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WALES’S First Minister has accused a dozen Welsh Tory MPs of playing party politics with the coronavirus pandemic after they criticised the level of testing in the country.
Mark Drakeford also slammed a lack of regular planned meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Westminster government to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
A letter from the 12 MPs, whose signatories included former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns, criticised Mr Drakeford’s Labour administration last week for not expanding tests in the same way that England has. The intervention exposed tensions between the Cardiff and Westminster governments.
In a major interview with the Morning Star published today, a frustrated Mr Drakeford accused the MPs of factual inaccuracies in a letter that was “partisan and political in nature, and misunderstood the public mood.
“I was saddened by the letter, because we have been doing our best to work with other parties and share information with them and offer access to government staff and ministers,” he said.
Mr Drakeford was also forthright that the Conservative Party is only “indifferently reconciled to devolution. Scratch the surface and, basically, they believe we should do what we are told.”
He told the Star that entering lockdown had been a UK-wide decision by all the devolved administrations and that leaving it had to be done in the same way.
The First Minister explained that during the weeks since the lockdown began, there had been lots of contact between his government and Westminster, but it had tended to be on an ad hoc and one-off basis.
“I would prefer a pattern where every week we had official contact with a meeting of devolved governments only, probably with [Cabinet Officer Minister] Michael Gove, and end the week with a Cobra meeting to bring all that together.”
The Welsh leader said he had written to the UK government and had only received a response from the Cabinet Officer Minister. Mr Drakeford said: “I hope the letter I have received from Mr Gove committing to regular contact with devolved governments means we will have a more intensive set of meetings this week.”
The First Minister again emphasised the need for all parts of the UK to work together, particularly when the lockdown restrictions are eased.
He said: “We need systems in place across the UK, because people move around all the time, and we need systems in place that talk to each other to be able to make sure contacts can be traced wherever contact takes place.”
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