Baroness Heather Hallett will not have a panel in the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, Rishi Sunak has decided in an attempt to speed it up.
In a written statement to Parliament, the Prime Minister said the investigation into the response to the pandemic will be “most efficient and swift” if its chairwoman sits without a panel.
Concerns have been raised over how long the inquiry may take.
It is expected to last at least a year, with the first public hearings set to begin in June.
Sunak wrote: “Baroness Hallett has emphasised that she is keen to start hearing evidence as quickly as possible and to make timely recommendations.
“To assist with this, and following careful consideration and consultation with Baroness Hallett, I have decided the inquiry will be most efficient and swift if Baroness Hallett sits without a panel.”
The Prime Minister said that she will be assisted by “scientific, economic and other experts” and hear from “those most affected by the pandemic, including those who have tragically lost their loved ones”.
The former Court of Appeal judge has “considerable experience and expertise in leading complex investigations”, according to Sunak.
“She is putting in place mechanisms to enable the inquiry to gather the breadth of evidence and experiences needed to deliver its work effectively and efficiently, with the findings and recommendations published as soon as practicable,” he wrote.
“I therefore believe that the inquiry will have access to a range of expertise which negates the need for a panel. For these reasons, and for those of pace, I have decided not to pursue a panel to sit alongside Baroness Hallett.
“In weighing up these issues, I am conscious of the recent criticism over the length of time that the public inquiry may take to reach its conclusions.
“It is in the public interest that the inquiry is thorough, rigorous and comprehensive, but also delivers its report without excessive delay.”
The first part of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, which its legal team has requested be delayed from May until June, will look at the UK’s preparedness and resilience for a pandemic, with thousands of pages of UK Government evidence set to be sifted through as part of the process.
Other modules will examine decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, and the impact of Covid on healthcare systems.