EMBATTLED Rishi Sunak today said he is “deeply sorry” for the lives lost during Covid as he kicked off an eight-hour grilling on the pandemic.
The under-fire Prime Minister, who was Chancellor at the time, began his testimony at the Covid inquiry highlighting the importance that “we learn the lessons so that we can be better prepared in the future”.
Throughout the day, the PM will face allegations his Eat Out to Help Out scheme boosted the spread of coronavirus.
Rishi Sunak was seen arriving at the Covid inquiry this morning[/caption]
The Government-backed scheme offered discounted meals at restaurants to boost the hospitality industry after the lockdowns.
He will also be asked awkward questions over text messages that revealed government scientists referred to him as “Dr Death, the Chancellor”.
After taking the oath on Monday morning, the PM said: “I just wanted to start by saying how deeply sorry I am to all of those who lost loved ones, family members, through the pandemic, and also all those who suffered in various different ways throughout the pandemic and as a result of the actions that were taken.
“I’ve thought a lot about this over the past couple of years. It’s important that we learn the lessons so that we can be better prepared in the future. It’s in that spirit and with enormous respect for all of those who are affected that I’m here today.
“I look forward to giving evidence in the spirit of constructive candour to help the inquiry with its deliberations.”
The interrogation kicks off a bombshell week for Mr Sunak, as he also faces a do-or-die vote on his Rwanda plan on Tuesday.
And while he is questioned by Hugo Keith KC today and away from his phone, five groups of Tory MPs will listen to the verdict of the veteran Conservative MP Sir Bill Cash’s so-called star chamber of lawyers that have assessed the proposed legislation on Rwanda.
Speaking to Sky News before the PM’s appearance at the Covid inquiry, Cabinet ally Grant Shapps defended the PM’s response during the pandemic.
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The Defence Secretary told Sky news: “Rishi Sunak, who came forward and saved millions of jobs and millions of businesses through his Covid response is actually due a lot of credit.
“Millions of businesses would have gone bust, millions of people would have been out of work if it hadn’t been for his furlough scheme and schemes like Eat Out to Help Out, it’s so easy to look back on things and say, oh, what you should have done is this…
“But these were difficult decisions that were being made to stop businesses from going bust. And that in itself would have been a real problem
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove also defended Mr Sunak on Sunday as he argued the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was “effective”.
Professor Sir Chris Whitby, England’s chief medical officer, is said to have privately referred to the scheme as “eat out to help out the virus”.
The Covid-19 Inquiry, chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett, is a comprehensive public investigation into the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Its aim is to scrutinise the UK’s public health, healthcare, and economic responses to the pandemic, and to learn from these actions for future preparedness.
This includes a wide-ranging examination across several modules, such as government decision-making, healthcare system impacts, and the development of vaccines.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was PM during the pandemic, was cross-examined for two days last week, as he sought to defend his record.
Rishi Sunak is seen arriving at the Covid inquiry[/caption]
The Prime Minister faces an eight-hour grilling[/caption]
Rishi Sunak enters the building in West London, three-and-a-half miles away from Parliament[/caption]