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Coronavirus / Covid-19: MP secures commitment on support for bereaved families

Vital to ensure the voices of those who have lost loved ones are heard, Carmichael says

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: UK Government.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has secured a prime ministerial commitment to provide support for families who have faced bereavement during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday in response to Boris Johnson’s announcement that a Covid-19 public inquiry will begin sometime in 2022, Carmichael said the inquiry “must be the pre-eminent vehicle by which the voice of those who have lost loved ones in this pandemic”.

“I’m pretty certain that ministers, officials, health professionals, business interests and others will have good quality legal representation in that many of them are paid out of the public purse,” the Liberal Democrat MP said.

“Can the Prime Minister give me some commitment today that bereaved families will also get the necessary support to ensure that they have the same level of quality of representation so that their voices will be properly heard?”

Johnson responded: “Yes, and I believe that it is not only vital for the inquiry because I think that the inquiry must learn from the direct experiences of the bereaved who have suffered so much. And I think that they will provide invaluable evidence for the inquiry, but it’s also plainly a matter of justice and fairness and I fully respect the point he makes.”

Over 127,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 in the UK since March 2020, and there have been over 150,000 excess deaths.

Organisations such as the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group have been fiercely critical of the UK’s handling of the pandemic in a host of areas including the timing of lockdowns, a lack of preparedness and a failure to control the country’s borders to minimise the spread of the virus.

The Resolution Foundation estimated that the mistiming of lockdown in winter, which was delayed until early January despite scientific warnings throughout the autumn, may have cost 27,000 lives.

Carmichael said following Wednesday’s exchange that he welcomed a commitment to ensure bereaved families receive “good and proper representation”.

“However, this government has a history [of] changing its mind and breaking promises,” he added. “I will work tirelessly to ensure that the Prime Minister keeps his word on this extremely important issue.”