'Control freakery gone mad' as shops in Wales ordered to stop selling non-essential items

Jamie Johnson
·3-min read
A supermarket in Pontypool - @JSkyrme/Twitter
A supermarket in Pontypool - @JSkyrme/Twitter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Children’s toys and clothes have been deemed "non-essential" and banned from sale in shops by the Welsh government, as the country entered a second national lockdown at 6pm on Friday.

Hundreds of businesses across the country have been ordered to shut, and those which can remain open told to sell only "essential" items, in a move described by Conservatives as “control freakery gone mad.”

Electrical goods, clothes, toys, furniture, bedding and products for the garden have been cordoned off or removed from superstores, but groceries, batteries, rubber gloves, light bulbs and alcohol are allowed to be sold. 

During the original lockdown, only shops deemed 'essential', such as supermarkets and hardware stores were allowed to open, but there was no regulation of what items could be bought. Heavy handed shopping basket snooping by some police forces was criticised by the government. 

Gloucestershire police said on Friday they would patrol the border to make sure people in Wales did not cross to buy contraband items. 

The ban comes after Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford ordered a 17-day “firebreak” where all pubs, salons, shops, gyms, hotels and churches must close.

People can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons, including exercise, buying essential supplies, or to seek or provide care.

Mr Drakeford said by following the restrictions “it will reset the clock and allow us to get through to Christmas without needing to see a period of such significant restraint.

But he warned that the festive season was still at risk, stressing that the measures “are about saving lives, not Christmas."

The severe ruling by the Wales’ Labour Government was criticised by a number of Conservatives on Friday.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said: "Our freedom of movement is a fundamental right as a citizen unless you have committed an offence and the police need to stop you. What is happening is utterly appalling.

"The worst thing about it is that we are in a bidding war between the devolved authorities trying to outdo each other for severity and absurdity. The losers are the British public."

Darren Millar, Welsh Conservative Senedd member said: "The Welsh Government seems to take delight in taking away people's freedoms and telling them what they can and can't do. Now they are telling businesses what they can and can't sell. It's bonkers." 

David Jones, the Conservative MP for Clwyd West called the move “bizarre”.

“Is the Welsh Government trying to divert trade in Wales to Amazon?” he added.

But Mr Drakeford said that supermarkets only selling essential goods during Wales' lockdown is "a simple matter of fair play". 

"We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales," Mr Drakeford said.

"We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

"And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

"This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods."

Border town residents said it was likely that people would try and stock up in England, but Gloucestershire Constabulary said any drivers who left Wales without a valid excuse would be advised to turn around. 

If they refuse, they will be reported to police in Wales who can issue fines.

Are you in Wales? Let us know how the 'firebreak' lockdown has impacted your life in the comments section below.