Nicola Sturgeon welcomes Boris Johnson’s Covid inquiry announcement, but says it should start this year

Nicola Sturgeon has welcomed Boris Johnson’s inquiry announcement, but insisted it should start this year.

The First Minister was responding after the Prime Minister promised an independent public inquiry into the UK Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic to start in spring next year.

After Mr Johnson claimed a delay was required until it was “more certain” the pandemic was behind the UK, Ms Sturgeon urged him to act faster.

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She said: “We broadly welcome the UK Government joining us in committing to take forward a four-nations full public inquiry.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks to a member of the public. Picture: Russell Cheyne - Pool/Getty Images

“It is vital this inquiry covers all aspects of the impact and handling of the pandemic, and that bereaved families of Covid-19 victims have a say in shaping its scope.

“There is no reason for further delay and I would encourage the UK Government to establish a chair for the inquiry as quickly as possible, so that it can begin its work this year.

“We have tried to learn lessons and continuously adapt our approach to protect our NHS and save lives throughout the pandemic, and it is right that we learn from our experience, and that the voices of families who have lost loved ones are heard.

“This statutory, full public inquiry must be person-centred and take a human rights-based approach if it is to get the answers we need.”

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Her comments came after the Prime Minister announced to MPs the inquiry would take oral evidence under oath and place “the state’s actions under the microscope”.

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.

“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.

“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.

"So I expect that the right moment for the inquiry to begin is at the end of this period in the spring of next year, spring 2022.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also claimed the inquiry should start earlier, asking Mr Johnson why “could it not be later this year”.

Mr Johnson insisted: “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.

“I think we owe it to the country to have as much transparency as we possibly can and we owe it to the country to produce answers in a reasonable timescale.”

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