PPE Public Inquiry – We received a response from the Secretary of State

On 1 July we received a formal response from the Secretary of State in relation to our judicial review for a public inquiry. You can read his response here.

On 11 June 2020, some days after we issued our judicial review claim, the National Audit Office announced it would conduct a review into:

“the preparedness and response in the supply of PPE in England, including the scale of and reasons for shortfalls in supply. It will cover:

    • How PPE was supplied to NHS and social care organisations before the COVID-19 pandemic started
    • What government did, between the pandemic emerging in other countries and arriving in the UK, to prepare for the provision of PPE in the NHS and social care organisations
    • How government responded when problems arose in the supply of PPE
    • The scale of problems in the availability of PPE throughout the emergency.”

And would report in the Autumn.

In his response, the Secretary of State places considerable reliance on this work. This reflects a considerable change in his position – he did not rely on it in pre-action correspondence. And he promises: “emerging findings will be shared with officials in late August or early September, which will allow Government to benefit from its findings as soon as possible.”

We do not accept that the NAO’s review discharges the Secretary of State’s legal obligations under Article 2 of the ECHR. However, it seems to the Claimants – the Doctors’ Association UK, Hourglass, and the Good Law Project – that in light of this new work the sensible course of action is to await the outcome of the NAO’s review.

Once we have seen the outcome of this work and these proceedings we will be able to see what further work needs to be done to ensure Government meets its PPE obligations.