25 Aug 2020

Health Select Committee brought back to assess Covid-19 response

8:01 pm on 25 August 2020

The Health Select Committee will reconvene next Wednesday, following pressure from the National Party and New Zealand First.

Labour MP Louisa Wall's marriage equality bill passed into law in 2013

Health Select Committee chair Louisa Wall. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

National health spokesperson Shane Reti had written - for a second time - to the Health Committee chair asking for it to be reconvened. His initial request was rejected.

Reti wanted the Health Committee to call Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, senior ministry officials, and the Health Minister, to grill them on the Covid-19 response.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was logical for the committee to meet to canvass the advice of those people on the alert level decisions taken by Cabinet this week.

"Given the economic and health consequences of the Cabinet's decision it is appropriate for the accountability function to be performed while Parliament is sitting," he said.

Committee chair and Labour MP Louisa Wall said she was happy for the committee to be reconvened and would invite the minister and Bloomfield to appear.

"I have always considered this was a matter for the committee to decide. However, there wasn't previously a majority who wanted the Select Committee to resume," she said.

During the March lockdown, an Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) was set up to enable the Opposition to hold officials and the government to account, while Parliament could not run as usual.

But this time, when Parliament was reconvened as a result of the election date delay, it was agreed the ERC would not need to be re-established.

Instead, the Health Committee, a regular parliamentary committee, will sit next week, with the details to be confirmed by the clerk of the committee.

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