Covid-19 inquiry opens amid concerns about a lack of focus on Wales
The UK Covid-19 Inquiry has opened its investigation into the decisions made by Boris Johnson’s Government during the pandemic.
It comes amid concerns by some in Wales about a lack of focus on how the pandemic was handled autonomously by the Welsh Government here.
The focus will not shift to how decisions were taken in Wales until the second part of the inquiry.
There will be a particular focus initially on early 2020 until the first lockdown was imposed in late March.
The inquiry will then look at decisions taken throughout 2020 until February 2022, including the actions of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The inquiry has set a date for a preliminary hearing later this autumn and has committed to hearing evidence from witnesses next summer.
Inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett said: “My team and I will establish what was understood about Covid-19 at the time, what information was available in each of the four UK nations and how and why key decisions were made, especially early in the pandemic.
“I will be taking evidence next year to build a full picture of the challenges faced by the Government and how it chose to confront them.”
The formal process of allowing interested parties to become a core participant for module two of the inquiry – the part covering the Government’s decision-making – has opened and will close on September 23.
Core participants – individuals, organisations or institutions that have a specific interest in the work of the inquiry – can access evidence relevant to the investigation, make opening and closing statements at hearings and suggest lines of questioning to inquiry counsel.
The module two process will examine decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet – as advised by the civil service, senior political, scientific and medical advisers – and the relevant Cabinet sub-committees.
Lady Hallett said: “The inquiry has started its module two investigations, scrutinising core political and administrative decision-making of the Westminster government.
“Related modules 2A, 2B and 2C will allow me to look at decisions taken in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Conservatives and the Welsh Liberal Democrats have all called for a Wales-only inquiry, as have Covid Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru.
In reaction to the news announced last month that Wales would not be the focus of the inquiry until the second module, Plaid Cymru’s health spokesman wrote to First Minister Mark Drakeford to push for reassurances.
“I want to know why there isn’t a specific Welsh perspective to all three inquiry modules announced to date and why there appears to be an in-built delay before specific questions regarding Wales are raised in relation to the second module,” he said.
The Welsh Government has insisted that its handling of the Covid pandemic will be properly scrutinised within the bounds of the commission, which will also conduct hearings in Wales.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.