Families demand more than Senedd committee for Covid inquiry

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Renewed calls for a Wales-specific Covid inquiry arise as bereaved families argue that a Senedd committee “confuses the matter.”

Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees, leader of Covid-19 Bereaved Families Cymru, emphasized that a committee led by politicians cannot serve as a replacement.

She stated, “It is simply incapable of addressing the diverse range of issues and attaining the level of detail we require.” While the committee assured that individuals would have opportunities to express their views.

According to Ms. Marsh-Rees, the committee, scheduled to convene for the first time next week, does not equate to a Wales-specific inquiry.

She emphasized, “It is absolutely not. It lacks independence. We urge for it to be removed from the political sphere.”

The establishment of the Wales Covid-19 Inquiry Special Purpose Committee was the outcome of an agreement between Welsh Labour and the Welsh Conservatives. Its purpose is to identify any shortcomings in the UK inquiry’s assessment of Wales.

Amid an ongoing dispute, the question of whether Wales necessitates an independent inquiry into the pandemic has persisted, with the Welsh government opposing the calls for such an inquiry.

Expressing apprehension, Lucy O’Brien, a lawyer well-versed in public inquiries and judicial reviews, voiced concerns about the Senedd committee’s capacity to thoroughly scrutinize the decisions made during the pandemic due to potential resource limitations.

She emphasized that an independent public inquiry would have the essential resources to engage with witnesses, compel evidence, and conduct public hearings.

“If the UK public inquiry reveals issues with care homes in Wales and such concerns are included in Baroness Hallett’s recommendations, it is unlikely that the Senedd committee would be adequately resourced to contact care homes in Wales to gather evidence,” she expressed doubtfully.

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A spokesperson for the Welsh government stated that they would refrain from providing ongoing commentary on the evidence being gathered by the inquiry and would abstain from speculating on the inquiry’s potential conclusions.

Ms. O’Brien expressed her surprise at the Welsh government’s decision to vote against conducting an independent public inquiry in Wales.

She acknowledged that Wales had taken a unique approach in responding to the pandemic, diverging from the strategies adopted by the UK government. There were noticeable discrepancies in several aspects of the pandemic response between Wales and the rest of the UK.

She commented that, considering the legal perspective, it was surprising to them that the Senedd voted against conducting an independent inquiry.

Joyce Watson, Labour Member of the Senedd for Mid and West Wales, and Tom Giffard, Conservative MS for South Wales West, are serving as co-chairs of the committee.

Source : bbc.com