UK Government ministers understand there are pros and cons with any decisions we take over lockdown. Strict measures might slow the spread of coronavirus but will cost more jobs and businesses. Easing restrictions runs the risk of spreading the virus more but reduces the threat of job losses. We should also remember that poverty caused by unemployment can affect people’s physical and mental health. There are no easy answers. However, the UK Government is trying to lift measures as quickly as possible whilst encouraging people to use common sense and protect themselves.
The Welsh Government is lifting lockdown at a slower rate than England meaning, for example, there will be no proper dental services until 2021. Worse than that is the economic impact. The headlines last week highlighted that 1,700 Airbus workers face losing their jobs in Wales. Nearly 100 times as many people - over 160,000 - work in the Welsh tourism industry. The Welsh Government’s decision to keep the tourist sector closed while England reopens means all those people now face the risk of unemployment.
Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, Welsh Government ministers have attended UK Government ministerial meetings. First Minister Mark Drakeford attends the top-level Cobra committee and other ministers attend the ministerial implementation meetings (a sort of level before Cobra). When I last counted, over 130 of these meetings had taken place - but the number is now much higher. I know this for a fact because as a junior Wales Office Minister, I have attended many myself.
When Welsh Secretary Simon Hart and I first heard Welsh Government officials complain they wanted an even closer relationship, we asked if one of us could attend Assembly ministerial meetings. Eventually an invitation arrived to attend a briefing, but only the parts which related to non-devolved issues. I don’t want to sour the good working relationship that has been developing between the UK and Welsh governments. But the fact is their ministers have had full access to our ministerial meetings and we have no access to theirs. It is therefore ridiculous for them to complain they don’t get enough information about what the UK Government is doing.
Last year Newport was ranked as one of the best places to live in the UK by one company. Quite right too. But the study only looked at financial criteria, jobs, value for money and didn’t even mention the people and strong sense of community. Throughout the lockdown, neighbours would knock on the door (standing well back) to offer practical help to my mother. Furthermore, an excellent local charity - St David’s Foundation Hospice Care - had the most amazing team of local people providing help in the most difficult of circumstances.
I am proud to have been brought up in this city. I hope the Argus will continue with its "We're backing Newport" campaign when lockdown is over.
- The constituency office in Usk is closed and my staff and I are remotely working from home. As much as we are able, we are taking a 'business as usual' approach. Constituents can still telephone 01291 672817 (calls are diverted) or email email@example.com
*Published in the South Wales Argus on 6 July 2020*