'We can't go to the beach': MP says Welsh Government is undermining coronavirus message

A Shropshire MP has accused the Welsh Parliament of undermining the Government's message on tackling the coronavirus epidemic at a time when national unity is needed.

Conservative Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski
Conservative Shrewsbury and Atcham MP Daniel Kawczynski

Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, said it was time that the Welsh people were given a fresh referendum on whether there should be a devolved parliament.

Mr Kawczynski said the Prime Minister's statement struck a good balance between those who wanted the lockdown restrictions eased, and those who were concerned that doing so could aid the spread of the virus.

But he said the speech by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, which followed, undermined this message, and said the differing messages presented problems for people living border areas such as Shropshire and Mid Wales.

Mark Drakeford

One example, he said, was the conflicting messages between the Westminster and Welsh governments on whether one could go to the beach.

"The Prime Minister has told us we can go to the beach now, but we are then told we can't go to any of our closest beaches because they are in Wales, and the Welsh Government doesn't want us to come," he said.

"There are some golf courses in Shropshire which are half in Wales and half in England, and we need a cohesive policy which covers the whole of the country. At a time of national crisis, people expect to hear a single, united voice."

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Mr Kawczynski said there were other areas, such as transport and health, where the divergence of policy caused problems for border communities.

"I'm happy with the Prime Minister's statement, but worried what the Welsh Assembly is doing to cohesion of Britain," he said.

"Their undermining of the PM at a time of crisis will I hope start a debate in Wales over the longer term as to whether or not to continue with this expensive and unnecessary body."

Mr Kawczynski said he had spoken to many people in Wales who would also like to see the Welsh Parliament abolished, and said the time had come for the people of Wales to have another vote.

"We had a referendum 23 years ago, and Tony Blair forced it through on a majority of 0.6 per cent," he said. "It is right that we should review these things periodically, and I would like to see my friends in Wales given the chance to have their say in another referendum."

Mr Kawczynski said he had been told by doctors that the devolved health services were having a negative impact on Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, as it was underfunding patients from Wales who used the hospital.

"It's causing huge financial difficulties for Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, creating a massive black hole," he said.

Ken Skates, Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales in the Welsh Government, said he was disappointed by Mr Kawczynski's comments."I think he is acting in a foolish and in an irresponsible way,"  said Mr Skates, who represents Clwyd South in the Welsh Parliament.

"Every politician wants to ensure the loss of lives is absolutely minimised, and that's why we're asking people to be a little more patient and stay at home a little longer. We really want people to visit Wales at the right time, but right now the safest thing to do, and the Prime Minister has said this as well, is to stay at home.

"It's the responsible thing to do is to say to people 'please be patient, wait another three weeks or so', we will review the rules then."

A Welsh Government spokesman said it was a devolved matter, and regulations relating to coronavirus were drawn up by the Welsh Government and apply to Wales.

"Welsh ministers have carried out the statutory three-week review of the regulations and, based on the latest scientific evidence, have decided to keep the stay-at-home regulations in place to protect people in Wales from coronavirus," he said.

“We will continue to make decisions which are right for Wales on behalf of Wales.”

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