Opposition parties demand vote on new Covid restrictions in Wales

Plaid Cymru and the Tories are calling for Welsh ministers to publish evidence behind new pub rules - and to give Senedd members a vote.

The Welsh Conservatives have been joined by left-wing nationalists Plaid Cymru to demand a Senedd vote on new coronavirus rules which come into effect on Friday.

Opposition parties have reacted with anger to new restrictions from the Welsh Labour government, which will see Welsh pubs, restaurants and cafes banned from serving alcohol from Friday, and unable to open to customers beyond 6pm. Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions, including cinemas, museums and galleries, will also have to shut.

A £160m “Restrictions Business Fund” will offer firms in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors that pay non-domestic rates grants of up to £5,000, while a “sector-specific” £180m Economic Resilience Fund will be made available for hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses.

Plaid Cymru have branded the new restrictions on hospitality ‘deeply regretful’, blaming a failure to roll out mass testing. Anger is growing in the hospitality sector, with 100 pubs ‘barring‘ First Minister Mark Drakeford MS over the new measures.

A spokesperson for Plaid Cymru told LFF: “Decisions of such magnitude, which impact of people’s lives and livelihoods should be debated and voted on before their implementation. That is why we will be submitting an application for an urgent debate at the earliest possible opportunity to enable the Senedd to express its view on these wide ranging restrictions.

“It will also provide an opportunity for the Welsh Government to publish the evidence and modelling which underpins its decision to close hospitality at 6pm along with a Wales wide ban on alcohol.”

Darren Millar MS – the Tories’ Shadow Minister for Covid Recovery – has hit out at Ministers for failing to schedule a vote before they are introduced on Friday, and condemned the restrictions.

Speaking in the Welsh Parliament, Mr Millar spoke of the “significant impact” the restrictions will have on businesses and said they should be the subject of a debate and vote in the Senedd before coming into force.

Mr Millar told Ministers: “Can I say how disappointed I am that we don’t have a debate taking place this week, prior to the very restrictive regulations which are going to come into play across the whole of Wales on Friday? You’ve had the opportunity. You could have tabled a ‘take note’ debate this afternoon for this Chamber to discuss the Welsh Government’s proposals, and to give an indication of its view on them.”

He added that the Covid restrictions are going to have a ‘significant impact’ on the hospitality and indoor entertainment industries: “Many of those businesses that will be affected are already on their knees, with tens of thousands of jobs hanging by a thread, and your restrictions are going to cause even more pain for those businesses.”

The Tory leader was told that there would be an opportunity to vote on the regulations in full, in around two weeks.

Wales will begin rolling out the Pfizer Covid vaccine ‘within days’, though the Welsh Government has warned that the effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for ‘many months’, and the advice on hygiene and social distancing remains the same. More than 2,500 people have died from Covid in Wales.

Opposition parties in Westminster had previously called for a guaranteed vote on coronavirus measures, which the PM eventually accepted. On Tuesday, 15 Labour MPs (as well as Jeremy Corbyn) voted against a return to the three-tier Covid-19 rules system in England. Keir Starmer had ordered his MPs to abstain.

Josiah Mortimer is co-editor of Left Foot Forward.

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