By Mark Isherwood

MS North Wales

Last Wednesday’s meeting of the Welsh Parliament provided the first opportunity in the sixth Senedd term to question the First Minister directly. With the UK Government allowing responsibly organized outdoor wedding receptions to be held in private gardens in England, I asked him why he is not allowing this in Wales, quoting constituents who have contacted me in desperation.

In his response he said “I make no apologies at all for having those receptions in regulated premises”.

It seems the First Minister remains determined to do things differently in Wales, as if the scientific and medical advice wasn’t the same on both sides of the border, and regardless of the damage this is causing to families and businesses in Wales, as weddings are cancelled here and many are re-arranged a few miles away in England.

I also asked him what plans he has to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to those under 16 years old as rates of the Indian variant increase across the UK - and to prioritise clinically extremely vulnerable young people. In his response, the First Minister said “Children who are extremely clinically vulnerable are already receiving vaccination in Wales down to the age of 12”, which is odd given that Health Charities have told me that they would like to establish if people under 16 with conditions like cystic fibrosis will be prioritised if the vaccine is made available to children.

I joined some of my fellow North Wales Welsh Conservative MSs and MPs for a catch up meeting with North Wales Tourism, the lead membership body for the tourism industry in North Wales. Although the demand for domestic holidays is looking unprecedented, the impact of lockdowns on staffing, workforce planning and skills has created an acute skills and labour shortage in our tourism hospitality sector. The Welsh and UK Governments are advocating ‘staycations’ to support economic recovery, but the tourism sector also need underpinning and support to sustainably meet this demand.

Tourism contributes around £3.6 billion a year to the North Wales economy and Welsh Conservatives are therefore calling for the sector to be properly supported to bounce back from the COVID crisis.

As colleagues told the First Minister, “many businesses now are dismayed and probably angry that the (Welsh) Government has said that the financial support they were expecting for April will not be honoured” and “in Wales, business support hasn't had Restart Grants made available in other parts of the United Kingdom”.

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