Public Inquiry

PM to Appoint Chair of Public Inquiry into Government’s Handling of Covid by Christmas

After meeting members of the Covid Bereaved Families for Justice on Tuesday – far too late, according to the group – the Prime Minister has signalled that he will appoint a Chair for the public inquiry into his Government’s response to Covid by Christmas. Whoever is appointed, it is likely that the inquiry will focus on questions that presume ministers were right to lock the country down in the first place (e.g. “Did we lock down too late?”, not “Did the costs of lockdown outweigh the benefits?”). Sky News has the story.

In May, [the Prime Minister] announced an independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the pandemic will begin in the spring of next year.

“Although we wish this meeting had taken place a long time ago, we’re pleased that the Prime Minister has chosen to finally engage with us and that he explicitly acknowledged the importance of ensuring that bereaved families are at the heart of learning lessons from the pandemic,” the group said in a statement after the meeting.

“However, we are still disappointed by the lack of urgency the Prime Minister displayed as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”

They said Mr. Johnson must deliver on his commitments, adding: “We hope that we can accept the Prime Minister’s commitments in good faith and, going forward, that there will be ongoing and meaningful dialogue with bereaved families.”

The group had asked for the meeting to be held outside with social distancing in place.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister gave a commitment that the Chair of the inquiry would be appointed by Christmas.

“He set out that for now it is right that public servants continue to focus their efforts on tackling the pandemic before moving on to the inquiry in the spring of next year.

“He welcomed the opportunity to hear from Bereaved Families for Justice on the areas they would like the inquiry to cover and the importance of choosing the right chair and panel members, and reiterated that he takes full responsibility for the Government’s handling of the pandemic.

Worth reading in full.

Boris Promises a Full Public Inquiry Into the Government’s Handling of Covid Before the End of This Parliamentary Session

Boris Johnson has been pushed into promising a full public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid and says that one will begin before the end of this parliamentary session. MailOnline has the story.

The Prime Minister firmed up his commitment to an early probe into the crisis as he was grilled by MPs about the Queen’s Speech plans.

Up to now, Mr Johnson has seemed unwilling to give a timetable, pointing out that ministers and officials are focused on the response to the disease.

But Sir Keir Starmer and other opposition parties have insisted that an inquiry should start immediately to learn lessons.

In the Commons, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey urged Mr Johnson to set up an inquiry “on behalf of bereaved families across the country”.

Mr Johnson replied: “I can certainly say that we will do that within this session.” …

“I have made that clear before… I do believe it’s essential we have a full, proper public inquiry into the Covid pandemic.”

Although there is no fixed length for a parliamentary session, they typically run for around a year…

A full public inquiry would be likely to take many years to complete.

To date, most of the calls for an inquiry made by those in the media and political classes have focussed on the idea that the Government was too slow to introduce the first lockdown. Whether or not the inquiry will look at the impact of lockdowns on Covid mortality, other diseases, mental health, education and the economy – as Recovery suggests – has yet to be seen. I won’t be holding my breath.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Prime Minister has announced that an independent public inquiry into the Government’s handling of Covid will begin in the spring of next year.

Stop Press 2: Julia Hartley-Brewer has stressed that “the key issue in the public inquiry… must not be whether Boris Johnson locked down too late in spring 2020 but whether he should have locked down *at all*”.

Public Inquiry into Government’s Handling of Covid Should Be Launched “as Soon as Possible”, Says Lord Fowler

Pressure is building on the Prime Minister to launch a public inquiry into his Government’s handling of Covid, as the outgoing Lord Speaker said a probe should take place before “memories fade”. Lord Fowler’s concern, predictably enough, is that the first lockdown might not have been implemented soon enough. MailOnline has the story.

The outgoing Lord Speaker has piled the pressure on Boris Johnson to launch a formal public inquiry into the Government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. 

Lord Fowler, who is stepping down today after five years in the role, said a probe should be held “as soon as possible” and before “memories fade”. 

Lord Fowler, who served as Tory health secretary between 1981 and 1987 in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, said the inquiry should be “automatic” and should focus on whether there was a “delay” to announcing the first lockdown last March.

The peer is the latest high profile figure to call on the Prime Minister to launch the inquiry after Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the same earlier this month. 

Mr Johnson has committed to holding a probe into the crisis but he is yet to set out a timetable for it to begin…

He had originally committed to a public inquiry last July, telling the House of Commons: “As I have told the House several times, I do not believe that now in the middle of combatting still as we are a pandemic, is the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry.”

Lord Fowler – quoted in the MailOnline report – told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he supports those who believe the first lockdown should have been introduced earlier rather than those who are sceptical of the alleged benefits of lockdowns.

I think that what concerns me is that I would support those who are saying that there should be an inquiry into the early stages of whether there was a delay in the lockdown.

Because if there was we would want to know why and if it was in the face of medical advice then that is quite a hurdle because I think that politicians need to be guided by the best medical advice in positions of this kind. 

So I would back an inquiry into this area. Incidentally, inquiries of this kind should be automatic. 

But what I also think is that the inquiry should take place as soon as possible. 

Worth reading in full.

Can We Trust the Government Ever Again?

We’re publishing an original piece today by Jonny Peppiatt about trust and, in particular, people’s trust in the Government. Can it ever be regained after the past 12 months? What if the public inquiry, assuming there is one eventually, concludes the Government got its response to the virus catastrophically wrong?

I drove up to Uxbridge from Surrey yesterday, and as I whipped around the M25, where there would normally have been about 50 road signs ordering me to STAY HOME SAVE LIVES, there were only two. My reading of this was not that the messaging had been removed by mistake, or anything else so innocent, but, instead, that this massive reduction was part of yet another Government psy-op, subtly gearing up to prepare people for the removal of the stay-at-home order. This cynicism can only be described as a symptom of the lack of trust I have for this Government.

I was slow to question the lockdown in the beginning because I was slow to question my Government, its competence and its motives, and just like in any relationship, losing trust is much easier than regaining it.

Worth reading in full.