Wales’ new COVID committee compared to ‘Vicar Of Dibley’

The Welsh parliament has voted to set up a COVID-19 inquiry committee – but campaigners say it does not go far enough.

There have been calls to establish a COVID-19 public inquiry to focus specifically on the decisions taken by the Welsh government, which often acted at different time and on different advice to the UK’s other devolved governments during the pandemic.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the best way to scrutinise decisions taken in Wales is through the UK-wide COVID inquiry.

Senedd members have now backed plans to set up a special committee that goes some way towards investigating decisions made during the pandemic in Wales.

Campaign group COVID-19 Bereaved Families For Justice Cymru called the move “embarrassing”, saying the committee would be the equivalent of a “parish council meeting” and branded it “Vicar Of Dibley-style”.

A motion to establish the committee was passed unopposed on Tuesday.

Plans to establish the special purpose committee came after discussions between the Welsh Labour government and the Welsh Conservatives – the official opposition party in Cardiff Bay.

‘Bereaved families deserve answers’

After the motion was passed, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: “Mark Drakeford and the Labour government diverged from the UK government’s decisions during the pandemic and so should accept scrutiny of the different path taken.

“The Welsh Conservatives have been pushing for an independent Welsh COVID inquiry, to cover all bases and ensure that bereaved families get the answers they deserve. We will not give up on our calls to ensure this takes place.”

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said he hoped the committee would be able to provide families with some answers.

He said: “I would like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru who have led the arguments, led the case for a Welsh COVID inquiry and I hope that this special purpose committee, though not giving us what we want ultimately, will at least provide them with some of the answers that they so richly deserve.”

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Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh government’s Trefnydd (Leader of the House), responded to Senedd members’ renewed calls for a public inquiry by saying the UK COVID-19 inquiry provided the “best way” to scrutinise its decisions.

She said: “The pandemic touched the lives of everyone in Wales but of course especially those families, many, many families, who lost a loved one.

“It’s right that the decisions taken by the Welsh government, and also by Welsh public bodies, are openly and properly scrutinised and we continue to believe that the best way to do that is through the UK COVID-19 inquiry.

“We continue to engage fully with the inquiry to ensure our actions and decisions are fully and properly scrutinised, and since last year I know we’ve provided a significant number of statements and documentation to allow the inquiry to carry out its very important work.”