Keir Starmer has called for the independent coronavirus public inquiry to begin “as soon as possible”, making the case that the autumn would be a “good opportunity” as restrictions will be lifted and people vaccinated.
“Our view is that the inquiry should take place as soon as possible. We think the autumn would be a good opportunity to start that one so that the restrictions have been lifted, before the winter months when there are concerns about infections going up.
“We’d be looking at around the autumn period for an inquiry… We’d hope the whole population will have been vaccinated,” the Labour leader’s spokesperson told journalists after Prime Minister’s Questions today.
The Trades Union Congress marked International Workers’ Memorial Day by calling for the date of the promised inquiry, looking into the quality of decision-making across government during the height of the pandemic, to be set now.
Labour-affiliated trade unions including Unite, UNISON, GMB and TSSA have also backed the demands of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group, saying now is the time for lessons to be learned.
Government lawyers have rejected the calls on the basis that “an inquiry now is not appropriate” and there is “no capacity” for it. A spokesperson said the government is still too focused on protecting public health.
Starmer’s spokesperson was also asked about the Downing Street flat refurbishment scandal, involving reports that Boris Johnson may have failed to declare a loan. The Prime Minister has refused to say who initially paid for the refit.
“Keir has never had his house or his wallpaper paid for by the taxpayer or by a party donor and he wouldn’t spend £840 per roll of wallpaper,” his spokesperson said. The Electoral Commission has announced an investigation.
Amid reports that Johnson’s fiancée Carrie Symonds thought the flat was a “John Lewis nightmare”, Starmer’s aide added: “Unlike the Prime Minister, he doesn’t turn up his nose to John Lewis thinking it’s too downmarket.”