Present (via Teams)
- Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (Chair)
- Rebecca Evans MS
- Vaughan Gething MS
- Lesley Griffiths MS
- Julie James MS
- Eluned Morgan MS
- Jeremy Miles MS
- Ken Skates MS
- Kirsty Williams MS
- Jane Hutt MS
- Hannah Blythyn MS
- Julie Morgan MS
- Dafydd Elis Thomas MS
- Lee Waters MS
- Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
- Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
- Carys Evans, Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister
- Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
- Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
- Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
- Dan Butler, Special Adviser
- Ian Butler, Special Adviser
- Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
- Sara Faye, Special Adviser
- Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser
- Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
- Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
- Gareth Williams, Special Adviser
- Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
- Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
- Jonathan Scourfield, Specialist Policy Adviser
- Dewi Knight, Specialist Policy Adviser
- Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services
- Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health
- Andrew Slade, Director General ESNR
- Reg Kilpatrick, Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Coordination
- Frank Atherton, CMO
- Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health
- Simon Brindle, Director Recovery and Restart
- Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
- Dylan Hughes, First Legislative Counsel
- Tom Smithson, Deputy Director Restart
- Liz Lalley, Deputy Director Recovery
- Piers Bisson, Director European Transition
- Christopher Warner, Deputy Director Constitution and Justice
- Charlie Thomas, Head of Legislation and Governance Unit
- Catrin Sully, Cabinet Office
- Claire McDonald, Head of Economic Policy
- Neil Buffin, Senior Lawyer
- Peter Jones, CMO’s office
- Cathy Weatherup, CMO’s office
- Jo Trott, Head of COVID-19 team
- Dave Morris, Deputy Head of Food Division
- Sarah Meredith, TAC
Item 1: Minutes of the previous meeting
1.1 Cymeradwyodd y Cabinet gofnodion y 6 Ionawr / Cabinet approved the minutes of 6 January.
Item 2: First Minister’s items
2.1 The First Minister advised Cabinet that there would be an opportunity to discuss the ongoing consequences of the UK leaving the EU transition period at the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Wednesday. There would be a further update for Ministers at the 9am meeting on Thursday.
Item 3: Senedd business
3.1 Cabinet discussed the Plenary forward schedule and noted that meetings that week would be entirely virtual, and accordingly the Llywydd was aiming to keep the sessions as short as possible. To help facilitate this, the debate scheduled to be led by the Independent Alliance for Reform on Wednesday had been postponed.
Item 4: COVID-19 – Options to Amend Restrictions CAB(20-21)58
4.1 The First Minister introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to consider options to further amend the COVID-19 restrictions.
4.2 Ministers were reminded that the restrictions relating to COVID-19 would be for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence, spread of infection or contamination. There must be a threat to public health and the restrictions had to be proportionate in what they were intending to achieve.
4.3 Cabinet had agreed, the previous week, to maintain the restrictions that were already in place and aligned decisions on school and college closures with the wider review process. In addition, officials had been asked to explore whether the constraints already in place should be tightened further.
4.4 The First Minister invited the CMO to provide the latest advice in respect of the transmission of the virus and the impact on the NHS.
4.5 There had been a slight overall reduction in transmission rates across Wales with the 7 day average around 409 in every 100,000 of the population. The positivity rate was around 21%. However, there was still concern about the rate of increase in North East Wales, with Wrexham recording a seven day average of 851 in every 100,000.
4.6 There was still some uncertainty surrounding the spread of the new variant and cases could increase again in other parts of Wales, particularly the South.
4.7 Hospitals were still under a great deal of pressure, but admissions were not increasing as exponentially as in some parts of England. Mortality rates were still high, but it was accepted that there was a lag in data due to the time people spent in hospital with symptoms.
4.8 It was still very important to push the messaging that people needed to remain at home.
4.9 In response to the proposed additional control measures highlighted at Cabinet the previous week, relevant ministers were invited to outline specific recommendations from within their own portfolios.
4.10 In terms of childcare venues, it was recommended that it was in the best interests of children, families, registered settings and future generations of Wales for settings to remain open, where they were able to do so safely. Cabinet approved the recommendation.
4.11 For options relating to places of worship, Cabinet agreed to rely on the existing approach of guidance and the leadership from faith communities to assess the specific risks and support closures.
4.12 It was reported that Trades Unions, business leaders and others had been calling for the Regulations to include a specific requirement on all businesses and premises to undertake a COVID-19 risk assessment. Cabinet agreed that, given the public health emergency, such specific requirements should appear in the Coronavirus Regulations.
4.13 In terms of essential retail Cabinet agreed that specific requirements should be set for such traders.
4.14 Cabinet discussed ‘click and collect’ services and agreed the guidance should be revisited and that engagement with the sector should take place to ensure risk assessments took into account relevant protocols to minimise contact and time spent in stores.
4.15 It was agreed that officials should proceed in line with the comments made by ministers.
Item 5: Welsh Elections (Coronavirus) Bill
5.1 The Minister for Housing and Local Government informed Ministers that an Emergency Bill had been developed to ensure that the Senedd Election could be conducted as safely as possible given the ongoing pandemic. The Bill made provision to shorten the dissolution period, allowing the current Senedd to respond to the unfolding public health crisis. It also provided protection for the first meeting date of the new Senedd, by requiring it to meet within 21 calendar days.
5.2 Amongst other provisions, there would be a new power for the Llywydd to postpone the election, due to the pandemic, for up to 6 months. Before the Llywydd could exercise that power, the First Minister must propose a postponement. Issues around existing powers under Section 4 of the Government of Wales Act about varying the date of the election and by-elections would also be addressed.
5.3 There would also be some changes to practical issues, such as an ability for a voter to apply for an emergency proxy vote.
5.4 Local authorities were planning for the election and were in the process of ensuring that increased safety precautions would be in place to respond to COVID-19.
5.5 It was noted that, subject to the Llywydd’s determination, final Ministerial approval, and procedural motions, the Bill would be introduced to the Senedd on 27th January with the aim of Stage Four proceedings taking place on 10th February.