ressure mounted on Boris Johnson to speed up the official inquiry in to the Coronavirus pandemic as a senior Conservative MP and doctor joined cross-party demands for it to launch no later than this autumn.
Dr Dan Poulter told the Evening Standard that lessons must be learned quickly because another pandemic is inevitable and Britain cannot afford to delay the lessons learned.
The former Junior Health Minister, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said the inquiry should start work this autumn and be ordered to report no later than a year or 18 months.
“Given this is unlikely to be the only pandemic we face in our lifetimes, preparedness is important,” said the Central Suffolk & North Ipswich MP.
“Some other inquiries, like the one into the Iraq war, have dragged on for years, but we can’t afford to wait that long to learn lessons from this pandemic.
“It should report back in a year to 18 months at most because it is imperative that we are ready for the next one.
“We do not have the luxury of time to wait five or six years for the report.”
The Prime Minster confirmed earlier this month that there will be an inquiry but not until next spring.
The Government continued to resist calls from across the Commons to bring it forward. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told LBC on Thursday morning: “There will come a time next year in the public inquiry where all of us who’ve been involved in this will lay out events as clearly and honestly as we can.”
Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth told the Standard people could not wait that long for the serious allegations made by Dominic Cummings to be investigated.
“Dominic Cummings’ shocking allegations are deeply serious and will be hugely upsetting for families who have lost loved ones,” he said. “On the face of it his charges sound plausible and coincide with what others warned. It’s beyond doubt that an early inquiry is necessary to learn every lesson for the future.”
Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, demanded: “The Prime Minister must establish the independent public inquiry he’s promised without further delay. He should appear before it to answer questions under oath, and provide it with all relevant government documents.
“There can be no delay in getting to the truth. End the public sparring with Cummings and get on with setting up the inquiry immediately.”
The PM was pressed by Sir Keir Starmer in the Commons on Wednesday to open the inquiry in the summer. Mr Johnson replied: “No, as I’ve said before I’m not going to concentrate valuable official time on that now whilst we’re still battling a pandemic.” He accused Labour of playing “political games”.
Dr Poulter said that it was right to delay the inquiry until the current crisis has passed, so that all involved can focus on learning lessons, but autumn was the best time.