Covid Inquiry: How much will the inquiry cost? Boris Johnson's legal fees revealed
The second phase of the UK's Covid Inquiry is coming to a close.
After more than two months of evidence about the decisions the government took during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are three days remaining for this stage of the inquiry. The likes of Professor Sir Chris Whitty, former health secretary Matt Hancock and adviser Dominic Cummings have all given evidence to the inquiry about failings made during the pandemic response, and what lessons can be learned for the future.
In the past couple of days, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to the inquiry panel about his part in the pandemic, including the timing of lockdowns, the tiered system used in the UK in late 2020 and the Partygate scandal.
But with five planned phases, the inquiry is expected to run for quite a bit longer - and time is money.
As the inquiry got underway earlier this year, experts predicted that it could be the most expensive inquiry in the UK's history. In July 2023, the International Bar Association (IBA) reported that it the inquiry had already cost more than £100m by July this year; once all is said and done, it could cost tens of billions of pounds. This is because various law firms have been called in to represent different individuals and government departments.
Gustaf Duhs, a partner at Stevens and Bolton, told the publication: "It is not surprising that this has led to criticism from some, particularly as inquiries have been seen by some as a way for government to outsource problems, or 'kick them into the long grass'. On the other hand, the eventual cost of the Inquiry is likely to be a fraction of the estimated cost of [the UK government’s] Covid measures."
In her opening statement, Baroness Hallett - who is chairing the inquiry - made it clear that the cost of this inquiry is likely to be "substantial" although added that she wished for the inquiry process to take place as quickly as possible.
While the current cost of the inquiry remains unknown, figures published by the government revealed that Boris Johnson's Partygate legal fees totalled more than £250,000. In total, the Cabinet Office said his fees for the probe cost £265,522.
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesperson Christine Jardine said: "Families listening to Boris Johnson will take everything he says with a bucket load of salt after the pain and suffering he caused. Johnson lied and partied during the pandemic, while the country paid the price for all the chaos at the heart of Downing Street.
"Boris Johnson has already racked up thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded legal fees during the partygate probe. It is an insult to bereaved families that the government won’t tell us how much is being spent on Johnson’s legal costs for the Covid Inquiry. Rishi Sunak needs to come clean with the British people now, before even more taxpayers’ money is racked up