Local Senedd Member, Nick Ramsay, took the opportunity to ask the First Minister a couple of important questions in the virtual Plenary session earlier this week.
In response to the huge number of constituents who have been in touch expressing dismay at the five mile travel restriction which remains in force in Wales, Nick said: “, I wonder if the Welsh Government could look again at this 5-mile travel rule and provide guidance on this. I know you've said previously that it is guidance and discretionary for people on how far they do travel, but I've got many constituents who are still unclear and very concerned that they can't travel to see family and friends. So, could we have clarity on that?”
In reply Mark Drakeford MS said: “Let me just say, once again, it is not helpful to refer to the 5-mile limit as a rule—it is not a rule. If it was a rule, it would be in regulations—it's not in regulations. It is guidance to give people a sense of what the regulation that requires people to stay local might mean in their circumstances. And the best advice is just to say to people that they're to use the 5-mile limit as a rule of thumb. They're to interpret it sensibly and soberly in their own circumstances, but there are many, many different geographies in Wales, and so long as they can demonstrate that they are acting in a way that can be defended, then they will have brought themselves within the 'stay local' rule.”
Secondly, referring to Wales’s recovery post-pandemic Nick asked: “I asked the finance Minister recently if there'd been any discussions about the future raising of taxes in Wales to deal with COVID recovery. I know she said that that was not an attractive thing to do, but I wondered if there had been any discussions. And as we come out of lockdown, could the Welsh Government perhaps look overseas at examples of some other countries in terms of getting the economy moving and using the tax system to do that? In New Zealand, for instance, they've introduced a tax loss carry-back regime to help businesses offset current tax losses against previous years. Perhaps that's something that you and the UK Government could discuss. They're also introducing discretionary deductions for non-domestic buildings to try and support businesses and get the economy moving. So, I think the Welsh Government does have a number of tools in the toolbox, as you and your predecessor have said before. So, could you look at ways to use the tax system to really kick-start the economy and try to get Wales moving again?”
The First Minister replied as follows:” There are no plans for tax raising by the Welsh Government during the current financial year. I'm interested to hear the examples that Nick Ramsay referred to. We've tended to gather a lot of information from countries elsewhere about how they are lifting lockdown regulations and the impact that that's having in the health area. It's a useful point that the Member makes about learning from places elsewhere as they use different levers to assist the economy, as the economy recovers from the impacts of coronavirus as well.
I think most of the examples that Nick Ramsay referred to would be for the UK Government to take forward. And currently, of course, in the non-domestic-rates context, a great deal of help has already been provided in the current financial year so that businesses don't face those obligations at a time when their ability to raise revenue is at a low ebb. But I think the general point, and it's an important point, is: just as we learn from the experience of other countries in the health aspects of the coronavirus crisis, it's important we learn from them in the economy recovery as well, and we will certainly aim to do that as a Government in Wales. “