Covid: Boris Johnson makes inquiry pledge to bereaved families
Boris Johnson has promised to appoint a chair for the official Covid inquiry before Christmas, after meeting a campaign group.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said he also pledged to involve them in the decision, during a meeting with them in Downing Street.
The PM met the group earlier, having declined to do so since last year.
It has been campaigning for a public inquiry into the pandemic, due to start in spring 2022, to begin immediately.
Five families from the group met Mr Johnson on Tuesday for a private reception, to share stories of their loved ones lost due to Covid.
Afterwards, they said they were pleased he had met them – but they were “still disappointed by the lack of urgency” over an inquiry start date.
- Tories reverse decision to ban Covid families group
- Covid families reject PM’s reason for not meeting
- Start Covid-19 inquiry now, say bereaved families
“However, we are still disappointed by the lack of urgency the prime minister displayed,
as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”
A No 10 spokesperson said the PM had promised the group the inquiry would “get to the bottom of many of the questions that they, and thousands of others like them, have about the pandemic”.
“The prime minister gave a commitment that the chair of the inquiry would be appointed by Christmas,” they added.
“He set out that for now, it is right that public servants continue to focus their efforts on tackling the pandemic before moving on to the inquiry in the spring of next year.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Johnson told reporters the meeting had been “very emotional”.
“Obviously there’s very little I could say to mitigate their own suffering,” he added.
“But what I did say is we are determined to make sure the experience of the bereaved is something we took account of in the public inquiry.”
The group, representing families with relatives who have died with the virus, has been asking for a meeting with Mr Johnson since last year.
However, he has previously turned down a meeting with them, citing a threat of legal action over an official pandemic inquiry.
The group wrote to the government in August last year, saying it was considering a judicial review of the decision not to hold an immediate public inquiry.
But the group denied that legal action had started – and labelled Mr Johnson’s reason for not meeting them a “poor excuse”.
In May, Mr Johnson announced a statutory public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic would begin in spring 2022.
Role for families
The group’s meeting with the PM comes a week before it attends the Conservative Party annual conference, beginning in Manchester on Sunday.
The group says it was initially denied permission to attend, before subsequently being told they could after “the news broke in the media”.
In a statement after the meeting, the group said families expect to be consulted on the appointment of a chair and the inquiry’s terms of reference.
It added Mr Johnson also gave his support to the National Covid Memorial Wall, suggesting it could become a permanent national memorial.
“Although we wish this meeting had taken place a long time ago, we’re pleased that the prime minister has chosen to finally engage with us,” the statement added.
“However, we are still disappointed by the lack of urgency the prime minister displayed, as we see no reason why preparations for the inquiry cannot begin now, particularly as nearly 1,000 people are still losing their lives each week.”
Comments are closed.