Do we really think that a Public Inquiry will reveal Covid cock-ups?

Do we realyy think thatthat the sort of enquiry set up like the Leveson Inquiry will get to the heart of the Covid-19 mistakes made by the Governmenta nd its agencies?

For obvious reasons there are repeated calls for either a Public Enquiry or a Royal Commission to examine what has happened in terms of the Government’s response to Coronavirus starting from 2016 when they chose to make little of a pandemic planning exercise right up to when we might consider at least the first part of the coronavirus pandemic under control.

I have absolutely no doubt that there needs to be a speedy and effective review of what has happened. Mistakes have been made. Some of them have been political ones and some of them in terms of the advice given by professional staff such as behavioural scientists, public health and health service officials. Beyond that there are questions to be asked about how the Government has responded in terms of transport; business; the voluntary and community sectors as well as others. Those need to be left aside to begin with. Mistakes there will largely have been made because of problems within the health activities which must be the prime focus of enquiry.

I think that a formal enquiry would be a bad idea. Let’s just look at the outputs and outcomes of the relatively recently Leveson enquiry into the press excesses. This was not a great success. The first enquiry took about two years. It cost a fortune. It was adversarial with a range of people and organisations hiring barristers and seeking to defend their actions rather than get at the truth of what happened. There was supposed to be a second enquiry which never happened.

Above all there were little real world outputs from the enquiry that did take place. The only reason that there have been minimal improvements in the honesty of the press, and there were only modest improvements, was the worries that the media had over compensation payments. A toothless industry controlled watch dog was put in place which hasn’t barked but purred when there have been transgression reported.

So if not this sort of enquiry what sort would I recommend? I think we should look at the way that local government does things. Every three years most councils in England voluntarily open themselves up to external review. The review team are experienced councillors and local government officials with sometimes some knowledgeable outsiders. They come in to look at a self-assessment made by the Council of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

The team then go into the area for four days and talk to people inside the council, the community and partners and assess the self-assessment. It’s a process not of inspection which raises hackles but is a family activity with critical friends using their nose to have a look at what’s going on. They produce a report and the Council produce an action plan which the LGA check after a year and to which the LGA provide outside support if required.

Occasionally, there is a more drastic approach of compulsory intervention. In the case of seriously failing authorities like Northamptonshire the Government enforces both inspection and remedies through a similar peer team of highly experienced local government officers and members.

That’s what I would like to see the Lib Dems calling for nationally. A quick review by international experts which would not seek to examine every last document and decision in detail but would look at the broad sweep of what has happened using their knowledge of having lived through the same problems themselves. Clearly we would be looking for a team from a global body, such as the World Health Organisation and MPs and officials from countries like S Korea and Germany who had successfully dealt with CV better than we had.

This would be none-political because none of the participants would have a political axe to grind and would be simply to bring their experienced nose to bear on what had happened here. They could then produce a report against which the Government and all its organs could produce an action plan which would build on the strengths of what had been done but attend to the weaknesses.

This is a tried and trusted approach which works and has been used at a national level before. The Council of Europe send peer teams to look at democratic processes in member states which reported to national Parliaments and the LGA has assisted with peer reviews of Commonwealth Countries.

I believe that this is a better way of getting quick responses whilst things are fresh in people’s minds and the desire to make necessary changes is still what the people of the UK want. I hope that is the approach that the Lib Dems take.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s