On 28 June 2022, the Prime Minister finalised the Terms of Reference for the UK-wide public inquiry into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the Inquiry has been formally set up and can now begin to gather evidence.

This follows a public consultation by the Chair of the Inquiry, Baroness Hallett, on the draft terms of reference that were proposed in March 2022. The Inquiry published a summary of the responses to its consultation and Baroness Hallett made a number of recommendations for changes. The Prime Minister has accepted these recommendations and as a result the Inquiry's remit has been expanded to include investigation into the impact of the pandemic on:

  • children and young people;
  • the mental health and wellbeing of the UK population; and
  • collaboration between central government, devolved administrations, regional and local authorities, and the voluntary and community sector.

The full Terms of Reference can be viewed here.

The Chair has also released a video statement in which she makes a number of promises to the public in relation to how the Inquiry will be managed.

These include a promise that the Inquiry will not just be conducted in London – the Inquiry team will travel around the UK to hear evidence in different locations. This reflects the Inquiry's remit to investigate the response to the pandemic in all four nations of the UK and the Chair has stated that she is "acutely aware that experiences were different across the UK".

This model has previously been adopted by the Infected Blood Inquiry which has held hearings in Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and Leeds in addition to those at the Inquiry's main venue in London.

The Chair has also confirmed that she will deliver recommendations as soon as possible by publishing interim reports. This will allow recommendations to be taken forward prior to the end of the Inquiry and the Chair hopes that this will "reduce or prevent the suffering and hardship in any future pandemic".

The Chair has also promised to conduct the Inquiry efficiently and as quickly as the team can manage. Whilst acknowledging the huge amount of work that lies ahead, Baroness Hallett referred to the fact that the Inquiry will be working to an ambitious timetable.

The Inquiry is undertaking preparatory work including planning the gathering of evidence and identifying which witnesses and expert advice will be required. It is also commissioning research and planning a "Listening Project" for this autumn to hear evidence from those most severely affected by the pandemic in a setting that is less formal than a public hearing.

In her statement, the Chair reaffirmed her intention for public hearings to start in 2023.

For further information please contact Christine O'Neill, Kirstyn Burke or your usual Brodies' contact.


Kirstyn Burke

Senior Associate

Christine O'Neill KC

Chair & Partner