Covid inquiry chairman dismisses journalist’s ‘giant whitewash’ fears | matt hancock

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The chair of the Covid-19 public inquiry insisted the investigation was “whitewashed” after a journalist claimed that concerns over its integrity had prompted her to publish private messages shared with her by Matt Hancock. Will not happen.

Heather Hallett delivered an implicit rebuke to Isabel Oakeshott after Oakeshott leaked 100,000 WhatsApp messages linked to the former health secretary from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, who is claimed to have entered a care home for coronavirus Rejected expert advice to test anyone who does.

The messages were shared by Hancock with Oakeshott when the pair were working on their memoir, Pandemic Diaries, and Oakeshott said he gave them to the Daily Telegraph because the Covid investigation would take “many years” and be “huge”. Whiteness” can be.

Without naming Hancock or Oakeshott, Lady Hallett opened her session on Wednesday with a candid response.

“Despite the thorough work of the investigation team, I know of no other investigation like this in the world, that is, in public, With statutory powers to receive evidence, with key actors playing a key role and with exceptionally broad terms of reference. So with regard to some commentators, comparisons with other countries are futile.”

“Also, I want to emphasize that there will be no whitewash,” said Hallett, who denied the investigation “will drag on for decades”.

Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC, representing the TUC, supported Hallett’s view and said that he and his client “do not recognize the inherent stigma” that she would be presiding over a “cover-up”.

Hancock has strongly rejected claims that he has rejected expert advice to test anyone entering a care home, labeling the report “categorically untrue”.

The Telegraph investigation claimed that Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, told Hancock in April 2020 that “all [people] should be tested for moving to a care home”, and recommended “isolation whilst awaiting results”.

According to leaked messages published by the newspaper, Hancock dismissed the guidance to an aide, telling the move to “muddy the waters”.

A legal adviser to the public inquiry also referred to the matter, saying that “in light of press reports about Mr Hancock’s WhatsApp messages”, people were being encouraged to come forward with any data Which could not happen in the investigation.

Hugo Keith Casey details a series of mandatory requests for evidence and records, including “informal” notes and correspondence that the inquiry sent to a number of people who served or had served in the government.

“My lady, we have cast our net with wide and fine mesh. I must say that with respect to government employees, arrangements are being made to assure civil servants that they can come forward and testify freely,” he said.

A lawyer for the bereaved relatives told the Speaker that, following Hancock’s report, they needed “more than ever” to fully understand what records the public inquiry was requesting.

They were needed to be able to assist in identifying any gaps in the disclosure of documents and messages, Anna Morris Casey told the inquiry, which also heard a call from a lawyer representing Scottish families for clarification that Hancock had revealed the messages that were leaked recently. ,

“Families deserve to be in the confidence of an investigation. They don’t deserve to be left out of media disclosure about documents that, I’m sure your team will agree, are clearly in scope,” said Morris, who represents families of Covid-19 bereaved families for justice. Is.

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Morris pressed the inquiry to plan for the risk that there might be witnesses who, in his words, “may be reluctant to engage in the full investigation of the inquiry, and who may be tempted to conceal lies and rely on parliamentary privilege”. may choose instead to hide.” ,

She said: “One can think of examples of MPs who, when confronted with statements made outside Parliament or on WhatsApp messages, conflict with what has been said within Parliament, they are a The witness statement may refuse to repeat what he had entered into the records of Parliament and claim that there is no need to do so, using parliamentary privilege as justification.

Hallett dismissed outside allegations that the inquiry had failed to examine the issue of racism, saying it was “very much something we intend to do”.

She said: “There is no question of sidelining any group or I am not listening to them. I am. The only question is how do we ensure that we properly investigate disparities, and that we properly investigate the disproportionate number of deaths in particular groups and communities.

The inquiry is facing calls to consider structural racism in every part of the investigation after it emerged almost all minority ethnic groups were more likely to die from the virus than white British people.

Earlier this month, the lead counsel for the government-set up inquiry said it did not plan to consider structural racism in the first module of the probe, which is probing pandemic preparedness. But bereaved families and campaigners have said all 11 modules of the comprehensive inquiry should consider the matter.

Hallett said on Wednesday that she would continue to hear submissions on whether an expert in the field of institutional racism should be instructed.

Keith supported the Speaker’s comments about the inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid on BAME communities, saying: “far from being ignored, it runs like a steel wire throughout our work.”

However, he added that the investigation did not find that racism was institutional. He said it was a “broader and more complex issue”.

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