JACK McConnell has called on the UK Government to seek to improve the, at times, “woeful” communication of lockdown announcements across the four nations, saying the lack of co-ordination had caused confusion and distress among the public.

Speaking during question-time in the House of Lords, the former First Minister told peers that the divergence of decision-making during the lockdown was something to be “celebrated not criticised”.

“It’s an integral part of the devolution settlement and it has made for better decision-making for each of the individual health services and other aspects of government in the four nations,” explained the Labour peer.

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However, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale went on: “But, at times, the public communication of those decisions has been woeful.

“The lack of co-ordination between the public announcements of the four governments, the business ministers and even the Prime Minister and the three First Ministers has created confusion and occasionally distress in the four nations.”

He urged Lord True, appearing for the Government, to give a commitment on its behalf to “seek to improve this co-ordination of public information, communication and explanation as we emerge from the lockdown and we try to avoid a second spike or the resurgence of the virus in the winter”.

The Cabinet Office Minister insisted clear communication to the public had been a priority for the UK Government throughout the crisis.

“We have tried, indeed, we have made clear, which measures apply to citizens in each of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, including making this explicit through Government guidance,” he said.

But Labour peer Baroness Andrews asked why Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, had not informed, let alone consulted, Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, “as a matter of courtesy let alone practicality” on his decision to make the wearing of face coverings on public transport in England mandatory.

“The First Minister has put it this way: ‘Now we’re going to have to find out from them the extent to which they have got answers to these practical questions in advance of making the decision or whether it is a matter of making the headline and then worrying about the detail afterwards.’”

Lord True insisted Welsh Government ministers and officials had been involved in emergency Cobra meetings and dozens of others with UK Government ministers and officials since the pandemic began and that this would continue to be a key part of the planning and communication of the overall response.

He added: “We strive to do the best at all times and if there are failures, they are to be regretted but we should go forward as a United Kingdom together.”

Lord Mann, the non-affiliated peer, noting how many families were spread across the UK, asked that when it came to opportunities for families to reunite in person, the “more integrated the approach across the UK, the fairer and better it will be for everyone”.

In response, Lord True declared: “We are seeking to confront the virus as one United Kingdom.

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“I welcome the fact in different places it is easier for families to reunite than at the start of the lockdown. I take very much the point he makes; we will seek always to proceed as a United Kingdom out of this crisis.”

Lord Davies of Gower claimed co-ordination between certain departments of the UK Government and the devolved administrations had been confusing as he highlighted the reserved matter of aviation.

The Conservative peer pointed out how Mr Shapps had announced general aviation could resume and pilots in Scotland were last week permitted to take to the skies while those in Wales and Northern Ireland were still awaiting the go-ahead.

He asked about the discussions that were going on between governments to achieve a consistent UKwide approach on general aviation.

Lord True said he was not an expert on the matter and would write to his colleague.