'You and I should be working together' to help tourism, Welsh Secretary writes to First Minister

The Welsh Secretary has written a strongly-worded letter to the First Minister criticising recent comments about tourism as 'the final blow' to a struggling industry.

In the letter, he also urges for the "early" publication of a plan for the Welsh tourism sector.

Simon Hart wrote to Mark Drakeford after an interview with the i-newspaper appeared under the headline "Wales will remain largely shut for tourists this summer.''

The First Minister has denied that he said tourism in Wales was over for the year. He argues that he said there are grounds for optimism for businesses in the sector but that they must know that they will not operate in the same way that they did before the pandemic.

In his letter, Simon Hart says he was "surprised" to read comments from the First Minister about problems in the way the two governments work following a conversation he had with Mark Drakeford last week.

Mr Hart said: "we both agreed that we were proud of the cooperation between the UK and Welsh Governments during this pandemic, especially where jobs and livelihoods are concerned."

He writes that without diminishing the risks, "it is extremely important that we in government instil the necessary confidence that there is light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic.

The Welsh Secretary goes on to say that "you and I should be working together to ensure that we mitigate the impacts on what has been a catastrophic year for [tourism businesses] so far."

At a press conference on Monday, the First Minister rejected claims that he'd said that tourism was "over" for the rest of the year.

He added: "[There has been] very strong reaction at a community level in north west and south west Wales to the possibility that large numbers of people might travel to those localities which have seen very low incidence of coronavirus increasing the risk that the virus will spread in those communities.

"So all of that will have to be carefully navigated. That does not rule out some measures ... but it does not say to me that tourism will be back this year operating as if coronavirus had never happened."

The First Minister rejected claims that he'd said that tourism was Credit: PA Images

This disagreement is the latest in a series of tensions between the UK and Welsh Governments over the handling of changes to lockdown rules.

The First Minister has said that the relationship with Westminster "proceeds in fits and starts" but that when it works, it works well.

Meanwhile the Welsh Secretary has highlighted more than 110 video meetings, phone calls and other contacts between officials and ministers and has asked for a UK Government representative to be able to join Welsh Government meetings.

Full text of the letter from Simon Hart to Mark Drakeford: