Dominic Raab has claimed the four UK nations have overwhelmingly taken a “consistent” approach to making decisions on how to tackle coronavirus, despite each country making... very different decisions.
His comments came less than 24 hours after Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland would be going further than England with its new restrictions by imposing a ban on household visits.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Raab said: “There’s always an evidence basis which we all look at, it’s slightly different in the four parts of the UK, although actually overwhelmingly we’ve taken a consistent and common approach.
“We recognise that the devolved administrations have the authority to decide things in a slightly different way.”
And just a few hours later, Raab’s comments were blown apart by Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford.
Asked by Sky News about the different decisions taken by Wales, he said: “Of course, we have done things differently in Wales, more cautiously, more slowly and answered many questions over the last few months about whether we should have done things more quickly.
“I think we’re glad now that we didn’t because in Wales I don’t need to take a number of the measures the PM had to announce for England yesterday because we’ve never been in that position.
“We’ve always had a policy of encouraging people to work from home wherever they can and we don’t need to go into reverse because that’s always been our policy.”
The four nations have been out of step on a number of other major decisions:
- In May, Nicola Sturgeon asked the UK government not deploy its new “stay alert” message north of the border.
- In June, England published a list of countries on so-called “travel corridors” for holidaymakers. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales did not immediately follow suit, describing the move as “shambolic”.
- Scotland introduced mandatory face masks in shops on 10 July with England only following suit 13 days later.
The new strategy for England – announced six months after the lockdown was introduced in March – will see office staff once again working from home, the wider use of face masks and a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.
Businesses will face £10,000 fines or closure for failing to comply with regulations, and people risk £200 penalties is they do not wear masks or breach the “rule of six”.
The military could be used to free up police officers to tackle coronavirus rule-breakers, and Johnson said the measures may need to be in place for a further six months.