PM signals 'full, proper' public Covid inquiry will take place within a year

11 May 2021, 17:58

The National Covid Memorial Wall outside St Thomas' Hospital in London
The National Covid Memorial Wall outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has promised a "full, proper" public inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic within the current parliamentary session.

The prime minister today committed to setting up the inquiry within the new session of Parliament, which started on Tuesday.

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

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"I can certainly say that we will do that within this session," the PM told MPs in the House of Commons.

"I have made that clear before... I do believe it's essential we have a full, proper public inquiry into the Covid pandemic."

Mr Johnson was responding to a question from Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who urged him to set up the inquiry "on behalf of bereaved families across the country".

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said: "We welcome this commitment and will hold the prime minister to it.

"It must be entirely open and truly independent, have the trust and confidence of bereaved families, and cannot be an exercise in the government marking its own homework.

"We went into this pandemic with the foundations of our public services and our communities weakened by a decade of Conservative governments.

"We must learn lessons from that, as well as from how the crisis has been handled."

But Jo Goodman, co-founder of campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, responded to Mr Johnson’s statement by saying there could be no delay on the inquiry.

"An inquiry must begin this summer", she said, adding: "The prime minister may feel he can wait for answers, but bereaved families certainly can't.

"Learning lessons from the pandemic is critical to saving lives now and in the future. The prime minister knows that and he's said as much.

"So why does he think it can wait? Who delays learning critical lessons that can save lives?

"We know that the majority of the public support an independent inquiry and that 72 per cent of those that do want one by the autumn, so the prime minister needs to get on with it like the British public want."

She pointed out that Mr Johnson had "again failed to commit to a statutory inquiry".

"Anything less would mean that no-one would be compelled to give evidence under oath," she said.

"Simply put, it means the truth can be avoided and the right lessons aren't guaranteed to be learned - yet a further insult to bereaved families."

She added the group was seeking an "urgent meeting" with government representatives to determine what the prime minister means by a "full proper public inquiry".