May I join others in wishing you many happy returns, Mr Speaker? It must be great to be the youngest Speaker of the House of Commons in generations.
Under the Inquiries Act 2005, the process, procedure and timing of the inquiry are matters for its independent chair Baroness Heather Hallett. She has made it clear that she will be doing everything in her power to deliver recommendations as soon as possible.
More than 170,000 people have lost their lives to covid-19. That is an awful lot of empty places at the dinner table and a lot of broken hearts. The families desire rightly to know what happened to help them grieve. I heard what the Minister said about the limits on his agency in the matter, but I did not hear him say that, in his opinion, it would be valuable to have those answers as quickly as possible, and that ought to be within the life of this Parliament.
The hon. Member is completely right to raise his point, which I know is one that the House will agree with. The inquiry’s draft terms of reference actually require it to
“produce its reports (including interim reports) and any recommendations in a timely manner.”
To be fair, Baroness Hallett has made it clear that she will do everything in her power to deliver recommendations as soon as possible. I agree with that—it is part of the terms of reference—and we will work to that, as I know she will.
Seven hundred and fifty-one: that is how many people died within 28 days of a covid-positive test in my borough of Enfield. Those people are not just numbers; they represent hundreds of families who are grieving the loss of loved ones and want answers. They should not have to fight and struggle to get those answers. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. I join my hon. Friend in asking the Minister to do the right thing by those families, including those in Enfield, and ensure that the inquiry reports back as soon as possible.
I am sympathetic to the hon. Member’s point, and I know everyone will be. The consultation on the terms of reference that Baroness Hallett engaged upon is now complete. She received more than 20,000 responses from members of the public. She had already held meetings with bereaved families and sector representatives across the UK and she has now published her recommendations for the inquiry’s final remit. The Prime Minister will be consulting with the devolved Administrations. Every effort will be made to go as fast as is reasonably possible while also getting proper inquiry results. I know that Baroness Hallett will work to that, too.