Rhun ap Iorwerth responds to Hitachi’s withdrawal from Wylfa Newydd Project

In response to the announcement that Hitachi have officially withdrawn from the Wylfa Newydd project, Plaid Cymru MS for Anglesey Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said:

“Horizon were saying as recently as the last few weeks that their parent company, Hitachi, were still hopeful of winning the support of UK Government. Obviously, that support hasn’t been secured, and the hopes of those who wanted to see a new nuclear power station developed at Wylfa have been raised and dashed once again. To me, this was the danger in relying too much on external investment and on the ability of UK Government to deliver.

“While there will need to be urgent consideration now on alternative options for the site, there must be a step up also in the work to secure other opportunities for the island, including in fields that I am very supportive of such as tidal energy, hydrogen energy and advanced technologies in M-Sparc, for example. I will be pressing Welsh Government to respond to that challenge as a matter of urgency.

“I am also looking forward to seeing Plaid Cymru establishing the headquarters of a new national energy company for Wales on the island in future.”

“Plan further ahead” Rhun ap Iorwerth urges Welsh Government as changes to lockdown rules in Wales announced

The Welsh Government should “plan further ahead” on easing restrictions, Rhun ap Iorwerth has said.

The Welsh Government today announced further changes to lockdown laws in Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said people and businesses needed a longer term view than “two and three week block” and suggested a “phased approach” as seen in other countries – with caveats that things can change.

The Shadow Health Minister repeated his call for Welsh Government to move “as fast possible” whilst “challenging and testing its evidence” in the safest way.

Mr ap Iorwerth stressed the need not to “compromise on health”.

First minister Mark Drakeford confirmed today that there would be a cautious go ahead to trips to tourist attractions from 6 July, and for booking for self-contained accommodation from 13 July.

He also confirmed that the Wales’ travel restrictions could be lifted from 6 July so people can “travel as far as they like for all purposes,” the first minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said,

“Whilst it’s good that we’re moving in the right direction in terms of lifting restrictions and that Government feels it is safe to do.

“However I still urge Government to plan further ahead. We’re moving in a two and three week blocks here. People and businesses need to have a longer term view, a kind of phased approach as seen in other countries, with dates set for likely changes – but obviously with caveats that things can change, depending on outbreaks and the R rate.

“I repeat my call for Government to move as fast as possible, continuously challenging and testing its evidence in a transparent manner, but in the safest possible way too – we can’t compromise on health, and the outbreak in my constituency reminds us of that.”

“Welsh Government messaging so far has been a whisper, now they need to shout” – Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru’s MS for Ynys Mon, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has called on the Welsh Government to “ramp up” its communications output to ensure that there is “no confusion” between lockdown measures operational in Wales and those announced for England.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all announced they would be sticking to the ‘Stay At Home’ messaging for another three weeks with three minor adjustments on the easing of restrictions.

However, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement yesterday outlined different guidance and messaging for England which included easing of travel and leisure restrictions and permitting people to travel any distance to exercise.

Mr ap Iorwerth said there was widespread concern that due to a media deficit and confused messaging a lack of clarity on where those rules apply could threaten public health in Wales.

Plaid Cymru MS and Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said it was the Welsh Government’s responsibility that any confusion in messaging is tackled at once to ensure that public health in Wales in not put at risk.

Mr ap Iorwerth urged the Welsh Government to ramp up communication with the public, investing in digital and print media – both local and on a UK-wide basis, to ensure the message is received.

Mr ap Iorwerth said progress in lowering community transmission should not be reversed by “confusing messaging”.

Plaid Cymru MS and Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“In order to address the confusion and clarify the difference between Welsh and English lockdown measures, the Welsh Government must urgently ramp up their communications. This could include increasing advertising in both local, national and London based print press and massively boosting their social media advertising.”

“The Welsh Government should also reconsider the timing of their daily press conferences and their current reach. Perhaps by moving the conferences closer to the UK Government’s announcement, there would be more engagement with the Welsh public and less confusion over which rules apply to whom.”

“Our progress in lowering community transmissions should not be allowed to be undermined by confusing messaging from the Westminster Government and a lack of communication from the Welsh Government.”

“The Welsh Government’s messaging so far has been a whisper, now they need to shout.”

Confirmed that Westminster gazumped Wales’s Covid-19 testing deal with Roche, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Scrutiny from Plaid Cymru MS for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth meant that Public Health Wales has finally confirmed the reason behind the Roche deal collapse: the Westminster Government gazumped the 5,000 daily tests that Welsh Government negotiated for the benefit of the Welsh public.

Chief Executive of Public Health Wales Tracey Cooper confirmed during today’s Senedd Health Committee that the Roche deal collapsed because of Westminster Government interference after questions from Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS.

Ms Cooper also said Public Health Wales was not aware of the 9,000 daily testing target set by Welsh Government.

Mr ap Iorwerth said the revelation raised “serious and fundamental questions” about how the Westminster government “views” Wales.

Mr ap Iorwerth said the so called four-nations approach had once again put Wales at the “back of the queue” when it comes to Westminster’s priorities.

By the end of April, Welsh Government had promised 5,000 tests per day, rising to 9,000 by mid-May. Yet Wales still has days where only 900 tests a day are carried out – well below the 9,000 target set out by the Welsh Government.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth, MS, said:

“Public Health Wales’ confirmation today that the UK Government did step in to take 5,000 tests a day off Wales and to subsume them into the general testing pool raises serious and fundamental questions about how UK Government views Wales. What we’ve seeing is the gazumping of a deal negotiated for the benefit of the Welsh public, and Labour Ministers were too weak to stand up to UK Government.

“Once again, the four-nations approach puts Wales at the back of the queue. Wales needs to stand up for itself, and it is clear that we’re unable to do this under a party that consistently kowtows to Westminster.

“Now we still have days where fewer than 1,000 a day are tested, compared with the 9000 target promised by the Welsh Government. In a separate twist to a remarkable Health Committee meeting, the startling admission to me by Public Health Wales’s Chief Executive that she wasn’t aware of the 9,000 a day target also begs the question, what on earth is going on with Welsh Government’s handling of this crisis?”

Health Minister Vaughan Gething “turning down science-based advice” on testing says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has criticised Health Minister Vaughan Gething for playing down projections in a leaked report for the numbers of tests Wales will need to track and trace coronavirus.

Speaking in the Welsh Government Press Conference today, Vaughan Gething said the numbers in the leaked Public Health Wales report were not “final” and it was “not the confirmed national plan”.

However, Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS accused the Health Minister for “rejecting the evidence” presented to him.

Mr ap Iorwerth said the Minister was turning down science-based advice.

The Shadow Health Minister said the Welsh Government should set its sights on reaching 30,000 tests a day as outlined in the report – rather than “putting obstacles in the way”.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said,

“Having asked experts to advise on a comprehensive test, track and isolate policy is the Minister now rejecting the evidence they’ve presented to him?

“The Minister can’t argue on the one hand that he is guided by the science while on the other turning down the science-based advice.

“If it’s been identified – as I believe is correct – that we’ll need something 30,000 tests a day, then we should be setting sight on reaching that, not putting obstacles in the way. ”

Ynys Mon AM urges UK and Welsh Governments to provide sustained support for tourism sector

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth has written urgently to UK Government Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Welsh Government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans asking them to commit to continued support for the island’s vital tourism sector long after lockdown is ended, in order to enable the sector to survive into the new year.

At present, businesses and employees across Wales can access Welsh and UK Government schemes for financial support, but there are concerns that the short-term support will not be enough to cover the costs of vital business that has been lost over the course of the lockdown – which is normally one of the busiest times for the island’s booming tourism industry.

This has led to the Plaid Cymru AM writing to the UK and Welsh Governments requesting further financial support for the sector as it struggles through this unprecedented time.

Mr ap Iorwerth said:

“Tourism plays an integral part in the economy of Ynys Môn, and of Wales as a whole, and I am thankful to those businesses who have temporarily closed their doors in the interest of public health and the need to protect our limited resources.

“Whilst urging visitors to stay at their primary residences for the time being, we look forward to welcoming them back once this crisis has passed, and for that to happen, we need to provide the industry with the support it needs to survive during this unprecedented time.

“I am inundated by correspondence from businesses seeking financial assistance, and whilst many are able to furlough staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and access support for the self-employed, many businesses dependent on tourism have brought some issues to my attention.

“Given that the industry will have lost such a significant proportion of its business for 2020, I have asked UK and Welsh Government for a commitment to continue support for affected businesses and employees way beyond the end of lockdown, in order to take the sector through to 2021, and look forward to receiving an urgent response regarding this very important matter.”

Issue Guidance on Face Masks in Public, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

The Welsh Government should issue guidance on the use of face masks when out in public, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM has said.

The Scottish government today recommended people cover their faces while in some enclosed public spaces – such as shops and public transport.

Stressing the need for the public to continue to stay at home to save lives, Mr ap Iorwerth said that in cases where being in enclosed spaces was unavoidable, such as in shops or on public transport, people need to know exacly how best to protect themselves.

The Shadow Health Minister said there was evidence that face coverings could help “reduce the risk of transmission between asymptomatic carriers”.

Mr ap Iorwerth added that we couldn’t relax restrictions before we are confident Governments are “taking the correct approach to protect the public”.

Downing Street say UK ministers were considering the scientific evidence for introducing similar advice.

Face masks are to become compulsory on public transport in Germany, and in supermarkets and pharmacies in Austria whilst residents in Lombardy in Italy must cover their nose and mouth when outside. The French government also plans to give out masks to the general public.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,

“The kind of evidence presented by the Scottish Government on the wearing of face masks in enclosed public spaces will be available to Welsh Government too.

“People must continue to stay home to save lives and stick to the current restrictions and guidelines. There will, however, be times where that is impossible – when people are forced to enter an enclosed space such as shops or public transport.

“In those instances, the Welsh Government needs to be clear on the use face coverings to protect those around them – not surgical grade masks but coverings that could help reduce the risk of transmission between asymptomatic carriers. I’m seeing growing evidence that they CAN be beneficial, and would support guidance to that effect.

“We can’t even talk about relaxing restrictions before we are confident Governments are taking the correct approach to protect the public – that includes testing, tracing and isolating and issuing the most sensible guidance when it comes to face coverings.”

‘To Deny Heroic Health Workers Death in Service Benefit Would be a Travesty’ – Rhun ap Iorwerth

The Welsh Government needs to guarantee Death in Service benefit for any health worker who dies in the line of duty, according to Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth

The BMA has raised concerns that many workers who have been drafted in do not qualify for the benefit – this includes newly qualified staff, medical students and returning retirees.

This means that if they were to die, their families would not qualify for any financial compensation.

Plaid Cymru says it would be a moral outrage were families of individuals who had sacrificed their lives so save others were to be denied this compensation.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“The family of any health worker who dies in active duty should be entitled to Death in Service benefit.

“Currently only workers who are part of the pension scheme are covered, which means that newly qualified staff, medical students and returning retirees are not only risking their lives, but their families’ future financial security too.

“The Welsh Government has been at pains to thank these heroic workers, the very least they could do is offer them this small financial reassurance, as the Scottish Government has already done.

“I dearly hope that no families will need to receive the compensation, but it would be an absolute travesty if the Welsh Government were to deny the grieving families of heroic health workers the compensation they deserve.”

Dropping of Welsh Government Coronavirus testing targets a “scandal” says Rhun ap Iorwerth

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for Ynys Mon Rhun ap Iorwerth has called the Welsh Government’s dropping of Coronavirus testing targets “a scandal”.

The Welsh Government originally had a target of 8,000 tests a day by April 7th which then changed to 5,000 tests a day by mid-April.

Now the targets have been dropped altogether.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said testing had to be a “priority” and cited the World Health Organisation’s belief that testing is the “backbone” of the war against the virus.

The Shadow Health Minister strongly criticised dropping the targets adding that the Labour Welsh Government had a “track record” of dropping targets it failed to achieve including targets on child poverty and education.

921 tests were conducted yesterday according to figures released by Public Health Wales.

Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,

“The Welsh Government set a target of 8000 tests a day by April 7th. When it became clear that they couldn’t achieve that, it was lowered to 5000 a day by mid-April. Now with fewer than 1000 tests being done a day they’ve dropped the targets altogether! It’s a scandal.

“Testing HAS to be a priority. The World Health Organisation said testing is the backbone of the war on Coronavirus. Except in Wales, it seems – or does Welsh Government know something the WHO doesn’t?

“From child poverty to education, Welsh Government has a track record of dropping targets that it fails to achieve. But having set ambitious targets early on, that I fully supported, we’re now not even seeking to test on the kind of scale that is being targeted elsewhere in these islands.”

Open letter to Health Minister calling for greater testing capacity in the north

Rhun ap Iorwerth is one of a group of Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs in north Wales to have written to Welsh Government Health Minister Vaughan Gething warning that the people of north Wales could be subject to a “postcode lottery” due to issues with test and the level of testing carried out in the region.

Plaid Cymru’s Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Ynys Môn) Sian Gwenllian AM and Hywel Williams MP (Arfon), Liz Saville Roberts MP (Dwyfor Meirionydd) and Llyr Gruffydd AM (north Wales) have all co-signed the open letter which calls on the Welsh Government to take “every conceivable step” to ensure north Wales wouldn’t be left behind in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic.

The letter cites several examples of Covid-19 patients having to wait “extensive periods of time” for results including a nurse working at Wrexham Maelor having to wait 72 hours for their test results to return from Cardiff.

Other examples includes concerns from GPs in Arfon of the length of time test results take to be returned to their patients and of a key worker patient whose test was lost after two weeks of waiting for a result.

Noting the importance of having a “robust testing framework in place”, the Plaid Cymru representatives said there was capacity in north Wales to develop further testing and process results with equipment available to virologists at Bangor University and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething confirmed this week that a testing centre would be developed in the north but admitted it would be “another 10 days” before it would be established.

Plaid Cymru said this showed a “continued lack of urgency” and called for plans to be “urgently fast-tracked”.

The letter from north Wales’ Plaid Cymru AMs and MPs reads,

“Not only are we still not carrying out enough tests in Wales, but we are seeing significant issues with tests and the level of testing carried out in the north of Wales specifically.

“We have been made aware of many instances where possible Covid-19 patients are having to wait extensive periods of time for results to arrive after the tests are initially carried out. One particular instance that has been brought to our attention is that of a nurse and her son in the Wrexham Maelor area waiting over 72 hours for test results to be delivered despite your assurance that tests results can be processed in 24 hours.

“We know there is capacity here in North Wales for further testing to be done and for results to be processed, with the equipment available to virologists at Bangor University and Ysbyty Glan Clwyd.

“Whilst we appreciate that there are plans to develop a testing centre in the north as is currently being developed in the south, we are asking you to urgently fast track such a centre for our region. The suggestion yesterday that it would be another 10 days before such facilities are established shows continued lack of urgency.

“The Welsh Government must take every conceivable step to make sure that north Wales isn’t left behind in tackling this pandemic.

“Testing is a central part to combating this virus and the procedures in place thus far in Wales have not been sufficient. The people of the north appear to be at a particular disadvantage, and must not become the victims of a postcode lottery – particularly during a time of such unprecedented crisis.”