Boris Johnson launches Covid Inquiry in wake of threatened legal action
Bereaved families threatened legal action against the Government following the delay of a Covid inquiry
The Prime Minister has announced the launch of the coronavirus public inquiry, outlining its terms of reference, following the rising threat of legal action against the Government by bereaved families over extensive delays.
In a written statement released earlier today, the Prime Minister said: "The UK inquiry into Covid-19 is now formally established and able to begin its important work.
“The Inquiry will examine, consider and report on preparations and the response to the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, up to and including the Inquiry’s formal setting-up date, 28 June 2022.”
The announcement of a review falls more than six months after Mr Johnson appointed Baroness Hallet to chair the probe in December 2021. He initially said the inquiry would begin in spring this year.
The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group threatened to ignite a judicial review on Sunday, over the failure of the Government to provide a clear date for the inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.
Following the announcement of the inquiry, the group tweeted that it could finally “begin the process of learning lessons from the awful suffering we’ve endured".
The statement added: “However it is pitiful that after six months of inexplicable delays, the Government has finally decided to act just two days after we announced that we were considering a judicial review over their time wasting.
“It goes to show that they were simply delaying the process for as long as they could get away with, and there are going to have to be serious consequences if valuable evidence has been lost as a result.
“Baroness (Hallett) is now going to have to get the process moving as quickly as possible so that lessons can be learned ahead of future waves.”
The Prime Minister said he accepted Baroness Hallett's changes to the Government's draft terms of reference for the inquiry "in full", and proposed to appoint the two additional panel members in the coming months so that the probe "has access to the full range of expertise needed".
The Inquiry will consider any disparities in the impact of Covid on varying groups of people, taking into account the experiences of the bereaved families, highlighting where lessons from the pandemic may be applicable to other civil emergencies.
The Inquiry will produce any other recommendations "in a timely manner".
Labour MP Fleur Anderson tweeted: “It has taken far too long to get to this stage and the delay has been a clear attempt to avoid scrutiny of the Prime Minister’s failings before the next general election.
“Oral hearings must start soon, and interim reports published in this Parliament.”