The Prime Minister has confirmed that there will be a independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said now was not the right time for an investigation, but there “certainly will be” an independent inquiry “in the future”.
The news comes as the government faces a high court legal challenge for refusing to launch an urgent inquiry into failures to provide enough PPE to keep frontline health and care workers safe.
The crowdfunded legal challenge is being brought by the Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK), the Good Law Project and safer ageing charity Hourglass.
Their legal bid claims that the Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, has a legal obligation to commence an immediate investigation into whether failures to provide adequate PPE may have caused or contributed to the deaths or serious illness from COVID-19 of workers in the health and social care sectors.
A group representing people bereaved by Covid has also called for an immediate inquiry into the government’s handling of the crisis.
Reacting to the PM’s pledge, COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said: “We need to know that any inquiry will be public with the ability for families to contribute their experiences and that it will have the power to access all of the evidence and witnesses needed.
“We also believe that a part of any inquiry must begin now to take fast action in order to prevent further unnecessary deaths should we encounter a second wave.”
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the UK had “suffered one of the worst death rates in the world and Europe’s worst death rate for health and care workers”.
He added: “Previously, [the PM] has refused my demand for an immediate independent inquiry, saying it’s too soon, even though back in 2003 he voted for an independent inquiry into the Iraq war just months after that conflict had started.
“If he still rejects an immediate inquiry,” Sir Ed asked, “will he instead commit in principle to a future public inquiry?”
Answering the question, Johnson said: “As I have told the house several times, I do not believe that now, in the middle of combatting a pandemic, is the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry.
“But of course, we will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened.”