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In brief

The UK Government announced yesterday (15 December 2021) that the Rt Hon Baroness Heather Hallett DBE will be Chair of the upcoming public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic. Baroness Hallett is a cross-bench member of the House of Lords, and sat on the Court of Appeal between 2005 and 2019. She has previously conducted other high profile public inquests, inquiries and reviews, including those relating to the 2005 London bombings, and she chaired the Iraq Fatalities Investigations. In the New Year, the panellists to sit alongside Baroness Hallett are due to be appointed.


  1. Powers of the inquiry 
  2. Terms of reference
  3. Timetable
  4. Scottish inquiry

Powers of the inquiry 

The Government also confirmed that the inquiry will be established under the Inquiries Act 2005 with full powers. This means that the Chair of the inquiry will be able to require the provision of evidence and the production of documents (failure to comply can be an offence).

Terms of reference

Draft terms of reference for the inquiry are expected to be published in the New Year. There will then be an opportunity to comment on the draft terms of reference (as part of a process of consultation / public engagement, including with those who have lost loved ones and other affected groups).

If you are considering responding to the consultation, it would be worth starting to give some thought now to what you would like the inquiry to cover and asking for input from your legal team. We are happy to discuss this.

We anticipate that the remit of the terms of reference will be wide-ranging, and cover details of the Government’s response to the pandemic, including its interactions with (and award of contracts to) the private sector. We will be publishing further on the impact of the inquiry for our clients as its scope takes shape. 


The inquiry is set to commence work in spring 2022. We anticipate that this date will mark the formal constitution of the inquiry with other substantive steps, such as evidential hearings, to follow later.

Scottish inquiry

In parallel, Lady Poole QC has been appointed as chair of the Scottish Covid-19 public inquiry and the terms of reference for that inquiry have now been published (including broad issues such as the supply, distribution and use of PPE). The terms of reference are subject to a “period of reflection” which may involve adjustments to take account of the remit of the UK wide Covid-19 inquiry.


Joanna Ludlam is a partner in the Dispute Resolution team in Baker McKenzie's London office, where she leads the market-leading Regulatory, Public & Media law team and also co-leads the office's Compliance & Investigations Practice Group. At an international level, she co-chairs the Firm's Global Compliance & Investigations Steering Committee. In 2016, Joanna was named as one of The Lawyer’s “Hot 100” for her practice, and is recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.


Jo is a senior associate in Baker McKenzie's Dispute Resolution team in London. Jo advises clients in a wide range of industries on complex commercial disputes and investigations. She also regularly provides specialist product safety and regulatory compliance advice and acts for clients in product liability disputes. One of Jo's other areas of specialism is advising clients on a wide range of regulatory, public and administrative law issues, including judicial review, consultations, freedom of information and public procurement. Jo's practice often involves drawing on crisis management experience to help clients protect their reputations and shareholder value when dealing with urgent, time pressured issues and/or intense public scrutiny. Jo was ranked as a Next Generation Lawyer in the Legal 500 Product liability: defendant category in 2017. Jo has participated in the UK Government's Working Group on product safety and recalls and has assisted with the development of the Government's training programme for Trading Standards Officers on the new UK Code of Practice for Product Recalls.


Will is a senior associate in the Baker McKenzie Dispute Resolution team based in London. He is a member of the office's Arbitration and Regulatory, Public and Media Law sub-practice groups, and the Global Healthcare Industry Group.

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