Main party leaders quizzed in ITV debate ahead of Senedd election

 ITV election debate Adrian still
The debate is hosted by ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters

The three leaders for the main parties in Wales running for control of the Senedd took the stand in the first leaders debate ahead of the election.

ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters questioned Mark Drakeford, Welsh Labour leader, Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative leader and Adam Price, Plaid Cymru leader.

The trio of party leaders faced topics about the handling of the rest of the pandemic, how Wales will recover from coronavirus and the kind of government to expect after the Senedd Election 2021 on May 7.

The debate was kicked off by a question from one viewer who asked the party leaders 'Would you have done anything differently during the pandemic and if so what?'

Mark Drakeford explained that he would have moved 'more quickly' to introduce covid restrictions.

Andrew RT Davies said he would have liked to have seen 'greater urgency' and more 'clarity' about a roadmap out of lockdown.

Adam Price criticised lockdown restrictions, saying they were brought in 'too slow'.

The second viewer question came from Jannat Ahmed who asked:

“The Coronavirus pandemic has shown that there is a clear relationship between deteriorating mental health and financial instability as one of the biggest contributors to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. What would you do to ensure that financial support such as a universal basic income is readily available to all to alleviate this major trigger in Wales, and set an example for the rest of the UK?”

Mark Drakeford started by stating that he believes the Welsh Labour government has 'focused on mental health during the pandemic'.

He said: "We have invested more money in mental health during the pandemic and we are committing to a further uplift next year.

"The mental health impact of the pandemic will last I believe well after the pandemic itself is over."

Adam Price responded to the question by saying he knows 'what it's like to struggle with mental health and says the current government is failing 'thousands and thousands of people every year'.

He said: "Twenty three percent of all sickness is mental health but what's the percentage of the NHS budget, it's well below that.

"We are failing thousands and thousands of people every year that struggle to get the support that they deserve and that has to change."

Andrew RT Davies focused on mental health services, saying that talking therapies and access to therapy has to be a priority.

He said: "We would give a right to students to access that service to support them with their mental health challenges."

"Mental health coming out of the pandemic has to be one of the top priorities of any incoming Welsh government and talking therapies in particular and access to talking therapies is going to be a really important part."

The debate soon turned to Welsh independence.

Mark Drakeford claimed that Wales already has 'huge independence of action', and that is what the labour government has demonstrated in the past 12 months.

Adam Price argued that a referendum on Welsh independence would not be a distraction.

Andrew RT Davies responded to Adam's point, saying an independence referendum would be 'like giving a drunk driver the keys to your car if you let Plaid Cymru have their independence referendum.' He claimed it would be 'devastating'.

One of the final questions the leaders faced was about the expansion of the Senedd.

Andrew RT Davies said a Welsh Conservative government wouldn't increase the size of the Senedd.

He said: "I don't think that we need more politicians in Cardiff Bay. We need to focus on the job in hand which is about delivering quality jobs outside of politics."

Adam Price is for the expansion of the Senedd, he said: "I think we need to expand the pool of talent, It also needs to be representative of all of the diversity of Wales."

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Labour needs to complete the work that was started this term to see if the Senedd 'needs more members to discharge its responsibilities'.

The debate finished with a question from Adrian Masters:

Andrew RT Davies gave a surprising answer.

Adam Price's response was less of a shock.

And Mark Drakeford's choice was a homage to the NHS staff.

Follow the hashtag #ITVElectionDebate for all highlights.

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