Today, the Prime Minister has set the Terms of Reference for the UK Covid-19 Inquiry. This means that the Inquiry has been formally established under the Inquiries Act (2005) and is able to begin its work officially from today.
Baroness Hallett is pleased to see all of the recommendations that she made are now part of the final Terms of Reference. These recommendations stem from the public consultation on the Terms of Reference, which received over 20,000 responses.
The Chair has also given a video update statement, in which she makes seven promises to the public about how she will run the Inquiry:
1. People who have suffered during the pandemic will be at the heart of the Inquiry’s work. The Inquiry team is committed to listening to people’s experiences.
2. The Inquiry will be firmly independent. Baroness Hallett will not tolerate any attempt to mislead the Inquiry, to undermine its integrity or its independence. If she encounters any such attempt, she will make her views known in a public hearing.
3. Baroness Hallett will do everything in her power to conduct a fair, balanced and thorough Inquiry.
4. Baroness Hallett will deliver any recommendations as soon as possible by producing interim reports. In that way, if they are adopted, she hopes to reduce or prevent the suffering and hardship in any future pandemic.
5. The Inquiry will not only be in London. The Inquiry team will travel around the UK to ensure we hear from as many people as possible. Baroness Hallett is acutely aware that experiences were different across the UK.
6. The Inquiry will be conducted openly. We will publish regular reports on our website so that everyone can know what progress we have made.
7. Finally, the Inquiry will be conducted efficiently and as speedily as we can manage.
The Terms of Reference set the outline for the Inquiry, and the Inquiry Chair, Baroness Hallett, will have the discretion to explore issues in more depth as part of the Inquiry’s scope.
The Inquiry team has already started to prepare for public evidential hearings in 2023. We are working hard to meet an ambitious timetable and the Inquiry will begin the formal process of gathering and assessing evidence very soon. The Inquiry Chair will set out her approach for the next stage of the Inquiry’s work in July. Further information on this will be published in due course.
The Inquiry also wants to hear from people across the UK, ensuring that those who have suffered have the opportunity to take part in the Inquiry’s work. We will begin a ‘listening exercise’ in the Autumn to enable people who wish to share their experience with the Inquiry to do so.