The Government’s public inquiry into Covid-19 is set to run into the next Parliament and is unlikely to be completed until at least the end of 2025, The Telegraph can reveal.
The inquest, which is being led by former Court of Appeal judge Baroness Hallett, is set to begin next spring but organisers have refused to say when the inquiry is expected to conclude.
However, documents related to the appointment of a law firm that has been brought in to aid with the inquiry reveal that its final report is not expected to be published until at least the end of 2025.
The documents also show that the inquiry has the option to extend Burges Salmon’s contract until the end of October 2026, meaning the investigation might not conclude for more than four years.
The timeline means the inquiry will not be completed before the next general election, which is expected to take place in 2024.
However, Baroness Hallet could publish some interim findings as soon as the end of 2023, the documents show.
Last week, the scope of the inquiry was widened to include an examination of the impact of the pandemic on children and young people.
The Telegraph, which first reported the omission, has been running a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from repeated lockdowns.
The impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the entire population should also be investigated, as well as the collaboration between central government, devolved administrations, local authorities and charities, Baroness Hallet said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
Layla Moran, a Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus said: “Britain had among the worst death tolls and deepest economic shocks during the pandemic, so we have a right to expect that lessons will be learned and decision-makers held responsible for this government’s pandemic mismanagement.
“As the Prime Minister cannot be relied upon to do the decent thing, it is right that the inquiry appears to agree with our call for interim findings to be published before the next election so that the Government can be judged at the ballot box.”
After consulting on the terms of reference for the inquiry, its organisers said the respondents were “strongly in favour” of setting an end date for the proceedings and a “tightly planned” timetable.
However, the organisers warned that the scale of the issues that the inquiry will consider is vast, and there will “inevitably be unforeseen issues that arise in conducting the investigation”.
It added that it will issue further updates on the timeline during the summer.
A spokesman for the inquiry said: “The inquiry has not been formally established yet, and it has not set out its provisional timetable. Broad outlines are sometimes used for contracting purposes, and the inquiry is using time-limited contracts.”
Burges Salmon will be paid nearly £10m for its work on the inquiry, the documents show.
A spokesman for Burges Salmon said: “We can confirm that Burges Salmon has been appointed to provide legal services to the Covid-19 public inquiry, which will see the firm work in partnership with Fieldfisher.”