Committee launches inquiry on Home Office preparedness for Covid-19 (Coronavirus)
12 March 2020
The Home Affairs Committee is undertaking a short inquiry into the Home Office's preparations for and response to Covid-19.
Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Yvette Cooper MP said:
“It's very important that all of our public services are prepared for coronavirus. We need to know what preparations the Home Office is and should be making and what practical consequence there will be for police and border force as coronavirus continues to spread.”
The management of Covid-19 poses a challenge for all parts of Government. On 3 March, the UK Government, together with devolved administrations, published the Coronavirus action plan. It comprised four phases:
- Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible
- Delay: slow the spread in the UK, and if it does take hold, lower the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season
- Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care
- Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.
Covid-19 has already affected the work of the Home Office and its associated bodies. As part of the ‘contain' phase of the plan, Border Force has assisted in the repatriation of British nationals and their dependents from affected areas overseas, while the Home Office has provided support to foreign nationals in the UK who were unable to return home (Action plan para 4.7).
Impacts during the ‘mitigate' phase will be more significant. For example, the Government expects that police and fire and rescue services will enact business continuity plans. This would require the police to concentrate on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order (Action plan 4.48). Privately-run Home Office functions will also require business continuity plans to be in place to safeguard vulnerable people.
Terms of reference
Written evidence is invited on the issues set out below – but please note that submissions do not need to address all of these issues.
- How police and fire and rescue service business continuity plans are being designed to best safeguard the public and emergency service workers;
- What trade-offs will have to be made by police if a significant number of officers are unable to work at any given time, and the potential impact of those decisions;
- How the Home Office and its major contractors are working together to ensure the safe and effective operation of contracted services is maintained, particularly where these services affect vulnerable people;
- Whether Border Force is sufficiently equipped to deliver any additional functions required of it during a period of heightened vigilance, and with reduced staffing;
- How Police forces will support each other if mobilisation tactics, or other forms of mutual support, are compromised by the imperative to limit the possible spread of the virus;
- The preparedness of forces to support Local Resilience Forums during a possible civil contingencies emergency;
- The effectiveness of Home Office communications to its partners, responders and the wider public about its preparations.
Submitting written evidence
Written submissions for this inquiry should be submitted online by 12 noon on Wednesday 25 March 2020.
Please note that the Committee is not able to consider individual cases.
The Committee is not able to consider any matters that are currently subject to legal proceeding.
If you think your written evidence might come under any of the above categories, please contact the Committee's staff who can advise on whether your evidence could be accepted.