Boris Johnson commits to independent inquiry into coronavirus response

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has committed to an independent inquiry on the Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons today, in reply to a question from Liberal Democrat acting leader Sir Ed Davey, Mr Johnson said he did not believe “that now, in the middle of combatting still as we are a pandemic, is the right moment to devote huge amounts of official time to an inquiry”.

But he added: “Of course we will seek to learn the lessons of this pandemic in the future and certainly we will have an independent inquiry into what happened.”

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The pledge came after a tense exchange with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, where Sir Keir warned the PM is “kidding no-one” by claiming everything is a “stunning success” in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boris Johnson at PMQs. Photo: PA

But Mr Johnson said Sir Keir had “more briefs than Calvin Klein” over his positions on coronavirus, despite stopping short of confirming he had read an official report on the progress of coronavirus into the winter.

Mr Johnson said: “One day he says it’s safe to go back to schools, the next day he’s taking the line of unions; one day they’re supporting our economic programme, the next day they’re saying our stamp duty cut is an unacceptable bung; one day they say they accept the result of the Brexit referendum, the next day, today, they’ll tell their troops to do the exact opposite.

“He needs to make up his mind about which brief he’s going to take today because at the moment he’s got more briefs than Calvin Klein.”

Sir Keir, though, said: “It’s perfectly possible to support track and trace and point out the problems, and standing up every week and saying it’s a ‘stunning success’ is kidding no-one – that’s not giving people confidence in the system.

“They’d like a Prime Minister who stands up and says ‘there are problems and this is what I’m going to do about them’. Not this rhetoric about ‘stunning success’ when it’s obviously not true.”

Pushing on a Government-commissioned report into the impact of the virus in the winter, Sir Keir asked: “Has the Prime Minister actually read the report?”

But the PM said: “I am, of course, aware of the report.”

Batley and Spen Labour MP Tracey Brabin pushed the Prime Minister on data available to councils.

She said due to outbreaks in her constituency Kirklees Council was needing more intensive support, but she said closing workplaces due to outbreaks or individuals taking time off sick came at a cost.

She said: “Can we have daily postcode data and also can the Prime Minister commit to a package of support so that businesses can close and individuals can do the right thing to benefit us all?”

The Prime Minister the Government was sharing all the data it had.