Thursday 30 July 2020

Coronavirus inquiry - when?

I was dismayed to hear earlier this week that the second part of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire  is to close down for the summer holidays, and will resume in the Autumn.  Given that the enquiry has, understandably, not continued during the earlier part of the lockdown, that it should shut down again so soon demonstrates an appalling  lack of urgency.

Part 1 of the inquiry, about what exactly happened on the 11th  June, 2017 has already reported.  Part 2 is to examine whose fault it was and in particular how and why substandard cladding was fitted to the tower and who was responsible.

The lack of urgency gives rise to the suspicion that, by the time the inquiry reaches its conclusions,  any  culpable  councillors, contractors or  inspectors will have conveniently died, retired or moved on.

There are in the UK plenty examples of  "Inquiries" which conveniently kick a contentious issue into the long grass until public interest has faded.  One such is the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking by the press and particularly the Murdoch Press.  Part 1, on the behaviour of the press, has already reported and its recommendations more or less ignored.  Part 2 on relations between the police and the press, has been abandoned.  


Has pressure been brought by powerful influences and bungs to the governing party?

Prime Minister Johnson has conceded that there must be a public inquiry into the way his government has dealt with the coronavirus pandemic.  No less an authority than David King, government chief scientific advisor  2000 -7, claims:

"With a stronger, transparent SAGE system  in place [in the early stages] tens of thousands of lives  would not have been lost, and our economy would already be on the road to recovery." *

We need to know whether or not this bold claim stands up to scrutiny.

There is an argument that no such inquiry should be held until the pandemic is well under control as it would be wrong for those responsible to be distracted from their primary task of bringing about that control.

There is also an argument, holiday season or not, that an interim enquiry be held right away so that mistakes already made (and the list is a long one) can be identified promptly to avoid further errors. 

Whether or not we have an interim inquiry (and since the decision is in the government's hands that seems unlikely), when an enquiry does come it should be short, sharp and soon.  

Those whose responsibility  is to care for us should not be allowed to let the grass grow so long that their culpability is obscured. 

* Prospect Magazine, Summer Special Issue 2020, page 15

No comments:

Post a Comment