1. The UK Government must reaffirm its commitment to establishing an independent statutory public inquiry into the UK Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic under the Inquiries Act 2005. In the light of the recent announcement by the Scottish administration to hold an inquiry this Autumn, and given that any inquiry of the pandemic is likely to involve both devolved and reserved matters, the APPG recommends that the UK Government must also commit to a public inquiry at the earliest opportunity, and within the same time frame as the devolved administrations, to ensure consistency in approaching common issues.
2. To ensure confidence in the independence and impartiality of the public inquiry, the UK Government must adopt a transparent process for the setting up of the public inquiry and consult widely on its terms of reference and appointment of the inquiry panel.
3. The UK Government must set a timetable for the public inquiry to report its findings within a reasonable timeframe and ensure that the public inquiry is adequately resourced. A timetable for the public inquiry must be agreed in which Interim findings are published within two years, and before the next UK general election.
4. The UK Government must establish a duty of candour as part of the public inquiry, to ensure that witnesses asked to provide evidence do so in as open and as transparent a manner as possible.
5. To ensure the public inquiry is able to reach conclusions and make recommendations in a timely manner, the APPG on Coronavirus recommends that the inquiry be structured into sub-panels of experts overseeing concurrent work streams and producing their own specific reports, all feeding into the top-level panel, chaired by the inquiry chairperson.
6. The public inquiry should scrutinise the UK Government’s decision-making process including the quality of information available, advice given and weighting at the time a decision was being taken, as well as any lessons the UK Government learned during the pandemic. Furthermore, the APPG on Coronavirus recommends that the inquiry terms of reference include scrutiny of UK and its institutions and public services’ resilience and preparedness going into the pandemic, and how UK Government decisions compared to those being taken by other countries in comparable circumstances.
7. The public inquiry must not simply produce a single final report at the end of the inquiry. Instead, sub-panels and the top-level panel should produce interim reports and recommendations to ensure conclusions and lessons learnt are implemented without undue delay, even if other aspects of the public inquiry are ongoing. All interim and sub-panel reports should be made publicly available.
8. To ensure that recommendations are practical and can be readily implemented, the public inquiry should consider using seminars that engage with the affected stakeholders, as was done during the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry.
9. Parliament and the relevant Select Committees must be granted the opportunity to scrutinise and debate the inquiry’s recommendations. The decision not to implement any recommendation of the public inquiry must be scrutinised by Parliament.
10. To ensure continued oversight and implementation of the recommendations of the public inquiry, and to ensure that the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic are learnt now and in the future, the APPG recommends the creation of a new independent statutory body called the Covid Inquiry Commission. In the short term, the implementation of lessons learned and recommendations made by the Public Inquiry should be overseen by the Covid Inquiry Commission. Once all these have been successfully implemented, the Covid Inquiry Commission should become the statutory body responsible for probing pandemic preparedness in the UK.
11. Memorialisation of the COVID-19 pandemic will be a key part of any public inquiry. The APPG on Coronavirus recommends that in parallel to the public inquiry the UK Government should announce and progress the construction of a permanent memorial monument on Whitehall and an annual Covid Memorial Day on March 23rd, as recommended by the APPG on Coronavirus on 23 March 2020.