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Covid-19: Public Inquiry

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 13 January 2022

18. What discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on formally starting the public inquiry into the covid-19 pandemic. (904995)

On 15 December, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of the right hon. Baroness Hallett—Heather Hallett—as chair of the public inquiry into covid-19. The inquiry is set to begin its work in the spring of 2022.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but it would appear that discussions on this have not been a priority. The terms of reference for the inquiry have not even been set yet. Bearing in mind the Prime Minister’s distant relationship with the truth, will the Minister outline exactly how the public, and Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, can have any faith in this inquiry at all?

We have appointed a very senior figure from the judiciary—a recently retired lady justice of appeal from the Court of Appeal. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the inquiry’s detailed terms of reference will be set out in due course, and the bereaved families and other groups will be consulted before they are finalised. The process will be done carefully and properly and with consultation and consideration for all.

Might the Paymaster General consider the approach that was adopted when the infected blood inquiry was set up, whereby those infected and affected have been at the heart of the consultation around the terms of reference? Sir Brian Langstaff made it his first priority to ensure that those people were at the very heart of the infected blood inquiry that he now so ably chairs.

May I take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady again for the support she has provided and the work she has done on the infected blood inquiry? It is no exaggeration to say that she has been instrumental in achieving what has been achieved so far—there is still a lot to do, of course. In answer to her question, of course it would be the wish of everyone concerned to involve the bereaved as much as possible. Baroness Hallett, a Cross-Bench peer, will have command and control of this matter, if I can put it that way, just as Sir Brian Langstaff does in the infected blood inquiry. I am sure that all concerned will have heard what the right hon. Lady has had to say.

We are going to topicals early, so there will be a great opportunity to get more people in. Let us start with David Simmonds.