PMQs: Johnson commits to “independent inquiry” into Covid-19 pandemic
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson made a commitment to launch an “independent inquiry” into the Covid-19 pandemic.
The PM said that it was not right to devote “huge amounts of official time” to such an inquiry while the pandemic is ongoing but added that “certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened”.
It is the first time that the prime minister has made such a commitment, having previously rebuffed opposition calls for an inquiry into the government’s response to the crisis.
During the session, acting Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “Under this PM we suffered one of the worst death rates in the world and Europe's worst death rate for health and care workers.
"Previously he's refused my demand for an immediate independent inquiry, saying it's too soon, even though back in 2003 he voted for an independent inquiry into the Iraq war just months after that conflict had started.
"If he still rejects an immediate inquiry, will he instead commit in principle to a future public inquiry?"
Johnson’s commitment to an independent inquiry included no mention of a public inquiry taking place.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used the session to quiz the prime minister on a new report requested by chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance which emerged this week, suggesting that a second wave of Covid-19 cases in the winter could bring about 120,000 new deaths.
Sir Keir said: "One of the key recommendations in this report commissioned by the government's office for science, is that testing and tracing capacity will need to be significantly expanded to cope with increased demands over the winter.
"The reality is this - trace and track is not working as promised as it stands today."
The prime minister confirmed that he was aware of the points outlined in the report, and took aim at Sir Keir for “endlessly knocking the confidence of the people in this country” by consistently criticising the government’s approach.
Johnson said: "Once again he attacks the test and trace operation which is working at absolutely unprecedented scale.
"Our test and trace system is as good as or better than any other system in the world and yes, it will play a vital part in ensuring that we do not have a second spike this winter."
The Labour leader defended his position, saying that it was “perfectly possible” to “support track and trace” while simultaneously “pointing out the problems” with the system.
Sir Keir added: “Standing up every week and saying it's a 'stunning success' is kidding no-one - that's not giving people confidence in the system.
"They'd like a prime minister who stands up and says: 'there are problems, and this is what I'm going to do about them'. Not this rhetoric about 'stunning success' when it's obviously not true.”