Whilst addressing the House of Commons on Wednesday 12 May 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs that an independent statutory public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic would be convened in spring of 2022.
What is a public inquiry?
Statutory public inquiries are formal investigations initiated by a government minister that is capable of being granted special powers to compel testimony and the release of other forms of evidence. They are called due to the existence of public concern due to a set of events. In the past, inquiries have addressed topics as wide-ranging as transport accidents, fires, the mismanagement of pension funds, self-inflicted deaths in custody, outbreaks of disease, and decision-making that has led to war.
Non-statutory inquiries lack the subpoena powers and ability to take evidence under oath that are afforded to statutory inquiries.
The Inquiries Act 2005 was designed and passed to provide a framework under which future inquiries can effectively be operated and conducted to deliver valuable and practicable recommendations in a timely and cost effective manner.
The main function of statutory inquiries is to address three key questions:
- What happened?
- Why did it happen and who is to blame?
- What can be done to prevent this happening again?