Update on UK COVID-19 Inquiry response costs

Cabinet Office written statement – made at on 9 February 2024.

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Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Minister of State (Cabinet Office)

Throughout the pandemic, the Government acted to save lives and livelihoods, prevent the NHS being overwhelmed, and deliver a world-leading vaccine rollout which protected the nation. In establishing the UK COVID-19 Inquiry, the Government recognised the unprecedented and wholly exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, and the importance of examining as rigorously as possible the actions the state took in response, in order to learn lessons for the future.

As such, the Inquiry is unprecedented in its scope, complexity and profile looking at recent events that have profoundly impacted everyone’s lives.

Following the publication by the COVID-19 Inquiry of its costs for Quarter 3 of the 2023/24 financial year on 5 February 2024, I would like to update Parliament on the UK Government costs associated with responding to the UK COVID-19 Inquiry.

The figures provided below include input from a number of government departments, including the Cabinet Office, the Department for Health and Social Care, the UK Health Security Agency, the Home Office and HM Treasury, many of which are supported by the Government Legal Department (GLD).

The figures we are publishing reflect those that the Inquiry publishes (Legal Counsel and Solicitors Costs, and Secretariat staff costs). The figures are based upon a sample of departmental costs, and are not a precise figure for accounting purposes and are therefore subject to change. While every effort has been made to ensure a robust methodology, complexities remain in trying to quantify the time and costs dedicated to the Inquiry alone.

Total Inquiry Response Unit Legal Costs (April - December 2023)

Inquiry response units across government departments are supported by the Government Legal Department, co-partnering firms of solicitors, and counsel. Associated legal costs (excluding internal departmental advisory legal costs) for April - December 2023 are below.

  • Total legal costs: £20,900,000

Breakdown of Staff & Costs (April - December 2023)

The Government’s response to the UK COVID-19 Inquiry is led by Inquiry Response Units across departments.

  • Number of UK COVID-19 Inquiry Response Unit staff: 249 Full Time Equivalents (as of Q3)

  • Cost of Inquiry Response Unit staff: £12,900,000

It should be noted that alongside full time resource within departments, Inquiry response teams draw on expertise from across their organisations. The Senior Civil Servant staff costs associated with appearing as witnesses, preparing witnesses and associated policy development work on the Covid Inquiry are significant. Early estimations place these at at least £120,000 for Cabinet Office for preparatory work for Modules 1 and 2, but further work is underway to produce a more accurate figure. Those costs are not included in the figures above.