Keir Starmer has praised the Welsh government in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, describing a “real contrast” between the way the devolved administration and the UK government have responded to the pandemic.
In a public Zoom meeting with residents from Gower and Llanelli this afternoon, the Labour leader invited members of the public to ask questions and share their thoughts on the Labour Party.
He told attendees that he thought the Welsh government has “done a good job in response to Covid-19”, citing its “careful approach” and praising it for having “prioritised the right things”.
The Labour leader also said: “I do think there is a real contrast in how the Welsh government has handled this and how the Westminster government and Boris Johnson have handled this.”
Working with trade unions, teachers and local councils, the Labour-led Welsh government managed to open schools to tens of thousands of pupils last month – ahead of schools in England, which are set to return in September.
But the devolved administration has received criticism in other areas. Earlier this week, care homes reported that they are “disappointed” the Welsh government has not given any assurances on whether weekly Covid testing for staff will continue.
Starmer was also asked about the government’s plans to ensure that trade rules between the four nations don’t diverge after Brexit, with the creation of an independent body to “monitor and analyse” regulations passed.
After the UK leaves the EU, a total of 111 powers will be returned from the European bloc to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Business Secretary Alok Sharma today set out plans to regulate trade rules across the UK.
Commenting on the plans outlined in a government white paper published today, the Labour leader said: “Welsh people have the right to have a say on the internal market because it will affect them.”
He added that he thought Boris Johnson had not done well in making sure the devolved administrations had been kept “properly involved” on issues including Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.
He said that he is urging the Prime Minister to reach consensus: “What I say to the Prime Minister is that you should strive for a four nations agreed approach to this.”
Devolved governments will not be able to veto the proposals set out in the white paper. But a Welsh government spokesperson said that any attempt to impose them unilaterally from Westminster would be “deeply damaging”.
“We support having rules across the UK to regulate the internal market, but these rules must be agreed between the four governments in the UK, each of which has their own responsibility for economic development,” they said. “Any new system must have independent oversight and dispute resolution.
“Unfortunately, the UK government has not managed to share the paper with us and Welsh ministers have had no recent discussions with the UK government on these issues. Any attempt to unilaterally impose a system will be deeply damaging.”
Today’s ‘call Keir’ meeting was the latest in a series of Zoom events that the Labour leader has been hosting with members of the public from different areas of the country, to hear their views on the party.