Boris Johnson Confirms “Full, Independent" Covid Inquiry Will Take Place – But Not Until Spring 2022
Boris Johnson has confirmed an inquiry into how the pandemic was handled will take place next year (Alamy)
Boris Johnson has confirmed he is establishing an independent inquiry into the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, starting next year.
Speaking to the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the probe will be set up “on a statutory basis with all powers under the Inquiries Act of 2005, including the ability to compel the production of all relevant material”.
Johnson confirmed it will not begin until Spring 2022 however, as he said the inquiry will "place a significant burden on our NHS", and he wanted to wait until after the winter before doing so.
In his statement this lunchtime he said: "Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future – which is why I've always said when the time is right, there should be a full and independent inquiry.
"I can confirm today that the government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 – including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath.
"In establishing the inquiry, we will work closely with the devolved administrations."
He said the inquiry "must be able to look at the events of the last year in the cold light of day and identify the key issues that will make a difference for the future".
Whoever is chairing it must also be "free to scrutinise every document, to hear from all the key players", as that is how to "get the answers that the people of this country deserve".
Explaining his decision on the timing of the process, the PM said "we should be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly."
"We must not inadvertently divert or distract the very people on whom we all depend in the heart of our struggle against this disease," he added.
Warning the end of lockdown is not the end of the pandemic, Johnson said the World Health Organisation is predicting there could be another surge of the virus this winter due to new variants, when the NHS is already under maximum stress.
"So I expect that the right moment for the inquiry to begin is at the end of this period in the spring of next year, Spring 2022," Johnson confirmed.
The PM also announced the creation of a “commission on Covid commemoration”, having been “deeply moved” when he visited the Covid Memorial Wall opposite Parliament earlier this month.
“I wholeheartedly support the plan for a memorial in St Paul's Cathedral, which will provide a fitting place of reflection in the heart of our capital,” he said.
"I also know that communities across the whole country will want to find ways of commemorating what we have all been through, so the government will support their efforts by establishing a UK commission on Covid commemoration.
"This national endeavour above party politics will remember the loved ones we have lost, honour the heroism of those who have saved lives and the courage of frontline workers who have kept our country going.
"Celebrate the genius of those who created the vaccines, and commemorate the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions who stayed at home buying time for our scientists to come to our rescue."
Responding in the Commons the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomed the establishment of the independent inquiry and the commission, saying “both are necessary, both will play an important part in learning the lessons and commemorating those we have lost”.
He addd: "It is good that the government is consulting the devolved authorities, of course it is.
“But the government must also consult the families because this inquiry will only work if it has the support and confidence of the families."