THE Welsh Parliament narrowly rejected calls to establish an independent Wales-specific public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the vote tied at 27-27, Elin Jones – the speaker, or Llywydd – used her casting vote against the motion in line with convention and Senedd rules.

Conservative and Lib Dem MSs backed Plaid Cymru’s call for a Wales judge-led inquiry, but Welsh ministers and Labour backbenchers voted against.

Labour MSs were whipped to vote in line with the Welsh Government, rather than given a free vote, but the party’s group is understood to be united on the issue.

Mick Antoniw said the UK Covid-19 inquiry, which will hold hearings in Cardiff for 10 days from February 27, is as much for Wales as England or any of the four nations.

Mr Antoniw, who is counsel general, the Welsh Government’s chief legal adviser, argued participating in a UK inquiry is the most effective way of ensuring full and proper scrutiny.

Leading the debate on February 21, Mabon ap Gwynfor told the chamber the UK inquiry’s scope is insufficient to cover every element of how the pandemic was handled in Wales.

“Only a full inquiry for Wales can achieve this,” said the shadow health minister. “And it is a democratic and moral imperative that the Welsh Government heeds the call.”

Mr Gwynfor said Heather Hallett, who chairs the UK inquiry, acknowledged from the outset it will never be able analyse every issue in full.

He pointed out only one afternoon has so far been devoted to Welsh Government testimony.

The Plaid Cymru MS said the Scottish Government has recognised the potential for the UK inquiry to overlook devolved matters by establishing an inquiry.

He urged the Welsh Government to similarly put the public interest before its own, saying: “This is what proper accountability and responsible governance looks like.”

Mr Gwynfor, who represents Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said the Welsh Government correctly asserted its right to do things differently but major mistakes were made in the pandemic.

He told the Senedd: “It is completely hypocritical to insist on diverging from UK policy to strike a tailored approach to Wales on the one hand, while ducking tailored scrutiny for the consequences of those actions on the other.

“Moreover, it does the cause of devolution a considerable disservice by creating the impression that this Senedd cannot hold itself accountable for the laws passed here.”

Russell George, the Tories’ shadow minister, agreed that refusing a Wales-specific Covid inquiry ultimately undermines devolution, accusing Welsh ministers of dodging scrutiny.

Adam Price told MSs that the Senedd Covid-19 committee, of which he is a member, will remain a poor substitute, saying: “We’ve been given a task without the tools to fulfil it.”

He said the committee, which was set up to identify gaps in the UK-wide inquiry, risks inadvertently devaluing parliamentary scrutiny and ultimately lacks public confidence.

The former Plaid Cymru leader told MSs: “That would be a disaster for the reputation of this institution and it would be an incredible disservice to the people we are meant to represent.”

Responding for the Welsh Government, Mr Antoniw said a UK inquiry has the capacity, powers and force to oversee the interconnected nature of decision-making.

Pressed about the Scottish inquiry, he told MSs that he remains unconvinced that it will add anything significantly beyond the UK inquiry.

He said: “I believe we must avoid premature assumptions and we must allow both the inquiry and the committee to complete their work in due course.”