On 11th March 2022, draft Terms of Reference were released by the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. As a reminder, the Terms are currently (and unsurprisingly) wide ranging and are split into two main topics:
- Examining the Covid-19 response and the impact of the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and producing a factual narrative account.
- Identifying the lessons to be learned from the above, to inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.
Following the release of the draft Terms, a public consultation period was set up, giving the Inquiry Chair (Baroness Heather Hallett) an opportunity to meet with bereaved families and representatives of a wide range of interested groups from sectors such as health, social care, education, charities and the leisure industry.
With the consultation period ending on 7th April, we are now moving closer to a start date for the Inquiry. The latest update from the Chair (dated 8th April) states that following the consultation period the Inquiry team is now collating and analysing the responses. We can then expect a summary of the responses to be published in May. The Chair has stated that although “some of the suggestions made during the consultation may not change the Terms of Reference…they may well be highly relevant in developing the scope”.
Following recommendations, which the Chair is hoping to make to the Prime Minister in May, final Terms of Reference will be determined, and an evidence gathering exercise will then take place, leading towards the commencement of the formal Inquiry.
As highlighted above, the Inquiry will cover England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We have today learned (via a Radio 4 interview with First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford) that there will not be a separate independent inquiry in Wales (unlike in Scotland). Although Wales applied different policies and took different decisions throughout the pandemic, Mr Drakeford considers that the UK wide Inquiry will provide sufficient scrutiny of the actions of the Welsh government and other Welsh public services.
We will continue to remain up to date with all news and updates on the forthcoming Inquiry.
“I hope to make my final recommendations on the UK Covid-19 Inquiry’s Terms of Reference to the Prime Minister in May . He will then make his final decision on the Terms of Reference. Once I have his decision, the Inquiry will begin its work formally.”