AT today’s Welsh Government COVID media briefing Wales’ Health Secretary Vaughan Gething referred to the Secretary of State for Wales’ intervention and criticism of the Welsh Government’s handling of the lockdown as ‘clumsy and ill-judged’.
The Welsh Secretary had written a letter directly to Senedd members and local authority leaders warning of the consequences if the tourism industry remains in lockdown all summer. The Welsh government responded that it would not bow to pressure from the Pembrokeshire MP.
Adding that “the First Minister makes decisions based on safety and science rather than lobbying efforts by UK Government Ministers.”
In his letter, Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, urged that pressure be put on the First Minister to set out a “roadmap” for the tourism and hospitality industries when next Mark Drakeford announces any changes to lockdown rules expected to be announced tomorrow (June 19).
His letter also referred to comments made over the last few weeks by the First Minister which alluded to the potential for no return to tourism until next year.
“Comments such as these”, wrote Mr. Hart “do little to provide certainty to businesses and the public at precisely the moment when the government should be outlining a clear pathway to recovery.”
He continued; “Today I spoke with members of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, and it is clear that we have reached a critical moment. Some have already started laying off staff. One member claimed that ‘the carnage starts in July without a roadmap’. Put simply, if businesses cannot plan, they will struggle to survive.
“I need not rehearse the value of the tourism and hospitality industries to our country, which employs hundreds of thousands of individuals, both directly and in supply chains, often in our most rural communities. Losing these jobs risks plunging communities into deprivation”
Mr. Hart’s letter follows on from criticisms made by Paul Davies MS, leader of the opposition in the Senedd who also has called for Mark Drakeford to offer ‘hope and reassurance to the sector’.
Vaughan Gething said that Simon Hart had “the luxury of not being a decision-maker” and it would be “much better for all of us if the Secretary of State engaged in a more constructive discussion with us”.
Mark Drakeford, the First Minister has been complaining over recent weeks of the lack of communication between himself and the Prime Minister.
Vaughan Gething added, “We are making very difficult decisions about balancing the risks in public health with the harms lockdown cause.”
The First Minister and other Welsh government ministers have commented in recent days that they are ”intensely aware of the pressure” that is on the tourism and hospitality sectors. Emphasizing that they are in discussions with all the key stakeholders as to the safest and best way forward.