Covid inquiry: What will it examine and when will it start?

12 May 2021, 14:16

Boris Johnson has pledged to hold a public inquiry
Boris Johnson has pledged to hold a public inquiry. Picture: PA

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has pledged to launch a full inquiry into the Government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister had been urged to begin one for the families of people who died from Covid-19.

But he has already been criticised for the inquiry's timeframe, with some of those bereaved relatives demanding it commence in the summer.

Here's what we know about what the inquiry will look like.

Read more: Boris Johnson confirms inquiry into Covid-19 response will begin in spring 2022

Why is it happening?

Prominent figures and relatives of those who lost their lives to coronavirus have pushed for an inquiry into how the Government has dealt with the pandemic.

They want explanations about why key decisions were taken and what lessons could be learned as continued scrutiny is applied to ministers' awarding of Covid-related contracts.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Dominic Cummings, the former adviser to Mr Johnson who has explosively fallen out with the Prime Minister, are among the prominent voices to do so recently.

Mr Johnson committed to the inquiry after Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey urged him to set one up "on behalf of bereaved families across the country" in a question in the House of Commons.

Read more: Bercow claims PM doesn't treat Commons 'with respect' and calls for Covid inquiry

What will it do?

Details beyond the announcement are scarce but Mr Johnson said he believes a "full, proper public inquiry" is essential.

Angela Rayner, Labour's Deputy Leader, welcomed the commitment but demanded it be "entirely open and truly independent", able to win the trust of bereaved relatives and "cannot be an exercise in the Government marking its own homework".

Jo Goodman, co-founder of campaign group Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the inquiry should be a judge-led statutory inquiry and noted Mr Johnson did not commit to that.

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

"We are now drafting terms of reference that bereaved families would find appropriate for a judge-led, statutory inquiry and seeking an urgent meeting with Government representatives to ascertain what the Prime Minister means by a "full proper public inquiry"."

When will it take place?

Mr Johnson said the inquiry will get set up within the new session of Parliament, which began on Tuesday.

Sessions are not fixed but they usually last for about a year.

The Prime Minister said he does not want to distract people who are fighting the pandemic, with some witnesses potentially giving evidence for days.

There will also be large amounts of information to pull together. The Government had previously said it could not hold an inquiry now.

However, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said: "An inquiry must begin this summer. 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?"