is unprecedented in peacetime. There is a ‘nanny-state’ attitude which pervades everything the Welsh Government does. COVID-19 has given them carte blanche further to weaken the Welsh economy and push people further into poverty and ever more dependent on the state.”

Mr Hamilton asked the First Minister how he justified keeping Wales in lockdown while the rest of the United Kingdom opened up.

Mark Drakeford, agreed coronavirus has a disproportionate impact on some members of our society, and those most disadvantaged to begin with feel the impact of this disease most significantly. However, he said they would continue to re-open the economy step by step.

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