Now it’s your turn, Matt: Shamed ex-Health Secretary Hancock and Nicola Sturgeon will be hauled in front of Covid Inquiry next week
- Mr Hancock is expected to give evidence to the Covid Inquiry on Tuesday
Shamed ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock will be grilled by the Covid Inquiry next week.
The MP was at the helm when the coronavirus pandemic struck and was a key figure in the lockdown restrictions and vaccine rollout that followed.
He resigned after leaked CCTV images showed him kissing an adviser in his office in breach of his own social-distancing guidance.
Mr Hancock will be questioned on Tuesday about Britain’s preparations ahead of the pandemic, which have been widely criticised.
Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon will also be among the witnesses next week. She will be hauled before the probe alongside former deputy John Swinney on Thursday.
Shamed ex-Health Secretary Matt Hancock will be grilled by the Covid Inquiry next week. The MP was at the helm when the coronavirus pandemic struck and was a key figure in the lockdown restrictions and vaccine rollout that followed. Mr Hancock will be questioned on Tuesday about Britain’s preparations ahead of the pandemic, which have been widely criticised
Former Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon will also be among the witnesses next week. She will be hauled before the probe alongside former deputy John Swinney on Thursday
The ex-SNP leader, who departed as Scotland’s first minister in March, this week made her first public return to Holyrood since her dramatic arrest.
Ms Sturgeon refused to answer questions about whether her husband — who was also arrested — was innocent. Both were quizzed as part of a police probe into the spending of £600,000 in donations.
Today’s arm of the wide-ranging Covid Inquiry will question Sir Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance.
The pandemic gurus, nicknamed Professor Gloom and Dr Doom, became household names for their prominent roles during the crisis.
They often appeared next to Mr Hancock and ex-PM Boris Johnson during Downing Street Covid briefings.
Mr Hancock, 44, resigned after leaked CCTV images showed him kissing an adviser in his office, in breach of his own social-distancing guidance.
Mr Hancock later angered colleagues and constituents by flying to the Australian jungle to appear on I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! in November 2022.
Sir Chris Whitty, former chief scientific adviser, arrives to give evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry at Dorland House in London, June 22
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Having been stripped of the Conservative whip over the appearance, he said he would not contest his West Suffolk seat at the next election when he would step down.
Mr Hancock, who penned his own explosive diaries lifting the lid on the inside story of the pandemic, took charge of the Department of Health in July 2018, 18 months before Covid hit the UK.
Next week’s Covid Inquiry will also hear from the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dame Jenny Harries.
Dame Jenny, a former deputy chief medical officer for England, will appear on Monday while former Public Health England chief Duncan Selbie will appear on Tuesday afternoon.
Caroline Lamb, chief executive of NHS Scotland, and Catherine Calderwood, Scotland’s former chief medical officer, will give evidence on Wednesday, along with former cabinet secretary for health Jeanne Freeman.
Other witnesses across the week include Emma Reed, director of emergency preparedness and health protection at the Department of Health and Social Care, and Rosemary Gallagher from the Royal College of Nursing.
The first module will run for six weeks, until 20 July. The probe is not expected to conclude until 2026.
Will Boris Johnson be quizzed? Who else will be involved? And how long will it take? EVERYTHING you need to know about the Covid inquiry
Why was the inquiry set up?
There has been much criticism of the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, including the fact the country seemed to lack a thorough plan for dealing with such a major event.
Other criticisms levelled at the Government include allowing elderly people to be discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested, locking down too late in March 2020 and the failures of the multi-billion NHS test and trace.
Families of those who lost their loved ones to Covid campaigned for an independent inquiry into what happened.
Then Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was right that lessons are learned, announcing in May 2021 that an inquiry would be held.
Will Boris Johnson be quizzed? If so, when?
It’s not clear exactly when, or if, the former Prime Minister will be quizzed. No full list of witnesses has been published yet.
But given he was in charge of the Government for almost the entirety of the pandemic, his insights will prove central to understanding several aspects of the nation’s response.
If called forward as a witness, he would be hauled in front of the committee to give evidence.
Who is in charge of the inquiry?
Baroness Heather Hallett is in the charge of the wide-reaching inquiry. And she’s no stranger to taking charge of high profile investigations.
The 72-year-old ex-Court of Appeal judge was entrusted by Mr Johnson with chairing the long-awaited public probe into the coronavirus crisis.
Her handling of the inquiry will be subject to ferocious scrutiny.
Until Baroness Hallett was asked to stand aside, she was acting as the coroner in the inquest of Dawn Sturgess, the 44-year-old British woman who died in July 2018 after coming into contact with the nerve agent Novichok.
She previously acted as the coroner for the inquests into the deaths of the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005 London bombings.
She also chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations, as well as the 2014 Hallett Review of the administrative scheme to deal with ‘on the runs’ in Northern Ireland.
Baroness Hallett, a married mother-of-two, was nominated for a life peerage in 2019 as part of Theresa May’s resignation honours.
How long will it take?
When he launched the terms of the inquiry in May 2021, Mr Johnson said he hoped it could be completed in a ‘reasonable timescale’.
But, realistically, it could take years.
It has no formal deadline but is due to hold hearings across the UK until at least 2025.
Interim reports are scheduled to be published before public hearings conclude by summer 2026.
The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war began in 2009 but the final, damning document wasn’t released until 2016.
Meanwhile, the Bloody Sunday inquiry took about a decade.
Should a similar timescale be repeated for the Covid inquiry, it would take the sting out of any criticism of any Tory Government failings.
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