Beth Rigby accuses Boris Johnson of avoiding the 'obvious elephant in the room' on Covid

Sky News’ political editor said the Prime Minister is plainly avoiding setting a date for a public enquiry into his Government’s handling of the pandemic. While discussing this afternoon’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) with colleague Adam Boulton, Ms Rigby pointed out Mr Johnson dodged the subject on two occasions.

She said: “Well I think the other thing which is the obvious elephant in the room and was raised twice in PMQs and by Keir Starmer is when is the Government going to announce the public inquiry over Covid.

“The Prime Minister again saying I will do it when the time is right.

“He still doesn’t want to put a date on it but I imagine that the pressure will only build as we come out of the lockdown and the vaccine programme is rolled out.

“When is he going to announce that in Parliament?”

Last year the Prime Minister told MPs he would hold an inquiry to learn lessons from the outbreak.

But Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to set a date for such a probe, stating it would be wrong to start one while the country is still grappling with COVID-19.

During this afternoon’s PMQs, Labour MP Afzal Khan called for a public inquiry “as soon as current restrictions are lifted”.

In a moving statement, the Manchester MP said he had lost his mother, father, and mother-in-law to the virus.

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“Grieving families like mine want and deserve to understand what happened, and if anything could have been done to prevent this tragedy.

In response Mr Johnson offered his “sympathies and sorrow” for Mr Khan’s loss and said the probe would be launched “as soon as it’s right to do so” but to do so now would be “irresponsible”.

He said: “His experience is one, as he rightly says, that has been shared by far too many families up and down the country and that’s why we’re of course committed – as soon as it’s right to do so, as soon as it wouldn’t be an irresponsible diversion of the energies of the key officials involved – to an inquiry to learn the lessons, to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.”

Mr Johnson added: “We are of course committed to an inquiry to learn the lessons, to make sure that something like this can never happen again.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said a full inquiry was needed as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted on June 21.

He told MPs: “That is the only way we can get to the bottom of the many mistakes that were made during the pandemic and find justice for those who suffered so much.”

Professor Neil Ferguson, a leading epidemiologist, said an inquiry should start “in the next few months”.

He said: “It is probably better to get initial conclusions from it sooner rather than later.

“An inquiry which lasts three years – the risk is in three years’ time people’s concerns will have moved on and it’s less likely to actually effect real change”.

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