Coronavirus 'mixed messages' cause anger and anxiety, say Welsh Labour MPs

The letter Welsh Labour MPs have written to the Prime Minister

Welsh Labour MPs have written to the Prime Minister saying confused UK Government announcements about coronavirus action are leaving "people feeling angry, anxious and exasperated."

In a letter to Boris Johnson, by MPs including Chris Bryant, Stephen Doughty and Jo Stevens, they say that despite Welsh Government moving to match the Chancellor's recent announcement on business rates, it hadn't been made clear in the announcement that it was an England-only policy.

The MPs say that confusion could lead to people losing confidence in the government's announcements.

They are calling for the following changes:

  • Every policy announcement should state clearly if it's England-only or UK-wide
  • Make more effort to reach agreement from devolved governments before an announcement is made
  • Ensure government web-sites and media campaigns make clear what applies where
  • Encourage broadcasters and journalists to be clearer about the differences
The letter came from the office of Chris Bryant signed by a number of other Labour MPs in Wales Credit: PA

In the letter, it says they are getting "increasingly concerned" by the "mixed messages" about measures being introduced by the UK Government.

"We all support devolution... there will obviously be instances where the response is slightly different in the different parts of the UK".

  • Read the letter in full here:

Dear Prime Minister

We are increasingly concerned as Welsh MPs by the mixed messages that our constituents are getting about the various measures being taken by central Government in Westminster and the devolved Governments in the Nations. We all support devolution and since health, social care, education and local government are devolved there will obviously be instances where the response is slightly different in the different parts of the UK.

However, there has been considerable confusion from the outset, which has led to many people feeling angry, anxious and exasperated. We warmly welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement on business rates, for instance, but at no point in his announcement did he make it clear that this was an England-only policy because business rates are devolved. As soon as the Welsh Government had clarity from the Chancellor about additional funding for a scheme in Wales, the Welsh Government put in place a virtually identical policy, but it would have been better if this had been clarified from the beginning.

The same is true of the NHS volunteering scheme. We welcome it, but we note that it never states that it is an England-only scheme, so constituents have been perplexed when they have tried to sign up.

The real danger is that such mixed messages mean people lose confidence in the government’s actions and refuse to comply with government advice. Our constituents don’t necessarily follow the ins and out of devolution and broadcasters have completely failed to make clear when a policy does or does not apply across the UK. It is all the more important that Government is as clear as possible.

We are therefore asking you to do three things:

  1. State clearly in respect of every policy announcement whether it is England-only or UK-wide.
  2. Strive to get as great a degree of unanimity as possible between the nations of the UK before a policy is announced rather than wait to clarify the financial situation after the initial announcement.
  3. Ensure all government web-sites, advice notes, policy announcements and media campaigns make absolutely clear what applies where – and encourage broadcasters and journalists to use a common branding for UK-wide and devolved policies.

We all want to achieve the same thing – to save lives and protect people’s way of life – but we believe we can only do this with much greater coordination across the UK. That takes more than a shared COBR meeting. It means really thinking the issue through from the viewpoint of the public who do not have time to sort out the many-layered aspects of devolution in the midst of tackling their many other problems.

Yours sincerely

Chris Bryant MP Chris Evans MP Chris Elmore MP Jessica Morden MP Carolyn Harris MP Jo Stevens MP Wayne David MP Stephen Doughty MP Gerald Jones MP Tonia Antoniazzi MP Alexandra Davies-Jones MP Ruth Jones MP Anna McMorrin MP Bethan Winter MP Mark Tami MP

In response to the letter a UK Government spokesperson said throughout the crisis, it has worked "closely and consistently" with the Welsh Government.

This is the biggest challenge facing the UK for generations. Unprecedented action has been taken by the UK Government at extraordinary speed because we know that businesses, communities and individuals all need help urgently.

Throughout the crisis, we have worked closely and consistently with the Welsh Government and the other devolved administrations to keep the whole of the UK safe.

Welsh Government officials and Ministers have been involved in COBRA meetings and committees since the pandemic began and will continue to be a key part of the planning and communication of the overall response.

– UK Government spokesperson