Recommendations

This report is based on the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus' 24th hearing held on 15 June 2021, where the APPG heard evidence on the case for holding a statutory public inquiry into the UK Government’s management of the pandemic, including on the scope and the structure that such an inquiry might require.

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.