POLITICS
11/05/2021 16:06 BST | Updated 11/05/2021 17:52 BST

Boris Johnson Signals Public Inquiry Into Covid Pandemic In Next Year

Bereaved families warn PM not to delay and say witnesses must give evidence under oath.

Dan Kitwood via Getty Images
 Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson has signalled that a public inquiry into how his government’s handled the Covid will get underway within a year.

Speaking to MPs, the prime minister committed to an inquiry “within this session” of parliament. 

There is no fixed length for a parliamentary session, although they typically last for around a year.

“I can certainly say that we will do that within this session,” Johnson told the Commons. 

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

HuffPost UK understands the prime minister meant that an inquiry would be set up within a year.

The government has faced repeated calls to commit to an independent investigation of ministers’ failings on PPE procurement, lockdowns and pandemic preparedness. 

Jo Goodman, co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said the PM should launch the inquiry this summer. 

“The prime minister may feel he can wait for answers, but bereaved families certainly can’t,” she said. 

“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?

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images
A red rose is attached to the National Covid Memorial Wall on the embankment on the south side of the River Thames in London

“Who delays learning critical lessons that can save lives?” 

Goodman also hit out at the PM for not backing a statutory inquiry, which would see those who give evidence do so under oath, and said the campaign group was drafting terms of reference families believe an independent judge-led probe should consider. 

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.” 

Johnson was responding in the Commons to a question from Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, who urged him to set up the inquiry “on behalf of bereaved families across the country”.

Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said she would “hold” Johnson to his words.

“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,” she said.

“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.”