In December, the government announced that the UK-wide COVID-19 inquiry would be chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, a former Lady Justice of the Court of Appeal. Last week, on 10 March, the Prime Minister made a short written statement in which he announced the draft terms of reference for the inquiry, having undertaken initial consultation with Baroness Hallett and ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This inquiry will run alongside any investigations established by the devolved administrations.
The draft terms of reference run to just two pages and should be studied carefully by anyone involved in, or connected to, the health and care sectors in particular. There are two headline aims, which are to:
- Examine the COVID-19 response and the impact of the pandemic in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and produce a factual narrative account.
- Identify the lessons to be learned from the above, thereby to inform the UK’s preparations for future pandemics.
There is a limited period, until 7 April, to submit comments on the draft terms and the inquiry will not formally start working towards delivering its “factual narrative” until some time after that. One of the sub-headings under aim 2 would require the inquiry to “produce its reports (including interim reports) and any recommendations in a timely manner.” Other than that, there is no indication of how long the process might take (and indeed whether it might be concluded before the next general election).
The draft terms of reference and a link for submitting views are available here.
Written by Alistair Kinley at BLM