Boris Johnson has confirmed there will be an independent public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, starting in spring next year.
Held under the Inquiry Act, it will have wide ranging statutory powers, including compelling evidence and public evidence.
The inquiry will be UK-wide and Mr Johnson said work is currently under way with the devolved administrations to establish its heads of terms.
It comes as a damning report from the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), said a quicker international response could have stopped the 2019 Covid-19 outbreak in China becoming a global catastrophe.
Mr Johnson said: “Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future – which is why I’ve always said when the time is right there should be a full and independent inquiry.
🔴 Prime Minister @BorisJohnson is now giving an update on Covid-19.
Watch live ⬇️ https://t.co/BxakEgRB7T
— UK House of Commons (@HouseofCommons) May 12, 2021
“So, I can confirm today that the Government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 – including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath.
He added: “Every part of our United Kingdom has suffered the ravages of this virus, and every part of the state has pulled together to do battle against it, and if we are to recover as one Team UK – as we must – then we should also learn lessons together in the same spirit.
“So, we will consult the devolved administrations before finalising the scope and detailed arrangements so that this inquiry can consider all key aspects of the UK response.
“This process will place the state’s actions under the microscope and we should be mindful of the scale of that undertaking and the resources required to do it properly.”
Mr Johnson, in a Commons statement, also backed proposals for a Covid-19 memorial.
He said: “There is a solemn duty on our whole United Kingdom to come together and to cherish the memories of those who have been lost.
“Like many across this Chamber, I was deeply moved when I visited the Covid Memorial Wall opposite Parliament. I wholeheartedly support the plan for a memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral, which will provide a fitting place of reflection in the heart of our capital.
“I also know that communities across the whole country will want to find ways of commemorating what we have all been through, so the Government will support their efforts by establishing a UK commission on Covid commemoration.
“This national endeavour above party politics will remember the loved ones we have lost, honour the heroism of those who have saved lives and the courage of frontline workers who have kept our country going, celebrate the genius of those who created the vaccines and commemorate the small acts of kindness and the daily sacrifice of millions who stayed at home buying time for our scientists to come to our rescue.”