Ethics at Westminster: A workshop on public values and the pandemic

On 18th May 2022 we brought together Parliamentarians, policymakers, and academics at the House of Commons to discuss how to bring ethical thinking and debate into public policy on pandemic recovery and preparedness, and how to involve the public in such debates.

This event was led by the Public values, transparency and governance workstream, which previously commissioned Hopkins Van Mil to conduct a public dialogue. The dialogue explored the ethical and societal concerns of a sample of members of the public regarding COVID-19, COVID-19 recovery, and pandemic preparedness.

The Westminster workshop focused on two key areas from the public dialogue: fairness and equality, and trust and transparency. It was hosted by Navendu Mishra MP and brought together around 40 Parliamentarians, policymakers, and academics.

The workshop was chaired by Professor Ilina Singh, Co-Director of the Wellcome Centre for Ethics and Humanities and Principal Investigator of the UK Pandemic Ethics Accelerator at the University of Oxford, and panellists included:

  • Professor Sarah Cunningham Burley from the University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Katharine Wright from the Nuffield Council of Bioethics
  • Dr Beth Kamunge-Kpodo from University of Bristol Law School
  • Dr Shona Arora from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
  • Jamie Webb from the University of Edinburgh
  • Simon Burall from Involve
  • Professor Dame Theresa Marteau from University of Cambridge, who also participates in SAGE

The event highlighted that there are ethical dimensions to all of the big decisions that were made during the pandemic, and that acknowledging, actively navigating, and engaging the public in ethical tensions would contribute to building public values into pandemic recovery and preparedness. To increase trust and fairness, it is crucial that decision-makers use trusted processes to navigate ethical dimensions.

The workshop stimulated critical discussions on how to bring public values into pandemic recovery and preparedness. The Ethics Accelerator will continue to build these links with Parliamentarians and policymakers as we seek to support and inform the application of ethics and public values in the next phase of pandemic recovery and planning for the future.

A summary of the event including key messages from the speakers and highlights of discussion will be available soon.