Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced there will be an independent, public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic, which is set to begin in the Spring of 2022, and will be able to take oral evidence under oath. However, its important to note preparatory work to establish the inquiry, including the terms of reference and its chair, will begin well before the spring of next year – something which was welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition.
Beginning next Spring, it has been assessed this will be the correct moment when we will be able to say the pandemic is behind us and rightly assess its impact and handling. In the meantime, considering the potential threat of new Covid-19 variants, the possibility of a winter surge and the fact we recently saw the highest number of global Covid-19 cases in a week, it remains crucial Ministers, our Chief Medical and Scientific Officers, public resources and public health officials are able to remain wholly focused on defeating this pandemic. A public inquiry, if it were to begin immediately, would severely hinder these efforts and divert masses of precious time and resources away from the fight against Covid-19.
As I said, it is expected that, by Spring 2022, when the inquiry commences, the pandemic will be behind us, and we can begin looking at what further lessons can be learned, giving all those who have lost loved ones the chance to understand the details of what has taken place over the past 18 months.
During his statement to the House of Commons on the 12th May, the Prime Minister said:
"This inquiry must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future. Free to scrutinise every document to hear from all the key players and analyse and learn from the breadth of our response.
"That's the right way, I think, to get the answers that the people of this country deserve and to ensure that our United Kingdom is better prepared for any future pandemic."
Additionally, the Prime Minister also announced a Commission on COVID commemoration would be set up, with the Commission membership and terms of reference to be set out in due course.
On this Commission, the Prime Minister commented:
“This national endeavour - above party politics - will remember the loved ones we have lost; honour the heroism of those who saved lives and the courage of frontline workers who kept our country going; celebrate the genius of those who created the vaccines; and commemorate the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions who stayed at home, buying time for our scientists to come to our rescue.”
To view the Prime Minister’s full statement, please visit: PM House of Commons Statement on COVID: 12 May 2021 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
I support the Government establishing the above Commission, as well as the decision to start laying the vital groundwork for an independent public inquiry, without risking diverting vital resources away from the crucial, continued fight against Covid-19, while we remain in a delicate position but are pushing for recovery. Caution has played a crucial role in helping us begin to ease restrictions successfully, and it is right to take this same approach when it comes to commencing a public inquiry next Spring that will be well resourced and able to clearly determine its findings with no other diversions .