Ministers yet to respond to findings of cross-party inquiry after 12 December deadline passed
The government has been criticised for failing to respond to a damning parliamentary report that accused ministers of mishandling the early stages of the pandemic.
The report, compiled by the Health and Science and Technology Committees, found the government’s initial response to Covid-19 “amounted in practice” to the pursuit of herd immunity, with the delayed decision to lock down ranking as one of the “most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.
More than 50 witnesses contributed to the cross-party report, including ministers, NHS officials, government advisers and leading scientists, with the authors saying it was was “vital” that lessons were learnt from the failings of the past 18 months.
The findings from the joint inquiry were published on 12 October and a deadline for an official government response was set for 12 December.
However, that date has now passed and the committees have yet to formally hear back from ministers, according to the parliamentary website, which states that a response is now “overdue”.
Published correspondence shows that the last exchange between the government and the MPs behind the inquiry was on 28 September, when health secretary Sajid Javid wrote a letter to the committee chairs.
Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice said the government’s failure to “meet a very reasonable deadline” called into question the willingness of ministers to engage with the coming independent public inquiry into the UK’s handling of the pandemic.
“The government have had months to get a response delivered to the Health and Science and Technology committees following their lessons leant from the pandemic report,” said Jo Goodmand, co-founder of the campaign group.
“Unfortunately those of us who have lost loved ones are far too used to this with responses to FOIs late and it taking far too long to announce the inquiry.
“It’s vital the government gets its house in order and secure the evidence still stored on private email accounts. This all starts with formally starting the inquiry so there is a legal duty to collate evidence – there really isn’t a moment to lose.”
The group has repeatedly called for the launch of the public inquiry over the past six months, but Downing Street has said it won’t start until the spring of next year.
The inquiry will be separate from the work carried out by the Health and Science and Technology Committees into the lessons learnt throughout the pandemic.
Lady Hallett, a former senior appeal court judge, has been appointed to chair the inquiry. A cross-bench life peer, Dame Heather was coroner in the inquest into the 7 July 2005 terror attacks on London’s transport network that claimed 52 lives.