In an address to the House of Commons in June 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to creating an "independent inquiry" into the UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Former High Court judge Baroness Hallet was announced as Chair of the Covid inquiry on 15 December 2021. This inquiry is important not only for lessons to be learned, but also because Covid remains an issue for the country and, unusually, the Inquiry might be looking into issues that are happening in real time. This inquiry could also be one of the largest and most complex in the UK's history.
Public inquiries investigate matters of public interest and therefore, by their nature, draw national attention. The upcoming Covid-19 Inquiry is likely to involve a multitude of public and private sector organisations whose actions, or inactions, will be heavily scrutinised. They will be expected to demonstrate what they have already learned from the pandemic. Public sentiment is increasingly hostile towards organisations adopting a "defend and deny" approach and there is an expectation that they will act with candour and not seek to "defend the indefensible" when engaging with a public inquiry.
The DWF team are specialists in advising on all facets of public inquiries, including the evolving duty of candour and how organisations can best demonstrate commitment to assisting and learning from them.
The below aspects were unveiled:
- How an inquiry is established and how the terms of reference are set;
- Who is likely to be involved and how potential Core Participants should prepare themselves;
- Document retention, disclosure obligations and witness support; and
- How to demonstrate candour and commit to transparency before and during an inquiry.