THE WELSH GOVERNMENT has been accused of delaying the disclosure of key evidence in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, according to reports from the preliminary hearing held yesterday.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru, who are core participants in Module 1 of the inquiry, have reportedly not received a single witness statement in relation to Wales, and have received very limited disclosure of relevant documents.
Kirsten Heaven, a barrister representing the group, raised concerns over the delay in disclosure and questioned whether it was caused by the Welsh Government. The Covid Inquiry legal team confirmed that the Welsh Government had failed to disclose all relevant documents in the first draft of their witness statement, and that the inquiry had to go back to them a second time to request full disclosure.
This delay in disclosure is concerning for bereaved Welsh families, as it limits their time to review and question the statements and evidence submitted on behalf of the Welsh Government.
Ms. Heaven also highlighted the lack of data on Wales in the expert witness statements received to date.
Despite assurances from the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, that the inquiry would focus discretely on Wales, there has been no request for Welsh expertise at the hearing. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru had to request the inquiry to instruct a number of Welsh-specific experts, including one on pandemic preparedness.
The failure to disclose all relevant evidence at the first available opportunity and the lack of Welsh expertise in the inquiry has led to disappointment among bereaved Welsh families. They are calling on the Welsh Government to make a public assurance, including in the Senedd, that moving forward they will ensure timely and full disclosure to the Public Inquiry into Covid-19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru are the only ones calling for parity for Wales in this public inquiry. It is concerning that the Welsh Government is not demanding that Wales has a Welsh expert involved in the inquiry and that the decisions of the Welsh Government on preparedness are scrutinized in the same detail as the UK Government.
The first evidential hearing for Module 1 commences in just 7 weeks, and the lack of disclosure and Welsh expertise may hinder the ability of the inquiry to effectively address the impact of Covid-19 in Wales.