16 May 2022
Thank you for your request which I received on 13 April 2022. I have set out at Annex 1, the questions you submitted – our response follows:
In November 2021, Regulation 20 of the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations required a person to “wear a face covering in indoor public areas of premises to which the public have or are permitted access, other than premises where food or drink is sold, or otherwise provided, for consumption on the premises”.
The First Minister attended a private event on the 12th November 2021 to mark Diwali. Delegates attending the event were required to pre-register. In line with the regulations in force at the time, face coverings were not a legal requirement for this event.
Responses to media queries on this matter were drafted and checked by the Welsh Government press office in the normal manner before being issued.
If you are dissatisfied with the Welsh Government’s handling of your request, you can ask for an internal review within 40 working days of the date of this response. Requests for an internal review should be addressed to the Welsh Government’s Freedom of Information Officer at:
Information Rights Unit
or e-mail: Freedom.firstname.lastname@example.org
Please remember to quote the ATISN reference number above.
You also have the right to complain to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Telephone: 0303 123 1113
However, please note that the Commissioner will not normally investigate a complaint until it has been through our own internal review process.
On November 12th 2021 the First Minister attended a Diwali social event at the Cardiff Student Life Centre. The media highlighted what they believed was a breach of the then current Covid regulations to wear a face mask indoors when the First Minister was photographed dancing within a crowd at that event without any mask along with 150 other attendees.
The Welsh Government responded to media enquiries stating that the First Minister did not breach the Covid regulations as “face coverings are not required in a premises where food and drink is served”.
- Was the press statement made on behalf of the Welsh Government’s Senior Legal Advisor?
- If not, then which member of the Welsh Government made or authorised that statement for public release?
- Does that person have legal qualifications or a specialist knowledge of the relevant Covid Regulations?
- The venue was legally obliged to carry out its own risk assessment before allowing such events to be hosted - did the Welsh Government check the risk assessment of the Cardiff Student Life Centre to confirm that the First Minister was complying with their requirements?
- The Cardiff Student Life Centre had a number of video screens showing the message that visitors must wear face coverings and respect distance – did the Welsh Government establish why the First Minister breached those requirements before issuing its press release?
- The Venue itself has stated that visitors “should be wearing face coverings unless exempt or they are eating/drinking.” The First Minister was neither eating nor drinking so was in breach of that venue’s own rules and its Covid risk assessment so why was that point not addressed before making a public statement on the matter?
The Health Protection Coronavirus Restrictions No-5-Wales-Regulations-2020-as-amended Part 5 Paragraph 20 -Face Coverings (applicable at that date) require Face Coverings to be worn in indoor public places except in hospitality venues. However section 4 makes clear that where the
(a) a business (“business A”) sells, or otherwise provides, food or drink for consumption on the business premises,
(b) business A forms part of a larger business (“business B”), and
(c) business B also carries on its business on the premises, but does not sell, or otherwise provide, food or drink for consumption on those premises,
P (in this case the First Minister) is to be treated as being in premises where food or drink is sold, or otherwise provided, for consumption on the premises only where P is in the part of the premises at which business A carries on its business.
The part of the business serving food and drink in the Cardiff Student Life Centre is the refectory and thus separate from the exhibition part of the business where the First Minister was photographed maskless in contravention of the Regulations.
- Did the Welsh Government interview the First Minister to establish the facts behind the breach of Section 4?
- Did the Welsh Government assess the likelihood of Section 4 being breached before making its press statement?
- What conclusions were drawn from that investigation?
- If not investigated then why not?
- On what basis did the Welsh Government make a statement that the Regulations in particular the requirement to wear a face mask at an indoor public venue did not apply when clearly this was not the case?
- Was that statement made to cover up a breach of the Covid Regulations by the First Minister and was it checked by a solicitor before it was released and if so what role do they hold within the Welsh Government?