An independent public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will be held in the spring of 2022, Boris Johnson told MPs
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the government was “fully committed to learning the lessons at every stage of this crisis” with a public inquiry.
The inquiry will place “the state’s actions under the microscope”, he added, and take evidence under oath.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer questioned why the public inquiry could not start earlier, such as later in 2021.
During a statement in the Commons, the prime minister said the inquiry could not “inadvertently distract” those within the NHS and government advisers, who were continuing to deal with the pandemic.
He said because of the threat of new variants and a possible winter surge in infections, spring next year would be the best time to hold the inquiry.
This comes after the Daily Mail has reported that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told an October meeting: “No more ****ing lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”
On Wednesday the UK reported another 11 deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 2,284 coronavirus cases.
Mr Johnson warned that “new variants pose a potentially lethal danger, including the one first identified in India which is of increasing concern here in the UK”.
He said: “Should these [variants] prove highly transmissible and elude the protection of our vaccines, they would have the potential to cause even greater suffering than we endured in January.
“There is in any case a high likelihood of a surge this winter when the weather assists the transmission of all respiratory diseases and when the pressure on our NHS is most acute.”
He said this meant the “right moment” for the inquiry to begin would be spring 2022.
While he acknowledged many bereaved families would want the inquiry to begin sooner, Mr Johnson said the timescale was “the right way to get answers” and the terms of reference would be published in “due course”.
The devolved administrations would be consulted before the scope of the inquiry is outlined, he added.
But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for clarification on whether the inquiry will be formally opening in spring or whether that will be when work begins to establish the inquiry.
In response, Mr Johnson said the preparatory work to establish the terms of reference and the inquiry chairman “will happen before the spring of next year”, adding: “We will be getting it under way, we will be taking some key decisions.”
He added: “I think the House will agree that it would not be right to devote the time of people who are looking after us, who are saving lives, to an inquiry before we can be absolutely, much more certain than we are now that the pandemic is behind us.”
This comes after ten people who were shot dead at Ballymurphy, in west Belfast, back in 1971 were innocent, and they were killed without justification, a coroner in the inquest has now ruled.
Mr Johnson – who has set out plans to ease some of England’s coronavirus restrictions on the 17th of May, said: “The end of the lockdown is not the end of the pandemic.”
The prime minister said: “The World Health Organization has said that the pandemic has now reached its global peak and will last throughout this year.
“Our own scientific advisers judge that although more positive data is coming in and the outlook is improving, there could still be another resurgence in hospitalisations and deaths.”
A World Health Organization (WHO) report released on Wednesday said the WHO should have declared a global emergency earlier than it did, adding that individual governments failed to act quickly enough.