As chair of a new inquiry on coronavirus, I promise I will get answers this summer

This target is ambitious, but there is simply no time to waste when it comes to learning the lessons from the UK response to the pandemic

Layla Moran
Tuesday 14 July 2020 08:09
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Coronavirus crisis may get ‘worse and worse and worse’, warns WHO

I only had my eyes on one additional job this summer: becoming the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

Yet, the devastating impact of coronavirus compelled me to step up and play a leading role in the only comprehensive all-party inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. It is vital that we learn from our experiences over the last four months, so that if we do encounter a second wave, we are better prepared and can save more lives.

Last week I became the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, which has members from the Lib Dems, Conservative Party, Labour, Plaid Cymru, the Greens and the SNP. And this week, our group will begin taking written evidence from the public, bereaved families, health experts and professional bodies. We will review all the evidence and aim to comfplete the inquiry and release recommendations by the end of the summer.

This target is ambitious, but there is simply no time to waste when it comes to learning the lessons from the UK response to the pandemic. It is what 57 per cent of people said that they wanted to see, according to YouGov in a recent poll conducted on behalf of campaign group March for Change.

Our group has an important balance and tone to strike. Firstly, we must provide effective scrutiny and be honest and transparent about the mistakes made. From the neglect of care homes to the lack of an effective testing regime, each day has brought more evidence of errors in the handling of this pandemic and people involved must have their voices heard.

There is nothing to gain from sugarcoating. None of us wants to go through this again, and indeed we owe it to our healthcare professionals to protect them from these experiences in future.

The UK has been one of the worst affected countries in Europe, so we know that our response can, and should be, improved. We know the country and the NHS could have benefited from better support.

However, this is not about pointing the finger or attributing blame. A future, judge-led public inquiry may well delve into the behaviour and decisions of individuals – but this is not the APPG’s role.

It wouldn’t be constructive for us to play politics in the wake of a public tragedy or while our country is in the grips of a national emergency. Governments must be assisted and supported at these times, and not be waylaid by attacks for the sake of media discourse or party ideology.

To strike this balance, my colleagues and I will assess the response as a whole and offer constructive and practical recommendations in advance of a potential second wave.

The cross-party set-up and independent nature of our group and inquiry is a real asset here. I know first-hand the power of cross-party politics, and how we can often achieve more together.

We have all been united in our experiences of this pandemic. Our sense of community and togetherness as a nation has been reflected in the compassion and generosity of spirit we’ve seen in our society. Together, our inquiry will channel this spirit while being open and honest about the mistakes made and the next steps needed.

We do need an action plan for the upcoming winter months when some of our most vulnerable will already be suffering from loneliness or living in fear of catching other flu-like viruses. And if the worst does happen and we see a second peak, we want to be confident that this time we are ready.

That is why the government should welcome our efforts, contribute to the inquiry, and respond to the recommendations arising from the evidence we gather. They must show humility and understanding if they are to learn from this period, but above all, they must listen.

People are desperately searching for some clarity, for some answers, for direction. This cross-party APPG has been set up to listen to people, provide an Inquiry of this Government’s actions and ultimately help us do better as a country. I am proud to be chairing it.

Layla Moran is MP for Oxford West and Abingdon and a candidate for leadership of the Liberal Democrats

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