A public inquiry into the UK Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic should look at the role of the devolved administrations, the Welsh Secretary has said.
Simon Hart said while “localised decisions” taken in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland had been necessary in places, some of their distinct rules had only “caused confusion”.
Mr Hart said he did not recognise reports of a row between Boris Johnson and UK ministers on whether to opt for health and safety legislation to respond to the crisis which let the four nations draw up their own restrictions and laws.
But he said the devolved countries’ own actions and decisions should form part of a future inquiry into Mr Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
Mr Hart told journalists on Wednesday: “Would we make every decision identically if we had to go through it all again? Almost certainly not.
“Would we change the arrangements, and the relationship between the four nations? I think that’s what an inquiry will reveal.
“The PM has been at pains to say this, there have been some moments when regional variations – where it’s been necessary perhaps to do something different in one part of the UK from the other – can be very sensible, where the evidence points.
“So I think it will be very interesting for an inquiry to reveal which are the ones where localised decision-making is a really good and helpful benefit, and which maybe have caused confusion.
“I think it’s too early for me to necessarily say where they are, but others will speculate.”
Mr Hart said differences between the nations are fine “if that could be justified by the evidence”, but in the absence of that evidence they could lead to “frustration and confusion”.
He said: “We’ve all seen it, we’ve all seen that argument played out publicly by retailers on one side of the border feeling that they’ve been put at a disadvantage.”
Mr Hart said an independent investigation of the decisions made by the UK and devolved governments should be launched “once we can genuinely say we’re the other side of the pandemic, or at least the worst of the pandemic”.